Friday, October 16, 2020

Pandemic Journal, June 26, 2020


Pandemic Journal, June 26, 2020


Hi, Tommy again. Logan was telling you about Juneteenth, and how we were helping Antoine and Maya set up for the celebration. They hosted this year; Logan and I will host next year. The celebration went well. Ralph and Becca had put together a bunch of games for the kids, some of which they actually enjoyed. Their favorite was Hide and Seek. We had opened all of the apartments on the floor for the game until Ralph caught a bunch of the older kids in Tree’s place, drinking all the liquor. Why wasn’t I ever smart enough to do that kind of thing?


Speaking of smart, I required every one of the boys on my middle school broadcast to have a responsible adult with him when he joined, then I had Logan do random checks to make sure it wasn’t somebody who had just left. Today was about men’s health, and I talked about testicular self-exams. Starting around puberty is a good time to get into the practice. I gave them a link to the Mayo Clinic’s article on how to do it. Then, I demonstrated on myself. I had worn just a towel, and took it off. There was nudity, nothing sexual. I wanted a responsible adult with each child for my own protection. Anyway, one of the kids recorded the session and put it up on a porn site on the internet. I can assure you, there is nothing erotic about a testicular self-exam.


Of course, when Logan and I started living together, we helped each other with the exams. That is something else, and you’ll get no details from me. I took questions, and told them that in a week or two we’d have another demonstration about how to pay attention to hygiene if you have a foreskin. Antoine has volunteered to be the model. Maya has volunteered to help, but that’s up to Antoine.


So, I was talking about Juneteenth celebration when I rudely interrupted myself. Every team member and employee who was in Chicago at the time attended, with family. It was a time to remember the joy of freedom, and the horror of the sacrifices involved. Four million Africans were bought and shipped to the US and became slaves. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a war to free them. We need to share the joy and remember so that it never happens again.


The bad news: The season is over for us. Twenty-two teams are traveling to Orlando; we will not be with them. We’re out. There’s a rumor that this resulted from a conspiracy. If we had played up to the standards of the past three decades, no conspiracy could have kept us out of Orlando. We didn’t make the cut. Next year, please let us get back on track.


One thing that was said was that the high price the team paid to get Antoine, Tree and Ralph, and to waste two slots on me and Logan, cost us the season. That might be the case. I have to admit that, while I’m sorry on behalf of the team, it’s been a dream for me and the rest of the guys. We’re all close, we’re all best friends. Each of us is an outstanding athlete and ball player, but that’s not enough. We need to function as a team. The Minotaurs aren’t going to start the five of us, we haven’t played together since high school. And, high school teams just plain don’t compete in the NBA, period.


I got to deliver a baby yesterday morning. A woman and a man were brought in by onlookers who witnessed an auto accident right outside our building. The woman who was in her late twenties seemed perfectly fine, the man – who was in his sixties – was having difficulty breathing, clutching the left side of his chest and moaning. Deena called for an ECG – Electrocardiogram – stat (medical talk for NOW) and I hooked him up. She confirmed a heart attack and took over treatment. One of the translating nurses went in to help her.


When I got back out to the waiting area, I saw a puddle forming outside a curtained bay. A woman was screaming and Logan was trying to talk to her in a soothing manner; he’s no better than I am at that shit. So, I went in and saw her propped up on a gurney with her legs spread apart, knees up, naked below the waist, with something rounded and a little hairy coming out of her vagina. I told her to push, to hold Logan’s hand (he thinks he’ll be able to use it in another week), and watch a miracle. I managed to catch the baby on his way out. I cut the umbilical cord, tied off the end attached to the little boy, and yelled for help. Becca came in and took the baby and started cleaning him off while I delivered the afterbirth.


“Apgar six!” shouted Becca, and I heard a familiar laugh from the other side of the curtain. It was Antoine, who was doubled over.


“The Apgar scale goes from zero to five, with zero being “no signs of life” and five being “healthy as can be.” There is no six.” Antoine went back to laughing, so I looked at Becca.


“Well, that’s what I always hear some nurse shouting, Apgar and a single digit number. I thought it was part of the process.” She looked startled as the nurse had left Deena to look at the woman, and grabbed the baby.


“Apgar four,” she said, finished cleaning up the little boy and handed him to his mother. We called for a second ambulance (one had just left with the heart attack man) and the nurse examined the afterbirth. She tied off both ends of the umbilical cord and handed it to Becca. “Put it in a plastic container, seal it, label it, and put it in the freezer. Now.” Becca ran off.


The new mother (her name was Francine) was crying and holding her baby to her breast. The nurse started taking her blood pressure and temperature (why didn’t I think of that?), started a chart (same question to myself) and got some scrubs for Francine to wear. The baby had stopped crying and was beginning to suckle at his mother’s breast. She motioned to me, thanked me and asked how her father was doing. He was taking her to the hospital where they were going to induce labor when the accident happened.


I called the local hospital and asked the ER about him. I had to ask Francine his name (Stupid! Stupid!) and learned he was recovering. He’d had a stent put in his LDA (Left Anterior Descending, an artery) and I told them he had a healthy grandson, and she said she’d pass the word on.


“Dad’s had a stent inserted and is recovering. So far, so good.” Francine smiled at her son in the middle of her tears. I left to grab a mop, and found Tree already doing so. I offered to clean up and he offered to douse me with the mop bucket. I told Deena everything I had done, she debriefed Consuelo (the nurse) so I went and found Logan. I collapsed in his arms and cried. I still don’t know why.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Pandemic Diary, June 19, 2020


Pandemic Diary, June 19, 2020


Logan here for this week’s edition. Happy Juneteenth. This is the anniversary of the day Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and told the last people held in slavery that the war was over, and they were free. Tommy and I used to go with Antoine and Aunt Kamisha on Juneteenth to an enormous celebration at the big AME church in Gulfside City every year. We went last year, but this year Governor Einstein won’t allow churches to hold large gatherings for any reason. Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, is free to call for a thousand people to gather to celebrate Juneteenth. I’m not sure quite what the difference is.


Anyway, Orlando is looming. The League is giving all employees today off, with pay, so they can go to Juneteenth celebrations. Of course, if you’re in Illinois, you can’t go to a neighborhood- or church-sponsored celebration, you have to go to a BLM-sponsored celebration. The team gave me and Tommy the day off, but it won’t make much difference to us. We were both in the free clinic before six a.m. setting up exam rooms, stocking supplies, making coffee, setting up a breakfast bar for kids. Some of them have parents who can’t work because of lockdowns, and food is scarce. Ralph and Becca monitor the room to make sure they kids don’t put back half-eaten items, and replace stuff as needed. Even with two of them, it’s a tough job. Getting between really hungry kids and their food is a dangerous job.


Earlier today, after we were done with patients, we went up to Antoine’s and Maya’s to help with the meal. We prepared a large ham, a medium turkey, and a vegetarian meal. Tommy chopped stuff for recipes, because we didn’t want guests developing food poisoning from his cooking. He washed dishes and pots and stuff as we went, set the table, and still had time to travel to another floor to work with Deena when one of the players fell in the shower. He tried to convince Deena that it was during shower sex, but his wife set them straight. “Dumb shit was dancing to something by ABBA and lost his footing.”


Wait a minute, I’m getting a text. It’s from Deena. Oh, sorry, I wasn’t supposed to tell you the story about Charleston dancing to ABBA. Shit, now I’ve identified the guy, too. Anyway, Tommy and I have talked about having kids. We want to wait a couple of years yet. We’re young, don’t want to rush into something. And, we’re narrowing down what we want to look for in a kid. The older ones are least likely to get adopted, so we know we’ll be looking at older kids. Boy or girl, I don’t think it matters. However much people talk about being tolerant, it doesn’t do away with a couple hundred years of bias. We know that kids with two fathers or two mothers get bullied more often than average, and don’t want to be part of making more victims.


I’ve got some e-mails here. From Janelle in Michigan, she wants to know Boxers or Briefs? Honestly, none of your fucking business, Janelle. We’ll probably do some broadcasts in our underwear eventually just to mix things up, depending on how long the lockdowns last. I’ve been watching two numbers that are far apart, but moving in opposite directions. One is COVID19 deaths in Chicago, which has a seven-day moving average that appears to be declining slightly. The other is gun deaths in Chicago, which has a seven-day moving average that appears to be rising dramatically. I plotted the two lines out into the future, and they cross around December 1. At that point, if you live in Chicago, you’ll be more likely to die from uncontrolled gunfire than from the virus. That’s some scary shit.


Another e-mail, from Ethan in Minnesota. You guys are hot Why, thank you Do you ever, you know, have threesomes? Why, no thank you. The rest of the e-mail is even more inappropriate. Ethan, we’re married. If you don’t know what that means and its implications for threesomes, you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Gay people have a reputation for promiscuity, but inside marriage we’re more faithful than straight married couples. Please don’t write back.


And our final e-mail, from Bobby Lee in Florida. When you guys come to Orlando, could I meet you and Antoine and Tree and Ralph? I saw your team win the state championship when you were in your senior year of high school, and I can’t believe you’re all back together. I start high school this fall and want to play basketball, too.. Sure, Bobby Lee. You’ve got your phone number on here, and we’ll call you before we leave Chicago. How we meet will depend on the League and Team rules, and what Florida has to say about things, but we’ll find a way to make it happen.


That’s it for today. Happy Juneteenth, everybody. I’ve got to go make dinner.



Monday, October 5, 2020

Pandemic Journal, June 12, 2020


Pandemic Diary, June 12, 2020


As you can see, it’s the better-looking half today, Tommy. Orlando is all everybody wants to talk about. We’re getting serious about practice, and a bunch of guys are looking forward to drawing a full salary again. I’m looking forward to drawing a full salary for the first time. Excuse me if I drool in anticipation.


I want to talk about my boys’ groups. On days the team is out of town, I host an after-school session for boys twelve and thirteen. We do exercises, we play ball, and we talk. I’ve told them that nothing is off-limits for questions, but I reserve the right not to answer. And they all have the right to refuse to answer a question. I mean, it makes sense.


The talking is because they are each other’s only sources of information about what it means to grow up as boys and become men. Most of them have their mothers, some are raised by grandmothers or aunts, but there is a distinct lack of adult male presence in their homes. Of the few men in their homes, most are their mothers’ current boyfriends or pimps, or both. We have 26 boys, seven Hispanic, sixteen black, three white. Three boys, one from each ethnic group, have fathers in their homes, and two of them are married. Otherwise, it’s mothers’ boyfriends. And some were problems.


One boy, let’s call him Jordan, didn’t dress out for exercise or ball practice. I asked him if we needed to do things differently so he felt comfortable dressing out, and he wouldn’t talk to me. Then I watched him walking, and recognized what had happened. He was walking the same way Logan and I were after we were gang-raped our freshman year of high school. He was being sexually abused. I put one of the more mature guys, José, in charge, and ducked out to make a quick phone call. Twenty minutes later a friend who was a physician’s assistant and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker showed up. He and Jordan spent an hour talking while I directed the rest of the boys in enough confusing physical activity that nobody noticed Jordan wasn’t there.


At our usual closing time, Jordan still wasn’t back. Jamal, the PA, told me we had no choice. We had to report our suspicions to the police. Jordan had admitted what his mother’s boyfriend was doing to him when his mother was at work. I called Dick, the head of team security, and Jordan’s mother, Danielle. I told Danielle I was taking Jordan out for dinner and ice cream and would bring him home as soon as I could. I did this with all the boys, so it wasn’t something unusual.


Dick met us at the hospital along with a CPD detective from their Sex Crimes squad. The PA was in helping a doctor with the rape exam, and came out once Jordan was comfortable with the doctor. I let Jamal handle the detective, then sit with Jamal and the detective while he interviewed Jamal. Then, I took everybody out for an all-you-can-eat buffet that included ice cream, and drove the gang (minus Dick) to Danielle’s apartment. Dick had some paperwork to file with the police first.


We got Jordan home and the detective took over. “Ma’am, Jordan has been hurt.” After about ten minutes everybody was crying, and Danielle was apologizing over and over to Jordan. It was pretty clear this was news to her. The detective took a statement from Danielle, and the PA left. A minute later Darius came in the door and saw all of us in the living room. He identified the detective (not difficult, they all buy their clothes at Shop ‘n’ Save) and started yelling. The door behind him opened forcefully, knocking him to the floor, and he pulled out a gun. Dick had him disarmed and in a full Nelson in seconds.


The detective took Darius in, and I told Danielle that I would be happy to spend the night on the couch so she and Jordan would
feel safe. Dick, who’s a lot more physically imposing than I, made the same offer. Danielle agreed to Dick staying (would have been my choice, too), and I left. I called the detective and Jamal and closed the loop.


Darius was denied bail when it was discovered he had already jumped bail the prior year on a second-degree murder charge. The city attorney, up to his eyeballs in work, was happy when Logan showed up to be his free paralegal devoted to Jordan’s case. Darius got 25 years and everyone else slept well.


I promise you, most of the stories about my boys’ groups aren’t this sad. The next problem question was about if a girl could get pregnant in a swimming pool where a guy had jerked off earlier. I assured him she could, but only if she was having sex with a guy. The jerk-off had nothing to do with it. The following awkward question was about my sexuality, and I’ll let you know the details next time. See you in two weeks.