Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ghost Spider

Some 19 years ago, a spider bit me on the temple next to my right eye. The first symptom was an itchiness that got steadily worse. Initially, I thought it was poison ivy.

It was my then-girlfriend, Jackie, who first suggested, “Spider bite.”

Since I hadn't seen or felt the little culprit poisoning my face, I doubted her call. By the end of the first day there was some swelling and redness. Over the next couple of days the swelling increased dramatically until my eye was completely closed by it. Usually, I don't go see doctors much, but the swelling and body aches were alarming. So, this time was different.

The doctor confirmed the spider bite diagnosis. He guessed it was a brown recluse and told me he didn’t know all that much about spider bites. Said most doctors don’t. He told me it was just a matter of how my body would react. The doc said the venom's tricks would run their course in my body no matter what he did. An antibiotic was prescribed to deal with the infection problem that sometimes comes along with any sort of bite

Once I started taking the medicine, some of how I felt for the next week probably had something to do with a reaction to the pills, too. In general, I wasn’t as sick as the worst day of a full blown flu. The ordeal was similar to the flu, but it was much more disorienting.

As the swelling went down, the seven spots that had formed in the middle of it gradually turned from reddish-purple to bluish-black. Naturally, I looked at them every few minutes, to see what would happen next.

To understand my problem better I read about brown recluse bites online. That only scared me more. I came to understand the spots I was seeing on my face, grouped within an area the size of a penny, were necrotic flesh. It was a sobering thought -- my flesh was dying.

After looking at gross photographs of people with huge tissue losses from brown recluse bites, I swore off my research. The sick feeling gradually went away. The swelling disappeared. The dark spots, most of them the size of a piece of rice, rotted away and dropped off ... leaving seven little holes.

Today the scars are mixed in with the crows feet lines extending from the corner of my eye, so mostly they are only noticed by someone who remembers the episode and wants to look for them.

Like other healing wounds there was an itching problem that was a distraction at times. That went on for months. What was the strangest aspect of it all came later, after I had stopped worrying about the spider bite all the time. You see, every so often, there was a feathery, fluttering sensation that felt just like a spider was skittering across my eyelid, or the eyeball itself.

Each time it happened I flinched, believing -- at least for a fraction of a second -- that it could be a spider on my eye. It was torture. It was nearly a year before that last spooky effect faded away, too. I've since believed that meant the healing was over.

Never worried about spiders much before this experience. Live and let live was my approach. After that ghost spider thing, if I see a spider indoors these days, its biting days are over.

Were there seven separate bites, or was it one big bite and seven reactions?

The doc couldn't help with that question, either. But no doubt, I was lucky it wasn't worse. 

-- 30 --

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Truth: What It Is

Ted "The Kid" Williams
Cool has been a thread that has run through much of the art, music, writing and films that have seemed to reach out to me. Think what you will of me for that, but it's been consistent. Since I was a kid I've looked for the coolness embedded in styles. When I was 11 my favorite big-league baseball player, Ted Williams, looked the coolest swinging the bat.

After too many years of fashionable postmodernism, a half-century in which clever artifice and copycatism have been revered, now the coolest thing happening is the unvarnished truth.

With the truth under assault from hucksters and governmental authorities, alike, seeing through the fog of propaganda to capture the essence of small slivers of truth is a praiseworthy undertaking. Given the threat that currently looms over our nation's institutions, striving to present the nitpicking whole truth to the public – without false equivalencies, on the record – is a challenge for heroes.

Reality simply doesn't allow for the notion of "alternative facts" to be taken seriously. Ironically, if this country's largely distrusted fourth estate doesn't go all out to do some heroic heavy lifting -- to reveal the truth and save the USA from being sucked down the drain by Trumpism -- I don't know what other way there is to get the job done fast enough.

Truth: What it is.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Labels That Don't Stick

Note: This piece was published by STYLE Weekly on April 7, 2004. Thinking about today's ideology-defying brand of politics this piece came to mind. In this 13-year-old essay I was seeing the coming of a different way of framing politics in the USA. To me, then, the old definitions of left and right were being blurred beyond recognition. 
Labels That Don't Stick
by F.T. Rea

The terms “liberal” and “conservative,” as used by many of today's chattering pundits and campaigning politicians, are as outdated as your Uncle Dudley's lime green leisure suit or that open can of beer you left on the porch railing yesterday afternoon.

In the turbulent 1960s, such convenient left–right labels may have been misnomers at times, too, but at least they made some sense. In the context of the Cold War Era – with explosive issues such as the Vietnam War and civil rights in the air – it was useful to see a left-to-right political spectrum.

In those days, segregationists and hawks derisively called their most vocal opponents “liberals” and “pinkos.” Civil rights demonstrators and doves didn’t mind calling their opposites “right-wingers” and “fascists.” And in spite of how the circumstances and issues have changed since then, the same threadbare labels have remained in use.


Well, it’s mainly because it has suited the people attempting to cash in on conditioned reactions to words such as “left” and “right,” “liberal” and “conservative.”

Howard Dean is best described as a political maverick. His record as governor of Vermont was hardly that of a left-winger. Yet because he was for a spell the most effective critic of the Bush policy in Iraq, the feisty doctor was branded by pundits and Bush apologists as an extreme leftist from a silly state that might as well be part of Canada.

In 1991 a radio news story described a political brouhaha in Russia between the ascending free-market style reformers and the old guard, the stubborn communists — who were going out of style faster than a Leningrad minute.

No, make that a St. Petersburg minute.

The report labeled those clinging to the Soviet system as “conservatives” and those in the process of sweeping them out of power as “liberals.” When considered in light of the familiar Western view of matters political — capitalists on the right vs. socialists on the left — the role reversal of this situation’s fresh context was striking and amusing.

George W. Bush likes the tag “compassionate conservative.” It’s a label that served him well in the 2000 election. But Bush’s steering of the nation’s economy, his unprecedented accumulation of debt, have hardly been conservative in the traditional sense. Nor has Bush’s swaggering, go-it-alone foreign policy been in the least bit prudent or conservative.

Being aggressive and being conservative are altogether different things. Leading up to World War II, the conservative Republicans wanted to keep America out of the fray much longer than the FDR Democrats.

When Bush eschewed the idea of nation building in his first presidential campaign he was talking like a traditional, somewhat isolationist conservative. Now he walks like anything but a conservative with what is going on in Iraq — whatever that is.

In the contemporary American political game, when players call themselves or their opponents “liberals” or “conservatives” they are probably just trying to jerk you around by what they see as your shallow understanding of the situation.

Today’s political issues divide along many lines. There are urban vs. suburban arguments. There are differences that split generations, classes, lifestyles and you-name-it. Trying always to frame such issues in a left-right context tortures the truth.

In this election year, the wise voter will brush aside the labels and remember that neither conservatives nor liberals have ever had an exclusive on two considerations that matter a lot more than labels — honesty and competence.

-- 30 --

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Oh, THAT Russian

Oh, THAT Russian. The ambassador. Sure,
now I remember. Sorry, there's just been
so many Rooskies around here lately, it's
hard to keep them all straight.
-- Art and words by F.T. Rea