Monday, January 21, 2008

An Open Letter to the Writers & Producers of Law & Order

January 2's episode of Law & Order was about assisted suicide. As a person suffering from ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease, I really took affront at the writers' and producers' presentation of the disease. For those of you who did not see the episode, the unit was trying to identify the person who was helping terminally ill patients commit suicide. One of the men was suffering from ALS. You would probably imagine that I'm going to rant about assisted suicide, but that's not the case. The writers had one of the characters actually say, "I understand why he did it. If I had to go through such a horrible disease, I would do it too." 
My concern is twofold. First, it shows the writers' lack of understanding of the disease. This happens quite often on television shows where the writers don't do their homework. Secondly, I'm very concerned about the message being sent to the future ALS patients who have not yet been diagnosed. The episode presents the option of assisted suicide or even suicide. I suspect that most shows of this type are reviewed by the networks' lawyers. It's my opinion that they have a moral obligation and responsibility as well as a legal one. 
This piqued my anger. The following week, I watched an episode about a geneticist who was trying to identify the gay gene prenatally.  This raised the question of whether or not homophobic parents would terminate a pregnancy because of the possibility that their child might be gay. 
Where the hell are the morals and values of the people responsible for letting this type of misinformation go out to the general public? The Evangelical practitioners must be having a field day with this. I'm part of a ALS center community in my area. In the support groups, it's the psychological part of the disease that everybody talks about. The symptoms and the slow loss of bodily functions are indeed tragic, but the one thing that makes the disease unique is that the brain and the mind continue to function, so for a character on a national network show to even imply that suicide might be beneficial is irresponsible. 
There comes a point in the treatment process for each of us when the medical community begins to worry more about keeping us comfortable than actually treating the disease.  So each patient has access to pharmaceuticals that could easily end our lives. I just hope that the episode of Law and Order is not or does not become the reason an ALS patient makes this decision. 
If this indeed becomes the case, I hope you're ready to shoulder the responsibility. 

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Middle-Aged Man's Dissection of Grey's Anatomy

I'm in my second season of viewing Grey's Anatomy every Thursday night with my wife and daughter. Those of you that know me know that I have an opinion on everything. It has been my decision that on every Friday I will blog my version of Thursday night's episode.

For those of you that don't watch the show, I'm going to start by giving you a brief character and structural analysis of the program. It takes place in a large teaching hospital in Seattle. The characters for the most part, are doctors, interns, residents and their family and friends. Having had to deal with the medical profession a number of times throughout my life, it has always been my opinion that due to the time that doctors take with their education; 4 years of college, 4 years of med school, their internship, their residency and then specialization, they are so focused on this that, most if not all, doctors are socially retarded. They may be brilliant in their field but they have a difficult time relating to people. Likewise, I have had experiences with hospital nursing staffs. I have found that most nurses that I have dealt with personally run the gamut from very attractive all the way to a before picture from the Biggest Loser. On Grey's Anatomy, this is not the case. It is as if whoever hires these people, hired them for looks and how easy it is to get in their pants. That goes for the doctors all the way to the hired help.

Those of you that do watch the show that have concerns about the way I described the characters and the program, please feel free to comment.

The basic premise of the show is that Seattle Grace Hospital is a teaching hospital. The characters that interact from week to week are the Chief of Staff, Dr. McDreamy, Dr. McSteamy, Dr Addison Shephard (who spun off to her own show which broke my heart since she was the best looking woman on the show), Dr. Preston Burke, Dr Superbitch Hahn, Dr. Baily (chief resident), Dr. Callie, Dr. Alex Korev, Dr. Izzy Stevens, Dr. Meridith Grey, Dr. Christina Yang, the interns, Dr. O'Mally, and Dr. Lexie Grey and various family members.

I would be hard pressed to recommend any patient to go to Seattle Grace. The show is an adult soap opera which the writers have written to try to make the hospital hierarchy of staff seem human, with all of the good and bad qualities of the average person. Unfortunately, since it is prime time, it is my opinion that as you watch them over time, they are just a bunch of pigs. I would say that all they do is screw like rabbits, but I have had the occasion while hunting to see rabbits in the act and it seemed like a loving experience, the characters on Grey's Anatomy just screw. They do it at each other's apartment, in the on-call room, closets, elevators, roof, cars, in the rain, on a train, in the hall, against the wall -- I think you are catching on. Not only can't they keep their pants on, but they are indiscriminate with their partners. For instance, Dr. McDreamy was married to Addison and left her to come to Seattle because she was shacked up with Dr. McSteamy who was Dr. McDreamy's best friend. Dr. McDreamy was already tapping Dr. Meredith Grey before Addison transferred to Seattle Grace. Of course, the writers in their brilliance also had Dr. McSteamy placed on staff also. This is just the tip of the iceberg. As I stated earlier, they are all socially retarded. Dr. Grey, is obviously according to the title, the impetus for the show, Ok you ready -- her mother was a brilliant surgeon who got Alzheimer's and verbally abused Meredith through most of her life. Her mother and father were divorced and Meredith had step-sisters from his second marriage. Oh..I forgot, her father is an alcoholic and they don't talk. Now one of her step-sisters is an intern at Seattle Grace. McDreamy and Meredith have been going at it for two years, she has trust issues and he is a freakin' wuss who can't confront her and tell her to make up her damn mind. Well...he actually did this week but 4 minutes later after a commercial he asked out a surgical nurse that he kissed last week in the scrub room.

McSteamy, who followed Dr. Addison Grey to Seattle because he thought he loved her, was jilted by her but after a few rolls in the hay, when she spun off to her own show. Dr. O'Mally was sniffing around Callie and they ended up getting married. Before they got married, after a night of drinking, Callie and McSteamy hooked up. George got back by dumping his wife for Izzy. Izzy is an ex-trailer park beauty queen, who used to be a model. So far, she has slept with a terminal patient, who of course left her millions of dollars when he died; Dr. Alex Korev and George O'Mally. Izzy is always crying because she has this undying need to please. Dr. Yang is a brilliant surgery student who screwed her mentor in medical college, shacked up with Dr. Preston Burke, her surgical mentor, but got left at the alter. I hate to say it: she is probably the best doctor, but is the most socially retarded. Dr. Baily, who is the chief resident, is kind of modelling the same behavior of her mentor, the chief of staff. Both have lost their spouses due to their dedication to their profession. Dr. Baily is in the process of trying to make her marriage work, the chief of staff pays lip service to his marriage, but after his wife threw his ass out, one of the first things he did was dye his hair so he would look better for women. Oh yeah, the Chief had an affair with Dr. Grey's mother when she was Chief of Staff several years ago. Have I mentioned that right now, Dr. Meridith Grey, Dr. Lexie Grey, Dr. George O'Mally, Dr. Izzy Stevens and Dr. Alex Korev all live in the same house? I often think I would like to be the condom salesman who delivers to that house.
I have only given you a rough overview of the show. If you are concerned with America's health care, I recommend you do not watch this show. If you want to watch a show where you can learn about medical procedures, watch House. He uses 10 or 12 and almost kills his patients every week, but that medical staff doesn't have any where near as much fun as the Seattle Grace staff.

Ever since I started watching this show, since I am under medical care, and have had to interact with a number of different health care people over the last two years, one of my first questions to them is "Do you watch Grey's Anatomy?". And if they laugh, I ask if they have washed their hands.

Stay tuned to my explanation of next week's Grey's Anatomy episode from my point of view. Hopefully, there will be some good action. In case of the writer's strike continuing, we'll have to wait until they begin again, but you know those men and women are walking the picket line in the sunshine stopping every once in a while saying things like "you know, we're almost out of places for them to do it, and there are only a few combinations left, what do you think about Meredith and Izzy, or Dr. Hahn and Dr. Yang? That would draw a whole new audience."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Eve afternoon my wife and I started to receive the first of many Christmas presents. My Hospice health care aid and nurse gave me a 12-pack of Red Stripe Jamaican beer so I could reminisce about our last cruise. They gave Kathy lottery tickets and a Wades Gift Certificate. Kathy is constantly telling Kim and I what she is going to do when she wins the lottery, but she never plays. The Gift Certificate is for a trip to a casino (so she can win big bucks!). Our Godson stopped over as did my Goddaughter and her boyfriend. I gave the traditional wine and Cuban Cigars. My brother-in-law John and his wife, Mary stopped and brought over 2 trays of homemade Christmas cookies. Later that evening, Kim stopped back with her husband Frank to give me smelt and homemade stuffed calamari. My son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter arrived about 2:00 p.m. with our daugher. They had spent Saturday and Sunday night at a cabin on northern Lake George. All in all, it was a busy but nice day and evening.
All of the aforementioned are family and closest friends. On Christmas Eve my immediate family dined on a gifted meal. We had cheese and crackers and drank some wine, ate a lasagna that had to be six inches thick, and apple pie a la mode for dessert. Our grandduagher, Belle, was in rare form and chattered and danced while we all laughed.
This holiday meal was given to us by Kathy's friends at Home Funding Finders.
Christmas morning we got up with an excited 17 month old and our daughter Kate who gets very excited on Christmas morning. We opened presents most of the day since Belle would open a few, become distracted and then we would go back to open a few more later. My brother-in-law, Fred and my wife's sister, Carol stopped over mid-day. One of the highlights for me was when one of my oldest friends, Nick, stopped over for a quick drink. As kids, we used to watch the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour, every Saturday at noon. He actually found a Warner Brothers DVD with two of our favorite cartoons on it. We sat here, a 60 year old and 58 year old man, drinking single malt scotch, mine thru a straw, watching a dancing frog on my big screen TV and laughing like hell. When he left to visit his Dad, I was a little worried about his driving abilities. I got phone calls throughout the day, one from Ricki Lewis who was on her way with her family to Martha's Vineyard for a quick vacation.
Anyone that knows me well would assume that the best gifts that I received this year were the bottles of each different color of Johnnie Walker that I received from Kate's boyfirend, Sean or the 16 year old single malt scotch that I got from Kathy. surprisingly the best gift was watching my granddaughter ride the little electric 4 wheel motorcycle that Sean had given her. It didn't take her very long at all to figure out how to use it, she showed no fear at all riding it around the house. She still has to master turning because she will go straight until she hits something and then just sits there and spins her wheels. When I first taught Kathy to drive she had the same problem.
That evening we had a delicious spiral ham dinner, again with apple pie for dessert. This meal was also a gift from Kathy's friends at HFF. Kathy and I had a wonderful day and only got testy with each other once. She lit into me when I asked for thirds on the ham! I even left room for some of the cookies that were sent; I'm still eating them today.
Holidays, especially holiday meals, are meant to be special times to be remembered. As you can tell from above, this Christmas was a good one for the Nichols family. My family and I want to thank each and every one of the people that volunteered their time, effort and thoughts for us in this Holiday Season and I want to thank each of you for being so supportive and such a good friend to my wife. It is important to me that you know how deeply appreciative I am and how many different ways you have helped her and us as a family.
Thank you for the wonderful Christmas and I hope you have a great New Year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two Idiots Volume VI.....Do You Remember....Rotterdam In The 60's

Shoporama...The heart of Rotterdam, now WalMart Plaza. Originally there was Grand Union, Endicott Johnson, Pat the Tailor, Woolworths (with it's basement toy room), Alfreds Bakery, Hallmark Cards, Sch'dy Savings Bank and a beauty parlor.

Next to Shoporama was a nursery that had the original gates to "Cold Brook". Cold Brook had been an estate that was purchased to build the post WWII housing development. Across the street was Towne Tavern, owned by the Vinceguerra family. Next to that and across the street was Daly's Mill Pond. Between there and the now occupied Gators Cigar Shop was private homes. On the corner of O'Brian & Altamont Ave. was Terry's Grocery Store. They sold individual cigaretts for 2 cents each. The opposite corner of O'Brian was Palmier Oil Co., right next to Towne Liquors, where you could buy Tango, which was cheap vodka and cheaper orange juice for 49 cents and a penny tax.

Heading west on Altamont Ave. was all private homes, until you arrived at the site of which is now Alfreds Bakery. This was then a grocery store. Across the street was Towne Bowling Alley.

On to 4 Corners of Curry Road and Hamburg Street.

The Country Inn, with it's Summer Softball League, featured The King & His Court, Eddie Fiener as the pitcher. At that time, he could throw a softball 100 miles per hour. From there we went across the street to Stannette's, a bar that ultimately became the Entre Nous, a famous local teenage night spot, which gave birth to the famous band, The Fabulous Four Speeds.
The other famous local band was Captain Nemo and the Sundowners, who played regularly at The Excelsior House in Troy and Spagna's in Lake George.

Across from the Entre Nous was Steve's and Nedco Pharmacy. On that side of the street there was only private homes all the way to Rolling Greens bowing Alley. Next to the Entre Nous was St. Gabriel's Catholic Church, where most of Rotterdam's "virgins" attended Sunday Mass. Next to the church was one of our favorite stops for a drunken breakfast, Rose's Diner. This place had a counter, with the old fashioned "spin around" seats, and about 20 four person booths, each equipped with it's own juke box, 10 cents a play, 3 for a quarter. 24 hours, wekends only.

Continuing on that side of the street, there was nothing but private homes and St.Aldberts Cemetary. Roller Rama was another favorite hangout. Built in the 1930's as a dance hall, it became a skating rink in the 50's. In the middle 1960's, they had "2 in 1 nights", which for one price, you could roller skate and then a DJ would spin records for a dance. It was at one of these that I heard one of the early 1960's greatest hits...." Pappa ooh mau mau"
TO BE CONTINUED...................................................................

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Below is an article written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated. He details his experiences when given the opportunity to fly in a F-14 Tomcat. If you aren't laughing out loud by the time you get to "Milk Duds," your sense of humor is seriously broken.

"Now this message is for America 's most famous athletes: Someday you may be invited to fly in the back-seat of one of your country's most powerful fighter jets. Many of you already have . John Elway, John Stockton, Tiger Woods to name a few If you get this opportunity, let me urge you, with the greatest sincerity... Move to Guam Change your name. Fake your own death! Whatever you do . Do Not Go!!! I know. The U.S.< face="Georgia" color="#010101" size="5"> Navy invited me to try it. I was thrilled. I was pumped. I was toast! I should've known when they told me my pilot would be Chip (Biff) King of Fighter Squadron 213 at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach Whatever you're thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) King looks like, triple it. He's about six-foot, tan, ice-blue eyes, wavy surfer hair, finger-crippling handshake -- the kind of man who wrestles dyspeptic alligators in his leisure time. If you see this man, run the other way. Fast. Biff King was born to fly. His father, Jack King, was for years the voice of NASA missions. ("T-minus 15 seconds and counting ." Remember?) Chip would charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his dad. Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by nine-year-olds waiting for him to say, "We have a liftoff" Biff was to fly me in an F-14D Tomcat , a ridiculously powerful $60 million weapon with nearly as much thrust as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie. I was worried about getting airsick, so the night before the flight I asked Biff if there was something I should eat the next morning . "Bananas," he said."For the potassium?" I asked."No," Biff said, "because they taste about the same coming up as they do going down."The next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my flight suit with my name sewn over the left breast. (No call sign -- like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot But, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the crook of my arm, as Biff had instructed. If ever in my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, this was it. A fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing and then fastened me into my ejection seat, which, when employed, would "egress" me out of the plane at such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked unconscious. Just as I was thinking about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me, and Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up. In minutes we were firing nose up at 600 mph. We leveled out and then canopy-rolled over another F-14. Those 20 minutes were the rush of my life. Un fortunately, the ride lasted 80. It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell. Only without rails. We did barrel rolls, snap rolls, loops, yanks and banks. We dived, rose and dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity of 10,000 feet per minute. We chased another F-14, and it chased us. We broke the speed of sound. Sea was sky and sky was sea. Flying at 200 feet we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, creating a G force of 6.5, which is to say I felt as if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing against me, thereby approximating life as Mrs. Colin Montgomerie.And I egressed the bananas. And I egressed the pizza from the night before. And the lunch before that. I egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade. I made Linda Blair look polite. Because of the G's, I was egressing stuff that never thought would be egressed. I went through not one airsick bag, but two.Biff said I passed out. Twice. I was coated in sweat. At one point, as we were coming in upside down in a banked curve on a mock bombing target and the G's were flattening me like a tortilla and I was in and out of consciousnes s, I realized I was the first person in history to throw down. I used to know 'cool'. Cool was Elway throwing a touchdown pass, or Norman making a five-iron bite. But now I really know 'cool'.. Cool is guys like Biff, men with cast-iron stomachs and freon nerves. I wouldn't go up there again for Derek Jeter's black book, but I'm glad Biff does every day, and for less a year than a rookie reliever makes in a home stand. A week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff called. He said he and the fighters had the perfect call sign for me Said he'd send it on a patch for my flight suit.What is it? I asked."Two Bags."
God Bless America !

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Growing up in Rotterdam, New York in the late 1950’s was not the same experience as yours. We were the beginning of the suburban sprawl, the first of the “white flight” after WWII. We lived in a “housing development”. This was a newly coined phrase, which basically meant that you lived in a pre–war country setting now called the suburbs. Levittown, Long Island was the benchmark, where thousands of “tract” houses were built. Tract meaning large land areas were purchased where streets were laid out block after block, each house identical to the next. The Rotterdam example of this would be Coldbrook.

I can’t stress enough that this building frenzy was at its very beginning. Rotterdam itself was different. As commercial as it is today, it was rural then.

Our dads all worked at the General Electric plant as machinists, crane operators or some other blue-collar job. None of them had any college and most were vets. My father was a vertical boring mill operator trained through the General Electric Company Apprentice program. He started the program after graduating from high school at the end of the Depression in 1937. While training he made $11 a week. My father worked on the same machine, in H bay of building 273, Large Steam Turbine, on the third shift; 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., for 47 years. Think about that. Same job over and over again.

Our mothers stayed home until all the kids went to school and then went to work. There’s kind of a myth that most mothers were housewives and didn’t work outside the home, but if you take time and look you’ll see it isn’t true. When I left high school the development had tripled in size and only two moms were staying at home in the entire neighborhood.

An access road lead into the development from one of the main town roads to a circle of houses, approximately thirty, on four short streets. One road in, the same road out. Each lot was clean cut or had virgin plants, tiny bushes and trees about six feet tall. The streets were crushed stone. I think I was in junior high before the streets were paved. The whole thing was surrounded by woods and farmland. The western boundary of our neighborhood was a barbed wire fence bordering a dairy farm. I remember fondly, as a little guy, climbing the barbed wire along the post to sit on the top of the post and wait for a cow to come close enough so that I could jump on her back. Riding a cow was a big deal to a six-year-old growing up on Roy Rogers and Hopilong Cassidy. I’m sure that at some point “ yippy eye aye” and “ya hoo!” spilled from my mouth! Many an afternoon my mother swatted my ass for coming home smelling like cow shit. Yes, ass swatting was the norm. If you messed up, expect to pay in pain.

The houses were basically all the same layout, but the exteriors were slightly different. Some were more “finished” than others. Each started as a house with a basement and two floors. The starter model had an unfinished basement and attic. The first floor had a kitchen, living room, dining room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Buyers could add a fireplace, bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs or a rec room in the basement. Our house was the basic
starter model with a fireplace. We fit since it was just my mother, father, my brother and me. This was the “baby boom”.

One of the reasons my parents had a “little” more was that they had been married for awhile and both had worked until my brother was born. Most of the kids were my age or younger. Including my brother, there were only four kids older. Many of the couples had been married for two to three years before buying their house. My parents moved in when I was one. Many of the couples were eligible for special mortgage programs because the husband had been in the war. Also two of the husbands were on 100% disability from the military. Unlike Social Security this type of disability allowed you to work. This enabled one of the mothers to remain a housewife when the kids went to school.

One man had been bayoneted in the chest. I had marveled at the scar many times, trying to imagine the nine-inch blade going in. His daughter told me that he had shot the other soldier and when he fell the bayonet stayed in his chest. The medic had removed the bayonet from the rifle but left it in his chest while transporting him. He still had nightmares about seeing the bayonet in his chest. The other man had been blown up during the Battle of the Bulge, the “Band of Brothers” story. Artillery hit right next to him, killing everyone in his foxhole but him. He had been riddled with shrapnel. The largest of his injuries were to his major organs but he fought hard and lived. The most noticeable scar was that he had lost an eye and wore a glass one.

The families handled their wealth at the extremes of differently. One family lived very simply. Their only thing was that they “finished “the upstairs into two bedrooms and a bathroom. Each of the three kids went to college and became a teacher. The word that comes to mind with the other family was extravagant. Their house was totally different from all the others. It was not a cape. They had chosen a ranch style house, which basically means all on one level. They also had the unheard of 2-½ bathrooms. Across the entire back of the house was a screened-in porch surrounded by a fieldstone patio. Just below the patio was a small in-ground swimming pool. This was a true luxury in the 1950’s. Later they were the first to get a color television. But what set them apart to make them truly extravagant in our father’s eyes was their choice of vehicle. My dad was a General Motors man. He usually purchased Chevys. The different lines came in different models. For instance, the Impala line came in the Biscayne, Bel Aire and Super Sport model. Each one added better accessories and options. The Bel Aire was the blue-collar model. The extravagant family was a Ford family and always purchased every available option. That’s something doctors or lawyers did.

Each morning kids would get up, watch the Three Stooges and Our Gang on TV, eat breakfast and then get thrown out of the house and told to go play outside. Every kid in Rotterdam had to be home at 4:30 in the afternoon, or at least that’s how it felt. The volunteer firehouse blew a siren every day at 4:30. There wasn’t a spot in town where that siren couldn’t be heard. That siren would blow and within a minute of its finishing every sandlot ball game, pick up basketball game, game of tag or double dutch would end. Like ants boys and girls headed across fields, down streets and through each other’s backyards heading home. It also acted as a reminder to get us home for the important afternoon television shows, which actually began at four. The Mickey Mouse Club was popular with the youngsters and American Bandstand was popular with everyone.

Lunch was different. When you got pushed out the door in the morning you knew that you’d catch lunch somewhere. All mothers understood that storming the beaches of France, gun fights and fighting Indians were much too important to give up to eat. It was a neighborhood understanding that if two or three extra kids were in your yard at noon, you threw each a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and life went on.

Now that I think about it that’s not true. The town was predominantly Italian, but where I lived was eastern European - Polish, German and Czech. My neighbors were named Karbowski, Dondalski, Drezdowski, Renkawicz and Lasak. I think that when the land for the houses first went on sale word got out at St. Adelbert’s Catholic Church, which was the local Polish parish. They did the mass in both Latin and Polish. Now my mother would fight to the death that she was German. Our name is Nichols but my mother’s maiden name was Vogel. She had four brothers and a sister. Two were born in Europe, one on the boat on the way over and two here. Her mother and father spoke German but had immigrated from what had been Prussia. After WWI it became Poland. So I would say that we were German speaking Poles. So pb and j wasn’t the norm.

I remember a lot of variety, with habits and what people had. Growing up in the 50s all of our parents were products of the depression. Some families had huge gardens and some canned their produce. So it was not unusual for a Mom to give you a fresh sliced tomato on bread with mayo or a piece of pumpernickel spread with about a ¼ of an inch of liverwurst spread on it with spicy mustard. Sometimes you got lucky and got guompkes or potato pancakes. When at an Italian’s house you would get pasta or just dip Italian bread in the pot of sauce on the stove. Today we would be accused of profiling but this is the way it was.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


10/10/07 - 3:45 Tulsa-Chicago-Albany flight - a Bassatriever puppy arrives for us. He is a new "hybrid"breed, 1/2 Basset Hound 1/2 Golden Retriever. This equates to an expensive designer mutt. He has attached himself to Kathy and follows her every move.