Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the category “Events”

Freeway Free in California: Off the Beaten Track in Ojai

20170707_072416docImagine if Walt Disney, instead of building Disneyland with his own profits from the Mickey Mouse Empire, had gone to the city fathers of Anaheim and asked them to go in with him in making Anaheim a really interesting place to visit (After all, it already had beautiful orange groves  and a scenic mountain backdrop.)  That’s kind of what happened at a crucial point in the history of Ojai, except the mogul who re-made Ojai was not Walt Disney, but Edward Libbey, the glass-making magnate.

Libbey was invited by a friend to spend some time at the Foothills Hotel  in the 1920’s and decided that Ojai, with its orange groves, beautiful mountain scenery, and gurgling creek, should be an artist colony and tourist destination equal to Santa Barbara directly to the west.  Just one problem:  the downtown area of Ojai was a make-shift kind of place, with wooden sidewalks, tacky false storefronts, and dirt roads.

But Libbey had a vision, and he must have been quite a salesman, as he succeeded on persuading the local Chamber of Commerce that Ojai could and should be transformed.  Santa Barbara and Santa Fe had succeeded in enforcing cosmetic building codes, Ojai also could transform itself into a California-mission-architecture oasis, drawing artists and tourists year-round with its sunny climate.

20170707_144009webSome might have been daunted at prescribing mission architecture when in fact Ojai had nothing resembling a mission.  No problem.  Libbey engineered the building of a mission-style Post Office, complete with a four-story bell tower which chimed each quarter hour.  The false storefronts were replaced with cream-colored stucco and tile roofs; the wooden sidewalks were replaced with terra-cotta pavers and covered with arched arcades. Abracadabra! – Instant ambience!

It could have been a kitschy disaster.  But somehow it is not.  Almost a century has passed since Libbey had his vision, and with the passage of time Ojai has developed a patina of charm and tradition which seduces the visitor.  That bell tower IS charming to hear, those arcades ARE pleasant to stroll under, the central park IS a lovely shady place to enjoy a concert or a street fair,  the small shops, restaurants, and art galleries ARE worth a day of leisurely exploration.  And the mountains are still there.

One of the secrets to maintaining Ojai’s is that there are NO chain stores or restaurants allowed within the downtown center. If you go, stop at the Vons supermarket just outside the restricted area for weekend supplies.

The first night we went to a band concert in the park.  What could be more summery?  I felt as though I had stepped into “The Music Man” and Harold Hill would show up any second.  It was a perfect evening with a three-quarter moon growing brighter and brighter as the evening wore on.  A woman was selling balloons, some of which subsequently floated up into the overhanging oak to the accompaniment of wails from the child and cheers from the audience.  20170705_191205docThe band was a mixed group of kids and codgers, men and women, whites and people of color, all unified in white shirts and black pants. The concert began with a nonagenarian leading the group in the civic song, “Ojai, oh Ojai!” and continued with a succession of medleys – patriotic tunes, swing era tunes, Beatles tunes, John Williams movie themes.  (The advantage of a medley is that if the band messes up one tune, they have a chance to redeem themselves on the next.)

At intermission there was a balloon parade which circled the bandstand.  A visiting 12-year-old won a raffle and got to lead the band in the grand finale, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, preceded by the sonorous sounding of the 9PM hour by the Post Office bell tower across the way.  It was a rousing performanc by all.

I’d say Mr. Libbey got his money’s worth.20170707_080007web

 

 

 

 

 

 

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California Under Fire (Los Altos Town Crier July 8, 2017

Whittier Fire

Ventura County STAR photo

A few weeks ago I drove down to Ojai to visit a cousin and some friends.  East of Los Alamos I took the Cachuma Highwy (CA-154) to avoid the dogleg south on 101 through Buellton, Solvang, Goleta, and along the coast.

My notes describe the cutoff  as “a two lane road with two stop signs and one traffic circle in 40 miles, snaking through beautiful high country along the Chumash Reservoir, which was looking still a bit under filled despite one year of hefty rain after California’s five years of drought. This road is a playground for sports cars, and I had to pull over several times in my sedate 4-cylinder Camry to let a Mustang or Camaro roar by.” I was looking forward to a return trip on the same road, planning to check out the Vista Points overlooking the reservoir and maybe take a rest stop at the little Nature Center near the Boy Scout Camp. CachumaLakeweb

 

The evening before my departure my cousin warned me “Better check your route tomorrow.  The news says a wildfire broke out and Hwy 154 is closed.” 

Google Maps confirmed the closure the next morning, and I took the dog-leg through Goleta.  Beyond the hills behind Santa Barbara I could see the smoke roiling up like a dirty brown thunderhead.  From Santa Barbara to Pismo Beach the valley winds carried the soot from the fire thick enough to make the sky brown from the Coast Range to the ocean.  I aborted my plan of eating lunch on a balcony overlooking the Pacific, and settled for a grab-and-go shopping center sandwich.

All along 101 the fire scars from old and recent burns seemed to jump out of the landscape – blackened hills and leafless trees from summer after summer of drought and burns.  We had had a record-setting wet winter, but I had been warned by a park ranger earlier that the spring growth, now crisped by summer heat in the 100’s, would make any fire even more dangerous.

A day later the headlines in the SJ Merc shouted “Blazes rage across West;  Thousands Evacuated in State.” The fire that still closed CA-154, now dubbed “the Whittier fire” had consumed seventeen thousand acres and was only 5% contained.  The Boy Scout camp had been evacuated in a bull-dozer-led convoy, but the Nature Center was a total loss;  all of the resident animals had died in their cages.  

Two weeks later the Whittier fire had disappeared from the headlines.  I did a quick Google search;  it was still burning, but 85% contained, with a number of structures destroyed but no loss of life. 

I thought of the miles of sun-crisped golden hillsides that line our local freeways, and the thousands of discarded cigarette butts and back-firing cars that threaten to send a spark in the wrong place.  I remember the Oakland firestorm of 1991 which raged up the canyons of the East Bay hills killing twenty-three people, and I cross my fingers.  We still have a long fire season left. 

 

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Freeway Free in California: Feet on the Streets for the Women’s March Jan 22,2017

I was proud to be part of the worldwide demonstration in favor of equal rights, science, facts, and tolerance of differences. Here are some pix of my self, friends, and family in San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento. (note Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom in lower right, along with my new grand-daughter in her pussy hat.)

Legacy (Los Altos Town Crier, June 2016)

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A few weeks ago I attended a couple of celebrations which set me thinking.

The first was a reunion of  my high school alumni and faculty members from the ‘50’s, 60’s and 70’s  , a picnic where students had a chance to tell some of their teachers  as well as each other how things they had learned decades ago had affected their lives.

To Claire Pelton, English Teacher:  “I went into tutoring students for AP exams because of your class.  And I can still quote the witches’ spell from Macbeth.”

To Marilyn Young, French teacher: “Because of you I was an exchange student in France.  You met with me and my mother to encourage both of us to travel to France.  I’ve loved France ever since and am going back next month to celebrate my birthday.”

Of Betty Allen, Public Speaking teacher :  “She forced me to get up and speak.  “Impromptu or extemporaneous?” she would ask.  And she allowed no mumbling.  I can still hear her saying,  “Diction,Gary, Diction!”

Of Principal “Dude” Angius: “He knew my name.  He was the principal, and I was a snotty little kid, and he always called me by my name.”

Of Leonard Helton, American History teacher:  “Those little pamphlets on American Problems – it was the first time I understood that there could be more than one view of history, more than one side to a question.”

Of Virginia Kurzweil, typing teacher:  “She made me stick to the rules, and practice. She showed me if I worked hard I could get better, I could do well, not be a nothing.  She changed my life.”

I used to be a teacher, and loved preparing lessons and lecturing, didn’t mind paper-reading, but was a washout at keeping order in the class.  The more academically -inclined students and I had great learning experiences together, but the ones who were just serving chair time made me miserable.  Eventually I was able to switch to another line of work where I got to prepare “lessons” and “lecture” only to interested “students”.  The “lessons” were sales pitches, the “lectures” were sales presentations, the “students” were executives in large companies who needed to be educated on why they needed to purchase the high-end business software I was selling.   I got to travel around the world and enjoyed almost every minute.  The downside:  I don’t think any of my customers is ever going to approach me years from now as I sit in my wheelchair and tell me how purchasing that software changed his life.

The second celebration was a presentation of awards in appreciation of people who had made a difference in their community after retirement.

One man had seen how the character of his town was changing as historic buildings in his town were being replaced by ever-bigger and ever-blander structures, and spear-headed the establishment of an Architectural Review Board to make sure that new buildings conformed to some aesthetic needs as well as engineering and functional ones.

One woman established a non-profit which began as a drive to put books into the hands of children who had few or none, and expanded to include literacy programs and tutoring for parents as well as children in her community.

One man became interested in the trees lining the streets of his town, and became a champion of the Urban Forest, planting and maintaining thousands of trees to refresh the air and eye.

One couple plunged into their community’s government, , serving on committees and taking leadership in local, and state politics, long before politics meant polarization.

Another couple began a scholarship fund to assist students who are just on the cusp of being able to afford college, enabling over 250 students to attend four-year schools.

All this after retirement from their first careers.  I guess it’s not too late for me to leave a legacy. But I’d better get cracking.

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Light Hearts and Heavy Metal (Los Altos Town Crier March 2016)

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I am at the Caravan Lounge in San Jose, the darkest, smallest public space I have ever visited.  I am surrounded by black T-shirts, black denim jeans, and black leather jackets. A singer at the other end of the bar is screaming over the noise of two extremely amplified electric guitars and a snare drum set.  I have earplugs in my ears, but the vibration of the base guitar is still rattling my breastbone and echoing in my shoulder-blades.  I am wearing black slacks and a black T-shirt emblazoned with two skeletons, one of which is stabbing the other.  My sister M is standing next to me wearing the same shirt.  She turns to me with a wide grin and mouths above the din, “Isn’t this great?”

I am here basically because my sister’s husband was brought up in Brazil. When M heard that a trio of Brazilian women musicians needed a place to stay while they recorded their next album, M and her husband  volunteered their spare bedrooms, expecting perhaps a nice string trio.  Instead they got Nervosa, an up-and-coming Brazilian thrash metal band. thumbs_nervosa-4

They had a fine time.  M and her husband B introduced the band to zydecko, bluegrass, and some of the African artists they had learned about in the Peace Corps.  The Brazilians loved “listening to vinyl.” They danced to the new music, played foosball, and cooked dinner for M and B one night. 

Then Nervosa suddenly and unexpectedly got an invite to participate in “70000 Tons of Metal” a four day Caribbean cruise featuring performances by sixty (!!) heavy metal rock bands from all over. They dashed off to Florida leaving a lot of loose ends behind them, including two large crates of T-shirts and CD’s that ended up loaded into my husband’s car for transport to Nervosa’s first California gig after the cruise, in San Jose.

Which leads me to the Caravan Lounge.  My husband was fairly beside himself at the thought of two unescorted women at a dive bar full of black-clad metal-heads.  He hinted darkly of various forms of disaster lurking as we wandered around the mean streets  of San Jose in the depths of night. He insisted that I call several times during the evening to confirm we had not yet been assaulted.  In fact, the streets of San Jose on a rainy Wednesday night are not so much mean as they are empty, and the only approach made to us was by a sad-faced lady outside the Greyhound bus terminal begging for bus fare.

At the Caravan Lounge we introduced ourselves as Nervosa groupies, showing off our T-shirts.  It was early, but the security guard found the girl with the cash box; she took our money and fitted us each  with a plastic  bracelet decorated with skulls.  As we walked off to find dinner M overheard the ticket seller saying to the security guard, “Aren’t they cute!”20160217_222824crop

 20160217_221004cropApparently silver hair at a heavy metal concert is irresistible.  No less than three different groups of black-clad, pierced concert-goers approached us to ask “Can we have our picture taken with you?”  We were turning from the last set of admirers when Pitchu appeared beside us and invited us backstage.  Behind the shelter of a cinderblock wall and a steel door we were able to remove our earplugs and enjoy watching Pitchu practicing her drumming on the steel locker, Prika in lotus position on a crate checking notices from the previous gig, and Fernanda applying the makeup which transformed her from a clear-skinned smiling All-Brazilian Girl to a wild-eyed punk rocker. 20160217_224756crop

The place is packed.  We stand in the wings as Nervosa comes on stage to wild applause.  Thrash metal seems to require having long hair and waving it wildly – one young man near us has a shaved head with a top-knot of long blonde hair which he whips around and around at the risk of dislocating his neck. Another fellow waves a Brazilian flag to the beat of the drums. Two burly security guards keep the pulsing crowd at bay while somehow seeming to dance to the rhythm also. Almost everyone is smiling.

My sister and I are smiling too. Our real lives are just outside the door, and we will re-enter them as soon as we step outside and put on our brightly colored raincoats, but for this moment we are visiting another planet, where everyone wears costumes and it is always Halloween.

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Read This Book (Los Altos Town Crier, Feb 3, 2016)

Imagine a dolphin swimming through the ocean depths, and suddenly becoming aware of the water’s being salty – something it had never noticed in the environment surrounding it every day – something it had taken as a universal fact. Then imagine that dolphin struggling with the concept of fresh water.
That would be something of the way I felt on reading Between the World and Me, Ta- Nehisi Coates’ award-winning exposition on what it is like to be “black” in America.51nX2wGTFXL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_[1]
It had never quite gotten through to me, despite reading a fair number of books by African and Afro-American writers, that the concept of “race” which so permeates our society is almost a uniquely American idea. Other societies also make distinctions by skin color, preferring light-colored skin over dark-colored skin in their ideal of beauty, but only America makes the abrupt unilateral distinction between “black” and “white” which places a segment of our citizens irrevocably on one side of a chasm which the rest of the citizens do their best to ignore.

 

Coates refers to “those who believe they are white” to remind us that pink, peach, ivory, yellow, honey, or copper –colored skin is no more “white” than tan, chocolate, coffee, or ebony – colored skin is “black”. He tells us that racism is part of our American heritage, the dark side of the Constitution, Mt. Vernon, and Monticello. And he offers no suggestion of how to rid our society of this pervasive poison.
My parents grew up in Salt Lake City Utah. Until they were in their twenties and moved to the Bay Area, they had few ideas about race, as they had seen almost no African Americans in their lives thus far. Ironically, their innocence was a direct result of the Mormon Church’s deep-seated racism of the time, a doctrine which identified black skin as being “the mark of Cain” and excluded anyone with this taint from participation in Mormon society.
When my parents moved to East Texas, with two small children in tow, they entered a segregated society, complete with water fountains labeled “White” and “Colored”, separate waiting rooms for “Negroes” at the train and bus stations, segregated schools, and a shantytown. They did their best to keep us innocent, but racism was in the air. My parents almost never resorted to physical punishment, but I can remember my mother slapping my 5-year-old sister for hollering The N Word out the car window at a passerby. I knew what The N Word was about years before I had a clue about The F Word.
Decades later segregation is officially gone, and everyone drinks from the same water fountains. But Coates’ book opened my eyes to the constant and enduring presence of the idea of race in our American lives. Last month’s headlines about the lack of “black” actors and directors in the list of Oscar nominations could be understood only in American newspapers. The “Black Lives Matter” protests could only have caught fire in a society that accepts an artificial distinction between “black” and “white”.
If a dolphin discovers that the water he has been swimming in all his life is toxic, he has no choice – he has to keep swimming in it, even though it poisons him. Coates offers no easy fix” to our deep-seated beliefs about race . But perhaps as he makes us aware of the poison we breath in with every headline, we can somehow purify our toxic environment, thought by thought, word by word, deed by deed. Read this book.

History of a Plague (Los Altos Town Crier, Jan 6, 2016)

A quarter of a century ago, our world was threatened with a plague.  We reacted as humans do – first with ignorance (that’s an African thing), then denial (it’s just a few cases, and they’re all homosexuals, so I’m safe), blaming the victims (That gay lifestyle, what do you expect? If they would just straighten out…) and calls for social quarantine (Gay men should be required to wear a badge!) Mainstream America wanted to feel safe, because AIDS was fatal.  In 1990, if you contracted AIDS, there was no treatment, no cure.

At least three of my classmates died of AIDS.  Homosexuality was still mostly kept secret at this time. The obituaries tiptoed around the cause of death: “Complications of pneumonia”  “A long battle against disease”.  If there was no wife at the bedside, if a “long-time companion” was mentioned, one could guess.

And there were other casualties.  If you were unfortunate enough to need a blood transfusion  at this time, you were unknowingly at risk.  Blood donations were not screened for viruses, and the transfusion that saved your life one day could cause your death months or years later

Fast forward twenty-five years.  AIDS is still a tragic diagnosis, but not because there is no treatment. We now know the cause of the plague, we know how to prevent transmission, and we have medicines to treat it.  The tragedy is that people are still dying.

When the AIDS epidemic was first acknowledged, government decisions were made by the World Health Organization and by the US Center for Disease Control.  The epidemic, from being “just a blip on our radar” was now judged too widespread to make preventative measures effective.  The treatment was expensive.  The policy was announced:   There will be no funds for identifying HIV carriers, or for tracking the contacts of known carriers. HIV will only be treated when it has progressed to full-blown AIDS.  This shortsighted policy resulted in hundreds of thousands of undiagnosed, untreated HIV carriers infecting millions more people.

In the US,  private treatment funds have saved many thousands of HIV carriers ,  halting the progress of the disease,  and  preventing its transmission to others. But for many in the developing world, the cost of treatment is unmanageable. The plague goes on in Africa, where it wastes the bodies and lives of one and a half million victims yearly. 

The Los Altos Rotary AIDS Project, founded in 1989,  has adopted the strategy of the US military: Fight over there so we don’t have to fight over here.  Thousands of dollars have been funneled into Africa through the Save the Children Foundation to educate and treat pregnant women on how to prevent transmission of HIV to their children. There have been setbacks: Clinics established in Liberia were left un-staffed and empty when the Ebola scare dominated headlines; these clinics must be re-staffed and re-energized. But the work goes on.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to do something to make the world better,  a donation to the Los Altos Rotary Aids project would be a good place to start.   Contact [http://www.rotaryaidsproject.org/howyoucanhelp].

(My thanks to Dr. Art Amman for much of the information about the current state of AIDS worldwide.)

 

 

‘Tis the Season, Here’s the Reason to Give the Gift of Life (Los Altos Town Crier, Dec.2015)

‘Tis the Season, Here’s the Reason to Give the Gift of Life

My brother is not allowed to donate blood.  He contracted hepatitis while serving in VietNam.  My brother-in-law is not allowed to donate blood.  He was exposed to  malaria during his Peace Corps tour in Cameroon. My friend Nathan is not allowed to donate blood.  Gay men are not allowed to donate for fear they might be carriers of HIV.  My nephew is not allowed to donate blood.  He has a genetic blood disease. My former boss is not allowed to donate blood.  He travels to India every year to visit his family.  For various reasons, almost two thirds of the US population are disqualified as blood donors.  I am among the eligible 38%. I can, and I do.

Here’s my  Top 10 Reasons to Donate Blood, in ascending order :

The blood center where I donate has lots of fun contests and give-aways to lure me in; for example:

10: The Stanford Blood Center where I donate has an annual competition with rival al’s Blood Center – you can help the local team!

9: The Stanford Blood Center hosts an Annual Barbecue for donors at their Mountain View center  next door to El Camino Hospial – yummy! 

8: You get other excellent freebies every time you donate: movie tickets, tickets to Stanford sports, Baskin-Robbins  ice-cream coupons, photo books – it varies. C

7: If you donate four times in one year you get a really cool T-shirt.

6: Every time you donate you earn points toward more neat stuff – jackets, tote bags, license plate frames – check out what’s going on at your local blood donation center!

5: The cookies and punch in the recovery room are delicious. 

At any blood donation center the following will be true:

4: You can get your blood tested for 17 infectious diseases and your temperature, cholesterol,  and blood pressure checked, with no co-pay.

3: A pint’s a pound:  Donating blood is an easier way to lose weight than three hours on the treadmill.

2: How many chances do you have to lie back in a comfortable chair with absolutely no interruptions for a half-hour?

And the final and best reason to donate blood:

1: You can save a life.

 Less than 3% of the US population actually donates blood.  Reasons given not to donate include”

                 “I’m afraid of pain” (It doesn’t hurt),

                “I get dizzy at the sight of blood” (So close your eyes!), “

                “I don’t know where to sign up” (http://bloodcenter.stanford.edu or call 888-723-7831 for a convenient time and location) ,

                “I’m too busy” (It takes less than an hour, and you’ll feel so good afterward!)

And the #1 reason given for not donating blood (17%)

                “I never thought about it.” 

If you’ve read this far, you don’t have THAT excuse!  Hope to see you at the Blood Bank!

 

Freeway Free in Santa Fe

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If you are in Santa Fe, stay at the La Fonda. Why not? It has all the historic charm of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, or the El Tovar at the rim of the Grand Canyon. It is not located in a national park, so it went through some hard times before being lovingly restored to splendid 1920’s level grandeur. And it is MUCH more affordable than the Ahwahnee with all the wonderful hand-hewn timber, eccentric architecture (there are at least three different ways to get to any given room), interesting restaurant menus and wonderful service.P1020698web

 

IMG_0471webOnce you are there on the square, take a city tour. Why not? It will give you an overview of what you can walk to or drive to, some historical background, some pretty corny jokes, and an interesting group of fellow tourist to exchange home town data with. It’s a pleasantly slow ramp-up to the day, and you can hop on a trolley right outside the La Fonda. It will take you through the art scene street (see above), some excellent outdoor sculpture, and leave you with lots of ideas on how to spend your NEXT trip to Santa Fe. (Museum Hill?  A whole day we didn’t have to spend this time!)

 

Once you have finished your city tour, you will want lunch. There you are on the plaza/. Try the Famous Plaza Cafe – lots of history on the plaza, pressed tin ceiling, friendly and fast service, and killer fish tacos.P1020721web

 

Now it’s time for the museums. The New Mexico History Museum  is a GEM according to AAA’s road guide, and rightfully so. With admission you also get to explore the Palace of the Governors, one of the few surviving real adobe buildings in Santa Fe (the others are brick coated with stucco in imitation) and probably one of the few single-story palaces in the world.  And if you have read Willa Cather’s “Death Comes to the Archbishop” (and I hope you have, as a prep for your Santa Fe visit) you will find portraits of ALL the main characters hanging in the Museum or the Palace – instantly recognizable.

 

P1020741webOn your way back to La Fonda, be sure to explore inside the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi which faces the square. Again, if you have read “DCttAB” you cannot fail to be moved by the statue of the austere Archbishop Lamy who reformed and re-energized the New Mexico church mission, and by the little wooden Madonna, regally gowned by the devout needlewomen of the Santa Fe diocese, who is the core of Catholic tradition in the area, paraded around the square in her finery once eacy year.

 

You’ve walked a lot. Time to relax at the pool in the La Fonda central courtyard. It’s shielded from wind and sun and kept at a perfect temperature.P1020734web

 

Once you are dry and dressed, present yourself at the Bell Tower Bar at the very top of the LaFonda, with a 360 degree view of the square,the town, the mountains, and the clouds. Everyone up here is in a good mood – what nicer place could there be to strike up a conversation with the folks around the firepit or cocktail table?

And if you have not filled yourself up on appetizers at the Bell Tower, finish off your Santa Fe day at La Plazuela, the restaurant in the former courtyard (now roofed with a skylight) around the fountain at the center of La Fonda. There are other restaurants in town which boast Michelin stars, but none that can boast more atmosphere or history. I recommend the pork tamales.

 

The evening is up to you.

Accident (Los Altos Town Crier December 2013)

My brother had an accident.  He was working overtime on the weekend, on a 10-foot ladder.  The ladder slipped backwards from under him, and he fell with it onto a wood-composite deck.  He broke both wrists, his shoulder blade, and every bone in his face except his lower jaw.

Day 1 –He spends in Intensive Care, in critical but stable condition, in an induced coma.

Day 2 – my brother is in surgery for nine hours, first for a tracheotomy to enable breathing, since his nose and sinus cavities are shattered, then to reassemble his face.  The reassembly requires  eleven titanium plates and ninety-three screws.

Day 3 – The doctors bring my brother out of the induced coma so they can test for possible spinal injuries.  As he regains consciousness, according to a family member in the room “he made a sound of such excruciating pain that no human should have to make.  He won’t remember it, but his son and his fiancée who were in the room will never forget it.”

The doctors put my brother  back down into coma while they “adjust the pain-killers.”

Day 4 – With better pain management, my brother comes out of his coma.  He can respond to questions with eye blinks, head shakes, and nods. Feeding tube and tracheotomy limit his speech.

Day 5 – His son brings in a white board. Holding a marker between two numb fingers, my brother can write a wobbly word or two.  His first word: MOM?

Day 7 – My brother is out of Intensive Care.  The doctors have found no damage to his spine, brain, vision.  When he first put his feet to the ground he discovered another injury – a broken toe that had gone un-noticed earlier.

Day 8 – My brother goes home from hospital.  Both arms are in splints, and his jaw is wired to prevent chewing , which might dislocate his carefully re-assembled face.  He has lost twenty pounds during the three days before the feeding tube was inserted.

Day 15 – My mother and I fly up to help the care-giving team.  We are apprehensive about what that new face will look like, but to our delighted surprise my brother’s new face looks pretty much like the old face – maybe the nose is a little shorter, a little straighter.  My nephew shows me a picture of what his dad’s face looked like shortly after he was brought in to the emergency room – like a puddle of lemon jello with red eyes. Amazing.

I take my brother to see the facial surgeon who put him back together.  A lady in the waiting room notices his arm casts and comments  “I thought they only did facial surgery at this office.” With her attention drawn to the twin casts, she had not noticed anything odd about his face,

My brother’s family thanks God for his recovery.   I’m grateful too, but I can’t help thinking  “God, what a waste of Your time!  It would have been so much more efficient if You had just steadied that ladder!”

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