Beta Antagonistes: I spent the

Beta Antagonistes
: I spent the night of July 4 watching a TV show more frustrating and aggravating than Oprah with Dr. Phil or the latest numbing Ken Burns docusnoozer.

I was watching my heart monitor. No big deal: just irregular rhythm. My heart was telling the truth about me; I have no rhythm; I have bad timing.

Believe it or not, even this finds it roots in September 11 for me. After sucking a few floors’ of concrete into my lungs and getting pneumonia back then, they gave me a lung function test and at the end of that, they spritz you full of some stimulant that’s supposed to make you breath like an Oreck vacuum but it stimulated the wrong thing in me, wouldn’t you know; it made my heart lose the beat like a Connecticut Presbyterian in a Harlem Baptist choir.

The doctor explained that the stimulant was a “beta antagonist.” I tried to deal with my betas like spam; I took beta blockers for awhile, I thought I could keep them at bay, and then my doc and I got cocky and thought we’d defeated the little f’ers; I gave up my blockers. But we were wrong. My betas were antagonized still. My betas were mighty pissed. I know exactly who and what pissed them off. And they were going to kick ass: Mine.

They kicked my ass into the hospital Thursday night.

There, the experts took blood and replaced it with drugs of all sorts, trying to inject me with some magical metronome. All the while, I watched the monitor, which mocked me. It kept beeping and blinking: “IRREGULAR… IRREGULAR… IRREGULAR.” Yeah, I know; known my whole damned life. I kept willing it it get back into the beat. It kept mocking me. I tried toying with it. I discovered that when you scratch your beard, the monitor goes all scratchy crazy; scratching is electric. Imagine what a good backrub would look like. Imagine the real electricity of sex.

Yes, I was bored. I was frustrated. The first drugs didn’t work. They kept trying more. But that TV show wouldn’t change. I was in for the night.

But just as on September 11, I came out of it mindful that I’m the lucky one. There was some guy there with a broken, burned hand. There were old people who suddenly couldn’t walk. A feverish kid was crying in an emergency room at midnight. A grown daughter was taking care of her elderly father… again. I merely lost sleep.

They finally found the right formula. Or my betas got what they came for. It ended. They came in at 6 a.m. and announced, “You’ve converted.” To what, Judaism? Good.

The guy across the hall got parole at the same time. He was eager to get out so he wouldn’t keep his wife waiting. But there was another reason: His wife had brought him the night before and when he got his hospital gown — does somebody actually design those things? — she took his shirt and so, this morning, he was left without a shirt to wear; he had to stand on the street shirtless. Even so, he was happy.

The cardiologist on call, a very nice guy, spent a long time with me, answering my questions. And at the end, he noted the September 11th connection and we talked about the day. From the top of this hospital deep in the burb’s of Jersey, they could see the buildings fall. Everything comes back to September 11, still.

September 11 makes priorities clear. Emergency rooms make priorities clear.

And so I’m going to take a week off. This is my long-winded way of saying that. I wasn’t planning to take the week off, even though I’m taking a week off from work. Because Reynolds and Welch and Layne and Ellis and many others I’m too lazy to link are all taking off (why link? — there’s nothing new there) I felt some obligation or competitive ego that was going to keep me blogging. But last night, I decided not to. I’m going to spend the week playing with the kids.

See you in a week.