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Detailing Allan's latest brush with death...
By Allan Weisbecker
'One pill makes you larger…'
I'm leaving ijn the typos as an indirect way of explaining how I am, whicg many of you h ave written asking about. (More to come on this.) Normallly I make about one typo for every four sentencnes, before editing and correcting. As you're already aware, I'm not doing that well here, even with my Mac's oautomatic spell correct, which fixis 90% of my fukcups. What all the typos mean is that I'm not 100%, in fact far from it. Way far.
Worse than the typos, I fear that my writing is not going to be what it should be, can be, meaning the voice and the flow. I hven't written anything in a long while. I'm nervous. I've got to do a bit of 'throat clearing,' as Lesley wou;d say.
'And you know you're going to fall…'
I almost died recently, which yoou may know about, if not the details. Went through an actual 'near death experience' – which is a different concept than 'almost dying.' I'll try to explain.
In the early morning hours of July 4th, a surgical team at Southampton Hospital was squintinng at my innards and asking about living wills and next of kins while my vital signs were getting droopy. (One oif the nurses told me this later, when I was oiut of the woods.)
'And you've just had some kind of mushroom…'
After almost dying I then suffered from something formally called Intensive Care Unit (or ICU) Psychosis, which I just recently found out about and then lookd into. Basically means you lose your mind. One in 3 ICU patients suffer from some sform of it. This was not my near death experience, though. Hnag in and I will get around to that.
I hope you'll take this the right way, meaning not as boasting: when I lose MY mind I don't fuck around. I do it properly. I come up with a whole lunatic narrative. (Right right, just ask Lisa! Which reminds me: all this makes me even more relieved, satisfied – gleeful, even – that I created the website to go with CYGAWA, backing up my written version of events in the book. Otherwise it'd be ICU Psychosis that brought on my chronic Othello Syndrome attacks!)
But anyway, hrere we go. ICU Psychosis (with typos), ACW style:
Reember The Manchurian Candidate, the movie (it was also a greatr book by Richard Condon)? Okay. I spent 17 days in ICU and for about 4 days of that I thought everything – the hospital and the doctors and nurses and even my Montauk friendfs who came to visit me – were part of a scheme to brainwash me, to turn me into someone else, or to get me to do something I wou;d not do.
A nefarious plot was afoot.
I wasn't surre about the specific purpose of the plot, of the brainwashing, although, predictably, I came up with some theories. But as with all lunacies, there was a certainb… logic lurking…. I mean if you dig deep enough into the subtext… More to come on that too, along with the neanr death experience.
'And the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go…'
But holy shit thye'd sure gone to a lot of troublel, these bastards, to fuck with me, with the construction of a phony hospital and training everyone to say the right nursey and doctory things and ask the right questions (to find out what I knew?) -- and maybe plastic surgery to create evil doppelgangers of my visiting buddies. (I scrapped the evil doppelganger theory after asking my board shaper/surfbuddy Jim a question only the real jim could've answered – had to do with the stringer arrangment of a blank I'd ordered. Okay. One lesss thing. Good. But plenty of other weird shit loomed.)
At first (before I was properly drugged/mesmerized/under control?) they made sure that I could not speak when I had visitors – I had a ventilator tube up my nose and down my throat and which scrwed up my vocal cords. When I decided I had to trust someone – a female surfbuddy, Claire – I tried to ask her to help me get out of there but because of the tube in my gullet nothing came out when I tried to speak. I ddn't know about the tube effect so my level of paranoia soared: they'd struck down my ability to plea for help! How did they do that? (My total lack of eye/hand coordination prevented me from writing notes.)
'Tell them a hookah smoking caterpillar has given you the call…'
I repeated to Claire my plea for help in escaping, did so silently like some unhinged, demented mime, pointing and rolling my eyes and hoping she would read my lips, get the idea, but she just smiled, nodded and said I was going to be al right, something like that. But bhind the smile she looked very worried.
Okay oksay, I was thinking. Better I keep all this to myself, anyway, while I figure out how to make my break for freedom. I shouldnt trust anyone…
…lookinf to my right now and holy shit somehow there's an 8 x 10 of Gerry Lopez getting barreled at The Pipe taped to the wall by my bed.
But how didd they know about me and surfing? Huh? (No, I never got to the point where I thought Gerry was in on the plot.) What else did they know about me? Was the photo a sarcastic reference to my 'Surfers Can Do Anything' credo? Like 'Oh, really?'
These people were on my case big time.
No other patients, either. It was just me in there as far as I could see. How come?
Plus our hero is whacked on Dilaudid and maybe doesn't want to miss the next hourly shot. Cunning bastards, they DO know me.
Speaking of which, the clocks.
'And the White Knight is talking backwards…'
Have you seen those joke clocks where the numbers go the otherway (counterclockwise) and the second hand likewise goes the wrong way, so it actually sort of does tell the right time if your percerption likewise reverses to backasswards? Okay. I could see three wall clocks from my bed, right? I spent hours, no exaggeration, trying to figure if the clocks were moving backwards, going counterclockwise, which would have been proof of…. of I don't know, but of something. I didnt get that far in my thinking – meaning what it would be proof of -- but I truly could not figure clockwise from the other way with those goddamn clocks.
Another thing. Remember Kubrick's 2001, when the astronauts would jog around the rotating circular space ship, the centrifugal (or is it centripetal?) force holding them down as would gravity on earth. At one point, looking down the hallway, the 'ICU' or whatever it was looked and felt like that. It was curved upward and rotating like in the flick so I wouldn't float off my bed. This impression was right after a Dilaudid shot though, and didn't last long. I shrugged it off as small stuff.
Listen: I remember all this clearly, perfectly so, and how sure I was that I was 'thinking logically,' inductively, deducing what was real, analyzing my predicament, my options, especially the idea of escape, and so forth. Looking back, this is the scary part, the implications of my surety that I knew real from not real, and that I could figure out everything if I just really concentrated.
'When Logic and proportion have fallen softly dead…'
For the three days (out of 17 in ICU) I'm speaking of I didn't believe for a minute that I was in a real hospital (ICU Units don't LOOK like normal hospitals: Vegas-like with the no-windows motif; the many wall clocks -- no matter which way they tick -- don't hint at the morning/night issue, which I never got right; all those weird blinking, beeping, buzzing devices, plus the nuclear goddamn gimcracks that can see EVERYTHING, future progeny be damned, and my nurses kept having conferences, if you get my drift, glancing over at me, sweet smiles gone now, just grim nods, vehement head shakes, arguing my fate between themselves in what sounded like Bulgarian from a distance, although I was not sure about tht. Plus they'd inject me with weird glowy stuff with 6 inch needles.
But ahhh, the Dilaudid nurse…. I was in love with the Dilaudid nurse…
“Feed your head!”
At the peak of my psychosis, which I disguisd from my captors with the aplomb of a cagey nonfiction writer who knows how to bullshit, even in the face of the daily grillings – 'Who is president of the United States?', they'd ask, that kind of depressing stuff -- to verify that I was lucid; I played their game well!...
Wait, what happened to my train of thought?... My Psychosis…
Right… At the peak of my Psychosis I thought the ICU, the total massive goddamn locus of my incarceration, was en route to the Middle East.
Okay, best I repeat that one in case it blew right by you: for a full day I strongly suspected that the whole Manchurian shebang scenario I was being subjected to was moving, eastbound, I sensed, probably bound for the Middle East, maybe for one of the 'stans, maybe the one where they boil you alive just for the grins of hearing you howl.
'…and the Red Queen's 'Off with her head!'
My explanation? They'd somehow loaded the phony ICU onto a ship -- I sensed a gentle oceanic pitch and roll to my surroundings and maybe the rumble of a big diesel far below. Something like that. Whatever.
So on top of everythjing I was now the victim of some sort of Bushite extraordinary rendition. Oddly, though, I only founbd this possibility 'interesting.' The specter of waterboarding in Khartoum, let alone the Allan-as-Kurdish-stew-in-a-'stan scenario, did not occur to me. Maybe it was the distraction of the constant pain…
…the indignity of others, females, some young and pretty, seeing to my (misfiring) bodily functions (and asking interminal questions about them), the sensory depreivation, the apathy, the night sweats and insomnia… and then, finally, when came fitful sleep awakening to be needle-probed at 4 AM because… no reason given by the cheerful voice announcing the incipient discomfort, just 'a little prick.' In summation, the abject misery and flashes of hopelessness a prolonged hospital stay engenders. I've not gone into that stuff… let's stick to the psycho shit, shall we?
'And if you go chasing rabbits…'
Here's the thing, though. If you'd sat down next to me and said, 'Howsit, Allan?' and we carried on a conversation, you'd not have an inkling of what was going on in my head.
This too is scary, no?
But get a load of this: Larry David kept walking by. I'm not kidding. Larry David. Larry David of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. About once a day he'd just walk by my open dooor. Not a guy that looked like Larry David. It was Larry David.
'Go ask Alice, I think she'll know…'
If anyone out there knows where Larry David was in early to mid July, please get back to me. Just in case he WAS wandering around in the Southhampton Hospital I.C.U; help me clear that one up. (I asked two nurses and a doctor what Larry David was doing there, and they all denied having seen him. I knew enough not to bring up the subject again.)
Importnant: This stuff is true. Those four days were as I've written here; what went on in my head. For evidence if not proof, Google 'ICU Psychosis.' (If there's anyone out there who's had a similar experience in ICU, I'd love to hear from you.)
Okay. All right.
But what happened? What was my actuNal medical proble,m?
Remember I told you guys that my Lyme disease had come back? I'd lost weight in Mexico, lack of energy, all that? Starting back in Jnuary?
Turned out I had an ulcer that kept getting worse until july 3rd, when it sort of exploded, perforated, blew stomach lining and acid and debris into other parts of my body. Caused bacterial pneumonia among other infective difficulties. (Trust me that you don't want your stomach and its contents blown into your lungs.)
How it went down:
I'd awakened in my Montauk house in the middke of the night, July 3rd, to a pain in my gut that was way off the pain spectrum. Way way off it. Indescribable. (You wanna talk about a writer's queasy gut? Holy shit!). This was from the hole that blew through my stomach lining, spraying acid everywhere.
The nearest hospital to Montauk is up the island in Southampton -- it was two hours before an actuall doctor asked me why I was screaming like that while drenched in sweat. He seemed distracted, frowning and looking at his watch and then taking a cell phone call while I literally begged for pain relief. For the control he had over me and for the dumb ass questions he asked (under the circumstances) I wanted to strangle him. I hope he surfs and I run into him in the lineup someday.
Next thing I remember is waking up in Post Op. At that time I could not rmember where I was or how I'd gotten there and couldn't ask because of all the tubes. The last few hours, how I got to the hospital and so forth, were lost hours that would come back very gradually.
I was told later that I almost died in emergency surgery; I then spent a total of a month in the hospital; as I say, mostly in ICU. First my stomach explosion nearly killed me, then the pneumonia gave it a try. A nurse told me that they'd loaded me up with antibiotics, which had to kick in right away, within a few hours, or I was a goner. None of them, she said, would have bet on my making it.
That I had an ulcer at all came as a total surprise. (Those of yuou who have read CYGAWA are cackling right now, at my total lack of… right: self-reflection.)
After recovering from my ICU Psychosis (I just sort of popped out of it), and after release from the hospital, sitting back here at home where I am now, my pooch stretched out on the floor with her head resting on my foot, I figured I'd wrtre about my near death expeience, the shit that went through my mind in the ICU. Some wild ass nonfiction: Kafka meets…. I dunno… Kafka meets Larry David?
This was almost two weeks ago. Until now I didn't, couldn't, write a word. I was paralyzed with self-doubt, with fear that I'd not be able to do it, that whatever I had that let me write was gone now, poofed out. What I've written here is not what I wanted to write. I wanted to write something significant. See, some significant thoughts did occur to me while I was laid up in ICU. I don't know if I can do it, explain it meaningfully. The thoughts I had were not in words, which is what we're stuck with here. I'll try, though. You have to give it a shot. (That I'm giving it a shot at all is partially because of you guys, but more about that in a bit – but no matter how this comes out, I OWE you.)
The near death experience was real, but delayed; it didn't happen during the 12 hours during which I could have -- by the odds should have -- croaked. It was a day or so later, just before the Psychosis kicked in, along with my extraordinary rendition and Larry David sightings. I was lying there mindlessly waiting for my Dilaudid and suddenly I felt like I was back in the OR, unconscious, maybe going to die and I felt very calm about it, like had I died that would have been okay.
This calm I felt, which really swept over me (before the Dilaudid shot, so it wasn't that), is the essence of my near death experience. I'll try to elaborate but I harbor little hope that it's going to work.
I don't believe in an afterlife. I'm quite sure (but not positive) that when my candle blows out, that that. I'm not going to see Mom, watch any Giants games with her; I'm not going to clock any more tip time, cop any more tang, none of that. Poof.
I don't believe in karma. Karma, in fact, is an awful concept. Hey, do the right thing or the universe will fuck you up? Meaning if there was no karma, you could go ahead and do whatever you want to whomever you want, no problem. That's what karma means, isn't it? Fuck that. How about doing the right thing because it's the right thing? No other reason. Don't expect a fucking reward for it, or a lack of punishment, which is the same thing. I mean Christ, what is with THAT shit? What goes around comes around? Yes, sure, except when it doesn't.
Besides, everyone believes their karma is straight. Everyone believes they are JUST FINE. Your cheating mate, the asshole who dropped in on you this morning (or stole something else from you), Cheney, Bush, Rice, Rove, et al. Bad karma? Nuttin wrong wid any of dem! What, me worrry?
Nope, I kne3w it. This isn't working out. Words. How to explain that all this plus a lot more occurred to me without a word being thought?
How to explain The Glide, how it feels? Same thing.
One more try. We're all going to die. You know it, I know it. Or we THINK we know it. Do we really? Well, at that moment, I KNEW it. And it WAS okay.
But since I did not die, I knew I had to redouble my efforts, had to do better at what I'd only been dabbling at. Like in my last book. No. I don't mean 'out' bad or even evil people, although that can be part of it.
What I dabbled in in that book – and to my relief, no, joy, a lot of readers picked up on it – was the idea that all the bad stuff of this world is based on the belief in untruths.
I've only dabbled, been afraid to dive right in to this.
No more dabbling. Gotta grab you, make you want to know What Happens Next, tell you about truth and untruth… I can't get uppity, though, even with the things I know about, I can't get uppity… et-fucking-cetera, but I got to go beyond dabbling.
This world, our species, is on the brink. You want to die in peace, knowing it's OKAY, afterlife or no, karma or no, you have to do something, something that may not be, probably will not be, in your self interest. What that something is will vary, depending on who you really are.
But first, you, we, have to get past denial. We have to get past our versions of my ICU Psychosis.
We have to give it shot.
Okay. All right.
My near death experience, that epiphany: There was another aspect to it, and which reinforced it big time.
My friend and web guy John wrote to you via a DSP when I got sick, let you know about my plight and suggested that if you were so moved maybe write me some encouraging words.
Well, I get home from the hospital to find a lot of you did just that. Well over a thousand of you. Except for a small handful, people I've never met. People who have only read some of my writings.
'Flabbergasted' is a word I'm fond of.
So: I was flabbergasted.
I've gotten a lot of emails over the years, yes, thousands, but this was different.
Not only because they came in all at once, and not only because I almost died…
How to explain?
Part of almost dying – trust me on this – is that you wonder if you left anything behind, something worthwhile. I sort of figured I had, more or less, at least a bit (add more qualifications here), which was part of the calm I felt, I think…
…but the messages from out there, from all over the world, made me realize that I definitely have touched some people. It wasn't just wishful thinking.
Well over a thousand (includinng diretly to my yahoo account, about 1,300). And John had only notified subscribers about my plight, so there no doubt were a lot of potential message-sendeers who didn't hear about it.
And a lot of people put a lot of themselves into their messages.
Being sick robs us of much of our adult autonomy, can make us feel less than our whole selves. Yet we are not our health, not our past adventures, or even future ones. We are the quiet watching these external events, the calm inside, where our strength does not falter. We are what we look for on the water, out in nature on our own, why we go there. We are peace, awe, and forever.
The writer, whose name is Melinda, did a whole lot better at describing my near death experience than I did. Humbled my ass.
Many were of this drift:
I am praying for you. Your adventures have helped me break out of a rut and be more honest with those in my life. Thank you and best wishes, Will
I'm tempted to quote a bunch more, but will not; this is self-indulgent enogh as it is.
If you want, though, you can check out the 1,002 rest of them at www.bandiobooks.com/guestbook.php
Let me sum this up by repeating something I've written elsewhere: Sometimes people will surprise you. I mean in a good way.
Okay. All right. I'm burning out. I'm done. (I weighed myself a few days ago: 139 pounds; I'm six feet tall.) And anyway, I don't know if any of you are even still reading.
Got to lie down now, relax into that peace and awe Melinda speaks of.
Thank you, and listen, if I keel over tomorrow, poof out, and you don't hear from me again:
'Remember what the dormouse said…'
ACW, August 24, 2008
For what it's worth: Dedicated to the doctors (especially Doc Knott) and ICU nurses of Southampton Hospital, for getting me out of there and back home, and not feet first.
And to you folks out there too. (Looking back on this, I should have expended more words on the subject of your messages. As I say, I'm far from 100%. Very tired.)
And my apologies for not answering you individually. I just couldn't do it.
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