The Oatmeal!


Ahhh, the oatmeal. These guys are great! This post about writing is on the money (mildly depressing because of its precision and reality), but very entertaining. Check it, and other great posts, at this link

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/making_things

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People I meet: Archibald


There are people you want to meet, there are people you’re fine with never meeting and there are people you wish you never met. Archibald was sadly on the third category. We were in San Francisco in a technical training, about two years ago, and we had been taken directly to the factory–factory trainings are great because we see everything that takes place–and we learn much more than any regular training.

I arrived late of Sunday with my coworker, about fifty years old, and we stayed at the Grand Hyatt, just a mile from our training. During dinner I spotted a latino just like us and realized that he was on the training as well. He was Gerson from Panamá. On Monday, we were driven to the factory and there we met Archibald. He had arrived late and woken up early to discuss some “financial” issues with other factory employees.

You see, Archibald worked for his brother, and he had sort of a manager-technical-sales rep mix. Let me tell you: that never works. Because there’s not one focus point.

But Archibald failed to see that. He thought he could do it all. We started our training with very tiny machines, no bigger than a laptop, and it was our job to cram a pump, an antibiotic dosing system and a control system all inside. From the start, Archibald failed to accomplish not one single unit.

But that wasn’t my problem. You see, the first night, after a tiring day, we went for dinner, the four of us. Archibald suggested: Hooters. Oh boy. Not a good sign.

“All I want is to see ladies,” he said with a stupid grin on his face.

And so we went.

To make the long story short, the waitress kindly said: “Please, sir, I’m trying to work”. And this is a Hooters waitress.

As the week went on, Archie became more and more frustrated with the machines. He just couldn’t fix them. He kept complaining that he was made for this, that he was made to sell. We all just kept quiet and carried on. Until Friday came along.

The factory guys had told us that there would be a volleyball game and we were welcomed to join them for a few beers while the “younger” ones played. Archie was ecstatic. Finally, his field of play. We got there and he started drinking like crazy. By night’s end, he was too drunk and started hitting on the Sales Manager, telling her he wanted to climb and conquer her. Great.

Add to this that I was the only driver, because the company had given me the rental.

He then started hitting on a complete stranger who felt attacked. She screamed. Archie screamed. I broke the conflict-to-be up in no time and took Archie back to the hotel. Or at least I tried to.

He didn’t want to leave.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for! Yeah!” He mumbled.

Damn it.

He kept insisting that he was going to bang the Sales Manager (who wasn’t pretty by the way), but she grew so uncomfortable, she held hands with one of her employees just to drive him away! And he didn’t! He kept screaming and causing chaos.

I got pissed. And I said: “Alright, I’m checking out.”

Archie grudgingly got into the car and asked me to turn up the volume. Damn him, he kept shouting and singing. The Panamanian only nodded and laughed along. He was enjoying. But my coworker was just about to kill him.

We got to the hotel and I bolted to my room. Archie headed straight for the bar. I just ignored him: I’m a writer, I’m not made for partying. But turns out silly Bernard left the hotel keys in the car. So I went down the elevator and guess what?

In a matter of seconds–I still do not know how–San Francisco’s finest had Archie cuffed and escorted to a cruiser. As he was walking towards the lobby’s exit, he turned to me and was about to call for me. I just slid back in the elevator.

A year later I found out his brother had to fly to San Francisco from Peru and pay his bail. He was fired. Oh, Archie….

Mr. Archibald, please come with us.

Archie’s been bad.

 

Flying First Class


There are no better words than: dear passenger, you have been upgraded. I paid for economy. But the seventy thousand miles a year and airline loyalty both stood up for me.

Let me tell you: that blue curtain that separates those two worlds makes a huge of difference.

Forget the: “Dear Mr. M, thank you for flying with us. For today’s flight we have Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream (meaning Hägen Daas). Would you want some?” I don’t care about that! Let all the passengers have ice cream! And cookies! And wine!

I don’t care  about the “gourmet” meals packed tightly into a ceramic dish, looking like a playhouse kit more than anything else. I don’t care about the movies and music.

I especially don’t care for the passengers flying next to me: succesful businessmen flying to tropical paradises to “flaunt” about in front of beautiful local women; Latina hips or Asian punani. Or young entrepeneurs so rich, first class seems like coach to them. Just because Daddy invented facetwitter and they inherited a four hundred gazillion dollar fortune. They’ll still blow it all by their 31st birthday. Screw them!

All I care about is leg-room. I’m 6’4″, I’m built as a wicker-man, with long legs and arms, and I find coach class to be cruel and unusual punishment so, when I get upgraded in a 13-hour-long flight, going back home from seeing open-heart surgeries in a rural hospital in the outskirts of Gwan Zho, I’m taking it.

I sit comfortably, I have room in front of me. My knees won’t fall victim to a twelve-year-old who just discovered reclining. I even moan when I get to stretch my legs. The pleasure!

And then, it hits me. I’ve had too much cheap wine, too much water and that darn air-conditioning is pressing my bladder up to the point in which I’m nervously mumbling when I reach the bathroom. I push the door and lock it.

It is strictly forbidden to smoke in the lavatories. Punishable by law.

And I’m always baffled. THIS is the first class nobody shows you. I brace myself by pushing my shoulders to the side and planting myself flat, I unzip my pants and praise the heavens around me that the aircraft doesn’t hit a speed bump at 30 000 ft. My head must lean back, there’s no room, so aiming happens blind. Oh dear.

So. Why is it that First Class is so cute and posh and nice but the lavatory is as cramped as a mine service elevator? I can’t even stand straight. Check your heads, United.

And, if you don’t believe me, just check this out:

A cramped john

Hoping for no turbulence

(Yes, yes, hispter self-portrait, I know)

People I meet: Enrique


People I meet: Enrique.

This is a series of articles about the people I meet year in and year out. I travel—on average—twenty times a year and the most valuable thing I take, over the miles, the layovers, crappy hotels, faulty A/C and stale cookies, is the people.

 

I met Enrique in the U.S. in 2011 when I visited San Diego for training. He was a thick man with a bushy moustache, eyeglasses and gray hair.  We instantly clicked as both us used sense of humor to cope with everyday life. The thing was, his everyday life was completely different from mine.

It was after meeting him that my perception of the medical industry changed.

Enrique had been working for IC Medical for fifteen years already. When the recession hit in 2008, IC Medical had to cut costs and it meant milking the living crap out of every single one of IC Medical’s tech minions, Enrique included. The manufacturing shifts—in which he was included—went from the normal 9 hours to a 13-hour permanent overtime shift. But the salaries didn’t proportionally. IC Medical claimed a lack of income as the sole reason.

Granted, it was a problem that hit all of the U.S. and the world.  But, if it only had been that their lives were the same, with just a bit more work then there’d be no problem. But Enrique’s wasn’t.

His wife had suffered an accident, displacing three vertebrae on her back and, ironically, needed the equipment IC Medical sold to fix her condition.

Given that healthcare in the U.S. doesn’t use a socialist basis, Enrique could only afford certain hospitals. Hospitals, by the way, which were not willing to use IC Medical’s products to cure her, because the hospitals were “married” with other companies. Enrique was left with an alternative: either dig and burrow through his house for more money or turn to his employer for support.

So he turned to IC Medical. If his own company could pay for a hospital that did use the products, then his wife would make it. IC Medical didn’t even flinch. At the moment, providing the products for free was out of the question. I’m talking about two or three consumables and one machine: a cost of about 1000$.

So, as he told me this, whispering of course, I started thinking about all that I’ve done throughout the years. I’ve sold to doctors just because they want something cheaper, I’ve sold to doctors just because the brands I distribute are prestigious and I’ve sold to doctors just because their employers bought our brands. And in all three cases, I’ve wondered if they’d even flinch when I ask them for help.

Just like IC Medical with one of its own employees. A veteran nonetheless.

I kept in touch with Enrique after the training. I send him emails every once in a while and the most recent email I got was that his wife is now permanently disabled. IC Medical offered to pay for a percentage of the insurance required to have her home all day. But nothing else. Enrique is still being milked for every last drop of effort he can get. And I still sell IC Medical.

Why? Because I have to. Because Enrique has to. Or else, we f***ed.

Awake


A shadow walks by.

Staring at a window, at myself.

I breathe deep. Everything goes dark.

I open my eyes. I force them open. I know they’re open. But there’s only darkness.

I scream. But it muffles me. I move. But it pins me.

I want to cry. I can’t.

I see myself as I walk away, staring at a window then staring at myself.

I feel the pain, the saw, the scraping, the blood dripping down.

I want to cry. I can’t.

I want to go back to sleep.

About 17% of patients awake during surgery. Some are lucky enough to open their eyes, thus alerting the staff. Some can’t open their eyes. People have referred to the sensation as being “sleeplocked”.

NaMoReMO


Hello, World!
Here are the instructions to this month’s Absolute Write Blog Chain!

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, write a mock review of a writing project that you have done or would like to do. Make sure to either give a brief, one-sentence description of what the project is or work it into the review somehow. You can review anything (poetry, prose, collected blog posts) and in any way you like (funny, serious, Dadaist).

And here are the participating blogs:

Participants and posts:
orion_mk3: http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to post)
Ralph Pines – http://ralfast.wordpress.com (link to post)
bmadsen – https://hospitaloflife.wordpress.com (link to post)
dolores haze – http://dianedooley.wordpress.com (link to post)
SRHowen – http://srhowen1.blogspot.com (link to post)
Angyl78 – http://jelyzabeth.wordpress.com (link to post)
writingismypassion – http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to post)
meowzbark – http://www.lizzylessard.com/ (link to post)
pyrosama – http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to post)
randi.lee – http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com/ (link to post)

wonderactivist – http://luciesmoker.wordpress.com (link to post)

Here’s the post:

Chad Sorrens is a young and talented soldier facing his biggest challenge yet: to survive Project Archangel. In B.M.’s first novel, Project Archangel, the protagonist faces a series of challenges outlined by an underground terrorist war in Russia. Written at the age of 15, this novel has predictable twists and turns, but does have a gem somewhere beneath the troupes.

Within the gunfights, cliché love scenes and crummy dialogue we are forced to endure if we want to finish the novel, there is a harsh criticism towards war and the psychological turmoil soldiers endure. Sorrens, in the end of Project Archangel, regrets every second he spend holding a machine gun in the middle of the Russian Winter. Not because of himself, but because of the changed lives around him.

Overall Project Archangel, at 120 thousand words, is an ambitious creation by a young writer with much to learn. If the book is left to mature (and the writer) for a couple of years, it just might turn into a decent novel comparable with Ludlum, Forsyth and the earlier Clancy.

The review is of my very first book.

Stretcher 303


A doctor once told me life mattered little if one did not die with dignity.

“Forget about being a hero or having a golden plaque on your grave, highlighting what a wonderful person you were,” he swatted the disappointment away with his hands. He combed his mustache with his index and thumb then fixed his eyeglasses. He exhaled, “it’s not that. I’ve seen it enough to understand it’s not that. By time you’re buried, no one remembers you.”

I didn’t reply. My gestures did. He smirked.

“Confusing?” I nodded. Good salespeople just nod along. “Everybody remembers the you before death, right? Good. Everybody remembers the death: the heart attack, the car crash, the quiet gasp in the middle of the night. I could go on, but neither of us wants to. But after death, we don’t remember much. And it’s fine. That’s what we are meant to do.”

And so, as his voice turned into a muffled mumble, I started thinking back. I thought about my brother and his best friend, Kyle. Back in ninth grade, there was a party in Kyle’s house. Booze, weed, a thumping bass. Kyle was a bit of both: high and drunk, cruzado we call it in my country (crossed senses). He got up and told everybody he was going to take a shower. They all laughed.

Seconds later, Kyle pulled the trigger on himself. My brother once described the sound as cracking a coconut with meat inside.

What happened next? I don’t want to remember. My brother doesn’t want to. He remembers Kyle the friend. He remembers opening the door and finding him–I know because of the recurring nightmares for the following years–but he doesn’t remember Kyle after he died. He doesn’t remember Kyle, the friend who betrayed him, because he doesn’t want to. Nobody does.

“And that’s why, Bernard, death is just as valuable as life,” he said.

“How do you want to go, doc?” I asked. He nodded, just once, and smiled with accomplishment.

“A small room, just my family, no rush, no stress, nothing. Just relief.” he said. Far too young to think about death, far too experienced to get away from it, at forty-four he’d probably seen more death than all my family put together. “No rain, no weather, no cold air, I hate cold air. Just four walls, a floor, a roof and silence.”

And so, there I was, in the country’s second biggest hospital, five minutes to seven a.m., just minutes away from fixing the orthopedic operating table. Once I had finished, I walked out to a long hallway that led to the exit. The disgusting radioactive green used in the walls drained my energy, as it always did, and the fluorescent lights hummed loudly. Then cold air seeped into my pants and tickled up my legs.

Damn, doc, you were right.

I turned to my right after reaching the corner and stopped. I gasped but no one saw me; I was alone. Just me and stretcher 303. There was a white sheet resting over a lump of branches and cylinders, a patch of gray hair peeked from the top and nothing moved. I shook it off. It’s just a hospital. Someone would come.

At three thirty in the afternoon I got a call from a close friend in the hospital; I’d left my tool belt. I rushed back to reclaim what was mine. So happy to see all my tools in place, I completely forgotten about the corner. Again I stopped. There he was, 303.

To my right, no one. To my left, no one. Just the speaker in the corner: Operating Room assistant to the third floor. Operating Room assistant to the third floor. I inched closer, peeking about like a shoplifter eyeing its bounty, until I reached the foot of the bed.

Name: Unknown.

Last Name: Unknown.

I don’t know but at that moment I had the urged to photograph him. I knew I couldn’t: it’s against the law. So I checked around again and pulled out my notebook and a pen. I sketched it rapidly.

Damn, Doc, you were right. I never want to be stretcher 303.

 

A lonely body

Sandy’s Target Practice:


Flying back from Canada was a pretty interesting adventure. The day before my flight back, it was looking dim: Flight 4645 to NJ cancelled, Flight 1082 to CRC cancelled. Newark closed. La Guardia closed.

How was I supposed to get back?

There was only one way to find out. I got up at 3:30 am and took a taxi up to Pearson. By 4:30, I already had a seat on the next flight leaving to Panamá. The connection to Costa Rica was a breeze. But then I got to thinking, as I waited for my plane to take off. I had seen the news: New Jersey was devastated. New York had power outages all around. The transit system up and down the Eastern seaboard was chaotic. Obama and Romney were taking this as a political leap into a sure election.

But what about the Caribbean?

Sure, and I do not want to diminish the impact of Sandy in the U.S., the shore was devastated. Casualties piled up to 113. And the Caribbean had 72. No news broadcast mentioned them. No one highlighted that Haiti, still recovering from a tragic earthquake, had no means of defense against the storm. No one talks about the fifteen thousand homes devastated in Cuba. I guess the term Deadly Sandy can only apply to the U.S.

To the rest, it’s just target practice.

Image

Cuban streets, images belonging to the Guardian U.K.

Ghosts, halloween, and all the rest.


Here’s a little writing exercise because I got bumped in my blog chain.

It’s just to get warmed up as my blog has been a bit slow.

I called her up. I knew I was about to do something completely wrong. She didn’t answer, just as expected, so it was my turn to act. I got into the car, drove over to her house and knocked–hypocritically–on the door. I knew it was open; it creaked as my knuckles banged on it.

Dark. And still, I could see the upturned chairs, the thin layer of dust kicking up as I walked inside, the roaches scuttling for safety, though they knew me, and moths wandering aimlessly, looking for a flame to follow.
I walked up the stairs. Creak, creak, a loud creak.

It was hot. It was not supposed to be hot. My body started oozing thick drops of salty, clean liquid. It wasn’t the heat. I was just scared s***tless. I could just see it, feel it and hear it: my hands running up and down her body, occasionally they flinching because she’s feels cold, my lips kissing her, her eyes locked upon me, gazing deep into my heart and she stands almost motionless, just a leaf floating in the water. And I’m the tide.

I opened the door and there she was. The cracks on the roof let the moonlight seep in, dropping onto her light rain, highlighting her big eyes and narrow chin, her thin–almost too long–of a nose and her piercing black, shoe-shine hair. She said nothing.

I stood there for a moment but I knew there was no reaction, she ran away from it, as always. From the start, she wanted to run away. I saw her face: was she scared? I couldn’t tell. Sometimes, in fear, there was pleasure.

I got undressed. I inched my way to the bed and sneaked under the blankets. I kissed her feet, looking gray and pale under the light, then I ran my hands up her long legs–husks of an elephant they were, just imposing–and up to her breasts. I stopped.

Her nipples had turned gray and dry. The veins were bluish. A fly landed on her eye, not a flinch.

Decay had seeped in.

It was time to find another one.