Literally broken-hearted, I wait for what’s next

I always thought I’d die of a broken heart.

I know her name, but never got her number. But she’s the one who told me in that special, emotionless way only doctors can.

“Incomplete right bundle branch block and left axis-anterior fascicular block … ABNORMAL … Have a nice day.”

Let me catch you up.

On Wednesday morning, I had a physical. Just the usual yearly exam because I’m old and I’m fat, and by the law of doctors who buy boats – lots of boats – we should have a yearly physical exam.

So I did. I slapped down my donation to the SS Stupid Patient and walked into the exam room.

I said “ahhh” and went through the usual rigmarole. Temperature was good, blood pressure was good enough. Eyes. Ears. Reflexes. Finger up the butt (My mother always wanted me to date a doctor!) Everything was fine.

The EKG was the one that did me in. For now.

It came back abnormal. Another word for broken, as far as I’m concerned.

My sense of humor? That’s abnormal!

My devotion to my work life over my social life? That’s abnormal!

The fact I listen to Lorde and think Niall Horan’s “This Town” is a good song. That’s abnormal, too.

But my heart?

Oh boy.

The end is near.

Maybe. (Or not really.)

I don’t know.

Like I said it’s hard to tell with these doctors, many of whom come off as if they don’t really give a shit if you live or die because, well, let’s face it… the next sick person – ka-ching, ka-ching — is sitting out in the waiting room.

I turned to Dr. Google for my second opinion and found the medical words that were on my EKG are also known as Bifascicular Blocks.

After that, it’s a whole bunch of medical jargon about the electrical system of the heart. It might as well have been geometry to me, that’s how far it was over my head.

But I did learn, it could be very serious.

Or it may not be.

But since it’s heart related it is definitely kind of important.

After all, there are 525,600 minutes in a year. And if my average resting heart beat is 75 beats per minute … well, you do the math.

Like I said, it’s pretty important.

The one thing the doctor did say to me that shocked me was that it showed up on my last EKG, only that doctor – a different doctor – never said anything to me about it.

That was more than three years ago.

I’ve been walking around with a broken heart for more than three years and a doctor knew about it and refused to tell me?

I want to be so angry, I’d explode, but I’m trying to keep my heart rate down … you know, just in case.

So I’m getting referred to a cardiologist.

That’s the next step.

Broken-hearted, I’ll try to get through another day until I learn more.

 

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The Uninspired Version of Me

So I’m on vacation. Well, not really.

When you’re working two jobs whose hours total 57.5 hours a week — and one of those jobs is journalism-based — you’re never really on vacation.

At least I’m not.

I’m old school and I’m a firm believer in the fact that because I chose this profession, I’m on call 24 hours a day when needed, as needed. Period. No questions asked.

I’ve already checked my e-mail and set up a photo/story to be sent in to us for use this week. I reached out to a freelancer yesterday — Christmas Day — to make sure coverage would be set up this week, so I can work less than normal.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

It dawned on me this morning that I’m at an uninspired point of my life.

I came here to blog this morning — about what, I didn’t know — and I realized my last three posts were all based on the death of somebody — one person close to me, another just a random teammate, one a teacher from my days as a school boy.

That’s my inspiration when I’m in my 50s? Death.

Yikes.

This place a been a potpourri of my words. Some have been read a lot, some have been ready quite little. I feel pride when a lot of people read my words, and I really don’t care when people don’t take the time.

In my very first post in this space, I wrote, “If you’re bored, and wondering what the hell you’re doing here? Well, frankly, I don’t care. I’m writing this one for me, not for anybody else.”

What bugs me, though, is when I don’t write.

What bugs me is when I feel uninspired.

Maybe it’s the exhaustion. The two jobs things is tough at this age. My heart is in one place, my health insurance is another.

Maybe it’s the season. From Thanksgiving through the New Year has never been a time when I shined. Or thrived.

So maybe it’s that.

I don’t feel the tank is on empty. I’m just too uninspired to head to the gas pumps to fill myself up.

I haven’t run out of words. I’m at 360 as of this sentence.

The inspiration to find the best of those words is what is missing.

The spark.

The muse.

As the Moody Blue’s once sang:

“I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you”

 

Remembering my 13-mile long classroom

Many of my friends and former classmates are mourning the loss of a former teacher today.

The news of Jeffrey Johnson’s passing takes many of us back to our high school days, to our interactions with him and how he changed our lives.

I never had Mr. Johnson as a teacher, however.

Instead, he changed my world as a friend, and I realize now – suddenly, now that he’s gone — what a debt of gratitude I owe the man.

As the crow flies, my family home in Orrington, Maine, was just about two miles or so from Hampden Academy, the school from which I graduated.

It was directly across the Penobscot River and from certain points in Orrington you could look across the river and the see the school.

By car, however, it was 13 miles away … six-plus miles to Brewer, across the bridge to Bangor, and six-plus miles to Hampden on the other side of the river.

When I made the decision to transfer from John Bapst Memorial High School to Hampden Academy for my senior year, transportation was my biggest hurdle.

This is where Jeff Johnson changed my life.

I had known Jeff prior to my year at Hampden Academy. In fact, looking back on it, I had known him when I was in middle school.

He lived in Bucksport, the town south of my hometown, and was a regular visitor to the convenience store my mother and step-father owned.

As one of my stomping ground places where I spent much of my time, I got to know Jeff and his wife, Pam, also a teacher, enough to ask them a big-time question leading into my senior year.

Could I hitch a ride to school every day?

As far as I know, they never gave it a second thought.

So pretty much every morning from Labor Day of 1983 to graduation in 1984, I would walk a half mile from my house to the Main Road where Jeff and Pam would pick me up and allow me to attend Hampden Academy.

Every morning, we would talk about life and love, family and education.

(As an athlete who always stayed after school for practices, I rarely if ever got a ride home. Instead, I hitchhiked the journey home … though that, too, became a regular journey of regulars who would pick me up and drop me off at certain spots).

The Johnson family decision to allow me to ride with them to school changed my life.

First and foremost it allowed me to avoid attending Brewer High School, a thought I dreaded.

It gave me a new set of friends I still care about to this day.

And, it opened my door to two new English courses, one of which was journalism, pushing me further down the path that would become my life’s career.

I’m sure I thanked Mr. Johnson for the rides back then, but only today – after hearing of his passing – did the magnitude of them hit me.

My heart hurts knowing he’s gone, but what an effect he had on so many lives, as a teacher … and as a friend.

Thanks again, JJ.

May you rest in peace.

Dear Lottery Winner, What if?

Dear $758 Million Lottery Winner,

I woke up this morning and discovered the bad news. I was not the big money winner of last night’s Powerball drawing.

Instead, you were.

Congratulations.

Then, I discovered more bad news.

After walking up to my local deli, and plugging my own two lottery tickets under the scanner (I didn’t even bother to check the actually numbers) I learned I won $4 on one ticket and another $4 on the next ticket.

That’s $8 out of your winnings going into my pocket. Eight bucks worth of food out our your mouth and into my belly.

I’m sure you’ll find a way to survive. I just hope you’re wise enough to thrive with such winnings.

To paraphrase Voltaire – or maybe it was Spiderman – with great money comes great responsibility.

Spend wisely.

Last night, after hearing  a promo for the upcoming drawing, I allowed myself to briefly wander into the “What if” land of a Lottery Wannabe.

What if by shit luck and circumstance my numbers came up.

Well, first and foremost, I know I wouldn’t have been pocketing $758 million.

According to USAMega Website, “If the winner opts for the lump sum cash payout, as most do, then he or she is being awarded $443,300,000.”

That’s before the United States Federal Government steps in, though.

Federal taxes would steal $110,825,000 — for “45’s” golf fees? State taxes would eat up another $22 million or so.

I’d have to pay my mother $1 million as the obligatory thank you for raising me, as well.

In other words, the $758 million actually becomes something closer to $310 million.

Still wouldn’t fit in my wallet, but you get my point.

So back to my “What if?” scenario.

I’m sure the first year would be just silly and ridiculous in terms of blowing money like it grew on trees. In fact, I might even have paid somebody to place the money on trees at the house I bought so I could just pick it off and spend it.

But in my 51 years and three months on this planet, I like to think I’ve lived rather frugally.

No silver spoon here, folk. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck for all of my life because I chose a career that made me happy, even if it left my wallet light.

As a lottery winner, I thought to myself, I could live off of $2 million a year quite easily.

If I have 20 years of life left in me, that’s $40 million spent just living – which means I would have close to $200 million left over, even with my initial spending binge.

One of two things would happen, I think.

I’d either be making a bunch of strippers very happy, or I’d have my name on something.

A gymnasium somewhere, I suppose. Or a new wing of a journalism building at some college campus.

I’d give a lot to education because if there is one thing I’ve learned in a half century of life, education is the way out of the mess this country has made for itself.

Instead of continuing to fall behind, why not start taking the steps to catch up.

Maybe I’d buy a weekly newspaper somewhere and as publisher just run it right, not giving a flying fig about the bottom line of the financial books, but the bottom line of Page 36.

We lost a $1 million last year? No problem. Here it is from my lottery winnings. But we did journalism right!

That’s the way I’d professionally want to go out.

Sadly, in this day age of the Fifth Estate, I’m likely going out as a Walmart greeter, informing the public that there’s a 2-for-1 savings on toilet paper in aisle seven.

But all that, of course, was in the “What if?” world.

In the real world, I won $8 playing Power Ball.

I bought a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, and a 20-ounce coffee for $5.44. I pocketed the other $2, waiting for the next time the lottery hits a couple of hundred million.

Then, realizing I had spent $20 in tickets to win that $8 prize, I started to head off into the “What if” world again.

What if I had that $12 back? What would I spend it on?

Don’t run and hide: Join me on our bully pulpits

President Donald Trump, the man who people are letting divide the country.

President Donald Trump, the man who people are letting divide the country.

I was called a bully the other day.

Anybody that knows me — truly knows me — would laugh at that as much as I did considering over the course of my life I’ve loved and accepted everybody that has come and gone.

My only “fight” was in fourth grade with a kid named Joe Vachon, both of us urged on by our blood-lust filled peers, and we danced around in a circle at recess, and threw one punch each.

Once we connected fists and felt the pain, the fight was over. We were friends again.

Yet here I am, now in my 50s, still friendly and accepting of everybody, and I get called a bully because of one Facebook post.

Here’s what happened: On Monday, I shared a story from CNN on my Facebook page. The CNN headline was, “Trump: Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

It was such a stupid, asinine statement from the guy less than half our country elected President that in the comment section of the post, I opined, “Nobody knew? Well except for the countless presidents who did everything they could to find a way to give everybody in the United States healthcare — and that’s people far smarter than you, sir. When one finally did – even with a few flaws – you were the blowhard who came in saying you were going to blow it all up. Not so easy, is it, “Mr.” President … Go ahead and fix it, if you can, and find a way to make it better. Just quit being an embarrassing human being that is destroying America and start taking steps to fulfill your ultimate promise of making the country better.”

Just a flat-out reaction to a stupid statement with a touch – barely, but it was there – of support at the end.

Later in the day came a comment from a Facebook friend, a man I respect and love on a personal level.

“Keep acting like a school yard Bully John. GOOD BYE.”

I checked. He had un-friended me on Facebook. Again.

The first time this man de-friended me on Facebook, I was upset. This time, not so much. This time I was much more flabbergasted.

Bully?

I wasn’t the one who ordered ICE Agents to storm through neighborhoods in caravans, jumping out, guns drawn and scaring the hell out of children and mothers and grandmothers, in search of illegal immigrants who might or might not have done something wrong.

I wasn’t the one overseeing a country where custom agents accost travels on a domestic San Francisco-to-New York flight, demanding to see people’s paperwork to prove they were Americans who deserved to fly across what was once the land of the free.

I’m not the one shitting all over journalists world-wide who are doing their job, taking the term “Fake news” that was started to combat all the non-reputable websites and blogs who were printing out-right lies against both parties, and turning it on to main stream media like the New York Times, the LA Times, CNN — who were writing and reporting things that our leader didn’t like.

So how am I the bully?

Because I called Donald Trump a blow hard? (He is! There can be no argument about it. Even his supporters would have to admit his characteristics are that of a self-serving blowhard. It’s an adjective that, to me, can’t be argued). Just like I’m fat because I weigh too much.

Because I called him an embarrassment to the United States, because some of the things he has try to pull off (immigration ban, Russia, grabbing pussies, insert many other proofs of not-so-Presidential actions here that the world has laughed at)?

When I post political opinions to my Facebook page, I try to limit myself to one a day. After all, Facebook has become a deluge for hatred and divisiveness in this country, but the positives still outweigh the negatives – barely – in terms of keeping up with old friends.

I’m proud to say that I have not de-friended anybody over any post regarding the election of this president, because I do love the fact that, as Americans, we can support different sides and ideas, and yet still somehow work together for what’s best for our country.

Some people, I guess, can’t handle that type of America – Where we argue and debate and support what we believe in.

They want it their way, the only way, period .. and I guess if you don’t support their way of thinking you’re nothing but a bully.

And that saddens me.

I have friends and family who support Trump and I love them all. I have friends who lean so far to the left, I’m afraid they’re going to fall into the Pacific Ocean, but I love them as people with all my heart.

And, I’m a liberal-leaning independent who sees things differently – Nashist, I call it – and there are times I have defended Trump (not many, but I have) while also laughing at his comically frustrating first 40 days.

Trump the President doesn’t scare me. Not one single iota. Those powerful men he surrounded himself — after his broken promise to drain the swamp – are what scares me.

From what I see, they are the bullies in this world.

But if one man wants to call me a bully for standing up for what I believe in, then I’ll carry that banner proud.

Because when I see something that I feel is wrong, I will have the courage to point it out. When I support something or somebody, I’ll proudly stand before anybody who has the guts to listen to me argue my point.

I will not run and hide, head in the sand, from those who have a different opinion than me. Join me in the fight. Tell me why you support what you do. Don’t run away and be scared of the other side.

To the contrary, I will give them their own bully pulpit to try and out-shout me in our arguments.

When we’re tired and hoarse, then we can climb down, embrace and headed to the local bar for a beer.

That’s the kind of America I want.

I fear, though, that it’s gone forever.

Sometimes You Just Want To Feel Close To Home

Patrick Stewart of Bangor, Maine, was a senior at Colby College this winter (Photo courtesy of centralmaine.com)

Patrick Stewart of Bangor, Maine, was a senior at Colby College this winter (Photo courtesy of centralmaine.com)

Walking through the under belly of Wesleyan University’s Freeman Athletic Center in Middletown, Connecticut, I came across the Colby College hockey team.

I was there for the 2017 National High School Squash Championships. The Mules were there to play hockey.

One by one, earphones plugged in to drown out the outside, they were lugging their gear from the bus, heading to their locker room, their eyes focused on what was to come.

Suddenly, I was focusing on what once was.

Colby College. Waterville. Maine.

Home.

Well, almost home.

Waterville is located about a 50-minute drive from my hometown, but it’s a place I’ve been to too many times to count.

As an athlete. As a sports writer. As a coach. As a fan.

Colby College was a place I knew well.

One of the highlights of my life occurred at Colby College way back during my sophomore year in high school.

The school was playing host to the Maine State Cross Country Championship meet and that day I happened to have the race of my life, finishing 27th … right on the heels of our No. 2 runner who was usually more than a minute in front of me.

From start to finish, I felt great. It was a hilly course and I loved it. It’s one of the highlights of my athletic career (27th? Shows you how pathetic my overall talent level was, I suppose).

The Waterville-campus continued to play a role in my life after I started working at the Bangor Daily News. I was covering a lot of Husson College basketball games back then and it was a pretty intense in-state rivalry with Colby that made those sojourns down I-95 so worth it.

I saw countless good Division 3 college basketball games inside the Wadsworth Gymnasium, and many good players.

For a few summers, when I was in my 30s, I got to work on the basketball courts that Colby College offered up. I was coaching basketball in those days and working basketball camps in the summer.

We stayed in the dorms, ate in the dining commons, and, like kids revisiting our college days, drank a little too much at night.

So, yeah … Colby … great memories.

It wasn’t long after the hockey team walked past me that Colby’s men’s basketball team entered the facility, as well. It too was facing Wesleyan that day.

“Any Mainers on the team,” I asked a random player, recalling the program’s love for in-state players. “I grew up in Bangor.”

“Bangor? Patrick Stewart is from Bangor,” a player replied, pointing up the hallway at the 6-foot-6 Colby senior walking well in front of us.

I left Bangor 19 years ago and never looked back.

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Patrick Stewart, Colby College basketball player.

That meant Patrick Stewart, if he had been born in Bangor, was likely just three years old when I left.

I knew nothing about him short of the fact of what I just learned. He was from Bangor and played for Bangor High School before going off to college.

Suddenly, I wanted to see him play. I wanted to see Colby play. I guess, for even a few moments, I just wanted to feel close to home again.

Where I live in lower Connecticut, about an hour from the Wesleyan campus, it’s a six-hour drive home — Short enough to be able to make the trip in case of an emergency, long enough to be just enough of a pain-in-the-ass to make it home regularly.

There are times when I miss Maine a lot. My family. My friends. The chosen few who have never left my heart and I think of every day.

Things trigger those memories. A song. A smell. A word.

Colby.

Those Colby College athletes walking past me did just that.

So, after my squash duties were done, I made the walk back through the Freeman Center and I slipped into a side door of Wesleyan’s gym. I found myself a seat in the back row of the Wesleyan stands.

It was a close game at halftime, the two teams knotted up at 33-33.

Over the course of the second half, Wesleyan proved to be more athletic and the cold-shooting Colby team was no match for the home team.

The final score was 82-67.

Stewart, who finished with 11 points, two rebounds and an assist, came out of the game in the closing seconds. He walked down the bench, hugging each and every teammate, one by one.

It didn’t take me long to realize I just witnessed the last game of his college career.

Representing Bangor and supporting Bangor: I found myself applauding him as he reached the end of his bench.

Stewart played and started in all 24 of Colby’s game this season. He averaged 16.1 points per game.

Over the course of his five-year career — he missed his junior season with an injury and earned a medical redshirt — he had scored more than 1,000 career points.

And, I’ve since discovered that Patrick has a sense of humor.

While doing some research to write this, I discovered a Q&A with Stewart on the Colby athletics website. When asked by the school why he picked Colby, his opened his reply with, “Well besides the appeal of coming south for the warm weather …”

Bangor humor. My humor.

A second-team All-Maine player at Bangor High, Stewart plans on becoming a teacher. If I had to guess, that means he’ll become a coach, too. He’s following in a long line of many great Bangor High athletes if he does that.

Had I stayed in Bangor, and had life gone differently, I might have watched him grow up as a Bangor High player and appreciated him all the more.

Instead, it was a one-shot deal.

One game; one-half of one game, to be more accurate.

But for nearly an hour watching Patrick Stewart represent his parents, his hometown and Colby College, I got to feel a little bit closer to home.

My life if Donald Trump was Coach Trump

If Donald Trump were a basketball coach ... (Photo courtesy of SI.com)

If Donald Trump were a basketball coach … (Photo courtesy of SI.com)

If Donald Trump and his people were in my world …

Reporter: Hey Coach Trump, tough loss tonight, what do you think happened?

Coach Trump: Loss? What loss? We won. Season-opening win. Go team. Make Team Great Again.

Reporter: Coach, the other team scored 65 points. Your team only scored 62. You lost by three points.

Coach Trump: No, that’s not right, we won the first, third and fourth quarters. We won 3-1. Victory is ours.

Reporter: Coach, you’re one preseason scrimmage was against a team of Russian players. How do you think that helped you prepare for this game?

Coach Trump: Russians? There was no Russian help whatsoever. Coach Putin and I saw each other at a basketball camp once, but there was no Russian help. They’re hackers. They foul a lot. Not that I would know that because we didn’t play them. Who told you all this? Somebody intelligent? Anybody with intelligence is worthless and horrible and not worth my time as Coach. Next question.

Reporter: Umm, uh… Well, on the 3-point shot at the buzzer, the one that gave the other team the, umm, uh, 65-62 score … It was launched from 50 feet away. Was there a breakdown?

Coach Trump: Launches from far away? It’ll never happen. Not on my watch. And how you can say you this team has broken down? It’s the first game. That’s it, no more questions from you … Next question, Doug Love Donald’s Basketball Blog … where are you?

Reporter looks around and sees assistant coach Kellyanne Conway gathering her things by the bench.

Reporter: Coach Conway … Can you comment on how much the crowd might have bothered the team the down the stretch?

Coach Conway: Crowd? Why are you talking about the crowd? Eight years ago when a game was played here, the crowd wasn’t bigger. It was just you people in the press who said this crowd wasn’t as big.

Reporter: Umm, that game was a first-ever meeting of rivals from the same city. Of course, people came out to support their teams. Your team are outsiders. A bigger crowd wasn’t expected.

Coach Conway: It was the rain. They said it was going to rain and with all the acid rain falling from the sky, people know acid burns the skin and we need skin to survive, because how many people survive without skin, except for those patients who have had skin grafts and it’s important for us to raise doctors to help these people while making sure car manufacturers stay in America, and before the start of the next game we’re going to build a wall that other team won’t be able to come on our side of the court and …

Reporter: Coach … You’re not answering the question. I’m asking if the crowd …

Coach Conway: I am answering the question. I can’t believe your laughing at me. You can’t make that comment. That’s not your job. This crowd wants us to build that wall so doctors who help people will stay and not get paid by Obama-care because on our team nobody is insured until we come up with something better, and once we do that, we’ll come out with a point guard who can push us further to the right and then we’ll be ready to …

Reporter: Coach, answer the question, please?

Team spokesman Sean Spicer then stepped into the press gathering. He takes no questions and just starts to speak.

Spicer: This was the largest audience to ever witness a basketball game – period – both in person and around the globe. This game was on the internet and billions of people have the internet. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the game are shameful and wrong. There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Coach Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable, as well.

Spicer storms off leaving the reporters stunned and looking at each other. They know how to do their jobs, but if they report the final score as 65-62, they know Trump’s people will counter with a 3-1 victory. There are no winners in the world of sports anymore. That is obvious.

Reporter: That’s it. I’m done. I think I’m going to go cover girls field hockey.

Reporter 2: Yeah? I hear there are going to be a bunch of players walking to the National Mall to play some pick-up games tomorrow.

As the reporters walk out, they pass Coach Trump talking with a recruit he hopes to join the team.

Coach Trump: Say, you’re pretty intelligent. I love intelligent people. I’m behind them 1,000 percent. Come play with us. You won’t regret it.

And, scene. Or, as they in my business … 

— 30 —

EPILOGUE: Sports writing never felt so good, even in this day and age of newspapers dying a slow and painful death.