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Step off, old man!
Sunday, 21 December 2003
My friend Ken
I was feeding my son Van this morning when my mother called to tell me my friend Ken's obituary was in this morning's paper. I didn't know he had died although it wasn't a complete shock. He had been sick for most of his adult life with cystic fibrosis. Lately, things had taken a turn for the worse with the hospitalizations becoming more frequent and serious in nature.

Nine years ago, I was editor of Providence Monthly magazine. We were always getting unsolicited submissions, most of which weren't very good (neither was the magazine at that time, to be honest.) Someone sent in a bunch of made-up "Letters to Santa" from well-known Rhode Islanders. Greg, the guy who started the magazine, and I laughed our asses off as we read the letters. We published them in the December issue. That was how I first met Ken. He wrote those letters.

Ken was a funny writer with a sense for the outrageous and a strong sense of fair play. He didn't understand cruelty. He and I got along well and usually met at Cafe Zog on Wickenden Street or some other coffee shop. He usually lugged around a notebook, filled with various scribblings.

He was quiet, but inquisitive behind those big bushy eyebrows. I was surprised to learn that he had played in a couple bands. It didn't seem to fit his personality. I was more surprised to learn he had cystic fibrosis, the disease which would eventually kill him. It didn't manifest itself in any obvious way, although there were times when Ken struggled to catch his breath. He was hospitalized frequently with respiratory conditions that could be potentially deadly to someone with his condition.

He went down to part-time at his United Way job, and then eventually had to leave because he was having such a hard time breathing. Earlier this year, he tried to get on a list for a lung transplant. He was too thin and had to gain weight to become eligible. Over the past year, he spent most of his time in the house that he shared with his brother. It wasn't by choice. He just couldn't be exposed to other people who might be sick. Also, he had to lug oxygen with him everywhere.

He had a close call a few months ago. I called the house and his brother told me he was in Rhode Island Hospital in intensive care. I went to see him on my lunch break from work. He was unconscious, on one of those big respirators. His thick hair was brushed back and he was receiving some kind of pain medication through an IV. You always hear that you should talk to people in the hospital who are unconscious. I did for a while, but couldn't think of much to say except,"How you doing, Ken? I'm rooting for you, buddy." The nurse in the room didn't express much confidence that he was going to make it. I cried for a while then left.

Within a week, his brother called to tell me Ken was doing better. I went back to see him in the hospital. He was off the respirator and in a bed on the opposite side of the room from where he was last time I had visited him. He still was on oxygen, but he was sitting up, talking, eating, and reading. Near his bed was a notebook full of his writings.

It was amazing, really. I never thought I'd seem him alive again. I told him how good it was to see him and that it was a kind of miracle that we could talk again. It felt like talking to a ghost.

After Ken went home, I visited him, sometimes bringing lunch. The mission was to fatten him up. He needed to gain weight to be eligible for the lung transplant. He was eating a lot more than he normally did. Still, he was very thin. He only talked about his condition when asked, and then would apologize for going on too long talking about himself.

I took him out to see "School of Rock" about a month and a half ago. I dropped him off at the door of the Showcase Cinema and parked the car. We bought tickets and snacks. The walk to the theater was about 100 yards or so and we went up about five steps to our seats. Ken had to lug along an oxygen tank. We took our seats and for about 20 minutes, I listened to him gasp gently to catch his breath. For the record, he thought the movie was a little silly.

He was doing pretty well gaining weight and had put on about five pounds. Then, things went downhill. I was scheduled to take him to the lung transplant hospital in Boston on December 5, but his brother called me three days before and told me Ken was back in the hospital. His brother said things weren't going well. Yesterday, I called Ken's house from my cell phone and got the machine. I left a message asking how he was doing.

Then, today, my mother called to give me the news. I got the paper and read the obituary. I called the house again, to offer my condolensces to his brother and ask if I could do anything. There was no one home and I got the answering machine. Ken's voice is still on it. He was 44 years old.

Posted by brettdavey at 10:11 AM EST
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Tuesday, 16 December 2003
Terror, democracy and spider holes
I'm glad they caught Saddam Hussein, who was a truly evil person who did untold harm to his own people. I hope his capture makes life easier for our troops and speeds up the concept of democracy in Iraq.

Still, I don't think people should confuse his capture with the war on terror. Obviously, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and there isn't much evidence Iraq had any master plan to inflict harm on the U.S. If anything, the war in Iraq is about spreading democracy. While that's a noble concept, I think it's worth asking the American people whether it was worth more than $200 billion and the lives of 500 American troops.

And if it was worth it, where do we go next in this crusade?

Also, I'm going to drop kick the next person I hear use the term "spider hole." Have you ever used that term before in your life? If not, stop it!

Posted by brettdavey at 10:10 AM EST
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Tuesday, 9 December 2003
Blood money
Here's another great example why the media sucks. While they're spending all their time covering Scott Peterson, Koby Bryant, and Michael Jackson,they've barely touched this story. It is quite sickening.

James Baker, who worked for the first President Bush and "fixed" the Florida problem for GW, has been appointed to restructure the debt of Iraq. Baker is a swell guy. He's currently representing Saudi Arabia against the families of the victims of 9-11 who are seeking information from Saudi Arabia on Al Qaeda funding.

Not coincidentally, Saudi Arabia happens to be owed $30.7 billion from Iraq, plus $12 billion in reparations from the first Gulf War. Did you know the Administration blocked veterans from the first Gulf War who were tortured as POWs from collecting money they won in a judgement against Iraq? The Administration said the money was needed to rebuild Iraq. Wonder if they'll block the Saudis from collecting their money?

Is money the only thing these people care about? How much money is enough? Have fun, Jim Baker. Take all that money to hell with you when you go.

Posted by brettdavey at 1:11 PM EST
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Monday, 8 December 2003
The Party of Personal Responsibility
I just heard a news flash that Rep. Bill Janklow from South Dakota was found guilty of manslaughter for speeding through a stop sign and killing a motorcyclist. Janklow, who had numerous citations for speeding and blowing through traffic signs and lights, blamed his diabetes.

And needless to say, Rush is tap dancing like Gregory Hines to avoid further problems with his drug addiction.

And of course, the current Administration has built up a $500 billion deficit. Before you blame it all on homeland security and defense spending, remember that discretionary spending exclusive of those areas is up by more than 20 percent. Up next is the massive Medicare drug benefit. Now, we're going to build a permanent station on the moon! Will some good conservative tell me where the hell this money is coming from and why they don't feel bad about dumping all that debt on their children?

Posted by brettdavey at 7:42 PM EST
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I put it to you, Greg
I could never quite put my finger on what it was about John Kerry that I didn't connect with. Now, I've got it. It's in the way he speaks and how he reminds me of a character from one of my favorite movies. When Kerry is on the stump, he always has a moment where he sounds exactly like Otter (Tim Matheson) from "Animal House." It's the courtroom scene when the Delta House is on double-secret probation. The moment is when Otter addresses the court and says to Greg Marmalade from the rival fraternity: "I put it to you, Greg..."

Watch the movie again and you'll hear shades of that moment in every John Kerry stump speech.

Posted by brettdavey at 7:21 PM EST
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Snow,snow, nooooo!
Anyone else ready to lose it because of the snow? Last year, it took until February for me to flip out. Then, I scheduled a trip to spring training in Florida for me and my then-pregnant wife. We might go again this year.

On Saturday, I went to the URI-PC game in Kingstown to collect signatures for Wes Clark. That idea was shot down immediately when we entered the wind tunnel leading up to the Ryan Center. It was like one of those movies where guys hiking Mt. Everest have to be chained together. Security inside the lobby wasn't too keen on us collecting signatures so we instead bought tickets from a scalper and went to the game.

And URI won. I remember, when I was growing up, URI used to lose almost every time they played against PC. Now, they've won two games in a row. It was fun being at the game, even if the college students all look impossibly young. It's hard to believe I ever looked that young although I'm sure I did. See the attached photo, then compare it to the picture of me with Wes Clark. Holy hairdo change!

Posted by brettdavey at 3:41 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 8 December 2003 7:29 PM EST
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Thursday, 4 December 2003
Overlooking Faults
For those who loved Bill Clinton, it was easy to overlook his sleazier side. For those who love George Bush, it's easy to overlook the way he's spending money like a drunken sailor. And so it goes.

I write this because someone I know got sent to jail this week for at least three years. He was guilty and I guess he deserved what he got. Still, that doesn't matter to me. I don't like the thought of him going to jail. It kills me. But there's nothing I can do about it. That's human nature.

Posted by brettdavey at 9:28 AM EST
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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Holy 38th!
I turned 38 years old yesterday. It's a strange age that doesn't mean too much. You're not really on top of 40 yet, but you're close. I don't know if I feel a whole lot different than I did when I was 30. I don't drink anymore so of course, I feel different in that way, but I mean in my attitudes.

I still get pissed off about indifference and ignorance. I still hate to see people in positions of power do nothing but grab more power and help out those who are already well-off. I still like movies from the seventies and I like baseball more than ever.

Now, I've got a six month old and a wife. That's a major change and it's for the best. There's no feeling like knowing you married the exact right person. I did and we had a son who's an unbelievable joy.

Happy birthday to me!

Posted by brettdavey at 5:24 PM EST
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Friday, 28 November 2003
Thought you'd like to know...
You probably haven't heard about this story, but it's a little mini-Watergate for the information age. A staffer for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch improperly obtained memos from the secure computer networks of Democratic senators Kennedy and Durbin. The memos, concerning political strategy on blocking confirmation of several of President Bush's judicial nominations, were obtained and reported on by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and Sean Hannity. Of course, this is no big deal. Hatch is only one of the most powerful men in politics. The fact that one of his staffers hacked into the computers of Democratic senators and distributed information to right-wing news sources is no cause for alarm.

And because of that damn liberal media, I'm sure you'll be hearing about this story ad nauseum. What? You haven't heard anything about it. Don't worry. You probably won't.

Also, to everyone who screamed about Clinton, Somalia and Black Hawk Down: here's your chance to speak up again since the soldiers who had their throats slit in Iraq were also dragged through the streets. Please substitute Bush's name for Clinton's and repeat everything you said during Black Hawk Down. Funny how no one mentions Somalia once similiar stuff happens to Bush. Also a memo to the same people: Were you as upset by the more than 200 Marines who were killed in Lebanon when their unprotected barracks was blown up by terrorists? Or were you really mad when Reagan turned tail and pulled them out of Beirut because of the attack? Just wondering.

Posted by brettdavey at 1:37 PM EST
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Bad luck jinx
As a post-Thanksgiving favor to my friend John Daley, I will now tell the story about the time I was fired from a Chinese restaurant. While at URI, John and I got jobs working as waiters at a Chinese restaurant in Newport, owned by the family of a guy in our fraternity. We worked there for a while until one Sunday when the owner's wife Penny pulled me aside at the end of the shift. Penny Pincher (as we called her) told me not to come into work anymore. I had to push her for an answer and she finally gave it: I was bad luck and had brought a jinx on her restaurant. Before this could even sink in, she told me there has been a previous jinx at the restaurant and when they fired him, business immediately got better. I told John not to tell anyone, but of course, he did and people started calling me Jinxy. The funny part is, within a week of getting the jinx tag,an Italian restaurant that I also worked at, had a fire in the kitchen and had to close for a week. Aaaah! The bad luck jinx!

Posted by brettdavey at 8:29 AM EST
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