Old Mack’s Tales

January 28, 2011

OldMack’s No Longer a Smoker!

Filed under: Opinion and Memoir,Short Stories,Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 9:22 pm

I May Be a Non Smoker Already!

There’s no need to tell you who know me that I’ve been smoking tobacco products ever since I was a pupil in George Dewey School at the San Diego Naval Housing Unit in 1944 at age ten.  I recall only one period of a few days during which cigarettes and tobacco were unavailable to me; I smoked crushed oak leaves rolled in Zig-Zag papers and it got me through that crisis.  People have always been able to smell me coming by the tobacco odor clinging to my clothing, hair etc.  In Korea that was a real problem; the local cigarettes didn’t leave the same odor on us, so I started swapping cigarettes with our Yobos (Korean Service Corps Laborers—for whom monuments ought to have been built to honor their selfless service).  Prior to going out into enemy territory on patrols I’d eat Kimchee with our KSC troops; I can’t swear that it did any good, but I passed through Chinese lines and territory unobserved and unmolested a few times on scout/sniper missions.

My favorite smoking moment was this: Dave Priest, Randall Crawford and I climbed a lengthy chimney in Smith Rocks at the top of which was a chock stone.  They were slim of hip and able to pass between the chock stone and the face; I had to climb out and over it quite exposed; that’s when my pack of Winstons fell out of my pocket and drifted down to the Crooked River Gorge.  We three stood on a wide ledge congratulating ourselves on our rousing good climb, but we all craved cigarettes.  We patted ourselves down.  I found a manifold real estate form; Dave found a few grains of tobacco in the bottom of his pipe tobacco pouch.  We rolled smokes, lit up and enjoyed the view, our camaraderie, our smoke and our ongoing speculative philosophical discussions—which on this occasion centered on their recent receipt of “Greetings” and invitations to participate in that war in South East Asia; in short, our last venture together for the next few years.  All of this seemingly disparate blather may tend to show that smoking is less an addiction than merely a habit of rewarding ourselves after doing something foolish, fattening or fun.

I have no craving for a cigarette this morning.  But I have been busy.  Assembling the DeVilbiss compressor and nebulizer equipment, caring for our two dogs, Zooey and Buddy, and cat plus cleaning up the dishes from my last night’s snack, and making contact with Christine at the hospital El Club Med to report kept me going since dawn–she’s doing fine, meeting lots of interesting people, hearing new stories, keeping up her journaling, in short, having a grand time.

I pause to suck in some nebulized Albuterol—holding the expanded plastic like a cigar and pretending—stayed both that tickle in my throat, the coughing impulse, and my craving for tobacco smoke.  While nebulizing I sorted out my morning ration of prescription pills which control elevated blood pressure, prevent clotting of blood in the arteries, and control the tendency of my pump to cavitate when excited.  I’m sure none of these chemicals would be needed if only I could get out for a romp on steep rocks with old friends.

The mere sight of a fir-clad mountain—up close and personal—would make my day!


January 27, 2011

My Wife The Prognosticator

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 10:40 am


That Cigarette is going to make you sick,” She said.

I felt nauseated, but it wasn’t my cigarette that was making me ill. It was the smoke from that “Black” cinnamon flavored nasty thing she was burning. I went out to the cafe table on the front porch, parked my coffee and lit a cigarette. I took a sip of coffee and inhaled it. I began coughing, hacking and spitting out what ever came up. I puffed on a combivent inhaler. The choking sensation only worsened. By then I was convulsed, alternately coughing from the abdominal muscles and farting simultaneously as though the thick mucus would rip me apart.

She wanted to drive me in my car to the hospital, but has no license or insurance. She would have risked it, but luckily my car wouldn’t start. The paramedics picked me up and deposited me at Bay Pines emergency. I was admitted, carted up to a one-bed room on the fifth floor and an albuterol nebulizer installed. Heated air is forced through the liquid vaporizing it and one puffs on the thing like a cigar. The coughing subsided and I was breathing normally—wheezing, that is. But I was able to get some sleep.

The next day I was moved to a four-bed ward with three post-operative patients. I was visited by pharmacists, doctors, nurses and needle bearers. After the first blood tests were analyzed a gentle Cuban pricked my fingers checking blood sugar levels; all readings were quite high. Blood pressure was very high. Pulse normal (for a change). By then my throat was so sore from coughing and hacking up phlegm I could feel every vertebra from C-1 to C-5 and my abs felt like I done a thousand leg raises.

Having been gassed at an Atomic, Biological and Chemical Warfare School in 1955 with Mustard and Lewisite full in the face, I’ve got “service connected” lungs. I called for my COPD doctor, who inexplicably discharged me from her clinic and testing lab last year. “I’m very sorry to inform you that she died,” said her replacement. “Was it the cancer?” I asked; she and my wife both lost their breasts in 2005. “Yes. It’s such a shame.” Soon the doctor called me back:
“I see you have two appointments on Thursday. Could you come to my clinic at 10.00?” I agreed.

I no sooner hung up than I began coughing again. The nurse plugged in the nebulizer and I smoked that warm, moist albuterol like a “Habanera.” It did the trick and cleared my lungs.

While being hurriedly processed for discharge, the pharmacist confused me with the long list of old and new medications prescribed a pre-packed to pick up on the way out. Missing was the Albuterol nebulizer pump, pipe and chemicals; the most important item. Present were a bunch of powder (dust) inhalers that choke me to death. The wheel-chair transit whisked me home; the driver helped me tote in the shopping-bag filled with chemicals and left sans tip.

I opened the door to the house and found the living room was totally trashed. A burnt skillet on the stove with smoked cabinets above it; a sink overflowing with dirty dishes in cold water and the dog dishes filled with Cheerios. Lucky I had shoes on as there were plenty of crockery shards on the deck.

A.J. wasn’t answering her cell. The hospital from which Chris checked out last week hadn’t yet passed a ward number to the operator (who knows my voice by now). “I’m sure she’s here . . . somewhere, Ron. I’ll find out and call you back.”
A.J. finally checked call waiting and dialed my number. She reported taking her mom to the hospital in my car, which was parked at her house. “Bring it home in the morning,” I said. I’m home but I’ve got to clean up this mess.” “Can I help you?” “No thanks. I’ll do it. See you in the morning with my car, okay?”

I moved every stick of furniture away from the walls and scraped up cat shit and rat blood from the terrazzo floor before scrubbing them. I filled two vacuum cleaner bags with crap the dogs have chewed out of sleeping bags, sofa cushions and carpet fringe. Those clunks as shards of crockery went past the brush on the machine sounded like automatic weapons firing. I was tired enough to sleep well after finishing cleaning. A.J. chiming the door bell awoke me.

A.J. had been smoking in the car. The odor was making my nose itch. I pulled into the bank and withdrew the last $20 from the ATM, got back into the car and began sneezing. Sneeze, cough, and fart. In that order. Embarrassing to say the least. I sped to A.J.’s home and dropped her off. I sped to the nearest gas station; I needed gasoline and I needed to use their head. I got only two feet from my car when I coughed and shat in my shorts. At each traffic light between there and home I coughed and shat. I grabbed an AOPA magazine and shoved it under my trousers before the shit sank into the leather seat cover. It was ten miles of hell. I waddled into my house, kicked off my shoes and socks making a beeline for the head. Shirts off over the head, trousers down shorts off and into the tub, and one mighty convulsion I sprayed the whole toilet seat and bowl with that half-frozen, half-cooked last meal from Bay Pines. I unscrewed the screen to the tub drain with a dime. Showered and scrubbed myself and the clothes; I was thankful for the high-pressure sprayer on the extension hose.

Bathed, clothes in the washer and dryer, bed made, dogs fed (Cream O Wheat), and dying for a cigarette I called the hospital to talk to Chris. BZY.  I tried again: “she’s sleeping.” Again: “She’s in group.” Etc. “Leave her a note: ‘Your husband’s home from hospital. Call if you feel like it.’”  I recorded the same message on the answering machine.

Soon as the second load of crappy clothing is dry, I’ll unplug and hit the sack.  Obviously nobody is going to call.

I haven’t been out back to see if that typhoon blew anything away last night. If it did, good riddance.


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