Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

The Dinner

He ate as if dinner was the last food on earth, but instead of rushing, he relaxed and took his time. Savoring the grilled hangar steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare, he tried to place the spices she had dry-rubbed into the tender yet toothsome meat. Peppers with a hint of curry?

All he knew was if he died that night, he’d die a happy man.

Viruses Run Amok

Point 1: The general public’s idea of what is happening in an outbreak (much less pandemic) is very different from an ER nurse or doc’s reality. Virologist’s and epidemiologist’s spend years studying this stuff, but when a contagious virus that’s novel to the population gets loose, the ER is where the rubber hits the road.

There’s a reason why movies show chaos in the emergency department during an outbreak. I thought I understood exponential growth until I actually witnessed it in March/April of 2020. It turned out Washington Heights in NYC during the initial Covid outbreak was the perfect storm for this phenomenon, but I don’t need to rehash that here.

Point 2: COVID & Monkey Pox have no similarities except they’re both novel viruses. Meaning, if you are exposed, your immune system isn’t equipped to fight them off.

I’m starting to see more Monkey Pox cases – but let’s be clear: no one is dying from Monkey Pox. It looks scary, and I’m sure you feel quite miserable, but it’s course is fairly benign.

It’s interesting (and more than a little sobering) to watch these novel viruses spread through a population. It’s as if nature is calling our bluff on unchecked hubris.

Which brings me to Point 3: There is such a thing as knowing too much.

Magic Trick

I’m reading George Saunders short story collection, “Tenth of December.”

Fucking brilliant.

I begin with “Victory Lap,” which opens the book. A few pages in, I’m enjoying it but not super-immersed. However, it’s good, and it’s George Saunders, so I read on.

Then something unexpected happens. Suddenly things take a dire turn, but I have to put it down ‘cuz I’m reading it on my dinner break at work in the ER.

So now I’m back in the chaos that defines all ERs, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m actually worried about what’s going to happen to the characters. Characters I don’t identify with, BTW.

It’s magic. Ordinary people doing ordinary things until jeopardy presents itself. But by the time it does, you’ve somehow become emotionally invested.

George Saunders has a way of writing literary fiction that can be appreciated by the most casual reader, but for those who want to dig a little deeper, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

It’s quite a trick.

Well, That’s a Relief

”The goal is to not know what it’s about for as long as possible. Intentionality is to be kept at bay.”

– George Saunders, on writing short stories

Oh My God

I think I’ve officially arrived at the point in my life where I’ve begun thinking, If there’s something you want to do, better do it now.

There’s not that many good days left.

Disengagement

There are things in life we can not change. Bad things. Cruel things. Unjust things.

Friction occurs in trying to figure out how we’re going to process this stuff. How do you handle the terrible shit in this world that’s beyond your control? War, hatred, violence, racism, the lust for and perversion of power? How do you square that circle?

My solution, one that I’m not particularly proud of, is a two-pronged approach. Focus on the micro and disengage with the macro.

I have control over how I treat the people I come in contact with in my day-to-day life. So I focus on the micro, trying, as best I can, to be a positive influence on those around me. You know, being kind, doing things for others, smiling for Christ sake. Shit like that.

As for the macro? I can’t change world events. Can’t stop wars. Can’t end racism or hate or xenophobia or man’s seemingly endless capacity for cruelty. So I just let it go. Have to. Otherwise I’ll waste what precious little time I have left.

I can try to make life a little better for the people I come in contact with, create some art, and that’s about it.

I can, I think, live with that. At least that’s what I tell myself. Hope you figure out a good strategy for yourself.

Figuring out how to live in this world ain’t easy.

ER Confidential (Part 1)

Core body temp 30 Celsius. That’s 86 degrees. Heart rate of 30. Been that way long enough for the body to recalibrate itself into a coma. Someone noticed and thought it might be a good time to call EMS.

A man goes to his daughter’s graduation, steps away for a moment, comes back and drops like a 200 lb sack of potatoes. Unknown intoxicant. Arrives pulseless. Doesn’t die, but came closer than he’ll ever know. Probably won’t end up being a funny anecdote she’ll enjoy telling.

Car accidents, overdoses, dislocated limbs, subdural hematomas, rape, people near death with so many things wrong you’re not even sure what caused what. Patients handcuffed to stretchers, every permutation of mental illness you can imagine, and some you can’t.

Well, you get the idea.

Just another shift.

Time for a cocktail.

Shhh…

I don’t know. Er, um, I might not be done. With this blog, I mean.

Nothing wrong with dipping my toe back in the water, you know, just to see how it feels.

Gonna keep it hush-hush, though. On the QT, so to speak.

Don’t tell anyone.

And Then You Turn a Corner

Life can change on a dime and not even bother to tell you about it. A year might go by before you realize you have become someone else, before you stop trying to be the person you were before, before you shrug your shoulders and let go of who you were to more fully become who you are meant to be now.

I think I’ve hit that point, or turned that corner as it were.

For roughly four years, I published something in this blog everyday. Didn’t know why I was doing it, mind you. Just did it because I was somehow compelled to. Then the last year or so my output here slowed down while my output as a writer of fiction picked up.

Turns out I was becoming a writer, I just didn’t know it at the time. On this blog, I Wrote and published, I don’t know, maybe 400,000 words?

Somewhere in that mountain of free-association I began writing short stories. Never really thought about it, they just came organically. Then I started getting some published. Life was teaching me something, I just had to listen.

I kept the blog up while becoming more serious about writing. Then COVID happened. I’m not going to rehash my experience, except to say that it profoundly changed who I am. To the point that it has taken me a couple of years to fully appreciate what that means.

Which brings me full circle.

I’ve turned a corner.

I’m a fiction writer now.

This blog has outlived its usefulness, at least as a daily endeavor. I’ll still write posts from time to time, but now my writing has become what it’s been trying to tell me all along.

I just wasn’t listening close enough.

The Long Slog

I used to go through this with music. The white-hot process of creating the thing is intoxicating and fun. Better than drugs.

But when you finally complete the songs, or novel, or whatever; what you have in front of you is something cool. Rough, but cool. You created this fucking thing that didn’t exist until you gave birth to it!

Then you step back and realize, Wow, this is a lot of shit. How am I ever going to get this to a finished state?

There’s only one way, son.

Pull up your big-boy pants and start grinding.

Who’s it For?

If you’re an artist, whatever you do, do it for yourself. Don’t think about what might sell, ‘cuz then you’re gonna fall into the trap of making your shit “fit in.”

This isn’t nonfiction. The only rules are it must be interesting.

Here’s the uncomfortable thing: at the end of the day, the chances of actually selling your art is next to nothing.

But if you did it for yourself, you already won.

An added bonus is you’re probably going to have a lot more fun, and are much more likely to come up with something original.

What does the world need?

More cool art.

Harold and Maude

(Sheepish look)

OK, I’m a little late to the party here. Can’t really explain why it took me 50 years to get to this one, but there you go. It was worth the wait.

File under: How did this ever get made? Directed by Hal Ashby and written by Colin Higgins, Bob Evans was the head of Paramount at the time, and he liked the script. God bless him.

Let’s see, so what do we have here? A 79 year old woman who picks up a 20 year old boy at a funeral both have gone to simply because they enjoy funerals.

Turns out the boy likes her back. When he’s not staging elaborate faux suicides for his mother, they sleep together. And it’s kinda beautiful.

After falling in love, he finds out she’s a holocaust survivor. They get together for her 80th birthday and she commits suicide.

The end.

In the brittle milieu that passes for culture today, who do we cancel first? Everyone involved, I guess. How dare they?

Did I mention the 80 year old woman is Ruth Gordon, who was 75 in the movie? And that she’s really quite beautiful? So full of life as to be combustible.

Oh, and BTW – Cat Stevens did the soundtrack.

More please.

News Flash

Elon Musk buys Twitter and the World Ends

WTF!? Really?

Jesus fucking Christ. Here’s a thought: Do me a favor – when the shit really hits the fan, stand next to someone else.

Requiem For an ER Doc

April 26th marked the two year anniversary of Lorna Breen’s death. It was a bit of an emotional day in my ER, at least for me. I made a point of taking a moment of rememberance with the few people left who knew her.

For many years, there was very little turnover in my ER. COVID changed all that – two years after her death, there are very few doctors and nurses left, which makes the whole thing even more surreal. Staff is either pre-COVID or post-COVID.

It’s weird.

The trauma of what happened in March and April of 2020 was so great it caused a mass exodus. It’s impossible to talk to anyone who didn’t work through it about that time, so I shut up and keep my feelings to myself.

But yesterday, in the middle of the usual shitstorm that is the ER, a few of us met in the trauma room and told stories about our experiences with her. It felt good. Healing, actually.

What exactly do you call the relationship you have with the people you work with? If you’re an ER doc or nurse, your shifts are twelve and a half hours long in a chaotic environment filled with life and death scenarios. It’s your job to keep people alive, often failing despite your best efforts.

One of the ways you get through it is by developing close relationships with the people you work with based on respect and trust.

Can you trust the judgement of the person next to you? Will they do the right thing? Do they even know what the right thing is?

Once the shift is over, for the most part, you don’t see each other after work, yet you spend more time with them than you do with your spouse or partner. It’s not really a personal relationship, yet somehow it is. When one of them dies, you take it hard.

So RIP Lorna. You are gone, but for those whose lives you touched, you’ll never be forgotten.

Yeah, This is True

I once lost 48 pounds. In less than a year.

I know – sounds crazy, right? But 100% true. 194 to 146. I only know this because I wrote it down in a journal. The guy who owned a liquor store I went to actually asked me if I had cancer. I remember he looked concerned.

At the time, I said no. Or at least that’s what I thought – little did I know it would show up a few years later. Was it related? Who the fuck knows?

What I do know is this – if you live long enough, shit is gonna happen, and a lot of it won’t be good. How you deal with that is a measure of who you are. Not the you you pretend to be, no, the one you try to hide.

So what’s the point?

Don’t waste time on bullshit you can’t change, and go all in on whatever you think is important.

The ride might be over sooner than you think.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Filmed in 1976, this unclassifiable Canadian film directed by Nicolas Gessner features yet another inexplicable performance by 14-year-old Jodie Foster in a year in which she starred in six feature films. Yeah, this was the year she made Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and the Walt Disney production Freaky Friday. Let’s not forget Alan Parker’s directorial debut Bugsy Malone. Plus a French film and yet another one from Canada.

There’s something a little scary about a child who can play the lead in a movie like this — she is in virtually every scene, playing opposite adult actors, most notably Martin Sheen in what is without a doubt one of the creepiest depictions of a child molester I’ve ever seen. Guaranteed to make your skin crawl, but of course, he’s no match for Jodie.

It’s impossible to look away from her, she just radiates a formidable intelligence that somehow makes the story believable. Quiet, still, and unsettling, this is just a great, unsung movie that, once seen, will not be forgotten. Her nascent sexuality, caught between childhood and who she would become as an adult, is rendered meaningless in a richly layered performance.

The closing credits hold a close-up shot of her face for minutes — there is no acting here — whoever it is you are watching, you believe every goddamn minute of it.

Haunting and deeply disturbing. From a 14-year-old who never took an acting lesson.

There’s just no explanation for that.