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Valley People (December 28, 2022)

AFTER A LONG DAY sending our faint daily squeaks up into the ether's media maelstroms, The Major and I are winding down with a 20-20 crime show when The Maj, a panicked look on his face, suddenly blurts, “My pulse is irregular.” I reply, “Hell, my whole body's irregular, the way of all flesh and all that.” But he's not joking. I call 911 where I'm transferred to “medical.” Medical says she's dispatching Boonville's emergency crew as I explain my colleague's symptoms. In minutes there are 18 uniformed medical people on-site, a bunch of them, led by The Baroness — Antoinette von Grone — always a reassuring presence — are crowded into our cluttered living room surrounding The Major, who does indeed look “peek-ed,” as my grandmother used to describe people who looked unwell. The Baroness correctly determines that The Major's condition, while worrisome, probably does not require a trip over the hill in the Boonville Ambulance, but he does need to be checked out pronto. I, also a person of advanced years whose night vision is seriously impaired, grandly volunteer to drive the emergency to the Adventists, a daylight drive that ordinarily takes forty minutes but on a dark night with tule fog reducing visibility to a few feet, we feel our way east for fifty minutes where, well, the Patient can better describe what occurred amid the medical professionals…

THE PATIENT (by Mark Scaramella)

The Patient arrived at the Ukiah Emergency Room complaining of fatigue and an irregular pulse with some light-headedness. After evaluation by very friendly local EMTs, he declined an ambulance ride and was driven to the Adventists Hospital in Ukiah and admitted to the emergency room at the maw of the vegetarian cult (as the elderly driver described it) a little before 9pm Wednesday night. A pretty young nurse took some vitals. Things were said to be “normal,” despite the Patient’s suggestion that the nurse feel the Patient’s pulse. The Ukiah Police were on scene in the intake area attempting to deal with some, er, problems, probably two or three drug/5150 cases. Next the Patient was escorted into a hospital room amidst shouts from down the hall: “HELLLLLLLP!” several times a minute. “HELLLLLP MEEEE!” The Patient gathered that the hospital was pretty full with various respiratory case patients, although the Patient didn’t see much of that or any associated hurly-burly. Another, older nurse (who happened to be a former cop from Fresno who moved to Ukiah a few years ago to become a nurse) came in and grumbled, “We’ve got some squirrelly ones out there tonight.” The Hispanic housekeeping lady stopped in to say, in an almost shocked tone, that one of them had “run away from the police!” which she apparently frowned on. She said they were “patients” whom she and the staff were familiar with, then rolled her eyes. Although the Patient was reportedly admitted with an irregular pulse (i.e., irregular heartbeat) he was not immediately hooked up to the heart monitor by the bed, but was instead given an EKG after 8 or 10 wires were pasted to his chest. No doctors had seen the patient; apparently an as yet unseen doctor had ordered the EKG. The EKG tech came back and said it didn’t show what they wanted, so another one was done. It didn’t show much either. The former cop-nurse came in again and took a blood sample, very efficient. A male nurse came in and took another blood sample, not so efficient. A urine sample was taken. An attractive young woman ER doctor finally came in after about two hours to say it looked like atrial fibrillation. But the test results were not back yet. She said she’d be back later to discuss it. She ordered another EKG. When she came back she finally decided to hook the Patient up to the heart monitor which immediately showed what the Patient had already felt at 8pm: an irregular pulse/heart rate. Which of course explained the symptoms of fatigue and wooziness. More time passed. Finally the ER doc returned to say she had consulted with a cardiac specialist and it probably wasn’t atrial fibrillation after all, and the medication she had ordered was canceled. She then suggested an alternate medication which is supposed to keep the heart from speeding up too much. Between each staff visit was about half an hour. The Patient had arrived at about 9pm and was released a little before 2 am when the squirrel noise had slackened off even though there were still a couple of dozen people and their families waiting for processing. The nice check-in/check-out lady called Taxi-707 and it arrived about 2:20 in the morning and the Patient was dropped off in Boonville about 3am, $140 lighter, with an appointment to pick up the meds on Thursday and visit the Adventists cardio “institute” on Hospital drive to have a digital heart monitor glued on for two weeks, after which, supposedly, they may know more about the problem. The Patient was given an appointment for a cardiac specialist in mid-February. The first of the two meds that were ordered had been canceled too late, so the Myers Pharmacy had it ready anyway. The Patient explained to the very helpful pharmacist that the first med, “Eliquis,” had been canceled, but not before being told that Eliquis was a usurious $400 a month. The second med was only $27 for a few dozen pills, so the Patient picked that up. After two weeks with the heart monitor, about the size of a car key fob, it is to be removed and mailed somewhere where its records will be downloaded and reviewed at the mid-February appointment by the Ukiah cardiologist who won’t be back from vacation until January to deal with a backlog of other heart cases. Dr. Google says the Patient might be a candidate for a pacemaker. Who knows? The Patient remains fatigued and a bit woozy, but semi-functional, below 100%. 

LOCALS SHOULD TAKE SPECIAL NOTE of the upcoming Big Crab Feed fundraiser at the Senior Center on Saturday, January 21. Happy hour at 5:30, dinner at 6pm, at the Apple Hall at the Fairgrounds. Festivities include raffles, a silent auction and a no-host bar. The featured Crab Meal this year will cost $60 which includes salad, bread and dessert. A spaghetti dinner option will cost $20 (and maybe you can get a neighbor to share their crab?) It’s a benefit for the popular Senior Center which does a lot more than their wonderful lunches and dinners. Tickets can be picked up a the Senior Center itself or at AV Market, Lemons Market in Philo or any Senior Center Board member. Call 707/895-3609 for more info.

QUITE A SPECTACULAR CHRISTMAS LIGHT SHOW at the south end of Boonville (SoBo to locals). Load up the kids after dark and drive them on by this memorable display. Also check out the window at Rossi Hardware, an annual delight, and be sure to motor on down to the Deepend where Dave Evans and crew have again outdone themselves in Yuletide visuals.

WE WERE TAKING ODDS over when the Navarro River will flood over on to Highway 128 as the “atmospheric river” headed to the North Coast Monday night with several more days of rain expected. On the one hand the blocking sand bar that caused Caltrans to close Highway 128 when only a little water was back up at the mouth was breached a few weeks ago in the last rains. But this week they’re predicting up to six inches in the area with most of that coming in on Tuesday. So the question is: Will Highway 128 at Highway 1 close on Tuesday? Or will it stay open because the sand bar is gone? And if it’s closed, how long will it stay closed if we get several more days of rain?

GRIZZLED OLD TIMER at the counter, Philo Post Office, to female Asian fill-in clerk: “I wanna pick up a package.” She says, “Box numbah?” He says, “Boffle nob?” She repeats, louder, “BOX NUMBAH!” He says, “Oh,” and gives up the number.

FREE DAY AT HENDY WOODS for Mendocino County Residents

Our Gift to you this New Year’s Day - FREE day use at Hendy Woods State Park for All Mendocino County residents (know your zip code) January 1, 2023. Day use is from sun up to 1 hour after sunset. Free guided hike at 11 AM, learn about the complex systems of redwood ecology as you walk among the towering giants. Contact:

Also, Volunteers Needed! Do you love Hendy Woods, want to help support your park?? Join our great team! We are always looking for motivated Volunteers for the Hendy Woods Visitor Center, invasive plant species removal and to lead forest walks! Interested? Contact:

FOR THE SPICE FREAK – Boonville Barn Collective’s Piment d’Ville. Just when you think pinot noir is the most popular export from Anderson Valley, meet Piment d’Ville. This sassy, spicy, and sweet chili powder is crafted with Boonville grown Espelette chiles, a signature ingredient of the Basque region in France. This “farm-to-jar” spice is sold at gourmet markets nationwide. Piment d’Ville is a great seasoning spice. Use it on avocado toast, eggs, french fries, grilled corn, a seafood or poultry seasoning, or toss popcorn in it with a touch of olive oil. Grab a two pack directly from the Collective (keeping one for yourself, of course), or buy it at your local specialty market. A two-pack is $23.99 at the Boonville Barn Collective.

RURAL LIVING, a reader writes: I once ran into/over a 200lb +- pig on hwy128 in the middle of the night. Could not have been a minute past 4 am. Traveling with my family, headed home in our converted bus/rv. We were on the final leg of the trip and admittedly tired. Out of nowhere this massive creature dove into the road right underneath the rig! All of us, fully alert now had the same thought simultaneously… “was that a giant pig?!!!” Pork for dinner!! Followed by “can we keep driving this thing home?” But just as we pulled ourselves out of road weary fatigue alas another vehicle was coming in the opposite direction. The many, many brake light flashings seen through my rear view mirror indicated it was too shocking a scene to return to and explain ourselves. So in proper mendo-outlaw fashion I punched it! We still wonder to this day if that was the best meat we’ve never tasted.

FOR YOUR APOCALYPSE FILES. The superintendent of the tiny Anderson Valley school district tells me she's just ordered more Narcan.

A READER WRITES: “Sometimes I wish it were our last year. The daily decline of civilization continues to accelerate coupled with decaying morality, and the erosion of foundational institutions that used to define society and governing. I guess those are all the signs of the coming fall of civilization. Actually, I'm still an optimist although I have to remind myself of that when I wake up every day. Christmas is for kids, and for adults it's the opportunity to show appreciation to and for the good people in your life. Merry Christmas and the most prosperous New Year ever.”

THE YOUNG ONES will be stepping into chaos, certainly, and it's painful to see and know so many people scared, barely getting by if they're doing that well, anxious all their waking hours, and saddest of all is most of us knowing in our bones that there is no improvement in sight. I look at these giggling fools claiming to be representing US, and only feel more despairing.

CHUCK DUNBAR, referring to some fresh outrage: “Makes me glad to be an old guy who’ll depart this earth before it all comes down on us.” 

AS AN OLD GUY, I understand the feeling; the general decline has been unnervingly rapid for those of us who grew up in the serene fifties when nothing of interest seemed to happen, although it was obvious that major weirdness would break out at any time, and a large sector of the adult population seemed at least ten degrees off. But as chaos grows, no one can say its run-up over the last fifty years has been boring. 

ME DEAR OLD MUM was positively giddy at any spectacle that promised catastrophe. Me dear old Pa assumed all of life, even in its uneventful hours, was a series of catastrophes. He signed his letters, “Fight on.” But Mum looked forward to apocalypse. She seemed to assume she could watch it on TV. On warm but overcast days, she'd remark, “Feels like earthquake weather,” and she'd haul out her maps and fault line charts to get ready for the Big One. One day she phoned the Chronicle to tell them they'd run the same earthquake column two days in a row. I'll bet she was the only one who'd noticed.

BUT NOW that social/economic unraveling is upon us, its prospect seems so much less remote; millions of us have begun to take basic precautions, like the storage of rice and potable water. The Bay Area media tell us that it could be as long as a week before we could re-supply after a major quake. My wife is definitely a prepper. She's laid in a month's supply of stuff. I ask her, “How do you know these San Anselmo people are as blandly harmless as they seem? How do you know if they might come for our cache with guns?” She replied, “Well, you have your gun, don't you?” Yup, but I'm in Boonville most of every week, and even if I was present by the time I got my gun unlocked and loaded we'd be overwhelmed. Crazy imaginings, but I know a lot of people share them.

MY GRANDSON, 11, is on a traveling basketball team that plays all over the Bay Area and beyond every weekend in weekend tournaments. The coaching is very, very good. The little guys already know how to dribble with both hands, do left and right lay-ups, box out, look for the open man — all the fundamentals. In the fifties, the way you learned how to play any sport was by watching the big guys and imitating them. I didn't have any instruction in the three major sports until I got to high school, and that instruction tended to be uninformed. For football, it was, “Okay, do twenty push-ups then take a lap around the field.” Basketball, I don't know because I had a deep dislike of the coach so I didn't “go out,” as we used to say, but I did play a year of JC hoops at Hancock College preparing to go to Cal Poly on a half-assed baseball scholarship — free room and board and an easy part-time job. Baseball had also been a matter of watching the big guys who'd condescend to let you shag balls for them on the promise of getting your “ups,” but then when you picked up a bat they would say, “Sorry, we gotta go.”

BUT WITH the grandson and granddaughter, and thousands of children in every urban and suburban area of the country, they get competent coaching from the minute they step onto the fields of play. When I was a kid, and please indulge me that room-clearing phrase, girls played nothing because there was nothing offered to them until high school where they were allowed to play a two-step version of basketball — two steps and a mandatory pass on the assumption anything more strenuous would be beyond their endurance. Granddaughter plays volleyball, softball and basketball. Both of them love these highly organized and already competitive activities, which grandad sincerely hopes will carry them safely through the minefield of modern adolescence.

HAD TO LAUGH when grandson said he was called a “white bitch” by one of his diminutive opponents after a basketball game. He was more puzzled than angry, but did admit, “A lotta kids we play swear a lot.”

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