Monday, May 31, 2010

And the Winner Is....
Congratulations to Steve, the winner of a copy of David Moody's Dog Blood. His scary movie of choice: The Entity from 1981, starring Barbara Hershey. Excellent choice, as were all the movies mentioned: 28 Days Later, The Haunting starring Julie Harris, The Descent, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Identity, The Medusa Touch. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


We ventured behind the Orange Curtain last night to pay a visit to the Irvine Improv for some much needed comic relief. The comedians: Ryan Stout and Natasha Leggero. We laughed so hard that the tears almost poured from our eyes, and I lapsed into an asthmatic coughing fit. Okay, not really a coughing fit, but I had my rescue inhaler at the ready.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
It's 1963. Halloween night in a small Midwestern town. Out in a barren field where a lone pumpkin grows into the old clothes of a scarecrow, a mysterious man carves a face into the pumpkin, stuffs the body with candy, and hands the knife to this new creature, watching as the October Boy shakily makes his way toward town with only one thought on his mind.

Meanwhile, the town's 16- and 17-year old boys, freed from their 5-day prisons without food, are let loose upon the town, their sole mission to stop the October Boy from reaching its destination. Whoever stops the October Boy has a free ticket out of town with his family earning all sorts of monies and distinctions. No one knows this better than Pete McCormick, whose drunk, deadbeat Father gave up on him and his sister years ago. Stopping the October Boy will free him from the prison his life has become in that small Midwestern town.

When Pete runs into Kelly Haines, the only girl running around this Halloween night, who should be inside away from the insanity that fuels the young men of the town, he learns some hard truths about the October Boy and the townsfolk who set the boys after him. And what he decides to do with that information will change the town forever.

The October Boy is supposed to be the evil creature, ready to hack and kill to get what he wants so I automatically distrust him. It's what I'm supposed to do. But author Norman Partridge surprises me with this story by tossing in an atypical twist or two, forcing me to figure out for myself just who the "bad guys" truly are. I enjoy that about this story, one that challenges me to see what's in front of me in a different light. And with touches resembling Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree, the tale involves the reader, making him or her a character with a knowing wink as to what's really going on behind the scenes in the little town.

Dark Harvest offers a violent, bloody and horrific Halloween treat, fit for anyone who loves their horror with a twist.

Dark Harvest
by Norman Partridge
Tom Doherty Associates/Tor
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1911-1
softcover, 169p.

purchased book

purchased book

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Giveaway: Dog Blood by David Moody
Back in April, the fine folks at St. Martin's Press forwarded an Advanced Readers Copy of Dog Blood by David Moody. It's the sequel to last year's Hater, soon to be a major motion picture from producer Guillermo del Toro and directed by J.A. Bayona. (He directed the Spanish ghost tale The Orphanage.) I loved the book, wrote my review and went along my merry way.

Then yesterday, I arrived home to find a thick package on the coffee table. To my surprise, St. Martin's Press had sent a hard cover, first edition of Dog Blood, and, with their permission, I'm giving you a chance to own it before the book is officially released next month. All you need to do is leave a comment to this post that includes your e-mail address and the title of your favorite spooky movie by 5:00 PM PDT on Sunday, May 30, 2010. A winner will be randomly selected from all the comments and notified via email. Once I've contacted and confirmed with the winner, I will announce it on the blog and send the book (paying for the postage/shipping myself).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost in Thought
After reading some reviews and blog posts about Sunday's series finale of Lost, it almost seems blasphemous to admit finding it a satisfying conclusion. But I'm one of those folks who watched the show from episode one. The story of plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island filled with a smoke monster and the devious Others somehow captured my attention, and I was hooked. I followed their lives for six years, struggling to understand what the island was, why they were there, how they were going to return home.

Caesar and I watched not only the entire six seasons without missing a single episode, but also the 4-1/2 hours on Sunday. Once the final scene closed, I said, "What the hell? So they all died in the crash?" A little confused, a little angry -- I think quite a few other viewers saw the finale like that, too. We spent the next few minutes discussing what Jack's father meant, and then I remembered little bits and pieces that confirmed -- at least for me -- that what happened on the island, the hardships, the laughter, the battles, the love stories, were real life (for the characters) and that the "flash sideways" as the shows' creators called them were not a parallel universe but a kind of limbo for the survivors' spirits. A place for them to re-connect as the family they'd created on the island once they'd all passed on so they might move on together.

And yes, I found that a nice way to end the show.

Many questions created by the show remain unanswered, like what was a polar bear doing on a tropical island and just where the heck was the island to begin with? Some of these, looking back, seem unimportant to the story. Would knowing about the polar bear's origins affect the outcome of the tale? How about the island's locale, even though halfway through the series it disappears and pops up somewhere else?

Other questions do need some explanation: why couldn't children be conceived on the island? Where did the original Others -- the ones pre-Dharma -- come from? I want to know, but at the same time, I think as a viewer, not knowing puts me in the same situation as the characters. Those questions never do get answered for them, and even become secondary and tertiary to their survival on the island.

One of my favorite authors, Ambrose Bierce, wrote a few short stories in which a person simply vanishes while walking across a field or along a dirt road, in full view of others. He ends the stories at that point and offers no explanations. I like to think of Lost in that light, that perhaps the explanations aren't as important as the story told and the journey taken.

Now that the show's over and I know the ending, I want to re-watch the DVDs from the beginning, to spot the references and the clues and the in-jokes. Maybe the answers are already there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Back in the 1860s with the prospect of Gold in Northern California firmly established, rumors of an untapped source of more gold in the Klondike region lured people even farther into the Pacific Northwest. However, the frozen ground made reaching the hidden gold almost a pipe dream until the Russians held a contest to see who could come up with a way to reach the gold. Leviticus Blue was just such a person, an inventor of fantastic machines, and his idea for a huge, earth-boring drill known as the Boneshaker caught the Russians' attention. They contracted him to create the Boneshaker, but during one of its early test beneath Seattle, something went wrong, the machine burrowed beneath the buildings, sinking them, creating tunnels that weakened the ground's integrity, and unleashing a pocket of natural gas, known as the Blight, that killed whoever came in contact with it. Sometimes, it even brought them back from the dead, faster and hungrier than anyone thought possible. The government erected a wall around Seattle to contain both the gas and the undead Rotters, and blame was laid on Leviticus' doorstep.

15 years later, Blue's widow Briar Wilkes remains the sole scapegoat for the townsfolk to persecute. She takes it in stride, doing whatever she can to make some kind of living for her and her son Zeke. To protect him, she doesn't talk much about his father, but rumors that Leviticus actually saved lives before the Blight could consume everything, trigger a desire inside Zeke that pushes him to find a way beneath the Wall in search of anything to exonerate his father.

When Briar discovers her son missing, she knows of only one place he would go and sets off to find him. From the tunnels of underground Seattle and with the help of an odd assortment of folks still living behind the Wall, she fights her way through Rotters and a mysterious overlord named Dr. Minnericht -- who seems to have a knack for building fantastic machines -- to save her son.

I never questioned any of it -- the lure of gold, a huge drill run amok, underground tunnels, a community of refugees living beneath Seattle, the Blight gas and the government's reaction, an array of Jules Vernian gadgets. There's always a risk involved when re-inventing bits of history to fit a fictional premise, but Cherie Priest did a fine job of immediately setting up the back story of what happened to Seattle so that it became believable. And using the nation's fascination with gold, especially around that time, was the perfect catalyst. Also, the descriptions of Seattle itself were amazing: the poorly lit underground maze of tunnels and pockets of fresh air matched the conditions above ground, where crumbling streets and buildings were almost indistinguishable in the thick brownish-yellow gas and a wrong turn could lead you into a pack of ravenous Rotters.

I liked the characters, from the strong-willed and protective Briar Wilkes and her rebellious and questioning son Zeke to Lucy the barkeep at Maynard's (one of the underground hangouts) with a mechanical arm and the mysterious Dr. Minnericht. I was never quite sure about who Minnericht was, and Priest kept me guessing until the very end.

My only gripe had to do with something very, very minor -- the birds. Much is made about them at the beginning of Briar's adventure, about how they seem to be watching and the question of how they survive living in the Blight. I expected something to happen with them, such as them not being real but creations of Dr. Minnericht or them actually having succumbed to the Blight and attempting to swoop down on Briar while she was above ground. The story never mentions them after those first few instances.

But what it comes down to is the story, and Priest's tale of a mother trying to protect her son, doing whatever it takes without a second thought, really keeps the tale going. Boneshaker's a true roller-coaster ride, an adventure story filled with zombies, air pirates, an underground city, and fantastic machines. We need more books like this! Highly recommended!!

by Cherie Priest
Tor Books/Tom Doherty Associates Books
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1841-1
softcover, 414p.

purchased copy

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Love a Parade...Sometimes

Pride Season kicked off with the Long Beach festival this past weekend. We didn't go the festival itself -- though it would have been fun to see A Flock of Seagulls Saturday night. Instead, at 10AM we dragged out tired selves to the parade on Sunday, finding choice space to settle into our seats. Caesar had the genius idea to buy some lawn chairs just for the occasion which made it much nicer than sitting on the hard concrete curb. But we were outdone by the group next to us who hauled out mismatched wooden chairs, a table, and a pitcher of mimosas to enjoy the festivities.

Clark joined us about 30 minutes later, just as the Dykes on Bikes began their loud caravan down Ocean toward the festival grounds. The group seems to grow each year, and this time featured a few male bikers -- though they rode at the back of the pack. After the last bike zoomed down the street, we waited. Parade goers skateboarded and walked across the parade route, a few bicycles passed by, more people stepped into the street to see if and when the next unit was to come. And after 10 minutes, the horses arrived, with their riders carrying banners and flags. Then, another 5-10 minutes of waiting for the next group. Then, four or five groups cheered and waved banners and tossed candy and beaded necklaces at the crowd. The first of many groups to thump along to Lady Gaga walked along, followed by a group carrying a gigantic Pride flag into which we threw money for the Food Bank.

The entire three hours passed in much the same way, with a flurry of groups with pounding music and cheering followed by minutes of nothing then a car with someone waving to the crowd but no sign or name on the car to let us know who it was so we halfheartedly waved back. Very disorganized, if you ask me.

We sat through it, cheering our friend Chan riding the back of a fire engine and our landlords coasting by in their classic car (with their dog Buster in the backseat). In spite of the time waiting, we still had a great time, seeing Chico's Angels, some of the contestants from RuPaul's Darg Race, even having young men in nothing but hot pink speedos offering us condoms. Everyone applauded everything and filled the air with a happy sound.

And, rather than fight the crowds at the festival grounds (and fork over $20 to see nothing but shirt vendors, food peddlers and the HRC bombarding us at every turn), we opted for a nice quiet Sunday brunch at Mimi's, far from the noise and the boys.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Recovery Road

Since waking up a little over two weeks ago, my Dad has been sequestered in a rehabilitation facility. He spends his days strengthening his legs so that he can stand and walk, and working with a speech therapist to assist with re-learning how to swallow and to talk. He barely touches the hospital food. (I sampled some and understand his "reluctance" to eat it. Blech!)

But from that first day until today, the change has been dramatic. He pulls himself up and out of bed, speaks without hesitation and notes in his journal any visitors or the food he eats at each meal. His memory slowly improves, though we know anything short term will take much, much longer. It's quite impressive progress considering the neurosurgeon told us all to expect at least two months, maybe more, of physical therapy and rehab.

Today, however, his treating physician at the rehab facility met with the therapists and decided as one to allow my Dad to return home this coming Saturday. Needless to say, my Dad couldn't be more thrilled whereas my Mom...well, she's psyching herself up for what's to come. Their insurance will provide a nurse 2 hours a day for 20 days, which will further help with Dad's recovery. Mom also bought one of those chairs that lifts someone from a seated to a standing position. But we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The 'Other' Blog

I'd neglected it for so long that I decided to write a post on the company blog today. I can't believe my last post on there was April 8th!! Feels as though I should do penance or something. Perhaps ten Hail Marys to make things right with the blogosphere....

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Walking through the parking lot near Ralph's on PCH, I spotted two ducks, a male and a female, cleaning themselves next to a tall palm tree on one of those parking lot islands. I pointed them out to Caesar.

Caesar: You know, if this were a post-apocalyptic Long Beach, those would be fair game right now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review: In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
Kenji drives a cab among the bright lights of Tokyo. But he doesn't stick to the usual stops; his tours take passengers -- usually foreigners -- through the seedy nightlife, exploring the sexual sights and sounds of the bustling metropolis. A few nights before New Years Eve, Kenji picks up an unusual passenger, an American who goes by the name of Frank. Frank's a big man, with an oddly pale skin, and from their conversation, Kenji's not sure what to think of him. His odd behavior, telling stories then contradicting himself, the way he seems to mesmerize the locals at one of the clubs, add to Kenji's growing unease. The unease only increases when a young girl is found dead, and Kenji begins to suspect that Frank may not be who he says he is.

In the Miso Soup does a great job at taking the nervousness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs when we know something isn't quite right and twisting it into full-blown paranoia. And much of that is thanks to the way author Ryu Murakami created the character of Frank. He's big and unassuming. His skin, his facial expression (or almost lack thereof), the way his ease loose focus when something seems to anger him, the way his whole persona changes in almost the blink of an eye, all conspire with the local news reports to coax Kenji into believing that Frank is pure evil. And when Kenji's mind picks up an idea, it runs with it, twisting what he sees to mesh with what he believes. I couldn't help but go along with Kenji because I started feeling the same sort of mistrust toward Frank, even without anything to prove it.

It's an intense read, violent and gory at times, but a fine psychological thriller.

In the Miso Soup
by Ryu Murakami
ISBN: 0-14-303569-X
Penguin Books
paperback, 217p.

bought myself

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

39 Steps

Saturday afternoon, we made the trek back to LA, this time using one of our own cars instead of the charter bus. Our destination: the Ahmanson to catch a special limited run of Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps". We'd caught snippets of the show on the Tony's and decided then and there that if the show ever may its way to the Left Coast, we'd make every effort to see it. (Many thanks to Goldstar for offering discounted tickets!)

The story centers on Richard Hannay, an average Englishman, who suddenly finds himself the main suspect in the murder of a woman named Annabella Schmidt. It doesn't help matters that she's found dead in his flat or that she had been trying to stop a notorious spy from fleeing the country with the mysterious 39 Steps. Now, Richard must find a way to stop the spy himself, to clear his name and to uncover just what the 39 Steps are.

That's the main story, as Hitchcock told it on the big screen.

Now, picture four actors from a 1950s English theatre company trying to put on a show with the barest of stages, using boxes, a few chairs and a door on casters as the props, with two vaudevillian actors portraying 150 characters from the film (with the occasional mishap), and with quick costumes changes performed on stage. They manage to transform what seems like nothing into one of the funniest plays I've ever seen. From almost the very beginning, with Richard Hannay seated in his chair, relating the events of his adventure to the audience, we found ourselves at first chuckling, then laughing heartily to uncontrollably. (The scene with the lamppost and the curtained window had to be one of the best staged scenes, certainly one of the trickiest.) Claire Brownell, Ted Deasy, Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson must have worn themselves ragged, but never missed a beat. With as much physical humor as there were jokes, these four actors brought the movie to life, throwing in the occasional references to many other Hitchcock films (Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, and many others). And to think this was the matinée show; they had one more staging only a few hours after this one ended.

Still laughing as we left the theatre, we headed for an early dinner at La Luz del Día in Olvera Street. I hadn't been there since elementary school, when we filled school buses for a field trip. The street vendors still peddled little guitars and maracas, ponchos and blankets, Mexican candies, and the ever-popular confetti eggs, but they've added Mexican wrestler masks by the hundreds in the permanent carts running down the center of the street. The side shops offered candles, almost anything Frida Kahlo that could be imagined, figurines and masks for the Día de los Muertos, and wonderful food.

We didn't stay too long, just enough for some soft carnitas tacos and a quick wander through each of the shops. No souvenirs this time, but I was tempted to bring home a carton of the confetti eggs. Just for old time's sake.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Scratching Back

Before you get any ideas about that title, it actually belongs (in part) to Peter Gabriel's latest album Scratch My Back, a collection of cover songs. I mention this because, thanks to our friend Marci, Caesar and I attended Gabriel's concert Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl, featuring the songs from the new album along with many classics.

Walking up the hill toward the Bowl, every other table or booth peddled Peter Gabriel trinkets: CDs, postcards with album cover images, and t-shirts, most with two red blood cells hugging each other while the rest read "Drums. Guitars. Orchestra." I'd read about this tour, the fact that Gabriel decided to use a full orchestra rather than electric guitars and synthesizers and other electronics. "Should make for an interesting concert", I murmured.

We found our sets around 6:30, watched the stage crew test the lights and electronic screen on the stage. The show was scheduled to start at 7, but only a few people trickled in behind us. As 7 came and went, the trickle turned into a steady stream so that by 7:30 most of the Bowl's seats were filled. Good thing the show hadn't started. In fact, it wasn't until almost 10 'til 8 that Gabriel stepped onto the stage, announced his opening act Ane Brun (who sang only two songs), then returned to explain how the concert would work. The first "act" would be songs from the new album; the second would showcase some of his more well-known tracks.

The Bowl lights dimmed leaving only a spotlight on the orchestra's conductor. With a wave of his baton, the New Blood Orchestra thrummed into David Bowie's Heroes. the way Gabriel deconstructed that song -- along with the others, including Neil Young's Philadelphia, Regina Spektor's Après Moi, and The Magnetic Field's The Book of Love -- they sounded as if he wrote them. The original songs remained recognizable, but with a full orchestra and Gabriel's dramatic take made them something new.

And, of course, the digital light show, using three long screens behind the orchestra and one that rose and fell from the ceiling near the front of the stage. Simply amazing. The lights pulsed and flowed with the rhythm of the strings, changing colors and shapes with every beat. Combined with the singing and the live orchestra, the effect was mesmerizing. One of the jumbo screens stood almost directly above us so we could watch the digital effects on Gabriel and the other singers and musicians as the lights danced across the stage. We scarcely realized an hour had passed by until the lights brightened, and groups of people hurried to the bathrooms and the refreshment stands.

The second act, as promised, focused on his own material, opening with a magnificent version of San Jacinto that roused the audience into a frenzy. He performed some of his better-known songs but mixed in lesser ones, like Mercy Street. Hearing them onstage, designed for orchestra was amazing. And during Solsbury Hill, as he skipped and danced about the stage, the audience joined in the fun, chanting the boom, boom, boom while Gabriel turned the camera onto the Bowl.

The only downside for me was The Washing of the Water one of my favorite songs from his Us album. The live version was turned into a duet, and I didn't feel the woman's voice suited the lyrics and the song. I would have preferred to hear it sung solely by Gabriel with the backing of the orchestra, but still, hearing it performed live was all that really mattered. Plus, he made up for it (in my opinion) with the encore of In Your Eyes.

A marvelous show, and I can't imagine seeing it anywhere else but at the Bowl.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Falling, pt. 4

They woke my Dad about a week ago.

That first day, Caesar and I both visited him at the hospital, spending a good 2-1/2 hours talking and joking with him, telling him what happened, where he was, doing what we could to make him comfortable. He responded, sluggishly answered a question or two with a nod of the head, smiled through hazy eyes and tried to talk though the doctor warned against it. Though the breathing tube had been removed days ago, his throat was still raw and swollen as was his tongue; the less he talked, the faster his throat and vocal chords would heal. We left on an up note, with him almost whispering the words "I love you" as we headed back home for the night.

My Mom's email the next morning read that the nurse had called around 3AM. My Dad had woken up during the night, screaming, afraid, terrified that we'd left him there days ago and had forgotten all about him. My Mom talked on the phone with him for an hour to quiet him and to coax him back to sleep.

When I arrived at the hospital after work that day, my Mom was visibly crying, my Brother struggled to hold back tears as my Dad pleaded with him to take him home. He didn't want to be there. We didn't love him. How could we do this to him? My Dad saw me, grabbed my hand and in tears begged the same from me. That was one of the hardest days, seeing him in such a pitiable state, scrunching toward the foot of the bed and looking so small, and knowing that the hospital was the best place for him to be. Telling him no, that he needed to stay there to get stronger so he would be able to come home...that hurt. But I knew he would say the same to me if our roles were reversed.

After a few minutes, he calmed down, as if none of the fuss had happened. He raised his hands to the top of his head, squinting his eyes with pain, and felt the stitching and the staples. Then he folded his arms across his chest and watched TV.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Don't Forget...

There's still time to sponsor me in the AIDS Walk Long Beach at the beginning of June!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Book Review: Dog Blood by David Moody
Danny McCoyne watched as the world changed around him. Everyday people suddenly turned on one another, fighting and killing without any rhyme or reason. The ones who turned violent were called Haters, filled with an insatiable desire to destroy the unchanged. And Danny found himself among the changed.

But that was months ago. Since then, the government has evacuated the unchanged into large hubs, cramming them into any open spaces like cattle, rationing food, and doing what they can to protect them. The Haters roam freely about the countryside, searching out the unchanged who were left behind to destroy them. And Danny fights right alongside them, but he also has other plans. He needs to find his daughter Ellis who's like him now, and he will stop at nothing to being her to safety.

The story unfolds from Danny's point of view, from the mindset of a Hater, and only briefly diverts to the crowded compound of the unchanged. Not a very unusual approach to storytelling, but as the reader -- and someone who is technically unchanged by the story's standards -- I found myself cheering Danny on. Even though he's changed, the events of the past few months still managed to surprise him, how much the fighting has devastated not only their regular lives, but changed the face of towns and cities: empty buildings, smoldering cars, bodies in every state of decomposition imaginable scattered everywhere. I empathized with him at the struggle of finding his child and doing whatever it took to save her, even though that meant battling against people like me, but that didn't matter. I still wanted him to succeed.

The characters are as compelling as the story: Danny as a Hater who still finds some bit of humanity in the hope that his daughter is alive; the Brutes, as they're know -- almost SuperHaters, they will kill anything, no matter who or what it is; Sahota and Julia, Haters who have found a way to control their urge to kill the unchanged; Lizzie, Danny's wife who smuggled their daughter Ellis into an unchanged compound; and many others. The Brutes were a surprise to me, something that even the Haters feared. A nice, unexpected touch.

Dog Blood is a gritty and violent sequel to last year's Hater. One thing I love about this book is that reading Hater isn't necessary to follow the action. Author David Moody provides enough backstory without rehashing or summarizing to get Danny and the reader into the thick of things. But the backstory also makes you want to read the first novel, just to gain a better understanding of what the heck happened to the world.

Dog Blood spins an engrossing tale of family and survival in a world gone mad. A wonderful read and highly recommended.

Dog Blood
by David Moody
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 978-0-312-53288-8
Softcover, 272p.

Book received from Publisher

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Falling, pt. 3

I've seen my Dad in hospitals before: somewhat groggy after a hip replacement, being feisty and ornery during a bout of pneumonia. The IV drip bag, monitors beeping as they measured heart rate, blood pressure and anything else the doctors felt necessary to check. No one ever likes stepping into a hospital room, but I felt that I'd experienced enough of them on my own that whatever I was about to see in my Dad's ICU room wouldn't phase me.

His room was much larger than I anticipated, fitting both his enormous bed, a day bed for visitors who wished to spend the night, and two thick, white columns affixed to the ceiling. The columns had electrical outlets grouped near the middle and bottom, and each column was affixed to articulated arms so they could be maneuvered about the room, moving equipment to wherever it was needed. Dozens of monitors huddled near the head of my Dad's bed, with plugs sticking into the columns while thin cables or wires flowed around him and ended in either patches adhering to his chest or fingers or entered the top of his head and penetrated a few millimeters into the brain. (One such device, called a Licox Monitor, determined how much oxygen the actual brain tissue held. The higher the number, the more oxygen allowing his brain to heal.)

IV bags of every size hung from thick metal hooks surrounding the bed, each one trailing a tube of fluid into an electronic monitor and out another tube into my Dad. The digital displays showed the name of the medicine and how much was being pumped into his system: versed, morphine, propofol, regular IV, even a thick pea-soupish yellow that was his food. The ventilator stood apart from them, off to the left, with its long crinkled white tube disappearing down my Dad's throat.

And in the midst of all the beeping, blipping, the moving about of doctors and nurses, my Dad rested on an enormous bed fitted with a monitor of its own at the foot. From the display the nurse could raise or lower the foot and head of the bed. Another button raised an upper corner, rotating my Dad to the left or right in in order to allow blood circulation and to loosed anything in his lungs. Another button deflated the mattress in case it was too stiff. Still another monitored his weight. All that from a bed! I joked that my Mom should buy one for their house.

The doctors and nurses didn't write anything down on clipboards or paper of any kind When it was time to change a medicine, he or she scanned a bar code on their badge, then another bar code on the IV bag and another bar code on a wristband attached to my Dad, and then set about hooking up the IV bag. When they changed shifts, they scanned the bar codes in again. They typed notes into a computer in the room and could check the notes or monitor equipment from the nurses station at the center of the ICU.

But the one touch in the room I especially liked was up in the ceiling. Directly above the bed and backlit, waiting for my Dad to open his eyes, was a photograph looking up at the tops of tress into the clear blue sky. Something calm and peaceful to be the first sight, rather than one of those holey cardboard ceiling tiles.