Tuesday, June 18, 2019


The most recent kitten generation is nearly cat now.  There are two catlets and one is still fighting the remnants of a respiratory bug that goes around the cats in this village.  I call her "Honk" because that's the sound she makes when she's trying to sleep and the mucus accumulates in her airway.  When she's awake and bouncing around the world, there's no problem, though at intervals she will come to be held and stroked for a while.  Since one is "Honk", the other one is necessarily "Beep."

Thinking about Honk brings back memories of a UUA-GA long ago -- 1987?  I don't remember which town, but it was on a campus where the housing was separated by a mile or so from the main class buildings.  The "pods," housed a half-dozen students each during the school year.  By June things like plumbing needed work.  The sheets were clean.

I was late -- off-schedule so arrived at my assigned bed without meeting anyone else in the pod except for a word at bedtime when they came in.  The first night the pod was full. Then it emptied without explanation and for the rest of the nights I was the only one sleeping there.  This is not unusual.  Delegates are pretty fluid about finding alternate housing, maybe a nice hotel in town.  Some people use the event to find intimate partners for a few days.  But it had never been silent, without explanation from anyone.

When I had gone to District Ministers' Meetings in the PNWD, I stayed in my van to save money and because I already lived in it for three years (1982-85) while I drove around my Montana circuit of four fellowships.  I considered it a great adventure, even heroism, and so did the two men (Emil Gudmundson and Russ Lockwood, both dead now) who wanted to develop the prairie UU's.  There had been no active minister in the state since the Depression when the fellowships all went broke. A few ordained clergy had other jobs and "preached" a bit.  

Sleeping in the van every night, whereever I parked, was quite comfortable if a little chilly sometimes, but I developed bronchitis that made me honk at night.  I didn't have much consciousness of that.  I denied anything discouraging.  It turned out that was the secret of where everyone in the GA pod went -- I was snoring so badly no one else could sleep.  I didn't know it.  No one said anything. This is middle class politeness -- just draw your skirts aside.  Don't get involved.  Don't mention shortcomings.  it's the "nice" thing to do.  Deny bad noises as though they were bad smells (BO, feet and farts) and deny them with quality products.  Don't tell people if they are offenders, because surely quality people will realize and deal with it.

But once at a District Meeting of ministers where I had to sleep indoors, one of the renegade rule-breakers took me aside to tell me about the snoring.  He had had the same problem.  (We were about the same weight.)  "You've got to get a C-PAP!" he said.  "It will change your life!"  He was probably right about that.  "Continuous Positive Air Pressure". It's a bedside machine with a face mask that pumps air into one's lungs at night to prevent oxygen starvation and maintain sleep.  They cost hundreds of dollars and must be plugged in.  In a van how was I going to manage either one?  (They don't make them for cats.  Too bad, Honk.)

No one else ever mentioned my snoring, though several colleagues confronted me about my weight.  Another middle class concern, conflated with heart health so as not to be accused of being overly insistent on appearance.  About this time doctors were coming down hard on middle-aged men who loved whiskey and cigars.  It made the guys feel critical towards a lot of things.  I'm not sure whether they considered anything else about my health -- I was over forty.  They worried about my wardrobe.  "Presentation" is the jargon term.

After a restorative year in Kirkland, WA, across the lake from Seattle, I went to Saskatoon.  I was told there was universal health care and there was -- for Canadians.  Prejudice against Americans, whom they believed were looting the province, meant that I rarely made it past any gatekeepers.  Cancer in that province, with an economy that depended on dangerous mining, was a secret.  The government treated it in a designated hospital and hid all statistics or studies.

This is not an account of starting to use a CPAP, because I never did.  I now run into people using them everywhere.  It's an industry, including the sleep studies necessary to qualify for one.  You can also get canned oxygen by mail order in the health catalogues that arrive in the mail all the time.  When it comes to Montana prairie air, one has the "fire hose" problem -- so much air moving so fast that snatching a snootful will get you forcefed clean air.  Maybe a little dusty.  But in the valleys on the east side of the Rockies, temperature inversions can trap air against the ground so that paper plant mills and refineries thicken the atmosphere and make breathing problematic.  More CPAPs.

I've seen the vids of China where the air is too thick to see down the block.  I remember that during WWII my aunt, who was an army nurse there, said that in Harrods the air was too full of smog to see the counters.  I read about what might happen to the air in the future.  I take it all seriously.

Nothing is more basic than the air we breathe and yet we are full of risk and denial about planetary atmosphere.  An individual CPAP is part of a subsidiary industry about how to clean and regulate the machine, little custom improvements to the face mask and booklets of tips about use.  No one yet has explained how to keep from looking like a space cadet while in bed with an intimate partner.  In fact, the planetary air is nearly ignored except for the issue of a warming planet.

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