"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Friday, August 15, 2008

8/14/08 Nashville: Kim

Kim and I decided to tour a bit of downtown Nashville and have a beer while we caught up. She knew of a quiet little bar off the main- drag, and it was one of the few bars left anywhere where you can still smoke while you drink your damn beer! What a privilege!I gave her the quick, encapsulated version of what happened with the job in Santa Fe, and touched lightly on how everything tied into what I have been doing since May. Then it was her turn.

Many people have commented to me personally, including Kim, about my conversation with Ciel back in Idaho, and the talk I had with Pat in San Luis Obispo. These, so far, were the two people that have had the greatest effect on me on this trip. Kim is a powerful combination of the two. While her story isn’t as ’tragic’ or ‘dramatic’ on a personal level as Ciel’s, it is perhaps more intense to me because of the combination of factors; factors that not only make a person feel for her but, if you’re empathetic, will take you on an express trip to White Rage. It did me.

Kim and I first met in 1994 as classmates at Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, in Detroit. We were VERY different people. She has always been the type who refused to follow the crowd or to fake an effort to fit in. She was not ostracized by any means; rather her own separate little entity, peacefully coexisting next to the herd. I was a bit the same although, since I was still firmly entrenched within Camp Budweiser, and in the embryonic stages of figuring out who I was, I had my little circle to which I played to feed my need of approval.

Kim adamantly chose not to, and had a quiet, humble self- assurance about her. You could just tell that she was one of the more ‘solid’ people you would meet, and considering where I was in my own life and where I‘d ultimately go, that GREATLY appealed to me. We became good friends much to the amazement of our other friends. They just could not understand it.

Kim also was, and is still, a remarkably talented voice. Between the two of us, we swept the major class- awards as “Best Newscaster” (Kim) and “Most Entertaining Air Personality” (me). She has the best pure- voice of anyone in our class, and I was certain that SHE was going to be the one who went on to do something in radio, if anyone. I mean, in a perfect world she SHOULD have. Life has a funny way of getting in the way of our grandiose plans and visions. Fair is a quaint, outdated concept--- like religion.

The last time we saw each other was in Detroit in 1995, after I had worked one of my last games at old Tiger Stadium. We met at a bar with friends then sat in her parking lot until sunrise, just chatting-- and again-- much to the amazement of her roommate!

We quickly lost touch, as often happens, especially before the Internet Infestation, and didn’t talk again for 11 years when, in 2006, she found me on a networking site. We chatted off and on, and did the ‘we should get together’ stuff, but never did. She had told me that she had had some health problems, been divorced, and indicated that things had been challenging, but never really elaborated until

Thursday night. I am not a doctor, so I am going to use very simple terms to describe what I understand them to be. She was born with her heart literally reversed, so that the blood flow through her body is opposite of most people. The doctors scheduled her for heart surgery at 20 months or 20 pounds, whichever came first, in order to correct the blood flow. Life after that was normal. She went through her childhood and early adulthood like the rest of us. She went to school, got married in August of 2000, and was living a relatively normal life.

However, in May of 2003 at the age of 30, she began to develop problems with blood clots in her entire right leg. A massive clot, from hip to ankle, hospitalized her in Intensive Care for about 10 days. After using blood thinners and catheters to clear the immediate danger, the doctors performed surgery to insert stents that, hopefully, would prevent future clotting. This happened literally FIVE days after she and her husband had moved from Nashville, TN to Lexington, KY. She had left her job in mid- April in anticipation of the move, and was now left with COBRA. The hospital’s financial coordinators gave Kim a good indication of what was to come when, upon discharge, they demanded she expedite the process of initiating COBRA, i.e. “PAY COBRA,” so that the hospital knew they were going to be paid. “Glad you’re alive. Pay us.

She had hoped that the move to Lexington, closer to her husband’s family, would help her marriage, but the move began with her spending six- weeks recovering from surgery at her in- law’s home. During this time, she obviously could not work, and was struggling to pay COBRA’s premium.

Eventually Kim was added to her husband’s insurance, and thankfully, the group- policy could not deny new- additions due to pre- existing conditions. Kim eventually got back to work in Lexington, a 6-week temporary job as an assistant in a dental office, followed by a permanent position doing the same thing in another office. Pearson & Justice, DMD. The irony would be rich… She was with this DMD for nearly two- years, and had been there for 21 months when the next major hospitalization occurred.

All along, since the initial surgery, she had been experiencing nearly constant pain and swelling in the leg. In June of 2005, Kim’s sister had a heart attack and she flew back to Michigan from Lexington to be with her family. The night she arrived, she went directly to hospital to see her sister, and went on to her parent’s house for the night. She had been experiencing greatly intensified pain for the 2-3 hours before arriving at her parent’s house, but had attributed it to the traveling. After relaxing off her feet for a couple of hours and realizing the pain had not relented, she realized that she had trouble. She called her primary doctor in Lexington at about 10pm, and he told her to get to the ER immediately. Her parents put her in the car, and took her to the same hospital in which her sister, their daughter, was recovering from a heart attack.

The diagnosis was not good for her leg. The stents had failed within the first six- months, and the surgery had weakened and damaged her veins to the point where further procedures would not be an option. Bypassing an area that large was out of the question, and since the scar tissue from the last surgery compounded the clotting, operating again would only make the situation worse. As things stand now, the only treatment is maintenance; blood thinners. They also told her that if the circulation problems and clotting continue, amputation was, and still is, a real possibility.
At the time of the trip back to Michigan, she was employed nearly two- years with the dentist in Lexington, and insured. The procedure in Michigan was covered; however, she had a $1,000 deductible. Kim was treated at a metro- Detroit hospital, Oakwood in Dearborn who, the morning after her admittance, ordered to stay OFF her feet while she was in the hospital. The stay would ultimately last 10- days, but the next morning and even though they knew she was insured, the financial people informed her if she could not pony- up the $1,000 deductible, she would have to LEAVE immediately and seek treatment at another facility. A facility that would treat life- threatening conditions regardless of ability to pay, unlike Oakwood, apparently.
Human Kapital.

Let’s see if we understand this, shall we? One minute the doctors forbid you to WALK due to concerns that these clots could break free and find their way to your heart or lungs, and the next morning the same medical facility’s Ministers of Finance tell you to leave, DESPITE THE DOCTOR’S DIAGNOSIS, and simply due to FINANCIAL CONCERNS? Really? Where do we live? Still think ‘you’ are a priority, beyond that portfolio?

Kim and her mother of course challenged them on that point, but their response was that ‘maybe the other hospital would send an ambulance’ for her. Luckily, her mother was able to cover the deductible, but was on a fixed income being retired. How many of ‘us’ have $1,000 lying around? If you do, let me know and I will set up a Pay Pal account.

Remember Dr. ‘Justice’ and Friends?

This is a small office in Lexington that employs LESS than fifty people. The Family Medical Leave Act does NOT protect their employees. The FMLA protects your job if you are hospitalized long- term. It also provides maternity- leave time for husbands, and protects family members who need to provide care for terminally- ill family members, among other things.

Yeah, pure Socialism.

She was, according to their- own reviews and "ambiguous" other little things like promotions and regular- raises, an exemplary employee prior to this surgery. However, when her doctor refused to provide a conjecture- driven date for her return to work, they began to conjure up stories about fading productivity, a deteriorating attitude over time… blah blah blah... It reminded me of the feces I was force- fed when I was read the Terms of My Termination last year. Find that loophole, Skippy…

They terminated her. With the job went her insurance. This was her Rubicon, although unlike Caesar, she did not choose to cross— they threw her. In addition, it was NOT cliche' boogie men like Wal Mart, AT&T, Comcast, even Halliburton, doing the tossing. She was tossed by a LOCAL, small business who simply wanted to be rid of her health issues and felt no guilt or obligation to protect her access to insurance, nor her income.

Human Kapital.

Hey Hippies… Pay more to buy local? Why is that again?

My dealings with and conversations about these idealistic, local, "small businesses" have been as bad as with any corporate entity. The problem, as it pertains to dealing with the Human Kapital phenomenon, is NOT just fighting corporatism; it is fighting Predatory Capitalism in general and being particularly fierce with those that disguise themselves as some throwback to a ‘better America”. Many want to throw us back to the time before Organized Labor .

So again Hippies, fill in the blanks: F_ _ K Y_ _!!

But, back to Kim.

The doctors discharged her after 10- days, and Kim returned to Lexington toward the end of May. Dr. "Justice" and friends immediately terminated her, and her insurance was history by the end of June. Six weeks later, she and her husband separated and she would file for divorce toward the beginning of ’06. With no job and her marriage ending, Kim returned to Michigan, and its wasteland of a job- market, at the end of July.

Luckily, she had family to fall back on, but the condition with her leg makes sitting, standing, or walking for long periods impossible. She needed to work, but imagine trying to find a job and telling the HR- drone that you cannot sit, stand, or walk for 8- hours. What exactly are you going to do? They, in theory, created “Disability” for exactly this!

When we reconnected in May of 2006, she was living in Michigan and working for a bank doling out mortgages. The pain in her legs, coupled with (I like to think anyway) that she has a soul led her to quit the bank in January of 2007, in favor or a serving job at Red Robin in Brighton. Serving appeared to be the most physically- tolerable option. Sitting all day with her leg bent is the absolute worst.

From January ’07 until July, things were going pretty well. She was working full- time, had moved out of her family’s place to her own apartment and finally felt like her life had restarted. Her divorce had become final in October of ’06 and she was single again. Life was good, except for the fact that Red Robin’s insurance did not take effect for six- months, and getting COBRA from her time with the bank would have cost $400 a month. She was uninsured. Uninsurable. She had made dozens of calls to independent insurance companies trying to get coverage, but they ALL refused-REFUSED- to cover her at all because of her medical history.

Things were fine, but that peace was obviously fragile. It was broken in July, when the clotting issues resumed. She went to the ER to discover that she had a newly- formed clot, and two of the former obstructions had recurred. Again, not much they could do. They kept her in the hospital for about two days while they administered some intense blood- thinning medication that could lead to bleeding.She got rather lucky this time, because the University of Michigan Health Care System has a charity fund set up that was able to defer the cost of the latest hospitalization.

On August 1, she finally got coverage through Red Robin, but after being off work with no disability coverage, she actually had to pay Red Robin’s insurance premiums out of her OWN POCKET. Because she was off work, and there was no institutional protection, there was no 'check' from which to draw money. Try to figure that one out.

After a month recovering, she tried to go back to work with the same workload, 40+ hours a week, but it was physically impossible. This forced Kim to cut back to 25 hours a week, losing the income, but keeping the insurance.
The loss of income of course led to the loss of other things. She could no longer afford her apartment and was on the brink of eviction when she gave it up and moved in once again with her brother. She was unable to keep car payments up to date, and had to give up her vehicle.

- * Loss of ½ of her income
- * Loss of home
- * Loss of car

All having NOTHING to do with laziness or a refusal to work. Exactly why, in theory, they created "Disability."

Kim had tried to avoid filing Disability despite the fact that she appeared, on the surface, to be a case study on who SHOULD get it. She told me that she had a difficult time accepting the fact that she is literally unable to work the hours that it would take to be on her own. Eventually, after a lot of wrangling and discussions with family, she relented and filed in September 2007. Of course, the State contested and denied the Disability claim. Twice. She is on her third appeal now. She was put through the process of having to list EVERY job she had EVER had in an effort to calculate how much TAX REVENUE she had provided the State so as to determine whether or not she was ‘qualified’ to receive Disability. It seems as though they are solely concerned with how much you have fed The Pig, rather than how ‘disabled’ you are. The first questions they ask pertain to your work history; not your health.

Human Kapital.

Ultimately, Kim may lose her right leg. There is nothing more that the doctors can do for her. Surgery will now do more harm than good. Like Ciel, and like the Kim I knew in 1994, she is amazingly positive, although she admits that she has fought bouts with depression. Even with health coverage through the most expensive procedures, she has accumulated in the neighborhood of $100,000 just in medical debt, which comes complete with calls from collection agencies. Not only that, but consider the lost income, which has led to an inability to provide a home for herself, and until recently a car. She also has her old apartment complex coming at her trying to collect for her breaking the lease.

Health problems? Fuck you. Pay me.

She is a very gifted writer and still a tremendous public- speaker, so a Tennessee health- advocacy organization approached Kim about becoming a spokesperson. I have tried my best to encourage her to that, and her fighting spirit is refreshing, but the fact that the 'system' would like to throw her away boils my blood. I cannot express how much anger I was feeling while Kim was recounting her story at that bar, then again when I essentially interviewed her over the weekend. It was the kind of anger where even I was at a loss for words, which if you have read enough of these, you KNOW is nearly impossible; I have had suffcient time to recover.

*** RAND ADVISORY*** (Not Quite a Full Rant)

Still wonder if I’m just paranoid? Remember the phrase “Human Kapital.” This is YOUR system at its finest: Humanity with a Price Tag. Your WORTH as a dignified human being IS in direct correlation to the numbers on that pay- stub, right next to the word ’tax’.

However, what if you are 35 years- old and cannot work 50- hours a week?
Should we be content to be treated as a "peasant- class" while living in the richest country the world has ever known? Compliant while they presume to define us as the “Plebs of New Rome?” Passive while the economic, political, and social elite happily throw us to the streets to fight for the rats? What is our crime? Simply losing the ability to generate their wealth through our labor?

The poor and powerless have LONG since known the score, and the rules of the game. The difference is that today, the system is creating a greater number of plebeians. The "proletariat" is growing, and injustice is beginning to spread far beyond Blacks in the projects; Mexicans in the barrios… it is coming to your neighborhoods. Noticing the foreclosure signs multiplying in your neighborhoods? Rest assured, before long it will come to YOUR family too. God help you if it's you yourself.

The poor and powerless have long since known the score, and the rules of the game: Step into the “justice” system; do it with NO money. Try suing to get what is rightfully yours after you have been “loop- holed. “ No money for the lawyer? Fuck you! Don’t have the money to file the suit? Fuck you! Falsely arrested and need ADEQUATE representation? Fuck you; take what we give you, and be happy for it! Want REAL justice? Fuck you, get a REAL job!"

Am I paranoid? Just cynical? Lose your insurance & get sick. I dare you. Prove me wrong. Have some sweaty, greasy, little predator (henceforth known as ’Skippy’) find that loophole and fire you when your body makes it impossible to work.

Talk to Kim. Is she paranoid?

Talk to Pat. Is he just cynical?
Talk to my 70- year old mother.

Talk to any one of the millions just like them. Are they ALL paranoid? Or just... whiney?

Justice may be blind; that bitch sure can count.

*** END RANT ADVISORY *** Brought to you by Blue Cross/ Blue Shield

The Disability appeals process is still going on, and Kim relocated to Nashville early this year simply because she wanted to; she has had a bit of an awakening. Somewhere along the line, after all of the health problems, and fighting this ‘system’ to get what her taxes legitimately SHOULD have provided her in order to SURVIVE with a shred of dignity, she has realized what’s important. She has decided to ENJOY life. She wanted to live here, so she is.

Kim is doing her best to make the most of what she has. She has pointed out, and it is obvious, that she is one unlucky- hiccup away from being homeless. She was lucky to find a friend who lets her stay and works as much as she can, serving at Red Robin again, although working more than two days in a row is nearly impossible. These are not the only health problems that she has had, but this is enough for this space.

After a bit of reflection, everything has became a bit clearer. How EVERYTHING seems to be connecting. I’m beginning to see, and more importantly UNDERSTAND the patterns of these ‘coincidences’, inner- turmoil, disgust, the intense and long- term allergic reactions I have always felt toward illegitimate, assumed authority (both moral and otherwise) AND how these things seem to dovetail with some of the experiences I have had; the people I continue to meet and connect with. The conversations I continue to have with people who actually have something important to add to this tapestry.

Yes, I was indeed supposed to come here. I just do not have any clue as to what I am supposed to DO with all of this! I sense that it is all tying together; even the stuff I cannot talk about here. Rest assured, you will most definitely hear about THAT… eventually.

Later Thursday night we chatted over a few more drinks after we got to their place. It was amazing in that, as different as we may have been 14- years ago, how similar we have become and for completely different reasons. It seems to be truth: Though the rivers change course sometimes, they, ultimately, do reach the sea… if you are willing, or forced, to follow them.