‘He got a pretty heavy dose of narcotics’

(This special guest post was written by the poor caretaker of Adam, his girlfriend Katie)

The patient has returned. Sort of.

Adam is back in the recovery room after 45 minutes. His eyes are barely open and he doesn’t talk much at first. The doctor instead turns and gives Katie the good news: No polyps, clean bill of health, come back in five years.

Adam is awake. Katie asks him how he’s feeling. “Okay, I’m okay,” he mumbles. Katie gives him his glasses back, which he fumbles with a bit and places them on his face.

The nurse offers snacks and drinks. “Water, juice, sodas …” Adam looks up. “Coffee?” he asks. Not even the drugs can take away his love for liquid caffeine. “No, I’m sorry,” the nurse responds. “You can’t have anything hot right now.”

They only have generic soda. Adam doesn’t comprehend. “Dr. Pepper?” he asks hopefully. “Sorry, we only have generic stuff, cola, Sprite, juice, water.” “Dr. Thunder?” Adam asks. He still wants that Dr. Pepper. “No, we don’t have that, either.”

What in the hell is Dr. Thunder, Katie wonders. 

Katie suggests a Sprite. “How about a Sprite, Adam?” Adam can’t seem to decide or form the words, so the nurse brings back two cups with small straws – one with Sprite, one with cola. Adam is handed the sprite. Katie keeps the cola.

She also brings a warm blueberry muffin. Adam takes both and promptly drops the blueberry muffin on the bed. Holding the sprite, he falls asleep, and the cup starts to tip.

Thirty second later he’s awake again. “Where did this come from?” He’s talking about the muffin which is now getting all over the bed. Katie breaks off a few pieces and puts them in his mouth. “Did you bring me this?” The drugs remain strong at this moment.

Katie tells Adam there were no polyps. A minute later he says again, “I need to wait for my results.” This would be repeated eight more times over the course of 30 minutes.

Adam falls asleep again and the nurse wakes him up. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude and shun you.” The nurse looks amused.

“Did I get a passing grade?’ Adam asks. No one knows the real meaning here. A letter grade? A test without polyps? “Yes, you get an A,” the nurse says. This same scene happens again five minutes later. 

The nurse tells Adam that he will be groggy the rest of the day but can resume everything normally on Thursday. “I can even run a marathon?” he asks. The nurse looks at him, in slight disbelief, and says, “yes if you want to.” Adam has never run a marathon, but a 2014 Chicago marathon shirt is sitting in the chair next to his hospital bed.

The nurse warns Katie, “He got a pretty heavy dose of narcotics. He’s going to be having trouble remembering for a while and asking the same things over and over. This is normal.” Adam is warned not to try and work or make big decisions. Or drive. No booze.

Adam has finished his muffin (with many crumbs among the sheets on the bed), but now he’s thirsty. Katie gives him the cup of sprite. “Is this mine?” he asks. Katie took the sprite and set it aside when it started to spill a few minutes before. “I have TWO SODAS?” Unfortunately, none are Dr. Pepper, or even the generic Dr. Thunder. 

The nurse asks if Adam wants another snack. She lists off the options: chips, pretzels and Cheez-its. Adam can’t decide at first but opts for pretzels. He swings the bag around in triumph.

It’s time for the IV to come out. The nurse apologizes for pulling his skin and arm hair. “I’ve been dealing with it all my life … guess it’s time to start shaving my arms,” Adam says. The IV is out. A moment later, he has forgotten. “They took out my IV already?” 

He looks around. “Am I all done now? Were you in the room with me?” 

“This bed is warm,” Adam says. “I could stay here a couple hours watching TV. There’s noise in the hall. I’m productive that way.” 

Up next is the task of getting dressed. Out of the gown, into the underwear. Adam is unsteady on his feet so Katie helps him sit back on the bed. 

All dressed and ready to go for a wheelchair ride. 

Colonoscopy complete.

A trip to the X-band: 4/16/19

(From a random evening cruising the AM dial from a radio I’ve since forgotten. Not helpful, but it seemed wasteful to just delete a record of what was heard on a particular instance in Peoria, Illinois.)

1710 kHz: Nothing.

1700: WJCC. Spanish language music. 1,160 miles from Miami Springs, Florida.

1690: WVON. Loads of interference. 120 miles from Berwyn, Illinois

1680: WPRR. R&B music. 260 miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan

1670: WMGE. Weak signal. 630 miles from Macon, Georgia

1660: KWOD. THunder Radio Network. 290 miles from Kansas City / KQWB. Voice of the Bison. 560 miles from Fargo, North Dakota.

1650: KFSW. 450 miles from Ft. Smith, Arkansas /KCNZ. 190 miles from Cedar Falls, Iowa

1640: WSJP. 180 miles from Sussex, Wisconsin

1630: KCJJ. Kryptonite song. 120 miles from Iowa City, Iowa

1620: Mess of signals.

1610: Dead.

A bolt to the console

Memories – my memories – are inaccurate and incomplete. But I remember a few vivid ones involving organs and lightning.

The church in Wichita, Kansas where I grew up had a pretty standard two-manual electronic organ from either the late 70s or early 80s (no pipes, sadly.) Maybe the brand began with an “S”? Or maybe it didn’t. I remember being particularly annoyed that it had no MIDI interface, which feels like such a dumb concern to 2019 Adam. It also had a bench that wouldn’t adjust, necessitating some homemade two-by-fours to bring it up to a height where my legs could move about the pedals.

Kansas is a severe weather Mecca, where a perfectly normal humid morning or afternoon can turn into a sick green color full of electricity. And this crummy organ was no fan of any extra electricity. I distinctly remember a few times when lightning would strike that cross atop the weird, sloped roof of St. Francis of Assisi and the current would drive straight down into the organ and it would shriek continuously. Or just die completely. Either way, a terrifying experience for someone sitting on the bench with hands atop the keys. A few days later, I’d find the organ with panels off and a whole mess of wires exposed while being repaired. It was like seeing the cotton coming out of your stuffed animal and wondering if it would be the same afterward.

So tonight in Peoria, Illinois some 25 years later, I’m practicing on a small continuo pipe organ underneath the loft at Sacred Heart and I suddenly hear a tremendous crash and the lights go out and I leave my skin behind. The steeple has been hit and practice is definitely over.

The embattled electronic organ in Kansas was replaced with a real pipe organ right around the time I moved to Illinois. Man, I would have loved learn on such an instrument.

There’s nothing else to worry about in the world.

Fifteen minutes ago, I was seething in a really unhealthy way and ready to write up a scathing account of forgotten broccoli. But now I’m munching on some pretty decent cheese and slices of pear, so I’ve lost the bulk of the ire that drives all great works of art.

Katie and I have been participating in that yuppie box lunch service called Blue Apron for over a year now. For someone like me who resorts by default to kitchen sink-style meals (think macaroni with some leftover fish, maybe some peanut butter and celery as a side), it’s been a godsend. Each week we pick out 3 meals out of a possible 6 options. I usually steer clear of red meat, so we settle on the fish, chicken and veggie options remaining.

They’ve taught me timing above all else. It’s always been a mystery how restaurants manage to keep food reasonably hot and fresh on a busy night. Now I know that it chiefly involves lots of stress and that old lie humans invented called multitasking. Blue Apron has made me a three-burner chef (send me my damn check now!)

Since we keep separate domiciles, these raw ingredients are often shuttled between kitchens in plastic bags – sometimes with a stop in the work kitchen so I don’t have to run back home before dinner.

Well, something has gone terrifically wrong with my brain as of late and I’m leaving behind ONE INGREDIENT EVERY MEAL. A few nights ago, the verjus blanc. Tonight, broccoli. Tomorrow, my socks?


Katie: Where’s the [goddamn missing food item]?

Adam: … aaaagghgghghghghghghghghHGGHGHGHGHGHGH!!!!!!


Crying babies don’t really bother me. Neither does waiting in line. But my own failing mind me drives me into such a rage that all stoplights in town turn red forever and I can’t even hear the music on the car radio.

And all this before I realize that the forgotten brocolli is no longer edible due to a fuzz on those delightful florets.

photo by Jordan Fischer

Willy and the daily chance that we’ll find him dead


A little goldfish arrived in our care after Katie’s nephew threw some balls in an uncannily accurate way at a county fair and, in return, received several fish in ziplock bags filled with water.

It’s been an eye-opening seven weeks of ownership, and while his brother died within days in the care of a small child, we attribute Willy’s exceptional life to his own rigorous daily habits (thank you, Ben Franklin):

1. Beg for food. Flipping around like an acrobat, spotting humans from 20-feet away.

2. Poke at rocks. Do handstands, bob like jackhammer, hope for food underneath.

3. Zoom to the surface to eat bubbles. Not food, but it looks like food.

It’s a simple existence and one that still manages to cause panic. Is he moving too quickly? Dying of hunger? Is that stillness sleep? Will one of his eyes fall out?

Things reached peak worry the other night when we tried to introduce some fresh food into his life. He’s been living off of these multi-colored flakes that look like Fruity Pebbles but smell like your garbage disposal after a night of seafood.

So we gave him some carrot bits. A little sliver of cucumber rind. Even pear peel, finely chopped. I mean, we fed him nothing but the best. People routinely pay big money for tiny food with fancy names.

Each offering was eagerly devoured. Each piece was ejected from his little fish lips. Each piece was eaten again. Vomited again.

So he likes his McDonalds best, right? We raised him on junk food – it’s our fault for not imposing a better diet when he was younger.

But could fresh food kill a fish? Of course not! And yet, our Willy managed to get several pieces jammed in his gullet and he stopped swimming. Breathing became erratic. In some sort of no-touch Heimlich maneuver, I had to startle him enough to make two or three chunks of food pop out of him. Good as new, or as best as a fair fish can expect.

Katie’s take: “No more feeding him. Ever.”

We regret the error

I’m not exactly a fellow who seeks out culinary pain. But I’m an adult, so I put spaghetti sauce on my pasta and regularly buy the “hot” variety of jar salsa. I’ll use all the wasabi on a plate at a sushi restaurant.

But how does one tell in advance if a pepper is hot? And how does one ensure it isn’t lying?

A jalapeño pepper has decent marketing in its favor. The ghost pepper is typically associated with claims of near death in the right circumstances, so you’re pretty much jumping off the cliff if you’re eating one. Bell peppers are for babies.

From the recipe:

Sautéed shishito peppers finish the dish off with subtle zing.


First, a burst of seeds and a crispness missing from the neighboring shishito peppers. Within two seconds, I’d stopped chewing. I looked at Katie and started coughing. I removed my glasses. I took water. Katie at this point runs to get a cup of milk and I yell from the back porch that I’m about to vomit. I don’t. Instead, I sweat and feel like I’m losing my balance. So I start pacing to make sure I’m ready to fall over.

Milk does the trick, but it just doesn’t linger long enough. Maybe I should swish it like mouthwash?  I find a pocket of seeds between my cheek and teeth, but I find them with the tip of my tongue. The tongue is now ablaze all over again and death returns. I sit down, then stand again. Then sit.

Katie then threatens to haul all the peppers away from my dish, but I convince her that maybe they just need deseeding. I have no idea if there’s a point in doing so, but she soon returns with a small platter and a pile of neutered peppers. I then gingerly test each one before plopping it back into my dinner.

I hope you had a pleasant meal tonight without vipers hiding in plain sight.

A remembrance of Scott Adrian Hinton

What is there to say about Scott Hinton? If he were writing this, he’d tell me to stop – but he might reluctantly let me share some of his recent work from his 17 years at the Journal Star:

Scott understood the importance of killer graphics in multimedia, like these title cards for an entertainment web series.

When Caterpillar announced its headquarters expansion plans in Downtown Peoria, Scott banged this out on deadline.


Courtroom sketches are some of the most challenging assignments, especially for a perfectionist like Scott.

He was incredibly proud of this redesign effort for the Journal Star. We’re still using his logos and business cards to this day.


But as Scott’s manager the past four years, I think considering only his body of work sells him short. He was as kind and polite as they come, even when the stress of deadline loomed over him.

Asking him for a favor, however, would mean an immediate demand for an orange soda (and maybe a cheeseburger or shake.) And then a smile.

Scott was brilliant. The Journal Star could frustrate him at times. Newspapers don’t always have the latest and greatest equipment or software, and he knew it. “Retrograde,” he’d exclaim when our computers would test his patience.

Then there were those days when we’d have a passionate (even heated) discussion in my office. But no matter what topics we covered, those conversations would usually end with him saying that he “meant no disrespect” and wanted to know “how are you holding up?” That last question says everything of his character.

So, Scott, I’m going to miss you a lot. You left us far too soon.

– Mr. Smooth (his occasional nickname for me, undeserved but cherished)

A Black Friday casualty


I regret to inform you that there’s been a death in the Journal Star family. His body was found today in the rain, splayed along the road to 1 News Plaza. We’ll miss him dearly.

PEORIA – Henry Bartholomew Antwerp, 4, of Peoria, Ill., passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, while standing guard along the drive to 1 News Plaza.

A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Grand View Drive pavilion. All groundhogs are invited to attend. Burial will follow at Springdale Cemetery. Visitation for Henry will be from now until Wednesday at the spot of his death (please be aware of traffic.)

Memorials may be made to Keep Eyes on Groundhogs (KEG) and the National Audubon Society.

Henry was born on July 4, 2011, in Peoria Heights, Ill., the son of Karl and Melinda (Peepow) Antwerp. Although never formally educated, he often read the Journal Star as copies would fall from the open doors of delivery trucks racing down the hill. He may have been married, but a groundhog never tells.

He proudly stood guard at 1 News Plaza from October until November 2015, occasionally munching on food near the bottom of the hill, but usually lounging right along the winding drive to the newsroom. He was never one to stand on his hind legs and was never heard whistling in alarm.

Henry was a lifelong member of the Marmot Militia. Being a groundhog was not just his occupation, but a passion.

Most of all, he loved his newspaper family.

He was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by no one but the employees of the Journal Star.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood!



The celestial phenomena and you!

The most spectacular [Perseids] since at least 2008,” eh? I packed up some blankets, a tripod, a camera rarely used, a flashlight that has a crank on the side so you’ll never need batteries again, a can of bug spray with a broken top nozzle, a tiny can of Perrier, the girlfriend who loves to sip them.


Ding! It’s that easy when you concentrate on in-the-moment enjoyment and just randomly jam on the camera shutter a few times. Fewer than 19 frames total! We tried reclining in the car with the moonroof open, but there’s not nearly enough sky visible. Leaning against the car while standing is a classic pose for a reason.

And these meteors were plentiful! We called it quits around 1:30 a.m., but not before witnessing a good many bright streaks, faint blips and everything in between for 45 minutes. Fog rolled in midway, adding a very sinister effect when paired with Peoria’s light pollution. My accidental frame was captured and we threw everything back in the car and attempted the deer avoidance dance to get back to beds and not enough sleep.

A perfect night with one hiccup.

I have one/two Micro Four Thirds cameras with lenses and I’m beginning to absolutely hate them. The focusing for most is fly-by-wire – and impossible in darkness. Some controls are physical, but too many are still buried in menus that invoke the light of a million suns with every click. I finally settled on a manual-focus fisheye that got the job done.

It’s been over three years since I became management at the newspaper and ended my shooting days. Time to buy my own dSLR for the first time since 2004. Portability is pointless when an iPhone will do 95% of the time.

Thanks for humoring me with the Perseids, Katie. They appreciated the attention.

katie and me

Please hit “pause”

I’m back in Saugutuck, Michigan on what is ostensibly my birthday weekend getaway. Summer brings the masses to Lake Michigan shorelines, so some carefully hinted birthday language secured us a roof over our heads in a town with no room.

It stormed last night. I could never see a bolt of lightning, but the entire sky canopy blinked on and off like a LifeTouch portrait session. We waited it out and then found the nearest beach. It required an unplanned hike through the woods. I imagined thirsty ticks crawling up my pale chicken legs, which were unnaturally exposed in a pair of shorts. I never wear shorts. Finally, a bright opening in the shadows and we were thrust into sensory overload.

Beautiful, sure, but the hike back to the car will be all that we remember. No map, poorly marked trails and we’re lost. Stupid lost. We’re amid bros on a disc golf course, too proud to ask for directions. Katie is annoyed (with me) and wants to head back into the woods to pick up the correct trail. I convince her that wandering further out into the unknown is what got us to America in the first place. My way is stupid, but gives us a few more pretty things.
Back in the car, I managed to get us lost once again.