Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

Have a great life.

I went to visit James Kue in the hospital on Monday. Paul had gone on Saturday to see if he needed anything and found that James was stable and conscious, and needed glasses and pants. Paul told me before we went up again that James was 23 and from Detroit. He had come a few days earlier. Had worked before in retail and played jazz piano. Paul looked at me and told me he was just my age and seemed happy to get visitors (Lynn went too).
So after an interview with Inside Edition in which I ended up not saying anything (we re-shot due to sound interference and Paul told the story again and I just stood there …) we headed up to Bellevue Hospital and found James lying in his bed. He didn’t move much when we walked in and Paul handed him a few plastic bags with pants and shoes and told him a number we got him for glasses for the needy. I sat down by the bed and didn’t know what to say. Paul introduced me and I shook his hand and he seemed still confused and a bit slow. But it was amazing to see him.
I saw his face alive, color in his cheeks, dry, breathing, seeing.
So Paul asked him questions about the future. We learned that his brother found him and has invited him to fly out to California, somewhere in the Bay Area he said, to live with him. And Paul led him down the conversation to understanding that it was a good thing and he could do a lot in CA and it’d be warmer than NY and he could always come back here sometime.
James is from Flynt Michigan. His parents are from Laos, Southeast Asia, and he likes to sing. Soon he learned what I do outside of Trapeze and he asked me some questions about it. He asked if my parents knew what I was doing (as an actor) and I said yes. And I explained that they had supported me the whole time.
I think it’s cultural that he doesn’t show much emotion, Paul mentioned that before as well, but the stories we told in the breaths between what we said were very thick. He asked me how long I would stay with it, following my dreams, and I told him forever. And that I was already constantly living my dreams. That I would never be done, that it was always about the journey and there could be no destination…
And it occurred to me how different we were- that he probably never mentioned to his parents that he wanted to be a singer. He moved to NYC and had been wandering the streets for 3 days. We didn’t ask him if he remembered jumping in. And we assumed he knew what had happened. But he didn’t. He didn’t read the Post and the nun who visited him didn’t give him anything but a big photo of “Jesus”.
So he held his rosary beads and his little plastic cross and talked about his singing career- how when he had good music he could just go, improvise, just riff, just make up lyrics. “They just flowed out of him!” he said, and then after a brief reflective pause he looked at me and Paul and said, “I think I just need a band.”
And he smiled. First time I’d seen him smile. It was magnificent. Paul and I helped make that smile possible.
After a bit more time we shook his hand and made him promise to come back and fly on the trapeze next year after some good time with his brother. And Paul and I went to the bar and talked about it. Paul was very pleased with everything. He said James was much better than the first time we saw him and that it seemed that James related to me really well. And we had a few beers.
Then right before I left, I realized I left my skateboard at the hospital.
When I got to James’ room at about 10:30 he was just drifting off.
I reached behind his headboard and grabbed my board. And he stirred a bit and woke and
saw me and told me I had left my board…
I said I knew and that I had just come back to get it- and how was he feeling?
And he sat up and looked at me and let his eyes focus. He said he was all right.
He asked me if I thought Paul and I would do the Montel Williams show and I asked what he though. He said I should do it, that it was probably a good story and people should hear it and that he wanted Paul and me to get seen for it all…
And I asked him, “do you remember anything that happened?”
And he said, “Nothing.”
“When I woke up it was hard to breathe and I had an oxygen mask on and my chest and throat burned and when I opened my eyes, there were about 20 nurses standing there.”
“Do you remember being in the water?”
“No.”
-Would you like me to tell you what happened?
-- Okay.

And this was the first time telling the story when it really mattered. It was important this time.

-Paul and I were teaching a class at the Trapeze School when a cop showed up asking for rope because someone was in the water. Paul ran to get rope and I grabbed some floats on cables and we ran to the edge and saw you. We saw you (breath) just as your head began to sink under the water. And nobody was in the water getting you and so we jumped in. Paul dove down to where we saw you and I gave rope to the cops and took one end with me and we both swam around under the water trying to get to you. And Paul got to you about 8 feet under the water. He found your wrist and grabbed a hold of you and pulled you up. (breath- flashback- breath). And your face was pale and you had foam on your mouth and nostrils and you weren’t breathing. You were heavy and wet and limp and Paul held you like this with your head on his arm and I got the rope to Paul and you and I tied a belt around your waist and the cops pulled you up and lay you on your back on the path.
When Paul and I got out of the water, a woman was on her knees breathing into your mouth and giving you chest compressions, giving you CPR and her husband was helping her and we didn’t know if you were alive or dead. And your eyes were rolled back and your skin was ashen. And then after about a minute, your stomach moved and your mouth sputtered and your nose moves a little bit and foam and water came out and you started to breathe again and your heart started to beat.
You came back. You were alive and (breathe) this was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. You started to breathe again. You got another chance. You can do anything- you started to breathe again.
And we pulled you carefully onto a mat and we rolled you onto your side and wiped the spit from your mouth and nose and eyes and put your head on your arm and shaded your face. And she got up and I sat behind you and put my hand on your lungs and told you to breathe. And I put my other hand on your hand and I told you to squeeze me if you could hear me and I didn’t know if you even spoke English at the point.
And about 5 minutes later the ambulance and fire truck arrived and gave you oxygen and took you away. And Paul and I told the students to take off their belts because class was over. And then we got dried off and went back to teaching class!
You gave that to me. You gave me the opportunity to help give you back your life. And you started to breathe again and now you’re here. It’s pretty amazing really, to see you again. Thank you.
--wow. That’s… oh. Wow. (sleeping pill kicks in) I think it’s time for me to go to sleep now. Good luck with everything. I really hope you get some great things in your life.
-Thank you. Okay James, sleep well, and listen, (shaking his hand) you go to California and have a GREAT LIFE. Okay?
--Yes I will. And you too.
-I will. See you soon James.

(Walk to elevator, exhale)

James Kue is 23 years old and he will celebrate his next birthday on May 14th.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

 

Lifesaving choices


What Hero?

A few days after my heroics and some things are sinking in while others are sticking out a bit more. People have been calling to congratulate me and people want to shake my hand and hear my story and I feel frustrated and confused and I don’t know what to say. It’s as if I did something amazing, something unique, something no one else could or would have done. In a way it’s not so. I did what people do. Human beings save human beings. Someone was in the river and Paul and I were not in a place to consider options past the question of would we be able to go get him and the answer was yes. I wasn’t swimming around thinking, “I’m gonna save this guys life!” I was thinking if you can call it thinking, let’s get this persons body out of danger. And I didn’t know if we would save him. It wasn’t a thought.

And Dad asked me, if you could give 10 people jobs and homes or save one life which would you do. Or if you could give 1000 people education and homes and food, or save one life… and the answer is always one life. It will always be one life. And to save it is the biggest impact I could have.
And it is often one by one or many by one that people are affected.
Dad was talking to Andy about it and Andy said, “Wow, that feeling must be the exact opposite of the feeling you get from killing someone!” What a thought!

I got a call yesterday afternoon from someone at TSNY wanting to go and visit him and bring him a TSNY t-shirt.
NOOoooooooo! I think that’s wildly inappropriate. I don’t know if he wanted to live or die- that wasn’t in my mind when it was happening- whether he was James Kue or James Gates, he was in trouble so we did what we did. But he was a homeless guy from Chicago staying in a shelter in NY. He may have been trying to take his own life. Did he want to see us? If he did, he could come and find us… not hard to find us. I’m sure people will tell him who we are and where we are.
I don’t think it’s my place to show up going, “hey buddy! We saved you, let’s be friends.”
I didn’t sign up for a case. I didn’t sign up for let’s get famous. I did what you do when someone’s in the water. I got him out.
So people ask me how it feels to be a hero. And I say, it doesn’t feel like anything. I feel proud I suppose. But why should I feel proud to have done what anyone would do? I feel grateful and lucky really to have had the opportunity to save a life. That’s a huge privilege. I believe we are all in this thing together and we’ve got to take care of each other to an extent. And I think I’m a human being. And I want to think anyone would have done the same for anybody. And I choose those words carefully.

So bigger questions come up for me: If this guy lives, which he will do. Will he have brain damage? What infrastructure is in place in our society to rehabilitate him? To what extent can we care for him or any homeless? What happens when people pass out in the park from heat and exhaustion or starvation or freeze in the winter and are taken away for emergency care? Are they treated to stability and then released? Isn’t it ironic that people have to go so far for help? And will James be nursed back to stability – “stable condition”- and then released to be homeless again? Or if he is brain damaged, how can society care for a suicidal brain dead homeless man? Will we go back to ignoring him like we did until he jumped? What will become of him?
And is it my fault that he’ll return to this kind of destitute life?- or my responsibility to ensure that he doesn’t? Or is it enough that we gave him his life- and he can do what he will do with it. It’ll be his choice.

So no, I didn’t want to visit him, and couldn’t, as I was out of town. But I could go see him today. Bring him Shakespeare as he requested. And glasses . And maybe pants. But how far does this go? People are constantly asking me to tell the story and as the larger picture of the social issues surrounding the situation begins to bring up questions for me, my mind goes away from the 3 minutes of rescue and I think about what life he can choose now.
Reluctant? NO. Not at all. I would do it again in a heartbeat. But I feel very aware of larger social issues and what seem to me complex moral issues surrounding responsibility and community.

Monday, September 12, 2005

 

Day Ten. Done.

I made soup today. It had onions and carrots and some miso. I put some rice in it too- it was a bit sour the rice. The soup was amazing though. I felt great- my words came back and I flew in the sun and I am awake now. I feel good.
I'm pooped so I'll sleep but more later for sure.
Now I ease back in. Had some tofu tonight, brocolli, yellow squash all in soup. Same tomorrow.
Can't wait to eat some beans, some fish, some soymilk and granola. Mmmmmmmmm, tasty stuff :)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

 

Day 9 Done!



Flew well, taught well, enjoyed rice balls and hearty bowls of, well, rice.
On my way home, I bought an onion, some carrots, yellow squash, tofu, broccoli. Wow, my mouth waters thinking about it.
What I do after is as important as the fast itself so I'm pumped.
And a bit proud to announce that Danielle, my roommate is starting her 10 days tomorrow! I taught her how to make BRBalls tonight and discussed what she was getting into.
This was hard. Food is really big power in my life!
I'm sleepy and up early tomorrow to cook for the day.

 

On the 9th morning-


I'm hungry now. This is where body says, in the words of my Dad, "okay pal, rice is nice but let's get real." And I agree.
Dad said I could have soup tonight and I was like, whoa whoa, no. I said 10 days and I'm doing 10. But I think I will rock some miso soup tomorrow morning and some carrots and onions and seaweed. Yum. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
I'm down to 134 from about 140 when we started. Again, not a goal, but an interesting side effect. I want to emphasize the importance of chewing now. I don't even know where to begin, but chewing is ESSENTIAL. It's the only way to do this. Without chewing, food is like putting coal in your stomach. Chewing makes food useful. I can't believe how little people chew. I am constantly astounded by they way people put food in their mouths and swallow after 5 or 6 chews. It's mind blowing, and it's rediculous frankly. People tell me they like to taste the food all at the same time- that's bullshit. You can't taste anything but the initial zing if you don't chew. There's no depth to eating without chewing.
Chewing is like breaking down fuel to make it useful for your body. If your body is a car, food is gasoline. Chewing is like making crude oil into gasoline. And I only use jetfuel for my body.
People go, "I don't like brown rice". Well, nobody "likes brown rice". People who do are lying. They like tamari (soy sauce) and brown rice get's it there. You chew brown rice long enough and it's glucose (sugar) and it's sweet. "But it's gross" you may say, well screw you. It's real. It's what food does. It gets broken down one way or another and if I break it down in my mouth a bit before I swallow then I'm more effient. I get more miles per gallon as it were.
Not chewing is so caveman. Swallow your pills whole not your food.
Okay, I'm going to work.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

 

Day 8 was a bit hungry.


I get it. I made rice this morning, and I smelled it cooking and I was so hungry and I just loved the smell. I didn't even know really what it smelled like before. Now I get it.
Class was solid. I caught someone whose hands weren't right and yelled at her while I held her there. I was out of line and knew it right away. She cried. I apologized. Then I caught her good and right and it was better. Then Dino had a no miss session. I fly fine during the day.
Went to Baby Shower where I was bombarded with smells of fresh baked goods, chocolate, cheese. Felt hungry.
Went to play and saw friend who was reverent regarding diet 7. That felt good and we went to Angelica's Kitchen and I got brown rice and a cup of Kukicha tea. It was really really good and I almost cried.
Then I went to this very very loud bar where 3 birthday parties were gathering and I drank water. I'm hungry and thirsty and I'm not feeling super social. Also not particularly spunky. I haven't, let's say "felt the urge" since I started. That might be a record for me. Tomorrow day 9. Then 10. I'm really looking forward to tasty food again.

Friday, September 09, 2005

 

One Whole (get it? "whole"?) Week- this isn't so bad...


Today I made the best pot of rice so far. I learned one of the secrets when I was home with Dad and I'll share it now. I put 2 cups of rice in the pot, added water, stirred the rice gently and then poured that water out. The dust from the rice went out with the water. I repeated 3 or 4 times until the water was more clear. Then I added fresh water and cooked. I also put in more water than 2:1. I put about four and quarter cups of water in with two cups of rice. Simmered for 50 minutes after it reached a boil and it was divine. Very moist.
I've begun to include a bit of umeboshi and nori as well as gomasio.
Umeboshi is japaneze pickled plum. A little bit goes a long way.
Nori comes in sheets. It's seaweed by any other name and works great as the exterior of a rice ball where an ume plum works as the inside.
Gomasio is the sea salt and roasted sesame seed condiment.
I ate a bowl, packed 4 rice balls and went to work. My energy was fine, but dipped with my verbal skills around 9:30 or 10. And luckily, I was off by 10:30. Then I went to a party where there were many people drinking and free sushi hors d'oevres. Did I spell that right?
That was tough, but not craving tough, just memory tough. I'm beginning to crave rice balls. I'm beginning to look forward to another bowl of rice. I actually like it. I miss the fun of eating with my friends, but I am not suffering anymore eating BR, it's now just a choice. It's still frustrating to have to explain myself so often to my friends though. I wish they could understand it from a "growing up macrobiotic" perspective. It sort of brings me back to 4th grade sometimes when people scoff or look at me askance and go, "oh yeah, your still doing that rice thing..." Then again, it is "a rice thing" I'm doing. Just something not quite as insane as many seem to think.
So, three days left- then I slowly integrate other whole grains and some veggies and some beans and eventually some fish.
I think I'll be very efficient with my food intake, so I can take it slow. I am gonna love foods with colors.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

 

Day six flew by


I had no trouble day six.
Except I'm not so good at talking. BR doesn't exactly help with the talking thing. I've got great hearing, but I can't seem to talk so well :)
It seems to me that "you are what you eat" isn't quite right. I think it's more, "you are what you haven't eliminated". Which is to say whatever excess I have in me, is who I am. So if I have a bit of excess seafood or rich food in me, that's who I show up as. So it's kind of like, you are what you eat too much of. And words, like some foods, are something I use in excess so their getting garbled up in what's getting cleansed. It should get better soon I hope as my safety talks are a bit lame right now.
I did pull lines for James Gandolfini today though (300 lbs). That's Tony Soprano in case you don't recognize the name... he flew with his son at the school. Brown rice power - or at least timing.
Good stuff, count down continues. Four more days

 

It's not about calories, Day 6.

I've been on under 1000 calories a day, easily. And though a bit hungry or craving extremes at least, I have had almost no trouble keeping up with my daily activities. Who is it that reccomends that much food every day? I am one of the most physically active people I know and I am doing fine with under 1000- is it really necessary that a person sitting at a desk eats 2200 or more each day? Doesn't the quality of food matter? Many reduce food to it's most basic qualities - chemical compounds, bioligical make up. I just asked Dad who said 2000 Calories and he replied with a grin, "the department of Energy".
But it is funny. In a culture where we use everything else in excess, why not eat in excess too. I'm not getting into the obsity epidemic or the diabetes problem or any number of other health issues sweeping our culture, I'd like to try and stay on brown rice and why and what it's doing for me, but day six bring up in a big way the question of quality over quantity.
Day six starts out easy, maybe it's cuz I'm home and Dad cooked the rice. But I feel clear, I feel efficient, and you know what else, I'm jacked.

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