Thursday, January 27, 2011

College Students (way back) Then and Now

I remember the first college literary journal I ever saw. One of my friends brought it to me from Kenyon College. I was in high school. I opened it up to a poem about being drunk and thinking you were Jesus Christ. It was one of the milder poems.

I thought about that journal today when I opened up The Poets of the Future, a college literary anthology from 1917-1918.

"The stars are close tonight,/ Thoughts in the book of time; / Yet veiled unto my sight / The page sublime," a Dartmouth student wrote.

An Amherst gentleman said what he had to say in six lines: "Philosophy! A game, no more; yet such / As dwarfs all other games to nothingness, / That plays with aeons in its daring touch, / With stars for pawns, infinity to span. / Philosophy! A game for gods, no less, / That leaves man beaten, but a greater man."

Women were represented, of course, too. Here are a few lines from a somewhat self-absorbed Connecticut College student: "When clouds pass over the moon, / A thousand lurking shadows leer, / A thousand black-faced shadows peer, / From behind the trees and beside the wall and across the snow, / At me."

How did we change so much in 100 years? These poems are presumably what the students wanted to write. They were deservedly proud of them. I can't imagine one of these poems being accepted in one of today's college-sponsored literary journals. The language, the subjects........and I'm not even getting into the poems in this book that are so wildly politically incorrect that my eyes just skimmed the words in discomfort.

Well, that change--the change involving political correctness--I can understand. I witnessed the evolution of that sort of thing. But how did flowery, romantic language, once held in high esteem, reach a point of such disfavor? We don't have to go back 100 years, actually. Consider the lyrics of the hit songs of the 1950s. Could today's teens possibly embrace "Love is a Many Splendored's the April rose that only grows in the early spring" (1955)?

Or "Love and Marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage" (1955)? Or how about "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, That's Amore" (1953)? There are better examples—I know this because the thought occurs to me often when I hear music from this period. It just doesn't seem within the realm of possibility that today's kids could find anything to relate to in those songs. Why is that? We're still human beings, with the same feelings, aren't we? Or are we evolving as a species more rapidly than I can comprehend?

I used to observe car-crazy young males and wonder what boys their age did in all those generations before the automobile was invented. I suppose the answer to that is they all lusted after bigger and faster horses.

By the way, guess which Yale University student is on p. 82.......Stephen Vincent Benet. "Poets of the Future" indeed.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another of My Medical Rants

I had a minor surgical procedure done on an outpatient basis yesterday. I had discussed anesthesia with my doctor, and agreed that they would use propofol. I've responded well to this in the past. I've been given Valium as a sedative before hospital procedures, but asked that they not administer it this time. I said I was fine, not anxious, and didn't need a sedative. I told him "I don't like altered states." The anesthesiologist said, "Okay, no Valium."

A few minutes later the nurse shot something into the port in my hand. "What's that?" I asked, and she said, "Versed." If there's one drug I have very strong feelings about, it's Versed. I hate it!! It's primarily a memory eraser, which I suppose explains why so many doctors and hospitals love it. The nurse said it's also a sedative, which is true. But I had already explained that I didn't need a sedative. Should I have said instead, "I don't want Valium, Versed, or any other benzodiazepine or tranquilizer"? Maybe I should have added, "I don't even want a martini!"

I was calm before the Versed, but seriously pissed off after. I didn't take it out on the nurses, who were all friendly and chatty, but I felt like a trapped animal. I knew I was going to remember what was happening only up to a certain point, after which it would be as though it never happened. Sure enough, when they wheeled me into the operating room and the nurses started asking me about the best position for my arthritic knees, I could feel myself slowly disappearing. I have a garbled memory of the beginning of that conversation, and then it's as though a black curtain descended on everything.

I've had Versed before. The first time it was given to me for a very painful procedure, and I woke up to find my shins skinned. "That's from when you tried to get away," the doctor said. I have no memory of the procedure, but my subconscious remembered: I had dreams where I was screaming.

The last time I had Versed, it took an uncomfortably long time for my memory to get back to normal. I've read that the older you are, the tougher it is to shake off the effects. I absolutely did not want to take it again.

Propofol is already a memory eraser. How much of my memory did they want erased, for heaven's sake?

I guess this is a warning. If there's something you don't want to swallow, breathe or take intravenously, be general as well as specific, and cover all your bases. With any luck, they might listen to you.