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Life Hacks and Westerns

October 30, 2023
A quick brush pen sketch of Clint Eastwood in “the poncho” from “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.” Complete with cigar (that dot hanging out of the mouth). I look just like this in my shawl, except without the cigar or the gun! OK and I wear a ball cap, but really This is the total effect… Oh, and I wear a shawl (black or charcoal grey), but really it’s the same look.

The theme from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” is being whistled a lot around here lately. Every time I enter a room where Dick is for instance if I’m wearing my shawl.

I learned something when I was in the hospital in September—You cannot braid your hair when you have an IV in your arm!

Seriously.

Pro Tip: If you have to be admitted to Abbott and have an IV and it’s not the end of 2024 when rumor has it he’s going to retire, ask for KEN! Everyone knows who Ken is. He has a portable ultrasound and moves through the halls inserting the difficult IVs.

I had zero veins left (after a couple botched insertions and then a couple days of trying to braid my hair: see above). Ken was able not just to insert a usable IV but insert one of the super “high volume” ones they need for the super duper speed contrast CT scans I was having.

I had three days in the hospital to lie around and think about my IVs and the impossibility of moving the 10 feet to the bathroom while dealing with the rolling IV stand without causing some pain in my arm. The bruising was incredible because I bruise easily, but they also put me on blood thinners so I was a sight. (I decided not to post the post-hospital photos of my arms. No one needs to see that.)

So while I was in the hospital bed I thought mostly about two things. First, sanitation and germs. I like to be clean. I sat there and thought about the odds of how much dirt the thin hospital blankets I was wrapping myself in were collecting. And I thought about how cold I was because I couldn’t put on my jacket or a sweatshirt, or a long sleeved shirt, because the staff kept coming to draw more blood or take me off to have more scans. Or I simply couldn’t slip my arm in a sleeve because of the IV tubes.

The third thing I did while in the hospital bed, was make a scavenger hunt list for Dick of where all the things I needed were at home, so he could bring them to me. I had my purse when I came in, and it of course had some essentials, but I needed a few more items. I made a detailed list of where everything was and wrote out descriptions of where they were so Dick could locate the items. It was exhausting, for him and for me. (You don’t want to put Dick in a position where he improvises what he brings you. That’s all I’m going to say about that.)

When I was finally sent home the first thing I did was not crawl into bed and continue healing—I started to pack a go bag.

I want to encourage you all to pack a go bag. Put in all the things that are essential—your toothbrush, clean underwear, hair elastics and a comb, you know, just the essentials.

Once home I pulled together everything I need for 3 days in the hospital (because that’s how long I was there and if I have to be there longer next time Dick will just have to bring more stuff!).

But I knew that having a sweater, jacket, or sweatshirt wasn’t going to cut it going forward. I started to think about what I could use to keep myself warm, but without the hassle of sleeves. And without the weight and germ magnetism of one of those hospital blankets.

My mind flashed back to my childhood and all the westerns I watched.

Just a little about my childhood: At age 10 I would walk out of the Southern Cross Hotel (where we were living temporarily in Melbourne, Australia; it was torn down in 1995!) and go to a movie theater to see a western. My brother’s school enrollment was arranged rather quickly, but I had quite a lot of free, unsupervised time on my own. When I was 11 and we were living out in the suburbs, I would get a bus to a tram and return to the city theaters to see a western.

While most of my friends were interested in ponies and gymkhana, I had walls plastered with huge blow up photographs of actors from westerns: Cary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Robert Redford and Paul Newman (in separate posters from “Butch Cassidy…”), Eastwood in Rawhide, and actors in TV shows like Laramie. I watched all the old TV shows because they were re-run in almost a continuous stream on Australian TV at the time. 

I had western theme song records I would play continuously while I sat at my desk and wrote short stories about westerns of course. And to keep me practicing my piano my teacher bribed me with sheet music for these theme songs whenever I mastered a Mozart or Chopin or…

Newly out of the hospital and thinking about westerns it didn’t take long for me to realize that if I had a poncho or shawl to wear in the hospital I’d be warm and could keep the germ collection down while I wrestled with the IV.

A rather exhaustive internet search led me to this cotton shawl. Since they were on sale if you bought two I got a graphite one and a black one. Best move ever.

I have one rolled up in my go bag and I have one slung over a dining room chair so I can pick it up and fling it over my shoulders whenever I want, even though I don’t currently have an IV to navigate around with.

This shawl (and I’m not connected to them in any way) is light weight so it doesn’t pull down on your shoulders, but heavy enough to keep the chill off. It’s just the right length to wrap and fling around the shoulders so it isn’t falling about if you bend to pick something up. And best of all it leaves access to your arms and veins if you need to have an IV.  

The other great thing about this shawl is that it is cotton. So many that I found were acrylic or other man-made fibers and I find all of those make me static electric, frustrating to say the least when you are trying to keep your long hair in order!

Look, I hope none of you have an incident that packs you off to the hospital, but even if you aren’t in your 60s like I am, I don’t think it’s too early for you to be thinking about your go bag. And it’s never too early to think about what you need to have in order to keep your arms covered but accessible.

There’s no denying that our childhoods impact and influence us in a million different ways. But they can also be a great source for inspiration on how to swing some nifty life hacks.

No one is following me around right now trying to install an IV, but I’m still enjoying wearing my shawl (even if there is often a musical accompaniment furnished by Dick). I wish I had had a shawl like this years go. Menopause would have been a whole lot easier, with fewer clothing changes, that’s for sure! Cool, hot, instant regulation.

Be prepared.

And watch a couple westerns too if you have some spare time.

Movie And TV Recommendations

Jimmy Stewart Westerns directed by Anthony Mann are a great place to start. I am particularly fond of “The Naked Spur.” I write about my take on the movie here.

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” just has too much good stuff in it. Too many great lines. You need to watch it.

If you love westerns it’s pretty much required that you watch “The Magnificent Seven,” with Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen (and a host of others). It’s episodic, it’s set pieces, it’s predictable, but there is something about James Coburn throwing a knife that is really aspirational when you’re a young child!

And if you watch that 1960s version you need to watch the 2016 remake starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. (Ethan Hawke has grown into one of the most amazingly interesting and fearless actors alive. In “The Good Lord Bird” he plays an utterly amazing John Brown, the 19th Century abolitionist, in a way that transcends crazy and seems natural and true.) And to talk about any of the other cast members of the 2016 “Magnificent Seven” would really mean giving away too much of the movie, but if you love westerns you will be glad you watched.

If you are up for a three movie afternoon-evening you also need to watch “Seven Samurai” directed by Akira Kurosawa. I actually saw it before I saw the 1960s “Magnificent Seven.” It would be a good start to your film festival.

Please skip, “Battle Beyond the Stars” from 1980 which is a science fiction movie that is essentially a remake of “The Magnificent Seven,” with Robert Vaughn revisiting his role from 1960 and everyone pretty much following form. I actually went to see this in the theatre and every so often I vent about it in the most outrageous and unprintable way.

“Hateful 8”: Once again, Quentin Tarantino has a bunch of fun trapping a group of dangerous people in a room. I get upset every time I think about this movie and then I have to go and watch it again. Everyone does a stellar job.

“The Postman,” is a post-apocalyptic epic which in flavor and story beats is of course a western, if it would calm down long enough to be one thing.

“Dances with Wolves,” has some controversy surrounding it but I’m a Graham Green fan, so I have to watch.

“Last of the Mohicans,” is a stunning, moving film in the way reading the James Fennimore Cooper books was not. The opening scene where the three protagonists are hunting a deer is visually stunning. And to see Russell Means throw his gunstock war club is thrilling. There’s the whole romance “interlude” thing; three of the most beautiful people who have ever lived captured on screen: Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May, and Eric Schweig; and Daniel Day Lewis does an amazing job showing us what it means to be skilled in the woods, particularly when he is swinging his gun around to take impossible breath stealing shots. It’s also a chance to see actors like Wes Studi shine that make me rewatch this movie.

I am not a John Wayne fan, but that said, I have to say “The Searchers” stands as an important moment in American film because of the way it looks at difficult issues. 

“High Noon” is a frustrating movie for me to watch (I have no patience with the Grace Kelly character), but it’s an essential film fan’s movie because of all the cool camera shots and of course Gary Cooper.

And if you’re going to watch “High Noon” make it a double feature and watch “Outland,” the 1981 science fiction movie staring Sean Connery as a space sheriff waiting for the bad guys to come to his outpost and take over, and kill him. It’s essentially “High Noon” in space, without the annoying Grace Kelly character. Frances Sternhagen as Dr. Lazarus is everything you hope you could grow up to be: sarcastic, funny, and ultimately helpful.

And what might be the best western ever made “The Unforgiven” needs to be on everyone one’s view list. It’s about living with moral ambiguity, and having a code, and the reality of how actions form you. 

There’s been a bit of western revival in the past 20 years and here’s a list of  television shows to watch:

Of course let’s start with “The Good Lord Bird” starring Ethan Hawke as abolitionist John Brown, which I mentioned earlier. Incredible, essential television.

“Deadwood,” Well who doesn’t like Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane?

“Longmire”—there aren’t enough episodes of this show about a modern western Sheriff and his deputies.

“Joe Pickett,” is the show based on C.J. Box’s books about the game warden of that name. They made some interesting casting choices and I’ve really enjoyed the two seasons.

“Dark Wind”— Zahn McClarnon, who played the Chief of Indian Tribal Police of the Cheyenne Reservation on “Longmire,” here takes on the role of Joe Leaphorn Navajo Sheriff. The two seasons of this series have built so much richness into Tony Hillerman’s characters that it’s a shame if you aren’t watching this series. This is some of the most mature, nuanced, and moving writing and acting on TV now. It’s also set in the 1970s when the books were written and the set design and costuming is a joy.

“Hell on Wheels,” Anson Mount is great as the main character, but Colm Meaney and Common really bring an edgy life and heart to the adventures.

And of course “Justified,” is a western even if it’s in Kentucky. And it has Timothy Olyphant…’nuf said.

I’ve left out a bunch of shows because there are so many. Something that makes me happy, because after a brief golden period in the 1960s the western fell on hard times. I worried the genre would disappear. Or that it would become a genre of space-based action. I’m thrilled that so many great actors, directors, and writers are returning to it.

I still will watch “The Wild, Wild West” 1960s series if I see it showing because it’s 1960s fun. I will watch “Have Gun, Will Travel” because when I was a child I had to go to bed after Steve McQueen in “Wanted Dead or Alive” and before HGWT came on. But the plots of HGWT are repetitive and full of material returning GIs who used the GI bill to get their college degree and read Shakespeare can’t help themselves from inserting into the script—so I don’t wish it on anyone else. (I know they are repetitive because in one 30 plus hour marathon while I had the flu, I stayed up and watched a HGWT marathon on a local UHF station. (Young folks look it up. We basically had broadcast channels ABC, NBC and CBS and a couple UHF stations before cable! and streaming!) I didn’t have a VCR at the time (! dark ages indeed) and so I watched it with commercials!

I liked “Sugarfoot” when I was a child, but I can’t remember anything about it, except that he liked sarsaparilla. (Don’t get me started about the history of Sarsaparilla and Root Beer.)

But I will watch “Maverick” until I die. I love James Garner. The other Mavericks (Bart, Beau, and Brent) are OK, but James Garner as Bret, he’s Maverick. He always will be.  

    • Karen Engelbretson
    • October 30, 2023
    Reply

    Holy cow, Roz. I hope you’re on the mend. Three days in the hospital is too many!

    1. Reply

      Way too long. And every couple of hours people even in the early 2 to 4 a.m. morning range, people coming to wake you up and draw more blood! The current enforced inactivity is keeping Dick busy! I feel badly for him. Let him whistle.

    • Georgy
    • October 30, 2023
    Reply

    Cowboys, Scarves, Go Bags, terrific movies . . . You are a true treasure –
    And, I’m sure glad you don’t have anyone following you around to stick you for yet another batch of blood . . . (hopefully those days are – well, lets just say – I’m glad they are over and i hope they don’t ever visit you again.)

    Thank You for sharing with us/me.
    💙
    -g-

    1. Reply

      Thanks Georgy.

    • Sharon+Nolfi
    • October 30, 2023
    Reply

    You were such a cool little kid! I’m always amazed at the freedom you enjoyed. I was never allowed to wander around by myself, much less take public transportation.

    1. Reply

      Sharon, I don’t think anyone who knew me as a child would have called me “cool.” I was lippy, obnoxious, bossy, overly inquisitive, etc. I think it was a great relief for my mother to not fight my drive for independence, so she encouraged it from the time I was 3 years old—she would leave me with my journal in large markets in foreign countries when I didn’t speak the language. She seems to have had not a worry that I would be taken or interfered with. I’m still here so learned essential skills early. And remember back then I still had ninja vision!

    • Tina Koyama
    • October 30, 2023
    Reply

    The shawl is a great idea! I have one similar to that that I keep in the backpack I use as my flight carry-on (or did, back when I went anywhere). Planes are always so cold, and I hate using those polyester blankets that the airlines lend out.

    The go bag: Did you end up staying in the hospital unexpectedly…? I guess I’m thinking I would pack my go bag the night before I have to go. I suppose if I were in an accident, I wouldn’t have that opportunity…

      • Christine Kunkel
      • November 2, 2023
      Reply

      Wow! This took me by surprise! Hope you and your health professionals are getting you sorted and that you’re feeling better. Take care!

      1. Reply

        It’s a process Christine, I’m trying my best to stay on track. Thanks for checking in.

    1. Reply

      The go-bag is for emergency visits. If I were going in for something known in advance I’d have no trouble, after years of traveling as a child and beyond, packing. In September I had an emergency and went in to the hospital with nothing but my purse. My point of the post was to write about how I’m prepared now for future emergency visits. And by having the go-bag I won’t have to send Dick home on a scavenger hunt. And most important, I’ll have my shawl, because the whole IV thing was beyond a nightmare.

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