The Tardy Times

  Weary listeners cheer as a simple clot
  turns prolixity into piteous mumbles

MY DUBIOUS gift for unwanted monologues, talkathons and nonsensical digressions vanished, probably for good, at about 1 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2007. A clot floated into the language center in my brain. It left me speechless and paralyzed for an hour on the bathroom floor. My left arm functioned, so I reached into the cabinet below the sink, found a shampoo battle and banged it (in sets of three, just like the Boy Scout Manual advises). The sound  didn’t reach the upstairs bedrooms, where Margo and Kenny were sound asleep. After the banging destroyed the wooden cabinet door, I managed to drag myself into the kitchen and whack the stepstool on the door. Margo came downstairs, certain that an intruder had attacked her husband. I couldn’t talk, so she handed me pencil and paper. With my left hand, I wrote “stoke.” The CATscan showed later that the clot dissolved in time to allow me to regain almost everything important. My voice, however, was a permanent casualty. (Above, speech therapist Mary Cabibi joins me in a shout.)
   Married to Mr. Logorrhea, anyone else would have opted gladly for a silent partner. Instead, Margo helped enthusiastically with speech recovery. She accompanied me to Kaiser Clinic for months of regular sessions with an extraordinary therapist, Mary Cabibi (see photo on Page 1). I relearned how to talk, one consonant blend at a time.  OK, OK, so I pause between each syllable like Bob Elliott on the classic Bob-and-Ray radio skit, “Slow Talkers of America” (ask Google for the video on YouTube: //
MARGO'S remarkable half-year journal of emails to family and friends will soon be posted elsewhere on The Tardy Times website as “Stoke Updates.” Yes, I’m stoked.
   After reading her updates, family members and friends are too polite to remark in my presence that I am only the second-best writer in our household. (Some critics would  give second place to Kenny.)
     In another of the brain's little puzzles, I lost my stature as one of the world's great spellers. I now have to look up words, like MAJUSCULE. It's embarassing. I once assumed that my ability to spell came from a towering intellect and not, as it turns out, from a storage file of mental photographs. The file has been deleted.   
    I would like to feel sorry for myself, but I now know a lot more about strokes. I was very lucky. The damage didn't affect my ability to drive Kenny from her basketball and soccer practices, to amble about (for short distances) with dear, patient Margo and to play the mandolin, as weakly as usual, with Pauline Scholten and Steve Rubenstein and the Beloved Flapjacks.
     Nonetheless, I haven't given up my logorrehic tendencies. The bad habit continues in another medium. You're looking at it.
Son of feed/back
THE STROKE also put a clot into my publication of this, our family-and-friends newspaper. I put aside my proposed nonfiction book about a murder case in 1898. Then I began to assemble The Tardy Times in spite of serendipitous digressions, semi-criminal procrastination and the indiscipline of a newspaperman without a deadline.  It took forever. Some items go back two years or more. The result is an embarassing contradiction: Old news.
   For 11 years I was co-founder (with Len Sellers) and co-editor (with Dave Cole and later with Shannon Bryony) of the San Francisco State journalism review, feed/back. It was strangled by the then-chair of journalism, Betty Medsger, who also ended my 20-year career as a half-time journalism teacher. But the feed/back adventure led this year to one last look at the local press – the self-important bigwigs in glass offices, the corporate vultures and the focus-group charlatans who are busily destroying the newspapers where I spent my life.
    The result is an online press review written for our colleagues in the Frisco press, The Geezer Gazoot, intended as a supplement and companion to The Tardy Times
     As part of the Gazoot, I wrote a long obituary for my old friend, photographer Fran Ortiz. And then I felt an obligation to do the same for other journalists who have passed into the great copydesk in the sky. The result is a supplement to a supplement, a compilation of obits and a history of newspaper obits. Intended for newspaper people, it is published separately as Thirty. 
     Both the Geezer Gazoot and Thirty are on the website.  I doubt if they will be repeated next year, but you never can tell. Volunteers?    
         As they say in Galway: Allabess. 


The Geezer Gazoot

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