“Who’s the President, Mr. Greenblatt?”
“Do you know where you are, Mr. Greenblatt?”
“What’s your name,” Mr. Greenblatt?
“That’s a trick question,” I answered.
I looked up and tried to get up off my back but they wouldn’t let me. I was told I passed out during the first night of the Blues Fest here at SteelStacks in Bethlehem at the Musikfest Café. “This is ridiculous,” I thought, and tried to get up again. Now I’m being physically restrained.
“Please try to cooperate,” Mr. Greenblatt.
I looked over at my +1, Chris, explaining to the police what had happened. “He went down and I picked him up and slapped his face a few times but he was out for 15 seconds until he came to. Then he stood up before passing out a second time.” Chris went on to say I didn’t fall down violently or hit my head against the table or bar. I sorta went down swaying and swooning to the music. Apparently, Chris, a former male nurse, was the perfect person to pass out with. I was told he cleared the area, propped me up on a chair like a Jewish groom at his wedding to dance the hora, and, with help, carried me into the room which I now found myself.
Finally, after hearing my friend’s earnest answers to the police, that’s when I stopped struggling to get up and thought, “Shit, this might be serious.” I let them help me. EMS workers took an EKG and didn’t seem to like the results. I heard someone say, “He’s not driving himself home tonight. Someone call his wife.” I tried to remember just what happened. I had a scotch on the rocks and couldn’t find a seat, so I stood in the overly-hot venue after walking there in the freezing cold from the parking lot. I was sweating, pasty-faced, dehydrated and my blood pressure was through the roof. So I crumpled to the floor. Big deal. But at the time, when they were not letting me up and talking about me as if I wasn’t there, I heard them saying how it might have been a heart attack.
That’s when I thought I might die.
It’s funny what you think of when you think you’re going to die. I thought of my wife Janet, my kids Andy and Jessica, my grandchildren Jack and Audra, my cousins Cary and Rich, my friends Morris, Mike and Chris, my brother Dancin’ Larry, my ex-wife Joyce and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Chris tells me I asked EMS workers to have my longtime friend Paul Gargano (currently head of publicity at Century Media Records) write my obituary. And since I adhere to a very strict CD rotation that I do not alter for company or circumstance, my wife knows that it is my wish to play whatever’s next at my funeral. I checked when I got home and had I died, Making My Mark by Annika Chambers & The Houston All-Stars would have resounded throughout the temple.
It was a bit embarrassing to be carried out on a stretcher right through the front entrance into a waiting ambulance in front of a few hundred people milling around. Hell, it’s my hometown venue where I go all the time and a lot of people know me.
At the hospital, my wife was there, complete with my Joyce Carol Oates book (Give Me Your Heart), my Lyndon Johnson biography (The Years Of Lyndon Johnson Volume #1: The Path To Power) by Robert A. Cano and my Louis Armstrong biography (Pops) by Terry Teachout. She’s the best. I told Chris he could go home. He seemed so concerned. Then my wife left and I lied there by myself feeling no pain but still incredulous at the rather surrealistic turn of events. I had a TV, a private room and a bathroom, but they still wouldn’t let me get up, even to pee. Being hooked up to multiple IVs, I was given a plastic bottle in which to do my business. Do you know how hard it is to pee in a plastic bottle when you’re on your back hooked up to so many IVs? I kept thinking of the Bruce Springsteen song “57 Channels And Nothing On” as every station was more obnoxious than the last. I tried watching the Olympics but only lasted five minutes. I settled on the 1953 Julius Caesar with Marlon Brando and James Mason. But it was too hard to keep my eyes open so I listened to it like a radio show.
The next day a pretty young girl rubbed goop all over my chest and sat with me looking at a screen for 45 minutes while we talked about music. It was an ultrasound and it proved, according to the hospital, that my passing out was not heart-related.
Still, I have to take my own blood pressure now, a load of pills, and go back for tests as an outpatient where they’re going to rub the same goop on my neck to check my carotid artery. Plus, I’ve been told to slow down, change my diet, not miss days on my treadmill, and change my lifestyle. That means no Cheap Trick, Johnny Winter, Fab Faux, “Experience Hendrix,” Allman Brothers or Charlie Daniels Band, all of which I was looking forward to. That’s OK. So I lay low for a while. So what? Baseball’s coming. That’s all I really need anyway.