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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Well, BanjoSnakers...

It seems that yet again, I get to be ashamed of my country's collective behavior... I've just come home from seeing Michael Moore's film "Sicko" and I can't hold back. Even as I type, I'm debating the wisdom of writing about something this emotional and this outrageous without taking time for reflection, but maybe it's time to do something rash. As the samurai used to say (and I paraphrase) sometimes, in the absence of a better plan, one should just rush in madly. And boy, am I ever mad.

I have asthma. It's an allergy to household dust, among other things. I've also been moving out of my house and moving in with me fiancee, Ms. Kim Treiber of Kim and the Caballeros. No doubt you can imagine the amount of dust I've kicked up moving furniture and books and guitars and dishes and old clothes and all the zillions of pieces of crap I've collected over the fifteen years I've been in my great old adobe (another source of dust!) house here in New Mexico. Let's just say: I'm hurting.

I also haven't had medical insurance in a few years, and my last Albuterol inhaler ran out weeks and weeks ago. But I felt like I was dying. I couldn't breathe normally at all, could hardly sing, and I won't even mention how hard it was to sleep... which thus deprived above-mentioned fiancee of sleep, too.

So I sucked it up, took a chance, and just walked into my doctor's office. No call, no appointment, nothing. Nada. And it was lunch hour. To make a long story short, as I was talking to the receptionist about my issue, one of the doctor-partners in the practice (who'd never before seen me professionally) noticed me there. He happens to be a neighbor of mine, though not one I would necessarily consider emotionally close in any way.

"What's the problem?" he asked gently, noting that it looked like I was wheezing. I told him, and he said, "I have asthma too. Come with me."

He did a cursory exam, gave me two weeks of free trial preventative drugs, and not only prescribed a new improved inhaler for me, but gave me a coupon so I'd get the first one free (they are normally around FIFTY bucks!). Then, HE DIDN'T CHARGE ME FOR THE OFFICE VISIT AND EXAM! I was astonished, and delighted, and humbled. I know a little about how those 911 workers Michael Moore takes to Cuba for free treatment felt!

I also got a little taste of what life in America might be like if we had free, universal health care. Not only was I receiving the treatment and medication I needed, which obviously made me feel better, but I was so relieved that I was seen quickly, competently, and cheaply (free!) that the peace of mind alone lowered my anxiety, thus my blood pressure, thus improved my breathing. I literally took hits off that inhaler for one twenty-four hour day, and have only needed it once since then. (To be totally open and fair, I've also pretty much finished moving, so the dust factor in my life is much lower, too...)

Most folks, including me most of the time, are not this lucky. In fact, Kim reminded me that when her son hurt his hand recently and was bleeding profusely from his wound, the local ER wouldn't treat him and/or operate on his crushed hand until at least half the cost was deposited first. Kim had to call her angelic, generous mom in Chicago to wire the money before her son could get any treatment. It makes my guitar player's hands cramp just thinking about it. Unbelieveable. Outrageous. Criminal.

We should be in the streets with torches and pitchforks, people. The feds should fear the people, for a change. And, to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, the CEO's of the America's insurance companies should be... well, let's just say that a dark room full of horny bull elk should be readied.

I don't know what to do, folks. If I stroll down The Mall past the Washington Monument all alone with my torch and pitchfork, it ain't gonna accomplish much except landing me a non-padded cell, and other than talking and blogging and speaking out from my on-stage position of power, there isn't much I can... oh, yeah... I CAN VOTE! AND SO CAN MOST OF YOU!

I've been horribly lazy and self-centered for several years now, and improvment will only come incrementally I'm sure, but I'm gonna start by writing to both my elected representatives, and those seeking office in the future, and tell them that unless they support universal free health care for all Americans, I WILL NOT vote for them, Democrat, Republican, or Independent. And NOBODY gets my vote if all I've got is a bunch of pharmo-company, campaign-contribution stooges.

Okay, that's my rushing in madly. I'm a little calmer now. I'm gonna go climb in bed and read something happy... but in the mean time fellow folk-n-rollers, take care of yourselves, (Goddess forbid you get sick!) kick the asses of some politicians, and tip your hats and say a prayer for Doctor Robert B. White of Taos Medical Group, P.A. This man is the reason I'm still singing, and I salute him, I salute him, I salute him. Thank you, Sir.

Adios, Chipper


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