Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Terry

Hot August night
And the leaves hanging down
And the grass on the ground smelling sweet
Move up the road
To the outside of town
And the sound of that good gospel beat

Sits a ragged tent
Where there ain't no trees
And that gospel group
Telling you and me

It's Love
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
Pack up the babies
Grab the old ladies
Everyone goes
Everyone knows
Brother Love's show
--Neil Diamond, "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show"

The Congressional Record contains many interesting items, especially from the days when a filibuster actually required Senators to continue speaking for the duration. Often a filibustering Senator would read from a book, insert cooking recipes, and the like, just in order to keep the words flowing. Nowadays, not only is this not required, owing to a thing called Senate Rule 22, which allows some Senators to say "we're filibustering," and then a cloture vote determines whether or not the bill is blocked.

It's also quite possible for things to show up in the Congressional Record that were never actually said on the floors of Congress, and things that are said may be taken back, the CR being amended to nullify the past, and isn't that the way it ought to be with everything?

I doubt that my name was ever said in the Hallowed Halls, but it does appear in the Congressional Record at least once, as a citation of an EPA report in the background documentation for some air quality legislation (you'd think I could be more specific, and I probably could, but there are limits to how much work I'm willing to put into these little memoirs). It was, as I recall, a monthly report that later went into a document sometimes cited as just "Killus et al." (heh, heh), primarily because I was co-author to a majority of the individual chapters. The final publication was titled "Continued research in mesoscale air pollution simulation modeling. Volume 5: Refinements in numerical analysis, transport, chemistry, and pollutant removal" [Final Report, Oct. 1979 - Jul. 1982] KILLUS, J P; MEYER, J P; DURRAN, G E; ANDERSON, G E; JERSKEY, T N.

The full report included new transport algorithms, chemistry, actinic flux calculations, aerosol formation mechanisms, and surface uptake models for a photochemical grid model. The subsection that went into the CR was on the surface uptake mechanisms, i.e. the way that pollutants are absorbed or otherwise destroyed or transformed by interactions with surfaces, and I co-wrote it with the last guy cited, Terry N. Jerskey.

We didn't really work that closely together, having broken up the problem into piece parts with Terry doing some chunks of it, and me the rest. But there was a fair amount of time sitting across the table from each other, talking about this or that aspect of things like surface resistance, diffusional transport in the planetary boundary layer and other nurdy things that we were being paid to talk about. It was a lot of fun, actually, for me at least. I hope Terry enjoyed it.

Terry's hands shook by that point, a tremor that was a side effect of the medication he was on, I think it was Haldol, but this is a 30 year old memory here, and he only told me once.

One day, late, after everyone else had left the office except Tom, who was a chronic workaholic, Terry went over to the shopping center across the street and bought several bottles of dry cleaning fluid, which he proceeded to swig down on the way back to the office, tossing the bottles into the trash cans on the way back. He made it back to the office and collapsed on the hall floor, where Tom found him a few minutes later.

In addition to being a workaholic, Tom was also a member of the Ski Patrol, and strong as an ox besides. Both turned out to be important, because, after he called for the paramedics, he had to use that strength to pry Terry's jaws apart, in order to give him mouth-to-mouth respiration. Terry's jaws had become locked with muscle spasms, you see.

Then, after the ambulance arrived, Tom raced across the street and located the bottles of cleaning fluid (which I suspect he'd tasted in Terry's vomit and breath during the time he was doing Terry's breathing for him) and reported what Terry had swallowed to the ER by the time Terry had arrived.

This wasn't Terry's first suicide attempt, it turned out. That was the reason for the anti-depressants. In fact, I heard that Terry's wife was pretty blasé about the matter when she was called.

The next day, Terry was sitting up in the ICU, alert, seemingly fine. He told everyone who visited that he'd be back at work pretty soon.

The next day he was dead. The cause of death was "aspirated pneumonia." Vomiting cleaning fluid and then breathing it into your lungs causes damage, and there was enough damage for entirely different fluids to build up in his lungs—enough to kill him, in fact.

The only thing that I ever learned about Terry other than our working together was that he loved Neil Diamond, even the later pretentious stuff like "Longfellow Serenade." When we spoke about Neil, I'd always talk about songs like "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," because I could honestly say that I liked it.

I honestly liked Terry, too, but not nearly enough, really. For the most part, he was just a guy I worked with for a while.

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