Cute Fuzzy Meow

May 23, 2014

Return of Godzilla


Titles: Godzilla, Godzilla 1985, Godzilla 1984, Return of Godzilla
In the interest of full disclosure, this is my favourite Godzilla movie. As a kid, it was my favourite. Watching it again as an adult, all I could think was: this is still my favourite (and perhaps a bit of surprise that our VHS player still worked). Despite being one of the few Godzilla movies to see a U.S. Theatrical release, this is one of the last Godzilla movies unavailable for purchase in Region 1 DVD encoding. It took awhile, but I finally managed to acquire a VHS copy of Godzilla 1985. This was the movie that sold me on the Godzilla franchise. I love how Godzilla, King of Monsters; Godzilla 1985, and Godzilla vs. Biollante form a trilogy that makes me feel like an 8-year-old kid again when I watch them.


The basic premise is that thirty years after the original Godzilla was killed by the Oxygen Destroyer, a new Godzilla shows up to attack Tokyo City. After decades of “Godzilla vs ______”-style movies, Godzilla is on his own, except for an irradiated sea louse that appears briefly at the beginning. Toho also takes an approach which will become common in the Millenium series — pretending that only the original 1954 movie happened. The Japanese and American cuts of the film are different, but not as different as Gojira and Godzilla, King of Monsters. The American cut plays up the United States’ role while changing Russia into more of a villain. It also edits down the scenes with the sea louse, making them much scarier. Raymond Burr reprises his role as Steve Martin, though this time he is referred to as Mr. Martin to avoid confusion with the actor from The Spanish Prisoner. Dr. Pepper product placement abounds, enough to add unintentional humor but not enough to push it to distraction. Finally, the ending sequence is greeted with a genuinely interesting speech by Mr. Martin instead of a pop song about missing Godzilla. There’s also an odd, throwaway line by Martin where he claims that this is the original Godzilla, claiming they never found the body of the original. The only issue with that is, well, no matter what cut of Gojira you watched you saw Godzilla melt into just a skeleton before your eyes. Still, unlike with Gojira, I suggest watching the American cut of this film — unless you’re Russian or fear sea lice.


While there’s no monster battles, there are two fights between Godzilla and a Japanese-made hovercraft called the Super X. The Super X is armed with cadmium missiles with the claim that they will interfere with the nuclear fission that powers Godzilla. The extra mobility allows them to stay ahead of Godzilla and special armor allows them to take a few hits of Godzilla’s atomic breath. In fact, round one goes to the Super X: Godzilla is seemingly killed and rests against the building. Unfortunately, a damaged Russian submarine in Tokyo bay (American cut: deliberately, otherwise: malfunctioning from Godzilla’s attack) launches a nuclear missile at Tokyo to finish off Godzilla. The Americans manage to intercept it, but nuclear fallout saturates Godzilla and he comes back to life. The Super X interposes a building between itself and Godzilla just to have Godzilla push the building over on the Super X. His rampage continues until he’s lured away by bird calls.

Perhaps the most unusual scientific choice of this film was to have Godzilla follow birds. Early on Godzilla consumes the radiation from a nuclear power plant until a flock of seagulls leads him out to shore. The idea is that, as a dinosaur, Godzilla is an ancestor of birds and feels a need to follow their call on a subconscious level. While I can appreciate dissenting points of view on how cliche this concept is, I tend to watch my cat lured away from the kibble bowl by the chirping of birds and it doesn’t bother me as much. After watching the scientists in the American cut of Godzilla vs King Kong talk about how a stegosaurus mated with a tyrannosaurus to create Godzilla — ignoring the fact that stegosaurus had been extinct for 83 million years before the tyrannosaurus arrived on the planet — I’m just glad they’re not referring to dinosaurs as reptiles anymore.

Godzilla is lured to the top of an active volcano by the bird transmitters, but realizes that there are probably not a flock of birds inside the volcano; this isn’t Rodan, after all. The Japanese government has rigged the rim of the volcano with explosives and the ground gives way, throwing Godzilla into the volcano with a horrific scream. Between the sea louse scene at the beginning and the scream of Godzilla I can see why the local Blockbuster put this movie under Horror instead of Science Fiction. The cast look horrified at the death of Godzilla, and Steve Martin offers up the following thoughts:


“Nature has a way, sometimes, of reminding man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up the terrible offsprings of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla, that strangely innocent and tragic monster, has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain.”

Return of Godzilla’s cast does a generally good job. I didn’t feel for them the way I felt for Gojira’s cast, but at no point did they detract from the experience. Raymond Burr was a welcome addition, though at the cost of a few lost scenes of Japanese character development. I didn’t walk away from this film with any favourites from the main cast, though there’s one odd exception. As Godzilla rampages throughout the city, a homeless guy sits in an abandoned expensive restaurant and eats the food while quipping about Godzilla’s lack of manners. I’ve heard that this actor plays the same homeless man in many other movies, but I found myself baffled as a kid and adult when he showed up. Godzilla chasing hobos aside, the cast is mostly composed of a scientist, a reporter, a lost sailor, and the sailor’s sister. They all hit their marks, with only the reporter standing out.


The movies after the original Godzilla become goofier and goofier, moving away from any serious tone in favour of more camp value. Godzilla slowly evolved into a good guy, saving the earth from pollution, roaches, lobsters, and elementary-school bullies. While those movies are enjoyable in a silly sense, this is a nice return to form for the series, a chance to go back to what made Godzilla great and go forward from there. The Godzilla suit has also seen an upgrade that gives him a serious quality that the previous rubber suits were lacking. While I’m a big fan of seeing Godzilla beat up on other monsters, there’s just something about this movie that makes other monsters unnecessary. When I think of what it means to be Godzilla, this is the movie that answers that question. “Godzilla is a warning to all of us. When mankind falls into conflict with nature, monsters are born.”

My Notable Moments While Watching:

  • Sea Louse Attack! Inspiration for the movie Cloverfield.
  • Godzilla’s rampage is stopped by a flock of seagulls.
  • The hobo goes around Tokyo taunting Godzilla.
  • Russia nukes Tokyo
  • Super X “kills” Godzilla
  • After the nuclear missile is destroyed in the atmosphere, lightning strikes Godzilla and brings him back to life.
  • Japan’s military uses bird calls to lure Godzilla to an island volcano, then blows up the volcano.
  • The sad music and screams of Godzilla as he falls into the volcano reinforce the sympathy the audience has come to feel for the monster.
  • Steve Martin Final Quote
  • Special Thanks to the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company.


Who Wins?

Tokyo Military racks up another win. Godzilla is trapped inside an active volcano until Middle Eastern terrorists free him in Godzilla Vs Biollante.

May 19, 2014

Godzilla 2014

Filed under: Reviews — K'vn @ 2:24 pm

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the 2014 Godzilla movie. I’ve tried to avoid watching the commercials and trailers, though it was hard not to come across information here and there. I rewatched Monsters, and remain unimpressed. With a small budget you’re forced to concentrate on the people instead of the creatures, and I found the people in Monsters to be unlikeable. I just didn’t care what happened to them. Still, I’ve seen every other Godzilla movie over the past year and I thought that this movie would certainly be better than Godzilla vs Megalon or Godzilla’s Revenge, right?

Well, yes, it’s much better than Godzilla’s Revenge. I’d include it in my list of enjoyable Godzilla movies. It’s a lot of fun to watch, and I had a good time seeing it this weekend. Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe’s acting were high points. I wish either of them was the protagonist of the film. All of the talk I’d heard about Bryan Cranston had led me to believe he’d be the character we were following, so I was disappointed at how little time he had. He certainly made the most of every scene he was in, though, and the film is better for having him. Ken Watanabe was similarly excellent, though I wish his scenes had run longer. Having Watanabe’s character named “Dr. Serizawa” was a nice tribute to the man who killed Godzilla in the original 1954 movie, but I found it distracting to hear the name in this movie — his character is fine and would be better served with a unique identity. Sadly, when the film is left in the hands of the Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) I found I was no longer invested. The character of Ford Brody is a military tough guy, which the audience sees by his lack of reaction to anything going on around him. After finding himself in a situation that traumatized him as a child, the movie misses the opportunity to show any kind of growth. Thankfully, by the time we’re stuck following him, the monster action has ramped up.

Godzilla’s design stays true to Toho’s design – a dragon/dinosaur hybrid with spines down his back. It’s been sixteen years since Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla movie, and that character has been rebranded “Zilla” and rolled into the Toho canon as his own monster. Looking back on that movie’s iguana design as a distinct, non-Godzilla monster makes it much more enjoyable. Including the illuminated spines and “atomic breath” in the 2014 movie brought a sigh of relief. The reveal of the attack is amazing, though a bit underplayed. In an attempt to make it look more organic they were overly cautious, but it still looked good. Much like some of the Showa films, it was used sparingly: once in desperation, once as a coup de grace. While the movie wants to wait almost an hour to show you what their Godzilla look like, the theatre I was in spoiled the surprise by showing a commercial where he eats cars. I don’t know if that was before all viewings, but it took a little of the magic away from the first viewing. Godzilla, however, wasn’t alone in this movie.

Despite my general trailer blackout, I’d seen an image that showed an insect foot, so I came into this movie knowing there’d be more to it than just Godzilla. I’m a fan of the movies with only Godzilla – Gojira (1954) and Return of Godzilla (1984) — but I think they set a different tone. I wasn’t looking for another Cloverfield, and after Pacific Rim I suspect I would have been disappointed if it was just Godzilla. What I wasn’t expecting was three monsters. M.U.T.O. stands for Massive Unknown Terrestrial Organism, and the film takes an opportunity to define it as one flies away. The male Muto is a flying insect with pteranadon-like wings. The female Muto is terrestrial and massive, standing a little taller than Godzilla. The design felt familiar, and I’ve heard several people talk about how “oh, this is just Godzilla vs X,” except X has stood for everyone from Cloverfield to Radon to a Pacific Rim Kaiju to Megaguirus. Okay, well, no one except me has said Megaguirus, I suppose, but I think the important part is that the monster feels familiar, perhaps even derivative. They both look good, but they don’t look iconic. I don’t know that you’ll see fans of the Mutos the way you see fans of Mothra, Radon, or Anguirus. I also never felt like they were a threat to Godzilla, especially the tiny male Muto.

The plot was fun, if not deep. The Godzilla movies of the past that resonated with me were the ones that were about something. Gojira, Return of Godzilla were about the horrors of nuclear war. Godzilla vs Biollante was about genetic engineering. Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack dealt with the horrors of World War 2. This movie tosses about nuclear weapons without repercussions. Ken Watanabe’s Serizawa keeps a pocket watch from Hiroshima, but there’s no follow up. Still, while watching the movie this didn’t bother me nearly as much as talking about it later. Cranston and Watanabe’s acting kept me invested until Godzilla showed up, at which point I was busy watching the monsters.

The one word that best describes this movie is fun. It was a good movie, but not an excellent one. The movie doesn’t excel, and I have my critiques, but overall it was an enjoyable experience and I’d happily see it again.

Having said that, I went to see this movie with Sare, who caught many more holes in the story than I did. I’ve kept my analysis away from important plot details to avoid spoiling anything, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to stop here. These are some of the critiques that came out while talking about it on the car ride home.

  • EMP: Her biggest mark against the movie is that it uses EMP, but doesn’t seem to understand how EMP works in a real world setting. Despite the powerful EMP given off by the Muto, nothing is ever damaged. It’s more like a light switch is hit. Monster walks by, all the lights turn off. Monster leaves, they all turn back on again — sometimes. It isn’t explained well, and you’re always left wondering why some things were damaged and others aren’t. It almost feels like the EMP was an afterthought.
  • Muto life cycle: early on, you see a giant Godzilla carcass with two parasite eggs inside of it. Here, you get the impression that Mutos used the dead bodies of Godzillas as part of their life cycle. Personally, I thought: oh, that’s why the monsters will fight, it’s how they work. Later, you see that the female Muto lays thousands of eggs in a large group. Then you wonder: wait, why were those two eggs, male and female by design, left in that dead Godzilla? How exactly does this animal work? Why would it ever only lay two eggs when normally it lays thousands?
  • Mutos are massive, terrestrial, and sneaky: no one ever seems to know what they’re up to. In the mountain full of people where the dead Godzilla is found, you see that an egg had hatched and it had burrowed out of the mountain without anyone noticing. Well, it’s South America, maybe no one was watching or listening to that part of the mountain. But the female Muto is inside a government toxic waste disposal unit and manages to break out without setting off any alarms or being noticed. Also, you can see the military talking about how important it is to keep the public informed about the Mutos. You also get to see their computer tracking, both of the Muto and also of the area of effect for its EMP. Despite both of those, the Mutos are constantly sneaking up on people. Jets are constantly falling out of the air because they’re too close to the Muto. People are constantly being surprised by it. A train with nuclear warheads is supposed to be leading the Mutos, and yet one sneaks up in front of it without anyone noticing.
  • Taking Godzilla for a walk: while the Mutos are sneaking up on everyone, you have a fleet of battle cruisers “tail”-gating Godzilla. They’re so close, sometimes he knocks into the. You also see submarines under him as he moves. Are battle cruisers so disposable that we can afford to get close enough to touch his spines and risk losing one? It seems like the only person who cares about human lives in this movie is Godzilla, as the military has ships and jets crashing all over the place from incompetence.
  • Crazy Old Man Bob: I suspect there is at least one deleted scene missing from the theatrical release that could explain this, but here we go. A train is about to go through a tunnel and over a bridge. Hearing something odd, the people disembark and go to check the bridge. The Muto has snuck up on them as noted earlier. It knocks out a section of the bridge, people jump away. A few minutes later, the train decides to go through the tunnel to the bridge. Except before going through the tunnel, it’s now on fire. Why is it on fire? The Muto is on the bridge side and can’t get into the tiny tunnel. It’s busy eating people. And then we see it pull off the nuclear bomb — and then we fast forward to Ford Brody waking up downstream. The bomb is there next to him. How? Why? We saw the monster get it. And even if it dropped it, why didn’t it float down river or sink to the bottom? How did it get to shore with him? Now, some may call this a plot hole, but I prefer to think of this as a plot opportunity. I believe that the train conductor was drinking heavily and this is why he decided to bring the train through the tunnel without waiting for word from the scouts he sent out. Partway through the tunnel, however, he spilled is barrel of moonshine and dropped his lit cigarette into it. As the train burst into flames, he leapt out, only to see the flaming engine go into the river while the Muto grabbed the nuclear bomb. Drunk and enraged, he ran out and fought the monster for hours, at least until the sun was up. At this point he punched the monster in the face, sending the bomb flying down river where it landed next to Ford Brody’s unconscious body. The Muto was so embarrassed it left in defeat and the train conductor returned to the tunnel where he lives out his days drinking and making moonshine.
  • What do they eat?: Godzilla and the Mutos lived in a time where the world was irradiated, and they feed on radiation. Many of them went deeper into the ocean or earth to be closer to the natural radiation that the earth’s crust gives off. The Mutos are stealing nuclear weapons and submarines and snacking on them. Godzilla was found in 1954 near the bottom of the ocean because people brought nuclear submarines down there and he ate them. They dropped the bombs at the Bikini Atoll on him and he disappears. Was he full of radiation and sleepy? Why did he go away? He returns to fight the Mutos, careful not to harm any people, but once they’re gone: now what? He was eating nuclear submarines before, will he go out and eat more power plants? I feel like with all of the scientists, someone should have explained some of this to the military.
  • Radiation and how it works: the military states that the bombs dropped in 1954 were kilotons and the ones used now are megatons. They detonate one of these megaton bombs 20 miles off the coast of San Francisco, which they consider a safe distance. My knowledge of radiation is limited to reading Black Rain, but there’s a part of me that thinks that you’re looking at some horrific side effects dropping a megaton bomb 20 miles from a populated city.

I think the harshest criticism of the film I’ve heard was “at least the science in 1998’s Godzilla made sense. You establish early that radiation is mutating Chernobyl animals to gigantic sizes. Then you see Zilla, an iguana mutated in a similar fashion. I’d rather watch the Matthew Broderick film, but this one was okay.”

April 25, 2014

Recovery, Reading, Watching

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , — K'vn @ 4:17 pm

Attempting to write a list of my favourite things after the memory loss caused me to take a look at a lot of the things I’ve liked over the years in an attempt to solidify who I am. While it helps me to read through and talk about the things I’m experiencing, at heart I’m a writer and it helps me to write about what I’m exploring. I used to use this space to answer questions people posed to me. I don’t mind still doing that, but I’ve removed the older entries. From this point moving forward I’d like to write about the things I’m experiencing. If, for any reason, you need the older posts I’ve kept a copy of them and I’d be happy to send them your way.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are some of the things I’ve looked at over the past year while recovering. I read through the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft. Dialysis involves a lot of time sitting in a chair while all the blood in your body is removed, washed, and returned for hours on end. I found it reassuring that his complete works cover include some weaker stories and some amazing stories. As a writer, it’s nice to know that everything he wrote wasn’t At the Mountains of Madness. I like a good scary story, so long as the sex and gore are reined in, and At the Mountains of Madness is now one of my favourites. Whisperer in Darkness and The Haunter in Darkness were also scary stories that left me feeling better than before I read them. Whisperer in Darkness is also available as a movie on DVD that was fun to watch.  I watched film versions of Call of Cthulu and The Colour Out of Space, but those movies aren’t for everyone (especially not people who don’t want to read subtitles).  The part of me that likes cats enjoyed The Cats of Ulthar and Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. The Cats of Ulthar is short, a little scary, but endearing. As for Unknown Kadath, though, what a wild story! It feels like he’s writing fan fiction of his own work, but once I’d read the rest of his works I had a lot of fun with this one. There are a few points where I can easily be sold on a story, and if you’re anything like me, the following lines should let you know if this is for you or not.

“He recalled, too, the evilly hungry way in which an especially impudent young Zoog had regarded a small black kitten in the cobbled street outside. And because he loved nothing on earth more than small black kittens, he stooped and petted the sleek cats of Ulthar as they licked their chops, and did not mourn because those inquisitive Zoogs would escort him no farther. ”

“Better still, as a sub-lieutenant in that army was a brisk young fellow who proved to be none other than the very little kitten at the inn to whom Carter had given a saucer of rich cream on that long-vanished morning in Ulthar. He was a strapping and promising cat now, and purred as he shook hands with his friend. His grandfather said he was doing very well in the army, and that he might well expect a captaincy after one more campaign.”

“Now much of the speech of cats was known to Randolph Carter, and in this far terrible place he uttered the cry that was suitable. But that he need not have done, for even as his lips opened he heard the chorus wax and draw nearer, and saw swift shadows against the stars as small graceful shapes leaped from hill to hill in gathering legions. The call of the clan had been given, and before the foul procession had time even to be frightened a cloud of smothering fur and a phalanx of murderous claws were tidally and tempestuously upon it. “

Most of Lovecraft’s works are in the public domain, so if they interest you, it shouldn’t be hard to find them. None of them were a contender for my favourite book or story, but At the Mountains of Madness holds a special place in my heart. If I reread it, I’ll write an entry on it alone. After finishing up the complete works, I went on to reread some of the books on our bookshelves. We have a lot of Mercedes Lackey books, and while I enjoyed reading them, none of them struck me as my favourite book. I did enjoy Brightly Burning and The Black Gryphon, though. Gryphons, like cats, may not be my favourite animals but when you write a story about either you have my attention. Between all of the reading, I caught up on a few movies. The Spanish Prisoner has been at the top of my list for a long time, but I didn’t feel compelled to rewatch it. Instead, I explored some of David Mamet’s other works. Glengary Glen Ross was on NetFlix, and the “Coffee is for Closers” scene was everything I’d come to expect from it. Only David Mamet could make Death of a Salesman into something I’d consider watching.

I also looked into mysteries. I have a soft spot for Murder on the Orient Express with Sean Connery. We’d recently purchased the David Suchet version of the film, though, and it was excellent. David Suchet has played the character of Poirot in a TV series and a collection of movies. While the stories are a little different in each version and there are things each does better than the other, I really enjoy Suchet’s portrayal. If I ever retire The Spanish Prisoner from the top of my list Orient Express will likely steal the top spot. Speaking of mystery and intrigue: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy took advantage of an all-star cast to keep me awake and alert through the movie and I enjoyed it. I had failed many times as a small child to read the book, and now feel vindicated. Then I watched some Case Closed movies — the TV series is the only “Anime” I watch, and it’s a lot of fun. Sadly, only a fraction of what’s been made in Japan shows up translated in America. Perhaps I should add learning Japanese to my To Do list. Searching through all the mysteries brought up a few references to the classics. I’ve added Edogawa Rampo and Arsene Lupin to my list of things to read about.  I’ve been using the Coffee Break French podcast to brush up on my French, but I think I’ll look for a translation for Lupin.

It took awhile to get through all of those as I was weak and in pain for most of the year. I’m doing better now — less pain, more energy — and am working and writing on my own. Still, I have more memories to explore, and I’m going to use this space to review them. Now that you’ve caught up on how I spent my dialysis and recovery time, what’s next? Well, thanks to a Christmas gift of Godzilla versus Biollante, Godzilla is! Before we dive into that, though, I have an Easter-related post I need to finish writing up.

The Inciting Event

Filed under: Personal — Tags: — K'vn @ 3:37 pm

Memory loss is like waking up from an unexpected nap. The last thing I remember before the memory loss is arriving at the hospital. I was in pain and having trouble breathing. I was covered in cold sweat. I remember a wheelchair meeting me at the emergency room entrance and taking me back immediately. They asked me questions and gave me oxygen. I was taken to have an MRI done, and the injection of contrast solution was acutely painful. The doctors explained that I had a pulmonary embolism, the seriousness of the situation, and something about blood thinners. Somewhere in my memory is a white room with a lot of glass before we skip forward a week and a half.

I wake up in a hospital room I’ve never seen before. I have an impression of a dream of someone standing over my bed trying to hurt me, but I think it’s just a dream. I’m tired, weak, and there’s no one else in the room with me. I have no idea what’s going on. I’m not overly alarmed because I’m in a hospital. I’ve been put under for surgery before and this just feels like waking up. I assume it’s only been a few hours, though I’m disturbed that I don’t remember being put under or why it was necessary. Someone arrives. The bed has wheels, and they roll me to dialysis. I don’t know what dialysis is and I don’t know who these people are. They seem to know what’s going on, so I concentrate on holding on for the ride. I spend the next 12 hours cold and shivering in a hot and unpleasant room. As I’d come to realize, in a hospital dialysis room there are no happy people. It took several tries to get dialysis started. I immediately vomited. Whether from doctor’s orders or some other reason I was unaware of they wouldn’t allow me anything more than a sip of water. A doctor I’d never met, or at least never remembered meeting, came by and talked to me a little. He didn’t tell me anything about my condition except that my kidneys might recover. Then he asked me questions I didn’t have answers for. I arrived back in my room alone and confused, but now I had one piece of information: something had happened to my kidneys. Adding that to my previous memories and what I’d overheard at dialysis, my total information at this point was that my lungs were full of blood clots, my kidneys were damaged, and that I had lost more than a day.

Sometime during the night I had to page the nurse to let me use the restroom. She moved a machine that was feeding my IVs onto a stand that could be wheeled behind me. For the first time since learning to make new memories, I saw a mirror. I had oxygen tubes under my nose, monitors hooked up to me, three IV lines in my left arm, and a bandage on my chest. There was some piece of machinery hooked up to my finger. There was dried blood under my nose and mouth. Tubes were coming out of my neck, and I was afraid to look closely at them. I felt like something out of a horror movie. Someone had put my hair up on top of my head like a samurai. I didn’t feel strong enough to reach above my head to fix it. Instead, I washed the blood from under my nose and called the nurse to help me back to my bed.

Later in the night a phone next to the bed rang. I picked it up and it was my wife, Sare. Something had come up at home, she said, and she’d be here tomorrow. I told her I loved her, then spent the night in an exhausted haze, awoken every two hours by an unfamiliar nurse who took my vitals. Sometime in the night she came in and explained that she had to give me plasma. One of the IV lines was providing me with blood thinners, but they couldn’t do surgery while my blood was so thin. She said she’d never done this before, but set up a bag and left. She came back and was unhappy — the plasma wasn’t going from the IV into my veins. She grabbed the bag and squeezed it. Thoughts of bubbles of air going into my veins caused my panic to escalate. She finally gave up and replaced the IV machine’s heparin with plasma and called it a success. I was grateful for the oxygen since my breathing had become erratic.

It was around eight o’clock when a new male nurse showed up with a wheelchair and introduced himself as Matt. He said they needed to do surgery to put in a permanent catheter line for dialysis, so he was going to unhook me from the bed and take me down to the surgery section of the hospital. While I was wheeled through the labyrinth of hallways and walkways between buildings he explained that over a week and a half had passed. While I was in the Intensive Care Unit, they had to put tubes into my lungs. When they do that, he continued, they give you medicine so you won’t remember. That was the first explanation I’d received for the memory loss, so I accepted it. I was left in the hall of the surgery center to wait for my surgery.

Everything felt like a dream, and the wait for surgery only added to that. A surgeon walked by with camouflage scrubs. A girl walked by with zebra-print scrubs. I could hear music playing from one of the rooms. A nurse said they’d be with me shortly. I waited and dreaded what was in store for me. I secretly hoped they could knock me out for the surgery. When my surgeon finally revealed himself, he dashed my hopes of unconsciousness: he told me I’d have to be awake for the surgery, but that the sedative they’d give me would make it so I’d forget what happened. If the last dose of such medication had cost me a week and a half, what would this dose do? He then asked me some questions. “Sorry, I just started generating new memories yesterday” I replied and they wheeled me in to the operating room.

The room itself was on par with the other operating rooms I’ve seen with one quirk — the operating table wasn’t really a table. It was more akin to a slab, and while comparisons to Dr. Frankenstein’s Laboratory came to mind at the time it wasn’t like his, either. The slab was thin – my arms wouldn’t fit next to me on it – and connected to the ceiling. I needed the step ladder they provided to get onto the it despite being over six foot. They attached arm rests to the sides and began to walk me through what would happen next in vague terms.

My nerves were shot, and it didn’t help when the nurse explained that they’d only give me more painkillers as I needed them. I’d be starting out with a minimal dose while they cut into me. Great. She had me look to the side and they piled up towels on me before setting up a screen so I wouldn’t be able to see the surgery site.

“What’s your name and date of birth?” the surgeon asked me.
“November, Kevin” I managed to reply quietly.
“I bet you’re getting pretty tired of that question” he chuckled.
I didn’t tell him that it was the first time I could remember being asked.

The surgery commenced and I spent the next short eternity trying to think of anything except what was happening just outside my field of vision. I must have had some success, because when someone later explained the surgery to me I was horrified by what had actually been done while I was still awake. They had taken away the neck tubes, which were a sort of temporary dialysis system. They had gone in the right side of my chest and connected tubes to where the blood returns to the heart. Then they installed a permanent dialysis port on my chest. They put it on the other side of the body from the heart so if it becomes infected it isn’t right there next to your heart. The procedure had been painful, but not excruciating. They asked me if I needed more painkillers many times, and I said yes each time except the final. When they let me down from the slab and helped me into the wheelchair I was shaking uncontrollably. They piled heated blankets onto me before deciding it was a reaction to the medicine and holding me there awhile. When the shaking subsided they called Matt and he took me back to my room to rest before more dialysis. Despite the doctor’s reassurances, I seem to remember that surgery.

While my first twelve-hour dialysis marathon is a bit of a blur, this second was not. The pain of the new catheter forced clarity. Not only was dialysis painful, but any jostling of the surgery site added its own pain to the mix. Now I wasn’t just noticing how unhappy the people seemed, but also how rickety the machines looked. They made a lot of noise when working properly and exploded into a beeping cacophony the moment something went wrong. I quickly recognized the beeps that meant “add more water.” The other beeps were more nebulous, though once per session they would have to add more washing fluid. They mixed this up in a gallon milk jar, reinforcing my worry about the quality of the dialysis. There was more vomiting and the session lasted over 9 hours. Just before I was allowed to leave, the dialysis nurse asked if I’d like to order food. I placed my order – finding out that there were many things on the menu I wasn’t allowed to have, though I didn’t know why – and soon Matt arrived to take me back to my room.

The cafeteria took six hours to bring me my lunch (now a dinner), and Matt went down to talk to them personally. After that, they would call me before every meal, sometimes multiple times before. Service improved for a day or two, then they started bringing me a breakfast of a spoon, bowl, and milk. When I would ask about the cereal, they’d look confused. Then they would look at the receipt, act like it wasn’t on there, and tell me to call it in. This happened for at least three days. Each time, as they left, I’d check the receipt myself. The first item always read “CEREAL: SPECIAL K.” I worried that this was revenge for Matt going down to talk to them, and now he was off for a few days and I had a new nurse. A kinder, alternative theory is that they were extra concerned with measuring out the right amount of milk and so forgot to add the cereal. I’m not sure why they had such a hard time seeing the first item on the receipt, however.

Doctors would stop in sometimes. Some said my kidneys would recover, others said there was a 10% chance they might recover and it was more likely I’d spend my life on dialysis. One doctor said I’d be out by Christmas, another said it’d be February before I’d be allowed out. Someone let slip that in the missing week and a half my liver had failed, too. The story of my hospital visit could continue for several more pages, but there were a few important points to touch upon. Somewhere in the week since beginning to generate new memories someone finally told me that the clots were gone. I had spent the whole time wondering if I was still in danger of dying at any moment. No one had thought to tell me that the clots were gone. Several of the doctors were dismissive at first, probably because they’d become used to my inability to remember the previous day. They warmed up a bit once I started by telling them what they’d said last time I’d talked to them.

The same way they had different theories on my kidneys, they all had different ideas about the memory loss. Some said that when they had made the decision to give me the “clot buster” medication that would destroy all clots in my body, they also gave me medicine to forget: and this is when my liver and kidneys failed. Without them, I was unable to filter out the medication and it stayed in my system much longer than intended. Others said it was the clot buster itself, that it had shocked my system and the memory loss was a response. Another doctor said it was because my CO2 levels were dangerously high, may have caused damage — the high CO2 levels being the reason they chose to use the clot buster and move away from the slow, safer treatment they’d been trying. Another popular theory was PTSD, citing studies of prolonged hospital visits and the effect they have on the patients suffering from traumatic events. My pulmonologist said since it could be any of those, it’s probably all of them, and it’s best not worry about the exact cause.

Realizing I’d lost a week and a half in the hospital was disconcerting, but I wouldn’t begin to understand the full extent of my memory loss until later. I thought at the time that I had just lost that week and a half. I seemed to be generating new memories fairly well, though I was more forgetful than I used to be. Later, I’d realize that many more memories were missing. Sometimes skills or abilities for work that I had known were gone and had to be relearned. I felt like I still knew everything, but when I’d try to recall the details, I’d be met with a blank. I felt as though my mind were a warehouse filled with filing boxes. I’d hear “North Carolina Vacation 2008” and believe I knew what had happened. Then I’d open the box and it’d be empty. I wouldn’t have any idea what had happened. Sometimes, when someone would talk to me about a memory like that, I’d remember it. Most of the time, though, it was like they were telling me a story. In my mind, it felt like something that had happened to someone else — nothing about it rung true with me. I trusted these people, but I also felt strongly that if I had actually done those things, I’d remember it. I tried to fill out a list of my favourite things, but when I got to “Favourite Book” I had nothing to write next to it. I had no idea what my favourite book was anymore. Everyone had an idea of what it had been, of books I had liked, but none of them rang true. I don’t know if my favourite book was listed, or if I had stopped recognizing it as my favourite anymore. When I stop by the store to pick up groceries I hear voices from across the store that stir something inside of me. I never remember who they are, but I wonder if they were someone I had classes with or someone I interacted with before the embolism. I spent almost a month before returning home visiting where I grew up, that’s almost entirely gone. A good number of the immediate years are gone, too.

Just when I think I’ve discovered everything that I’ve forgotten, I’ll start up a conversation saying “Hey, we should really go and do…” to have Sare reply “Oh, we did that a few years ago when we visited my aunt, do you remember?”

But I don’t remember.