You were published in Emergency Medicine on this day in 1974, to great controversy.
There is, apparently, some skepticism out there as to your efficacy.
The Wikipedia article (which for some reason prefers the term “abdominal thrusts”) has a whole section in which many doctors robustly contend that you don’t even work.
“There was never any science here. Heimlich overpowered science all along the way with his slick tactics and intimidation, and everyone, including us at the AHA, caved in.”
I like that: “overpowered science”. I like how science is fully personified, like it is a small-town rube who is easily swayed by smooth talking.
I dunno, though.
The Heimlich Manoeuvre just seems like the kind of thing that would work. I do not think that this is a situation in which the ever-credulous Mr. Science has once again been fooled.
I can provide actual evidence that it works, in fact.
One time, I was at my parents’ house, and I was eating an orange and irritably flipping through a magazine.
It’s important to state here that I’ve had a lifelong fear of choking, and that I instinctively sit up very straight whenever I eat fruit.
You must never ever eat fruit when you are lying down, because you will certainly begin to choke on it.
I don’t know why I feel this about fruit, specifically, but never mind.
The point is that I was not only not lying down, I’d actually stood up in order to eat that orange.
This makes the next part of the story so much more savage.
What happened is that I turned a page of the magazine and then tried to swallow, and that didn’t work, and then I tried to breathe, and that didn’t work either.
It just…didn’t work. Suddenly it was no can do on the breathing, and it was so scary, so absolutely fucking terrifying.
I stood there trying to gulp in air and just…nothing happened. It’s very hard to explain what it felt like, except that I was pretty sure I was going to die.
I ran into the kitchen, where my brother was, and pointed at my throat.
Liam’s eyes went HUGE, and he said “fuck” about thirty times, and then he did the thing that you are supposed to do in this situation.
Liam has never had any first-aid training, but still he managed to do it exactly right. Afterwards he told me that he knew how to do it from watching The Simpsons. We have both learned many things this way.
The point is that it worked. He punched me in the diaphragm a bunch of times, and this big pithy piece of orange popped out my mouth and sailed to the other end of the room.
He saved my life! Liam and the Heimlich Manoeuvre saved my actual life!
I am very grateful to you both, and to the ever-credulous Mr. Science.
It’s almost sort of violent, the amount I don’t care about you. It’s overwhelming.
This in itself is cause for examination etc. Why is that I don’t care about you at all, because it’s not as if I confine myself to only paying attention to important things.
I found a six page poem I wrote about Secretariat, for example. That’s Secretariat the celebrity racehorse.
You are objectively more important than Secretariat, and yet I find myself exhausted by this. Why are you more important? Why is there a Guy Fawkes Day, and yet no Secretariat Day.
Why were you born such a long time ago?
This might be the worst thing about you.
Why also did you wear an irritating kind of hat, and have a painting of you kind of leaning over and looking like Rumpelstiltskin (who I also hate), and call yourself “Guido Fawkes” when you were “fighting for the Spanish.”
What even is this.
Happy birthday though, I suppose.
Sorry you got executed – that’s really terrible. However: the fact that you were executed is at least a strong indicator that some people thought you were mega important.
You are not even famous for not being famous, in the manner of Big Star.
You are simply not very famous, which must have been just such a bummer.
I get a strong Party Guy vibe from you, which is to say that you seem like one of those people who would have really suited having a lot of money.
This is all just going on your album cover, which sits right in the middle of that Venn diagram where one circle is “powerful druggy energy” and the other circle is concerned with the praising of the Lord.
I feel that this is an under-explored aspect of American culture.
Where are the books about all the people who loved Jesus and drugs in equal measure?
Although what actually do I know. I just right now googled “psychedelic Christian” and there is of course heaps of stuff about cults and Jim Jones taking a million drugs every day.
Still hardly anything about you though.
This leaves me free to project my various preoccupations onto you.
I’m sure you would have found me exceptionally irritating.
I read a letter you wrote to Joseph Cornell. You thanked him for his “charming” present, and you enclosed some scraps of your costumes from ‘The Firebird’ and ‘Giselle’.
This is in addition to the scraps he already had in his possession.
I read that he used to stand in the wings and cut off bits of your costume when you fluttered offstage.
I don’t know what the party line is on Joseph Cornell these days. Are we supposed to have problems with him?
All cutting feathers off girls’ clothes and being fixated on ballerinas.
All making tiny tiny little women and putting them into boxes.
I can see how someone could collect these facts and present them under the heading Joseph Cornell: Creepy Man.
Not me, though. I love him to distraction, and it is clear that you liked him a lot as well.
Not quite as much as he liked you, but then no one likes anyone as much as Joseph Cornell liked you.
It has been suggested that he was “obsessed” with you, and while there is one whole set of people who argue that this is creepy, there is another lot who see this as heartbreaking.
They take the facts and they arrange them in a box, and the box is called Joseph Cornell Was a Shy and Tormented Soul Who Made Beautiful Things for Beautiful People Who Almost by Definition Would Never Appreciate Them.
I am not keen on this version either.
I prefer the version where he has his life on one side of the country, and you have your life on the other, and you send each other weird things in the post
I prefer the version where, at the end of the letter containing the ‘Firebird’ scraps, you say “I am always glad to hear from you, and please do drop me a line or two, as I am permanently here.”
I couldn’t say why, exactly, I like this so much.
That’s what he should have called the box he made for you: I Am Permanently Here.
You share a birthday with Anna Pavlova and Abraham Lincoln!
I give this information two thumbs up, and regard it as a milestone in the slow journey towards accepting that astrology is real.
What other explanation can there be? You are three of the most famous people ever to arrive on the scene, you all three changed the way things get done around here, you all have those weird kind of old-fashioned faces, you are all what they call “animal-lovers”, AND you are all born on the same day. That’s what we call evidence; that’s what we call logic. What a blow this is for all the haters.
This must be how you felt when you returned from the Galapagos Islands with your suitcases full of birds.
I am desperate to believe in astrology, and so I will take any sad little shard of information and frame it in a way that supports this faith. You, on the other hand, did not seem unambiguously delighted about finding evidence in support of the theory of evolution.
You were raised to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, and were sent to Cambridge in preparation for the priesthood. Turning out to be the person who pretty much blew all that out of the water must have been quite a trial.
We are told that it did a real number on your nerves. We are told that it gave you a dying sensation.
You had a tormented relationship with Christianity for the rest of your life.
There is a whole corner of the internet dedicated to “proving” that on your deathbed, you recanted, and gave yourself up unto the Lord etc. It is further claimed that while you were dying, you “admitted that you were a young man.”
Do I need to point out that you lived to be as old as the absolute hills?
It is all such crap, and has been refuted so many times.
This particular corner of the internet is only interesting because of how badly these people want it to be true. They are desperate to believe, in the face of all evidence, that you arranged for a small group of Sunday school children to sing you off into the next world.
You would probably have a lot more sympathy for them than I do.
This is yet one more reason why you are Charles Darwin, and I am just a person who knows that astrology is effing nonsense but still spent an hour making a birthchart for her ex on alwaysastrology.com.
There is a certain type of person who turns out to have died of syphilis.
It is usually a man with devils inside him.
It’s not the same as consumption, which took out people indiscriminately.
Consumption is good for films set in the olden days. You have the person cough once or twice, or even just hold a handkerchief in a secretive way, and this is considered sufficient exposition.
On your way, coughing person. Time to die.
Syphilis is not so useful, structurally, or not so immediately recognisable.
To have a person die of syphilis in a movie, a whole of stuff needs to happen – it takes up a lot of time.
There needs to be a scene where the man is stumbling round a brothel, drinking clear alcohol, with a bandage coming untied from his head.
Then basically the rest of the film is just his Slow Decline – he is feverishly surging around the streets of Vienna, he is clutching the legs of a serene wide-faced woman (his sister – she will never forgive him), he is staring in wonderment at the ravages of his face.
There is maybe some Art happening in the background, but mostly it’s the syphilis express.
It’s just terrible. I even heard a radio show about you where honestly the main thing they spoke about was your powerful sexy private life.
They played a bit of Die Winterreise and a bit of The Trout and then slam. Back to you surging around the streets of Vienna.
This narrative, of course, fails to convey how incredibly hard you must have worked.
An accurate movie of your life would just be you sitting down, writing, and taking extremely infrequent sex breaks.
You died when you were 31, only, and you wrote a Christ of a lot of stuff, a great deal of which is in that category called “immortal”.
If I died right now there would only be this website and some things about how much I like Snoopy.
This for some reason does not fill me with despair.
There is a scene in I’m Not There, which is a movie about Bob Dylan (never mind who that is- you wouldn’t like him).
Anyway. In this one scene, Heath Ledger and Charlotte Gainsbourg are fighting and he says ok. You write down the nastiest thing you can think of. And I’ll write down the nastiest thing I can think of. And we’ll see who wins.
As you may well imagine, Charlotte Gainsbourg will have none of this, because she knows that to read the meanest thing he could think of would ruin her life, as well of the lives of everyone else in the restaurant.
Charlotte Gainsbourg leaves, and so would I, but you would stay and win.
You would write down a kind of potent and devilish thing that would have Bob Dylan just crying into the crook of his arm, retching.