Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chip Rabkin

I imagine this is my last post of the year. And it’s ending on such a cheery note. One of Doug’s friends died. And became one of mine albeit a more distant one. But he always included me and Chip in the summer soiree upstate in a beautiful spot with beautiful grilled (hmmmmm!) food. He was a really nice guy. He was part of the New York Ranger ticket sharing crew. We were all part of a bunch of New York Ranger fans who bought into a friend’s season tickets that he could never afford on his own. (Who the fuck can?)

No more live Ranger games at center ice for me. Lucky me, they look beautiful on the television my Chip and I received from Lydon and my mother-in-law last Christmas.

Our friend who is no more: his name was Chip Rabkin, and we were the same age and lucky us, we became ill at roughly the same time. Unbeknownst to him, he had congenital heart problems, which we were all told were fixed once they were correctly identified. (I thought it took too damned long, if you ask me. But no one did, and I think my urging Chip’s doctors to “Move along, move along” as they dawdled during recess would have fallen on deaf ears. I would have made one lousy instructor.) Ultimately, the doctors made the correct diagnosis in time. Phew!

Them surgeons opened that boy up and found what they’d expected to find. Chip was told that if he didn’t have this gargantuan surgery, he’s have only a twenty percent chance to live to old age. Duh, he chose the surgery. There were no complications. He went back to work in a matter of weeks even though the doctors had to open up his chest to fix his heart. Chip was fixed! Me, we know I wasn’t quite so lucky. I lost lung function, and then I lost more lung function. I don’t think I can lose much more without being switched to a ventilator. Do any of us really want to live attached to a ventilator? Don’t raise your hands all at once.

I don’t know why Chip had to have another procedure sometime last week. But he did. This time, he had a massive stroke and died without ever regaining consciousness. (Not that that would have been a good thing. But I don’t think he- or his brothers- ever imagined that the procedure would have gone anything but swimmingly. He’d been through the worst, right? Those scary days before his condition was initially recognized when the congenital defect could have done him in.

It’s crossed my mind more than once that if medical science finds, if not a cure, something to help me out so I don’t have to be so frightened with every new thing I feel. I’m always on edge that I’m losing lung capacity. I’m not. Not yet anyway. But panic sure makes it feel so.

I received high marks two weeks in a row from my masseuse. My body is responding to her touch. I’m opening up. That’s the one thing I’ve never done since this nightmare began. How long has it been, four years? I must be petrified to let whatever’s in there out. I have been feeling low these days. But Rachel, my crack masseuse, explained that the emotions massage can release don’t necessarily release while on the table. They might the next day, later that night. She assured me that releasing these feelings is totally normal and not to get freaked out whenever they choose to announce themselves. (Rich gets a major thumbs up for warning me about this months ago. Glass half full?)

My therapist has given me a powerful tool, which, I admit, has kept me from leaping out the window. For Franny to remember: when I’ve worked myself up into a lather what’s put me there are just vicious, destructive, painful feelings that push me over into the abyss (oooh, that abyss again!). They are not reality. (Oh, they may resemble reality, but I don’t have to accept every nasty feeling that comes my way as the god’s honest truth.) This isn’t easy. It’s fucking hard as hell especially when wrestling with my life and especially today, my death.

My new one that popped out unexpectantly, “I can’t bear this!” Shaking my head vociferously, and repeating my new mantra over and over again. To escape, I tried to go back to sleep after waking from my afternoon nap. Even with my beautiful Lunesta, you can’t sleep when you’re not tired. Around 10:30 I gave up and joined my very much alive Chip in the living room.

Eons ago, my mother bought me two kits to make dolls. She chose the Indian Princess and Katrina, the little Dutch girl. They’re darling, and I felt so sad and teary that I never sat down with Ma and put them together. These include patterns, different stitches (a lot of sewing). These are not beginner’s projects, and it would have been a fun activity for the two of us to do together. I had her bring them here. I have begun the Indian Princess. The pattern for her body is pinned down and ready to be cut out. Scares the willies out of me that I’ll screw this up. Ma will come over and help me along. My therapist loves this. This work takes me out of my head.

It’s like mending underwear and darning socks except here I’ll end up with sweet smiling faces to look at. Don’t pooh-pooh sweet smiling faces. They’ve got serious mojo. Uh-huh.

I need to be taken out of my head. For all my qvetching about wanting to die, I’m petrified that I’ll follow the way of our friend Chip. I don’t want that.

Hey, and I have two dolls that need to be made, a book that needs to be published, and a new Facebook organism that I need to screw with. I think that’s reason enough to live, don’t you?

Chip Rabkin, I’m just stunned. You were one of the good ones. They fixed you, damnit! I’m sorry. This is not supposed to happen.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Schreiber High School Anti-War March? You're Joking, Right?

It’s déjà vu all over again again. Years and years ago, back in the early seventies when subjects that were once taboo, were taboo no more. It was the age of Norman Lear, Phil Donahue, Watergate Hearings, the Equal Rights Amendment, and John and Yoko cohosting a whole week on Mike Douglas. That’s pretty fucked up, isn’t it? But in such a good way. There was the first Earth Day. Somebody developed a spanking new icon-to-be, the ecology emblem. (I had stickers of it on my fifth grade notebook.) These were the “good old days.”

The emblem never took. (Hey, those kids who lived through the gas crisis are the ones buying the biggest, fattest gas-guzzling SUVs and whining when the price of gas goes up. Americans can’t seem to think past their own nose. Fran, you commie prevert you!)

Yesterday, a good friend of mine posted a recent poll result from Gallup that roughly four out of every ten Americans believe in strict creationism. Say what!?! Four out of ten, you’ve got to be kidding me. No wonder science in this country is in the toilet. Science is getting kicked into the gutter, and only I and another friend of ours bothered to be disgusted and frightened by these numbers. Call me crazy, but this just can’t be good. Could it?

What happened from those heady early seventies?

My brother told me about the anti-war march (Spring of 1970: post covert bombing of Cambodia and post Kent State) which started at Paul D. Schreiber High School (of the Union Free Port Washington School District) and ended in a park opposite the A&S way down on Northern Blvd- Manhasset Valley Park for a rally. That’s one fucking long hike!

I think somewhere along the line the student marchers walked past the local draft board somewhere on Northern Blvd. Eventually these Schreiber kids hooked up with a sizable contingent from Great Neck. This was one fucking big deal. Doug recalls (he was in eigth grade, so he was still at Carrie Palmer Weber Junior High School of the Union Free Port Washington School District) that the Weber students were threatened with suspension if they did not appear at school the day of the march. No complaining about napalm and bombing innocent civilians for you.

Well, Doug did march along with our mother (as did my eldest brother) and Mrs. Cohen (she needs no explaining) and her daughter Beth who was also a student at Weber. In our house, it was pretty much impossible to be radical when our parents were as or more radical than we. We just hadn’t caught up yet. C’mon, I had just reached double digits. (I turned 10.) I still had much to learn. So please cut me a break.) But I do understand Doug’s sheepishness marching with “his Mommy.” The rest of Weber stayed put.

Déjà vu. Did I say something about déjà vu? Back in the early days of Midday Live. Before Bill Boggs. It was hosted by Lee Leonard who must have had the activist Bill Baird as a guest. And I remember so vividly, a black and white photo of a naked woman, her butt high in the air. Her head and torso front down on the floor. She was dead. From an illegal abortion. I ask anyone, could that photo ever appear on television today?

Abortion is taboo in Hollywood. Look at Knocked Up, Juno. Where the “family- planning clinic” was made to look like it was staffed with a bunch of insensitive, uncaring people. If the vignette of the receptionist snapping gum, on personal phone call with her feet crossed on the desk appeared to epitomize incompetence, the director succeeded.

Could Maude get her abortion today? Walter his vasectomy? Could they even venture to speak of them now? And in the same episode no less? (After the discovery of Maude's pregnancy, Walter was going "to get a vasectomy after golf." To which Maude replies, "Vasectomy after golf? It sounds like a new play by Noel Coward.") I don’t think so.

That photograph. It was obscene. Here was some young woman forever immortalized for the audacity of getting pregnant. In The Pianist, a woman was shot in the back. Dead. She ended up lying dead in that very same position as that poor woman in my Midday Live photo. No swooning graceful death allowed. It was obscene.

Cut to 1991. There is a pro-choice rally at twenty-third and Broadway? I could be wrong, but where the thing was is irrelevant. I went with Doug, his girlfriend, and her brother, a priest (not in garb) who was also pro-choice, That’s one helluva priest. As I look around, what do I see? A placard of that black and white photo of the naked dead woman. Butt still in the air. As horrific as when I first saw it. My jaw dropped to the pavement. My god, how far have we come from all that hope and belief that we could actually make a difference like we had in those early seventies?

Why this now? I’d been thinking of the power of seeing that photograph some twenty-odd years after I innocently bumped into it on Midday Live. Can you believe this would be an appropriate topic on television today?

Today, a Facebook member referred to the Nixon Senate Hearings as bleak. Rather I found them kind of refreshing. Exhilarating even. So I write and write…

In the Schreiber of the early 1970s, the school organized an assembly with Bill Baird and a person representing the belief that abortion is murder. Could this have happened at our Schreiber? No fucking way. The goddamned 1980 Yearbook advisor couldn’t admit that a smoke bomb spoiled “Holiday Cookie Day” and refused to allow it to be mentioned. It’s thinking like that that landed us all in the land of “Morning in America.”

Everybody, please open your eyes.

Monday, December 20, 2010


It’s so peculiar. I’m miserable, I can’t stop coughing, my life sucks, why me, wild coughing fits scare the bejeezus out of me…waah!

I guess if you speak just loud enough, something might actually change. Like a swath of my medication. Between Friday afternoon and Monday morning no less, I made these docs get off their loathsome, spotty behinds (I can’t take credit for the latter…it’s Monty Python) and haul ass. I didn’t know I could do that.

Yes, Chip made the phone calls, sent the faxes, and did the follow up, but after I had had enough with the status quo. My status quo stinks. I’ve actually become sort of, kind of, a little bit used to losing my breath to the point where everything that can, exits at the closest orifice. (Before I do my hallway laps, I sit on the crapper for so damned long to get whatever I can out. I’d rather my waste material exit where it’s supposed to rather than while I’m sitting my goddamned wheelchair into which I collapse after a “lap.”

I lied.

When I’m beyond out of breath, I’m only dealing with waste products. Once, with chemo, everything said bye, bye. (I’m insane. I’ve walked two blocks and, strangely, I become nauseated until I urgently need to vomit. (That’s not supposed to happen. I shouldn’t feel the effects of the chemo until four hours have elapsed.) I’m at 77th and 3rd. What do I do? All the cars were parked fairly close together. I couldn’t, heavens, mess up the sidewalk! But I kept in for a few valuable seconds what turned out to be the best projectile vomiting experience ever! Depending on how you define “best.” Boy, did that stuff fly!

The nuclear explosion of vomit remained inside my pathetic self until I found a suitable spot between two parked cars. By choosing this particular spot, there would be no evidence of the carnage in front of any of the car doors. I really hate stepping in dog shit (or cat shit as the case may be), and I really hate walking into some stranger’s vomit. It’s plain disgusting. That night I could sleep easy knowing that I didn’t subject anyone to my expectorations. I, even, with the help of my beloved friend, Dr. Audge, who keeps a million bags on her for her daughter who invariably gets carsick, kept the cab that took me home clean. That took some doing, but it never would have been possible without Audge’s bag. Bless you, Audgela.

But yes, I do try and excrete all I can before attempting exercise. Because if I’m going to pee in my pants, it better not be more that a drop or two. So far, that’s been the worst of it. I despise not being able to breathe, but I now accept the fact that it will never come back. As you know all too well from my last post, the damned coughing scares the shit out of me.

Man, this morning the pulmonologist prescribed this fresh-from-the-farm gel caps (“pearls”) that stop the coughing mechanism. You still are able to cough when you need to, (you won’t choke to death) but you won’t when you don’t. Woohoo! So far, so good. Dr. Pulmonologist also changed one of the drugs in the nebulizer, so I can have relief all day. We have improvement.

Charlie, you are beyond right. You have to be your own advocate, because your doctors aren’t going to give you the heads up about new drugs that may help you live another day. Or live a better day. Right now, all I want is to have a life that I would choose to live given all my obvious limitations. I want my conscious moments to be as pleasant as they can be. I think after this wild weekend (for me) of change this may yet be possible. To be continued.

Which leads me back to my beloved Maggot Brain. “Maggot Brain” is a remarkable guitar instrumental that leaves me breathless, speechless, and awestruck every time I listen to it. It begins with a word from god or at the very least, the guy who is the disembodied Voice at The Hayden Planetarium if he were a black dude.

But no. I think it’s George Clinton speaking to us all from somewhere out in the galaxy. (Forget the end of The Moody Blues Days of Future Past. That’s just plain silly and pretentious. George Clinton may be too. But I don’t think he’d mind if you told him so. I think he would shake his head internally knowing that you just don’t get it.) He says:

(static, echo)

Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time

For y'all have knocked her up

I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe

I was not offended

For I knew I had to rise above it all

Or drown in my own shit


Friday, December 17, 2010

Tutti Frutti

Fear is corrosive. I had a full-fledged panic attack and then relived it the day following, because the scene was the same, I had a cough, and I was constipated. Not much to panic about. (Does anyone remember Dyan Cannon in Heaven Can Wait scream after she thinks that the husband who has been murdered has apparently not been murdered? Charles Grodin, the husband’s lackey and Dyan Cannon’s lover, is quick on the take? He says, “She just saw a mouse.” Warren Beatty is looking around quizzically for said mouse. Grodin thinks quickly, She relived it.”)

Well I relived the “The Coughs From Hell” that I described all too vividly in my last post. Oh my god, I can’t breathe. Just heading back to the john where the initial panic occurred was more than enough to send me into a tailspin. Like a soldier on his first stint back in Kandahar where his buddy was blown to bits. Well, now he’s back in Kandahar again. This time, no one gets blown to kingdom come, buddy or otherwise, but that poor soldier might as have lost his best friend. He suffers as if were happening again. In real time.

Fear eats you alive.

No more playing with oxycodone. Not that was ever my intention though it had become tempting of late. Fuzz the fear. Now who can find fault with that? Everyone, that’s who. If I made oxy my new best friend tempting though it might be. So far, no evil reactions to the huge increase in Effexor. And I must live through whatever panic attacks come my way. And trust me, this is not like the nauseating butterflies before a major exam. (Yeah, I never had any perspective whatsoever. So I would always worry excessively (and needlessly) before exams. Using the tired joke yet again, when I hear the whirring helicopters, I’m back in ‘Nam.)

I inadvertently discovered why mucous was clinging, glue-like, to my throat, causing what I now know were bronchial spasms. I hit a big, fat emotional wall at around eleven last night. I’d had enough. I had to sleep. That’s my only means of escape. Fuck brave, strong Franny. No, she doesn’t exist. C’mon, I’ve been telling y’all I’m a wuss for months. Please believe me. I am a coward. Hey, if I weren’t, I’d probably be dead, so I suppose wussiness has its benefits. (Glass half full again. What am I thinking?)

In my hurry to get to bed and snuggle down with my Lunesta. (Don’t you just love those gentle butterflies? The ad agency should get a bonus for them. I buy into the whole butterfly/tinkerbell concept completely. And that was even before I started taking it. Now, hands off my fucking butterflies, or I’ll break your face.)

I went to bed without medication that dries me out. (Since ARDS, I’ve produced way too much mucous. Spiriva solved that one.) But I found, on waking up this morning, there was no more glue in my throat. When I coughed, the damned things were productive. Say what? Spoke to my allergist (who seems to know more than all the damned pulmonologists combined). He put me on a nebulizer containing Albuterol and Pulmicort. Fuck if I know anything about this shit except it will stop the spasms that have, until now, caused me to cough uncontrollably…

I love this man.

So I sit here listening to Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti wishing it had been recorded with his original lyrics:

Tutti Frutti, good booty

If it don’t fit, don’t force it

You can grease it, make it easy

Fucking awesome.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Nixon, By A Nose!

Have you all forgotten me? No, sweet ones, you haven’t. I wish I could. No such luck. Damn. The oxy saga finally comes to a flaccid ending. (If endings can be such. Well, they can now. You wanna argue with an extremely pissy, ill, menopausal woman? Are you crazy?)

I never felt comfortable using the oxy as my “anti-suicide pill” or as my “mood enhancer” though it performed the latter function with aplomb. My mother, of all people, was so happy to see her usually miserable daughter so gregarious, so social, so relaxed. I suppose, if my choice were that or nothing, depending on my mood, I might as well go for the narcotic that would quickly have me addicted and wanting more. Not a good look.

My psychopharmacologist missed last Thursday’s phone appointment to solve my conundrum: misery or not giving a shit, salut! What the fuck was that all about? Chip thought I didn’t want the appointment rescheduled, didn’t reschedule it assuming that everyone agreed that oxycodone was everyone’s drug of choice. I knew that was no solution, and I was shocked that Ira (the psychopharmacologist) would go along with this. We had our belated appointment yesterday. I was only taking the oxy when my back was not happy and was yammering for a hit of something, thank you very much. And that’s what I did.

Ira thinks that last week’s walk to the very edge of the precipice may have been partly caused by withdrawal from those few measly pills I’d taken, I thought, so prudently. So I thought. I’ve since gathered, best to take it regularly, on a schedule, for as long as necessary, and them wean yourself off the stuff by cutting your dose little by little. I know this shit. I just haven’t had to deal with this all that often in my life.

Yes, I know you can’t go cold turkey on psychotropic drugs, as my internist so lovingly refers to them. I’ve been weaned off those before. I know the drill. But getting weaned off anything is pretty unusual these days. It feels to me that I just keep adding drugs and upping dosages. Nothing fun, mind you. But perhaps life saving, so I shouldn’t complain that they don’t have me doing the hula, cannula, tubing and all, in my living room. Though wouldn’t that be fun if I had the urge? Hmmmm. Oxy, oxy, oxy.

Resolved after my appointment with Ira, Effexor has been upped by fifty percent. (Effexor just kills sex drive. Whoopee. One more thing to look forward to.) That’s a whole lot of Effexor. I should know in a day or two if I can tolerate that high a dose. If so, I’ll need some time to see if I hop back from that precipice and contemplate dancing the hula. (Sorry, y’all, that’s the best I can do.) If I spent last week being proverbially kicked in the nuts from oxycodone withdrawal, I’d really not like to go there again.

I’m no longer in excruciating pain. That’s one reason I can be so blasé about dropping the oxy. Slowly, achingly, my back improves. Maybe, I can get by with Alleve. (Glass half full.)

I can’t catch a break. Just when I think its safe to go back in the water…(Actually, I wonder when that might be. I love the ocean. I even love swimming pools. Being wheeled along Long Island’s gorgeous beaches comes in second, though just by a rather large and eminently caricature-able nose, to Richard Nixon walking along the beach in a suit and wing tips. I’d be ridiculous. (Though he wins the ridiculous contest, no question. Certainly not in my mind.) And impossible to push along- at least on the dry sand. What a nightmare.

No today, and it has been happening since the heat has poured out of our radiators, my throat and sinuses are filled with a glue-like mucous (Nasty but healthy mucous. No funky colors. When that happens, no if that happens, then I’ll be up shit’s creek.) I can’t get the crap out without ever more violent coughing. I was coughing like that when I first came out of the hospital. That’s when coughing was responsible for two fractured ribs. Albeit hairline cracks, but cracks just the same. That’s not normal. That’s fucked up. This time around, my hearty pecs protect my ribs and allow me to breathe through the scarred wreckage that are my lungs. (Yes, I worked on the pecs some, but they really appeared without any conscious help from me. Amazing what the body can do when forced to. I love those damned pecs. They’re seriously multi-purpose. They also keep my sagging middle-aged breasts a bit less saggy than they would if left to their own devices.)

So I’m coughing again. Instead of cracking ribs, these coughs mostly throw my back out of joint. The clavicles are a nice easy target that my coughs toy with regularly. I also get lumps on my back just about anywhere you slice it, and I point them out to Rachel, my very fine masseuse, as if she’d miss them on her own. Oy.

Today, I had finished stretching my neck when I was overcome with Coughs From Hell. Those are the ones that fail to move much of anything, go on for what feels like an eternity, and make it impossible for me to catch my breath. Oh shit. I can’t catch my breath. I panic, because besides making me a fine set of pecs, my body panics all on it’s own with no help from me. During a tiny respite, I take my four o’clock pills twenty minutes early, because that batch contains a Klonopin. I thought that was clever of me to do that, don’t you? Too late, I was already in the thick of it.

The best cough suppressant is oxycodone. I swear. If I hadn’t quit Brownies I’d make a Brownies promise to you all. Just when I thought I had this one figured out, no more oxy, the insidious drug calls out, “Wait for me!” (“ Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.”) I have to wait and see. If this fucking cough is what I have to look forward to all winter, it’ll be…long time no see, Mr. Codone!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Ghost Map

I’ve been low. Really low. Wish I were dead now. But wishing isn’t doing, and I know I’m not there yet. As a doctor is wont to ask if you say you no longer have any interest in living, they counter with the question, “Do you have a plan?” I’ve received this line from two docs, so it must be part of their Official Training. I’m not sure if it’s meant to throw you or for them to do a quick and dirty evaluation as they check out your response.

No, I don’t have a plan.

It’s really not important why I feel this way. But I’ll tell you a few anyway. I feel like a burden. I think chemicals are doing me wrong. I am finally grokking that I’m not going to feel much better than I do now. I still require tons of sleep- because I’m ill? Because sleep provides me with a means of escape? Getting up earlier than I do (feeling chipper and bouncy) necessitates a complete personality shift. I’ve never been chipper and bouncy though on occasion I might have appear as such. I promise you, it was only an illusion. Well, maybe not all of it. But after being slammed by a two by four (ARDS and its aftermath), I think that part is gone for good. Or it’s twisted into something I don’t yet recognize. The twisting part I get.

My friend Audge recommended to me The Ghost Map- the telling of a real-life story of two men and their search for the source of a cholera epidemic in 1854 London. She knows me all too well. Of course I was into it. She warned me, the author can get a bit redundant but he writes so beautifully, he can be forgiven. I forgive.

He prefaces the book with a passage from Walter Benjamin from Theses on the Philosophy of History. I was clueless as to who he was and found out he was a twentieth century German-Jewish intellectual, philosopher, translator…Ugh. He and his sister were literally steps ahead of the Nazis. They had obtained travel visas to cross the border into Spain which they did with the intention of heading to Portugal and from there, the United States. Bless Franco who cancelled all transit visas, and Benjamin was to be sent back to France. He killed himself in 1940, with an overdose of morphine, before the Franco regime could make good on its promise. |

Shit. I swear I didn’t know about his suicide until I just read up on the guy. And what a guy. What a mind. I was going to check him out, because I fell in love with his concept used almost word for word by Laurie Anderson in her song, “The Dream Before” dedicated to him right under the song title: “For Walter Benjamin. ” I just never noticed the credit before. Laurie certainly placed it front and center. Impossible to miss. But too long ago for me to simply Google the name and find out who the hell he was. The song is off her 1989 album Strange Angels. (Utterly, completely wonderful.) Here is Laurie’s pithy version but carefully using the same words as Mr. Benjamin:

What is history? 

History is an angel being blown backwards into the future 

History is a pile of debris 

And the angel wants to go back and fix things 

To repair the things that have been broken 

But there is a storm blowing from Paradise 

And the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards into the future 

And this storm, this storm is called Progress

When I bought the album, this passage moved me with such force that I tried to pass on my excitement and awe to friends I thought might feel it too. I was beyond passionate about it. Benjamin’s/Laurie’s words still do it for me. And to find it as the preface to The Ghost Map was as unexpected and so read with power as if I had never seen it before the very day Audge left the book for me.

I guess the fact that I so wanted to share the passage with you means there's life in the old girl yet. Fuck, l'm not ready to call it a day. Who knew?

Bravo Walter Benjamin!

Brava Laurie!

Brava Audrey!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Maggot Brain

I’ve been feeling really low. Oxy makes me constipated, which makes me nauseated, which makes me not eat a damn thing. The oxy may also be helping out with the nausea as narcotics are wont to do. The killer: the oxy not only helped ease my back (or head or neck) pain, it also me more relaxed. More gregarious. Happier. It gave me a quality of life when before I had none. What to do? I freely admit to all my doctors and therapists that a measly five milligrams of the drug changes my life for the better one thousand fold. Except for the nausea.

My oncologist has sent me an email with this whole mess of over-the-counter remedies for constipation. He wants me to take the oxy. No caregiver wishes to deprive me of the oxy. I will take it again but with massive amounts of trepidation. And make sure I have every goddamned constipation remedy on hand. Stuff to be taken at night, will be taken at night. Morning drugs, in the morning. Stuff to mix in liquid will go directly into Gatorade. (I find everything goes down just peachy with a glass of Gatorade. Original, naturellement.)

I’m not ready to begin the bowel clinic this evening. Tonight, It’s weed toast. I prefer rye myself. I’ve just ingested it. It is remarkable how it instantly dissolves nausea with one toke. (No tokes ever again for me with one quarter lung capacity!) The toast takes a bit longer to work but when it hits, it hits hard. (Good) No nausea tonight, but I’ve been feeling that life isn’t worth living and this should help me brush that thought out of my mind. I know it worked beautifully with the nausea- better than any legal anti-nausea drugs. Did it clear up all the nastiness? I don’t remember. That means it either worked perfectly, or it doesn’t and the rest just doesn’t matter anymore. So. I may spend the rest of my days stoned off my gourd. Hell, my short-term memory has turned to shit post ARDS, what the hell’s the difference? I just will no longer care and still remain smiling.

I finally received Maggot Brain from Amazon today. (Along with Let It Bleed to get SuperSaver Shipping. I’ve never been nuts about Let It Bleed, and I’ve been a stubborn cunt about getting the thing on cd. I have it on vinyl. Okay in a little more than a year I’ll be fifty. I think I’ve proved my point that I care less about this album than the others from their period of greatness. Gimme Sticky Fingers and Beggar’s Banquet any day. I can now have “You Got the Silver,” which I have always loved. And Susan Tedeschi does a terrific cover of it on Hope and Desire.)

The title track to Maggot Brain is one of the most beautiful pieces of electric guitar I’ve ever heard. I have now listened to the entire album, about four times in a row. There will probably be a fifth. There’s no bullshit. The album was released in 1972. One of the songs on it is “Whole Lot of BS.” Led Zeppelin II came out in 1969 with the smash “Whole Lotta Love.” Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think it’s hysterical. This is great music, and it’s intelligent. (Imagine that!) Funkadelic doesn’t ask you to buy into the whole rock star nonsense. Because it’s crap. And those later incarnations of Funkadelic, Parliament, and P-Funk with their wild space-age costumes...they're funny. Over my little head, foolish girl that I was. They were smarter than we were. It’s parody, but it works straight, too. Fucking brilliant. If I were only so smart way back when. But I’d still be locked in this apartment waiting for kingdom come. Now wouldn’t I?

(Scene: guitar is crying as Maggot Brain plays in the ears of the disabled, stoned gimp.)

P.S. I have used the "c" word to describe only myself. It makes reference to no other women in the universe even though some may actually deserve this designation. And I will never use it again except when I believe it describes me perfectly. Certainly the word is offensive, but it's what tripped off the fingers and what I've learned post-ARDS, follow the fingers. They know more than I do. Bottom line: women, you are all safe from me.

I asked Chip if he could think of any alternatives to the "c" word I liked as well, and none felt quite right. I figure, what's really obscene about this post is that I haven't felt there's any reason to go on living. Not my use of the "c" word.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

I had my first real, honest-to-god freak-out when I was twelve. The date was August 6, 1974. It had to be a weekend day, because Dad drove the lot of us to the Mid-Island Nathan’s for dinner. (I guess Long Island had at least one thing going for it. One of those ginormous Nathan’s that offered everything you could imagine. You know, pre pre-fab franchises: corn on the cob, lobster rolls, shrimp rolls, pizza, “Ipswich” clams and god knows what else. I always got the same thing. Hamburger pickles and grilled onions. With ketchup of course. And those fantastic crinkle cut French fries.

I wasn’t feeling well at all that day and as we are now well aware, queasy doesn’t sit well with me. I was the Queen of Car Sickness. It was especially acute driving home from Grandma’s on the Belt Parkway. My brothers haul-assed to opposite end of the back seat- squished together as tightly as possible. (Actually, they made me sit in the middle seat for the most part, so they must have suction on their fingertips so they could glue themselves to the backseat windows to leave as much space between me and them when I said the magic word “…mommy….” Battle stations men, immediately! I was the equivalent of a canister of mustard gas or at the very least a land mine. One false move and you’re toast.

Now being my little precocious self, I knew that the United States dropped atomic weapons on Japan completely destroying two cities to end World War II. August 6 is the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing when “Little Boy” was dropped on the unsuspecting city. (I suppose that was the point. I think the possibility of dropping the bomb on Mount Fuji was discussed to give the Japanese an opportunity to capitulate before the destruction of cities and the death of thousand upon thousand civilians. But what if the bomb dropped on Mount Fuji didn’t work? What then? Wouldn’t the Japanese be more determined than ever to continue the war daring us to invade? We didn’t want that. Get those boys home.)

That queasy afternoon, I flip on the TV in the middle of a program commemorating the Hiroshima bombing. I tuned in just in time to watch color footage of a man kicking at rubble that moments before had been a living, breathing city. The voiceover was testimony from survivors of what they saw. Arms and legs. Heads. And a whole lot of nothingness that once before was a living, breathing city. Just like the New York City where I wanted to be so badly I could taste it.

So you twit of a precocious kid, this is what you were talking about when so blithely referred to the atomic bomb in class. (How we got there in sixth grade is a mystery to me, but somehow we did. For a nanosecond. And I was Miss Smartypants.) On August 6, 1974, I flipped out. This was my first face-to-face with my mortality and the possibility that I could be vaporized at any moment. The ground was no longer steady. There was no longer any damned thing I could think of to hold on to. Not when we’re “on the eve of destruction.”* In a nanosecond. There was no longer anything I could call a sure thing.

I remained queasy through dinner at me beloved Nathan’s. Later at home, someone turned on a movie I have since learned was a British film called The Angry Silence from 1960 starring Richard Attenborough as a factory worker who refuses to participate in a wildcat strike. All I remember from it from that day was that Attenborough, for being his own man, and his were threatened with violence if he didn’t comply and join his fellow workers (some of whom were already bullied into taking part).

But the only actual scene I recall in appalling detail is Attenborough looking frantically all over crummy post-war London for his little boy who has gone missing. He finally finds him in what seems to be a disgusting public toilet, perhaps only a privy. The child is sitting on the seat. His legs, from his feet to the top of his short pants, were covered in tar. I was petrified. Could things like this actually happen? (My, my did I live a privileged existence.) That a mob of angry men can resort to tarring a little boy’s legs? For what?

Still nauseated (or by now, well beyond queasy), I headed off to bed. The next day I experienced my first panic attack. Three whole days it lasted. I could not stop shaking, How could I when every plane I heard overhead was carrying the bomb that was coming to incinerate us?

Sure I remember friends’ families having fallout shelters in their basements. And those ridiculous air raid drills in school where sticking your head under a desk or lining up on our knees in the hallway, hands over our heads was going to protect us from Armageddon. I think we all recognized their stupidity at the time. (I seem to remember lots of giggling during air raid drills. How could we not? And if we tykes knew that diving under the desks wasn’t going to save us from nuclear incineration or from just plain old run-of-the-mill bombs, can you imagine what any adult in his or her right mind thought? Were these people crazy? Okay, fire drills made sense. Air raid drills were so insane it’s a wonder how the teachers’ could keep a straight face while trying to force us to behave.

My mother was very gentle with me during those three awful days. Without using the term M.A.D., she explained the concept to me. I got it. I lived through my panic attack and now could continue living knowing that the United States and the Soviet Union could destroy the world any times over. And what the hell would I do about it anyway?

(Irony of ironies. Three days after August 6 was the bombing of Nagasaki. Thank goodness it hadn’t occurred to me it was now the ninth of August. And thank goodness I didn’t stumble on a television program commemorating Nagasaki dead. If I had, I think my poor mother would have had to send me to a rubber room at some hospital. And I bet the food there was beyond bad. Not worth flipping out if it only leads you to really bad eats.

Postscript to all of the above. One night senior year of high school, I hung out at my buddy Martha’s house till about five in the morning. All we did was chat and watch old movies. The first one we saw was really creepy. Black Narcissus. Trust me, it’s creepy as hell. Maybe not in the middle of the day, but in the middle of the night, it scared the crap out of me. We then start watching a Richard Attenborough movie about a factory worker…holy shit…Martha…There it was, it was as depressing and as frightening as I remembered it. But no, we watched them back–to-back, tough chicks that we were. As I slowly moved my ass to go, a moth the width of my head has flattened itself smack in the middle on the outside of the screen door I was to walk through moments later to get to the car. We both screamed. I guess we disturbed Mothra and while it was pondering its next move, I got my ass out of there as fast as I could, into the car, out to Port Washington Blvd., and headed home. I’m here to tell you, if any of you had any question, I escaped without injury and I lived.

*I had never heard “Eve of Destruction” during elementary school when we were good doobies and did our air raid drills albeit while giggling.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Cats Stay Indoors. Period.

You don’t participate on Facebook, no cookies for you. I owe responses to an awful lot of people. (Maybe not so many, but even a few are a daunting prospect.)

The (sort of) big news: I received an email yesterday from a literary agent whose name was given to me by a high school friend of Chip’s but is slowly (and magically?) becoming one of mine. No deep and meaningful conversations have arisen unless you consider a tête-à-tête about the fact that Debra Winger no longer looks like Debra Winger deep and meaningful. String enough of these chats together and something happens. (Or it doesn’t as the case may be.) I think something is, and it was she who gave me the name of a good friend who is a literary agent. I can now say that I have my very first response to my query letter for Since When. She’d (the agent) like to talk to me over the phone. I’m not getting my hopes up, but I could sure use good advice and I have a hunch she will be happy to supply me with that. We just have to wait and see. But having a friend in the making is really nice. It feels awfully good. Thank you!

I am on more of an even keel today. Hormones on the wane? Perhaps. Or maybe my big crash of the day is yet to come. Oh goody. That and the finale of America’s Next Top Model.

I’m reading what seems to be the book of the moment (or was the book of the moment), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It was a gift. All my gifts are books, because besides listening to music, reading is pretty much all I can do. I’m enjoying the book. I don’t read much fiction, but this one’s intelligent and so far has kept me interested. Works for me. But I just hit a snag. The mutilation of animals. (Which had been discussed as a very Bad Thing earlier in the book. As we all know, children who hurt or kill animals will do much much worse once all grown up.) The nice red cat had been left at the door completely and utterly mutilated. I did not sign up for that.

A few years ago, before the Hodgkin’s Disease, before the ARDS, I cracked up. (“I don’t think it’s funny no more. Cracking up.”) Popped the cork. Walked the plank. Crapped in my shorts. Spat up the popcorn. Guys, I went nuts. Really blotto. And the stuff that set me off without fail were atrocities committed to children or animals. One of my little mini-sessions with the psychopharmacologist instantly digressed into an uncontrollable bout of sobbing babbling about the frozen cows in a Montana blizzard. And did I forget the drowning of kittens? (Brought to you in oh-so-graphic detail by the aptly named Judy Blunt in a book called Breaking Clean. Her discovery that she cannot, would not live as a Montana cattle rancher’s wife.) Fuck, I don’t blame her. There is no romance about life on the ranch. It is brutal and ugly and back- and spirit-breaking. Yes, it is a powerful book. But too powerful for me.

I stopped reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay after they shot their dog, For the hell of it. That’s it. Game over. No, I can no longer watch the Shackleton footage of his ship iced in and crushed in the seas surrounded Antarctica. To survive, he and his crewmen killed their beloved dogs one by one. Shackleton was a decent man, and he didn’t do this without a heavy heart. Every human made it out alive. But the dogs…That’s why I’m never going to Antarctica, and my cats will always stay indoors. They’re very happy here in the apartment. They are relaxed. They feel safe. They don’t need any more romping room. And they’ve both been fixed so there’s no issue of kittens to drown. (Good god.)

Hey, I can see adults drawn and quartered. Murdered. Mutilated. Tortured on the rack. (In movies, TV, and books of course.) Civil War battles. No problem. The aftermath of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Not so much. Actually, no fucking way. Seen more than enough of that. Beyond horrible. But don’t make me read about tortured pets who didn’t ask to be put on this earth. Or on a voyage to Antarctica. And don’t make me look at that little girl screaming, her clothes ripped off because she was hit with napalm. You get the idea.

I hate people.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Old Brown Water, Keep on Rollin'...

I didn’t expect I’d be writing so soon, but I need to. (Even if I fuck up my neck doing so.) Today began like any other day. For forty-five minutes or so, the hot water chose to exit the faucets brown. Calling downstairs, no one else had yet complained of the problem. As magically brown water appeared, magically it disappeared.

The need for clean hot water usually is something less than an emergency. This was too, but I often can’t tell the difference anymore between a real emergency and a not-so-real emergency. (I still have a vague fear of the shower.) Well today, I had to shower before Rachel the fine (and I have learned though it never crossed my mind she wasn’t) extremely kind masseuse arrived. Time was a wasting as my faucets gushed brown. I’ve become increasingly aware that when I get tense, my whole head tightens up. Obviously, this has become particularly problematic when I have a screwed-up painful neck and head. (Limited range of motion blah, blah, blah…) Yes, I am well aware that this “head” problem is quite different from the one that requires oodles of psychotropics for me to maintain a semblance of emotional stability.

So I got tense. I took an oxycodone. It helped both head and screwed-up back a bit. My fine masseuse arrives and is horrified to see my upper thighs covered with very ugly bruises. She is more horrified that they were caused by the splendid deep-tissue work from the prior week’s massage. She gets upset. She’s not supposed to do that. I said, “Yeah, I know, first do no harm." I’m not concerned about the bruises. I must have a high tolerance for pain and for whatever reason, my legs have always been tight. No, I have beautifully stretched muscles. I stretch like a maniac. I have to. With one quarter lung capacity, there isn’t a whole lot else I can do. This is not a stretching issue. It’s a fascia issue. Massage opens fascia releasing pent up emotions, stress and makes a person just feel plain better.

My massage therapist says she won’t go into the tissue as deeply as she did last week. This really rattled me. I was soooo relaxed last week and my body just let her in. This was not Nazi massage. So I turned a little purple. I know how tight I am , and there is no painless way around opening me up. I know it. I expect it. I accept it.

I feel guilty that I made my poor masseuse think she was Dr. Frankenstein or worse, Dr. Mengele. Guilt makes me tense. Where did I have a real hard time letting go? My goddamned head that’s where. And Chip, angel that he is, started to make a cheesecake while I was getting worked on. He forgot that the first part of the recipe requires use of the blender. Oops. I’m feeling guilty, trying to relax while knowing I have upset my masseuse for taking the damned pain, and the blender is blending in the next room. Not a surprise, this was not my best session.

After the session, I tried to explain to her why I didn’t give a shit whether my whole body was one big bruise. No, I didn’t burst out sobbing though it would have been very helpful if I had. But I did go a step past weepy. I’ve been weepy a lot. I can do weepy on the turn of a dime. My problem is that I haven’t ever been able to get past weepy. Not in three and a half years. I spoke to my masseuse, and this is what came out:

I don’t care about the bruising or the pain. I’ve had so much taken from me that I refuse to give up anymore. Back pain, neck pain, bruising. Who the fuck cares? I’m locked up (figuratively) in my apartment. I’ve lost the life I loved. I just want what has become crapass chronic pain to disappear. You add that to my inability to breathe, I don’t have much left. So if I have to walk on hot coals to make this extraneous shit go away, I have no problem with it. Don’t you see? Don’t you understand?

At this point, I’ve gone past weepy. My fine masseuse tells me she happened to work on the area (somewhere in or near my gut?) that is tied to emotions. She finally gave me a reason bruising is no good. Bruising can lead to scar tissue which she must later break through to get back to where we were prior to the bruising, That’s logical. This makes perfect sense. I can wrap myself around that. I don’t want bruising, because it may very well be making me less able to rid myself of my chronic pain.

That’s where we left it. I feel low. The oxycodone has long worn off. My fucking back hurts. Looking to the right is a no-no. (If nothing else, the left feels better than the right. Sometimes we need to grasp on to tiny things, because that’s all there are. Pick a mote. Any mote.) I had to write this down. Perhaps, I’ll feel better, Better enough to walk my three laps in the hallway gasping for breath. Oh yay. Isn’t life grand?

P.S. Yeah, I was right. My neck feels worse after typing out this post. Let’s just hope I feel better. (Can’t get no worse.)

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Brother the Texan

Hello sweet ones. Another Monday and another antsy day. (It doesn’t help that I took my klonopin an hour and a half later than I should have. Word to the wise: Never be late taking your tranquilizer. This is not helpful behavior.) I think crazy raging hormones are making it much more difficult to breathe. There is actually a logical medical reason that this might be so. But I swear to this fucking god, I stub my toe, it’s more difficult to breathe. The cat looks at me funny and again, breathing is more labored. (Okay, those last two are completely untrue, but they might as well be. I have no clue why I feel different from one day to the next. Yes, it sucks.)

Since I never leave our lovely apartment, (no, I’m not being sarcastic; it’s very nice here.) Thanksgiving has to be here. But no one has the energy or the inclination to put the damned thing together. So I suggested ordering in Indian food. Years and years ago, we went to Mitali West for Thanksgiving, They gave us, on the house, a turkey curry. We were the only ones there. Having Indian again was my suggestion. It’s horrible depressing to order in all the shit that your mother and grandmother made and receive for an exorbitant amount of money not Thanksgiving dinner, but an incredible simulation. Forget everyone’s Thanksgiving favorites and instead we’ll stuff ourselves with bhujia, garlic naan, tandoori mixed grills out the wazoo, malai murgh tikka, biryani and whatever the hell else suits our fancy. I think this will be a major success. Hey, I have nothing to celebrate. For me, the scales have still not tilted to life. Because my life stinks. Even with the greatest husband in the world. And a pretty damned good mother and brother.

Today I received a call from my brother Eric. This is my brother in Texas. From whom I’m estranged. I picked up the phone by accident. (Could have knocked me over with a feather…) “Hi.” “Hi.” “How are you?” “I’m shitty. I’m always shitty.” (Which is true.) Then I just started talking about Ulysses S. Grant. (I just finished a revisionist bio after reading his memoirs. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.) Unlike a friend of mine back in high school who always found someone to pine over in whatever band we were listening to no matter what. She never said, “You know what? I like the tunes, but these guys are really vile.” No she always found someone. Yes, I had my rock and roll loves, but they really were few and far between. I’ve found as I age, the fall-in-love-with-the-unattainable gene has been turned on. And it’s powerful. Historical figures make me hot. (Even though they're quite dead.) They make me sweat. Right now, I love, love, love Ulysses S. Grant. And no, I’m not in love, because they’re sexy. No. And I’m not in love with him, because he was the greatest general of the nineteenth century. (Though that’s more than enough to seal the deal.) He was just a great guy. (All the scuttlebutt regarding Grant is a load of bullshit.) If Lincoln had lived, between the two of them, this country would be a radically different place. They both would have forced the South to let the freedmen vote. (And a shameless supreme court began gutting Grant’s laws for true equality and for the next quarter century culminating with Plessy vs. Ferguson (separate but equal.)) Wild fact: the last fair election until 1968 was 1872. So when anyone says the civil war ended 155 years ago. Laugh in his or her face and inform the person of the latter.

I love Ulysses S. Grant.

And I will always have a soft spot for Charles II. (He loved women. Not just fucking them either though he loved that too. He loved their company, their conversation. He loved their minds. Though pulchritudinous wasn’t a deal breaker...) He was, most important, a perfect mensch to take the throne after the death of Cromwell. Charles II wasn’t out for blood, retribution, and civil war. He got the people behind him and had a productive, peaceful reign. Long overdue. Cromwell and his dudes beheaded his father, Charles I; Charles II had what to be angry about. But he looked beyond personal vendettas and did his job awfully well. (He’ll always be my honey.)

What does this have to do with anything? I suppose that if the passions of Franny are evidence of nerdlyness. (Which I think I might be accused of if someone had the guts to say to me, “Yo, back in high school, you were one fucking nerd. And reading this nonsense, you still are.”) But though I haven’t heard it, I’m sure if I had any label at all (the other being, “Huh? Who?), that was it. I love that this stuff turns me the fuck on. It lights me up like a Christmas tree, and I’m just a measly Jew. And anything that can brighten my day, gimme. Nerd my ass.

My friend Audrey dropped off a book she really enjoyed called The Ghost Map a non-fiction book about a cholera epidemic that hits London mid-nineteenth century. It’s wonderful. I called Audge up to tell how much I loved her for knowing me inside and out and how she knew that this book would make me happy.

Today started off really lousy. I felt under the weather. Chip was working his ass off. I missed him. And I was struggling to exercise and couldn’t breathe. I get a call from my brother who in so many ways I don’t recognize anymore, but I knew he’d be just as excited as I was about President Grant. This is what my life with my brother had always been. He was usually (he’s eight and a half years older) the one getting me excited about something cool- like astronomy. We had a kids’ book (The Big Book of Stars) that gave thumbnails of the big names: Copernicus, Newton, Tycho, Kepler among other cool stuff…Who introduced me to the book? And here I was waxing poetic about Grant. This was soooo comfortable. So right. Can we get passed the last twenty years of weirdness? Good God he was my best friend from day one. My first word was his name- not mama or dada.

(My brother Doug is totally digging the Grant stuff. The cholera epidemic, not so much.)

And yes, it was I who stole the soft-covered book Pioneer Germ Fighters in fifth or sixth grade. Because, I knew. I knew. That no one would ever love that book more than I. It needed my love, and I gave it. I don’t know how many times I read the damned thing. But I betcha that book would have sat gathering dust if I hadn’t taken it. I didn’t do much taking of what wasn’t mine, but this book needed me. And I needed it.

Eric will be in January 8. I’ll see him.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"I bet you can squeal like a pig. Weeeeeeee!"

Vain thing that I am, I used the magical, dry spray shampoo my hair stylist, the adorable Aisha gave to me. Anyone remember Psssssst? The commercial glued itself to my brain:

“It’s not a dry shampoo. Oh no. It’s not a wet shampoo. Oh no. Clairol freshens your hair instantly with P-s-s-s-s-s-s-t.”

The above was sung to a seriously lame jingle. It did do exactly what Clairol said it would if after spraying, you never touched your hair ever until ready for a real washing. Because if you do, watch out. Your hair ends up greasier and more hideous that it was before you sprayed. The product is still available. I thought it went out long ago in the seventies. Apparently not. I suppose there are people out there with more self-control than I (you now know I have none whatsoever) and maintained their lovely Psssssst hair for the day.

Well now, there exists a product that makes no bones about it. It is a dry shampoo. Just like Psssssst. (Or if you’d like me to be technical about it, they both spray out of a can.) The difference is, this new shit really works. (I had a panic this morning, after a carefully executed shpritz, that I breathed some of it in. I believed that I did this, because it’s yet another terrible thing that can go wrong. My Life’s Motto since my initial illness: “If it can get any worse, it will.”

Breathing in these toxic fumes will naturally have ruined my lungs even further, which of course would make it even more difficult to breathe than the normal gasping for breath. Who knew that some silly hair product could trigger PTSD? A car’s backfire, the whir of helicopter blades, being kidnapped, blindfolded and dropped in some unknown desert…that I can understand. Those things should trigger PTSD. And now we find that this new shit that actually works (unlike Psssssst) making your hair look and feel clean even when it isn’t triggers PTSD In me. How ‘bout that? I may have a cool diagnosis, but I feel as lame as Arlo Guthrie trying to explain to real felons on the Group W bench that he was arrested for littering.

But I’m here today to talk about my inability to let go (verbally) during massage. I've taught myself how to relax even when it's killer painful, but I won't ever make a peep. Silly girl. 
I'm afraid I have so much locked up inside that one day I'm going to blow. 
I even tried an on the spot exercise that I thought was just so damned clever. I asked my masseuse "permission" to let go. The poor girl was so befuddled by my question. I just told her, “Amuse me, just go with me on this.” She did. She gave me permission, and I explained to the still confused young woman (with hands of steel) that this acting exercise was in fact giving MYSELF permission to scream like a banshee. Sounded like a good idea, but it didn't work. Not last week. Oh, and I know I need it bad. This may take some serious work. What’s the expression? “You’re too clever by half.” Yup. That’s me.

My man Rich, to whom I confided this dilemma on Facebook, was quite amused by the idea of my being a Submissive. (Asking permission to go zoo on the massage table and such.) Perhaps I need to move further in that direction.

If Franny doesn’t behave and squeal like a pig…they’ll be more pain forthwith. (The goofy thing is that deep tissue massage is more often than not excruciatingly painful, so that threat won’t do shit.)

But the “squeal like a pig” (yes, which I did use deliberatively to bring us all back to the first (and for me) last time I saw Deliverance. Those words, “Squeal like a pig” may frighten me more than anything in this entire world. I have put together an early 1970s playlist that includes everything I can think of: Deodato’s Thus Spake Zaruthustra, Billy Preston’s Space Race, Kenny Rogers and the New Edition’s Something’s Burning, and even the treacly United We Stand sung by Brotherhood of Man whoever the fuck they were. But I cannot bring myself to include the formerly ubiquitous Dueling Banjos on that playlist. If I were never hear it again that would be too soon.

I think I’ll continue my quiet ways on the table. She, Rachel my fine masseuse, has the capacity bring me to my knees, but she’ll not hear a peep from me. Let’s say…I’m a work in progress.

Or maybe playing Dueling Banjos on repeat during the massage? If that doesn’t get a rise out of me…ohgodno! It’s more likely to clam me up forever. Forget it.

P.S. I thought I would have, at the very least, a mess of angry comments for writing about Deliverance for a second time. Once was too much. This time I expected an angry mob outside my building with tall flaming torches and pitchforks forcing their way in come to rip me to pieces. (Not that I don't deserve it....)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Where the Hell is Bobbie Gentry?

Today I have provided beginning students of physics a perfect example Of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. For every force, there is an equal and opposite force. Really simply put, there is no net gain or loss in the universe. There are mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies that are equal and opposite.

Yesterday, I had a lovely visit with a friend I haven’t seen for a long time. It was good. It was easy. I didn’t feel like I had to pretend to play host. We just were. And that’s a very cool thing. I encourage you all to do the same. You’ll thank me for it, and you’ll rest easier to boot.

This was all great until after several hours of honest-to-god energy and genuine enthusiasm flagged like a car on empty. Then, I have to try real hard to maintain some verve (I like thinking I have verve. Yummy word, that one. Verve. I’ve never had any need to use it in the past and that’s what popped up when I thought about how mine just withered away.)

Dudes. This is three and a half years since I took ill. Is this all that I’m ever to expect? Today (back to physics 101), I pressed the PTSD button.
Everything fucking thing frightened me. This is extremely annoying and horribly unproductive. The stretching and shit I do every goddamned day to maintain a normal looking body was one hundred times harder than it usually is. (FYI, my other choices, if I don’t try and stay fit, are becoming a super-fat load who is unable to get up from the couch or the other, camp survivor chic chica. I don’t like either of them.) Wasn’t that Peggy Lee? Is that all there is? But at least she could keep dancing.

All the love from Saturday turned to fear on Sunday. My inability to get a hold of myself made it so much more difficult to breathe. I finally asked Chip, after I’d spent the entire morning in bed feeling queasy, if I could I put my head in his lap and conk out. Bless him, he said yes honey. An hour and a half later, now awake (but shaky). He had taped Sixty Minutes which he knows usually absorbs my attention. (But not as much as Real Sports. That show fucking rules.) We watched. It helped.

So I thought I’d whine about it to you. And don’t you get all high and mighty about Sir Isaac. Hey, all my love on Saturday turned 180 degrees on Sunday. The universe is behaving as it should. No space-time continuum problems here. My feeling especially rotten today proves it. Physics 101.

Let’s talk about cutting. I saw a week or so ago that Secretary was being aired on one of the 10,000 HBO channels. I never saw it when it came out, and a friend I love whose tastes very often dovetail with mine, liked and recommended it. In it, Maggie Gyllenhaal is an unhappy young woman whose means of comforting herself is by making cuts in her skin (Or painful burns on it.) Either choice, same goal, relief. No, this isn’t a preamble to suicide, because I grok that. I know that. Suicide is something else entirely. Cutting is to provide relief from the otherwise unrelievable. Suicide is just cutting loose.

So as I looked at the many Band-Aids on Maggie’s legs, I found a kindred spirit. No, I didn’t cut. Nor did it ever occur to me. Even it had, I don’t think I could ever achieve the sense of relief, because I think that cutting is way to out of control for me. Maggie should have been a surgeon. I not.

But I could scratch off every scab, bump, mosquito bite, as well as anything else I’m forgetting. And make them bleed. This provided me with that very same relief. I also chewed my cuticles like crazy. If there was a piece of skin to pull, I pulled it. Sure, the first part didn’t hurt. (It was already no longer a living part of my body.) But what it pulled with it was quite alive. Just regular old flesh doing it’s quiet flesh job. I tore it. And boys and girls? It bled. Of course it did, my pets. And in the strange minds of people who have nowhere to turn, this was comfort. This was control. I controlled my pain. Not somebody else who had power over me. (Usually teachers, occasionally fellow classmates in the Port Washington Union Free School District.)

Now, we cutters, pickers, bleeders are ashamed of ourselves. And god forbid anyone see the evidence of your work. Here it was, bright and bold- youaresopatheticlookattheshityouhavetoresorttogethroughtheday. When other girls were “cute as a button,” I was so damned ashamed. Of myself. That I had no power to stop doing It. That no one would ever love me if they knew how sick I was. That It actually made me feel better. Oh, this is all wrapped up in shame. Not so easy to have be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I needed to make myself bleed to cope. What am I, some monster? Shameful.

For me, the most pivotol scene in Secretary which made me teary is when James Spader showed his cards. He knew what she did, and he didn’t judge her for it. He says to her, to paraphrase, “Lee, you are to never, ever to cut yourself again.” After that, she then goes to a bridge (the Tallahatchie? Sorry, couldn’t resist) and throws her neat box of sharp instruments into the river. (Like when I finally figured out that the critical scene in Gone With the Wind is when Scarlett makes it back to Tara and finds her mother dead. It is at that moment, when there no longer Mommy’s arms to run into, Scarlett begins to become the tough, unlikeable Scarlett many of us love to watch over and over again.)

Believe it or not, through my bout with hell, I’ve been able to control my urge to comfort myself with controlled pain. Maggie, as narrator says “Each cut, each scar, each burn, a different mood or time. I told him what the first one was, told him where the second one came from. I remembered them all. And for the first time in my life I felt beautiful.” I got there too. No more shame. Even with my crapass life.

By the way, Jill Sobule has a great song on her latest album, “Where is Bobbie Gentry?” It’s denouement:

Yeah I was the baby

Thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Postscript: D- It really was a horror suffering from a desire for self mutilation and having no way to stop it. I was so ashamed of it; I couldn't talk ever talk to anyone about it even though my mother was well aware of the problem. But she was stymied as to what to do about it. How do you tell a kid to take control of something that was uncontrollable? That requires that this problem be a logical one. (Like using the Gaussian Number System to solve the square root of negative one, remember? On our math field trip in tenth grade?)

My little problem came from some place in my person to which I had no access, let alone Mom. (No fucking way.)

One of the most mortifying moments of mine was when a high school (Paul D. Schreiber High School of the Port Washington Union Free School District) friend of Eric's asked what were all those spots on Franny? Now this was elementary school Franny. Covered with every damned place I had picked at it, especially then, when I really had absolutely no will power to stop it. I was crushed. (Eric, thanks for sharing.)

The older I became, the more intelligent I became in "hiding the evidence." I assumed, like Lee in Secretary, no one would ever find me beautiful after seeing my shockingly mutilated body.

Oops. As you get older, you learn things. If young, eager college guys are going to get some, they don't give a shit about a scar here and there. (And by then, those horrific bloody spots had long healed any faded into history.) And if a boy loves you, you're beautiful. Period.

But yeah, when I'm stressed, I find something to pick at. And I no longer feel the need to draw blood. I'm content to remove an ingrown hair. Now that's what I call progress.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Another day, another post. Confirm that one of the common side effects of oxycodone is nausea. How great is that? I love to feel nauseated. I drool just thinking about it. Fuck it I’m taking the shit. Anyway. I drool even more for debilitating back pain, so I think we have a perfect match, don’t you?

The only time I ever despaired was the first chemo Saturday when the miracle anti-nausea drugs didn’t work. I received the chemo the day prior and appeared to handle it so well, Chip decided to spend Saturday moving the Boy into his new apartment. By the time Chip had come home, I think I had managed to drag myself up from the floor where I had lain prostrate for hours asking anybody, anywhere I could think of to make it stop. I even left a message for the oncologist on call who had the brilliant suggestion of taking more of the miracle pills that had previously been useless. Those remained useless. Uselessness on top of uselessness if very stupid. Perhaps he thought if I could distract myself from my misery, it could somehow help. Please.

In my arsenal of drugs, there was nothing to make it stop. Nothing to make it even an iota better. Trust me, there is nothing worse in your life than experiencing nausea that shows no signs of looking for a new gut to torment while it’s happy and comfy in yours. Try that in Guantanamo. (The hell of hells in the hell of hells. Nice.) It’s not like stomach flu. You get sick. You drink ginger ale. Mom’s very nice to you. You get off from school, and it’s all right. (That is I think it’s not too bad…)

This was nausea as I’ve never seen before or since. It neither worsened nor improved. And who’s to know when it would ease? It had too sometime, right? Will I have to go through this every treatment? (Good god.) I wanted to hang myself if that were so. (I wanted to hang myself without waiting for Round 2.) I was in tears when Chip made it home. I begged him never, ever to leave me on chemo weekends. He wouldn’t. He didn’t. He must have been freaked by agonizing nausea neither of us were led to expect. The Boy (bless his heart) found me weed fast. I can tell you that while it doesn’t solve the entire nausea problem, it made a magical difference and worked from toke one. Hey, I really never needed a toke two. I coughed like a mad woman. Who knew I was in the embryonic stages of viral pneumonia that helped make me the person I am today. (Somehow, I feel I should commission a monument for that bout of pneumonia. It needs to be real big and in very poor taste.)

The nausea started to dissipate sometime on Monday.

This oxycodone nausea, while annoying, is kid’s stuff.

Saw the ENT yesterday. The left ear is still no good. I have new antibiotic drops which should fix the “Problem” whatever it might be. It’s been about a month since the fever and ear infection and the heavy-duty antibiotics. Why do my ears still hurt? My hearing has gotten worse over the past week. What’s that about? After a recent shower, I touched my left eardrum extremely gently with a Q-Tip. Searing pain went from my ear to points all about my head. That’s just not right. My ENT said I must have scratched it, because there was a blood clot in the ear. But when I pulled that goddamned Q-Tip out, there was a bit of dried blood on it not fresh. The dude knows the drill. And he sure doesn’t want the blame of killing me off laid on him I can tell you. And he’s a very nice man. I’ll do as he asks.

I changed my profile picture today. I got my first haircut in over a year. My truly talented and sweetie pie of a hair stylist came over on Sunday. She kicked ass yet again. I absolutely Love my gray hair. (It really looks good.) It’s too bad it doesn’t show up in the picture. So I look great, and I’m ready to conquer the world. All right, well I can walk the long hallway outside the apartment. With copious oxygen, mind you.) I’m very proud. My profile picture now includes my ever-present accessory: the cannula and the tubing that accompanies it.

What the fuck is the point of all this?

P.S. Mazel Tov Bob! I imagine you still have a job. FYI, Fatboy has now become an integral part of a brand new playlist. I call the playlist “Newish.” It certainly is for me. The hip and initiated can have a good laugh at my expense. I’m only happy to help.