Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Friend Clifford Schwartz

Why do so many horrible things have to happen? Things that are just plain wrong? This morning, Chip got a phone call. My incredible friend Cliff Schwartz was dead.

Cliff had been treated for pharyngeal cancer. (Who's ever heard of that? But I suppose you can have cancer of anything. Pick your body part, pick your poison.) Cliff's treatment was sheer torture. He was petrified. Who wouldn't be? The cancer grew, pressing on his optic nerve blinding him. He lost his sense of taste. His mouth was so full of sores, he could only down Pediasure.

After this chemotherapy torture, the doctors found that instead of getting smaller, the tumor actually grew. Cliff called me in tears. Sobbing. My poor sweetheart. His only hope was if the doctors would be able to zap it with radiation without hitting things that can't be zapped. Or I imagine, he would, God forbid, die. but that won't happen, right?

I sent Cliff two books that a friend sent to me when I got my first diagnosis: Haiku's for Jews: For You, a Little Wisdom and The Big Book of New American Humor. I loved them both. (The haikus kill.) When I sent them, I didn't realize Cliff was blind. But the haiku's were perfect. They could be read to him. He told me they were great (they are) and that he just loved them.

Cliff said it reminded him of a card he bought for me a long time ago. I knew exactly what he was talking about. On the front is a drawing of a woman you just know is Jewish. Jewish from another era- long, long ago. She looks like a young Yiddishe Mama. She has a smile on her face, and she looks like she's about to feed you something tasty. On the inside it read (Cliff and I never forgot what it said thirty years after he gave it to me):

Roses are red
Violets are bluish
Here's a valentine
From somebody Jewish

Don't you love it?

Taking pinpoint measurements, the docs found out they could give Cliff radiation treatments! The radiation quickly shrunk that damned tumor. Cliff was beginning to see again. He finally could taste the Pediasure the only thing for months and months that went down without incident or pain. He was shocked. He discovered that it was completely disgusting- sickeningly sweet. His sores were healing. When I last spoke to him, the radiation treatment was completed. He made it. And now he's dead.

He was so frightened by this disease. I hated hearing him cry. Cliff's not supposed to cry. Anyone who would hurt Cliff and make him cry? I'd kill them. That is something no one is allowed to do. Make me cry. That's okay. But never Cliff.

Oh, I didn't tell you. Cliff was brilliant. frighteningly smart. He learned fast that he was also an oddball, and oddballs often don't fit in corporate America. After a few attempts working at various companies, he gave up on it. Instead he created these silly little websites (Cliff did not have great design sense) that worked for his little clients, like a local eye doctor. He went back home to Monticello and helped his brother Steve run the music store he founded and
loves. www.stevesmusiccenter.com

Cliff put together Steve's site, and also worked in the store. He was happy.

I loved when Cliff introduced me to the AIA Guide, and we wandered all over Manhattan looking at all the cool stuff you never notice. On 14th street, just off 5th or 6th Avenue on the south side of the street, Cliff pointed out the old faded "Macy's" on the facade of a tall (for it's day) skinny building when 14th Street was a shopping Mecca. I think the "Macy's" has been so slathered with so much paint it's invisible today. Or who knows, maybe the building's been torn down. But Cliff showed it to me.

Cliff and his brother took me and Chip to the the Yasgur's farm of Woodstock fame. It is remarkable natural amphitheater, but it's so much smaller than you can imagine. And that pool of water where people washed? A nasty, polluted stream- nothing more. Cliff said it was vile then, and it's vile now. "Ugh!" he said.

And now Cliff is gone.

It's just not right.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Creature Salon

I had a very strange sensation today. I've been emailing back and forth with Bob. (Yes, there really is a Bob. No god. But there is Bob.) I was apologizing for opening my trap about things and people I don't know a damned thing about. I was afraid I'd been hurtful which is the last thing I want to be. I've always taken as a given that I'm a nice guy. You see Bob is a nice guy. Bob is a good guy. They should all be so good! Kinahora!

I'm not so sure I'm the person I always thought I was. No, that's not right either. I was that person while living as Fran no.1. I was nice. And empathetic. And loving. But after surviving beri beri, all the spigots opened... (No, not as I described in a post where each and every orifice of my body spewed out every last bit of everything that normally comes out each and every orifice of my body just little bits at a time as opposed to all at once.)

Yes the emotional spigots opened as Fran no. 2 emerged as The Creature from the Chrysalis! "Run, run for your lives! It's the The Creature, mad as a fucking hatter! Now! Before it's too late!" (In my head I see Godzilla trashing some Japanese town with the populace screaming at the top of their collective lungs trying to outrun the monster. Or giant Barbra Streisand robot/T-rex destroying everything in her path in South Park. Until they figure out the only thing that will stop her. A duet with Neil Diamond. Done. The world is once again safe from Babs.) Hiya, everybody! I'm here!

Or better yet, when I lost all restraint and started writing about orifices, vomit, and how I love maps. In no particular order. This part of Fran no.2, aka The Creature from the Chrysalis, I like a lot. There is nothing holding me back, oh boy. But I don't think I'm nice anymore. This, I don't like so much. I just spew without much thought as to the harm it can do. That's why this blog is never about my dealings with others (except my family- they're tough- they can take it) with people. I don't have any desire to hurt anyone.

I may have done exactly that. That bites. Very politely I've been told I have strong opinions. I guess I do. When I was younger I was always afraid to voice them and didn't have much of an opportunity as the wee one in a family of fairly interesting conversationalists. (See yesterday's qvetch.)

I don't want my excessive freedom to turn me into an asshole. I was hoping it would make me more charming since I have so many scintillating bon mots to share with humanity. The Creature Salon. I can dig it. If only it were so. Wouldn't it be a total drag to finally be able express yourself and find that you're a total bore?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!

I am annoyed. Rather I'm aggravated. I guess I had a successful session with my kickass P.T. She hurt me a great deal. Hurting is the point. Hurting is good. I'm so damned used to it. I believe that the more pain, the more likely my back will heal. Even though I'm strong and am surprisingly limber given the circumstances (said she, my outrageously wonderful P.T.)- you know, surviving that nasty bout of dengue fever.

I an attempt to heal my back, I am now forcing myself to walk up and down the length of the fourth floor (I live on the fourth floor) three times. I'm gasping at the end of each lap, but I really think there's no way for my back to heal without walking every goddamned day. It hurts. Not only does it hurt, but you never get used to the gasping. They're like dancing partners: pain and gasping for air. And gasping for air is always frightening. Trust me, it's not something you get used to.

Everything that's good for me hurts. That pisses me off. And I can't just walk. I have to steel myself to do it. I have to exercise daily. Yeah, I've been doing that for eons. And it's miserable. But clearly whatever I've been doing isn't enough, or it's the wrong stuff to fix my chronically painful back. Why is my body so fucked up? Because I can't use it like a normal person would. Once again, by the end of last week I was in excruciating pain. Yay.

Okay, I can't breathe, I can't move without fear of pain, and I have crapass hearing. What's next? I think I've been more than a little patient.

I'm sitting here annoyed that we put Mad Men on at 10. We tape the damned thing. I thought the purpose was to put it on later, so we can zip (or is it zap?) through the commercials. I want to do all my brand new exercises. I hadn't want to write this now. I wanted to do it when I actually had something to say besides complain. This is dreary. This is drek.

I didn't care about the Emmy's. I don't watch anything- except sports. Sports relaxes me. Some golf, some baseball, hockey when the season starts. Ummm. This is all good medicine.

On Sunday evening the two New York members of my family come over. My poor Mom is also having a hard time hearing, and the pity is that hers is likely permanent. She struggles when she has difficulty trying to figure out what's going on. I understand better how disorienting this can be for her. I'll try to be extra patient. Oh so hard.

I never find these evenings relaxing. someone takes control of the television set. Television just doesn't relax me. Maybe it did once upon a time, but ever since I began working and living with Chip, silence has become absolutely gorgeous. I also like that I was able to have a real conversation if I felt like it. Not squeezing words during commercial breaks.

This just sets me on edge. I hate it. I hate the silences between the commercials, because we're not saying anything to each other. Just waiting for the show to start again. I'm not watching tonight. Mad Men is taped. I'll get to it when I want to. My life is on edge. I don't need to push myself any closer to it. I'm tense as hell.

I'm even having trouble reading. Not that Grant's Memoirs is a walk in the park, but I'm really enjoying it. (Even though he hasn't and probably won't talk about his drinking problem.) I wonder. There must be a good biography. That would be fun.

I don't like people taking over my house. My interests are not relevant. Fuck, I'm not having guests. It's my goddamned family who's supposed to be trying to cheer me up. Or so I thought. I don't get it. I don't understand. No, I'm not sitting here smiling, an open book ready to be read and enjoyed. Once I could be enjoyable. But not now. Never now. I think the problem is that my desires naturally assumed to be the same as theirs.

That's what it was like growing up the youngest (by six years). I watched what everyone else watched. I don't remember when my desires were ever an issue. (In this particular realm only. I don't mean to suggest that I was ill treated in any way. No! No! No! I was raised by very nice people and had two dynamite brothers.) But I was expected to follow along in a whole mess of ways. Including "how to fill an evening." I wasn't consulted. Even as an afterthought. That's why I have respect "issues" and a need to be "heard." Still so damned neurotic. Sometimes I would just like to make myself grow up and join society.

But I can't now. I'm only able to stay afloat. I guess it's time for my day at the races. Man, I just want to sleep, but no sleep for you chica. C'mon, girls! Work those buns! Trim that fat!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Am I the only one shocked and mortified by this? The number of people who marry high school classmates? Or worse, Junior High School classmates?. Oh, not the obvious (and sooo adorable) high school sweethearts. No, people who hadn't been the least bit close thirty years ago. They had to seek each other out. Ew, yuck. Now, I'm the worst person in the world to comment on this. Being such a serious outsider, I didn't know dong about anything in high school. Maybe these couples were couples back then. Who knows? Back then who knew shit? "I (was) only an egg." I sure as hell wasn't ready to choose my mate. I just wanted to mate.

Perhaps entwined people were better equipped to make such life-altering choices. Or maybe it was just easier than looking for someone new and give up the comfortable and familiar. Hey, comfort and familiar is all well and good, but if that's the best you can say about the love of your life, that's pretty pathetic.

And horror of horrors, these people might have actually liked Port Washington and Paul D. Schreiber High School of The Port Washington Union Free School District. I spent every day for least three years waiting for those precious words, "Houston, we have lift off."

Ten, yes ten, of my classmates were headed off to Penn. Some of whom seemed to be very lovely people: Amy, Carol, Carlo, Karen...I'm sure they're more I've forgotten, so please forgive me for my involuntary exclusion. (sub rosa) "She's a little slow." My brain was scrambled by the ebola that ruined my lungs. Perhaps the eight-week medically-induced coma fucked up my brain. Or the shitloads of medication the doctors needed to keep me in that coma. (I proved difficult to make and keep me comatose, so I've heard.)

During Freshman week, a former Schreiberite found me and said that we're all to get together the next day in who remember who's room at whatever time. I thought to myself. Like I'm going to hang with (some) people I never liked in the first place and the rest were virtual strangers. I liked the people on my hall. We were already a crew. I couldn't see a purpose for this get together. I came here (to Philadelphia) to meet new people and forget that I was ever a student at Paul D. Schreiber High School of The Port Washington Union Free School District.

I didn't go. Are you kidding. I never even thought about it. Not once. This was a total no-brainer. Well, you could've knocked me over with a feather with this one. I bumped into one of the nice ones or she, I think, sought me out. to let me know that I was the only one who didn't show up. Whoa! Say What? I sure as hell didn't see that one coming. I must have been born missing some sort of homing gene. Why would they do such a thing?

Penn held a pre-freshman year party with classmates from Long Island's North Shore. The party was held at some extremely wealthy person's home associated with Penn. Maybe the family had a kid starting freshman year. I recall that the pool was gargantuan. The party was filled with, you guessed it, the type of people I'd been looking to escape. I got home went into my bedroom and cried my eyes out.

I needn't have worried. I felt like the normal human being I was the second I snagged a laundry cart to drag my crap to my room. Thank the lord, the world is not Paul D. Schreiber High School of The Port Washington Union Free School District. Got tsu danken.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Hey y'all, don't be horrified. You too would often feel it's not worth living with my disease. (That's not accurate. The tapeworm has been removed, and I'm only dealing with its after effects: ruined lungs). I'm telling you, you can't just hook up to oxygen and feel like your old self again. You have only so many alveoli left to process oxygen and that can't get any better. You don't regenerate alveoli. But you can only destroy the few you have left. Hence my choice to stay indoors and protect myself as best I can from being exposed to ordinary, dull upper respiratory nonsense. That, darlings, can do me in.

Beyond that, I know not why I always feel shitty. (I can guess, my body has to work so fucking hard to get oxygen in my bloodstream, it plumb tuckers me out. I need to nap every afternoon even though I don't rise until after noon. I'm a slug.)

I think I'm perfectly entitled to ponder suicide. (Thrusting out my lower lip. Eric (my brother) called it My "bulldog" expression.) Even try out a cut or two on for size. Okay, chill, I didn't like it. It hurts too much. (Hey, I despise when technicians have to take blood from my fingers. I whimper inside like a friggin' baby.)

Take my arm, please. (Psst, fewer nerve endings, a lot less pain.) I hate pain, and I have no desire to create more pain for my self. (Oh goody, let's slam my finger in a door and see what that feels like.) As I've said, I'm no idiot and I'm not a glutton for pain. There is a reason why M.A.S.H. included the vignette "Suicide is painless." (Then why even cut when you knew it was going to hurt, numnutz?)

Bob hasn't read yesterday's post. I almost thought I ought to to say something, but I think my doing so would have turned the natural flow of conversation to a grinding halt. I much prefer natural flow of conversations. Grinding things to a halt has never been one of my favorite things to do. But if I had, I could've shown him my scars. Next time. Show and tell.

I'm deaf again. I pop and get high pitched squeals occasionally during morning ablutions.When I hear the squeal, I think of "Deliverance." This illness gig has never reminded me of Mary Poppins or even Stand and Deliver. I can stand, but there's isn't a chance in hell I can deliver.

To be crystal clear, I would be much more likely to wash up dead after canoe rafting in the middle of nowhere or raped by inbred rednecks telling me to squeal like a pig. See, I already have the squeal. down. (Let's just say, never, in my entire life, do I wish to see that movie again.)

I have been "Since When-ing" for hours. I have no idea how many. It's always this way. My eyes are just laser beams on that damned computer screen. I don't move until I look up and see it's 2 a.m. I seem to have a little more self control today. (It's only 11:30.) but I still have to work out. Crap.

But I have made actual progress. Perhaps a little redundancy, but that's much easier to fix than trying to find an omission. (Finding what doesn't exist seems to be one of the activities that would be on the board in Hell's Club Med.) And this baby (Since When) is larger than Fudgie the Whale. You try finding anything in there. And what really shits, is that it's Since When, not Carvel. (sigh.) An ice cream cake book. You get another one if you don't finish it the first go round. Maybe a Cookiepuss?

Bob, please forgive todays inarticulousness. The pork buns were magnifique. Thank you!

I was on the deaf side today, and I don't think I was getting out too many words per breath. This is especially annoying when I'm trying to make a point. as I attempted to do this afternoon. I don't think I was very convincing. I kept getting stuck on sweeping generalizations that I only used to make a point. I didn't succeed. Not in the least. (About how Since When is evolving. And it is!)

When I'm on the deaf side, I feel like a complete idiot. And that's not entirely inappropriate. sonofabitch. Knee raises, here I come.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hide the Knives!

What gives? I think there's really something wrong when I wake up, do my ablutions and all I want to do is go back to sleep.

"Up in the morning and off to bed. Hoping that maybe I'll wake up dead. Staying awake ain't got no class. I just wanna lay on my ass...king of the king of the king of the bed..." David Lindley got it right. (See Twango Bango II )

An aside: Damn, on KGSR Austin 2001 Best Songs poll, at 103 is, I can't believe it, is King of the Bed. Have to check this out. I'm shocked that this song appeared on anybody's list. (But, I do love it so. David, you're my hero; greasy hair, polyester, those white shoes, and all else that make you so physically repellent. They just add to the mystery. I love you.)

Speaking of waking up dead, I saw on my girlfriend's blog, my poor sweetheart who is such terrible pain, her honey gone, has said she often sees her life stopping without Jerry. But she says overtly that she's not talking about suicide.

I always thought everybody thought about suicide. I can't think of a time when it hadn't crossed my mind. And often. So what? Big fucking deal. (No, wait. Must have started after we moved to the suburbs. That's what to kill yourself over. No one in his right mind will fault you for it. At the stupid memorial you told everyone you didn't ever want to have: "Oh, it was because of that move to Port Washington." "Oh, of course!"

Suzanne's husband felt like that his whole life too. (But he never had those glorious years in Flushing Queens where suicide did not, could not exist. Both Chip and Suzanne had never thought about suicide. Not even once. (Chip likely thought about homicide. He's such a misanthrope.) Those two were on such an even keel. Suzanne's husband feels certain that our lunacy stems directly from all our barbarian (Hungarian) genes. I wouldn't argue. Especially after learning all about my unpleasantly dysfunctional ancestors during my Since When research. I think it may be comforting to know that you're descended from crazy people. (Not the loony aunt locked up in the attic. Talk to Charlotte Bronte about that.) We just had your everyday, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety dysfunctionality.

I'm not feeling suicidal these days though I did more often than not after recovering from the ear mites and ring worm. A person cut in two is not a happy person. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Like the beautiful, "You know my friend told me that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her." I'll trade you one cancer for all the ignorance and mishegoss I can carry. Yes, I know more about myself, I'm able to write whatever the fuck I please and not care if it's good, bad or dull. (Though, I would be bummed if I were dull.)

I like having lots of people read my drek. I feel like a flasher who just leaves his raincoat his open all the time. During this post-trauma period, I cut myself once just to see what it feels like. I really did. Guys, cutting veins hurts. I learned that I sure as hell don't want to die by adding pain on top of the pain I already have. Good to know. FYI, I knew I had an awful lot more cutting to do if I were trying to off myself for real. And if you choose it's time to go, you don't go when your husband is literally in the next room and checks in on you regularly. That's plain stupid. But I scared the shit out of my sweetheart. He was afraid that I'd get locked up in the rubber room. He wasn't into that.

I just did teeny little test trial. I wasn't looking for a way to kill myself at that moment. I wanted to see what the cutting is like. Cutting sucks. Royally. I despised the cutting. (That's a good thing.) But I did think it was cool watching blood spurt. It was certainly preferable to the cutting that preceded it.

Look, it's a lot more pleasant than the Exorcist-worthy projectile vomit I had post chemo near the corner of 77th and 3rd. (I was shocked at strength of propulsion. This was new to me.) Thank God my girlfriend, the doctor, had accompanied me while I my body was loaded up on poison. Man, when I became ill on the street, did she go into calm mode. She's really good. No, she was amazingly good. And she got me home in one piece. (Audge, you are simply, the best. In every way.)

What I have always found funny is that, by the time I reached an age when I could hold back the vomit until after my father pulled off to the side of the road, I try not to "make a mess." as began to feel worse and worse as Audge and I headed for the subway, I looked over at the curb, found a place between two cars to throw up, because God forbid I leave my mark in front of a person's driver's seat. How awful would it be if the person stepped in it while just getting into his car? I felt much better placing my mess where I did, and I didn't leave a spec on either car to my right or left.

I got home and as I stood in the living room, I noticed I was peeing in my pants. "Oh God, Audge, I'm peeing in my pants!" (I had no physical control whatsoever. As if there was no way to stop urine flow. Strangest sensation. My brain had no control over any of my bodily functions.) So, I run to the bathroom but first, I move the bathroom rug to the non-Fran half of the room. God forbid I should soil it. (C'mon, that's ridiculous!) I'm far from being a neat freak. Actually, I'm the exact opposite. I just don't think it nice to leave my precious bodily fluids for someone else to clean up.

Mind you, the chemo drugs aren't supposed to start making you feel ill until about four hours after getting them. I think this bizarre reaction (the doctor had never seen it before in all his thirty years) was the beginning of the end of Fran 1. From that weirdness at 77th and 3rd, who could know?

Monday, August 23, 2010


Hello my people! I am writing to you today from the right-hand side of the couch eagerly waiting for the moist, boiling-hot heating pad to which I've grown accustomed. (Bob, FYI, this has no connection with you whatsoever. I freely admit I wrote to you "I've grown accustomed to your face." But I would not, did not write or even imply "I've grown accustomed to your boiling-hot heating pad with whom I've established a close and personal and dangerous relationship." I think that would be inappropriate, don't you? Not to worry, I'm all over this one. You noticed the heating pad has graduated to a "whom." We're also now on a first name basis.)

And yes, you lovely reader people, there actually is a Bob. (Bob, please don't let this admission flip you out or anything.) By the way, in reference to yesterday's post, Bob might very well be a real intellectual but Bob, if you find this discomfiting, I think I'm safe describing you as a Renaissance Man. Just accept it, okay?) Oh the pain, damn that moist boiling-hot heating pad, you're so horribly good.

My friend Rich today turned me on to a site when he learned that I dig maps. (No maps in particular. Battlefield maps are good. Insets of any kind are good. The Hagstrom New York City street map kicks serious ass. One of my favorite birthday presents of all time was The Times Atlas of the Second World War. Seriously awesome. You can't believe how often I reference it. And I can actually follow my Dad's trail as he wended his way to Germany ) The site is: http://bigthink.com/blogs/strange-maps There is one particular map on this site that is making me wild. (No I haven't had time to explore the rest of the site, but it looks especially tasty. But have I got a good one for you!)

The map of wonder is "US States Renamed for Countries with Similar GDPs." How can that not be great? Washington State is now Turkey. Maine is Morocco. New York is Brazil. New Jersey is Russia. (New Jersey?) Texas is Canada. New Mexico is Hungary. (Does that mean that the citizens of New Mexico find Roma Orchestras, drink Bull's Blood and cry and name their children after their favorite Hun? I think that would be a good thing. It'll bring out the barbarian in all of us. He (or she) needs an airing out every now and again.) Is this not fantubulous or what?

Since When keeps changing. Lord can I say it without vomiting? Deepening. I think I'm starting to understand what it's about which is a damned good thing since I wrote the fucker. My old friend thinks this- writing a book (remember, I didn't know I was writing it until it was just kind of there.)- is a bigger deal than reading the Iliad in ancient Greek which she is reading because most everything else is too fucking easy to do. Maybe. Especially if I figure out what the thing's about. (My god, I can't tell you how incredible it feels to have her back. It really is inexplicable.)

All right, I actually understand her reasoning for reading the Iliad in ancient Greek. I am physically unable to read pap. I can't focus on it. I can't derive pleasure from it. Hey I pretty much stopped reading for pleasure while I slaved at G and R. I had no energy for anything that I would enjoy. It pissed me the hell off that I had gotten halfway through The Brothers Karamazov right before I was hired. Have job, no more reading. So the first book I pick up after surviving the mange or whatever it was I had and was yet again able to read. (This time it was physical. I think it took me more than a year to be able to focus. I couldn't even read newspapers I was so fucked up.) The first book I pick up? The Brothers Karamazov. (Big surprise.) I read it. I liked it, and I was really happy I finished it after twenty-five years give or take.

My back is being boiled once more. My therapist is on her way. One last item. Bob, it's too late. You have become one of my characters of my Blog. I apologize profusely. It just happened when I wasn't looking.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fuck You! I am so NOT an Intellectual!

I am an imposter. I always wanted to be the real deal, but I figured out pretty early that am I just a person who occasionally appears that way. What way? Like I'm a real intellectual. I do absolutely nothing to promote this canard. It's just knowing some stuff can easily be mistaken for "intellectualism"- the queen of New York traits. You could be a flaming asshole, (sub rosa), "But he's an intellectual." (Again, sub rosa), "Ohhhhh." The intellectual wins all in the New York game of craps. At a party, a zillion dollars are all fine and dandy, the intellectual will come out on top, hands down.

I have very recently made contact with an old friend of mine. We were very close, and I find it exciting that we still are. Better said, what we enjoyed about each other way back when still holds. Now I always knew, she was the real deal. Today, my darling girl is reading the Iliad in ancient Greek for the hell of it. It's like I.F. Stone. I remember reading who knows where that when he died he was learning ancient Greek. I'm not saying ancient Greek is the dividing line between the haves and the ones who don't quite have as much as they'd like, but I sure as hell believe it's one of them. One big, fat dividing line.

Now there are many of you who are thinking, yo woman, why do you think you have to explain this? We've known you're no intellectual for umpteen years. Baby, it's long overdue. Get real. Okay, okay. I just don't want any misunderstandings.

Now in life, the person with the zillion dollars rules all, but we here in the City (that I love and adore) profess to be above crassness. (Though we drool over a buck better than anybody.) We value the mind, you see. Yeah, hey honey what's the date for the next meeting of the Salon?Please.

But I did recently play dumb for the "help" of a friend. I am only an infant in the ways of publishing. (I don't mean that it's ruthless and ugly. I already assumed. That's what I was willingly walking into: a den of agents and publishers. "Ooooh, scary!" Fuck, if I had a choice, I'd take the lions. They can only toy with me so far before I become a bloody carcass and impervious to pain as I would be blissfully dead.) I knew I needed help writing the very specific pieces that agents and publishing want. (And these schmucks are exacting. Incorrect margins (I mean 1/4" off), in the trash. Forget to indent the each paragraph, in the trash. People like this can't be pleasant to hang out with.

I imagine he thought he was being helpful. But according to genius school friend (who once upon a time thought I was worth hanging out with- at school and here in NYC.), my synopses were unintelligible crap. and with each iteration, it maybe was a iota better than the one prior. He said he needed to go through it with me line by line. Ew, ick. But he was always too busy to take time with me.

I fucking didn't need a line by line critique. (Screw you and your holier than though belief in the importance of writing!) I just needed to know if he had any advice as to what agents and publishers looked for in these pieces. This info would be of great value to me. but I sure wasn't going to agree to a line by line critique when I knew damned well I wrote a good piece. I sent him a very sweet note thanking him for all his help, but he had given me more than enough help already. Then, thrown my way was his connection to a publishing house. "Well, I was going to help you..." (Well, dofus, why don't you still help? What's stopping you?)

This was so ugly, and I'm one hundred percent responsible. I had chosen to demean myself. (For the all mighty Writing Bling.) To be purely pragmatic and play right along like an idiot, "oooh, help me, pretty please!", but I'd had enough. How could a perfectly nice person become such a creep? I never understand this. If the table were turned, I'd say, "I'm sorry I've been so busy. Don't quit on me and I promise we'll make a date to go over all this crap." I'm toast. We'll see, I may give him another shot to be a mensch. (On the phone he didn't sound like the creep I've just made him out to be. Just a wee bit patronizing?) On email, fuhgeddaboutit. I'm such a softy...you know I will.

I want to get the record straight once and for all. I wish I could be an intellectual. I know I can sometime appear to pose as intellectual. But I'm not. I'm just a regular, old smart person. And I also would like the zillion dollars. It would be especially helpful right now. Daily massages. PT ("oh the pain, oh the children" the Horta mind meld, remember?) on demand.

I feel a lot better having said this. Phew!

I rewrote the coda to Since When today, because after writing this thing in spurts over a decade, I'm finally figuring out what the things about. And what it tells me. I've heard forever authors who claim the book wrote itself; they had no idea where it was going. I was as dubious as hell. A bit fey, perhaps?

This wasn't quite like that. The social studies report thesis of the thing was determined a long time ago. My feelings about what I dug up and my feelings being a lump of flesh on the goddamned couch are a whole other story. This is the cool part. This shit makes it lose any of its original "history report" trappings. (Actually, it really started as a collection of stories. I've discovered I like to write stories.) The book keeps evolving. All by it's little old self. Hot damn. Who would have thought...? But I slog on.

But we all agree, not an "intellectual," but not a complete idiot either. I can live with this.

Friday, August 20, 2010

San Francisky

The good news. I have been taking my five-day course of steroids which is supposed reduce the inflammation in my eustachian tubes, so I don't feel like I'm living like I'm suspended in a liquid while everyone else gets to live on dry land. I was told it might take weeks to show their full effect, but I'm pleased with the partial effect. Now I'm just stuffed, less hard of hearing than before. Bottom line, I feel less like Sid Dithers than I have in months: "San Francisky!? So how did you came, did you drove or did you flew?"

I freely admit, if I have to abandon Sid Dithers (still useful and sharp as a tack in his dotage) for ears that actually work, I'd do it in a heartbeat. (So sorry Sid.) Remember, with hearing, I don't lose all. (Do I ever let you all forget? Oy.) Not by a long shot. With my cornucopia of ailments I can still feel tzcruchen and quevtch to whomever will listen anytime I want. Or I can qvetch to the ether. It doesn't matter.

But I can say I have crawled out of the water like some primordial amphibian, and I have joined a good chunk of humanity on dry land. Unfortunately not in San Francisky. I'd like to go back to San Francisky. (Isn't San Francisky a great city?)

I have an awful story to share and a lesson I must learn. Way back in the days when my big brother were kids, Eric's salamander went missing. The salamander was found weeks later dessicated under a door. A reminder for me, don't get cocky. I'm not yet ready for dry land on a full-time basis. Reluctantly, I will have to leave you all and go back into the murk 'til my next appearance. This is just the way it has to be. Amphibious I am. And amphibious I will be.

Can't ask for everything, now can we? Don't be a glutton. Well, I can ask, I just won't get the answer I'd like to hear. (Psst. If so, then best not to ask. Much less disappointing. Do I take my own advice? Nu?) No I'm still the Buddha on the couch. I know I can only ask for small favors and expect results.

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Since last week, The Bon Vivant has been closed. I mean, metal awning down, chains and locks. Fin. No signs saying "Back from vacation September 1!" or the dreaded "We thank our customers for the many years of support." There isn't even a work permit pasted on the metal awning indicating there's a new tenant remaking the space.

The world is completely off its axis when it's no longer easy to find a coffee shop in New York City. Not a Starbucks. (Run by alien replicants who will take over the world by 2016.) A real New York coffee shop. Where will I get my gyro platter, extra tzatziki, please or their amazing hamburgers that kept me going when I was getting chemotherapy? This is Bizarro world, and I loathe living in it.

Had PT. Fabulously painful. Scheduling another hour for next week. Will be very disappointed if there is less pain. (Tamar The Amazing wouldn't like it if I described her sessions as such. She is extraordinary. Her skills and her instincts are second to none. And she doesn't try to nail you. She always asks if you're okay. Does this hurt to much? I alone tell her to go for it. I can't wait 'til next time.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I hate going out. Because I'm confronted everywhere with people walking going about their business. I'm an angry and a very sad and angry little bugger at the best of times. And at the worst of times. Last year, it took me a while to figure out why people in my building were telling me I was looking better. "No, really, you do!" Finally I got it.

They were responding to the beginnings of the "steroid moonface." You know, that extraterrestrial, frightening spherical face a person gets when taking copious amounts of steroids. Except I never took nearly steroids enough to get to the evil moonface stage (not yet anyway), but round enough for people to think I looked better. (No more planes in my face. God, do I love those planes.) Ouch. "No you really do look better!" "Funny, nothing has changed one iota." "I don't know there's something..." Just stop right there. Stop.

Returning from Monday's hearing test, I was once again prescribed another six-day course of steroids. though this was the first time I ever had any prescribed by the ENT. Maybe I should make a game out of this. See if I can get every single goddamned doctor to prescribe me steroids. Sure, let's include the dentist. The psychopharmacologist. Oh! And the gynecologist too for good measure. Then we'll see what's what! (heh?)

It's just like the license plate game you'd play on long road trips. How many states can you find? Once upon a time, oil companies, via their gas stations, had cute promos for the kids. My favorite Disney record came from Gulf. All original performances. Go figure.

Another promo from Gulf (I swear it was Gulf) was a map of the U.S.; each state with its own perfect rectangle, inside it or beside it, in the proportions of a license plate. And included in the packet were stickers of the license plates for every state of the union. (Back when license plates were the same exact colors for decade upon decade.) The point of all this was when you saw that state's license plate, you'd paste in the appropriate sticker. This goes back long enough that these were stickers you had to lick. No peel and place invented yet. (Whoever thought of that...)

I loved maps. (I still do.) I thought this game (brought to you by Gulf) extremely cool. Poor little Franny. She wasn't able to control herself. I couldn't wait for car trip upon car trip to fill up that all too tempting map. I had to play with my map now. So, one afternoon, I pasted the entire United States, all 50 fucking states, each with its own corresponding license plate. It was so much fun. But when I came up for air, I realized the game was done. Over. See you next promo! Bye for now!

I was so bummed by this. (I really was.) I still get excited when I see plates from places far away. But it just bugs the hell out of me that I can't paste one fat sticker indicating that this momentous sighting actually happened. (But, to help make up for my youthful foolishness, I'm really turned on by the fact that the old New York State plates are coming back- you know, with the orange and blue. I am so happy.)

I swear, I'm just like our little cat. We can buy more goofy, fancy, sparkly toys, but she's not interested. But if you ball up a piece of paper, she's ready to have fun. And she'll sometimes even play fetch with you if she's in the mood. It doesn't take much. That's why I have no idea where Diane was coming from when she said she bet I was high maintenance. License plate viewing is pretty low maintenance. And if we flip between baseball and golf all weekend. Sounds right to me. Hockey all winter. Lots of fun, but masochistic. Let's go Rangers! Oy. Where does the high maintenance come in? I'm just as curmudgeonly as Chip. I don't make him do anything he doesn't want to do. And (not my fault), he says he doesn't mind being my nursemaid. Shit. He's good.

Good news, I have very little aural nerve damage. That's very good. My deafness is caused by swollen and stuffed up eustachian tubing. Never good, but not untreatable. If the steroids reduce the swelling, I will hear again. (No, I'm not totally deaf and how much so differs from day to day.) If they don't, do I get a stent? Do we just let me be? I don't know. All I know is the that damned M.E.L.T. lady makes me cry. And I don't like that one bit. I will confess all to my wonderful chiropractor this afternoon when I get adjusted and return to her my M.E.L.T. Kit. If I do that, do I receive absolution?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pay the Piper

People! You're not behaving! You aren't reading! (Yes, I know if I don't attract readers, it's my own damned fault. You can blame the readers, but it would be just plain wrong. I am just plain wrong.)

I just got back from the ENT today (Monday). For the past four months or so, my hearing has become worse and worse. In some ways, it's nice. I feel like I'm in a cocoon when I should feel like I'm in the midst of a din. But that's a really off-kilter glass half full view of life, isn't it?

I have said before that rather have been an adolescent, I'd have preferred to be a pupa. Perhaps these two are related- cocooning literally and figuratively all at once. This is the joyful part of the glass half empty. (Didn't think that the glass half full and the glass half empty would ever be one and the same thing? I can work miracles.)

Here's the lousy part. When I'm not kidding myself, I know full well that human beings can never be pupae and that the species doesn't cocoon, no matter how hard I try to persuade them to do it.

"C'mon people! Just try it. Just this once. It'll be like being wrapped in nice soft blankets. We like blankets, don't we?"

Don't you think the world would appreciate a break from humanity? Okay, if I get real about the cocooning crap, then what about hibernation? At least that's mammalian. No, we don't do that either. What do we do? Nothing much helpful, I suppose. No breaks for me. Or for you (This is the shitty part of the glass half full.)

I don't much like it when I feel a sense is slowly being taken away from me. When I can't hear what people say to me, I get concerned. The less I have, the less I'm able to deal with the outside world. Look, my keyboard has already become a fifth appendage. The fewer senses I have, the more dependent I am on that keyboard. And the goddamned Mailbox.

Just when I think it's safe to go back in the water, I get hit with a nasty wave I never saw coming. I have noticed that I try and often succeed at avoiding stuff that screws my head up. This sounds like a very wise thing to do. It's not. Not when it's done Fran no. 2 style. Most of this screwy shit is completely irrational- like when I become afraid of the shower. I don't mean being afraid I'll slip and fall in the shower. No, no, no. Not as logical as being afraid of the monster under the bed. (Why, oh why, did I have to remind myself of him?) More like being afraid of the comfy chair next to the couch. (Good news! I have not yet sunk so low to be afraid of the comfy chair next to the couch.)

The chiropractor lent me a packet of little rubber balls that make up the M.E.L.T. method of rehydrating connective tissue plus the DVD on how to use them on hands and feet. I have to return these to the wonderful Laurie on Wednesday, so I knew I had to get my ass in gear and check this shit out. (I'll have had it in my possession for two weeks for chrissakes.) This is manageable, right? Lord no. I watched a few minutes of it and went into shutdown mode. Why? I think I can do most of the stuff shown in this DVD. But, our M.E.L.T. founder is standing most (if not all of the time). That, I cannot do. (Franny makes like a frightened armadillo.)

And it kills me. It's like stabbing me through the heart. I can't stand for any length of time without my back becoming arrestingly painful or if I can stand, I can't do it for long because it's too damned difficult for my lungs to do. I cried inside then. I cry inside now.

Now we all know (including me) that I'm positive that Madame M.E.L.T. has a way of doing these exercises sitting down. And they might help make my back feel better. But they'll never allow me to breath better. All I can do is use the oxygen that I'm able to get in used most efficiently. But, guys, we're talking inches here. My lungs are what they are, and there is no treatment for them. Nothing. Nada. Perish the thought. I know perfectly well why I was avoiding that DVD. I knew there'd be some lovely ultra fit lady asking me to do simple things that I can't do. When it's shoved in front of my face A Clockwork Orange-style, I crumble and fall.

(And can you believe it? I get paid for this gig.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pathos or Bathos with Your Coffee?

I often wonder, who in the world is reading all these posts. I don't like the name Posts. It tells the reader nothing except that the damned thing is on line. Very exciting. These are definitely not musings either. I think musings require some emotional distance, and I have none at all.

It wouldn't cross my mind to write about any topic from which I have emotional distance. If any of you think these dull, I can only imagine what you'd think of something I'm holding at arms length. Unless it's really obviously neurotic with lots of pathos (or bathos, which has it's own charms).

For "posts," neurotic is good. My neuroses might even work best when I'm unaware of them, but you all have me figured out. ("Tsk, tsk. How pathetic is she? Gimme more!") That's right, I can make the whole world sing in perfect harmony, fuck the Coca Cola, (they're doing all right...plastered all over the American Idol set like they own the joint). By being more neurotic, more pathetic, less self aware, more obtuse, I make everybody feel better about themselves. That's it!

I am so pleased with myself. (It takes so little...) This reminds of a Dave Berg cartoon where a car salesman is working over this Dad who brought his kid with him to the showroom. The salesman rattles off all the bells and whistles this car has that no other car on the market comes close to. "Ooh Dad, get it!" The kid is running around the car drooling. "Get it, Dad, get it!" The Dad seems to be softening. He's getting into it. Finally, smiling, looking relaxed, Dad breaks into a big grin, "Yeah, I'll take it." (The kid and salesman are both ecstatic.) Dad continues, "Then I can be the guy on the whole block with the car with more gadgets and stuff (pause) that need repairs."

That's me! I'm that car!

C'mon now! Be honest. That's the beauty of people like me. Everyone who reads this is thinking, "Phew! I'm glad I don't have that disease." No, I don't mean to be cruel, and I know that once again, I have made a gross generalization here. Some must be chomping on my words with more than a pinch of schadenfreude.

Oh, nice people, I don't have anything to quibble about with you. I like that I have may found my purpose in Fran no. 2. If my very existence makes people feel better, because, "...at least I'm not her..." I've succeeded. I have this vision in my head of two youngish (anywhere from 30 to 50) Manhattan women chatting over cosmos with thick New York accents. when they're not drinking cosmos, they're chewing gum. "Don't worry. It's sugahless (chew, chew) and at least I'm not huh." "Thank gawd for that."

Never came up with a reason for being in Fran no.1. The closest I came was after I burnt out of advertising that my "job" was to make those around me happy. Which is really not such a bad thing, if you can pull it off. It's only a bitty thing. But that didn't last long. I went from the one who soothed to the one in need of soothing. I still need the latter, big time. Probably forever.

I don't know how this ever came up, Diane, Chip's former partner, looked at me and out of nowhere said, "You must be high maintenance." I actually took her "analysis" seriously for about three seconds and asked Chip if that were so. He looked at me like I had three heads and said, no you're so low maintenance. (That's what I thought but maybe I was missing something.) Well, I'm high maintenance now. (I have a husband who doubles as my 24/7 nursemaid.) I don't think that's what Diane was talking about and I was SUCH a wuss, I never thought to ask her what about me made her think so. I think she was mad. That's what made her think so. Something screwy in her head. And there was a lot that was screwy to choose from.

I now have my marching orders. My job is to be pathetic as I can be. I'd prefer to be entertaining in my pathos. Actually, I better be. Otherwise I lose my audience for whom it is my calling to take them away from their own crap every now and again. Even if it's only for a little bit. And wallow in mine.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Let's Make a Deal

I'm very sad, and I really don't know why. I can't even blame hormones. That was mostly last week. (Well, I can always blame everything on hormones, I'm so completely wacked-out.) I was promised by my oncologist when this whole thing started that I was 75% likely to go into menopause from the chemo. Because of my detour into chemically-induced lala land, I only had half the number of treatments I was scheduled for. (So you know, it's a dirty little secret, doctors load you up with a few extra rounds of chemo to protect themselves from lawsuits.) My three rounds (six treatments) I completed were probably more than enough to kill the cancer. And so far it has. My doctor has announced me as cured. Why am I just not so excited by this news?

He did say, after I survived the ARDS that someone would have to put a gun to his head to make him give me more chemo. Okay, that's a pretty cool thing to say. (Boy, was he relieved I was alive. He was my Dad's oncologist 32 years ago. I think Mom wouldn't take too kindly to having had him be part of the team that killed her daughter. Mom's not too happy with any of them right now truth be told. She was so sweet, almost under her breath she said to me not too long ago, "I wanted so much better things for you." I find this sweet and very moving. She usually doesn't speak to me like that. Oh, she'll talk to me about my illness, but I know she very conscious to avoid saying things that might make me feel worse than I already do. Nice Ma.

Hormones, where was I? Ah, at my svelte 85 pounds upon leaving New York Hospital, I assumed menopause had come and gone. Forgot all about it and focused on learning how to teach my body to function again like a person. That first year or so I was not a person. Not at all. I was working my ass off to be one, but I still had a long way to go. Now I know why they don't have mirrors in hospitals. I think if had to look at myself every day, I'd lose all desire to recover. I'd look and say, "How the fuck can I recover from this?" I was repellent. There's no way around it. I was an object to be pitied. I hated being an object of pity. How did I know I was the object of pity? I'd sure pity me if I saw myself like that. And hell, I might look and say you shouldn't bother with me and just waste away in some corner.

I guess I never looked at myself at home. It would also require my being able to stand up in front of a mirror which I was not able to do for quite some time. Hormones. I did start talking about hormones? I pee in the commode. (I hadn't yet graduated to toilets either. At least I was off diapers. But there was a reason for the diapers.)

There are a whole mess of horrible "hospital infections" that are dangerous as hell. I guess from one of the many blood tests that were taken every day, my doctors discovered that I contracted c. difficile. It makes its home in your colon, wreaks furious havoc on your lower intestine which is then at risk of bursting and spreading infection throughout the entire body. Dead as a post. Done. Finito. Once this happens, you are toast.

There two options. In the Box where Carol Merrill is standing are two doctors. Chip and I had never seen them before and they rush into my room-just like on TV- and say "We must remove her lower intestine THIS VERY SECOND or she'll die!" Huh? Wha? Very dramatic. Too much emoting, even. I'd do another take, but I'm not the director.

If I do without the surgery, the disease will insinuate itself so quickly into my lower intestine that it will burst like an overfilled balloon, spread disease and infection throughout my entire body and it's sayonara, Franny Baby. These fearless surgeons would remove my large intestine and trade it for a colostomy bag. "But of course, we'll reverse the whole thing, but we have no time to lose...it's going to blow, captain." Well they didn't say it quite like that but that's what they said. The problem here is that did I even have the physical strength to survive this operation? That surgeon of mercy might save you horrors of a burst lower intestine at the cost of the your life. Nice.

Let's make a deal. You can choose the Box- Option no. 1- where the lovely Carol Merrill is standing or take what's behind the curtain. (Audience goes wild: "curtain, box, no curtain!") "I choose what's behind the curtain." (applause, applause.) Monty Hall: "Fran's chosen what's behind the curtain. Tell her what's she's won!" Announcer: "Fran, you have just received a pass from the head of infectious diseases, your oncologist, and the attending in the ICU to have your Gastroenterologist see how you feel tomorrow morning! Congratulations, Fran!" (More applause, applause.) Music up. Roll credits.

How did the docs come to this conclusion? Chip said he would agree to go ahead with the operation ONLY IF the head of infectious diseases, our oncologist, and the ICU attending all agreed it makes sense for me. The head of infectious diseases says, "Hey, we only have one burst intestine a year. We already had one, so we can wait on this one till tomorrow." Sounded reasonable to everyone.

That is how they decided to let it go 'til tomorrow. I didn't know this until later, but Chip thought he was going to lose me that very night. I was just blithely casual about the whole thing. It really hadn't sunk in to me that these could be my last few hours (?) on earth.

I lived all right. I just had a sore lower abdomen. My gastronenterologist came by and was in the middle of his instant szimoidoscopy when rounds came through. Here I am. 85 pounds. Straw-like hair that sort of looks like Buckwheat's but not as good. Stark naked while these kids and the child resident peruse me and discuss my case. I have never felt so ugly in all my life.

Anyway, we were right to pick the curtain Dr. Gastro said no surgery necessary, but I needed to take lots of powerful antibiotics to kill this sucker, and they have the added bonus of making everything you eat taste like chalk. And the fact that I wasn't eating wasn't a good thing, but now I had a real excuse. The key symptom of c. diff is completely, uncontrollable diarrhea. But since I wasn't eating, I had to wear diapers to catch the uncontrollable clear gel that popped out of my body whenever it felt it needed to. And do I have a great husband or what? He changed so many of those goddamned diapers. And the grooviest part is, he still wants to fuck me! For real! That's love. (Wow.)

Hormones. This is supposed to be a post about hormones. The commode. Ages after I got released, I peed in the commode as usual. And Chip picked it up to clean it out and said "Honey, is this your period?" Holy moly, in that damned commode floating in my pee was a ribbon of red. "Chip, my God, it is." And now I get cranky whenever the hormone gods see fit. At least I may not be thrilled with what I see in the mirror, but I'm no longer an object of pity. In my world. That's huge progress.

And I've since graduated to a toilet.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I will live to see another day. I may not be able to hear a damned thing, but does that much matter given my current "situation?" I don't have an infection and don't have to deal with the fear of waking up dead. (I'm not yet ready to wake up dead.) I'm having a hearing test on Monday. I have been forewarned that hearing that has been lost to nerve damage (damage caused by listening to music too loud) is irreversible. I'm not concerned about that. My hearing sucks at it's best. But my new problem may be the result of the enormous amount of of oxygen I need to keep me conscious and, even more important, alive. Drying me out so much, I can no longer hear like a normal person.

This whole crap started months ago when I woke up feeling as if I'd just stepped off an airplane and needed to "clear my ears" to rejoin the real world. A few pops, and I'm ready to go. (To the couch.) I visited the doc when this started. "Oh, it will resolve itself in a few weeks." Yeah, it resolved itself so beautifully, I don't pop anymore. I just can't hear.

My disease is isolating enough with my lung issues. With my back a total misery. (More P.T., Woohoo.) Slowly losing my hearing. (No, it probably isn't permanent, but I can't use any less oxygen. So it might as well be permanent, yes? I'll settle for popping if I have to. Please don't leave me in a fog.)

Someone is playing a very nasty joke on me. Removing my senses one at a time. Pieces of me are gradually disappearing without my noticing it and then whoops! Too late, chica! Eventually, will I become like the young man in Johnny Got His Gun? No, I think that's overdramatizing my predicament, so let's return to poor Captain Pike. That's way over the top too, but here, in Life No. 2, I've grown quite fond of him. So I think he's to be my doppelganger, appropriate or no. For the record , I often feel I'm nothing more than a lump of flesh. The buddha on the couch.

In third grade, I was sitting at the back of the classroom, and I couldn't read the words for the day's spelling quiz. I report this to my teacher and to my mother. Was I taken to an optometrist right away? The first thing these two beauties thought is that maybe, since my best friend of the moment, Wendy, had gotten glasses a few weeks prior, that I wanted them too. "Franny, do you want glasses because Wendy just got them?" "Say what?!?

Someone (I don't know who, but it was said in all seriousness) actually asked me this question. Don't you all get me by now? My mother sure as hell knew what I was about. I don't care if I were in third grade or in pre-school, I was never, ever such an asshole to do something as inane as that. (For god sakes, I was smart enough not to drink prune juice as I sat constipated on the potty. The potty. How old could I have been? I knew how disgusting prune juice was. Even as a wee thing. I was vehement. That's some kid.)

No, I fucking couldn't see. When I got my glasses, my mother was concerned that I was wearing them all the time. The doctor assured her: she'll use them when she needs them and if she's always wearing them...she needs them. Yeah, and right now I'm doing my damnedest to be just like Captain Pike. But I'm already fucking that one up too. I think one sense he did have was hearing. C'mon girl, get your defects in order!

They tell me I can make my back better. I'll believe that when it actually happens. Right now, I'm dubious of a fix. I've been living with a rainbow of pain (from dull to piercing) for so long, I've forgotten what it's like to be pain free. Just like I can't remember what it was like to breathe normally. I often wish I had more. More of what? More normalcy?

You all know that the P.T. will be torture. When I first came home after thirteen weeks at the hospital, I had to relearn everything: how to get up on my feet, walk, get up off the floor among the other million things we do and take for granted. (As well we should, we learned this shit when we were babies.) That was pure agony.

Oh, yippee. I just received the boiling heat pack from Chip. It took me awhile to figure out that these odd blisters that started appearing my back were second degree burns from this damned thing. (But, it actually makes me feel better. No, not the blisters, but the "warm" moist heat does. I just sit forward when my back is hot enough to cook an egg. Sunnyside up or over easy?)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Dr. Pepper with your Cheesesteak?

I'm pissed. (What else is new?) For months, my ears started getting clogged, popping on and off but by the end of the day, I could hear again. Visited the ENT. Who said I had xjn54yfdjnjdg and that it would resolve itself in a few weeks. Instead, it's just gotten worse and worse. I have to apologize to poor Chip when I raise the TV volume to Erna Lipman heights. (It's frightening sometimes when you go over there. (Or rather when I used to. Now I just experience my mother's television volume over the phone line.) You could commit a loud, grisly murder at her place, but she, or anyone else, would never notice with her TV blasting her and any victims off into outer space as it always does.) I hate I've become one of them.

True, my hearing has deteriorated mightily from way too loud rock and roll shows. I wonder sometimes about that volume. The music would sound better if it weren't so damned loud. It should. Maybe, just maybe, that volume covered a multitude of sins like sloppy singing, sloppy guitar playing...because...you can be fucked up in concert and nobody would give a damn; because at that decibel level, you've become inaudible. Your audience is so fucked up, they don't give a shit that you failed to rehearse before the tour began. I've seen the Rolling Stones twice. they have supremely underwhelming. But, they're the Stones! Mick, you make sure you're in fine physical shape, but your voice??? Has it now become, it's better to look good than to sound good?

A fine exception was Cream. Even with my ears stuffed with balled up napkins. They were remarkable. Eric is, well, Eric. and shows no signs of slowing down. I always thought Jack Bruce never got his due. The man still has his singular voice...I just love it. And Ginger Baker never looked any better or worse. For me, he is death personified. The guy under that hood carrying the scythe, that's our boy Ginger. He's as frightening to look at as ever, but his was the only live drum solo that glued me to my seat in awe. Usually, that's the signal for the bathroom break. I don't know what he does, but he is remarkable doing it. His drumming was melodic. It was musical. (Aren't we spending our hard earned money to hear music?)

Listening to Ginger reminded me so much of those days long ago when I sat on the floor of our den when Johnny Carson had Buddy Rich on. You couldn't take you eyes and ears away from Buddy. Ginger has that same mesmerizing quality as Buddy Rich. (He must otherwise everyone would be too frightened to play with him. I'm telling you, the man is a fearful wraithe.) What I was hearing was musicianship as opposed to the musical navel-gazing inherent in the rock and roll solo. On any instrument. Maybe it's a good thing the bands I saw kept the volume way too high. Lower that volume: No more mystery. No more sex appeal. Just over the board pretentiousness. Without the evening's playlist blasting into my ears, I think I would have gone home more disappointed than not. And sadly realizing my heroes were just a bunch of guys in stupid outfits with really bad haircuts with really crappy bodies. Too many drugs, too much alcohol? (Best they keep their clothes ON.)

This post began about ears. I have an appointment with the ENT tomorrow. I'm so frightened that this is the start of that insidious little infection that will knock me dead. (It reminds me of the time I did my usual, a cheesesteak from Sophie's truck, digging into the cooler for a Dr. Pepper and getting a tiny cut (I mean minuscule) on a knuckle. A few days later, I ask my housemate. Audge, what are these funky lines running up my arm? I've never seen anything like it before. She blanches and explains to me that I have blood poisoning and if it wasn't getting any worse, I'll be okay. but for the future, please realize that this is an incredibly dangerous thing to have and yes, it can kill you, franny.

You mean that reaching for a Dr. Pepper, the perfect go-with with a cheesesteak, American cheese, sauce and onions, could kill me? C'mon everybody! This really can't be possible. Can it?

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Debonaire

I haven't had this fucking computer off my lap all day. For me, that means eleven hours. Eleven hours? Am I completely batty? Yeah, and that's what made me such a great account guy. Forget thinking, creativity, intelligence. Nah. I was a fucking work horse. And an idiot for being one.

But as you all know, I feel a real tight bond with Ullyses S. Grant. Both of us have the need to finish our life's work (except his is only telling the story of his life's work which in actuality was being the best fucking general on the face of the earth in the 19th century at the very least.). But let's not quibble with minor details. Since When versus Saving the Union? As long as Rich feeds me ("...we'll fight 'em together, boy, like we did just now, on the floor, eh? You with the old gun, and me with the belt and the ammo, feeding you Jack! Feed me, you said, and I was feeding you, Jack...") I must feed him. I think I'm going mad.

My back is not happy. Much happier with wet heat. (After the bag of boiled clay cools a bit and no longer feels like I have a raging inferno on my back.) But unhappy nonetheless. Just so you know, raging infernos aren't a good thing. After a bloody week of waiting (the appointment with the orthopedist was last Monday) goddamnit, I find that I am suffering from some sort of soft tissue injury. Beats a break. But a break wouldn't have surprised me. When I first began life number 2, I gave myself two hairline rib fractures. From coughing. What the hell are you supposed to do about that? I was taking oxycodone. Not for pain. It turns out it's the best cough suppressant known to man aside from strangling, drowning, or plain old quick and dirty suffocation.

I think I made progress today. But this one was rough. When a chapter works better here and another there, you need to make sure that not only are you not repeating yourself, you also have all the facts you need to understand what it is you're reading. I hate it when an author tells you something he just told you three pages before. Or forgets to tell you something altogether. Well, it makes me nuts, because it happens only because someone in charge of keeping that shit straight was lazy. I love laziness. Just not someone else's. Mine is good, and I want it. I crave it. But I can't have it. Not yet.

It's incredible that it's taken this long to have Since When issues. I expected it to implode as soon as Rich started reading it and "found me out" on the blog. Look, I never said I was an intellectual. I never said I was a writer. My brother and I have discussed this. We're phonies. We don't seek out to be phony. It just happens. People think we're something we're not. We don't cultivate shit. (Well these Lipmans really do have a talent in that particular field.)

We'd both prefer to be the lowlifes we know ourselves to be. And that is not a putdown. It isn't a cry for help and reassurance from all of you of our bona fides. Bona fides for what? I have none that I know of. Douglas? Unless it's reassurance that we are, in fact, lowlifes. Ask Doug. We often just happen to know the right thing at the right time. I know this is tedious. "No! Not the Melbourne method, please! Two hours! So slow...") It's an illusion. Trust us. Lowlife is good.

You know I'm exhausted when I resort to movie quotes. I also feel lousy. I don't know why and if I don't know why, I think I must be winding down. Like a clock. But not winding down for the day. I mean winding down. (c'mon how can it keep it far from the surface. I may be a lowlife, but I'm not an idiot. In all likelihood, my days are numbered In base ten? Base 24? I dunno.) I can't imagine that my back will ever feel right. Earlier when I thought about getting PT, I thought did it much matter since I really can't breathe. So I hurt a little more, a little less. (This is very bad, terribly unproductive, and maybe even worse, self-fulfilling thinking.)

Oh Denise! Your coffee shop expedition sounds wonderful. But I was running over to "The Bon Vivant" (yes, it is really is the "The Bon Vivant") for their insanely wonderful burgers, I was still in being treated for Hodgkin's disease, "the best cancer a girl could ever dream of." It was during my chemo "downtime" when I started to fell human again. I was jittery and ravenous from the steroids I took that made my anti-nausea drugs work as they were supposed to. It was then I'd exercise, get on the arc trainer to be bright and peppy for the next week's poisoning.

Who even remembers what that all felt like? (Yes, I can recall nausea, and I can recall serious, awe-inspiring projectile vomit. It's amazing what a body can do to empty itself of everything it possibly can in one fell swoop.) But cancer? You must be talking about someone else. I can tell you all about stuff that may or may not have happened, but that was light years ago. At the tail end of lifetime number 1.

Doug, this is for you. We love "The Bon Vivant." We love the people, the food's not bad, the burgers are hellacious. (Chip heard a terrible rumor that is spreading through the neighborhood. That "The Bon Vivant" is closing. God forbid.) But could someone help my brother? Anyone with the wherewithal, could you please open a coffee shop in the East Village called "The Debonaire?" It would make him so happy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"How old ARE you?"

I'm so sorry to have gone missing. I have been going Since When mad. Now that Chip recognized the email problem (which went on for a month and a half, not just one as we originally surmised), I've had so much catching up to do, because Rich was sending me chunks of book for review all along. Well, I'm up to date for the minute, because Rich has promised me more. Daunting, but a good thing.

Naturally, as I re-look at sections, I feel the need to rewrite them. What sucks is I know I'm making them better, so I can't just tell myself to, "Quit it, you dumb fuck!" So I plow on. Hey, I'm making generational connections that I never saw the first time through. But they're there, and they fascinate me. The latest lightbulb to go off in my head (or rather, the very same zap from the fly zapper as Beavis (of Beavis and Butthead fame), gets above his head to let us know he has an idea.) is about us boomers. We are so keyed up about the past (with genealogy about to become a trial sport at the Summer Olympic games in London and all) that we can't look to the future. We've been deprived of nothing; we can't accept loss.

Like me. I'm furious that medical science has nothing for me. I can't even be gracious like Dorothy when she told the wizard that she was afraid there was nothing in his bag for her. (She didn't know Glinda was on her way.) As a buddy of mine would whine after dealing with someone very unlike Dorothy Gayle, "What about my needs?" He was very funny, but I never realized how universally true it is for us middle class kids of all stripes. We don't know deprivation. Our parents had The Great Depression and World War II for starters. My brother and I have remarked many time how our parents generation, post war, settled in and became grown-ups. Careers began, families started, houses bought. And they took this all very seriously, for they were living a life that their own parents could never have imagined.

I have a call into my mother to talk to her about whether she and my father ever talked about the demise of Yiddish and its transformation into a charming relic used in New York slang. My mother's family spoke Hungarian. But Dad grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household. I can't believe he was happy seeing Yiddish disappear. I think, though, with all the crap his generation had been through, he looked forward not back. (Yes he loved World of Our Fathers and The Joys of Yiddish.) I know as I write and rewrite Since When, I'm finally looking at loss for the first time straight on, and I don't like it. Not one bit. "What about my needs?"

I rail that medical science can't fix me. Why do I feel such a sense of entitlement? Our parents and their parents were as heartbroken as we are when we lose the ones we love. But they accepted this as part of the deal. They looked forward. What a concept. Why my mother was so taken by the 1939-40 World's Fair even with the Nazi's invading Poland on September 1, 1939? Yes, yes. She completely got the horror of Adolf Hitler. But she still had that hope for the future. That fair still beckoned even with the Poles, Czechs (for starters) unable to go home after the fair closed.

With my newfound wisdom, I can't now say, "Yes, I accept my lot as the buddha on the couch who can't speak today because mucus has settled on my vocal chords." No circle of life shit for me. I'm still and will remain pissed as hell. One of my favorite FB quotes that I have put on my info page and will live on as long as I do. "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore."

And no, I'm not going to chuck Since When into the trash. Writing it is a good thing.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You Can Put Your Eulogies Back in the Drawer

Okay, everybody. Tell all your suicide counsellor friends they can rest easy re your friend Fran. She is definitely not in danger of doing herself in today. (I'm sure we're cool through the end of the week if not further out into future.)

Yes, I was having an emotional crisis. I guess I still am having an emotional crisis. But you all should know that this crisis didn't, doesn't live in a vacuum. Sometimes, when you feel like complete shit, the addition of one more negative element can put you flying over the edge. For me, this crisis turns out to be a crisis of three.

One, I think I've bitching about pretty regularly. The pain in my back that won't go away. It hasn't been as painful as it has been, but I tread on egg shells every time I cough, pick something up, get up, sit down, exercise, and all other sorts of normal everyday human crap we do to get through our day. And for me, I do that shit with hardly any air. (I feel like a trapeze artist. "Yeah, and I can do it all without a net! Isn't that cool?) No, it's not cool.

Four or so months of really bad back pain fucks me up in so many ways. It's depressing. I got that. I'm even more hyper-aware of my physical limitations which have become further limited because of really bad back pain. (And over-the-counter shit doesn't seem to help ease it a great deal.) And it fucks with my mind. I become cheery even less often than before. And I'm never cheery. (So what am I complaining about for chrissakes? The children in Darfur are starving.)

I also feel guilty as hell because I believe that I caused this mysterious back pain. (When I challenged my self to stand for an hour. Well, I did it. But afterwards my back hurt like hell. Hasn't stopped since) So I've fucked myself even more than I already have. Guilt. Shame. Shame. Guilt. Blah, blah, blah. This all get really dull doesn't it?

What's the other thing? Well about a month ago, my earthlink server wasn't functioning all that well. I had to force quit mail all the fucking time to escape the swirling, psychedelic spherical asshole that wouldn't leave my computer screen. So Chip switched me over to the gmail server. It worked beautifully. Every email, no matter how loaded with docs, flew to its appropriate destination without my being subjecting to that goddamned swirling psychedelic spherical asshole. To do this Chip needed to set me up an email account that of course I wouldn't use. I just had it to allow me to use the gmail server. Are you still with me?

Well that's not exactly what happened. All my junk mail and Facebook mail still came to my usual email address. But when I emailed out, the email indicated that my address was a gmail.com address. So good people you all are, took note of the address change. I'm glad you all were paying attention, because I wasn't. I had no idea I had changed email address. So I sent emails to people, left phone messages that were answered via email, and Rich my editor extraordinaire, couldn't figure out why I kept sending him weird emails like "where are you?" through the month of July. And that he kept sending me chunks of book to review and getting nothing back from me. But I responded to posts he made on FB. I didn't sound like I was flipping out or anything. Rich has been apprised of this awful mess hours and hours ago. Bottom line, besides FB and junk mail, I received no incoming mail for the entire month of July.

All of July? Are you fucking kidding. I'm afraid not. No wonder I was flipping out. I'd write to people and I never heard a word from them. As this had been going on for a month, I figured this is what life has in store for me so get used to it chica. Time for me to turn inwards. Forget there is an outside world that once upon a time, I actually lived in. I couldn't write any more, I couldn't leave any more messages. I couldn't do more than what I'd been doing. I'd really be that pain in the ass or as I wrote to Bob, become the gum AND toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe. I had no reserves to keep me going. I can't hound people. (Any more than I already do.) And the was I saw it I had two choices: living like a hermit or cutting out a little earlier than expected.

Then this afternoon. Chip finds all the month's worth of missing emails. I was mortified that I it appeared I was taking my sweet time writing back. I got a mess of emails out to people whohad written back to me. And I asked (told) Chip, write to Rich right now, tell him how mortified I am and what had happened this month of July.

So put your nifty black clothes back in the closet. You won't need them for me. I'm still a mess, but you can clean up a mess. (If I could only get my back nonsense figured out, I'd be golden, fucking GOLDEN.)