Cat, Back, Seattle, Dream

First things first, Squeak seems back to normal. She spent a week in cat jail, this playpen thing with a mesh roof on top, something we had from when she broke her leg back in 2009. We’d let her out here and there for supervised play time, but there are metal stairs and too many ledges and things for her to jump on. She was also on a heavy dose of gabapentin, which kept her pretty sedate. But by about day four or five, she was getting restless, and we were lowering the dosage. She seems fine now, and the jail has been taken down, so that’s all good. If the idiots in my neighborhood would cut the shit with the fireworks, things would be perfect in cat-land.

* * *

I guess I didn’t mention it, but my back has been out for about two weeks. It started on a Sunday, and of course there’s no great story behind it, like that I was jumping from a helicopter or fighting sharks or whatever. I think I was putting away a tube of toothpaste after brushing my teeth in the morning.

I have the occasional thrown back, a pulled muscle or whatever, but this is probably the worst one in memory. Maybe back in 2015, I had a situation that lasted about a week, but this one is considerably worse. Sitting, standing, walking, laying down: all were bad. So I iced it every hour, and kept on the TENS thing constantly. (If you have back or muscle pain and you don’t know about these, it’s the best $40 you’ll ever spend. Go to Amazon and pick one up immediately.) I’ve also got the chiro doing some work on it, and it’s getting there, but I haven’t shaken it yet.

My conspiracy theory on this is that the sudden weight loss over the last few months (I’m just shy of 25 pounds since April) is pulling everything out of alignment. Great news that my gut is going away, but my back muscles are used to a certain amount of tension there, and it’s all shifting. So the back tenses up, the pelvis tilts, the front of my thighs are overworked and hurt, etc. It’s getting there, but it’s been brutal. Hopefully in another couple of weeks, I can get it fully under control.

* * *

I figured out the vacation stuff, after a big struggle with travel sites and destinations and stuff. Anyway, I will be in Seattle from the 7th to the 14th of next month, which will be interesting. Aside from a plane change at SeaTac, I haven’t been back to Seattle since I left in the spring of 1999. And things have 100% changed, from what I hear.

Example: I will be staying in Northgate. As I mentioned in The Death of Northgate, the mall in Northgate is completely dead, and currently getting torn down. The Denny’s is long gone, as is the pancake house where I ate brunch every Saturday for years. Northgate is an okay-ish place for me to stay, because it’s by the highway and I didn’t have to pay another sixty bucks a day to park. But it will be weird.

I was also thinking about driving versus public transit, and I think all of the systems other than the busses happened after I lived there. Sound Transit was nothing more than an ongoing political argument when I left, and had a major scandal after that, but seems to now have a light rail system going everywhere, plus a streetcar system that goes very close to my old digs in First Hill. I’ll probably try it out, but I have a feeling I’ll spend a lot of the trip driving giant circles on the Jon Konrath Reality Tour when I get there.

I have no real plans yet, and need to work on that. I might try to go to a Mariners game, and tick that ballpark off my list. The MoPop is something I definitely want to check out. I will also probably do all the usual shit, Pike Place and Pioneer Square (which I hear is a bit dodgy now) and whatever else. Plus all the remaining malls, I guess.

If you are in Seattle, ping me and we can hang out, too.

* * *

Last night’s dream was this technical failure loop where I was trying to buy a Queen album to listen to out of curiosity or whatever, and I could not find one. I was scrolling through three devices: a phone, an ipad, and some kind of music review/player tablet thing. I’d find a hit on one device and it would redirect to the other; the search button would vanish on the tablet thing; the band’s entire discography would be missing from Apple Music; google searches would either go to articles about the queen of England or would just redirect to ads. I wondered if Universal was in a fight with Apple and pulled everything, or if I was just having a senior moment with the technology. And I started to almost see the edges of the dream, caught myself thinking “Is this really happening?”


Rare reports of tongue discoloration

I’m sick.  Strep throat.  It happened suddenly, this urge to drink a gallon of water every five minutes, then a difficulty swallowing.  I didn’t wait for it to play out, and got in to a doctor right away.  They’ve had so many cases of adult strep throat, they were out of the test kits, and had to dig up an ancient kit that was almost at the technology level where you had to kill the rabbit and look at its ovaries to determine if it was positive or not.  Okay, not that bad, but it was one of those things where we had to sit and stare at a little stick in a vial of chemical solution and wait to see if it changed colors.  And if I wasn’t sick, I would have come up with a great punchline containing “the last time I had to sit and wait to see if the blue line appeared…”

So I got an antibiotic, zithromax, and I googled out all of the side effects, and it’s not much except the usual stomach stuff that you’d get from ordering the five dollar box at Taco Bell.  I don’t take antibiotics that often, because I’m allergic to penicillin and all of the other -cillin drugs.  I think I last took penicillin when I was five or six, and that ended with a stay in the hospital.  I think this was the first time I ever spent a night anywhere away from a parent or family member, and I know it was the first time I’d ever seen a Mennonite kid with his arm cut off from a tractor accident, which was the case for my roommate during part of my stay.

I think the last time I took any antibiotic was maybe ten years ago, a bad cold that I probably wrote about in here somewhere, a thing that eventually turned into strep, or maybe it always was.  All I remember was that it was during a time when my stupid piece of shit landlord in Queens was not running the heat, and it was definitely a time when you needed the heat, and then the hot water also gave out, so instead of taking a shower or a bath, I’d put every pot and pan on the stove, fill them with water, and then bathe by standing in a plastic bucket in the kitchen and sort of washclothing it and pouring this hot water from the stove over me, which is damn fine behavior to engage in when it’s 48 degrees in your house and you’re hacking away at a death cold.  I also remember trying to drink diet soda and loathing it, because someone told me at some point that drinking regular Coke was just going to feed sugar to that bacteria colony breeding in my tonsil area.  And I tried to gargle with apple cider vinegar, which is supposed to be some kind of damn miracle cure, but it usually just made me gag.

I haven’t been writing much in here, because I’ve been saving all of the crazy for this book I’m writing, which is well underway, aside from the whole thing about being sick.  If you graphed my success at writing versus the word count, it’s definitely a bell curve with the middle being in the thousands-word range, which means writing a hundred thousand words is definitely way out there to the right where that bell threatens to hit the axis again.  I’ve found that if I just write and write, by the time I get 30,000 words into it, I’ve completely forgotten what I’ve written in chapter one.  And when I start to keep an outline is when I start to get distracted, because I start to think about plot and arc and proportions and golden ratios and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth theory, and I get derailed dealing with all of that shit.  So it’s a balancing game.  And it’s hard to keep writing here with all of that balancing going on, but I feel a need to get back to it.

It’s also starting to get nice enough outside to crack open a window or two during the day, which throws me, because that smell of fresh air, the beginnings of spring, the mid-afternoon sunshine after a brief Bay area rain shower, that’s the kind of stuff that throws me down an emotional k-hole. It has me teleporting back to random spring days in 1993 or in Seattle or whatever else, and I can spend all month digging through old journals or old emails trying to find some thread to pull me back into that.  And that also makes me think about writing about some of that nostalgia, about trying to find some structure again like the NecroKonicon that I can use to briefly riff about those times when I think about Garcia’s Pizza or the guy I knew at Ball State who was growing weed in the suspended ceiling of his dorm room, or the feeling when I got into a primer-black $300 Camaro in 1987 and drove to drive nowhere, just to get through that side of a Black Flag tape and kill another 88-cent gallon of gas.  Sometimes I think I should start another blog or maybe a wiki or tumblr or something else as a way to link together all of this shit.  I’ve tried multiple times to write a big epic novel containing all of this, but I also think in many ways the big epic novel is dead, or at least in deep sleep, and it’s all about the randomness of small pieces.  Maybe.

I’m writing this from the comfort of my bed, while on my old computer, the 2007 MacBook.  Talk about nostalgia – I remember being in Denver that summer, selling off all of my old, dust-collecting toys on eBay to get together the cash for this thing.  Seems like yesterday, but this machine is slowly yellowing and wearing and that little beach ball spins more and more every time I try to load two things at once.  That brand new, top-of-food-chain MacBook Pro is about to turn a year old, and is now displaced by a faster, sexier model that costs less.  In three more years, that thing will be the backup beater machine, and some 32-core beast with 64 gigs of memory and no moving parts whatsoever will be business as usual.  This is the dance we do.


Amateur radiology and faceless examples

I have a printout of some random PDF that illustrates twelve stretching exercises I am supposed to do to prevent repetitive stress injury.  I never do them, because I always forget, but that’s not the point.  The point is, the people illustrated have no faces.  They have ears, and you can tell from the side view that they have noses, but you can’t see the noses from the front view.  There are no eyes, no mouths, no nostrils, and no holes in the ears.  One of the exercise guys is wearing a tie; the other ones are pitiful fucking slobs. One is either wearing a skirt or the kind of baggy shorts you see in the NBA, or that a hesher wears.  I suppose it could be a kilt, and the person has short hair, so they are probably not a metal dude.  Two of the illustrations are wearing a wristwatch; the others are either too poor to own a quality timepiece, or they use their cell phone to tell the time.

I’m almost certain that back in grade school, we had some workbook or set of ditto worksheets that had similar line art people, probably either showing how damn great it was to recycle your pop cans (i.e. soda cans, this was Indiana) or how we should all work well with others, lessons that were mostly lost on my schoolmates.  I don’t remember if these people had faces or not.  It was the seventies, so I’m sure they also mixed it up with a token amount of men and women of various races.  I do remember this was the era when the “he” pronoun was falling apart, when they would alternate using “he” and “she” in every other example, as if that made things better.  It was better than having to use “he and/or she” every time you’d normally use “he”.

This is an actual MRI of my right knee. No shit.

I didn’t do the stretches today.  I’m going to a chiropractor and he has me doing a different set of stretches for my back.  He took x-rays last week, and I got to look at those, which are always amazing.  If I could buy an x-ray machine on eBay, I’d be dead of radiation poisoning in a week.  I’d walk around with scans of x-ray films taken from every conceivable angle, all loaded onto my iPad.  I’d start talking to a stranger in a drug store, and say, “hey man, you think these mediastinal contours look normal? No man, I know you’re just a bricklayer, but do you think this aortic knuckle has any loss of definition? I’m always worried about adjacent lung consolidation.”

The x-rays showed one of my legs is shorter than the other.  I knew that.  I’ve known since junior high, when they would line up everyone in gym class and check for scoliosis.  They would train the new teachers by having them look at my back, as an example of a fucked-up spine.  By junior high, I’d been to the Elkhart Clinic at least a hundred times, to the orthopedic guy, the optometrist, and the allergy clinic.  It’s thirty-some years later, and I’m now going to a chiropractor, an optometrist, and an allergy clinic.  It’s a recurring theme.

When I was a kid, you’d have to wait for the TV set to warm up before you watched it.  I totally forgot about that.  We had this giant Magnavox console TV that you could shackle inside of a B-17 and drop on a German industrial city to take out an oil refinery.  You’d turn it on, and the sound would fire right up, but the picture would slowly fade into view.  One day, the picture never came on, just sound.  We turned it on and off ten times, nothing.  Left it on for an hour, just listening to audio of Tom and Jerry (not as good), no picture.  My parents opened the back, took out the dozens of little glass tubes, brought them to a drug store with a tube tester, this giant machine that vaguely resembled a stand-up video game, but instead of a joystick it had a bunch of knobs and an armada of sockets, where you plugged in the little glass cylinders.  I don’t know if you waited for a red or green light to come on or a needle to swing or what happened, and I don’t remember if they sold tubes there, but I remember every damn one of those tubes came back good.  We got another TV set, a smaller solid-state unit, and it sat on top of the deceased set, which functioned as a TV stand for the next decade.  This was Indiana, everyone did this.  I bet a half-million Hoosiers have their new flat-panel LCD HDTV sitting on top of an old beast like our Magnavox.

The Magnavox had a little lead box inside of it, containing a couple of tubes that gave off x-rays.  The lead box had a ton of warnings stuck to it, in an era when a potentially lethal meat-grinder with exposed blades and no guards whatsoever would not have a single warning on it.  I probably could have turned this into an x-ray machine if  I could buy some film at the Osco’s where we got those tubes tested.

I think I got my first x-rays in maybe the first grade.  Chest films.  Elkhart Clinic.  I had pneumonia for weeks.  My sleep cycle went completely off; I’d sleep twenty hours in front of the Magnavox TV, then be awake all night, reading Encyclopedia Brown.  It must have been around October, because my mom said I should just wear the x-rays as a skeleton costume.  I’m sure she said this because I probably asked for a Spider-Man costume roughly 48,724 times that month.

The guy that wrote and directed the Encyclopedia Brown TV show also wrote and directed Better Off Dead.  He also animated the Whammy on Press Your Luck.  He often casts Curtis Armstrong in his movies, better known as “Booger” from Revenge of the Nerds.  I always used to see Armstrong in the BMG cafeteria when I worked at Juno.  I also used to run into Diddy in the elevator all the time.  Booger was much cooler.

I turn 40 in a week.  I can’t really wrap my head around that.  I’m sure there’s some Nick Hornby book I can read that will explain all of this.


Precious cups within the flower

I broke my arm in 1992.  It was stupid – I was riding my new-ish bike that I bought because my Volkswagen’s brakes went out and when I got it to Meineke, they couldn’t put it on the lift because the Indiana winters rotted through the floorboards and frame, and the hydraulic arms would have popped right through the bottom of the West German toy and snapped it in half.  So I bought this bike, with the hopes of just using it instead of a car, although you can’t buy groceries on a ten-speed, and you can’t bring sixteen weeks of laundry to the laundromat, and you definitely can’t get laid if you show up for a date on a Huffy.

I headed home from work at Ballantine one day, and took the ramp that connected the two levels of the parking garage, which had one of those giant arms blocking the entrance, unless you had a magic cardkey or you were a pedestrian.  As I rode downhill toward the two-foot gap between the gate and the wall, this dude came toward the gate on foot.  So I slowed down and moved to the left, and he moved to the left.  I should have just gotten off the bike, but this was a racing bike with toe clips, and I hated pulling my feet out of them, so I slowed down and moved to the right.  Then he moved to the right.  So I slowed down and moved to the left.  Then he moved to the left.  So I slowed down and moved to the right.  And he moved to the right.  And then BAM, I was flat on my ass, my feet still stuck in the pedals, because I had slowed down to zero and whatever laws of physics keep you balanced on a bike when it’s moving forward no longer applied, because I wasn’t moving.

Here’s the only saving grace: I never took my hands off the bars.  Your first instinct is to put your arm out and stop your fall, and if I would’ve done that, I would have snapped all of those tiny little bones in the wrist, the ones that never, ever heal right.  Instead of slamming 180-some pounds of weight into those little bones with names I will never know even if I go to Wikipedia and look it up (because I am sure some nutjob has removed all of the English names in a revert war, because they promote sexism because the 16th century doctor that named all the bones was a man, or whatever), all of my weight hit my elbow, which from a nerve ending standpoint is probably worse.

I got back up and pushed my handlebars back in place from the 40-degree angle they got knocked to, and rode my bike home.  But the arm felt worse and worse, and this was an aluminum road bike that you pretty much couldn’t ride one-handed because it was way too balanced and stiff.  So I got home at like 4:15 and called my then-sorta-girlfriend-but-not, and told her I thought I broke my arm.  She worked for a year at a loony bin in Chicago, which made her a medical expert, and she asked if I could move it, and I could barely move it, maybe a sixth of its normal motion.  So she said “you didn’t break it, you’ll be fine.”  And she said she couldn’t make it over until later (which I later found it was because she was dating another guy at the same time) and so I hung up, and fretted and fumed and finally said fuck it and got my wallet and set off for the Health Center.  But I couldn’t ride my bike, so I had to walk across campus, now holding my busted up left arm with my right arm in an impromptu sling.

Everyone called the Health Center the Death Center, and the only good reasons to go there were:  1) birth control 2) Prozac 3) antibiotics and 4) you could send your bill to your bursar’s account and not pay it until the end of the year.  I didn’t even know if they could treat breaks and sprains, but the real hospital was miles away, and I didn’t have insurance, and I definitely didn’t have a credit card with more than $3 of open credit on it.  By the time I got there, the pain seared through my body, the kind of thing where you fantasize about being tortured at the Hanoi Hilton by Soviet-trained Viet Cong interrogators, because that might take your mind away from the millions of flaming nerve endings turning your entire body into a throbbing vessel of pain.

I don’t remember what the hell I had to fill out or how long I had to wait or what decade-old issue of Reader’s Digest I got to flip through before they wheeled me into an x-ray lab with a machine that looked like it came off the set of a 1940’s science fiction serial.  The radiologist wanted to hold my arm in 528 ways on this table, and of course 475 of the poses were impossible without moving my elbow, which wasn’t happening anymore.  I sat and wallowed for another twenty minutes, then a doc came in with a couple of floppy translucent sheets of film that he slapped on one of those light-up glass things on a wall.

“See that shaded area on the radius,” he said.  “That’s a break.  It’s just a compression fracture, but I bet it hurts like hell.  You won’t need a cast, but we can give you a sling for it. Let me get you something for the pain,” he said, digging for a prescription pad.

“I’m allergic to aspirin, advil, and tylenol,” I said.  I also rattled off the short list of various mind-benders the shrink was feeding me on a regular basis so he could get that Aruba vacation from Pfizer.

“Um, how about you ice it, and keep it elevated.  Come back and see me in a month, okay?”

I limped home, the third time that day I’d self-propelled myself across the campus with a broken arm.  I called the not-really-girlfriend and told her I went to the fucking hospital and the fucking doctor took a fucking x-ray and told me the fucking arm was fucking broken.  No fucking painkillers.  I think she came over, maybe with food, maybe not.  I don’t even remember, I just remember trying to sleep that night, and not being able to get anywhere close to a minute of shuteye.  I was a restless sleeper back then, and couldn’t stay in one position, so laying on my back with my arm propped up on sixteen pillows didn’t help the situation.  Holding the arm above my heart and putting ice on it was like wrapping yourself in crepe paper streamers to prevent a flamethrower attack.  I counted the minutes until 8 AM, when the stupid health center opened again.


“What did the doctor prescribe for the pain yesterday?” the phone-nurse asked.


They said to come in.  I got there (I walked again, except this time at least I had a real sling) and a group of four or five residents all converged and flipped through a big book of pills and potions and finally decided on something that would not give me seizures or cause my throat to swell shut in fifteen seconds.  “Okay, I’m going to prescribe some codeine cough medicine.  I know you don’t have a cough, but it doesn’t have any aspirin in it, so you can take a higher dose and it should help.”  Sold.

Man, I love me a good opiate.  I’d never taken one before that, and didn’t take aspirin or any of that stuff, because I had a weird allergy to it, and my eyes would puff up for days and I’d wheeze like an asthmatic at a Cypress Hill concert, so when I got a headache, I’d just think peaceful thoughts, and maybe drink 19 Cokes.  I sat in the pharmacy on the second floor, arm in sling, waiting for that magic bottle, and checking out all of the people waiting too.  (The only two prescriptions they really filled there were birth control and Prozac, and the place was always crawling with hot co-eds and I constantly wondered if they were loose or batshit crazy or both.)  They gave me this brown glass bottle that looked like it contained an old-tyme remedy formula, and I walked home (again!) and doubled up the suggested dosage.  The syrup tasted like an industrial adhesive mixed with something you’d wash your dog with when he contracted an outbreak of a strain of African disease-carrying lice.  So I hit the syrup, then downed half of a Coke, and put in a CD on repeat, and went to lay down in bed, and it felt like that three foot drop from standing to prone took about 45 minutes, like a slow escalator ride through a wall of clouds.

Suddenly, every lyric on every Black Sabbath album made perfect sense.  (“‘sleeping village/cockrels cry’… of course!  of course!”)  I stared at the half-deteriorated suspended ceiling patterns for a few minutes with visions of Ozzy dancing through my head, Mr. Francis Anthony Iommi’s fingers sticking out of the air ether emanating from the speakers, manipulating the molecules in my brain with his detuned zombie notes. Then the girlfriend-not-girlfriend walked in to check up on me; I thought ten minutes had passed, but I’d listened to the titular first Black Sabbath album nine times and it was lunch and she wanted to bring me to Subway or something.  (She was on Nutrisystem or one of those things where you eat their food, although she was at her goal weight, but she wasn’t into my diet at the time, which consisted solely of whatever meal at Burger King cost $2.99 that week.  So Subway was the compromise lunch place.  Of course, the first time we go to Subway, this friend of mine who happened to also be a stripper comes in and sits on my lap and starts asking me about my summer and flirting with me and playing with my hair which freaked the fuck out the not-girlfriend, who was the jealous type, although as I mentioned, I don’t know how many people she was dating when we were “dating”.)

The arm healed up fast, and I was back on my stupid bike within a month.  I think the sling did more damage to my neck and back than the fall did to my arm.  It always felt like I was one of those GI-Joe dolls where the torso was attached to the pelvis with a piece of elastic, and if you didn’t turn it the right way, the torso would be dislodged and stuck at like a twenty degree angle off center until you pulled the whole thing apart and let it snap back together the right way, except this was the arm-ribcage joint, and I had no easy way to pull my arm four feet out of the socket for the correctional manipulation.  I didn’t need to take the codeine after about a week, although I then found out that in addition to stopping the pain of a broken arm, it stopped that horrible overwhelming feeling you get when you’re absolutely sure your girlfriend is not really your girlfriend and she’s probably fucking that guy in her study group she keeps talking about.  Things completely fell apart with the not-girlfriend around the time I got to the bottom of that brown bottle, and I didn’t do a Rush Limbaugh and get a hundred different croakers to write me scripts to different pharmacies; I just went on to the next potential dating disaster.

So that’s the opium story.  I was thinking about this and realized that my old roommate Yusef also broke his arm, maybe a year before I did.  And when he came home, I told him it probably wasn’t hurt and he shouldn’t be such a pussy.  Key differences: 1) he was stoned out of his gourd when he rode home; 2) he fell on his wrist because he was carrying home this $800 classical guitar he hadn’t paid for yet, and he wanted to protect the guitar; 3) he really, really broke the wrist and had to be in a cast for the rest of the semester; 4) he was a guitar performance major, so this totally screwed him up for the better part of the year.  I could still fart around on the computer with my arm in a sling (this was before the conquest of the mouse, and everything was either DOS or unix), but he had studio and recitals and stuff he had to reschedule.  And 5) he had to pay for that guitar even though he couldn’t play it.  (Or maybe he returned it – I don’t remember.)


Various rectal-related maladies affecting US Presidents

I was reading this page on the health history of US Presidents and I am entirely convinced you could write an entire book on the rectal issues that have been rampant in the Oval Office. Aside from the fact that pretty much every other president of the 18th and 19th century had some encounter with rampant dysentery, here are some examples:

  • James Garfield got shot in 1881 and died 80 days later. And during that time, he could not hold down food. So his doctors (and it’s been widely speculated that his doctors’ incompetence is what really killed him) had to feed him rectally, by giving him nutritional enemas.
  • During the Bay of Pigs invasion, John F. Kennedy had constant and acute diarrhea.
  • Eisenhower had a severe bowel obstruction in 1956.  The first course of action was a tap-water enema, but he was rushed to the hospital and had a foot of his intestine bypassed with a colostomy.
  • After Abraham Lincoln was shot, one of the methods used to revive him was anal dilation.
  • Garfield suffered from an anal fissure that required surgery in 1875.
  • In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt suffered from iron deficiency anemia due to rectal bleeding from hemorrhoids.
  • In 1984, Bill Clinton underwent a colonoscopy due to rectal bleeding.
  • Jimmy Carter had to receive emergency hemorrhoid treatment in 1978. It was hidden from the public, until Anwar Sadat told the people of Egypt to pray for Carter because of his ailment.
  • Ronald Reagan had two feet of his colon removed in 1985 due to colon cancer.  He had a colonoscopy that revealed the cancer, and when the doctors wanted to operate immediately, Nancy Reagan consulted her astrologer, who told her to delay the surgery.  But he didn’t want to repeat the pre-colonoscopy purging routine, so he had the surgery the next day.
  • George W. Bush had hemorrhoids during the time period of his National Guard service.

[I swear I didn’t make any of this up. Go read the site.]


May cause vomit-inducing migranes, loss of smell

I have allergies.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have them, starting with a trip to the hospital when I was maybe four, when I had an allergic reaction to penicillin like most people have a reaction to agent orange.  It was a defining force of my childhood: weekly trips for allergy shots; the torture of testing, where they draw a giant battleship grid on your back and scratch you with a needle a thousand times; driving in circles in the family car with the AC running to filter out the first ragweed epidemic of the year, a washcloth over my eyes, which resembled Rocky’s after nine rounds of pummeling with an eight-foot tall Russian.  My parents thought I was allergic to chocolate, so I had all of my Easter candy confiscated and rifled over, leaving only the crappy jelly beans and no chocolate bunny.  Every day in Kindergarten, they would bring in a giant crate of half-pint cartons of chocolate milk, and I got to walk back to the cafeteria to exchange mine for plain old white milk.  And it turns out I wasn’t allergic to chocolate.  Just advil, aspirin, penecillin, ragweed, pollen, fresh-cut grass, tumbleweed, horsehair, and 96 other things bothered me.

And then, I hit my teens, and I exchanged most of my allergies for social awkwardness and crippling depression.  It wasn’t the best tradeoff, but I could mow lawns and leave the house in April.  I also erroneously thought I was allergic to Tylenol, but during the great dental rebuild of 1996, I risked it, and found I was AOK with the aceto-stuff, and started a long habit of Tylenol PM to knock me out at night.  I’m sure my liver will thank me later.

But here’s the deal: I think they’re back.  Maybe since New York, I’d have one or two bad allergy days in April, enough where I’d need a Claritin.  (I used to get them from Canada, but now they’re OTC.)  But here in the Bay area, the allergies have been pummeling me, giving me blurry eyes and headaches and that first-day-of-cold raspiness and itchiness in the back of the throat.  So I’ve been playing with the OTC drugs.  Zyrtec-D isn’t bad, although its blister pack is impossible to open without a team of engineers and a chainsaw.  Benadryl knocks me out; claritin doesn’t do much anymore.  I need something more, but I fear the chemical lobotomy the hard stuff brings.

I tried some flonase this week, and it gave me crippling headaches, to the verge of vomiting.  I don’t know if it affected my smell, since I can’t smell anyway because of allergies.  Anyway, I made an appointment with an allergist.  Maybe I will get a new script; maybe it involves a bunch of shots and whatnot.  Actually I am sure it will involve a ton of appointments and tests and copays and waiting rooms, and I will be handed from specialist to specialist who don’t want a liability issue and can’t fix anything.  You know, the usual.

I think I told the story before, but when I was in the hospital as a kid, I shared a room with an Amish kid who got his arm cut off in some kind of plow accident.  Maybe he was Mennonite; all I know is it was my first experience with strange dudes with beards and no mustaches and 19th century clothes, and my first experience with a kid with no arm.  He only stayed a day, but I remember it freaking the hell out of me.  I wonder what happened to that kid, if he’s knocking around Goshen in a buggy with twelve kids, or if he dropped out, joined the English, became a heroin junkie, and works at a Wal-Mart somewhere, or collects disability, lives in a trailer, shoots speed, and listens to Judas Priest, occasionally wondering what happened to that kid 35 years ago who was puffed up like a balloon, upset because he couldn’t watch the TV because his roommate’s parents thought TV was of the devil.

I’m last in my fantasy baseball league, BTW.  And 5 of my pitchers had wins this week.  It takes a special kind of bad to pull that one off.


On breaking an arm

So last Sunday, I broke my right arm. And I am right handed. Expect a giant drop-off in my updates until I can type again.

The summary: I was riding my bike a few blocks from home. It’s all old warehouses in the neighborhood, and there are a lot of railroad side spurs that are abandoned, like with a set of rails half-buried in asphalt crossing the streets at funny angles. I remember riding next to one thinking “it would suck if my wheel fell into that groove.” Next thing I know, the bike falls out from under me, I fall to my right, I stick out my right arm, and pow. Had to ride home with a broken arm and a fucked up left knee, although I think the knee is structurally OK, just rubbed raw with the gentle touch of asphalt.

Went to the Oakland ER, which was an adventure. 7 hours of jonesing addicts thinking that if they screamed at the doctors enough, they’d get a taste. Also a Hispanic kid was in for a heart murmur or something, and his entire extended family of 768 were all in the waiting room, eating candybars and talking on cell phones right under the “no food/no cell phones” sign, as the movie Mama’s House 2 played on a TV with no channel or volume controls.

X-Rays were murder. Turns out I chipped the elbow end of the radius. Not much of a structural issue – you can’t set it or put screws or a plate in it, it pretty much fixes itself. But in the meantime, lots of swelling, lots of nerves focused in that area, and the arm doesn’t want to bend, and the wrist can’t turn. I got this space-age fiberglass instant-mold splint that I ace bandage on, and can take off to shower (thank you – heat waves and plaster casts don’t mix.) Also got some vicodin and a sling. I missed a day of work – I can drive now, and my left handed typing and mousing slowly improves. I have to slowly wean out the splint over the next few weeks – should be AOK in a month or so.

I did this same thing in 1992 on my left arm. No space age cast then, though. And I only had codeine syrup for pain. But that was my left hand. And computers didn’t involve as much mouse work then. I don’t know how you one-armed people deal with Windows on a daily basis.


Knee update #863

Knee update #863: the MRI preliminary results are back, and it is a sprain of the MCL (the ligament, not the shitty cafeteria restaurant in the mall.) So, no surgery, no cortizone, no complications, and I just need to keep it in the brace for a bit and it will slowly get better. I am pretty much off the cane now, although I used it today. No real pain. There’s still some swelling and fluid buildup, but that will go away. If it doesn’t subside in a week or so, I can go back for another draining. And in a month, maybe some physical therapy to strengthen things back up. Otherwise, no further drama, and it’s pretty much back to business as usual.

I had to make a couple of quick edits in the glossary, and it got me thinking maybe I should do some more, or at least add all of the half-written additions I have in the queue. I also may have some new photos to add. All of this makes me go back to my original, four-year-old plan to wrap it up into a print book. I have another project going now, but it’s slowly stalling and maybe I should go back. I don’t know. I mentioned over in livejournal that the IDS actually quoted me on something in an article recently, which I guess shows that there’s something good going on there. (Or it proves that stuff comes up in google, and someone needed a quick source.) Anyway, something to think about.

I got a new watch, because the Casio one I bought for my birthday in 2004 has been spazzing out. It has a tiny battery to preserve state, and a larger rechargable short-term battery for the watch’s function, which is charged by a solar cell in the battery face. Either I don’t get out enough, or the short-term battery has some kind of nicad memory lapse, or both, but it kept dying on me, and would require 20 hours of “charging” under a lamp to work for 8 hours. It also had some other problems, like this auto-sleep feature that pretty much constantly shut the watch off on me. So I bought a new watch (and of course, the old watch has worked flawlessly since.)

I bought a Timex Ironman DataLink USB. I had an old Ironman DataLink, which I think I got for my birthday in 1998, but the old one used this weird gimmick where the watch had a photo-eye in it, and the software on your PC would make the screen flicker with lines of data, which basically made like a 2 baud modem. The software only worked with a narrow range of Windows PCs, of which I never owned one and had to use a girlfriend’s computer to load up the watch. But it would hold phone numbers and reminders and other random shit. The new watch has the same features, but has a special USB cable that clips to the side of the watch – there is no plug, just four contacts on the watch. The software is much more advanced, and the watch is slimmer. It has one of those metal bands with a clasp that don’t adjust at all, which drove me mad because it didn’t fit my tiny wrist. I eventually figured out you can punch out some of the links on the band with a tiny screwdriver and make it smaller. So I have a new toy, and maybe eventually I will find out how to download new tones or programs to it. I don’t even have phone numbers yet. But it’s still neat.

Food’s here…


Knee Update 2

Knee update 2: my knee has been getting better slowly, but has still been pretty dicey, so I skipped work yesterday and went to an orthopedic surgeon. He took some x-rays, which I don’t understand much, because they looked just like white insides of knee, and I couldn’t see tendons, ligaments, or shit. But I realize there is a science to reading the subtle shades and fogging and whatnot, so that’s why he’s the doctor and I’m not.

My knee was pretty swelled up, so he offered to remove some fluid. If you’re eating, stop reading this. Seriously. Okay, he got out this giant thing that looked like one of those Ronco Flavor Infusers they sell on TV, for shooting spices and fat inside a pork chop or chicken cutlet. It looked a couple of inches around, and about six deep, so I’m guessing it could hold a good six ounces of fluid. And the business end of it looked like one of the nails you’d use when framing a house, but hollow. First, I put on some roomy disposable hospital blue shorts, which looked like something Urkel would wear to the beach. Then he hit me up with a spray bottle of some kind of super-refrigerant stuff that froze my knee in about two seconds. Then, the prick.

Now, I’m no stranger to needles. As a kid, I had allergy tests, which involved making my back look like that Pinhead guy in the Hellraiser movies. I also got the shots, sometimes as many as four or six skin injections a week. I’m also a frequent flier at the dentist, who admires my ability to take a gram or two of liquid novacaine without flinching. I’ve also had liquid cortizone injections in my big toes to treat gout. That involved getting a smaller novacaine shot first, and then the big horse needle, which the doctor had to drive INTO THE MIDDLE of the joint of a toe that was so inflamed I could not walk, and then when he got it there, he would WIGGLE IT AROUND to distribute the steroid as he pumped it in. So this should be a walk in the park, right?


The guy jabs in the needle in the side of my kneecap, which is pretty tender from being messed up all week, but is also pretty numb from the spray. I could really feel the needle going in. And staying in. And he pulled back the syringe like he was pulling gravy out of the pan to baste an extra-large turkey, and I’m wondering, “when the fuck is my knee going to stop exuding fluid?” And then he GRABS MY KNEECAP AND STARTS MOVING IT AND FUCKING AROUND WITH IT TO GET MORE FLUID OUT.

And then it’s done. And he shows me this giant baster, which contains about three ounces of fluid that’s roughly the color of a hot and sour soup from a Chinese restaurant. Now, I’ve seen some weird shit in the health arena. I’ve seen a video feed of the inside of my intestine. I’ve seen an x-ray video in real-time of me swallowing. I’ve seen a nail go through my hand. I’ve seen a dentist show me my wisdom tooth pulled out in about four pieces. But seeing a bunch of joint fluid that was just in my knee, well that’s a new one.

The knee felt a lot better, and he gave me a new brace to wear that’s pretty hardcore and much more comfortable than the $10 piece of shit I bought at Rite Aid. But there was no real diagnosis yet, awaiting an MRI, which was my big adventure today.

Okay, so I had a 7:30 AM MRI. Yes, in the morning. It was either that, or hobble around for another week, waiting on this shit, so I woke up early and got it over with. The place was on 42nd and 11th, which is sort of Hell’s Kitchen, or at least far enough from Times Square that it isn’t Times Square, and it’s a bitch to catch a cab. So I got over there 10 minutes early, and it turns out some other fucker is running like 40 minutes late, and he keeps moving during his MRI, and I could have slept another hour. Great.

For those of you not up on your medical imaging technology, and MRI is something that uses colossal amounts of magnetic energy to basically determine the atomic makeup of cells and water in your body, which is fed to a computer that then produces an incredibly detailed image of the target in question. It looks like the dream implant machines in Total Recall, except even more Sci-Fi and Philip Dick-ian. There’s no radiation, but if you have any metal in your body, like a pacemaker or something, it could become a fatal projectile.

The other problem with an MRI is that you have to be completely still, and it can take like 45 minutes to get a scan. I didn’t know this; I thought it was like an x-ray where you got in there, click, and that’s it. Unfortunately, this meant I had to stand in it for 45 minutes, which sucked. It also meant I had to watch 45 minutes of Olympics coverage, and I absolutely hate the Olympics. I hate the trivial bullshit morning coverage even more, the kind of shit where they go to see where the athletes shop and whip up recipies of Italian food, like we give a fuck. Anyway, the machine looked very cool. It was one of the stand-up MRIs, which looks like this. You stand up, and then a tray tilts you back, but it’s more open-air than the old tube style ones. So I sat in that for 45 minutes, wondering if I was moving or not, since my whole leg was stiffening up, and then it was done, and I went to work.

So bottom line is, the knee continues to get better. I can pretty much walk with no cane, but I used it today anyway. I go back tomorrow to find out the news on the MRI, and I’m not saying anything definitive until then, but I think it’s going to be okay in a few more days or a week or something.

Not much else is up. I got a new load of books to read (right after spending four days in bed with nothing to read, of course.) Oh, and John Sheppard has set up for his upcoming book (re)release, so go check that out.



For the last week, I’ve been a bit of a cripple. I seem to have injured my right knee in some way, but I don’t really have a good story to go with the injury. Basically, a week ago, I was really asleep, and I somehow flipped onto my side, but my legs did not fully twist around or something, and I slept a couple more hours with the right leg pinned in some odd position. I woke up with a bad pain and a bit of a limp. This progressed through the week, until I ended up on a cane and really fighting to walk. I woke up Saturday morning at about four in the morning, in total pain and unable to find any sleeping position that let my leg go to a neutral and pain-free state, and decided I needed some professional help. I went to a clinic first thing Saturday morning, only to find their x-ray guy was out. A doctor looked at it, said “yeah, it’s messed up” and told me to come back on Tuesday (damn holiday weekend) to see an ortho and get it worked up. The only good news is I got a script for Tylenol-3, and codeine is my pal.

The weekend has been extremely boring, except for the parts when I’m on the T-3 full-force, which is pretty decent. But I’ve done nothing except watch TV and DVDs nonstop. I haven’t been able to read much, and writing is out of the question. I have found a comfortable combination of pillows and supports to keep the leg in a good position, and I’ve found ice packs on a constant basis help a hell of a lot. (Luckily we have a fridge with an ice machine.) I still don’t entirely know what is wrong with the knee, but I’m 90% certain the doctor will waste my day and then say “soft tissue damage. keep icing it.” In a perfect world, the doctor would shoot some kind of steroid into a tendon and all would be well. We’ll see.

Nothing else to report. I think the most interesting thing that has happened to me lately is I caught about half of Back to the Future II this afternoon…