We are getting to be like old people.

Diseases and annoyances that I have discussed with friends today:
hot flashes
Hepatitis C
bipolar disorder
breast cancer
reaction to HPV vaccine: recurring rashes
strep throat
polycythemia vera
fibrocystic breast disease

Not as many as I thought.

It could be worse. It could always be worse. Everything, everything could be worse. Tonight K and I were walking down Broadway (New York) and right around Lincoln Center we saw (and heard) a line of 15 or so cop cars speeding down the street. It turned out to be a routine terrorist drill. I was walking by a fire station yesterday and saw a plaque with pictures of fire fighters who had died in 9/11. B read about a young girl who died from the HPV vaccine, and her mother's remorse at having urged the daughter to get it. How could she forgive herself? But it wasn't her fault. J said she loved Joan of Arc when she was young. B said she was fascinated by the story of Tamar in the Bible. She is also fascinated by temple prostitutes. J worked for Eliot Spitzer and said he was arrogant, just like people said. I went to St. John the Divine and it felt taller than European cathedrals. Arches (and probably naves; I always forget what they are) and bright bright stained glass. It's the first time I remembered seeing the American Poets' Corner. Molly Peacock is the poet in residence.
B met me across the street from the cathedral at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, where I first went about 15 years ago with A, whom I had contacted because we were researching the same person. She had had breast cancer and was a breast cancer activist and I wasn't sure what that meant. I didn't ask her because it sounded boring. She had been to the statehouse. L was downstate today, and stopped in Bloomington to interview the workers at the David Davis Mansion. Why would someone give a kid a first name so much like his last name? At a party years ago we met a guy who said his father changed the family name when the son was a teen, so that his name became Henry Henry. He did not forgive his father for that. And why are there so many men named "Dusty" Rhodes? Does each think he's the only one?

The cool part of Birmingham or: Kafka in 'bama

If you ever find yourself in Birmingham, Alabama, and you want to be reminded of, say, East Berlin not long after the fall of the Wall, when lots of artists cooperatives and little restaurants sprang up in alleyways and empty buildings, then take yourself to Greencup Books, 105 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. South. This space (and this space only) has the feel of E. Berlin. I had a little reading there on Friday. Next door is Bare Hands Gallery, which had on display some shiny silver deer heads and a political piece made of an old water fountain. (You look down in the hole where the pipe went and you see Obama cards and in the middle, a black and white photo of a bigot in front of the statehouse, probably in the 1960s.)

Greencup has a portrait of Kafka painted on the wall, flanked by (painted) cockroaches, and a couple of shelves of lit mags and zines from all over. It's a nonprofit, which hosts classes and performances, and designs and prints books. Outside on the sidewalk was a bin of romance novels. Inside were shelves and shelves of used books. Plus some couches, typewriters, and people sitting with their laptops. My reading started late, upstairs, where there were large skeleton costumes hanging up, in storage from the annual Dia de los Muertes festival. Not that many people are here, the head guy told me, after checking upstairs, where the reading would take place, and then I went up there and saw one person waiting. In the end, there were seven in the audience, plus a dog, who didn't seem to be much interested in cancer or Cancer Bitch. I'd met three of the audience members at the gallery. One of them had a mastectomy about 20 years ago when she was penniless and insurance-less, and had reconstruction more recently. She said she was sick of pink ribbons and we talked about pink-washing, whereby corporations and sports teams support breast cancer benefits in order to clean up their public profiles. We sat in a sort of oblong and I read and we talked. It was very intimate. I'd read the night before at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, in a gallery, with an audience of students and faculty, as far as I could tell. All my books were for sale but I don't know how many were sold. Friday night I brought books to sell and sold two. Which is a good percentage.

I have a reading in Princeton tomorrow at noon and am now in the basement of my friends' house in that fair city. I met G in France ten or more years ago at a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on the legacy of fascism in France, Germany and Italy. Her husband is here on a Hodder fellowship. I don't know yet where the cool places in Princeton are--beyond here, in this house.

Tacheles, Berlin

Greencup, Birmingham

The Reluctant Guest

So I decided to have some kind of little seder on the second night of Passover, some of this and some of that, not really a seder because seder means "order," and this would be more dadaist and disorderly. I invited a few people. I went to Whole Foods yesterday to get wine for the first seder we were going to. The cashier was chatty and said he'd never been invited to a seder, and his friends tell him they're boring. I told him to get invited to a good one. Then I left and ran an errand and had the great thought: I could invite him.
I drove back to Whole Foods and invited him, giving him a piece of ppaer with my phone number and address. He said he'd bring kosher wine.
I didn't tell L. I was embarrassed. I thought he'd think I was goofy. I put together a little service, and decided that the Guest would be our focus, that he would ask the four questions and we would answer them, and we would explain things to him as we went along. I was nervous. I didn't want him to think I was going to kidnap him. I didn't think he was going to rob us; I didn't get that vibe from him.
At 7 S and J arrived. Then M. Then G. It got to be 7:25 and the cashier hadn't shown up. We decided to get started. This means that S and J presented a medly of tunes that tell the Passover story. They were quite amusing and we clapped.
So I felt momentarily lost because I'd lost my blank slate upon which I could project my holiday information blitz. The others joked about him, saying that the kid had been afraid I was going to make matzah from his blood. (This is what it means to live in America now, that we can joke about this, about what's known as blood libel, because it is so absurd, carries no weight in our lives, and the outside, goyish world agrees (mostly; there must be some anti-Semitic paranoiacs around). We are safe. At this moment.
So we proceeded without the non-Jewish cashier and read pieces of a Berkeley haggadah and small parts from The Love + Justice in a Time of War hagaddah from the internet. It offers tidbits like this: A) Some of the questions people are really
asking as they participate in a seder:
1. How many more hours until we eat?
2. Why on this night do some of us traditionally eat balls of
reconstituted fish parts?
3. Will G-d strike me down if I get up to go to the bathroom during
the maggid?
4. Why on this night do said fish balls always have slice of carrot on
top, and is it true that jelled broth is in fact the Jewish people’s
most enduring contribution to humanity? (2)
We discussed:
Annoying Plagues of our Times:
1. Reality TV
2. Thong underwear above the pants line
3. Cell Phones
4. Patchouli on white people
5. Starbucks
6. Dr. Phil
7. Muzak
8. Macrame
9. SUV’s
10. 80’s retro fashion revival

Soon we were complaining. And then when it got to Dayenu, we realized there were many things that by themselves would not have been enough.
We are a demanding lot.
We ate, we drank, we sang, S opened the door for Elijah... and the reluctant guest did not walk in. He is somewhere out in the night. It is dark with a fullish moon and he is probably thinking, guiltily? relievedly? of us.

The Hostile Bitch

When they first met, the young woman was saying that she turned down a great job to stay home with her son. Cancer Bitch wondered what the job was. When she found out it was tenure-track, she was angry. Why was she so angry with a woman she barely knew? This is the Bitch part of Cancer Bitch. She is judgmental and thinks that no one should turn down a good job as a professor. Is she jealous because no one has ever ever ever offered her a tenure-track job? Is she alienated because she doesn't understand how anyone would want to spend all day with a baby? Is she secretly envious and wistful that she never had her own baby, the lady doth protest too much and all that? Or is it perhaps that she's lost friends when they've become wrapped up in their children and would talk about nothing else, and that she is transferring her anger and hurt from them to this nice young stranger who happens to like being with her own child?
Cancer Bitch just learned more: that the young woman wanted to go back to full-time work after two months, then changed her mind, as the baby turned more and more into a person. Cancer Bitch fears being left alone with a baby, though she babysat for real babies as a teen. What would she do with a baby? How do you hold it and stop it from crying? They are alien, though she knews she was once one herself, unbelievably, and so were most of her friends.
A decade and a half ago she and her friend made up a song. The chorus was: Your baby bores me. But even this is not true. She likes to hear about people's babies. But she prefers to hear about their dogs.


Management decided that the workers were drinking too much tea. Specifically, the various types of tea that sat in the cabinet in the break room, which Management paid for. Management decreed that from now on there would be fewer choices of teas. There would only be black and green, caf and decaf. And no honey. That cost too much, too. The idea was that with fewer choices, people would drink less tea. Or if they missed their favorite flavors, they would purchase their own.
The financial outcome has not yet been determined. The question persists: Why does Management assume that people will buy and bring their own? Why wouldn't it assume that in these austere times, the workers would be frugal, sighing and drinking the same amount of tea as before, accepting the fewer choices?

It could turn out that Management will pay the same as it always has for tea, except that more of the budget will go toward basic tea and none for herbals and relative exotica.

Platelet dreams/Brooklyn screams

I know that other people's dreams are usually boring, so I'll try to fly through this one really quickly.
I dreamed that I missed the first night of a journalism class at Well-Regarded University. I was excoriated, and P, who used to teach there with me, defended me on TV, saying that I had eaten a pepper that had made me sick. This was a fabrication; I had gotten the date wrong. But then I tried to insert my real disease (polycythemia vera) into the excuse so that it wouldn't be 100 percent false. I do, after all, turn red from PV and I did go to the hospital recently (in real life and in the dream), directly-indirectly because of PV.
This illustrates my confusion about how important my disease is to me and my mortality. My hematologist is pretty sanguine shall we say about my prospects. I read online that people live 3 or 5 or 10 or 20 years after a diagnosis. Usually men over 60 are the patients. I am not a man over 60.
This week I got a prescription for hydroxyurea, scary medicine to reduce my platelet count. I got it filled today and took one of the garish capsules. So far I have not suffered nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, severe decrease in blood cell counts, signs of serious infection, seizures, brown urine, blackened skin, yellowing skin, purple skin spots. I have not had tingling/burning/numbness of hands/feet/legs, though I had itching that is a result of the disease, which I'm taking another medication for.
This happened more than 50 years ago, in Brooklyn.
A young woman was set to meet her sweetheart's family. She was sheltered and an only child, and was accustomed to acting with decorum and wearing white gloves when she went out. She went to the family's apartment in Brooklyn (she lived in Brooklyn, too) and they sat down to dinner. At the table, everyone yelled. She was so upset she cried.
And then married the man and over time became a loud person herself.

Old Before My Time

I don't like to complain, a student once said to me, and I took a chance and said, I think you do. In fact I was meeting with him because he had complained about the first night of his first course. I too could say that I don't like to complain. Is that true? I think I like to whine. The only reason I don't love it is that I know no one wants to listen.

Instead, I will state facts, just like Harper's. Number of doctors seen in the last seven days: six (two ER docs on Saturday, gyne on Monday, gyne and a resident on Tuesday, hematologist and podiatrist today). If you change the word to "healer," it's seven, because I went to physical therapy yesterday, where I declared cured of Achilles tendonitis.

I don't like to complain, but... I've had a headache since Saturday. That by itself wouldn't bring me to any doctor, but I mentioned it in the ER and with the blood doctor today. It's a tension or sinus headache and maybe it was caused by stressing out my neck and shoulders with the backpack. Nothing helps it, except maybe some massaging of my temples my neck. Are you a headache person? the hematologist asked me, and I said yes. I think headaches were a sign of growing up, a sign of allegiance to my father's side of the family. My father had headaches and neck aches and he and his brother both had those mysterious weights ("traction") they used to help with the pain. Headaches were a sign of seriousness, of studiousness, of bookishness, Jewishness, of learning and erudition. Isn't that pitiful? I am a serious person, therefore my head hurts. I am frail and intellectual, like a tubercular tailor from the ghetto who nonetheless makes time to study the holy books.

My friend Paula has had a headache for more than a dozen years. I hesitate to mention mine because it pales next to hers.

But really I do not want to complain complain because it is tedious. So I had a D & C and the worst thing about it was getting up early. The drugs knocked me out (or made me forget any pain). Before I was wheeled in to the OR, I told the doctor I'd had bad experiences with residents, was she going to do the inserting and scraping herself? She said she would do it all, but the resident would help her, and that she herself had studied with a Mexican gentleman, Rafael Valle, who pioneered hysteroscopy, and he was a male chauvinist but she managed because she was Italian, and because he mentored her, she felt obligated to show others how to do it, as long as she was alive.

In fact, he wrote the book on it: Manual of Clinical Hysteroscopy.

Soon to be a major motion picture.

(O, Italian, I thought, and felt partially satisfied. I'd wanted to place her, I wanted to know her country of origin. Through Google I found out she's Jewish. Why O why does this matter, O Cancer Bitch? Is she Sephardic? Cancer Bitch asked herself. Or was she Italian Catholic and did she convert? Jews are even more provincial than New Yorkers.)

Today her nurse called and said that the pathology report came back and I have no abnormal cells. That's good. I do have a big fat fibroid that the doctor showed me a picture of Tuesday, and she wants to take it out. I was too woozy to ask why. L says it's because it's in the way. In the way of what? It's not like I'm storing anything in my uterus. And I have other fibroids that I've treated with benign neglect. I remember that she said it hadn't shown up on the ultrasound. So it's a surprise fibroid. In the picture it looked just like an egg.