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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

TAKING IT WAY TOO FAR


While grocery shopping yesterday, I could not help but overhear a 20-something couple picking out assorted items.

What brought them to my attention was how unconsciously loud the woman, who happened to be a very cute blonde, was, as she blathered on endlessly about this that and everything else, but mostly about white women. What drove it firmly into the territory of the ridiculous and offensive was her doing all of this in an intentional "white woman" accent cribbed from virtually every black standup act of the the past sixty years — if you knew where to look, starting in the days when black men talking about white women on stage was a possible one-way ticket to the morgue — and her accent bore verifiable influences from Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry. All of this was compounded by mixing things up with an outrageous "ghetto ho" accent for counter-point. She was basically a one-woman minstrel show dropping "white gurl" jokes, or, if you prefer, a one-woman show of WHITE CHICKS. It was bizarre and I almost said something, but I let it go. If the cosmos wants to give her a "Bitch, are you for real?" moment, then let someone else do it. I have too much on my plate at the moment.

This level of un-self-aware cringe is what I was afraid of when some of my very white nieces and nephews started getting into Tyler Perry and began imitating Madea's mannerisms. Needless to say, I came down hard on that shit.

And now we have today's climate. How is her unabashedly doing this in a neighborhood dominated by people of color? The mind wobbles.

Friday, July 10, 2020

THE NEVER-ENDING SHITSTORM CONTINUES

Well, today sucked out loud. "Hey, Steve! What did I do on your summer vacation? Fun in the sun? Debauchery between the oiled, tanned thighs of some sweet lady in a sarong? Teaching bottlenose dolphins to be eloquent vulgarians?" Oh, GO FUCK YOURSELF...

Though the recurring hiccups gave me a brief respite during last night's watch of DOOM PATROL, they returned with a vengeance and kept me awake all night long. I could not go for more than a few seconds without hiccuping, so I resolved to make my way to the local urgent care when it opened at 8am. I had a similar issue two or three years ago and that's where I went for help during that incident, receiving a prescription for Gabapentin in the bargain. (It resets the vagus nerve, thus preventing the hiccups.)

Today, however, found me admitted a little after 10am, and once shown into an examination room I told the resident what was wrong, along with my prior history with the same thing and how I had come there before for help, and making sure to mention that Gabapentin did the trick last time. I also clarified matters further by letting him know that I'd had that nuclear stress test on Monday and that my hiccups started in earnest sometime on Tuesday.

The resident left and soon came back with the attending physician, and upon hearing all of this he asked me why I needed the nuclear stress test. I told him it was to check the state of my heart ahead of the upcoming dialysis fistula surgery, which was itself ahead of the eventual kidney transplant, and that information gave him pause. He felt that because a nuclear stress test is stressful (it's right there in the name), it was possible that the dilation of my heart's arteries may have shaken me up and kick-started the hiccups. So, before anything else could be done, he felt it would be advisable for me to undergo an EKG. I resigned myself to it because an EKG is basically non-invasive and quick, plus my chest and abdomen still bore the bare patches from when I got shaved for the EKG I underwent the other day.

Unfortunately for me, the resident was the one who was tasked to hook me up and administer the test, and the guy clearly did not know what he was doing. It took him 20 minutes to figure everything out, and the doctor, who was present for most of the prep, offered no assistance. After much fumbling I was finally properly connected to the unit, and when the doctor looked over the results he told me to get myself to the nearest ER immediately.

I was stunned.

I had just been given good news in this department by my team at Mount Sinai two days prior, so to hear that was a blow.

When I asked exactly what was wrong, the doctor stated that due to my age and the fact that I am a high-risk patient, it was best if I let the folks in the ER at NY Methodist (which was two avenues away) give me a going-over, which would include another EKG, blood work, et cetera, a prospect that filled me with dread, especially since I just cannot seem to go more than a week or two without being in a hospital for something. And frankly, I am fucking sick of it.

I explained that I had received good results from my cardiologist, but the urgent care doctor was having none of it. He began filling my head with every worst case scenario he could think of, including the possibility of me having "a metabolic abnormality," and with that I admittedly kind of lost it. I just sat there, silent at first, and then I quietly-but-sternly stated "It never fucking ends..." followed by a ramble expressing my utter weariness of all of this, only I cannot even remember exactly what I said. All I know is that I was clearly angry, as when I am in that state I remain seemingly calm but level-voiced while avoiding the use of contractions when I speak. The doctor was visibly taken aback, and he had backed up by a few feet as he said "I'm sorry. It's a hard road." In my head I responded with "Tell me something I don't know motherfucker," but I opted to be polite and instead stated "Yeah. It's a hard road I've been walking for the past seven years, and I am just exhausted."

The doctor proceeded to try and placate me, stating that if I went to the ER and it turned out to be a waste of time, "Hey, no big deal, but you've got to stay on top of this sort of thing." I figured there was no point in trying to get across to him just how comprehensively "on top of this sort of thing" I am and have been for years, so I told him I would go. At that point I would have said anything, just so I could get the hell out of there. Not just because of the unpleasantness of yet more testing and hospital shit, but because I could see my energy was scaring the shit out of the doctor. Those of you who know me in the world outside of social media know that I am basically a pussycat, but to those who have never encountered me before, I am a large black man whose manner of communication and overall demeanor do not jibe with the common perception an American black male, so I am already an unknown and confusing commodity to most. Couple all of that with all that's been going on of late, and in some eyes I become some weird sepia golem, only dispatched by who knows what ire-fueled forces. (Let me assure you it was not Rabbi Loew.) I did not mean to scare anyone, and the fact that that's exactly what I was doing just brought me right down. Anyway, I left immediately after being handed my dismissal papers.

Instead of hitting the ER, I came straight home, deeply bummed-out, and called a dear friend who's a doctor. Since all of my medical shit kicked off, she kindly offered her assistance as a consultant if shit gets too thick, so I called and told her what had just happened. I was immediately glad that I called her, because her calm, rational and soothing voice always puts me at familial ease, and upon hearing the situation she suggested that I call my cardiologist and may primary care physician at Mount Sinai for their take on the matter. I was still hiccuping and it was driving me insane, so I hoped talking with either of them would get me the Gabapentin I was denied during my urgent care visit. I left messages with the aforementioned Mount Sinai doctors and attempted to get some sleep while awaiting their responses, but that effort proved futile.

I eventually heard back from my cardiologist and, upon hearing of the situation at urgent care, he told me in no uncertain terms that there was no need for me to go to the ER, as my results from the other day clearly showed that, while not the acme of heart health, I was doing quite well, all things considered. The urgent care doctor may have been erring on the side of caution, but he also did not have my charts or the recent cardiac imaging to base his assumptions on, while my cardiologist had all of that. He told me not to worry and that the hiccups should clear up. If not, I was to call him again and we would take it from there. As for my primary care physician, she can sometimes take a while to get back to me if I leave her a message, which is wholly understandable, as Mount Sinai is swamped with COVID-19 cases, so I have yet to hear back from her. Thus, still no Gabapentin.

I again tried for some sleep, but I was so disoriented after no sleep due to endless hiccuping, I have no idea exactly how long I may or may not have managed to achieve some shuteye. The hiccups did eventually diminish considerably, but they still sneak in every few minutes, which definitely beats them occurring every ten seconds or less. I'm hoping it will all finally abate by the morning, by my throat is raw from all of it, and I have massive headache.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

A MOMENT OF "PURE IMAGINATION"

You never know where you'll find much-needed emotional release. To say that I have been incredibly wound-up of late would be a massive understatement, and tonight while finally watching last week's episode of DOOM PATROL — "Sex Patrol" — my emotional guard was unexpectedly fully let down, and the floodgates opened.

During an impromptu party to restore the broken Danny the Brick to his full glory as Danny the Street, Dorothy lets loose with a sweet rendition of "Pure Imagination" that, especially considering who it's coming from, was heartfelt and poignant. So much so that I found myself singing along with her as happy tears streamed down my face.

As a possible side-effect of the drug that dilated the arteries in my heart at the hospital the other day, I suffered with hiccups that would only briefly subside, so I got no sleep last night and spent the majority of going "hic" and having no appetite. I was going to hit the local urgent care in the morning and ask for a prescription for Gabapentin, the drug they gave me to reset my Vagus nerve when this happened a couple of years ago, but after "Pure Imagination" I felt better and my hiccups ceased.
Let's see if that state holds for the night (at the very least).

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

A LOST DAY

Today went by in a hazy blink.

As has been previously stated, it'd been a stressful past few weeks, with very little little sleep, so upon returning from the hospital yesterday I almost immediately crashed out for a few hours, waking up only for the most minimal of food intake. Today was no different, as I only got out of bed for the occasional bathroom break and a piece of toast. The residual effects of the isotope serum and artery-dilating drug rather did me in, so I was either sluggish and woozy with limbs that felt as heavy as lead, or I was out cold asleep for most of the day. I clearly needed the rest and I will likely go back to bed in a bit, but my appetite is final returning and it must be sated. Frozen Swedish meatballs and pasta to the rescue...

UPDATE

I just received my test results from my cardiologist and he says that after careful examination of the imaging and discussing matters with the cardiovascular surgeon, there is no reason for my fistula surgery not to go forward. My heart itself is in excellent condition, though there is a scar toward the lower region, but that could be due to my diabetes or a number of other things. The point it that I am in no immediate danger and no stent or other heart procedure is required. 

I asked him about my recent issues with occasional chest pains, and he stated that that could also be due to any number of factors — I've narrowed it down to a combination of endless worry over my medical issues, my mother's medical issues, the pandemic, and the lack of regular exercise at the gym for just under four months, plus dread over having to take yesterday's nuclear stress test (which proved to be unwarranted, as I was able to opt out of the treadmill) — but there was nothing in the imaging that pointed to anything being wrong. Not that I should ignore it if it happens again (don't worry, I won't), but it's all good enough for now.

I'm still confined to quarters for a few hours due to yesterday's two doses of that radioactive isotope serum, but that's fine by me. I'm also still kind of sluggish and loopy from the drug that dilated my arteries for the imaging, and part of its effects are feelings of nausea, wooziness, that sort of thing, so I'll mostly be staying in bed for the rest of the day. And with the dread over possibly croaking during the nuclear stress test out of the way, last night was the deepest sleep I've had in a couple of weeks.

Monday, July 06, 2020

ONCE MORE INTO THE MEDICAL BREECH...

Here we go again...

Due to anxiousness over what today's nuclear stress test at Mount Sinai may reveal, I got no sleep on Saturday night and finally shut down around 9am on Sunday morning, sleeping through to 4:30pm, after which I awoke briefly to hydrate, and then back to bed until around eight. Consequently I only slept for about an hour upon actually going to bed on Sunday night.

The echo stress test that I took on June 10th revealed that there is some narrowing in the arteries of my heart, so my surgery to install a dialysis fistula ahead of my eventual kidney transplant was delayed until I undergo a nuclear stress test to receive more precise data, which in turn delays moving forward with the transplant. A stress test sucks bad enough if one has not had any proper exercise for a while — as has been the case four almost four months, thanks to the pandemic shutting down gyms everywhere — and the nuclear version ups the ante by introducing radioactive material into the patient's system. I had one leading up to having my stent installed back in 2013, and I would not be surprised if I may require another stent. The stent is nowhere near as bad as it sounds; in fact, I was awake for the installation of my first one and I was fascinated. No pain, either, and after an overnight stay for observation I walked home from the local hospital where it was performed.

The issue with the current situation is that of late I have begun to experience a certain level of chest pains if I exert myself too much, and that is obviously concerning, but it was on the list of possible effects from decrease in kidney function, and mine is down to below 10%.

A stress test (of either variety) is intended to elevate and tax the patient's heart rate on a treadmill whose angle, speed, and level of difficulty increase throughout, and one is expected to hold on through it despite how torturous it becomes. The one I took a few weeks ago lasted for as long as I could stand it, but I had to quit before the optimal limit because my semi-arthritic right hip and knees just could not hold out, and when I got off of the treadmill I collapsed on the nearby gurney, heart racing/pounding, and painfully panting until I could finally breathe regularly. It's a scary sensation and I felt like my heart was about to explode, but the one reassurance was that all of this was taking place in one of country's best hospitals and under immediate care and observation by specialists. I will be enduring that again today, with things scheduled to kick off by me getting injected with radioactive imaging material at 1, after of which I lay there for a good, long while as the material permeates my system, and then the dreaded treadmill. Fortunately, a kind soul is giving me a lift there and back, so no dealing with public transportation. (The trip to today's branch of Mount Sinai usually averages about 70 minutes each way, featuring two trains and crosstown bus, and traffic permitting; by car it's about a half-hour each way.)

If I have to get another stent, then so be it, but anticipating that stress test is like slowly being led to the guillotine. And if I do have to get stented again, that means I will be in the hospital overnight for observation. I will have my phone and laptop with me, so I will be back with updates. Until then, I have to eat something before 9am, as I am allowed no food in my system as of four hours before the testing. Looks like poached eggs and toast and maybe a Chobani vanilla yogurt.

HOORAY FOR 2020...

Thursday, July 02, 2020

NEARLY SIX DECADES LATER AND STILL APPALLINGLY RELEVANT


From the BBC's classic THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS (aka TW3) series: a British number from 1963, lampooning tropes of the weekly light entertainment series THE BLACK AND WHITE MINSTREL SHOW (1958-1978) and commenting on the status quo of Mississippi at the time of the assassination of white Civil Rights marcher William Lewis Moore during a protest march. Basically "Springtime for Hitler" some four years before that classic of pointed offensiveness, this bit could absolutely NEVER be broadcast on TV (or damned near anywhere else) in 2020. Razor-sharp satire/political commentary played absolutely straight and ironically nostalgic. Seriously, do NOT play this at work, around kids, or anywhere near the easily-offended. 




 

 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

TODAY I AM 55



Another birthday, once more alone, but this time taking place under quarantine as I await the green light for upcoming dialysis fistula and kidney transplant surgeries. It's a shitty time and there will be no celebrations, but I did receive the following Facebook post from my dear friend since college, the Jewish flower of the Lower East Side, Izzy Izzy Bo Bizzy, now residing in Australia, married, and the coolest mother in the world the three superb kids:

Izzy (and her legendary midriff), circa 1991, surrounded by but a few of her cult of worshipers.

Bunche
Holy shit! That time again?
To celebrate my dear OLD friend.
You must be 69 by now.
The years have flown right by and how.

Let’s see, I need to get some things.
To ensure that this new year brings.
All of the pleasures without any stings.

Here is my list:
A 3 foot bong for old times sake.
Jaegermeister, to blame for mistakes.
A sushi platter and lots of dim sum.
A healthy maiden with a big round bum.
A certificate for my undying love.
A promise of fine weather from up above.
New nunchucks and a sexy blade.
Memories that will never fade.
A round-trip ticket to visit us here.
That won’t expire for over a year.
A day’s worth of talking, a lifetime of hugs.
A stroll in the park to hassle young thugs.
A year with my children to help them get right.
The knowledge that you are loved every night.

This year It is harder to give you these things.
Only Covid-19 knows what the next day brings.
But my friendship is your inalienable right.
I won’t give it up, I am prepared to fight.

Distance and time effect us in no way.
I will be your friend for EVERY birthday.

Even though now you are not in your prime.
I happily claim you as one of mine.

Eat, drink and make merry.
Celebrate your life.
Be good or next year I will gift you a wife!


I love you too, Izzy, and I miss you terribly.


 1994: Izzy at my apartment on the Upper West Side, expressing awe at the triumph of documentary cinema that is BOX BALL. 

Izzy today: Despite surviving marriage, three rambunctious children, and ongoing daily life in Australia (the land where literally everything is out to kill you), her mind remains haunted by that long-ago film of white trash testicular torture.

Monday, June 15, 2020

AFTER 48 YEARS...MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!

The "bears" from THE OUTER LIMITS (1963-1965).

When one's bear trap memory finally comes through: While listening to a YouTube critic expound on his favorite James Bond soundtracks, I searched Amazon for expanded CD editions of the Bond albums I've had on vinyl since I was a fledgling collector (age 9), as the vinyls did not feature all of the music used in the individual scores. During the search I stumbled across the 1966 soundtrack to MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and I was reminded of a vintage promotional single I have that features the famous theme tune and an unnamed instrumental on the B-Side. I sampled each album track and finally discovered that the unnamed B-side was entitled "Jim On the Move," but, curious to hear what the other tracks might yield, I tested the entire album. In doing so I quite unexpectedly ended a music search that has taken me nearly fifty years to complete.

Between the ages of six months and just two weeks before turning seven, my formative years were spent in South San Francisco, where I was first exposed to much of the movies and TV that shaped my tastes, and it was there that I discovered the original THE OUTER LIMITS at a very tender age. I don't recall the number of the independent station that it used to run on in repeats — possibly Channel 44? — but I never forgot its commercial for the show's reruns. It was a nicely-edited black & white montage of assorted monsters and aliens— or "bears," as they were referred to behind the scenes when the series in active production — so my attention was guaranteed, set to a memorable instrumental tune that has been stuck in my head for 48 years. I tried to find out what that tune was via whatever research means were available, but not even the advent of the internet yielded an answer. Until just now.

When sampling the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE soundtrack, the available snippet that set off my memory alarms to red alert was from a piece appropriately entitled "Mission Accomplished," but while I recognized the snippet, it was not the specific hook that had haunted me for so long, so I looked on YouTube for the exact item. Sure enough, "Mission Accomplished" was EXACTLY that long-sought-after instrumental. Do any of you other Bay Area kids of my age remember this tune?
 

Sunday, June 07, 2020

PSILOCYBIN PSILINESS

With all the dire shit that's going on lately, both in my own world and the world at large, I have been focusing on positive thoughts and fond memories, and during the evening's reverie I was reminded of the following heartwarming story. Let's set the Wayback Machine to New Year's Eve, 1986 (going into '87): 
I was back from college for winter break and my mom was gearing up to go out for the night to a party. I was granted leave to throw a party of my own in the house, so I invited the usual suspects and one of them brought a big bag of mushrooms that we planned to stew down into a tea. While my mother was still getting ready to head out, I took a suace pot and began brewing down the mushrooms. Before she left, mom saw the simmering pot and asked what it was. I told her it was a Chinese delicacy a friend had brought over and that it had to cook down carefully or it would taste unpleasant and bitter. My mom is very much a "right now" person, so her foodie curiosity was not granted immediate gratification, which disappointed her, but I promised I would save her some of the "soup." That made her happy, but when she got back hours later she was at first annoyed to find out there was nothing left.
Myself and the friend who'd brought the 'shrooms were by that time tripping balls but having a blast, so mom only noted that we seemed happier than usual. (She somehow failed to note that our pupils were as big as eggs.) When she started to bitch about me not having saved any of the soup for her, I was able to avoid a tongue-lashing by telling her it turned out the ingredients my friend had brought had been measured improperly and the end result tasted like bitter tar, so we poured it down the kitchen sink's drain and chucked the solid remains. I showed her the simmered-down mushrooms in the trash, and she totally bought the story. 
From there my buddy and I spent the next couple of hours entertaining my very wasted party guests — most of whom my mother did not realize were bombed; she was very naive — and frequently retreated to the screened-in back porch to smoke joints and marvel at the beauty of the crust on the iced-over snow, which caught the moonlight in a panoply of psychedlic colors. At one point, standing there in the freezing cold, utterly tripped out and mesmerized, the silence was broken when my buddy simply observed "Dontcha love nature?"