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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Just as I had managed to drift off to sleep tonight, loud music started up in the apartment across the hall from me. New neighbors moved in a few weeks ago — I have not yet met them face to face — and earlier this week they kept me awake with the sounds of their lovemaking coupled with music that was apparently intended to mask their amorous exclamations. On that night, just as I was about to get out of bed to ask them to modulate, the noise stopped, so I wrote it off as their one free night of youthful inconsideration. No noise from them during the week, but I promised myself that I would act swiftly if it happened again. Cut to twenty minutes ago and the music from the neighbors' stereo being heard through my wall at a volume that is unacceptable for a residential building at 3am. One of their speakers must be located right next to the head of my bed, only on the other side of the wall, and the walls here are thin. As most of you are aware (from my serial whinging about the matter), I suffer with insomnia, so what little sleep I may glean on any given night is precious. Thus, I got out of bed, threw on a shirt, and ventured across the hall.

Upon leaving my flat I could not help but hear the music, which was audible at a level where I may as well have been in the room with it. Surprisingly, none of the other tenants on my floor took umbrage, so I assumed they were either dead asleep or out enjoying the remainder of Friday night bar time. Anyway, I rang the doorbell a few times and  soon heard the music's volume decrease. I could hear someone stumble to the door, lining themself up to peer at me through its peephole. I was met with a confused "Hello?" from what sounded like a male in his mid-to-late twenties, so I told him I was his across-the-hall neighbor and that his music could clearly be heard through the wall and that it was right next to my head, thus rendering it impossible for me to sleep. I was polite but firm and it was likely that having a big, bald black dude appear at his door with a noise complaint in the wee hours of the morning was NOT something he anticipated when retiring to dally with his inamorata, so he apologized, after which the music was silenced. I came back to my apartment but now I was wide-awake again, so I will put on an audiobook on low and let its voice lull me back to sleep. At least it's a Saturday, so I don't have to wake up early.

In my 26 years of living here, I only had to complain about late-night noise once, when my then across-the-hall neighbor, an obnoxious trust fund kid named Larry, saw nothing wrong with inviting over some randos he'd met just before a local bar closed. Larry was a cokehead whose habit lost him three well-paying jobs within that year, so his days were spent being falling down drunk while he played selections from his voluminous record collection — he was an obsessive audiophile — and he spent his nights cruising the neighborhood bars and snorting cocaine with strangers.

On the night in question, Larry had lured guests back here with the promise of Bolivian marching powder, and probably a head full of hope of getting laid. Larry arrived just before 4am with three equally-wasted strangers he'd just met, and once within his flat he put on Black Sabbath's first album at high volume with heavy bass, and the group began doing coke and talking and laughing loudly amongst themselves. The din woke me from a sound sleep (back in the days when such slumber was commonplace), so I got out of bed and knocked on Larry's door. He threw the door open and, reeking like a distillery while looking like he'd tried to shove a box of powdered donuts up his nostrils, smiled and gestured for me to come in. "Hey, Steve!" he bellowed. "We're havin' a sniff party! Come on in!" I did not budge but I did alert him to the fact that it was just after 4am on a Tuesday and I had to be up at 7 to get ready for work. He either did not hear me or did not care, so I raised my voice and shifted into "scary black man" mode, which got him to focus on my words. His guests also took notice of the dusky irate figure who loomed in the doorway, and they were at least sober enough to know that the party train had been derailed. They gathered their things and swiftly exited, leaving Larry there to whine "Hey, man! You're harshing my good time! NOT cool!" I told him to turn the music off and go to bed or I would call the police, and once he heard the word "police," he complied.

After that, Larry's drunken and coked-up antics only increased, or maybe he'd always been that bad and I had simply never seen it. Whatever the case, he was now regularly seen at all hours staggering around bombed or wired, his classic moment came one morning when I had to go into work early to get a head start on a time-sensitive assignment. I left my apartment around 6:30am, and as I was locking my deadbolt I noticed what appeared to be a corpse laying at the top of the stairs to my floor, so I took a photo for visual evidence, just in case. (see photo below)   

                                             Ah, the joys of New York City tenement living...

Upon close examination I at first thought a homeless guy had gotten into the building, but it turned out to be Larry, who was so drunk that he stopped to lay down and rest upon making it onto the second floor, perhaps twenty feet from his apartment. He was out cold, so I woke him up (as much as I could) and asked if he was alright. Slurring, he assured me he was fine, then he invited me to join him on the floor. Instead, I offered to help him into his flat, but he declined my offer and opted to remain where he was. Not having the time nor the energy for that foolishness, I bid him farewell, to which he happily exclaimed "GET SOME REST!!!"

That was a decade ago, and there have been no late-night incidents until tonight's. I hope my neighbors will be more considerate going forth, but we shall see...

Friday, September 22, 2023



During today's dialysis session I read the first volume of SUPERMAN VS MESHI, the imported manga series in which Superman reveals he's addicted to Japanese cuisine, hence the "meshi" of the title. (It loosely translates as "something that is eaten," or "grub.") You see, when lunchtime rolls around, Supes frequently flies to Japan at super speed and satisfies his craving for his favorite food while commenting on the meals like a smitten food critic. His sense of wonder and enjoyment during all of this takes me right back to my formative years and my early experiences with the sumptuous flavors and textures of Japanese food, and by the time I finished reading the first volume I wanted to devour a big plate of seafood tempura and rice.

The tone of the script eases the reader into assorted Japanese dishes and what makes them so delicious, and the simplistic artwork gives the piece the look and feel of a child's primer on the joys of Japan's cornucopia of quality eats. In short, it's a fun guide for newcomers to the cuisine and foodies alike, with guest spots by Justice League members. It's silly but it knows what it's on about, so I will be back for more. Offbeat but RECOMMENDED. (And it's relatively cheap.)

Saturday, July 15, 2023


Getting all of my ducks in a row ahead of checking into the ER on Tuesday morning. Did all of my laundry, bought necessities for my toiletries bag, and packed my huge EMT backpack with nearly everything that I will need for an estimated week in the hospital. I will save the packing of my last items until the morning when I leave, thus ensuring that I don't forget anything. I did the same during my last stint at Presbyterian-Methodist, and I forgot nothing. I will have my phone, laptop, noise-canceling headphones, assorted chargers, extension cord, and the latest James Bond novel to keep me occupied during hospital dialysis, the weekend limbo period (when most of the A-team medical staff is out), and post-op recovery.

Psychologically, I am in a better place than I expected to be while considering what's impending, and I am glad for that. If my decade-plus of ongoing medical misery has equipped me with, it's the strength to face almost any procedure with a solid degree of fearlessness and forward thinking. I accept that the loss of my toe only makes sense as a preventative for something much more dire, and I will adjust to perambulation without it. It will no doubt be an arduous process, but I have endured and overcome other serious conditions, so I am approaching this as a warrior approaches such an inevitability on the battlefield. One must soldier on.

Thursday, July 13, 2023


Just got back from my latest consultation with my podiatrist, and I am sad to say that I have bad news.
Upon today's examination it is clear that my left big toe is not healing properly and somehow became dislocated, causing it to warp to the left and drain blood. X-rays were taken and they revealed just how ganked-up all of it is, with an apparent infection in the joint, hence the draining. After careful consideration and discussion, I have agreed with Dr. Chung's assessment and am reporting to the ER on Tuesday morning so the ball can get rolling on amputation. Better to lose a toe than have the infection spread and lose a foot, says I.
Tuesday will see me enduring a battery of painless angio tests to determine if my blood flow is sufficient for the procedure and to allow healing. It was good enough for the procedure on my toe and the foot's sole, so that should not be a problem. The following day will be dialysis in the hospital, followed by more followup testing and more dialysis on Friday, then the usual weekend in limbo until the regular work week once more kicks off, the again with the dialysis on Monday. After that, it's time for the amputation procedure then a few days of post-op observation. I'm not happy about any of this but if it means keeping the overall foot, then so be it.
I will continue the updates as more develops. STAY TUNED and thanks for the continued support.


Saturday, June 10, 2023


I went out to pick up my latest prescriptions and found a Pride-themed street fair in full, colorful swing. While wandering among the throng, I heard my name called out by a familiar voice. It was old friend/family member Sara, with her husband Pat and their daughter, my niece Jackie. Jackie is currently in her tweens and is a bright and voracious reader who has discovered young adult literature.

During our conversation about books at a block party a week ago, I told Jackie she would probably enjoy reading Anthony Burgess's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Kids her age have no idea what that infamous book (or movie) is, so I related the basics of the story to her. She was very intrigued, so I ran the idea of me giving her one of my copies of it by her parents. (I have several, each rescued after being left out on stoops around the neighborhood). Sara and Pat were totally cool with it, with Pat being particularly pumped at the idea, so I promised to have Jackie's copy with me when next we met. Well, today's unexpected encounter happened right around the corner from my apartment, so I hustled upstairs and grabbed Jackie her copy.

Instead of the common movie edition with the florescent orange cover, I gave her the paperback of an early pre-movie edition. Unfortunately it's not the version that features the final chapter that was not adapted for film, but it does feature the slang glossary in the back, which will make parsing the Nadsat language that dominates the novel that much easier. Which is not to say that Jackie isn't more than bright enough to catch on quickly, because she absolutely is.

Anyway, this is the cover for the edition that she now owns, and I told her to get back to me with her thoughts when she's finished reading it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023



What is your favorite James Bond film, and why?

I've been on the 007 bandwagon since age 9, when I saw GOLDFINGER on the ABC Sunday Night Movie, back in the pre-cable era when periodic screenings of the Bond films on ABC were a special event, so I have watched the series progress for almost five decades. (My first Bond was seeing DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER at a drive-in with my parents when I was six. The only part that I remember from that viewing was the bit with the moon buggy. Other than that, I believe I slept through everything else.) My tastes in Bond adventures was defined by the Connery era, the first five films specifically (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was Connery's return after George Lazenby's one-shot and excellent ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, by which time Connery clearly no longer gave a shit), and during those early entries was when the formula was finding its way. Bond as we know it now was really codified with the trifecta of GOLDFINGER (1964), THUNDERBALL (1965), and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967), in which the franchise's tropes of lavish spectacle, dad jokes, outlandish gadgets, ludicrous femme fatale names, travelogue thrills, and nonsense that veered into outright fantasy/science-fiction were carved in stone, with what amounted to remaking GOLDFINGER over and over for decades being the result and becoming a worldwide cultural institution in the process.

Most fans love the more outrageous, over-the-top entries, but I prefer the more down-and-dirty, grounded flavor of Cold War espionage, and for me no other film in the series is as pure in that department as 1963's FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. Hewing closely to Ian Fleming's novel, it's a taut thriller that will surprise modern viewers with its relative realism, and that, coupled with Connery's finest turn as 007, is why I rank it as the best of the series. It was cold-blooded spyjinx with zero fills and gewgaws, just before the franchise took a hard left into self-parody. Prior to the Daniel Craig era, the only 007 flicks that hold the same appeal to me are ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and LICENSE TO KILL, so make what you will of that opinion. If you have never seen FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, perhaps dissuaded by its vintage, I urge you to give it a watch. It's like getting hit in the face with a bucket of ice water.

So, what's your favorite and why? Please feel free to elucidate at length in the comments section. 

Seriously, folks, they may have gotten bigger, but never better.

Friday, June 02, 2023


As today's dialysis session was ending, I received a phone call from Mount Sinai's kidney transplant department. It recently made the news that the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network board has prohibited use of an antiquated kidney function test that can overestimate kidney function in Black patients, which masks the severity of their kidney disease and results in late diagnosis and delayed transplant referrals. Consequently, in what experts are calling an unprecedented move to correct racial inequity in access to kidney transplants, the board recently approved a waiting time adjustment for Black transplant candidates. The call from Mount Sinai was to alert me to my status being re-assessed, so my current projected time is somewhere around four years. They're going to send me documents outlining things in more detail, but rather than getting psyched over this news, I just let out a groan. When this journey began, I was repeatedly told that the average wait time for African-American transplant patients was between three to seven years, and I will have been undergoing dialysis for three solid years as of this coming August. Today's news basically told me that I can expect four more years of thrice-weekly treatment. Four. More. Years.

I will read the upcoming documents in detail when they arrive, just to make sure I am not mis-understanding anything, but the concrete prospect of four more years in limbo just kicked me right in the skull.


Thursday, June 01, 2023



One more dialysis session for the week, starting tomorrow morning, and I am counting down the hours until it ends and I can come back home. I'm not feeling sleepy yet and I have to be up at 7:45am, so I have no idea what time I will finally crash or if I will be able to sleep. I'm just too wound up. It's times like this when I wish I were still stupid enough to indulge in a strong edible chased with a fistful of Gabapentin. The resulting effect found me slowly drifting off to the dreamscape, and once I was fully under, my dreams looked like a live-action iteration of Pepperland from YELLOW SUBMARINE. The sleep was deep and it would last for nine hours or more, and when I woke I would still feel like I was existing in another, happier dimension. 

I wouldn't do it now, but I would be lying if I said the temptation to just check out wasn't occasionally there.



While going through the nearly 9000 digital photos on two laptops, I am reminded that my life used to be both a lot of fun and creatively enriching. Looking into that rollicking past occasionally makes me wistful, but the underlying point of all of this is to remind myself that when I finally make it through the ordeal of late stage kidney failure treatment and the eventual kidney transplant, once I convalesce, I can actively strive to reclaim my joie de vivre. As of right now I am a few weeks shy of turning 58, so I'm not that old, not really, and plenty of people have rediscovered/revivified themselves even later in life, so here's to an impending rebirth and creative surge! HOKUTO SHINKEN WA MUTEKI DA!!!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023



It's a day off between treatments, and when I awoke my mind felt numb from how my life is on an ongoing holding pattern thanks to my battle with late stage kidney failure. Yesterday marked my 145th straight week on dialysis, so with three sessions per week, plus yesterday's, I have undergone regularly scheduled dialysis 433 times, and there's more to come. And that's excluding the handful of times when I had to go in for an extra session to remove excess accumulated fluid. (I forgot to note those on my calendar.)

It could be worse, but it's a torturous existence. Mentally and emotionally, I am just exhausted and I have little or no energy for doing much of anything. My medical odyssey has been ongoing for just about a decade, starting with my first stents for my heart, then the years of agonizing atopic dermatitis the rendered me looking like the titular character from THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON, 


                                                      THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON (1958).

more stents, a near-fatal bout of pneumonia (that was mis-diagnosed by Presbyterian-Methodist), kidney failure leading to dialysis, and finally my recent foot surgery. It's as though when one issue is dealt with, another comes to take its place. It just does not let up.

In relative terms, it was not too long ago that I was unfettered by medical woes and I could go anywhere and do damned near whatever I wanted to at the drop of a hat, but those days are behind me and my time of unavoidable inactivity during the past ten years has allowed me a great deal of time for introspection and consideration of the life I have lived up until now. It may sound corny, but hindsight is indeed 20/20 and I should have paid more heed to the excesses I was subjecting my body to during my misspent youth and early forays into adulthood. I certainly had a lot of fun — or at least I thought I did — but if I knew for a fact then what I know now, you had better believe I would have lived my life more sensibly.

Yes, some of my issues are no doubt part of the inevitability of aging, but I think it's a safe bet to say that the majority of this can be chalked up to the abuses I put myself through during those days when one is either blissfully unaware or unheeding of one's own mortality. I was a mess for a good three decades, which is a long time of not getting one's shit together. Deep down I knew that I was self-medicating as a way to avoid dealing with my rampaging inner demons and the trauma wrought by assorted deeply-scarring childhood and adolescent trauma, but rather than seek professional help I just carried on partying while ignoring the earliest signs that there were issues with my health.

It took me until between the ages of 40 and 42 to finally get to grips with my mental/emotional ills, at which point I cut down my consumption of liquor and weed by something like 98%, seemingly overnight and with no symptoms of withdrawal, but shortly thereafter is when my body began its unignorable deterioration. At first I had no medical insurance, but Obamacare eventually got me sorted in that department, and without it I have no idea what I would have done, so while I may grouse about the ongoing state of being caught in treatment limbo, I am grateful that I have it.

Please pardon the rambling, but on days off my mind tends to wander and it helps to articulate those thoughts in order to get them out of my head, even for a little while.

Anyway, bottom line: NEVER take your health for granted, either mental or physical or both.