Sunday, November 29, 2009


The Seven Day Work Week

I know I've said this in the past. I have two jobs. Since the beginning of October I have had, I believe, maybe three or four days where I have not had to be at either job. One of those days was my birthday, which I had requested off, and one was Thanksgiving Day, where both places of business were closed. One other day was the day that my beloved pup had emergency surgery, which was a scheduled workday, but where I called out for personal reasons. I would not consider that a day off. Oh, yes, one more that I would not consider a day off- the day I had an epidural series of spinal injections to relieve inflammation of the spinal canal. Again, not a day off.

A brief perusal of the above paragraph should reveal why I frequently write about labor and health care issues. The two topics are close to my heart, soul, and wallet.

Over the last several weeks there have been days when I woke up and was not sure what day it was or where I was supposed to go. The last time I had this situation was a time in my life when I was holding three part time jobs (and still seemed to be behind in the bills). I was much younger and more energetic then.

It's been difficult to find the time and the energy to write, which is why I have gone two weeks without contributing to this site. Still, at one of my positions I am currently working with a man who is doing a one-man show at the age of 85, seven times a week, two of the days he does a matinee and an evening performance. Ninety minutes of stage time storytelling and singing. No intermission. The man is inspiring me to dig in and work harder.

Six years ago, when I had my spinal surgery, I had another man inspire me. The guy who was rock climbing in Utah, fell into a fissure and got pinned between a boulder and a cliff face, and cut off his own arm to free himself, and then walked five miles to get help. I had applied to the New York City International Fringe Festival to do a one-man show long before the surgery was scheduled. I was not sure if my piece would be accepted. A couple of weeks before the surgery I was notified that my show was accepted. I figured that if this guy could cut his own arm off and then walk five miles I could tell an hour's worth of stories eight weeks out from surgery.

And so, I'm working to find the time to continue to write. I need it as much as I need to walk the dog, to keep my blood moving. To stay upright and out of a wheel chair.

Monday, November 16, 2009


The Downtown Music Scene

During the past two weeks of not writing, I attended two nights of a music festival in a small Greenwich Village nightclub. I had many friends and acquaintances in the line-up, and also several acts that I had never seen or heard of before. A few moments from the two nights got scribbled in my notebook that I keep with me at all times. I am not going to name the musical acts.

People have strong feelings about music. It's all a matter of taste. Some you like, some you don't care about, some you don't like, some evokes a visceral feeling of revulsion. What follows are notes from three moments in time, one of which is a reconstructed conversation fragment about a musical act that was not on the bill, but has a hit tune that I can't seem to get away from, since it is on the piped in music in a large number of stores and workplaces that I frequent.

Moment #1: I have seen a band that made me consider a positive aspect of being arrested for public urination.

Moment #2 (While watching someone on the bill): Some say this guy is the poor man's Neil Young. I'd go further. He's the destitute homeless guy's Neil Young. Not just any destitute homeless guy- the one that approaches you when you're in your car stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic who spits on your windshield and smears it with his filthy sleeve while talking to his invisible friends, and then makes an impassioned request for the cigarette butts in your ashtray. He's that guy's Neil Young.

A fragment of The Conversation (not to be confused by the film of the same name starring Gene Hackman). Prologue:

There's a hit song being played on a lot of store's music systems, and even my favorite radio station from Chicago that I listen to via the internet, WXRT. This is a love song to a woman named Delilah that sounds like a funeral dirge. The guy singing about his undying love for this woman Delilah sounds like he's about to open his wrists. I've met some women who find this song touching, and other women who find it beyond annoying. I'm with them.

If I were a woman and a guy sang this song to me as his statement of undying love, I'd kick him in his nonexistent balls and dump him.

I expressed this feeling to someone who likes the song, a female friend.

"How could you not like it?" She said.
"It's not that I don't like it, I flat out hate it."
"Well, I like it. It's sweet."
"It's a dirge."
"No it isn't. And the tune is catching."
"So is malaria."

The Past Two Weeks

As I have written recently, my life is packed full. I am working two jobs. My pet and personal assistant had emergency surgery to remove a blockage in her intestine which turned out to be malignant. Last, but hardly least, my slowly degenerating spine is acting up.

Earlier today, I had an epidural series. This is when I get to lie on a table with my drawers dropped, directly under a device that makes x-ray video disks, with which one of my doctors and an assistant views my innards in real time so that they may guide injections of a powerful anti-inflammation drug directly into my spinal canal. As uncomfortable as that may sound, take my word for it, it's worse. I am a veteran of these treatments, and some others just as bad.

My back problems started many years ago, not long after being hit by a car while crossing the street in downtown Chicago, at the famous intersection of Wacker and Wabash, by the courtesy limousine of the Cafe Bohemia. It seemed that the gradual angle of the turn from northbound Wabash to eastbound Wacker allowed the limo driver, no doubt running late for a pickup, to make the turn without slowing down much, and without looking to see if anyone was in the crosswalk at 5:30pm on a Monday. After all, how likely was it that someone would be crossing with the traffic light in the middle of rush hour in a district where almost half of the population of the second largest city in the United States' worked and shopped? According to the driver, my sudden, momentary presence on the hood of his car, against his windshield, and then laying in the street next to the driver's side rear passenger door was a total shock. Imagine how I felt.

Years of doing heavy labor along with bus and van touring in various jobs added to the mess that is my current damaged back and neck.

After the procedure today I was standing at the desk in the Spine Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center where one pays co-payments and makes future appointments. An older man was standing next to me holding a large envelope of films that I recognized from its size as either an MRI or a CT scan. I put my chart on the counter top. He glanced at my chart, which was topped by two freeze-framed moments printed out from my latest video. In high-contrast black & white was an image of my vertebrae and pelvic bones, along with the inserted needles and my spinal hardware, the rods and screws skillfully added six-and-one-half-years ago by two teams of surgeons, also from the Spine Institute. I noticed the man looking at the images. I seized the moment as only a seasoned improviser can. I enthusiastically beamed to the man and the woman who does the scheduling:

"I take GREAT pictures, don't I? The camera LOVES me!"

Hey, I couldn't let the moment pass. I had to get a good laugh.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I'm Back, With a Vengeance

Sometime it's hard to see the funny in the news. I call your attention to the following item from today's CNN website:

Man, Woman, 2 Youths Dead in Apparent Shooting in North Carolina

Not funny at all. But once one gets into the article...

The story goes on about a house in an upscale neighborhood of Fayetteville. The police answered a call to the address. The police chief's office issued a press release regarding the incident. Four family members, a male and female adult and two juveniles, one male and one female were found dead of gunshot wounds. According to Police Chief Tom Bergamine:

"At this time, there is no reason to suspect foul play; however the investigation remains in its early stages,"

I'd say it's in its early stages. Apparently, gunshot wounds do not immediately indicate foul play in North Carolina. It could be that gunshot wounds do not immediately indicate foul play anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

We'll have to pay close attention to this story to find out exactly when the violent deaths of an entire family does indicate foul play to the Fayetteville Police Department. Just out of curiosity.

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