Dispatch from Home

I sit in a plastic chair on the porch.

A sweet scent. Maybe sausage on a grill. Beef. I smell fries and my mind tricks me into believing I can also smell the gravy about to be doused over them. The whole concoction will go into a box, fried wings in the next. There’s now a new carryout where the old banquet hall used to be. The Chinese food store is still there. I have my stories. About the store and gravy fries and cheese fries and wings and chicken boxes. Salt, pepper, and ketchup on my wings and fries.

Ka-joom. Clack-a-lack.

A trailer banging, tripped by the imperfections in the asphalt. The truck’s motor growls, yanking the still reverberating metal box up the road. And then another, probably headed South this time, maybe to Washington or somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina, maybe even to Florida or even somewhere out West. The road jabs and pitches these hulks all day and night. They always have, same as the #36 bus that stops across the street. The cars whose drivers, free of Downtown’s one-way-street grid, take liberty to fly towards the County line, a few corners away.

There’s a soul food store at the gas station, now.

Someone once shot at that gas station from the block, then ran. Altogether both stupid and smart.

Kids run down the block. There’s a fight at the bus stop. I run in, open the back door and it’s spilled all the way across the parking lot. The alley between the shopping center and the apartments keeps the kids in their khakis and powder blue and navy blue uniforms from dribbling over to the #44 stop.

In my day, fights transferred from line to line, line to neighborhood, line to block. I even got myself caught up in one once. But there was never more than that. We didn’t wear uniforms, either.

As soon as it heated up, it died out. When the cheering stopped, I knew.

Any out-of-towners driving by, perhaps hoping for a Wire-esque performance, complete with blood and the wailing of an ambulance and another brown-skinned mother, would have gone home disappointed. The police didn’t even show up. At night, they drive through the parking lot with lights flashing to show they’re there. Perhaps they want to own the night and have ceded the day to the kids.

The two boys at the corner watch excitedly for a moment, then as they probably have more than once, leave.

They’ve replaced me.

The hide and seek places — the bushes and trees I’d try to hide my husky frame behind; the knoll on the side of the apartments around the corner where we played minimally organized football and baseball games, against other neighborhoods and each other, where we coached ourselves and each other, patted ourselves and each other on the back; the blocks in the street where we used to jump and bounce balls and throw water balloons, all belong to these kids now. They own the bus stop and the Chinese store.

This is their time.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever be back here. Not to live. Visit? For sure.

I had finally found some peace with used to being from here, with someone else’s son or daughter taking the story over. I’d gone on to adventures elsewhere. Made some plays. Toured Harlem on foot. Driven the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I’m not settled, yet. I’m still learning the new, like the Qdoba on York Road, the building on 33rd Street that replaced the frat house with the shoe tree in front; remembering the old like the Giant on York Road, how to get to White Marsh. Harry Little’s sub shop became a frozen yogurt store and now it’s about to become a juice bar.

It’s often slow going like when I first went to Jersey, but I learned it. Learned in some ways to love it.

Still, I don’t know if I can ever stake the same claim I had before. How much of this city, this area, can be mine like it was. While I’m figuring it out, I’ll watch the trucks from the porch. Eat a few coddies. This city made me who I was, but being away, letting go, helped make me who I am now.

Chesapeake Writers Conference – Day 4 1/3

One third of day four is in the books down here at the Chesapeake Writers Conference. I’m dividing the day into 3rds as we’ve only had the craft talk portion of the day, even if it wasn’t exactly that. That and why I’m posting early will be explained …

Craft Talk

Instead of the usual craft talks we’ve had the other few days, we had an editor and a literary agent discuss the business of publishing.

I won’t print their names since they’re not in the official schedule online, but it was an insightful talk. I learned that a lot of what I’ve heard about publishing is pretty accurate.

I asked about how to structure a submission for a piece of creative nonfiction –memoir, full length essay, etc– since it’s not necessarily general nonfiction (like how-to’s, history, science, etc) or fiction.

The answer was, in general, what I expected, that it will probably be treated closer to fiction and to follow submissions guidelines, whatever those are.

Another participant asked why so many poets don’t have agents and the answer was that publishers like to work with poets directly.

#

Participants who signed up, are able to have one-on-one meetings with the two. I’m over here writing because I went to the sign-up document late and none of the earlier slots were open; but still, I’m not necessarily ready to send a book out, so there’s little reason for me to go and talk to either of them. Even the editor who was there, while he’s a writer and has worked in several different roles in publishing, he’s an editor at a fiction mag and aside from getting ideas for where to send my work, I’m not sure what else I’d talk to him about.

The best thing for me during this time was to come back here and write. Even if it’s blogging, I’m getting the practice and habit of being back in front of this computer and putting down words. There’s certainly value in that, especially given where I am. I need to work. When I’m ready, the doors will open.

Besides, I’ll probably try to get a response from Angela since she’s doing the kind of work I want to do, has had a book published, and is working on another right now, I believe. Jerry was on the panel to give perspective as a writer, but I wish Angela had been up there to give the perspective as a nonfiction writer as Jerry writes fiction. Again, largely the same, it seems, but not exactly.

Kids and Food

Went off campus again for breakfast. No other comment.

Workshop

Very much looking forward to it. One of my fellow participants wrote a really good essay that we read last night for workshop today.

Plus, we’re covering lyric essay today. Also assigned were Girl by Jamaica Kincaid, Things To Do Today by Joe Wenderoth, and Captivity by Sherman Alexie. All really good, lyric essays. I can’t wait to discuss them.

One of my own lyric essays will be workshopped tomorrow. Probably best that I procrastinated until last night to submit it for critique.

Ali: Our Forever Champion

Feet shuffling across a checkerboard floor.

A left fist, flicking in the air, then again and again and BANG, a right cuts the air.

Both hands thrown in the air.

Victory.

Unknowable, the number of times this scene played out in cities and suburbs, in parks and playgrounds, on street corners and boulevards and bazaars and so many places it probably happened in most places. Over days, then decades.

#

I’m back inside a barber shop in Baltimore. The 80s. Professional wrestling on a small, black and white TV set bolted to a shelf overlooking the storefront shop. A usual Saturday for a haircut. Men congregating, talking boxing. Sugar Ray. Marvin Hagler. The great boxers of the day.

As great as they are, when the discussion turns to Ali, the room itself lights up. The men animate. An older barber moves around his client as he talks, giving a spiritual testimony as much as an assessment of Ali’s skills. Other brothers around nod and sway in agreement.

Talking Ali is more than just discussing a great fighter. He’s more than that. I’m too young to fully understand the passion in their voices, their eyes.

#

Fight night was big. It was at our house. My mom was a fan.

This was Mike Tyson’s heyday. Make sure you got all your eating in and your bathroom business done before the main event started. Once it did, things would go slowly during the paegentry of the entrances and introductions and then downhill and fast and it would be over.

Ali was better, she said. The best. The fights were better. The Liston fights. The Ken Norton fights. The Frazier fights. The Foreman fight. Those were events. There was no PPV and you had to go in person if you could or watch on closed-circuit TV. But they were important. Everybody wanted to be there.

Ali would hype the fight. Talking shit about how pretty he was and how his opponent didn’t have a chance. How he was going to win and his opponent better not even think he could whip him. And then he’d go into the ring and back up all the shit he’d talked. All evening if he needed to. 15 rounds worth of dodging and banging and making his opponent say his real name when the opponent wouldn’t.

I’d missed out, she said. Born too late. Tyson was in my day, but Ali was in hers. And what a day.

#

“No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”

I’m from Baltimore. There’s never been a shortage of bad seeds, bad apples, bad motherfuckers. Dudes who will take a life and go get a chicken box. With hot sauce and ketchup. But even they’ll still hide from the lawman when he shows up.

Government came for Ali. They wanted to ship him over to Vietnam. He told the government to kiss his ass. He wasn’t going to fight the Viet Cong (or for propaganda). His oppressor was right here at home. While people who looked like him were trying to go about their lives and be free, the same people who wanted to send him over to Asia to fight, were hurting and maiming those who looked like him right in America.

Black athletes like Jesse Owens and Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson had challenged America on the field. They’d proven that, despite the ideas of the day, Black people were capable of being great athletes. And of enduring the hatred and bigotry they’d still experience out of the area of competition. Like not being served at lunch counters or being able to rent a room in the same hotels that served white athletes.

Their play spoke for them but off the field, they still played by the same politics of appeasement and respectability that dominated the thinking of those times. They were going to win America over by being great on the field and ingratiate themselves to America off.

Ali wasn’t having that. He told America to its face what was what. And he told America he was going to look good doing it and he did. They took his boxing license and his best fighting years, but he preferred putting all that on the line to giving into his principles. To giving in on his Islamic faith. On his Blackness.

#

Ali was done fighting by the time I came along. He’d been proven right by his refusal to go to Vietnam. Become a global figure for his boxing and his commitment to social justice and freedom. He wasn’t in the limelight as he had been in his fighting days, but he still traveled the world and gave people hope and joy.

Even as his body would continue to be ravaged by Parkinson’s. But still, he won that fight. Lighting the Olympic flame in the 1996 Olympics. I remember some people being bothered by the image of a shaking Ali unsteadily holding the Torch, but he was still there holding it. He was still holding strong.

#

Back in the barber shop, the joy they felt talking about Ali, I finally came to understand it one day. They were people who had been living in segregated neighborhoods, denied access to better jobs, better lives, more respect. They couldn’t go into Roland Park or Rodgers Forge and tell those people what they thought about them. Couldn’t tell the old racist bus drivers who would pass them by on the streets to kiss their asses. They were still Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Ali spoke for them. And to them. Ali lived as freely as a Black man could. As a Black person could. He didn’t march when they said march. He traveled the world. He lived life on his terms.

He transcended sport and what people thought athletes should be. He transcended ideas about boxing and boxers and became a worldwide humanitarian. And became an icon for it.

He didn’t transcend blackness, but transcended many people’s ideas about Blackness and what it meant. The limits of it. How black far black people could go in the world. How black people could be seen. How we could see ourselves.

He wasn’t just a champion, he was our champion. He championed us. He showed us how great he was. How great we could be.

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky. My name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me.”

“I’m gonna fight for the prestige, not for me, but to uplift my little brothers who are sleeping on concrete floors today in America. Black people who are living on welfare, black people who can’t eat, black people who don’t know no knowledge of themselves, black people who don’t have no future.”

In Love With TIF

In middle school, some of my classmates insisted I had a crush on a girl named Tiffany. Though this Tiffany was indeed cute, I did not have a crush on her. One could say I was in the initial throws of falling in love –as much as someone 13 years old or younger can– with someone else.

Some twenty-five or more years later, someone has indeed fallen in love with Tiff. Or rather, TIFs. That someone is the very City of Baltimore.

#

Tax increment financing. What is a TIF? How do TIFs work?

Back in the Land of Pleasant Living, the most recent TIF, as I alluded to in my last post, has gone to Michael Beatty’s Harbor Point development. In a nutshell, the City floated $107M in bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements at Harbor Point, which, among other things, is the new home for Exelon, the owner of the local electrical utility.

Beatty himself bought a bunch of the bonds, therefore he’s benefiting from the interest paid on said bonds. So the City is, in a sense, taking out a loan to pay for infrastructure from his project, and by purchasing some of the bonds, Beatty has become one of the loaners of this money. Baltimore will be paying him back with interest for infrastructure the City has paid and will be paying for, on this project.

Well, not all. Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Brew are reporting that there have been even more payments made from the City to this project. $29M worth of cost overruns. And the talk among those in charge is that the City will have to dip into General Funds, or in other words, straight up taxpayer dollars, to cover shortfalls in the TIF.

I say straight up taxpayer dollars because ultimately, the property taxes generated by the Harbor Point development are supposed to cover the principal and interest payments on the bonds themselves. But until and unless enough property taxes are generated, somebody has to be on the hook to bondholders and it is the issuer of the bonds. The City of Baltimore. Or, more bluntly, the taxpayers of the City of Baltimore.

And again, Beatty is a bondholder.

Imagine that Baltimore is instead playing stocks or options. It’s low on cash (or so it says). So, it buys some stock or options on margin, betting that sometime in the future (in the case of this TIF, by 20 years out) the value of the stock or options will go up and they’ll make money for the whole city.

That’s the expectation. They’re borrowing now with the belief that the future ship will come and cover the floated bonds and eventually, contribute money to the City for the usual other things that the City pays for. But if they’re wrong; if they don’t take in as much as they’re expecting, they still owe the brokers, the bondholders. And in this case, Beatty is one of the brokers.

They also baked in some language to demand that the project pay for some general civic improvements that don’t necessarily benefit the project, but we’ll see how that goes.

Still, the project was sold on the premise and promise that no taxpayer dollars would be used. That’s certainly true, if the future property tax projections pan out.

That was, until the cost overruns and while it’s appalling (yet not surprising) that they’re talking about dipping into general funds, they’ve now assumed so much risk that they can’t turn back. They’re in too deep. The City needs the project to work because it has an expectation that somehow, dollars will come in to cover the initial outlay paid for by the bond generation. In a sense, the City has become a partner with no equity, just a need for everything to work out and hopefully go as smoothly as it can in the future with minimal additional cost overruns.

We’ll see about that.

Here’s the crazy bit. They want to do it again.

The Port Covington TIF. Just like the Harbor Point TIF, but on the proverbial steroids, because this one weighs in at a hefty $535M. As the Sun reported, with interest, all told, it could cost over $2B. And in this case, Sagamore Development, the development arm of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, would buy some of the bonds itself and thereby benefit from the interest on said bonds.

The vote is up to City Council at this point. The Mayor supports it. The quasi-governmental Baltimore Development Corporation supports it. Of course BDC would certainly put its stamp of approval on the TIF. They’re not elected, so they’re not responsible to the taxpayers and voters of Baltimore. If things don’t pan out with the property taxes on Port Covington and the City is on the hook and has to cover parts of bond repayments (because who else is supposed to? The state? That’s funny), nobody at BDC has to go into districts and neighborhoods one day and explain why there’s no money for parks or rec centers.

Again, they plan to bake language into the TIF so that there will be public benefit. And yes, the renderings look amazing, but looking at recent history with Harbor Point, it looks like the City is going in way over its head. It looks like the City is about to partner again with no equity. And if cost overruns occur this time, will the City have to dip back into general funds to cover?

Plank has sold this project on, among other things, the number of jobs it’ll bring to Baltimore (and specifically to Baltimore residents) as well as on improving Baltimore’s image. The price tag on Baltimore’s image is listed above.

To put it into perspective, in 2014 dollars, the City and Baltimore County pledged $280M ($230 and $50 respectively) towards the building of the since-cancelled Red Line light rail project (with Maryland and the Feds picking up the rest of the nearly $3B project). So the City is willing is thus-far willing to float bonds in excess of double that amount for a project in one section of the city.

Sure, Sagamore is floating jobs projections now, but other cities like Denver are realizing actual development gains from the increased mobility. I’m not saying the Red Line was cancelled because of Port Covington (or Harbor Point) because it wasn’t, but if the City is interested in borrowing money they think they’ll be able to pay off with future property taxes, wouldn’t projects like light rail that have had the effect of creating new development and raising the value of pre-existing property, especially in places like Minneapolis, be more preferable to ones like the ones they’re financing?

(It’s also not Beatty or Plank’s fault that such an idea would never get off the ground because of the classism and racism through which public transit is viewed in the Baltimore area, making new projects hard to support. Look at the amount the County was willing to contribute to the Red Line. Shows exactly the degree to which their citizens value mass transit. Also Google “baltimore loot rail” if you really don’t believe me.)

People around the City government like to throw around the name Freddie Gray, but when will the economic conditions that created the overall situation he lived and died in, be reasonably addressed? When will the people of Freddie Gray’s neighborhood see the benefits from Harbor Point or Port Covington? 20, 40 years from now? Ever?

#

It’s not all doom and gloom, though.

I enjoyed the article in City Paper concerning the idea of developing a City-owned retirement fund for people, using interest paid on some of the Port Covington bonds. Start a special benefits corporation, buy the bonds, collect the interest.

I like the idea.

I like the idea of regular Baltimoreans who can afford to do so, buying the bonds. If the City is going to float them regardless of the will of the citizens, the only thing left is to buy them and receive whatever benefits you can. Which, even though they’re running ads everywhere, seems like it’s going to be the case.

Relatively not that many would be able to take part, but what else is there, if you’re not an “insider”?

#

I was 14 when I really first fell in love. I didn’t get the girl, but I got the lessons. Those were free. I loved again, several times over.

I hope Baltimore gets their proverbial girl in the form of property taxes sometime 20-40 years from now. I’ll be nearly 80 towards the end of the Port Covington TIF, so hopefully they’ll put some old folks stuff up with the money.

If the City doesn’t, the lessons will be infinitely more painful. A much lowered bond rating. The City on the hook for whatever amounts of money. And the things that were supposed to be paid for, not there. Maybe they’re thinking they’ll do some development in Sandtown with the money one day. Will they be able to? (And we won’t even talk about the supposed “game-changer,” the Horseshoe Casino and the money that was supposed to contribute to Baltimore. I’ll admit to not doing my part, since I haven’t gone there and played video poker, yet. They have that in there, right?)

If it doesn’t work out, what will the City do to recover? What lessons will it learn? What do they say when the next developer wanting a TIF shows up to 100 North Holliday? Will it fall in love with someone other than TIF if TIF doesn’t work out?

Well, someone other than PILOT . Been there, done that.

A Genius of Prince

I didn’t understand Prince when I was 7-8 years old when Purple Rain came out. All I knew was most of the talk I heard surrounding Prince was that with all the frilly, purple clothes, blouses, and such, he was too effeminate to be straight. Too effeminate for the real men I’d hear talking about him. Same for the boys talking about it at school and other places.

Didn’t matter how many women around adored him and wanted to be with him and whether or not he got the girl in the movie and whether that was his girl in real life –because the rumors were always there– Prince had to be gay and gay == bad.

Even if you liked the music, which by the way, wasn’t necessarily for us, it was said around me a lot, because it was laden with rock guitar.

Let’s go crazy. Let’s get nuts.

I didn’t know enough not to join in.

#

I wasn’t quite there in my teenage years, either.

Even if songs like “Adore” and “Diamonds and Pearls” weren’t just fun to sing, they told the stories of my growing infatuations with the girls I’d have feelings for or outright fell in love with.

Love is to weak to define
Just what you mean to me

Even if “Scandalous” and “Insatiable” and often mirrored the puberty-driven thoughts I would have in the later hours.

I got a jones, Martha.

Prince was still supposed to be too weird. And that weirdness, with the dress and the symbol and all of that, was still supposed to be too much. Especially with all the other reasons added in. Especially with a more religious-based homophobia that I’d added..

I still wouldn’t listen to my own conscience about the man.

#

At some point, once I became interested in my own art; and quite frankly, when I developed enough confidence in myself to not follow the pack and try to fit into what others did or thought, is when I discovered what I think is one of his greatest geniuses.

It wasn’t the fact of his musical virtuosity. Playing 27 instruments on an album says enough, but it wasn’t that.

It wasn’t even the blend of sexuality and sensuality and spirituality in his music. Historians and musical historians will probably write volumes about the introspection and investigation of sexual identity in all the various forms that it manifested in his music and where it crosses with his notions of spirituality and love. Prince is one of the only artists who could merge the vulgar and the sacred to the point where you had to question for yourself where, if anywhere, the line of demarcation was.

But that’s not even, for me, his greatest genius.

As I think back to all of us talking about him, making jokes about him, mocking him and what we thought about his sexuality, there he was, not just making great music, not just beginning to change the world, but he was doing something that none of those people back then, I think can say they were doing — Prince was living life on his own terms.

As folks went back to their crap jobs and their crap coworkers and hated the whole thing, Prince was living his life by his own rules.

Yeah, look at the frilly blouses. Where was Prince’s supervisor or employee handbook that told him he could or couldn’t dress that way? Where was his compliance officer or HR director to ensure his pants were tight or purple enough?

Nowhere. That was just him. No bullshit. Sure, in a sense, he performed off-stage as well as on, but that was how he decided to live. Prince wasn’t being told when he could get off or go on vacation. How to dress. How to keep his hair. None of the same bullshit people had to do to get by. Looking back, that looks like it was always his plan.

Hell, he changed his name to a symbol to be able to continue to do his work the way he wanted to. Up until he died, he was working to get control of his masters.

He even redecorated Carlos Boozer’s house to suit himself and when he was finished renting it, he changed it all back the way it was. Regular people might ask why Prince would spend the money to do something like that, but he had a vision for himself and his life and compromise wasn’t part of it. How many compromises do many of us make before noon on any given weekday?

I wish I could go back and tell my child self to look closely — there was someone who knew who he was, knew his worth and value to the world, and lived that. He didn’t follow others and he didn’t try to fit in. He was who he was and anybody that didn’t like it, too bad. My child self could have used that lesson. Many of us now could use that same lesson.

Do I believe in god? Do I believe in me?
Some people want to die so they can be free
I said life is just a game, we’re all just the same, do you want to play?
Yeah, oh yeah

Opening Day Came and Went

I wanted to talk about Jake Arrieta and the Cubs. It was late for me, but still early for my father. Especially since he had retired and no longer left home in the dead of night to beat the L.A. traffic to work.

I wanted to talk about the buzzer beater that had just happened, what he thought of his Angels’ chances this season. If he thought the O’s had enough pitching to make it to the postseason, if he thought the Mets could get back to the Series this year.

We probably wouldn’t have agreed on any of it. We didn’t agree on much sportswise. The only thing I can remember us finding total common ground on recently was whether Andrew Luck would become a top-five QB in the NFL. And even then, his thoughts were twinged with some excitement as Luck was on his team. I didn’t care much for that. Despite the independence he’d instilled in me, part of me always wanted to be able to say that I rooted for the same teams as my father; that we he had shared that, even if he hadn’t passed it down to me.

I was ready to call. The impulse doesn’t immediately leave. Even when it’s almost been a year since he’s passed on. Sometimes, I need to call my father.

#

I did call on my birthday. Out of habit. Muscle memory, perhaps. The phone still rang. Nobody answered it, obviously. At some later point, I texted him. Just needed to say I missed him.

I wasn’t there when he died. Nor was I there when my sister buried him. We had a small, memorial get-together back in Baltimore. But with no ceremony, no artifact, not even the closing of a casket, the finality didn’t feel as final.

#

I shared baseball with my mother. I lived with my mother, so she shuttled me to practices and games. Ran me up and down the highway looking for the right black and orange cleats or 32” Easton aluminum bat. She learned how to keep a baseball scorecard. Until she couldn’t do any of those things anymore.

Back in California, my father got game recaps. Mailed copies of the player pictures they made like little baseball cards.

We never even talked much baseball until I reconnected with him.

#

He bought me a whiffle ball set for my 5th or 6th birthday, the summer I spent out there with him, his fiancee, and my sisters. It came with a little, blue hat. I told him I wasn’t going to become a Dodgers fan. I loved the Orioles and besides, my mother would be mad. He said he didn’t want me to. He wouldn’t explain to me until later years how loathsome he found the Dodgers. After the 1988 World Series, we agreed on that.

That summer, whenever we played any games, we’d take on the persona of a player we admired. He had a badminton set in his tiny back yard, but we didn’t know any famous people who played badminton, so we substituted tennis players. He called out that he was Jimmy Connors. I was John McEnroe (not a bad choice considering how pissed I got when I was losing). My younger sister, Kellee, was too young to know anybody, so I tried to assign her Martina Navratilova. My father said she should be Billie Jean King.

When we played with the whiffle ball set, I was Eddie Murray. Eddie was Mr. Oriole to me. My dad was Reggie Jackson, who had left the East Coast for California around the time my father did.

We hit balls towards the house. I wanted to hit one over the roof and into the pool in the back yard. Perhaps I dreamed I had a little Frank Robinson in me, too.

That was the only time my father got to see me play.

#

Since we reconnected, calling on these nights became a habit: opening day for the O’s. Sometime on the first Sunday of NFL football. Sometime during each O’s/Angels series. The day of Ray Lewis’ last home game was fun (mostly since the Ravens had put a hurting on Indianapolis in Baltimore, always a welcome occasion). He still wouldn’t let me recruit him to Baltimore’s new team from the team carrying the name of its old one.

#

I wanted to say “I told you so” about the Rams moving back to L.A. He swore no team would ever return there. Everybody there was a fan of some other team, he’d insist for years, whenever we’d talk about it. I told him that wouldn’t matter, the NFL would stick a team there. Probably the Rams or the Raiders.

I would have called and lorded my moment over him and we would have had a good laugh. I would have asked him how his golf was going and if he was finally ready to buy himself the new computer he’d been talking about. He would have asked me how my aunt was and if I’d been eating right. We would have talked at the next big moment.

When I was younger, I used to be sad about how much we’d missed, the things we hadn’t shared. Now it’s the big moments. I know they’ll come. The Mets may win the Series this year. The O’s aren’t too bad, either.

Medically Induced Sojurn

(Entirely paraphrased)

It’s a good thing you came in when you did, you might have died if you’d waited too long.

Or at the very least, lost your arm.


It’s an abscess.

We’re probably going to need to lance it.

(Are they using swords in the operating room these days?)

Surgery.

Surgery? Like putting me out, surgery?

Yes, surgery. With you under anesthesia.

Really?

If we don’t and this infection spreads, you might still die.

Well, hello to all of you doctors, bumrushing me with this news. Telling me I might die when you’ve barely introduced yourselves — that’s really heavy. Can I at least get a loved one here before you go telling me you’re cutting me open, lest I probably die soon?

I haven’t had any fevers by the way. Since I’ve been asked approximately 73 times since I’ve been in this hospital if I’ve had any, I take it that’s important. And since I haven’t had any, I wonder if this is really as serious as you’re making it out to be. As serious as my needing to be rushed into surgery in the next couple of hours.

Are night sweats as terrible a symptom as the fevers? I only ask because I have had those the last couple of nights … oh, they’re not? Then can we pump the brakes on you putting me under? The anesthesia sounds scarier than the actual infection.

It’s an abscess.

There’s no antibiotic you can give me that’s going to help? Surgery is the only way? What about after the surgery? You’ve got painkillers for sure, but aren’t you going to give me at least some antibiotics? Oh, they’ll work then?

You won’t know how bad this is until you get the pictures from the CT scan? Then, you’ll be ready to go slicing me up?

Well, it’s now busted open and is starting to pus. You said if it drained, that was good and I could avoid all this.

Put this on there.

Nurse, why are you smooshing it with a gauze pad? Shouldn’t we be pinching it or something to make it pus or bleed more or something? No?

(I’m going to have to figure out how to sleep with a butterfly clip in my arm? Guess I can’t sleep as wildly as I normally do.)

You don’t drink this contrast. We put it through your IV. You’ll feel warm inside.

Why didn’t all of you tell me the contrast might make me nauseous before putting me into the machine? I just tried to throw up in your machine. The welt on my arm you intend to cut off isn’t nearly as painful as this even though it’s large enough to fit a small taquito inside it. Did I mention that I tried to alleviate this pain by throwing up in your machine? I had a bagel earlier. I tried to leave it in your machine.

(Later)

Looks like we won’t have to do surgery. It’s just on the skin.

Splendid.

Yeah, you squeezing this thing like tomato sauce in a tube stings like you’re jabbing something into it, but if the alternative is being put under, squeeze away.

Let’s make the hole bigger to help it drain.

And now, you are jabbing long Q-Tips into it. Again, better than the alternative, but I wish I’d gotten some of those painkillers we discussed before. I’ve been in hospitals before. Isn’t there some button I can press that automatically dispenses painkillers?

Oh, you’re just going to give me antibiotics and see how it responds? We’ve come full circle, haven’t we?

(The next day)

We may need to lance it.

(Are we going to Medieval Times for this procedure?)

The doctors yesterday said there wasn’t going to be any surgery.

Different team, different diagnosis? Kinda sounds like literature class as much as biology class, but what do I know?

(Later.)

Oh, no surgery? You saw the pictures. Just a skin infection? Swell. I’ll just chill here with these antibiotics.

This tomato soup is the best. Send me more of this. The chicken is pretty good, too, but the gravy needs some seasoning. Should I send out for a bottle of Mrs. Dash?

More antibiotics.

You’ll have to lay on here while we wheel you to your new room.

I have an infection on my arm, but my legs are fine.

It’s mandatory.

Fine. I’ll play along.

(The next day)


We’re here to take your vitals.

What time is it?

5:30

Well, I’m up. Painkillers are still working. You need more blood? How much blood do you need? Are you keeping some for me for later? Forget it. I feel too good. Take all you need. I’m going back to sleep.

(Later)

Yeah, it’s going down.

The infection is sensitive to the antibiotics.

(I’d rather not know what would happen if it wasn’t sensitive to the antibiotics.)

I can go home?

We’re sending you home with a prescription. More antibiotics.

You don’t say …