Hospital stories

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Fortunately I don’t have too many hospital stories.  But I remember one.

A couple years ago I went completely deaf in one ear for no apparent reason.  That freaked me out.  Because, among many other things, I’d have to mix my music in mono from now on.

I didn’t have any medical coverage.  So I went down to the county hospital where the poor people go.  Waited in the reception area for about 6 hours with all the other poor people, sweating it out the whole time.  Figuring I was going to have to get surgery.  Or maybe, even worse, there was no cure.

FINALLY I saw a nurse.  This big black babe who must have weighed about 300 pounds.  I told her my plight.  She immediately grabbed my head in this vice grip, this sort of half-nelson wrestling move.  And wedged her hand into my ear.  And she popped out this big chunk of hardened ear wax.  I was instantly healed.  The whole thing only took about 2 minutes.

I was so grateful, I wanted to give her a big kiss.

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Renting a room

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Went to Oakland this morning to see about renting out a room in a hotel.  This joint by Lake Merritt.  I’m one of those nuts that actually PREFERS to live on the streets.  But I’m having eye surgery (again!) on April 2nd, and after the surgery I have to spend two weeks lying face down on a bed in a dark room while my eyeball recovers (that should be fun).  So I desperately needed to get a room.

This morning I met with the manager of the hotel.  This zany, little, older Asian woman.  Now there are few things I dread MORE than having to walk into a room to talk to a total stranger and try to convince them to do something for  me.  For one thing, I give the worst interviews of all time.  I always feel like I’m making a bad impression.  And usually I am.  I usually start pouring sweat.  Even worse, my face always goes beet red from blushing.  I can’t help it.  I’m a blusher.  I can actually feel the blood rushing to my face.  It’s bad enough to feel embarrassed.  Even worse that they KNOW you’re embarrassed.  It blows the whole “cool” act that I’m trying to project.

And when they ask me questions, even when I’m telling them the truth, I FEEL like I’m lying.  Or I assume the other person thinks I’m lying.  So I try too hard to convince them I’m telling the truth.  Which makes them THINK I’m lying.

I told the manager about my impending eye surgery and how I needed to lie face down on a bed for two weeks.

She joked:  “I hope the surgery is a success and your vision is saved so you can see how beautiful I look.”

I said:  “If you rent me a room, you’ll look even more beautiful to me.”

That got a big laugh out of her.  Like I said, she was a little zany.

And she rented me the room.

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Detached retina surgery – 101. . . or . . . A site for sore eyes

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Entering the hospital at 5 in the morning.
Grumpy, groggy me.  Hanging in a funky motel room on McCarthur Blvd. in Oakland, recuperating from my eye surgery for a detached retina.  One of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever been through.  One moment I’m puttering along with my daily life.  The next I’m being strapped onto a gurney by total strangers and wheeled off to be prodded, poked, knocked unconscious and cut up. . . . Then, I’m lying on a bed in the middle of nowhere (technically, Oakland, California) in total darkness in some weird zombie stupor state.

That’s life, I guess.  You never know what cards life will deal you next.

Of course the first thing they do to prepare you for the surgery is, they make you strip off your clothes and put on one of those goofy hospital gowns with your butt hanging out.  Then you got to put on this ridiculous plastic shower cap kind of hat, and plastic booties.  It’s like they’re publicly humiliating you to get you in the mood for the whole thing.

The nurse who prepared me for the surgery was this black woman with a thick Jamaican accent.  I could barely understand what she was saying.  So I’m just sort of mindlessly answering her questions:  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”   And hoping she’s not slipping something in there like, “And would you also like to have your left testacle removed while we’re operating?”  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Then the nurse is asking me about my drug and alcohol history.  So I explain about the ocean of cheap malt liquor I’ve consumed over the years.  All all the cigarettes and drugs and etc.  Then she goes over this long check list of potential health problems:   “Have you ever had asthma?  Allergies?  High blood pressure?  Diabetes?  Etc, etc.?”  And my answer  is “No” to every one (except for “Depression,” naturally).  And she’s kind of dumb-founded because my good health makes no sense in terms of my, um, lifestyle.  “I haven’t been in a hospital in 40 years,” I admittedly, sheepishly.  “Are you an athlete?” she said.  That made me feel nice.  That was a nice moment.  The only one I would have.
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Then they wheeled me into the operating room and this guy starts pumping the anesthesia into me.  For some reason it was important to me to try and notice the process of when I go under.  So I’m concentrating real hard while I’m taking deep breaths.  But it was like I blinked my eye, and then it was 2 hours later as I emerge from the fog, and the operation is already over . . .  My one big regret was that I wanted to take a selfie of me on the operating table . . .  I really am kind of nut

My friend Mary was waiting for me in the lobby.  So she wheeled me out of the hospital and into a taxi cab which took me to my motel room in Oakand.  When I first signed into the motel the clerk handed me a card and a metal cylinder object with a bunch of buttons on it.  “Where’s my key?” I asked.   “The card is your key,” said the clerk.  The cylinder object turned out to be the remote control for the TV.  After about 15 minutes of diligent trial-and-error,  I actually figured out how to turn the TV on.  The last time I had a television set was in 1991 where there was this big knob on the TV to turn the channels on, and I had a bent clothes-hanger for an antennae.  So I’m completely out of touch with the modern world.

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I spent the first two days in my motel room with the lights out, lying on my bed in a zombie stupor.  Slept 20 hours a day, drifting in and out of sleeping and waking states and this weird, in-between state where it’s all like a waking dream.  Every now and then I’d make a groaning sound.   “AAAAHHHHH!”  Just to remind myself that I was still alive.   Just my luck, my next-door neighbor is one of those guys who has people knocking at his door at all hours of the day and night.  And at 3 in the morning there would be regular loud thumpings and furniture crashing and heated, screaming arguments between him and his girlfriend.  So at least I had some live entertainment to aid me in my recuperative phase.  And,  on the positive side, if I felt the need for some crack cocaine to assist me in my recovery, I probably wouldn’t have to go very far.
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On the third day I crawled out of my motel room to get some food and check out the neighborhood.  I have a big, bulky bandage on my left eye, so people do a double-take when they see me, like I’m a prisoner-of war casualty, or like they just passed the Elephant Man or something.   There’s a 99 cent store on the corner where all the items are, oddly, $2.99.  I guess it’s a whole new concept in 99 cents stores.  This is a happ’nin’ neighborhood!

It’s funny (ha ha).  When I was younger I thought I was invulnerable.  Like I was made out of steel . . . But now that I’m pushing 60 I realize how fragile the human body really is.  We’re all walking on thin ice.

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The detached retina eye surgery itself was nothing short of miraculous and mind-boggling.  The surgeon actually goes in there with scissors and cuts the white part of the eye away from the pupil.  Then they peel the white part back so they can get at the retina in the back of the eye.  The retina is like wallpaper on a wall.  When the retina detaches, it’s like the wallpaper has fallen off the wall.  It’s sitting there in a pile at the bottom of your eye.  So the surgeon actually goes in there and picks the retina back up and sticks it back to the wall. Pretty amazing. . .
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I actually watched about 10 seconds of the surgery on a Youtube video.  But once the surgeon started snipping away at the eyeball with the scissors I immediately turned it off and said to myself:  “HOLY SHIT!  I’m sure glad I didn’t watch this BEFORE my surgery.”

Sometimes its better NOT to know what you’re in store for.

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Drugs in general are pretty stupid, Part 2: LSD

 

For some reason I’ve been thinking about some of the stupid things I used to do back when I used to take drugs.  LSD is another one of them.

Now, back in the ’60s, all the acid gurus used to stress the importance of “set and setting” while tripping on LSD.  In other words, you should pick a safe and buccolic setting when you’re experiencing that transformation of consciousness to a state that has been variously described as a state of insanity or a state of mysticism.  And everything in between.  Unfortunately, most of the settings for my acid trips took place in the real world full of sharp objects and weird people.

I remember one such night where I found myself peaking on acid while stumbling around in a very rough neighborhood in Oakland, well after midnight.  Hardly the most ideal setting for a groovy LSD trip.  It was the kind of neighborhood where you needed to have your wits about you  just walking around in the middle of the day. Let alone in the middle of the night, deranged on drugs.

I forget how that had come about.  I think I’d been hoping to spend the night at my friend Mary’s place, she lived in that neighborhood, but she probably kicked me out when I started going loony-tunes from the LSD.  So now I had to come up with a Plan B.  Namely, how I was going to navigate my way all the way back to Berkeley while my brains were exploding from the LSD effect, it’s wonders to behold.  Further complicating matters as I wandered around, every couple of minutes I’d be distracted by one hallucination or another.  I remember staring for a long time at this neon light that seemed to be some kind of profound symbol — a message of some sort — from some ancient and otherworldly realm.

Now, one of the beguiling and mind-fucking thing about psychedelic drugs is:  While tripping you feel things more profoundly.  But what you’re feeling is not necessarily profound.  LSD completely skews that meter that allows you to distinguish your imagination from reality.   And it also skews your cause-and-effect logic (just ask Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter crew).    It can be like an intense and surreal dream with it’s own cock-eyed logic.  And like a dream, you have no idea that you’re dreaming.  It all seems completely real at the time.

For example, at one point I passed this parking lot full of shiny, brand new cars. I immediately had a profound epiphany.  All these expensive cars massed in the middle of this mostly-black neighborhood in Oakland was a clear-cut sign that the black community was emerging as a dominant force in today’s global economy and would soon rule the world.  (I prided myself on my ability to spot these new and emerging social trends before everyone else, even if I sometimes had to manufacture them in my imagination.)  (PS.  The next day I realized it had just been an ordinary used-car lot.)

After wandering around in circles for some time I came to the savvy conclusion that I better get my ass home and quick before I got into some real trouble.  I knew I was too crazed to get on a bus full of people. Especially full of the late-night denizens in that neck of the woods.  So I did something I rarely did and hailed a taxi.

Things were going fine as I sat there in the back seat of the cab, congratulating myself for having successfully found this safe haven.  The taxi driver was a bland, heavy-set, middle-aged guy.  The thing I most remember is how he kept looking over his shoulder at me as he chatted amiably.  His face kept shifting from the changing lights and shadows of the streetlights and the headlights.  And as I looked into his face I suddenly had yet another one of those incredibly jarring and profound LSD revelations.  This was no mere taxi driver.  He was Satan himself!  And this taxi cab was taking me directly to Hell!

I was stunned by this realization. But I could see it clear as a bell on the taxi-driver’s face.  Which kept shifting back and forth from bland taxi driver to Satan himself. He kept looking back at me with this leering, malevolent smile.  Like he was enjoying the cat-and-mouse game with me.  I realized I was a trapped rat, completely helpless, with no escape.  The doors were surely all locked. I was his prisoner.  I was doomed.   A lamb being led to slaughter.  I was never going to get out of this cab alive.  I was on a one-way trip to Hell!!!!!

I was overcome with panic, and began to perspire profusely. I briefly considered tryng to physically over-power Satan. But I knew that was hopeless, I was no match for all of Satan’s satanic and supernatural powers. So instead I concentrated feverishly on his seemingly inane patter.  Perhaps there was some way I could reason with him.  Perhaps this was all a big misunderstanding and he had mistakenly picked the wrong doomed soul.  I couldn’t remember signing any contracts lately.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the cab came to a stop.  “End of the line,” said the cabbie ominously.  I made a desparate grab for the door handle.  And much to my surprise, the door opened.  When I stepped outside, stood firmly on the ground, I realized, much to my great relief, I wasn’t in Hell after all,  but was standing in front of my apartment building.  Somehow, I had managed to escape the grasp of eternal death. I was a free man!  Thank God all mighty.  I was so happy and relieved, I gave the taxi driver a $40 tip for a $20 ride.

LSD really is a stupid drug.

 

“Purple Rain”

 

 

Someone mentioned it’s been 30 years since the “Purple Rain” movie by Prince premiered.  When I heard that, I couldn’t resist that engrained old-fogey-man reaction of sputtering:  “Thirty years ago today!  My stars.  It seems like only yesterday!!”

I saw it in a theatre with this crazy chick I was going with at the time.  I don’t think I’d even heard of Prince at the time, but she dragged me to the movie.  I thought the first half was pretty hokey.  This high-strung little dandy prancing around like a drama queen.  I figured it was just one of those “chick flicks.”  So I was surprised when I suddenly burst into tears near the end, after Prince’s father dies and they’re playing “Purple Rain” live.  I still get a little chill whenever I hear Prince wailing that guitar solo at the end.  And there’s one moment in particular that I always wait for.  But nowadays, when they play it on the radio, that part is usually edited out by the bastard radio programmers,  I guess to make the song shorter and more suitable for airplay.  That pisses me off every time they do that.

But still, whenever that song comes on the radio, it’s like a time capsule that takes me back to 1984, and sitting there in the movie theater with that crazy chick, and the streets of Oakland and how that song wafted all across the landscape back then.

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Crack cocaine

 

One of the worst things about drugs is all the sketchy people and sketchy scenes you end up dealing with.  Even worse, its highly likely that you, yourself, are one of the sketchiest.

I remember one summer in 1994 when I went through a minor crack cocaine binge (not my finest hour).  When I finally came down from the crack (we ran out) I realized that there was this person in my apartment who, only moments earlier, I had considered one of my best friends in the world (my affection for her knew no bounds when the cocaine was ringing the endorphin bells in my brain exactly right — that golden gong).  But now I realized I wasn’t exactly sure who this person was.

She was a fairly attractive 19-year-old mullatto chick who was six month pregnant and she was angrily pacing back and forth in the living room of my apartment saying over and over:  “If that Mike don’t get back here in the next 15 minutes with that crack I’m gonna get me a gun and go down and rob the 7-11 on the corner and get me my own damn crack!”

The next thing I remember, it’s me and Mike and m’lady barreling down Telegraph Avenue at 3 in the morning in a virtually empty AC Transit bus, on our way to McCarthur Blvd. in Oakland.   The master plan — which thus far was unfolding flawlessly — was  to hopefully hook up with some guy who’d been hanging out on the roof-top of this hotel building.  And he could introduce us to this other guy who knew this other guy who had just scored a shitload of dynamite shit that was directly off the plane from Bolivia.

And then things started getting sketchy . . . .

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