Sunday, May 20, 2018

Laurel and Yanny Go to Texas

There’s a scene in the 1919 French film J’accuse! where soldiers who have been killed in battle rise from the dead and begin marching on the living.

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about that film now.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we had yet another school shooting in America, this time in Texas, with the tragically familiar TV footage of parents, teachers, and children sobbing and hugging each other while SWAT teams storm the building.

Maybe it was something to do with a sobering Washington Post story that said more people have been killed in schools this year than have died serving in the military. Or at least it should be sobering to anyone who isn’t dry-humping a firearm.

Or maybe it has something to do with an interview of one of these weeping children in Texas, who when asked the idiotic question “was there a part of you that was like ‘this isn’t real, this would not happen in my school?’” bluntly replied, “No, there wasn’t.”

“It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I always kind of felt like it would happen here eventually, too.”

Naturally she and fellow students were promptly accused of being “crisis actors” by the Trump loving media because, hey, that’s what real patriots do, right?

This time the victims included a Pakistani exchange student who was scheduled to go home next month. Her heartbroken father told the Associated Press that he thought she would be safe in America, though God knows why anyone would think that after all these massacres.

Fire Fight

I think it was Tuesday morning when I was out for my morning walk and I thought, honest to God, “we haven’t had a mass-shooting in a while, have we?” And, lo and behold…

I feel like we’ve crossed a line with this latest shooting, that we’ve come to accept these man-made nightmares the way we tolerate heat waves, air quality alerts, and snowstorms.

It’s just something that happens.

I’m feeling a kind of battle fatigue as I see the latest photos of the smiling victims, listen to their grieving loved ones, and hear about the dreams that will never come true.

But then why worry about mass shootings when we have much more important matters to deal with like the great Yanny vs Laurel debate?

And there was the royal wedding, which is being billed as a fairy tale romance, though the real fairy tale is this pathetic belief that politicians actually give shit about our children, or that they’ll do anything to change the gun laws.

I’ve taken some hope from the students from Parkland, Florida, who rallied after their classmates were senselessly slaughter to challenge gutless politicians and gun-loving lunatics.

And a number of companies have severed ties with the NRA and investors are dumping gun manufacturer stocks. But I still feel the gun crowd is winning.

So, by all means, watch the royal wedding, argue over the dress, and debate if the cat is walking up or walking down the stairs. Maybe the only way things will change is if the shooting victims rise from their graves and march on Washington.

And here’s a newsflash for you: the voice isn’t saying Yanny or Laurel.

It’s saying “you’re fucked.”

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Please Be Seated

I came flying through the doors of P.S. 170 at the end of the day and ran straight toward my mother.

I had just created an incredible rendering of an apple tree in my kindergarten class and I couldn’t wait to show it to her.

I had drawn plenty of pictures, of course, but this time I had really outdone myself.

However, things didn’t go according to plan. As I was handing my work of art to my mother, an evil gust of wind blew the drawing out of my hands and right under a parked car.

Naturally I started crying and I’ll never forget how my mother bent down and tried to retrieve my drawing from underneath that damn car

We never did get that drawing back, but my mother was grateful beyond measure notwithstanding and did everything she could to console me.

I thought about that incident this morning, on Mother’s Day, and naturally I started crying all over again. She’s been gone nearly 16 years now, but that image of her desperately trying to find my drawing cut right through me.

I’ve been going some tough times recently, many of which are self-inflicted, and with them has come this crippling guilt as I tell myself what a lousy son I was.

Fred the Shrink has been advising me to talk to my mother—really talk to her as if she is actually here. I’ve been promising to do this for quite a while and I thought this would a good day to give it a try.

So, I sat at my kitchen table, looked at the empty chair across from me, and started talking. I told my mother how much I missed her, I told her how sorry I was for all the times I let her down, lost my temper, or broke her heart.

I mouthed off to her in ways I wouldn’t dare do with my father because I knew he’d put me through the nearest wall. And I apologized for my cowardice.

Give 'Em the Chair

Then I really started crying. My shoulders were heaving as I wailed and tore through a mound of tissues. I started thinking I had made a terrible mistake, that conjuring up my mother wasn’t allaying my pain; it was exacerbating it.

This is therapy? I thought. The next time I see Fred the Shrink I’m going to sock him so hard he won’t know Sigmund Freud from Ziggy Stardust.

Eventually I calmed down and I felt physically lighter from all that crying. There’s no such thing as a miracle cure, but, as painful as it was, I do feel I got something positive from this experience.

I often call up memories of my mother just to make myself sad.

There’s this dark side of my mind that feeds off negative emotions—anger, worry, resentment, fear, and grief.

Normally I hate it when people presume to speak on behalf of the dead, but I know my mother really wouldn’t want me spending my days feeling guilty and ashamed.

This evening I was washing the dishes, stealth-dreading the start of a new work week, and I started on the downward spiral about how I had made so many bad decisions, how I should’ve taken more risks, and somehow reached the demented conclusion that I was a terrible son.

This time, though, I refused to accept that hateful thought. It wasn’t even remotely true, and its only purpose was to pull me down even deeper. Not this time, buddy.

I’m not sure if I’ll do this chair experiment again, especially seeing as how it hurt so damn much. But I’m glad I tried it because reaching out to my mother helped look inside myself.

I may have lost that apple tree drawing, but I feel like I’m painting my masterpiece.

Sunday, May 06, 2018


Okay, so I’ve got the keys, I just have to figure out how to use them.

Last week I described a dream I had where I was trapped in a runaway car with my late parents that ended with me pulling the key out of the ignition and avoiding disaster.

I interpreted this dream as a message from my subconscious mind that I can take control of my life.

Well, apparently, I didn’t get my own message because while keys figured prominently in my life this week as well, it was no dream and I was definitely not in control.

It had been a rather stressful few days, and when I say “stressful” I mean I completely overreacted to any problem that cropped up and made them much worse than they really were.

Things got so bad that one night I came home from the store and found I had locked myself out of my apartment.

Please note that I didn’t forget my keys. I had them right in my hand and I went through every single key on the ring. But none of them worked.

This was impossible, unless, of course, malevolent elves had snuck into my apartment during the night and swapped my regular keys for an ersatz set. This seemed highly unlikely as I don’t tend to interact with elves, malevolent or otherwise, during my normal course of business.

I’ve lived in this apartment for five years now and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve locked and unlocked this door I could use the Hearst Mansion for a toolshed.

And yet I couldn’t get in. I tried each key again, slower this time, while my breath grew short and my head started to expand. Still nothing.

I could feel the panic rising up through me. I had to get in there. I had work to do, I had to catch up my DVR recordings, do some reading, and, oh, yeah, have my dinner and go to bed.

Key Lame

I had Chinese food the other night and one of my fortunes read “constant grinding can turn a steel bar into a needle.” At the rate I was going I could’ve turned the Golden Gate Bridge into a toothpick.

Still, I had enough sanity left to know that I couldn’t force the key to work. Years ago, I was having trouble getting into the garage at my family’s house.

I had to get my car, I was running late for work and I got so angry and impatient that I twisted the key as hard as I could—and promptly snapped the key in the lock.

I eventually had to call a locksmith who charged me almost 90 bucks for a five-minute job. And I was really late for work.

Standing on the landing of my apartment, I was determined not to repeat that fiasco.

I finally walked down one flight to my landlady’s apartment and asked to borrow her spare key.

Naturally it worked on the first try and now, with the pressure off, I found the right key on my ring and it worked perfectly.

So, what happened here? I flipped out so seriously that I rendered myself incapable of performing a routine action.

It’s particularly disheartening since I really believe I’ve been making some progress in managing stress.

My darker nature also worries that this could a warning sign of more serious problems as I feel like I’ve been more forgetful lately. A talk with a specialist wouldn’t hurt.

In analyzing this fiasco, I can see how I often conflate all of my problems into one hideous monster.

I had a number of setbacks during the day, but instead of reacting to them individually I created my own private Godzilla.

So, I’ll be more attentive to the warning signs. I’ll apply the various stress-relief techniques that I keep in my emotional toolbox. And I’ll label my goddam keys so I don’t have to run through each one of them until I find the winner.

Okay, we’ve got that settled. Now give me another cookie.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Dream Machine

I sat in the back seat of my parent’s car while we raced down a dark country road.

My mother and father, long since gone from this world, were sitting up front as we drove through an incredibly dark forest.

This was a dream, of course, and it was about to turn into a nightmare.

I haven’t dreamt about either one of my parents for a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt about them together.

I used to travel a lot with my parents when I was younger, so the image of me sitting in the back seat of their car is definitely rooted in reality.

During this dream ride, the only thing I could see was the twisting road ahead dimly illuminated by the headlight’s beams.

I don’t know where the hell we were, but wherever it was, I could sense that it was cold, remote, and dangerous.

And it got a lot more dangerous when my father keeled over behind the wheel.

I could see his head rolling from side to side as the car started flying all over the road and I heard my mother screaming—and I’m sure I was doing a fair bit of screeching myself.

Now this is the point where most of my nightmares end: something horrible is about to happen and then I wake up yelling and waving my arms in the dark at all sorts of imaginary ghosts and ghouls.

But this the dream kept going—and so did the car, faster and faster. Finally, I leaned over my father’s shoulder, pulled the key out of the ignition, and the car came to a stop.

And then I woke up.

So how to interpret this? Well, there’s certainly the fear of losing control and taking the ignition key suggests that I was taking hold of my life and breaking free of my childhood.

Situation Well in Hand

Hell, I’m 60 years old so maybe this is a good time to finally say adios to all that kid stuff.

“You saved the day,” Fred the Shrink told me when I shared the dream with him. “Be happy with that.”

Oh, I’m very happy with that. I’m going through some difficulties right now and I’m a bit nervous about the future. If nothing else, this dream may be a pep talk from my subconscious that I can save myself should my life spin out of control.

My father was a World War II veteran and whenever I was upset or worried about something he would remind me of his army division’s motto: Fortior Ex Asperis, which means “stronger through adversity.”

It’s a shame that I’m only starting to appreciate much of the advice my parents gave me now that they’re gone.

But then I’m sure wanted their encouraging words to live on after them. It just sucks that I can’t thank them for all they’ve done for me.

This army motto is particularly meaningful in light of my accident and surgery.

The recovery continues and this week I’ve been walking about two miles every morning to build up my legs.

I’m not going to set any speed records, but this is a vast improvement over using a walker or trying to move with those awful leg braces.

On Thursday I ran into a friend from the neighborhood whom I hadn’t seen in months. She was walking her dog on Shore Road and I told her about my accident. Well, it turned out that she was on the disabled list, too, after falling down in February and breaking her wrist.

She went through the surgery and rehab routine, too, and she’s just getting back to the world. And to top it off my auntie is in the hospital recovering from hip replacement surgery.

There are a lot of damaged people out there and they’re heading down some rough roads. But if we can grab those ignition keys, then we can end up being stronger through adversity.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Awakening

“Where have you been?”

It’s a question I’ve been hearing a lot lately as I slowly make my return to civilization.

This latest inquiry happened on Saturday as I was walking up 69th Street near Colonial Road.

The woman who runs the Hot Wok, my local Chinese food place, was crossing the street when we spotted each other.

“I had an accident in December,” I said, giving her an abbreviated version of the slip in the snow saga that has dominated my life for the last five months.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

“I’ll be back soon.”

“Don’t worry about that,” she said. “I’m just glad you’re better.”

Yeah, me, too. I walked away feeling a little more human, a little more connected to the real world.

April in New York has been too goddamn cold for my liking. I’m still doing my stairway climbs, but it sucks when you have to bundle up at a time of the year when you should be listening to the birdies chirping.

But the last two days have been more spring-like and everyone outside of an insane asylum is hoping that the warm weather has finally arrived for keeps.

I’m writing this on a bench in Shore Road Park and I can see—and hear—a couple of kids throwing themselves around in the grass. People are out, the sun is shining, and yes, the birds are chirping once again.

Behind me a city bus is loudly proclaiming “Caution, bus is turning” in a female robot voice to anyone within earshot.

Another Day in the Park

One of my neighbors greeted me when I returned home and ask my condition. I happily pointed out that I am no longer wearing leg braces.

“That’s great,” he said. “Keep getting better.”

Oh, I surely hope so. I was forced to put a substantial portion of my life on hold for the last several months and I want to get back on track with my goals. If nothing else, this disaster has shown me that there are no guarantees in this life.

Last week I started doing my stair-climbing routine on 74th Street when a heavily tattooed young man named Mike came out of one of the buildings and started talking to me.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said, “I’m just recovering from a bad fall.”

We talked a little more and I learned that he had been a construction worker, but back problems have been keeping him away from work.

“Have you thought about acupuncture?” I asked. “It might help with the pain.”

“I’ll give it a try. I’m not afraid of needles with all these tattoos.”

Mike told me his grandfather had been a veteran of World War II and I explained that my dad had fought in the same conflict.

Part of my wanted to continue my workout but I thought it was more important for me to keep speaking with this young man. I could use the conversation, given my lengthy housebound status and I suspect that Mike really wanted to speak with someone too. The world can be a lonely place.

Finally, I had to leave, but Mike insisted on giving me a bottle of vitamin water even though I was three blocks from home and hadn’t broken anything vaguely resembling a sweat.

Still, I knew better than to refuse his kindness and I gladly accepted a bottle of this pink stuff.

“I’ll pray for you,” Mike said.

And I’ll pray for you.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Step On Up

It was like Rocky…only in slow motion.

I took my act on the road this week, or at least on the street, when my surgeon finally gave me the okay to walk out amongst humans without leg braces, walker, or cane.

“I think you’re ready for just about anything,” he said Tuesday morning.

Ready for just about anything. I have been waiting to hear those words since mid-December when I first hit the snow-covered deck and wrecked both my knees.

Every morning when I went lumbering to rehab with those awful leg braces I told anybody within earshot that I was going to be walking every day by spring.

This latest was much more optimistic than the original estimate, when my doctor thought I’d be out of commission for 18 flipping months.

I walked home from the doctor’s office that day, both out of a desire to use my legs again and the fact that I’d had a brutal shouting match with a local car service driver and dispatcher earlier that morning after they left me hanging outside my house for 20 minutes.

“Why are you screaming, sir?” the dispatcher asked repeatedly.

I wasn’t aware that I’d been screaming, but I think the definite lack of a car might have had something to do with my consternation. My doctor’s office fills up very quickly and if you don’t get there ahead of the crowd you can kiss your schedule goodbye.

I confess I overreacted, as usual, but these people weren’t very helpful either. I’ve had a couple of battles with the neighborhood car services now and at this rate the only way I’ll be able to get a ride is to dive into a trash bag and wait for a garbage truck.

Going the Distance

On Thursday I hiked a few blocks down to Bliss Park, appropriately named on this day, when I was feeling quite happy. It’s a very hilly area, which is good for the quads, and there’s some playground equipment where I got to do some pull-ups.

Then on Friday morning I went for the big one. There’s a flight of exterior stairs on a dead-end street near my house and, though I’ve climbed them many times in the past, they now looked like Mount Everest with bannisters.

If I had been wearing cymbals on my quaking knees I could’ve started a one-man band, but
but I knew I had to attempt an ascent.

Up I went, 12 steps and then a landing, followed by 12 more and then the final dozen. I was charging to the top just like Rocky Balboa running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—if Rocky had been 60 years old, hairless, and recovering from double knee surgery.

I turned right around, walked down to the bottom, and then headed back up. I did this routine 7 or 8 times before going the hell home.

On Saturday morning I walked 10 blocks to my favorite fruit and vegetable store, which I hadn’t visited in months and that night I went on my first big outing, as my sister and I ventured into Manhattan to see the Irish Repertory Theatre’s production of Conor McPherson’s production of The Seafarer.

We took yet another car service to and from the theater and I managed not to scream at the drivers either time.

It was so nice to be out and doing things, instead of parking myself in front of the TV or the computer. And this morning I went shopping at my local supermarket, after weeks of calling in the orders and having them delivered.

I intend to keep on walking every day. It builds up my leg muscles and, given my luck with car services, it may be my only way of getting around.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Forgotten Dreams

There was a time back in Seventies when I couldn’t wait to watch the evening news.

I wanted to know what was going on, of course, but I was especially interested in the sign off.

During its weekend broadcasts, Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate, would show nighttime footage of New York City during the closing credits while playing this lovely, soothing music.

This was well before, the Internet, DVRs or YouTube, where you can now access just about any kind of recording any time you want.

Back then I had to make sure I was sitting in front of our old Motorola at 11:27pm or I would miss it.

New York was in pretty rough shape back then, so these relaxing few moments provided a nice break from the wall-to-wall mayhem that seemed to follow us every day.

As crazy as the city was, this mellow music seemed to tell you it was okay to slow down a little bit and look forward to the morning. It was a little melancholy perhaps, but it was also a soundtrack for hope.

My mother loved the music as well and she often hummed along with it. And there was this one night when she, my brother Peter, and I were all watching TV when the Channel 7 began its sign off.

“Oh,” my mother sighed. “I’d love to find out the name of this music.”

Now my brother and I were teenagers and thus certified smartasses who looked for all sorts of ways to be annoying. On this evening my brother decided to give our mother a hard time.

“I hope you never find it,” he wisecracked.

This comment did not go over well with my mother and she didn’t hold back her feelings.


Yes, that’s right, my sainted mother, who hated foul language with like a temperance leader hated hooch, had just dropped the S-bomb.

What I remember most about the next few minutes was my brother’s reaction, as he put his head back and roared with laughter.

She Said…What?

Meanwhile my mother sat there with this confused and embarrassed look on her face.

“Is that something bad?” she asked quite sincerely.

Poor thing, she honestly didn’t know that the word “scumbag” was a swear word. I can only recall a few occasions in my life when I heard her let loose with the profanities and each time she had the perfect excuse.

“I was provoked,” she would solemnly declare.

And she certainly was that night. Naturally my brother tortured her with his rendition of her verbal misstep for months-perhaps years-after it happened.

Channel 7 eventually changed the closing credits on its weekend broadcasts and we pretty much forgot about that lovely music.

But then years later, while living in Connecticut, I learned that the name of that piece of music was “Forgotten Dreams,” and it had been written by a man named Leroy Anderson, who had once lived in nearby Woodbury.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Leroy Anderson was also the composer of several popular tunes, including "The Syncopated Clock,” which CBS used to introduce The Late Show, “The Typewriter Song,” which used an actual typewriter as an instrument—Youngsters will have to Google “typewriter” to understand what I’m talking about--and the holiday classic, “Sleigh Ride.”

It’s hard to believe that one man was responsible for all this fabulous music. Upon learning his named, I zipped up to the local mall and somehow got a copy of his greatest hits, which included “Forgotten Dreams. “

My family was having a get together at my aunt’s summer home in the Berkshires that particular year and I prevailed upon my brother to bring his portable CD player so I could play “Forgotten Dreams” for my mother, some 20-odd years since she that fateful night.

Her search was finally over and she didn’t even have to hurl any expletives.

I have no idea whatever became of that CD, but I’m glad I was able to help her. For some reason came back to me last week and this time I found it after a quick web search.

I invite you to listen to “Forgotten Dreams.” I’m confident that you’ll enjoy it as much as we all did.

And, if you don’t, well, my mother has the perfect word for you.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The Greatest Story

Seriously…that was Pat Boone?

In honor of Easter, Turner Classic Movies last night showed “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the 1965 epic biblical story that I saw way back in the fifth grade.

I was in Catholic school at the time and my teacher, Sister Joseph Goebbels, suggested we see the movie or we’d surely burn in Hell for all eternity with demons gnawing on our genitals…or at least that’s how I remember it.

The film had an all-star cast, of course, but the only actor I was interested in seeing was David McCallum as Judas Iscariot.

You young people out there may know him as cranky old Doctor Ducky from NCIS, but back then David McCallum portrayed the young Russian badass Illya Kuryakin in my favorite TV program of the moment, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” a Bond-era spy show.

Each week I’d watch Illya and Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) take on the dirtbags from THRUSH, and so getting to see one of my heroes in a different role was a real thrill for me.

I did a little research about TGSET and I was shocked to see just how many stars were in this all-star extravaganza.

In addition to Illya Kuryakin, the picture featured Max Von Sydow as Jesus, Victor Buono, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer, John Wayne, Sidney Poitier, Van Heflin, Charlton Heston, Martin Landau, Jamie Farr (Cpl. Klinger in “M.A.S.H.”), Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Claude Rains, Ed Wynn, Michael Ansara, Robert Blake, David Hedison, Robert Loggia, Shelley Winters, and, as the Angel at the Tomb, yes, ladies and gentleman, put your hands together and give it up for the one and only Mr. Pat Boone.

I had no idea all these big names were in this movie, but then I was just a youngster scarfing down popcorn and trying to avoid a rendezvous with Beelzebub.

And, I say this with love, but I despise Pat Boone—God forgive me. His singing, his politics, his face, his very existence irritates the ever-loving shit out of me.

I know we’ve gone through many years and several presidential administrations but I still feel like asking for my money back after putting up with that sanctimonious hump…adjusted for inflation, of course.

Who knew?

There are tons of intriguing factoids about this flick.

For instance, Telly Savalas shaved his head for his role as Pontius Pilate and he stayed with that look for the rest of his life, thus serving as an inspiration to a generation of hairless men, like yours truly.

And Savalas, Donald Pleasance, and Max Von Sydow would all go on to play the very same Bond villain, Ernst Stavro Bloefeld, in three different 007 flicks.

I have very few memories of this movie, but I do recall how Hollywood had to change the demise of Judas.

Instead of hanging himself, Illya Iscariot tossed himself into a flaming pit—and checked out rather quietly for a man who had just gotten a full-body hot foot.

I haven’t seen the movie since that first viewing and I didn’t watch it last night—God forgive me—and naturally when I woke up this morning I regretted that decision.

This is Easter, you’re supposed to get into the spirit of the season and this movie seems like a good way to do that.

And since I’m still pretty much housebound it’s more important than ever that I connect with my faith, seeing as how getting to church is a bit of a struggle.

Today I’ll be celebrating Easter at my sister’s house and it’ll be nice to see my loved ones outside of a hospital, which I had to do on Christmas Day.

We’ll eat, drink, tell stories and do our damnedest not to talk about Pat Boone. God forgive me.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fish Story

Okay, I admit it: I actually enjoyed “The Shape of Water.”

This may sound like an admission of defeat, but I am happy to wave the white flag and confess that while I was all set to thoroughly detest Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning film—and write a vicious post about it—the director’s incredible vision triumphed over his soggy storyline.

I’ve been a huge del Toro fan ever since I saw “Cronos” in 1993 and “Pan’s Labyrinth” was so beautiful I was sobbing in the theater while the credits rolled.

This probably explains why the people in my row were filing out so quickly, but I was too busy wiping the tears away to pay much attention to them.

Lately, however, I’ve been quite disappointed with del Toro’s work. I thought “Crimson Peak” was a half-hearted hack job and his television show “The Strain” was so appropriately named that it hurt. It was indeed a strain to watch that dog and I eventually threw in the remote.

The coming attractions for the “The Shape of Water” didn’t cheer me up in the least.

So, some mute toilet cleaner in the 1960s gets jiggy with the Creature from the Black Lagoon and I’m supposed to give a shit? Hey, lady, I’m sorry you’re lonely, but can’t you hold out for someone who doesn’t have gills?

I was starting to wonder if “Pan’s Labyrinth” was a fluke—and not the fishy kind.

So when I cranked up the DVD player on Friday night I had attitude to spare and a chip on my shoulder the size of the Great Barrier Reef. I was going to whale the screaming bejesus out of this flabby fish tale and flush it straight back to the swampy cesspool from whence it came.

And then I fell in love.

Current Affair

True, the story is predictable, moth-ridden and more than little creepy, but I was completely won over by del Toro’s beautiful directing style.

Sally Hawkins brilliantly portrays Elisa, the nonverbal heroine who lives over a movie theater and who, along with Octavia Spencer, mops up a super-secret government laboratory in JFK-era Baltimore. It’s there that she meets and falls for an amphibious man-like creature that a sadistic government agent, portrayed by Michael Shannon, is eager to slice and dice.

So, we get a seafood salad of “Beauty and the Beast,” “E.T.”, and “Splash.” Yet del Toro resuscitates this tired material with such vigor he could give Dr. Frankenstein a lesson in reanimation.

The story has plot holes so big Moby Dick could swim through them with his eyes closed.

One of the many problems I had with the movie was the fact that even though this watery critter is supposed to be top secret government property, the cleaning lady is somehow able to visit him just about any time she wants.

I’ve been to aquariums with tighter security.

But I’m okay with that, too. I honestly think the real love story here is del Toro’s passion for the movies. The theater downstairs provides a sound track to Eliza’s life and gives her a voice in a beautifully staged and rather bizarre fantasy sequence.

I can’t say if “The Shape of Water” deserved the Academy Award, but “Pan’s Labyrinth” sure as hell did, so if the Oscar crowd was a little late in recognizing del Toro’s talents, they’ve finally redeemed themselves.

I grew up hearing the phrase “movie magic” and I guess that’s what we have here--a cinematic sleight of hand that tricks us so masterfully we don’t mind if we’ve seen it all before.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Crack that Whip

I used to work with a guy who had a healthy attitude about tax time.

“I’m going home to do my taxes,” he told me one evening, “so if I get struck by a bolt of lightning, you’ll know why.”

I could use a little bit of humor now.

I’m slowly getting my tax papers together, so I can shoot them over to my accountant before an Internal Revenue SWAT team kicks in my door and hauls me off to Gitmo. Or wherever the hell they take (relatively) honest mathematically-challenged Americans.

I’ve never been good with numbers, especially when it involves the government, potential prison time, and righteous streaks of lightning.

Keeping track of bills and receipts is also another financial blind spot for me. Do you seriously expect me to hold on to a piece of paper from last February?

And, as spring follows winter, I make my annual oath that this will never, absolutely never happen again; that I will keep track of every single tax-related expenditure and hand my CPA a coherent presentation of my fiscal status…as opposed to sending him a bucket of “maybes” while cowering in the closet and listening for the sound of government helicopters.

Now all this tax talk reminds of a little incident that occurred at my gym one Sunday afternoon many years ago. Given my current physical condition, memories of the gym are all I have. (Cue sad music.)

I had just finished a particularly grueling boxing class and I struck up a conversation with an attractive woman who had also suffered through the same workout. I noticed she had a pixie tattooed on her arm, which I, shallow male animal that I am, thought was kind of cool.

The career question is one way of keeping up the talk, so I asked this young lady what she did for a living.

Deduct This!

“Oh, I’m a dominatrix,” she replied.

I thought I was hearing things, but I knew I hadn’t. This woman just told me that she was a dominatrix.

It was just the way she said it so casually. Like I’m a lawyer or an accountant, as opposed to someone who gets paid to put her customers through the sexual ringer.

Of course, I’m not really sure if there's a proper way of revealing this bit of intelligence, but I could’ve used a little bit of a warm-up before hearing the truth.

I tried, I honestly tried to pretend I wasn’t stunned by her response. This is New York, nothing shocks me. Dominatrix, alligator wrestler, professional sword swallower, yeah, sure, that’s great—do you have a dental plan?

We had actually moved away from the topic of jobs when my veneer of nonchalance fell by the wayside and I just had to know the whole story.

“So, tell me,” I said, desperately trying to sound slick, “What do you put on your W-2 form where it says ‘Occupation’?”

“I put ‘freelance worker.’”

That seemed logical enough and, hell, if it’s accurate then Uncle Sam should be satisfied. And God help him if he isn’t.

Then I took a closer look at that pixie tattoo and I saw that in lieu of a magic wand this little fairy was holding a cat o’ nine tails. You’d better clap for this Tinkerbell, or else.

There comes a time in every man’s life when you just have to say, “whoops, I think I hear my mama calling,” and make for the exit. And this definitely seemed like one of those times.

I wasn’t rude but the conversation faded shortly after my classmate’s revelation and I went home wondering just what the hell had just happened.

Now I swear on my tax returns that I’m not judging anyone. Whatever turns you on, as long as it’s not hurting anyone else is fine. If anyone is at fault here, it’s yours truly for freaking out so easily.

It’s just that after all those years with the nuns in Catholic school I don’t feel the need for any more humiliation. But do give me your business card just in case.

I still have to get a few more of my tax papers together and I’m going to work to make sure everything is aboveboard so I don’t get nuked by a bolt from above.

And if I hear any pixies knocking on my door I’m heading straight for the closet.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dude Descending a Staircase

I stood on the landing outside my apartment and got ready for my big moment.

I was pretty nervous even though Ayman, my physical therapist, was standing right in front of me, ready to spring into action should anything go wrong.

This was an important step for me, literally and figuratively.

I was about to walk down a flight of stairs.

Last week I ditched the leg braces and now I was going to walk down from my third-floor apartment to the first floor by just…walking.

I wasn't going to rely on the stiff-legged sideways crab climb that I've been doing since December. No, I was going to use my poor battered knees to carry me up and down.

I can't begin to calculate how many times I've been up and down these stairs in the years I've lived here. I never counted the steps, I never really paid attention to what I was doing because walking up those stairs was effortless. Until it wasn't.

But in my current condition, the stairs looked like as scary as Mount Everest during a Yeti convention and I suddenly appreciated Jimmy Stewart's predicament in Vertigo. Only Kim Novak was nowhere to be seen.

Naturally I was overjoyed that I was going to be getting out of my apartment, if only to get to the front door. I'm very grateful for the progress I've been making, but I think the long recovery period is getting to me. I feel fat and fragile and I've been even crankier than normal.

I couldn't help but think about all the years I've been running, boxing, and lifting weights and now the biggest challenge in my life was this formerly routine act.

Walk Dem Golden Stairs

I recalled the good old days when I could fly up a flight of stairs two at a time without a second thought. At the gym I'd get on the Stairmaster and climb the approximate height of the Eiffel Tower or higher. But not today, mon ami…

Now I was going to take it one step at a time and focus carefully on every single one of them. This was a great opportunity to practice mindfulness, to stay present and pay attention to what I'm doing in the here and now.

I felt so awkward taking those first downward steps and it seemed like I was going to topple over with each move.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And so does a walk down the stairs.

"Take your time," Ayman told me.

No argument there. My two-stairs-at-a-time days are way behind me-perhaps forever.

We reached the bottom of the stairs and I was tempted to drop Neil Armstrong's "one small step for man" line because it was definitely a giant leap for me. And now it was time to reverse my steps.

It turned out that climbing up the stairs was much easier than going down. I guess not having to look down is a plus.

Ayman wants me to do this every day until I become a stair master. This was our last session together and this week I'm scheduled to begin my outpatient treatment. I feel indebted to this man, who took me through a dark period of my life. I'm going to miss his regular visits and his positive attitude.

"One day this will all be a memory," he said, during a particularly dark day.

Yes, it will. And now it's time for the next step.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Walk Cycle

I stood under the shower for so long on Saturday morning I wasn't sure if I'd ever come out.

My doctor told me last week that I don't have to wear my leg braces around the house anymore.

I've been taking full body washes in front of the sink since December, which really don't cut the mustard when it comes to coming clean.

I know it's wrong to waste water, but after feeling that heavenly H2O raining down on me after all those sponge baths, I just didn't want it to end.

In sports, being sent to the showers means you're being yanked off the field, but I felt like I was slowly returning to the game.

So, after three months of clunking around like the Tin Man in my Velcro leg irons, I can now stand on my own two feet-literally. No more wrapping and unwrapping my legs every time I have to do my morning stretch routine. I'm free.

It still feels strange, walking around without artificial support. My legs are still so thin that I was afraid they wouldn't be able to hold me up. But they can.

I walk slowly, that's for damn sure, nothing like the speed-racing pace I used to crank out when I went to the store…or the subway…or the bathroom. No, I'm taking the slow ride.

My physical therapist Ayman, has been visiting me at home for the last few weeks.

When the insurance company first approved a PT guy, I was expecting a musclebound young dude who would drill sergeant me into a frenzy, but this soft-spoken Egyptian man is gently pushing me to levels I never thought I could reach.

It hurts like hell, but I'm Catholic so it's all good. Or all bad. It's hard to tell.

Walk on By

He stopped by my apartment on Friday night after battling through the hideous nor'easter that had snarled traffic down to motionless misery. I wouldn't have blamed him if he had scrubbed our session, but he came through.

"You're walking like you still have the braces on," Ayman said, as I lumbered across the living room floor. "You have to bend your knees."

That felt a little scary after all the immobility. But I listened as he took me through the walk cycle, a seemingly simple act that I'd never appreciated until I had it taken from me.

I'm learning how to walk all over again. I feel like my parents should be here taking my picture and cheering me on.
I've spoken about the importance of gratitude and that's what I'm feeling now.

When I went to see my doctor this week, I waited in the hallway of my building for my sister to pick me up.

There's an image of Jesus on the door and I was so nervous I put my hand on the picture and prayed for good health and a speedy recovery.

But as I held my hand on that picture, I became calm and I thought about the people who are really suffering in this world, like the families of the shooting victims in Florida. And I went from being fearful to being thankful.

I have to wear the leg braces when I leave my apartment, so I'm still pretty much housebound. And after my sessions with Ayman run out, I'll have to continue the physical therapy as an outpatient.

I've got a long road ahead of me, but at least I'm not wearing those awful braces. Now it's time for a shower.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Dream Rock

I've always liked Chris Rock, ever since I first saw him on Saturday Night Live all those years ago, but last night he really pissed me off.

I suppose I should mention here that I've never met Chris Rock in real life, I haven't seen him on TV lately, and I haven't even thought about the guy in God knows how long.

And yet he walked into my head last night and wouldn't leave until I chased him the hell out.

I was in the middle of a strange dream, which sounds redundant in light of the technicolor skull busters I've experienced in my life, but at least this time it wasn't one of those horror show nightmares I've been known to have.

In this latest psychodrama I was sitting in a doctor's office, which makes some sense as I'm due to see my surgeon this week. However, this setting looked nothing like my doctor's waiting room and I wasn't wearing these godawful leg braces that I'm saddled with in real life.

And then Chris Rock walked in the door.

Yes, he did, and he sat down right next to me. I wasn't star-struck, but I was pretty impressed. We started talking about something which I have since forgotten and at one point I said, "there was a story on NPR about that last night."

"Oh, yeah?" the dream-edian snarked. "I didn't think bald guys from Brooklyn listened to NPR."

What the flaming fluff? I know these delusions aren't supposed to make sense, but even for a dream this joke bombed.

I've been putting up with bald jokes for far too long. Some people seem to think I consciously decided to start losing my hair one day, where in reality in was very upsetting for me. And believe it or not, rude, stupid jokes about it don't make me feel any better.

I recently tanked a Facebook friend request from some ass monkey I worked with 20 years ago largely because he was always making stupid bald jokes. I'm partially to blame here, as I've had trouble speaking up for myself, and I thought I should be a good sport-even though he was being a prick.

A Streetcar Named 'Yo Mamma'

Now I haven't had any contact with this dickwad in two decades and I didn't like him when I worked with him, so why in the five-alarm hell would I want to bring this putz back in my life after all this time? Delete, delete, delete…

In this age where fat-shaming has become a capital offense, and "body positive" has replaced "unhealthy," why is mocking someone else's hair loss is still acceptable? I want to join the oppressed minority and wrap myself up in a blanket of offense.

Don't get me wrong. Fat-shaming is a terrible thing to do and I was most definitely guilty of that in my younger days-something I deeply regret and sincerely apologize for. I just want a little understanding sent in my direction.

But first I've got to straighten out Chris Rock.

"Are you serious?" I snapped. "You're the bigtime comedian and that's the best you can do?"

I got so nasty that this world-famous performer got up and changed his seat.

I know I overreacted but on the bright side none of this was real-except for the lingering resentment I have stored up in my subconscious.

Dreams don't spring out of nowhere, so clearly, I've still got a lot of hostility buried in my psychological bedrock. I haven't figured out the Chris Rock angle, but perhaps my inner mind wanted to shake things up by pulling in a famous person.

The scene shifted and then I was watching very crowded trolley cars pass by me somewhere in downtown Brooklyn. I think I wanted to board one of them, but they were all so crowded I couldn't get on.

This seems logical since I've been watching a German TV show on Netflix called Babylon Berlin, which takes place in the eponymous city during the Weimar Republic. The show has excellent production values and sets, including a street scene with trolleys rolling back and forth.

And by the way, even though the trolleys were all packed to the gills nobody made any wisecracks about my hair.

I woke up, relieved I hadn't insulted a star and that I hadn't been run over by a trolley. I'm going to see my doctor on Tuesday and if Chris Rock sits next to me, he'd better keep his mouth shut.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

American Carnage

Too soon?

That's what we hear every time some heavily armed psycho gets hold of a terrifying weapon of personal destruction and kills innocent people.

While the victims' friends and family are still reeling from the unimaginable loss of their loved ones, the gun lobby and their whores in congress swoop in to make sure nothing ever changes.

It's too soon to talk about gun control, they say, it's disrespects the victims. We can't politicize this tragedy, they say, as if they actually give a shit.

And so the story fades from the news cycle, the dead are forgotten, and the scene is set for the next horrific attack.

But don't worry: these brave souls are ready to take action against the real villains here-computer games and movies. Yes, of course, that makes perfect sense.

Except when you realize that American movies and computer games are viewed and played all over the world and these countries don't seem to have the mass shootings that we do.

Gee, do you think it might have something to do with the guns? Nah….

The latest slaughter was in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, where Nikolas Cruz allegedly gunned down 14 students and three staff members using the mass shooter's weapon of choice, the AR-15.

Cruz, who was photographed wearing a "Make America Great Hat," espoused "racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views and displayed an obsession with violence and guns."

There's a brief cell phone video of students screaming and cowering in a classroom while the sound of gunfire rips through the air. Looking at this footage makes me ashamed to be an American.

The Las Vegas bump stock slaughter was in October, a month later we had the Texas church shooting, and here we are again with the funerals, the images of the fallen, and the sobbing survivors.

Gun Play

Oh, yeah, and of course, we get the "thoughts and prayers" routine, which for some strange reason don't seem to prevent these slaughters. Hard to believe, right?

The scumbag in the White House-I refuse to call him "President"-regurgitated some dribble about working with state and local leaders "to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health."

Why don't we start with yours?

Putin's hand puppet visited some of the wounded before dashing off to his compound at Mar-A-Largo, probably to play a few thousand rounds of golf and get his marching orders from Russia. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Making things so much worse was the news that FBI had received a tip last month that Cruz had a "desire to kill," access to guns and could be plotting an attack but failed to investigate.

And that scumbag in the White House is actually trying to use this screw-up to get out from under the Russia scandal. But what's really depressing is that you know there are vast numbers of idiots who believe him.

I would like to think that it's different this time, that the anger has grown to such a level that even those NRA stooges will be shamed into actually doing something in response to all these beautiful lives being snuffed out.

There are a lot of young people who are tired of seeing their classmates being gunned down and they're promising to make some changes.

I want to believe all that, I really do. But we've been down this road many times before and I still believe the pistol-packing pussy grabbers will stall and filibuster until the next massacre.

And then it'll be too soon all over again.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Future World

This never happened on Star Trek.

It was Thursday night and I was trying to attend my most fabulous writing class via Skype, but I couldn't make the magic happen.

I'm still wearing these awful leg braces from December's surgery, so riding the subway to my instructor Rosemary's house in Park Slope is out of the question.

But my classmate Joan, who is in New Mexico, and I were getting all 21st Century so we could join in without actually being there.

Or at least I was trying to join in.

However, I was having trouble getting online and the Skype calls kept crashing with this obnoxious noise that sounded like someone punching a heavy bag.

Rosemary called me to guide me through the process, but all I got for my efforts was another phantom punch in the ego.

Video conferencing has been around for ages, but to a techno-thal like yours truly it's something akin to voodoo and Buck Rogers. This seems strange, since I was such a science fiction fan when I was a kid, but then the computers in the books and movies were cool, not complicated.

I've been forcing myself to stretch my fossilized knees and I'm not the calmest fellow on this side of the ocean to begin with, so this latest run-in with the Internet was twisting me in all the wrong directions. I was seconds away from losing my Shatner.

Where's the transporter room when you need it?

"Just think positive thoughts," Rosemary said.

If only. While I think I've been making some progress with my anger management efforts, there's something about me and misbehaving machinery that just strips my gears.

I guess it's the feeling of helplessness. We're so dependent on this equipment that when something goes wrong we're pretty much screwed.

Captain's Log

And the fun really begins when you call tech support and find your warranty has run out and if you want any help you'll have to crack out the credit card. This never happened to Mr. Spock.

During the last few days I've also been battling with my TV remote and my printer, which decided on Saturday that it didn't feel like scanning documents anymore. It's a good thing phasers aren't real.

I got a rather disturbing example of my computer-driven rage when I was listening to an earnings call webcast and the sound suddenly croaked on me.

Naturally I did the mature thing-hurling F-bombs like they were beads at a Mardi Gras parade. The sound returned a short time later, but I kind of doubt if all that cursing was the cure.

I would've forgotten about my outburst except I was playing back the meeting on my digital recorder to check some quotes when I heard this psycho cursing and fuming.

And he sounded mighty familiar.

"What the fuck!" This freak shouted. "What the fuck is going on?"

Hearing myself freak out like that was unnerving because, honestly, I never really hear myself in a real time temper tantrum. I'm too busy savoring all that allegedly righteous anger.

I wonder if I should get another tape recorder just to keep track of my outbursts-a kind of captain's log where I essentially Watergate myself in the act of being a short-tempered loon. Fred the Shrink suggested a voice-activated device that would only switch on when I flip out.

I suspect that recorder will get quite a workout.

I never did conjure up those positive thoughts on Thursday, but Skype came to life nonetheless and the class was fantastic.

I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to write anything due to the odd conditions but once Rosemary read off her lists of prompts I picked up my pen and wrote myself into a frenzy.

I was so glad we got Skype to work. Of course, my technophobia still hasn't abated. I'm going to take another run at scanning some documents and if the printer doesn't work I'll give that buggy little bugger the Vulcan nerve pinch so hard it'll spew 50 dollars bill.

Did you get all that?

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Good Life

Now comes the hard part.

I went to see my doctor this week, six weeks after he operated on both my knees, and got a new, more flexible set of leg braces.

My physical therapist had warned me not to be shocked by the sight of my emaciated legs, but I have to say it was quite a jolt seeing these two toothpicks attached to my body.

Still, my PT guy says the muscles will return just as quickly as they disappeared.

As my doctor examined my knees, a stray thought sailed across my mind like a shooting star on a summer night.

I've had a good life.

That sounds rather strange coming from a chronic complainer like yours truly, but this awful experience has taught me a lot about gratitude-or it can, as long as I allow it.

Before the accident I went to work, went to the gym, did some (but not enough) socializing, and worked on my writing. While it wasn't the perfect life-what life is?--I was doing well.

But I wasn't really happy. I was always worried about something, always rushing somewhere, always upset, annoyed, or angry about things in the distant past or possible future. I didn't spend enough time in the present being grateful.

Now that my life has been thoroughly disrupted I can finally see how good things were for me. I suppose it's better late than never for such insights, but I'd rather not live my life looking in the rearview mirror.

Shake All the Blues Away

Part of me believes that if I say I'm satisfied with my life, then I'll stop trying to improve. Last year I wrote in my New Year's Day post that I'm looking to achieve a state of striving gratitude, where I'm thankful for what I have, but always looking to better myself.

Maybe this accident will help me reach that goal.

My doctor wants me to stretch my knees and my PT guy has put me through a series of torturous routines designed to bring me back to normalcy.

I'm trying to do what he says, but I'm afraid of damaging my knees all over again. The therapist assures me that this won't happen, noting that the fear is holding me back.

I've been sitting in a chair for my morning meditation with my feet flat on the floor and it's been a real struggle.

On Saturday morning I was so down I wondered if I'll ever get back to where I used to be. Of course, that kind of talk pretty much guarantees that I won't get back to where I was, but it's hard to be positive when I look at these two wasted pins of mine and feel that agony in my knees whenever I try to sit down like a human being.

I came across an old quote I had posted on Facebook a few years back, but obviously didn't absorb.

It said the "The vibration of gratitude attracts more positive things into your life" and I have to say I am fascinated by this concept of vibration.

"Every thought, word and action carries its own vibrational frequency," according to the website Forever Conscious. "It comes back to the Law of Attraction- whether you 'ask' for it or not, you are drawn to situations, people or objects that are in line with your vibrational resonance."

The post says fear gives off a low vibration while love is much higher. In a list of the top 12 ways you can boost your vibration, guess which one holds the top position-yep, gratitude.

Now I'm going back to work tomorrow for the first time since Dec. 14 and I'm nervous as hell about that. And I'm worried about my recovery.

But I want to drive out these debilitating thoughts and boost the good stuff until I'm vibrating like a two-ton tuning fork.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Spirited Away

I once had a therapist who very succinctly explained to me the dangers of being indecisive.

"Sitting on the fence," he said, "gets you nothing but a big red mark on your ass."

I'm doubt if Freud would've expressed it this way, but I'm sure he would agree with the sentiment.

I've given up far too much of my time agonizing over decisions about all things great and small and all I've gotten out of this emotional fence-sitting was a big red mark on my psyche.

No decision is a decision and I would rather do things than allow inaction make the decision for me.

While I would like to think I've made progress in this area, I did have a minor but disappointing incident occur recently that's still bugging me.

I was sitting in front of the TV one Saturday night-like I do most nights after wrecking my knees last month-thumbing my remote-control unit into a coma.

I do a fair bit of channel-surfing, but I was especially bad on this particular night. I couldn't-more like wouldn't--decide between watching a UFC fight card on the Spanish language station or taking in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, a fine old movie with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney.

Now I pay for digital recording services from my cable company, so this shouldn't have been a problem at all. But I didn't want yet another item sitting on the virtual shelf unwatched and forgotten.

Instead I elected to bounce back and forth between the two programs and wound up, of course, not particularly enjoying either one.

I'm getting a little too sensitive for combat sports, especially any competition where the participants kick each other's legs. After double knee surgery I wince at the thought of this kind of abuse.

Surf's Up!

But I lingered on, trying to figure out what the announcers were saying while heavily tattooed athletes bashed each other from hell to brain damage.

Whenever a commercial came on I'd hop over to see the 1947 movie where Gene Tierney plays a widow who moves into a seaside cottage and finds that its haunted by the ghost of a departed sea captain, portrayed by Rex Harrison.

I had never seen the film and my only knowledge of the story comes from a sitcom version of the movie that ran for two seasons starting in 1968 and starred Hope Lange, Edward Mulhare, and Charles Nelson Reilly. It was rather lame as I recall.

The source material is better executed-at least the portion I saw. I enjoyed seeing Rex Harrison in this gruff, but tender role and, of course, Gene Tierney is just lovely.

The film also starred George Sanders, a very young Natalie Wood, and a host of golden age character actors whom you know but can never name.

But I refused to sit still for this and quickly jumped back to the cage fighting.

The fights weren't particularly interesting or entertaining. I was still feeling poorly from this lingering cold and since I can't leave my apartment, I guess I needed to move in some way-even it was just around the dials.

I finally got fed up with the fights and stayed with the ghost until the end, which was so sad it made me cry, though that's hardly news to anyone who knows me. (Honestly, what don't I cry at?)

I ordered The Ghost & Mrs. Muir on Netflix and I plan to watch properly-no interruptions. I'll be sitting down to watch, but I won't have any red marks on my ass.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Night Walker

My auntie shared such a lovely dream with me on Saturday.

She has been suffering with a bad hip for a long time now, so the simplest actions-like walking or standing, for instance-are now incredibly challenging.

But all that changed in her dream.

"I was walking," said my auntie, who will undergo surgery in the coming weeks. "I couldn't believe it. I told people around me, 'look, I'm walking!'"

It was so painful to hear this because she walks with such difficulty now. I can remember when she was hiking all over Manhattan, but now it takes her so long just to pick up the phone.

Dreams provide fertile ground for wish fulfillment, of course, which is all well and good until the cruel light of day breaks in and ruins the dance.

I wake up most mornings expecting to get up and walk around my home like I've always done and then I realize that I'm wearing these massive leg braces and that every single move has to be planned before being put into action-and that action has to be quite slow.

I'm feeling a little better, a relief from last week's abominable cold, although I'm still watching too much TV. I've also had all sorts of people visiting my apartment.

A physical therapist has been stopping by to work with my imprisoned legs; a home health care aid helps me with cooking and light cleaning, and a few nurses have come by to see how I'm doing.

Come On Up

I think I've had more people here than I've had since I moved into the place seven years ago. I've got a lock box hanging on the front door with a set of keys so people can come upstairs.

I remember when my parents had health care aids to help them around the house. I like to tell myself I'm not in their age bracket yet, but then I see this guy inching around the apartment with a walker or a cane and I start to wonder.

I've always talked about getting out more and I've done a fairly good job doing that-with the occasional wonton soup Friday night in front of the TV-but I really see how uptight I've been most of my life.

Whenever I go on a trip I'm always worried something bad will happen to me while off I'm in some distant location. Yet this accident is arguably the worst injury I've ever suffered, and it happened five blocks from my house while I was coming home from the supermarket.

I look back to when I first got hurt and I see how fearful I was. I couldn't imagine that I'd be able to walk up a flight of stairs, dress myself, or go to the bathroom without a nurse watching out for me. Yet I'm doing all these things now.

Once I'm free of these braces I really want to get out there more. Even if that means just walking up to one of the local bars to listen to the jazz band. It's better than hiding in my apartment.

I've threatening to take make a short film for decades now. Enough talking. Also, I'd like to take a stand-up comedy class. People tell me I'm funny. Maybe I should try being funny on stage.

It's time to do less dreaming and more living.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Guy on the Third Floor

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” – William Shakespeare

I’ve been home from the hospital for 8 days now and I have to confess this new year is getting old real fast.

While I’m trying to accept the fact that I’m a virtual prisoner in my own home, I took some solace in the fact that I was reasonably healthy.

I have a walker, a cane, and a grabber, a little mechanical claw that I use to pick up the mail and anything else that might be out of reach.

Going to the bathroom when you can’t bend your knees is a bit of a challenge—I’ll spare you the details—but I’m managing.

And it’s not like I have nothing to do with my time. I thought that I’d take advantage of my forced imprisonment by taking a run at my creative to-do list.

I’m working on my next book project, organizing my notes on an idea for a TV pilot, and reviewing the draft of a screenplay I finished last year.

And the weather has been so harsh lately that I figured I’m not missing much. If you’re going to be stuck in your apartment for weeks on end, it might as well be during the dead of winter.

But all that positive energy went straight to hell on Thursday when an apparent allergy attack turned into a full-on plague complete with a fever and hacking cough.

Slings and Arrows

I’ll be honest with you: this situation sucks monkey balls. I’m really depressed. I can’t work out, I can’t even go for a walk.

My poor sister is running around like a loon doing my shopping and picking up my laundry. Avoiding illness was one of the few things between me and full on lunacy.

I’ve been so crabby and negative in the last few days even I can’t believe it. All these awful memories and negative emotions have been ricocheting around my mind like buckshot in a blender.

I haven’t done any writing or reading in days. I just stretch out in bed, switch on NPR, and turn off my brain.

Things got a bit dicey on Friday when I seriously considered going to the doctor. Of course, I just can’t pick up and go, thanks to these leg braces I’ve been forced to wear.

First, I’d have to get down the stairs, then somehow get into a car—an action I haven’t quite figured out yet—get to the doctor, and then get back home.

And if the doctor writes me a prescription, that means I have to stop off at the drug store, get back into the car, and get home.

Apparently, there are doctors who actually do house calls, but I held off and today I’m feeling marginally better. But I’m still depressed.

Okay, I just got out of hospital, which is a breeding ground for disease. And I’m in a weakened state due to the surgery and thus open to all kinds of nasty germs.

But I was hoping for a break, as if the surgery and lengthy recovery period was enough grief for the moment. It sounds ridiculous now that I say it aloud. There are no guarantees in this life and expecting things to magically go your way only opens the door to a lot more heartache.

I’m going to give myself another day or two to feel better and then I’ll get back to work.

I hate being laid up, but I’m not going to give up.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Home Again, Home Again

I slept in my own bed last night for the first time in nearly a month.

It felt strange not having a nurse walk in at 5AM looking to take my vitals or make me swallow a handful of pills.

I didn’t have to listen to my roommate’s television blaring out quiz shows, infomercials, and football player interviews at all hours of the day and night, and I didn’t have to suffer through the pre-dawn shrieks of “Help! Help! Help!” from that crazy old bastard across the hall.

There are no more daily rehab classes with those wonderful people in the gym, no more hospital meals, and no more blood tests. And I don’t have to wear those hospital gowns anymore.

That’s all behind me, God willing, and now my rehab begins at home.

I came out the hospital on Saturday the same way I went in—riding in the back of an ambulance. The two lovely crew members rolled me out into the blistering cold weather—my first taste of outside air in weeks--loaded me up into the bus, and zipped over to my street.

The only view I had of the world during the ride was through a pair of caduceus-branded rear windows. Lots of snow out there.

I live in a three-story walk-up and I got the chance to practice the stair-climbing technique the rehab staff taught me during my stay. It went pretty well, if I say so myself, except for one misstep near the top. And the ambulance people were right on top of me at the first sign of trouble.

“I know you’re going to get better,” one of them said on the way out.

This Tired Old Body

My apartment is frozen in time, virtually untouched since December 14, the day I wrecked both my knees after a pair of falls in the snow.

I’m still wearing the massive braces my doctor first put on my legs after the surgery and I have to see him in three weeks where—I hope—he’ll open them up 45 degrees. I’m praying that by spring I’ll be able to sit down and walk normally.

I’m can’t leave my house now, given the hideous weather and my constricted condition. My poor sister is running around town doing all the simple tasks I used to do for myself, like shopping and dropping off the laundry.

I have to do everything in slow motion--getting up, sitting down, walking around the apartment—things I once did without thinking now require planning and extreme care.

I’m still wearing my yellow hospital bracelet that tags me as a “Fall Risk.”

Going to the bathroom is a challenge when you can’t bend your knees and I have to skip the shower in favor of a body wash at the sink since I can’t get these braces wet.

I’m trying not to do the “Poor Me” routine, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been screaming at my computer all morning in response to several failed attempts to log onto my bank account. I suspect that some of my neighbors would’ve preferred I stayed in the hospital.

I’m trying to remind myself that there are people in much worse shape than I am, including several folks I saw nearly every day at the rehab gym. Anger and self-pity will only slow me down, but those sons-of-bitches are so hard to resist.

I have a lot to do going forward, but right now I’ll focus on the immortal words of John Denver and remind myself that, hey, it’s good to be back home again.