Wasted Days

I broke my fucking collar bone.  God damn it.  When one skis, one is supposed to be able to fall down and get up again and continue skiing.  I skied for a day and a half without even falling and the first time I fall, I break my collar bone. I didn’t even hit a tree this time.  My ski caught and I just fell.  I’m batting .333 over the past three years .500 if you count the first time I skied a decade or so ago.  That sounds better than it is.  I really need to up my average.  And with 3 ½ more days planned for, it seems like wasted vacation days, but at least I’m not working.  And I do have a book I can read.  And I can write.  Maybe I’ll work on my novel.  Or maybe I’ll plug into netflix and catch up on Justified.

When I’m sitting still I can almost forget that I’m hurt.  I start thinking that I’m fine and I’ll be able to ski after all, until I try to move.  And the longer I stay still, the harder it is when I do move.

I’m kind of bummed about the whole thing.  I was really starting to enjoy myself.  And I was skiing well, with one exception, obviously.  I did something I shouldn’t have done. Why do I always have to learn the hard way?  And then wait another year before I can put what I learned into practice.  

“What happened?” about a dozen people asked me.  I fell. That’s what happened.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  There weren’t any witnesses.  The people I was skiing with were ahead of me, and they didn’t hear me screaming (well, cursing, I can’t remember exactly, but I know myself well enough that we should assume that while I was lying in the middle of the run, wondering how I was going to get up, I was cursing.  Then I managed to work through the pain, get my remaining ski off, stand up and walk to the side of the trail before anyone else even came by.  By the time they did, I didn’t look like I was in distress, so no one stopped to help.  It was hard just getting my phone out of my pocket so I could call for help to get off the damn mountain.  


Acting was the first thing I knew I wanted to do.  I had a great teacher whose name was Geraldine Teagarden.  We bonded.  I loved acting. She liked my enthusiasm. When I came out of my shell I could be very good. We were both Virgos too. She had a sign in her office that said, “those of you who think you know everything are very annoying to those of us who do.”

We never did improv that I can remember, though maybe we did. That’s a big thing in acting classes now.  What I remember about the classes were trust exercises, and relaxation.  Hardly any acting.  Just activities to get you control of your body and out of yourself.  And then we would put on a play.  A full scale complete production. Where else? It was a unique experience.

And though we didn’t do improv, I remember improvising spontaneously just for fun.

I don’t even know how it would start. I’m inclined to think I started it.  For example, I’d suggest to someone somehow that we were engaged to be married and get into a fight with her.  She’d go along, and we’d keep it going for as long as we could.

Just the other day I blogged about how great it would be to live in another country so that I could find out what it would be like to be someone else.  That’s what that felt like.

I didn’t hate myself, it was how I liked myself. It was spiritual. It connected me to others.

When I lost my way, I also felt like I lost my bond with Geri.  I wasn’t what she thought I was.  But what she didn’t know is that I always regretted not acting.  And then I felt like the window closed and I could never be that anymore.

Years later I sought her out, and we met, and talked. I’m sure it must have been obvious to her then that those times meant a lot to me.  Until I got distracted by other interests it was the thing.

After all those years, feeling so much older, though I was still young, I showed her, I think, that I was still the same person.  But I was substituting writing for acting. And she encouraged that.  She was always encouraging.



Bucket Lists

I haven’t written in a really long time.  It’s hard to get started, cause, whatever, I forget how.  I can’t manage to get up early anymore. But that didn’t work anyway.  I would write, but it was crap.  So I’m scared it will be crap. Not scared, really, though I act scared. It’s just writing. It doesn’t have to be good.  No one reads it anyway.

But it’s on my bucket list.

Most people have things on their bucket lists that are about going somewhere.  I want to be on every continent.  I want to climb Everest.  I want to travel a lot.  I want to go to Morocco.  The Great Wall of China.  Things like that.  I want to go to the Great Wall of China.  But it’s not a bucket list item for me.  I could die without being there and I wouldn’t feel like I had failed my life’s dream.

My bucket lists are the kinds of things I don’t get done sometimes because I travel too much.  And because I spend too much on travel.  Because then I can’t spend the same money on achieving my bucket list.

My bucket list consists of things I’ve always said I wanted to do.  Be fluent in another language.  Write a novel.  Even keep a blog consistently.  Live creatively.  Know what it feels like to enjoy my freedom.  Hell, I just want to be happy.  That’s on my bucket list.  I should have found a way to serve.  I think it was Albert Schweitzer who said that those would be the happiest people, the ones who found a way to serve.

Albert Schweitzer was a German and then French!  Who was an organist, a philosopher AND a physician!  That’s what I’m talking about.  Bucket lists man.  And he was happy, presumably, or he wouldn’t have said so.

There are other things on my bucket list.  Things I might like to read, believe it or not. But it’s not the places I want to go, at least not literally.   Unless, I can live there.  That’s always been on my bucket list.  To live somewhere else.  To become someone else.  Man, I just think that would be cool.

So, there.  It’s a blog post.

Our Child

Our country is like our child. it is not like some father figure that we have to respect, or a God that we don’t dare to criticize. We create what our country is, together. We raise it. It is the child of all of us together.

So when I say, “I am disappointed in my country,” it’s not unpatriotic. It’s the kind of thing I would say to a child that I love when he or she does something wrong. I wouldn’t say, “I hate you, you ungrateful piece of shit.” I would say, “You should do better.” (although I did once call two of my kids ungrateful pieces of shit)

Then there are those parents that think their child can do no wrong, who yell at you or your own kids because we didn’t let the entitled runt get his or her way. This is the parent who believes everything his or her child says.  

If you scold their child because the child was over at your house and clearly disrespected you, that parent says you are a bully. They teach their own child that he or she is entitled, and always right.  Hardly anyone defends that kind of parenting.  

But we’re not supposed to be honest about our own country even when it does wrong. People actually suggest that we should not teach the truth in school if it makes our country look bad.  

What kind of an adult would you (do you) raise when you are blind to the truth?  One that is fair? No. One that is empathetic or even sympathetic? No. One that is open minded? No. One that is non-judgmental? Definitely not.  

One that is the best? Not even that. Believing that you are the best when you are not, is a sure path to mediocrity.

Well, that’s it

I am officially done with coffee.   It was fun while it lasted, but I will never drink another cup of the stuff for the rest of my life.  In fact, I may try hard to avoid caffeine altogether, if it is, in fact, the caffeine that’s the problem.

I only started drinking coffee in my early 20s after I had transferred from my first college, Bard, and landed at Hunter College in NYC.  So I got through about 2 1/2 years of college without it.  I once smelled the coffee from a can in order to wake myself up before my audition for the Fame school, and it worked, but I didn’t start drinking it until what I consider to be late (I am a late bloomer).

I started in order to keep myself from falling asleep in a large lecture class on economics.  It kept me up, but that’s about it.  I did all right in the class, I think I got an A, but that’s not cause I was listening. At least I wasn’t embarrassing myself by smacking my head on the desk.

At that time I developed a fondness for hazelnut flavored coffee, the smell of it still reminds of the Hunter food court. It’s always been the only flavored coffee I like.  Mostly I prefer my coffee simple and strong, with cream and no sugar (or even black).

I like it because it’s a drug, and drugs can be likable.  But it has never helped me to focus.  And in recent years I have struggled from time to time to do without it because of that.  Like many drugs, it just isn’t productive.

Unlike sugar, which I have been relatively successful at eliminating from my normal diet, I have been off and on with coffee, and more often on.

But I have always maintained that I would quit, just as I would quit alcohol, if there was a medical reason to do it. And now there is.

The first time I noticed any heart palpitations, skipped beats really, though technically they are premature beats that sound like skipped beats, because the premature beat has no blood to pump, otherwise known as Premature Ventricular Contractions, PVCs or PACs (let’s call them PVCs for simplicity sake, though there has not been a need to find out whether mine are ventricular or atrial), was probably a decade ago, and I more or less got them to go away by resolving never to drink coffee on an empty stomach.  So it was always the coffee, but still, I didn’t believe that for sure until last week.

What happened over this past Thanksgiving was this.  We traveled.  We traveled to Alaska to see my cousin Mark and his family.  We left Friday night and got there Friday night, though it would have been early Saturday morning by our body clocks.  We went right to sleep and spent the next 4 days there.  I had not been drinking coffee, was on one of my coffee fasts, though when I’m on vacation I don’t generally mind the lack of focus.  I didn’t necessarily want to get back in the habit, but on Tuesday, with nothing much to do in November in Alaska, we walked the town, and found ourselves at a coffee shop and I decided to have a cup.  We left that night on a 9:50PM flight to NYC (with a connection in Minneapolis) and arrived in the morning with very little sleep.  And then they started.

Wednesday I was having so many PVCs I could verify it easily.  I felt them in my chest and it was uncomfortable, so I checked my pulse and it was clear.  My heart would beat beat beat, and then it wouldn’t beat, then it would beat again.  It was inconsistent as to how many beats before a skip, but it often wasn’t many.  I attributed it to many things, lack of sleep, possible over medication of my thyroid meds, and coffee.

I obsessed on the internet for a bit and satisfied myself that it was reasonably likely that I would not die, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry.  I didn’t tell anyone about it because I didn’t want people freaking out and telling me to go to the hospital, but I also didn’t want to drop dead.  I napped a bit, and that didn’t really help, and that night I spoke to my sister in law about it who is a nurse practitioner in geriatrics at the VA.  She didn’t want to tell me definitively not to go to the hospital if I really was concerned, but she was confident these were benign and brought on by my overnight flight and that all a doctor would do would be to put me on a halter monitor and observe, without acting on any imminent concern.  She also chastised me for taking my thyroid meds on an irregular schedule, so the next morning I took it at the normal time, and only after thought that these things might in fact be from the medicine.  All day I had them, all through Thanksgiving dinner, and it distracted the hell out of me.  It happened most, or was most obvious when I sat, and we were sitting a lot.  I didn’t drink coffee or alcohol, took some magnesium supplements because I had done that in the past and thought that would help.  But it didn’t help quickly enough.

I had just had a physical, but the doctor’s office had not communicated the results of my thyroid tests which kind of pissed me off.  Why don’t they routinely communicate the results of your tests?  Why do you need to ask for that?

Anyway I was convinced.  Because I had often, when I would periodically imagine that I had felt one or two of these things, though couldn’t necessarily verify it by the time I was checking my pulse, theorized that it was the meds, cause it was often accompanied by muscle twitches or feelings of irritability and sleeplessness, and that was typical of an overactive thyroid (or overmedication for an underactive thyroid), and I would skip a pill, so why didn’t I remember that and skip it Thanksgiving morning?  Well I didn’t, but I stopped taking them Friday and bought some more magnesium.  We drove out to my sisters and by evening they had begun to subside.  I had some beer and whiskey and that actually seemed to help.  The drive back Saturday was better.

By Tuesday the next week, back in Atlanta, I was feeling fine and took a half dose of thyroid meds to start easing back into taking it and called the doctor for an appointment.  Then I decided to have a cup of coffee.  I figured I had been on the magnesium and off the thyroid meds long enough that I could handle it.  Immediately they started up again. And I felt bad in other ways too, skin was irritated, muscles were tight.   I just didn’t feel good.  IT WAS THE COFFEE.

At the doctor’s office I tested fine.  He did an EKG, but found nothing.  He said no one ever has palpitations in the doctor’s office.  Results of the thyroid test actually did not indicate I was over medicated.  I already knew that I felt better off coffee, and now I had a real medical reason not to drink it (though they are supposedly benign, skipped heartbeats can’t be good).

So I’m done, been there, done that, and hopefully these troublesome things will not find some other reason to return.

I’ll miss it, the coffee, but not so much.

Everyone wants to be someone else

I remember watching an interview with a young woman on TV, I don’t remember her name, but she was an athlete in the para olympics.  She was missing a leg and ran with a prosthetic.  She didn’t dwell on her misfortune; she said in the interview, “I like who I am.” And I thought, “that’s weird.” Not because it’s weird that someone without a leg could feel that way, but because it was weird to me that anyone could feel that way.

It should be weird to a lot of people.  Because everyone wants to be something different,  If you’ve got straight hair, you want it to be curly, if you have curly, you want it to be straight.  People think they’re fat when they aren’t, they want a different shape to their bodies, they want to be creative, more focused, smarter, prettier, more outgoing.  Sometimes they want to be dumber (and happier).  It’s not usually as extreme as the guy who had plastic surgery to look like a lion, or even those who want to be a different gender, but it is common to be unhappy with who you are.

Dennis Avner
Dennis Avner

Whoopi Goldberg (a black woman who chose a Jewish stage name) had a routine in which she portrayed a young black girl who puts a shirt on her head and said, “this is my long luxurious blond hair.”  The routine continues with the girls mother saying “you can sit in a vat of clorox all day and all you ever going to be is black,” which Whoopi then tells us is true, cause she tried it and got burned.

I thought it was weird to like yourself, probably because that might have been one of the first times it dawned on me that it could be that way. There was a time when I wanted to be an actor because I loved pretending to be someone else.  I am often frustrated when I travel, because I want to do more than visit the sites, I want to live there, to know what it is like to be one of the locals.  I don’t even like the pictures of us, my family, that my wife puts up in our house because I want to forget who I am and how I’m defined by others.  Maybe I should have been an actor, but I couldn’t have gotten roles playing a black man, or a woman, because they would give those to black men or women.  So where is the outlet for people who want to be that different?

Does anyone really know why a guy wants to be a girl?  Or vice versa?  We accept it.  We don’t really know where it comes from, but we accept it (at least some of us do).

Kaitlyn Jenner has been in the news lately.  She takes to the publicity more than, say, Lana Wachowski ever did but this isn’t new anymore.  And now there’s Rachel Dolezal who was “masquerading” as black.  I know people who are so accepting of the transgender, and think Rachel Dolezal has a serious mental illness.  But it seems to me that transgender is more extreme than transracial.  because race really is primarily a construct, expecially in the US where most black people are actually mixed, and some are more white than black, but by the American definition, unless you can and choose to “pass,” then you’re black.  You are segregated by custom if not law, into a group, which becomes and maintains itself as a distinct culture.  But we are all human.  The genetics that are different between black and white are primarily limited to superficial things like skin color.  To say different is to align yourself with those who justified their racism with the notion that blacks were not even human.

If there is a difference between black and white it is because society segregates people based on the way they look.  The reaction society has to people who have any African heritage, or look it, whether it is that they get punished for crimes that white’s don’t, denied the vote, or even killed without consequence and more, nurtures a common experience and a bond not unlike the bond of people that go to war together.

That’s not based on genes but on what we can see.   The American Dream, as Malcolm X suggested, can be an American Nightmare if you’re perceived as part of the black race.

Why would anyone choose that?

I’ve seen it written that Rachel Dolezol’s experience belittles the struggles that black people have to endure.  I want to know how?  Does it belittle black people to say that black is beautiful?  Does not this say to young black girls that they are worth something, that they have something that at least one white person wants?  If you are black and proud of it, wouldn’t you feel lucky, not because you can get the shit kicked out of you by the police for no reason, but at least to be born as something you can be proud of.  And can’t you feel sorry for someone who wants to be you but isn’t?

By abdicating her throne, so to speak, by giving up her white priviledge to live 24-7 charading among the people she loves, is not an affront.  And it does not detract from the cause of Justice.  And if the publicity distracts from more important stories, that isn’t Ms. Dolezal’s fault.

Shingles – no thank you

Baldrick photo after
Doctor Andy

My Doctor thinks I may have Shingles, but Dr Andy disagrees.

In some ways I like the idea of having shingles.  Because I won’t seem like a sissy for complaining about having enough pain that I went home early or when I am distracted at work and not doing my best I’ll have a good excuse.  Everyone knows how bad Shingles is.  That’s also why I am an open book and freely disclose private medical matters to everyone I know.

“The Doctor thinks I have Shingles!”


“Just kidding.”

I mean it sounded like Shingles, to him, but I had no rash (yet, he said).  He recommended starting antivirals because the earlier the better, and because they are well tolerated.  But I’m not sure they are well tolerated based on reviews I read on the internet, and I don’t like taking medicines without a good reason, like that I actually have the disease and the medicine works. Antivirals may work, but even the literature is replete with qualifying language.

“Studies have proven that taking an antiviral may help to shorten the length of the outbreak by two days.”

Maybe two days, huh?  And maybe not.

So I decided to wait until it was too late.

It couldn’t be worse than Lyme disease, which I had, and actually the pain reminds me a little of it, though not as bad, and it would be temporary with or without the meds.  And also, even though I kind of liked the idea, I was still hoping it was just a herniated disk, or something.  So I took Aleve.

Interestingly before this pain came on, I decided to eliminate dairy and eat more fruits and veggies in lieu of much meat, and that is the worst diet you can have for Shingles, also according to the internet, because dairy and meat have Lysine and that is well known to help against herpes viruses like cold sores and Shingles. I corroborated this with memories of my mom and brother taking Lysine for their cold sores, back in the 70s – so I know it’s true.  I personally never took it because I wasn’t prone to getting cold sores.

So my dietary changes and the seemingly coincidental onset of symptoms fit.   But I didn’t take the antivirals. Instead, Dr Andy prescribed two slices of pizza for lunch and cheese ravioli for supper, just in case, and I started taking vitamin C again, a habit I picked up in my 20s after which I rarely got any kind of virus, but had recently gotten lazy and stopped taking it, and now I’m playing the waiting game.

Now the reason he thought it was probably Shingles is because some of my words were textbook descriptions of symptoms. “It hurts just from my shirt rubbing against my skin,” and such.  Some of what didn’t seem like Shingles is that although the pain was primarily on my right side, it also spread to my left side, and Shingles is usually localized, although my wife remembers an old wives tale about Shingles that says, “if it goes all the way around, it will kill you.”  I don’t know if that’s because it isn’t really Shingles, but it comforted me (NOT!)

Also, it had been almost a week since the pain started, and still no outbreak on the skin.  So either I am getting control of it all on my own, or Dr. Andy is right again!