Category Archives: Memoirist BS

So I’m on teevee tomorrow

I have this patient with an uncommon (and serious) condition. Next thing I know, local news wants to interview me. Don’t get too excited — it’ll be local teevee.

“When’s this gonna air?” I asked.

“Morning news,” the reporter said.

“What, like 8, 9 AM?”

“Try 5, 6 AM.”

Fine. It’s not like I want to see this. It’s not like I want anyone to see it. I’m still trying to get my head around the whole thing: why the local news is interested in my patient, but more to the point, why my patient agreed to have such an invasion of his privacy.

I realize this probably makes no sense to you . . . and the irony is, while my patient can (and did) reveal personal details of his medical history to the TV News (and thus all of Kern County, potentially), I can’t breathe a word of it without violating patient confidentiality. Which is as it should be, but I still find the whole thing very, very weird.


New Years Days gone by

I used to look forward to New Years Day for one reason and one reason only: one of the local stations would show Underdog for an hour. I think it must have been a special two-parter. I remember it was always the same episode, and it was something truly epic, like: Underdog loses his power. Or, Sweet Polly Purebred nearly gets iced. Something like that.

Lying in bed this morning (dragging ass), I tried to recollect the words to the theme song. I didn’t do too badly — I remembered most of them.

The little guy whose head is shaped like a rotten molar tooth, that’s one of the bad guys, Simon Bar Sinister. The wolf is (if I remember correctly) Riff Raff. I had to check the Wikipedia article to remember “Riff Raff,” and it turns out most of the episodes were multi-parters. I recall that Underdog was a notorious pill-popper, but what I didn’t know was that the network had a problem with that:

For many years starting with NBC’s last run in the mid-1970s, all references to Underdog swallowing his super energy pill were censored, most likely out of fear that kids would see real medication that looked like the Underdog pills (red with a white “U”) and swallow them. Two instances that did not actually show Underdog swallowing the pills remained in the show. In one, he drops pills into water supplies; in the other, his ring is damaged and he explains that it is where he keeps the pill – but the part where he actually swallows it was still deleted.

Aside from Underdog, New Years Day held nothing for me. As much as the Rose Parade bored me* (watching it on TV, that is — far be it from my folks to take us to a parade), college football was worse. So by about 10 AM, long after Underdog had saved it for Sweet Polly, my day was already going to hell.


*But just wait another couple months and our city would throw its annual gala, the Camellia Festival, wherein we would prove that we could make floats like the big boys in the Rose Parade, only, say, 1/100 scale, and with camellias and not roses. Thing about camellias? After you pick them, they turn a lovely shade of brown.


. . . has been a little crazy this week. Our neighboring building, where the General Surgeons, Urologists, and Ophthalmologists live, suffered a water heater explosion on Tuesday. To hear people talk, everything was under several feet of water. With my own eyes I saw someone walk out of there wheeling a tub with about two gallons of very ugly, sudsy waste water, and there did indeed appear to be a trail of water coming from the building, as if it had just stepped out of the shower and walked drippingly over to the giant towel rack.

We were all set to move out this week anyway, both of our buildings, to our new home next to the hospital. It’s a newly renovated building. We’ll have radiology, pharmacy, and a lab all under our roof, which will be convenient (especially the pharmacy), but the building itself, new as it is, will be a step down. I like my view of trees and lawn in our current (now former) digs. I don’t like my view of alleyway and ancient furniture warehouse rooftop in the new digs. And I don’t like the guacamole green paint job in our new clinic.

The exploding water heater brought out the local Bako news team and caused considerable confusion with scheduling. Tuesday morning was canceled, Tuesday afternoon they relocated us to one of the other outlying clinics. (We’re decentralized here in Bako, with something like six clinics scattered about the city.) Last two days we were at one of our bigger clinics. Mind you, we’re not GPs or internists; we’re specialists. We have special needs. Room layout is one of ’em. And tools, we need the right tools. So it’s been challenging, much the same way that trimming your toenails with pliers would be challenging.

Tomorrow, we’re supposed to unpack the new office. My partner and I both threw out our backs earlier this week, so there’s no telling what he and I will be doing tomorrow. Unpacking our own offices, I hope, and providing encouraging words to our staff.

And by Monday, we’re supposed to be open for business.


Jerry Brown 2010

I finally got (get) to vote for Jerry Brown! That’s right, twice — once in the Democratic primary, and again in the general election. I wasn’t old enough to vote in his first gubernatorial election and I think I was just shy of 18 for the second gubernatorial election, too. I suspect I voted for him in one of his ill-fated presidential campaigns. But at last I get to vote for him in a race he can win.

You have to understand that Brown is something of a hero to progressives. Here’s a guy who once left the Democratic party because it wasn’t progressive enough. (He came back, of course, I suspect for pragmatic reasons.)

Here’s Brown’s announcement. Can you believe this guy is 72?

Here’s a bit from Wikipedia on his tenure as governor (1975-1983):

Opposed to the Vietnam War, Brown had a base of support from California’s young liberals. Upon election, he refused many of the privileges and trappings of the office, forgoing the newly constructed governor’s residence (which was sold in 1983) and instead renting a modest apartment at the corner of 14th and N Streets, adjacent to Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento. Instead of riding as a passenger in a chauffeured limousine as previous governors had done, Brown was driven to work in a compact sedan, a Plymouth Satellite.

During his two-term, eight-year governorship, Brown had a strong interest in environmental issues. Brown appointed J. Baldwin to work in the newly-created California Office of Appropriate Technology, Sim Van der Ryn as State Architect, and Stewart Brand as Special Advisor. He appointed John Bryson, later the CEO of Southern California Edison Electric Company and a founding member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, chairman of the California State Water Board in 1976. Brown reorganized the California Arts Council, boosting its funding by 1300 percent and appointing artists to the council.

In 1975, Brown obtained the repeal of the “depletion allowance”, a tax break for the state’s oil industry, despite the efforts of the lobbyist Joe Shell, a former intraparty rival to Richard M. Nixon . . . .

Brown appointed more women and minorities to office than any other previous California governor.

He’s liberal on social issues, but a fiscal conservative, so the Palinesque “tax and spend big government” smears are going to slide right off. Watch:

And here’s Brown’s interview with Diane Sawyer, commenting on the upcoming race against gazillionaire Meg Whitman:

We’ll be digging deep on this one to put back into office the last competent governor we had in California. Jerry Brown for Governor, 2010.


Where I grew up

The two homes I lived in as a kid still stand, although one is unrecognizable. The unrecognizable one is our first home, the one which the new owners uglified soon after my dad sold it. In the old days, we had a porch and a Dutch Elm (if I remember correctly) and some nice ferns and various other shrubbery that gave the place curb appeal. The remodeled home looks like a pastel box.

When I’m down in Southern California, assuming I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll drive by one house or the other. It can be depressing driving by that first house — disconcerting is perhaps a better word — because more often than not, I drive right past it. I shouldn’t have to check the street address to know, “This is the home where I pooped and peed a couple thousand diapers.”


I knew it had to happen eventually.

My coins have gained in value, and some have beat the inflation rate. That’s assuming I would ever sell the damned things, or could get a competitive price for them. I never intended them as an investment, except perhaps one of those “let’s leave some cool things for the grandkiddies when we die” kind of investment. But, still, it’s nice to know my purchases weren’t entirely foolhardy.

Coins are beautiful.


My fascination began at around age 8, when my dad’s mother gave me some old coins (some American, some international) she’d been saving in her safe deposit box. The coolest of the cool were the large cents my dad had acquired while cleaning out the basement of some museum in Boston. Acquired, not stole, since he was told he could keep anything interesting he found in the basement.

Or at least that’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

He found a whole jar of Indian Head pennies, which somehow disappeared. Perhaps his brother took them? No one knows. (Not quite as heartbreaking as the mysterious disappearance of my father-in-law’s centuries-old samurai sword, but still . . . And besides, that sword would have ended up with Karen’s brother, so it’s not like she, the youngest daughter, would ever have had a shot at it.)

Those large cents are nearly worthless, since I think the best of the lot is in Very Good or perhaps Fine condition. But it sparked an interest. For a long time when I was little, I would get rolls of pennies, nickels, and sometimes dimes from the bank, and pore over them looking for “finds.” In those days it was common to find wheat ear pennies (but never an Indian Head cent), and you could even occasionally find a buffalo nickel or Mercury dime in circulation. Rare, like once-a-year kind of rare, but always exciting.

The first thing we did when we got married was, we bought a pet snake. And one of the first things we did when I started earning a real paycheck (paltry though it was), was to buy a few coins. I didn’t have much money to put into coins, so it’s not like I shelled out a lot of cash.

Jake does not share my fascination. I showed him the coins when he was very young and impressionable, except I don’t think he was ever impressionable. He didn’t care for them. I showed him the coins tonight, and he looked at them for all of about two minutes. Or less.

I’m not sure why I fell out of the hobby. I think it’s because I got swindled by a couple of dealers and sold coins for much more than they were worth. As hobbies go, this one punishes the ignorant most severely. If I do get back into it, this time I’m going to do my research, and not simply buy coins ‘cuz they’re pretty.


Nine scary (and clueless) old (and not so old) men (and women)

Our Supreme Court Justices are living in the 1950s.

“What’s the difference between email and a pager?”

Read the article — this was not the only question indicating a mind-vacuum. Scalia and Kennedy tripped over each other’s boners*, and of course Thomas never asks questions.

I could understand if it was one or two of the older Justices who were ignorant, but no — Chief Justice Roberts asked the email v. pager question. And he’s only 55!

It’s frightening that the highest court in the land is making decisions on matters they understand as well as I understand quantum chromodynamics. I told Karen they should recuse themselves from the case; Karen thinks they should recuse themselves from the human race.


*Obligatory apology for that image.

Your typical seder

Passover approaches. No one invited me to a seder, and I doubt I’d go if I were invited. I haven’t been to a seder since the 1970s, back when both my grandparents were still alive.

Is your name Eliahu? Funny, you LOOK like a Peter to me.

Is your name Eliahu? Funny, you LOOK like a Peter to me.

It’s traditional to set out a plate of food for Eliahu (who might be the same as Elijah, I can never remember), and my crazy uncle would invariably eat that food as well as his own. This would always lead to a screaming fight between my grandparents and my uncle. We never had a seder without screaming. I’m not sure what it would look like.

There were certain things I liked and looked forward to with every seder. I liked the taste of matzoh dipped in saltwater, and I liked matzoh with red beet horseradish. Celery dipped in saltwater, that was good, too. Did my grandmother make tzimmes for Passover? If she did, I don’t remember it. And I suppose she made lamb, too, since that’s traditional. But I don’t recall the lamb, either.

My grandfather always hid the afikomen (a bit of matzoh — if you found it, you got a dollar) under the same cushion every year. Once I had been debriefed by my siblings, I had no trouble finding it.

And then there was my grandfather’s continual state of exasperation. He was only trying to work his way through the ritual, trying to read through the Haggadah like you’re supposed to, yet he was subjected to one interruption after another from my grandmother or my uncle. I think the whole thing made him very sad, or perhaps disgusted.

My grandmother never sat down to eat. She spent 90% of the seder in the kitchen, reserving the remaining 10% for serving food and screaming at my uncle. Considering that most of the food can be prepared well in advance, I have no idea what she was doing in the kitchen. Watering down the RC Cola, I suspect.

All in all, not a happy holiday. But then, I’ve never liked Passover, ever since I came to understand the story itself. No one (and that includes at least one rabbi and one orthodox Jew) has been able to explain to me why it’s okay for God to kill all the firstborn. They can’t all deserve to die. There are children, infants in that group, no? And after the first few plagues, God doesn’t even give Pharoah a chance to relent. God “hardened his heart.” As if God had a desired outcome in mind, and damned if Pharoah was going to screw it up by developing a conscience.

Maybe I’ll make a kugel, just for old time’s sake. And I’ll make it using butter, just so I can get some juicy hate mail.

Hey, Sis, anything to add?



I wonder often about memory. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I have a collection of bits and pieces from my past which surface at odd times for no apparent reason. It’s not like dream imagery, which often has a clever if not vicious logic. It’s random. It’s the crap that falls out when you open an overstuffed desk drawer.

There’s the old geezer in Bandon, I think it was, who had the big model train collection. He would show it (reluctantly) to children. I suspect he preferred other adult hobbyists.

The hotel in Newport, Oregon, with beachfront rooms, and a large moon jelly tank in the lobby.

A drugstore near the Alamo. Jake’s teething, so everyone’s miserable; one of us gets the bright idea for me to run into the drugstore for Q-tips and Orajel. Put the Orajel on the Q-tip and let him chew on the cotton nub. Works like a charm.

Garner Ted Armstrong on our old black-and-white TV . . . I’d watch him while eating lunch, macaroni and cheese from the tinfoil pot pie cup, listened to him weave Mae Brussel-style daisy chains leading from the Soviet Union’s latest acts of aggression straight back to Revelations. (Oy, vey: a Mae Brussel website with TRANSCRIPTS. MP3s with 700 hours of audio. A man could get lost for days, mummified remains fixed in front of his laptop, the Wiki entry for the Zodiac killer, the browser history leading back to Charles Watson, Lee Harvey Oswald, the SLA . . .) No, I didn’t believe in the End Times, but it fascinated me that I lived in a culture where apparently most people DID believe.

My garden, a narrow rectangular plot of soil between the driveway and Sadie’s fence. Good for corn, radishes, tomatoes. Corn cobs would grow to three or four inches then peter out. Red ants loved that soil, too. Summers, the ants would swarm, queens and winged drones would come out to play, and my father was there waiting for them with lighter fluid and a match.

I could go on.

Video of my infant son sleeping. Beethoven’s Seventh playing as a sort of soundtrack. I hold the video camera on him for a long, long time because I know I’m seeing something that is priceless. The same video camera is stolen when our house (vacant for remodeling) is burgled. They take the contractor’s tools, our generator, our tools, the camera, our telescope.

Driving north on the 101 through one windy coastal Oregon city after another, we find an anomaly, a non sequitur: a store that sells nothing but telescopes. Do we buy one? Hell yeah. We get spectacular views of the moon from our pollution-free oceanfront vista. Yeah, this telescope will get a lot of use.

Texas, 1997, late at night, I take my 18-month-old son outside to see comet Hale-Bopp. Hold him high above my head, as if that way he might see it better.

Sometimes I think I’m Billy Pilgrim.



Oy. I keep forgetting that WordPress, like Blogger, doesn’t save stuff in this little entry box. If I’m writing stuff and I navigate away, it’s lost forever. And that’s what happens to me. I’m writing about the date, let’s say today (since 1/11/10 is so delightfully binary, though not as wonderful as 1/11/11), and then I say, “Ooh, something sparkly!” and I click on a link and poof. But that’s my problem, not yours.

This tickles me. This is what you get if you google “tentacle sex papacy” with safe search off.


So where were you on 9/9/99? Or 8/8/88? Or 7/7/77? Or 6/6/66?

Of these, I remember clearly only 7/7/77. Summer school: I was in George May’s art class at Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles, where my dad taught math. Like my father, I can’t handle long periods of inactivity, so summer school was a must. Mr. May was this animated fellow who reminded me of Red Buttons. And for those of you too young to remember Red Buttons, well,


Fine teacher, George May. Taught me how to draw.

6/6/66, I would have been four, looking forward to kindergarten, not realizing that kindergarten was ruled by a witch who would forever be locking me up in “the kitchen” all because I wouldn’t stop harassing this one girl (with whom I’m friended on Facebook).

Where were you?


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