“Are you nervous?”
“Aren’t you nervous?”
“How are you feeling, worried, nervous?”
I can’t believe how often this question is asked of me by people who know I am going into surgery tomorrow. The very idea of surgery clearly touches a nerve (pardon the pun) in people. Well, if I wasn’t before, I am now. Thanks everybody.
In all seriousness though, I’m not all that nervous. It will be what it will be. My worries are more about how quickly I will be able to resume work, and (thus) how quickly I will be able to pay off this rather expensive operation. I do wonder though what prompts this particular question from people. What is it they imagine when they pose it? That I won’t wake up from the anesthesia? That they will operate on the wrong body part or otherwise botch the operation? That they will find cancer? That it will be painful? I have been through operations before that were no picnic while convalescing, at least this one isn’t directly in my head like my previous sinus surgery. Sure, it won’t be fun to sleep propped up for a week, and the idea of not showering for 4 days is kinda yucky, but I will survive. (Unless I don’t.)
I have spent most of the day preparing as much as I could, and trying to do things that would be difficult right after the operation, like shaving and trimming nails and cleaning my apartment and such. I bought some large ugly button shirts so I will have something to wear (I will have to forsake my beloved T-shirts for some time alas). I have all my xrays and special cooling pads and documents ready to go with me to the hospital tomorrow morning at 7:15am (yeah, you read that right). I have a lovely group of friends that will be looking in on me over the next few days, and it has made me feel truly blessed.
See you all on the other side.
So my shoulder operation is this coming Friday. I have been trying to gather as much info as possible, and coordinate what I will need in the days following the procedure, when I will mostly likely be pretty immobile, somewhat drugged up, and uncomfortable. I have been looking into my sleeping arrangements (as in, how WILL I fall asleep that way), clothing options (no putting my right arm through a shirt for some time, how to put on other clothes with one hand), working arrangements (I should be able to type, but it won’t be a picnic), bathing (no showers for FOUR days after the surgery / sponge bath, anyone?), etc. I have also been trying to line up friends to stop by and help me out, get me things and generally babysit me in the days following. As anyone who knows me can attest, I am not a great sick or recovering person. I just want to complain and have people sit around me and exclaim “poor baby!”, and possibly bring me things. In short, I am a pill when I don’t feel well. I have been trying to warn the various friends who will stop by to look in on me and apologize for this behavior in advance. So if this sounds like a swinging good time to any of my friends out there, please don’t hesitate to sign up for the fun, there are still many slots available!
As Josh and I were galavanting around old Spain, we stopped in many (many) a cathedral. Unlike their less grand cousins in the US, it is much easier to see how these immense structures inspired awe, reflection, and sometime fear in their congregations. Despite the hordes of tourists, one could imagine a quieter time when these structures allowed for a high degree of introspection away from the hustle and bustle of the dense cities just outside. On one of the occasions we were sitting on benches, thinking about prayer in these vast halls and I was inspired to sit in a traditional prayer pose within the pews, and Josh snapped a photo. This then became one of the motifs of our trip, and we took many such shots over the following weeks. As a series, I quite like the idea, the mixture of incredible spaces and light, focused around a single individual in a variety of angles. I consider this series to really be early groundwork and testing for something better, as sometimes the effect is not as reverent or prayerful as I would like. Some of the shots are quite nice however, and I think they make an interesting grouping. Most are ones that Josh took of me, and some I took of him. All of these are from my camera, but Josh has a few others from his camera that I will be adding to the collection in the next few days. Click on the image below to see the entire grouping in a slideshow.
Yesterday I went by my doctor’s office for a medical clearance exam in advance of my shoulder operation next week. And among all the other poking and prodding, they had to do an EKG. I guess this is to insure than my heart won’t stop when I am under general anestesia or something. Anyway, the nurse comes in, takes one look at my very hairy chest and says “This won’t do”. She then scurries off and comes back with a razor and shaves several unattractive shapes into my chest, clearing away the forrest so that they can attach superglue and jumper cables to the smooth parts. After that they pulled off the anodes with a fair amount of extra hair and left a lot of glue, causing my shirt to gather rather unappetizingly at those places. After getting home and rinsing off as well as I could I stood and looked at myself in the mirror with slight horror, as I resembled nothing so much as this. Not only that, it itches terribly. The question is, should I try to even it out or leave it alone?
I was pretty exhausted after my long trip back from Paris yesterday, but I had promised my friend Ruthbea that I would have dinner with her and a group of her friends since she was in town for only one night. I made my way to the restaurant, and being the first to arrive, wandered over to the bar for a drink. Ruthbea assured me that I had met at least one and perhaps as many as three of her group of friends before, so I was watching the hostess stand for any recognizable faces. And there was one guy there at the stand who looked over at me and marched directly up to me and said in a somewhat menacing voice, “What the hell are YOU doing here?”. I paused for a moment to look at his face and attire and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to recognize him, either as one of Ruthbea’s friends or from somewhere else. I paused and said, “I am waiting on Ruthbea…”, and he said “What?!” and then walked off in an odd huff. Then I saw him go behind the bar and realized he was working at the restaurant and wondered if perhaps we had met somewhere before. I sometimes have a shitty memory for these things (despite being able to remember random number sequences from years ago) and so I chalked it up to one of those chance meetings that confuse.
Later when Ruthbea and the gang arrived, we got seated at our table and as I recounted the story to Ruthbea, the guy came over and apologized. He told me I looked exactly (but exactly!) like a jerk ex boss of his who had fired him two years earlier, and that he had been shocked that the guy had the nerve to come into this place. He was going to have him (me) thrown out when he realized his mistake, and he brought us all a round of drinks to apologize.
We all had a good laugh about it, but it did get me wondering just a little about my doppelgänger who is out there, somewhere, in the food services industry. I wonder if anyone has ever approached him out of the blue thinking he was me. Perhaps some random stranger asked him to fix something computer related or translate something into French?
Travel can be glamourous or exasperating. More and more, with all the cutbacks and nickel-and-diming of various carriers, most of the fun has been completely sucked out of what can and should be an exciting adventure, getting from one place to another. And airports are part of the equation. They should be places that exalt the process of a voyage, but often they too destroy all the life and fun of it with their ugly furniture, dark hallways, cramped lounges and musty corners. CDG in Paris is different, and even as they have added a multitude of terminals over the years, it has always kept its airy, open, futuristic feel. It makes one not only want to travel and dream of distant voyages, it also manages another equally important function: It calms and reassures one before a long trip. The collection of beautiful, soaring spaces and lounges is for me a welcome antidote to most airports which are crowded angry spaces that are overflowing with people in badly designed departure areas. While the airport is quite spread out, it is very easy to get from one terminal to another and one never feels rushed or pushed. As I sit here in my departure lounge, waiting to board a long flight back to NYC, I am at peace. (Except for the screaming child-monster 10 feet away from me whose mother seems to be completely deaf.)
At times, we are able to see very familiar things with fresh eyes and everything is filled with that newness and sense of wonder. The last couple of days in Paris have been like that, helped along by the absolutely stunning weather, which has seemed to put everyone is a wonderful mood (except waiters, that is). I have had a great time catching up with old friends (Sonia, Marc, Karin and Alyssa) and wandering around Paris by myself and with Josh. It is a good thing however that I am going home tomorrow, or I might well find myself in a diabetic coma brought on by one too many pan au chocolat aux amandes.
Paris is literally and figuratively a breathe of fresh air after 3 weeks in Spain. It is a lot cooler here, and so different from Spain but obviously so familiar to me at the same time. I am seeing old friends and walking through the streets in the beautiful weather, stopping at this or that bakery to sample something wonderful and bad for me. I kinda wish I had more time here, but this trip was not about Paris, so it will have to wait for another time. The nostalgic effects of Paris are heightened by the fact that I am actually staying alone in my old apartment since my friend Dominique is out of town and graciously left it for me to use. One of the really funny things as I look around this place that I lived for a couple of years, is how much has been changed. There is a new floor and paint job, the staircase I built is gone in favor of a crappy ladder, the arrangement of furniture is different. The apartment has an odd shape and that of course is still here and feels just like it did. And there is one thing that I built that is still here, and it surprises me. There is a small mezzanine that the ladder goes up to, and at the top is a small square of the mezzanine that I extended about 20 years ago. To my amazement, it still holds and is still walked on. I really had no idea what I was doing when I built it, but it has lasted all these years.
Barcelona was the total dessert to the meal of our trip to Spain. I could really see coming back here to live for a while (maybe a year or so) to explore in depth its many charms. People who know me know I am a bit of a foodie, and I have to say that Barcelona is hands down the easiest city to have a good meal in anywhere in Europe, beating out even Paris. In the six days we have been here, and all the multiple meals and tapas, we have had only one disappointment. In a lot of ways, Barcelona reminds me of my beloved San Francisco, not just in the fantastic food but also in the culture in evidence out in the streets. There is both a free spirit vibe here as well as its sadder cousin the homeless/street hippie vibe. This is a casual city where everyone is casually dressed. Whatever pretension there is doesn’t seem to be so much bound up in consumption and its ostentation. The city has a (perhaps overly) fiercely independent spirit, evidenced in their cultural pride (language, food, institutions) as well as by the many Catalonian flags that hang from so many of the buildings. I know that this strong regionalism rubs many in the rest of Spain the wrong way, but it is part of what gives Barcelona its pride of place and cultural interest, a kind of country within a country. Barcelona manages to be both modern and historic at the same time, never falling into the trap of being a museum city. It is alive and welcoming and makes me want to return soon. Tomorrow we will fly back to Paris for a few days, and then back to New York, which I have to admit I am starting to miss just a little bit.