Archive | November, 2013

Surgery, Recovery: Beach, Beverly Hills, Beyond Or, How Can We All Be Here?

18 Nov

IMG_1330 Santa Monica hospitals are a little different than those in Syracuse–where I had my first hip replacement. In Santa Monica, there’s  sand in the elevator, an omnipresent vapor of cotton candy, and staff surf boards  are stacked behind the nurses’ desk.

OK, a little exaggeration, but this is for real:  my hospital view was blue sky, palm trees, and a medical marijuana stall a block away. And, while I never saw his board,  my surgeon is a life-long surfer.  He has a tattoo around his healthy bicep. He wears cowboy boots during surgery. This  alarmed me briefly, but I was being wheeled into the operating room when I noticed, anesthesia coursing through my veins.  I had one second to consider the implications of the boots before disappearing into the land of Nod, Drool,  and Oblivious–to what doctors and nurses say while they saw into a naked, spread-legged body.

Regardless of the boots or what the medical staff had to say about my middle-aged parts, I came out alive–with a Frankenstein-y stitch on my left hip, and my son at my right hip,  holding my hand and smiling. How can we both be here?,  I thought, in my morphine-drip state of mind. Not clear what the question was asking exactly, but it seemed miraculous that I’d had surgery in  a place with enormous succulents in pots, and that when I woke up Noah was looking at me, wearing salmon-colored pants and a tan. Sober and twinkle eyed, worried and joking. Noah.

FLASH FORWARD: My questions continue as I recuperate at the apartment of two people I knew in Urbana, Illinois in 1977.  Natasha and Markus took me in for five days after I left the hospital. One paradise to another!

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How can we all be here?  I kept asking.  Of course I marvel at that often, but something about living with these people I knew so long ago– waking up, eating, sitting around being witty and dull  with them for almost a week made our adult friendship seem particularly strange and miraculous. Especially when Markus gave me an abdominal massage during a period of. . . let’s just call it writer’s block. (It has less to do with writing and more to do with prescription pain-killing.)

Don’t get the wrong idea–Natasha’s daughter Kalliope was on the bed texting  while this massage took place, and Natasha was in the next room whirring up a smoothie for that writer’s block.

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The only weird thing about it was that in high school I really didn’t give Markus the time of day and here I was three decades later reaping the benefits of his fingertips on my swollen abdomen. Whoddathunk it?

Markus! Duh.

It worked, by the way. So then I was ravenous and we all ate many of the delicious treats that friends sent–THANK YOU!!  And then I sat in the sun and reflected on my fourth surgery in two and a half years. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But every time a man takes out a knife in order to rearrange one’s pelvis or digestive tract (last spring: ruptured appendix and  resulting infection), a girl just gets thinkin’, ya know?

IMG_1324(1) Where is it that we all are….?  Well,  I gave up on this contemplative strain pretty quickly when some gossip came in through our grape vine about the man, referred to in earlier blogs as “the genius” (which he is). He is also an Urbana person, and once upon a year and a half ago, we were going to move  to L.A. together.

While I was having surgery, Natasha and Markus had heard from him that his  life had recently changed dramatically, not exactly for the better, though it will be in the long run. I was intrigued and couldn’t stop thinking about him. Until I could.

IMG_1323(1)(Two healing bracelets given to me by my stepmother and my former babysitter and friend –ANOTHER URBANA PERSON in L.A.)

I had plans to make. I had just gotten a small gig as a floral arranger (kid you not), and was going to do some P.R. for my juicery! New chapters. New hip, new life. Too bad I can’t move like a normal person. The visiting nurse said “You walk weird.” I wanted to tell her she talked weird but she is Persian and Persian women, I’ve learned, living in Beverly Hills, rule the earth.  They are classy, cool, and have a  catastrophic view of the world. I wasn’t surprised when Marjan the nurse said “You may never walk without a limp.”  Like the metaphor of  that statement hasn’t been spooling in my head for years before surgery.

Friday, Noah pulled up in the trusty Prius and drove me two blocks to my apartment. We ate Indian food and strangely, miraculously watched Dick Cavett’s  interview with Marlon Brando.  We couldn’t get over how compelling Brando was. And he reminded both of us of my dad at his best–gorgeous, charismatic, deluded, obsessively  concerned with the under-privileged. Wearing an ascot. Then Noah drove home and rehearsed his new song. I didn’t sleep all night. Withdrawal from the painkiller, and worry that I would always walk weird.

Among other things.

Every day since, I’ve felt stronger and easier with the new hip. Today my former babysitter visited and we ate at Urth Cafe, just down the block. Her best friend died of cancer last week. If all we have to fear is walking weird… blessed are we. I marvel that we can all be here.
Thank you to everyone who supported me during this– whether with  a card, gift, or thought.  I felt your concern and love!

Here’s special appreciation to Duncan, my guard dog. Hard to see there with the paper and pillows, but he crept down from the master bedroom to sleep on the couch next to my bed. He doesn’t even like me. IMG_1329(1)Duncan is a force in all of us–the “gotta do this” dog. He snored a tiny dog snore. He was irritated in the middle of the night when I got up to pee and  made noise looking for my cane. Little glassy black  eyes rolled at me.

We are all here, is what I heard.

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Feel It In Your Bones: City of Angels and Demons or, To Live and Die and Live Again in L.A.

8 Nov

Halloween Reeves DriveSo this is what Halloween looks like in  Beverly Hills–on my street, anyway.  Birds of Paradise bursting in air alongside squat little pumpkins wondering why they are not in Vermont where it’s cold, charming, and well behaved. This is Halloween on Rodeo Drive:

Halloween Rodeo DriveCold, charming in her way, and very well behaved, my friend Nancy sells fantasy in the land of dreams. I walk past  her every day on the way to the juicery. And this is Marvin:mannequin on Rodeo

No eye contact with Marvin. . .he’s just like that. Speaking of no eye contact, Dear Reader–if you are still even out there–I seemed to disappear for a couple of months, or at least stopped writing the blog. I MISSED YOU. I think I was busy figuring my life out. Making friends, learning the juice business:

Joe, Mallori, meThat is Joe Cross, (JC), God of the Juice World, and Mallori, my co-worker. We like juice.

So nine months into this adventure, to what have I given birth???????????????? A visit to my a sacred place can tell a girl a lot about her emotional and spiritual progress.

I made a pilgrimage to the spot I visited right after Noah was born, right after I got married the second time, right after I got divorced the second time, and a few other occasions I’d prefer not to mention. A shrine to new beginnings, Bed Bath and Beyond is a holy place of clean towels, perky utensils you have no use for but buy anyway, and endlessly irresistible shower curtains. How many shower curtains have you bought, thinking This will change my life! I was making my way to Triple B last week when I ran out of gas at 3rd Street and La Figueroa. So I called Triple A. And then waved and smiled at the  drivers scowling and gesturing at me with their fingers. You don’t understand road rage until you’ve lived in L.A. Cars are sacred cows and pedestrians are the untouchables. You can be shot for jaywalking. By the police. Regular folks just run you over.

Anyway, I got hooked up with some gas and found my way into the biggest Triple B  I’d ever seen. Three floors. I lost my cart, full of things I thought would change my life.  I started over, and as I was picking my way through bath mats, a couple asked me a question. In Ithaca, Triple B is full of women. A few couples. In this L.A. neighborhood, there were mostly just couples, and I was one of two women shoppers. So these two guys v politely asked, “Do you know where they keep the shower weights?”  I was flattered that they thought I might know. But I was also overwhelmed by having run out of gas, having lost my cart and so I burst out with a guffaw and said “Shower weights?! I have no frickin’ idea!.” And I had to continue, it seemed. “I’ve never had any less of an idea about anything in my entire life!” The two men back away, politely.

So that tells you a little bit about where I am. . .making my way, making friends, learning the juice business, observing the mannequins, and. . .celebrating one of my favorite holiday in a town that has its own edgy take on Halloween, and basking in the glory that is the Day of the Dead–my very favorite holiday!

To start the day on October 31, I visited a surgeon and he showed me something fittingly skeletal and scary.

IMG_1234My pelvis. (Dear Reader, true friends do not put up photos of your pelvis online.) So I wasn’t sure what was scarier–the right hip which has a big ol’ screw keeping that titanium deal in place (last year’s surgery) or the left hip which looks like a fourth grade paper mache project that’s falling to bits. Yep, time to replace that boy. Let’s call him Harvey. We had a good go ’round Harv and me, we really did. But now I’m going to get a new one to match the other one–the titanium creature, He Who Shall Not Be Named.

That was Halloween morning. This was the evening.

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I found my kind in West Hollywood. Walking in those boots just about killed me and I called the surgeon the next day to schedule surgery. I refuse to be a vampy vampire who, like a Weeble wobbles when she walks (but didn’t fall down).

Two Days later was Dia de los Muertos, and I Noah and lived it up in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery where they have the largest festival outside of Mexico.  My mother loved this celebration of Those Who Have Passed.  She’s been in that category for fifteen years, and she showed up in the form of getting us a front door parking spot on the street, and free tickets. Audrey rules. And those of you who remember her know that she also rocked and rolled. So here’s to Audrey Autumn.

Day of the Dead Noah and meWe ate tacos, stared at people in costumes, listened to mariachi, and Noah found a gravestone that said simply “SWEET.”

It’s forward March, Dear Reader, and I’ve promised myself  that I will resume blogging–once a week, even it’s just short and sweet–like life. And maybe death? (not so short.)

Oh and by the way, this little number changed my life:IMG_1311