Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Turning A Corner

Last Sunday my wife and I rolled down to the cafeteria where there was a musician performing. Antonio played a mixture of oldies and Cuban ballads and I drifted off looking out the window at people driving and cycling in the luscious south Florida greenery under a sunlit sky. It was a fine couple of hours out of my room. 

It occurred to me looking round the room that we were all in wheelchairs. Next door was a wizened old Latino fussing over his almost immobile wife. He loves her my wife whispered somewhat unnecessarily and I knew she was imagining a future similar for us. Behind me a guy in a hospital gown was sitting alone.  Across the room I saw an East Indian woman in a white  sheet taken from her hospital bed as a comforter who was surrounded by her family picnic (I’ll bet they’ve got great food the curry oriented peanut gallery whispered) but for none of us was there any sense of being out of place. Except maybe the leggy Latina walking on cowboy boots in spray painted jeans and much hair and jewelry. She stood out among the wheelchair audience. An oddity. 

It is an institution I live in and a very good one. But here I am protected. Sure I am looked after and helped in so many ways, but beyond that I am normal.  As normal as normal can be. In a few weeks, maybe fewer than  I want, I will be back in the world. I don’t know what proportion of time I will be in a wheelchair and what proportion managing a walker. Maybe even walking with a cane...who knows? I don’t think I will be walking with my former carefree strides for a good few weeks to come though I know I will get there one day soon. And as I lie here and think about that future I wonder how it will feel to be the cripple in the room. 

I will be the head at waist height getting respectful looks from the anxious able bodied eager to help me in my struggle to get through the door yet not wanting to appear impatient or callous toward the poor guy in the chair. No one will accuse me of not deserving the parking placard as I climb out of the passenger seat and cling to the open car door, pivoting my slow legs into position with my walker. It must be awful they will think with gratitude as they stride away and listen to me tap slowly down the sidewalk. No.  I can safely say I’m not looking forward to this.

I have no choice. I haven’t adapted as well as some to life in a chair. A Key West woman showed off her cupholder in physical therapy yesterday and we all thought it brilliant.  Of course I can’t reach down that far without tipping my chair. Then I’ll end up on the ground and they’ll have to call 911 to get me help. Yes I want to go home.  No I don’t want to be my wife’s date, the cripple. I am afraid of the future for the first time. In the good news department they do want me back at work. I talked to the captain and he said bring a doctor’s note and we will do what we need to and glad to have you back. I’m looking forward to that for at the police station I will be safe among friends. Besides I like telling the cops where to go. 

I have a few ideas how I will take him for walks. Rusty and I will discuss them this weekend when my wife comes visiting. Meanwhile I fret about being a cripple in a world populated by the normal. I wonder how it will be out there? 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Zombie Bike Ride 2018

Thanks to my friend Chuck Licis I got a bunch of fabulous pictures from the Zombie Bike Ride last night. For many of us this is among the best of events from the weeklong madness of Fantasy Fest. This is all about costumes and fun, on bicycles. I hope you like Chuck’s pictures as much as I do. 

I couldn’t be there this year but this is the next best thing. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

My Date With A Cheerleader

Eddy says I lack stamina. Which reminds of the time the nurse’s assistant was helping me to pee in the bad old days before I could do it myself. Sharnae is a slight woman, dark skinned with long black tresses down her back and the air of a schoolgirl even though she is in her late 20s. She grew up in Miami and has the wiry toughness you would associate with a survivor of  the  inner city streets. Usually when I pee I almost fill the bottle which pleases the medical professionals in some mysterious clinical way. Anyway she peeled back the sheet that day and peered down at the almost empty bottle nestling between my legs. “Is that all you got?” And at the same moment we both burst out laughing. A running joke. First time any woman had the balls to say that out loud to me I told her and she giggled some more. 

So, back to physical therapy and Eddy’s rather dim view of my stamina. Thus instead of walking Friday he used his new student to supervise building my ability to support myself on my arms and legs. He started out by showing Kimmi, the one in the students’ brown coveralls how to deploy the red ropes. The way he supervises the students reminds me of how I train new dispatchers.  Out of the pan into the fire. I figured my job was to test young Kimmi...not a bit of it. She took charge. 

I laid out on the bed and got 90 minutes of unending torture. Young sweet Kimmi from Kentucky had me on my stomach, the second time I’d ever done that since the accident. “Try a plank” she ordered. Wh-a-a-t I muttered feebly. A plank? I can’t do one of those. I am a cripple. I have a broken leg. Broken in several places. Fat lot she cared;  I did several bloody planks sweating and trembling. My longest was 30 seconds finally, I told Eddy as he swung by to check up on me. No he didn’t Kimmi protested. By my watch it was 26 seconds, he was counting fast. Holy shit I said, are you descended from a line of drill instructors or time keepers? The torture continued. Of course as she is pretty and dressed in brown Elias stopped by from occupational therapy and said hello. 

It didn’t stop. Pretty Kimmi stood over me and moved my legs in and out and up and down and followed up the muscle burning sensation with bridge poses and moved my leg supports to put more effort into my lower back. Time’s up I said looking frantically at the wall clock. No it’s not she said looking at her infernal never wrong wristwatch. Three more minutes. Lift again... and again...and...Okay. Rest. So I asked her about herself as she busied herself supervising my transfer back to the chair. 

She wanted to study away from home in Louisville, and South Florida has excellent therapy schools. Who knew?  She studied hard in high school but wasn’t a nerd I discovered. She was popular. Thank heavens for Meg Cabot’s gift to me of a novel called “Vanished” which gave me an outline of what to ask her. No she said I was never a cheerleader. (Liar I’m sure). Did you pick on the unpopular nerds (Jess in Vanished I’m thinking)? Oh no she said acting like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.  I’ve got this one pegged I thought to myself as Eddy wheeled me dripping with sweat back to my room. Pray God she gets another therapist trainer next week. Stamina yes but at the cost of my life seems a bit too steep. I can’t help but think she’ll make an excellent therapist one day. I’m glad I’ll be fully ambulatory and a hundred and fifty miles away by then. Great date, sweet young woman, but lord I’m an old man and I need a Percoset.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Brunch On The Go

My wife was unable to visit my leprosarium last weekend as doctors worked to bring my MRSA infection under control so she stayed home and went out to lunch with friends as some women do. I was not at all jealous (of course) but I did ask for pictures and commentary which she kindly supplied as she always does willingly and without reservation. First up she had cinnamon rolls for appetizer or amuse bouche as the continentals might prefer to describe it.  Call me rustic but I’m not used to pastries for starters. Anyway...

The ladies were brunching at a new place which has landed in Stock Island after a brief career as a pop up eatery. According to the website the owner of this enterprise also caters but as far as I can gather it is now established at Safe Harbor near Hogfish with irregular hours and themed meals. The program looks excellent. 

The drinks are bottomless and as far as I can gather the kinds of people who pay fifty bucks for brunch are not the kinds of folks likely to drink themselves senseless on tequila or milk punch. But that may just have been my wife covering her backside. She said it was delicious. 

Layne doesn’t much like beets despite her Ashkenazy roots but there they are, large as life on the salad. It must have been better than excellent as it scored no negative comments from Herself. 

One delicate plate after another. 

She said the next  dish was going to be sausage and polenta. And by gum so it was. I’ve never seen it served like this: 

Eggs en cocotte ( more continental nonsense),

and finally what the English call “afters.”  In this case berries and pancakes. I’ve heard snotty judges on the Food Network describe pancakes as breakfast not dessert but they looked great and I am reliably informed tasted perfect. 

All I had to say after I received this fine timely  telegraphic report was: Is it wheelchair accessible?  This has become part of my thinking in my new state though I expect to be on a walker if not a cane by the time I rejoin the world.  Layne said she too is getting used to that kind of thinking and yes it is. Those of you who live with wheelchairs are permitted to laugh out loud at my naïveté. Trust me I won’t look at accessibility the same ever again.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Nightmares And Dreams

Have you ever had a dream where you imagine yourself peeing and you wake up bursting to go so you leap out of bed...Yeah well that’s where the dream turns to a nightmare when you’re a lump in bed and you fumble for the piss bottle and it drops to the floor and as you reach for the spare that delightful feeling of warm wet invades the bed.  Oh joy. A sixty year old man wet himself. So you call for help which is not forthcoming and distract yourself with Facebook trying to lie in the drier parts of the mushy bed. 

I found a cheerful message from Giovanna which I shall have to translate for you. It could have been taken the wrong way for my situation this morning but as always she made me feel good out of nowhere. “I needed a smile so I thought of you.”  Between my wife and all my other cheerleaders what more could I want in life? 

Reno June 1981 shortly after we met in the California desert...I threw her stuff on the Vespa and off we went looking for adventure. We found it all right and we still laugh about those years. So as I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself those memories kept me smiling, thanks to Giovanna after all these years. Luckily I married a sensible adventurer, one who complements me rather than piling on the madness. She keeps my dreams as dreams never allowing them to become nightmares. And she’s coming to see me tonight so my cup overfloweth as it were. 

And at this point the wound is dry and well covered so the moon suit can be left aside. Earlier in the week Michael drove up from Key West just to chat and he is excellent company. His partner was hospitalized a while back so he understands the stresses of what we are going through, that and his sense of humor make him an ideal sick room companion.  

And yesterday Denise came down from Palm Beach on her way to spend Goombay in Key West. I met Denise at Long Key State Beach in 1981 a month before I met Giovanna. I stayed with her in Delray Beach before the Vespa and I took off for Guadalajara. It was my introduction to sunny sandy Florida, living in a group of young counter culture rebels. Fantastic. Gave me a taste for it I never quite lost even after 20 years in California. 

Why Guadalajara next?  I met a Mexican woman in Paris that Spring and after we had breakfast and took pictures at the Sacre Coeur (as you do) she invited me to her place in Central Mexico. Showing up travel worn on a scooter was a shock to their middle class system and it didn’t go so well. So often travel and home are such different realities. But with Denise it has been different; she has authentic curiosity and a true love of people and travel. So here she was brimming with life in my stuffy hospital room. Plus she brought a friend, Thelma a Cuban doctor in exile. 

It turns out Thelma’s son worked in the same hospital in Havana where Jorge worked before he emigrated. Jorge is the sweetest guy you would ever want to meet. Thus when he gives me my daily stomach shot, an anti coagulant, I feel nothing at all as his hands are as light as a butterfly’s wings. A really nice guy, a former anesthesiologist now working as a nurse. One of many such demoted Cuban doctors in our facility. The American dream has its struggles as Ariel a former surgeon said to me as he wiped my butt.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Physical and Occupational therapy is killing me.  I have plenty to say as always. I just need to sleep...When I have the energy I will fill in the words.  Just know I am not dead but working hard to restore myself. 

Elias loves sitting me on the loo:

It’s quarter to nine and Loren will be coming for me soon. 

Eddy pushed hard for me to walk and keep my left foot off the ground.  NO WEIGHT BEARING. 

I can dress myself. Much to Michael Robinson’s amusement. He came from Key West just to chat. Love him of course. 

Check out this slick tool Elias gave me to slide on socks: 

Voilà. Ready for more damned therapy.