Friday, December 31, 2004

I visited the ER many times as an accident-prone kid - and a couple of times as a still-accident-prone adult - almost always for stitches, almost always somewhere in my head, to the point that one time, after seeing it done so often, my mother got medieval and fashioned her own butterfly stitch for one of my lesser wounds.

As of this morning, I've visited the ER three times in the last five days.

*** Semi-graphic details to follow. Check out Robert Smigel's hi-f'n-larious "Blue Christmas" instead! (Or, in addition if you're the voyeur type, like Dyanna!) ***

Long story short, I got some kind of infection in my right armpit last weekend that swelled to the size and shape of a two-inch banana, virtually disabling my right arm by Monday night when Salomé forced me to go to the ER. After a ridiculous wait, I got in and the doctor had to slice, drain and stuff my pit in what was far and away the most painful experience I've ever endured. As it was, the infection had made moving my arm deliver a pain like skin being ripped apart. The anesthesia he injected burned like something no metaphor can convey. Like what I imagine fire consuming flesh might feel like. After that, everything else - the incision, the draining, the packing of gauze into the wound - was a mere annoyance. Relatively speaking.

Vicodin and a prescription for anti-biotics, and a return appointment Wednesday morning to remove the packing left me thinking I'd be good to go by Thursday at the latest.


Turns out the infection was still there Wednesday and I was still pretty swollen, so they removed the packing and - with an offer of the anethesia derived from Satan's urine, to which I said no - packed it up again. If this is modern medicine, I'm guessing people simply used to die from this sort of thing.

The swelling went down significantly over the next two days, to the point where I was able to move my arm pretty freely without any notable pain, and again I'm thinking I'll be done after this morning's follow-up.

Wrong, again.

Why is it that the doctors with the gruffest bedside manner are generally the ones that seem to be better doctors?

The guy I saw today was rather abrupt, and not the least bit gentle, but he was the first one to clearly explain what was going on and, though I'm sore as hell again after his thorough but not-the-least-bit-gentle cleaning and re-packing job, I at least feel like I have a better sense of where things stand and what probably caused the infection to begin with.

Fun stuff!

So, anyone know an alternative to deodorant? As it was, I always avoided anti-perspirants because I knew they could cause things like this, but apparently my underarms are too sensitive for regular deodorant, too, a problem that apparently also plagued my grandfather. Not being a hippie or bohemian poet-type, I need some kind of alternative that won't get me weird looks at work or extra personal space on the train!

Where's my Whole Foods shoppers at?

Public apologies to Cristin, whose farewell toast/roast I missed last night asa result of this. I really wanted to be there but, obviously, it just wasn't happening. :-(

PS: When I say "sore as hell," I mean sore like someone's shoving their thumb into my armpit and pressing hard right up into the wound. Ouch!

Monday, December 20, 2004

"Game recognizes game." Or in this case, former Jehovah's Witnesses recognize current ones.

There's a youngish couple in our building that I pegged as JWs a while back and finally had my J-dar confirmed when they came knocking during the Jets game yesterday. Something about the way they carried themselves rang familiar, but it was seeing them heading out a few times on weeknights, usually around 6-6:30pm, that gave them away. At those times, they were always well-dressed, but modestly so, with briefcases in hand and the friendly demeanor of those who genuinely believe they have found the way to everlasting happiness.

Contrary to popular, if woefully ignorant, opinion, most Jehovah's Witnesses are regular people; the majority of them likable, even!

Unlike most people, I don't have a problem with Jehovah's Witnesses, despite arguably having good reasons to do so as someone who was disfellowshipped and shunned after deciding to walk a different path. If anything, I respect them more than most people who claim to have God's ear as, generally speaking, they put their money where their mouths are, living their beliefs to both the spirit and letter of the law as they interpret it. And they're not armchair quarterbacks, either, going out of their way to spread the word as they believe Jesus instructed them to. Most Christian religions take that part of the gospel much less literally, satisfied with attending church for a couple of hours every Sunday, if then, and maybe avoiding taking the Lord's name in vain. Maybe!

I do have a problem with people that see nothing wrong with mistreating Witnesses, though, whether on the street or knocking at their doors. Sure it can be annoying early on a Saturday morning but really, does the minor intrusion on your day justify the chest-thumping threats to kick some ass, or even the demoralizing slamming of the door?

When they came by yesterday, they were with a teenaged boy, probably no more than 15 years old. Whether it was his first time or he was a seasoned veteran, whether he was there simply out of obligation or a true believer, I have no idea. I couldn't help to think about the various times when I was some combination of the four, nervous every time a door opened, not knowing what sort of greeting was coming my way. Even when I started to lose my faith and started to question things, I viewed it as a challenge, sometimes even hoping for the rude, ignorant response so I could dismantle it, turn it back around on them and walk away feeling vindicated.

Of course, by that point, I had no business being there and realized it shortly after.

Yesterday, I simply said "Thanks, but I'm not interested," before recognizing the couple from upstairs, at which point I added, "Hey there! Actually, my mother's a Witness, down in Virginia. Thanks for stopping by, though." No drama, no problem.

Fact of the matter is it's generally easier to disarm a Jehovah's Witness with politeness, especially since they practice overcoming objections as a matter of course. Attempting to argue religion with them is pointless as the average Witness knows the Bible better than most people who claim to be religious and most of them can break down most objections USING THE BIBLE, something most people who claim to be religious couldn't do if given an index and a couple of hours to page through it. Sixteen years later and I still remember more of the Bible than the average Christian knows.

All that to say the next time a Jehovah's Witness comes knocking on your door, if you're not interested, simply say so politely, thank them for stopping by and go on about your business. 95% of them are looking for interested people to talk to, not arguments with those looking to work out a little misdirected anger.

Friday, December 17, 2004

This just in from the completely unexpected and wow-you-don't-know-me-do-you Christmas gift department:

My new boss just gave me a coffee mug from Tiffany's and a $25 gift certificate to Starbucks.

Times like this are what "it's the thought that counts" were made for!

The mug looks odd sitting on my desk next to my Kucinich for President mug. As for the gift certificate, I think some surprise snacks for tonight's D&D session might be in order. No coffee, though!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

An early Xmas gift for Mets fans? Or more Tom Glavine-style coal in our stocking?

Only time will tell, but for now, I'm pretty happy about it.
What to do?

I haven't really had any compelling desire to blog lately, what with my decision to not bash the holidays this year, things at work in flux yet again, and Comic Book Commentary getting most of my writing attention these days. So much so that I've lost interest in the previously announced Anecdotal Evidence which is supposed to launch next month!

I'm loathe to make this a purely personal journal as I find most of those boring, and have pretty much withdrawn completely from the poetry scene the suspected majority of you reading this know me from. Factor in the necessary break from politics for the next couple of months and I'm at a loss for words.

And yet, I feel vaguely guilty when I go more than a couple of days without posting something here. Like I'm neglecting the only, admittedly tenuous, connection to many of you that I consider friends but don't get to see nearly enough.

I've also noticed my traffic has dipped by almost half over the past month, too, which is a bit of a drag on the ego!

So, what to do?

I know I've announced breaks in the past, only to return a couplafew days later, posting away as usual, but this time I think a break may be coming in a more organic manner. Not because I want to or feel like I need to, rather simply because I don't have anything to say.

Which is weird in and of itself.

"Did Ni Imu Abe Imu."
[Wrapping up a Razor Preserves its Sharpness]
C'est la vie! What ever will be, will be. If you're interested in comics, or just need an occasional dose of Guy, check me out at Comic Book Commentary where I'm committing to posting at least twice a week.

Other than that, if I'm not back here anytime soon, happy holidays and best wishes to you and yours for the new year!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Gonzalez's Twelve Edition

1. The difference between sanity and insanity is whether or not you do what the voices tell you.

2. If you know you're a sore loser, it's best not to answer the phone for an hour or so after your team loses the game you talked so much trash about.

3. Don't tell my wife but, I don't really hate Christmas. Beyond the obligatory, consumerist aspect of it - which I do despise - I actually like shopping for people I want to get gifts. The feeling of finding that perfect gift for someone makes the overall stress worth it.

4. In particular, the Incredibles pajamas we got Isaac and India are the coolest thing this side of my own Batman pjs!

5. Of course, receiving is almost as good as giving, so hit my wish list and buy me something as a thanks for entertaining you!

6. Thanks to one of my reviews on Comic Book Commentary, I'm being added to an indie publisher's comp list! Also, over on the Newsarama forums, I've gone back and forth a couple of times with John Romita, Jr. regarding the upcoming Black Panther relaunch that he's drawing, with Reginald Hudlin writing. My plan to break into comics by the end of 2006 is underway.

7. Among the more rational things I'll do when we win the lottery, I plan to go crazy on eBay buying comic books to expand my collection, and open a store that encourages actually reading them over collecting them. Of course, I'll sell fair trade coffee, too.

8. Speaking of Fair Trade, pick one person you were going to buy something for on Amazon or at Target, and go here and get them something instead. You'll feel better for it.

9. Salomé's recently been hooked on this Saturday morning block of Indian TV shows on cable, and as of this weekend, so am I. On their Entertainment Tonight knockoff, they previewed this movie, Musafir, that looked like a bizarre combination of Tarantino and Chicago, with hard-core violent action mixed with Bollywood-style musical numbers. It's apparently based on Oliver Stone's U-Turn. I want to see it.

10. One interesting side effect of reading Chango's Fire is that it's rekindled my interest in religion. Spirituality, actually. Sometimes I feel like I swung too far to the opposite extreme after walking away from the Jehovah's Witnesses and that there's been a hole there ever since. Everyone needs something to believe in, to pray to, for lack of a better term. I bought a San Antonio candle a couple of weeks ago - Salomé suggested picking whichever one spoke to me - and from some quick research, it seems that he's the equivalent of Eleggua (the trickster) in Santeria, one of the first Orishas new...worshippers (?) receive. Have to look into it some more.

11. A few months back, I was discussing religion with a friend of mine, an irregularly-practicing Jew, and she asked me about the kids and how we were going to handle religion, if at all. The idea of having some sort of moral foundation and a system of values - not in the Christian Right kind of way, but in the practical sense - and where does that come from if not from religion. Tricky stuff.

12. 18.5 days until the end of 2004. Are you ready?

Thursday, December 9, 2004

There is something simultaneously appealing and frustrating about Ernesto Quiñonez's second novel, Chango's Fire, a marked improvement over his highly-flawed debut, Bodega Dreams, but in the end, still something of a disappointment. This time, the problem lies in his biting off more than he can chew with too many subplots rolling around what is essentially one man's coming-of-age story at its heart.

He's inexplicably combined the systematic burning of Spanish Harlem, insurance fraud, organized crime, gentrification, Santeria, pseudo-socialism, illegal citizenship papers, a shady government agent and a few other random nuggets into a muddle-headed plot that rests precariously, and unsuccessfully, on a straight-out-of-Hollywood interracial romance...and frankly, he's just not up to the task. When the cliches aren't jumping off the page at the reader, the heavy-handed didacticism is smacking them in the face.

His protagonist, Julio Santana, is a philosophizing arsonist yearning for the old days while trying to turn his life around after the proverbial "last job." Almost every other character is either an archetype or a stereotype, none ever fully coming to life beyond the "issue" Quiñonez has chosen them to represent. After some hit-or-miss character and plot 'development' in the first two-thirds of the book, the hasty climax gets sloppy and, just like in Bodega Dreams, includes an out-of-left-field occurrence to wrap things up. The too-convenient epilogue only makes matters worse.

That said, Quiñonez is no hack and with a less ambitious plot that focused more on the characters he obviously had a connection to, especially the engaging babalawo Papelito, he could have had something really special here. Personally, I could see a viable sequel springing from this effort, focusing only on Julio's journey to his Asiento, his strained relationship with his parents and a fleshed-out romance with Helen and the issues that arise from it. The first two things represent the strongest aspects of Chango's Fire, while the latter's potential got buried in melodrama.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Am I just being cynical in thinking that much of the love being professed for Barack Obama rests a bit too precariously on the fact that he's an articulate, well-spoken black man with a Great American Novel backstory? Because that's all you ever hear about him in references to his purportedly being the future of the Democratic Party. Nothing about his record, or his stance on any particular issue, just how he wowed everyone with his speech at the DNC and how he's of mixed racial background.

And if I am being cynical, does that mean I'm wrong?

Monday, December 6, 2004

What I did this weekend, in between cleaning up vomit and watching football; all three things completely unrelated.

Stomach viruses suck! As do collard greens and rice in a pool of watery bile, your son's foot covered up to his ankle. Pink yogurt and chunks of undigested oatmeal aren't too hot, either.

Wondering if that burp was just a burp, or a prelude to dinner revisited? Not hot.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: STFU! Edition

1. Democrats whining about the election. It's pretty clear there were various problems across the country, as there always have been, but crying foul-play after your guy limply threw in the towel and disappeared is self-flagellation at its most annoying. Screw Kerry, deal with reality and start working on fixing the system that stuck us with the two of them as a choice.

2. Elitist Blue-Staters. Enough of the "Fuck the South" and "Urban Archipelago" nonsense. I have family down south. I live in the City you all cream yourselves over. They're not all ignorant racist homophobes, and it's not all rainbows and butterflies here. Get over yourselves.

3. George Steinbrenner. You deserve to have to pay Giambi every cent of that bloated contract. Don't even try to act like you didn't know he was on steroids. Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

4. Greek lawyers outraged over Alexander's bi-sexuality being referenced in Oliver Stone's latest movie. Never mind that you hadn't even seen the movie before threatening the lawsuit, if you'd simply have read some of the reviews, you wouldn't have even bothered. Hell, I figured it was going to suck once I saw Colin Farrell in that stupid blond wig. That's something worth suing over.

5. Gay and lesbian groups praising Alexander's bi-sexuality being referenced in Oliver Stone's latest movie. Did you pay any attention to the environmentalist's ill-conceived embrace of Day After Tomorrow?

6. Whichever reviewer referred to Alexander as the "first gay action hero." Everybody knows that He-Man was the first gay action hero. Duh!

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

While technically NaNoWriMo ended yesterday, practically speaking, I fell off the wagon two weeks ago and never managed to get back on. Final word count: 15,609.

Well short of the 50,000 word goal, but an amazing leap forward for me in terms of self-discipline. For the first two weeks, at least. I take some solace in these words from the final NaNoWriMo update:

The only time we ever catch a glimpse of our creative potential is when we try something so clearly impossible that only a fool would dare attempt it.

Yep. There's a tremendous payoff in getting in over our heads. In spending thirty days sleeping too little and writing too much, and watching, delighted, as our imaginations haul their weird and wonderful treasures into the bright light of day.

It's a heroic endeavor whether you ended up writing 10,000 or 100,000 words, and I hope that everyone, regardless of final word-count, realizes what a brave and inspiring thing they've accomplished this month.
Indeed, I caught more than a glimpse, I stared it dead in the eye and...well yes, I blinked, but not before I confirmed that the only thing really standing between me and a completed novel is ME. There's a million excuses and twice as many distractions, some of each are even legitimate, but the bottom line is that you find the time to do the things you want to do when you really want to do them. Like playing Morrowind til 1am again last night!

This year, NaNoWriMo for me was like being the fifth person voted off of Survivor. I didn't get far enough to ever really be in contention, but I didn't completely embarass myself, either. And I learned a lot from the experience.

So my goal for the first three months of 2005 will be to take those hard-earned 15,609 words of Babe Ruth zombie-related randomness and turn them into nothing less than a respectable, cohesive 50,000-word minimum first draft of a novel.

In other news, yes, the rumors are true. Life is too short to hold grudges. It takes more energy to be mad at someone and hold a grudge, then to let it go and cherish the friendship you built. And it's foolish to ignore your instincts purely out of stubborn resolve, and I have too many good memories to let a couple of bad moments overshadow them. So I followed my instincts Monday night and woke up the next morning feeling better for it.

Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don't care

where it's been, or what bitter road
it's traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

--Sweetness, from Between Angels, by Stephen Dunn
Thirty and-a-half days left in 2004. What are you doing with them?