Archive | July 2013

Vegging out by Doctor’s Orders

Painting by Yuri Tremler

Painting by Yuri Tremler

A couple of weeks ago, when the doctor told me I needed major sinus surgery, complete with total anesthesia, I had a weirdly paradoxical reaction: smug satisfaction, tinged with a hint of glee. At last, a genuine medical condition necessitating serious treatment, commanding the respect and sympathy of all those aging peers who’ve already confronted a broad assortment of health crises and concerns. 

I’ll turn 72 this July 31st, and to date I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate when it comes to physical health – a couple of minor gynecological problems, and that’s it. (Mental health is another story, one I’ve already written about in numerous posts about my bipolar diagnosis.) 

The surgery took place yesterday morning; my husband drove me to and from the same-day surgery. Per doctor’s orders, I’ve been vegging out ever since, something I have a definite talent for even when I’m perfectly well. But now, for a change, I don’t need to feel guilty about it. My post-op instruction sheet says, “Limit your physical activity for two (2) weeks as well as avoid all straining and heavy lifting. Do not perform any exercise which will elevate your pulse rate significantly, as this will cause bleeding in your nose.” 

I don’t see what’s so terrible about a little bleeding, but I’ll try to be a compliant patient, since the handout says “the nose and sinuses will have Sinuses diagrammany new healing surfaces, which will require special care over the next few weeks.” That sounds pretty yucky, so I’ll try not to dwell too vividly on the imagery it brings to mind. 

I’m supposed to “eat a cool, soft diet for one week.” After bringing me home yesterday, my husband made a run to Hannaford for prescriptions and requested foodstuffs. I launched the new diet regimen with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Karmarel Sutra,” a blissfully decadent combination of chocolate and caramel. I’m normally not a fanatic consumer of ice cream, but I can see how I could easily become one. He also brought me some deli salads loaded with mayo, Brie cheese, and a guilty pleasure I recently rediscovered after years of abstinence: Helluva Good Dip, bacon and horseradish flavor. I’ll soon see if chips are soft enough, or if I’ll need something mushier for dipping. 

Sure, I can make fruit and yogurt smoothies in our rarely used blender, and we even have an expensive juicer we’ve used approximately twice, but I haven’t stayed so healthy for so long by being a paragon of nutritional virtue, so I’m not going to start today. But without my Nia classes or my gardening, let alone swimming in the lake a few hundred feet from my house, I can see how easy it would be to pack on the pounds with this all too sedentary lifestyle. 

I promise not to ramble on about my health concerns. I’m deeply grateful they’re treatable – nothing malignant or life-threatening. Thirty years ago, before the advent of the CAT scan and endoscopic surgery, I probably would have just muddled along with all the gunk that’s been clogging up my head.  

The one thing I vow to take seriously during these weeks of mandatory ease is my writing. I’m determined to finish the paranormal soap opera novel I began over a year ago, and the end is in sight, at least for this first installment. More on that topic in the near future.




Spaces in the Togetherness of Marriage


Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” When my husband and I married in 1975, we included the famous quote from Kahlil Gibran in the service at our SoHo loft, and we’ve abided by that principle ever since. In my last post I mentioned that we’ve rarely been apart for even a week in our nearly forty years together until the three-week motorcycle trip he embarked on in June. To my enormous relief, he returned safe and sound late on July 4th, just in time for the last of the fireworks over Snyders Lake where we live, and soon it was as if he’d never been away. 

In fact, we grant each other a great deal of space, even when we’re home together. We’re both writers, and we respect each other’s need for alone time. And though we share many interests, we give ourselves permission to go off on our own tangents individually. His motorcycle trip is a perfect example: if I had my druthers, he wouldn’t have done it, but I knew it was important to him and I respect his right to follow his bliss, as he respects my right to pursue mine. 

While he was away, I indulged in lots of my favorite pastimes. Nothing I wouldn’t do if he were here; just more of everything. Concerts, open mics, movies, gardening – whatever captured my fancy. And I resolved not to feel guilty about it. I’d had visions of hunkering down at home, writing up a storm, exercising, eating healthier, all that good stuff, but I’m afraid it didn’t happen. I cut myself a lot of slack, and why not? I don’t want to consign my pleasures to some distant bucket list. 

Concerts are a prime example. I love rock and country music. He doesn’t, for the most part, and I’ve given up asking him to go unless it’s

Tom Petty

Tom Petty

something I’m pretty sure he’ll enjoy, including classical or avant garde programs. I dragged him to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center several years back. We’d spent the afternoon at the track, and I was about to place a bet for the ninth race when a man called out, “Anyone want a pair of lawn tickets for the Police and Elvis Costello at SPAC tonight?” 

“I might,” I said. “Let me go ask my husband.” Then I decided what the hell – I’d just go ahead and buy them and present him with a fait accompli. He was gracious about it, but while I thought the concert was fabulous, he absolutely hated it – the traffic jam that made us late, the volume level, the crowd jammed together on the lawn, the darkness that made it impossible to see where we were going. He vowed never to go back to SPAC, and he never has. While he was away, I went twice, and to several other concerts as well:

  • ·         Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry at SPAC (great show – I went with my friend Linda, but I went to all the other concerts solo)
  • ·         Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, with the Wallflowers opening. (Love that Jacob Dylan)
  • ·         The Zombies at the Empire State Plaza (the British Invasion band from the Sixties – remember “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There?” Not many in the audience did, but it was a good crowd, since it was a freebie.)
  • ·         George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelics (known as the godfather of hip hop, he puts on a great show with an infectious groove. Another freebie, Alive at Five alongside the Hudson River, it drew a mammoth audience.)
  • ·         Old Songs Festival at the Altamont Fair Grounds (I’ve got friends who love this annual folkie event. This was the first time I’ve checked it out, and I’ll definitely return.) 

These were all outdoors, and amazingly, the rain held off for all of them, despite the many downpours we’ve been having. I hope my luck will hold for Country Fest on July 13th.

As for movies, I saw four of the summer blockbuster variety, and I’ve got a couple more on my list. My husband’s movie tastes and mine overlap, and we often go together, but we’re at opposite poles when it comes to certain genres. He avoids romantic films, musical biopics, and gloomy indies about fun topics like Alzheimer’s and cancer; I avoid ultraviolent crime flicks unless they have redeeming cinematic qualities or actors I think are hot. 

Friends are often amazed when I tell them I go to concerts or films alone, but why not? I pity people who feel the need to pair up or herd together in groups to enjoy cultural or quasi-cultural events. I’m better able to immerse myself in the experience when I’m not worrying about whether the person next to me thinks it’s a waste of time, money or both. 


Melissa McCarthy with 2011 Emmy

Melissa McCarthy with 2011 Emmy

Being accountable to no one is one of the perks of retirement, and so is spontaneity. Case in point: the swimsuit shopping expedition I mentioned last time. It was even worse than I feared. Those fluorescent-lit three-way mirrors in Macy’s dressing rooms are brutal, and I got so disheartened that I decided to abandon my search and go to the early showing of The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. I’m not nearly as fat as Melissa, and she’s fabulous onscreen. Judging by all the laughter, I’m sure the overweight women wedged in on either side of me thought so too. 

A couple of days later at Boscov’s, I found a swimsuit I actually found flattering, and yesterday, when I wore it for the first time, bless his heart, he told me I look good in it. Then I ambled down the street to the boat launch and jumped in the lake – something else he’ll never do, because he thinks the lake’s too dirty and too dangerous because of the boats. But thanks to his motorcycling, he’s forfeited the right to tell me what’s too dangerous. Last night I ushered for Lyle Lovett at The Egg – something else he wouldn’t have liked. 

He wants to see The Lone Ranger tonight, because that was his favorite boyhood superhero. The movie got horrible reviews and is reportedly ultraviolent, but I guess I can indulge him and go. With Johnny Depp as a scantily clad Tonto with a dead crow on his head, how bad can it be?


Johnny "Tonto" Depp with Silver

Johnny “Tonto” Depp with Silver



Not So Easy Rider

My husband just before leaving home on June 14

My husband just before leaving home on June 14

As of today, my husband’s been away from home for almost three weeks, piling up the miles on his Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycle. He’s ridden from upstate New York to Louisville, Kentucky, then down to North Carolina, and back via the Blue Ridge Mountains to his sister’s home in Virginia. He’ll stop off for a night at our daughter’s house in Woodstock, and he plans to be back home the day after by the Fourth of July. Throughout his trip, I’ve been virtually holding my breath, and that explosive gust of wind you hear will be my sigh of relief.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. Since we met at Max’s Kansas City in 1973, we’ve never been apart this long – I can count on one hand the times we’ve been apart for even a week. Before embarking on this odyssey, he was worried about whether I’d be alright on my own, but the fact is, I’ve been fine. For company, I’ve got my animal familiars – Sirius, my chow/Australian shepherd mix, and Lunesta, my gorgeous and cuddly tabby cat. If I get cabin fever, I can always drive down to visit my daughter and granddaughters in Woodstock, just over an hour away. But I haven’t felt the need; I’ve been reveling in the peace and quiet of my solitude, interspersed with episodes of noisy community, chiefly involving music. 

You may have noticed I never mention my husband’s name in this blog. That’s at his request. Many of my readers know him, but he has a public persona to protect, and he’s worried I may write something that could tarnish his reputation. Nonetheless he gave me permission to quote the following text, which he sent from early in his trip:

I’m at a McDonald’s somewhere in Southern Ohio waiting for a thunderstorm to pass by. At Indian Mounds National Park, I had this image suddenly of a great mob of Indian men ritually pissing on the circular wall surrounding the grave mounds, so I joined in. It felt right.

The Indian mounds are one of many sights he’s visited. He successfully completed the Tail of the Dragon, an infamously twisty road with hundreds of curves, and he toured the distillery where they make Knob Creek, his favorite bourbon. This southern excursion actually had a specific destination, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Louisville, where he was a presenter. He’s exploring a part of the country I’d love to visit, and I’m mildly jealous, but I’d rather see it from the air-conditioned comfort of a nice, sturdy car. Maybe a Prius.

The first night of his journey, I was scared shitless. I diverted myself by filling a Poland Springs water bottle with Chardonney and going to see Iron Man 3, but the panic set in when I got home, and it lingered till I got the text telling me he’d made it safely to his first campsite. Since then, day by day, I’ve worried progressively less. In fact, I agree with my daughter: his journey is awesome, especially since he bought this motorcycle only last summer, hasn’t ridden in decades, and turned 74 this April.  

Sirius, my chow/Aussie mix

Sirius, my chow/Aussie mix

When we met in 1973, he kept a motorcycle garaged in his storefront in Little Italy near my SoHo loft, but it was in need of repair and I never saw him ride it. (My first husband had a BMW, and I rode with him around downstate New York. We didn’t wear helmets back then, and he crashed the bike soon after we broke up, but that’s another story.) 

So is he crazy to take this journey? Our friends seem equally divided. Some think it’s crazy; others think it’s cool. Many share tales about motorcycle mishaps that befell friends or family. On the lawn at SPAC last Sunday, chatting during the break between the Wallflowers and Tom Petty, I told a man about my husband’s trip, and he told me about the Kawasaki Ninja he rode until he totaled it. Yes, he was badly hurt, and no, he hasn’t ridden since. 

But all in all, as my husband says, “If not now, when?” I’ll turn 72 next month, and I still downhill ski. He used to warn me that was too dangerous at my age, but obviously that argument is no longer valid. 

I was going to tell you about my own adventures while my hubby’s away, but I’ll save that for my next post. I know I’ve been away from this blog for ages, but my new novel will be out by the time Bouchercon rolls into Albany in September, so I’m back with a vengeance. Please leave comments and subscribe, so I’ll know you’re out there. 

And now, I’m off to hunt for a new swim suit at the sales at Boscov’s and Macy’s. That’s what I call REALLY scary!

Lunesta loves mice!

Lunesta loves mice!