Discover Prompts – Day 22: Tempo

Today is April 24, the day after Shakespeare’s birth and death days. I’m almost caught up with Discover Prompts! This entry is for day 22, the word “tempo.”

I see a theme, musical notes in my life and across these prompts. I also studied Latin in college and grad school.

Tempo – time, the rate at which a passage of music is played.

Tempo flies when having fun.

I have to work really hard to keep accurate time when playing the piano. A metronome helps, but not much. My fingers don’t want to do follow along.

I don’t dance either, not well, so not at all. I think there is truth to the idea of rhythm and old white guys. Got none.

But I can study tempo, and time, and with attention, I can write sentences that speed along with a grace of a galloping gazelle or I make my sentence stop short, bouncing with a quick trot, clippity-clop, like a horse slowing from a run.

The writers who best captured the rhythms of language that emphasized what they were writing about were both musical in their way. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is imbued with music, mostly jazz. The rhythms and cadences of his words mimic the jazz melodies he listened to while writing the book.

The other writer was Robert Penn Warren, a poet, who wrote the magnificent novel All the King’s Men. I read this novel as extra credit in graduate school. It’s big and long and difficult and dense and completely enthralling. At the opening, a car is speeding along the asphalt, and the tempo of the sentences matches the speed of the car as it goes over bumps and travels along.

I think a lot about time, which, of course, is related to tempo. But I think mostly about running out of time, about getting a late start, which is a worry, a rumination, which doesn’t help at all.

The metronome keeps tocking along. Relentless.

Tock tock tock tock tock . . . .

Discover Prompts: Day 18 – New

It’s April 23, Shakespeare’s birth and death days. I’m still a bit behind on Discover Prompts. Here’s an entry for Day 18 – New.

Every day, I grow more self-conscious about getting older. My skin is changing. My hair is thinning. My paunch is expanding, though it’s not big by most standards, big for me as a skinny guy. My eyes are worsening. And yet, inside, I still feel like a teenager. I still have stamina, good health, excitement in my bones to try new things.

“Old” and “new” – rivals, antonyms, though “young” could be a more exact antonym for old.

When I write, I always try for a new perspective, a way to see the world with fresh language. I’m a believer in the adage, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” It’s the treatment we give a subject that is new. I’m not a firm believer in that adage anymore. There are new things in the world. When I was younger, we didn’t have cell phones, or the internet, microwave ovens, or Kindles. There weren’t golden doodles, or designer cats, or reality television shows. I guess it depends on when you date such things from. The ideas for such things existed long before the physical manifestations of them stepped onto the world stage.

Everything old is new again. Ah the internet, such a treacherous beast. I’ve found this phrase attributed to the song writer Peter Allen and to Stephen King. Finding the etymological source of this phrase is tricky. But sometimes it’s the import of the phrase rather than its source that we must trust.

The first, the original, the source isn’t always the best, the everlasting, the fount of all knowledge. Old ideas are remade, become new, take on new life, new purposes, new goals, new prominence.

The peak of a mountain erodes, leaving an egg-shaped rock near the top. As its roots weaken, the egg falls and comes to rest in a new place. The original peak now has a new top. The original egg now holds a position of prominence in a new location. It is still the peak, though. If it has any lasting quality, it will remain the peak until it erodes into a fine dust, tossed into the upper atmosphere and blown through all the galaxy by the winds of space. Until then……… what once was, remains. What remains is ever new with each rise of the sun.

Discover Prompts: Day 17 – Distance

Today is April 23, Shakespeare’s birth and death days. I’m still catching up on Discover Prompts: Day 17 – Distance.

A couple days ago, I saw the word “distance” in Discover Prompts and immediately thought of the book, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe. I was working on a Ph.D. long ago and running into problems. My dissertation chair suggested the book to me. I don’t remember if I read it then, but at some other time I did read it. My mind travels back to that book occasionally. As I remember, the philosophy is to keep going, one step in front of the other. It’s lonely work, but it’s work that’s worth it.

I’ve never been much of a runner, but I understand stamina and taking a step, and another, and another. It seems that that’s all I’ve ever done. But then a chasm will appear. The path will end at a cliff, or a crack in the earth. I look down and it’s black, a long deep crevice. If I had been running, I would have missed it, would have run right into the hole, still churning my legs as I was propelled by the force of gravity down down down, still running, with my little jogging shorts and thin wicking t-shirt, and brightly accented running shoes. Or could I have, like a cartoon, run through the air and made it to the other side? The distance to the other side doesn’t seem that far, but it’s not jumpible. It’s impassable, a word so close to impossible. Some paths aren’t meant to be finished.

If I have any qualms at all about my writing, it’s achieving the necessary distance from real world events to be able to write about it. It’s been 15 years since the major events of the memoir I’m working on, 10 years for some of it, and 5 years for the rest, as if every 5 years, another impassable crevice stretches the crust of the earth, like a fresh hot cookie being pulled apart. I admire Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking so much, her ability to effectively obtain objective distance in the wake of unspeakable emotional pain. But then, she wrote the book, so it’s not unspeakable.

Come hell or high water, or impassable cracks in the earth’s crust, I will finish this memoir.

Discover Prompts: Day 16: Slow

Hello. This is April 23, Shakespeare’s Birth and Death days. I’m still a bit behind on Discover Prompts for April, but I’ll be caught up tomorrow. Root canals have a way of interrupting the daily flow. I make no excuses. Just the facts.

All my life, I’ve been a fast mover. I was very skinny most of my life, a bean pole. I had a high metabolism. I walked fast, faster than most. I hiked even faster. People in my family couldn’t really keep up with me, nor did they try. I jiggled my legs, always bouncing them on the balls of my feet, nervously. But I wasn’t nervous and I didn’t have ADHD or anything like that. I was on the go.

Recently, on hikes in the woods during this pandemic with the girlfriend and my Dachshund, Herman, I’ve noticed that I’ve lost a step. I go at it more slowly than ever. I’ve lost a step. But I prefer to go slow now. I can crank up the speed if need be, but I miss so much. My glasses fog up, my vision blurs, as if I’m in a race car.

When I slow, I can see things more clearly. I can see the trees sway and stop to listen to them creak. I can quiet my footsteps to listen to a bird twitter in the distance. I can catch a critter in the undergrowth. The other day I saw chipmunks playing in the dead leaves, coming out for spring.

The gf and I are matched well as far as speed, though she walks faster than I do. I’ve not met many people who do. She’s also a great deal younger so she doesn’t quite have that “stop and smell the roses” perspective that I’m developing. For her, there will be time.

Before our walk on the trails of Westwoods in Guilford the other day, we stepped across the road to look at the Canadian geese lying in the plowed fields along Bishops Pond, we saw a turtle crossing the road. It was about the size of my hand with a smooth black shell, yellow stripes on its neck and some red dots on its head. As we approached to take a picture, it slowed and pulled into its shell a bit and then stopped. It was almost across the road. We pulled back and held our breaths, cheering for it under our breaths to move forward to get off the roadway so as not to get hit by a car. By our measures, it was a slow-mover. By its own, it was probably racing across the road. I don’t think of turtles as especially fast, but then, I’m not a turtle myself.

Most days now I feel as if I’m racing toward the finish line. The days go by fast, and I don’t get enough done. That’s what comes of starting late. By night, I have done work. Some of it may last. Others will not. As always, it’s all work in progress. And yet, at some point, I have to call it done. The slow accretion of details, of form and substance, has to be called done so I can move on to the next task. There is still so much to do.

Right now, I’ll take it slow, pace myself, see the details I missed before, the red dots on a turtle’s head, the alertness of the geese in the field, their invisible radius always turned on, the striped chipmunks playing tag in the dead leaves. The sprint for the finish lay yet ahead.

Discover Prompts: Day 15 – Scent

Today is Earth Day, April 22. I’m still catching up on Discover Prompts for April. Day 15 prompt is the word “scent.”

I’ve never really had a stronger sniffer. I can smell okay, but it just wasn’t overpowering. For a long time, I smoked and I grew up in a smoke-filled house, so that dulled my sense of smell. It’s been 15 years since I’ve quit smoking, so if I were to regain some sense of smell, I would have noticed by now. I’m intrigued that people are losing their senses of smell with the novel coronavirus.

My little Dachshund, Herman, almost 1 1/2 years old, has a strong nose. I had some recent tooth problems. He likes to look at my mouth and almost put his nose inside. He sniffed out the problem with my tooth long before I had to make an emergency appointment for a root canal.

In graduate school, I wrote a long treatise on the word “nose,” following all the metaphorical and sexual suggestiveness of phrases and characters throughout a wide-variety of material. Scent obviously played a strong role in the idea of “nose.”

But when I think of scent, I think of two movies – A Scent of a Woman, in which Al Pacino won an Oscar, not one of my favorite movies but a memorable role for a remarkable actor. And i also think of the movie, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, a less well-known movie but one that sticks with me like a fly on stink. If you haven’t seen Perfume, put it on your short list. It’s set in 18th-century Paris among the competitive business of perfumery shops. An orphan with an extraordinary sense of smell seeks out scents. As he grows up, he becomes obsessed with the scent of a woman. And he does everything he can to capture that scent. The colors of the film are muted but also bright and alive when the scents are described. It’s almost as if the colors are used to heighten our awareness of what smells we’d be encountering in the world of the film.

I usually have a good nose for news and movies, so sniff out this scent on your local streaming service and sit down for a scentsational treat.

Discover Prompts: Day 14 – “Book”

Today is Earth Day, April 22. I’m a bit behind on Discover Prompts. This entry is for the word “book.”

I spent most of my life pursuing advanced degrees in English literature, English language, and linguistics, as well as teaching college English.

So books are like basic building blocks in my life. I read every day. I feel them between my fingers. I speed through words on my Kindle. I browse catalogs for new ones. I dream of the books I’ll never get to write.

But for this entry, I want to focus on the use of the word “book” as a verb, as in, “Let’s book!” Or “Let’s book it!”

You can “book” a flight, “book” an entertainer for a gig, you can even “book end” a discussion. But it’s “book it” that fascinates me. Zora Neal Hurston uses the phrase “bookity-book” in her writing from the 1930s, meaning to run away quickly. So “book it” could derive from that and was fashionable in the 1970s.

But “book it” may also be related to “boogie” as in “Let’s Boogie!” which could mean “let’s dance” but also “let’s get out of here.” “Boogity Boogity” is a catch phrase of Darrel Waltrip who used it to colorfully announce the start of NASCAR races. Waltrip borrowed it from the famous ’70s song “The Streak” in which Ray Stevens says “Boogity Boogity Boogity.”

As with many slang phrases, the word got shortened and we were left with “Book it” meaning to depart quickly.

Let’s put a bookmark in this discussion and bring it up another time. Right now, I’ve got to book.

Discover Prompts: Day 13 – Teach

I’m a bit behind in Discover Prompts. Day 13 is the word “Teach.” Today is April 22 – Earth Day.

I’ve always taken exception to the phrase, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I came by the teaching profession almost by accident. But I later realized I had been a teacher most of my life already.

To pay for graduate school, I took a Teaching Assistantship. Our TAs weren’t like in other disciplines, student helpers for a Professor. We had full charge of our classrooms, including syllabus development, rules, assignments, conferencing with students and grading papers. We did have some guidelines to follow, such as having to assign so many papers per term and meet requirements for a common final exam.

I was extremely shy at the time, but I understood English and writing and had a knack for learning. So I learned that I could prep any material handed to me and present it to an audience. But then teaching took on a life of its own for me. Rather than work towards a graduate degree in English for what reason, to be a writer? to work in publishing? I began to pursue knowledge of literature and the field of English to teach – to share my love of literature, writing, and the world of letters with others.

My students responded, most of them well. As with many teachers, I’ve had my share of bad apples, of students who were predisposed to be unhappy regardless of the circumstances of their classes. I was not a good teacher for those who didn’t want to be there, though I could motivate good work. Those I motivated were already predisposed to want to work, so the hard work of motivation – the crank starting of desire to learn – was already activated. I merely helped the student move forward with each step they took.

After 25 years of teaching, I decided it was time to do something else. I spent 25 years as a teaching assistant or an Adjunct college professor, mostly for in-person classes, but also online for the last 6 years of teaching. An active 17 year career in web development made transitioning to teaching online easy for me. I was always a techie. For a while, I sought full-time work in community colleges, but I never landed a job. I also had a life outside of teaching, and as an adjunct, I had no contract and thus did not make much money, so I never really got time off in the summers. Year after year, grading ground me down, and I got slower and slower at it. I needed a break.

Now that I haven’t taught for a year, the first time in 25 years, I see my slavery for what it was. But I’m proud to have been a teacher. In my heart, I will always be a teacher. Not everyone can teach, just like not everyone can write well. But one thing I learned from teaching is that anyone can learn to write. To learn to write, you must write. To learn to teach, you must teach.

So let’s change that phrase: “Those who can learn, can do anything. Those who won’t learn, will be slaves.”

Discover Prompts: Day 12 – The “light” of day

It’s Earth Day, April 22. Happy Earth Day to everyone. (I’m a bit behind on Discover Prompts, so here goes to catching up. Day 12 – Light)

It’s easy to get lost in the fog of uncertainty and routine. Especially now. Day after day drifts into one another like linked train cars following, being pulled along with no chance to say “no,” no chance to put on brakes, to put up a fuss, to stomp in heels and stop forward motion. Time is relentless that way. Tick tick tick tick tick tick……ever onward.

So when the slightest change to the day occurs, I try to be present for the moment, to see something new in the sameness.

I’ve never been an early riser, though I’ve suffered from insomnia for the past 2 years. The move from west to east, I think, has thrown my internal clock into alarm. Or somewhere deep inside I could be aware of a more cosmic clock ticking louder, the hands moving relentlessly forward. Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick….. with so much left undone.

One morning, I got up just after 5:00, set coffee to brew, and sat at my desk with two open windows in front of me, shades pulled up. I live on the 6th floor of a downtown apartment building in New Haven. My apartment building is shaped like a block letter U, with windows facing 300 degrees NW. The apartments on the other side of the hall face the street. My windows face the interior of the building so I see the other arm or leg of the U across the way, reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Weather travels north to south in this area, so clouds skitter above the buildings diagonally, from upper right to lower left in line of sight.

This is all to say that I have no direct view of the sun coming up, nor the sun going down at night. If it’s clear, I get a brief burst of sunlight in the afternoon coming through the windows.

On this particular morning, sitting with my coffee, steam rising from the cup like in a television commercial, desk neatly arranged, I sat and watched the clouds slowly moving. The bottoms were gray, light gray, not heavy with rain, and the middles were white. The tops of the clouds were just slightly pinkish, like fresh cotton candy. And I realized what I was seeing was the light of sunrise.

Every day I’m reminded that I can see what’s not there if I just look. I see love in her eyes. I see adoration in the way my puppy curls and sleeps against me. I can see the day’s promise, naturally stoic and neutral, fraught with the dangers of disease as well as the sun’s life-giving warmth, in the simple changing light against the side of the brick building in front of me, sometimes glaring and bright and other times more suffused, the sun blocked by clouds behind me, out of sight.

I can see what’s not there, if I just look.

Discover Prompts: Day 11 – Bite.

I had braces for 5 years. I got braces (and glasses) during the first week of my senior year in high school (rah!). The braces straightened my teeth but did nothing for my bite. Try as we might (aggressive retainer, palate expander, rubber bands rubber bands rubber bands), we could never correct the cross-bite.

I say “we” because dental and orthodonture work is a collaborative venture between doctor and patient. I should say “he” because despite his fancy office and degrees, he didn’t fix my bite! I did all that was asked of me.

So when I came down with TMJ disorder, he pulled out all the stops to get me appointments and set up consultations with doctors and surgeons to avoid getting sued.

Since I was 21 years old (35 years now), I’ve suffered from a bad jaw, due to a horrible cross-bite. Sometimes I don’t realize how chronic the pain is. I can’t just eat foods. I have to plan what I’m going to eat so as not to set my jaw off. I spent 10 years post-surgery starting when I was 22 eating a no-chew diet of soft foods. The surgeon did arthroscopic surgery to clean out the joint. In doing so, they cleaned out the fluid and the debris and discovered that my discs were mangled, all corroded and wrinkled like an 80 year olds, with holds in them. I can only imagine what they look like now, if they’re even still there, given all the popping and cracking and POPPING and CRACKING that they do constantly.

The surgeon said that the surgery would last 10 years, and true to that, 10 years to the day of the surgery, my jaw popped/cracked big again. It was 10 years of eating soft foods, practically drinking my food. I finally said “enough!” and I started eating what I want and managing my symptoms.

On top of all of that, I was part of a study of TMJ during the 80s and 90s, and after 7 years, they finally published their article: they concluded that the surgeries that so many people had gotten were no longer advisable. TMJ problems, for the majority of cases, could be resolved with physical therapy and behavior modification. Thanks. Thanks a lot, guys.

But I’m not here today to discuss my bite, but that of my first dog, Tippy, a mutt that we got for free in front of the grocery store when I was 3 or 4 or 5 years old. Tippy was my dog (the other kids had a brown curly haired dog named Chipper. Tippy was half Pekingese and half Cocker Spaniel. She was black except for a while flash on her chest and a white tip on the end of her tail. She had the most severe underbite I had ever seen in a dog. Her bottom jaw stuck out and showed constantly. She wasn’t pretty, but I loved her and she loved me. She would lick me all over and would race around the house with zoomies when I played with her.

The rest of the family tolerated Tippy. She got fat through her life and she was a barker. If someone knocked on the door, she would keep up a ruckus until my dad yelled at her to stop. He’d take a step toward her and she’d run, a result of too many newspaper swats on the butt to shut her up. We had one particularly loud set of friends, the Guilmettes, and Tippy did not like Colin Guilmette. When they visited, Tippy would bark and bark and bark, even when we put her into the back bedroom. When my dad scolded her, she would get back at him by jumping on their bed and peeing in the middle of it.

My aunt lived with us for a while and she thought Tippy was a hoot. She used a phrased, “You can’t teach a dog new tricks,” which I didn’t really know, which set me off when Tippy was about 8 years old to teach her new tricks. I taught her to roll over on command and to sit. I was probably inspired watching my brother train his new Golden Retriever.

I came home from school one day and saw my mom sobbing uncontrollably on the phone, so much so that I thought my dad had died. Chipper was floating on his side in the swimming pool, dead. He was old and blind and mostly deaf. He wasn’t too steady anymore. It’s likely he had a heart attack and fell in the pool. But of course, my family decided that Tippy pushed him in and that’s the story that stuck. I had to pull the stiffened corpse of Chipper from the pool and wrap him in an old woolen blanket so we could dispose of him.

Most of the time when I played with Tippy, I got right down on the ground and wrestled with her. My aunt Marilynn also loved Tippy, and Tippy would give her lots of affection too. My friends would all see me get down on the ground to get kisses from Tippy. They wanted to do the same. But she would stiffen up when they got down on the ground with her. And it happened, again, and again, and again.

Tippy would go on to bite every single one of my friends in the face. She wouldn’t break skin, but she would snap and create a lot of noise and there’d be a raspberry red mark on their cheek. It would happen so quickly. And with that Pekingese underbite of hers, it was like watching the Alien monster snap suddenly, all teeth and horrorshow. I tried to see what caused it. Once I saw that one of my friends put his hand down on her tail as he was lowering himself to her, and that set her off. But I don’t think each of my friends did that exact same thing. In all, she bit about dozen of my friends in the face. But never me. Tippy had nothing but kisses for me.

I was away at school when Tippy’s time came. She grew fatter and fatter, though she was always able to climb up on our old white couch in the den and get her matted black dog hair everywhere. Finally, her back legs gave out and she began soiling herself. She always became matted on her back legs, and Dad and I would have to hold her down and cut the mats out. For such a smallish dog, she was hairier than most any dog I’ve ever seen.

My dad called me one morning and said that he had to take Tippy to the vet. She couldn’t walk and she couldn’t control her bowels anymore.

Other than a mouse and probably some carnival goldfish and other family pets (cats, litter after litter of feral kittens, turtles, and Chipper), Tippy was the first pet of mine that died, the first pet who slept in the same bed with me, who rolled on the floor with me, and who licked me uncontrollably and zoomed around the house with joy when I played with her. I’ll never forget that ugly mug. And all those bites. No wonder those friends never kept in touch.

Discover Prompts Day 10 – Orchestrate: Eastward, Ho!

I once taught a class called “Road Trip!” with an exclamation trip. It was a sophomore-level introduction to literature course focused on the journey as metaphor. On the reading list was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, a book that I really don’t like very much. The other works featured road trips of a kind, starting with the archetypal road trip, Homer’s The Odyssey, which served as a framework for the class. Other works on the list included fragments from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Nabokov’s Lolita, Hunter S. Thomson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and some others, including L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz for extra credit. The class seated 35 students, but on the first day, 125 students showed up hoping to crash the class. Upon seeing the syllabus, maybe half of the students departed, which left a good many still disappointed as I was forced to cut off enrollment at 35.

The class attracted wannabe Beat generation and granola types. They knew more about Kerouc and Thompson and the beats than I ever cared to, so I was able to put them in charge of delivering the content for that part of the course. I did my homework, of course, and led them to some ideas about the books that they hadn’t considered as well. The class was so popular that I was approved to teach it a second time.

At the conclusion of the course, I gave out evaluations asking the students which reading we did that they liked the best. Almost universally, they responded that they enjoyed Homer’s The Odyssey the best. Obviously we read it in translation. But I was surprised by that choice, considering their preference for Beat generation-type writings. The classics resonate with people timelessly for so many reasons, which is one of the definitions that make them classics.

So I know a thing or two about Road Trips! with an exclamation point in the abstract and in art. But I’ve also taken a great many road trips in my life, especially cross-country, or cross half the country and back. In August 2018, my girlfriend and I moved from San Diego, California to New Haven, CT with her mom accompanying us. We filled two cars to the roofs, with a luggage carrier on top of the one, and a week (plus) to make the trip.

We had several months to plan, so that made everything easier. I sold almost everything I could, donating things that wouldn’t sell, and practiced loading the car a couple of times to make sure everything would fit. I would have to drive my Toyota Rav4 by myself because my small SUV was full, including the passenger’s seat. The girlfriend’s Toyota Corolla was filled but they kept space in the front seats for the two of them to ride comfortably. For some reason my girlfriend’s mom wanted to do most of the driving.

Of course, to orchestrate this monumental move, everything had to come off without a hitch. As I said, we had months to plan and practiced packing and had everything worked out. The girlfriend’s mom would arrive the day before our trip and we would finish packing that day and then head out bright and early in the morning on August 10. I would have my last day of work on August 8, giving me the 9th to pack and clean, and then we’d hit the road. My girlfriend could clean out her shared apartment and stay with me for a couple of days so we would only have to wash down the one bedroom on the morning of August 10th before we headed out, having reduced everything to our change of clothes for the driving day and a blow up mattress. We even had a AAA Trip-Tik, and a plan as to where to stop each day, including some sight seeing destinations (St. Louis Arch, Niagara Falls) and a visit to my distant relatives and the girlfriend’s friend, who were both coincidentally in Ashtabula, Ohio. Our lists were crossed off, and everything went very smoothly . . . until it didn’t.

I’m not a believer in multi-tasking. Neurologically, we must perform one thing after another, even if our brains allow us to do those things very quickly. But it’s still one thing, then another, then another. Of course, when you get multiple people involved, you can do many things at the same time, just like an orchestra can play multiple lines of music on different instruments simultaneously, sometimes in harmony, sometimes dissonantly.

On August 1, I got sick. I had a pimple in my nose. I thought it was on the surface and tried to express it. But it was deeper. And it became very sore and inflamed, and then my nose swelled, like a clown’s or a TV drunk’s. And it was incredibly painful. It was also oozing a bit. I was working at a deli counter at a grocery store, so I couldn’t work with that ailment. I thought I would just let it do its thing for a day or two, rest up, finishing up the packing that I could, and it would clear up. But it kept getting worse.

At the time, I was also nursing a sore thumb, which I thought I might have hurt at work, but I wasn’t certain about that. My work was steady so I never got enough time off to see if some rest would improve my thumb. It was a sore spot under the webbing in the fleshy part of my thumb, a little bump under there, and it was also incredibly painful each time I went to cut a sandwich. I looked forward to some rest so the thumb could improve prior to our trip.

My nose got worse and worse. It was the most pain I had ever had. I didn’t really have access to a doctor at the time, and with moving, had no real time. I also had no medicine. I went to the emergency room. I sat there for 6 hours and when they finally saw me, they took a few tests, said there wasn’t really anything they could do, and they said to take some Tylenol and some antibiotics and rest. But the pain got worse. By the next day, the pain was excruciating, and I went back. I sat in the emergency waiting room again for 6 hours. This time they said, “well, it’s a MRSA infection, and that antibiotic we gave you won’t work. Here’s another medicine to take.” They still hadn’t given me anything for the pain. Finally, they gave me some hydrocodone and some extra strength motrin. My nose felt like a big red balloon. They tried to express it, but that didn’t work, so they stuck a needle into the end of my nose three times! I cried and held the girlfriend’s hand through that excruciating procedure. The aspiration amounted to nothing. There was nothing there though it felt like it. It was just that damn MRSA having its party. I learned that MRSA – the dangerous kind – is actually present in most of our bodies. It’s the same MRSA that leads to dangerous infections in hospitals. All I knew is I needed MRSA to stop the party. I had moving to do.

Over the next couple of days, the medicine took effect and I began to improve. It was nearing my last day of work, and I had missed almost a week of my last week. When I woke up on August 7, after a week off work, I couldn’t move my thumb. It wouldn’t bend. It had completely stiffened up. I thought maybe there was a reaction with the medicine. And then I figured out that this really was a work injury, but I was running out of time as I was quitting that job. I called my boss, told her about the MRSA, and then told her about my thumb. She was peeved that I hadn’t told her about my thumb injury sooner, but she understood when I explained to her what it was like. So now I had to file for workman’s comp, and see a slew of doctors on the last two days I was going to be in town.

So in those last two days, between packing boxes, helping my girlfriend pack the last of her things and clean her apartment, and cleaning my apartment, I had to juggle doctors appointments for two ailments – my thumb, now a workman’s comp claim, and my nose. My nose had cleared up and the doctor’s were encouraged that it would heal normally and not come back, though I had to practically bathe in Hibiclens, a surgical scrub – a 4% chlorhexidine gluconate solution.

As for my thumb, they got me in to an orthopedist immediately, who diagnosed a trigger finger (the second one I ever had). At this point, when I tried to bend my thumb, I couldn’t, though once in a while I could and it would pop or snap or click as if the tendon was getting stuck and then gave way. I was given a brace so as not to click it, and had to drive across country with the brace on my wrist and also had to do exercises for my thumb.

The last two days were filled with doctor’s appointments, 4 to be precise, cleaning my apartment, packing the cars, and resting. I don’t tbink I got to bed until almost midnight, the night before I left San Diego for good at some way too early time in the morning to beat Friday rush-hour traffic.

I’ve had much practice orchestrating other moves or multi-event work functions, so all of my practice came in handy when faced with these obstacles to our well-made plans.

Our cross-country drive went well, though we got tired and had to be less aggressive with miles made per day near the end of the trip. Moving into a 6th floor apartment in August humidity without a service elevator was another unforeseen obstacle – exhausting and sweaty.

As a final note, my nose completely healed, though now I suffer from a kind of trauma whenever my nose itches inside. I clean it with hibiclens as a preventative. No more MRSA outbreaks for me, thankyouverymuch! My thumb, however, was much more problematic. It took me many months to get authorization from the California worker’s comp office to see a physical therapist and then orthopedist. I went to PT, and he claimed it just needed stretching and exercise. The brace they put on it was counterintuitive to what the PT guy thought should be. It needed exercise, not stability. So off came the wrist and thumb braces. But still I couldn’t bend it properly. The orthopedist gave me two cortisone shots that did nothing. So we spent three months trying to get approval for a small surgery to cut the ligament so the bump could pass through and improve the movement range of my thumb. As soon as we got the approvals, which were good for 6 months, I scheduled the surgery, but then I was out of work and finally found a temporary job, which I couldn’t leave because the surgery would keep me out for 2 weeks. The temporary job was very physical and required me to use my hands (moving books) in a different way than at the deli counter. The exercise actually improved my thumb, and though my surgery approval passed without the doctor ever even reaching out to reschedule, I didn’t need the surgery anymore because I’ve regained 95% of my thumb movement and reduced the pain to almost nothing.

At the end, the orchestra plays those final notes, all together – Da-Dummmm! And there is rest. And applause.