Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Guy on the Third Floor

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” – William Shakespeare

I’ve been home from the hospital for 8 days now and I have to confess this new year is getting old real fast.

While I’m trying to accept the fact that I’m a virtual prisoner in my own home, I took some solace in the fact that I was reasonably healthy.

I have a walker, a cane, and a grabber, a little mechanical claw that I use to pick up the mail and anything else that might be out of reach.

Going to the bathroom when you can’t bend your knees is a bit of a challenge—I’ll spare you the details—but I’m managing.

And it’s not like I have nothing to do with my time. I thought that I’d take advantage of my forced imprisonment by taking a run at my creative to-do list.

I’m working on my next book project, organizing my notes on an idea for a TV pilot, and reviewing the draft of a screenplay I finished last year.

And the weather has been so harsh lately that I figured I’m not missing much. If you’re going to be stuck in your apartment for weeks on end, it might as well be during the dead of winter.

But all that positive energy went straight to hell on Thursday when an apparent allergy attack turned into a full-on plague complete with a fever and hacking cough.

Slings and Arrows

I’ll be honest with you: this situation sucks monkey balls. I’m really depressed. I can’t work out, I can’t even go for a walk.

My poor sister is running around like a loon doing my shopping and picking up my laundry. Avoiding illness was one of the few things between me and full on lunacy.

I’ve been so crabby and negative in the last few days even I can’t believe it. All these awful memories and negative emotions have been ricocheting around my mind like buckshot in a blender.

I haven’t done any writing or reading in days. I just stretch out in bed, switch on NPR, and turn off my brain.

Things got a bit dicey on Friday when I seriously considered going to the doctor. Of course, I just can’t pick up and go, thanks to these leg braces I’ve been forced to wear.


First, I’d have to get down the stairs, then somehow get into a car—an action I haven’t quite figured out yet—get to the doctor, and then get back home.

And if the doctor writes me a prescription, that means I have to stop off at the drug store, get back into the car, and get home.

Apparently, there are doctors who actually do house calls, but I held off and today I’m feeling marginally better. But I’m still depressed.

Okay, I just got out of hospital, which is a breeding ground for disease. And I’m in a weakened state due to the surgery and thus open to all kinds of nasty germs.

But I was hoping for a break, as if the surgery and lengthy recovery period was enough grief for the moment. It sounds ridiculous now that I say it aloud. There are no guarantees in this life and expecting things to magically go your way only opens the door to a lot more heartache.

I’m going to give myself another day or two to feel better and then I’ll get back to work.

I hate being laid up, but I’m not going to give up.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Home Again, Home Again

I slept in my own bed last night for the first time in nearly a month.

It felt strange not having a nurse walk in at 5AM looking to take my vitals or make me swallow a handful of pills.

I didn’t have to listen to my roommate’s television blaring out quiz shows, infomercials, and football player interviews at all hours of the day and night, and I didn’t have to suffer through the pre-dawn shrieks of “Help! Help! Help!” from that crazy old bastard across the hall.

There are no more daily rehab classes with those wonderful people in the gym, no more hospital meals, and no more blood tests. And I don’t have to wear those hospital gowns anymore.

That’s all behind me, God willing, and now my rehab begins at home.

I came out the hospital on Saturday the same way I went in—riding in the back of an ambulance. The two lovely crew members rolled me out into the blistering cold weather—my first taste of outside air in weeks--loaded me up into the bus, and zipped over to my street.

The only view I had of the world during the ride was through a pair of caduceus-branded rear windows. Lots of snow out there.

I live in a three-story walk-up and I got the chance to practice the stair-climbing technique the rehab staff taught me during my stay. It went pretty well, if I say so myself, except for one misstep near the top. And the ambulance people were right on top of me at the first sign of trouble.

“I know you’re going to get better,” one of them said on the way out.

This Tired Old Body

My apartment is frozen in time, virtually untouched since December 14, the day I wrecked both my knees after a pair of falls in the snow.

I’m still wearing the massive braces my doctor first put on my legs after the surgery and I have to see him in three weeks where—I hope—he’ll open them up 45 degrees. I’m praying that by spring I’ll be able to sit down and walk normally.

I’m can’t leave my house now, given the hideous weather and my constricted condition. My poor sister is running around town doing all the simple tasks I used to do for myself, like shopping and dropping off the laundry.


I have to do everything in slow motion--getting up, sitting down, walking around the apartment—things I once did without thinking now require planning and extreme care.

I’m still wearing my yellow hospital bracelet that tags me as a “Fall Risk.”

Going to the bathroom is a challenge when you can’t bend your knees and I have to skip the shower in favor of a body wash at the sink since I can’t get these braces wet.

I’m trying not to do the “Poor Me” routine, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been screaming at my computer all morning in response to several failed attempts to log onto my bank account. I suspect that some of my neighbors would’ve preferred I stayed in the hospital.

I’m trying to remind myself that there are people in much worse shape than I am, including several folks I saw nearly every day at the rehab gym. Anger and self-pity will only slow me down, but those sons-of-bitches are so hard to resist.

I have a lot to do going forward, but right now I’ll focus on the immortal words of John Denver and remind myself that, hey, it’s good to be back home again.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of Seventeen

When David Cassidy died in November the last thing he said before he left this world was “so much wasted time.”

Those words came back to me today as I sit in the hospital lounge waiting for 2017 to end.

The new year will start in a few hours, and while I won’t be doing much to celebrate, at least I can take stock of my life.

Since my movements are so severely restricted, I’ve been taking a closer look at what goes on in my brain and I don’t particularly like it.

I spent far too much time regurgitating the awful past in a wasted effort to rewrite my personal history. I’ve said this many times before, but I have yet to learn the lesson.

Now that I am not running around like a lunatic, I can see just how much time I’m wasting tilting at the windmills in my mind.

So I think my New Year’s resolution for 2018 is going to be very simple: stop wasting time.

I have lost a lot of time due to this accident and I will be spending most of the new year just trying to get back to where I was before the snow hit the fan.

I don’t have much say in this physical recovery, but at least I can train my mind to avoid all of these traps and pitfalls that I set up for myself.

I really can’t afford to waste any more energy on things that have already happened. I just don‘t have that luxury.

This accident has really taught me that your life can change in an instant, so whatever big plans you have, start acting on them immediately.

I am literally learning how to walk again; first with a walker and now a cane. This seems like the perfect time to rethink my thinking.

I am not making any grand pronouncements, or looking to make sweeping changes. I just want to adjust my thought patterns so that I am looking forward with hope instead of staring down to the gutter with despair.

I will be leaving rehab soon and going home. I will need to focus my energy on maintaining a safe environment, since I won’t be able to bend my knees for the next several weeks.

It will be challenging, it will be difficult, and I know in my heart it’s going to suck big time.

But I will do my best to stay focused on my recovery instead of my condition. I’m going to stop wasting time.

Happy new year.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

If Only in My Dreams

I have this dream where I get out of bed, walk to the bathroom and start my day.

And then I realize that my legs are wrapped up in braces following the knee surgery and I can’t walk anywhere.

I will definitely not be home for Christmas this year, as I will be in the hospital rehab center for God knows how long.

After that I have to find a way of living in my apartment without moving my knees, and maybe six months from now, when it’s spring, I’m might be able to walk.

I’m trying to keep a positive attitude about all this, but I confess it’s very difficult.

My doctor says it’ll be 18 months before I’ll be able to go jogging, which means my boxing class, the one I love so much, is out of the question.

The thing about the boxing class is that it’s more than just a tough work out. There are so many great people in the class, and I probably won’t be seeing a lot of them again.

There’s also my fabulous writing class, which is meeting again in February but I can’t go if I can’t walk upstairs.

I know this sounds like whining and ingratitude, but I’m having a hard time handling all this grief at once.

I’m trying to find some lesson in all of this. something beyond “this really sucks.”

I’m grateful that the accident wasn’t more serious and I’m very grateful indeed for my wonderful family, especially my sister, who has been an absolute saint during this entire ordeal.

I guess I’m a little shocked at the length of the recovery time and how long it will take me to do the most basic simple things, the stuff I took for granted a week ago.

I’ve never spent Christmas in the hospital before, so this will be quite an experience.

All the holiday movies and specials mean nothing to me now since I can’t participate in any of the festivities.

But there are so many more people were so much worse off that I have no right to complain. It’s just that I’m so good at complaining!

I’m going to be a different person by the time this is over, and I want to be a better one. Kinder, more patient—the things I talk about but rarely deliver on.

I’m obsessed about going to the gym and being in shape, well I think this is a message to slow down and find other things in life.

I fret that I don’t have enough time write, but it looks like I’ll have plenty of time now.

The first thing is to enjoy Christmas. My dear sister and auntie will be coming here tomorrow to visit me and we’ll try to muddle through somehow.

And to everyone else, have a great holiday and a wonderful New Year.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bees Knees

I’ll keep this short.

I am writing to you from my hospital room in Sunset Park Brooklyn. Yes, my hospital room.

On Thursday as I was coming home from the gym I slipped on some snow and cracked up my left knee.

I was in total agony and I called a cab to take me home. While getting out of the cab and walking to my front door I managed to fall and screw up my right knee as well


I am in total agony and I still can’t believe this has happened.

I just got out of surgery a few hours ago and I have a long road of recovery ahead of me. I am frightened, I’m worried about the future and I’m worried about my health.

This wasn’t my plan to spend Christmas, but like the man says if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans.

I missed my writing class and our class reading today. I can’t tell you how unhappy this makes me.

I can forget about the gym for quite a while—it looks like probably six months or more but if I come out in good shape I’ll be thankful. But right now I’m miserable.

Blogging is going to be a little spotty as I go through rehab but I’ll keep you posted as best I can.

Happy freaking holidays.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Deep in Your Heart

“Is this going to upset me?” I asked my TV the other night.

Naturally my TV didn’t answer. It’s a smart TV, but it ain’t that smart. No matter.

I was gearing up for yet another crying fit as I watched a commercial—a goddamn commercial!—about an abandoned teddy bear looking to be loved.

“Oh, yes, it is!” I shouted to no one, and began sobbing.

I forgot what product was being peddled in this ad, but it doesn’t take much to get me reaching for the tissues.

I don’t know if it’s age or lunacy, but I find that I’m getting tear-eyed at the slightest emotional prodding. If someone ever starts a group “Shameless Weepers Anonymous,” I will gladly sign up.

While I’ve always been overly sensitive, lately I’ve been balling my eyes out at absolutely anything. And I wonder if there’s a part of me that looks for something to get emotional about just to get the weepy release.

Recently I came across a stray memory of a short film that ran on Saturday Night Live 30 years ago called “Love is a Dream,” that starred Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks.

The film was directed by Tom Schiller, who made some hilarious short films for SNL, including “La Dolce Gilda,” “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and “Java Junkie.”

However, Schiller took a break from comedy with “Love is a Dream” and created a beautiful, touching piece of work.

Hard to Explain, Just How You Feel

The film opens in black and white as an elderly woman enters a bank on a cold winter day, walks by an old security guard and removes a tiara from a safety deposit box.

The moment she puts it on her head, the film shifts to color, and a handsome, young soldier steps forward and dances with her as they lip synch a song set to Straus’ “Emperor Waltz” from a Bing Crosby film by the same name.


The dance ends, the soldier disappears, and Jan Hooks returns to being an old woman again.

She puts away her crown and as she leaves, the aging security guard turns and we see it’s Phil Hartman who gives her a little salute.

The film is touching enough on its own, but the emotional wallop gets cranked up one hundredfold when you factor in the shockingly untimely deaths of the two wonderful leads.

I recently tried to describe the film to my sister and auntie, but I started blubbering five seconds into the story.

My sister and auntie have suffered through my bawling scenes for years now and they saw this one coming.

“Don’t start crying,” my auntie said to no avail.

When the women in your family are getting fed up with your sob stories, you know there’s something wrong with you.

Now that the holidays are upon us, I’m sure I’ll be wailing my way through all of my favorite yuletide classics, like Scrooge, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Mousehole Cat.

Are they going to upset me? You damn right they are, and I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Rand Old Time

As the lights dimmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Friday night, the man sitting next to me leaned in my direction.

“See you in four hours,” he whispered.

And with that we settle in for the BAM’s mammoth adaptation of Ayn Rand’s turgid potboiler
The Fountainhead.

Two days have gone by and I still don’t know how the hell I feel, but after suffering through this thing I feel like somebody owes me either an apology or an explanation, but I’ll settle for a t-shirt.

For the record, I despise Rand and her crackpot views on individualism with a passion.

She peddles a particularly virulent strain of horseshit that magically makes mythic figures out of self-centered, money-grubbing assholes, which explains why Paul Ryan, Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican scumbags jizz their shorts at the mere mention of her name.

In addition to being a five-star fraud, Rand, who is also responsible for that other literary slagheap, Atlas Shrugged, is a terrible writer who deposited reams of mind-numbing prose on a defenseless world.

I never thought I’d have anything to do with her, but then the BAM announced back in September that the incredibly talented director Ivo van Hove would be mounting a production of Rand’s story of renegade architect Howard Roark making his way through a world full of pesky humans.

My family and I had the pleasure of seeing van Hove’s brilliant staging of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and The Crucible and his adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s Network is currently lighting up the London stage.

The guy’s vision is so original, so outrageous that his name alone is enough to have me lining me up at the box office. The gentleman with whom I had been speaking at the start of the show was also a big fan.

Ivo, Ivo, It's Off to Work We Go

And van Hove didn’t disappoint. The production is stunning and van Hove employs all kinds of wild effects, including video screens that give us aerial views of the action. If I were making a recommendation solely on stagecraft, I’d be telling everyone I know to hightail it down to the BAM with all due haste.

But it’s still Ayn Rand and I’m still somewhat perplexed that such a talented director would waste his gifts breathing life into such shockingly substandard material. The characters are little more than clunky hand puppets who exist solely to spew Rand’s rancid ravings.


It’s like having Luciano Pavarotti sing “99 Bottles of Beer of the Wall.” Yeah, I’m sure he could do it, but why in God’s name would he want to?

In an interview, van Hove said he liked the book “because it asks the question of the essence of creation,” but other writers have asked the same question with much better results.

I’ve been having trouble lately with my knees as they start hurting if I sit for too long, and “too long” is the optimum phrase for this event.

When intermission finally arrived, I got up for some much-needed relief and when I returned I found that my companion and his lady friend had vacated the premises, leaving me alone with Ayn Rand. I guess even Ivo couldn’t keep them in their seats.

Things went to hell quickly in the second half of the show. I alternated between nodding off and wishing someone in the theater would pull the fire alarm.

The monstrosity finally ends four hours and change later with the hero standing on the stage and giving a lengthy harangue about the pursuit of happiness. The only happiness I wanted to pursue was getting the hell out of here.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, I’m still a van Hove fan and while I’m glad I experienced this, I wouldn’t want to do it again. I said the same thing after getting a colonoscopy, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

Now where’s my t-shirt?