December 30, 2020
Spent four days over Christmas in hospital with a dangerous cellulitis infection. Unnerving at my age, surrounded by masked and gowned intensive-care workers, much of their speech unintelligible behind cloth and transparent plastic face shields. And all too aware patients elsewhere in the building faced their own mortality from the plague.
Home now, oral antibiotics supplanting broad-spectrum IVs. Feeling as if I dodged a bullet. Speaking of dodging bullets, one of my nurses did two tours in Afghanistan before he called it quits. Another was a huge Richard Burton fan, as I learned watching The Spy Who Came in From The Cold one night; we had a good long chat about Burton’s various star turns. One young ER doc was clearly stressed and distracted as I waited hours for a hospital room. A seasoned older nurse broke protocol to whisper cut him some slack; he’s dealing with a dying man next door — maybe his first one.
So 2020 lurches toward its close. Many will be happy to see it gone, I suspect. Pain levels finally reduced to manageable, healing occurring, having escaped blood infection, I find myself in a kind of limbo. Sleep a while. Sit up a while. Finally able to type unrestricted by IV tubes and repeated blood draws, and no way to adjust the hospital table for ease of use. Try to answer correspondence.
Just before the infection exploded, I received a sort of Christmas present to myself: a company digitized a collection of my old 35mm slides. Images unseen for over thirty years. Some surprising, some instantly remembered. Family, various states of residence, expatriate life in Nassau long ago.
And my first transcontinental road trip, the year my 47-year-old son was about to be born. Reassurance, even if sand is running out in my hourglass, I’ve had a life.
That was the year I quit my stressful East Coast non-writing job, to migrate to the Pacific Northwest and start over. Since this will be my 1,000th post in the forum, I thought why not post a couple? Which led to a memoir about my then-wife and I preparing for a first transcontinental road trip. An excerpt:
Getting Ready to Go
1973 — The June weather in Tallahassee reminded me of a whimsical poem about God offering the Devil Texas as an alternative to Hell — and the Devil turning it down. Not even the Devil deserved Tallahassee. Horrendous thunderstorms followed one another like alien artillery barrages, quick and violent, rattling and blasting and flooding the countryside. Between assaults the land lay soft and dazed in merciless heat and humidity.
AC blasting, we thinned the astonishing amount of paper accumulated in my brother’s trailer in under a year and culled our conjoined library, a painful process since we both loved books. Paring weight before calling a mover, calculating how much to load in the truck and my new trailer-boat.
Chloe was working out her notice at the office she managed. I submitted my union resignation with a final accounting of expenses. Said I would work out a two-week notice in the Tallahassee office if they wished. They didn’t. Promptly paid my final expense voucher in full. Maybe they were as glad to be rid of me as I was to be rid of them. At about seven months pregnant, the humidity exhausted Chloe. But she was quietly exuberant our child would be born in the Northwest…
She held up a yellow legal pad. “Are these notes important? They mention Sunset Boulevard rain, so they must be from LA. But Superfly was a movie wasn’t it? Aren’t Borsalino hats Italian?” She handed me the pad. “You said it rained when you saw Deliverance on Sunset, that time we saw Jeremiah Johnson when I was there on the way to Seattle. But you never told me much about LA toward the end…”
I had been at the Hollywood Hometown Newsstand when I saw the Superfly clone in a Borsalino hat. “I was thinking about an LA novel when I wrote these,” I said. “I was halfway through the Ross MacDonald detective stories and started re-reading Chandler. I thought rain on Sunset would make a good first chapter.”
“You haven’t written a lot since Nassau. It’s good you’re thinking about writing again.”
I told her that’s all I did — think about it. This zoot-suited character in the hat was buying a magazine at the Hometown Newsstand. Some Hare Krishnas across Sunset lined up and started dancing and chanting in the rain. He ran right through the traffic and danced next to them: the old soft-shoe, a jazz version of their orange bed-sheet shuffle. He was a better dancer — very loose and elegant.
“Oh, I like that image!” she said. “You’re sure the story is gone?”
“Dead on arrival. If I ever write about LA someday, maybe I can use it then….”