ALMOST NORMAL (Not for the squeamish)

blood

The first time I bled was almost two months ago when we spent a weekend at my friend Ezra’s cottage in Rockaway Beach. I’d forgotten my Surgilube™, and inserted the catheter the doctor had told me to use dry. The next morning when I peed I bled. It was very disheartening.
The blood stopped the next day, and I forgot about it.
Later that week I had a Cystoscopy, where the good doctor inserted a camera through my penis to “Have a look around.” It’s always fascinating to look at the inside of my body. He showed me the two little holes in the bladder that lead to the kidneys.
“Here’s the left one, here’s the right one.” OK, doctor.
So I started bleeding A LOT a few days later, due to the damage done by the Cystoscopy.
“Sorry about that,” the doctor offered when I went to talk to him about the upcoming operation.
It’s called a TURP, where a little rotary type tool is inserted into the prostate to remove “material,” opening up the urethra more for a better flow, which was my problem. Poor flow, not emptying my bladder, etc., all the symptoms of BPH.
I had the operation on August 15th, just about a month ago.
It was a great success; I was surprised at the improvement of the flow.
There was blood; of course, my urine was a deep pink right after the operation.
I was advised to take it easy for a couple of weeks, no work, no sex, no heavy lifting.
I felt fine, I though I could lift whatever weight I usually lift. I felt stupid when we went to Maine and Danusia insisted on carrying our suitcases down the stairs, and when our host Charlene insisted on carrying them up the stairs at their home.
I did some work when we got back from Maine, after all I was let go from my job just days before my operation and I have bills to pay, so I did some free-lance handyman work. I didn’t think it was too strenuous, some sanding and painting. Re-plastering a big hole in a ceiling. Nothing extreme.
The blood would stop and the blood would start again the next day.
After having sex for the first time after waiting two weeks something changed, it was as if I hadn’t had the operation at all.
My flow was weak again, and my bladder wasn’t holding much. I had the urge to go almost constantly. Blood one day, gone the next.
That all changed last Wednesday.
I had painted a friend’s ceiling, and I don’t consider painting a big strain. But while I was there, I used the toilet before I left and bled real red blood. Not pink, but bright red almost pure blood. I hoped for the best and went to Fairway to pick up some groceries on my way home.
I was alone, Danusia had gone to a MOTH Mainstage and drinks after.
I made dinner, ate, and watched TV.
I went to the bathroom around 9 for the first time since I’d gone when I got home at 7, when the pee was pretty clear and I’d already forgotten about the earlier blood incident.
This time there was a tremendous flow, like a dam had burst, but it was thick, red blood, with a lot of solid clots coming out.
Now I was afraid. Nothing like the sight of blood leaving your body to scare you.
I cleaned up the toilet and drank a big glass of water. I figured I had to flush out.
All this time I was wondering what was happening inside, how does an inner injury heal? Would there be a scab? Swelling?
I kept imagining that I was bleeding to death inside.
Ten minutes later I got a really intense pain in my groin, and when I tried to pee I could only squeeze out a thick, solid blood clot and that was it. I was totally blocked.
I got dressed and called 911. I texted Danusia I was on my way to the hospital.
The EMTs got there in about 10 minutes, and by that time I was doubled up from the constant pain. I was sweating and shaking.
I was able to walk, and I figured we’d get down faster if I walked, so we got down to the ambulance.
It took a little while for the guy to check my ID and get the go ahead to take me to the VA Hospital emergency room.
“We’re good to go,” he announced to his partner who was driving.
It was a 20 –minute trip down to 23rd street, and I didn’t even get the siren.
When we got to the emergency room it didn’t seem very busy, but a nurse announced I should have a seat because they were busy.
“Where’s the bathroom!” I managed to croak out. The nurse pointed and I ran.
“Wait!” The EMT guy said. “They might want a specimen.”
They did and the nurse handed me a specimen bottle.
I went into the bathroom and managed to squeeze and ounce of pure blood into their specimen bottle.
“Where do I put this?” I asked approaching the nurse’s station. Her eyes got really wide when she saw it.
“OK, let’s get him inside,” she said. There’s nothing like blood to galvanize people into action.
She tried to insert a catheter, but the blood was so thick it clogged up.
The urologist on call showed up and took over.
He started to pump me out, shooting saline solution into the bladder and drawing it out through the catheter. After a half hour and 5000 MLs, he announced he was going to have to admit me.
By then Danusia had shown up.
He’d inserted a drain bag, and he’d gotten out enough of the clots that the pain was beginning to subside.
“The team will see you in the morning.”
I lay in the emergency room for another hour as the arrangements were made. I told Danusia she should go around 1 AM.
It was a rough night, every time the drain bag filled up it would back up and start the intense pain again. I slept for 5 intermittent hours.
The Team came in the morning and started an irrigation drip.
The team consisted of Dr. Katz, the guy who’d done the Cystoscopy, Dr. Syan, a woman I’d only spoken to on the phone before, and the redheaded hipster doctor who’d done the actual TURP. There was a young doctor I’d never seen before that just watched.
The irrigation did not work, and when they came back on afternoon rounds I was flushed out again, enduring almost unbearable pain. Dr. Katz got the honors as Dr. Syan filled the syringes with saline and emptied them.
“You’re doing great,” Dr. Katz would say every time I let out a strangled groan while writhing in pain, gripping the bed frame with all my might. That was what Dr. Mung had said the night before in the emergency room. I figured they were taught that, like I was taught in the army that you told a guy he was going to be OK when administering first aid even if you knew he was a goner.
After 15 minutes the blood stopped.
Lucky for me the flow remained clear until the next day, when the team arrived to announce that if stayed clear I could go home in the afternoon.
A couple of people came to see me, Ezra, Jenny, a woman named Karen I know that works at the hospital. Danusia, of course. As luck would have it I was alone, I didn’t have to deal with the guy I had after the operation who couldn’t make a sentence without using the word “fuck” at least twice.
The team arrived sometime around four.
“It looks good.” Dr. Syan announced. Dr. Syan is a very pretty Indian woman in her late 20s. They were all kids.
“You feel like going home?” Dr. Katz asked.
“You bet your ass I do,” I said.
“You can go, but you have to leave the catheter in.” Dr. Syan announced.
This had been an issue after the operation; they wanted me to wear an indwelling catheter and a collection bag for a few days. I wasn’t going up on stage in Maine wearing a collection bag. I had a wedding to go to on Saturday, but there’ll be other weddings.
“OK.” I said. Dr. Me in gown smiled a triumphant little smile.
“Come back Monday and we’ll take it out.”
I can’t wait for tomorrow, Monday.

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FAHR’N FAHR’N FAHR’N

kraftwerk-12-3-2013

One thing I didn’t mention in my Maine blog post was that I was able to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time as a licensed driver.
When we went out to Enterprise near LaGuardia airport I was really excited to take my wallet out, extract my DRIVER LICENSE and gently (and sort of ceremoniously) lay it down on the counter with a satisfying little snap in front of Tyrell, the young man who was handling our rental.
There were a bunch of people, mostly couples who had taken the Enterprise free shuttle from the terminals looking to rent cars, but Tyrell informed them that if they didn’t have a reservation they weren’t getting a car.
We of course had a reservation made from the comfort of our Harlem apartment.

maine

We got a car with Maine plates already! Sorry about the finger.

We left the next day, Friday. We picked up Danusia’s niece Kasia and her husband Charles, and stopped off at the enterprise on Thompson Street to add Charles as a driver. And then we were off.
Danusia took us out of the city and through most of Connecticut, where we stopped for lunch and then Charles took over. That made sense, since we were going to Charles’ childhood home and he certainly knew the way better than any of us. It was a ten-hour drive including lunch and a few rest stops.

horse

Horse with buttplug somewhere in New Hampshire.

I finally got to go behind the wheel the next morning with a trip to downtown Cornish for bagels and bananas. I can’t live without my morning banana. The bagel was in lieu of my regular oatmeal-almond-chia ginger superfood breakfast.
We got eggs and salmon too.

old car

Not our car. But nice, huh?

It was pretty easy, Charles had given us directions, and since there is only one main road the only question is where to turn on our way back.
The speed limit was low, 25 in town and 40 on the other roads, and traffic was not too bad. We found the shopping center with ease and I made my first across a lane turn. I parked in-between the painted lines in the lot. We got our groceries and I pulled out into traffic nicely and headed home.
“Just tell me when to turn,” I said to Danusia. I’m usually the navigator, now it was her turn. We missed the turn. I wanted to do a U-turn, or a three-point turn, but there was too much traffic. I found a motel and pulled in so I could turn around.
My signal was on, I was looking both ways, and when the time was right, I stepped on the gas. A little too hard, I guess; because the car suddenly shot forward and fishtailed a bit before I got it turned onto the proper lane and headed home. I was partially on dirt and partially on macadam; I think that was the problem.
“Oh my god! What are you doing?” Danusia shouted. I had scared the shit out of my wife for the first time.
“It’s ok, relax,” I said as I found the right turn and headed back to the house.
The next day I drove with Charles, who took my unconventional driving skills in stride.
I managed to scare Danusia again the next day when we went for cider apple doughnuts only to find out it was a sign telling you the cider apple doughnuts were 2 miles down the road.
The day we left I got to drive us to the apple cider doughnut place, and even got to swerve around some foreign object on the road I thought was an animal.
It’s a little disconcerting driving on winding roads where you’re not sure what’s around the next bend.

apple cider
After the doughnuts Charles took us out of Maine and through New Hampshire. Drove pretty much most of the way back to New York.
We had the car for a couple of more days, Danusia got a great deal for a week.
I suggested we drive out to my friend Ezra’s cottage in the Rockaways for the night, and go to the beach on Wednesday before returning the car. We could drive across the Van Wyck and take the bus to Manhattan from there.
But first, when we retrieved the car from the lot we’d left it in Monday night, I wanted to drive to Fairway on 133rd Street. I got down there ok, but when we got to the store a one-way sign confused me. I thought I could go around from the street I was on, but then Danusia asked, “Do you really want to get on the Henry Hudson?” And I was suddenly on the Henry Hudson. The dreaded highway. With Danusia’s guidance, and I’m grateful she didn’t start yelling when I made the mistake, I drove to the first exit, 158th street. Back to square one.
I got off the exit a little too fast, and driving up 158th Street I hit a really big pothole that shook the car and caused Danusia to yell again.
“That’s it! Get out of the car, I’m driving.” I pulled over and we switched seats.

beach

I wanted to take the car to the Riis park parking lot and tear around in it at night when it’s empty like I did with Ezra last year. But we got to the cottage too late and just ate and went to bed.
I was psyched to be driving to the beach the next day, and did pretty good until I almost ate a light on the Shore parkway.
“Red light! Red light! Red light!” I checked in the mirror to see if there was anyone close before giving the brake a steady push. I managed to stop before the second crosswalk line.
Then I was confronted with the Marine Park Bridge, but this time I made sure I didn’t get on by accident.
We didn’t want to pay the $10 to park at Riis, so we drove around till we found a spot on Beach 141st Street.
After the beach I drove us back to the cottage, and managed to park in the driveway without hitting anything.
I can’t wait till we rent another car.

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THE CALL OF THE CHEESE

cheese

A couple of months ago I noticed my Friends Jenny and Ezra had lost some weight. Not that they were over weight, but age tends to thicken us up and Jenny and Ezra are no exception, to those of us of a certain age.
I am no exception either, and even though I can still squeeze into my last remaining piece of army uniform, a fatigue shirt, the operative word is squeeze…
It’s a constant struggle for me, but as one who once topped the scales at 287 pounds on a 5’9” frame I’m grateful not to break 200 pounds any day.
I did get down to 170 about 16 years ago, but that was what I called “the divorce diet,” which meant I’d lost my appetite (at least for a while) and simply stopped eating.
But things got better and I worked at dealing with my emotions and gradually the weight has crept back up. About four years ago I went up to 207 pounds and started to panic. My pants did not fit and I was on the verge of going back up a size.
I cut out my favorite snack, peanut butter and raisins. I cut back on the second favorite, hummus and Xochil corn chips, which I had every day when I got home from work. I started exercising vigorously again, well as vigorous as a 58 year old can get, and I got to 189. My goal was 180, because 170 was just plain undoable unless I stopped eating altogether yet again.
So for the last four years I go from 190 to 195 and back, much to my frustration.
When I saw Jenny and Ezra and their probably 10 pound weight loss, I asked how they did it.
“We cut out the dairy. No cheese, no milk.”
I put half and half in my coffee every morning, but that’s like a few drops (I like my coffee dark) less than an ounce a day. I use 2% milk in my cereal that I have for breakfast every morning, so that’s not a big deal.
The big deal is CHEESE.

woodpecker

Even birds like fat.

I love cheese; I can just sit back and munch on an 8 oz. bar of sharp cheddar any minute of the day, especially in front of the TV.
Then of course there’s gouda, mozzarella with basil and tomatoes, pepper jack on a refried bean sandwich, (I make the best refries…) red Leicester on anything, cheeseburgers, you get the idea.
Speaking of cheeseburgers, after that weigh in four years ago and after a co-worker referred to me as “chubby,” I stopped having meat with every meal.
Sometimes I don’t have any meat at all. (Including fish.)
That helped, I noticed a difference right away.
But the cheese remained the same.
I also started this thing four years ago of drinking hot apple cider vinegar (diluted of course) every morning. Eating raw sauerkraut. Cutting out gluten.
The hot apple vinegar was too much of a pain in the ass, so I cut that out. But I love raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut. I eat it with a fork out of its container sometimes. The gluten is a tough one, bread comes into our lives in varying degrees from time to time.
Being in the hospital a couple of weeks ago was an interesting experience, I’m getting the guts up to write about that- I’m going to have to call it “Not For The Squeamish” or something like that, brought forth a few facts about the state of my health.
I was diabetic those many years ago when I topped the scales at 287; at one point my blood sugar was 600. The doctor said he had no idea how I was walking around.
Two Tuesdays ago, while I lay in the hospital bed waiting for the doctor to remove my catheter a nurse came in to measure my blood sugar. It was 87.
“87! That’s too low,” she declared. She left the room and came back with a small carton of orange juice.
“Drink this,” she said.
Once, during that summer of 2000 when I stopped eating I measured my blood sugar and it was 50. No wonder I felt dizzy.
My blood pressure was low as well. Normally my BP is 110/70, and that’s low for a 62-year-old man. A friend who is a nurse once took my BP for fun and said I had the blood pressure of a 19-year old. That was heartening.
So even though my prostate is enlarged and I weigh more than I’d like, I’m in pretty good health. So I’m grateful for that.
I told Danusia about Jenny and Ezra and the cheese, and I’ll have to say Danusia loves her cheese too. But she’s game to give it a try.
We went to Maine last week, and our Hosts, the Lovely Charlene and her husband John don’t eat meat, so that was taken care of. There was haddock and lobster though. And cheese, though not necessarily together.
The cheese was in the eggs we had for breakfast, so we cheated on the cheese restriction. It was wonderful.

bee and egg

And speaking of gluten, one cannot go to Maine and not enjoy an apple cider doughnut.

apple cider

It takes work not to let myself go, and sometimes I resent it.
I resent it when I feel the pain of doing crunches and push-ups in the morning. I resent it when a wonderful piece of cheese is on sale at Whole Foods.
I was in Whole Foods the other day when they put out free samples of their “in-house” pizza.
That was wonderful too.
I guess it’s all about moderation, and moderation is not an easy thing to stick to.
But I’ll keep trying, and I’ll stick to the occasional free sample to satisfy my cheese craving.

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FRIENDLY RIVER MUSIC

music store

It was in the planning stages for almost two years, our trip to Maine.
We were invited almost two years ago by Charles’ mother Charlene to come up and tell stories.
More specifically, she wanted Danusia to do her one woman show, Wonderbread, but Danusia said that Wonderbread has run it’s life and it’s time to move on.
Drawing from her MOTH experience Danusia re-wrote the whole thing, or rather wrote a whole new piece sans props, prompts, and acting. She boiled it down to raw storytelling.
Charles’ dad passed away last year, just days before we were to leave for Maine.
That event led to the postponement of the show. I was supposed to tell a story as well, the nominal opening act.
We had a year to work on it, and Danusia worked very hard at it. She had an hour to fill. I had ten, fifteen minutes at the most, so I didn’t really need a lot of rehearsal.
Charles Hall is Danusia’s niece Kasia’s husband, so he is sort of my nephew-in-law.
Our first night there, Charlene, the matriarch of the Hall clan declared us in-laws; more specifically Danusia is a sister-in law. I guess I’m in there somewhere, honorary Yankee for a day. Or two.

Charlene and Charles

The beautiful Charlene and son Charles, my faux-nephew.

The Friendly River Music Barn is normally a music venue, but Charlene wanted to try something new after hearing about what a wonderfully engaging performer Danusia is. She’d heard about me from Charles, who has seen me do the Moth and a reading at the KGB bar on East 4th Street some years ago.
To round out the evening and not jar the regular clientele too much, there was a fellow named Sean and his daughter Hannah Lee to play some actual music on guitars.
They were very nice, standard sort of Rockabilly from Sean and folk-pop from Hannah Lee. They left right after their set because an early commitment the next day.

sean

Sean

After a short intermission where the guests drank beer, wine, and ate pies we were on.
Charlene had opened the evening, introducing everybody who was performing, but she told me after intermission it was up to me to bring Danusia on. She had mentioned we were from New York, but I got up on stage and did a bit on being a Brooklyn boy despite being born in Mexico. It went over really well.

me on stage
I was able to ad-lib and riff on the Maine audience without forgetting any of the lines in my two stories.
Then I introduced the star of the show, my lovely wife Danusia. She was great as always, but because I had to run the slide show from behind the screen, I didn’t get to watch her. That was our only concession to theatrics; projecting some images Danusia had picked on a screen behind us. Mine was of an old mug shot like picture, which was apropos since I was telling a crime story.
It was a lot of fun, Danusia was wonderful as always and the crowd was pleased.

d screen

The next day we kayaked down the Osipee River with Charles at the helm, leading the Hall-Trevino expedition.
The river was low and we had to drag the kayaks over rocks for a good bit of time. I also capsized at one point when I hit a big rock that turned me sideways just in time for Danusia’s niece Kasia to slam into me (she was in an inner tube blissfully unaware she was fast approaching me because she was looking backwards) sending me into the water and filling my kayak with water. Charles came to the rescue and we were able to right the kayak and empty the water out of it. I don’t know what I’d have done it I’d been alone.
Charles also had to rescue Danusia, who was wiped out by a low hanging branch. I managed to catch the branch before I suffered the same fate.

In all Charles’ prediction of a 2 and a half hour trip was half shy of the mark, I emerged from the water behind the barn five hours after we started, and twenty minutes before anyone else. I was exhausted. It didn’t affect my surgery at all, despite all of the fuss.
Charlene and her husband John were wonderful hosts, feeding us and giving us a spare room for the three nights we were there, as well as providing some stimulating conversation.
We’re looking forward to our next trip up.

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ANESTHESIA

In one of my favorite movies, Andy Griffith as Airman Will Stockdale tells his commanding officer that the latrine he’s cleaned is as clean
“As the operatin’ room where they’re fixin’ntfs to cut out your heart.”
And for the past month or so that’s all I can think of, how clean the operating room will be.
Of course, I’m not having my heart cut out, just a part of me cored out like an apple.

Apple_Corer

That’s a TV reference from somewhere, I can’t think of where right now but if you get it drop me a line.
About 5 weeks ago I went to the VA hospital urologist, I haven’t been to one since mine retired and then I lost my medical insurance, and it was getting harder and harder to sleep through the night so I felt it was time.
The clock in the waiting room was permanently stuck at 9:17. I wondered if they took the battery out so you wouldn’t wonder how long you’d been in the waiting room.
I wasn’t there too much past 8AM before the doctor saw me. After a quick sonogram and peeing into the “flow-meter” the doctor told me she was disappointed with my flow and the amount of urine in my bladder.
“You’re not emptying your bladder completely,” she scolded. I’ve heard this before, and it made me wonder if scolding 101 is in the med student’s curriculum. It wasn’t so much the words, but the pouty face she made, just like my first urologist, the small and dapper Dr. Yuvienco when he told me I wasn’t empting my bladder.
“You have a half liter of urine in your bladder, I can’t let you go home like that…”
Now I really felt like a naughty boy, headed for detention. I was glad I had a crossword with me.
The Doctor’s solution was to send me to another room where a nurse taught me to use a catheter. I’ll spare you the details.
She also scheduled me for a cystoscopy, a kidney sonogram, chest x-ray and blood and urine work.

amsure-red-rubber-male-urethral-catheters-16-565186-MEDIUM_0

I went home with my new supply of catheters, a big brown box marked plainly
CATHETERS and a tube of Surgilube. If anyone on the subway noticed, they didn’t say.

fougera-surgilube-flip-top-tube-4-25-oz-5

I’ll also spare you my new adventures with that new device, if I decide to write a blog dedicated to medical procedure I’ll be sure to let you all know.
Those are quite popular, I have a friend who when I urged her to read my blog said, “I only read cancer blogs…” She has kidney problems.
Four weeks ago I went for the cyscoptopy.
After sitting in the 9:17 clock waiting room for a half hour a nurse handed me two hospital gowns, hospital footwear (those half socks with rubber dots on the soles for traction) and a towel. I was instructed to don these things (one gown open in the back, the other one in front) and put my clothing in a locker. Then I sat back down to wait on the cold hard plastic waiting room chair. You don’t know how cold something is until you’ve sat on it sans pants.
I was taken into a sterile room where the nurse asked me to lay down on a bed and then proceeded to bathe most of my privates with a generous dose of iodine, it felt like a whole bottle of iodine and then I realized why I was toting around a towel.
The clock on this wall was stuck at 12:03. On this one there was movement, the second hand kept bouncing off the 12, never getting past it. I was beginning to wonder if this was hospital policy.
The Doctor came in, this time a different one, a man. I’d already talked to him when he’d explained the procedure.
He donned scrubs, washed his hands and the assisting nurse put his mask, gloves and goggles on for him. My wife Danusia calls them gargles, by the way. Very cute.
I’ve had a colonoscopy before, so I was prepared with what the doctor was going to share with me on the monitor.
It was a pretty painful experience, and again I’ll spare the details, but I’ll have to say looking at your own bladder and enlarged prostate is quite an experience. I didn’t believe the amount of “stuff” floating around in my insides.
The prognosis was that I should have an operation. The suggestion was to remove the prostate altogether, but memories of my dad’s results made me balk.
The other option is the coring option, and the doctor assured me I would not end up incontinent or impotent. Very important to me.
The other option was to use catheters four times a day for the rest of my life.
He gave me a week to think about it.
Three weeks ago I consented, and this Monday the 22nd it will happen. So wish me luck.
I’ve never been anesthetized, except by my own hand and that doesn’t count; so this is a little scary.
I had a sinus operation when I was 17, which was an experience with two young residents pounding away with a chisel through my maxilla. I was awake because as a Medicaid patient I didn’t rate anesthesia.
I’m glad that as a veteran I do.

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MAN BUN WITH BEARD

walky

I love my new neighborhood. Well, maybe not so new, in September we’ll be signing our second lease; but it still feels new and different.
It’s very green. The other day I was walking to the subway to go to work in a light rain and walked by the Convent garden in the 152nd Street/ St. Nicholas / Covent Avenue triangle. The trees from the garden meet the trees planted along the curb on St. Nick and form a small covered arch over the sidewalk. Nice.
I wrote a blog when we moved up here two years ago about all the hills and churches. There is also a proliferation of hair salons/barbershops.
I’ll get into that in another post, but it’s worth a mention since I’m writing about hair, hairstyles, and grooming.
I work with a bunch of young men who ALL wear some form of facial hair or another. Only one has what would be considered a full beard, I like to think of him as little Rasputin, since he has smoldering eyes as well as a full beard.
Maybe he should be Svengali?

svengali
Anyway, I once mentioned to a friend about the varying lengths of beard, ranging from a two-day growth to an almost-there look and I wondered aloud how they did that.
“Oh, you can get an electric razor with a “stubble trimmer,” so you can have a two day to a ten day stubble look.”
Oh is right, I thought.

best-stubble-trimmer1-237x300
I wore a mustache for most of my young life, deciding when I was 47 to get rid of it, and I don’t miss it. Made me look like some 70s undercover NYPD cop. I’ve been clean-shaven for some 15 years now, and I like it.
One of the reasons I don’t want facial hair is that I am going grey from the bottom up. So even though my head of hair is still black, from my temples down the hair is mostly grey.
Since no one at work shaves, I’ve taken to shaving every other day, and sometimes I’ll let it go for three days. But by day three I start to look like someone on the verge of developing delirium tremens and shave it off.
It feels good, I am blessed with some pretty smooth and youthful looking skin, and I look younger shaved.
The kids I work with look pretty cool with all their facial hair. Most of them get regular haircuts, no hippies here. The hair is of varying lengths, but nobody wears it down to their shoulders.
The last time I got a haircut I got almost sidewalls with a little hair on the top. It was too extreme for Jack, the most senior of the young men at 33.
“You look like you’re going to war.” He said. He doesn’t know the half of it.
What I am grateful for is that despite the fact that they all live in the latest hipster enclaves, (Red Hook, Bushwick, Crown Heights) none of them has a MAN BUN.

Dude-with-man-bun-and-beard

Dude!

I would have a hard time keeping a straight face talking to a guy with a man bun and beard. If you want to be a Samurai, go to Japan.
I guess it’s appealing to younger women, the whole almost wild look. I may look like a wild man, but I’m actually a commodities trader.
Anyway, to me it’s one of the comical manifestations of youth, right up there with pants falling down past your ass. That was a style born of jailhouse veterans, where you are not allowed a belt and get clothes that don’t fit properly.
But this about hair, not about clothing! I’ll write about weird clothing proclivities some other time.
I actually go to a barber; at least that’s what the proprietor calls it, a barbershop.
I get a hot eucalyptus-infused towel over my face after they cut my hair, and it feels good. One day I will treat myself to a shave with a straight razor.
Every time I go there I think about the barbershop my dad used to hang out in when I was a kid growing up on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. My dad would take me there to get his weekly trim and chat with the guys who were always there.
I often wondered about that, why were these guys always there? Did they get their haircut every day, like John Gotti? Other reasons, I suspect, one of them being loneliness.
One day one of the men brought a grey wooden shine box with him, and gave it to me.

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“Here kid, learn to make some money.”
So I had something to do at the barbershop, I was ten years old or so; I couldn’t shine shoes to save my life. My dad showed me how to do it, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Some of the men just gave me a quarter and used the shine box and shined their own shoes.
I had that shine box for years; it sat in the hallway closet of our apartment for years. I used it a bit when I started High School at Brooklyn Tech and wanted to look sharp. That lasted for a year until we had a dungaree strike at Tech and sneakers were the order of the day till I graduated.

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That 70s beard…

Sneakers and hair past my shoulders, and oh yeah, that 70s mustache. But never a man bun.

All pictures were downloaded from the Internet except for the top one, which I took in my neighborhood.

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SWIMMING IN THE RAIN

us – Version 2

Yesterday Danusia and I went out to Rockaway beach to take care of some business. It was something personal, so I won’t get into specifics, but here idea was to go out to the ocean for a swim and unwind from the process. That’s what I love about Danusia, the way she can take something mundane and make it a symbolic ritual.
We are lucky enough to have friends who own a house on Beach 98th street, and we were allowed to spend the night there after our ritual.
Getting out to Rockaway beach in the mid afternoon, the first order of business was to get some stuff to eat, so after dropping our stuff off we headed to the local shopping area ten or so blocks away to do so. As we were preparing to do this we noticed it was getting dark, and wondered if the sun had gone down behind the adjacent house when we heard the first rumble of thunder…

beach
Lighting storms and the flat expanse of a beach don’t mix, but hopefully it would pass quickly. We set off for the store in a fairly steady rain.
The beach crowd streamed to the subway stop down the block from us or queued up for the buses on Rockaway Beach Blvd. Others started filling up the local watering holes early. Sudden rain must mean really good business for those guys.
I had a little pink umbrella we’d found in the closet, and Danusia had a pink plastic poncho. We both wore flip-flops, not a great choice in rain. The wetness is no big deal, but the grit from the street mixes with the water and gets between your toes and under your soles, a distinctly unpleasant feeling; at least for me.
We made it to the Key Food on Beach 90th and got our supplies.
When we got back to the house there was a group of people setting up a birthday party right in front of our front door. My heart automatically sank. My friend had forgotten to mention he gave one of his employees use the space between the houses for his daughter’s birthday.
But we weren’t going to let this spoil our mission. After all, there were the “louts” as Jenny calls them from the other house next door, a house divided into rooms for rent occupied by SURFERS, white 20-somethings bent on drinking as much as possible and then talking and dancing as much as possible after a day of surfing…
The rain had abated somewhat, and a quick check of my weather app said the rain would pass soon, so we put on our swim outfits and headed to the beach.
The wonderful thing about the sudden downpour was that it cleared the beach of all but the stalwarts. It was still raining lightly, and there was an ominous stretch of dark somewhere over New Jersey just where the sky met the earth. But at least we could see it coming.
It wasn’t quite 5 PM and still plenty light so we could see where it was raining and where the sun was fighting to peek out in the distance. That’s the beautiful thing about the beach, you can see for miles and miles…
We found a fairly empty spot near a lifeguard as far away from the live band on the boardwalk as possible.
I’ve always hated the beach, I hate the sand on my feet and the cold water and I especially hate being knocked down by a wave and getting pulled under. But this was important, and I bravely waded into the rough seaweed filled water without hesitation hand in hand with Danusia.
After the initial shock the water was quite warm. The waves were pretty rough, so we waded out past the break line, or at least where most of the waves were breaking. We wave “hopped,” as Danusia likes to call it.
The rain continued, a little heavy at times, but hey, when you are wet you are wet, no? So what’s the difference? The good thing about staying three blocks from the bridge is you don’t need to bring much, so whatever we had, a couple of towels and our tops were fairly dry in the bag we had.

me at the beach
Normally I’m the one who punks out first, I start whining about leaving. But I realize now that it’s the sun that kills me on the beach, and there was no sun, just a steady drizzle on my head. I have to admit it felt a little strange. So this time it was Danusia that asked when I wanted to leave.
We spent almost an hour in the water, and though I was knocked down a couple of times I finally developed a technique where when I saw I was going to be swamped by a big wave I simply closed my eyes, put my fingers in my ears, and floated into the wave, letting it buoy me wherever for a few seconds. For a bad swimmer like me that’s afraid of the water, that was an accomplishment.
We walked back to the house wrapped in our towels, and waded through the crowd gathered for the birthday party.
With both air conditioners running at full blast and the TV on loud, we managed to shower and eat dinner without too much distraction. We dressed afterwards and headed back to the beach to watch the sunset.
The rain had stopped and the beach was now mostly empty. The sand was wet so not so uncomfortable under my feet. We found our favorite lifeguard chair, the same one we sat on last summer when we’d spent ten days here watching Ezra and Jenny’s cats.
Form our vantage point on the chair I noticed a bunch of ATVs roaring up and down the beach. A Sanitation truck was emptying the garbage cans on the perimeter of the beach.
A helmeted woman on an ATV in a parks department uniform stopped in front of our beach chair. With a grand sweep of an arm, she invited us to get the hell down from up there, thank you.

atv
We climbed down and Danusia borrowed a fresh trash bag from the closest trashcan and we sat on the edge of the high water line. We watched until the lights of the tree ATVs disappeared into the deepening darkness, then returned to our perch.

chair
We sat, we talked, and we watched the distant lightning over New Jersey. Somewhere on the horizon there were fireworks, and of course here and there the sun bled through thinner sections of clouds. At nine we went back to the house.
Since the rain stopped the parties on two sides of the house went on. The bedroom is upstairs, where the windows face the sides, so we took the TV up with us and knocked out 70% of the sound.
I left early Sunday; I had a prior commitment and felt I had to fulfill it. Thanks to my subway app I caught the 7:04 shuttle to Broad Channel. I crossed the bay in a mostly empty train and looked at Kennedy Airport. I hoped to see a plane taking off and wasn’t disappointed. A jet reached hard for the sky as we crossed the bay, and at that moment I felt really clean, a lot cleaner than I’ve felt in some time.

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