Archive for the ‘Dangerous Opinions’ Category

(lots of FREE street parking! EASY. Right off the405) Lots of talent, for one hour, in one room, for $10bucks. Ya just can’t beat it! See you there.

Mel Green will be joining Story Tellers Bruce Gray, Christine Blackburn, Pete Goldfinger, Michael Kass, Robbi Morgan Walberg, and music by Down Home Syndrome

Your Hosts- Lauri Fraser and Chris Pina Reservations 310-850-8814 or 310-622-2046

3815 Sawtelle Blvd. Culver City,90066 (Southwest corner of Venice and Sawtelle)

Can’t wait to see you!

Advertisements

My dog-walking outfit consists of a black glove on my right hand (the poop bag hand) and a black surgical face mask with the bio-hazard symbol etched in gray on the muzzle. When I saw it online I thought it had a certain outpatient chic. However, I’m concerned of the scare-factor for the general public: guy walking towards you, Bull Terrier, black glove, face mask—biohazard symbol—got your attention?

But I happen to live in Los Angeles just a few blocks from the Hollywood/Highland intersection with its hordes of sunburned tourists being shadowed by almost as many cartoon rubber heads, mascara-lidded Captain Jack Sparrows and Marilyns perspiring in their blonde wigs. Point being, in my hood, the mask/glove combo will likely be taken as a half-assed pass at doing a Michael J. If I wore sunglasses and the hat I could probably pick up a few bucks while getting the dog detail done.

Then I hear it. A leaf blower rounds the corner of a building preceded by a cloud of dust and debris made up of (at least in my imagination): the fecal droppings of a half-dozen species in various stages of  decomposition, used cotton swabs, wadded tissues, discarded band-aids and desiccated condoms. In short, a billowing cloud of infectious disease that will envelope me, travel my nasal passages into my lungs where it will take hold and infection will bloom. I’ll be hospitalized, treated with massive doses of antibiotics.  Then another, more resistant hospital-born super-bug will appear. After some astonishingly pricey I.Vs of experimental Hail Mary concoctions cooked-up by Pfizer, I will die. Death by leaf blower. I cross the street.

Such is the stuff of daily life after a routine blood panel revealed a disturbingly low white blood cell count. You know there’s a problem when your doctor calls you at home regarding your recent blood test.

“You should come back in and let’s re-do it,” he says in an alarmingly neutral tone. “Must be a mistake at the lab. Let’s run it again.”

“When?” You ask.

“Now,” he says.

You become dutiful—he’s the new sheriff. While you sit in front of him he goes over the results of your second test (from a different lab just to be sure). The results are identical. He picks up the phone, dials a hematologist (a personal friend of his) and elbows you an appointment in three hours. “You’ll be fine,” he says. “Sometimes people’s bone marrow just gives out. You have insurance.”

Bone marrow? I figured it would be heart or maybe liver or lung; something with the esophagus—a stroke perhaps? All conditions related to my addictive nature—those middle years of cocaine and vodka, the tumbler of rum & coke endlessly freshened, shots of tequila backed with a Marlboro Red.  Bone Marrow? Not even in dreams, but it does have a deep, bluesy resonance—after all, it’s down in your bones.

Dr. Sally is my kinda gal: horse pictures line her office; medium-length silver hair parted in the middle and she’s ready for work. She runs yet another blood test (in-house, she’s got her own robot-like machine which I will come to know very well over the following months).

“How do you feel?” she asks.

“Fine, except I’m sitting here in your office.”

“I would put you in the hospital, but I’m afraid you would get an infection.”

“Hospital? Really?”

“On a scale of 1-10, 10 being normal, your immune system is at a 2. You are at high-risk for infection. You need to go home, monitor your temperature every four hours. If you have any kind of fever you are to go immediately to the ER and give them this piece of paper (my paltry blood count). You are not to travel to any third-world countries, don’t eat sushi or deli; cancel your gym membership if you have one, no gardening and don’t pick up dog poop.”

Well, there goes India.  My wife, being a former Kathak dancer, sees India as her spiritual home. And then there’s our delayed honeymoon to Istanbul fading away. I manage a wry smile as I envision telling her, “But honey, the doctor says I can’t pick up his poop.”

It’s the Sushi directive that sends my spirits tumbling. In my heaven you’ll find me tucked at the quiet end of a sushi bar presided over by my own sushi chef for an endless round of Omakase so fresh and inventive it fairly wiggles as I pop each morsel of raw, bacteria laden fish into my mouth, followed by a sip of the most subtle of sakes and then the next tiny plate arrives … according to Dr. Sally, I may as well point a gun to my head and spin the cylinder before tugging the trigger. Hai!

It’s a long walk back to the car from Dr. Sally’s; I seem to be moving through a medium heavier than air. I’ve been here before emotionally, but fear always arrives looking fresh. When I was 14 my adoptive father informed me that my biological father was dying of Huntington’s disease, a genetic disease that would, in the case of juvenile onset, likely kill me before my thirtieth year. Obviously, I ducked that bullet. Anyone who has read my book Marker knows the story intimately. However, here I am at 61 and I get to experience it all over again—a variation anyway on my being at risk for an early death, but this time it’s no mistake.

Diagnosis: MDS (myleodysplastic syndrome) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myelodysplastic_syndrome

I’m in good company: Carl “billions and billions” Sagan, Roald Dahl, Susan Sontag and Nora Ephron all died from complications related to MDS.  If I got very busy or even desperately notorious, I would be unlikely to claim a comparable fame, but at least we’ll share a common line in our obits.

The Problem Is I’m Healthy.

MDS is asymptomatic—I have no sickness or any symptoms of illness. I was diagnosed after a routine blood panel—I was concerned about my cholesterol which is down. So I got that going for me.

From all outward and visible signs, you’d think I was healthy. In good shape even. Until I get sick and then I’m in for a bumpy ride. That is the illusion I’m living:  there is no pain, no visible wound, no seeping buboes. It makes it difficult to remember how truly vulnerable I am. There are bruises that appear occasionally from minor collisions with everyday objects and they are slow to go away. But other than that, there are simply no daily reminders staring back at me from the mirror … just the voice in my head when I see the pink-haired girl at the curry counter, who is not wearing sanitary plastic gloves, reach down and adjust her ankle sock around the fresh tat before she ladles up my order from the steam table—“Is she the one that will kill me?”

UP NEXT:

“My Bone Marrow Biopsy or Hey, Where Did Everyone Go?”

(lots of FREE street parking! EASY. Right off the405) Lots of talent, for one hour, in one room, for $10bucks. Ya just can’t beat it! See you there. Not for kids this month.

STORYTELLERS: Keith Blaney,  Loretta Fox, Mel Green, Michelle Joyner, Vicki Juditz  MUSICAL GUEST: Ali Handal

Your Hosts- Lauri Fraser and Chris Pina Reservations 310-850-8814 or 310-622-2046

3815 Sawtelle Blvd. Culver City,90066 (Southwest corner of Venice and Sawtelle)

Can’t wait to see you!

Q: Here we are again with author, raconteur Mel Green with some, should I call it investment “advice”?

A: Let me get this pill down and I’ll be right with you … there, all better.

Q: So much fear out there in the investment world, Mel. Housing is still going down, a volatile stock market, what does a regular American do with his or her money?

A: I chose the stock market. The exhilaration of watching a stock plummet from thirty dollars to two in a single day simply can’t compare with the long slow process of watching your real estate slip underwater like an armless child.

Q: I take it like so many others, you have lost money in the stock market.

A: Of course. That’s the point. Everyone has the wrong idea about making money in the stock market, “Oh, I want to get rich playing the market.” No, no. I use it as a way to protect myself.

Q: Really. How so?

A: I managed to get into the stock market when the DOW was well over 1400 …

Q: At its peak then?

A:  It’s called “timing”. I timed the market so I got in just at the very top right before the big crash.

Q: I’m sorry to hear that.

A: But it was brilliant! With the losses I have incurred I should never have to pay taxes until I’m well into my eighties.

Q: But don’t you have to actually make money to benefit from any tax breaks?

A: And I am well prepared should that occur. I consider these huge losses as a preemptive strike against any future profits.

Q: So you would advise people to get into the stock market regardless of the consequences?

A: Well, not now you moron. It’s dropped too low. Wait until it goes back up and then if you’re diligent … again—it’s timing.

Q: Certainly an original approach.

A: Not for everyone. You’ve got to have the right meds.  Pass me that other bottle would you …

Q: Do you see any investment opportunities other than the stock market?

A: I’ll be bidding on one of the old space shuttles soon to be offered on Ebay.

Q: Ah, envisioning a space museum of some sort?

A: No, douche bag. I am not envisioning a space museum. I think they got another trip left in them.

Q: Trip? You mean to the moon?

A: Of course to the moon, Alice! They got at least one, maybe two moon shots left in them.

Q: That’s a complicated undertaking. Wouldn’t you need NASA to do that?

A: Hell no. Gas the thing up, sell tickets to rich assholes, hire some bat-shit crazy pilot from the Reno Air Race to fly it. Toss in a case of champagne and some vomit bags and you’re good to go.

Q: But that seems so risky.

A: Exactly.

Q: There could be disastrous consequences to such an endeavor.

A: Only if it’s done right. Think of the losses: equipment, personal injury lawsuits, damage on the ground from a botched re-entry. The list boggles even the most medicated mind.

Q: A messy enterprise no doubt.

A: Just another bump on the road to discovery.

Q: Perhaps. However, a venture of that scope would require considerable capital. What about the small investor, the little guy looking to ease into something less ambitious?

A: Prison.

Q: You are referring to a penitentiary?

A: Penal Colony, Labor Camp, Super Max—whatever you can get your lame ass into before they fill up with Investment Bankers. Imagine the money saved on rent and food over the years not to mention wardrobe, travel expenses, health care–all paid for by the state which is really just another way of saying paid for by the poor suckers out there who are actually paying taxes—not me!  Oh, make no mistake about it–prison is the most reliable retirement package out there.

Q: I won’t ask how you intend to gain entry into one of these facilities.

A: Make your way to Wall Street and strangle the first prick in a suit that’s not carrying a protest sign.

Q: Are you advocating violence as a means to social change?

A: No, of course not. But starving to death lacks drama.

In a recent interview, Warren Buffet was asked, “What was the best advice you ever got?” I watched hoping for some investment insight that would allow me to profit as the Oracle of Omaha has done. His answer, however, had little to do with finance. What he cited as the most important lesson in his life was in fact, the unconditional love he had received from his father growing up. “Knowing you can always come back.” I gather everything else, his enormous success and happiness, was built upon this foundation. How fortunate for Warren Buffet. If only I could have bought shares in his father. Which is my way of saying with understandable envy, What about those of us who didn’t get that lesson? Who did not receive unconditional love in our tender years? I was adopted around two and half. The people who adopted me were good people. My father provided for me and my mother, saw that I was well-fed, clothed and had dance lessons. But as for unconditional love? That sense of safety, of “knowing you can always come back.” Well, I can do a passable Cha-Cha …

Adoption for any child at that age is an emotionally fraught issue. You are simply incapable of consciously processing what is happening to you. Why do the adults keep leaving the room and coming back as different people? No doubt it fostered insecurity. But I believe that insecurity was compounded by the punishment received from my adoptive parents when I misbehaved. I was told to go into my room, drop my pants and bend over my bed. The bare backs of my legs were then whipped with a folded leather belt until tears could no longer be held back and I would curl into a ball on the floor; my humiliation complete.

In spite of this, I would not characterize my father as a cruel man. He would even turn to me and say on his way out the door, “This hurts me as much as it hurts you.” And though I would have gladly switched places with him at the time, when I look back, it must have cost him a portion of his humanity to see what he’d just reduced a defenseless child to—glaring at him with hatred. But these punishments were sanctioned by the tradition he had been raised in, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” My father thought he was doing the right thing. Doing what had no doubt been done to him. He was terribly wrong.

It is my current belief that spanking should be between consenting adults only. No child should ever be hit or humiliated. As the therapist Alice Miller has pointed out in numerous works, the child will only go out in the world and do the same to others. She’s right. That’s what I did, treating every thing from my dog to the odd kid at school just as I had been treated. I went on to have a very insecure adolescence that persisted well into my twenties. Mistrustful of others though longing to connect, I harbored a brooding anger that was often misdirected and only served to alienate me further.

I examined this issue while writing my book Marker. The question that came up was: When one hasn’t been the recipient of unconditional love, but in fact its opposite—abuse—then how do they overcome it? How do you build a bridge over that empty hole where a sense of safety, of “knowing you can come back” was supposed to reside? The short answer is You don’t build a bridge over it. You go right down into that hole for it is not empty. It contains the truest part of you. It is where your anger at being humiliated— along with all the feelings you suppressed in childhood reside. As Miller points out, there was no choice at the time and you had to rely on the very people that hurt you for your survival. You could not help but want, as all children do, for these same people to love you. So the “inappropriate” feelings get stuffed and you don’t know what you feel anymore other than that a large part of you is not “lovable”.

As a young adult, a surprise birthday was engineered by a female roommate. I recall asking her why she had done this; gone to all the trouble.  And she said because she loved me. My response at the time was, “Why?” And I really wasn’t being flip—I wanted some hard evidence of what was lovable about me.

There are those who might have the impulse to label all this as feeling sorry for yourself. Life deals in hard knocks, pick yourself up and get on with it!  Toughen up! In fact, those of us who didn’t get the UCL are the ones who most often say this to ourselves. Stop feeling weak. Buck up. Only to find, after flagging efforts, that we tumble back into that same place: sadness, depression, disconnected not just from others, but from ourselves; left feeling that something is wrong with us, something is missing.

So how do we repair the psyche that thinks itself unlovable and more likely than not, keeps reproducing events that confirm that? No, I really am an asshole just stick around. For myself, it required an understanding of what had actually happened to me; how I had been damaged and who had done it. And by ‘understand’ I mean allow myself to actually feel all the feelings of what happened to me as a child.

During an acid trip in my first year of college, the power of speech abandoned me. Someone had asked me a question and the act of speaking involved a knot of considerations and implications—what to say, and there was so much to say and so many uncomfortable feelings that I was terrified to open my mouth and let it all begin to spill forth like a crazy person. I’d be institutionalized and my parents would be mad at me. After all, “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all,” was Mom’s default injunction. So I clammed up and allowed fear to smother possibility. Better to risk nothing and keep your mouth shut than to speak and be humiliated. Not exactly a recipe for success; and certainly no way to live. In many ways it was my anger that saved me. I knew I was killing something inside myself. So I decided it was time to take a risk.

At that time, I had the good fortune to room with a young man named Bruce McGill, a well-known actor now, and the voice of California Edison—a company I contribute to monthly. Bruce had been blessed with a 4F by the draft board, allowing him to take a year off between high school and college without being sent to Vietnam. In that time, Bruce discovered exactly what he wanted to be—an actor. It was also abundantly clear as you watched his theatrical performances that Bruce had received UCL. To move with such freedom; to feel so fearlessly before the eyes of others—I wanted to be like that! But my ego was far too fragile to enter the Drama Department with everyone competing for the spotlight. So it was a less flamboyant speech class I signed up for, one that required you to stand-up before the class and read a short story.

I chose The Use of Force by William Carlos Williams, a visceral story about a doctor who uses physical force to examine an uncooperative female child; humiliating the child and losing his humanity in the process. Seemed right up my alley. When my turn came to read, I stood and began to walk towards the front of the class uncertain whether my feet would stop at the podium or continue right on out the door. But I arrived determined to open my mouth and speak. And so, in a shaky voice, I began to read.

At first, I clung to the words on the page, swinging from sentence to sentence as if traversing a fearful chasm. But as I read, the story of the child’s abuse came to life and the emotions I had felt during my own childhood surfaced. They filled my voice and charged my telling of the story. My rage at what had been done to me was released out into the room. When I finished there was a rapt silence and I looked up to find all eyes upon me. And then, like a nourishing rain, came the applause.

Through the medium of the story I had connected to something vital and human within myself—as if some larger self had burst through the confines of the smaller person I had previously considered myself to be. I now stood before others naked, but more alive than ever before. My emotion connected to these people. And I knew that I was not alone with these feelings.

In a sense, I had found a place that I could “always come back” to. A place of emotional honesty within myself and an acceptance of that by others. Though it was not a home in the traditional sense of a family, or the abiding trust of a deep personal relationship, it was a big step on the road to finding human connections; a taste from the well-spring of unconditional love that dwells within each of us when we break through and allow ourselves to feel again.  Unconditional love can be found if we have the courage to step out of what we have been taught to believe is our only acceptable self and share those inconvenient feelings whether through art or communication with others.

As I say in the opening lines of Marker, “There is who you are told you are. There’s who you discover you are. And there’s what you do after.”

Peace be with you.