Posts Tagged ‘Saturday Night Live’

 

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(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!

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?”

When I was boy, there were few things more delightful than terrifying my little brother. Torturing the younger sibling is one of nature’s unattractive conventions like balding or dying while you still have money left in the bank.

Anyone who has either had or been a younger sibling knows the gamut of abuse runs from name calling to actual physical wounds. But in my tenure as the MC of Mayhem in my brother’s early life, the Cave of Blood ranks as the most well-imagined and executed. It was the high point of my low behavior.

The Cave of Blood was situated beneath our ranch style house in Odessa, an overgrown oil town that clung like a like a wart on the chin of the Texas panhandle. It was a region completely devoid of trees and so flat that you could stand in the middle of the highway and see fifty miles in either direction—a hundred if you stood on a Tuna fish can.

There was no wandering in the woods or exploring nature because—as you could clearly see—there was nothing out there. So we, as a people, were constantly thrown back on our imaginations and the liberal use of alcohol.

I conjured up The Cave of Blood to amuse us (I make my brother a party to this invention because I never would have done it if he hadn’t been there, his gullibility gleaming like a new coin begging to be spent even though past experience had shown him time and time again that following my agenda often led to some kind of pain.

It was a winter night in West Texas. A cold wave had dropped down from the panhandle. Mom and dad were out at the Golden Rooster wearing lobster bibs and getting hammered. The babysitter, a mature woman with a fondness for “resting” her eyes,  was snoring on the sofa by 8:30.

I was considering giving beer a try when my brother appeared and asked if we might be going to the Cave of Blood tonight. It had been an ongoing fiction for some time and I had promised that one night I would take him, but only when he was old enough and wouldn’t be scared and run away because “they” always caught you when you ran. He assured me he was not scared and would never run.

But you will tell Mother.

No, I won’t’ tell mother.

You’ll tell dad.

No, I won’t tell dad.

Ok. Basically, my brother was calling me out—he wanted to see this Cave of Blood or tell me I was a big fat liar. You see the position he put me?

There was a special door that led to the Cave of Blood. It was located in the bathroom—the same bathroom that separated our two bedrooms. I instructed him to prepare himself by spending the next ten minutes praying. That gave me time to get busy art directing the Cave of Blood.

I made sure the door that entered the bathroom from his room was closed and locked from the bathroom side. Then I turned on the hot water full blast in the shower. Clouds of steams begin to rise. There was a long, tiled counter top that stretched for about five feet and just above it a mirror that ran the length of the counter top and rose up to the ceiling. It reflected everything in the room.

From my closet I dug-up a cheesy old Halloween skeleton mask with the black one piece, tie-around the neck pajamas of painted bones. These I  hung from the shower curtain rod where they moved slightly in the billowing clouds of steam. With mom’s lipstick, I made bloody red finger prints across the counter. I took from a bottle Vitalis, dad’s hair tonic, and poured puddles on the ceramic tile of the counter top, struck a match and lit them.  With the lights off, the flames from the burning puddles were reflected in the mirror doubling the effect as was the skeleton costume wavering in the clouds of steam that filled the room like an eerie fog.

I switched off the lights in the hallway and closed the door to the bathroom behind me.  I called out to my little brother, “Are you done praying?”

He appeared wide-eyed at his bedroom door nodding his head.

“Are you sure?” I asked. Again he nodded. “No mom, no dad—pinky promise?” He nodded. “Then follow me,” I said and slowly opened the bathroom door. The puddles of flames flickered as if suspended in the fog and were reflected again in the hazy mirror, seeming far away, as if the room had expanded. The skeleton costume rippled in the clouds of steam that swirled around us …

My brother looked as if he’d just been stabbed in the neck with an ice-pick—his face a      rictus of horror frozen around this gaping mouth. It was worth a thousand beatings.

“Don’t let them catch me,” he cried as he turned on his heel and ran.

I retired to my room where, God, help me, I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Then mom and dad came home and things got very quiet. I figured he would rat on me and began constructing an elaborate lie involving a science fair project.

When my mother opened the door, I pretended to be asleep. When she switched on the light, I didn’t move. She ignored all that and got to the point.

“What have you done to your brother?”

“Whaa … “I said rubbing my eyes.

“He won’t use the bathroom. He won’t even go in there. What have you done to him?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Why is he scared of the bathroom? What did you do to your brother in that bathroom? It’s your fault if he wets the bed, mister.”

My brother wouldn’t even use my parent’s bathroom. I guess he figured all bathrooms led to the Cave of Blood and was probably lying in bed, his bladder bursting trying to delay the humiliation of wetting the bed. Or worse …

I was up and out of my bed. Moving quietly, I crept into my brother’s room.

“Hey, it’s just me. Are you awake?”

“Yeah.”

“How you doing?”

He didn’t answer.

“Hey, the whole Cave of Blood thing was joke. I just did it to scare you a little.”

“I saw the fire.”

“That was dad’s hair tonic. I poured it on the tiles and lit it. It burns like a candle. The skeleton was an old Halloween costume. There’s nothing in the bathroom now. Honest, I can show you. Come on get up …”

“No.”

It hit me then what a bully I had been to my brother. Even if I’d never laid a hand on him, I had traumatized him mentally which would probably take longer to get over. I felt terrible and swore then and there that I would never do it again.

I walked over to the door that opened from his room into the bathroom, “Come on, I’ll show you …”

“Don’t …” He buried his head under his pillow.

I opened the door and flipped the bathroom light on.

“Look. It’s just the bathroom. That’s all. Come on. I’ll stand right here while until you’re done. I promise.”

He eased his head out from under the pillow and squinted into the glare of the lit-up bathroom.

“Now, come on and use the bathroom so you don’t wet the bed and mom gets mad at both of us.”

My brother got out of his bed and shuffled to over where I stood. First, he stuck his head in and peered around just to be sure.

“There is no Cave of Blood, there never was. It was just a story I made up. Now go ahead and go will you?”

He stepped into the bathroom and lifted the toilet lid. A stream of pee came blasting out of him.  The relief was visible on his face; I remember the expression of contentment. My little brother actually seemed happy just to be peeing.

That’s when I reached over and turned off the light.

“Don’t let them get me!” he cried, peeing on my foot as he fled back to his bed.

I could hear Dad say, “Awww hell.” As he rose from his bed and began to move my way. It became clear to me that though suffering was hard, changing was even harder.

The End

(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!