I'm not back to the narrative today. My present life has its own that I need to write out even if not artfully. It's a jumble that will have to sort itself out. Sometimes it does. Other times. . . well, as the song goes, "it's just a bunch of lines."
I went to the doc yesterday morning about my knee. I was prepared for the knee replacement spiel. Nope. I was with the doc for almost five minutes. Most of that time, he wanted to know how retirement felt. He is thinking about it himself. The fellow doesn't look quite fifty, but I could tell he was disillusioned with working "for the man." He told me that doctors at the clinic had been retiring in great numbers since they were bought out by a big medical corporation. I imagined, too, that seeing old guys with arthritic knees had probably gotten pretty boring.
"I've already looked at your MRI," he said. Of course. He didn't want to sit there and look at it with me and have to field all my ill-informed questions. I can completely understand that. Such things would drive me mad.
He told me that I had a minor tear of the meniscus, but that I had a very large amount of arthritis. In cases such as mine, they don't even try to repair the meniscus because it really wouldn't do much good. O.K., I thought, here it comes. The old knee is worn out. Let's get you a new one.
"I'm going to give you an injection."
What? O.K. Of what? What about hyaluronic acid? What about stem cells?
I was going to get my dumb questions in regardless. He knew before I had the MRI what he would do. Most insurances won't pay for the hyaluronic acid until they've tried the steroidal shot first. Stem cells would do me no good. So. . . I began to get the picture. I was getting treatment driven by insurance policies. We were going to follow the routine--step one, step two, step three--all the way to knee replacement without ever passing a paystub.
That is me, the anti-capitalist cynic.
He pulled out a needle and I began to shiver. Funny, though, the needle in the knee didn't hurt at all. There is some awfully good technology. Needles have gotten to be very, very thin.
I had a lunchtime call with Sky. She wanted to know how my appointment went. I was done at the ortho in less than fifteen minutes. I was already dressed for the gym just in case. I had asked the doc if it was o.k. Sure, he said, but the shot wasn't going to help me today. It would take two weeks.
At the gym, I did most of my workout before Tennessee came in. Good thing. After that, it was mostly talk. We made up shit about other gymroids and spread the gossip. Danny was selling guns out of the trunk of his BMW. He was wearing shrimp skin boots. Stupid shit. Tennessee has plans for me going out on his boat on Thursday with other gymroids. That is what some in my circle declare a "hard no."
When I left the gym, I still had time to drive to the outskirts of Gotham to get a good bowl of spicy chicken ramen I had been craving at a small shop with no parking.
I circled the block twice trying to find a parking space on the street, then pulled into the 7-11 parking lot next door next to a Towing sign. I called the restaurant from the car and made my order. . . smart boy that I am.
I got back to the house just in time.
She was upbeat about my ortho visit. This was good, right? He didn't say what I dreaded he would. It was wonderful to have someone to talk to who cared about it all. I really haven't had anyone to talk to who was invested in my health and happiness other than my mother for years now. Sky's empathy was so very welcomed even though I try to blow it off as a tough guy character. I'd forgotten, really, what comfort was like, how it calmed the internal turmoil. Better than drugs.
She was having fun, a sort of free day where she could have a little leisure and self-care time to herself. She sat in a parking lot at Trader Joe's watching hippies load their van up with victuals. It is the kind of day, the kind of thing, that I find most freeing. It means nothing, but that is its value. Simple observations, non-consequential. That is the stuff of a carefree life. Oddly enough, it is also the sort of lyrical thing that stays in the memory.
"Remember that day we were talking on the phone and you were watching the hippies load their van?"
Right away, the whole vibe comes back. Sitting in the car on a sunny day. . . .
We talked about books. I told her about one like "Upper Bohemia" about Gerald and Sara Murphy, the couple who "invented" the south of France, called "Everybody Was So Young." I told her that Fitzgerald had used much of the material of his relationship with them in his book. . . . shit. . . I couldn't remember the name. The one about Dick Diver, I said. Being nine years old, she was already looking the title up on the phone, the same one on which she was talking to me. I'm not a phone guy, so I am easily astounded by such things. How the hell do you do that?
"Tender Is the Night?"
Yea, yea. . . that's the one.
Later I remembered that I had presented a paper on the novel at an International Fitzgerald/Hemingway Conference in Paris that had been well-received. The foremost Fitzgerald scholar in the world, Matthew J. Brucolli, sat in front of me as I presented. I was terrified, but things went well. And yet. . . how in the hell could I forget the title of the novel?
"It happens," she said.
Sure. Everyone loses their minds eventually.
I finished lunch, took a shower, and checked the "thing" on my face. It is still there, but barely. I skipped soaking it with the warm washcloth and chose to fool around with some cameras instead. I read. And then it was time for mother's.
Now, here comes the hard part. When I got home, it was cocktail time. I mean, I wanted one. I really did. Rather, I made a brief supper and drank some apple cider. It was not good. Committed though, I made some ginger tea instead. I tried to watch the news. Big day. Kevin McCarthy. Erin Burnett "reporting" with the biggest smirk on television. I couldn't watch. But now. . . the long evening ahead. . . dry. Nobody I know is now doing Dry January. Maybe Q. . . I'm not sure. But too many sober nights can ruin you. I was ready to climb the walls.
More tea. Some texts. A big flourless chocolate chocolate chip cookie from Whole Foods. The alcoholic's sweet tooth was kicking in. C.C. texted that he had finished up his time in the psychiatric study. No. . . it was something else. They fed him, stuck him, made him go to the gym, tested him, and now they were finally letting him go. He had lost five pounds, he said.
"It won't last. You can't lose weight. You can only gain it. All studies say so."
At least he got paid.
I texted Q. He said he liked sobriety. I told him he was retarded. He said it was the only way he could lose weight. I copied and pasted what I had written to C.C.
I texted my travel/art buddy. He was drinking champagne. Sky said it was cute that I was doing Dry January, but she was having wine. They seemed the only sensible people to me in life just then.
Danny from the gym texted me an insult. I guess he was mad about the story we made up about him. Oh, well. Some people just don't have a sense of humor.
It was a little past eight. I was ready to go to bed.
I sat down in front of the television. YouTube. I found this.
I started watching. Oh. . . it seemed good. I paused it and sent links to Q and Sky. Sky said she'd watch it with me. There are a lot of docs on Meyerowitz, but this topped them all. He is old now, 84, probably the oldest living important photographer, older even than Eggleston. He told stories I'd heard him tell before, but the producers of this show from something called "Amplified" were great. I think they might be French. Their show was equal in part to Meyerowitz's photography. I believe they were able to "perform the theory."
I hoped Sky liked it. I thought much of it would speak to her creativity. I hoped it was inspiring. I texted just before bed. She did. It was a C.S. kind of doc, she said. . . with one quote about Paris in the '60s: “oh, i loved the women … i thought they were just fabulous.”
I recalled the disdain which some in my past held for my taking pictures and the years I spent not pursuing them.
I thought about the photo Sky had sent me from lunch. It reminded me somewhat of a Saul Leiter.
When the documentary finished, it was still early-ish. I went to bed.
I was so awake by 4:30, I had to get up. Slipping out of bed, I gingerly put weight on my bad knee. Hmm. I walked. Hmm. It seemed better already. Maybe, I thought, this shot might help. Temporarily, but maybe. . . .
This morning, preparing to write, I wondered what photo I might post. Something from the street, of course. I had a bunch of the photos I took in NYC in the '70s on my Kerouac journey around the country in a file on my laptop, the ones that really no longer exist since my mother threw away the negatives. It makes me a bit ill every time I look and think of what was lost. All I have are scans of rotting proof sheets, tiny little degenerative things I have tried my best to restore. I should have kept traveling, kept photographing. I was good and as Meyerowitz points out in the documentary, people were less hostile to a guy with a camera then. There weren't many people doing it. You were free to create a record of the time. It's not so easy any more.
I've been up for hours. I thought of going back to bed, but I am not really sleepy. Maybe an early gym date, or, if I can actually walk, maybe some early morning photos somewhere on the outskirts of town. I don't know. But this life of sobriety. . . .
"Most times it's just a bunch of lines."