Wednesday, October 22, 2014

i will want a fork

I am going to eat at the Japanese restaurant. My oldest son resides in Japan and he teaches English. This is pretty much what all Americans do who live in Japan. I'm thinking it might make me feel closer to him, having a meal here. He can only afford one trip home a year.

 Most ethnic restaurants in my hometown americanize their menus. There's always those cheeseburger and chicken nugget entrees at the bottom of the menu but I have heard this place is the real thing. I order the shrimp tempura. The little Asian waitress asks, "You will want a fohk?" Excuse me? "A fohk?" I'm sorry, I, what oh a fork! Yes, I will want a fork.

I have never learned to use chopsticks and I never will. I don't care how culturally cool it appears to be I will not do it. Here we have Asia, an ancient, introspectively wise culture and this is how they manuever food into their mouths? Any three-year-old knows you can pick up more sand with a shovel than a stick.

And then it arrives. Asians have cornered the market on food presentation. A work of art has been placed in front of me and I don't know whether to eat it or take it home and display it on my coffee table. There are five very long shrimps forming a little upright tent, their tails sticking straight up in the air. There is rice and dumplings and an orange with its top cut off and the fruit removed and quartered and put back into its peel. Pretty. There is sushi but that will be ignored. I know seaweed is very healthy for me, but for chrissake, it's seaweed.

Other things have been tempured. A large piece of broccoli, something square and white, something square and orange, a large golf-ball sized thing with black skin peeking through the golden panko. Eggplant? Mushroom? Bull testicle? It squishes and leaks juice into my mouth when I bite leading me to believe it is the latter of those possibilities.

The little waitress comes back smiling and bowing and I ask her what the mystery items are and she cannot say so that's disconcerting. She may not understand my English. I think the whole world should adopt bowing. It is a polite gesture and possesses a sort of dignified beauty about it. It may reduce the amount of terrorism all around us. I say it's worth a try. I leave her a large tip and I have always been a big tipper and I want that mentioned in my obituary.

As I leave the place a truck is parked outside and staff are removing food boxes and taking them into the restaurant. There is a picture of a large orange koi, an Asian goldfish  painted on the side of the truck. My Japanese-English-teaching son has these same fishes tattooed on his back.  I am wondering just what the heck I got served in there.

Friday, October 17, 2014

cancer scare #147

It is 8:30 in the morning and I am eating from a large container of french onion dip. With a spoon. I finished the chips a half hour ago. The latest virus has dug its claws into my system and a raggedy cough rips through my chest. My body has betrayed me and I will not feed it good things.

I drive to the urologist's office and seat myself in a room full of older gentlemen looking really worried. In this particular corner of the world female anatomy is superior. I silently applaud my short little urethra. We are all here to have tubes with lights and cameras inserted into our bladders. I am not kidding.

Some guy with a microscope said I have red blood cells in my pee and now I must go through the required medical scrutiny.  I walk back to the exam room. On the walls are detailed posters of the male prostate and reproductive systems, pink tubes and ruby red bulging sacks exploding everywhere, things no respectable woman should be forced to view. I am happy I do not own a prostate. Like breasts and uteruses, they exist in middle age only to harbor disease.  As we grow older we need to shed our sexual machinery, it only works against us.

The doctor's name is Horchak and wasn't Horchak one of the goons on Welcome Back, Kotter? He is deeply tanned, too tanned for a man who works in rooms without windows. His shirt is bright orange and open at the neck and a large gold cross lays on his dark chest hairs. His black thinning hair is slicked back and with his beady blue eyes he reminds me of Alex Baldwin, not one of my favorite human beings. His gold framed glasses are sitting crookedly on his nose.

"Do you smoke?"
"Did you ever smoke?"
"When did you quit?"
"One pack a day?"
"Two."  I never do anything half way.
His eyes lock with mine. "Smoking produces toxins that travel in the urine to the bladder. The bladder walls are bathed, BATHED with these poisons and that's how the cancers start!" Those blue liquidy eyes are blazing with some inner not quite defined emotion. I want to apologize for some reason. I started smoking as a freshman in college, 1970.  My throat would be raw on Monday morning from all the pot I inhaled over the weekend. My roommate, an art major from a small town where her mother taught that same subject at the local high school advised me to start smoking cigarettes, a way to "condition" my throat. Thanks, Moria. We think her mother meant Mariah, you know they call the wind Mariah.  I started with menthol Marlboros, green and white boxes and it tasted like smoking toothpaste, but it had to be done. I was on a mission. I needed to be high.

 I decide not to tell Horchak about the long term love affair I had with marijuana after my divorce. I am already in enough trouble. Cannabis was my opiate of choice and before you start we all know people who chose a lot worse.

That's all I know for now. This was an informational meeting only and they will take that "peek" inside my bladder next time. It's hard to schedule an appointment when I keep leaving town.

And I think about getting one of those prostate pink tube posters. I could mount the thing in my living room. As one brother has commented, "you seem to like weird things hanging on your walls."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

whitey's legacy


My husband's best friend Whitey is dying. He gained the name in childhood for the alarming white shock of hair atop his head. Now it's gone thinly sickly grey. At age eighteen he was an enlisted Marine who volunteered for three tours in Viet Nam.  He came from a gruesome upbringing, an older brother wailing the crap out of him and Whitey never fought back. There just wasn't enough pain and punishment to satisfy this kid.

At Whitey's 50th birthday party I saw the brother. Paul picked up a piece of cake and rammed it in Whitey's mouth so violently the guy crashed into the wall behind him sending a framed picture of water lilies to the floor, glass everywhere. Whitey spent his youth beating up carnies and taking outrageous dares in bars.  He was perfect Marine material.

After the war he returned to the states with a liver full of Agent Orange and addictions to cigars and hard liquor that eventually earned him malignancies in all his major organs.

Of all Dave's friends Whitey has always been my favorite. Underneath the tough guy image is a soft-hearted intellectual. When I first cut my hair my Dave was displeased. We were with Whitey and wife for a ravioli dinner and Mister started his lament about HER HAIR. "I think she looks sexy," said Whitey and he lifted the beer bottle to his lips and held Dave's gaze. Topic never came up again.

PTSD clamped its ugly jaws into Whitey big time and Dave won't tell me about the guy's experiences, just as well. He has served time in several mental institutions and once he posted  negative remarks regarding the Bush administration on a facility bulletin board when the asshole was still in office. Whitey got whisked away by FBI agents, all sunglasses and crew cuts. They grilled him for three days and they had photos of Whitey's front lawn where he routinely displayed anti-Bush placards. Whitey said he got the feeling the guys were on his side.

Whitey wants to have a celebration of life party. These have come into vogue lately and I'm uncomfortable with the concept. One of our town's greatest benefactors for the arts, an old woman with a fabulously decorated apartment did the same thing when she learned of her Alzheimer's diagnosis. A week later she marched herself into the Mississippi river.

Whitey has invited 287 people. There will be six kegs of beer and a fried chicken dinner from a local caterer. A funeral service in reverse.

 Godspeed, Whitey, my good man.