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Get Off the Cross

Dogpoet-Mike-Post-SurgeryWednesday, it turns out, is the craziest day of the week at Kaiser Permanente’s South San Francisco surgical department. Or so I was told, by a rather nervous, green-seeming nurse who finally called me from the exceedingly packed and increasingly cranky waiting room, where the Manly Fireplug and I had been sitting for over two hours. Thirty minutes prior, I had clicked off Angry Birds in a huff, stormed up to the receptionist, and pointedly asked when she thought I might be getting my wrist cut open. She shrugged and said, “Many people today.”

“Fine,” I said. “But can I ask you a favor?”

She regarded me warily. “What is it?”

I pointed at the waiting room television. “I haven’t eaten anything in over fourteen hours, according to the surgeon’s directions, so could you please for the love of God TURN OFF THE FOOD NETWORK?!?”

Behind me the waiting room erupted in a chorus of “AMEN!”s and the receptionist scurried to the TV in order to stave off the insurrection.

I didn’t bother saying to the nurse who finally called my name the obvious, i.e. maybe they should schedule fewer surgeries on Wednesdays, for fear of losing my place in line. Instead I stripped down to the hospital gown, kissed the Fireplug good-bye, and slipped into la-la land as the anaesthesiologist injected into my IV line what she called “the good stuff.”

Three hours later I woke in the recovery room, where another very nice nurse monitored my vital signs and asked me two separate times if I wanted any apple or grape juice. Parched and groggy, I nodded and croaked “grape.” She brought me apple. Later the Fireplug returned from the pharmacy with a bottle of different good stuff and some grape juice, and took me home. That is one of the reasons why I love him.

For the surgery they had “blocked” my entire left arm, which when released from its sling flopped around with a mind of its own like something out of a horror movie. I propped it up on a pillow and was joined on the couch by the Fireplug and our three dogs for a couple episodes of our new favorite show, “Friday Night Lights,” even though lately the show makes me mourn for the recent loss of softball, now that the season’s beginning.

Of course we’d been given separate and conflicting instructions for pain management by doctor, anaesthesiologist, nurses, and take-home instructions. But as a slight tingle returned to my left arm, I downed two Percocet and figured I’d be fine.

Flash-forward an hour, when I grabbed the phone from the Fireplug, who was speaking in a tense voice to a Kaiser advice nurse, and yelled into the receiver, “THIS IS A TEN, OKAY? ON YOUR CUTE LITTLE PAIN SCALE OF ONE TO TEN THIS IS A FUCKING TEN!” I then handed the phone back to the distraught Fireplug, and went back to pacing around the house, grunting, as the dogs stared at me with wide eyes.

I am going to risk immodesty here by saying that I began to imagine how Jesus Christ must have felt, crucified, his wrists hammered onto that cross.

Flash-forward forty-five minutes, to the San Francisco Kaiser’s ER, where they very slowly unwrapped my bloody splint to check on the condition of the surgical site, and where a total surprise awaited me and the Fireplug. You see, when the surgeon told us, post-operation, that he had opted for three pins to hold my wrist together, we both imagined that these three pins were internal. But in the ER we discovered three pins sticking OUT OF MY WRIST, beside a long jagged stitched-up scar.

“Oh,” I said.

Long story short, the surgery itself was deemed successful, and a very nice Russian nurse named Vladimir or Nikolai or something injected me with Dilaudid every twenty minutes until my senses returned to something closer to normal. I really grew to love Vladimir or Nikolai, you know, as a person, and later I grew especially fond of a charmingly funny nurse named Riley who wheeled me into a private room around three a.m. Considering the last time I ended up in Kaiser’s ER, the night my lung just up and spontaneously collapsed for no good reason, I now have a soft spot in my heart for all of Kaiser’s male ER nurses.

Several hours later the surgeon said he had told both of us to give me as much Percocet as I needed that first night, (“I mean, I did re-break your wrist, you know”) but I suppose we’d had a lot of conflicting info thrown at us in a few short hours. I took a couple of days off from work and watched a lot of bad television, which I fortunately don’t remember, just like I barely remember taking the photo above, but then pictures don’t lie. For those of you who enjoy ugly photos, here’s a link to a photo of my wrist, post-sugery, unwrapped. The rest of you I’ll spare.

Back to work tomorrow, mildly dazed and perfectly agreeable.

The Blur of a Wagging Tail

KissAttackedSurely one of the better gifts life has to offer is returning home to a dog or two at the end of a hard day. Witness the Manly Fireplug getting kiss-attacked by a Norwich Terrier and a Pit Bull. The camera can’t even capture how quickly Buddy’s tail is wagging.

As hard days go, the last week has thrown a few my way. I can’t write openly about some recent developments, but I can tell you that my wrist hasn’t healed right, so I’m going under the knife tomorrow and will begin the 3-6 month recovery over again.

My return to softball this year is looking pretty doubtful at this point, and I’m typing this with only one hand, but as I look at this photo I’m struck by how my love for its three subjects just keeps getting bigger and bigger, so it’s hard not to count my blessings as no less than three. The Fireplug has been taking good care of me, and will take the day off tomorrow from the barbershop to get me home, woozy-headed and one-handed, to the dogs again.

Having someone, or a few someones, to count on when the crap hits the fan belt is another gift not to be taken lightly. Not sure if the next few days will be quiet, blog-wise, or busy with narcotic-induced observations. But either way I’ll be (ha ha) in good hands.

One-Handed Typing in a Cubicle

As you can see from my Hipstamatic pics, I snagged one of the early Verizon iPhones, which I’ve been waiting on for, oh, a few years, and its delivery on Monday currently ranks as the high point of my week. Yesterday, for about an hour, I had a different high point: my graduation after three weeks in encasement to a short-arm cast. I had my elbow and thumb back, and boy, did they hurt. Still, my spirits remained high until I returned to work and my brand new iPhone rang with a call from my orthopedic doctor, who told me that he’d just showed my x-ray to a colleague and they were now concerned my wrist might need surgery.

This was the second time he’d called me after a cheery visit with a more sobering second opinion, and I felt my confidence in the guy starting to slip. I found it hard, though, to accurately gauge our conversation because, as the Manly Fireplug put it, orthopedic doctors are assholes. Or, as another friend put it more diplomatically, while the rest of us spent our college years getting drunk and sleeping around, they spent them looking at bones.

A series of missed calls, crossed signals, and “Are we speaking English here?” doctor-patient conversations stretched on over the last two days, and I found myself wandering the halls of the law firm and staring at the walls of my cubicle, trying to grapple with the prospect that the last three one-armed weeks were a total waste, and that my recovery had yet to begin.

In that time my sense of humor, which I stumble across every three days or so, abandoned me again, and I de-friended two Facebook saps who had the temerity to leave more fisting jokes on my profile’s wall. I banished them from the warmth of my virtual aura, and yes it felt good.

So I began to type this with one hand, muttering to myself during my hour covering reception, mourning the possibly extended loss of softball and the gym, two pursuits that have reliably taken on and vanquished my noonday demons, picturing myself withering away to that scrawny kid I used to be, and and and my little violin played on…

Then an email popped into my inbox with a rather demanding subject line: “Write your book, damnit!”  Blushing already, I clicked it open and what followed was less an admonition than a plea, laced through with more than a few very kind words, asking me to, yes, finish the damn book.

The last three months distracted me with money worries and day-job negotiations. It felt good to start earning some money again, and to be, after six weeks, fielding more than one job offer at a time. Still, that nagging little voice, common to every writer, nibbled away at the back of my brain, saying the same words contained in this email.

So, Sandi, thank you for reading this blog, thank you for the email, for the kind words and the little nudge. You have good timing.

The “I Approve” Attitude Adjustment Series

Last week I was on the verge of turning into a one-armed “Get off my lawn” cranky old man. But I live in San Francisco, where nobody has a lawn, so who the hell knows what kind of twisted pet peeve I would have latched onto in its place.

Since I like having friends and an anonymous reader or two, I readjusted my attitude. No more carping about my eternal thumbs-up. Just embrace the damn thing:

My name is Michael McAllister, and I approve of this barber.

I approve of this ocean.

I approve of this dog.

I approve of this team.

I approve of this toy.

I approve of Carrie.

I approve of this Saturday night.

This I Swear

Believe me, you guys, I know how it looks.

For three weeks I’ve been walking around with a permanent thumbs-up.  24 hours a day, even when I’m sleeping, my thumb sticks up in enthusiastic, near-imbecilic approval for everything and everyone I encounter. A thumbs-up wrapped in blinding white, inflexible fiberglass, a thumbs-up that no long sleeve in my wardrobe can stretch across without tearing – a bright, white, all-the-way-past-the-elbow thumbs up that proceeds me everywhere I go.

And I know how badly I am disappointing you, those of you whose paths I cross in the so-called real world, with the scowl that hovers about 18 inches above my thumb, right here on my face, and the bitter, caustic, much-too-short remarks that slip from my mouth when you dare flash me your own thumbs-up in apparent solidarity.

It’s sad, really, the sense of humor I seem to have misplaced. It’s sad that after the 700th gay dude who asks me if I’d had a fisting accident, I can’t find it within myself to even crack a smile at the 701st dude, that I can’t find the generosity of spirit to make him feel okay about his display of unoriginality. Or that I can’t give the 702nd dude – who thinks it’s funny to make a fisting joke even after I’ve complained to him about the 701 fisting jokes, as if the 702nd fisting joke somehow rounds the bend of pure unfunny back again to funny – that I can’t give him the rich, deep, full-throttle belly laugh he so clearly deserves.

But I promise you this; if you should ever find yourself in the unfortunate fixed-thumbs-up position of a long arm cast for three weeks, I will not laugh at you. I will not call you a gimp. I will not make the 703rd version of a lame joke and expect you to laugh. I will sympathize with the challenges to your daily grooming rituals, your limited wardrobe, and your deep, overwhelming three-week-long need to extend your fucking elbow for the love of GOD.

I will sympathize with your search for a plastic shower cast-cover manufacturer that has the foresight to indicate on their boxes if said shower cast cover will actually cover a long arm cast, and not just the short ones.

If you are single I will ask the most attractive and generous of my other single friends to swing by and help you take said shower several times a week.

I will slice your bagels without asking. I will ask you non-cast-related questions so that, for variety’s sake, you can talk about work, Egypt, your mother, and Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.

Most of all I promise to never ever flash you a thumbs-up sign, and I promise to laugh like really hard when you tell me the doctor wouldn’t give you the thumbs-down model instead.