Saturday, September 1, 2007

Depeche Melba

My name is John and I am addicted to caffeine.

This has been a sickly week for me: nine days ago (Thursday) I developed an ear ache not unlike having an icepick jabbed into my brain for an hour or two at a time (until the hydrocodone kicked in). The pain throbbed down from my ear to my teeth and was plainly an infection of some sort, but having put off visiting the doctor on Friday, I had to wait till Monday to call him, and he couldn't see me till Tuesday. (This is cash on the barrelhead medicine by the way -- think how long I'd have to wait if I belonged to an HMO?) My doctor gave me eardrops and a lot of free samples of very expensive medicines I take daily (he is a nice man, if very busy; I never get the sense with him -- that I got with my late father -- that the patient in his office is getting the total focus of attention -- but my father was a doctor in a different time and he loathed the new, race-against-time-and-charge-a-fortune doctoring he all too accurately foresaw).

The eardrops worked in a day or three, but meanwhile I had two jobs to finish, two books to copy edit: one of them rather interesting (novel about Chinese immigrants), one of them awful (presidential trivia). Mercifully the editor of the latter let me postpone it. (The author identified Dorothy Parker as the author of the Lord Peter Wimsy mysteries. And misspelled Wimsy, to top it off. When editors really hate an author, they are tempted to leave that sort of statement untouched, but I can't quite do that. I'm supposed to be checking facts.) Anyway, I can barely edit while in pain. And the pain of the ear infection was soon replaced by a belly ache and nausea due to all the Tylenol with codeine I'd been gobbling. So I gave up painkillers and I gave up going out and I ran low on groceries, which included caffeinated coffee. And the belly ache was followed by a low-grade but persistent headache, for which I dared not take pills.

My body is unbalanced, y'hear? It is old and unkempt and ill-cared for and nobody wants it, least of all me.

The ear cleared up and the belly cleared up but the head remained in pain. I needed sleep (universal cure-all), but I wasn't going to get it with low-grade head pain vying for position. My neck felt impossibly stiff and my body woozy from inactivity and any attempt to read anything was making my head pound. I studied five tour guides to Istanbul -- am I insane with this sort of health problem to think of traveling, on my own, to a city of 14 million people five weeks hence and I don't even speak the language? -- yes, but remember how energized I felt on my 16 days in Italy in April 2006 -- but that was Italy -- I can handle Italy -- Istanbul is much larger than Italy -- and just as full of interesting sights -- how many countries can say that?

So I fell asleep over the guidebooks, regretting for the umpth time that I didn't go to Istanbul when I was a kid whose back and feet worked properly and it had only about three million people and was dirt cheap, even though it will be more convenient perhaps now that some restoration work has been done and the ATMs will take my bank card.

I fell asleep, head athrob, and found myself in the (London?) tube, small cramped narrow cars packed with people, mostly Polish, who wanted directions. I love to give directions but this was not New York and I wasn't sure I was giving the right ones. (Two guys stopped me on the corner of Waverly and Gay the other night to ask where the West Village was. "All around you," I said. Really -- it's hard to get more West Village than that. You're blocks from anyplace else. "We mean the gay part," they said. Another time I'd have loved to help them, but my belly was unhappy and my head throbbing -- no, the big one. I suggested Chelsea or the East Village, which seemed more age appropriate for them (and they were slim and pretty); then I relented and ushered them towards the Monster where someone would point them someplace.)

But back to my bad dream: I knew it was London because everyone was Polish. And I studied the makeshift signs (trackwork, delays, new routes, sameold) and they got on one train and took off, and then I tried to figure out where I would spend the night, and the signs did not get any more helpful, and a pretty blonde said, "Do you need a place to stay? 'Cos I know a place -- I mean, the bathroom's rather a mess -- and you'd have to buy me something to drink --" It was clear what sort of financial transaction she was suggesting, and I had no idea how I could afford it (in pounds sterling no less!), never mind the fact that I doubted very much that I could accomplish the Act itself (it's been years; no doubt women's bodies all take different hardware upgrades now), and really she was very sweet but I just wasn't in the mood for company, ta and all that. and I thought of neighborhoods in London with cheap hotels (in the very old days) and wondered which train went to them (the 2? the 229W?) and if I had money and why my head was aching, and then I was awake and for once glad to be so. In my own bed. Dawn approaching over Chinatown on little bound feet. My head pounding. No coffee in the house but decaf and black tea just wasn't going to cut the mustard.

I put on some clothes and went to Dunkin Donuts, open all night half a block away, got a large coffee, feel really much better but obviously will not sleep till mid afternoon.

I guess I'd better take some coffee with me to Istanbul, eh? I hear splendid things about Turkish coffee, said to be strong, sweet and heavily mustached (the way I like my men), but I dare not risk the possibility that they do not do filter, they only have Instant (as in Croatia and Amsterdam) in the misapprehension that Americans like that garbage. In both places (and Italy) I survived on cappuccino.

If I am bedridden, who will come bring me coffee when my head is splitting? Bunny would have but he died last winter. I am still grieving and still blaming. "I can't die; I have things to do!" he cried to me from his hospital bed. I thought at the time, "You should have thought of that three years ago when you stopped taking your hepatitis meds, buster." But didn't say that aloud. Now who can advise me on electronics, or computers, or bring me food or first aid when I need it, as I brought him last winter when he finally admitted he needed it. And who is going to introduce me to Depeche Mode, eh? I never even had him cut me a CD or two of them. I've still never (knowingly) listened to them. I'm going to die alone and decrepit of something stupid like tripping on a cord to something electric, and dying slowly.

All of this anet: decision to go to Fire Island for a week to try to finish some writing on the laptop I should really have repaired before the warranty runs out. I enjoyed the Belvedere so much when a bunch of us went there in late June to scatter Bunny's ashes and talk about Depeche Mode and other rock bands I'd never heard (or even heard of) that I and Guy and Mario decided to return in September. But they acted promptly and got the rooms with bay views; I could not make up my mind as usual. But I have. But it may change. Are Depeche Mode worth it? Should I get an iPod? If I do, I will fill it with Rodgers & Hart and rock will remain a dead letter. That would not be bad. There are too many Mercadante operas to worry about rock bands, don't you agree?

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