Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blood: Making Friends and Influencing People

And continuing, I got another e-mail from the plasma company.

Good afternoon:

I am the team lead for the integration in the Charleston donor center. I have been made aware of a continued issue with your ability to donate. I sincerely apologize for the issues that have been presented during the last week.

As way of explanation, the center is in active integration this week and it will continue through to the end of next week. This process included scheduling appointments so that we could mediate the flow of donors coming into the center. The ability to schedule these appointments started before the integration. However, we have been accepting donors on a walk in basis so that the training would flow and it could be completed. With that said, that has not been your experience and for that I am sorry.

I have instructed the staff to accept you for donation when you arrive. The center is closing for the day as the training schedule is complete. Will re-open on Monday morning at 8:00 AM and will remain open each day through 5:00 PM. I will be in the center on Monday and Tuesday and request that when you arrive you ask for me.

I will assure that you are accepted to donate. If you arrive after Tuesday, please request to speak with a member of management as they have been informed. In addition, I would like to extend an extra $15 to you for the troubles that you have had over the last week. It has been noted in your chart and will be included in your donation payment on your next donation. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me; I look forward to seeing you on Monday or Tuesday.

So, it appears things will not be back to normal and will probably be extra-awkward the next time I come in. That should be fun. We've also moved to the bonus round where I can have 15 dollars extra -up five from Saturday. From my view, it's still on the cheap.

As far as the apology, it's sterile and a little dismissive. There have been "issues," as opposed to errors, like failing to inform donors what the fuck they were doing. My main beef is going to be their lack of interest in the well-being of the people who come in. I'd still kind of like to hear, "Um, yeah, we didn't really think this through and it upset some people, including you. Sorry about that. Can I get you a juice box?"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Blood: Training Blues

Over the phone, the regional director for the plasma center sounded nervous, like she expected me to start ranting and raging. It might have been a tough week for her. If what had happened at the plasma center I visit was a nationwide issue, if they were all doing trainings and hadn't told their donors, she might have had several unpleasant phone calls in the past few days.

I spend a lot of time on the phone and on more than one occasion, I've worked for companies, where it was my job to field ugly phone calls. I don't flip out, not usually.

"As I understand it, they didn't have signage?" She asked me.

"No, they had signs," I explained. "The sign said closed Monday. It was Tuesday. We were told the plasma center would be closed on Monday for training. No one said anything about being closed for the week."

"Uh-huh," she said.

"There were a couple of us in the parking lot," I told her. "The guy who called inside the first time had driven quite a ways. He was pretty pissed off." I wasn't particularly happy about it either. "I called and they told me about the training."

"I'm really sorry this happened to you," she said and I smiled. It happened to me because I'm unlucky, not because it's anyone's fault, say like the plasma center for not knowing what the fuck is going on or the plasma company for maybe not telling them. "We value you as a donor. We need to get you in as soon as is convenient for you. When can you come in?"

It was Friday afternoon. I had shit to do, including lunch and writing up my article on Amy Grant.

"My regular donation times are Tuesday and Saturday," I told her. "How about if I just show up tomorrow?"

"What time?" She asked.

"Let's say 10:30. That's when I usually come in."

While this was clearly no fault of theirs, she told me, "I'd like to compensate you for the time lost, the inconvenience and of course, your travel. How about an extra ten bucks?"

I rolled my eyes: An extra ten bucks, which is what I'd normally get paid for my second donation --never mind the bonus for coming in twice a week all month. Their generosity was overwhelming. I thought I was going to cry.

"Would that be okay?"

I didn't want to argue so I said, "Fine."

Before she hung up, she confirmed the time and wished me a good weekend.

Saturday morning, I went to the plasma center. The parking lot was hopping and for a second I thought, the whole business about scheduling an appointment was much to do about nothing, but there was a sign on the door: "Training. By appointment only."

Inside, a handful of donors waited to be called, while a couple of newbies flipped through the white manuals everybody has to read just once.

The girl at the desk called, "Have you got an appointment?"

I smiled. "Sure, do. " Lucky thing, too.

One of the technicians remembered me, smiled and waved.

"What time?" The girl at the desk asked.


A wrinkle formed over her brow.


"William Lynch."

She looked, frowned, looked some more, shook her head, turned the page, looked again. One of the others looked over her shoulder.

"He's not there," she told her, then me. "Who did you speak to?"

I gave her the name, adding she was from corporate. The name didn't seem to mean anything to either of them. They looked at the list. There were a lot of names. Two were plugged in at 10:30.

"If X and Y don't come in," the one said to the other. "We could squeeze him in."

"But X is here already." And Y, they seemed to think, would be there.

"You could have a seat and we'll get to you when we can."

"How long would that be?"

Neither of them knew.

"I can't be here all day." I just wanted a ballpark number: fifteen minutes, half an hour, an hour...

They didn't know. It would be a while.

"Will things be back to normal on Tuesday?" I asked.

"By Monday." The one girl fired that piece of information off like a shot. Everybody hates training.

I nodded. Fuck Monday. I am not coming back in on Monday.

"Yes," I said. "But I come in on Tuesday. Will this place be back to normal on Tuesday."

"Oh sure."

"Right, then I'll be back on Tuesday. " Then I turned and went home.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

watching the wheels

Well, it doesn't appear that I'll be going to San Diego. There was an opportunity to go out west for a workshop/conference on addiction. Scholarships were available. It wouldn't have cost me or the paper a dime, but I should have heard back days ago. There is zero chance of the newspaper sending me. They just don't do that.

I just don't have the resources or support to make it happen. Even getting a passport is a little on the pricey side for me at the moment and it needs to get done now if I want any shot at going, but there isn't a shot. If they're interested, West Virginia Public Broadcasting will send one or two of their newsies to conduct interviews. If not, Mountain Stage may bring along one of their people to run camera.

This is also something the newspaper would not be interested in footing the bill for.

On the upside, of all the places I'd go for fun, a conference on drugs or Scotland in the dead of winter probably aren't on the top of my list. Of course, novelty and adventure scan pretty high for me. I don't do very well with planning trips --so trips on business, with some purpose other than to just see the place have a kind of appeal, a purpose.

It's disappointing. I'm looking and hoping the paths to the places I want to go will open up. There are definitely places I want to go, people I want to see, things I want to experience. The world is a big place, but it's remarkable how big it is when you can't seen to go any farther than your front door.

Blood: Email

So I was annoyed about the plasma center being closed yesterday. I found their website, which is based out of Europe. I couldn't really afford to call Europe and I don't speak European. Anyway, I fired off an e-mail. They got back to me this morning.

Dear Mr. Lynch

I have received your letter of concern regarding the Charleston WV center. I would very much like to discuss the situation at your earliest convenience. Please feel free to call me at xxx xxx xxxx.

I appreciate your feed back and look forward to speaking with you.

The main thing, I think, is do I mention I'm working toward writing a book?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blood: Training

We stood outside the locked, glass doors and waited. It was after 8 and they should have had the place opened up, but the lobby was dark. A sign hung in the door said, "Closed Monday For Training. Sorry for the inconvenience."

"Do you think they just forgot to unlock the doors?"

He looked at me and frowned, took out his iPhone and dialed the number below the plasma center's hours. It took a while for the call to get routed to an operator.

"Hey," he said. "We're standing out here in the parking lot. Are you opening up or not?" He listened and frowned. "But that is not what your sign says. It just says Monday." He listened and shook his head. "So, you're telling me you don't want my plasma." He huffed. "I drove an hour to be here."

She hung up on him.

"They're only taking appointments," he said. "Did you make an appointment last week?"

I shook my head. First, I'd heard of it.

Grumbling, he stalked off, got in his beat-up minivan and drove off. I kind of hope he didn't drive an hour. Two hours in that thing would dig pretty deep into the 21 bucks he got for the first donation of the week.

I picked up my phone and called, asked what was going on.

"We're in training this week," she said.

I looked at the sign. It said Monday.

"All week?" I asked.

"All week." She could give two shits.

"So, you will reopen next Monday?"


Well, that does simplify my week. Of course, that's 52 bucks I was expecting that I won't be getting --maybe more. There was some sort of bonus for donating twice a week this month. I hadn't missed.

Other people were pulling onto the lot as I was talking to the woman and I thought, you assholes. How many people count on this to make the rent, to cover their groceries and you do this at the end of the month? How many times over the last couple of months have I relied on it to soften a rough patch? More than I like to admit.

They treat us like cattle about half the time. I noticed this early on and it's why I still call the phlebotomy technicians "milkers." They'll talk over us and sometimes look at us like we're subhuman, like there is something defective in our personalities for allowing ourselves to be here --other than the fact we're broke. All of us are broke. Some of us are drug users. Some of us are prostitutes or ex-cons or welfare cheats. Some of us are liars and they don't care. Many of us, however, are not, but to a man, we're all just trying to scrape by.

I thought about this and almost unloaded, but there was no point. She'd just hang up on me the same as she did the other guy. Besides, she was the wrong person to talk to.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Emo McSourpuss

Things should be great.

Work is going well. Some of the stories I wrote this past week I'm sort of proud of. On a side note, one of the elderly gay men who stares at me at the gym is now following my work. It troubles him that I talk to musicians when I should be doing something more meaningful. He wants to bring me some books to read.

I think he means well by it. Still, I will draw the line at dinner and dancing.

I applied for a scholarship to go to a drug addiction workshop for journalists in San Diego. The subject is interesting and I've never been to San Diego. It could be fun. I love anything that sounds like a new experience. Mountain Stage is going to Scotland and I'm already working on trying to find a seat to that --it's a tall order, for sure. I don't know if I can make that happen, but I've occasionally accomplished things nobody, including me, thought were possible.

These are things that could work out.

My current writing project is going well. I'm almost to the end of what is really a fresh first draft and I know what to do next.

I'm losing weight and shaping up. After a couple of weeks of eating and drinking whatever was available and whenever the mood hit, I've managed to ratchet back, get it back under control. I haven't had a drink in almost two weeks, not that I have a problem. I have also not had a cheeseburger in almost two weeks, not that I have a problem.

I'm lifting weights and swimming most mornings. My clothes are getting loose again, particularly around the middle.

I'm studying my Buddhist writings again. I may even give meditation another shot. It's been a while. That feels good to be looking in that direction again.

The dog has neither pissed or shit on me in several months.

I'm reading interesting things. I picked up a book about human sexual behavior called "Sex at dawn." It's about evolution and social theory and basically positions the idea that we're not specifically hard-wired to be a monogamous creature, but rather we're designed for a kind of limited promiscuity.

The book is interesting, but really isn't all that groundbreaking.

That all sounds great, right?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Heaven is whenever

Over the hill, I heard happy children singing through a round of "Rocky Top;" their voices part of a chorus with a handful of drunks. Every light in that house was on and in the dark it glowed like some redneck, Thomas Kincaid knock-off.

It was after midnight; Saturday night, sure, but people go to church. They get up and go to Walmart to beat the unwashed hordes as they save dimes on boxes of pasta.

Noise at this hour is indecent.

If the neighbors weren't contemplating calling the cops, the police should already be on their way. I waited a while, but none of came.

In the yard, shapes and shadows darted around as a pair played tag in the yard. From the sound of it, somebody was hoping to get caught. In the dark, away from the blinding light of the bay window, it might be a kiss might be stolen. Maybe they'd get brave and go off behind the garage for one last taste of summer romance. They could lie on the grass and hide beneath the branches of that tree in the yard.

It was Saturday night. Anything was possible.

I sat on the steps, listened to them hoot and holler like garden variety hillbillies, while I giggled quietly. The music was bad, but there was no gunfire.

It kind of reminded me of home.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Meditation on a fortune cookie

I take fortune cookies too seriously. There used to be a Chinese buffet next to the mall. The food was cheap and awful. About the only thing they didn't fuck up was the soup, but I used to love the fortune cookies.

Whatever company they got their cookies from had a very dark and malevolent bent. Every cookie I ever got came with a warning or a pronouncement that was vaguely threatening. One of my favorites was something like, "Life is difficult. You will have to become accustom to this."

I was very sorry when the place closed.

The other day I went out to lunch, had Chinese food and got a cookie. My fortune was "Don't pass up a once-in-a-lifetime offer." So, for the past couple of days I've been waiting for that once-in-a-lifetime offer. I'm been waiting because right now I think I need something out of the ordinary that's going to change everything, that's going to be amazing, that's going to give me a much needed dose of sunshine.

I don't think it's coming. I think those once-in-a-lifetime offers happen every day. It's the phone call you're supposed to return, the lunch date you have to break, the ticket you turn down. It's the things you don't realize are only going to come around just this once.

I'm not waiting for an offer. The offers have been coming all along. I guess today I'm thinking about what happened all the times I turned them down because I was too busy, too tired or maybe too nervous.

It's a lot.

So, my fortune, I think, isn't a peek into the future. It's another warning for today.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blood: Palm reading

I've seen and experienced a lot of creepy things while bleeding at the plasma center. I've gotten used to the needles and watching the blood flow out of my arm. I've been able to be amused by the way the milkers sometimes forget you're there when they're talking to each other about their lawns, what they had for dinner and how much they don't like such-and-such because he/she is incompetent.

Let me tell. That last one will make you perk right up and try to see if they'll the name again.

The worst, even worse than listening to Rain King by the Counting Crows (seriously, don't do that) on the way to the bank or converting the cash to be used to buy cat litter is sitting, pinned to a chair with the tube snaking out of your arm and watching Matlock on television.

Imagine this is the way it's going to end for you: reclining in a bed in a utilitarian place with fluorescent lights and hooked up to a machine. You're surrounded by strangers and technicians who think of you most of the time as a job to do, a chore to complete. What a terrible way to go, utterly alone, except for the the company of the immortal Andy Fucking Griffith.

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a word from our sponsor. It's the man from U.N.C.L.E.. He wants us to sue the shit out of somebody or maybe buy gold. Neither seem too likely.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

blood: t-shirt and a beard

We talked about my shirt.

A couple of years ago, my sister gave me a Banana Republic t-shirt she didn't particularly like. It looks real good on me. I'm not really sure why exactly, whether it's the cut or the fabric, but it hugs my shoulders and chest and clings in such a way that I feel and look a little like a God.

The shirt seems to enhance or compliment the better parts of my body, makes my arms look a little bigger and the damned shirt didn't have holes in it, I'd wear it every day of my life.

I love that shirt.

She read my vitals: 127 over 78 with a pulse of 69. Not bad.

"I need to work on the cardio a bit more," I said.

"You work out?" It was almost flirting.

"Yeah, weights and an arc-trainer at South Charleston Rec." Where elderly gay men openly stare at my package, but I didn't mention that part. Instead, I posed and flexed a bicep.

She laughed.

"Do you have kids?"

I nodded. Yes, I have many kids. I have no idea why you are asking me this, but yes, I have many, many children. I am the father of nations.

She checked my blood.

"You're always in a good mood," she told me, which wasn't entirely true, but could be as far as she was concerned. "Some people don't even want me to touch them." She shook her head. "They get mad about drawing blood, start yelling."

I frowned.

"You kind of have to, right?" I tried to think of some way where no contact was possible. "And if they hate that part, with the lance thing, how are they going to feel about what goes on in back."

There was no other way to put this.

"This isn't for fun," I said. "I'm not doing it... none of us are here because we want to do this. This was not our first choice." She nodded. I was preaching to the choir. It wasn't her first choice either. "I guess you've got to wrap your head around what's being done. If you think of it as a job, it's not so bad --and better than fast food."

OK, that last thing was pure bullshit. Bleeding isn't better than a shift at McDonalds. It just sounds like it would be.

The tech smiled. My blood work checked out. She sent me on my way.

It might have been the beard, but I could have swore, by the way she looked at me, she thought I was cute.

It had to be the t-shirt.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cancer man: clown

I have a not-too-unreasonable fear of Cancer. In my life, it has killed two grandfathers, a couple of uncles, a great aunt or two and was a factor in my grandmother's death. It's also popped up in the lives of my sisters and is the odds on favorite for how I will eventually go.

Part of the reason I've continued with the Road to Recovery program with the American Cancer Society is because Cancer is waiting for me. I've seen how frail it makes people who have it. I have compassion for them because I have compassion for that future me, that shriveled man somewhere down the line who will likely face it alone.

I am man who is very aware of the reality of his surroundings.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the circus, from Ringling Brothers. A clown, who I did a feature on, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Surgery had been performed, but they were really only able to remove part of the tumor. They're treating it as best they can, trying to keep him comfortable and in good spirits, but his hopes for a meaningful recovery sound bleak.

The treatment buys him some time.

Someone at the circus remembered the article, remembered maybe that he liked it, and wanted a copy to send him they could put on his wall. The circus was gathering things to help cheer him up and show them they cared now, especially now.

I said yes. I didn't hesitate. I didn't ask anybody what it was going to cost. I just said yes.

It took a little bit of doing. It wasn't entirely easy, but I had help shepherding it through. The glossy poster version of his front page article got done and all I had to do was write a check to pay for it --something I will do in a few minutes once I figure out where the accounting department is in this building. Our secretary, really kind of a saint, gave up her money for the postage. The poster is already in the mail.

I've thought about the clown, about why the man behind the makeup got into his chosen field. It's not an easy choice to become a circus clown. It's an outright weird choice. There are much easier and more obvious ways to become an entertainer, but he chose it, I think, because he loved the audience, because he loves children.

As a symbol, I couldn't think of anything sadder in the world: a clown dying slowly of cancer.

I think I would have said yes, even if the picture had cost a hundred bucks. As it happened, it didn't. There's not a lot of justice in the way of things, but you can get a discount now and then.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No, I didn't unfriend you.

No, I didn't un-friend you on Facebook. I didn't suddenly get annoyed with you stalking. I wasn't offended by something you wrote or by some stray comment you might have made. I just quit.

A friend at work brought up my recent departure from Facebook. For a moment, he'd thought I'd deleted him from my vast network of admirers, well-wishers and people who just dig the weird shit I say, but then realized, nobody was still my digital pal. I'd pulled the trigger on my account. Ka-pow. Gone.

It wasn't personal or maybe it was. I have like 570 or so people who I've picked up over the last year or so. Some are old fraternity brothers, a few are high school friends, one or two are people I've worked with in the last 20 years and the rest came from everywhere. Some of them are fellow bloggers I've had contact with. It's a lot of people.

I love people. I'm a guy who likes lots of friends, is into talking and hanging out, but Facebook really isn't about that. It's mostly about endlessly touching base, but never really getting far beyond that --at least, it was for me.

After my meltdown last week, I started reevaluating things and started thinking about the nature of some of my relationships. How many strictly digital friendships did I want? Looking at it that way, I felt disposable. I didn't like the way it felt --so I quit. I hung it up in favor of maybe rebuilding some real friendships, finding some new ones and being a person instead of a ten second sound byte or a video game character.

A couple of people have contacted me or spoken to me to ask me what's up and I've explained that I'm not entirely through with Facebook. As a guy who writes feature stories, I have to go where the stories are and there are stories on Facebook. But I'm taking a break from it and when I go back in a few weeks or a few months, I'm not going to be doing the same shit I was doing.

I know it's the coolest thing. I know it's supposed to be the biggest innovation in communications since movable type (seriously, I read that, I think, on Huffington Post), but it ultimately could be as bad for us as refined white flour, corn syrup or heroin --things that seemed like good ideas at the time, but have become a few of our local demons.

I am probably being overly dramatic, but I do know, it was too much. I craved the interaction, but ultimately felt lonelier and less connected because of Facebook.

I'd rather blog. I'd rather write letters, exchange e-mails or phone calls and every once in a while, meet for a cup of coffee or a cheeseburger, look across the table and just catch up.

Just a few less drive-by relationships. That's what I want.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

blood: walking

One of my most consistent complaints about going to the plasma center is I have to give up a morning at the gym to go. I'm on the Tuesday/Friday donor schedule and among the seemingly endless rules, regulations and guidelines for bleeding, they recommend you don't do any heavy lifting afterward.

Specifically, they mean yard work. That's what the nurse told me, which I thought was funny at the time --who would do that? Sell some blood; go hack down weeds.

Well, people who do yard work, as in the guy who drags the mower up and down the street looking for lawns, the guy who makes his living clipping hedges, spreading mulch and moving the dead limbs in the backyard.

More than a few of the local guys sell their plasma. Maybe, just consider, if you hire some greasy longhair to cut grass and put mulch out on your lawn, you could tip.

But me, I lamented the fact I couldn't lift weights. In fact, the nurse recommended I not even get on a treadmill for half a day after a donation for fear of it causing bruising.

Mind you, the bruising isn't really a health issue. It just makes the needle work a little more problematic. It can actually disqualify a bleeder from donating.

Anyway, today I finally got my car into the garage. It needed an inspection in August and while the local cops may not always be so hot at catching the bad guys, they are like Spider-man and the Batman rolled into one when it comes to minor traffic violations.

I've been living on borrowed time for weeks.

So I dropped the car off, grabbed my pack full of library books and hiked over to the Plasma Center. It wasn't a bad walk --about twenty minutes up, about twenty minutes back. I didn't mind it at all and it was a change of pace from slinging my limbs to and fro on the arc trainer.

Next time, I will do it without so many graphic novels, cookbooks and a boxed lunch --I also had the Bret Easton Ellis book, which I finished.

I was worried about feeling weak on the walk back, toward the library then work. Sometimes after I bleed, I feel a little out of sorts, just a little bit drained. I'm always hungry, but I planned ahead. I sucked down a Slimfast right after I left the plasma center. They recommend food and drink after donating and what better way to both than in a convenient steel can.

I chose the strawberry condom flavored slimfast. It's my favorite.

Anyway, the walk wasn't terrible and it's a good way to make better use of my time, get out a little bit and find some time to exercise. Hell, it may even save me a buck or two in gas, which is good. Repairs to my car are going to run $800.

That's a lot of blood.

It never ends.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cancer Man Returns Again

The apartment was a little slice of hell, not the kind of place where you'd want grow up, not the kind of place you'd ever want to go to die. As it happens, we seldom get those kind of choices. You're born where you're born. You die wherever. Most of the time, you're greeted by a crowd coming in. Most of the time, you leave when there's no one looking.

The door was at the end of a long stretch of stairs. A swollen and prematurely carved jack-o-lantern guarded the last step. It was already beginning to rot and the rain coming down wouldn't help.

The window next to the door had been patched over. In it's place was a restaurant sign advertising loaded nachos. The job wasn't a quick fix. It was permanent.

What kind of asshole landlord would do that?

Gina shuffled outside, all smiles and frenetic politeness. She didn't mean to call, didn't want to be a bother, but she didn't want to miss her appointment.

I apologized. I wasn't late. She was in no way behind schedule, but I'd been answering an e-mail. I wanted to make sure a friend was OK.

She got in the car and we drove. She told me about her daughter again, clarifying some of the things she'd said before. Last time, she'd been groggy. She'd taken a pain pill before we left and the drugs had knocked her on her ass. I'd thought it was just the chemo, but Gina told me she's taking quite a bit of medication.

"Me and the other daughter clashed," she said. "She was moving in with the boyfriend and I went along. He had a big house."

What the daughter had failed to mention was that she and the boyfriend expected her to watch her daughter's two kids all summer long.

"I told her not to take them out of daycare, but she did." She frowned. "I don't mind helping out, but not all the time."

On a fixed income, a disability check, and with cancer, they'd brought her in as an indentured servant.

"We clashed. Boy, we clashed. " And she left and moved in with another daughter with equally complicated, but less troublesome issues.

"She can't drive," she told me, shook her head and laughed. "Boy, she can't drive."

At the office, the nurse told us it would be two to three hours for her treatment. Gina gave me the card for her doctor and told me to call him after while. She didn't see any point to have me wait around.

I went back to work, checked in with the doctor and they called me when she was finished.

I ushered her carefully back into the car. Most of the spunk and spark Gina had going for her before the treatment was gone. She was tired and fearsome of the traffic.

"I don't want to tell you how to drive," she told me. "I'm just making suggestions."

On the way, she offered me a small can of Pepsi.

"I grabbed this," she said. "I thought you might like it."

I told her I couldn't. I'd just started another diet.

She put it away.

"I don't drink soda too much on account I had a colostomy." She laughed miserably. "I'm all eaten up." She wasn't the only one. "A girl in there, burst a bag." She looked out the window. "She should have said something. I had some spares."

In the car, I noticed the smell: the chemical smell of a funeral home, the smell of death. It was all over her and everywhere in my car. Quite suddenly, I wanted to get her home and get as far away as I could.

I kept my hands on the wheel, drove and just listened. You don't get cancer by riding in a car with a cancer patient.

"They wouldn't tell me how many treatments I had left," she said. "I asked the man and he said he was going to check, but then I took my pill and I forgot and he forgot."

"You could probably call them tomorrow," I told her.

Gina nodded. She could do that. Sure, she could.

"I saved that article," she told me and I didn't know what she was talking about. "That one you did with Judy Garland's daughter. I cut it out and kept it."

"You saved that?" I smiled. "That's..." I didn't know what to say. "It wasn't a very good article," I told her. "Not my best." I looked at her. "Thank-you. You didn't have to do that."

She didn't say anything.

We navigated backstreets and side roads to finally bring her back to her daughter's apartment.

"You can let me out right here. I appreciate you doing this. Thank-you." She skittered off toward those long steps with the sagging Jack-o-lantern at the top. She didn't want me to follow, but I waited at the curb and watched her find the door before I drove away.

I wish I could have brought her some place else.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

blood: scar tissue

"What, no hippie book today?"

"No," I said and held up a copy of "Imperial Bedrooms" by Bret Easton Ellis. "No, this isn't about starting a commune."

She smiled and had no idea whatsoever what I was reading. She just wanted to say hi. After 32 visits to the plasma center, I'm now a regular and since I bathe, don't come in drunk or high, don't appear to be fresh from a prison chain gang and don't act like I'm a good candidate for a restraining order, they're trying to make me into a character in their ongoing drama.

This is completely reasonable, since they are all characters here.

"Right or left arm?" The milker asked me.

As usual, I said, "left."

She sat me at a recliner that, unfortunately, was facing away from the big screen tv playing "Walk The Line." I haven't actually seen the film and had just caught enough of it out in the lobby to be sort of interested.

Everybody else had a great view and seemed completely enraptured, including the bleeder come to stick me, which is always a little nerve wracking.

"No commune book today?" She asked.

"No," I said and again held up what I was reading. "Just this."

The milker looked over to her co-worker.

"No commune today."

"Oh, too bad," the girl said. "We were both hoping to join."

And this, I thought, could be flirting, except it isn't. At best, they were gently mocking me, which is sort of annoying when you want to believe that attractive strangers might flirt with you. That stopped a while back. Time to move on.

Anyway, I considered explaining what the book was about, how it was a sequel to "Less Than Zero," and go into how much fun that is --not to mention the rest of Ellis's catalog, which is largely for masochists, but I wasn't up for the contempt.

If I was so damned smart, what was I doing here?

It was an argument I could not hope to win.

Meanwhile, the milker assigned to me, looked at the scar in my elbow sourly.

"This vein sucks," she said.

"I'd switch to the other arm," I told her. "But that vein is crooked and last time I tried it, that hurt --a lot."

She looked at me. Her friend and fellow commune enthusiast was interested, too.

"Who did that"

"I don't remember." Though, I did. She just wasn't visible at the moment and I don't speak ill of people who might be sticking me with needles.

"Was it a man or a woman?" She asked.

"A woman," I told her, the truth, though neither of them seemed happy to hear that. They'd both been complaining about some other milker, a guy, who neither of them trusted. I didn't catch the name and they didn't seem interested in passing along the information a second time.

"How bad is my arm?" I asked.

She shook her head, frowned.

"It's got a bunch of knots and lumps from the scar tissue. The vein is hard."

I nodded. This will only get worse.

"Will this become too difficult to get a needle into?" I asked. "Is this going to eventually stop me from donating?"

She shook her head.


But she seemed to be saying it was going to make it more likely that getting stuck would hurt.

It doesn't matter. I'm good at that.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reckoning II

I've been working on another book for a while --a familiar book, about snake handlers, evil preachers and secret doings in pleasant Lee County. Things were going great and now they are definitely not.

I'm putting that one in a drawer --maybe for a while, maybe forever. I don't know. The drive to finish the book is gone. I just don't want to look at it any more. I can't look at it right now, for sure.

In the meantime, I'm not sure what to do. Probably, the right thing is to pick up the other book, my long suffering, happy-happy book about a suicide that goes wrong and dig back into that. Silliness and mayhem might be just what I need --and I have a new take on it.

Emotional upheaval turns out to be very useful creatively. It would be great if something decent came out of all of this.