Friday, April 27, 2012

Medical&Dental, Operations, Procedures and Other Tortures

I have tried to stay away from Doctors and Dentists all of my life. It seems to me that they spend all of their lives trying to find some illness or cavity so they pick and probe until they eventually do. They are very happy and self satisfied upon finding this defect, they smile and let you know they can help, maybe even cure the problem and, this is important, "It won't hurt a bit! Well, maybe a little pressure but that's all.". I do know enormous progress has been made in these fields but just because they don't saw off a leg without any anesthesia, just by poring whiskey on the sore and down the patent's throat, doesn't mean there isn't a great deal of discomfort, might I say PAIN, associated with it all.

My first recollection of meeting up with whole phenomenon goes back some sixty-five years ago. I was just entering my teen years and I was looking forward to playing baseball and thrilling all the young girls around with my prowess. My Mother  who had been bringing me to The New York Orthopedic Hospital informed me that the Doctor had decided the only thing that would keep me from collapsing when I was twenty-six or so was an operation to give me arches. At that time all parents believed anything Doctors or Clergy told them, after all they were professional men of the highest standing besides it wouldn't take long or after a day or two or have much pain associated with it. The operation was to take place in September and I would miss a term of school which was six months at that time which I figured wasn't such a bad thing. We took the BMT over the Fifty-Ninth Street bridge and stopped at Woolworth's, a big five and dime at the time, where I had a Malted and a "BLT Down with Mayo". I didn't realize it but it was like the guy on death row having anything he wanted for his last meal. Things were good. We, my Mom, my Father's sister, Aunt Tessie entered the hospital where they prepped and pampered me. The next morning I was lifted on a gurney and I can remember looking up at the ceiling and watching the lights whiz by as we entered the operating room. This simple operation needed anesthesia which I think they call GAS, it took over three hours. They broke my arches, cut my Achilles tendons and took some bone scrapings from my right leg. My Mother told me she met the Doctor right after and if she saw then what she hadn't seen before she would have never let him operate for his hands and face were twitching all over the place. She figured he must of taken drugs in order to operate and they were wearing off. I woke up in the most excruciating pain imaginable wearing casts up to my knees, so naturally I found it very difficult to move. I was in that hospital for a week and in pain for five days, finally it wore off as the pain medication took effect. I was a lousy patient especially to my mother as I sat in the wheel chair when she came to visit. The truth of the matter is if I was my kid I would have found the door to the stairway and threw myself down the flight of stairs just to shut me up. Happily, I was my Mother's child and she was sufferings pangs of guilt for having put me through all this, which I took advantage of. The rehab was horrendous. After a month the casts were exchanged for walking casts. After a couple of months the walking casts came off and I needed a couple of months on crutches until I learned how to walk again. Just like the Doctor said, really not a difficult type of procedure. I really wasn't able to thrill the girls that year.

Just when I was getting ready to go home that Saturday something happened. That Friday night I threw up and had a fever. They called my Mom and Pop and got permission for a Dr. Pinoia from Roosevelt Hospital which was on the west side of Manhattan while I was on the East side because the Hospital I was in only dealt with bones, breaking them I thought, while this Doctor was a General Surgeon who dealt in Internal Medicine, in fact he was in the Newspaper a few weeks before handling a sensational murder case. When Dr. P. (easier for me to refer to him that way) came in he seemed to be an enormous but jolly man full of smiles and good news. He said just a quick examination and then I could go home and have my Mom's spaghetti and meatballs. He started to put on latex gloves on his right hand which gave me pause to notice his middle finger  on his left hand was missing and he had the biggest fingers I had or will ever see. I could swear his middle finger on his right hand was about as round as any waist and almost as long. The room was filled with nurses, my parents, and I don't know, some people that just wandered by, which caused tremendous embarrassment when the joyful Doctor lifted up my gown exposing me in all my glory to the whole world. I had the feeling of impending doom when I saw him using Vaseline  on the existing middle finger. When he then shoved it as far up my rectum until I felt he was examining my tonsils the feeling of impending doom was realized. As he took his finger back to himself and started to get rid of the glove, which needless to say was filthy, as he washed he explained that I had to go by ambulance to Roosevelt Hospital for an Appendix removal. Through my loud wailing, I asked that he use Gas for my anesthesia and he said he would,. He didn't,. They used Ether which caused me to throw up all night. I was tended to by a man who told me he was a hobo, road the rails, king of the road, not a bum because he sought work, bums did not. Within a week I was released and finally got to eat my Mom's spaghetti and meatballs. I did enjoy the ambulance ride.

Some three years later my Mom was told I had to get my tonsils removed, a simple procedure, not at all like it used to be. So one day my Mom and I went to Astoria Hospital. The Doctors, maybe Interns, asked me if I wanted to have my eyes covered. I said no, big macho man. They were using a local which was to be administered by a long needle. When I saw this needle I asked for my eyes to be covered. The guy inserting the needle had his hand on my chest. He called a nurse and another guy over to feel my heat racing. He said, "This kid's heart is beating like he just saw Lana Turner naked and they all laughed. He then stuck the needle into my left tonsil, then my right, as he pushed in the plunger I thought it was coming out of the back of my neck but it wasn't until they stuck something else in my mouth which felt like a wire of some sort when it went around my tonsil, that I wished I was on an island with a naked Lana Turner, because this place was feeling like the chamber of horrors. I slept for a few hours after and woke up to a bloody pillow. My Mom took me home. A little into my convalescing, when I was at home alone, I felt hungry and quite OK. I made myself a snack of Grahame Crackers with peanut-butter and jelly and a nice cold glass of milk. I didn't know any better. It caused great pain, some bleeding and about a month longer of getting better than was necessary.

Fast forward some sixty-five years. Having trouble with my Prostate I went to a Urologist. He said he had to perform some simple procedure which would only cause some feeling of pressure but other than that I could watch what was going on on the screen next to the examining table. When I went for the cystoscopy I already had the experience of a lifetime as I was in another room with the Doctor and his pretty assistant. He pulled up my gown and here I was again in all my glory and he inserted something in me and it hurt but I was too embarrassed to notice. But when I went into the other room with him and his assistant and the cystoscopy began I didn't even know who was there just me and the Doctor to whom I said, "You lied. This hurts!" , since he didn't respond I asked him if he would mind if I screamed and he responded, "I wish you wouldn't". Funny but the screen was there and I wasn't interested in viewing what was on it. Finally it was over and as the assistant cleaned up I confessed my embarrassment to which she said, "Its my job.", to which I wanted to respond "But its my Penis.", but I didn't. The Doctor then suggested a simple outpatient Laser procedure, pointing out it was really nothing but a good cure. I said yes. What he didn't tell me was I had to leave the place with a catheter stuck in me and that I would remove it the next day before visiting him.
I must point out I really didn't sleep that night but I kept emptying out that catheter. I never realized I had that much work for my kidneys but I did. I removed it the next day in the shower and while it wasn't real bad pain there was some and fear especially when I saw the blood following. But I got through it all right. I am off all prostate medication and it didn't hurt the Doctor one bit.
Just a few days ago I had my first cataract operation. Everyone told me that had it and some that didn't, including my Ophthalmologist, that it was a "walk in the park". I must admit compared to all the others it wasn't so bad but let me tell you it isn't "A Walk In The Park.". My name was called and I walked into the prep room after donning the obligatory gown, hair covering (I am bald), and slippers. Got the IV, the questions, some other meds and eye drops and then was led into the operating room. I must confess between the accents. eastern European, and the young gals who talk at a mile a minute and very low even though I respond with a very loud and hopefully commanding voice so they will respond in the same, they don't. So I was led like a lamb to slaughter not really knowing what I was told or, except what I had to read and sign, what I agreed to. The procedure took 20 minutes to a half hour. While there was no pain there was discomfort, not great but it isn't fun lying on an operating table for that time with something over your head and heat, cool, liquid going through your eye melting the lens so the new lens can be inserted. Finally it was over and I was being led back to the recuperating area for instructions, observation and coffee. I had a patch over my left eye which caused me to be a little discombobulated. I wasn't used to seeing out of one eye only. The next day I went to my Doctor. I had to remove the patch because I was driving to the Doctor's office. He suggested I remove it about a half hour before the visit. The time came. I struggled to get an end so I could peel the tape off. I succeeded and suddenly I COULDN'T SEE OUT OF MY LEFT EYE!!!!!! Then I realized that my eyelids were stuck together. I used some warm water and slowly the eyelids came apart but then all I could see was a white haze. Going through my mind was all those people who told me that after their operation they saw perfectly, colors were brighter and the world was better, but not for me. Finally as I left the white haze was starting to diminish. I drove quite well, as I always do.  The Doctor explained everyone reacts differently but everything was fine and he'd see me Monday. I do wish he would have told me this and the fact that I could have removed the patch earlier so my eye would have more time to react. But Se la vie.

I have gone to Dentists who constantly ask me when I might flinch, or moan while they are performing drilling, root canal or some other form of torture, "Does this Hurt?" and I answer "YES!" and they say "Why? It shouldn't.", I say, "That's because it is my mouth and tooth, not yours.". I went to one Dentist some 72 years ago who convinced my Mom that I had to have the top front four baby teeth pulled out so the permanent teeth could come in. She agreed. So one day my brother, Mom and me took the trolley at Rodman Street, Flushing to Junction Blvd., Corona and they waited outside as I entered and sat in that horrible Dentist chair. The door closed. He proceeded to the task. He must of been in a rush because he administered no Novocain. Outside my screams were so loud and terrifying my brother almost fainted, in fact he might have. When my Mom finally came in I was toothless and bleeding and HURT! But the Dentist was happy. Don't you just love the Hygienist who does the scaling. "This won't hurt.", she assures us. She then proceeds to hit every nerve possible without actually cutting your gums. She continues to smile as you continue to bleed but eventually she's done and you make the promise to yourself never to put yourself through this again, of course you forget and go back for more. What about the examination? The Dentist actually uses workman's tools. His drill IS a DRILL, like when one makes holes. AND that little pick which he manages to stick into every crevice around your teeth and gums, is a PICK, like a pick and shovel. We might as well have the manual laborers work on our mouth they use the same tools and they charge less. I guess the biggest hurt is when the bill is presented. That's when the Dentist smiles broadly and you go home and weep. Winners keepers, losers weepers. And on that note I shall end this discourse.

I guess I really shouldn't complain because with all the poking and prodding the Doctor's save lives and the Dentists help us live longer more tasteful lives as do all heath givers. Thank you all of you who work in a field that requires love and patience to make sure guys like me are able to walk away and enjoy life for another day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Moody Blues

It was sometime in the late 1960's or late '70's that Blues entered my consciousness. A good time for them to crash into my brain my wife and I just completed our seven children, I was the rising young financial star in a film company called American International Pictures a nice position which didn't really translate into much cash. We, my wife and I were both tired but I was having more fun. She was stuck at home with the brood (that's the way it was done back in the day) and I was working hard doing some travelling through Europe, South America as well meeting with big shots from other countries when they came to the United States. This of course meant big business dinners, a lot of motion picture screenings and just enjoying the benefits of being a big fish in a little pound. But as I said, we were getting tired. A business associate, another young Turk introduced me to The Moody Blues. He also tried to introduce me to Colombian Gold but when my wife found out she really chewed my ass leaving bite marks all over my backside and I am not referring to love bites. So all I had was The Moody Blues and for me their first and best album, "Days of Future Passed".

I would come home wasted from the day's work, play and drink. As long it wasn't from Colombian Gold my wife wasn't unhappy as I would lay on the floor and put on the album. It was with the London Symphony orchestra and it brought visions into this tired mind of stars retreating as the dawn was breaking and the first song, "The Day Begins" started to play. They would bring me through he day into the evening with "Nights In White Satin" then raise me up again with "Fly Me High" all the way through "Tuesday Afternoon" and end it with "Twilight Time" and a fabulous poem and the London Symphony Orchestra howling great notes. Naturally I played this at full volume. It was a transcendental experience which led me to buy many of their albums but none had the effect "Days" had. I often wondered just how much of an experience I would have if I listened while I smoked some Colombian Gold. Then a friend of mine told me "The Blues" were coming to Madison Square Garden. Without saying we went.

We had great seats somewhere in the front center. There was a group, good or bad I don't remember, who warmed up the place which needed no warming at all. I noticed a haze which seem to come over the place. No anti-smoking laws were in place back then. I kept breathing deeply and by the time they came on, with the first number, "I'm Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band" I was flying. They finally got to the numbers on "The Days of Future Passed" and I realized I had a contact high! In the middle of Madison Square Garden, with tens of thousands screaming and adoring I floated to "Tuesday Afternoon" and absolutely flew to "Nights In White Satin", my wife could not be mad at me because whether it was Colombian Gold or Mary Jane from Mexico it didn't matter I was floating way up there joined with the masses there forever even though we would never know who we were but what did that matter.

Unfortunately, life continued on and I got older, so did my wife and kids. The company moved to California and I didn't and soon "The Blues" and the motion picture business was gone in a fog of boring Bank business which at least paid well even if it wasn't any fun. Just last Saturday, my oldest, and I mean "Old", son got tickets for "The Moody Blues" at Westbury, for those not New Yorkers this is a place that has been around forever and puts on great shows and concerts on Long Island , New York. I wondered if I would recapture the "experience" but I doubted it. I thought the crowd would be old, really old, you know like me, but I was happy to see that despite an older crowd, guess the average age was about 55 but there were young ones and old, you know like me. There was not an empty seat in the place. There was a feeling of excitement as we waited and then suddenly down the aisles came, Graeme Edge, Drummer, Poet, Composer, Born March 30, 1941, John Lodge, Bass Guitar, Singer Composer, born July 20, 1945 and Justin Haywood born Oct. 14, 1946 and I thought "What old bastards! I hope they can get through the performance without having a heart attack.". They had four more musicians that were younger, a guy on keyboard, a magnificent Percussionist, and two beautiful gals one keyboard who doubled on Tenor Sax, the other Guitar who doubled on a flute and she was terrific. Well let me tell you they were terrific as they played an hour with a half hour intermission and finished with another hour. The place was rocking. Even old guys, you know like me, got up and were yelling, singing and waving arms. Graeme, John and Justin were great, full of life and the longer they played the younger they looked. For a brief moment they transported me back to Madison Square Garden but it wasn't quite the same, it wasn't their fault, no smoking permitted, no contact high.

The Moody Blues had us in the palm of their collective hands. The night may be over but their music will always live in my mind and heart reminding me of times when this old guy wasn't quite so old.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"60 Minutes", African Classical Music

This Sunday's "60 Minutes" segment about the development of a Classical Symphonic Orchestra in the middle of a war torn African country that is in muck and mire, hunger, oppression and any other crime against humanity that you may think of brought home to me the value of music and how it lifts the inner spirit of man.

There was this Air Pilot who lost his job in this country. For some reason he felt the need of a Classical Orchestra was needed very badly in his country. The only problem was there were no instruments, no musicians, no music and he himself wasn't a classical trained musician. Somehow this didn't stop him in his pursuit. He started to acquire from wherever he could old broken down instruments. With the help of some compatriots they started to repair the instruments. He started to acquire music from wherever he could. Somehow the word got around that this guy was doing this crazy thing and people from near and wide came to see if they could partake in this experiment. They finally got enough together to have a Choir, enough musicians and instruments to attempt to play this classical music. A film company from Germany heard about this endeavor and filmed a documentary which led to German musical professionals, about oh, I am not sure, about 5 of them, to come over and lend a hand. The Opera person gave singing instructions and developed the instrument of the voice. The people were taught how to read music. The night came and in an old broken down garage they gave a concert. All dressed up in their finery, these poor mistreated people proudly gave a concert which was most inspiring and heavenly. They finished with  Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" which was magnificent. I am sure purists would find fault but not I. This group which took untrained voices, musicians, broken down instruments lifted their spirits with enthusiasm and pure joy rising over their lives which are mired in war and misery. I may have gotten some thing wrong about the segment but you can check it out yourselves by surfing to or something like that. But the important thing to me was how important music is in our lives as human beings.

The performers came from far distances some traveling three hours a day just to take part in this project. The streets were mainly unpaved, the people were mainly hungry and poor yet the experience of music gave them something that their lives could not. This shows the reality of music being a religious experience by which I mean the lifting of one's spirit to heights that make even the most deplorable conditions bearable. For those who choose not to believe in a Supreme Being I ask them to consider the universe being composed of things we do not see but can only feel. The human spirit is like that. The inner feelings can lift us to unbelievable feats and accomplishments which can't always be explained by the mundane, the touchable things but the factors that can't be seen and touched. To those who do believe in a Supreme Being music is his/her way of speaking to us and our way of answering. In both cases music is the voice of the Gods, lifting our spirits so high that even if our lives were at the lowest ebb if we listen and let the vibes seep into our very being it can transform us into something more than what we would be without it.

Let music transform you if it hasn't already. Let the religious experience I speak of happen to you. AND if you don't believe this can happen to you just check out the "60 Minute" segment of this past Sunday, April 8, 2012 about how an African community has lifted up their souls and mine through Classical music.