Thursday, June 25, 2015

Me and My Hemorrhoid

This isn’t going to be easy for me to write, but I resolved when I launched Mendel Illness last fall that I would address even the most uncomfortable aspects of our common humanity. My mother was neurotic about a great many things. Elimination was near the top of the list. When she used the toilet, she would always turn the cold water in the sink on full blast to prevent anyone’s hearing what she might be up to in the bathroom. I was taught from infancy that the whole subject is profoundly shameful.

My wife visited me in Los Angeles early this month. We had only one bathroom between us, so naturally I became woefully constipated, but of course constipation comes quite easily to me. All I need do if I want to get, you know, painfully backed up is eat a lot of fruit, this in contravention of the common view that fruit makes one, uh, regular.
But back to my own humiliation. The greater one’s constipation, the harder one works to eliminate. The harder one works to eliminate, the more likely he or she is to incur hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids make it excruciating to work hard to eliminate, with greater constipation resulting. The viciousest of cycles! And we’re supposed to believe that God created us in, uh, His own image?

I presently have a hemorrhoid that feels to be about the size of an infant’s head. It seems to like it down there, as it shows not the slightest sign of leaving me.

You haven’t any idea how hard this is for me to write, so I think I’ll take a breather, and tell you about a programme I used to enjoy watching in the UK — You Are What You Eat, hosted by a little Scots woman called Gillian McKeith, who may very well have been one of the great charlatans in recent British cultural history. (Her principal qualification was a diploma in nutrition from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, who were discovered to award similar diplomas to anyone who sent them a checque that didn’t bounce.) McKeith quite reasonably counseled the poor devils featured on her programme to eat less crapola and more foods that probably all of us would regard as Healthful-‘n’-Nutritious. My fav(u)rite part was what I came to call The Sniffin’ o' the Poo. It was McKeith’s view that the…how can I put this with maximum delicacy…excrement of crapola-eaters is more malodorous than that of better-informed diners. I’m sure I wouldn’t know, and equally sure I have no great yearning to find out.

During my wife’s stay, I drank a great deal of prune juice, 99 cents per bottle from the 99 Cents Only store. Mostly, my, eliminative system just snickered at me. But then, spiteful little bastard that it is, it decided at the very worst time – when else! — to remind me to be careful about that for which I wished. We were driving through my old Malibu stomping grounds at the moment of its capitulation, speaking vaguely about stopping for lunch. At the sight of a Subway sandwich shop, I made a very sharp left turn, parked, and virtually sprinted in. I tried to sound casual as I asked the cashier, who was busy taking someone’s payment, if they had a restroom. The look on her face suggested that I hadn’t done a great job of sounding casual. Indeed, I think she intuited that if she hadn’t handed over the requisite key, I might have tried to strangle her.

Blessed, blessed relief, though it came at the price of using a public toilet, something with which I’m enormously uncomfortable. (I’m also pretty iffy, if you must know, about anal intercourse.) My blessed relief lasted well over an hour, after which I resumed feeling as though I might explode at any second. And so the day went. I realize now that it could have been much worse. I could have had a hemorrhoid the size of an infant’s head. The one I, incurred, a week later, the one on which I’m sitting as I write this.

Things got back to normal when I regained exclusive use of my bathroom. For around 16 hours, after which my eliminative system shut down again, for reasons it made no attempt to explain. Some people live and learn. I just live. I ate a lot of fruit. It got worse. I went to the local CVS and bought their version of Metamucil. My eliminative system got a real kick out of that. “As if!” it giggled.

My hemorrhoid hurts.

A quick Bing (Safari seems to believe that Google and I are no longer an item) reveals that there are some extremely graphic photos of hemorhoids on line. You will note that I have reproduced none here. You’re welcome.

Pray for me.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Broooooce Reconsidered

There were lots of wonderful records on the radio as I approached (chronological) adulthood, few more wonderful than the breakthrough international hit by The Easybeats, sort of the antipodal Beatles. At the beginning, as the singer bitches and moans, as the very young will, about being a wage slave, it’s fairly earthbound. But then, as he begins contemplating ever more voraciously the weekend to come, the music begins to soar. The Beatles and Hollies sang thrilling harmonies? Neither had anything on the Easies. “Friday On My Mind” was one of the three or four most exhilarating pop records of the 1960s.

On his 2014 visit to Australia, Bruce Springsteen performed the song, presumably as a special treat for his fans in Sydney, where the Easies were formed, though performed isn’t quite the right word — brutalized is more like it. I have never heard a worse vocal performance by a professional musician. It isn’t that he’s painfully out of tune — his atonality made all the more vivid and embarrassing by the lovely entrance of his four African American backing vocalists (white folk can’t jump, or sing backing vocals) — or that he seems to be stuck on Bellow. It’s also that he stomps around like an irate orangutan, gesticulating like a thwarted toddler.  In this latter regard, one is reminded, unpleasantly, of Mick Jagger, who in his own dotage, has taken to gesticulating in exactly the same way 4000 times per song.

It’s OK to just stand there for a moment or two, fellows.

When he first emerged, I perceived Springteen as a hammy,  vocally affected, musically banal, logorrheic blowhard, though there was no denying that his own breakthrough hit, “Born to Run,” had its thrilling moments. Strap your hands across my engine, indeed! Then I saw him live, where he exuded joy as no other performer I’d ever seen — a prisoner of rock and roll, pleading for a life sentence, in Greil Marcus’s wonderful phrase — and became an avid fan. I thought “Dancing in the Dark” might have been the best song about depression I’d ever heard, and I am the composer of "Falling Off the Face of the Earth."

The more popular he became, though, the more grandiose. He committed the rock superstar’s cardinal sin, of inviting his wife, with her alarming proclivity for singing in the key of H, to join his ever-larger band on stage. Apparently embarrassed by how exhaustingly bombastic he’d become, he unleashed his inner folk singer, complete with a twang that made his soul man affectations seem authentic in comparison, and it made one long for the old grandiosity. “Anyone who will claim to listen to Nebraska for pleasure,” a writer for Creem cogently noted, “will lie about other things too.”

In this century, he’s taken to showing up on TV nearly as relentlessly as Dave Grohl, but TV is so not his medium; that which looks really cool to someone 50 yards away in a stadium looks foolish or even obnoxious in close-up on TV. He  is no less relentlessly passionate than in the old days, and entirely too fucking passionate. He grimaces horribly. The veins in his neck bulge ominously. Will the guy sing himself to death? Will he cause himself to explode before our very eyes?

His self-mocking turns alongside Jimmy Fallon nearly got me back on his side. But then there was Sydney. If I’d been a member of the audience there, “Friday On My Mind” would have made me more inclined to try to tar and feather him than to thrust my fist in the air and bellow, “Broooooce!”