Wednesday, May 30, 2007

BookExpo Dispatch: I Heart NY

Got up at 4am for a 7:30 flight to La Guardia, which ended up leaving 1/2 hour late. Oh well... Darling Husband was right across the aisle and I had a great conversation with the guy in the middle seat next to me, who's a theatrical sound designer. He told me about a friend of his, a lighting technician who fell from a 30-foot catwalk and broke both her wrists, as well as some ribs. She's on her 2nd round of surgery & may end up not being able to bend her left wrist again. Yet another reminder that Things Could Always Be Worse. My right arm may be screwed up (I winced every time my seatmate brushed against it), but at least I can use my hand and go out and about.

DH and I took the subway down to South Ferry and walked around Battery Park just before dinner. The sun was shining gold off the Hudson, a full moon was over Brooklyn, a breeze was blowing, the waves were lapping and Latino men were landing big fish right and left. All was right with the world.

Along with my BEA registration came a copy of the new Pauline Frommer's guide to NYC. The binding is so shoddy that the first two pages came loose as soon as I opened the book. But once I saw that she gave a high rating to one of my favorite Chinese restaurants (Jing Fong on Elizabeth St. below Canal), she had my trust. And she didn't steer me wrong: After wandering along the waterfront, DH and I took a cab to Les Enfants Terribles (at Canal & Division Sts.), where we had a fantabulous--and reasonably priced--dinner. The drinks and food were as sublime, and the staff and customers as exotic and gorgeous as Frommer indicated. And after two marvelous, minty mojitos I was feeling absolutely no pain. (Wish they delivered to the Javits Center.)

At the start of our meal, on one side just outside there was a table of 4 animatedly speaking Chinese, on the other side the scene at the bar was in French, the hostess and waitress were Australian, and there were two gorgeous model types--one Asian, one African--at a table in the corner. After a while, the Chinese gave way to a stunning young woman & a plainer gal pal speaking French, occasionally joined by a French (Parisian from the sound of him) guy from the kitchen, all sharing Marlboros (the model types were lighting up outside too...*sigh*); the Francophones at the bar were mostly replaced by Aussies. Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" undulated throughout. I was in heaven (the cigarette smoke was blowing the other way) , especially while savoring every last molecule of the chocolate "cake"--really more like pudding/mousse. Some Enchanted Evening! To top it all off, our cab uptown went from Canal to 47 St without hitting any red lights.

But every spell must come to an end. Tomorrow I hit the ground running, starting with a breakfast meeting, and don't stop till I stagger onto the plane Sunday afternoon. I'm fortified with a bottle of B12 supplements. Hope my voice lasts.

Monday, May 28, 2007

My Latest Inspiration

So it's a big three-day weekend, which means my email SPAM box is overflowing. From the message headlines I learn that our great nation is in peril, apparently overrun with fat and impotent men. My solution: Cialis should be renamed "See Peter."

Are Children Isn't Learning

Students in Fort Worth protest being banned from high school graduation due to their failing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam. The sign in foreground sums it up beautifully: "Let are kids walk." Full story here.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to "do the walk" at graduation--or watch others do it--if they didn't have to. I haven't been to a graduation ceremony since Baby Brother's 25 years ago and I think my butt's still sore, as there were something like 200 kids in his class. There are 400+ in the Boy Wonder's, so Darling Husband and I were quite relieved when he said he had no desire to attend his own graduation this week. (Or was it on Friday already? I didn't pay attention.)

BW's guidance counselor was shocked. "He doesn't want to do the walk?" she gasped.

"Why no," I answered, "and it's fine with me." I felt like a monster. . . for about two seconds.

My own little monster (6'4" but he's still my baby) also didn't want to go to the prom, or have a yearbook photo taken, or buy the yearbook, or go to any graduation parties. Which are also OK by me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's All About Logistics

GalleyCat has a post with a marvelous double entendre in the title: Blown Book Deal Hard to Swallow. It's about how writer Eric Schaeffer supposedly lost out on a contract for his book, I Can't Believe I'm Still Single. Once I read GC's post and the linked post in Gawker, I, for one, found it quite easy to believe Schaeffer is still single.

Gawker quotes a Nerve interview, in which Schaeffer says:
"I ended a book deal from a major publisher in New York because the woman who runs the publishing company, when my dick was in her mouth, had her checkbook out and said, "I will buy your book now."
Schaeffer's equipment must be button-sized if someone can enunciate clearly around it--AND handle a checkbook while doing so. (Kudos to the publishing exec for her multi-tasking ability.)

Call me crazy, but I'll bet Schaeffer stays unmarried a while longer.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Rise Up, Joe Hill!

From As a Director, Clinton Moved Wal-Mart Board, but Only So Far in today's NY Times:
...a prominent management lawyer who has helped stop union drives at many major companies, said he worked closely with Mr. Walton to convince workers that a union would be bad for the company, personally telling employees when he visited stores that “the only people who need unions are those who do not work hard.”
Tell that to the coal miners and auto workers!

An Enormous Disturbance in The Force

I've been feeling mopey and didn't know why. I looked at my favorite blog a little while ago, and now I do:
Miss Snark is retiring
It may be bright and sunny here in Denver, but still the day is jet black. Where will I go when I want to laugh and roll my eyes at clueless nitwits? What will I do when I need more surgery on my arm, and there's no Get Humerus Poetry Contest to get me through it?

I defy any Snarkling to have dry eyes by the end of this video.

And see this tribute at 101 Reasons to Stop Writing, which also offers nifty Miss Snark badges. I just put one in "Even More About Me" at right.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quote for the Ages

From Racial rift tears at school in today's Denver Post:
"I am appalled these people say we're racist. My family has been here since the 1880s," he said. "I have dedicated my life to this community. I speak Spanish to their grandmothers. I've delivered their babies. ... I've had that colored boy in my home."
--Vaughn Jackson, M.D., of La Jara, Colo.

Dr. Jackson's son Trey is one of several boys in an imbroglio with their African-American high school basketball coach (father of the "colored boy"). After target practice one day, the lads took a fun picture of themselves holding their guns and giving the Nazi salute, which whipsawed through the Web. Local consternation--make that outrage--ensued.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Website 3.0...or Cross-Border HTML Slavery

Magic Christian in Quebec read Lookit My Shiny New Website! and offered his design services and mad HTML skillz. He made a new logo and nav bar, added a "News" bar, cleaned up my photo and tweaked the HTML coding. I changed text, colors and headline fonts.

Here's the old site, made by Darling Husband.

Here's my redesign.

Here's the Newer! Shinier! version: Book Promotion 101.

Two heads are indeed better than one--especially when one of those heads really knows what he's doing.

Christian found me through Miss Snark's Get Humerus Poetry Contest--yet more good from one of the few happy events of last summer.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

What I Want:

What I Don't Want:
--billboard outside a Denver tattoo parlor (sic punctuation)

What I Got:
  1. Sparkly brooch, purchased by myself as a surprise from/to Darling Husband.
  2. An appalling quantity of plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens annual sale, ditto.
  3. Omelet & bacon for breakfast (my choice), lovingly prepared by DH.

What I'll Get...presumably:

A card from the Boy Wonder and maybe a gift--when he finally drags his teenage carcass out of bed. (Note time stamp below.) All I remember from last Mother's Day is that he made me a card with an apology from Gomez, the horse who smashed me all up.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

May Day 4

A year ago today I came home from the hospital. I mentioned that to Darling Husband this morning, and he said,"Yeah, I had to fight to keep you in there. They wanted to send you home after three days. I was freaking out; you were in such bad shape, there was no way I could take care of you. We were looking into skilled nursing facilities."

I remember little of that, other than the sourness of the sole female physician, "Dr Crabby," who was pushing to get me out ASAP. I stayed on, though, either through her being overruled by the other doctors on my case (there were at least three) or institutional inertia. I do remember a neuro-something-or-other in a nice tie, who had me stay a seventh night, for which I was very grateful. Due to my multiple concussions, he warned, I shouldn't have any alcoholic beverages for six months. Yet he had no problem with my taking opiates.

Once home, I spent most of my time on my back in bed, propped up on a big foam wedge, with a smaller one under my knees and pillows under my extended right arm. DH moved to the single bed in my office, where, except for a few days in July, he slept for the next seven months. Soon we rented a motorized La-Z-Boy so I could hang out in the living room. We thought we'd only need it for a month or two. How wrong we were.

Remember how "Dr Tommy" put a brace on my arm, and said I'd be OK in 8-12 weeks? Funny thing about that...

Shortly after I got home, my uninjured lower arm swelled up enormously and turned rainbow colors. My thumb looked like a turkey drumstick and I could barely move my bloated fingers. Naturally I was rather alarmed, so I called Dr Tommy's office. His receptionist chirped that some swelling was to be expected; beyond that she offered no help. So I called Dr S, my wonderful osteopath, who'd visited me in the hospital and even brought me a plant. (Dr S is no botanist, though, as revealed in The Importance of Horticultural Nomenclature. Swallow your drink before reading.)

Dr S told me the swelling was probably due to lymph drainage, and that I should elevate the arm and apply ice packs. I did, and whaddayaknow, the swelling went down. As did my estimation of Dr Tommy and his minions. A few days later, Dr Tommy's tech fitted me for a new brace. It was horribly uncomfortable, with a curved piece that poked into the top of my chest right under my arm. After several weeks of increasingly sleepless nights, I ripped the #$%! thing off at 4 a.m. No more Dr Tommy.

Dr S reconfigured the brace, then ordered me a new one that felt better. But my arm wasn't healing. Dr S said it needed surgery, so he sent me to Dr M, an orthopedic surgeon. No surgery necessary, said Dr M; the arm was healing fine with the brace and new sling he gave me. (Sling #1 was polyester, which made me itch.)

Meanwhile, I could do almost nothing with my right hand, as the thumb and first two fingers didn't work. I couldn't pick up anything, or even push down the space bar on my laptop. (I was typing left-handed; lucky for me I have big hands and a little keyboard.) And my arm still hurt so much I couldn't even carry my car keys. (By late July I was driving again, exclusively left-handed--quite a challenge when I had to turn on the ignition, or shift into reverse, or fasten/unfasten my seat belt, or make a hard turn.)

On a fine day in early August, I went to vote. My neighborhood polling station was at the Denver Botanic Garden, which conveniently had free admission that day. So after I performed my civic duty, I wandered around the gardens. On doctor's orders, I'd stopped wearing the sling, but had a wide Ace bandage wrapped around my upper arm and chest, which gave me a dashing flapper bustline. By the time I was halfway through the grounds, I was in agony. My arm felt like it was falling apart and I had to cradle it against my side with my left hand. I called Dr M's office right then from my cell phone and the doctor on call told me to come in the next day.

Just a few days earlier, Dr M had looked at the newest X-ray of my arm and declared the break was healing fine. Dr S looked at the exact same image and said, "There's no union" (i.e., the bone was still in pieces). When I was seen by a colleague of Dr M's next morning, he echoed Dr S and set me up for surgery six days later. I was going to have a steel plate screwed to my humerus--which Dr S had been recommending for months. I don't remember if he was angelic enough not to say, "I told you so." I think I said it for him.

To be continued.

Monday, May 07, 2007

But You Don't Have to Take My Word for It

Two days after the DC workshop last month, attendee Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book, wrote Run, don't walk to Bella Stander's Book Promotion 101.

Below is an email I got just yesterday from workshop alum Cynthia Shapiro, author of CORPORATE CONFIDENTIAL: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know -- And What to Do About Them. (The main title was suggested at the workshop by guest publicist Kim Dower, of Kim-from-L.A. Literary & Media Services.) This made my week!
I want to thank you again for all your great information, and your wonderful seminar. I remember, not so long ago, when I learned that my publisher wasn't going to do anything to promote my book, my baby. I was feeling heartbroken and completely lost as to where to begin learning how to do all this myself. Book Promotion 101 was a complete eye-opener and absolutely started me off in the perfect direction. When I left your seminar, I had a concrete plan that I'm still using today with great success. And the resources you introduced me to were phenomenal.

My TV experience last year on CNN snowballed into more and more TV, radio, and even a double feature in the Wall Street Journal. I’ve been on Fox News, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, featured in Fortune, Glamour, Self, Marie Claire, Details, Essence, Real Simple, and in over 40 major newspapers across the U.S. and around the world. AND the book finally broke through in a big way, shooting up to the top of the International Bestseller list! Can you believe it? It’s like a dream come true (well, a dream and a lot of hard work). It's been at the top of the list now for 9 weeks straight and is still going!

Oh, and my second book is due out in January '08! This one my publisher WILL actually be promoting thanks to all this publicity success.

Take My Workshop...Please!

I totally empathize with authors who groan at the burden of publicizing their work. "If you build it, they will come" may work great in the movies, but business is no field of dreams. So I'm constantly having to take the advice I spout at others and apply it to myself in order to promote Book Promotion 101. And it sure ain't easy.

Los Angeles -- Saturday, June 16
Registration deadline: June 4. Early Bird discount if you register by May 20.

Guest Speakers:

Guest publicists:

Bonus: Wine & cheese poolside chat afterwards with Jennifer Kaufman & Karen Mack (Literacy & Longing in L.A.), Kerry Madden (Gentle's Holler, etc.), Sally Nemeth, Kevin Smokler and others.

See full details & registration info here.

Colorful Memories

Young Beverly Gray (far right) being taught by Carmen de Lavallade.

A year ago January, the day before I gave a workshop in L.A., I had a wonderful, long lunch in Santa Monica with author Beverly Gray. We discussed some book ideas she had, then the topic turned to her childhood in Los Angeles. She started talking about how for years she had taken dance lessons at the Lester Horton Dance Theater under the tutelage of its star performer, Carmen de Lavallade. So unlike most little Jewish girls then, Beverly's idol was a dark-skinned ballerina--one of the first in the U.S.

I said to Beverly, "That's the story you should write!" She did, and after many months it's finally seen print--in today's L.A. Times: Big lessons for a little ballerina.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

BookExpo Butterfly Effect

Five years ago, when I was the books editor for a Virginia lifestyle magazine and a freelance reviewer for People, I attended the BEA Editor & Bookseller Buzz Forum, which used to be on the Thursday afternoon before the show. (This year it's on Friday, which is a drag.)

On the way out, Jonathan Karp--then at Random House, now head of his own imprint, TWELVE, at Grand Central (formerly Warner Books)--was handing out galleys for a debut novel he'd edited, Where the Truth Lies by Rupert Holmes. Karp was very enthusiastic about the book and we got to chatting after he pressed it into my hands. He reminded me that Holmes was "The Piña Colada Song" guy, wrote/composed the Broadway show "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," and wrote the AMC TV series "Remember Wenn," which I'd watched religiously.

A pivotal scene in Where the Truth Lies is set in an ersatz drive-in movie theater below GM Plaza in Manhattan. In the end notes in the galley, Holmes wrote that there really was such a place in the early 1970s, and that he saw "A Dandy in Aspic" there. A week or two later, as soon as I'd finished gobbling up the book, I sent an email to Karp telling him how much I'd loved it. My father co-starred in "A Dandy in Aspic," and his character is killed at the Berlin race track. So, I wrote Karp, "Holmes watched my dad die over dinner."

I sent the email to Karp's office address late on a Sunday afternoon. A half-hour later, I got a phone call from Rupert Holmes. Himself! Once I recovered from my astonishment, we got along like a house on fire and wound up talking for a good 45 minutes. We discovered that we shared a favorite Chinese restaurant, the Jade Palace in Scarsdale, NY, where Darling Husband and I had gone several times with his parents.

I ran Where the Truth Lies as one of my "Hot Picks" in the next issue of the magazine. A couple of months later, I went to Tarrytown, New York, for my high school reunion, and Holmes met me at my hotel. The Jade Palace was gone, alas, but we had a fine lunch at another Chinese restaurant, then afterwards hung out in the hotel garden. I had lived nearby (I told Holmes how I used to sneak into the hotel's outdoor pool on summer nights), and we walked around my old neighborhood. Just as we got to what used to be my home, a woman came out. I introduced ourselves (first name only), and she showed us around the house. It had been significantly remodeled, but the original 1920s fur safe in the upstairs hallway
was intact. (Just as we did, she used it to store medicaments.)

A while
after that, Holmes and I had a great dinner in the city at another favorite Chinese restaurant we have in common: Chiam on East 48th Street. In early 2005, after the funeral of my mother-in-law in White Plains, NY, I called him to get a line on a good Chinese restaurant nearby. He steered us to a great one that was right down the street from where DH's parents lived for many years. We saluted their spirits as we ate.

Two months later, Holmes's second novel, Swing, came out. It's set in 1940 and the narrator's former house has a fur safe in it, just like mine.
(The hardcover comes with a CD of original music composed by Holmes; he sings some of the songs too. The disc goes great with "Swing and Dance with Frank Sinatra." Try it!)

Swing was published just before the Virginia Festival of the Book, so finally it was a good time for Holmes to participate at the festival. As luck would have it, the UVa drama department was performing "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" around the same time. So in addition to speaking on a mystery panel, Holmes did a talk and performance, during which he accompanied Drood's female lead in one of her signature songs. A huge thrill for her--it's not everyday that a college student gets to sing alongside the multi-award-winning composer of the musical she's starring in.

To cap it all off, the night I gave my workshop in Manhattan a couple of months ago, I and a friend attended a preview of "Curtains," for which Holmes wrote the book and additional lyrics. His assistant helped me get seats, the best I've ever had: orchestra, 6th row center. He found me during intermission and we talked after the performance, till it was time for cast notes.

All because I went to BookExpo.

Friday, May 04, 2007

To BEA or Not to BEA

A recent Book Promotion 101 workshop attendee quoted her agent as saying that "coming to BookExpo and thinking it would help at all was an urban myth."

I answered that I
respectfully disagree. I think every author should go to BEA at least once--whether or not they're at their publisher's booth--to get a sense of the publishing world and how it works. They will (or should, anyway) gain a humbling perspective on how they and their book fit into that world: as a speck of dust on a tiny cog on a massive wheel.

"If you don't go," I wrote, "it certainly won't be a career breaker, but I think it would help get visibility for you and your book, and be an extremely educational experience for you. And you might make some good contacts."

That said, I added, "
BEA is a madhouse and publishers don't want their authors aimlessly hanging about the booth and getting in the way of paying customers. So you'll have to finesse this."

The author is paying her way to New York, her publisher is giving her a show badge and she's going to have lunch with her editor and publicist, and possibly some other key people. (I told her to be sure she sees her agent too, and to bring little gifts for everyone and send handwritten thank-you notes when she gets home.)

The author's inhouse pub arranged for her to do a BEA podcast, since she's (ahem!) "going to be there anyway."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May Day 3

So I spent a week in the multiple trauma unit at Swedish Medical Center. Once he was back from DC, Darling Husband visited me every day; maybe even twice a day, but I can't really remember. I couldn't read--too spaced out, plus my face was too sore and swollen for glasses anyway--and I didn't want to watch any TV. So I just lay propped up on my back, zoned out on painkillers (which didn't kill nearly enough pain) and brain damage, alternately sleeping and gazing blankly out the window at a dreary tableau of AC units and weed trees.

My great accomplishment, after a day or two, was getting out of the bed unaided and wheeling my oxygen & IV drip to the john. I looked at myself in the mirror--once--and was so horrified that I didn't do it again. It's remarkable that I look anything close to normal now, considering how battered my face was.

I was very glad when it was time to go home, but that's when life got really hard. My balance was poor due to my injuries, and the meds made it even worse, so I had to walk with a four-pronged cane. I couldn't use my dominant right hand at all and had to do everything (writing, typing, eating, personal hygiene, etc.) exclusively left-handed.

I could do absolutely nothing on my own, other than go to the bathroom--and that with great difficulty. To facilitate matters, I wore only a long pull-on skirt and loose Hawaiian shirt, or a long button-front dress, ankle socks and slip-0n shoes. (Someone else had to do the buttons and pull on my socks.) That's it. Lucky for me there were no sudden updrafts, á la Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven-Year Itch."

I had a big painful lump in my upper lip and banged-up front teeth, one of which had been knocked 1/8" longer, and my molars were all askew, practically undoing all the orthodontia I'd had in my 20s. So I couldn't chew and had to speak with a lisp so as not to hit the longer top tooth against the bottom ones. I never realized how much I use my front teeth till I couldn't: No biting off hangnails, and I defy anyone to open a shrink-wrapped tampon solely with their off hand (my very greatest accomplishment).

To my bitter disappointment, I had to cancel my trip to Washington for BookExpo that was scheduled for nine days after I got home. I also had to cancel a workshop I'd scheduled for mid-June in L.A. (I'm trying again this year; it's going to be on June 16.)

At my urging, DH went to BookExpo as originally planned and John, the college student we'd contracted to stay with the Boy Wonder while we were away, ferried me around. We hired a female home health aide to help me get dressed and bathed every morning. I just looked at my calendar, and on one of those days I saw the osteopath and Katie the counselor (she kindly made house calls for the next few months), went for a chest Xray, and in the evening attended an author reading at the Tattered Cover. I don't know how I managed that; must have been the drugs.

In early June I had root canals on the three damaged front teeth, one of which--#8, the most noticeable--subsequently died and has turned a charming shade of shirt-cardboard gray. (After this BEA I'm getting it capped. Meanwhile, I'm trying to smile without showing my teeth, which I did for years before I had braces.) The next day, DH had to fly to Connecticut for the weekend to attend the funeral of a beloved aunt. I don't remember how I managed while he was away; must have been the drugs again.

To be continued.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day 2

My memories of the rest of that day--indeed the entire week I spent at the hospital--are vague and jumbled. Which is probably a good thing; being in shock has its benefits.

I remember that it hurt like bloody hell when I was moved off the helicopter, and from the gurney to whatever else. The worst move was to my bed, after I'd been lying in the hallway for a while waiting for a room to become available. My eyes were bloodied shut and I don't know why no one cleaned them off, given all the examining and stitching that was done. My left eye was still stuck the next day, and I wound up wiping it clean--gently!--myself.

I had a raft of Xrays and CAT scans done, and had my mouth and forehead stitched. All I recall of that is being told that I was going to have the scan, and my saying that I'm allergic to iodine, so they couldn't inject me with dye.

  1. Concussion.
  2. Fractured nose, right brow bone, maxillary sinus, palate and palatinate bone (didn't even know I had one!); gash between eyebrows, which had to be stitched --all caused by my glasses smashing into my face. (The glasses shattered too; they looked like the ones in the famous scene in Battleship Potemkin. I was going to take a picture of them, but the husband disappeared them after a few months.)
  3. Gash on right forehead (conveniently on an old scar), also stitched.
  4. Right three front teeth torn through upper lip, ditto.
  5. Fracture across upper right humerus & another down shaft at humeral head.
  6. Two fractured back "floater" ribs.
  7. Bruised liver, possibly caused by broken ribs.
To add to the drama, Darling Husband was in Washington DC on business. The stable called my home and got the Boy Wonder, who then called DH's office and got his colleague, Gavin, who called DH with the bad news, then drove right over to our house. Gavin brought BW to the hospital to see me (shudder...I was scary looking!), then stayed at our house till DH got home the next day.

At some point (next day?) the orthopedist, "Dr. Tommy," gave me a choice: I could get a titanium plate put in my arm right away, or I could wear a plastic brace and be A-OK in a couple of months. Well duh! Of course I chose the brace. Little did I know...

Continued in next post.

May Day

One year ago today I was awakened at 6:00 a.m. by a phone call from my stepfather in Maine, who told me that my mother was in the hospital with a hurt knee. Nothing dire, though she was in plenty of pain; she'd be out soon, maybe later that day. The news could have waited a while, but he'd forgotten about our two-hour time difference.

My bloody helmet & left glove.

Of course I called my mother right away, after which I was unable to get back to sleep. So I started off the day tired and headache-y. I had a riding lesson scheduled and toyed with cancelling it in favor of taking my car to the dealer, as it had some kind of jingle in the engine. But I didn't want to forfeit $40 for cancelling the lesson at the last minute, and figured I'd take the car in later that week.

At 10:00 a.m., dressed in my riding gear, I had a first session with Katie the counselor. I'd been depressed after an unending stream of trouble since moving to Denver in December. In January, my dog needed emergency surgery for two (!) cracked and abscessed molars, which the vet in Virginia hadn't detected less than two months before. Shortly after that, the Boy Wonder got the flu, then for months was down with a string of allergy-related sinus infections and return of a hiatal hernia. Right after he got over the flu, in February I got pneumonia, then a bad case of shingles, during which the dog developed urinary problems. Our (now-ex) vet told me her kidneys were failing and she'd be dead within two years. (Per the new vet, she has non-fatal diabetes insipidus, for which she's taking medication.) The shingles affected my balance and in mid-March I fell and broke my nose; to add insult in injury, a couple weeks later I got a wicked sinus infection. Then I came down with food poisoning at the start of our Passover seder, thanks to lunch from the antipasto bar at un-Safeway. In addition, we'd had to redo the plumbing and heating systems, and install new windows throughout our new (ca. 1902) house, all unforeseen and unbudgeted.

I sobbed to Katie: "I feel like I'm being punished, and I don't even know what I did wrong!" We agreed that I should come for weekly sessions for a while.

I miscalculated how long it would take me to get to the stable and arrived late. Worse, the horse I was due to ride had rolled in mud and it took me a good 45 minutes to get him cleaned up, by which time there was only 15 minutes left for my lesson. Gomez is "girthy"--he gets surly and snappish if you touch his sides too hard--which means I had to brush him very gently, then tighten his girth strap in three stages before I could mount him.

We went in the outside ring and poked around in a slow left-handed circle along the fence. A big bay in the adjoining ring kept rearing and trying to buck, and I admired his rider's skill in maintaining her seat, meanwhile thinking, "Whew! I'm glad my horse isn't doing that!"

Gomez, who'd been perfectly calm when I'd ridden him in the inside ring a week earlier, was a little distracted and kept peering around at the scenery and other horses, but it was nothing I wasn't used to. I took my feet out of the stirrups to stretch my legs, whereupon the instructor said, "You wanna ride without stirrups?"

"Sure," I answered. I'd done it many times before, though admittedly when I'd been in better shape; this was only my second ride in six months. "Should I cross the stirrups over the saddle?"

"Nah," she said. "You can just let 'em hang." I said OK, and she told me to pick up a trot. I did, and Gomez started getting jiggy--nothing like his usual smooth self. (Now I think he was irritated by the stirrups banging his sensitive sides.)

Suddenly I found myself starting to slide off, something that hadn't happened in years. "Oh @#%!," I thought, "I'm going to hit the fence."

The next thing I knew, I was in excruciating pain and couldn't open my eyes. I heard an enormously loud "WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB!" My first thought: "This sounds just like 'Apocalypse Now'."

"Where am I?" I mumbled, through thick, bloody lips.

"You're in a helicopter. We're going to the hospital."

"What happened?"

"You fell off a horse." ["Thrown off with great force" was more like it.]

Twenty-five years ago, when I came to in an ambulance and got that answer, my response was, "What horse?" This time, however, I remembered. Maybe that's the difference between being smacked on the right frontal bone rather than the left occipital.

Continued in next post.

The Last Good Night

One year ago tonight was the last time I was able to sleep pain-free, in almost any position. How much I've lost.