Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Wildest Interview Ever:

In the 1950s, dashing Lew Smith and his chic blonde wife Esther would go out on the town to drink cocktails and “listen to Dean Martin or laugh at Shecky Greene.” As Miami’s “only heterosexual decorator,” Lew catered to clients ranging from jet-setting socialites to the dictator of Haiti.

It was unusual enough that a Jew who fled pogroms in Poland should become the go-to guy for Miami home décor. But Lew’s life took an even stranger turn in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, he had become a psychic healer under the tutelage of spirit guides.

All this makes for a good story. And more than 20 years after his father’s death, artist Philip Smith wrote it.
More at Wild River Review

Photo: Philip Smith & one of his paintings.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cold Comfort

It is now 1°F in Denver. (Celsius=Too F*cking Cold!) It's colder and snowier here than in Minneapolis, Toronto and Portland, Maine. The snow squeaks underfoot and it hurts my lungs to breathe outside. Feh!

Consequently, I'm very happy to be working on our next Bella Terra Maps product: Florida Lighthouses. We plan to have it printed in time for me to bring copies when I go to the Space Coast Writers' Guild Conference in Cocoa Beach at the end of January. One of my half-sisters lives nearby, so I'll visit her for a few days--along with as many lighthouses and maritime museums as possible.

I also plan to visit Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge, below.
Click here for entrancing 360° view. I've been looking at it A LOT.

Oh, and HMS Bounty and the 1812 privateer schooner Lynx (below) will be docked in Palm Beach. Both offer dockside tours and the Lynx has daily Adventure Sails. I am so there! (Along with a bottle of scleranthus, the Bach Flower Remedy for motion-sickness.)

Photo by Chris Woods - courtesy of The Lynx Educational Foundation

Boy Wonder reminded me that I'd told him that if I ever moved to Florida, he should have me committed--or shot. I pointed out that a short midwinter trip requires no such action on his part.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In Cheery Siberia (aka Denver, CO)

An arctic blast hit Denver over the weekend. It snowed yet again last night--snowfall #9 since October 8, for those keeping score. When I got up this morning it was 3°F outside. The thermometer outside my dining room window registered a sultry 20° a little after noon. When last I looked it was 10°.

Sunday night I watched Silk Stockings, with songs by Cole Porter, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. (Fun fact: costar Janis Paige was married to my father's double-cousin Arthur, whose parents were Dad's paternal aunt and a Stander cousin.)

And what song could be more appropriate to the frigid weather than "Siberia," sung by Joseph Buloff, Jules Munshin & Peter Lorre:
When we’re sent to dear Siberia,
To Siberi-eri-a,
When it’s cocktail time ’twill be so nice
Just to know you’ll not have to phone for ice.

When we meet in sweet Siberia,
Far from Bolshevik hysteria,
We’ll go on a tear,
For our buddies all are there
In cheery Siberi-a.

When we’re sent to dear Siberia,
To Siberi-eri-a,
There’s a most delicious bill of fare,
You must try our filet of polar bear.

When we meet in sweet Siberia
To protect us from diphtheria,
We can toast our toes
On the lady Eskimos
In cheery Siberi-a.

When we’re sent to dear Siberia,
To Siberi-eri-a,
Where the fresh salt air makes us feel so fine,
It is fresh salt air from our own salt mine.

When we meet in sweet Siberia,
Where the snow is so superia
You can bet, all right
That your Christmas will be white
In cheery Siberi-a.

Here's the number (stop at 2:31):

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Yahrzeit #15...and A Day In Court

Lionel Stander (l) in a 1961 production of The Policemen, directed by Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski.

My father died of cancer 15 years ago today. We were a continent apart then--he in L.A. and me in Maine. There were times when he went years without seeing, or even speaking, to me. But now he's a constant presence in my life, due to the dozens of photographs on the walls of the "Dad Gallery" in the upstairs hallway. I see him when I first wake up in the morning and just before I go to bed at night, which rarely happened during my childhood.

The newest additions to my ever-growing collection of Lionel Stander images came via email a few weeks ago. Early this year a woman in California named Valerie Hunken found me via Google. She was going through the possessions of her late father, the actor and stage director Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski. Among them were some stills from a 1961 Off-Broadway production of The Policeman, with my father. Would I be interested in those photographs?

Of course I would, I wrote her. I hadn't known anything about The Policemen or Dudarew-Ossetynski. (I learned from Google that he was born an aristocrat in Wilno, Poland--now Vilnius, Lithuania.) The only shows I recalled Dad being in the early 1960s were The Conquering Hero (memorable because Tom Poston held a puppy that peed on his hand during a rehearsal in Philadelphia), Brecht's Arturo Ui and Luther. The latter two were directed by Tony Richardson, who went on to cast my father as Pierpont Mauler in a London production of Brecht's St. Joan of the Stockyards, then broke the Hollywood Blacklist by putting him in the The Loved One (still one of my all-time favorite movies).

Months went by and I forgot about Hunken. Then out of the blue the photographs arrived on November 12th, four days after my birthday. And who else should be in some of the photos than Jack Gilford, whom I first knew as the nice man in the Cracker Jack commericals. (I still remember the lyrics!) He was also blacklisted, though not as long as my dad if he was doing commercials when I was very young.

Rehearsal of The Policemen. Director Leonidas Dudarew-Ossetynski is atop table, Lionel Stander is seated at center, Jack Gilford is standing at far right.

Speaking of the Hollywood Blacklist, along with 31 others I signed on to a Brief of Amici Curiae of Victims of the McCarthy Era in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. I received a PDF of the brief today from the attorneys. It argues that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA):
threatens once again unconstitutionally to interfere with the rights of free speech and association. AEDPA's vague ban on 'assistance' and 'advice' is essentially no different from the McCarthy Era attempt to root out association with and advocacy for groups unpopular with the government.

One of the key lessons from this era is that when the federal government fans the flames of public passion by enacting overreaching criminal statutes, staging congressional hearings, and investigating the loyalty of millions of American citizens, it implicitly condones and sanctions retributions against individuals, such as Amici. Eventually, our society and this Court understood that these consequences were uncceptable. We should not make these mistakes again.
To my surprise and amazement, Dad and I are mentioned in the brief proper, which all nine Supreme Court Justices (or at least their clerks) will have to read. How cool is that?

In the Appendix, the List of Amici Curiae has biographical notes. Here's mine, drafted by the attorney and amended by yrs truly:
Bella Stander is the daughter of the late Lionel Stander, a film, stage, television and radio actor who was active in many progressive social and political causes. Stander was first subject to an early “blacklist” in the 1930s because of his active role in progressive trade unions and anti-Fascist organizations. Although he was publicly cleared of accusations of being a communist by the Los Angeles District Attorney in 1940, years later he was again accused of being one. He was subpoenaed to appear before HUAC in 1953, and as a result was blacklisted from radio, TV and Hollywood. Lionel Stander sparred vigorously with the Committee, defending his Constitutional rights and denouncing HUAC for trampling them, which made front-page news from coast to coast. Columnist Walter Winchell, who had supplied material on Stander to the FBI, then demanded that he be ousted from his role in the touring production of “Pal Joey.” J. Edgar Hoover wrote in his FBI file, which covers some 30 years: "Be certain Stander doesn't use FBI to regain respectability."
I didn't light a Yahrzeit candle tonight, but I think the above will burn a bit longer.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Julian Fellowes Talks About PAST IMPERFECT

Photo © Giles Keyte

PAST IMPERFECT opens with its anonymous narrator, a member of the minor aristocracy, being contacted by Damian Baxter, an ex-friend from Cambridge whom he hasn’t seen in decades. Thus begins a journey that contrasts the naïve debutantes and would-be debonair beaux of the London Season of 1968 with their surprisingly altered (or not) selves 40 years later.

Reached by phone in Chicago on Halloween morning, Julian Fellowes observed to freelance writer Bella Stander that “Lake Michigan is like an enchanted sea around a fairy castle.” Later that day, From Time to Time, which he produced, directed and wrote, was screened at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Starring Maggie Smith, the picture went on to win the Best of Fest Award and two other prizes.... more at

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Birthday in Music

Today started off happier, thanks to all the birthday wishes I got via email and Facebook. I've had the Kinks on my mind the past few days, but couldn't find anything by them in our pared-down music collection (350 LPs & 500+ CDs). So I played T. Rex instead. Loud.

After a very late breakfast I stretched out on the couch to read the Sunday Times to a 2-CD set of Chopin nocturnes. Op. 9 No. 2 is one of my favorites:

At around 3:30, Darling Husband took me out for another drive to Washington Park. This time we went to the southern lake, and shared a bench with a woman who had her newly adopted miniature collie on a leash. On the way to and from the park, I relived my wild days in art school by listening to a tape of Jerry Jeff Walker's ¡Viva Terlingua!, which I'd found when vainly rummaging around for a Kinks tape that I suddenly remembered once owning. I still know all the words to "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother":

I further relived my wanton youth by listening to a tape of Edgar Winter's White Trash ("Oh, the Scientologist," said DH). Here's "Keep Playing that Rock & Roll":

Which then led to Long John Baldry's "It Ain't Easy." It opens with the definitive version of "Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock & Roll," but the only track I could find on YouTube is "Flying":

After that came Leon Russell:

And then with a delicious dinner of Key West shrimp and a green salad with some of the last tomatoes from the garden, I played some Randy Newman. Here's my long-time favorite, "Sail Away":

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My Day in Music

I started off the day in a blue mood. Prompted by a Twitter post, after breakfast I lay on the couch and listened to "Can't Find My Way Home" on the Blind Faith album, a touchstone of my teenage years. The lyrics took on a whole new meaning, now that we've delayed our move to our home state of New York due to my wasted body--which I really wish I could leave.
Can't Find My Way Home
by Steve Winwoood

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting so long
Somebody holds the key

But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time, oh no
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

Come down on your own and leave your body at home
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting all these years
Somebody holds the key

But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time, oh no
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time, oh no
Oh no, and I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

But I can't find my way home
Still I can't find my way home

And I ain't done nothing wrong
But I can't find my way home

After a bit of emotional catharsis, I decided that the ideal music to listen to next was Kurt Weill. So I put on "Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill," followed by Weill's Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera), also with Lemper.

Meanwhile I read the New York Times. Or at least the A section. Or rather, the stories that didn't get me too upset. So I skipped the one on the front page about the victims of the Fort Hood shooting, and the one inside about the Orlando shooting (I had to put my hand over the photos).

To cap it all off, there were two op-eds about veterans and PTSD (which I have). The Forever War of the Mind by Max Cleland is absolutely devastating and absolutely true; Stress Beyond Belief by Bob Herbert also hits hard. Both are must-reads.

Darling Husband hid upstairs until the music was over. When he came down, I said, "Y'know, I don't think it was such a good idea to listen to Weill when reading bad news in the paper."

He responded, "It's NEVER a good time to listen to Weill. In German. That's when I know you're really depressed."

After that I made myself a bowl of popcorn and mug of mocha (DIY antidepressants) and cheered myself further by playing "Ella Fitzgerald: The Songbooks." At the same time, after wiping the butter off my hands, I redid the layout of the upcoming Bella Terra Southeast Lighthouses Map.

Then Darling Husband took me for my first post-surgical drive that wasn't for an appointment with a healthcare provider. We went to Washington Park and took a (very short, slow) walk by the first lake. We passed four 20ish guys sitting on a bench. One of them, with his lower leg in a monstrous cast, was playing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on a guitar.

When we came back, he was idly strumming. A German woman with a toddler said, "His favorite song is 'The Wheels on the Bus.'" The guys looked puzzled, so I said, "You know... [singing] 'The wheels on the bus go round and round...'"

Whereupon, to the little boy's delight, all four guys burst into a rousing rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus." As we got into the car, I heard them starting on the third verse.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

IN MY FATHER'S SHADOW: Orson Welles's Daughter Speaks

"Ignore your children and they will be obsessed with you for life."—Alain de Botton

From the moment I saw In My Father’s Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles in the Algonquin Books fall catalog, I knew that I must read the book and speak to author Chris Welles Feder. As the daughter of actor Lionel Stander (a contemporary of Welles), I wanted to learn how Feder managed to survive with—and more often, without—a famous, larger-than-life father.

A few days before she took off for California to start her book tour, I reached Feder by phone in her New York City home. The voice that greeted me was so youthful, I found it hard to believe it was coming from a 71-year-old. I started off by asking why she wrote In My Father’s Shadow....

Read more at Wild River Review

Photo of Chris Welles Feder © Gregory Downer

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Siegfried Sassoon, More Relevant than Ever

The UK Guardian ran a piece on WWI poet-soldier
Siegfried Sassoon: The reluctant hero

"Cambridge University is on the verge of securing Siegfried Sassoon's personal papers for posterity – his unpublished poems and letters are more relevant than ever, says Michael Morpurgo"

The article includes this undated poem, "just a scrap torn from a notebook":
Can I forget the voice of one who cried
For me to save him, save him, as
he died?
I will remember you, and from
your wrongs
Shall rise the power and the
poignance of my songs
And this shall comfort me until
the end
That I have been your captain and
your friend.
Sassoon's July 1917 Soldier's Declaration, according to Morpurgo, "was published in newspapers and read out in the Commons; it very nearly got him executed." I imagine the same furor would erupt today. I wish it would.
A Soldier's Declaration

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects witch actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerity's for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise.

S. Sassoon,

The Real Rules

I've been sending my rules out in bits and pieces on Twitter. It's time to put them all in one place. Follow them faithfully and I promise you won't go wrong.

Bella's Rules of Life

1. The world is filled with wankers.

2. When the going gets tough, the tough go to bed.

3. Just say no.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Amazing Resemblance

As research for a piece I'm writing, yesterday I watched "Citizen Kane" and "The Battle Over Citizen Kane." The second film had a photograph of Orson Welles just after his arrival in Hollywood in 1939, sporting a Van Dyck beard and smoking a pipe.

Wow, I thought, that "beatnik" guy on "Mad Men" (above right) looks just like Welles. I wonder if it's by accident or on purpose?

I stopped wondering after a Google search for "Michael Gladis" + "Orson Welles" got 225 results, the 2nd of which is an AMC blog, which begins:

He looks like Orson Welles, smokes like Albert Einstein and wants to be Ernest Hemingway. Michael Gladis was born to play bohemian ad man, Paul Kinsey.

Q: Your character is compared to Orson Welles. You've played Orson on stage. Is this an ongoing theme?

A: I remember at like six-years-old my grandmother saying you look like a young Orson Welles and I had no idea who that was. I had to turn to my mother and be like is that a good thing or a bad thing? She said no sweetie it's a very good thing. My whole life there has been comparisons drawn. I was cast to play Orson in a film that didn't get made and I was heartbroken.

Q: Did that have anything to do with casting you as Paul?

A: That came up in the audition. Matt Weiner, at the beginning of the season (I think referencing our conversation in the audition room) said some time this season someone is going to make note of your resemblance to Orson Welles. Mark my words. And I never heard anything else about it. I'd see every script and there was nothing there. Finally, Joan makes the reference in Episode 12 and Matt says see you thought I forgot didn't you? He stuck it in.

Until I read the above, I'd forgotten about that line. I wonder how Gladis feels about Christian McKay, who played Welles in the play "Rosebud," getting to portray him again in "Me and Orson Welles," which opens on Nov 25. McKay sure as hell doesn't look like Welles in the movie's poster, below. However, he does in the shot with Zac Efron, probably due to padded cheeks and bulky clothing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Publicity Horror: Technical Difficulties

From a screenwriter/director:
I had to go to a festival screening of my film and answer audience questions afterwards. Suddenly the reel came on upside-down and backwards. Then it stopped. Then it came back on, but with only half the picture. Then it stopped. Half the audience had trickled out by then, to go to other screenings.

I just wanted to run away and hide in a manhole. But at these things you have to stand there as though it couldn’t matter less, and everything’s fine.
This person has completed another feature film, which is making the festival rounds. All the projectors have worked perfectly. So far.

Publicity Horror: The Woman in the Front Row

It's Halloween, time once again for Publicity Horror Tales. This one's from the author of a bestselling social satire, which I'll call NOVEL.

I gave a talk about NOVEL. This 60-ish woman came and sat right at the front, all eagerness and taking notes. When we got to the Q&A session, it soon became clear that she was furious that I had had a success with NOVEL, and that she could have written the same book--only much, much better.

She went on and on. The moderator tried to shut her up, but the audience sort of enjoyed the coliseum aspect of it.

She said, "The thing is, I could have written this book."

I said to her, “I'm sure you could have. But the difference is, you didn’t and I did.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Blacklist is Born

From the New York Times, June 27, 1941:

My father, who belonged to Actors Equity and was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, in August 1940 was named as a Communist Party member in "closed" grand jury testimony that was leaked to the LA Times the next day.

From the New York Times, February 3, 1942:

In May 1953, in the middle of the roadshow run of "Pal Joey" (in which he was the Equity rep) Dad was called to testify before the Dies Committee in New York.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Horrors Begin: Stupid Author Trick

From Anytown, USA:

Anonymized to protect the clueless.

An author is invited to present a workshop about creative writing at a writing center with more than 100 members. Said author accepts, then later backs out for reasons that are not the fault of the writing center.

Author, whose book is about...CREATIVE WRITING, then emails writing center and asks that the review copy of his book be returned to him, rather than left in the library of writing center with more than 100 members.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Scare Me, Please!

Halloween's coming, which means it's time once again for Publicity Horror Stories. Send the most spine-tingling tales from your crypt, whether you're an author, publicist, media escort, bookseller, journalist, reader. . .whatever.

Confidentiality 100% guaranteed.

Email: blog(at)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Brian, You Don't Always Have to Look on the Bright Side

On "The Daily Show" last week, Jon Stewart interviewed Barbara Ehrenreich (my new hero) about her new book, BRIGHT-SIDED: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

She brought the house down when she tartly declaimed:
"I never think delusion is OK."

My sentiments exactly.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barbara Ehrenreich
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Parsing Aesop

I was feeling guilty that I wasn't exercising enough, because the hospital discharge instructions said I should walk 20-30 mins a day. So using a walker, yesterday afternoon I crept about 10 yds down the street, then 120 ft from front to back yard.

Afterwards I got sorer & droopier. This morning I could hardly move & my left foot was more numb. Off to the surgeon, who said the sciatic nerve was flared again. When he'd operated last week, it was so red & inflamed that he was surprised there'd been any immediate improvement. Now I'm flat on my back & on steroids. Again.

New instructions: All walking is to be done in the house--from room to room, up/down the stairs.

Moral: Slow & steady wins the race.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Guest Post: Strength in Numbers

Book Promotion 101 alum Sally Nemeth (THE HEIGHTS, THE DEPTHS, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN) reports on last week's West Hollywood Book Fair.

(That's Sally by the balloons, doing her Mama Rose impression.)

I am a lucky author. No, my publishing house doesn't do squat for me promotionally, I didn't win a major award with my very first novel, and I'm not on anyone's bestseller list. What I am is a LAYA.

I'm one of the Los Angeles Young Adult authors. And what we've found over our three years of existence is that when it comes to promotion and appearances, there is definitely strength in numbers.

We were organized as an ad hoc listserve by YA author Cecil Castellucci. Initially what we did was share information online, have cocktails, gather for parties and bitch about our publishers, agents, publicists, etc.

Then last year, when the BookExpoAmerica and American Library Association conventions were held in Los Angeles, we saw it as a call to action. We figured we could make a bigger splash at both events as a collective than as individuals. We came up with the idea of presenting a live game show--LAYAPALOOZA--with games based on YA lit guaranteed to amaze and amuse. We invented some absurdly funny quiz show games, got some righteous swag to give away (including our own books), and were not afraid to make total fools of ourselves onstage. And it worked.

For BEA, we contacted the Association of Booksellers for Children and performed LAYAPALOOZA in their hospitality suite, to great acclaim. At ALA, we performed at the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) pavilion and garnered quite a crowd, awarding Dum-Dums for wrong answers to the likes of Arthur Levine and Jay Asher. We set up a group MySpace page and at both events gave out rubber bracelets embossed with our URL:

Since then, we've been invited to perform LAYAPALOOZA at Vroman's Books in Pasadena, at the November California Library Association meeting and in January at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, AZ. And now all PALOOZAs are followed by book signings.

As a group, we've always talked about how book fests never get teen lit right. They either strand authors on the kiddie stage, where no teen would be caught dead. Or they put us on panels with other YA authors, where we blather to a room full of people who want to be YA authors about what it's like to be a YA author. Neither format attracts our target audience: teens.

Fellow LAYA Leigh Purtill and I approached the West Hollywood Book Fair with a proposition: If they'd set up a dedicated teen tent, we'd provide at least two hours of programming for it and rent a booth at the fair. We told them that, rather than present our own work, we'd adapt short excerpts of our books "readers theatre" style, and have an ensemble of teens perform the texts. If teens are performing, we reasoned, they'd tell their friends and families to come. Voilà! Target audience achieved.

To our amazement and their credit, the WeHo Book Fair organizing committee agreed. They said that if we succeeded in getting an audience at the teen stage, the LAYAs would have slots at the fest next year, and for years to come.

On Sunday, October 4, the LAYAs INVADED WEHO! Ten members whose books had been published within the year, along with 10 teen readers, took the fest by storm. The organizers have yet to do a post mortem, but we're pretty sure they'll be having us back.

We learned a thing or two. Next year we'll sell our own books at our own booth all day, rather than have a fest seller handle a single signing after the performance. Thus we can sign throughout the day and more of us can participate in the fest, rather than just LAYAs with books published that year. And the more of us on hand, the more attention we draw.

Next week, invited by YALSA, we'll be performing in pairs at libraries throughout Los Angeles as part of Teens Read Week. It's a great way for us to get to know area librarians, YA authors' best friends. The LAYAs are now something of a brand, all because we joined together to promote our work--and YA literature as a whole.

Not bad for a bunch of solitary authors.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Survived!

What a crazy 2 weeks it's been:
  • Monday 9/28 - 8:45am: visit to emergency room for lumbar and leg pain; 3pm exam by osteopath.
  • Tuesday 9/29 - 1:30am: another ER visit; 2:30pm exam by physiatrist & house showing (canceled when we arrived at doctor's office; GRRR); 6pm dinner with AJ Jacobs & posse before his event for THE GUINEA PIG DIARIES at the Tattered Cover (which I was too sore to attend).
  • Thursday 10/1 - 4pm: house showing & neuromuscular massage at*
  • Friday 10/2 - Literary Ladies Luncheon (see 10/9 New West article by Janet Singleton!)
  • Monday 10/5 - 11am: epidural steroid injection by physiatrist.
  • Tuesday 10/6 - 10am: exam by spine surgeon, who set up immediate surgery; 5pm neuromuscular massage; 6:30pm dinner with Agent Kristin.
  • Wednesday 10/7 - 8:30am pre-op physical with GP; 3pm shrink session.
  • Thursday 10/8 - 6am check-in for 7:30am surgery (moved up from 10:30--YAY!).
The surgery went fine. Though my back hurts like hell, my leg's already improving and I feel better than I ever dared dream. Thanks again for all the encouraging comments, especially from Alan Orloff, who gave me hope when I needed it most.

Enough of the sweet stuff. Now for the bitter...

Darling Husband's job--the one that moved us to Denver in Dec 2005--was eliminated in June. So our Blue Cross/Shield plan is now under Cobra. (How fitting that US health coverage is named for a venomous snake.) The surgery had to be pre-approved by Blue Cross, else it wouldn't have been scheduled. The first thing I had to do when hobbling into the hospital's registration office yesterday morning was submit my insurance ID card & driver's license. Then I had to sign & initial a gazillion forms.

After I was lying in a gurney prepped for surgery--with glasses off, so I couldn't read anything--I had to sign and initial even more forms. The kicker came just before I was knocked out, when I was given a form agreeing to pay the surgeon's assistant, who's an independent contractor. The surgery can't be done without her, but Blue Cross doesn't believe it takes 4 hands to:
  • slice into the back with the aid of a microscope;
  • move aside the spinal cord & sciatic nerve;
  • cut the bulge off a lumbar disc;
  • cut off protruding arthritic knobs at the end of 3 vertebrae that have changed 3 discs from elastic white to hard black;
  • staple everything closed.
So the surgeon's office will submit the payment request and Blue Cross will deny it. Then the surgeon will appeal and months later Blue Cross will relent and pay the claim. Maybe. Otherwise we'll have to make a payment plan with the surgeon's assistant. By then DH will have a new job. Maybe.

I got little sleep last night because every time the nurse turned off the lights & left the room, some machine started beeping wildly. First it was the one that inflated cuffs around my calves every few seconds to keep blood clots from forming (and me from relaxing). Then it was the IV machine. Then it was the oxygen pump. Then it was the oxygen pump monitor.

"Look," I said, "give me another Valium so this stupid stuff won't bother me anymore, OK? And give the machines Valium, so they'll calm down too."

I got the Valium. Don't know if the machines did, though they did shut up eventually.

I was back home and in bed by 1:30pm, after having belted down a couple of Valium so I'd be sure to sleep. A nanosecond after DH finished tucking the covers under my chin, Max leaped onto me. Within minutes I was zonked out with a 14-lb purring heating pad draped from crotch to chin.

Not 2 hours later my bliss was shattered by a phone call from a lady at the hospital billing office. What could she possibly want? Well, it seems that Blue Cross, which just this morning had approved the physical therapist's request for a walker, told her that my insurance had expired months ago. Kudos to me for not swearing a blue streak when I told her to call Blue Cross back and inform them how extremely wrong they are.

I'll bet that the people in Congress fighting universal health care--whose generous coverage is funded by our tax dollars--don't go through crap like this.

Is this a great country, or what?

*Note to FTC: I received no goods, payments, services--or even dinner--from any persons or entities mentioned in this blog post. Though considering the cost of health care, I would have gladly accepted medical kickbacks.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I Fall to Pieces (again)

In January I posted my New Year's Resolution on my Facebook profile: To have no major surgeries in 2009.

A month ago I was doing GREAT. My oft-operated right arm was improving vastly, thanks to neuromuscular massage from the amazing Dirk McCuistion at After 3 years, I was able to wear my favorite pants again because I could reach over to pull up the side zipper. I'd made it. No surgery for me!

In late August, I, who could never bear to exercise on my own, started doing ballet & yoga exercises every day--even several times a day. Within a couple of weeks I could do ronde de jambe with a fairly good turnout, lift my right arm with much less clunking and curl up into Child's Pose. To further get into the spirit, I bought my first pair of ballet slippers in more than 25 years (men's because my feet are so huge).

Wow, I thought, I'm doing so well maybe I'll start grooming the draft horses at Four Mile Historic Park again. Or maybe even go for a trail ride before the stable at Bear Creek Lake Park closes for the season. (I haven't been on a horse since Feb 2008.)

Two weeks ago Sunday, I woke up feeling as though I'd been run over by a truck. Draggy, flu-ish and achy all over--especially my lower back. It took me a good 10 minutes to creak into Child's Pose. I kept exercising, but could do less each day. I'd been able to lift my butt 6" off the floor doing The Bridge. By last Sunday night I couldn't raise it 1mm. My left leg was hurting like hell, worst of all in Child's Pose.

After a night of sleepless agony on the bed in my office (Darling Husband was in our room for his own safety), when I got up Monday morning my left leg buckled under me and the foot was numb from instep to big toe.

Oh @#$! Off to the emergency room, where an MRI determined that the herniated disc between L4 & L5, which I thought had healed after 4 years of quiescence, had herniated even more and was pressing on the sciatic nerve. Hence the trouble with the leg. I saw my osteopath that afternoon, who set me up with a physiatrist next day, and a spine surgeon today.

Everything was fine and dandy until bedtime, when the IV painkillers I'd gotten in the ER wore off. My left thigh and calf were in excruciating pain, made worse by either ice or heat. After hours of writhing and sobbing, at 1:30am I was back at the ER.

"What can we do for you?" asked the kindly doc.
"Shoot me," I responded. And I meant it.
"We can't do that."
"Then shoot me with drugs." I meant that too.
"Any drugs in particular?"
"I really like fentanyl."
"OK. We can do that. But we'll start you off with a patch, rather than an IV."
"Yeah, whatever."

I got the fentanyl patch but it didn't help enough. By the time I was sent home at 5:30am, I'd gotten 3--or was it 4?--IV doses of fentanyl. Later that day (Tuesday) physiatrist Barry Ogin put me on a 6-day course of oral steroids and set me up for an epidural steroid injection. "However," he warned, "these are palliatives. They'll ease the inflammation and lessen the pain, but won't cure the bulging disc."

Right he was. The oral steroids decreased the pain for 3 days and scrambled my brains for 6. Yesterday's epidural made walking easier and lessened the pain in my ass in one spot, but gave me a new, sharper pain 2" above it. My left leg is still weak, and now is also numb from knee to ankle on the outside.

Today I saw spine surgeon David Wong. BOOM! On Thursday morning he's doing microsurgery to cut off the bulge in the disc and the arthritic spurs on 3 vertebrae that are pressing into it and 2 adjacent discs.

So much for resolutions.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Too Much Shameless Self-Promotion

A writer friend sent me this rant. Facebook users: Read it and take note!
Here's something I wish authors would think about when they're seeking publicity via Facebook: That they can drive their friends crazy with WAY too many status updates and way too many mentions of the subject of their book.

Anyone who uses Facebook should know that if they clog up people's screens with too many crappy posts that their frustrated friends might well click "hide" and see none of their posts. Just because someone has a ton of Facebook friends doesn't mean that 90 percent of them haven't clicked "hide" to make their posts go away.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wild Gem

Jewelweed, Fort Point State Park, Stockton Springs, Maine.

A few weeks ago I got into a discussion about poison ivy with Dirk, founder & spectacularly gifted massage therapist at

I mentioned that jewelweed, which often grows near poison ivy (in the East, anyway), is a natural antidote to it. My stepfather is, in medical parlance, "exquisitely sensitive" to P.I. and would get it all over himself, just from petting the cat. My mom used to collect masses of jewelweed and boil it down into a tincture, in which he'd soak in the bath. (I changed his life by giving him a bottle of TecNu Poison Ivy Cleanser, but that's another story.)

Dirk had never heard of jewelweed. Last week I backed into a patch of it while taking the 2nd photo in Bella Everywhere. So I picked a sprig, meaning to press it in a book and take back to Denver to show Dirk. But within 15 minutes, the flower had collapsed into a little wad and the leaves had withered into dust. That's when I thought of taking a photo (DUH!) of a living stand of jewelweed. Being a few minutes early for my lunch date at the Royal River Grillhouse, by the Yarmouth marina, I walked the perimeter of the parking lot till I found a section of trickling brook shaded by trees. And voila! a bunch of jewelweed, which thrives in damp shade.

I took some photos, but they didn't look so hot. Two days later, I was at Cape Jellison in Fort Point State Park, where the woods were full of gorgeous stands of jewelweed.

Look out, Georgia O'Keeffe!

Sometimes Nature makes the best floral arrangements.
Asters & jewelweed, Fort Point State Park.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Picture Perfect

Neatness counts when selling one's Gracious Home, as I'm attempting to do now. But then, so does editing. One of the precious objets in the photo above (from Fail Blog) seems out of place in the kitchen. Or not...

One memorable Christmas Eve, Darling Husband and I dined at the home of an old friend of mine in a not-too-savory stretch of San Francisco's Tenderloin. "D" is now an avid leather daddy, and items even larger than the one circled above stood sentry on various shelves about his apartment. One that was easily the size of my forearm sat maybe 6 feet from my face all through dinner.

After a while I blurted out, "Do you actually use that thing?"

"I've been known to," he replied mildly.

DH and I glanced at each other, aghast, then quickly returned to shoveling food (prepared by D's near-naked "boy") into our mouths.

Apostrophe's on the Move

An eye-opener in the food court at the Denver airport. Two days later I found Martini's on the menu at the Tugboat Inn, Boothbay Harbor, ME.

Bella Everywhere

Here are some souvenirs I picked up on my trip to Maine.

Cosmetics shop, Denver airport.

Off South Street, Freeport, Maine.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Harvest Gold

All of you in the rainy, blighted Northeast, be very, very jealous. I picked the tomatoes pictured above in my own backyard this morning. The yellow monster weighed in at 13-1/4 oz. We had it sliced at dinner. It was delicious.

In the morning I myself am off to the rainy, blighted Northeast, to celebrate my mom's Big Birthday in the poetically named Gray, Maine. Saturday's forecast: 62F & rain. Oh joy.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Other People's News

Our house goes on sale tomorrow & I've been too crazy busy to write anything more than the occasional blurt on Twitter. So here's stuff from/about other people:

Virginia friend & author Mollie Bryan is Off to Denver. Tomorrow we'll meet up with a big group at the Literary Ladies Luncheon. On Saturday afternoon I'll be at Wen Chocolates, where Mollie's going to spread "a little more of that pie love" in an event for her 2nd book, MRS ROWE'S LITTLE BOOK OF SOUTHERN PIES (Ten Speed). With FREE PIE!

In NYC, BP101 alum Matthew Cody met kids from the Thalia Book Club at Random House and signed galleys of his forthcoming YA novel, POWERLESS. Read about it on the Symphony Space blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sucess Story

Woohoo! Book Promotion 101 workshop alum Kelly McMasters just informed me that her book, WELCOME TO SHIRLEY: A Memoir of an Atomic Town, tops the Oprah Book Club list of Addictive True Stories.

Kelly is the co-director of the KGB Nonfiction Reading Series, and teaches writing at Columbia and mediabistro.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Jenny, The Best Dog

Six months ago, Jenny was going on long mountain walks, splashing around in Cherry Creek and running away after deer. She'd slowed down considerably since the days she'd raced against motorcycles, but she was still way ahead of us on the trail. Then she slowed down even more. By March we had to wait for her to catch up when we went for long walks. By April she refused to go on long walks at all. Arthritis in her hips, the vet said.

We tried various medicines, in various dosages, but Jenny got increasingly feeble. By her 13th birthday in mid-June she couldn't even walk around the block. Nor could she get upstairs to sleep on the floor at the foot of our bed, which she'd done since she was a puppy. After the last vet visit 2 weeks ago, I took Jenny to her favorite park. We'd only walked 5 minutes when she turned around and headed back to the car.

After that she wouldn't walk more than 50 yards from the house, and spent most of her time stretched out on her side on the bare living room floor, panting. Whenever I petted her she emitted the faintest high-pitched whine.

Friday morning I called the vet to ask for an end to Jenny's suffering--and our anguish over her. He said he'd be here at 8:00 a.m. today.

At 7:00 this morning I sat on the front steps, with Jenny stretched out at the bottom because she couldn't make it back into the house. At 7:30 I brought out a cup of tea and yesterday's NY Times Magazine. At 7:45 Darling Husband came out to sit with us. Jenny moved into the shade along the north side of the house and barked for the last time at Snowy, the cat next door, who was walking along the fence. At 8:00 we were more than ready for the vet, but no one showed up.

At 8:15 I called the vet's office. The receptionist said they had us down for an appointment there. She was unswayed by my tears of grief and rage; no way was anyone coming to our house today.

Jenny was always terrified at the vet's; she'd start panting and trembling as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. Which was only as far as she was going to go today, we decided. If the vet wouldn't come to our house, he could at least attend to Jenny in our car. So she'd be calmer for her final trip, I shoved 10mg of Valium down her throat (like a cat, she always spat out pills). When I pulled my hand out, a big chunk of one of her molars came with it.

DH pulled the car around in front, close to the curb. I had to lift Jenny's hind end so she could get onto the floor, and then again so she could get up onto the back seat.

There was quite a crowd at the vets'. My eyes were so blurred with tears that at first I couldn't read the euthanasia form I was given to sign. For a half-hour, DH and I sat with Jenny in the car, petting her and telling her what a good girl she is.

Finally the vet came out. He had the good grace to apologize profusely for the screw-up. Then he and the tech injected Jenny with a sedative, and then something lethal.

I kept my left hand under Jenny's neck, my fingertips buried in the fur at her throat, where I could feel the vibration of her breathing. I stroked her head with my right hand and kept telling her it was okay to let go, that she'd always be my baby.

"This'll only take 4 or 5 minutes," the vet said. But it didn't. It took a good 10 minutes, plus 2 more injections. The reason was most likely circulatory problems--"probably her lungs," which fit in with Jenny's rapid decline and harsh, labored breathing.

The vibrations in her throat grew fainter and fainter, then stopped. In another minute I could feel Jenny was gone. Now my baby can rest without pain.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Spit Take/Quote of the Day

An AP story on developments in Iran had me guffawing. Good thing I read it before I had my morning beverage, else I would have sprayed tea all over my computer.

[The Guardian Council] said Monday it found irregularities in 50 voting districts, but that this has no effect on election outcome. Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei was quoted on the state TV Web site as saying that its probe showed more votes were cast in these constituencies than there were registered voters.

But this "has no effect on the result of the elections," he said.

As the Brits say: Pull the other leg--it's got bells on it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekend Lit Crit

Better than a thousand words--and ditto for zombies, werewolves & other undead:

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tears of Laughter (and suppressed rage)

Photographer Miriam Berkley sent me a link to the ultimate freelancer's video, which had me howling:

The Vendor Client relationship - in real world situations

Monday, June 15, 2009

Same Old, Same Old

I haven't been posting lately because not much has been going on in my life, except:
  1. I went to NYC for 4 nights for BookExpo, and also gave a "Polish Your Pitch" workshop with Ron Hogan at Backspace Writers Agent-Author Day.
  2. Then I spent 3 nights in the Kingston, NY, area, where I hope to live in the not-too-distant future.
  3. Just as I was returning the rental car in Poughkeepsie, Darling Husband called to say that he'd been laid off his job of 8 years--the one we'd moved to Denver for 3-1/2 years ago.
  4. I have to crank out the text (some 17 K words) for the Bella Terra Massachusetts Lighthouses map so it can go to press in 10 days.
  5. I'm giving another phone seminar on June 28. (Details in sidebar.)
  6. Last Thursday, I had 3+ hours of excruciating nerve tests on my dysfunctional right arm, which has had 3 surgeries since I broke it 3 years ago. Preliminary results: Further neurosurgery would probably do more harm than good; my 3 middle fingers will remain numb forever.
  7. I had 8 days of debilitating headache (technically neuralgia), caused by Denver's unusually damp & stormy weather. On the plus side, my garden has never looked more lush.
  8. Tomorrow I go back to Dr #13, a hand/arm specialist at Denver Health's Center for Complex Fractures (which I wish I'd known about 3 years ago, GRRRR...), who will tell me whether further orthopedic surgery will help. If he says not, I'm giving up.
  9. My wonderful dog Jenny, who turned 13 yesterday, is rapidly succumbing to arthritis. Once upon a time she'd run for hours without stopping. Now she can walk--slowly--for 10 minutes at most, and can barely make it up the 3 steps into the house. We've tried all sorts of meds, to no avail. Today I started her on Dog Gone Pain as a last-ditch effort, and tomorrow she'll get codeine too. There's a wonderful new book, HOW SHALL I TELL THE DOG? I keep asking myself (and the vet): How shall I kill the dog? And when?
As a palliative, I've been gardening and immersing myself in novels written or set in the 19th century:
  • CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT by Rigler (again; even better after RUDE AWAKENINGS)
  • LITTLE DORRIT, though Dickens's sentimentality & weakling heroines may have me reaching for Trollope's Palliser novels before too long

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Best Wedding Vow of All

I got all choked up reading this piece in today's LA Times by YA author Kerry Madden, who's spoken at my workshops:

Our wedding vow -- to my mother--in law
Our elopement included a promise we would never lose our ambition. We kept it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Off to BookExpo...and beyond

BEA checklist:
1) Get teeth cleaned at dentist.
2) Do laundry.
3) Get online boarding pass.
4) Dither over what outfits to pack.
5) Print out "Polish Your Pitch" workshop program.
6) Confirm party & dinner dates.
7) 9:15 pm - Plant sunflower & morning glory seeds outside in the dark.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll find time to do some blog posts from BEA. Then again, maybe not...

Showdown at the Kitty Corral

Snowball the trespasser beats a slow-motion retreat from Max the Mauler.

While I was making sales calls for Bella Terra Maps this afternoon, some high drama was playing out next to the house. Next-door neighbor Snowball came over, and as usual, had a faceoff with Max.

We can't figure out whether Snowy is really stupid or just stubborn. Max almost always beats up on him when he comes over, and Jenny almost always barks at him and chases him away. (She didn't today only because she was napping.) Still, he's constantly in our yard, and sometimes even sits on a kitchen windowsill and peers inside.

We have feline rock-paper-scissors going in the neighborhood: Max clobbers Snowy, Snowy clobbers the black cat across the alley, and that cat clobbers Max.

Update: Next day, the Boy Wonder found Snowy in our basement. He beat a hasty retreat out the window we'd left open for Max, who apparently needs to get a lot tougher.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

My one and only child was born at 12:26pm on May 23, 1989. He was due on May 13, but--setting a pattern for later life--arrived in his own time, well after I was completely exasperated. (That's him at left, age 5, styled by himself, down to the sticker on his right shin.)

Those last 10 days were the longest in my life. I lay like a beached whale, reading a one-volume collection of Jane Austen, interrupted by phone calls from family and friends to see whether I'd given birth yet. I got so fed up that I started responding, "Yeah, I had the baby and didn't tell you," or "I decided not to have the baby, and just stay pregnant forever."

I went into labor around 6:00am on May 22. It felt like mild menstrual cramps. Wow, I thought, this is going to be easy! How wrong I was. After 30 hours of fruitless and often agonizing labor, I had a caesarean section, and the Boy Wonder was pulled squalling into the world. At 9 lbs, 12 oz, he was 50% bigger than the next-largest baby of the 6 in the nursery at Wayne County General Hospital, in Honesdale, PA (best known as the home of Highlights for Children). Those 10 extra days in utero gave him a roll of fat at the back of his neck as thick as my pinky, huge round cheeks and a crease in his chubby chin. The discharging doctor called him "Moose."

That was the last time the Boy Wonder was fat. As I've often joked over the years, my plump little dumpling stretched out to be a long piece of spaghetti. More like capellini, as he's now 6'4" and 132 lbs. I call him "the human hummingbird," because he has to eat his weight daily to stay alive. Well, almost: 4 meals, plus big snacks. When he was with the Obama campaign, he managed to lose weight while having 2 super-sized Big Macs and a milkshake for lunch, plus an equally big breakfast and dinner.

Now my little baby is an Economics major. Today I was working in the garden, dressed in the Carhartt men's overalls (women's pants are never long enough) I bought as my first maternity outfit. And tonight I'll continue rereading Pride and Prejudice, from the same volume I read in what was truly a lifetime ago.

The Boy Wonder at Obama's acceptance speech in Denver (detail of photo that ran in NYT 8/30/08).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Follow the Apple

A couple of years ago I planted a Stayman Winesap apple tree in my backyard. I since found out that it's self-unfruitful, meaning it needs another variety to pollinate it. Yesterday I bought two Cortland apple trees at Home Depot, instead of a Cortland and a Jonagold, (mis)remembering that they were good pollinators for Stayman. I just did some online research and found out that Cortland and Jonagold are the absolute wrong trees to plant with Stayman, as they won't cross-pollinate. Not that the Stayman has produced any flowers to date. But, ever the eternal optimistic (or deluded) gardener, I want to be ready for next year.

Deep into my Google search, I found this tidbit on a website about old apple varieties:
During the American Revolution, captured Hessian soldiers held near Winchester VA planted an orchard with Fameuse (aka Snow) apples.

My curiosity piqued, I did a search for Hessian soldiers Virginia, and found some fascinating--and appalling--stuff.

In a Wikipedia article on Winchester:
Hessian soldiers were known for walking to the high ridge north and west of town and purchasing and eating apple pies from the Quakers. Thus, this ridge west of town became affectionately known as Apple Pie Ridge and the Ridge Road built before 1709 leading north from town was renamed Apple Pie Ridge Road.
In the New York Times there is a March 31, 1912, article with the innocuous headline Virginia Mountains Shelter Colony of Lost Hessians.

And then there's the subhead:
Descendants of Hirelings in Revolutionary War Who After Their Release Took Refuge in Gloomy Hills Near Charlottesville, Live There in Rude Huts, A Law to Themselves and a Forgotten Band.
Those would be the same hills that visitors ooh and aah over when I take them for drives around C'ville.

The article tells how, after the Revolution, Hessian soldiers who had been imprisoned in Charlottesville (which named Barracks Road and Hessian Hills after them) took off and settled in the nearby Ragged Mountains, "a small range of black, gloomy hills." The Times's anonymous reporter then wrote, apparently forgetting that Hessians were, um, Saxons:
As we have recently learned, the Blue Ridge mountaineers are a fearless, lawless folk of the purest Anglo-Saxon blood. They have a native intelligence and furnish the best kind of material for a civilization to be built upon. A good citizen can be made out of a Blue Ridge dweller when put in the right environment....

The Hessians are quite different. They have little if any understanding of modern morality. Marriage is a luxury, which has seldom lingered at their doors.

There is hardly a cabin in these mountains which does not harbor an idiot, the result of atrocious family relations.
Wow! It gets even better:
When neighbourly quarrels arise they usually fight it out with sticks and stones and their big bony fists. Firearms are reserved for the wild turkeys and quail.

The Hessian women do most of the heavy work. The men cut a little wood and train the coon dogs. If the women become unruly they are whipped by their husbands.
The reporter supposedly heard a woman being beaten by her husband. Next day the reporter asked her brother what he was going to do about it. The supposed reply?
"Well, I reckon I can't do much. Fact is, I was a beatin' my own wife last night."
In the Good Old Days at the Newspaper of Record, I guess reporters weren't required to actually report and cite sources if unsubstantiated opinions and vaudeville jokes would do just as well.

P.S. Now I'm on the lookout for Delicious, Lodi, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious or Fuji apple trees.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I'm Psychologically Distoibed!

Glenda Jackson in Marat/Sade.

Today I went for a 10th(!) opinion on my right arm, to Dr M. As a welcome change, she was polite, kind & respectful. Unfortunately, she didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, nor give me any great hope for the future. She wanted me to see the partner of Dr Schmuck, who's in the same building, for "pain treatment" (e.g., physical therapy and drugs, which haven't been effective this go-round). I told her I wouldn't set foot in that office, nor have one dime of my money go into his pocket. So she referred me to someone else, whose name I've filed away.

Dr M looked at the results of Dr C's EMG nerve tests (i.e., "torture") and, just as he did, told me that the median nerve was doing better. I told her my response to him: "Sez you. If the nerve is 'better' why does my arm hurt more, and why are my fingers more numb?"

"These things take time," said Dr M, echoing Dr C & several others. She repeated that nerve tissue heals @ 1mm/day. My arm is a good 24" (610mm) from shoulder to middle fingertip. I finally did the math: I have to wait 610 days after last June's surgery, i.e., till February 1, 2010, to see whether the median nerve has regenerated. But if it hasn't healed by then, it'll be too dead to repair. So I'll be stuck with a sore arm and perpetually numb fingers.

My quandary: Should I have surgery that might fail & leave me worse off, or wait another painful year & maybe miss the chance to fix the nerve?

Last week I left a message for Dr C, asking for a referral to a neurosurgeon "who isn't arrogant & condescending" like Dr B. His office manager called back with contact info for Dr X. After I got home from seeing Dr M, I Googled Dr X. And--what's this?--he's not a neurosurgeon, he's a neurologist and...PSYCHIATRIST.

Official diagnosis: I'm psychologically distoibed!

Official reaction: Nothing makes me crazier than being told--always by a MALE doctor--that I should see a shrink.

Darling Husband agrees that if he were the one seeking help, he'd have been treated with a lot less condescension, and offered surgery rather than palliatives and psychotherapy. I feel a Third Wave of feminism raging within me.