Friday, November 30, 2007


I was out cold for much of yesterday. They decided to give me general anesthesia instead of the twilight, so my stay in the recovery room was lengthy. I went in for pre-surgical procedures at noon and didn't leave the hospital until 8:30. The attending nurse gave me extra barf bags for the trip home, which came in handy at the Osco prescription counter. "Would generic (Vicodin) be OK?" asked the pharmacist. " excuse me," and as discreetly as possible I horked into my bag, which turned out to have a leak in it. Oops. "Cleanup on Aisle 18."

The biggest ordeal of the day was the pre-surgical guidewire insertion, where two radiologists labored for nearly an hour to insert needles into the parameters around the tumors and then thread thick wire into the insertions. One of them, Dr. M., was sweating profusely by the time they were done. I really wasn't prepared for what came next, which was a very gory mammogram. I'm not good about seeing my own blood, and nearly fainted. The radiology technician, who seemed unnerved herself, put ice packs on my neck and I gradually got my legs back. I bled all over my gown, and had to be given a new one. By the time that was done, I was looking forward to being put under.

The scene in the prep room before my operation was amusing, as one person after another came in and asked me the same questions. Are you allergic to latex? Did you take any aspirin or ibuprofen in the last week? Then the surgeon, Dr. B. arrived, looking exactly like one would expect after watching countless TV hospital dramas. In fact, he is a rather good-looking, lean man with striking blue eyes, who wouldn't seem at all out of place standing next to Hugh Laurie, or any of his fictional counterparts. The fact that he was in full surgical blues, including cap and booties, didn't hurt the impression. He described the procedure to me and my husband, and then turned me over to the anesthesiologist. "I'm going to give you a little something before we put the tube in," she said. They started the drip in my IV, and I remembered nothing until awakening three hours later. I couldn't open my eyes, but felt the breathing tube being removed, and a choking sensation. Someone, probably the anesthesiologist, asked me how I felt. I had just been drinking with Dr. B. at the Green Eye in Bucktown, and resented the interruption. I then told her as much, and she laughed. "He would be fun to go out drinking with!"

Today, thanks to Vicodin, I can move around and not think about the huge dent in my right breast too often. The dressing is still on, but I was told I could remove it today and take a shower. Not sure if I want to see what's under there...

Thanks to all who contacted me before and after the surgery to send their best wishes. I even got "flowers" via text-message! I could thank my husband online as well, but words on a screen do not suffice. He's been a rock.

I will be back on here, soon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I don't want to hear it anymore

I recently took a couple of vocal techniques classes at Old Town School of Folk Music. At the beginning of class, the instructor usually asks each of us to name a favorite singer. I adore several, including a few who don't have so-called "good" singing voices, such as Randy Newman. A single-octave range with sensitive phrasing, that's singing technique to which even I can aspire. But in the intermediate class, when asked the same question, I decided to shoot for the moon. "Dusty Springfield," I answered. The blank looks from my classmates were alarming. Am I really that old? "You know, 'Son of a Preacher Man' from Pulp Fiction?..." Thank god they included Dusty Springfield's biggest U.S. hit in that soundtrack. "Oh yeah, that's really she had some other songs?" asked a young woman sitting next to me.

Yes, she had some other songs. This is Dusty Springfield in 1969, singing Randy Newman's I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore. Voice + Song = Perfect.


I had a great Thanksgiving weekend, due to my family. Mom, bro, sis, sis-in-law, niece: thanks for coming to Chicago this time around. And, I'd like to bestow a special Green Badge of Courage to my niece's boyfriend, who tolerated hazing involving a certain cruciferous vegetable with good cheer.

My surgery is scheduled for this Thursday. The surgeon, Dr. B, still thinks we can manage a lumpectomy, despite the discovery of a suspicious spot closer to the nipple. The greatest physical trauma will occur when the fat pad in my armpit is removed, along with a number of lymph nodes. Recovery will be painful, and there is an elevated chance of permanent edema and swelling in my right arm. Will I be very disfigured? I can't help but wonder.

In discussing the growth of the tumor, I alluded to the fact that it had been growing for a year. "Oh no, this has been growing for three or four years, at least," he corrected. That really floored me. I had this thing in my breast for that long? What is the point of getting regular mammograms if something like this can go on for so long without being detected? I'm still trying to take something productive away from that discussion, but all I can muster is that the diagnosis techniques which I thought would protect me seem nearly useless.

Amusing Searches Update

The holiday weekend has been very good for the keyword search logs. Visitors have found my blog by using the following searches:

naked neighbor husband
nude pakistani girls pictures
ted nugent jerky
the evil french hobo clown
attack of the 50 foot boob

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Amusing Searches

At long last, The Fifty Foot Blogger has accumulated a few mildly amusing keyword searches. Google Analytics collects general information on traffic to this blog, including web search keywords used to lead visitors here. And just to head this bit of paranoia off at the pass: NO I CANNOT TELL EXACTLY WHO IS READING THIS. Your net privacy is safe with me, the-only-person-I-know-in-Reno.

My favs:

people who should be my friends on Myspace
attack of the 50 foot hooker
fifty foot nose
frenzy feet blog

Like I said, mildly amusing. A few years ago, the online 'zine, Library Juice, published a definitive list of funny Google searches leading to their website. I can only dream of having magnificent searches like "precolumbian porn," "i want pakistani girls picture clean no sexy," and "is cannibalism legal?" bringing visitors to this humble blog.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reading Gestures

from the Site Unseen exhibit of time-based arts, Chicago Cultural Center, November 13, 2007

Ted Nugent is my shepherd; I shall not want

While waiting for the bus recently, I noticed a storefront with a number of photos and fliers taped to the inside window.

A posterboard covered with photos is captioned "WE DO HAVE FUN HERE!! We are starting a new church in Logan Square." Photos include fun-loving Christians wearing full camo, practicing cross-bow technique, and propping up the the head of a recently killed buck, with bloody tongue dangling out of its mouth.

Services are at 11 am, and they're not taking any hostages.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I see naked people

The best conversation flows effortlessly from one topic to another; one hardly where it's going. I had one of those on Saturday, while drinking a framboise with a friend at a local bar. One minute we were talking Belgian beer, and a few minutes later, the naked neighbors.*

For a while in 2005, everyone in our little corner of Avondale seemed to know where and when the naked people could be spotted. There were three of them living together on the second floor of a corner building. They all seemed to enjoy taking early evening showers. The window directly adjacent to the shower wasn't frosted enough to provide privacy. It probably looked ok from inside, but from the outside, especially at dusk, it provided a live nude show.

I first learned about it from my tenant Chris, who used to walk around the block when he needed a smoke. At about seven on a warm spring evening, he noticed a bunch of little boys gathered across the street, looking up at something. It was a shapely young woman washing her hair. "She was beautiful," he said, dreamily. Our neighbor Marji was not so entranced. Sometimes a man was in the shower, and she said he was "throwing himself around like King Kong." I'm not sure what that meant, but it sounded kind of transgressive. She put a note in their mailbox, which said something like "Everybody can see you taking showers!!" But, the shows continued.

It became a running joke. As I stood on the sidewalk talking to Jo-jo, who has lived on our block for over 40 years, Marji's husband came out to join us. "I know what you're out here for!" she teased. I seemed to be the only person on the block who hadn't seen the naked neighbors. Finally, as I walked home from the train, I glanced up and saw number three, a heavier woman. They were right, you could see everything. She didn't have as large of a following as her more slender roommate, but there was one spectator of note, sitting in a police squad car. The officer watched with his window down, while enjoying a cigar.

*An analysis shows that most of the digression was due to my own ADDish brain: Belgian beer>my friend's friendly bartender in Ghent>a bartender i met in Amsterdam who used to live in Chicago and was fascinated by the obesity of our police force>the cop i saw chasing a suspect while holding a cup of coffee>the cop who smoked cigars on his beat>the time he was watching the woman showering>the naked neighbors

I Heart Wikipedia

Category: Fictional drugs is the kind of kooky Wikipedia entry I love. I stumbled on it while looking for an entry on Nepenthe, a mythical drug which brings complete forgetfulness.

Missing from this list, Can-D, from Philip K. Dick's science fiction novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. In the novel, Dick anticipated virtual reality and fantasy play, albeit with the assistance of a fictional hallucinogen:

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch takes place some time in the twenty-first century. Under the authority of the United Nations, humankind has colonized every habitable planet and moon in the solar system.

Life for most colonists is physically daunting and psychologically monotonous so the UN must draft individuals to colonize. Most colonists entertain themselves using Barbie-like “Perky Pat” dolls and the multitude of accessories manufactured by Earth-based P.P. Layouts. The company also secretly creates Can-D, an illegal but widely available hallucinogen that allows the user to "translate" into Perky Pat (if the user is female) or her boyfriend Walt (if male). This allows colonists to experience an idealized version of life on Earth in a collective unconscious hallucination.

I have resisted getting an account in Wikipedia, but this may push me over the edge.

Bread and Circuses

Bread and Circuses, a documentary film about the legendary Brazilian band Os Mutantes, has been languishing for over a year due to lack of production funding. WGBH Boston has come up with some cash, so one hopes we won't have to wait too much longer. American Girl Producers blog about the project, and trailer:

Saturday, November 10, 2007


As I mentioned last week, the surgeon saw an extra something on the post-chemo MRI which merited a biopsy. I should apologize for referring to it a "mass," since that sounds, well, massive. Let's call it a "spot." The spot was slightly anterior (in front of) and lateral (to the outside of) to the existing tumor.

Unfortunately, the radiologist didn't feel that an ultrasound-guided biopsy would work, since she couldn't see a match between the images produced by different imaging techniques. She recommended an MRI-guided core biopsy. That meant coming back on Friday and spending nearly five hours at the hospital. I received an MRI to establish the biopsy target, received the biopsy, and then went through additional tests.

Nurses continue to rock, especially the ones I've encountered during my cancer treatment. On Thursday, I was attended by Nurse J., and Nurse S., a short, stocky guy who cheered me by recounting his favorite Dave Chappelle sketches. "You were an ideal patient!" Nurse S. said as they wheeled me out of the MRI room on a gurney. "Really?" I asked, "What do other patients do?" "They get all frightened and start thrashing around inside the tube." While he spoke, he rubbed my bald head. I found it soothing. "How is my Elisa?" asked Nurse J. with her heavy filipino accent. She dressed my incision, and piled warm blankets on my legs and chest. I felt like a baby, but in a good way. The radiologist came over to see how I was doing, and noticed the blankets. She became nostalgic. "When I was doing night call, sometimes those warm blankets were the only thing that kept me going. I'd finally get a break at 2 or 3 in the morning, and I'd just go to the storage room and wrap myself in one of those." Light-headed from hunger and a small reaction to the epinephrine added to the local anesthesia, I was released in the wild at about 2:00 p.m. As a free woman with a hole in her boob, my first act was to buy a latte and cookie.

Today, I rewarded myself with a bratwurst and duck fat fries at Hot Doug's. Then a friend and I went to Dusty Groove, a record store which specializes in soul, hip-hop and various world music genres. I bought a compilation, Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound and Forever Changes. Love. Here's Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes performing Domingo no Parque (Sunday in the Park), one of the songs included on Tropicalia.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall Back in Fall

Mosmi's Coin Laundry. Avondale, Chicago.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

CTA Stories: M.I.L.K.

On occasion, instead of taking the Blue Line for my morning commute, I ride the Diversey bus east. The demographics of the bus change as we venture closer to the lake. First the Polish domestics, most of them women, easily identifiable due to fondness for animal skin prints and improbable hair color. Then, Hispanic moms escorting children to school and daycare. My section of Avondale is Mexican/Guatemalan/Salvadorian, with a smattering of Puerto Rican and Euro-everything. Around Wolcott, real estate signs start to tout "Luxury two-bedroom units starting at 300." Thousand, that is. We have entered yuppie territory, and white guys with briefcases and Blackberries join the mix.

However, just before the bus enters that realm of overpriced real estate, it passes through one of the city's oldest housing projects, Lathrop Homes. One winter morning, the bus pulled over to pick up passengers at the stop just north of the Chicago river. BAM! Something hit one of the windows, hard, and the bus rocked with the impact. Several people screamed. I whipped around to look in the direction of the sound. A passenger, one of the Polish women, was crouching on the floor. The window next to where she had been seated was coated with a white fluid. BAM! Another one hit a window two seats down. This time, I saw it--a carton of milk. A boy of about fourteen or fifteen ran behind a tree for more ammo. He re-emerged holding a pint milk carton. It was double the size of cute little cartons I remember from grade school. The assault continued, despite the efforts of an elderly woman from the projects who screamed at the boy to stop. He had quite an arm, this kid...if he had aimed the milk at someone's head, he could have knocked them out cold.

His face lit with sadistic joy, he hurled another milk bomb at the bus. BAM! A carton hit the back door, and a spray of milk shot through the center crack. The driver scrambled to lock the front door, and then drove a couple of blocks ahead and pulled over. He radioed for police assistance. "A youth is throwing milk at the bus." Long pause. "Milk. M..I..L..K." I felt sorry for him. It was difficult to make a case that a milk attack required police intervention. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the cops showed up. By then, the perpetrator was long-gone, leaving dozens of late commuters and proverbial spilt milk in his wake.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bad News, and Badder News

I hope it doesn't come in threes. Bad news, that is. I was having a perfectly lovely lunch hour: grilled cheese sandwich at Gina's, a a visit to Columbia to see the Girl on Guy exhibit and the discovery of very nice wine and food store in the south Loop. It's when I got back to the office that the day took a nose-dive. I recently applied for a travel grant, one which many of my colleagues have received in the past. The rejection letter was waiting in my inbox. OK, that was a bummer. It will be more so as I find out which of my coworkers did receive the grant.

I guess the Fates decided I needed another one, so I received a call first from the MRI technician at BCH, and then from the surgeon, Dr. B. There's an additional mass behind the big one, the one that was reduced by chemo. He recommended another biopsy. It's Friday afternoon and I can't seem to find anyone in, so I get to stew about it all weekend. Maybe that's number three. I hope so.