A lot has happened this summer. It has been a great year, despite a couple setbacks and some rocky romantic times. I have been meaning to document as I go, but life has been a whirlwind.
I’m putting my best foot forward these days.
Normally this is where I would make the jump, and you would read the rest of this post. Well guess what? I’m saving the jump for last, much like a hesitant suicide. Drastic comparison? Maybe, but wait until you see the pictures. It looks like a stunt pussy from Girls & Gore, or like a baby zombie used the top of my foot for a pacifier.
Yes, I’m having medical issues again. SPOILER ALERT: I live, and it’s almost all better. So I can gross you out o’plenty without you worrying if I lose a toe. Relax, I’m not a member of the Nine-Spot Club just yet.
Only because I am blessed. Thank you, Providence Portland.
It started with what looked like a pimple on top of my left foot. It grew, and I couldn’t tell if it was a boil or a spider bite. (I am a member of the Save the Spiders gang. Unless they’re in bed with me, I catch them and take them outside.) Rain has been sleeping with me, and any bugs in my bed would be met with a comic horror reaction worthy of America’s Funniest Videos. So I was pretty sure it wasn’t a bug bite.
When I got home and looked at it, the main sore spot had formed a head. I squeezed and met resistance. I know better than to force matters, so I left it alone. As I stared at my foot, I watched a white spot form a few inches away from the sore spot. That’s not good.
I felt chills, then fever. I knew what was coming. I curled up in bed and made phone calls as soon as Providence opened Monday morning. Could they see me before work, pop this THING, and give me some antobiotics? Simple, right?
Not so much.
As the day moved on and the doctors conferred, it appeared that I would not be going to work. Since I hadn’t ate, they could get a podiatrist to take me to surgery and do it right. Would I mind? I might miss a couple days work, but it would probably have to be done anyway.
Let’s do it. They gave me pain meds and told me to watch TV for a while.
Wish I’d known I was going to be gone overnight. I’d have brought a book, or my laptop. As it was, I was stuck with cable TV and old issues of the Wall Street Journal. Oh well, I had pain pills, and tincture! I went to my jacket and took several drops.
My nurse came in ten minutes later. “Let’s check your blood sugar. Oh, hmm. It went up twenty points. That’s odd.” She made a note. So did I. Note to self: No more tincture while they’re monitoring blood sugar. The stuff is straight glycerin, tastes like honey.
After a whole night of no food and delays, I got pissy. “I hurt from laying in bed. I’m going for a walk!” I put my vest (with all its stashed goodies) under my hospital gown and went to the hallway, pondering where I could sneak a quick puff.
As I chose a direction, a nurse told me, “You might want to go this way. Security is busy down that way.” I heard yelling from down the hall, and people with restraints were heading that way. Security is busy? Oh-kay!
I went to the smoking area, took two fast hits and popped three sticks of gum. I smelled like passionfruit when I made it back to bed. Security had contained its problem, and I was ready to watch TV for a while.
I killed time by talking to Rain, whom I’d left sleeping. Her intent was to meet me at work Monday night, but since I wasn’t around she just stayed put. I’d been thinking I needed to trust her more; no time like the present. She knows I won’t be home anytime soon, so I can assume she now knows EVERYTHING about my private life.
What did she ask? “I know you don’t want me to mess with your stuff, but I could clean the fuck outta this room while you’re gone.”
If I’d been there to supervise, I’d have let her. There is almost nothing hotter that Rain running around in panties and a wifebeater, cleaning house. I will have a fetish about that someday. I wasn’t worried about her finding anything, in fact I thought she’d be relieved that she didn’t find more creepiness. I am more normal than I appear.
I’d arrived about noon on Monday. Tuesday night about 9 PM I was taken to the basement on a gurney. I’d been waiting on the specialist to make an appearance for a day and a half. He came in, looking haggard and unamused, took a fast look and said, “We’ll slice and power-wash, give you some antibiotics and get you on the road again.” His exact words.
I sat in a room with the anesthesiologist, who updated me on the process. “We’re gonna use Propofol. We don’t want to put you completely under if we don’t have to.”
“Isn’t that the stuff that killed Michael Jackson?”
“When we administer it, we monitor you and use a drip method. We stop the drips when we are done. They were hitting him with large doses and leaving him alone. He was so sedated he forgot to breathe. Common in a lot of overdoses.”
“Doesn’t it look like milk?”
“Yes. We call it milk of amnesia.”
We talked a bit more. I blinked. The room seemed different. I looked around. I saw a bigger bandage on my foot. “Are we done?” I asked the anesthesiologist.
“We are done. There was a substantial pit of infection, but we cleaned it all out and packed it. The doctor will fill you in.”
I was still impressed with the Propofol. If the decor hadn’t changed I’d never known anything was done. Literally the blink of an eye.
The drugs. Aah, the drugs. I’ve been cautious in my use of opiates over the years, if for no other reason than to have something to fall back on when I’m old and want to get high on something new. (Or manage that whole pain thing.) This night’s narcotic dinner started with Dilaudid. I waited until it quit hurting, then asked for a little bit more. They wouldn’t give me an unmanageable dose, and I ain’t gonna get any of these drugs if Rain gets there first. Opiate vacation!
After Dilaudid came morphine. Both kept me warm and relaxed, but the nurse kept offering oxycodone. I held off, going for the IV drugs. Since I’ve had this goddamned needle in my arm for two days, might as well work it.
Then the nurse told me, “We can’t send you home with IV drugs. If you can take the oxy and the pain, we can pull that rig out of your arm, give you a bag of pills and send you on your merry way.”
“Well, let’s give them pills a shot, missy!”
My hospital room nurse, a self-deprecating Asian woman of about 25, came to me. “I just want to say that you have been an angel to take care of. You’ve shown incredible patience waiting so long, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate that.” She looked like she was ready to cry.
“Well, you haven’t given me anything to be upset about. You’ve done everything you could to make my stay an easy one. It’s been as pleasant as it could be, thanks to you.” That, and the way she took an extra long look at me when I was naked, then apologized. If I’m doing well enough to get a second glance from someone whose seen it all? I’ll take it!
I lost count of how many saline bags full of antibiotics were run through me. I felt bleached from the inside, like I’d been drinking gin for a couple months. The sickness had faded, I had a giant bandage on my foot that needed to stay on for three days. It seemed kinda loose, but the doctor knows what he’s doing, right? I left the hospital, caught the bus and planned to meet Rain downtown. She’d escort me home.
I transferred buses downtown, and made my way to Dr T’s store. He’d left for the day, so I grabbed a free soda to wash down a couple oxys and limped toward the bus stop.
That’s when the bandage came off.
So, there I am, standing in front of a cannabis clinic and sex club, in broad daylight, unwrapping, repacking and rebandaging my fresh surgical sore. I tucked the packing tape in best I could, wrapped the ace bandage in a way that it wouldn’t fall off after three blocks, and limped on.
If you limp on both legs, do they cancel each other out?
Dr T had given me the rest of the week off, so I went home to bed. I had a follow-up appointment on Friday. The doctor checked my bandage, rewrapped it, and told me not to change it until Tuesday, when I did a follow-up at the clinic with a nurse.
I made it almost to the bus stop before THIS bandage fell off.
I repacked with a piece of gauze, jamming it into the sore as best I could. Three days, huh? I managed to bag-and-tape securely enough to shower. That would be enough to keep Rain from moving out on me.
The nurses were horrified when I told them about the bandages, and my homemade packing job. “Well, you did fine, considering.” It looked like a Molotov cocktail sticking out of the top of my foot. “You need smaller packing tape, we don’t want the hole that wide.” I watched as she did her thing. “Would you like to come in and have us do this, or do you think you can handle it?’
“I’ve already done it twice on the sidewalk. At home, with proper equipment, oughta be a piece of cake.”
She fixed me a giant to-go bag of gauze, tape, saline, q-tips and another scrip for oxys. “I can’t believe he had you wait three days to change the gauze. It should be done at least once a day, maybe twice. And the wrapping! This is your foot, dude!” She was righteously pissed for me. I like that in a caregiver.
I returned a few days later. The nurse watched me unwrap, dress, pack and bandage my owie. “You’re an old pro. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and call if you have concerns, or if it starts acting up. Otherwise we are done!”
It’s been about a month, and I still have a bit of a hole. I’m down to my last two pain pills, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any more. (Not unless I want my chart flagged as an abuser.) It’s cool; if I get much more attached to these pills I’ll be spoiling my moments on the porch. You know, when I’m the eighty-year-old guy on his last leg. I want some of that good dope to get me through those golden years….
Now, for those of you who think you’re tough enough, here are those pictures I was telling you about. I would not recommend looking right before an Italian dinner…
Dr T: “Our girl is getting interviewed by the boss today.”
Me: “No fuckin way. Updates PLEASE?”
Dr T: “You’ll be first to know.”
Me: “Picture happy dance! Can I train her? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE?”
ME: “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE?”
ME: “With sugar, whipped cream and a big fat cherry on top, PLEASE?”
Dr T: “No.”
Shit. Oh well.
A little while later I got a call at work from Master P. “I’m sending the new employee over to watch the videos. Will you let Uncle Cliffy know, and make sure she fills out her liquor test properly? Her name is Angel.”
“Yes sir!” I have never been happier to comply with boss’s orders. Because if you haven’t figured it out, I’ve got a thing for Angel…
Then there are other events, the kind everyone shows up for, like the Grand Floral Parade.
I was working the usual Friday night shift, with Dino as my assistant. Sometimes help is appreciated, but often it’s more of a hindrance. I hate having to look busy in front of other co-workers. It cuts into my already limited reading time.
Dino isn’t so bad. He’s about my age, in years and spirit. His mom named her strip joint after him, back in the day. (“Where strippers go to die?” “Yes, I’ve heard *that* one a thousand times…”) He’s mastering the art of snark, and his one-liners are giving mine a run for the money. So we have a laugh as we tolerate the masses.
Most years I fucking hate the parade. This year I got nothing but love…
My average workday lasts nine hours, most of it on my feet. I keep moving, wandering around stocking, checking the sidewalk to make sure it hasn’t gone anywhere, but it gets TIRING, standing all day.
So we cheat.
Master P and his overlords are of the belief that if there’s not a customer in the store needing to be watched, the worker bees should be running amok, sweeping floors, dusting lightbulbs and stocking shelves already full. (Full disclosure: Master P will leave you alone if you’re productive most of the time. Grinder will make shit up for you to do so he can feel like he’s doing his job.)
A chair? HA! Grinder has an office chair, in his office. Someone was once caught sitting in it behind the register. The throbbing vein in Grinder’s forehead was most prominent when he found out.
So what do we do? We of the nine-toed, busted-knee, hip-out-of-joint variety? We use the Master P Barcolounger!
Two milk crates flipped upside down and locked in place are the perfect height. I can spring from them with ease, not having to come from a squat. If they were any higher, I’d feel like my feet were dangling off the dock, or like a little kid using the big people’s toilet. Milk crate equals perfection.
Of course, Grinder will have no sitting around on his watch, so I went to the doctor and asked for a medical release allowing me to rest my knee during slow times. That got the water boiling. Suddenly milk crates were being picked up and stored “at an undisclosed location in Gresham.” WTF? I complained to Master P, and the milk crates stopped disappearing. But then began the parade of “checkerboard ass” comments, and the silly job assignments that would come whenever Grinder saw me taking a break.
Nowadays, Grinder leaves me alone. The milk crates stay where I leave them, and now that a certain thieving twat with a bad attitude that used to throw all my shit away got fired I can leave my seat pad behind.
What is my seat pad, you ask?
When I first used the milk crate system, and began getting the checkerboard ass jokes from Grinder, I began using my Oregonian brought from home. Grinder saw this and asked me to use a Portland Mercury I refused. “It’s my newspaper and it fits the seat. Why do you care?”
“Because customers don’t want to see your ass sitting on their newspaper!”
“It’s not their newspaper. It’s my fucking newspaper!”
So I made sure there would be no confusion. I found the classified section, the one in big bold letters, CLASSIFIED, and always made sure that sat on top. Then everybody started asking me if I was looking for another job?
“No comment.” My smile put them at ease. I ain’t jumpin’ ship.
Now that the newspapers are getting read and put back on the shelf, I need a new seat pad, because customers don’t want to see my ass sitting on their newspaper. Merc and Willy Week are just a bit too big, but we have this other publication geared toward the gay community. They always deliver 200 copies, about 25 of which get taken and read. The rest sit there, great for when people are moving and need to wrap glassware, etc…
So I fold up a couple of those, and set them atop the milk crates. It’s surprisingly comfortable, but not so much I want to stay there more than five minutes. But now, someone’s been throwing away my seat cushion. Since it’s a freebie and no hassle to replace I don’t really care, but I wonder why now? Rumpole is a tolerant guy, as far as it goes.
I wonder why this cover would bother him?
It’s busy season and the stores are short-handed, so I’m getting killer hours. I get to work a swing-shift at the Mothership tomorrow, my usual day off. There will be milk crates, or there will be blood. Grinder will probably even leave my seat pad alone. If I don’t find him in his office, reading it.
At least I know where to find a good rolling office chair…
Since moving back to the Nightclub Store I’ve been feeling revitalized. My schedule tends to stay constant; when I get relocated it’s usually for reasons deeper than schedule conflict. While I may appear to be a lazy (alebit clean) hippie, I have territorial issues that extend well into my working life. The boss may have figured out how to exploit that.
In other words, get off my porch, you bums!
It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve moved back from the Waterfront Store to the Nightclub Store. There were a lot of internal things going on at work, which I watched unfold. Now that I can discuss them within reason, I may drop a few vague thoughts. I should be venting more often. I’ll try not to come off too vitriolic.
At first I was worried, and asked Master P if I was in trouble? He mentioned something that irritated him recently, “but that wasn’t it. I just need fresh eyes and faces, stirring the pot.” While stirring the pot, he tossed out a rotten rutabaga. I’m the big Irish potato going into the pot to fill that space. Once this became clear, I stopped worrying so much.
I’ve rather enjoyed the lack of drama the past couple years. The Waterfront store is closest to a true grocery store experience in the Master P chain. It could close at 6 PM and no one would care much. Once the office workers commute home and the sun goes down, the customer base is mostly cocktail waitresses and homeless kids filling up on jerky and gummy bugs with their food stamp cards between rounds of PBR at the nearby pub. There are a steady stream of familiar faces, but they are scarce after a certain hour.
Which gives yours truly a chance to stare stupidly into space and ponder the whys and what-ifs of life. During my time on the Waterfront, I watched the HBO series Deadwood, and couldn’t help comparing some of the locals to characters on the show. Sure it’s vague, sure it’s a stretch, but since they took the radio away I only have my mirthly musings to keep me sane.
I start making parallels to my life and the shows I get hooked on. I was fairly well-dressed during my Sopranos period. I was scared shitless during The Wire‘s run, working at the Nightclub Store during a rivalry between two nearby hip-hop clubs. Pop pop pop every Saturday night.
With the MAX rolling past and the historic feel of the district, it wasn’t hard to step back in time. So, hitch up your garters and come along for the ride. It’s NSFW, politically incorrect, and hopefully the Fine Dining Establishment (FDE’s) can’t read English yet…
Imagine my surprise when I saw this week’s cover, the year-end best-of edition. Look who is King of the Jailbirds!
The hair needs to be redder, and I am not bearded right now, but King Busted is a dead ringer for yours truly.
I didn’t do it! I plead the fifth! Or a half-gallon!
The cops are around all the time downtown, sometimes when you least expect it. I’ve had better luck sticking my head out of the store and yelling than playing phone-tag with an automated non-emergency system. Most things I need the police for do not warrant a 911 call, and the perps are long gone by the time I get official attention.
But not always…
Grinder was busy nosing around the Waterfront Store, peeking at my paperwork, issuing commands that would fall upon deaf ears the minute he left, etc… I enjoy chatting with the manager of the Mothership, my old friend from the uber-religious teen years of the ’70s. He is technically my boss, but I answer mostly to Dr T these days. And Master P, of course. Dr T and I have a more tolerant view of the customer base than Grinder, who polices the world for indignities on a moment-by-moment basis.
One of our customers was about to have a Grinder moment.
I don’t dress for success.
When two douchebag-jock Cali-types entered the store and began discussing rock stars, I paid little attention at first.
When I realized they were talking about me, they noticed the chill in the air. Customer service went out the window, and Mr Smartass took over.
“Metallica? Is that who I’m thinking about?” one said.
“How am I supposed to know what you’re thinking about?” I wondered aloud.
“We’re trying to decide which rock star you look like.”
Now they were pissing me off. “Poison? Fuck you.” I said it with a fake smile, but they noted the sarcastic tone.
“We meant no disrespect, dawg.” Then he turned to his buddy. “Definitely Poison.”
“There’s no pink or glitter on me. Or a fucking do-rag either. I dress like this because I work here part time for minimum wage and I am poor.”
“Dude, relax. It’s a compliment to look like a rock star. The hair… I wish I could think of that artist from the ’80s…”
I pondered aloud, “Dude, how old are you? You were sperm in the ’80s.” That got us all laughing, at least.
“We really mean no disrespect. You don’t have to cop an attitude.”
“What do you guys do, sit around and jack off to the Fashion Police?”
They left, bewildered. “Wow, that dude’s an asshole.”