26 September 2011

Mark Bernstein points to a Genreville post, Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA, which asks us to link to it in order to raise awareness of the problem. 
Really, people. Let's build a better world.

19 September 2011

Right shoulder blues

This is an X-ray of my right shoulder, imaged today in preparation for the MRI-arthrogram that followed, when they shoved me into the magnetic oven for forty minutes to watch the dye (that black streak in the center) seep into the socket to see if any of it leaked out.

Another Humpty-Dumpty piece we're trying to put back together again after my tumble just before Memorial Day. Once the Lyme Disease cleared away, I found that I could no longer reach the top shelf of the cabinets in my kitchen — felt like something was unhooked in my shoulder, and it just couldn't haul my arm all the way up there.

Orthopedist doesn't think it's a torn rotator cuff or anything romantic like that — probably just my bicep tendon peeling off the ball part of the joint. Nice that it doesn't hurt, but it bothers me that I seem to be falling apart all of a sudden.

Beautiful image, though, ain't it?

28 August 2011

About to burst into song

Here's the original pose that all the rest of the pix to follow are based on. This is what I looked like just a little over three years ago, on the 4th of July 2008, a true Independence Day: I'd just got home from my LAST day of working at the Apple Store in King of Prussia PA, some 62 miles and a world of hurt away from my safe & sane little apartment in Bethlehem. Don't know what I was thinking when I started working in that crazy place the previous February, but you can pretty much tell what I was thinking once I'd disencumbered and parked it in front of my doughty Mac to take this pic.

Notice I hadn't yet lacerated my forehead — but I would...

27 August 2011


Here's what I look like today, more or less.

It's the last weekend before Labor Day, the end of the summer, the eve of the Advent here on the US east coast, of Hurricane Irene, a lovely name which comes from the Greek word "eiréne," which means "time of peace." We'll see how that works out.

You may observe the scar on my forehead. Looking closely, you'll notice that it's shaped like the Greek letter omega, in a sans-serif font, and you might think that the scribe got the quill point stuck on the upstroke above my right eye, but then he got control of things at the top of the curve & the downstroke feathers out into nothing near the left temple.

It's new. I'm still putting medicinal stuff on it, three times a day, to keep it from looking any angrier than it does. It's not, as I like to tell people who inquire, a dueling scar. Nor does it make me look like an aging Harry Potter, as I wish it did -- more like Gorbachev, if I'm being honest with myself.

A little over 3 months ago, heading into the last weekend before Memorial Day, the beginning of summer, I fell off my bike on a short spin before dinner, and laid my head open, not to mention herniating a disk in my neck, skinning my elbow and wrist, and somehow contusing my right big toe. I was in the hospital for 5 days. I wrote about that part a few posts back, making it sound kinda fun -- well, except for the pain part, for which I had some righteous medication. I made new friends. My old friends and family were magnificent. I got lots of sleep.

As the penultimate post indicates, after that things weren't so fun. I think I have to talk about that part too. Also I have pictures. Something to look forward to.

04 July 2011

O no! He's crushing my head! Aaaahhh!

In a couple weeks it will be my son Billy's 33rd birthday -- you know, the one that, if you get past it without being crucified by the Roman Army, will demonstrate pretty conclusively that you're not the Savior of the World.

Billy (William James Bly IV) lives at The Center for Discovery in Harris, NY, just past Monticello on the Quickway, US 17, the future I-86, that runs across New York roughly parallel to I-90, the NYS Thruway. He's severely disabled from a birth injury -- a long story that will eventually appear elsewhere. Suffice it to say that he can't do very much for himself, but in a way this just frees him up to do amazing things for others, mostly by way of sharing an overwhelmingly enthusiastic attitude toward life. His joy is utterly infectious, and, though he has his darker moments and a fairly robust temper, the main thing he communicates to anyone willing to get up close and engage with him person-to-person is that 1) the main purpose of life is to provide an occasion for fun, and 2) is it time for fun now? How about now?

Over the years, we've developed numerous routines, many of them involving music (about which more in a later post) -- but my favorite (and one of his as well, I believe) is crushing my head. If I get close enough, he'll sneak his arm around my neck and, with amazing strength for a young man so small, crush my head against his chest. You can see how much he enjoys this routine in this photo, taken last April by my wife Deb:

I have to confess, I derive certain benefits from the exercise, beyond the always necessary deflation in self-importance that accompanies a good head-crushing.

Try it sometime with someone you love: hurts real good.

22 June 2011

Update on the tumble...

Update 22 June 2011. Things aren't going so peachy as they were upon my triumphant discharge from hospital. Increased pain in both arms, some chills & fever, a little swelling in the ankles. Thankfully, my summer class was canceled, so I can sit home and plot my recovery, harrying my medicos tirelessly from phone and computer, but also conferring regularly with dearest friends and family, which is like having them all around me, a great blessing. And my darling Deb comes every weekend to chauffer me around & shower me with TLC.

I can't do any traveling, except on foot to the Mom-&-Pop grocery a few blocks away, which provides me with exercise & sunshine (thank God it's summer!); but that's OK too: I need to sit still for a long time and ponder what really matters in life. Another blessing -- who has time for it otherwise?

02 June 2011

BBly takes a tumble

[The "press release" sent to well-wishers on 02 June]

Dear Ones,

First, I want to thank all of you for your kind messages of concern, encouragement, and support -- they mean the world to me.

Second, I'm on the mend, out of the hospital, back in the apartment in Bethlehem, which has been rigged as needed to help me get my legs back under me. No big deal on that score, really.

Third, I want to get back to each of you individually, but thought that spamming you all with the general info would be a helpful way to start. Here's what happened:

I was taking a leisurely bike ride just before dinner on Thursday 25 May, nostalgically wheeling through one of the nearby neighborhoods where I took Census last year. I was on a side street in a residential area near the S curve on Union Blvd in West Bethlehem, if you know where that is (if you don't, you can Google it!).

As best I can reconstruct the event, my front wheel hit a seam in the asphalt near a curb cut, causing it to turn sharply, and then -- well, the bike stopped but I didn't, landing face first in some guy's driveway. I don't have a visual memory of the wipe-out, but I recall precisely the sound my forehead made when it hit the asphalt: CONK! is the exact word. I also felt sharp tingling in both arms; when I tried to get up, I found I couldn't, because my legs were still kind of tangled up in the bike. At this point I said, to whoever might be listening, "This isn't so good."

One of the neighbors whom I'd just passed cutting his grass ran over and asked if I was OK. I said, "I don't think so," trying to roll over on my back in order to chat with him better, and ended up on my back under a shapely azalea bush at the corner of the driveway. I couldn't see my rescuer very well, but do remember his reaction on seeing me: "O my god," the first of many such ejaculations I would hear in the next hour or so.

At that point another neighbor came up, did basically the same take, and asked me if I wanted him to call an ambulance. I said, "I think you better," but neither had a phone; however, I told them where mine was in its clever little holster on my belt, and one of them got it out and called 911.

Another couple neighbor guys appeared, had the same reaction as the first two, and knelt down to see what they could do for me. They asked me what happened, then conferred with each other, doing what guys always do first in a situation like this: figure out who's gonna be in charge. One seemed to think I had to be kept from going into shock and suggested getting a blanket, even though as you may remember it was still above 90º at the time on that day. Since he was the one with the ideas, the other three let him direct the mission from there on. He ascertained that 911 had been called, supervised the covering of my legs and torso with a blanket one of the others had fetched, and then discussed with the others about whether we should raise my head or my feet. In the end they decided not to move me at all, since I had a head injury -- a wise choice, I've since found out.

I then asked the one still holding my cell phone to call Joe Sullivan, who lives nearby and has expertise in this kind of thing, having done Ski Patrol for decades, and also to call my wife Deb, which he did, explaining clearly and carefully what was going on -- he was especially kind, Deb later said, and she was reassured that I was being taken care of.

Just then the ambulance arrived, and EMTs Josh and Tim took over, immobilizing my head with one of those frame things and rolling me onto a board & then lifting me onto the gurney, with help from the other guys, who had to hold back the azalea bush as well. (I was spitting dirt & leaves for the next two days.) Then I went headfirst into the ambulance...

... and the excitement REALLY started -- the siren, the squawk box as Josh called me in to the Trauma Center at St. Luke's, the roaring of the diesel engine as Tim drove quickly but expertly through the streets during rush hour, the clanking of gleaming equipment as Josh lashed my head more securely into its frame, took my vital signs, & asked me what year it was and who was president.

We got to St. Luke's in less than fifteen minutes, and the Trauma Team was waiting -- it sounded like there were at least 20 people in the room, but of course all I could see was the whirling ceiling, the blazing lights, and the occasional face looming into my restricted visual field. For the next hour or so I was cleaned up, then wheeled into radiology where a CAT scan was done on my head & neck, then returned to Trauma, where an artiste with needle & thread named Justine stitched up my forehead and left nostril. At one point the doctor who was supervising her work said, "Look at that!" -- which alarmed me until he added that it was just about the most beautiful stitch he'd ever seen performed.

After that I was wheeled through corridors and into an elevator, then thru some more corridors and into a room, where nurse Lori and PCA Lissette bathed me and cooed over me and rolled me into bed and rigged up an IV site on my left arm, pumped in some pain medication, tucked me in and turned off the light, leaving me alone to rest, which I soon did, interrupted only occasionally for the taking of vital signs and making sure I knew my name and birthdate.

The next morning at first light I got the verdict from Mary Fran, the trauma team lead on my case: I had a major laceration on my forehead, with abrasions on my face, my arms & hands, and my legs, but nothing was broken, dislocated, missing, or even sprained. Considering how stupid I was to not be wearing a helmet, I was incredibly lucky nothing worse had gone wrong.

The only issue that remained was the tingling-burning sensation in my hands. Take the feeling you get when you bang your funnybone and multiply by about ten, and you have what was happening at the ends of my arms. And it never stopped, though some medications helped by putting it to the side, or by putting my lights out altogether so that I slept. In the trauma center, one of the doctors put forth the hypothesis that it was like a "stinger" -- when an athlete butts somebody or something hard enough to bruise the spinal cord, which, depending on where it's bruised, sends tingling messages out to that part or parts of the body it controls.

That turns out to be the case with me, as an MRI a couple days later confirmed. Between the 6th & 7th cervical vertebrae, a herniated disk, combined with a pre-existing arthritic narrowing of the channel, caused the cord to swell up at just the place where all the hand nerves go out, hence the burning sensation on the tops and outsides (towards the pinky) of both hands. Good news: it heals itself. Bad news: it takes a long time, serveral weeks at least. So if the pain can be managed with medication, and I don't do something stupid (or unlucky) like this again, I should be OK in a couple months or so.

I feel fine, except when I look in the mirror, and then I faint from the horror, which is what you will do when you next see me, if you're not warned beforehand. It's unclear whether there'll be scarring -- probably some, given how ornate the laceration itself is: an upside-down U that starts at my left temple, ascends nearly to my fontanelle, then comes back down to mid-forehead just above my right eye. It's really impressive, I must say. And not in a good way.

Tomorrow I go back to Mary Fran for a check of said wound, plus some consultation on when I can start driving again. I need to be able to start teaching next week, and I'm certainly up to that exertion, but getting there may require public transit as long as I'm grounded.

So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Please know, all of you, how precious you are to me and how your messages buoyed me up and helped me cope. I'll be in touch with you severally as I can.

Love to you all,