Down There Blues
With a nod to Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, and Candice Bushnell
As if there were not enough things to worry about these days.
Most who know me would definitely NOT consider me an obsessive/compulsive. Impulsive, oh yeah! The chaos of my life is testimony enough. But were they to scratch the skin (more on that to come) of the beast they would see I do have a few, minor, compulsive behaviors.
I like odd numbers. A lot.
When I shop at Costco in the fish, meat, or pre-packaged anything aisles I search, yes obsessively, for price combinations that have 3’s, 7’s, 9’s, etc. For example, $33.77 on a salmon is like a jackpot in Vegas for me. I’m sure that those watching me paw through the saran wrapped treasures assume that I’m a finnicky chef-sort and am in search of the prefect piece of protein; well marbled, even thickness, fresh color. As a cook of many years I should be! But no. Give me the numbers. I am the Rain-Man of consumer consumption.
This oddity in personal performance started years ago. I realized when someone commented on this once and I tried to think back to where it may have originated but no luck. Probably poor potty training but hey, that was then. I do know that when I lived in the City and rode Muni to work every morning, I’d stop at the vending machine on the corner of Market and Castro and buy a Chronicle for the ride in. But it had to be the third paper down in the stack.
Had. To. Be. The. Third.
At the time, I remember rationalizing my tick this way, “People rifle through the top two papers and take the sections they want and leave the rest. I NEED to have Herb Caen and his section is the most stolen”. Seriously. I convinced myself of this but looking back now I see it was simply my OCD manifesting itself in harmless, daily, rituals that brought me some sense of order in a chaotic world. Considering at that juncture in time we were awash in Harvey Milk, Mayor Moscone, Jim Jones and Guyana well…..what could it hurt?
Since my ticks and twitches seem to revolve around numerical combinations almost entirely, and since I’m rather severely numerically dyslexic well (I can dial the phone, but don’t ask me to write down the number), I assume there’s a connection there, but I really could care less at this point. To sing out Louise, I’d go for “I, am, What I Am” from Cage aux Folles and forget about it.
Years pass, age ticks by, degeneration in all forms takes hold.
As my body incrementally gives up bits and pieces of its autonomy to fake and/or replacement parts the repair bills mount, and I thank the goddess for good insurance. I have more plastic in me than a Honda Civic at this point, Napa Medical Parts is my friend. Of the more pressing repairs that have been done lately, a rewiring and reaming out of my heart valves (yes, to continue the car analogy, I had a valve job). It was really a Modern Marvel of Medicine, done robotically (no hot Honda mechanic for me) and left me revved up and ready for another twenty thousand or twenty years, whichever comes first. But……
Starting now, You have to take this drug, indefinitely.
Now I have heard this rationale more times than Cats has been staged in revivals. But because the procedure this time involved the heart and its necessary blood vessel companions there was an ongoing chance for strokes and heart attacks as it healed, and it would be a long time to fully rewire itself and find its new normal so “healed” is a moveable time-target. I can do anything I did before only better, longer, harder, and faster but I have to take this drug.
This drug is Xarelto.
Yeah, that drug; the one you see happy, peppy, smiling people hyping on every other commercial. What they do not show is the trail of bloody towels, hunks of affixed Kleenex, and wads of cloth strips employed to keep you from bleeding out like a Jaws victim every time you stub a toenail or nick a fingertip. I should come with my own movie rating emblazoned as a tattoo on my forehead; Warning: Some Violence May Occur. Sudden Gushing Possible. Something like that to warn off the squeamish and the easily faint-able.
It wasn’t too bad, at first. When moving the parrots in from their outdoor day spa, a talon nick would be a little more bloody that normal, more like when a beak bite lands a good purchase. A cat scratch was getting a little too close to an Urgent Care visit though. Pruning the Smoketree branches and cactus was playing with fire but when I kicked the foot board in the guest bedroom, even wearing good running sandals, the resulting slice under my little toe did, in fact, require Urgent Care and two stiches to staunch the flow.
But really the fin de siècle that moved me into my new century was a bar of soap. Actually, a composite bar of soap. Among my other oddities, this one a throwback to my strict 60’s and 70’s college ecology classes and lifestyle (yes, I was a vegetarian, no it did not stick), I hate waste. I recycle, I compost (or did before we moved to the desert where compost=dust) so OCD strikes again in that I hate wasting those last nubs of a bar of soap.
I have soap dishes in the showers (indoor and out, this will come in handy soon), in my gym bag, sinks, all over. As the current bar of soap slips into near oblivion (I’m actually sad when my old friend, Soap Bar, is near death), I “marry” it to its replacement bar. The firmly square, shiny new friend, SOAP Bar, gets a few lathers over his skin and when the appropriate time occurs and they have gotten acquainted enough to seem pliable and sudsy together, they are joined in Holy Soapdom. A few washes and they actually meld together, a small lump riding tight to the larger like a pilot fish on a shark.
The outdoor shower ménage et trois.
The outdoor shower gets a lot of use here in the desert. As the cleanup station after tending to the desert garden, it’s great for a hard scrub, a good loofah, and the foot scraper machine. It also has choices of soaps for a variety of wants and desires. The main soap buddy is my go-to Mrs. Meyer huge bar of lusciousness, a real hypoallergenic treat for my redhead skin.
There is also a bar of Fels-Naphtha.
Fels has been around since 1893. I presume it is a toxic, life threatening, chemical concoction….that works. It is described thusly:
Fels-Naptha is an American brand of laundry soap used for pre-treating clothing stains and as a home remedy for poison ivy and other skin irritants. Fels-Naptha is manufactured by and is a trademark of the Dial Corporation, a subsidiary of Henkel.
Henkel is suspiciously close to Kenckle, my favorite brand of extremely sharp chef’s knives. Coincidence?
In addition to eradicating poisons on the skin, Fels is a bit like washing with Lava soap (of which there is a bar here as well but for obvious reason does NOT get married to anyone else as it has a rather abrasive personality), slightly irritating in a course and thorough way. Just wanting a little more time with that tiny sliver of Fels, I engaged the two, Mrs. Meyer’s Lemon Lift and what was left of the almost gone Fels bar. They were not a ready match. Clearly Mrs. Meyer’s is a modern woman and was not at all smitten with the crusty old Fels dude I was pairing her up with. It took a week or so, but I got them attached in what, I assumed, would be sudsical bliss, eventually.
But Fels retain a hard edge. Literally.
Even after they were joined in their unholy union, Fels continued to hone his already very rigid edges, going so far as to wear the tip of his elongated self into what can only be describes as a point, I daresay now, a weapon. I was tangentially aware that this this was not a happy union, each time I showered there was a little rasp-like friction from a normally slimy delight. I ignored it and assumed that time would smooth all wounds.
I was leisurely lathering up from head to toe all the while admiring the garden I was standing in and the immense views of the mountains just behind me. It came as a real shock when, lathering up my nether regions there was a sharp pain. A real, honest to balls pain. A sort of searing, hot poker in your groin kind of pain. That was the end of shower hour. I rinsed off and grabbed a towel and walked out on the deck to towel off thinking, “How am I gonna assess the damage here? Where is that two-sided stand mirror? Can I use a hand-held makeup mirror? What’s the best position to be in for a clear view of your balls?”, you know, the inner dialogue that runs in your head all the time.
It turns out there was need of a nurse’s aide in this particular instance.
As I was drying off, I suddenly noticed the concrete was awash in bright red blood drops with more coming even as I watched. Mixing with the water I was shedding from the shower, it looked as if I was standing on a fishing pier where they were gutting freshly caught albacore and the entrails were letting loose their bloody excess.
Oh shit. Xarelto. My ever-present but totally forgotten friend.
Bloodying up one of the older pool towels, I hopped into the house, holding my balls like I’d been kneed on the playground, wincing in pain….and wonder. Wonder that I had managed to puncture myself with a bar of fucking soap. Wonder that this drug could make me seriously look at potential blood loss as a terminal event without immediate intervention. And wonder as in ‘where is Dave?’ I need some kind of assessment intervention…now!
I thought from feeling around down there that the actual injury was exactly in the crotch of the groin area, so to speak. But no. With professional lighting, a handheld earthquake emergency Maglite, and a non-professional person poking around down there it turns out the actual puncture was a direct shot INTO my left testicle. And still pouring forth.
Let’s put aside the practical for a moment: band aid or gauze and tape?
What I had more immediately to contend with was Dave, mocking my injury, my position in the world just then, you know you can see it in your mind’s eye, don’t lie to me. It has all the components of really bad Edge-Porn and none of the redeeming qualities. I can now empathize with all the straight guys I have known through the years who had vasectomies! I thought to myself “Wimps, it’s just a couple little snips”. And honestly, I believe the mental lead up to those procedures is worse than the actual event. I would point out that I had no forewarning that this soap-missile was incoming….and I had no anesthesia!
But back to the balls in hand.
We needed a clean, non-binding (so to speak) solution to stopping the dropping. I suggested that somewhere in the vast medical wound care station we call our “cabinet” there was a bottle of something called NuSkin. Now, by Wound Care Station I mean to imply just that. After nine months of caring for a post-surgical foot fuck up, my Station is far better equipped than any doctor’s office, ever. So, hunting for a 2” long bottle of anything is, well, a time suck. Especially so I’m with me holding my ankles in the air while simultaneously trying to keep a beach towel wadded up around by testicles. Bottle found, Dave proceeds to nail-brush on a good swath of NuSkin and hopefully block my impending bleed-out.
While the initial results appear promising (to Dave at least) to me, it feels vaguely akin to when your mother used to coat every scratch with mercurochrome. A hot, specific sort of pain that can barely be imagined no less described with adequate imagery. But NuSkin has another property. It does not dry quickly. With a presumed alcohol content of 1,001% one would think simple exposer to air would harden it to steel in moments. I was now growing intensely weary, mostly of Dave’s incessant ridicule and threats of camera footage. He suggested he blow on it to try and speed things up.
Hot Lava from Hell
The light breeze of warm air, contrary to being a comfort and a cure, intensified the nuclear reaction going on down under and had me literally screaming in agony. The minutes stretched into hours (in my head) and when it finally did cool down, much like Chernobyl, there was nothing left alive in the aftermath. It’s a good thing it’s warm here in the desert, clothing is totally an afterthought and with the current lockdown who’s going anywhere? Three days later, it is sore as hell, still. Now it feels like a really bad, permanent, case of blue balls. I assume it’s bruised; I’m not going in for a reconnaissance mission.
Now there’s 22 citrus trees to be pruned. Look for my corpse in the orchard.