Friday, January 29, 2016

Facebook Doctors

So, I just want to start by acknowledging the fact that there is an election this year, and I should be writing sarcastic and snarly things about that, but, given that the current Republican frontrunner feels the need to talk about how he could shoot someone and not lose a supporter, I think my words are a pale substitute for the real thing.

Anyway, given that I’m not up for that conversation, I thought I’d turn my attention to something that I find equally offensive: Facebook doctors.  

What is a Facebook doctor?  It’s a person who is not, in fact a doctor, but thinks that Facebook makes him or her one.  These are the people who are constantly forwarding the articles about how vaccinations really DO cause autism, and that the government made cancer in a shady back-room deal with big pharma.  They are always “curing” themselves and loved ones with the simple tools of one guava, some coconut oil, and arrowroot.  

Don’t get me wrong, I find no fault in alternative medicine.  Where I find fault is in practicing medicine without a license.  Now, I myself am not a doctor.  Scratch that, I am a doctor.  A LAW DOCTOR.  And, given that I spent four of the toughest years of my life learning all of the shit I needed to know to be a law doctor, I can tell you, without a doubt, that I know a lot more about the law than some doof who thinks that “law school” and “Wikipedia” are virtually synonymous.  And I can also tell you that “researching” the Constitution does NOT mean reading someone’s blog and giving a thorough listen to what Rush has to say.  Research means actually digging up cases and reading them – unabridged – and then reading the cases that those cases led to, reading all of the notes and comments, reading scholarly articles written in peer-reviewed publications, and repeating that until you actually understand the personalities of long-dead Supreme Court justices based solely on their writing.   

Applying my understanding of lawyering to doctoring, I am going to surmise that medical school consisted of more than Googling, “What is this rash on my leg?” and just going with that.  So, I find it super – super - annoying when folks really forcefully insist that they’ve “done the research” about why no one should ever even LOOK at a cow, much less eat its meat or milk, why everyone MUST start their day with lemon water and a fucking neti pot, and how prescription medicine is the work of the devil.

And I gotta tell you, I am not a fan of the taking of the medicine, myself. But I am, in fact, a fan of being happy and healthy.  I will also tell you that I did a fun 6 months of trying to “cure” my thyroid disease without medicine, and all I ended up doing was giving myself additional problems that I can now never fix.  I’m certainly not saying that diet, lifestyle, and environment play no role in disease.  We can look at Type II diabetes, hypertension, some types of depression, heart disease, and on and on and say, “Yeah, diet, lifestyle, and environment may have contributed here.”  We can even implement diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.  BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT MEDICINE WON’T ALSO HELP FIX IT.  

The worst thing though, and I mean the worst, is that these Facebook doctors have friends who have real illnesses.  Cancer.  Heart disease.  Depression.  Who are looking for something to make themselves healthy and whole.  And that, purposely, or not purposely, they are telling their friends, “Don’t seek actual help.  I know better than that.”  Which is such arrogant, narcissistic, and frankly, weird shit, I can hardly comprehend it.  It does absolutely no good to tell your friend with cancer that, if only they had eaten enough turmeric, they might have a different outcome.  Or linking to articles espousing a conspiracy theory that homeopathic cancer doctors are being murdered by pharmaceutical companies.  Or to tell their friend who is depressed that medicine will just make them an addict.  Which is worse, being “addicted” to Prozac, or losing your job, family, happiness, and maybe even your life to depression?  

And that’s the thing about real, meaning Non-Facebook, doctors.  They know there’s not one cure; that every person is different, and complex, and worthy of actual attention, not just Facebook platitudes that serve no purpose but to serve the poster’s own ego. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Running Challenge


From Thanksgiving until New Years Day, I participated in a holiday-to-holiday running challenge.  The premise: run at least a mile every day starting on Thanksgiving and ending on New Years day.  The reason: ass fat.  I asked folks on Facebook if they wanted to do it and support each other, and, long story short, I got a couple of takers.  They are the real heroes of this story.  Not really.  I am the fucking hero of this story and don’t forget it.  But having other people in the boat was great.  NOBODY IS AN ISLAND, PEOPLE, EVEN IF THEY WOULD MAKE AN AWESOME ISLAND.

Anyway, I really thought that the “challenge” part of this challenge was going to be physical.  I have never run every day, mostly because I’m generally pretty ouchy, and my tendons hate me.  I was in a freaking hard splint for 6 months and considered tendon release surgery after an injury from crocheting too hard. That is not a lie, and I don’t know how you crochet too hard, but I have done it.  I’ve had enough cortisone in my body to fully understand ‘roid rage. So, running every day had the potential for peril.  But I live dangerously.  And anyway, that wasn’t the challenge at all.

The real challenge from all of this was mental.  Finding the time to run.  Getting my ass into my running clothes. Figuring out how far at what pace I was going to run. Figuring out how I was going to entertain myself. Getting out of my running clothes.  Taking a shower.  Getting redressed and put back together.  And knowing that it was all going to happen again the next day.  And there was also the challenge of the outdoors.  I managed all but three runs outdoors, and had to account for rain, wind, snowfog (a real thing!), heat, cold, sunshine, darkness, and cars that always want to hit me.  And finding the right damn socks.  Always the socks.  Also, no one in this world loves a routine quite like I do, but I had to shoehorn runs in early in the morning, late in the evening, at lunch, after work, and once, after a glass of wine. And by glass, I mean “glass.”  You know what I mean.

But in the end, what I loved about the challenge actually was the unpredictability, and the sense that today was going to be different than yesterday. The mental challenge.  Was I going to run alone or with a friend? With the dog? In the sunshine?  In a deluge? In my nemesis, the wind? Where was I going to run? How could I run in Manhattan with only shorts and a tee shirt, 30 degree temps outside, and a barely functioning treadmill in a hot, creepy basement? (Answer: learn to love the hot, creepy basement.) What should I do when the sidewalks were flooded and the rain nonstop? (Answer: forego any electronics and run up and down the street four times like I was being chased.) How was today’s run going to feel?  What could I do to make it interesting?  Did it even need to be interesting?  Because really, did I really find it that difficult to spend the twenty minutes it took for me to run a couple of miles alone with myself, with my thoughts, with my breathing, and with the ground passing underneath my feet?    

The challenge was 37 days long.  At around day 20, I realized that I was going to make it.  That I’d already faced ouchy days, shit weather days, days when I really didn’t want to do it, and days that were logistically challenging.  And even on the days when it hadn’t been fun, it also hadn’t killed me. My friend Anita, who also completed the challenge, wrote on my wall one day, “Feeling like I just couldn’t make time for a run. But you know what, I can and I did.  And feel much better for it!!!”  In the end, that was the payoff. Realizing that – no matter what – that I could, and that I would.  And not only do I feel better for it, I think I am better for it.  But seriously, I need more socks. 

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Friday, April 10, 2015

I Was Wrong

Several years ago, I heard a quote, attributed to George R.R. Martin: “Nobody is a villain in their own story. We’re all the heroes of our own stories.” Isn’t that the truth? Rarely do you ever hear someone say, “Today, I was a real asshole for, when I think about it, no good reason.” Instead, everyone is put-upon, downtrodden, the little guy, the victim, the ONLY one who stands up for right and justice in a world firmly opposed. And that’s so annoying, guys!

Truth is, that sometimes the most beautiful thing you can say is, “You know what? I was wrong.” No defenses, no bullshit excuse, no, “I may have been wrong, but you were way wronger.” Just a simple, “Hello. I was wrong.”

Because, guess what? We’re all wrong sometimes. Sometimes it’s factual, like insisting that the “butter” at AMC movie theaters is real butter, and not palm oil. And continuing to insist that you’re right, even in the face of much internets. Sometimes it’s the way you treat someone, like not listening to someone, or not being considerate of their feelings. Sometimes it’s actions, like cutting someone off in traffic, or being mean. We are all wrong in so many ways, at so many times.

Politicians are famous for never being wrong. Instead, it’s, “My position has evolved over time,” or, “My family has convinced me to look at this differently.” My absolute favorite is, “My position was taken out of context.” Imagine a world where a politician could say, “So, a year ago, I said that the body has ways of preventing pregnancy in the case of rape. Clearly, I was wrong about that, and furthermore, I am an asshole. Just wanted to put that out there. My apologies, women, rape victims, and everybody else. I was wrong, wrongdee wrongdee wrong on that one.”

Imagine if you lived in a world where you could say to your spouse or loved one, “When I said that thing to you, I was wrong,” without saying, “But you started it,” or, “And now you need to tell me what you were wrong about.” Just flat out own your own shit, and not worry about anyone else owning theirs.

Imagine if you lived in a world where you could say to your child, “I just treated your father like shit right in front of you because I was being a dick. I was wrong. That was wrong. I’m sorry.” Imagine how un-fucked up we could actually make our kids if we just admitted when we were wrong.

Imagine if you lived in a world where you could say, “You know what? I judged you before I knew you because you were black/old/overweight/Mexican-looking/female/autistic/whatever, and I’ve done that to a lot of people. I was wrong.” You can’t change a damn thing until you admit what it is that needs to be changed.

And I’ll tell you what, I’ll start: This morning, my key card wouldn’t work on my work garage, so I yelled, “MOTHERFUCKER” as loudly as I could with the window down. Friends, I was wrong. While I very much enjoy yelling, “Motherfucker,” it’s inappropriate at work, especially at that volume.

Wow, I feel so much better!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I hate your beard

Have I said this before?  That beards are dumb?  And that 50% of the reason why men grow beards is because they are desperate hipsters, and the other 50% is because they are with women who, for some reason, would rather date a man with the equivalent of AN ENTIRE GOAT ON THEIR FACE than just say, “Hey, your beard is awful, so damn awful, like a hot, smelly, fur coat on your face?”  Because that is true.  And yes, I only said “women,” because gay men are far too smart and discriminating to let that shit happen with their loved ones. 

I remember a day when only Chester A. Arthur and C. Everett Koop had beards, and that was fine, because beards were a sign of oddness or worse, and nobody wanted that.  But for some reason, dumb millennial hipsters decided that beards were cool, and started growing them by the mile to show how craft beer-y and bacon tee-shirty they were.  Oh, and tattoo-ey. 

But here is what I have to say about that, and I am speaking directly to you, beard men: your beard is ugly.  And if you had any originality IN THE WORLD you would get that shit off of your face, like, stat, and go about showing the world that you, too, have a chin.  I’ve said it, but I’m going to say it again: your beard looks TERRIBLE, and anyone who pretends that it doesn’t IS A LIAR, including, possibly, you.  You cannot be so hideously ugly that a beard makes you less ugly.  It’s just impossible.  SAVE THE WORLD AND SHAVE YOUR DAMN BEARD. 


The end. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Potato Salad

Here is a true story: there is this thing called Kickstarter.  And people can put their ideas on Kickstarter, and get funding from people to make those ideas come true.  People will do it to make a movie or pay for chemotherapy for their child, and anyone can donate.  It’s a pretty cool thing. 

Zack Brown decided that he wanted to make potato salad.  And so he put his pitch out on Kickstarter.  He literally wanted to make a bowl of potato salad, and thought it would be funny to get it funded.  Well, he made $70,000 doing it.  People actually put out their own money, for whatever reason, to help this guy make potato salad.  To the tune of 70K.

Here’s another true story: Wiley Bridgeman spent 38 years in prison, some of them on death row, for a crime he didn’t commit.  Almost four decades, in an incredible miscarriage of justice.  He was finally released from prison about a month ago, at age 60, along with his brother and friend, also improperly convicted of the same crime.  And now that he’s out, he has to start over completely.  With clothes, and sheets, and dishes, and food, and toothpaste, and shoes, and laundry detergent, underwear, napkins, salt and pepper, pots, pans, lamps, gloves….you get the picture. 

There’s a fund to help him, too.  On a site called GoFundMe.  So far, it’s raised somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 bucks.  So, in case you’re keeping score, potato salad raised about five times more than a man who lost his entire life for something he never did. 

And some of you might be thinking, “Well, the government will take care of him.”  Well, it’s not that easy.  He has to hire a lawyer to file a suit, and then the suit has to be accepted, and then someone has to decide how much his life was worth, and then maybe, in a while, he’ll get some money, but his lawyers might get some of that money, too, and meanwhile, the guy can’t wait years to buy socks, pay rent, keep his lights on, eat food, or anything else. 

And I think it’s so sad, that if the friends of Wiley Bridgeman had only thought to offer to make potato salad, or the world largest meatball, or took a picture of Kim Kardashian’s butt, that they could far surpass their modest goal to raise $30,000 bucks for the man.  But they have only provided the facts: that this was a man who was falsely accused of a crime that was not adequately investigated by the police, or properly prosecuted by the government, who spent 38 years in prison for something he didn’t do.  And these facts, for some reason, do not strike the same chord as potato salad.

I’m not doing Mr. Bridgeman, or his friend Ricky Jackson, or his brother, Kwame Ajamu, justice.  I can’t convey their joy in being free, or their forgiveness of all involved in their nearly lifelong incarceration.  But this is what I can say: all of us reap the benefits of having a capable police force, and ethical, dogged prosecutors.  We all reap the benefits of having the bad guys in jail.  We can sleep safer in our beds at night and walk the streets feeling secure because of these things.  And when something goes wrong – goes terribly, horribly, wrong - as a society, we need to take care of the people whose lives were ruined so that we could have peace of mind.  It’s your choice: potato salad, or justice. 


For those who are interested in providing support to Mr. Bridgeman, click here.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bootstraps


When I was 19, I was living on my own, working full-time, and paying all of my own bills.  And suddenly had a spate of medical issues that put me deeply in debt, despite my health insurance, and in dire financial straits.  I mean dire.  I recall one time when I was out of money with a week to go until payday.  And by out of money, I mean that I was able to cull about two bucks in pennies and nickles out of the corners of my wallet and the cushions of my couch to get me fed, to and from work, and meeting my basic life needs until payday.  At the time I smoked, so cigs were part of those basic life needs.  Don’t judge; we all smoked back then.

For a time, when I told the story of this week in my life, it was the classic “And I made it by sheer courage and force of will” story.  I bought a loaf of stale bread from the bakery outlet from around the corner, and ate an egg sandwich for breakfast, and an egg sandwich for dinner.  I skipped lunch.  I managed to make my pack of smokes last a week.  And I made it until payday.  I bootstrapped it, goddammit.  All by myself.  Because that’s what winners do. 

But reality was completely different.  I did eat egg sandwiches for breakfast and dinner.  I did get the day-old bread from the bakery outlet.  But I also had a family and friends and resources to help.  I didn’t skip lunch.  I remember a coworker bringing me a pretzel – one of those big bakery kinds – out of the kindness of his heart, and pretending he didn’t want it.  Another friend sported me endless smokes – an absolute need when you’re hungry.  I got the eggs for the egg sandwiches as a donation from my father, who gave me the idea to get the day-old bread, too.  And my parents offered me all the free meals I needed, if I needed them.  It’s true that no one else paid my bills, but I certainly didn’t do it on my own.  Not at all.

And that’s what I hate about the modern bootstraps story.  The one that says, “I was hungry, cold, and needy, but I pulled myself up and muscled my way through it.”  Because that’s a lie.  No one does it on their own, and to say that they do is to discount the luck that most of us have – either to have families to help, or friends to provide support.  And my support system just happened to be people with enough money and means to help me out.  There are folks who just don’t have that.  They are in need, and their friends and families are in need.  They don’t have that person to sport them a dozen eggs, cigarettes, medication, housing, money, emotional support, or whatever they need.  All that surrounds them is more need.

Anymore, I don’t want or need to say that I got through that week on my own.  I’m fortunate as hell to say that I had people around me to help.  Who wouldn’t let me starve or come to harm.  And it would be the absolute height of arrogance for me to say that I did it on my own.  No one in this world can do it on his or her own.  We all need people.  And there comes a time when we need to be those people, too.

There’s a popular phrase, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for life.”  Well, I think that phrase is what sanctimonious assholes say.  Sometimes, you have to give a man a fucking fish.  Kindness and caring go a long way, and to deny it to others because you have your own bootstrap story is revisionist history, and not helpful to someone who’s hungry and in need. 


In this season of giving, we often look for a charitable cause that’s “worthy” of our largesse.  But in truth, anyone in need is worthy.  We’ve all been there, and we’ve all received help – whether we want to acknowledge that help or not.  The least we can do is return the favor.