Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Musings, 15 August 2015

Good morning --

--- for it is still morning, where I am.  To be precise, I write from the table of B2 coffee (in the same hangar with the Garage Bar), in San Pedro Square Market, San Jose, California.  As I start to write, the clock in the lower right hand corner of my computer creeps near 12:30 p.m. but I know that it still measures in Central Daylight Savings Time.  My phone and my tablet automatically adjusted to California, just as I have done.  I've geared myself down to the slow, smiling way of life without any sign that the adjustment challenged me.

A woman passes in front of me carrying a backpack and a motorcycle helmet.  A group of what can only be more obvious tourists than I am congregate at tables in one of the wide open doorways.  To the right of them, a computer has been plugged into an outlet on the wall, its owner moved away to stand in line seemingly without regard for any mishap which could befall his electronics.  Thumping emanates from speakers above me, but not unpleasantly.  A woman in a cape orders something from the clean-cut bartender; tacos, I think, or at the very least, tortillas.  Something involving a griddle.

I realized as I left "Palo Alto's best breakfast spot" an hour ago that I have seen nothing of San Jose itself in my three trips here.  So I headed south on Highway 101 with my GPS lady guiding me, burning battery and megabytes to bring me to downtown San Jose.  I encountered a closed street and got hand-signals from a smiling police officer; I pulled over and revised my request of the Google goddess:  Coffee.  She brought me to this place.  Despite usual traffic you will reach your destination in three minutes.  I did.

Yesterday's odyssey at the Stanford Neuro-science Diagnostic Center and Clinic gave me two lovely bruises on my inner calves and high above, next to my left knee, the last of those in the shape of the doctor's strong thumb.  I lay on the table while he used the EMG needle to probe my muscle.  Listen to that! he called to the Fellow who attended him.  He cast his dark eyes backwards to meet my own pale and apprehensive blue ones.  Do you hear that noise?  I nodded, unable to speak, unsure of the noise's import.  Move your foot, please.  The noise became thunderous.  Ahhhh, yes!   He looked again at the little Fellow, whose slight, neat body stood near my elbow.

He had our attention.  What is it, I finally asked.  He laughed but not particularly unpleasantly.  He spoke more for the Fellow's benefit than for mine when he said, That's the spasticity!  I felt as though I had risen to some occasion, gotten on my finest dress, and paraded in front of them.  I've never been particularly pleased with the awkwardness of my gait, with the buckling and shuddering or the waves of burning pain.  But this man needed me, needed my "profound dysfunction" to teach the younger man what he wanted him to know about people with weird CNS deficits that might -- emphasis on the uncertainty, informed consent, full disclosure -- benefit from EMG-directed, muscle-specific, minutely calculated injections of poison.

I asked, what is it supposed to sound like? and the doctor rewarded me with his stunning, practiced smile.  Silence, he replied.  In repose, it's supposed to be virtually silent.  He nodded at the other man, the student, as though to emphasize the delicious tyranny of my post-encephalitic musculature.  Then, with a gentleness that I could not have predicted, this doctor whose patients come from as far away as India to submit to his needle, lifted my small, tired frame from the treatment table and held me steady until I could slide to the floor.

An hour later, I found a restaurant where I picked through tortellini drenched in cream sauce to find the chunks of carrot, zucchini and cauliflower.  In another hour, I pulled into the parking lot outside Room 102 of the Stanford Motor Inn, weary from the eight hours of being poked and prodded, of waiting, of delicately pushing the pre-authorization ladies to get my insurance company to allow the treatment while I was here, this trip, this time, instead of in six months.  Though they did not manage the task, their clinic manager persuaded Stanford Medical Center's billing office to waive the cost of the treatment if the authorization did not come, a kindness that I could not have predicted and which would have been impossible had I not kept my cool.  But I did; and it happened; and now we wait to see what if any impact this treatment has on my journey to my personal goal of 103 years on earth without succumbing to the need to sit on wheels.

I board a plane in a few hours.  I've learned a lot during my week here.  In Palo Alto, people whose native tongue varies widely from my own provided moments of clarity about the delights of the American way of life.  On the coast, at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a retired civil litigator taught me the names of stars and, by inverse example, the virtues of graciousness.  On a concrete flight of stairs leading to Whalers Cove, a massage therapist from Fremont showed me an abalone shell, and some native plants, and, gesturing, the far span of her gaze towards the smooth contours of the cove and beyond it, to the ocean.

Here in San Jose, I've seen a baby on its father's lap, a woman in fuchsia with her iPhone corded to her delicate ears, a grizzled man with a grey beard and a laptop.  None of these sights are any different than I might see in any coffee shop in Kansas City.  But the air: Oh, the air!  It comes down from the mountains in rolling, gentle wafts, and my lungs have never felt so clean.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.