2018 Stomps On (Me)!

A number of people have asked lately, “how’s your voice doing?” So I went back and realized that my post of April 23rd, So This Is 2018, was something of a cliff hanger. That being the case, I guess it’s time for me to post an update.

When we last left our hero (that’s me, in this case), he had no voice, whatsoever, and was desperately trying to get an operation date for the surgery which stood a chance — just a chance, mind you — of allowing him (me) to talk again.

After a week or more of wrangling a surgical date, my darling wife, Tanya, finally got my ENT’s office (for the uninitiated, ENT stands for an Ears, Nose, Throat doctor) to set a surgical date. The date chosen was May 3rd, which has to mean something, as that’s also my late mother’s birthday. I guess I figured she’d really be looking down on me, sending support. The surgery was to take place at Georgetown University Hospital, in Washington, DC. For those of you unfamiliar with navigating D.C. by car, let me just say this — I would rather be driving in fucking Times Square on New Year’s Eve, than dealing with traffic and directions in this godforsaken city! At one point, finding the place was going so badly, I’d swear I heard my GPS actually say, “really?”

Fortunately, knowing how much fun it is to get anywhere in D.C. by car, Tanya and I had allotted enough time, and were actually on time for check-in. I went through the usual hospital crap, got my little wristband so they wouldn’t mistake me for a colonoscopy patient, and was put in a little room to await my surgery. My doctor came by, to reassure me, and the chief of the team that would be administering anesthesia, also dropped by. I was incredibly impressed that, unlike the surgery which got me into this mess in the first place, I was going to have a “team” of anesthesiologists.

At this point, I should probably do a quick recap of what happened to create the need for this surgery (for those who have not yet read my April 28th blog). On February 12th, I had surgery to repair a double hernia — such a bargain! Two for the price of one! I was chatting with people & talking as they wheeled me into operating room, asking what kind of music I liked. As I was saying the words, “classic rock, of course,” the anesthesia took hold, and I went to la la land (not the one in that crappy, overrated movie).

I woke up an hour or so later, tried to say something, and nothing came out. No voice. Nada. No one could figure out what happened until I was sent to the ENT, who explained how the anesthesiologist in surgery #1, must have put the bulb which was inserted down my throat in order to pump the anesthesia in, more than likely either hit my vocal cord itself, or hit something that hit my vocal cord. In any event, I had a paralyzed left vocal cord.

Given my principle source of income is acting, not having a voice was kind of a problem. It kinda makes submitting myself for roles, let alone auditioning, pointless. The ENT had originally suggested we wait six weeks, to see if the vocal cord could heal on it’s own. The fact it hadn’t, meant the next step was a not too invasive surgery on my throat, to see if that could work. This brings us up-to-date.

So there I was, being wheeled into an operating theatre (the only theatre I’d be seeing for a while) for my second surgery this year. The team of anesthesiologists went to work, and I went out, quickly. The concept was simple. The surgeon would fill the place where my vocal cord would normally rest, with a gel compound that lasts three to six months. During this time, the hope is, the vocal cord will miraculously start working on its own. The kicker is, you have to wait a full year, if necessary, to see if it works. If it doesn’t, then we get invasive (out of kindness to you, dear readers, I will refrain from describing the gory details of that surgery, as it was described to me).

In any event, when I came to in the recovery room, Tanya was waiting for me with post-surgical instructions from the doctor. These included the need for me to remain totally silent for the next 24-48 hours. That may not seem like a lot, but for those of you who know me, trying to speak for that period of time, especially since I wanted to take my “repaired” vocal cord out for a test spin, was…Well, let’s just call it, torturous!

While I was sleeping, Tanya had also spoken to the doctor and chief anesthesiologist. She was told I had the smallest larynx they’d ever seen on an adult male (I suppose if something on me had to be small, I’d prefer that to…). Anyway, my larynx was so small, the anesthesiologist had to use the smallest tube they had, and even then my surgeon had to use something akin to a dentist’s mirror, to be able to see down my throat, to the vocal cord. Further, they told Tanya their assumption was, the first anesthesiologist must have paralyzed the vocal cord when putting the tube in, because he couldn’t see he was hitting it.

This is just the kind of information someone who’s semi-comatose, wants to hear upon awakening.

I somehow made it through the 48 hours before first testing my voice. When I did, what came out was an incredibly raspy version of my voice. I continued testing it over the next few days, only to discover two things. 1) My voice will start the day raspy and hoarse, but if I continue speaking throughout the day, will fade to nothing by nightfall. 2) I have a projection range of anywhere from three to, at best, eight feet, or so. Beyond that, I can’t be heard. And if, g_d forbid, there’s ambient sound, as in a supermarket, or Starbucks, I have to be right in the persons ear to make myself audible.

And while I had to admit it was better than it had been before surgery #2 (I was no longer choking on beverages and food), it was still — how shall I phrase this delicately — completely fucked up!

My ENT’s next suggestion was, I should start vocal therapy. He thought it might be a helpful thing. However, when I went to the therapist (which I’m still doing), she treated me and my situation, as if it was going to be permanent. She gave me a frighteningly long list of foods she strongly urged me to avoid, practically all of which were the mainstays of my diet. She also suggested I avoid air-conditioning, as it would dry out my throat.

We’ve been having something of a heat wave here in MD. Last week we had four days where the heat index was more than 110 degrees. Was I supposed to turn off the central air during that? Because I would like to keep some small semblance of my sanity, we came to a few compromises on the “Do/Do Not” list, which continue to this day.

Two months later, this is where we remain. Although I technically do have one, my voice still sucks. I certainly can’t act, sing or even direct a play or film. I avoid talking to people on the phone, because a) they usually can’t understand what I’m saying; or b) If I do talk, it hurts like hell, and I have to usually breathe steam, after. On the pus side, I can still write! As this is pretty much the only form of communication left to me at present, I don’t consider it a small thing. And, lo and behold, I can now eat and drink, without choking. I don’t recommend this as a fun way to lose weight.

I have also sent my records to a medical malpractice attorney who, I’m hoping, will see a case here. As of this coming Thursday, July 12th, I will have been in this condition for exactly six months. I really don’t know how to describe the pain, anger, frustration, rage, and general feelings of insanity the past six months have engendered in me.

Also, although I’m not really the praying type, in this case I’ve been making an exception. I hope, pray, meditate on reaching that miraculous moment, when my vocal cord starts working normally again. I’ve got 10 months to see if it happens, and also retain what little sanity I have left.

Oh! I also forgot one of the most important things I’ve been missing out on. Every time the current resident of the Oval Office (Agolf Twitler, Cheetolini, BLOTUS, He Who Must Not Be Named — take your pick) comes on the television screen, I don’t have the wherewithal to scream back at that motherfucking, son of a bitch, spouting bullshit through my television!

Was that an uncivil way to end this post?

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This Is the Year That Is

So, I joined Twitter this year. Now that may not mean much to most people, but I had spent years avoiding Twitter like it was the plague. My youngest brother pleaded with me to open an account. “It’s the best free marketing tool for indie filmmakers, anywhere,” he said. Other friends echoed that thought. But through it all, I stood strong. “I do not need another social media site, usurping my time & mental acuity.”

There was another reason I never opened a Twitter account — I love words. I love describing things vividly, and in great detail. Hell, I’m a writer! Okay, I’m also an actor-director & acting teacher. But given the current non-state of my voice (that’s another blog), writing is the only hyphenate I have left. And, Twitter, especially when it first took off, only allowed posters 140 characters. It was my feeling then (and is now), there is nothing I think important enough to write about which I could possibly express in 140 characters. What kind of word-smithing can you do with 140 characters?

Toward the end of September, 2017, Twitter doubled the allotted characters allowed posters to 240. For me, that still wasn’t enough to bother with it. If I had something to express, I’d either post a blog about the topic here, or on Facebook and LinkedIn, where I do have accounts.

Even so, the pressure exerted from friends, demanding I join the Twitterverse, continued unabated. As 2017 came to an end, I retained my virgin-status re Twitter. I was so happy to leave 2017 behind, it never dawned on me what fun surprises 2018 might have in store for me.

As described in a previous blog, 2018 started with a bang. Early in January, my doctor found a double hernia which required surgery. The surgery was performed on February 12th. Considering my fear of hospitals and surgery, I went into it with as positive an attitude as possible. I was chattering away as the anesthetic took hold in the operating room. I woke up a few hours later, barely able to make a sound, other than a croak. And now, almost six months on, time which included a second surgery to try and fix the damage caused by the first surgery, my voice is still a bare shadow of it’s former self. I can talk a little. But it comes out sounding incredibly hoarse, is painful, and is usually gone by the end of the day. Oh, joy.

What to do?

The obvious answer, write. My fingers still worked. As it was also pretty much the only way I had to communicate, especially if I wanted to express emotions like anger, frustration, rage, love, happiness, fulfillment, joy…Oh, who the fuck am I kidding. Love, yes. But happiness, joy, and fulfillment were/are in somewhat short supply at the moment. On the plus side, for communication, I had email, instant messaging, Facebook, and this blog. I also have a screenplay which needs a bit of reworking (fuck you very much, Harvey Weinstein!). With all these at the handy, at least one of my professional hyphenates was still open to me.

And then there was Twitter.

It was March, I believe, when a group of friends pretty much ordered me to open a Twitter account, which I finally did — grudgingly. I started out following, and finding followers among my friends and family, extending into the various communities to which I belong. I had other actors, writers, directors and filmmakers. I had progressives, and members of the kink community. I did my best to stay away from anyone who even hinted at having positive feelings towards He Who Must Not Be Named (dubbed Agolf Twitler by someone on the web, which has pretty much become the only name I use when referring to the bastard. I sometimes shorten it to, Twitler, but either way, it fits).

I was fairly choosy about following people at first. I chose from among people I like and admire — smart, talented, funny, politically-oriented. But over a period of time, I started to get hooked. I spent less and less time on Facebook, and much more on Twitter. The immediacy of communication with large groups of people at once, was like a drug. The 240 character limit has been less of an issue than I expected. I’ve been teaching myself to edit comments down to only the most necessary of words, which has been an interesting experience for me as a writer. Oh fuck! I was hooked.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, sounds pretty good. And to be honest, I have found there’s an unexpected upside to Twitter I didn’t expect. But life is balance — if there’s an up side, it means there’s also a down side.

At this point, I should explain something. As an actor (writer, director, yadda yadda yadda), you learn to face and accept rejection. If you’re smart and experienced, you can use it to motivate yourself even further. In the entertainment industry, when you hear the words, “no thanks,” there’s usually nothing personal attached to it. More than likely it has nothing to do with your talent. Rather, it’s usually with regard to things you have absolutely no control over. Being a director helps with this. I’ve been on the other side of the table, and know how difficult it is to say, “no.” And the “no” usually has little to do with a person’s talent or ability.

However (c’mon — you knew there had to be a “however), when you’re sharing your views, especially political views, the attacks you may receive, and the vitriol with which they’re delivered, can cut you to the core. What makes things even worse is, when you’re attacked by people who should be on the same side as you.

Most of us who use social media, have become very conscious regarding the use of bots and trolls which have been, and are still being used, to cause and/or maintain fractures within the Democratic party. Being aware is a good thing. The not so good thing, especially on Twitter, is, I’ve noticed people are being so cautious, they’ll accuse anyone whose opinion differs from theirs, even in the slightest way, of being a bot or troll.

I learned about this the hard way earlier this week. I preface the following with this — I’m still trying to understand how Twitter works. It drives me insane that if I make a spelling or grammatical mistake, usually because I’m typing too quickly, and posting before I remember to check for mistakes, there’s no edit your comment tool to fix the damn mistake.

But I digress.

I’ve written about my concerns regarding the rift between progressives who supported Sen. Sanders candidacy in 2016, and President Clinton (she won; it was stolen; I refuse to accept He Who Must Not Be Named, as president), in past blogs.

For those new to my blog, as soon as President Clinton won the nomination, I changed my allegiance to her. As a native New Yorker, I have been all too familiar with Twitler, for the past 35 years or so. I know him to be a megalomaniacal, narcissistic, misogynist, racist, with homophobic tendencies, who doesn’t give a flying fuck about anyone other than himself. He is a legend in his own mind. No way I was going to waste a vote like all too many did in 2000.

And though I originally supported Sen. Sanders, it didn’t mean I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see he had his flaws. There is no such thing as the perfect candidate. It is my firm belief, most Sanders supporters did what I did. But there is also no doubt, there were a bunch of angry Sanders people who refused to believe the DNC didn’t steal the nomination from him. Because of this belief, they stubbornly refused to vote for President Clinton, either choosing to stay home, or casting a protest vote for (g_d help us) Jill Stein.

I’m not going to rehash the Sanders/Clinton debate here. I’ve already taken that topic on. What I want to deal with now, is the crap-storm that went down on Twitter, earlier this week.

There were people posting moderate comments which echoed my thoughts regarding the election. But there was also a vehement group of Clinton people, still blaming the Sanders holdouts for the election (which I remind everyone, President Clinton won). And their vehemence was matched by the Sanders holdouts who responded.

In the middle of this, I made the stupid mistake of posting my opinion, stating my belief that no one really knows what happened in 2016. You may have a strong feeling about what happened. You may even be certain. But the truth is, no one really knows. And pretending you do, holding on to your anger, is at least part of what got us where we are today. My point of view is, we all have to get over whatever bug remains up our collective asses. That goes for people on both sides.

This country is on the brink of becoming a fascist state. I believe that, without no doubt whatsoever. The only hope we have left is the coming November election. And this fucking stupid in-fighting is insane. We need to learn from history, before we end up repeating it in the most disastrous way.

Boy, was I a schmuck!

Within minutes I was inundated with insults — mostly staunch Clintonians, but also some Sanders people. The barrage was so nasty and vitriolic, I got off Twitter as quickly possible, and stopped looking at my feed. The remarks were biting and hurtful. But thinking about it over the past few days, I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t some bots, or trolls involved in this attack. It was such a perfect way of maintaining, or even sowing deeper divisions between the Clinton and Sanders people, it had my head spinning

As progressive radio and Free Speech TV’s  Stephanie Miller often says, “we all have to stop trying to re-litigate the election.” And she is absolutely correct. The coming election is our last, best chance to save this country and ourselves. Fuck civility, and fuck going high when they go low, because they always go low, and the high road got us to exactly we are.

Every democrat and every progressive has to get over 2016. It’s over and done with. It’s in the rear view mirror. Let it go. We have to join hands (metaphorically) and fight this battle, together. We have to learn from our mistakes — from the past. Our mantra has to be, “if we don’t learn from the past, we’re sure as hell gonna repeat it.” We have to go after Twitler and his Republican enablers as if our lives depend on it, because they do.

 

A Democratic Civil War, Serves Only the Right

I originally posted this blog on April 21st. I was (and continue to be) worried about fractures in the Democratic Party, which, if not dealt with, could sink the much-hoped for “Blue Tidal Wave” expected in November, leaving us with the most corrupt government this country has ever seen, still in power. Unfortunately, since I first posted this, things within the Democratic Party have gotten worse, not better. And since the mainstream media would rather cover their outrage at Michelle Wolf’s brilliant work at the WHCD, rather than actual news, it’s left to the rest of us to keep this story in front of people’s consciousness. With that in mind, I offer this updated version of my original post.

I saw a confusing post on Twitter a while ago (I know, nothing unusual in that), regarding the New York Times contribution to propagating all the bullshit regarding Secretary Clinton’s emails, as well as “Pizza Gate,” and, of course, the “crimes” of the Clinton Foundation.

Growing up in the ‘60s, the NY Times was considered the paper of record; not only in the metro NY area, but around the country. There was never a day my father didn’t come home with a copy he’d pilfered during his commute to and from his NYC office on Metro North (it was a bonanza day if he also managed to cop a copy of The Daily News and — pre-Murdoch — NY Post). In 7th grade, our English teacher made the entire class subscribe to the Times. Going through it was a daily ritual.

That was then, this is now.

I stopped my online subscription to the Times a few years back, when I realized it had become a partisan rag, with writers and contributors geared toward the same ideal — taking advantage of anything which would sell more papers, true or not. Their once first-class investigative reporting had become more like a gossip sheet, printing anything salacious or provocative, without bothering to seek out the truth in a story, before printing it. Letting go of the NY Times, a paper I’d been attached to most of my life, was emotionally jarring.

When it came to the 2016 presidential election, there are very few newspapers or magazines in this country, which, in retrospect, were on the right side of history. With no care or concern for the American people, they printed every single negative story regarding former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, they could, solely because it was good for business. At the same time, because he was entertaining and sold papers, they printed story after story about The Orange Taint, never questioning or demanding answers to the bile and lies he spewed. Most television networks followed the print media’s coverage.

A year or so into the presidency of He, Whose Name I Cannot Mention (because it makes me want to puke), many of the print publications, radio, and television shows, who had worked so hard to vilify Secretary Clinton, began to realize what they’d done. No real mea culpas, though, because no one in the media (with the exception of Fox, and other right wing media outlets, who were delirious with joy), wanted to accept their rightful share of the blame for helping lead this country down the road toward fascism, simply as a means to sell newspapers, or to achieve higher ratings.

However, what I found more revolting than almost anything, was the NY Times’s participation in this bloodletting. New Yorkers know who and what Donald Trump is. We’ve dealt with that unmitigated shithead for the past 40 years. This is the same, self-promoting, narcissistic, blowhard, who spent $85,000 placing full-page ads in New York’s four daily papers, demanding the death penalty for the “Central Park Five,” even after it was proven they were innocent (if you don’t know this story, you should look it up. It’s a clear demonstration how racism and propaganda often work together, destroying innocent lives in the process). This is why the citizens of NYC and environs voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. Trump not only couldn’t win NY, he couldn’t win his own Trump Tower.

All of which brings me back to the Twitter post mentioned earlier. Once again, I read die-hard Clinton supporters blaming, among others, “Bernie Bros,” for Secretary Clinton’s loss. And herein lies one of my biggest fears for the future of the Democratic Party.

The term,“Bernie Bros,” as utilized by Clinton supporters, is meant derisively. These are the people who want to blame Clinton’s loss on the Democratic “traitors” who, for whatever reason, refused to vote for the Secretary, or voted third party. Here’s why I believe these Clinton-faithful are not only wrong, but could have a disastrous affect on the hoped-for Democratic tidal wave, hoped for in November.

Before proceeding, in the spirit of full disclosure, I supported Senator Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary. It was, and is my belief, he more clearly represented my views on where this country should be headed, then did Secretary Clinton. And while I was furious over the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in favor of Secretary Clinton’s campaign by the DNC, when she won the nomination, she also won my vote.

I wasn’t alone in this. From the Sanders supporters I’ve spoken to, the vast majority felt as I did, resulting in their voting for Clinton, as well. For many, this was not done out of loyalty to the Democratic Party, or it’s chosen candidate, but because we understood the danger of an Agolf Twitler presidency.

I don’t believe in political purity tests. In my opinion, what the Sanders supporters who refused to vote for Secretary Clinton, under any circumstances, failed to comprehend is, very few voters can, or will ever agree 100%, with the position of any candidate for political office. We can’t, because in the game of politics, every successful politician has had to make compromises or concessions, some of which angered their own base. That goes whether the candidates name is Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

To the Clinton faithful still holding on to the “Bernie Bros,” crap, as a means to vilify the Progressives they want to believe are responsible for the Secretary’s loss, it is your continued demonstration of disdain for the opinions of others in our Party, which threaten it’s very existence. The Progressive end of the Democratic Party is growing larger every day, a fact the DNC would be wise to wake up and note.

Since the election, we’ve all heard Democratic Party leaders say we need to start at the grass roots level, getting new people involved in Party politics, and running for office. They tell us they want to encourage a new generation of Democrats to participate in the electoral system.

Unfortunately, when the 2nd highest-ranking Democrat in Congress, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, involves himself and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which he represents, in the outright sabotage of a Democratic congressional campaign, those words ring kind of hollow.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I refer to the race in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. Representing the DCCC, Hoyer, told Progressive Democratic candidate, Levi Tilleman, the DCCC had already decided to support his opponent, Jason Crow, a more moderate, corporate Democrat. In no uncertain terms, Hoyer told Tilleman to drop out of the race. The decision to support Crow, Tillemann was told, had been made long ago — it wasn’t personal. Further, Hoyer told Tilleman, there was nothing uniquely unfair being done. As Hoyer put it, “this is how the party does it everywhere.”

In other words, the DCCC gets to decide what candidates the Democratic Party will support and funnel money to, before the primary, making it much more difficult for new, Progressive Democratic voices to be heard. What this also does is remove voter’s right to have a choice. Unfortunately for Hoyer, Tilleman taped their conversation, revealing Hoyer and the DCCC for the back door, old-time corporate Democrats, Progressives have claimed they are since the 2016 election.

This became even sadder, when House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, a politician I have a great deal of admiration and respect for, actually defended Hoyer, and the DCCC’s tactics. What seems lost on the Democratic leadership is, there’s nothing remotely democratic in any of this. What the hierarchy of the Democratic Party seems to want, is nothing more than to maintain the status quo. The damaging part of this is, it justifies and proves the point of Progressive Democrats who claim the party is corrupt, and the playing field not close to being even.

In Montgomery County, MD, where I live, while no tapes have come out, it’s perfectly obvious the DCCC has chosen as its candidate du jour, millionaire David Trone. Even though Trone is running against eight more Progressive candidates, it’s perfectly clear none of these candidates has the money and support behind them to run television commercials, or even post yard signs, as Trone has done. I daresay, most people in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, couldn’t even name two of Trone’s primary opponents.

The problem with all this is, Democratic voters do not get to hear from candidates other than those chosen for them by the party — the system is rigged. They know voters will do exactly what the Party wants them to — go into the booth on primary day, and vote for the only Democrat whose name they know — the one chosen, supported and sanctified by the Party, before the process has even begun. If these two examples are typical of what’s happening around the country, it means the Democratic Party is complicit in silencing a large block of Democratic candidates, cheating voters out of our right to a choice.

If, as is said, the meaning of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, this is it. Nothing changes, because those in charge — while paying lip service to democratic ideals and principles — work to ensure it doesn’t. In doing so, they prove Progressive Democrats — both old and new — are correct when they say the party doesn’t listen to, or care about our views. And this is what I fear could destroy the Democratic Party, at the exact time we need unification more than ever before in this country’s history.

Party elders who don’t see the direction young Democrats just beginning to get involved with the Party (the Parkland students being a good example), are intent on moving our party and this country, are choosing to remain blind to a future that’s coming — like it or not. If the more centrist members of the Party — those who have held tight to it’s reigns for a number of years — don’t begin to demonstrate an understanding of this, and start to embrace more progressive ideals, they will be the ones responsible for splitting Democrats in half, resulting in a fractured party, and a country headed further down the road toward fascism and totalitarianism.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t sit at the helm of our government today, not because of “Bernie Bros” or Jill Stein voters. Rather, it’s due to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia; the successful targeting of people via Facebook and other social media outlets with anti-Clinton propaganda; successful Republican efforts at voter suppression in states around the country; and the probable Russian hacking of voting machines, in just enough red states, to hand the (outdated) Electoral College to a person unfit in every way, to lead this country…or pretty much, anything else.

If you want, get mad — hell, get furious! But aim that anger in a direction that will force change, and benefit all Americans. A civil war between members of the Democratic Party, serves only those who would destroy the ideals upon which this country was founded.

So This Is 2018

The following is not exactly what I had envisioned for my second blog of 2018, which was meant to be my first. Most confusing.

When 2016 ended, I was profoundly happy. The end of a godawful shitty year, filled with the deaths of heroes and legends, culminating in the election (selection?) of one of the most vile, contemptuous, corrupt and totally incompetent fools to ever sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Not exactly a promising way to ring in 2017. Enough shit tossed about from day one, to make one long for those good old days of 2016.

Which brings me to January, 2018 (I’ve often found, glossing over miserable times can often be an excellent way to deal with them… by not dealing with them. As anyone who reads my blog knows, 2017 falls into that category.

On a positive note, my wife and I, accidentally stumbled upon a new medical practice we liked. The fact we found it by my contracting the flu was not exactly how I would have chosen to find a new practice, but, hey, what the hell. So, being long overdue for a physical, I set one up.

One week later, as my new primary care physician is giving me the overdue physical, she looked up at me and, pointing to my crotch says, “are you aware you have a hernia?” “Uh, no,” was my pathetically lame response, followed by a hopeful, “but it’s nothing I need to take care of right now, is it?” She looked at me with one of those, “Oh, you poor schmuck,” looks, and said, “I tell you what, let’s send you to a surgeon and see what they think.”

After getting a referral from my father-in-law, I made an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in hernias. On the appointed day, there I stood being examined by the surgeon, who’s now handling my lower extremities with doctorly detachment. After a few good feels — on his part — the surgeon looked up at me, and without missing a beat, says, “are you aware you have two hernias?”

So there I am, standing, pants down in front of this surgeon who’s performed thousands of hernia surgeries (his words). This is my second opinion, and he’s telling me I’ve got a spare hernia? But not a good spare, like “Hey! Great news! You may have lost a tire, but we just discovered you have a spare, so this won’t cost you shit.” Naturally, having already endured two surgeries in the past five years, I had to ask, “So, ummm — is this something I need to take care of like now, or do I have some time? So this doctor, the man who’ going to be slicing and dicing around my groin says, “No, there’s no rush. Not as long as you take care of it in the next three months or so.”

For anyone reading this who isn’t a member of my family, you’re probably wondering, WTF is he talking about, and what’s the big deal over a little surgical procedure. Well, here it is — I was born with a congenital heart defect that kept me in and out of hospitals, between the ages of one and a half, and four and a half, traumatizing me for life…at least, so far. Hospitals, needles — pretty much anything having to do with medical procedures freaks me out.

As it happens, my case was written up in medical journals for being the only case in recorded medical history — at least, through the 1950’s — to “spontaneously” recover from the condition I was born with. What that means in doctor talk is, they can’t explain it. It also made my father something of a psychic for not only telling my mother all along that I’d be fine, but, due to the history of the heart trouble on my medical record, the military would never be able to draft me. And that’s exactly what happened when I turned 18, which was also toward the end of the Vietnam War. 4F, baby!

Flash forward to February 12th — surgery day. I arrive at the surgical center around 7am. Within the next 45 minutes, I’m lying on a hospital bed, multiple needles in my arm. My surgeon comes in to say, hi, as does the anesthesiologist. Next thing I know, I’m being wheeled into the operating room, where they’re playing some godawful music. They asked me if I had a request, so, naturally, I chose The Beatles. Instead, the bastards knocked me out and started the surgery.

That was the last thing I remember, before coming to in the recovery room. The doctor had told my wife, Tanya, the surgery would take around 75 minutes. I’m told they actually finished and had me in recovery, in an hour. I wouldn’t know as I was whacked out on Demerol & (one) Oxycodone. What I do remember is the pain. There was lots of it.

At this point I was incredibly groggy, so no one thought anything about the fact my voice was more of a croak, as opposed to my usual dulcet tone. Unfortunately, as time went by, my voice got worse, not better. As the days wore on, there were times I could speak a little. The problem is, when I did, I either sounded like Mickey Mouse, or reverted to the croak.

There was also one other problem. I couldn’t eat, or drink, without gagging and choking. My first visit back to the surgeon, so he could check my progress, was interesting. While the hernia scars were doing well, my voice freaked him out. He told me he’d never seen this happen to anyone, and didn’t understand what happened to me. My primary care doctor referred me to an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist, so I set up an appointment for February 27th, two weeks after the surgery.

On the appointed day, I went to the ENT, hoping he could find a solution to my problem. After numbing my nose, he stuck a long thin tube with a camera on the end, up my right nostril, and back down my throat. After taking a good look, he told me my left vocal chord was paralyzed. He also explained how, without trying, when he put the little ball that emits the gas which knocked me out for surgery, the anesthesiologist inadvertently dislodged something, which probably hit my vocal cord, creating the paralysis. He also told me, in all the years he’d been in practice, I was only the second case of this he’d seen.

Oh, great! I felt so special. I was the one in a million.

He also told me, in the one case he’d seen, the vocal chord healed itself. It took around six weeks, but he figured the same would probably happen for me. So we set another appointment six weeks later.

Every morning I woke up, hoping this would be the day my voice came back. And every day, I opened my mouth to try and speak. And every day, either nothing comes out at all, or it’s back to Mickey and/or the croak.

I primarily make my living as an actor, so this was getting a little nerve wracking. Day by day, as my voice stayed the same — non-existent — I grew more and more despondent. I had these pictures in my head of never getting my voice back, never being able to act again. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. To be perfectly honest, it was freaking me out.

In the middle of all this, the anti-gun march on Washington, led by the Parkland students, was scheduled to take place. People came from all over the country to voice their anger about our government’s refusal to do anything to stop the epidemic of mass shootings. I was determined to be one of them. Stephanie Miller, who hosts my favorite progressive radio show (comedy and tragedy, all in one neat little package), was coming in from L.A. to support the kids, and march with the “Steph-Heads,” of which I was one.

I was determined to meet, march with, and have my first opportunity to chat with Stephanie, the woman whose show, has helped me maintain some degree of sanity, through the reigns of Georgie Bush, through the Obama presidency, and now, with “He Who Must Not Be Named, haunting the oval office. Tanya was worried I wasn’t up to it, and determined to impress that upon me. I promised her that if I felt any pain whatsoever, I would stop, and come home. So, I went. But when my one opportunity to talk to Steph arrived, all I could do was type a message on my phone, thanking her.

At this point, I was beyond the six-week mark, with no improvement to my voice. So back to the ENT, who once more runs the camera tube up my nose, and back down my throat. As expected, the doctor told me there was no change (duh), and we’d reached the “what’s next” mode.

The doctor told me what he’d like to do is a minor surgical procedure, in which he inserts a gel into my throat, which will allow my vocal chords to meet, thus allowing me to talk semi-normally. The downside of this is, the gel only lasts three to six months. But the hope is, during that time, the gel will help my vocal chord actually heal, giving me my voice back. Oh, joy.

Wanting to cover all bases, I asked him, “well, just for argument sake, what happens if this doesn’t work.” His reply: “Well, if that’s the case, we have to start talking about more invasive surgery. But let’s wait and see how we do with this surgery.” He gave me the name and number for his “surgical scheduler,” and told me to call and set up a date for the surgery. As I have no voice, and the more I try to speak, the worse it gets, Tanya made the call — calls, actually. Depending on your point of view, that’s where it got really funny, or really ironic.

Tanya places the first call, only to find out, the scheduler is out, and will remain so for at least a couple of weeks, because she has no voice!

Not to be deterred, and as tenacious as she is brilliant and beautiful, Tanya got hold of the doctor’s assistant, trying to impress upon her the need to get a surgical date as quickly as possible. I have now been without a voice for more than two months. What started out as something we thought would be short-term and, at times, kind of funny, has now gotten far more serious. The doctor’s assistant told Tanya the doctor had a date available within two weeks. Only thing is, before officially putting me on the surgical schedule, she had to get the okay from Georgetown University Hospital, where the “procedure” will be taking place, that they had an available operating room.

Every day last week, Tanya called. No news yet was the response. So here I sit, telling the story the only way available to me at the moment. How long before the surgery? How long until I get some semblance of my voice back? And what happens if this surgery doesn’t work? These are the questions running through my mind, every single day. It’s been enough to make me nostalgic for the fun of 2017…almost. So there you have it.

To quote the words of Stephanie Miller, “happy 2018, everybody!”

 

 

WTF Is Going On!

I have what is probably a rhetorical question, but one I feel the need to ask anyway. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??? From the entertainment industry — heavyweights like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Bill Cosby Louis C.K., just to name a few. The list of politicians from both sides of the aisle starting with President Cheetolini, Judge and Republican senatorial candidate gag!), Roy Moore, Anthony Weiner (nope — too easy), Bilbo O’Reilly, the late Roger Ailes, and on and on and…As Al Pacino rightly said in the film, And Justice For All, “there’s something really wrong here!”

I refer, of course, to the epidemic of molestation, rape, flashing and all other forms of unwanted sexual activity, forced on women in this, our sad and sick excuse for a culture. And before anyone, especially if you’re a white male, tries the “women do it to men, too,” routine, yes, that’s true. And it’s every bit as egregious a crime as the other way round. But let’s get real — the scale is probably tipped at 95% to 5% (and that’s being generous) toward men sexually harassing women.

Go ahead — speak to any five women you pick off the street, and ask them if they’ve ever been harassed, molested, raped, flashed, whatever. I’m willing to bet the answer is yes, with at least four out of the five. I honestly don’t think I know a woman — from my mother on down to my wife and daughter, who haven’t escaped some form of this epidemic. It’s sad, it’s disgusting, it’s sick, and it’s criminal. Unfortunately, for all too many women, this is the norm. As my sister-in-law told me, “we expect it.”

What’s even worse, though, is the fact this criminal behavior is still being tolerated. Fans of the entertainers, and supporters of the politicians whose misdeeds have been outed, will go to almost any length to excuse the criminal acts being perpetrated by these deviants (Bill Cosby can still sell out a live show)!

If you fall into this category, you are worse than an enabler — you are complicit in allowing these acts to continue. I don’t give a flying fuck how a woman is dressed (or not), even if she’s in a mini-skirt that lands just below her crotch — that does not mean she’s fair game, easy, or “asking for it.” No matter how provocatively you think someone is dressed, shut the fuck up, and keep your hands off! (Speaking of which, women, please don’t “slut shame” each other. That just adds fuel to an already raging fire.)

Last week, Stephanie Miller, the doyenne of fart jokes and progressive thought on radio (and television, via Free Speech TV), dedicated about 98% of her show to discussing this epidemic. Interestingly, every female guest on the show — and this includes regulars Frangela (aka Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton), and  producer Vanessa Rumbles — as opposed to a group of women specifically selected to bolster the argument — have experienced some form of sexual harassment. For many of them, this was not a one-time thing, but something they’ve had to endure throughout their careers.

Now, if one is of an inquisitive nature, one might ask, “well, why haven’t they reported this to someone?” Who? This is not about sex, folks — this is about power! Men exercising power over the powerless. While I can’t speak to the extent of this atrocity in politics, I have, in my 42-year career in the entertainment industry, continuously seen and heard about the men in lofty positions, using their power against women (and men) — people who are simply trying to make a living in their chosen profession.

Regular readers of my blog may know, I’m somewhat prejudiced in this matter, having myself been molested by neighbor boys, as a child. But that aside, what most women have to endure on a daily basis is insane. It makes me ashamed of my own gender, and so very grateful to have been brought up by my feminist mother.

The one positive light I see at the end of this tunnel is, when one woman breaks the silence, and has the courage to stand up and say, “fuck you! I’m not taking this shit anymore,” and names the person (or persons) who molested them. It helps other women gather the courage to do the same, clearly demonstrated this past week as dozens of women began to share their stories about molestation and abuse from powerful men in Hollywood and the political arena.

As I type, a group which includes some of Hollywood’s most powerful women, including Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Natalie Portman, Kathleen Kennedy, and Amy Pascal, has been formed to help combat these atrocities. They hope to come up with code of conduct that will, hopefully, be adapted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Would that both political parties have the courage to do the same (somewhat difficult whilst a serial predator sits in the White House).

In the meantime, it would be nice if all men remembered that caring and acting for the benefit of others, includes keeping your unwanted fucking hands off women. No actually means NO! And, unless you’re in a consensual  situation, the use of power and coercion to get your way, is not very nice. In fact, it’s criminal!

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, or need information on how to prevent it, click here and visit Rainn, a national group offering assistance and support, as well as information about getting involved in preventing these crimes.

A Few Thoughts On The Aftermath of Las Vegas

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best express my feelings about what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday, and have found, I can’t. My feelings are jumbled, emotions a mess. However, I would like to say the following:

Fuck you Cheetolini, you miserable, worthless piece of shit! Fuck you Sarah Huckleberry Saddlebags, you lying moron! Go fuck yourselves Pat Robertson, Alex Jones, and every asswipe pundit on Faux News, as well as every supposed pundit or news reporter who, yet again, are bending over and taking it up the ass to express how “presidential” Cheetolini is being!

Fuck you every single member of Congress (both houses), who steadfastly refuse to do anything to stop this epidemic of mass shootings because your hands are so deeply in the pockets of the NRA and gun manufacturers, you don’t give a shit how many human lives are taken, so long as your own pockets are lined with this blood money (especially you Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Jason Chaffetz, you unmitigated scumbags!) It’s too fucking early to talk about it? ‘The issue is not guns, but mental illness — we have to deal with that,’ from the cocksucking piece of shit who helped Drumpf push through a bill overturning President Obama’s — you remember; the black guy — ban against the mentally ill being able to get guns!!!

A giant FUCK YOU to the members of the Supreme Court who have conspired to keep this shit going, by based decisions on their right wing political affiliation, rather than constitutional law. And while I’m at it, a special FUCK YOU to the NRA and gun manufacturers, whose only goal is to sell more assault weapons in order to line their own pockets, with no concern whatsoever for how they’re used.

Oh. And FUCK YOU Bilbo O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, you fucking opportunists!

An additional fuck you to the members of the corporate news media, who are too cowardly to call this shooting exactly what it is — TERRORISM! And fuck you every single person offering their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families, while participating in allowing these kind of things to continue happening. Fuck you to every asshole who’s said, “don’t politicize this,” then immediately turned around and politicized “this!” And fuck you, every other politician, pundit, so-called “religious leader,” or individual who has, or is using the Second Amendment (incorrectly) to justify this prick’s right to own 42 weapons of mass destruction, and uncountable rounds of ammunition!!! How convenient to quote a portion of the Second Amendment while leaving out the part that says, “A well regulated MILITIA, being necessary to the security of a free State.

Every single one of you scumbag motherfuckers are complicit in the murder and wounding done to every person who was shot in Las Vegas (and Sandy Hook; and Aurora, Colorado; Fort Hood, Texas, Pulse Nightclub in Orlando; Virginia Tech, and every other mass shooting in this country since the turn of the millenium). The victims of these shootings had the constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! This does NOT include having their rights ended by a bullet shot by some psychopathic terrorist making a complete mockery of the Second Amendment.

And to anybody who wants to take issue with what I’m saying, FUCK YOU!!! You post ANY COMMENTS trying to justify this in any way, your cretinous remarks won’t see the light of day, so don’t even bother. You want to challenge my thoughts, do it elsewhere!

This rant, and expression of disgust, outrage and pain, is mine! Don’t fuck with it!