Thursday, January 21, 2016

Necie's Knees


Until July 17, 2015 both of my knees were shot.  I'd been complaining to my docs for some time. Asking them if they could hear the crunching that I heard when I bent my knees. One doc said she heard it, but it was no big deal. She blew it off. At the time my docs were rotating like crazy, in and out of Toluca Lake Medical Center.

The last one promised she would stay around a while and she took me seriously when I told her about the crunching and pain in my knees. Right away she referred me to Dr. Robert Klapper, the knee guy to the stars, who works out of Cedars Sinai.

Dr. Klapper is a busy man. It was 3 months before I was able to get in to see him. Before he entered the exam room he ordered more x-rays, because the ones I brought with me weren't clear. Dr. Klapper has every x-ray machine known to man, right there in his office.

He came into the exam room with my x-rays and said, "I hate to say 'Hello, I'm Dr. Klapper, and you need surgery', but......" He showed me the shots of my knees, that look so much thinner in the x-rays, and told me that I had no meniscus. None. My knees were bone on bone. He listened to the crunch as he moved my feet up and down while I sat on the exam table. He said you could hear the crunch from across the room. He told me not to let anyone give me shots in the knees, because there was nothing to put the shot in.

He ordered physical therapy for me while I contemplated surgery. Before I left, he said, "I can't tell, you, you can't tell you, but your knees will tell you when it's time for surgery." Hmmmmmm.

He told me to keep riding my bike but to avoid hills. And that ice is my friend.

I went ahead and scheduled my next appointment, 3 months out. When my appointment rolled around, I was more than ready. I came into the exam room and told him, "Cut me doc!" My knees were killing me. Making me a crippled old lady, I was not ready to be. I appreciated Dr. Klapper's confidence. He told me that the surgery takes and hour and a half for most surgeons, but for him only 45 minutes because, "I measure twice and cut once."

The right knee gave me the most pain and that's where we started. My surgery was scheduled quickly because someone else had canceled. I had less than 3 weeks to get all of the pre-op blood work and tests done. My blood was typed, crossed and checked for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I donated a unit of blood for the surgery. This was a challenge as I have slow moving blood and rolly polly veins. The nurses call it a hard stick.  It's hard alright. Hard on me. Especially when there is an inexperienced nurse poking around in my arm.  The folks at Cedars are pros, though, and they made it happen.  If they had been unable to get my blood flowing, I would have had to ask someone to donate a unit of blood for my surgery. Who knew?  I also didn't know that my slow flowing blood could have lead to a clotting problem during surgery.  My blood flow speed just barely made the time cut. Whew.

Then there were teeth to clean, because after the surgery there would be no more dental visits for a year. There was a class to take. A two hour pre-surgery class. I've got to give it to the people at Cedars, they are thorough as hell. They leave no stone unturned. During my numerous trips back and forth to Cedars I saw how vast an organization it is. It's like a small city. There's a Starbucks, clothing stores, gifts shops, of course, and all manner of food shops.

Then there was a pre-op exam by my internist Dr. So. A mammogram which was already scheduled before the surgery. Then before you know it, it was the17th. July 17th is my beloved Grandmother's birthday, so I thought it was the perfect date for the surgery. A good sign. Some nice person called the night before to let us know what time the surgery was scheduled. I was ready.

A couple days before the surgery date, the husband, Earl, was cleaning the gutters on the back of the house. I came home from running some errands. I greeted him and he asked me to spot him on the ladder. I was hungry and he'd asked me to change clothes, into"grubbies", to better help. I wanted to get something to eat first. He said go ahead.

I was eating when I heard a thump. I ran to see what happened and there he was, going down. I got there just in time to see his head hit the ottoman cushion. His arm took the brunt of the fall. He sat up in shock. I helped him up, saying to him, "No more ladders!" He'd missed the last step on the way down. He insisted on finishing the job. I spotted him. It was too late. I told him,"You can't be broke down now, you've got to help me next week!"

Later that day his arm swelled up and was terribly bruised. I felt really guilty. The only good thing that came out of this is that he is absolutely through with ladders. Later I said to him, "If only I'd spotted you." He blew it off with, "That's split milk." I didn't want to keep bringing it up. He gets annoyed when I do that, so I just tried to do all I could to help him feel better.

He went to the doctor and then to a specialist. He thought the wrist was broken as it was the most painful. It wasn't broken, but he wore a brace for a while. He took muscle relaxers and stumbled around like a zombie. He was exhausted at the hospital and I felt bad to have to ask for everything after my surgery.

At the hospital I had the wonderful nurses to help me. I needed them, too. They waited on me hand and foot. Even putting in my prescription eyedrops for me. I missed them when I got home. The surgery went well.  I slept through the whole thing, of course, amazed when I awoke to a 26cm scar from above to right below my new knee. Held together with 65+ staples. I had the nurse take pix so I could post them on Face Book. I almost lost a few friends behind that post. LOL! Some people are so sensitive.

The first two nights were ass kickers. The pain brought me to tears and nearly to my knees. Dr. Klapper said my high pain tolerance is a blessing and a curse. I endured too long and that increased the damage. He said when he cut me open it looked like someone had poured battery acid in there, it was bad.

Because of the major pain, as the anesthesia and pain blockers wore off I was taking high doses of pain meds. Norco 10 - 4 x a day. There's a Norco 5 but I didn't think that would cut it the way I was hurting. Norco is hydrocodone/acetaminophen 10-325mg. I think it's what they make meth with. What I know is that it knocks down the pain and drys out my mouth and intestines. Bringing along nausea and dizziness. In hospital, I was given stool softeners and anti nausea patches. When I left I didn't get any to take with me. I felt OK. I didn't feel constipated but everyone insisted it would happen. More on that later.

In order to be released from the hospital, I had to walk the halls and take a step on the stairway to be ready for the one step we have at home. My blood pressure kept dropping when I stood so I had to stay an extra day to get my BP stabilized. I'd heard that they would have me up and walking on the same day as surgery. It was true. It hurt like hell, too. Just getting out of the bed was a supreme challenge.

The night before surgery I was to shower with Chlorhexidine Gluconcate 4% (CHG) antibiotic soap. I was instructed to shampoo my hair with regular shampoo and shower again the morning of surgery with more CHG.  Once I got to the hospital they had me wipe myself down with CHG towelettes. They're not playing with those germs! The nurses prepped me and of course my rolly polly veins held up the works. The anesthesiologist ended up getting my line in. The nurses were out in the bay describing how they'd never seen anything like them. I wanted to say "I can hear you!" I tried to tell them they would need their needle expert. Anyway, it got done and they rolled me into the biggest OR I'd ever seen. Everyone introduced themselves. One guy was named Earl. Earl the Pearl he said. We got my knee marked and that's all she wrote.

As I said before, I woke up amazed. My knee was all bundled up and nurses were asking me questions. Can't remember any of them now. My room turned out to be the very same one that our friend Richard Gant had occupied a month earlier when Dr. Klapper replaced his hip. He and his wife Jasmine sent beautiful fragrant flowers.

Brent visited. I was supposed to be in the hospital 1-2 nights. Turns out it was 2. Earl went home every night. He had done that staying overnight thing in 2007 when I had breast cancer surgery. No one offered him a cot back then and this time he was all cramped up from his injuries from the fall. He didn't take the cot they offered as he remembered what it was like in 2007.

Juanita visited the next day, after a lot of confusion about where I was.  She, like the others, insisted I not get too constipated. Another friend said that her constipation was worse than the major surgery she'd had. I was still feeling OK. I hadn't eaten much. The food was too terrible to eat. I ate less each day. My mouth was too dry to taste anything. I had never suffered from constipation in the past. Diarrhea, yes, constipation, no. Maybe that's TMI.

Anyway, I finally caved and purchased some stool softener and laxative and prunes. I got the works. This was after being home a couple days and seeing a doctor for dizziness and nausea. He said I should cut back on the Norco 10. The nurses had suggested cutting back when I was in the hospital. The pain wouldn't let me. In time the nausea and dizziness were too much so I relented and I cut back. The doc said to take some ibuprofen along with the Norco.

The day I saw the doc, I came home and launched a 3 prong attack on my long lost bowel movement. It had been a week. I took Senekot laxative, Myralax stool softener and ate a whole lot of prunes. The doc said I should have a movement by Sunday. It was Thursday. Happy to announce my bowels moved the same day. Now I had to remember to keep taking all of the above as long as I was taking the Norco. Who knew, I was to have this much discussion of my bowel movements?

In cutting back on the Norco I had a bad pain experience that night. Didn't make me cry. Did make me moan and reach for the iburprofen. I worried that I would run out with only 3 tabs left. The pain episode passed and I was OK for the moment.

Lance visited the next day and brought flowers. He did a few thing I didn't want to want to bother Earl with as he was exhausted handling the basics of cooking, washing dishes and making the beds all with a bum arm from his fall. Lance went to the store and got me some more ibuprofen. I could relax then, knowing I had my stash.

Every other day or so a physical therapist came by. A nurse came by regularly to take my vitals. I didn't need the nurse so much as I needed Ash the PT. I needed to get my knee stretched out so it would heal correctly. I had been doing so well with the PT that I overdid it on my own the next day.

It was time for my 3 week post-op doctor's visit. Overdoing it had set me back and I was in a lot of pain. Kathy drove me to the appointment that day because Earl had to work. My appointment was at 8am in Beverly Hills. I live in the Valley, an hour's drive during rush hour. Kathy picked me up at 6:30am. We got there early and there was nowhere to sit outside the locked office doors. There were benches in the downstairs lobby where we'd waited earlier, but we were hoping the doors would open a few minutes early. It was tough trying to stand in pain. I was using the cane then, but I probably should have used the walker that day. Kathy grabbed my sweater and purse to make it as easy as possible for me. At last the doors opened. That was a tough day, but I got a good report nonetheless. I don't have to see the doctor again for a year. Kathy made the day better by taking me to breakfast afterward. My friends are the best.

There were some rough days when it was super hot and Earl was tired, I was impatient and unwashed. I didn't want to risk an infection by getting my bandages wet. I could have put a garbage bag and duct tape over my leg to shower, but I didn't want to take a chance. I just washed up at the sink. I was on a walker and using a commode. I hated that commode at first then hardly wanted to give it up when it was time. I kinda liked having armrests on the toilet.

One thing I remembered well from the pre-op class is that when friends and family ask what they could bring, ask them to bring prepared food. Carolyn and Brittany visited and brought the veggie salads I had been craving. The Farquhars visited bringing flowers and more delicious food. I was hoping I wasn't too funky for a hug. They graciously hugged me anyway.

I lost a couple pounds. The pain subsided and I could feel the extra weight of the titanium where my meniscus used to be. I took a couple steps without the walker and Ash began talking about a cane. Soon it would be time to start water therapy. I had planned to go back to the Motion Picture Hospital where I'd gone for pre surgery therapy. I thought I would need a driver but I realized one of the exercises Ash had me doing was preparing me for driving a car. Yessssssss.

Barbara came by and washed my hair for me and rebraided it. I was so grateful. It had gotten pretty smelly. I love my friends. I can't tell you. So many people were supportive. Barbara came back by some weeks later and followed up on her promise to treat me to a mani-pedi. I didn't think I wanted one as I usually do my own nails, but it was so great to get out of the house and hang with my girl. Talking and catching up with each other .

By week seven I was walking without a cane. The knee was stiff but not too painful. I tried to cut back on my pain med dosage but it was too soon. I was taking something every 9 hours or so. I've learned to practice patience with this as Dr. Klapper said it would take a whole year to be completely healed.

I was so looking forward to driving. Earl was doing everything including driving me everywhere and cleaning up my bathroom accidents in addition to his regular stuff. Plus his arm was still healing. He said that if I could walk, then I could drive. I decided to take his word for it.

At the beginning of September I drove our car! I was sooooo excited. OK, I only drove it from the driveway to the street. But then I knew I could do it. I didn't think about my knee at all. Only driving. And it didn't hurt. Now I would be able to drive myself to physical therapy. Three times a week was a lot to ask of poor Earl. I dismantled the commode, too. As much as I liked the comfort of an armchair toilet, I was sick of looking at it. Tired of being an invalid. I thought of putting the area rugs back down, too. They had to be removed while I was on the walker and cane. I was still kind of dragging my right foot and the last thing I wanted to do was to trip and fall.

Good thing my recovery was moving along well, because in October the hubby got a job that took him out of state for a month. By then I was pretty darned independent. I was on Earl-cation. No making the beds and washing dishes. I stayed up as late as I wanted. Watched what I wanted on TV. Did laundry when I felt like it. And ate my favorite foods from restaurants he's not interested in. Yum. Oh, and listened to all of the music I want, really loud!

Earl left me a honey-do list. Can you believe that? Not easy stuff either. One item was taking one of the cars to the dealership for work that would take a week. Not too bad. I dropped off the car and they brought me home. They would come get me the next week so I could retrieve the car.

Item number two was replacing the front door. This was more than a notion, as my Grandmother used to say. I have an inch of paper work to show for it. We had been talking about getting a new front door for at least 5 years. He picks now to actually do it. So before he left town we went to Home Depot and made our selection. Home Depot doesn't tell you until it's too late to refuse, that you'll need a permit and an inspection. The installer didn't tell me until he was done that I would need to paint the wood door frame within 2 weeks to avoid water damage. That meant right away because it was supposed to rain in a couple days.

After inventorying our painting supplies and 3 trips to Home Depot, limping along on my new knee, the door installation was complete. It was not a pretty sight, limping up and down a step stool trying to prep and paint the door frame without getting paint on the rubber seal. The neighbors walking their dogs looked on curiously. None offered to help.

Physical therapy was going well. I may have lost a couple pounds without feeling like I worked very hard. It was an hour and 20 minutes of non-stop activity in the nice warm pool. The first few times I was exhausted afterwards. Soon my stamina built up enough to do more after therapy.

By the end of October I was able to get back on my bike.  It had been over 3 months and it felt really good to have the wind blowing in my face as I coasted along. The 18 sessions of pool therapy were a huge help. It almost made me want to take swimming lessons. Almost. Each day my muscles and ligaments felt more connected to my bones.

A friend who'd had her knee replaced a month after me said she watched a knee replacement surgery video on You Tube. I thought that was a good idea for me, too. I like watching that kind of stuff, anyway. It turned out to be surprisingly helpful. I understood why my knee and leg felt the way they did. The muscles had been cut away from the bone and now they were reattaching. I could feel it happening. A healing pain. Sometimes I can't even call it a pain. The medical people say that the swelling is part of the healing. I think the swelling kind of holds things together until they are reattached.

It's now 6 months of recovery and I can do just about everything I used to do. I learned the hard way not to skip the daily stretching exercises. The pain and stiffness comes back like gangbusters. I'm picking up speed on my bike. I don't know if I'll ever ride the distances of the past, but I'm just happy to ride again. Dr. Klapper said that the best thing I could do for my left knee was to get my right knee fixed. That's pretty true. Now my poor left knee has to try to keep up with the new titanium knee.

During the first 3 weeks of recovery, I thought I would never let anyone cut on me again, I was in so much pain. I thought, forget about the left knee, that's just it! I'm going to go ahead and get my left knee done, too. I'll wait until the right knee has had plenty time to heal and go ahead and get 'er done. I know what to expect and I'm going to go for it.








Thursday, April 30, 2015

MY INVISIBILITY CLOAK







In magazine interviews, sometimes the subject is asked what superpower would they like to have. Many times they say they would like to be invisible.

I didn't ask for it, but invisibility is my superpower as an older black woman in America. Now that I've discovered I have it, I like to put it to use as often as possible. 

When I'm in a department store, I can be assured of an uninterrupted shopping experience. Unless I'm in a really high end store, no one cares if I need assistance. I use my powers then to eavesdrop on conversations. I try not to laugh when they say something funny, but if I do, no one notices.

When I went to an open house a few weeks ago, the relator and his associates talked among themselves as if I wasn't there. I got some good information on the house that way. I waved a cheery goodbye on my way out to remind them that I had been there.

In the grocery store, I'm amazed at what I can do right in front of people who have decided not to see me. I get a kick out of it. 

Even in front of our house, I can stand on our stoop and our newer neighbors will walk right by with their dogs and babies and not see me. Sometimes I stand at the end of our driveway, right at the sidewalk to test my powers. They are strong, my powers. Even that close those who have chosen to, do not see me.

In these days of racial hyper-awareness, maybe it's just that they are afraid. Afraid of any black face. That's what the hubby says. I don't know. Maybe they've had a negative encounter with an angry Black woman. I won't try to guess. I can see why they would be afraid, the media makes all of us look like thugs, hooligans, violent monsters. It's too bad that they are afraid. They are missing out on a richness that could be part of their life. If only they could step outside of the fear and step into their real world. 






Monday, March 16, 2015

Get that Check to the Bank!

The hubby and I were chatting today about someone we know who lost their paycheck. How does that happen? I never in all my working career lost a paycheck. The paycheck actually never made it home. I went to the bank with it as soon as possible. Trying to be sure I covered post dated checks and checks I'd written to the grocery store the day before, knowing I would get paid.

Our bosses didn't expect to see us the afternoon of payday. We'd all be easing in and out of the office going to the bank.

Back in the day I worked at what used to be Pacific Bell on Wilshire Blvd. downtown. At the time there was a bank on the ground floor of the building. On pay day we would sneak downstairs on our break time, to cash our paychecks.

One Thursday there were 3 or 4 of us in line to cash our checks, when the bank got robbed. Yep, the bank got robbed. The bank robber held up the cashiers and we tried to make ourselves small. Backing our way to the door that lead back upstairs.

Our concern was not with the bank robber, but with our supervisors if we were delayed by giving reports to the police. We didn't have to talk to the police, we did have a little trouble when we went back to the office. Of course a new policy was made and there was no more sneaking to the bank to cash checks.

I guess these days everything is done electronically. That would save a lot of sneaking off time.


Old Neighbor Friend

Back in the 1980s I lived in an apartment in Los Angeles' Korea Town. I was in a relationship that was on the skids. I cried a lot. One day I was crying in the shower. Hoping that the water would camouflage my sobs. It didn't. Soon after I got out of the shower there was a knock on my door. It was my next door neighbor. She introduced herself as Cynthia. She asked if I was alright. I was not, but I didn't want to admit it to a stranger.

I resisted her for a while. I thought she would go all Willona from Good Times, on me. You know, just coming in without knocking. Just showing up. She visited a lot. I think now that she needed someone to talk to. Even though she was married to Jess. She was a short round light skinned woman with short straightened hair and too much foundation.  She was smart, funny and caring. Jess was a really tall, dark skinned hulking illiterate gentle giant. 

I would ask her how he managed in the world being unable to read. If he had a job interview, she would fill in the application for him and they would drive together to the address the day before so he would know the way. He drove. He navigated L.A.'s freeway system, which is no joke. I believe he had a driver's license. He could count money and he gambled. 

I think his gambling was a problem. The reason he was always looking for a job. He would spend hours just stroking her arms and legs because he liked the color of her skin. They really loved each other.

She helped me get through a tough time in my life. With a lot of laughs and companionship.  Like the time when we were smoking dope, munching out and playing Scrabble. She laid down the letters I,R,O,N. I challenged her, "Eye-ron, Eye-ron! That's not a word!" Way too much smoking at that point! We dissolved into hysterics.

I helped her and a lot of our neighbors connect their TV to the cable outlet in our apartments. I'd learned wiring skills at the good old phone company. Now Cynthia could better watch her beloved House On The Prairie.

As always when an old friend floats through my mind, I wonder where they are now and how they're doing. I hope she's doing well.




Friday, August 8, 2014

Phone Company Daze

My eight years working on the Frame as a Facilities Technician at now defunct Pacific Bell floated through my mind this morning. Between the years of 1982 - 1990, I worked at several different locations and at each one all kinds of things happened and I met all kinds of people.

The first Frame was Rampart. Yep, in the area of the infamous Los Angeles Rampart Police Department. Luckily I had no run ins with them. While I worked there my father was killed and I mourned him with many trips to the bathroom to cry. One co-worker Raoul walked around for months holding his stomach, then was diagnosed with stomach cancer and soon died. We all went to his funeral. That was my first notion of how deadly cancer could be. I met many people as different workers would come and go. Like James, who became my boyfriend and later a serious drug addict. Mike B., who had a foot fetish. He would linger at the lockers where we changed shoes and beg to look at and touch our feet. Feet that have been in sweaty sports shoes for more than eight hours. Um hm.

The Frame. That's not me
of course, but that's
what it looked like.
We climbed 15 foot rolling ladders and if Mike passed by when you were at the top of one, he couldn't resist grabbing and squeezing your toes. Mike got married during my years at Rampart. We all went to the wedding. I remember a few of us sneaking out of the reception to roll and smoke a joint.

I smoked a lot of weed there. I refined my fine skills of speed joint rolling there. I remember taking a walk with a couple of the guys to smoke one. A random guy was walking toward us and I smiled at him. He swooned and kept going. That's what I wanted. Him to keep going, so that our weed smoking would go undisturbed. One of my fellow smokers asked what I had done. I remember saying I only gave the guy a partial smile, not the full mega-watt smile that could have devastated him. LOL! High and full of myself!

It's a wonder the Rampart area's phones worked at all. We ran in the Central Office inside wiring that made residential and commercial phones work. We added lines we disconnected lines. Commercial line work orders were complicated so we usually had a team of two running in the wires. Many times both of us would be high. I often thought that my safety glasses would keep my supervisor from seeing my tight, red eyes. Pot-head logic.

We had a lot of fun doing disconnects. Before lifting the wire we had to test it to be sure we were disconnecting the right phone number. Many times the customer would be in the middle of a call. If it was a juicy conversation we would listen in. Many times I interrupted phone sex. We would share those with our co-workers. Sometimes the caller would get angry about the coming disconnect and curse us out. Those were super fun to disconnect. I'd snip that wire right in the middle of their tirade. Snicker.

While there I had to file a worker's comp case after slipping on a banana peel on the parking lot. Boy did they resist that. I finally got a few days off to rest my twisted ankle. The phone company tried to tell me that I should have seen the peel and avoided it. I told them that it was rotten and as black as the asphalt parking lot. Give me some time off please!

I had a good friend Margie, who I hung out with a lot. I wonder where she is these days? Our kids played together. I went to her house a lot. There was always something going on there. Margie and I and a couple others used to sneak away to a tiny food shack nearby. We'd wear our tool belts so we looked like we were just going on break. We weren't supposed to leave the building. On our actual lunch hour we'd go over to a little bodega type store and play Pac Man until we ran out of quarters.

One Saturday when Margie and I were supposed to be working some overtime, we were in the restroom applying blush to our non existent cheekbones, when we noticed that someone had made line drawings of us on one of the stall doors. The Balloon Sisters they called us. One figure had my name under it and the other had Margie's. We'd gained a lot of weight hanging out at the food shack. My feelings were really hurt that a grown person would do such a thing.

Once I had a seriously bad case of diarrhea. I had to go home. It was terrible. On my way home I stopped for medicine. That's when I discovered the wonders of Imodium. It worked instantly. Didn't go back to work though. It was rare that I left early or didn't report to work. I guess that's why I remember this. Pac Bell had a strict attendance policy. I was not trying to get fired.

I met a guy whose name I can't remember but he had a million funny sayings. One was, "If she's old enough to pee, she's old enough for me." and "As long as I have a face, she's got a place to sit." I guess today that would be called sexual harassment.  Sigh.

Then I transferred to Melrose Frame. In the heart of West Hollywood at what would soon be the height of the AIDS epidemic. Watched up close and personal as one of our co-workers went from a buff healthy man to a withered, emaciated, addled old man. It was hard to watch. Eventually he was so incapacitated our boss had to force him to go home. All the way to the end of his life, he would call the job and ask to speak to each of us saying the craziest and many times brutally truthful things.

I met my "identical twin" sister Suzanne there. When she first arrived on the Frame I decided that I hated her and as I got to know her I realized that we had so much in common I grew to love her. She is the one who got me hooked on cross stitching. She had to stitch a bunch of Christmas ornaments and her deadline was coming up soon. She gave about five of us a quick tutorial and we were off and running, stitching tiny patches of cloth. Each one took about an hour to finish. We, of course, turned it into a competition.

We were supposed to be answering the phone on the frame. "Shoes and shorts" is what that job was called. The guys who worked outside on the poles would call in to ask us to test lines for them. We would answer the phone and put them all on hold. "Melrose Frame, you're number 2. Please hold." "Melrose Frame, you're number 3. Please hold." And on it went up to number 5. Meanwhile we were cross stitching our little hearts out. We got them all done for Suzanne. Suzanne and I were pretty close for a while. I even told my mother that I had an Identical Twin Sister. Never mind that she was blond and blue-eyed and I was not.

I had my bunion surgery while there and so I was on desk duty for a long time. Dispatching the work orders and such. My then play-son Patrick taught me how to do Synchronized Chair Dancing. With a paper clip on my nose and lovely leg and arm poses, we sailed back and forth in our rolling office chairs, in front of the supervisor's glass fronted office. Patrick later loaned me $1500.00 when I was in dire need. Problems with another drug addict. (That's another story.) Proud to say I paid him back forthwith.

There was more frustration on the Desk than there was in running in the orders. I was so pissed one day that I kicked the fax machine. I kicked it so hard that it flipped through the air and landed upside down on the concrete floor. We all stood there with our mouths hanging open. Then everyone jumped into action picking up the machine, getting rid of the evidence of the broken plastic tray that was on top of the machine and calling the repairman, innocently requesting a service visit.

It wasn't all lovely times. There was one guy who was especially perverse, a bunch of us would take lunch hour rides with him up into the Hollywood Hills on dirt roads near the Hollywood sign. He'd drive at top speed and screech up to the cliff. Scaring the bejesus out of everyone. He thought he was being really funny one time after we had done the Red Cross blood drive. He came and whispered to me that my blood work showed I had AIDS. My heart fell into my stomach and then he slaps me on the shoulder and says he was just kidding. The mother fucker. That shit wasn't funny.

We got paid every other Thursday. Big 5 the sport store, always had a sale on Thursdays. We women would shop the newspaper ads (remember newspapers?) for new and colorful sport shoes to wear on the Frame. We needed rubber soles and of course we wanted the cutest ones we could find. The designated shopper would go to Big 5 on our break and make our purchases. That was kind of fun. There is no shoe shopping opportunity that I will pass up.

One co-worker amazed me with her wedding plans. She had everything planned down to the most minute detail. The colors of the bridesmaids dresses, the church, the food and drink, the flowers, you name it, she had it worked out. Everything except the groom, she had not met him yet. I thought she was a little obsessive, but what do I know? All these years later, I hear that she is happily married, so it must have worked out for her.

Most of the men on the Frame were gay, West Hollywood, right, and all of the women were straight. From time to time workers from outside would visit to check on an order or something and there would be an announcement. "Fresh meat on the Frame. Fresh meat on the Frame." We'd all casually find a reason to be in the area of the back door where visitors usually arrived, to find out what team he was on. A Team, straight, B Team, gay. It was a dull and boring job, we had to do something to amuse ourselves.

We amused ourselves quite a bit in the break room. Especially on Mondays. On Mondays, the gay guys, Danny P. in particular, would regale us with tales of his weekend adventures in the gay bars. He'd also give us girls lessons in certain sexual situations.  One story he told sticks with me to this day. He met an extra kinky guy who took him home and down to his dungeon. Yep, dungeon. Had our boy chained up for nearly 48 hours. He didn't think he was going to make it out of there alive!

Melrose Frame was and still is located 2 or 3 blocks away from the famous Pink's Hot Dog stand. I ate a lot of hot dogs in those days. In addition to regular lunches from the "roach coach" that stopped in front of our building every day. And that is where I met a guy that I smoked PCP with on my lunch hour. It might have been these purple jeans I was wearing. He told me I looked like a grape. Yep, it's still a wonder that any work got done.  It's still a wonder that I got out of those days and activities alive. Thank You God.

I met good friend Denise L. there too. She has her own story on another blog.

One afternoon, Mae M. came into the break room and invited a few of us to come out to the parking lot. She had something in her car's trunk she wanted to show us. When she opened her trunk she had about 10 or 15 afghans that she had crotcheted and we could take our pick of one. I still have my afghan.

My afghan. Thank Mae M.

I heard a guy in the break room say that his father told him he should like the woman who liked him. That's how you found true love he said. Apparently he found that woman. One of our co workers ended up marrying that guy. Again, you never know.

There is an apartment building abutting the parking lot. For a few weeks we had a flasher living there. He liked to watch us and we watched him. Good thing this was long before social media. He would have been all over the Internet with his nasty ass.

Another day on the Frame we noticed that there were two metal drums that we hadn't seen before. They were leaking. Not a good sign. We were trying not to die from some unknown toxin so we called 911 and out came the Haz Mat team. Turns out there was no danger, but it made for some excitement for the day.

Some weekends we got in a little overtime at the Sunset Frame. On Sunset Blvd. Sounds glamorous, but it wasn't. There I met a guy who was a stripper in his off hours. Overtime on a Saturday was really boring. Basically just manning the office in case of trouble. There was rarely any trouble. So the stripper guy and I became kinda close. He gave me my own private show. Yes.

We were a fun crew. Making the best out of a dull and boring but reasonably well paid job. All of us had degrees that had absolutely nothing to do with the job, we were there for the paycheck. We hung out together fairly regularly, going to lunch and dinners together. Parties at each other's homes. Yard sales, buying each other's furniture. My apartment at that time was mostly furnished with things I was given or bought from my friends and co workers. This was a chapter of my life that I look back on maybe not all that fondly but with interest for sure.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Silver Linings.

When I was in high school, my Grandfather got me a job at a dime store on the South Side of St. Louis. In those days not many black folks lived or worked on that side of town.

I really didn't want the job. It interfered with my high school social life. On Saturdays, instead of going to the football games, I had to be at work. I resented that. I also resented the all white staff, especially the head woman who insisted on calling me Denny. I wouldn't respond until she called me by my right name.

It was a really old fashioned 5 and Dime. Bare wooden floors. Fabric by the yard. Thankfully no soda fountain. I would have gained a ton of weight had that been so.

My hands would be stained with purple and black ink after hours of rolling and banding the store's sales flyers. That kept me busy between customers at the check out. The boss lady did not like to see me idle. If there had been cell phones back then I would have been on mine, taking selfies of my bored self. Bitching about how much I hated my job.

My pay checks were very small as I only worked the weekends. The only thing I liked about this job was that in the basement there were discarded paper back books. The covers were ripped off and they would be sent back to the distributor. They were free to us employees if we wanted them. I wanted them. I would bring home 4 or 5 books every weekend. Some of them I still have today. There is always a silver lining.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More on Good Friends

Back in August I was meditating on my daily reader, Iyanla Vanzant's Acts of Faith. That day one line of the reading said, "The ancient Africans taught that if a person is good to you, you must forever speak good of them." This passage reminded me of how good my friends Denise Lilly and Deborah Brown Jackson were to me in my time of need.

During the late 80s I was living with a guy, who shall remain nameless. He had a drug problem and one day had an unexpected bout of violence. I was in the bathtub at the time and it really came as a surprise to me. I was finally able to get to my bathrobe and get out of the apartment. I knocked on my downstairs neighbor's door and she turned me away. I made my way to my next door neighbor's and she let me in and I called the police.

Charges were filed and after leaving the emergency room I spent the night in what to me, felt like a type of prison cell, for my safety.  It was a dingy, dusty tiny room in a scuzzy downtown hotel. I was afraid as I entered, especially since I was walking on a cane with a broken toe. I thought I would be mugged at any moment.  There was the obligatory single naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. We won't talk about the sheets and blanket. Needless to say I didn't sleep much that night. I felt as if I was the one being punished.

Denise Lilly

The next day I still needed somewhere to stay until the guy got out of the apartment. That's when my friend Denise Lilly stepped in and offered her place. I don't remember today how long I stayed with her. I just know that I was glad to be somewhere safe, with someone who didn't judge me, but simply and graciously and without hesitation opened her home. I will be forever grateful.

Later during the mid 90s I was living in St. Louis. Another nameless motherfucker caused me to need to find a safe place in a hurry. This time the abuse was emotional. Seemingly more insidious. No details are necessary.  I had been asked to leave after much much drama from a professional abuser. That night Deborah was there for me. I stayed with her for three nights before moving to a place of my own. Those nights at Deborah's were so comforting for me. I felt safe and as if I was swaddled in fluffy warm and fragrant cotton. I was able to begin healing from the abuse, I had time to remember who I was. To think about how I wanted to be treated. To start making plans for my future. To lick my wounds.

Deborah Brown Jackson

Both women were long time friends before I needed them in such a practical way. Both remain friends. I intend to be their friend until the end. They are both in other states now but that doesn't diminish our closeness. I will forever speak good of them.

"We must remember with a kind word the road someone else has paved for us, no matter where or how they travel now." - Iyanla Vanzant

Just for the record the woman who attracted those abusive men is gone. I've grown and healed. Discovered myself and continue to love myself. In doing so I was able to attract a whole and healthy man. No more abuse, he's a real person, who sees and loves the real me.