Prednisone Rant, Sort of

Sat 08/30/08 at 10:21 am

Just wanted you to know I’ve been on prednisone for a few days now and ran out of my generic Paxil last week. Don’t worry, I’m just waiting on a refill of the Paxil. My ribs hurt. Either because I’ve been coughing so much, so hard, or my lungs are trying to expand out of my chest. And, I don’t mean to be a drama queen, but sometimes it gets a little scary. [Note: And I wasn’t being a drama queen; I spent the day after I wrote what you have just read at the emergency room on the urging of my wonderful Nurse Jane and the EMTs and orders of Dr. Bro relayed via Nurse David. A kick-ass steroid and a couple antibiotic IVs have hopefully gotten my infection under control, but the gang at Presbyterian gave me an open invitation to come back anytime this weekend should the need arise.] As a result, I’m a little cranky, and possibly a tiny bit manic. Something to keep in mind as you read the below.

Some of you know I’ve been spending the last couple weeks writing a post whose working title is “Mother of All Blog Entries” in between fighting my massive addiction to that massively multiplayer online game (“MMOG”) World of Warcraft (“WOW”)with The Burning Crusade extension — me and 10 to 11 million other monthly subscription players worldwide. (I used to have a postcard on my bulletin board that read “400,000 heroin addicts can’t be all wrong.” I suppose on some level that remains to be seen, but I’m more or less betting it doesn’t really matter one way or the other in the; i.e., my, “grand scheme of things.” [And for those of you who just rolled your eyes, clichés are hardwired into my DNA, so deal. Besides, when you think about it, they are an excellent “common-denominator” communication device even though I know many of you would begin that phrase with the word “lowest.” In this case, untrue. The qualifier “at the end of the day,” is the lowest common-denominator for communicating the particular sentiment expressed above. I suppose I could have said, “in the grand scheme of Indra’s Net.” Show of hands, how many of you have I lost with what some might consider an obscure reference? How many of you just think I’m being affected? How many prefer “in the long run?” Okay, enough.]

Yesterday, I had the following early morning Instant Message (“IM”) exchange with one of my most preferred human s (“ph”) who will know who s/he is when s/he reads it:

Me (6:41:58 AM): [M]aybe the Matrix [movie] is right. [W]e play video games to manufacture energy for [the inhabitants of] another universe and they decided to at least make it pleasant for us.
ph[d](6:42:51 AM): [O]r maybe you’re just using it to keep away from your own real feelings and to keep from interacting with other living human beings[.]
Me (6:43:28 AM): [N]o, [I]’m following the natural law of physics. [A]ll things being equal, [an object will follow] the path of least resistance. . . .
Me (6:44:39 AM): [I]t’s easier to play WOW than read. [I]it’s easier to read than write.

Some of you may have had encountered me in the throes of my initial infatuation with WOW. I confess. I was rude. I kept playing while we talked, and for that I apologize. That said, the idea I am playing WOW to avoid feeling or interacting with other humans is, at least in my reality, (almost) ironic. “Almost,” because, as I stated in an earlier entry on this same subject, I am an off-the-chart introvert. See December 8, 2007 Entry. [And speaking of irony, I note I posted that entry on the third day of a prednisone burst.] Perhaps in the minds of those of you who read my earlier entry, you misunderstood me, thinking I meant I really didn’t want to talk to any of you. If so, that was a failure to communicate on my part. [And a “shout out” to another buddy who, after reading my earlier post was prompted to call me on Skype to have voice contact rather than send an email while traveling outside the country.] [See, I’m watching the Democratic Convention. A new meme, “shout out,” has gone national. Thanks, Barack.][Okay, show of hands, now how many of you have I lost? Screw it, I’m just going to write, and let the chips fall where they may.] [Oops, there I go again.]

Before our friend Myra died, she and Darcy would periodically call each other and talk for seemingly hours. When asked later what they had talked about, Darcy would invariably answer, “Green grapes,” her metaphor for the everyday stuff, places gone and people seen. She came up with the expression after seeing the following New Yorker cartoon:


The caption reads: “On my way home today on the bus, a lone grape rolled down the aisle and came to rest near my feet. It was pale green and looked to be of the seedless variety.”

Unlike Darcy and Myra, I am Green grapes-impaired. When I was practicing law I consciously had to remind myself to begin a telephone conversation with “Hi, how are you? How are the spouse, pets, kids?” Often though, I would screw up and just dive right into the business at hand. I think I got better over the years, but if I’m in a social situation with a lot of people I don’t know, I still have trouble coming up with things to talk about. So, for me, food and the weather, not so much. Movies and books, better, much better. Discussions about a subject du jour, free will, predestination, the nature of karma, the Islamic version of the second coming of Christ, the meaning of life, the fear (or not) of death. Even better.

I’ll also confess to being empathy-impaired. I was fascinated to learn, well into my 20s, that some people, when they tell me, for example, “I have a headache,” don’t want to hear “Well, have you taken aspirin? Do you need to call the doctor?” More often than not, they don’t want the perceived problem solved, they just want me to acknowledge their pain or frustration or whatever. I still tend to miss those signals, but learning, and employing, the expression, “Poor, baby,” when I think of it has been invaluable.

For the record, though, I am still, and will always be, a recovering attorney. I do like to argue, and I like to win. Perhaps the least understood aspect of the practice of law is that law is based on the precept that one side wins and one side loses. Ultimately, a decision must be made. Good attorneys, and I was a good attorney, must find the winning argument, based on the facts and the law, no matter which side one takes. That’s why so many attorneys invariably preface any answer to a question with the infuriating quip, “It depends.” That’s because law, like physics, adheres to the special principle of relativity; i.e., before one can apply the law, one must create an inert situation by establishing the facts. Juries are known as fact-finders. Judges are the law-givers.

Here’s a classic law school illustration: 99 nuns swear under oath the light was red. A witness, known by the jury to have previously been incarcerated for committing perjury and to have been paid a large sum of money by the present defendant to testify the light was green, swears under oath the light was green. If the jury believes the perjurer, well, the light was green. And it’s the attorney who is charged with the task on behalf of his client, the defendant, to convince the jury to believe the perjurer. [Show of hands, how many of you have just thought, “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit?”]

I hope the above somewhat explains the overzealousness I sometimes exhibit over something that really doesn’t matter, oh, let’s use “in the long run,” this time. On another day, I might agree with your position or decide it’s not worth fighting over. But for today, it’s the hunt. The smell of fear and blood. (My fear, my blood, too, remember.) So cut me a deal and don’t take things so personally, okay?

There are other times though I would like to have what could be characterized as a serious discussion. To experience the intimacy of communication and understanding. And it’s those times I regret my adversarial ways because well, these ways get in the way. Perhaps my major regret in this life is to have done (and still do) whatever it is that prevents this level of communication. So, there you have it.

I don’t get out much anymore and planned events get cancelled for health reasons as often, if not more often, as they happen, but if you’re ever in the neighborhood feel free to come on by. No pressure. Be it for green grapes, debate, or to climb into Kerouac’s bathtub (metaphorically speaking, and fully clothed, of course), you’ll be welcome. I’ll even try to remember my manners, and at some point ask if you want something to drink. But if you don’t want to wait for that to happen, please feel free to wander into the kitchen and help yourself.

next post: Beware of Tricksters
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