(Hi Betsy! I’ll call you tomorrow…)
Okay, so it took the worst film ever to pull me out of my writer’s block.
The sublime was this speech– many words describe it but I found it liberating. I left home at sixteen and worked full-time taking electrocardiograms on burn patients while attending college full-time. By the time I was ready for graduate school I was burned out on that, no pun intended. I applied for PhD programs in clinical psychology (so did 50% of the over-achievers in America in 1972; the rest applied in anthropology) and while I was accepted at some of the best, none gave me a full free ride. So I fell back to the best social work program in the country and went for a master’s degree and a career. The September that I started at U of M’s School of Social Work, I was informed by the financial aid administrator that there was no financial aid for me. Every single bit of it was designated for affirmative action. Now, my mother had reared me in a totally prejudice-free environment and I did not grow up hearing racial anger or innuendos. Unlike many mothers, she believed in and practiced equal rights and differences and respect. And there I was, 21 years of age and totally enraged at Black Americans. By then I had already witnessed the Detroit riots, I had marched with BAM for welfare mother’s rights (black fathers were still incognito in welfare families at that time) and I cheered on the rise of the Black Panthers on campus.
But at this fork in the road I seethed and churned internally as I continued to work nights at the hospital while attending my first year of graduate school. The second year I received a bit of merit-based aid but by then I was in a permanent state of pissed. I was watching some of my fellow students cruise through with tuition and money for books and rent and even food and tutors because they were black- and I couldn’t get out from under a hundred hour week that included classes, internship and a fulltime night job that ended at midnight. Before I ever cracked a book. All these years I’ve carried this resentment, unable to shake the feeling that I got screwed because of affirmative action. Through my time as a social worker, a clinician, a champion of the underdog, a volunteer educating inner-city children- I’ve still been pissed that I had to struggle so damn hard because of affirmative action. But I never talked about it. Today, I feel as though this speech helped set me free. At last. (Thank you.)
Right after the speech I had a doctor’s appointment. I would not have gone if Rich hadn’t taken me, held my hand, cheered me on, comforted me. It’s that Mo-Fo basal cell carcinoma. Pardon my language, but dammit, I HATE this cursed stuff. (And now that someone has put that liberating racial card on the table, I’ll go ahead and say Mo-Fo) I live in stark terror that it will show up on my face. I’ve gotten used to the slice and dice on other body parts but last week, fuck! (You haven’t seen that word here for over three years but I just don’t have any other): there was a spot, granted microscopic, but still a spot, on the side of my nose. You have to understand that I am so hyper-alert to this stuff that all it takes is four cells out of place and I’m twitching frantically. So I did my research and called the best of the best Mohs surgeons in this part of Florida, he had a cancellation and off we went.
I’m not vain so it’s not about appearances exactly. It’s about having chunks cut out of my face. My face. It’s the notion that this type of cancer has the nerve to set down so many deep roots before it ever shows itself. And the pain and the itch and looking in the mirror and the itch and the ooze and the stitches and the scabbing and the itch and the scars. I don’t sun-bathe and I slather 50 SPF all over myself before I brush my teeth and I wear my Tilley hat consistently. This stuff is not my fault. It’s because I have white skin that doesn’t tan, green eyes and parents who baked their red-headed toddler to a crisp every Sunday afternoon at Detroit Metropolitan Beach through the 1950s. And a basal cell cancer gene. Mo-Fo basal cell.
So off we went and I had the spot on my nose scrutinized and another one on my forehead and one on my toe (my toe, for Pete’s sake!) burned away (this is a form of torture in foreign prisons, burning holes in people) and I go back in 2 weeks for the nose. I’m flying back to Chicago to give a private tour to a high end donor the first of April and I’m not getting whacked up prior to that, but right after…the last thing I did before coming down here for the winter was go to the dermatologist and now this. Darn. (I have the swearing out of my system now.)
Anyway, we got home and I was whining about the burn on my toe so Rich suggested a movie. This was the ridiculous thing. The only movie showing at the time ended up being, I kid you not, the rock bottom worst film I have ever seen. We went to see Jumper. It’s some nonsense about a kid who teletransports himself all over the place while being chased by the bad guys as portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. And he doesn’t do it well. Every time he “jumps”, even after he has perfected where and with whom and doing it with cars, even then he crashes. He doesn’t jump into a room with dignity; he crashes in and furniture breaks, dishes fly, glass shatters. That was the first clue that this film was aimed at 9 year old boys who will love it because there is no sex, no violence, just crashing into home furnishings. But before we figured out how really bad the film was, we figured out this: a lot of it was filmed in Ann Arbor. In the opening sequence there was a high school and I thought, wow, that looks just like…”Hey! It’s Huron High! It’s the Huron River!” So Rich and I were all excited about that until it turned out to be the worst film ever. It’s really really bad. But we sat through it because we kept wanting to see more scenes of Ann Arbor. And then it ended (badly) and we were getting up when I glanced at the credits and saw that a bit part (really bit) was played by Tom Hulce. Who? Tom Hulce. Tom Hulce went to school in Ann Arbor years ago and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Mozart in Amadeus. What???? Who knew you could fall so far?
Now I don’t feel so badly about being a former top-notch clinician who has retired to a life of zoo tours, has divots all over the place and posts so intermittently.
Bud. I need to tell you about Bud. Who we’re trying to get hooked up on the world wide web in a corner of the woods where wi-fi that moves at the speed of paste (64 k costs more than 50.00 per month.). Bud, who had such a good time here in Florida that he bought me approximately 1000 tulip bulbs by mail order. Yes, people. Think about where I live and then think about that. I see a new donor garden in the zoo’s future. Bud, who loves the manatee so much that I made this to send up in a little Easter basket. Speaking of Easter, have you started hardening off your Peeps yet? It’s time, you know…