This is a lightly edited version of something I wrote over a couple of weeks after my ACL reconstruction exactly five years ago. I dug it up recently when I was transferring files over to my new computer.
No Fucking Christmas Music
While my partner decked the halls of Texas with her large Catholic family, I joined my Jewish, atheist sister and her brood – husband and three teenage sons – in Deer Valley. Sounded like the perfect holiday…skiing without snow boarders anywhere in sight, quality time with my nephews and – the best part – no fucking Christmas music. Even though “P,” my brother-in-law was raised Catholic, my sister will have none of it. I’m more tolerant, much to the chagrin of my eardrums and heathen sensibilities.
All was good the first day out until my P led me to a trail that was clearly out of my league. Nothing but moguls at a 90-degree angle…ok, maybe 70. Rather ungracefully I made my way down and we met my sister at a private club at the base of the run for lunch. P’s brother is a member giving them privileges to dine with the richest on this already 1% laden mountain.
The next day I went out with my oldest nephew, who can ski the backwoods, backwards. By 2 pm, this stoned 16-year-old was ravenous and decided he too was royalty and wished to dine at the same place I ate the day before with his parents. OK, fine, so long as Uncle B is paying for it, I’m in. He was about 100 feet ahead of me when I heard P bellowing my nephew’s name from the chairlift and then, just to confirm that yes, they are the loudest family in Utah, my sister’s New York soprano chimed in.
I called to him, “Oh shit, I think I just heard your folks.” “Yeah, I know.” Luckily, they were heading in a different direction. With this distraction I didn’t realize that we were heading down the same run from the day before and this time it was ungroomed. FUCK!
OK, I thought about the time I ended up at the top of 22ndand Sanchez on my motorcycle, one of the steepest hills in the city, and wondered how I was going to roll to the bottom without bodily injury. That turned out to be a piece of cake; this was not.
Half way down the slope I felt a pop. Just a pop, and then fell. I laid on the mountain thinking, “Oy, not good.” My ski never came off, so I glided to the side, putting all of my weight on the good leg, slid down until we got to a relatively safe place to wait while my nephew, who was amazingly responsible for a kid on drugs, fetched ski patrol. By that evening it was clear I was done skiing for a while. Walking was the bigger the concern.
Playing Poker with the Snitch
I spent the next few days wishing I could smoke some of my nephew’s weed, but I have boundaries and that seemed kind of desperate. Instead, I wrote, read, watched movies, played poker with the boys and fought with “L,” my youngest nephew, a 12-year-old Snitch.
Basically, when he was nine, or six, or maybe three, no definitely he was at least four, I let him have a sip of wine. I remember it quite well. It was a Dauvissat Chablis, a premier cru at that. He freaked out later on and told his parents who are trying to be law abiding citizens and not let their kids have alcohol until they are 35. That resulted in a rather irate phone call from my sister. My brother-in-law was almost as upset as the time I told the kids that Santa Claus didn’t exist. After that I started calling L, “The Snitch.”
On Monday night, the middle of the three boys, R, The Snitch and I went downstairs to play poker. I brought a glass of red wine with me, ’99 Monteus, and since that’s R’s birth year I asked him if he wanted to try it but then we both looked at L and I said, “Forget about it, The Snitch will tell on me again.” The Snitch had it. He threw the entire deck of cards up in the air, followed by his chips, turned the board upside down and stormed upstairs.
R and I laughed it off at first but then I decided to be the mature one, so I found him and apologized. He was having none of it, so I figured I’d let him chill out, went back downstairs, this time with the rest of the bottle of wine, gave R a taste and played another hand of Holdem. But L re-appeared, ripped the cards out from our fingers, gathered all of the chips, neatly assembled them back into the card case and once again, stormed off, this time to the bathroom. At this point I actually really did feel bad – sort of – but then R reassured me that, “He just needs to poop, he’ll be fine.”
I think R was right. Later that evening we made up and I promised never to call him a snitch again.
The Straight Stewardess
When I got home a few days later, there was a little envelope in the mail, the size of a wedding reply card, from Deer Valley. Free lift ticket for next season? Not quite. In it was a note from the DV powers that be saying something to the effect of, “We heard you had a little spill on our mountain. We wish you a speedy recovery.” Thanks, don’t worry, I’m not going to sue your ass, I get it. Skiing carries a risk. Of course, the run was also very badly groomed but whatever, we’re good.
Knowing my insurance was changing and not having any clue what was on the other side of Obamacare (which I fully support but…), I decided to have it checked out before the end of the year. On December 31, I saw the Giant’s orthopedic surgeon who sent me in to get an MRI.
Afterward, I had to go home and make dinner for seven people. Since the idea was to try to be up at midnight, it was perfect as I rarely get the first course on the table by nine. But then I found out that we were going to be either six or eight because one of my friends scheduled a blind date with a flight attendant she met online that very same evening. Who schedules a blind date on New Year’s Eve? Everyone else knew one another pretty well so that might be a bit awkward. After a series of text messages, we decided that they should just come by for dessert. Cool.
At around 11 they showed up and as predicted, it was weird because they talked to no one but each other. And then at midnight they started making out. Did I mention that the flight attendant was also straight? Yup. So, her first foray into women was in my dining room with a person she met that night, online. The two other couples started going at it too and while all this was going on, I noticed that Cami had been missing for a while. I found her in the bedroom, crashed out in the fetal position lying next to Seamus. They looked like the married couple. And this is how I rang in 2014.
Back to My Wounded Knee
Anyone who fixed Buster Posey’s ankle has some pretty good cred in my book. Ah, but the new insurance placed him at tier two meaning $2500 out of pocket. Cami arranged for me to see Dr. Ma, who she worked with before the UCSF orthopedic department migrated to Mission Bay. MRI’s don’t lie…a torn ACL, a torn MCL, a torn meniscus and a bruised bone. “You can try to rehab without surgery but eventually you’re going to need an ACL reconstruction.”
So, I’m supposed to leave for France in three weeks. I wasn’t in terrible pain, but my knee felt stiff. After discussing it with Dr. Ma and Cami I decided to have surgery when I got back.
You hear about ACL surgery and think, if these athletes can do it so can I not admitting to yourself that your decades old body while in shape is not exactly about to get drafted into a professional sport of any kind. Realizing my limited athletic value, I let Dr. Ma recruit me for an arthritis study. This would mean having my blood, urine and knee fluid sampled several times over the coming year and undergoing a few more MRI’s which is just about as relaxing as lying still and listening to Yoko Ono for 45 minutes.
The day before leaving for Europe, I had my first study appointment which was being supervised by a resident, and a research assistant, who I referred to as the “The Cute Little Dyke,” until I could remember her name. That was the fateful day when my naval ring, after 15 years, permanently came out. You can’t have any metal near you during an MRI because it uses magnetic waves. Very comforting since I have three fillings. Anyway, it was time, but the earring stayed.
On one hand this trip was not that eventful…lots of wine tasting and eating and tasting and eating and talking to people you will never see again and eating and driving around, sampling the coffee at French gas stations and eating and tasting and asking people who you will never see again what they think of François Hollande. You travel around a country with three guys and that’s that. There was a little gossip but nothing bad enough to use as blackmail.
Every time I got in and out of a car I felt like my knee was being pulled out from under me. Finally, when we were in Montpellier, at the Premier Classe, the French equivalent of a Motel Six only smelling like cigarette smoke, I emailed Dr. Ma and asked him to sign me up for surgery asap. I returned on a Saturday, saw Dr. Ma on Monday and on Friday, February 14th, spent the most memorable Valentine’s Day ever at the UCSF Orthopedic Surgery department. Luckily, Cami was off so we could celebrate together. That’s love.
One of the benefits of being married to a surgical nurse is that if you ever need an operation, you’ll be treated like a VIP. At one point there were six people hovering over me: a nurse drawing blood, The Cute Little Dyke – who was eagerly waiting for my blood, the operating room anesthesiologist asking questions about something or other related to my medical history, another anesthesiologist giving me a spinal block, his assistant and Cami. Eventually the pre-op drugs started kicking in and as I lay there, asking the various doctors, nurses and techs about the medical uses for leeches and cocaine, my leg numbed up.
I remember being wheeled into surgery, being asked to count backwards from ten and making it all the way to nine. However, I found out later it took quite a bit to knock me out. The anesthesiologist told Cami, “She’s not a cheap date.”
A Bloody Mess
Once I was out, I was out and don’t remember a thing until I woke up in post-op, craving a chocolate chip cookie. Terrance, aka T-Dawg, took us home. That part is a blur. I didn’t really think about how I was going to get up 17 steps all narced up and on crutches. Seamus ran away when he saw me bandaged with my leg in a brace. He was completely spooked. I got into bed, took another Vicodin, and crashed out until 2 am when my bladder came calling. Cami is a great nurse. That is not just my biased opinion but a fact that has been confirmed by everyone who’s worked with her. Which is why what happened next has caused her so much grief.
I had to pee, so I hopped on my good leg to my crutches, which were about four feet away against the wall, and then, SPLAT! The next thing I remember is sitting on the toilet, unable to pee even though I had to because that’s one of the problems with taking narcotics, with my leg stretched out and half of my lip hanging out into space. The bedroom floor looked like a murder scene. Thoroughly traumatized, Seamus went into hiding and Cami was in utter disbelief. A few hours later she looked at my lip and said, “I don’t know what to do with this.” So, we called Ed.
The three of us went off to the Davies emergency room, where I’ve accompanied employees, friends and Cami through kidney stones, diverticulitis and anaphylactic shock in the past. They know me. This time I was the patient and of course everyone thought I was there for my leg until I made an unintelligible sound and pointed to my mouth. I hardly noticed I was starting to feel sensation in my leg again because my lip fucking killed. Four hours and eight stitches later I was back home, the crutches were now next to the bed and Seamus went into hiding.
I’m Spooking the Cat
This entitled, 15-pound feline, who struts around the house like his balls are still intact, has been freaked out by the very sight of me since the surgery. He’s completely forgotten that I’m his meal ticket, one of them anyway, janitorial service, scratching post and best friend. He sees the crutches and runs away. He’s completely spooked.
I don’t really like narcotics so since we have a pound of weed in the house – a major bone of contention between us – I asked the smartest, most able-bodied stoner I know, Nancy, to come over and make chamijuana butter tea. Of course, one doesn’t go to Harvard just to learn the little things. No, that prized Ivy League degree prepares its graduates to ask probing questions like, “Indica or sativa?” She took this task very seriously, researching recipes and getting the proportions of flower to butter to chamomile just right. Cami was none to pleased because our place wreaked, but it really helped with the pain, not to mention my mood and the sheer boredom of being stuck in the house and mostly immobile for a week.
After four days Cami was in need of a mental health break, so she got Vignon to look after me and went to dinner with Nancy. Bad idea. We drank some tea, ordered Thai food and watched the Olympics. There is a lot to be said for watching the Women’s Giants Slalom stoned…it’s quite amusing, especially when the skiers careen through the gates. After asking three times for a glass of water I decided to try getting it myself, only I fell backwards and instead of rushing to my rescue Vignon just sat there and watched me…and I watched her watch me as I plummeted. Seamus, who at this point was making occasional cameos, disappeared once again. He too needed a mental health break. Vignon is fired. Worst babysitter ever.
Since I mostly edited spelling and punctuation, the ending is a little abrupt but that is as far as I got. Five years later, the scar on my lip is more noticeable than the one on my knee, Seamus is long back to his tyrannical self and I haven’t called Luc The Snitch again, at least not to his face.