Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I also remember those days very well. Is it ten years ago? It seems like only yesterday...and it also seems a distant memory. How did we accomplish anything? Or did we waste less time?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Don't tell me there's not a chance of being bitten by a brown recluse spider. Or, for that matter, that medical professionals are even close to being eager to make this "myth" diagnosis. On July 4th in 1984, I was at a Long Island beach. The next morning, as I was taking a shower, I noticed I had an extremely itchy bug bite on my calf. I didn't think much of it. Later that day at work, I noticed my calf area surrounding the bite was swelled so much that my pant leg was tight. I showed the bite to a co-worker, and he agreed that it looked a little strange, but still I didn't think much of it. Still later, we went out to dinner in NYC with friends. By this time my leg really felt odd. Again I inspected the bite, and my friends agreed that it looked weird. By the time we arrived at our stop on the railroad late that night, I couldn't walk. Bob and the conductor had to help me off the train and down the escalator from the platform. We took a cab home, and I foolishly went to bed, but I couldn't believe an insect bite could be anything serious.

In the morning, I couldn't get out of bed. A friend who was going to help with a barbecue we were having that day arrived, and she looked at my leg, called her mother who was a nurse, and she told me to get to the emergency room immediately. I didn't have health insurance at my crappy fairly new job in an artists' representative's office, and although I was reluctant, by this point I had no choice but to take the advice. With help, I put on shorts, even though I needed a shave there was no way I could shower, and pants were out of the question by now. I sat in the emergency room with my dark purple, throbbing leg, while almost every other patient was taken ahead of me. Their lacerations and broken legs just seemed more serious to the staff, I guess.

When the doctor looked at my leg, he was stumped, but he said it was very serious. In fact, he wanted to admit me. The emergency room was filthy, it seemed to me that they didn't know what was wrong (and besides, it was only a bug bite!), there was my lack of insurance (and salary so low that eventually paying the bill seemed an impossibility), and plus, we were having people over for a BBQ! So I refused to be admitted. Instead, I got a topical ointment, instructions to soak and elevate my leg, and a prescription for antibiotics.

Days passed and my leg got no better; in fact, it may have been worse. I visited an upscale dermatologist, who told me from behind a serious sunburn that I had to pay $275 to become his patient before he would treat me. I refused his generous offer, and hopped on one leg the several blocks back home (in addition to little money, we had no car). I looked in the yellow pages, and found the name of a general practitioner named Dr. Santos who charged only $25 for an office visit. He took me right away. I remember sitting in his shabby office, where his only staff was a nurse/receptionist. He examined my leg, declared that I had been bitten by a fiddleback spider, and said that aside from the antibiotics, all the treatment I had received so far had been wrong. My leg should not be elevated or soaked, although I would have to stay off it for quite some time, and not move around too much. He gave me a prescription for some little pills that he called anti-venom, and he said that they would make the poison leave my system. He said it was likely that my immunity would be impacted by the episode for some time. Dr. Santos was from Puerto Rico, and so I figured he knew about exotic spiders.

My leg healed with no problem, and what he said about my immunity wound up to be true - for several years I caught every cold and flu that went around. Later I researched fiddleback spiders, and discovered that they are the same as the brown recluse, which is not commonly found in New York. However, in the past few years, I have heard of maybe five other incidents, mostly in Long Island and one in Schenectady. The Schenectady case was in a trucker, and the speculation was that he had been bitten while on a trip.

I have great respect for scholarly research - and the spider guy in this article does seem to have the stats. I admit I did not see the spider that bit me. But my leg looked exactly like pictures I have seen of brown recluse bites, and my symptoms were the same as those listed. I certainly didn't have cancer, and believe me, there is no way this was poison ivy. In my experience, sometimes simple wisdom is more powerful than stacks of studies.

Anyway, my money - all $25 of it - is on Dr. Santos being right. I will always be thankful to him for saving my leg - and maybe my life - in his humble practice. And after that I really took the "stay off the dunes" signs to heart.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Long time no post. I am so busy with my summer class, a book deadline, and weekends in S'ville at the pool. It is so hot! The A/C here in Castleton makes it bearable, but the pool only barely does - you just can't sleep while swimming (or at least it isn't a good idea). I think we will have to get a portable air conditioner for there. Well, at least the plants love the heat and humidity. I already picked two tomatoes!

This is interesting. I have had some charismatic students over the years, but maybe since I am not into robbing the cradle, I've not had too many feelings about their attractiveness, much less their "hotness." And posting about it in a public forum? No way.

But I do feel a little uncomfortable on this subject, for two reasons. The first is that this instructor was a fellow adjunct. I assume he was fired over the inappropriateness of his posts regarding a female student (but I confess, I didn't read the full article, as I am not registering). However, I wonder, in his less-than-secure position, could he be fired for making any comments about students?

The second has to do with that last sentence. I struggle with what is acceptable to write here. I have written on this subject several times before, when this journal was newer. I'm not anonymous and have no desire to be, but occasionally I miss my private journal, where I could write whatever and not worry who might read it (though anything written down might be read by, and offend someone, someday). It is the whole question of how much censoring is necessary. This is true even in fiction, people always speculate about how much is based on true events and inspired by real people. Does censoring dilute good writing so much that it becomes lifeless - and pointless? (Not that random posts in a public forum are always good writing.) Or is it best to only write things that you don't mind others reading?

I've (mostly) resisted the temptation to over disclose about my classes, out of respect for students. I don't want them to stumble here and be hurt (even if on occasion there is one that would benefit from a reality check). But I have done some reflecting that has been more revealing.

Here are three sets of examples: first, is this too risky? Or this? Or this?

Second, how about this? Or this? Or this?

Third set of examples, this, this, and this.

And now for something unrelated: we saw Cinderella Man last week. I recommend it, it was great!

Monday, July 11, 2005

On Friday, we saw War of the Worlds. This is another time when I didn't agree with what Ebert wrote in his review. I liked the movie, and was pleased that - aside from the contemporary setting in the U.S., and the main character being a divorced dad, in many elements, it was faithful to the H.G. Wells book. It was very scary and exciting. I guess Ebert must not have liked the original story much, as after reading his review, it seemed to me that he expected a different plot. If important elements had been changed (such as why the aliens were here, why they destroyed so much, or what the machines that inflicted the carnage looked like) then the movie would not have been worthy of the title. No matter what Ebert may think, H.G. Wells' book was awesome, and this movie celebrates that. My only criticism is that it is way too loud (as are so many action movies).

Here's a picture of the orange day lily in Samsonville, followed by one of our activities on the 4th of July: