A bit of science information for us to puzzle over today: My ferritin level is low. A normal ferritin level is about a 100. Mine, right now, is a couple of ticks below 20.
So what exactly is “ferritin,” kids? And why do we care about its so-called “level”? I have no idea what the word ferritin means; I was pre-med for a tad less than 1.5 semesters in college. Chemistry is what finally drove me off. Though I do now know that ferritin has something vaguely to do with iron (thanks, WebMD). And I also know this: if your ferritin level is below 20, as mine is, congratulations, because you are now borderline anemic.
This is not something that you want to be. After all the mysteries and nonsense that I’ve been through over the past two years, after all the times that my body has backfired and threatened to explode (and implode), why do I have a unexpected iron deficiency? And why do I have it now?
The official answer from science is this: Who in the fuck knows. More…
Could I find my way around San Francisco without the use of my phone? To my surprise, it seemed that I could. What I did was this: I looked for real-world objects that I had noticed en route to the Marriott Courtyard earlier. For example, I saw a group of 10 or 15 bored Japanese teenagers hungrily smoking cigarettes in the entryway to a tiny cafe. I saw a health-food store with a weathered cowboy painted on the sign out front. The cowboy was supposed to look intimidating, like he was about to engage in a barroom brawl or a shoot-out. But he didn’t look intimidating to me; he looked like he was vexed by the vague, nagging shit smell that seems to bizarrely permeate the San Francisco streets. Finally, I saw a neon sign, still lighted for some reason despite the daytime hours, hanging in the blacked-out windows of a bar. The sign said: WOODEN CANOE ALE.
San Francisco, man.
Losing your phone has a fairly elegant catch-22 built into it: the one thing that would most help you find your lost phone is your lost phone. My brain involuntarily generated “solutions” that got promptly fed into the catch-22’s buzzsaw: Why not phone Thurmond Slackjaw and see if you left your phone back at the last demo! Oh, I’ll bet it’s there. Ha, ha! Problem equals solved.
These “solutions” would, at least initially, make my heart soar like a pigeon released moments before the Super Bowl. I was already looking forward to rewarding myself with a visit to the most decadent place in San Francisco: the Walgreens candy aisle. The Walgreens candy aisle has everything that a middle-aged man who no longer drinks and plays video games for a living could possibly desire, including Good & Plenty, which is a licorice-flavored candy that is the size and shape of prescription-grade Vicodin. More…
I traveled to San Francisco in early March, making my first official “work trip” since I got sick last year. I attended the Game Developers Conference, a relentlessly nerdy gathering that I’ve been going to for over 10 years now. The weather in San Francisco in March is usually gray and grim during the GDC. Not this year. This year the days were unseasonably sunny and warm and curiously optimistic. More…
I brought reading material with me to the ER. All my life I’ve habitually brought reading material—usually an excess of reading material—no matter where I’m going. I can’t even run a simple errand without having at least one book and two or maybe three magazines on me. It’s something I learned to do as a child, back when we lived in a small house in the woods in Upstate New York. Living in “The Woods” meant that I spent a significant portion of my childhood—maybe 20 or 30 percent of it—in the boring backseats of cars as my parents drove us to nearby cities—either Rome (20 minutes), Utica (45 minutes) or Syracuse (one hour); and, yes, we lived near three depressed and crumbling metropolises, all with ridiculously Homeric names—for groceries, or perhaps to wander around a department store to look at items that we couldn’t afford. From the age of four until 16, I probably read a couple thousand books in the backseats of cars.
But instead of perusing the reading material I’d brought with me to the ER last week—or, more accurately, trying to peruse; because of my brain troubles, I’m not the strongest reader these days—I did something that, ethically speaking, I probably should not have done: I eavesdropped on other patients.
Going back to St. Paul’s Hospital now is sort of like going to a college for an alumni weekend. As soon as I walk in the door, people start saying hello to me. I see a lot of faces that look familiar but that I don’t recognize. I nod at those faces. Those faces nod back. I engage in perfunctory catch-ups with the faces that I do actually recognize. Hey, how have you been? What’s new? You don’t say! We display a shared admiration and awe for the facility that we are standing in. Oh sure, this is an old hospital, but it’s still great, you know? They ask me how I’m doing and what’s new in my life. “Didn’t you used to have a beard?” a young doctor in the Cardiac Unit playfully asked me last weekend. I told him that I did not have a beard while I was a “student” at “St. Paul’s University”—not officially, I didn’t—but that I usually neglected my shaving responsibilities, which is probably why he thought I had a beard. I feel comfortable and safe and strangely at-home when I’m at St. Paul’s now. I guess I probably always will. Even the shrill noises and rhythms and aggravating tics of the place—the bright, repeating DOOT-DOOT-DOOT of the blood pressure machine; the bizarre announcements over the P.A. system (“Code Red, Providence, Level One, Code Red”)—are all soothing to me.
I read Lena Dunham’s book over the holidays, not because I’m a huge fan of Lena Dunham’s or anything but because I’d been having difficulty reading for months (see: my illness) and had assumed the book would be fairly simple to read and percolating with mildly interesting observations and, hopefully, some laughs. I like Lena Dunham, more than I sometimes want to admit to myself. I like the work that she does. Tiny Furniture, for example, is a terrific New York movie. I also admit that it’s impossible for me not to feel jealous, even resentful towards Lena Dunham sometimes. She’s a kid (28) who writes for The New Yorker, has a successful HBO show, and gets to work with Judd Apatow on a regular basis. All I’d have to do is find out that she also has a large, beautifully shaped penis which she uses to pleasure the 1981 version of Cheryl Tiegs and I’d seriously consider hanging myself. Somehow Lena Dunham has turned her talent for over-sharing—no small task distinguishing yourself in that realm, considering that everyone over-shares now (including me)—into a stable, successful career. More…
Science Fact You Probably Don’t Know: “ringworm” is a fairly common skin affliction with a melodramatic name. I was diagnosed with ringworm in late November. After devoting a fair amount of thought to it, I still don’t understand how the word “worm”—which is a terrible word, by the way—got jumbled up in its name. Because there is no actual worm involved in the affliction, unlike, say, “tapeworm,” which DOES, in fact, involve an actual worm. Yes, a tapeworm is a worm that lives in your butt. Which, frankly, sounds like the sort of thing that a worm would enjoy doing—living in a butt.
When you go through something like the fairly awful something that I’ve been through this year, on the far side there’s this feeling that you will somehow eventually be able to completely reinvent yourself. You’ll arrive at a moment when you’ll be able to pave over the old, marginally successful life, which is what I had, and start living the nonstop mardi gras that your life was always supposed to be. I saw hyperbolic headlines like STROKE BOY MAKES AMAZING RECOVERY and MIRACLE STROKE BOY KICKS ASS, TAKES NAMES. I’m not sure why I referred to myself as “STROKE BOY.” I suppose it sounds more lighthearted and less pathetic than “MIDDLE-AGED STROKE MAN.” More…
UPDATE: Welp, I just got off the phone with Yahoo again. Long, painful phone call with a man who I believe was somewhere in India. As usual, he asked me about a hundred “security questions,” most of which I could not answer. (Him: “Who was your first crush?” Me: “…”) Also had a dodgy wireless connection during the call, further complicating matters. Between the two of us, I was able to gain access to the site again, which I am—with each successive Yahoo phone call—becoming more and more resentful towards.
Anyway, I have access, so writing is imminent. Wishing this wasn’t such a dice-roll. -Scott