Archive for the ‘Health and Wellness’ Category

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Notes of a Chronic Negress: the journey continues

May 14, 2014

The Negress hates to make some of her writing sound like a bad movie, but she did promise her 12 or so readers (spread the word people) that she would share some vaguely memoir-ish (memnoir-ish, perhaps?)  writing every now and then. So here’s the latest installment. A little long and kind of gross. So consider yourself warned.

 

The Negress doesn’t know much about Paterson, NJ. It’s not like she’s Junot Diaz or something. She only knows that she comes here when she is really sick. The first time was in 1998. The Crohn’s was new, and she had just jetted back from her first game show tournament (there will be more, much to her ongoing surprise). She ended up in St. Joseph’s Medical Center with an abscess filled with salmonella on her thyroid. Thanks to prednisone, she was also wildly diabetic. Ketoaciditic diabetic. Cool Rockin’ Doc, her gastroenterologist, enlisted the first new members of Team Negress – the infectious-disease guy and the ear, nose, and throat guy. She worked for a newspaper that wants to milk her game-show tournament appearance. Her ego was in better shape than her body (always the case), so she wrote the story of her semifinal flameout in her hospital bed (She had a room to herself thanks to the salmonella).

 

So then there was insulin and needles and 19 pills in the morning, and this episode became lore and a published medical paper (The Negress was a 38 year old African-American woman in the paper; she really wanted to be Patient Z) since stuff like that only happens to people who are HIV positive. She balanced work and surgeries pretty well for about six years – a knee replacement, carpal tunnel surgery, rectal pruning etc. but it all fell apart one day when she was at The Alternate Orthopedist. He was not to be confused with the Wizard of Cleveland, who eventually upgraded both knees to titanium (kind of like a credit card, but with added mayhem at airports). The Wizard looked like an accountant around tax time except for the white coat and sneakers. The Alternate Orthopedist inherited her wrists and hands. He was caramel-colored, looked like a two-guard and his mocha wife used to work for the Wizard. Her hip had hurt for a month and she thought it was a bone thing; not a Crohn’s thing. Shet left work early, telling her most recent supervisor that she was likely going to end up in the hospital. “How do you know?” he said. She resisted the temptation to mutter, “The same way I know you’re an idiot.”

 

She called Cool Rockin’ Doc and explained the story of this particular pain. He sent her to Paterson to be admitted express through the ER. He wrote orders while the Negress drove there from Bayonne. About nine hours or so after arriving, she got a bed. In the ensuing days, the Negress was diagnosed with an intestinal abscess. She got a drain attached to her belly that is called a grenade because of its size and shape. The Negress emptied pink fluid out of it at various intervals during the day. She also had a PIC line installed since her veins, which roll and float, shut down in hospitals. Attached to said PIC line is a backpack filled with a bag of milky nutrition. She got this stuff along with insulin and a bunch of other shit she had to inject into the bag shipped to the house. The Negress was at home on disability and fell into the ritual of Stabbing the Bag and watching a lot of “Law and Order” reruns. This would be temporary, Cool Rockin’ Doc assured her. He and Infectious Disease Guy had a plan. The Negress, while waiting on the plan, looked around the house and wished she was well enough to get rid of some the crap she had accumulated.

 

Do not try any of these at home.

Do not try any of these at home.

Could the need to de-clutter be related to the fact that the Negress has begun to believe she will die sooner than later? Possibly. It could also be related to paying monthly storage fees on stuff her sister cannot use in mental-health transitional housing (Not harshing on Sis since the Negress will find that her mental health will take a more overwrought turn somewhat later). Ringing in her head as she chilled insulin, reset the timer for the Nutrition in a Bag are her mother’s words, “I don’t want y’all coming in this house after I’m dead and saying, ‘Why in the hell did she save this crap?’” Cool Rockin’ Doc let it slip sometime after the thyroid abscess that the Negress could have died then. She thought she might die now; therefore a plan was needed for the vinyl, CDs, and books. The Negress felt like a bit of a sociopath during this period; going through the motions of human interaction that people expect from sick people.

 

She kept with the venal nutrition for a while. Then, Team Negress decided it was time to cut out the abscess and connect the colon. Ear, nose, and throat guy exited and Colorectal Surgeon Guy entered. On the day of the surgery, we also added General Surgeon Guy and his wife, Anesthesiologist Babe. The Negress told them before going under she hoped they didn’t have a fight last night.

 

Might the Negress mention that the surgical area at St. Joseph’s could have been on TV for all of its colorful residents and folks just back from Iraq? Now this could easily have been a family except for the part where you spent the day cutting people open and such. These people laughed a lot and welcomed people in like we shall be old friends once all the cutting is done. This didn’t happen, but The Negress didn’t mind since by the time she was out of their hands, she was so doped up she wasn’t sure she was there or not.

 

She returned to Seton 5, where she had spent several post-op stays. This group was more like a dysfunctional family, including the pair of trailer-trash patients who were in a car wreck but were pissed that the nurse won’t let them go outside to smoke. The woman, who looked like she should have been named Crystal as in meth, whined equally about smoke denial and how she missed her “babies.” The Negress found out later the “babies” are in their teens. She wondered how exactly you could smoke in a neck brace with one arm a wad of bloody bandages.

 

The Negress can’t get up, but she can throw up. This was really no fun when she wasn’t eating solid food. She slept the way you sleep in hospitals, an hour here and there highlighted by blood-sugar readings and blood draws. The Negress woke up at one point to find a little old man at the end of her bed telling her he didn’t feel so well and could she call his daughter. She steered him out of the room for a bit. Back he came, repeating his request and grabbing her foot to stress the urgency of the matter. Turned out he was 96, was in a car accident and his 75-year old daughter was coming for him. The Negress squeezed her eyes shut, trying to blot out this vision of her likely future. Except she has no kids.

 

She went home with staples in her belly, and some sort of tension-loaded spring rubber coils attached to some of the staples. The incision didn’t hurt that much, but every time she moved and one of those rubber things was disturbed, she tried not to scream. She had a high threshold of pain. Proof of this was the time after a wisdom-tooth extraction that she walked around with a dry socket for a couple of days. She took some extra acetaminophen, but only went by the dentist’s office because she was on her way to South by Southwest and wanted to make sure she could drink. He gave The Negress the eye-popping cartoon face, scolded her for not coming in sooner and packed said socket with soothing antibiotic-laced gauze. She said, “People told me sometimes wisdom teeth hurt. I didn’t think it was that bad.” The Negress did not tell him about eating tortellini less than hour after the teeth were removed.

 

So, the rubber things hurt. The Negress waited about 10 days or so and drove to Colorectal Surgery Guy’s office to get the staples and springs removed. It was noted that there was some fluid coming out of the incision, but the Negress was assured this thing might drain a bit. She stocked up on gauze and tried to flirt with normalcy. She recalled going back to work, still leaking. She saw Cool Rockin’ Doc who thought the leaking was not normal. So he sent her down the street for a CT scan with contrast. The PIC line was gone so finding veins was somewhat tortuous. There was a bald guy with full tattoo sleeves who could hit her veins every time. She laid in the tube and waited. They injected contrast into the leakage. That felt weird. She hung on, awaiting another visit with Infectious Disease Man. It turned out the corrective surgery had abscessed again and the fluid was from a fistula that had popped up out of nowhere. She danced with antibiotics, but nothing doing. She had to be disconnected.

So back to the OR and Seton 5. In order to make sure everything is clean, the Negress got an ostomy. A rosy pucker of her intestine was now protruding through her belly. She placed a wafer on top of it with adhesive, and then attached a bag. You can figure out what went in the bag. The Negress traveled with bags and wafers once she got out of the hospital. She went back to work equipped with her own poo pouch. Work was just that, but she passed the time between stories imagining the list of people she would throw the bag at if she had the chance.

 

She resumed socializing and it went well for the most part. One night, the Negress went to a revival of an Alan Ayckbourn play, which was wan and not very funny. She ate richly before the show, forgetting her capacity limitations. She started to leak at show’s end. The bag blew off the wafer. She couldn’t aim it at the stage (it would have been apt criticism), but she snagged it and raced to the loo. After much fiddling and wafer failing, she emerged from the loo slightly shitty and disheveled. Her friend took it in stride. She went home.

 

At one point, the Negress ended up with acid burns on her skin due to series of miscommunications about the size and type of wafers that were needed. She had a home-care aide who looked at her reddened flesh around the stoma and clucked. She was from Eastern Europe so she didn’t flip out, but she did sternly remind the Negress that this stuff is inside your body for a reason. I healed slowly and got more adept at poo management, which was not something I envisioned on a resume. “Photoshop, Flash, Microsoft Office, InDesign, poo management.”

 

Not a good fit for the organization.

 

She hung out with the ostomy for about six months. Team Negress decided that, after some antibiotics and dietary modifications, she was clean enough for them to try this again. Back to St. Joseph’s, the OR and Seton 5. She can’t remember where in the cycle the Astros got broomed in the World Series (by her now-beloved White Sox). She watched some of it on the tiny rental TV, but it didn’t exactly dovetail with getting better. The Devils were doing well, so she cleaved to them and hoped she might get to some games before the playoffs.

 

The Negress didn’t have a lot of visitors, which was fine. However, a couple of her roommates viewed visiting hours as a contest for how many friends and relatives they could cram into the room at a time. She recalled 12 being the record. That family included one very sharp-looking lesbian military vet who boasted, “Once the girls have had me, they never go back.” The hospital actually did a sweep at the end of visiting hours to make sure these people went home. She thought some of them even liked the food.

 

The belly incision was pretty weary by the time the Negress finally went home. The ostomy was closed so that added another scar to the tableau. I recuperated with “Law and Order”(doesn’t everyone?) and “West Wing” reruns. As she got closer to returning to work, she realized she kind of liked being home with bills paid and not much on the agenda. Little did she know how soon that’s going to come again.

 

Also, because we simply cannot learn much from some things we do, she tried the sports thing again. She worked on the copy desk 5 to 1 with Wednesday and Thursday off. It was a fail on a lot of levels. She does become a better editor, but she found out once again she’s not exactly a full-immersion sports fan. She did get out after a couple of years, but all of the aforementioned health mayhem came right after working the night shift. She suspected there was a correlation.

Around the end of 2008, these people offered her money to go away and the Negress took it.

 

The Negress realizes now that all of the elements for the current events had been in place the entire time she was in the business. However, the dips and dives were, at least, unnoticed and, at best, rewarded (write a concert review in 20 minutes against deadline? Clean up a story by a venerated writer who can’t remember how to spell Joe Louis’ name? All night long ‘til the break of dawn).

 

The ongoing brain betrayal, which has now been tamed by anti-seizure medication followed by anti-depressants, has the Negress kind of on guard. Will the monster wake up at some point and the whirlwind start again? Why does she feel that tossing the meds might be an excellent idea? (note to the Negress: That would be worse than that trip to Tucson where her plane ticket got stolen by an ex-friend’s coked-up acquaintances.) Could the road being a semi-colon have prepared the Negress for this latest twist? Hell fucking no. She feels like a series of chemical titrations and kind of misses that old hypomanic magic. That is, until she goes through “sent items” and looks back on what she left on various social media sites. There will be no more nodding off behind the wheel while trying to get to Andersonville from Evanston and somehow ending up on Cicero and not knowing how that happened (for the record, she no longer owns a car and there was a successful titration that will prevent that from occurring again). Enough with the intermission. She’s ready for Act III.

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Notes of a Chronic Negress: Spring Training

February 28, 2014

By the way, much of this is based on truth.

“I love you.”

Oh shit. If the Negress hadn’t been perched on those stairs with that guy right in front of me,  she could have gotten away clean.  The railing had her pinned on one side; the wall on the other. As it stood, she was going to have to respond to this tequila-fueled declaration. The truth was not an option. She can’t say to someone who is furry drunk that she only slept with them because she was out of batteries for the vibrator. Or that, every once in a while, she needed to feel someone else’s skin to remind you that you’re alive. He was still there, nut brown and swaying, hair sweaty with some other bad trouble who made him think a trip to the clinic might be in order.  She doesn’t know the other one,  but she worked at Centerfolds. This guy wasn’t the brightest in the world — read Dean Koontz, had van seats as permanent furniture — but who was she to talk since the Negress woke up bare-assed on a waterbed in his house on Mother’s  Day? The mother of his kid came by to drop off Junior and, at first opportunity, the Negress bailed.

The Negress’ wasn’t always like this or else there would be not story to tell. You wouldn’t always find her perched on the stairs of this bar listening to some coke fiend talk about interstate trucking. She does come here a lot, but she’s run out of reasons why. It was good trouble once, a place where a girl could go when she needed to be kissed but didn’t want to make breakfast for some jerk. Lately everyone was getting married, going to rehab or smoking so much dope that the mere thought of sex makes them tired and cranky. Why did marijuana have to make a comeback right at the time when sleazing around has been deemed fatal? What happened to the seller’s market she was used to?

Crueler friends might say 30 pounds happened, but her arms don’t keep moving when the Negress stops. Also, this baggy grunge rap fashion thing was a godsend to us women of substance. Real women eat and that’s all there is to it.

Which may also explain why she gave that restaurant  goof so much of her valuable time. In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the guy the Negress was looking at when this story started, although this joint played a  role in her running into him repeatedly. The Negress was bored, he kissed well and knew a thing or two about what she considered the finest of dining. When he came over, she would end up with rug burns and odd marks on the couch. His good trouble turned to bad when the Negress found out about the woman with the gun and the toddlers. And half the teachers at this one elementary school. And five other women she knew, one of whom confided that she was relieved when her clinic run turned out to be just a non-specific infection.

At this point, high mileage was not a good thing even though it did seem to improve technique. The Negress usually put latex where it belonged, but not always. You gave blood and lost some sleep watching the mail for a week or two.

 Oh yeah. Back to the guy in front of her. He was still swaying there, expecting The Negress to say something like, “Honey, I love you so much I’d go your bail before I’d pay my rent” or some other declaration that indicated permanent brain damage on her part. She thought she’d gotten away clean. We kissed one night after the Mother’s Day thing, but it felt like a Pekingese was trying to pick her nose. The Negress had seen him up here a couple of times since then, but he had been cool. No excessive mooning, no pining. He hung with this coke dealer who was a a total bore. The Negress finally shut him up with a reasonably coherent discussion of the economics of the baseball strike. One of the bartenders bought her a drinkfor her  trouble, saying that was the longest ol ‘Dillweed had gone without speaking. The Negress considered it a public service.

All right. The Negress has hatched an escape strategy. “Uh, Dick, can we talk about this some other time?”

“No,” he bleated. Dammit.

“Well, will you excuse me for sec? I’ll be right back.”

Thank God there was a side door out of there. She was down the steps and in her truck in no time. He wasn’t there the next time she came back so the Negress hoped he got the message.

Although it may be hard to believe from what the Negress is telling you here,  she can do celibacy with panache. She’s talking years, kids. Some 21-year old goober tried to pick her up with that tired old line about how she needed to relax. The Negress replied that she wasn’t going to end a two-year string of doing without for him. He looked ashen. “How could you go two years without having sex?”

“It’s easy. You get up one morning, brush your teeth, get dressed, do your hair,  go to work, go out clubbing, come home and what do you know? You didn’t have sex. A day becomes a week, weeks months, you get the picture.”

He asked her to leave his apartment  (The Negress was stuck there after some ill-advised drinking).  She thinks he thought it was some elaborate con. Sometimes the truth does work very well.

One of these days the Negress will find a man (or woman, but we’re getting to that) who will last from spring training to the World Series. She’s not lonely exactly, but sometimes an arm around you at night would be great. Or a phone call when Frank Thomas jacked one past the Russian space station (she’s waiting on this feeling from Adam Dunn). Or someone who would get the picture when you said something about sticking around for winter ball and hockey season. She was tired of explaining her jokes to people who were supposed to care about her (her tribe is out there and she will find it later).

Or maybe she’ll just settle for a good kisser who didn’t piss on her bedroom floor during an alcoholic blackout. That was bad trouble. She kissed so much during that day and a half, the Negress felt like the lower half of her face was smeared and runny. If  she could have attached those lips to someone who knew where the bathroom was, half the battle would have been won. He knew baseball but often forgot which league the Astros are in. He lost his scholarship on that basis alone (though, now that might not be a deal breaker. The pissing, yes.).

The problem is there’s a fine line between good and bad trouble. If you hang with someone and it gets too boring, it may be good for you. But it won’t make you drive across town with a raincoat thrown over your nightgown because your phone rang at 2 a.m. with a highly improper (not to mention potentially painful) suggestion. Good trouble can talk you into it because of some deep mystical connection or just plain madness. Bad trouble makes you get a restraining order and change your number.

Most people the Negress  talks to think the distinction is a massive rationalization. “You shouldn’t try to justify this trashing around you by palming it off on something nearly mystical in its incoherence,” said one 12-step veteran pal of mine. The Negress drank another bourbon and told her to shut up.

The Negress has had jobs and everything (though lately not so much), but that’s of minimal consequence. The hours were flexible enough back in the day that arriving in the office at noon wearing sunglasses made little difference in my performance reviews. Most of the Negress’  co-workers at the time had settled for something calm. She sometimes got the sense they viewed her as a mascot of some kind;  still weird enough to drive a pickup trick and not have day-care problems. Their lives make the Negress cringe so back to the bars she went.

Frankly, the baseball strike nearly made the Negress into a nun. She had found most of her trouble by arguing about ball in a variety of joints. The restaurant guy was a Tigers fan. Mr. I Love You went to the Dome with the coke dealer, but had a hard time following the game. He thought it was too slow and there was nothing to watch, which almost matched her assessment of him for a long-term contract.

One night, another friend told the Negress her standards were too high. She had brought the restaurant guy into the picture, and had sampled Mr. I Love You back before she fell hard for a good friend of hers. The Negress was at the point in the bourbon here belligerent muttering was about the best she could do. The Negress couldn’t explain the good trouble-bad trouble distinction because all distinctions were pretty blurry. So was the road driving home(please note, this is stupid and don’t do it).

That was during a brief period where everyone the Negress knew was giving her advice even though she hadn’t asked for any. Did she look that troubled? At one point, the Negress decided it was a weird mix of envy and concern and just decided to smile a lot and forget every word.

Anyway, the Negress had to hit the road. Minor-league ball was calling. There was a prospect in Tucson that might have made it to the majors if he kept his sense of humor and continued to remember my phone number. Like most minor leaguers, he wasn’t a prospect.

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In which the Negress rises from hibernation

December 20, 2013

The Negress  tries to be more regular about her musings about this, that, and the other. She’s vowing to make 2014 a better year for such things.  Much of 2013 was taken up by a job search and trying to keep her head in the game with various pharmaceutical adjustments. Things are still a little bit weird in terms of health insurance, rent etc., but soldiering on is really the only response. Since starting work three weeks ago, some of that has receded into the background.

However, this seems like the best time discuss certain rituals she does not miss from her old career. The Negress did not have to make a list of 10 or so records she liked better than thousands of other records. In short, she’s aware that Jay-Z and Beyonce did some stuff, but she doesn’t have to care. She remains slightly curious about Kanye West, mostly because she likes overblown beats and self-aggrandizement. Some of us forget that was the basis for a lot of early hip-hop. The Negress also suspects that West is just funnin’ with some of this. She has also avoided paying attention to his non-musical life, so that may make more for easier listening.

For the most part, her tastes in hip-hop are old school, but occasionally she does feel a compulsion tugging at her to find out about the new stuff (Chicago is home to some interesting rappers, and she knows she needs to catch up). This same feeling holds for Americana and other genres. Since she is now doing a review or two for one of the local daily newspapers, more mainstream country and various iterations of pop are on her radar. The Negress doesn’t mind Miley Cyrus since she can actually sing (Taylor Swift actually can’t but, that’s another post for another day). However, she’s a little weary of the producing hotshots who can level every performer’s idiosyncrasies into a muck of overly familiar beats. This is wearying stuff even if you’re not listening all the time.

What’s kind of annoying her out is how some of her contemporaries just get livid about the new stuff.  Granted, Facebook is not a medium of measured reason, but really, guys (and almost 90 percent of these people are guys). The Negress has said this before, but do you really want to come down on the side of your parents in this? Did anybody think  Dylan and Elvis would be touchstones of the musical conversation some 40 years on? As the Negress can attest based on recent developments in her own life: no one knows what the future holds.

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In which the Negress goes medieval on a bitch

October 22, 2013

Before you think the Negress has lost her cotton picking mind, she’s about to ask some hard questions of Samantha Irby, author of the blog Bitches Gotta Eat. Irby is not the only rotund Negress with Crohn’s on the North Side of Chicago, so as one Crohnie to another, the Negress has to say some things. Irby’s blog generated a book deal for a tome called “Meaty.” According to the Chicago Tribune, her publisher, Curbside wants her to tour, starting with the East Coast. She doesn’t want to do that. The same publisher is hinting that they want a second book, which Irby has said she doesn’t want to do.

Her concern?

“I don’t want every story about me to be how I am hobbling into every reading,” Irby told the Tribune. “The truth is, I have no aspirations for my writing! And I still don’t. I like that people can read this book but I have a job and I can’t leave for two weeks to tour. Plus, health issues. I would never have written a book if I knew I would have to take a box of books and sell them to people! “

cover of Samantha Irby's book

Samantha Irby’s book

 

Miss Thing, the Negress has one question: Are you flat out of your mind? Getting a book published by an actual publisher who wants the author to support said book with a tour and is already talking about a follow up almost sounds like an Internet scam. You’ve worn diapers and you can’t walk so well? Have you ever had an ostomy bag blow off in a theater? Didn’t think so.

You have slain people at Paper Machete and other spots in Chicago where writers dazzle live audiences. So why are you so afraid of a book tour? Don’t say you can’t get time off work unless you’ve used up all your sick days with Crohn’s. Surely, the same skills that have made you a sought-after writer can be applied to negotiating with your day gig. Also, most book companies give you money against royalties, aka an advance. You don’t sell books, you owe them cash. Perhaps that happy fact will give you some incentive.

The Negress wants to root for you, Miss Irby. But you are making it damn hard.

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In which the Negress arises from dormancy

August 20, 2013

The Negress has been in survival mode so the blog has been napping. She’s done some writing about music for the local paper, and she’s working on a longer piece for a magazine she  can’t name  right now. One thing she is very sure of is that she is no longer writing about wine. There are hundreds, nay, thousands of wine blogs out there, and she really doesn’t have anything to add to the discussion. Plus, due to some medication changes, wine is not front and center for her now.

So what is front and center? Good question. Working more would be nice. The Negress discovered she had no aptitude for the financial services business and spent way too much money trying to keep the failure afloat. She knew she missed writing and has even found her way back to the world of pop music, which isn’t the world she left except that the difference between good bands and bad bands is still obvious.

So, what to do now? Keep the journey afloat, listen to too much Blitzen Trapper, and wait for the next encounter.

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2012 year in review: In which Canada distracts the Negress from depression, bloody mayhem and bad wine

December 31, 2012

The Negress is quite ready to be done with 2012. This is a year that deserves to be tossed away with both hands. She had friends blown sideways by a crazy, globally heated storm with boat and homes going every which way. She continued her fierce love of Chicago, but now found it mixed up the strain of building a business on communicating when she never felt less like speaking, making phone calls or getting out of bed. So, 2012, please get the hell out of here so she can get on with it. She will keep listening to 54.40, Dan Mangan, the Tragically Hip and other Canadians she hopes will return to Chicago when she has the cash to go see them.

What The Negress wants to get on with is knitting, reading, cooking and keeping herself healthy. That has actually gone pretty well with weight and the shedding of at least three diabetes medications. Crohn’s seems to know its place but she’s somewhat afraid to even think that. If you’re interested in the year in wine, nose around the rest of the blog and read. She briefly worked for an e-magazine called Uncorked before it went under; settling the $1,125 it owed her for a mere $225. There’s a plum assignment looming that has been looming for a few weeks. Once the secret is out, things will be good but just looking at the books (including one she wrote a chapter in) she needs to skim has her nervous

As for the other books she’s read, she adored “Gone Girl,” is still on p. 200 of “1Q84” and hopes Robert Caro doesn’t die before he finishes the LBJ biography (she’s read through “Master of the Senate,” but wants to finish all of it). She’s seen friends retire (buen suerte Juan), fade (you’re not reading this if you were one of those), sober up, and graduate (way to go nephew JT). There was some good news amongst all the bloodshed.

The Negress still loves music, wine, hockey (she misses it, wants it back and will settle for the college game and the Wolves until further notice) and men and women. She and golf are seeing other sports, but will get back together once her broken foot heals.

The Negress went on a road trip or two, spending time in Ohio, DC, NJ, PA (crossing the Poconos could not have been achieved without all those Canadian bands on The Verge), Ohio again, Michigan and then home. Baseball is still in the picture but the late-season collapse of the White Sox and the Nationals’ early playoff exit were hard to take. She’s officially done with Astros, leaving them before they make their shameful transition to the American League. The Negress isn’t sure she knows who they are anymore. She also feels that way about SABR, so she’s pondering an exit strategy there too..

The Mazda and her home are good, but she needs to get back to work in a stupendous way. May 2013 be your lucky number too (Lene Lovich, sorry about that).

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The Negress denounces the passage of time: 1999 Patrick LeSec Rasteau Vieilles Vignes,Toad Hollow Apropos and 2011 Mission Point Pinot Noir

August 27, 2012

The Negress has had death on her mind a lot lately so the 1999 LeSec Rasteau Vieilles Vignes and Toad Hollow Apropos  roared out of memory like the morning after a cheap, greasy meal. A friend’s Mom died, leaving a central Illinois basement and house awash in mysterious liquor and wine caches. The basement was humid and filled with cases of indeterminate Scotch, several cases of a French white with moldy labels and rotted corks, plus multiple bottles of creme de menthe with just enough gone to suggest sequential outbreaks of  excessive grasshopper consumption and complete amnesia of the  previous purchases. This is the sort of drinking that adults in university towns could get away with before drunk driving, interventions and 30-day “leaves of absence” conducted on the down low if tenured; followed by contract cancellation if not. Of course, so many are adjuncts now nothing might happen for different reasons. Welcome to the age of disposable academia.

2011 Mission Point Pinot Noir and 1999 Patrick LeSec Rasteau Vieilles Vignes

New. Old. Indifferent.

Back to the wine. Most bottles you and the Negress buy are designed to be quaffed quickly. All the vinification techniques in fashion now suggest that more wine makers should put a “drink by” recommendation on the label. As in “as soon as you can.” The Rasteau and the Toad Hollow deserved to be drunk young. They were faded beyond recognition and tasted feeble and forgettable.  Cote du Rhones Villages wines are not usually feeble, but this senile Rasteau was (according to a bit of research, this one was about seven years too old). The Negress suspects improper storage may have been part of the problem. She also knows that Toad Hollow makes impeccable value wines, but the Apropos was truly nothing special.

To regain some palate perspective, the Negress picked up a bottle of 2011 Mission Point Pinot Noir at Trader Joe’s on a co-worker’s recommendation. She will not extend the recommendation, but will pose one of her favorite questions, “Why do California vintners try to turn Pinot Noir into Cabernet Sauvignon?” If you’re looking for more candid assessments of Various Buck Chucks and the rest of the Trader Joe’s ilk, try my pal Tim Lemke’s site Cheap Wine Ratings.

Speaking of pals,  please raise a glass to the Negress’ old one, Brent Grulke of SXSW, who died unexpectedly Aug. 13. Grulke worked for the gargantuan festival back when it was a puppy. He was the stage manager when there were only tens of venues. He later rose to be the guy who picked the bands that played and was immune to persuasion by anything other than the submitted demo. Brent, a lot of us who miss the old festival (and know we are too old for the reboot), will miss you and hope your family has what they need in this troubled time.

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10 Things I will never do again

May 6, 2012

The Negress likes lists and is going to post one every week so stay tuned. Sometimes it”s nice to know when you are done. These are not ranked but listed as the Negress thought of them.

1. Go see the Grateful Dead. Once in DC at RFK Stadium with Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the deadly DC summer was quite enough. No Dead spinoffs either.

2. Throw up at length in the bathroom at Fitzgerald’s in Houston. Take multiple shots of Weller, add swigs of Jack Daniels from the stage during a Dash Riprock show and you have a recipe for being tore up and sorry. Many thanks to the person who drove that night. You know who you are.

Dash Rip Rock

Members of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame dadgum

3. Go to SXSW. The Negress acquired her last badge in 1999 and doesn’t miss it one bit. Except for the night she was onstage with the late Molly Ivins banging a tambourine. Austin is a fine place to visit but she will never go during South by or the ACL Music Festival. She wants to see her friends when they aren’t frenzied.

4. Stagger with two suitcases when your bus to the Melbourne airport breaks down a quarter mile from said airport. The Aussies’ friendliness and generosity of spirit does not always extend to customer service. The Negress flew to Brisbane and spent three hours in the airport between flights and drank diet Coke until she nearly exploded.

5. Pick up a full ostomy bag off the floor of a Manhattan theater. You want to know more about that, you just have to wait until the Negress writes her memoir, tentatively titled “Notes of a Chronic Negress” or “Another Black Room with a Pole in the Middle.”

6. Deal with a member of the clergy (identifying denomination will not be divulged) who began almost every sentence with, “I’m the adult child of an alcoholic.” The Negress just wanted her to pass the salt.

7. Take NJ Transit from Newark airport to the Newark train station to get on the PATH to Jersey City. One arthritic shoulder and two titanium knees scream out for another way to do this journey.

8. Be nervous about being in a room with Miami Steve Van Zant, Lenny Kaye, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun. The Negress is actually sorry about this one since Jerry and Ahmet are gone.

9. Go see Gary Stewart in some wide spot in the road in Texas. This one makes her sorry too. Find the music and you’ll see what she means.

10. Sit on a tour bus in Belleville, TX while Brooks and Dunn blast their new single, “Rock My World (Little Country Girl).” This duo retired before the Negress and others could reach the “Oh them again” stage. She wishes some other musicians could take the hint, but that’s another list for another week.

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The Negress pickles her brain with Top 40 and enjoys it immensely

March 11, 2012

The Negress has been flitting through several realms of late. Alcohol was banished for Lent so not much to report there. Music comes and goes. Work is front and center, and is going well as far as she can tell. Hockey is good with the Devils surging and one of her future ex-husbands, Johnny Oduya, now a member of the Blackhawks. Right now, the Blackhawks can use all the help they can get.

The Negress loves Ke$ha and does not feel guilty at all

The Negress loves Ke$ha and does not feel guilty at all

With the impending arrival of spring and the annual crash landing of Daylight Savings Time, the Negress needed a respite from all the hard thinking she’d been doing preparing for the toughest part of her FINRA registration. So she flipped the dial to her favorite Top 40 (these days known as CHR for Contemporary Hit Radio) station, Z100, in New York. It’s available online and on satellite radio.

One quick conclusion she came to was that there are only about eight or nine songs in deuterium rotation, most involving Katy Perry, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Pitbull, FloRida and Drake. Ke$ha(her Twitter handle is @keshasuxx, which we love) and Lady Gaga show up, but not often enough for our tastes.

Also, prolonged exposure all of this mindless Auto-Tuned robot pop can shave a few dozen points off your IQ. You may not notice immediately, but it does happen. You say “awesome” a lot. You wanna party with, like, your friends and stuff.

However, the Negress is quick to declare her enduring love for commercial radio, especially the triple-A station here in Chicago, WXRT. She especially thanks them for Mumford and Sons and even some of the Fleet Foxes. The new Springsteen single is running heavy there now, which in its own way is as irritating as the robot pop. The Negress escaped after 12 or so years in Jersey without gaining a Springsteen obsession. She likes him and the E Streeters fine, but not to the point of rearranging her life.

Sorry for the long rest periods here, but the Negress is busy. Back as soon as something worth talking about happens. In the meantime, roll down your windows and blast some tunes.  It feels like opening a can of  spring. Baseball helps with that too, so do it. Go Sox (White, not Red)!

(December 2012 update: Still love Fleet Foxes, but the arrival of the second Mumford and Sons record killed that crush dead. Enough ballistic folks with predictable dynamics. As for Ke$ha, “The Warrior” is step in her adult heels, but “Die Young” wins the Artie Fufkin award for entering the charts at No. 1 the worst time on the worst week ever.

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The Negress, Whitney Houston and the dance of addiction

February 19, 2012

The Negress heard about Whitney Houston’s death when she was working the auction floor at the Equality Illinois gala. There were some murmurs of sadness, but very few expressions of surprise. The public Whitney had walked the same road a lot of addicts do, and their families no doubt now are recalling similar turns on their own roads. Think of all the family gatherings with knotted stomachs, awaiting the first slurred argument followed by the broken dishes. Review the whispered, tentative approval of a post-rehab appearance without drama. “She looks good, doesn’t she?” Yes she did, but we still checked on the jewelry drawer afterwards. Russell Brand and others momentarily safe in recovery have talked about the exhaustive lying that comes with addictions and how addicts are never fully present in whatever they’re doing. Family members know that all too well as they hear promises repeated, see contracts signed and wait for the better times to come. (courtesy of YouTube)

But those times don’t come usually. The Negress had an uncle whose heroin addiction lasted until he was near 60 when he died of an overdose. His third wife, she of the blond Afro and infantilizing nicknames, buried him in his Christian Dior pajamas because they were designer duds. My uncle used to drop by our house to pick up his disability check (addiction was a disability at that time. Not sure how that goes now.) He worked as a treatment counselor, which sounds like a macabre joke, but junkies were all over the Narcotics Treatment Administration in Marion Barry’s DC. The Negress remembers getting a lecture from said uncle about staying away from drugs, especially cocaine. His life was the best warning she could have gotten. His children split the difference. One is a successful entrepreneur; another a neurosurgeon. The third was an addict, gifted at illegal computer scams who bounced in and out of recovery like a Super Ball of unfulfilled promise. As far as the Negress knows, he is incarcerated still. There are other kids from other wives, but the Negress has lost them somehow. She hopes they are well, but doesn’t know for sure.

As for Whitney, our paths crossed when the Negress was working in New Jersey. The singer was beginning her long free fall of shoddy performances and tentative albums. It was hard to watch and, after a point, the Negress thought of her uncle and cousin and turned away. When Whitney was at her best, you could feel God in her voice even if you didn’t believe. The Negress regrets that many of her successors and emulators embraced her bag of vocal tricks and not the spiritual truth of her best performances (feel me, Miss Aguilera?). Whitney will be missed, but we hope she’s free from pain now.

Postscript: Frank Bruni wrote a column about alcohol that also has a connection to a cousin, who would go on benders, be retrieved by his fellow cousins, dry out and then do it all over again with a few drunken, spittle-flinging rants offered at family gatherings. Since the Negress loves fine wine and spirits, she also thinks she has some responsibility to show that it’s not all upside.

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