10 October 2006

Under The Knife

Today I had to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and take the BART to Oakland to get my foot operated on. Just as I was leaving for the train, I remembered either writing or telling someone about my long-standing belief that "something bad happens every time you go to Oakland" that I adhered to through from the 1960s well into the 1980s. And actually, I never completely abandoned that philosophy; it's just that by the 80s I'd been to Oakland a sufficient number of times without something bad happening that I was able to overlook the many other times when it had.

Still, I found myself wishing that my operation had been scheduled for Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley than a storefront "Surgery Center" backing on to the parking lot at Macarthur BART. If nothing else, the odds on my being mugged on the way to being surgically sliced and diced would have been considerably lowered. Though given Berkeley's strict affirmative action policies, I might have been wheeled into an operating room staffed by a multicultural array of homeless people wielding scalpels plucked from dumpsters and stored in stolen shopping carts.

Perhaps I'm being unfair to the "Surgery Center" when I refer to it as a "storefront;" for one thing it was considerably bigger, and now that I think of it, could have had a previous incarnation as a funeral parlor. Which causes me to wonder why they didn't reserve one wing for its original purpose, since I presume any surgery center produces its fair share of potential clients. Probably a bit demoralizing for the patients, though.

My theory that the Macarthur BART parking lot and environs would be relatively mugger-free at 5:45 in the morning proved correct. I don't like stereotyping, but it does seem as though muggers are not big on the early-bird-catches-the-worm ethos (or, if you're not keen on worms, the German variant, Morgenstunde hat Gold im Mund, "The morning hour has gold in its mouth"). So I made it safely to the waiting room where I did a lot of, erm, waiting. They'd told me to be there at 6 am for a 7:30 am operation, which allowed me time to read most of a three-month-old Time magazine purporting to explain why the Israelis and Arabs were mad at each other and leaf through a copy of Sunset offering guidance on "Fall Getaways," none of which I'm likely to be making, as I'll be in a supine position with my foot up in the air for the next month or two.

Apart from filling out a few forms and being giving a copy of the Surgery Center's "Privacy Statement" (yeah, as you can see, I'm so bothered about my medical privacy issues that I'm posting all about them on the internet), there was little else to do apart from submit to the real mugging: forking over the $1699 (surprised, as Patrick later observed, that they didn't make it $1699.95) that wasn't covered by my insurance. "We don't accept personal checks," I'd been told in advance, which made sense, I guess, since what are you going to do to a guy who bounces a check, take back his operation? But when they asked for not just my insurance card, but a photo ID, I wondered, "What? How likely is it that someone is going to sneak in here and get someone else's operation for him? I mean, it's not exactly like taking someone's exam for them in college..." But then I realized - slowly, as I obviously don't have the mind of a criminal - that it would be a fairly easy matter to borrow or purloin someone's insurance card for the purposes of free medical treatment. Say, for example, that mugger had been lurking outside of Macarthur BART. After robbing me and rifling through my possessions, he could have said, "Say, this fellow was due for a foot operation just over there; why don't I impersonate him and get my own foot operated on instead?"

After forking over the old credit card, things swung rather rapidly into action. I had to drink some bitter liquid to limit "gastric secretions," which I presume meant they didn't want me belching or farting while they were cutting me up, and then had a needle inserted into my hand, through which some fluid poured that first made my arm cold and then put me completely to sleep for the next three hours. None of this "count to 10" business, even; I was just out like that. I woke up with a big bandage on my foot, they fed me cranberry juice, crackers and Vicodin, and turned me over to the wonderful and famous Patrick Hynes, who interrupted his duties at Little Type long enough to come collect me and bring me back to El Cerrito where I am now safely holed up at my mother's house until I'm recovered sufficiently to be let loose on my own again. Thanks for all your (as yet unreceived) expressions of concern, but I'll be fine, really.


G2 said...

nice to hear such a good description of a trip to the hospital... Hope u are doing fine larry. Enjoy the stay at "el cerrito"!

take care!

Joseph said...


Although we’ve never met, and likely never will, I do indeed send warm wishes for a speedy recovery. Go easy on the Vicodin. Your description of the procedure didn’t seem too unpleasant. Assuming the crack surgical team didn’t introduce a nasty staph infection to your wound, I’d guess you’ll be back to your usual badass-West-Country Walking-Society-self in no time. Cheers.

Nick G. said...

Hey Larry,
hope that your back on your feet soon, often times the most agonizing part of a major operation can be the fact that your stuck inside for weeks on end. dont go stir crazy! (although that is a really good movie)

this is pretty cliche but, "Get well soon!"
- Nick

Matt Andrews said...

Get well soon Larry! You partly hinted at the story of the fat crowdsurfer a few entries back, can you elaborate a little? Any new reason to dislike them..

JAB Seattle said...


Feel better mate, stay away from Fulham. Sure as fuck won't cheer you up.

Larry Livermore said...

Matt, I know I've written and/or blogged about the fat stage diver before, but here's the précis: it was the New Year's Eve show at Gilman when (I'm almost positive) 1987 turned to 1988. The bands were Operation Ivy, Isocracy and (I'm almost positive) Stikky. I was on the stage itself, off to the side, watching Op Ivy, sort of crouched down on one knee, when this fat kid - probably no more than 15 or 16 years old, I'd guess, but weighing about 200 lbs, came flying through the air and landed on my back, bending my big toe back so far that it kind of snapped at the joint. (Actually, although I call him a "stage diver," he was kind of a reverse stage diver, since he was diving onto the stage rather than off of it.) I thought my big toe might be broken, but at the same time, I'd had similar injuries that turned out to be only bad sprains that I was able to walk off. Besides, I had no money to be spending on hospital emergency rooms (pretty much everything I had at the time was going to pay for pressing up some 7" records that were going to come out later that month and would be the start of Lookout Records), so I decided just to tough it out and try the walking cure instead. That combined with my habit (also cost-inspired) of always wearing cheap Converse sneakers, which offer basically no support at all to the feet, caused the cartilage in my big toe joint to become hopelessly deformed and swollen, and as I got older, made walking increasingly difficult and painful. I was able to put off surgery for a few years by abandoning Converse sneakers (those shoes are the work of the devil, no matter how fashionable and trendy they've become) and wearing orthotic inserts inside more "sensible" shoes, but this past year or two the foot had been deteriorating again, and at the rate it was going, I'd eventually be seriously crippled.

Surgery is never a pleasant option, but at least I can console myself with the the thought that if I hadn't put that money into pressing 7" records instead of going to the emergency room, who knows if I would have been able to afford my operation? And, if you adjust for inflation, the operation didn't cost significantly more than an emergency room visit would have back in 1988. So, apart from a bit of pain and torment endured by yours truly over the past 18 years, it all came out all right in the end AND the world got to hear Operation Ivy et al. Happy endings all round, or at least let's hope so: it'll still be a few weeks before I find out whether I'll be able to walk normally again. But odds are supposed to be pretty good.

thissmallplanet said...

Hi Lawrence:

Get well soon.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(only two weeks left till the end of Ramadan)

Larry said...


Hi. I'm Larry. How many times do I have to tell you that Muslims are barbarians?

Ramadan, ha! Backwards savage. Have something to eat, Allah won't mind, trust me - he doesn't exist!

The only reason you're even clever enough to pretend that you care about my condition is because the West probably colonized your country long enough to program you with some superficial amount of intelligence and civility.

Face it. You are a brown, brown barbarian!

Larry Livermore said...

In order for satire to work, it hss to a) be apposite to a point already under discussion; b) effectively mimic the style or viewpoint with which the original point is being discussed; c) be at least somewhat amusing. I'm afraid this effort fails by all three standards.

I have never criticized or ridiculed Ramadan and never would, since I believe periods of prayer, meditation and fasting can be beneficial to people regardless of what religion they're done in the name of. I would never claim that Allah doesn't exist, since as a member of another monotheistic religion, I worship the same God under a different name. I have never claimed that Muslims as a people or a faith are barbarous; my criticism has always been limited to those would murder or oppress others in the name of their religion (or sympathize with those who do). I'm beginning to fear that your single-minded rage and blinkered obsession with this particular subject puts you into the latter category.

JAB Seattle said...

Again with the no-name cowards... Larry, this place needs a doorman.

Larry said...

Hi. I'm Larry.

According to a poll of Canadian Muslims living in the province of Manitoba, 87% think Ramadan should be a public holiday in the United States. Admit it, oppression and backwardness is the nature of the beast! What's next? The First Lady wearing a Burka?

Stop appeasing terror.

The Islamic Jihad, certain Chechnyan groups, Hamas and others have repeatedly shown the value they place on human life. And no privileges are set aside for women or children. It is time for Americans to make a concerted and meaningful stand against terror, rejecting the notion of fact finding tasks. The American people and free world deserve better, as do the victims of radical Islamic terror around the world.

Marc said...

Just a little correction, the German saying is "Morgenstund' hat Gold im Mund." "Geld" translates to "money".

Larry Livermore said...

Thanks, Marc! It's been a few years (like 20 or 30) since I learned that proverb, and obviously my memory isn't quite as good as I'd like to think it is.

jenna alive said...

My dad had knee surgery at one of those storefront places. It was next door to an El Ranchito market in Santa Ana. Classy.

The surgeries that I've had (three, not including my wisdom teeth) have been in two different hospitals and a swanky Beverly Hills office. I think I'd be scared to go under at one of those stripmall places.

Also, getting a vein in my hand sucks. It's all about the arm.

Hope you're all better soon (you might be ejected from the clique if you can't readily roam the streets of nyc), but in the mean time, I bet you look pretty funny gimping around. ;)