Category Archives: Health

Avocado Hands

I know someone with a job I cannot do and never could do (therefore never will do). The person is a nurse, a job I tell people I’m too sensitive for. But it is a selfish thing to say, isn’t it? On my part, I believe it is.

Such stories this person could tell you about extraordinary things happening every day, at the their job, while they’re on the job.

For example, Avocado Hand.

The other day, I learned about Avocado Hand.

Heard of it? Avocado Hand: when someone accidentally stabs themselves in (more often through) their own hand when attempting to remove an avocado seed (its stone, or the pit, depending on your perspective) with a knife.

Halve an avocado, twist it apart: one side, pristine, hollow, ready for you. As for the other, well, there it is. That damn pit. Staring at you like an all-seeing eye. Something for you to pluck out, with gusto. Tout suite. Grab a knife. Use your hand.

Results Often In: Pierced, serrated, mangled flesh. Blood too. Lots. Damage a few nerves, sever a few tendons, split the sinews here, there…irreparably, maybe. But then again, maybe not. You could get lucky.

I’ve never heard of it before, Avocado Hand. But I’ve always suspected, felt its presence, its potential, in the spare moments when I prepare some extravagant toast or contemplate a nice guacamole or consider the produce on a grocery run.

What if? Press this way and that with the point of a big, solid knife. Stab it there, just right. Just hard enough to get it. Never mind going across with the side of the blade. Never mind a spoon.

The nurse. Avocado Hand. You know how many times they’ve seen it? Three times this summer at least. Not enough to count on one hand, but getting there, not forgetting, of course, to include that all-important thumb.







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Sleepy Time

Between No Sleep and Interrupted Sleep, there is the sweet, sweet spot of Sleep.
Sleep on a spectrum, can you believe it?
I can’t believe it.
Seems quite unbelievable.


If not Sleep, I’d rather have No Sleep than Interrupted Sleep.
I need to get into the rhythm, get into the flow. And if I can’t do that, then I don’t want any of it.

Anyway, there’s a certain inexorableness, a fatefulness to No Sleep that, in its own way, is to be much appreciated. You know what you’re going to get, which is none at all. Make peace with that and move on.

Interrupted Sleep, however. There’s a still that hope that some sleep will occur, isn’t there? Any kind at all. Any kind that will do. And it’s that hope that will kill you, isn’t it? If you’re not careful. It’ll get you in the end.
Dare to dream?


Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Interrupting Cow.
Interrupt –

Anyway! You know the rest.
Besides, I forgot the…um, you know…?
What was I saying again?
Oh. Right.



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Picture of Health

The dietician called me in a half hour before my doctor’s appointment because we “needed to talk.” I say the dietician instead of my dietitian because every time I go to see the dietician for my health program they send me to a different dietician.

This dietician, was a dietician I had not yet met. She seemed solid, serious but also nervous (it was in her eyes). She sat me down in her office, equipped, I was surprised to see, with wide, generous windows and room enough for a table, functional chairs and a large desk.

(I have been in professor’s offices that were little more than storage closets, little less than repurposed cloakrooms.)

“We’re here today because your husband emailed us on your behalf.” There were, she went on, issues he wanted me to discuss with the dietician, a dietician, which today was this dietician. The whole thing was wildly conspiratorial, especially since I know my partner did not (and would not) go behind my back and rat me out, least of all to the/a/this dietician. Anyone.

Whoever that patient was, she was not me, a patient but not the patient under scrutiny.

I asked the dietician to check my file again.

I was right: I was not the patient she thought I was.

She took a closer look at my file.

“You’re doing great!” Then before she could stop herself: “Why are you even here?”

Why? Indeed!

I was then shuffled over to the doctor’s office (not so big or generous of windows, but it had a better view and a larger desk), and was told by this doctor (there are two) that she was “actually not too unhappy” with my progress.

I was then sent on my way, back out to the ether only to have to come back to see them again in a few weeks.

Them, they, whomever they happen to be that day.

Wonder who I will be?



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Coffee Time (and again)

1. Wave of the Future

Shared coffee pots are oppressive! We are an interesting and imaginative group of people who deserve to have our many facets represented in our tastes. The office has therefore eliminated the old, antiquated and, frankly, oppressive coffee pot in the upstairs kitchenette, and has replaced it with a brand new, state-of-the-art single-serve KERUG KOFFEE MAKER.

You are. Most welcome.


As a part of our “coffee initiative” (as our beloved Doris has colourfully named it) please do note that employees are now free to supply and store their own koffee kups for use while at work. The sky’s the limit, though we do ask everyone to be mindful of nut allergies.

3. Tamp It Down

The environment as we know it is in peril! Thusly, we have decided to do away with the waste and excess of the single use – non-recyclable – koffee kups and have instead supplied the office with reusable, single-load receptacles for all your coffee needs. Gently pack desired grounds into the receptacle with a small spoon or forefinger and insert into the KERUG KOFFEE MAKER machine. It could not be simpler. Wash your hands before and after use.

4. Grounds for Dismissal

Coffee grounds everywhere! Littering the counter, clogging up the kitchenette sink, crushed into the carpet into ugly, suggestive stains. A most sad and lamentable state of affairs. The single-load receptacles have therefore been removed until further notice. For the time being, please purchase your coffee and related beverages before work or during break.

5. New is Old Again

Employees take note! Some of your coffee cups are non-recyclable. Please dispose of these in the garbage where they belong.

6. Debauch

Employees! We have noted there are a few of you are sneaking into the kitchenette at odd hours in order to make coffee though the unsanctioned use of the remaining (and offensive, and offending) koffee kups. Be advised: you are warned.

7. Bylaws

To avoid confusion, all coffee cups are to be thrown into the garbage as the city has twice now refused to collect our improperly-sorted recyclables. Extra bins have been provided in the downstairs kitchenette, next to the photocopier.

8. Purge: Anarchy

As forewarned, a purge of all remaining koffee kups has been carried out by Doris.


A gentle reminder to all in our employ that while your coffee habits and choices are your own, we are reaching capacity in terms of weekly garbage disposal. Bins are filling up faster than usual. Consider, therefore, finishing your coffee before or after work or during breaks and disposing the cups in outside bins (i.e. the public trash bins located down the block or across the street at the nearby primary school).

10. Don’t Ask

Stop asking Doris. She doesn’t know.

10.5. Further Notice

The KERUG KOFFEE MAKER has been removed from the office until further notice.

Thank you.


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Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.




Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.




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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Direct Quotes, 2

Ophthalmologist Opinion: “There are more lopsided people than symmetrical.”

Direct From the Kitchen: “Such a meaty concoction!”

The Morning After: “Extra low we are today.”

Wardrobe Malfunction: “There are not enough butt pockets.”

Parenting Sage: “Newborns can’t make this smell.”

Back in the Day: “Also we used to say ‘brutal’ to mean ‘cool.’”

Ominous: “You’ll regret that choice when white comes into fashion again.”

True Compliment: “Omggg what a lil poot!”




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Browbeaten (Black & Blue)

I don’t know when my dad started losing his hair, but it was early on in both our lives.

He tried many things to stymie this most unfathomable loss, but in the end had little recourse but to stop cutting it, to just let it grow and then to start, kind of, creatively sweeping it across the great expanse of his head, precious resource as it was.

He also started dyeing it the instant he found his first grey hair, to a shade I think would be rightly called “Permanent Marker Black.” Or perhaps “Sharpie Gardens” (“Bic Dreams” also works rather well).

I am not making fun: it was actually refreshing to see my dad colouring his hair as we came home from school or work; there was no furtive shutting of bathroom doors or nervous sleight-of-hand over a splotched-over kitchen sink when it came to my dad deciding on that day to annihilate his greys.

He just did it.


(I always thought mustaches were cool because of my dad. His was both proud and stately. Now everybody thinks mustaches are cool, but my dad had nothing to do with it.)


My mom despised my dad’s comb-over – how it splayed, was mucked-over his scalp – a hatred which intensified in direct proportion to the comb-over’s sheer magnificence over the years. It was an on-going Thing with them; a continual war in which battles were attained by each side, but never quite won.

A witty retort here, a scathing comment there, some handwringing, a lot of empty threats and many unmet challenges: nothing ever decisive, nothing that would bring about a lasting, peaceful co-existence. Only a kind of peace, a tepid cease-fire that freed up at least some of the day for errands and housecleaning and maybe an hour or so of prime-time TV.

That is. Until.

Until the day my dad came home from my aunt’s salon with not one hair on his head.

Not. One.

No comb-over, no mustache. No eyebrows.

I have no memory or idea about what could have precipitated this. All I remember, all I know, is that one day my dad had hair on his head, and the next, he didn’t.

And something else: “How about now?” he asked my mom on that day. That fateful day.

My mom shot him that look, a look that over time was so perfected as to be drawn on.

In fact, it was drawn on.


Mom came home from my aunt’s salon with her eyebrows tattooed in place one day and so long ago they have since turned blue.

Over time, black tattoos will go blue, unless you get them re-done.

But why? The tattoos, I mean, not the fact of their fading to blue.

“Because,” Mom said. Makeup costs money and this also saved time. We didn’t have much of either, in our house. It made a lot of sense, and aligned perfectly with my mom’s brutal practicality.

She did it for us.

If my dad had something to say about that, we never heard it.


(I always thought Mom’s eyebrows were fearsome because of my mom. I’ve not seen many people with them done, though I suspect on some level that my mom may have something to do with it. She is just that capable.)


The time my dad shaved off all his hair (including his mustache, including his eyebrows).

It was either shortly after or shortly before.

In fact, it was both.


My mom was in the ICU, recuperating, drugged. The surgery was long, but the prognosis was good. We stood there, my sister and I, hovering by her bedside, not sure of what to say. Finally, I said the I only thing that seemed worth saying in that moment: “They’ve gone so blue.”

The way her eyebrows rested on her face, the sheer blueness of them…her expression before us was one of severe, unmitigated reproach. It was as if she could hear us talking; it seemed that even in sleep she was aware, alert and admonishing.


“Yeah. She looks super pissed off. And very blue, actually,” replied Dolly. Mom’s natural pallor, whether it was from the ordeal of the surgery or because of the weird off-color lighting of the ICU, had gone decidedly indigo. Her arched blue brows did nothing to dispel the illusion. “It’s like two sharks colliding,” Dolly remarked, matter-of-factly, and we were both reassured.

Everything would be OK.

(Dolly is excellent with the facts of matters great and small.)

The ICU nurse overheard us and said nothing. It’s not hard to wonder what she probably thought of the scene playing out in front of her. It’s not difficult to surmise that she likely kept quiet not for our benefit, but for hers. Why risk that look herself? Why ruin what, by our standards, was a perfectly good reunion? No need to impose, to interrupt.

How dare she?

My dad’s eyebrows had grown back by then, as did some of the hair on his head, but he didn’t regrow the mustache, which I think my mom always hated anyway.

The night before the surgery, in her hospital room, he bought her a flower from his garden, which she also hated (it also being rather overgrown and quite unmanaged). But she accepted the flower.

My aunt was there too, but no one mentioned the salon.





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What’s Up, Doc? Doc, What’s Up?


I went to see the doctor for the same reason that I think a lot of people go to see the doctor: non-specific symptoms that are nonetheless worrying.

– lower back pain

– persistent numbness in my right hand

– slight numbness in my left hand

– stiff, sore neck

– massive headaches

– muscle cramps
I don’t have a family doctor in Toronto. So I went to that medical purgatory known as the walk-in-clinic. There are many, many walk-in-clinics in Toronto, some more derelict than others. All of them complete with that sterilized urine smell.

It’s defeat, that smell.  A kind of death-but-not-quite-if-only. It’s a smell that it would not be unreasonable to raze an entire building afterward, just to be rid of it. Just to be sure.

A lot of Canadians and a lot of non-Canadians love to talk about free health care in Canada. Americans often look upon it in envy, while Scandinavians, I’m sure, just laugh and laugh and laugh.
If I were to explain it to Aliens: Our bodies are bags of guts and muscles and bone inside skin and people? They bruise, they break, they get sick.  It happens, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes not, always in hindsight. Good health is viewed as a right, except when its not. Illness and wellness everywhere involve a lot of magical thinking that makes more or less sense, more or less. Words like “shaman” and “breakthrough”, and “evil-eye” and “biocultural” come up. Seeking relief from illness can be an admission of mortality, or an acknowledgement of the absurdity of immortality, or the illness itself can be a signifier of broken taboo, or the result of bad genes, or a harbinger of worse to come, or karmic retribution, or evidence of evolutionary inferiority, etc., etc., etc.

On and on and on…
If I were to explain it to Strangers: Here, it’s not like on our TV shows and movies. There is a lot of process to it, going to a doctor, involving tests and follow-ups and, if needed, specialists. This process can take weeks, or months, and is characterized by waiting and uncertainty, especially for people who do not have a family doctor. Lots of people do not have family doctors, despite overwhelming demand. In the Canadian health care system, there are tiers even though we’d really rather not admit it, possibly due to a misguided and/or overblown and/or superficial and/or simply fantastic sense of patriotism. Or indifference. Some tiers are better than others. There are Canadians who can afford it who sometimes go south, to the U.S., where the system is messed up too, but where the facilities are among the very, very best.[1]
Here, preventive health care calls upon a retroactive magic, in which you should have known not to get sick in the first place and/or should have known that you needed to come in for help earlier. People who seek medical attention for Things that later turn out to be nothing or not much are troublemakers. Time wasters in an exhausted and overworked system. You can go in and come out feeling like shit on top of the shit you came in for. Shitty is the word.

Canadian Health Care. Yes. It is free. And my experience is that you get what you pay for.

And that nothing is free.

I have learned a lot about FREE CANADIAN HEALTH CARE these past few weeks. Every swipe of your health card, which you must swipe to be seen is worth anywhere from $58-$155 (the price of admission without a health card).

Wait times can range anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half to motherfucking infinity. The admin try to be as efficient as possible but of course this is a relative thing, here, deep within the cold hard bosom anus that is “first-come-first-served-unless”[2] basis especially of a walk-in-clinic waiting room.

People will get turned away, sent home or to EMERGENCY rooms.[3]

There is no follow up that approximates anything approaching sensible. You see whoever is available that day and not who you saw before. You cannot schedule an appointment with the person saw you before. In this way, and if you come in more than once, you get to watch your prognosis – the narrative of your well-being – change.

These are the doctors I saw:
1) Soft Talker Fuzz Face

Could not understand half of what this almost-bearded fellow breathed my way. He waved this hands around listlessly as he talked then pulled them back into his chest when he caught me looking. He sent me upstairs for blood tests and a neck X-ray (two more swipes of the health card), citing spinal injury, diabetes and nerve damage.
2) Kind Of Gregarious Guy

An affable if flummoxed young lad, he ordered another blood test after receiving the confusing results of my first blood test. The X-ray showed a neck spasm that he said could be treated with rest, most likely. He told me not to worry and to please have a nice day but oh, not to forget my health card when I came back for my results.
3) Big Knuckles, Sweaty Temples

With a wave of his giant paw, this doc dismissed all other explanations in favour of carpel tunnel and related back pain. He told me to “just get a brace.” His belly gut quivered as he leaned just a little closer and told me “losing some weight wouldn’t hurt.” He described complicated floor exercises for me to do at home. I felt like I should have taken notes even though that’s absurd, and it would be more absurd if I actually did take notes. I imagined him sneaking out during his break to smoke in front of the building.

The exercises didn’t help my back. They only made it look like I was having imaginary sex on my floor, and it was very underwhelming. I bought the brace.
4) Vaguely British?

If Vaguely British told me he, vaguely, was “from the colonies” I would find nothing strange about it, he being vaguely British? By the time I saw VB, I had already (on top of everything else) spent a whole day and a half with the stomach flu, putting all of my orifices to very good use.  It was…incredibly thorough.

“All the things wrong with you could mean you have a lot of things going on and not just one big thing that’s wrong with you.” He meant that to reassure, to comfort. He said he doubted it, but let’s go ahead and see if I had West Nile (for real). He ordered more tests, more X-rays.  More swipes of the card.
5) Lady Doctor

Lady Doctor is called Lady Doctor because she was the only Lady Doctor who saw me and she was the only Lady Doctor I saw working there. Lady Doctor asked me something all the other non-Lady-Doctors had not: “Have you recently had your period?”[4] Given the anomaly of my test results, this could be important. Then again, maybe not, but it was not – in my current reality of ambiguously meaningful double negatives – perhaps an unimportant question.  She ordered another test for me, her “mystery patient”. That one came out clean.
So what is wrong with me?

I don’t know.

I feel tenderized.

I took all my tests and papers and prescriptions an hour-and-a half bus ride to the West, to my family doctor.  She is baffled and is sending me to another doctor an hour-and-a-half East, here, in Toronto, after more blood tests.

During a low point in my life, a friend  once told me that, if nothing else, “at least you still have your health.”

He had a root canal recently, and it failed.

[1] The US is another tier in Canadian Health care.

[2] Unless there is a life-threatening injury or condition, TBD.

[3] There is a story in here somewhere about my mom, appendicitis and an 8-hour wait in the EMERGENCY room.  There is also a story in here about my sister, stomach pains and a 12-hour wait in the EMERGENCY room. Not to mention the one with my friend and head injury and the 7-hour wait in the EMERGENCY room. They’re all there.

[4] Yes!

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