Friday, August 15, 2008

Birth Defect in New Orleans

Po-boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
I Can’t Get No
The Lazarus Factor
There’s a notice that is placed in many establishments that I frequent. Essentially what it says to me is that, with the amount of alcohol that flows in my bloodstream and that has run rampant in my family for generations, I am a birth defect.
I, like many Americans my age, come from a heritage where drinking was an expected daily activity that pregnancy did not interrupt…or even slow down. As we all know, the ritual of imbibing and carousing, as an intramural sport, leads to altered states of mind. In my case, those altered states span generations. Perhaps that is what makes and keeps my thinking processes askew of what is considered ‘normal’ by persons (un-named) who claim normalcy as a personal character trait. Maybe I need a support group. ‘Hello, my name is Phil and I am a birth defect’….. “Hello Phil!”
So, my trains of thought, on no particular schedule or premeditated route, run amok occasionally, if not more often. I’m often caught boarding the segue bus, as well.
. What would you say if you found out that I was paying good money to see a doctor with symptoms of chills, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, disorientation, sinus flows that rival Niagara and stuff coming up from lungs that is the consistency of crème brulee. Compounded by fits of coughing that lead to gagging and gasping for breath? You probably would say that I needed to find a healthier doctor, or, being I was the patient, that this would be a case of money well spent, eh?
What if the doctor said, “It sounds as if you have an irritation”? Would it be askew to think ‘Yes, in fact I DO have an irritation, in fact, I’m getting more irritated by the minute and I think that you have just made me even MORE irritated, Far be it from me to need a better diagnosis than"irritation".
I just talked to one friend that told me that he was in a bar, really recently, and the bar was held up by goons with shotguns. Another man that I had worked with showed up with a beating that he took on his doorstep for his money, identification, cell phone and keys. His face resembled raw meat.
A man that I know told me of his car being totaled by a hit and runner. He told me that as the police arrived, the scores of witnesses to the event all got up and went inside their houses.
Talk about irritations!
My landlady called me up to tell me that my rent was being doubled at the end of the month, and I’m looking for something upbeat to write about. That would be nice except right now I'm packing up and looking for another place to live and trying to keep my cool. I’m trying not to be irritated anymore.
I want visions of sugarplums to dance in my head, and raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; not towels packed in boxes and sofas in storage.
Okay, I’ll tell you a funny story.
Since I’ve moved back, as if THAT is not funny enough, I’ve been more fascinated by the obituary section of the newspaper. For anyone who relates to this: do you notice that, post K, our obits suck? Where are the explanations of their Big Ds? Where are the nicknames? Where are the “undetermined causes”? I don’t want to know about the ‘passing on into the arms of sweet baby Jesus quietly in the night’. I want mayhem, murder, cancers, carbuncles, train wrecks and mysterious chasms that open and swallow. I want to feel lucky.
I tell people that I’m looking for my name there, and that it would be just like my friends to let me die and not tell me, just for the sicko fun of seeing me show up for work when I could’ve taken the day off. What I’m really looking for is some clue to the purpose of dying. I think that if I search these people’s faces and read their eulogies that I might glean an insight into Big Chill Rationale.
I’ve always considered myself immortal. I’ve always considered death not only an inconvenience, but an insult as well. Doesn’t anyone know how much I have to live for? Or, how much that I have yet to do, to see, to read? Is there a certain age where passion ebbs and the spirit calls it quits? Will my body give out before I do? What happened to those faces on the obituary pages?
I read one once when the cause of death was listed as ‘complications due to Alzheimer’s. Here I thought stuff got simpler with Alzheimer’s -- I guess not.
It took me a long time to wrap my head around “renal failure”. I couldn’t figure my renal from a hole in the ground, let alone how it could fail. I still don’t want to wrap my head around it.
I can see it now: "Phil LaMancusa, died from complications of an irritation"
FYI, I go so far as to collect, clip and post some death notices: a musician here, a chef there. Childhood sweethearts (in their eighties) passing after the hurricane evacuation, an obscure character actor that I remember from my childhood. As I sadly pack to leave my beloved digs I take them down and pack them carefully: doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief.
I just realized that this is not a funny story. Bear with me, maybe I’ll be able to pull it off in the next two hundred words.
So here I am dismantling my life and home. I left posted on the wall two of my small signs; one says “Don’t Look Back”, the other says, “You Are NOT Dreaming”. They have new significance now. I think that I will leave the one that l have over the inside of the front door that says “Entrance To The Asylum”; I put it there to remind myself how nuts the world is and how safe I was once I got home.
I tried to crack a funny with my dog the other day. The vet has given her two more years to live. I opined: “hell Girl, that’s fourteen of your years!” She was not impressed. I said: “what do you expect from a ‘Post K’ birth defect?” She asked me if ‘Post K’ was a breakfast cereal.

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