Before Equality’s Crown—
Turn — stem-cell machine.
Before Equality’s Crown—
Turn — stem-cell machine.
The room held a battleship-gray metal desk along with two chairs. That huge chipped and dented desk dominated the small room. For all I knew, it probably saw action during the last world war.
The doctors deemed that my 11-year old tonsils needed yanking out. Doctors in the 1960’s were ready to slice and dice those things out as soon as a kid had a few sore throats.
First they said I needed blood work. That’s how I ended up with that desk sitting in one of those chairs.
An older girl, maybe six or eight years older than me walked into the room and sat across from me.
A enormous needle connected to a huge glass vial appeared on the desk. She took my unwilling arm and jabbed me with the needle. And jabbed and jabbed, dozens of times (or so it seemed). Finally the torture ended. She left and I was sent to my hospital room.
An older woman walked in holding a basket with more needles and vials! She said that the torture I had just undergone yielded no blood work after all. I said impossible, I can’t go through this again.
Before I knew it, the woman inserted the needle in my arm, filled the vial with blood, and left the room. Rather painless.
So I was a guinea pig for a novice in training. That’s what happens when you’re a nobody with no one to protect you, no status, no wealth. Surely those Kennedy kids never got any medical personnel in training.
Life is not fair.
I keep thinking about Andy Miller’s book “The Year of Reading Dangerously.” I started reading dangerously at a young age.
When I was eleven years old, I picked up an old paperback copy of “Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” in a used bookstore. This is an erotic novel published in 1748 that became a best seller even though its publication was illegal.
When I read it, I not only didn’t understand many of the words, I didn’t comprehend many of the concepts. A lady of pleasure: I only had a vague concept of what this possibly meant. The author, John Cleland, used tons of metaphors instead of direct prose when describing sex. It was difficult to decipher metaphors for things I was mostly clueless about.
I reread the book about ten years later with a much better understanding of what that pleasure was all about. I realized that commerce was involved along with the sensation.
At the age of twelve, I read “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge was a black man in a Civil Rights era America that made him dangerously angry. He ended up jailed for rape. In his eyes, he rebelled against the white man’s law by raping white women. He exacted revenge for the the way some white men historically debased black women.
In high school, my English teacher began talking about appropriate and inappropriate books for children to read. He was all for anyone reading anything and everything.
I mentioned that I read “Soul on Ice” quite young. He said that this is proof that reading never harms a person.
Ah, but he did not know the depth of my wretchedness. I escaped my own personal hell by reading books, and Cleaver and Cleland were welcome reprieves. Would my teacher appreciate the comfort I found in depravity?
In the third grade, I fell in love with Nick Naroni. Nick had black hair, green eyes, and was actually a taller third-grader than I was. He also read Greek and Roman mythology or at least versions of those stores that could be found in a public elementary school library. So being in love as I was, I adopted his interests and also began reading mythology. Nick failed the fourth grade and I lost sight of him, but literature remains a passion of mine.
I just finished reading Andy Miller’s book “The Year of Reading Dangerously.” Last year I read “My Life in Middlemarch” by Rebecca Mead. Both of these authors reflect on how a book or books can affect a person’s life. What a goofball I am, I read about other people reading. Or so my husband thinks I am.
In Andy’s book sometimes you can’t make out where the books he writes about end and where his life begins. His book reading propels him through a sort of mid-life crisis. After many years where parenthood, the hectic pace of life and work interfere with his first love of reading, he becomes determined to make the time to read fifty great books (and two not so great). The books truly connect with his life.
One time, Nick did an oral report in class on mythology. He started asking questions about the ancient gods and I answered every one of his questions. As you know, I’d been reading. Then he asked a question about something that I didn’t read about: “Why is the month of January named after the god Janus?” Janus was a Roman god with two faces. The probable answer clicked in my head right away. “Because one face looks to the old year and the other to the new year,” I responded. All my correct answers surprised the teacher and Nick. I was so proud of myself. Decades later I’m still reliving my moment of glory!
Anyway, the books through my life are precious and have become part of my essence. Thanks Andy (and Nick) for providing me with a blog post topic. I’ve got stories about my book reading too.
I live in an Impressionist painting. Lines and colors blur. I see no sharp edges. More Pointillism than clearly defined points.
Strings of Christmas lights increase in diameter ten-fold in a diffused fashion. Streetlights and headlights sparkle and spread. Candles are better, bright lights hurt.
I see spots before my eyes! And squiggly lines dart about. I see something in my peripheral vision. No, it’s all in my head.
Faces are a mystery if they are too far away. Far away is only a few feet. Others must think I’m a snob when I can’t read their facial expression from a short distance. My eyes just fail to read a smile, a frown, a grimace. Sorry, I’m blind to your emotions.
That’s my world without eyeglasses. Thick and heavy ones for the hopelessly myopic. This is my artistic vision. I can’t see the scientific narrative.
Layman books on physics litter a portion of my bookshelf. I’ve read some of them and do remember the butterfly effect. A butterfly in Africa flutters its wings and a hurricane develops near the Florida coast. The innocuous becomes the monumental.
If the delicate wing of a butterfly alters events so dramatically, what about windmills? While windmills create a more benign form of energy, they may also alter events on this planet.
Machines and humans live symbiotically. Separation may no longer be possible. Machines keep increasing farm yields to keep both the weak and strong alive. Computers run commerce, governments, medical, and artistic endeavors. Travel, the worldwide version we crave, requires machines that consume vast amounts of energy. Small-tech devices meld with our bodies.
Over 7 billion pairs of human eyelashes flutter today. Nature tries to cull our ranks with bacterias and viruses and we fight back.
The human/machine creatures root for a clean, healthy planet. To maintain both is irrational. At some point, something must be sacrificed.
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