Having lived in Manhattan and then LA, I made peace with the fact that I would never be able to afford owning a home.  Moving to Paris was no threat to that peace process because surely I wouldn’t own anything in a foreign country and, besides, who knew how long I’d be staying?  Luc works in education and I in publishing, the math isn’t even supposed to work out for us to own anything in a major capital.  So imagine my choc when we bought a one-bedroom apartment in 2007.

After visiting 45 apartments in the two neighborhoods we were willing to live in that were still affordable and gentrified-ready, we found our new home.  Luc and I could afford to buy after all because France is very generous towards first time homeowners who are under a certain age and who earn under a certain income.  The overachievers that we are, we were seemingly so poor that we scored ourselves 60,000€ in loans at 0% interest.  When our banker first told us about these special loans, one offered by the city of Paris and the other by the federal government, I didn’t understand.

“What?! Why would the government do that?” I expressed with amazed consternation.  Luc did not look at me to kill, but to annihilate.

Two months after we ditched our 248 sq. ft. studio for our 441 sq. ft. palace, it was time for our annual homeowner associations meeting.  Since Luc could not leave work early, I would be forced to attend and represent our domestic interests.  Gulp.  I went with two missions.

Firstly, we had to do something about those pesky pigeons; the ones that seemed to live just above us in the attic and wake us up each morning with their cooing and heavy footsteps.  Since we had somehow not met any of our neighbors up to that point  I was extremely anxious about going to a formal meeting and having to speak in front of them, no matter what the subject matter.  While high school French classes prepared me to ask for the check and find out where the restrooms are in any establishment they did not prepare me for talking about bothersome pigeons in the attic.

My second task was to suss out how the others felt about our building’s common stairwell that doesn’t seem to have been renovated since Joanie loved Chachi.  The wall is neither covered with paint nor wallpaper; it is carpeted, an interior design scheme I didn’t know existed.  While not shag, Luc and I were still determined to make it go away.

I believe the professionals refer to this color as Sunset Vomit.

 

I spent the whole day at work panicked about how to bring up these two atypical topics in front of strangers.  Although I was 98.2% fluent by then (with a 3 point margin of error), when I am in uncomfortable situations I never know what will come out of mouth.  I find it frustrating to not always be able to use the exact word I’m looking for because it is often nowhere to be found.  In certain circumstances, my sentence structures are like those of a 10 year old and I therefore must come across as an idiot.   (No offense to any 10 year olds.) And when my insecurities reach defcon 1, my accent falls apart.  For someone who finally learned how to survive public speaking in English my anxiety over speaking in French could be debilitating.

Luckily, my neighbors were out in small numbers that evening and I realized quickly that those present were not so intimidating.  In fact, they barely spoke at all.  Since they didn’t bring up certain issues I found my mojo and with it the courage to speak.  Someone had to.

An opening to discuss the carpeted walls presented itself and I was surprised when another new resident supported the idea of taking it down.  (I decided then and there that she would quickly become my new best friend.)  Apparently, though, we couldn’t just decide like that to take down the carpeting.  We would have to get estimates for the cost and vote on the work to be done at the next meeting, next year.   (Incidentally, I later lost interest in my new best friend because of a pointless cat story she billed as hilarious.  It wasn’t even about her own cat.)

When it came time to vote for the condo’s board members, I was surprised to learn that we even had a board.  When we moved in, they did not send Luc and me a welcome basket of croissants and cheese.  It turns out that the previous owner of our apartment was the board’s president so somebody needed to take his place.  Were there any volunteers?  Silence.   My cowardly neighbors were all looking down so as not to be called on.  Surely I couldn’t be president, I didn’t understand half of the things we talked about.  Heck, we were in the middle of two lawsuits because of unpaid maintenance fees and I started to think for a second that I might be one of the defendants.

Not one single person wanted to assure the proper functioning of our home.   “Ok, this could make for a good story at our next dinner party,” I thought to myself, and volunteered to run.  Someone had to.  However, I agreed to do so only if my neighbors agreed not to knock on our door at two in the morning because of plumbing issues.  I was swiftly voted in and to this day my constituency has kept up its side of the bargain.

High from the rush of my newfound power, I found the courage to bring up the pigeon problem later on in the meeting.  It is not acceptable for a president to be hassled by pigeons.  They must be dealt with.  And so they were…

When I got home that night, Luc beamed with pride at my news.  I went to the meeting terrified, and returned a president.  In his eyes, it was almost as as if I joined a union.

My first task as president was well suited for an American — I had to fire the substitute cleaning lady because she was bleeding us dry.  Before Luc and I moved in, the building hired our original cleaning lady, Mme Dubois, directly as an employee which was much more expensive than going through a cleaning service.  Not only did we pay her salary, we had to pay the notoriously high social taxes that went along with it.

Mme Dubois had been on extended sick leave because of a bad back.  (I hope she didn’t vacuum the walls.)  Her replacement was earning 150% of her salary because her job was considered to be “precarious”, as in she could lose it at any moment if Mme Dubois came back to work.    None of the neighbors could stomach paying such a high salary so we managed to fire the temp, cut Mme Dubois loose and change over to a cleaning service which saved our building 6000€ per year.  I was off to an effective start.  I made note to consider presiding over other neighboring condo boards.

There are 12 units in our building and most everyone keeps to themself.  Our most colorful neighbor is the crazy man on the ground floor.  He is notorious for yelling at crying kids in our and neighboring buildings, pleading with them to shut the fuck up.  He also takes to screaming at himself, often on Saturday afternoons while listening to The Beatles.  One of our friends had the misfortune of bringing a bike into the building once.  After we buzzed him in, he crossed our neighbor’s path and asked him where he could put his bike.

“Up your ass,” came the reply.

In the summer of 2010, having completed my third term as president, I was amused and dismayed to be the only person present at the annual homeowner’s association meeting.  Everyone whines about being busy and not having the time to come to one meeting per year.  We’re all busy; how can I find the time and not them?  As far as I know, I have no special powers.  This in spite of years of countless birthday wishes.

That evening, I had a few proxy votes so managed to sail through the agenda with the rep from our management company.  Unfortunately, that was the year we finally got our act together to vote on taking down the carpet and painting the walls.  Despite my bitter resentment towards my neighbors, I did not feel comfortable voting in favor of making them spend a total of 14,000€.   If only I didn’t care.

Then it came time to vote for president.  I surveyed the empty room of potential candidates.  While it felt weird at first, I naturally nominated myself and then proceeded to vote, for me.  In an instant, our building became an autocratic democracy and I was the corrupt, democratically elected dictator.

This was also the year I found out that the building had lead in its pipes.  While the levels were not dangerous, they would be in 2013 once the laws changed.   No need to worry about my health until then.  That’s a relief.   Changing the pipes is sure to cost a pretty centîme so I have French kissed my dreams of an uncarpeted wall goodbye.  We won’t be able to afford both projects and I fear that lead trumps carpet.

This past year, I was tasked with finding us a new management company because ours was too far from home and a bit more expensive than the average.  The hope was that more people would come to our annual meetings if they were held in our neighborhood.  In any event, the turnouts couldn’t get worse.

I had targeted four companies within a 10 minute walking distance from our building and met with representatives from each of them.  The first company I met with ended up being more expensive than our current company so they were out.  The man at the second company wore a bright red suit to our meeting. Uh…no.  The guy at the third company came to the building to meet me, which I thought was a nice touch.  The fourth company just didn’t seem to care.

In my mind, company Number 3 was the obvious (and cheapest) choice, but careful not to be the autocratic ruler I elected myself to be, I had to consult with the two other members of our condo board.  They were mostly silent members.  The fees involved with these companies are quite complex as are the services they provide so in order to help my two neighbors easily compare and contrast the four proposals, I spent hours creating a spreadsheet.  Luc and I had them over on a Sunday afternoon and I was dismayed when they barely looked over their spreadsheets.  They absent-mindedly listened to what I had to say and agreed to go with company Number 3.  I realized that they wanted someone to decide for them, and like any good dictator I played the role well.  With the dirty business out of the way, they then went on to discuss equally important matters — gossip about people who don’t even live in the building anymore.  At that point, they might as well have thrown in a cat story.

A change in one’s management company happens during the annual homeowner association meetings.  At this year’s meeting, held in our management company’s office, as usual, we had to vote against renewing their contract and then vote in favor of hiring company Number 3.   Through a tireless lobbying effort, I managed to get enough neighbors to attend the meeting.  Once the vote fell, the rep from our original company left her office and the person from Number 3 came in to finish the meeting with us.  No, that wasn’t awkward.

Now that I’ve fired the cleaning lady and our management company, I’m setting my sights on my next target.  The crazy neighbor seems like an obvious choice.  I’m feeling confident about getting him evicted.

 

 

I should have known that I was gay a long time before I figured it out. As a young kid I was a fan of Charlie’s Angels, The Bionic Woman, and Wonder Woman. I couldn’t see enough Broadway musicals as a teen and took to wearing argyle socks. My favorite movie in the 10th grade was The Little Mermaid and I dreamed of both getting married and honeymooning in Disneyworld. Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” was, and still is, my favorite song to dance to with “It’s Raining Men” running a not-too-distant second.

It wasn’t clear until later that there were millions of others just like me, that I was a walking cliché growing up with gay clues circling all around me; big ones that were the equivalent of head hitting hammers.

I came out in 1994 when I was 20 years old, seven years after I found a man stunningly beautiful for the very first time, or at least the first time I was cognizant of it. Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride made me desperately want to do anything he wished, if he had asked it of me and not Robin Wright. I don’t remember being particularly disturbed about finding a man attractive; it seemed so natural what with his perfect features and all.

The attractions steamrolled from there one after the denied other. As an unpopular teen on Friday nights, I would join my parents when they went over to my aunt and uncle’s house to play pinochle. I did not go because I was a fan of watching card games. No, I went because they had the Playboy channel. As I stumbled across it by accident (and it was an accident) that first time while alone in their den, I quickly started to realize that I was more interested in the pool boy than the bored housewife trying to seduce him. I was watching Playboy for the men and got annoyed when there were half hour specials on the playmate of the month. My time was limited; pinochle did not revolve around the Playboy channel’s programming.

Yes, this should’ve tipped me off.

Or maybe earlier when I insisted on singing the entire Annie songbook during one of my parents’ dinner parties…from “Maybe” all the way to “I Don’t Need Anything But You”. As I had stage fright, I performed from underneath the table so I was not able to see what had to be looks of bored desperation on people’s faces.

Or maybe this should’ve raised some rainbow flags…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could never get into watching football and only saw it as a hindrance to eating dinner at a reasonable hour on Sundays. I was obsessed with women’s gymnastics during the Summer Olympics and figure skating during the Winter ones. I grew up watching WWF wrestling because it was chock-full of drama and shirtless men, not because I could appreciate a well-executed piledriver.

I taped General Hospital everyday while at school starting in the 7th grade so I could watch it at night and cried when [spoiler alert] Tania Jones died. I spent days with the theme song to Jem and the Holograms stuck in my head.

There was the time I helped my mother and other women clear the table during a big family barbecue. One of the adult men constructively commented, “Don’t be a fag.” I didn’t realize that helping to clean signified being gay. Though, people do insist that Mr. Clean is gay, don’t they?

I excelled in my 12th grade typing class, a trait I inherited from my mother who used to say that Typing was the only class she got an A in. The captain of the basketball team sat beside me looking on in envy of my speed. His best bud one row back reassured him that it was only typing. “Dude, it’s for girls.”

Three bullies in junior high knew that I was gay before I did. They called me a fudge-packer every time they saw me. I thought this term referred to my over-weight and fondness of chocolate. I didn’t realize until later that they were being remarkably homophobic at an early age. But what did they see in me that I hadn’t yet?

They weren’t the only ones. When I was 15, I spent six weeks travelling on a teen tour with 35 other teens. One night, one of my friends revealed that some of the girls thought that I might be gay. “Oh,” I replied out loud. “Maybe I am,” I kept to myself. I cannot say that my friend was as calm as I was. He was truly offended on my behalf; he seemingly wanted to defend my honor. Was I making a tactical error by not defending it myself?

For a talent show performance that same summer, my friend Deena and I were going to reenact a song and dance number from One Life to Live. When I saw the look in some people’s eyes as we rehearsed on the bus, I quickly realized that if I went through with it, people would not just suspect that I was gay. So we found an alternative that did not involve the use of jazz hands.

In high school, I concentrated my attraction to men on one classmate in particular who had a reputation for being a ladies man. I flirted, I touched in passing, I made inappropriate propositions…all in jest, of course, but not really. I thought I had a chance (I’m not sure at what exactly) because he was in the drama club and chorus. Then one day he confided in me with a concerned tone that he thought I was bisexual. I quickly retorted that I was just kidding, whatever I did or said I was never serious. This shut me up for good with him. The secret I was keeping from myself almost got out.

During my junior year, I was caught in a love triangle except that the two other parties involved were not in love with me. Laurie and Jake were both my best friends yet hardly friends with one another. I convinced myself that I had a crush on Laurie so when Jake and she started dating, I didn’t take it well. I took it much worse when it felt like Jake was abandoning me to spend more time with Laurie. It didn’t occur to me until years later that Jake was the one I had a crush on. I somehow missed that minor detail.

As a frequenter of Broadway, I often passed by certain kinds of unreputable establishments that could be found on 8th Avenue in the theater district. One in particular always caught my attention because its sign above the door read “Cock Around the Clock”. What in denial gay teen didn’t dream about going to a badly pun-named strip club?

One day I had the occasion to be in Manhattan entirely by myself and so decided to take advantage of my solitude and pursue the fantasy. I was ready to see naked men in real life rather than just on pay cable.

I was positively terrified yet excited. I had no idea what to expect once I entered and had no idea what kinds of other men would be inside. I self-consciously opened the door and was confronted by a steep staircase worthy of a Hitchcock film. Once I made my nervous ascent, I quickly bought my entrance ticket and made my way to the “theater”, barely taking in my surroundings.

I was crestfallen when I entered. I suppose that I imagined a beautifully muscular man dancing in a G-string to the hoots and hollers of good-looking men in the audience. It was 11am on a Tuesday. The audience was empty save for the dirty old man up in the corner. The naked performer on stage was sitting on a chair, touching himself with what smelled like Coppertone 8, and he wasn’t the least bit attractive. I had seconds to decide where to sit and so chose the front row, directly in front of him. Anywhere else, I worried, would’ve been insulting.

There I was, an uncomfortable 17 year old wearing a toggle coat from the Gap, khaki pants, with a book in hand watching a stripper at “Cock Around the Clock”. It was not exactly the moment dreams are made of. Shortly after my arrival, the man put on his G-string (there it was), stepped down from the stage and approached me. Oh God, he sat on my lap.

“I’m just here to observe,” I insisted in a panic. It didn’t even occur to me to bring singles.

“That’s ok,” he reassured me without getting up. “Don’t be so nervous.” He gyrated a bit. “How’s your book?”

I ran. I got up in a flurry spitting out apologies, and fiercely made my way to the exit and flew down that hellish stairway back to the safety of daylight. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t be gay. I wouldn’t be gay. I would stop thinking about men. I would make sure of it.

I should have known; it didn’t stick.

I grew up before Ellen came out on prime time and passed the baton to Will & Grace who helped bring homosexuality to the mainstream. This was before Tom Hanks barely kissed Antonio Banderas, before there were Angels in America, before three drag queens Abba’d their way across the Australian Outback and before Rosie O’Donnell pulled the ole bait-and-switch.

I wouldn’t dare suggest that I grew up in a difficult environment. Compared to many, I had it easy. It’s just that homosexuality was not yet discussed openly and if so, it was certainly never done so in a positive manner. My only gay role model growing up was Jack Tripper and so that doesn’t count.

Yes, certainly, somewhere in the midst of all this confusion I realized that I was gay. I just wasn’t ready to accept it yet. If only I knew then what I do now, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time.

All of that being said, one cliché didn’t take; I never cared much for Barbra.


I don’t like being out of my comfort zone. Not only does it make me uncomfortable, it makes me regress.

Carrying out my life in a foreign language has made me revert to the awkward, shy teenager that I try so hard to forget I was. Being a thirtysomething who is not guaranteed to put together an entire sentence, let alone an entire thought, gramatically correctly has made me self-conscious all over again. I speak minimally, do not expand upon thoughts in a profound way, and am constantly worried about my accent and whether people can understand it. Even if people compliment me on my French or assure me that my accent is charming, it is exhausting at times to be constantly reminded how I am different. Of course being unique is great but not every time I open my mouth.

When I first moved to France, I did anything I could to avoid vocal interactions with other Frenchmen. Thankfully, buying a baguette is formulaic, e-mail and texts have replaced phone calls, and more and more things have become automated, like buying movie and metro tickets.

However, since doctors are not machines I knew that I would eventually need to carry on a medical conversation in French, something I was not dying to do. But after seven years of chronic knee pain it was time to see if the French could cure what the Americans could not.

I liked my new primary care physician, Dr. Martin, from the start. He set aside a few hours each day for unscheduled appointments which allowed me to avoid phoning a secretary to make one. I was surprised to see upon my arrival, however, that a secretary was nowhere to be found. The door opened onto a waiting room with 10 other patients already inside.

There was nobody there to explain which doctor out of the three in this particular office I was there to see or why. There was no patient information form to fill out nor was there was a sign-in sheet. I took a seat and waited my turn, hoping it would be obvious when that turn would come.

I’m often scared of conversations I’m not convinced I can have, and get tongue-tied when around people of authority. In this case, I was not only worried about spitting out the right words and articulating clearly, but was anxious that I wouldn’t understand what the doctor had to say back. Sometimes doctors have relevant things to say concerning our health and I didn’t want to miss anything important.

I had brought a book with me to help pass the time but I was too busy repeating medical vocabulary and formulating practice sentences in my head. MRI, physical therapist, cortisone, shot, pain, limp, anti-inflammatory…the translations for these words were all pirouetting through my head in a stressed-out frenzy.

When I finally made it into Dr. Martin’s office an hour later I did my best to explain that I had had pain in my right knee every day for at least seven years. An MRI (accompanied therewith) led an American doctor to determine that I had bursitis (in layman’s terms, an inflammation). Said doctor gave me a painful shot of cortisone and sent me to a physical therapist. The physical therapist showed me stretching exercises that should cure me and then sent me to a podiatrist because I walked funny and needed custom-made insoles for my shoes. [At 28, this walking funny business, and possible culprit, was news to me.]  Hundreds of dollars later, none of this worked.

Dr. Martin simply gave me the name of a specialist, wrote me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory, and sent me on my way. That wasn’t so hard. Then he asked me for the 22€ I owed him for the visit, which I would be reimbursed for later. Through my domestic partnership with Luc, I’m in the French health care system. Even if I wasn’t, I could afford a doctor’s appointment.

The bad news was that I now needed to go to the pharmacy. I don’t like pharmacies here because there’s no Advil, Tylenol or NyQuil — no recognizable comfort drugs that remind me of home. They also don’t sell chocolate candy, cigarettes, school supplies or lawn chairs.

Once there, I silently handed over the prescription for the anti-inflammatory, praying for a simple exchange. No such luck — the pharmacist asked for my government issued medical ID card. I obliged. Since I was new, I wasn’t yet entirely in the health system. Instead of not having to pay anything upfront, he explained that I would need to pay for the drugs myself and that I would get reimbursed later.

“Will that be possible for you?” he asked with sincere concern.

I quickly calculated how much money was left in my checking account and subtracted the amount I guessed the drugs would cost based on past experiences in the US.

“That should be ok. What will the medication cost…80, 100€?”

“14.”

My leg specialist, while very kind and American-friendly, did not do much to cure my bursitis which he decided was tendonitis (in layman’s terms, an inflammation). After more drugs, cortisone shots, and useless months of physical therapy he sent me to a surgeon. Although I was scheduled to see the surgeon at 11am, I didn’t enter his office until 2. Not only was he behind schedule, he made me wait while he ate lunch.

Within 5 minutes, the well-fed surgeon with spinach stuck in his teeth determined that an operation would be too risky and advised against it. When he told me the cost of my consult, I thought he had said 120€. I was not shocked because I figured surgeons earn more than primary care physicians so I handed over my cash. Later, at home, I looked at the bill and saw that my consult actually cost only 80€. Not only did the good doctor waste my time, he ripped me off.

Could I dare go back and question this man, a prominent surgeon? I had no paper trail to prove anything; it would be my accented-word against his.

I was reminded of the time when I chewed on glass in a restaurant while dining with friends visiting from home. No, the menu did not mention anything about glass so I was quite startled when I bit down onto that shard. The waiter was very apologetic but I was dismayed when the bill arrived with the cost of my meal on it. I was foolishly too shy and too concerned about being the “obnoxious American” to demand that my meal be free. It’s one of those things I often think about with regret.

So I knew that this time I had to go back, defend myself and get my money. I practiced the hypothetical conversation while limping back to the doctor’s office. I nervously explained to the medical secretary that I misheard quatre-vingts (80) for cent vingt (120) and that the doctor must not have paid attention to the amount I gave him. The secretary spoke with the doctor and after a moment of very awkward tension he conceded his error. I was proud of myself for not letting my timidness cost me nearly $60, the equivalent of 5 minutes with a cheap hustler [shameless plug alert — see Hey].

I don’t believe in hocus pocus, but when friends raved about a miraculous “magnetiseur” who cost only 25€, I was intrigued. Since such a person is not recognized by the government as a legitimate health care practitioner I would not to be reimbursed. But for 25€, I figured that I had nothing to lose at that point.

I’m still not sure what a magnetiseur is exactly, but Judith is some sort of healer who transfers her energy to her patients in order to cure whatever ailment they have. After listening to my medical history, which I had gotten quite good at recounting by then, she asked me to roll up my pants leg before she placed her hands strategically onto the inflamed portion of my knee. For her, the tendonitis v. bursitis debate was of little importance.

Judith seemed to be deep in concentration which I was quite uncomfortable with. I always feel the need to make small talk (even in French) with anyone providing me with a corporal service. I did not know if she could transfer energy and speak at the same time. I hesitantly asked her if I could talk; she replied “yes” while laughing [at me?].

“Did you study medicine to do this kind of work?”

She laughed, again. “No,” she replied with dignity. “It’s a gift.”

Whatever you want to call it, it worked. After 3 sessions, some weird plant extracts and shark cartilage imported from Luxembourg, Judith did what 5 doctors, 3 physical therapists and a whole lot of drugs and shots could not. Nowadays my tendonitis only flares up when it rains, like an arthritic 80 year old.

I’ve come to worry that Dr. Martin thinks I’m a hypochondriac. When I recently found out that there is lead in our tap water at home, I went straight to him insisting on blood tests. According to a very reliable source, the Internet, any amount of lead can be dangerous. When I explained why I was there, I could see his eyes rolling in his mind.

“Are you sick?” he asked me. “Any digestive or respiratory problems. Problems with your motor skills?”

“No. It’s not that I’m sick now, I just worry that lead will make me sick later.”

He took my blood pressure and checked my breathing. I must not have said what I thought I just said. He told me that I was fine.

My blood tests showed that I do indeed have lead in my blood, but not enough to warrant medical attention. I’m only halfway there; I always was an underachiever.

Then there was the time I found a lump. I was convinced I had cancer even if lumps don’t form where this one was. A few days later Dr. Martin took me down from the ledge of hysteria. I had a hernia, he explained — essentially, a whole in my stomach muscle’s lining which required surgery. Gulp.

My surgery was scheduled for a Monday morning, so I had to check-in to the hospital late Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure why. Once I was shown to my room, I had nothing but free time until my 5am wake-up call. Luc and I took a tour of the grounds since there is nothing more depressing than being a healthy patient in a hospital bed.

Although it felt like a prison, or boarding school, there was no kind of “lights out” policy in effect. I was warned that I may miss dinner if I returned to my room too late but I was willing to take that risk. In fact, Luc and I decided to have drinks and dinner in a small bistro nearby. Coincidentally, my surgeon [not the knee one] chose the same place. I was not sure if she recognized me from our one previous encounter but I wasn’t about to go over and say hello. But I did keep my nervous eye on the bottle of wine in front of her.

It’s not that I have a fear of hospitals, I just don’t care for them very much. In my experiences, nobody comes out of a hospital cured, they’re just temporarily fixed until a health issue becomes unmanageable again.

Sure, mine was a minor surgery, but surgery nonetheless which required general anesthesia. Not everyone wakes up from that. So, I’ll admit it — I was scared. Which was unfortunate for the unassuming woman tasked with wheeling me from my room to surgery. I was alone, in a foreign country, and about to go under…I needed reassurance.

“I’m scared.”

“I’m sure that everything will be fine.”

If the surgery didn’t kill me, the cliché would.

In the operating room I was greeted by the anesthesiologist. I’ve seen every medical show created for television since “Trapper John M.D.” so that gas mask was no surprise, the suffocating sensation was. No instructions were given, at least none that I understood. I was breathing, and then with the mask on, I was not. I panicked and gesticulated for them to remove it. They confirmed that I was meant to breathe normally, even with the mask on. They replaced the mask, I breathed in twice, and then woke up what felt like one second later in recovery. That was cool.

It’s worth mentioning that I had absolutely no out of pocket cost for this entire process which included a consult with the surgeon , two nights in the hospital, one surgery and two weeks of much needed pain killers.

*****

Then there was the time I went to the proctologist…

Hey

By Gregory Messina

Essay

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas and the only things stirring were those martinis at G Bar in Chelsea.

It was the year of my mother’s cancer and I went out quite often.It wasn’t that I took comfort in alcohol, I just needed to get out of my cramped apartment when loneliness crept in late at night.Although I sometimes never felt more lonely than while in a gay bar, it’s where I often chose to go just to be surrounded by others.Since I didn’t have a boyfriend whose arms I could turn to for comfort, I looked for whatever arms I could find for the night.

Nobody could argue when I say that the French national pastime is going on strike.It is the punchline of many a joke and has become cliché for a reason.Everybody does it and often: teachers, students, civil servants, daycare centers, air traffic controlers, train conductors, bikers…even the unemployed went on strike recently.When I first moved to France and saw that dental students were on strike, I was surprised to learn that there were dental schools here [Sorry, low blow].

I never liked kids very much.  Even when I was one of them I didn’t like myself, I’m not convinced I had any friends to like, and I certainly didn’t like the kids that picked on me.