Victor knew that Christmas was important to me.  None of the kids could come and they were really too busy for us to visit.  I asked Victor to take me on a trip.  Maybe away from home, I wouldn’t feel the pull of Christmases past.  That may have been where I made my mistake.  It turns out that it’s Christmas wherever you go.

The trip could’ve been flawless, but someone in Dubai gave me the evil eye. I didn’t see it happening, but I know when I get smacked by a witch.  My eyes and eyebrows started itching.  Before long my eyes were all but lost in a sea of red swollen skin.  I looked like I had been mugged. I scratched out almost all of my eyebrow hair.

My ears began swelling next, itching and also turning red.  My earlobes looked like individual testicles, dangling next to my face.  I’m here to tell you that turning 63 was enough to face, without looking hideous as well. (If you thought I’d provide a picture here, you certainly don’t know me as well as you thought.) Over a two-week period it gradually got better, so it appeared that, thankfully, that evil affliction was not a permanent one.

Then we got to Singapore and I looked almost normal, although my ears still felt a bit funny and, of course, I didn’t have much in the way of eyebrows, which is an unusual look. Now you would think that the evil eye had finished its dastardly work, right?  That’s what I thought.

I took what was supposed to be a soothing bath the first morning of our week in Singapore and threw my back out.  To be more precise, I threw my butt out.  I don’t know how.  Nothing whatsoever happened.  I just felt this shooting pain and that was it.  I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying Singapore with Victor, though.  It is a wonderful place, I’ll tell you about it another time.  We walked all over Singapore.  Seven days of walking and being enthralled.  I was okay walking.  Walking only ached.  What I couldn’t do was sit.  Sitting hurt.  Getting up from sitting to standing was agony.  But after being up for a few minutes, making the quietest whiney noises I could, the worst of the spasm would pass and I could walk pretty much normally.

As the wonderful week in Singapore was coming to an end, the hotel rules were that we had to leave the room at 10:30 am.  This was reasonable, however our plane was not due to leave until 11:30 pm, so we bought time in the hotel until 6 pm and also another day of Internet access, in case there was an emergency back home.

We went to the airport at 6pm and checked in, five and a half hours early for our flight.  Our actual trip home was 27 hours, in steerage, of course, counting the wait for the second plane at Heathrow.

They make you sit on planes.  I kept trying to stand up.  I tried to explain.  They don’t care what your reason is; they want you to sit.  It was a long time sitting.  Flight Attendants do not provide drugs.  I asked.  I think that is a glaring hole in their passenger service.  Flight Attendants should provide drugs.  It would be better for the passengers and also better for the Flight Attendants.  Where’s the down side?

Thankfully, the flights were just about on time and we got home when they said we would.  When I got in the house, I called the doctor’s office.  This was Wednesday afternoon.  I couldn’t get in to see him until Monday.

I stood for days.  I had “compulsory TV watching with Victor” while standing at the bar in the TV room.  I stood all the time except when in bed.  I can be in a lying position, but only on my side, with a pillow between my knees. (That reminded me of how I had to sleep when I was pregnant.  That was a nice memory.)

I had an MRI because the orthopedist wanted to see inside my lumbar region.  (That is the polite way to say that he wanted to see what was cooking inside my butt.)  The MRI was fun.  You are cocooned and you wear earplugs and they send you into a cylinder.  It’s very comforting.  It is surprisingly noisy though, so I kept waking up thinking how bad the music was.  I was sorry when the 30 minutes were up.  It was very relaxing.

Unfortunately, my orthopedist just went on vacation for two weeks, and although they said that I would find out the results overnight, they didn’t really mean it.

Well, it’s been a week since my MRI and I finally got the report.  The problem is that I have no idea what it means.  My discs are “desiccated throughout the lumbar spine.”  Now aren’t we all wet inside?  How can my discs be drying out in all that blood and bodily fluid?  I have cysts here and there, some going off to the right and some off to the left.  I have at least four discs that are “bulging.”  And this one is my favorite: “At L4-5 there is facet arthrosis and a disc bulge with central/right paracentral disc extrusion extending inferiorly 1.2.cm, contacting the descending right L5 nerve root as it exits the thecal sac.  There is mild bilateral neural foramina narrowing and mild spinal canal stenosis.” Now that is just one sentence in a tightly typed four page report.  I have not a clue what it means.

Victor says that he only did retinas so all he knows is that I’m getting shorter.  My back hurts and I’m getting shorter?   I think this evil eye is stuck to me.  I need an evil eye remover.  Anyone got any ideas?

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

133 responses to “The Evil Eye Situation”

  1. Ben says:

    Funny that dad pleads ignorance about the results of your tests. He never seemed to doubt his qualifications to quickly assess and, invariably, send his feverish children to school. (I always assumed that was a doctor thing. Is that just a hard-ass thing? Someone with a different father should weigh in.)

    Anyway, a lot of people, all around the world, work very hard to deform their ears in elaborate ways. You should embrace it! You could even begin a second career as a carnival sideshow. The most obvious tag would be “The Testicle Eared Woman”, but I think “Testical Head” has a more showy ring to it.

    The sky’s the limit, really.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Someone with a different father will have to weigh in, since your father doesn’t read any of this, Ben.
      But, you forget, when you were really sick and you had a fever, I took you to the doctor and you did stay home, you only got sent to school when you were malingering.

      Actually, there is this guy at the apple store who has one of those huge round plates inside his earlobes right now. It creeps me out. I don’t think you’d really want me to have remained with my testicle earlobes. Think of introducing me to a friend, eh? I’ll bet you’d be humiliated.

  2. Melissa (Irene's friend) says:

    Oy vey. I believe spinal stenosis , is a narrowing of part of the spine. I would guess where it hurts. Good guess. I have 4 bulging discs in my neck Hurts like hell all the freaking time.I knew we were like twins. I hope something can be done for you.
    I would really like to see your testicular looking ear lobes. Pictures please.
    Oh and the reason I do not fly is because NO ONE GIVES OUT DRUGS. They give out liquor why not drugs. The second you find an airline that gives out drugs I will travel.
    Oh my tibia is not broken…..YAY. It is a bone bruise. With something something something of the thigh muscles. I have to start Physical Torture. Lovely.

    • Irene Zion says:

      The doctor comes home from vacation and I see him Monday, Melissa.
      Here’s hoping he says everything is hunky-dory and all that mumbo-jumbo doesn’t mean squat.

      • Melissa (Irene's friend) says:

        notice how you skip over the testicle ears picture…….hmm.


        • Irene Zion says:


          Do you have any idea how utterly disgusting I looked?
          And I had just had my birthday!
          My earlobes were wagging and waving like they were trying to take off flying!
          “63-year old woman’s testicle earlobes fly her off the boat and into the sea.”
          Can you read the news article now?

  3. the kayak lady says:

    it all sounds like it hurts. if you were in mn i would give you a massage and we could share stories for the hour. or be quiet. so, can you stare back at that evil eye and invite it, no tell it, to leave?

    • Irene Zion says:

      kayak lady,

      You simply live too far away and in a cold, cold place.
      That is just insurmountable for me.

      (I have asked her nicely to leave me alone, but I get no response….)

  4. Irene! This sounds like a nightmare!

    The thing about Flight Attendants not dispensing drugs: alas, this is true, and a glaring flaw of air travel. However, there are many, many doctors who DO dispense drugs intended for use during air travel. I, for one, never get on a plane without hitting up one of these doctors for various sedating pills. I suggest you don’t use Ambien (given Victor’s previous experiences on it, I doubt you would!) but go for Lorazepam or Valium or Xanax. For flights, I favor the first of the triad. It’s very good for relaxing muscles, too. It doesn’t technically relieve pain, but it kind of does.

    Especially if you combine it with a Vicodin or a cocktail. Although only 1 cocktail, or you might pass out in your taxi from the airport and frighten Victor, as I have been known to frighten David . . .

    • Irene Zion says:

      I actually never thought of that.
      I’ve used ambien, but it (1) doesn’t put me to sleep and (2) makes my restless legs worse.
      I will write those medicines down and ask for prescriptions the next time I can.
      Lord knows, we travel enough for me to need them!

      Nothing frightens Victor.
      He’d just leave me where I dropped and expect I’d find my way home later on when I came to again.
      David sounds a bit more caring to me.
      You should keep him around, Gina.

  5. Alison Aucoin says:

    “My earlobes looked like individual testicles, dangling next to my face.” Thanks. I just spit hot cocoa all over my screen!

    BTW, any idea how I go about getting my cute picture back?

    • Irene Zion says:

      You’ve turned into a ghost!
      (You don’t give the evil eye out, while you’re a ghost, do you?
      Any ideas how to combat such things, ghostie?)

      You have NO IDEA how ugly it is to have those things flapping on your cheeks!
      This was one evil witch lady!

      (Is your computer okay? Can it take hot cocoa?)

  6. Quenby Moone says:

    I’m going by my inner witch doctor so this may or may not work, but I say stand on your head with a mouthful of whiskey (brandy will do–but no white liquors) and quote Shakespeare: “Out, Out Damned Spot!” Although you didn’t murder anyone, I’m guessing that the beseeching tone in which you plead your cysts to leave will make all the difference in the world.

    Other than this piece of useless wisdom, I so, so very much recognize the reality of not being able to escape geographically. Something always puts the whammy on me if I try it. I’ve tried it a lot, and something always gives me the smackdown. I earned the name from my best friend’s father “Judy N. Exile” after one of my last hapless escapes and then ignoble returns….

    I’ll have to write about those adventures some day.

    • Irene Zion says:


      You really can’t get away from what’s really inside you, can you?
      I don’t know why I thought I could, but I’ve learned a lesson.
      Bad things can only result from running away.

      I personally would like to hear the stories of your adventures.
      Begin tomorrow just writing things out, not to post yet, just to get started.

  7. sheree says:

    According to the all seeing google eye you burn black cumin seeds and salt to remove the evil eye. Then you wear a blue bead pinned to your shirt so it doesn’t come back.

    When i get the evil eye vex, I just drink whiskey and jig backwards around a fire until the sun comes up over the mountains.

    I surely am sorry to hear of your ills and I am ever grateful that you did not post a photo of your testicle ears! Poor lady! I wish you well soon.

    Christmas was hard for me this year. My youngest went to see the eldest in Texas. I was happy for them to be together. They called me and celebrated via conference call with me, while emailing me photo’s of the festivities. Nice of them to devise a simple plan to enclude me and send my blues packing!

    Your writing captivates me.

    • sheree says:

      Why the hell i put an E in include, is beyond me. Is your evil eye spell having its way with me? Oh lord I hope not. I’m all outta whiskey! Damn the dirty luck.

      • Irene Zion says:


        I forgot to thank you for supporting me in not posting a hideous picture of myself.
        That’s kind of you.
        I just forgot to capitalize He for God, too.
        We’re all fallible.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Okay, this I can do.
      I have cumin seeds and salt.
      I can’t drink brown liquor, though, that just makes me vomit.

      See? Mothers are all the same. Happy for the kids, but missing them terribly.
      Children growing up is the problem, and mothers growing old.
      That plan was not thought out well, if I might criticize God a little.
      I’m sure he felt bad about Jesus growing up and going through what he did….

      I’m captivated by the fact that you can levitate in your gravitar!

  8. Kate says:

    1. In the last 6 months or so, Ben has gotten migraines on flights twice. Each time we have asked the flight attendants for Tylenol, Advil, aspirin, anything. Of course, we got none of them. This has made flights even more unbearable than usual. I do have a prescription for Ativan (aka lorazepam), so I really should start bringing that with me from now on.

    2. Desiccated discs are beyond my knowledge base, but if you want to talk about HPV, I feel like I know everything about that, now.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Gina and you and I agree.
      Flight Attendants should be required to take a course in pharmacology and carry bags of drugs for all the suffering people on their planes.
      Think of it. They wouldn’t get complaints or anything. SO much better for everyone!

      I only wrote one sentence of a four-page report. Even if you knew about spines, it wouldn’t have been enough information.

      I would like to make it clear that I do not have genital warts.

  9. J.M. Blaine says:

    Ever since
    I started
    wearing the
    Cookie Monster
    outfit on
    all domestic flights
    I’ve had no problems whatsoever.

    Wait. This wasn’t domestic.
    Never mind.

    Isn’t Victor an eye doctor?
    He can’t fix evil eye?
    Some doctor.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I think Victor would have been willing to treat the Evil Eye, but I wasn’t the one with it, the witch was. We would have had to figure out who she was and get her to accept treatment.

      Aside from the flight not being domestic, I’d get too hot in a Cookie Monster Suit.
      (I believe they changed his name, for political correctness’ sake to “Cooking Monster.”
      Now he cooks vegetables on TV, I think.)

  10. Darian Arky says:

    Evil eye remover? Why, an uncontact lens, of course…

    • Irene Zion says:

      Okay, Darian,
      I’m willing to try anything.
      Any idea where I can buy an uncontact lens?
      They don’t have them on eBay or Amazon.

  11. Darian Arky says:

    At the store. Next to the underwear.

  12. Irene Zion says:


    Unaccustomed, though I am I will unabashedly look near the underwear for uncontact lenses, but I am unclear as to the unaccountable connection.

  13. ksw says:

    it is a remote possibility that talking to someone who went to medical school other than an opthalmologist would have been an easier path than posting your results on the internet. i would be happy to explain them to you as well as the epidural steroid injection you need, but you must be too busy composing.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I wasn’t offered an epidural steroid injection by the doctor, ksw.
      I do see him again on Monday morning.
      Probably I should have taken his advice and gotten physical therapy.
      I was annoyed by the insurance making me go all the way to Coral Gables.
      Stupid, I know. I admit it.
      I am looking forward to your opinion on Friday.

      Contrary to your assumption, though, I am not looking for medical advice here, I’m simply complaining.
      Sometimes complaining is good for the soul.
      I’ve heard you complain on occasion.
      Didn’t it feel good?

  14. Becky Palapala says:

    Ugh. So sorry to hear, Irene.

    I have SI joint issues (also in your butt, usually on one side or the other) from years of falling off horses and landing on various parts of my arse as a child/teenager.

    I also have some apparently inherited sciatic nerve issues. Most of the time, it’s fine, but when it goes, it GOES.

    The pain is incredible, and I’m so sorry you have to go through this. As far as medical remedies go, ksw’s recommendation sounds about right according to what I’ve heard from others with similar issues, his/her apparent agitation notwithstanding. Not sure what that’s about.

    I’ve found that regular visits to the chiropractor have helped me, but my issues are not (as far as I know), as advanced as yours.

    Best of luck. I hope to hear you’re ship-shape in short order.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh, Becky,

      Don’t worry about ksw’s attitude, he’s always been a sort of a cranky dude, but dependable, you know?
      I was sort of hoping it would all go away.
      I’ve dealt with lots of things that way and it’s worked.
      I’m doing the cumin and salt thing first.
      If that doesn’t work, it’s off to the physical therapist I go, as soon as I can make the appointment.

      Maybe the doctor will say there’s nothing to worry about on Monday morning.
      It could happen….

      Sorry you have a sore butt too.
      What are SI joint issues?
      Isn’t it more dignified to have a sore back, than a sore butt?
      I think that part isn’t fair.
      Throwing your back out is typical and everyone knows what you mean.
      Throwing your butt out just makes people snicker.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I sort of figured it was someone you knew.

        Cranky but dependable. I can get behind that.

        Your SI joints are your sacro-illiac (sp?) joints. They’re the places where your spine connects to your pelvic bones. Just to the sides of, and slightly higher than, your tailbone, running up to the top of your pelvic bone. You can hurt them by landing on your butt or hips, or extreme low back, especially in a twisty way, which I did a lot of. Repeated injury caused long-term fussiness in mine. On the left side.

        Since it’s still related to my spine and bones, I tell people it’s my back anyway. No need to encourage the snickerers. Besides, usually when it goes out, I don’t feel the majority of the pain it in my butt/pelvis, except for a slightly bruised feeling at the top of my pelvic bone on the side.

        It mostly just causes muscle spasms in my upper-low back that sometimes stretch around to my abs, it’s the spasms that really hurt. And what make me walk all tipped to the side like Quasimodo. Or maybe Igor.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Whatever caused my problem, Becky, it was NOT riding horses.
          I love horses, but they are really, really high off of the ground.
          I got on a Mexican horse once, (I had never ridden a horse,) and it took off running and absolutely refused to learn English! Never got on one again.

          I can’t see you walking like Quasimodo or Igor. Not at all.
          I picture you waltzing into a room.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, I don’t walk like that all the time. Only when my back is out. And its actually only ever gone out THAT badly once.

          Otherwise, I can’t deny. I’m like a ballerina. A ballerina with an attitude problem and a penchant for motorcycle boots.


        • Irene Zion says:


          That is a perfect!

          I can see you exactly like that, “A ballerina with an attitude problem and a penchant for motorcycle boots.”

        • Becky Palapala says:

          To be fair, the motorcyle boots can make for a bit of galumphing.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Thus…the attitude problem!

  15. the kayak lady says:

    in the summer most of the snow is gone……….

    you better raise your voice, put your big girl panties on, and look that evil eye square in the eye and order her to PISS OFF!


  16. Irene Zion says:

    I’ll be there in the summer then, kayak lady!

    I always have big girl panties on.
    I have to work on looking that evil eye square in the face and being assertive.
    (Weeney is sort of my normal speed.)

    • Irene Zion says:

      You know, kayak lady,
      for a little girl you have a big mouth!
      That’s probably why you don’t have evil eye afflictions.

  17. Gregory Messina says:

    I thought doctors are supposed to send patients to other doctors while on vacation. The fact that you have to wait while in such pain is unacceptable.

    Remember my essay about the lady who laid her hands on my knee and gave me her energy? You can come to paris and try it out. She only costs 30€.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Ah, Gregory,
      A very good idea, except you forget!
      Flight Attendants do not give out drugs!
      Just can’t go to Paris now, even if she only costs 30 somethings.

  18. My body attacks me when it gets tired of holding in all the junk I manage to tamp down in the corners of my brain. You know, stuff I can’t leave behind unless I have a lobotomy. Rashes that ooze, mysterious aches and pains, all leave me itchy and huddled and mumbling curled in a corner. Poor you, Irene! The idea of your Christmas travels sounded lovely… Dubai! Singapore! I hope all begins to heal so that you and Victor may be off again! (with a special bag of emergency meds) xxo

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh Robin,

      I know all about psychosomatic aches and pains and rashes. I do, because my brain makes me have them.
      This time, I think the back thing is arthritis-related, old-age related, even.
      We’ll see.

      The first part, the red, itchy, swelling rash part? Probably my brain did it to me, to be honest.

      I’m fine. I just enjoy complaining. No worries.

      (I’ve written down the long list of “Gina’s cures for what ails you on airplanes.”
      I’m getting every one, just at a different time, probably….)

  19. Judy Prince says:

    “My back hurts AND I’m getting shorter?” HA! You poor thing, Irene!

    I love Victor who says he only does retinas so all he knows is that you’re getting shorter. I want Victor as my doctor.

    You’ve given me the perfect opportunity to vent, Irene. That gobbledegook MRI report you quoted started me off.

    Of course it makes sense that the report is written for a doctor’s understanding. However, when a doctor confronts patients with similar terms, it can be frustrating and at times enraging for the patients.

    Surely, a doctor knows that patients most likely do not understand such terms. Doctors can paraphrase the terms, even putting them in contexts that help patients know what their conditions are and the ways that they can be helped.

    Getting the points across is the point, after all. It is often frightening to be ignorant about one’s own body and its workings, to look at the doctor for help and hear what sounds like a recitation of a Latin treatise.

    We want and need doctors who “talk our language” and “walk our walk,” who have what is conventionally known as “good bedside manner.” We want and need honesty, straightforwardness—–and compassion.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I thought that was the best line, Judy!
      Thanks for picking it out!
      That’s really what he said to me.
      I was 5 foot 5 inches once and I absolutely refuse to tell anyone, even a doctor, a shorter height!
      It’s like telling someone your weight, practically.
      It’s YOUR information.
      It’s PERSONAL!

      To be fair, I asked for the MRI report, knowing that the doctor was not there to explain it to me.
      I sort of thought I could figure it out, but really I can’t. It’s all in another language. It might as well be Martian. The doctor will explain it all to me Monday. It’s not his fault. It’s mine for asking for a report I couldn’t decipher.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Aha, Irene! I should’ve known that you’d want to get the report before the doc returned from vacation. I’d’ve done exactly the same—-and prolly written it up in TNB, too. Great minds, as they say.

        But it felt soooo good for me to vent about oral Latinosis. (That sounds a little dicey, but I’ll leave it in)

        • Irene Zion says:

          I think you said something dirty, Judy.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I agree, Irene. And I’m having a rather interesting time imagining what it might mean.

        • Irene Zion says:

          The possibilities are endless, Judy, endless.

        • Judy Prince says:

          “The possibilities are endless, Judy, endless.”

          Hmmmm…..well said by someone named Testicle Ear.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Please let’s not start that as a nickname, Judy!!!!!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, how about TE, for short?

        • Irene Zion says:

          Okay, I can take that because no one else will remember what we’re talking about.
          Why are you up so early?
          Are you jet-lagged too?

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’m not as earlybird’ish as you, Irene, but once in awhile I get up around 5 am—-which means I take an afternoon nap or cave around 7 pm. Retirement is awesome! I recommend it to everyone, especially young folks. Yes, yes, I’m well aware how fortunate I am to be retired, far preferable to the several times I was involuntarily unemployed, believe me.

        • Irene Zion says:


          My friend Jack said that when you’re retired, every day is Saturday.
          I love that line.
          I live that line.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Brilliant, Irene—I love and live that line, too.

          In a recent episode of “Downton Abbey” on ITV (in UK, it’s like BBC, but funded by advertising revenue), the wealthy, upper-class matriarch played by Maggie Smith said: “What is a weekend?” That gave me pause!

        • Irene Zion says:

          Amazing, Judy.
          Something I’ve never thought about.
          Imagine not having to work all your life to retire!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, I’m making mock-ups (in stainless steel wire) of earrings and bracelets now. That’s relevant to our discussion not at all, but I just wanted to say it to you. A couple years ago I made a small brass wire model for a huge stainless steel structure for a public park or on a plaza in front of office buildings. It’s designed so that people of all ages can sit on it or climb on it, and it’s simple and lyrical and beautiful. Right now the little model is on my desk here next to the computer, holding various of my cards, photos . . . . and a letter from someone you know—-which I really enjoy and cherish!

        • Irene Zion says:

          I would love it if you would take pictures of the brass piece in question and also some of the mock-ups so I can see them. You could just print them out on regular paper and mail them to me.
          I am honored if anything in the mail from my hand is sitting in the brass piece.

        • Judy Prince says:

          AWwwwww…..that’s a lovely request, Irene! I’ll be brief just now, as we’re rushing off (got up late this morning) to the, apparently, only photographer in local VA who takes visa photos to Brit specs! It’s a half hour’s drive away (we’re running late). But more soon, on what you wrote!!

        • Irene Zion says:


          When we did our last VISA application for India, we found out that now you can’t wear glasses anymore in your photo for VISAS or passports. Is the British Passport photo more complicated?

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, this was for my spousal visa application for settlement in the UK which must include a “passport style and size (45mm X 35mm) recent and true likeness, showing full face, with no hat, helmet or sunglasses, although you can wear (everyday) glasses, and taken against a plain, evenly lit and light background.”

          The photographer took one shot, sized it exactly, and we had it in 15 minutes ($30).

          The challenge was getting to his place in VA Beach from Norfolk. I hadn’t been back there since 2002. We found that we couldn’t turn onto his street which was blocked off with earthmoving equipment—-and no detour instructions. I made a right turn at the next block, and another right turn—-into a dead end, after which we hurried past areas I knew were further from our destination. Thankfully, I’d memorised the photog’s phone number, and he walked us through the way to his place. While we had been getting lost, rushing around and meeting dead ends—-with poor dear Rodent navigating with the Googlemaps and directions, never having been in the area—-I yelled: “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee!” Right afterwards, in my *mind* I said, “I know I’ll feel differently in seconds.” And, of course, I did. 😉

          Time for an post-lunch nap.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I think you have to be an observant Jewish man for that triple saying to work, Judy.

          Funny that we can’t have regular glasses on.
          I look totally different without my glasses, plus you can see I don’t have eyebrows at the moment, which is misleading, since I ordinarily have them.

          You couldn’t go to a Walgreen’s for the pictures? That’s where we go. (Or CVS.)

        • Judy Prince says:

          Yes, Irene, I kind of thought the thrice-saying of “I divorce thee” might be Jewish, but it leaped to mind—-and felt sooooo good to say! I can’t imagine it being a wise thing, though, since the impulse to divorce needs tempering with lotsa time and thought and communication. I wonder how it actually affected wives and husbands in the days it was done.

          I’d called all the recommended photo places, including one which calls itself Express Passport Photos and they replied that they didn’t take passport photos (huh?!)—-and including Rite-Aid, a twin to Walgreen’s, which replied that they ONLY do passport photos, not visa photos. Other photographers were too busy or didn’t do visa photos, so we were fortunate, after a week’s research, to find today’s photo guy.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, re my snail-mailing you photos of my metal wire mock-ups and jewelry, I’ll take photos today—-and thank you for your asking for them! I’ll address the envelope in “reverse” writing. heh.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I did that very things a few times, but years ago. All the letters went through. (Though more slowly.) Nowadays, people don’t seem as patient or fun-loving, so I don’t know if it would work.
          I guess it depends on the individuals you happen to get.

          As far as the visa thing goes, we needed them for India and I got mine in a few minutes at Walgreens and Victor got his the same way at CVS. I wonder what the problem is where you are? (Especially the place whose name implies it takes them.)

        • Judy Prince says:

          Incredible that all the letters went through, Irene. I still don’t know how you write like that, how you actually do it, and so legibly, evenly and uniformly.

          Re the visa photo, bcuz it’s for the British authorities, it has to be to UK passport dimensions—-45mm X 35mm—–which is not standard for the USA. My guess is that since all the Walgreens and Rite-Aids and CVS’s are cranking out passport photos for USA passports, they aren’t going to be bothered trying to jiggle with their equipment just for one exception to the dimensions. And most other photographers wouldn’t want to be bothered taking the time to set-up for a passport-style photo and jiggle their digital equipment just for $20 or so.

          I feel sure that in NYC or Washington DC, they’d have the set-up in their many passport/visa photo-taking shops which’re nearby the embassies. At least it looked like they did when I went to DC the day before a flight to the UK, having discovered I’d lost my passport.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Judy, losing your passport is a terrible mess.
          I think we had to have the Indian visas a different size, but I’m not sure, I’ll ask Victor when he gets back.
          I start PT tomorrow.
          I have to do PT, wait, don’t bend at the waist, wait, don’t carry anything over 15 pounds, and wait.
          That should do it.

          As far as the writing goes, it’s some mix-up in my wiring.
          Nothing to be proud of. Just there. Probably where math should be.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Quite right, Irene, losing a passport’s a terrible mess. Quick flight to D.C., got replacement passport in a couple days, then off to the UK, delayed, but at least there.

          Oh, that’s good news about the Physical Therapy—-really excellent PTs can save a person from surgery; they’re the ones, after all, who must help people who’ve had ineffective surgeries, so they tend to know the *inside* story.

          Your reverse writing is fun and a talent, despite what you say. I laughed at “Probably where math should be.”

  20. George says:

    Oddly enough, I recently acquired sciatic nerve pain that is just like yours. How do I know it is sciatic nerve and not a desiccated disc? Easy, I self-diagnosed. It is cheaper that way and Obama says we should not use too much medical care for the good of the country. I am doing stretching exercises, but that is not helping. I will have to do more research on the web.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Apparently you can just state your symptoms right here on TNB and people will diagnose you and treat you for free. Obama would like the free part, for sure!

  21. Richard Cox says:


    You should know cervical spinal stenosis led to the early retirement of Michael Irvin, one of the most revered and successful wide receivers ever to play in the National Football League. He was a member of three Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl champions.

    Also, Irvin for a few years was known to lock himself in hotel rooms with strippers and cocaine, but I’m sure you don’t do that.

    Well, except you’re complaining about flight attendants not giving you drugs, so who knows?


    • Irene Zion says:


      I have been known to lock myself in a room, but almost invariably it’s because I made some sort of mistake and couldn’t get out.
      I don’t ever want to see a stripper of either sex.
      I don’t ever want to use cocaine.
      But those drugs that Gina mentioned?
      They sound pretty good to me for exclusive airplane use….

  22. “My earlobes looked like individual testicles, dangling next to my face.”

    HA. That sentence made me giggle. But then the rest of this made me feel so bad for you. Ouch, ouch, ouch. I hope you find some pain relief, and are feeling better very soon, Irene.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh don’t worry about me, Tawni,
      I’ll be fine.
      I always bounce back from stuff.
      I’m WAY tougher than I look.

      (Oh My God, did I look nasty with those testicle earlobes, though!
      I NEVER want to go through that again!)

  23. Ashley Menchaca (NOL) says:

    I am familiar with back pain.
    I get it.

    No I do not have your problems (as far as know) but the combination of being top-heavy and sciatica is no walk in the park.

    Sciatica. Do you know what that is? A motherfucker, that’s what. I get that same whine, cry-out pain thing sometimes when I have to go from sitting to standing but also, just for fun, I’ll get a surprise jolt through my ass and leg for no reason at all. You’ll see me, walking through the grocery store, fussing at both my husband and 4 year old son for putting junk in the basket and then, without warning, BAM! Ahhhhhh!!! People will look. stop and stare. Aiden, my son, laughs.

    Good times…

    • Irene Zion says:

      Ashley Menchaca, (New Orleans Lady,)

      The getting from sitting to standing is horrible. I did a sort of back-bend thing, after a while to get started,
      but you still have to wait for the spasm to let go before you can move, right?

      I am really surprised at how many people have back problems.
      I’m a bit upset that no one is getting testicle earlobes, though.
      I’d like to share that one around so I’m not alone!

  24. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    As to the first affliction, that is hard-core medieval!!!

    Regarding your back, sorry to hear about that. I hope you get some real relief soon.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I sort of wish I’d let Victor take a picture now, Ronlyn.
      All those earlobes needed was public hair and it would be cut and dried!

  25. Matt says:

    How funny?

    You know that lump in my foot that I wrote about last month? The one that led to me becoming a vegetarian?

    Turns out it’s a ganglial cyst, not a gout inflammation! One cortisone shot and it got a lot smaller, and my pain is diminished (not completely, though – I go in for a follow-up week after next). So I know they can at least do something for your back.

    Also, Victor should now be giving you back rubs.

    Fair’s fair.

    • Matt says:

      OK, that first “?” was typed as a “!”

      Damn your eyes, WordPress.

      • Irene Zion says:

        I think it was supposed to be two question marks in the first two sentences.
        (But @Brad’s the authority.)

    • Irene Zion says:


      I’m so happy to hear that your foot problem will go away with another shot!
      What a relief! The other diagnosis was a life-long problem. Phew!

      Victor won’t rub my back.
      He says it’s not in his job description.
      Sometimes he does a half-assed three second rub, and that only pisses me off.
      So it’s better to not ask than to get angry.
      As soon as I see the orthopedist, I’m asking if I can get massages.
      He had BETTER say yes, cause I’m hankering for one a week till I get all better!

  26. Zara Potts says:

    Ugh.. the evil eye and a back injury? Well, that’s not fair at all. I’m sorry about your ears…
    Still, I’m glad you liked Singapore. It’s very clean, isn’t it? I got very sick in Singapore once and was taken to the local hospital (where the tourists don’t go) and it was very strange. There were big signs on the wall saying ‘HAVE YOU SMILED AT A TOURIST TODAY?”

    As for backs. They are very tricky things. I have a particular tricky back which gives me all sorts of problems sometimes. I have done countless things to fix my back over the years from chiropracters to osteopaths to all sorts of quackery. The best thing I have found for it is yoga.
    It really works.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Really, Zara?
      Hospital signs that remind people to smile at a tourist?
      Well, they do smile. They all smile and talk to you.
      It’s a really friendly place.
      Victor and I decided we could easily live there, except for it being too far from the kids.
      They probably would like us to move there, but we’re not giving those brats the satisfaction!

      Sorry your back is bad too.
      I wonder if TNB is a group of bad-backed writers.
      I’ll ask @Brad.
      If anyone knows, he does.

  27. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I’ve always had an uncooperative back, like my Dad. In our family, when we pull or strain something, often the lower back, we always use to the invented word “rutch.” Like “What happened? Oh, I rutched out my back again?” Not really a curative, but at least giving it an innocuous-sounding name helps. Because it’s true that sometimes the simplest movements cause it to go. I usually recover quickly, but this reminds to sit up straight and lift with the legs. Hope you’re feeling better.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Well, Nathaniel,
      I’m sorry your back is for shit too.
      @Brad, you need to do a survey here!
      rutch sounds nicer.
      You don’t even mention your butt, then?
      I like that better.
      I wasn’t even moving when I rutched out my back.
      Not at all!
      It just attacked me!

  28. Poor Irene. But it inspired this, my favorite Irene line: “To be more precise, I threw my butt out.”

    Ah, yes, certainly drugs, little white capsules, yellow and red spansules, should be handed out on the hour by all flight attendants. Forget the diet coke, hand over the nembutol.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oooh, that’s another to put on Gina’s list.
      Thanks, Sean.
      I’m writing them all on an index card and writing which doctor I asked for them.
      That’s legal, right?

      (It IS my butt I threw out. Really.)

  29. Greg Olear says:

    Well, at least the holiday card turned out nice (got ours today).

  30. Irene Zion says:

    I could finally sit to write it, Greggie!
    Like the sheep’s head?
    Should’a seen it in color!

  31. kristen says:

    Oh, Irene, I’m sorry to hear!

    Still, as others have noted, a funny account, true to (your) form.

    Glad the orthopedist didn’t declare an interest in seeing what was cooking inside your butt. Even if it was implied.

    Also, MRIs rock. i found mine super relaxing/comforting as well. Though that could’ve been the Valium.

  32. Irene Zion says:


    I could have asked for valium?
    Why didn’t anyone tell me?

    So far everyone loved their MRI.
    Why do I hear people are so afraid of them?

  33. kristen says:

    Hmm, not sure. For me I guess it was just hard, beforehand, to fuse “comfort” and “trapped in a cylinder.”

  34. Irene, I always look forward to your stories, but, my goodness, I’m sorry to hear about your evil-eye-induced back woes! I hope you’ll feel much better soon 🙂

  35. Irene Zion says:


    Did you ever get caught by the evil eye?
    It’s really nasty.
    I hope she gets the same eyebrow erasing itching and earlobe swelling that I did, and THEN she should throw her butt out!
    I feel better already.

    • Oh yes! An evil eye snapped a high heel off of my shoe as I was walking into work once. When the school secretary saw me hobbling in carrying my shoe in pieces she apologized for unleashing the evil eye on me accidentally. She said she’d just been admiring those shoes through the window as I’d walked up, and her envy killed them. If she would have touched my shoe as she’d envied them, all would have been well. But, alas, she didn’t. So. No more shoes. This was my introduction to the evil eye. After hearing your story, I think I got off easy!

      • Irene Zion says:

        Boys, Cynthia,

        Those must have been some shoes to bring out the evil eye!
        Nice of her to apologize, though.
        That usually doesn’t happen.

  36. angela says:

    poor irene! i hope your back/butt are feeling better.

    i haven’t had too many back problems, but i’ve had major itchiness before. hives that get worse and worse as you scratch them, and that come and go with absolutely no explanation. i had them for years as a kid, they disappeared for 15 years, came back for one, disappeared for over 10 years, then came back for two. so far they have been gone again for another 2. i’m guessing i have 8 to 13 years till my next year-long attack!

    i can’t wait to read about singapore!

    • Irene Zion says:

      So they’re like locusts, angela?
      So sorry, itching is worse than hurting I think, sometimes.
      Do you swell up and look hideous too?

  37. Oh, Irene. I, too, know the pain of a thrown-out butt. It happens about once every two weeks and I have no idea. I suppose it’s spinal, which is disconcerting. But when I’m injured I want something I can shout about. “Hey! My butt hurts!” doesn’t have much impact on most people.

    MRIs are weird. I didn’t enjoy getting mine done but it was very, very cool being able to see inside myself.

    Looking forward to the Singapore story.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Damn, David,
      TNB is really a gathering of writers with back problems.
      Don’t bend at the waist. Use your knees.
      It’s good to build up your quadriceps for the use of the Chinese hole in the ground toilets.
      The Chinese have the best quadriceps in the world.

      Singapore is going to be hard.
      There is so much to write about.
      I’ll have to pare it down.

  38. Amy says:

    You failed to tell me about the first two weeks. I must see a picture!

  39. Reno Romero says:

    ‘I know when I get smacked by a witch.’


    Dammit, Irene! You are so damn funny it’s not fair.

    This was great. Sorry about your eyebrow hair.

    Spells and Spaghetti,

  40. Irene Zion says:


    It’s lucky I have big glasses.
    It helps to hide the fact I have barely any eyebrows now.
    It sure is a strange look.
    They take a long time to grow back, too.

  41. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    An Italian horn pendant is on its way to you. It was the favorite anti- Evil Eye remedy of Grandma Manna, and she was an expert on the subject. It’s probably already working at this very moment as it’s being packed into the UPS truck!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Marcia, the UPS truck doesn’t come on the weekends.
      I’ll just go with it starting to help as it arrives closer to me.
      It is so neat that Grandma Manna could help people with the evil eye.
      Did she also give the evil eye now and then?
      That would be interesting to know.
      Is it too late to ask?
      I hate that when we want to know something,
      the person we need to ask is gone and can’t tell us the answer anymore.
      Ah, regret….

  42. Tim says:

    You should’ve asked for some flexoril. That stuff is awesome.

  43. Irene Zion says:

    Yet another name, Tim, to add to the list Gina started earlier on.
    My index card is filling up with must-have drugs for airplane flights!

  44. Marcia, still in Illinois says:

    I think evil-eye-wise you have to specialize– you can use your powers for either good or evil, but not both. Grandma Manna was 100% on the good side. Anyone who could bake bread that good had to have been on the side of the angels!

  45. Simon Smithson says:

    Rowan wood! That’ll turn that evil eye back on itself. And then you get a racecar.

  46. Irene Zion says:

    Thank you, Simon.
    I had never heard of the Rowan Tree or its mythology.
    They don’t make it clear what form the wood would have to take for deflecting witchcraft.
    I’ll look on eBay and see if I can get a piece of it to keep in my pocket book.
    (That means purse. It was what we used to call them and I still do because I come from those times.)

  47. Ruthie says:

    My, back afflictions do bring out the comments. I suppose I should go find out if mine is just sciatica or something more horrible sounding. Who needs the long report? Just tell us what to DO so we can be pain free. Hope you feel better soon.

  48. Irene Zion says:

    Ah, Ruthie,
    If backs could be fixed with one curative measure, there wouldn’t be so many people hooked on pain drugs.
    It’s a long way, from one end of the spine to the other, and so many things can go wrong.
    If my kids were little, I’d tell them all to go into orthopedics.
    (As if they would have listened…HA!)
    There’s a virtual army of patients awaiting relief!

  49. Marcia, still in Illinois says:

    Baking good bread doesn’t protect you from the evil eye. What I was trying to say was that, in my experience, people who make good bread don’t try to give people the evil eye. If they wanted to make people miserable, why would they bother to make good bread? They could just make people miserable by making bad bread.

  50. I see the comments flaring up with sciatica. Ha! No, but seriously, fellow sufferer of frequent sciatic pain right here. I moved away from Manhattan when I was 23 and overfilled a box. I lifted it, felt something in my lower back compress, and then, after setting down the heavy load, never felt it uncompress. And believe me, I was waiting for it.

    Since then, it’s flared up at different times, usually after lifting a lot or moving a lot. When I first moved to Hollywood, I packed up my car, drove for four days in a little tiny car, and then unpacked said car. Murder on it.

    What seems to happen is that one of the discs between the lumbar vertebrae (or lower) bulges against the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lumbar region of the spine pretty much down the thigh, near on to the knee. When mine flares up, I have experiences like you; I can stand just fine. I can sit-ish. I can lie-ish. I cannot move from any of the above positions into any other without extreme pain.

    On the other hand, core work can ameliorate it. I do a lot of crunches on exercise balls, as well a twist exercises and some back extensions. I recently moved a really heavy weight at the gym where I was working, and my form was off by barely a degree, barely a centimeter, but enough to cause a flare. However, because I’d been working out enough, it made the pain noticeably less severe, and the spell lasted a noticeably shorter time.

  51. Irene Zion says:

    Nice Gravitar, Will!
    Very handsome, with the bow tie all undone and all.
    It seems your hair is darker now, but that’s probably because you had the cute pork-pie hat on before.

    I’m not surprised that you also have back trouble.
    It seems to me that must have been one of the tests before getting into the TNB club!
    I’m have been working on my core for a long time and which has helped.
    I also have to start physical therapy soon.
    It’s odd that it sounds like you have the same thing, but standing up isn’t a problem.
    Bodies are weird.

  52. Goodness. Evil eyes and cysts and backs all out of whack. I’m starting to think you’re not really Irene but some kind of monster. But that isn’t true. You’re one of the nicest people ever and all your photos are gorgeous. So, the remedy is merely this: gaze into a mirror and feel the power of your own beauty. All will straighten out.

  53. Irene Zion says:

    ooh, I do like to be buttered up, Nick.
    That was sweet.
    I’ve been on the road again, so I haven’t been checking in.
    I just saw you have a piece up, I’ll get to it as soon as I can.
    Always like to read your stuff.

  54. Gloria says:

    Irene – I’m days late reading this. Which maybe is good, right? Maybe your butt is all better?

    Sounds totally awful. I really hope your booty is healthier.


  55. Irene Zion says:

    I’m way behind in reading, too, Gloria.
    I should be getting physical therapy, but I’m on the road again.
    Pretty soon it will be all hunky-dory, no worries.

  56. Lisa B. says:

    Sorry about the back situation, etc. I’ve had all of your spine description elements for about 35 years…. ouch 🙁 It’s terrible the first and every time round. I’ve built great character though. There’s always that.

    But curious on the swollen eyes – did you have pink eye – conjunctivitis infection? Because I had that over Christmas in both eyes (coinciding with a flu I picked up and which lasted over 30 days – the coughy kind not the throwupy kind like the rest of my family had). One weekend I felt so awful I visited one of those medical clinics. Very nice. The young doctor asked me when was my last period. I thought …. I’m 55 – since when is a handsome doctor wondering if I’m still fertile – surely he’s not that hard up – he’s a doctor. But then I realized I was so sick, he was probably checking on a certain theory regarding my slightly cranky demeanor that day. So to prove the theory wrong….on my way out with my comfort drug prescriptions in hand – I loudly and profusely thanked the doctor, one of the nurses who passed in front of me (but I don’t think was my nurse since she ignored my “thanks so very much – great service!”) and the receptionist. I then gave the thumbs-up to the crowd coughing in the waiting room that help was imminent.

  57. Irene Zion says:

    Hi Lisa,

    No my eyes themselves were normal. It was just the skin. So itchy and red and swollen! My ears were even worse, I looked like I had elephant ears, but thicker. I have no idea what it was, but I certainly hope it doesn’t come back ever again!

    I would have gone to a doctor too, for the skin thing and absolutely for some pain meds for my back, but we were in foreign countries and didn’t have any idea where to go.

    My back is much better now, although family stuff has kept me running and I haven’t had a chance to do the physical therapy which the doc said was “mandatory and non-negotiable.” I need to get on that as soon as the crud my grandchildren gave me eases up. I suppose I’m out of touch with the New York germs now, being away so long. Lost all my immunity to them.

    I think the doctor was coming on to you. You should go back when he’s working and flirt!

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