Sunday, May 27, 2018

What's With Moses Farrow?

My first thought, reading Moses Farrow's blog post: it must be difficult to be Ronan Farrow's brother. Ronan, much younger, much more talented, much more good-looking (he is, after all, the son of Ol' Blue Eyes) and in the opposite corner, skinny Moses Farrow, inelegantly sporting his cerebral palsy. Then there's Moses's opening line: "I’m a very private person and not at all interested in public attention." Why say that, unless you are trying to convince yourself? The chief claim made is: the relationship [between Soon Yi and Woody] itself was not nearly as devastating to our family as my mother’s insistence on making this betrayal the center of all our lives from then on." Is that true? This part of the story sounds real. A raging Mia Farrow screeching is believable. A four-year-old Satchel, later renamed Ronan, repeating “My sister is fucking my father," rings true, too.  Moses Farrow does not seem inclined to invent, and the tales of being slapped, of being yelled at, accused of stealing when he hadn't done anything, of being forced to stand naked in a corner as a punishment for cutting the belt loops off his new jeans because he thought the jeans would look cool that way--all that sounds real. Besides, take a long look at that kid's face with that sombre expression and those big black glasses. The child Moses looks like an Asian version of Woody Allen. If he reminded Farrow of Allen, she may have bullied him. She wouldn't be the first divorcée to hit a child because he resembled her ex.
I can't doubt that Mia Farrow had some mighty meltdowns. But I think of Mary Ann Hoberman's rhyming children's book, The Seven Silly Eaters, in which a mother of seven, trying to make everything perfect, fix everyone's meal, do all the laundry and clean-up and still get to play her cello once in a blue moon, has a complete freak-out. I love that scene: the dad and the kids are peeking into the kitchen from outside, wondering when Mommy will calm down. How many kids did Mia Farrow have? I lost track long ago. There's the ones she had and the ones she adopted--enough for a small boarding school. Did she lose it from time to time? Did she hit and scream at Moses more than she hit and screamed at the others? I wouldn't be surprised. Is she downright crazy, coaching her kids to hate Woody Allen and inventing the abuse story just to get even? That's possible too.
Even assuming all of the above--that Mia Farrow had total meltdowns, hit and humiliated Moses and other children, coached them all to say Woody Allen was evil--does all that add up to Allen being innocent of molesting Dylan Farrow? Dylan says she remembers. A seven-year-old does remember. I do have clear memories of my father's bedtime behavior. My mother never coached me to say anything--she was either oblivious or she looked the other way. Maybe both. Mia is accused of coaching Dylan.
I'm trying to imagine whether I'd have told a whopping lie about my father if my mother had told seven-year-old me to do so. It seems to me I would not have done so. I grew up with immense lies: both parents pretended to get along; my mother lied about her relationship with my father, insisting the two were happy. I could see they were not. I saw this at seven, and long before, and long after. 
Moses Farrow wants to defend his father. But how can he be so sure he saw everything? How can he think he knows Woody Allen never managed to get Dylan alone in a room? How can Moses Farrow think that his sister, at seven, was so malleable as to be forced into a lie--and then to want to continue to tell that lie twenty-one years later? That's hard to imagine. It's hard for me to imagine a twenty-eight-year-old woman with a husband and a life still wanting to please her mother  by dredging up a lie. 
I think Dylan Farrow remembers, because you do remember these things. You can't forget.

Monday, May 21, 2018

How To Get Lymph Drainage Paid For in Germany

You're a cancer patient. You've had surgery. Your leg swells up, or your arm, or you find numb inflated areas where they removed the lymph nodes in your armpit. You realize the condition could worsen, become permanent. You start phoning around for an appointment and find nothing but waiting lists.

Pause to define lymph drainage, which your doctor has mentioned, but not defined: it's not something involving blood, tubes, puncturing, pumping out fluid. Which is what I imagined, and hence did not want. But lymph drainage is only a very gentle form massage to get the fluid making your leg swell up go away, or disperse through the body.

If you want this kind of help, you have to use either the word "oncology" or the word "cancer," so that you're not waiting around weeks while the condition gets worse. If you can't get an appointment two days from now, you haven't said the magic words: "I am a cancer patient." Bother your gynecologist for a prescription first--if she says no, head for the Hausarzt, that is, the internist, the one you go to for flu and shots. If you can't get it from that doctor, grab your oncologist by the lapels and beg. Once you've got a prescription, find the best place in town. Try to get at least ten 60-minute sessions.

And don't be surprised. I went for lymph drainage on my leg, which continues to look like Frankenstein's forehead. Until recently, I couldn't bend my knee, but I started stretching and bending a great deal on the day my Russian radiologist told me things would never get any better--I was stuck with this crummy leg for life. 

"Well, you could put a pillow under it when you sleep," said she, shaking her head over the notion that lymph drainage would do much. There's nothing like Russian gloom to galvanize an American. Instinctively, I rebelled against her pessimism with my outrageous optimism. 

"Oh, yeah?" I thought. "I'll show you!" 

In my first lymph drainage session, the therapist started massaging an area right under my collarbone. I wondered what the Sam Hill he was doing. I was about to say something, when my foot started tingling, as if something were moving around. The feeling was like the one I have when I hold my legs in the air to get the fluid to drain from my ankles to my legs. So the guy knew what he was doing. He worked on the leg, too, of course. 

I have nine more sessions, and this treatment is expensive. So I'll ask the gynecologist for more--I'm not shy. Then I'll ask the internist. Then the oncologist. In other words, I'll be persistent. This is cancer. Just when you want everyone hovering around you asking what you need, you'll have to be running around demanding exactly that. But take heart--keeping active that way is probably good for you.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Pumpkin's Theory of Harry and Meghan: Ten Clues

She's great, he's gorgeous, they're in love--I take all this for granted. But  from the sour Germaine Greer to Meghan's wicked-half sister, screeched off the screen by Piers Morgan, everyone's got a theory. Before turning into a pumpkin, way past this midnight hour, I thought I'd observe rather than predict, but spoiler alert: my predictions lead up to happily ever after:

(1) Meghan's a tall, dark outsider 

(2) Like Dodi Al Fayad

(3) She's nicer

(4) Refreshingly like Diana, Meghan's exactly the age at which Harry last knew his mother.

(5) But saner

(6) Diana wanted to escape with Dodi

(7) Meghan offers escape, too--from dullness, stuffiness, dreary royalness

(8) Harry is delighted to have this woman who offers a host of familiar traits that remain among the last he associated with his late mother.

(9) Meghan is maternal and

(10) Her prince has come

Friday, May 11, 2018

On Being Spammed: Does that Escort Service in Bangalore Know They're Cozying Up To Cancer?

For weeks now, ladies and gentleman, a single post of my almost-unread blog has been spammed by  an outfit that calls itself "Rakhisen Bangalore Escorts" and whose website, picturing a languid beauty in reflector shades sunning herself in a place seemingly more Caribbean than Bangalorean, urges me to call "right away." No matter how many times I hit the permanent delete key, their ads pop up again and again, like weeds, or, well, unwanted cancer calls, the kind that turn into big fat cancer tumors when you have the kind of wonky genes sported by yours truly, as proved by my FoundationOne test. Now, FoundationOne could spam me all they like, if they want to, but I'd just like to point out they're too classy to do so. Eventually their tests will save lives, but I would enjoy letting the many Escort Services In Bangalore who dump their ads on a blog post concerning a clinical trial for cancer that they're associating cancer with their escort service. That's entirely appropriate, clinically speaking (but maybe not from a business point of view?)
I'm sure my readers remain aware that they can get the HPV virus from sexual contact, also that sexual contact is generally speaking what escort services offer, and I'm sure you all know that this particular virus can cause uterine cancer and girls, believe me, you don't want to deal with uterine cancer. I'm dealing with breast cancer metastasized to the bone right now, and when I go in for my monthly Fulvestrant shots, I never know whether I'm going to get the short, slim nurse with the tattoos who knows now to give the shot painlessly or the last idiot I had, whose method resulted in my nearly blacking out--thanks to the idiot's technique, I think I know what it must feel like to be beaten, because these shots are given in the gluteus maxiumus, the last place you'd want an injection if you had a choice in the matter. Which I don't. Another thing about so-called escort services: they tend, oh, in my opinion, to exploit young, often underage girls who have no way to make a living other than to hang on the arm of and be sexually abused by the sort of man who needs an escort service because he has no idea how to fall in love. I've now deleted ads for escorts in Bangalore about ten times from the very same post. I wonder how persistently they will continue to spam me, now that I've made it clear that every single ad they lob to my blog--and on a post about the cancer drug Palbociclib, no less--associates their product with an incurable and exceedingly unpleasant disease. Will this be curtains for those Bangalore escort ads? Gee, I really hope so. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Easy, Spicy Hummus

If you love garlic and Middle-Eastern flavors, this one's for you:

Assemble the following: 

800 grams (for Americans, that is about 5 cups, but net equivalents are contradictory) of canned or bottled chick peas. If you want to go really pioneer, soak dry chick peas overnight with about two teaspoons of baking soda--then you'd have to drain and cook them--yes, you can do all this, but why bother?)

Tahini or Sesame paste (about six tablespoons--or more!)

Six or eight cloves of garlic

A big, preferably organic, lemon

A teaspoon (or more) of cumin

Olive oil--about a third of a cup

Salt and pepper, to taste.

Parsley OR paprika, to taste (optional)

Pour the chick peas into a sieve. Rinse them in cool water, let them drain, and dump them into your food processor. If you don't have a food processor handy, one of those electric wands will do--my old food processor died as I was trying to make this).

Peel and add the garlic and the cumin. Squeeze the lemon juice through a sieve into the mix. Add olive oil and shake in pepper and salt. Process. When you are done, add as garnish either chopped fresh parsley or paprika.

You can dip crudités into this hummus, eat it with a spoon, or spread it, as I did, on a slightly warmed lavash, adding lots of small chopped tomatoes, then roll up the lavash and eat it. Tortillas would work too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fabulously Easy Pork Shoulder

The kids were sick of chicken; they didn't go for my curry either. It was time to try something new, and though we'd had many a pork roast, they were sick of that, too. I tried Jamie Oliver's recipe but it was too complicated for me; I whizzed through a number of others, and have now experienced the truth of the single most frequently appearing insight: the longer you bake it at a low temperature, the better it is.

Assemble the following ingredients:

Big hunk of pork (three and a half American pounds, or 1.718 kilos)
Olive oil (a good one!)
Balsamic vinegar
Dry red wine 
Onions (preferably red ones)
Potatoes and, if you're feeling ambitious,
Sweet potatoes

Step one: Mix up the honey, mustard, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar in proportions that please you--I go heavy on the honey and mustard, easy on the balsamic vinegar. With your garlic press, crush about eight cloves and add to the mix. Stir or beat well with a whisk. The mix should smell good; taste it to make sure.

Step two: Coat the hunk of pork (should have a bone in it somewhere--adds flavor) with the mix, put it in a zip lock bag, and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Step three: Pre-heat the oven to 220º C (428ºF).  Take your favorite huge pot with a lid--we just decided we were grown-ups and deserved a set of Le Creuset and are painstakingly, one piece at a time, acquiring it: so I used the classic orange (which the company now calls "iconic flame") dutch oven. 

A word, quite a long one before we get to Step Four: a thing that made me fall in love with Le Creuset, apart from its wonderful quality and color, is that one of my favorite writers, Alexandra Fuller, describes how her completely insane snob of a mother (not Fuller's way of describing her, just mine) carried her own set of Le Creuset everywhere the family went during the Rhodesian bush war. A few years ago, Fuller penned, going into uncharacteristically romantic details, a  depiction of her mom (but she'd say "Mum") :  "suddenly I found myself in unexpected tears thinking about what those pots represented: Cooking pots on the top of a tiny bundle of other belongings seems to be the universal image of women fleeing war across Europe in the 1930s and 1940s; women leaving the Dustbowl of Oklahoma during the Depression; women escaping post-election violence in Zimbabwe in 2008; women displaced by the current violence in Congo and Sudan. Pots are like the external expression of a woman’s womb, the way in which she can continue to nurture and protect her family, even when the land beneath her feet has been torn from her and all real hope has been lost."

That's all very lovely, but has nothing to do with why her mother saved those pots. If I know her mother, the woman saved those pots for exactly the reasons I, a not-so-secret social climber, would save mine: because they are so damn beautiful, so breathtakingly classy, a sign that, as her mother would say, "we have breeding."

Now, I don't have a damn bit of breeding and I'm not sure her mother did either, at least not in the sense of being up there by having any relatives born above the rank of "Laird." Hey, she did better than me. We're peasants to the marrow, although one of my really horrible ancestors was a U.S. president who grabbed the Northern half of Mexico, adding it on to Texas and California. 

Step 4: Remove the pork from the fridge. Keeping it in its zip lock bag, let it cool its heels on your counter until it seems at room temperature.

Step 5: Rub some extra-virgin, incredibly expensive, super-classy olive oil into the bottom of your Le Creuset Dutch oven. Slice five or six big red or white onions, core and slice the same number of apples. If you've had time to boil a few carrots for ten minutes, add them. Pour in a cup of dry red wine. Undo the zip lock bag and dump the pork, marinade and all, on top of the apple-onion-carrot mix. Put in oven UNCOVERED for about forty minutes. 

Step 6: While the pork is in the oven, boil some potatoes--any kind; I used plain white potatoes the first time around but think sweet potatoes would be good--for about ten minutes, until you can poke a fork in, but they should be firm. Drain them and slice them, add to pot.

Step 7: Cover the pork. Turn the heat down to 170º C (338ºF). Go away and do anything you like for five hours. 

The truth is, I intended to return after three and a half hours, but an event at my child's school went on and on and on. Finally we left early, because I was afraid the pork would be all dried out and burned up, the house along with it. 

But guess what? The pork was perfect. Perfect "pulled pork." Yum. Serve with a mixed salad and a dry red wine.