Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Yes, We Have No Anesthesia

That's the story I got when the interns knocked on the door--I'd been prepped for surgery the day before: taken my numbered slip from the machine, gone through the conversation with the secretary for whom I feared I might have to find my American passport, brought my labels and papers to the nurse's desk. Many a test tube of blood was drawn by somebody who was clearly in the learning phases, a conversation with the anesthesiologist completed, the hospital evening meal consumed--a greasy slab of mortadella, a cheese labeled "Gouda," though you'd never know, and two slices of bread. Then I lay awake--who sleeps on the night before surgery? Good thing I didn't take the sleeping pill they offer to the anxious. I'm always anxious--why start with pills now?
So there I was, an indelible black X circled on my leg, where surgeons are going to remove the too-long screws, which hold in place the rod now decorating my femur after a tumor was removed last January. That rod, incidentally, has visited the Eiffel Tower, plus papal and princely palaces in Avignon and Monaco, without setting off metal detectors. I always whip out my hospital card, identifying myself as a patient with metal in her leg, and they always wave me through, and the sophisticated machine never beeps, a fact rendering me nervous.
So there I was, with the black X, the white compression stocking on the other leg, a signal not to cut there, and the unspeakably unattractive hospital johnny that barely ties at the back, plus the nylon net panties that don't bring out the most attractive aspects of one's privates.
There I was. In they came, the interns in the white coats, saying they didn't have good news. "We have no anesthesia," they claimed, hastily adding that the nurse's strike--currently in its twelfth day--had "nothing to do with the problem." My surgery is not an emergency, and they were doing emergencies all night. Apparently the anesthesia people require sleep. But hey, I wanted to say: I watch Gray's Anatomy, and I just know they never sleep. Yesterday, however, during the conversation with the young anesthesiologist, I observed the bags under her eyes and estimated she'd been vertical for more than 48 hours. I guess she's human after all. But so am I. Now I'm, home, disoriented, and doing laundry. In a week, I'll return to the hospital, possibly with the X marking the spot still intact.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Tale of the Unsent Postcards

When we were in Monaco on a day trip--dragging ourselves away from a lovely Cote D'Azur beach--we bought postcards of the Grimaldis, the beaches, the casinos. By the time we'd driven to Paris, the cards were written and ready to go. But the Paris post office's normal hours start at ten--in summer, at 1:00 p.m., long after the time we'd planned to hit the road for the drive back to Northwestern Germany. Back into the white paper bag went the postcards, then deep into my copy of Philip Lopate's The Art of the Personal Essay, the only book large enough to ensure the cards wouldn't get bent around the edges. So, my husband and I said, too bad, we'll mail them when we're back in Germany. We hadn't counted on being stranded in a small Belgian city when our car's clutch died. Our insurance company went about finding a taxi and a rental car in the most dilatory way imaginable, such that we nearly had to spend the night. What we did have to do was leave a suitcase and a lot of other stuff--the wine, cookies, and Dijon mustard for the nice neighbor who looks after our guinea pigs and fish--in the car. The postcards, too. They are cooling their heels somewhere in car shop, and I hope we'll be able to mail them eventually.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

National Stormy Daniels Day

It's National Stormy Daniels Day--Trump is acknowledging that he has THE VERY BEST crooks in the business, and that they were convicted of THE VERY BEST fraud.
Yes, Mr. P.
In our VERY BEST courts. "All the President's Crooks" are getting convicted, one by one, and I hope they get the VERY BEST sentences, very long ones, in VERY secure places. Stormy Daniels, strut your stuff. Without you, none of this would be possible. Hail, Goddess!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Hybrid Cucumber Sandwich

When we were in Bavaria, our friend Heidi gave us a humongous cucumber, organic, straight from her garden. We planned to eat it right away, didn't, and brought it along with us to France, where it dawned on me, as I was observing a huge edifice, the Palais Des Anglaise, near the Super U market, that I might as well make cucumber sandwiches. Why does a French supermarket have a big yellow curlicued English palace next door? I have yet to research the matter.
I have the perfect recipe at home in a little book, complete with pictures of the Ritz. All I could remember was a lot of salt and white vinegar. And on this occasion the net was no help. The net almost universally disapproves of the kind of cucumber sandwich I so enjoyed on my single trip to the Ritz, back in 1982. The net touts "healthier" versions without the vinegar but with a lot of herbs and, of all things, garlic powder.
No non noooooo! Not on cucumber sandwiches. Lemon. Check. Salt. Check! Industrial strength white vinegar. Check! Mix that up (juice of one whole lemon, handfuls of salt, around a cup of the vinegar, and add a bunch of thin slices of cucumber. One entire cucumber. Should soak in that mix for a while, at least an hour. Drain. Press between paper towels. Get out the nice, soft, incredibly flavorful French butter (that's the first part of hybrid). Then get out the baguette! Split the thing in half and schmear (now we're up to three ethnicities) it with butter. That French butter--it's thick and soulful and flavorful enough to be cream cheese. 
Note: The pure English 19th-century method would be to smooth, not schmear, the butter, so thinly that you'd think it was being rationed. Which maybe it was. 
Once you've got the bread ready: drain the cucumbers through a sieve, and again, don't forget to squeeze out the excess vinegar-lemon-salt juice. Then pile up the cucumbers on the baguette, and slice:
See? Looks like a sub, but tastes like a "hybrid cucumber sandwich." I know they'd be tearing out their hair at the Ritz, but instead they should just sit down with one of these and brew themselves a nice pot of Earl Grey tea. Pour it into a cup, add lots of sugar and cream, stir. Take a bite of sandwich. Sip. Yum.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Cote D'Azur: It's Really That Blue

Now that we're here--after a fourteen-hour drive broken by a night in Dijon (where we purchased, of course, mustard) I can tell you the sky and the sea area just as blue as their name. Azure. Yes, like lapis lazuli. The view alone is worth our astronomical rent. But we've saved on plane tickets and confidentially our rent is not as !@#$RTYUlly high as it would be in St. Tropez. Which is not far. The best supermarket's in Monaco, a fifteen-minute drive. But we went to the one that's only a ten-minute drive. Wine from Bergerac. The perfect poulet. Cheese, enough to plaster the house. A lovely pebble beach a short walk from the house. The sky, the sea, as blue as the Mac icons at the bottom of my computer screen, or as in the "fair use" photos of the region that decline to load. What more could we want? I wish I hadn't stubbed my toe. I wish we were all perfectly healthy. Other than that: swimming and books occupy me: David Sedaris, Tobias Wolff, Philip Lopate, Asne Seirstad. And more. 
I hadn't spent much time in France since the nineties--a trip to Euro Disney when the kids were little does not count--and back in the nineties, it was still impossible to find a bad meal. Now it's possible. What's different? Back then, the French were stylish, but unwashed. Now they're washed, but un-stylish, and they eat American fast food. Their supermarkets still boast the fantastic arrays of cheese, wine, and seafood for which we longed, but the French themselves? Here's the dirty little secret: I can't tell some of them from the Americans!
Makes me, well, a little blue.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Days in Bavaria: Gossiping with My Pals at a Barbecue

Bavaria: land of the flowing Weizen beer, the Lederhosen, the maypoles decked out in the blue-and-white checks of the Bavarian (national) flag, as the locals might tell you--and my husband would agree: whenever we drive from the wilds of Northwestern Germany to his Paradisiacal place of origin, a village decked out with a medieval monastery and a cathedral, he's so happy he's practically dancing the Schuhplattler Knee-slap dance, which you can see right here:
When we arrived for the yearly barbecue with the folks from our former English language class, our friend told us about her non-traditional Bavarian pals, Achmed and Jihad. Achmed and Jihad were arguing one morning, Achmed insisting Erdogan "is wonderful! The papers treat him badly! He's great! Anyone who says different is pushing fake news!" But Jihad--yes, his mother named him that--says the reverse: "Erdogan's what we know him to be: as bad as Trump, and worse."
"Did they say it in Bavarian dialect?" I asked my friend, Heidi.
"No!" she said, disapproving. "They speak in Hochdeutsch!"
 These gentlemen of bucolic Bavaria represent the Turkish population here; like the rest of the (mostly Catholic) Bavarians, they're divided. The Bavarian Turks are divided about Erdogan. The Bavarian Catholics are divided about the church. Many are leaving it. The latest? A local bishop in Eichstätt speculated, losing sixty million euros of the church's money--the kind of money that usually goes to orphans, museums, good deeds. But the very assimilated Mustapha, who speaks broad Bavarian, goes into a rage when another Bavarian of Turkish origin's parallel parking is not up to par: "These damn Turks!" yells Mustapha, frustrated because these folks have made it impossible for him to park, and shaking his fist. "They should go back where they came from!" Where they came from? That would be . . . .wait for it . . . beautiful, bucolic Bavaria