Knees (and my vagina)

My knees are shot. Partly because they’re supporting 200+ pounds of not very graceful, but mostly because I fall down a lot. There’s nothing wrong with my equilibrium––I just don’t pay attention. I’m looking here and there, look a bird! Trying to stay present, in the moment, look at my surroundings, what would make a good photograph, what can I see that no one else sees. Lots of things. I see lots of things that no one else sees, I also miss a lot of the things most people see. Like potholes:

That time I stepped into one so deep on Bleecker Street that my entire foot got stuck and the rest of my body kept going. I lay there, while people stepped over me.One woman leaned down, “You know, there’s a bench right over there you can sleep on.” I hobbled home.

That time I tripped on a tiny crack on the sidewalk went down on my knees and came up with what was obviously a broken wrist.

That time I was speeding through Central Park on rollerblades and remembered that I really hadn’t learned how to slow down or stop so I just threw myself down on the ground.

That time there was a giant flying waterbug in the house––the only living thing I’m really afraid of––and I lunged at it, landing on my knees.

I keep two bags of frozen peas in my freezer for my knees. They are scarred and bumpy and there is a little blue spot on one where a small pebble is still embedded. They are always skinned, or scabbed, or under a bag of frozen peas.

I have not been able to squat down to get something or say hi to a child or more likely to happen, to a dog, in years. Actually, I can squat, I just can’t get back up. That sent me to physical therapy years ago, the not being able to squat and talk to dogs. I talk to a lot of dogs. A lot of dogs. The physical therapy didn’t do much, so I learned to just plop my not inconsequential ass on the ground to talk to dogs, which is a pretty vulnerable position if the dog in question is: unfriendly, rambunctious, a slobberer.

A few months ago one (knee, not dog) swelled up like a cantaloupe, even though I hadn’t fallen in at least two weeks. Convinced I had kneecap cancer, I went to my osteo man to check it out. That’s how often I fall. I have an osteo man. His assistant moved my legs and knees this way and that, twisting, knocking, bending until he finally stood up and said, “Wow, you have a really shitty knees.” My big-sports-medicine radio-show osteo-man-to-the-stars came in, did the same bending, knocking, and twisting, albeit in slightly different order, sat back and said, “Well, you have really shitty knees.” The X-rays tech refrained from the descriptor “shitty” and simply commented under her breath, “Oh, wow. Those are bad.” The MRI technician insisted on taking more images than originally ordered, because, “It’s bad, and it keeps going up your thigh.”

“It” turned out to be osteonecrosis, something that occurs when the blood can’t get to the bone, and so the bone (osteo) starts to die (necrosis), and apparently it’s kinda uncommon. It can be caused by: excessive alcohol consumption – check; high doses and extended use of steroids – check; and repeated trauma to the area – double triple check.

The choices are surgery––no thank you, or the non-surgical answers are building up the muscles in my thighs so that my knees aren’t doing all the work, and reduction in weight bearing, by which we mean, why the hell am I asking my knees to lug around 200+ pounds? Wouldn’t they be happier dragging around 150 pounds? Wouldn’t the dogs be happier?


I’m oddly superstitious, by which I mean I’m superstitious about odd things, like red cars, green motorcycles, and numbers. I have favorite numbers: 7, 23, and 57. No real mystery, I was born on 7/23/57.

So this year, I was 57, and two days ago I turned 58 and it feels like what I just finished? That was my last great year. There are no more good numbers.

I got to be 23. I got to be 57. I’m never going to see 723, so what is there? There is me turning 58 and I have real hate-hate relationship with 8s. First of all, eight is an even number, which, unlike most of the world, I don’t like. They’re doubly bad because they’re symmetrical. And being 58 means I’m practically 60. I’m this close to being a sexagenarian, and I’m pretty sure there will be less sex happening when I convert to sexagenarianism, than there were veggies when I converted to vegetarianism

I worked for a woman who used to say that nothing was a big deal unless it resulted in bringing a baby into the world. That was the kind of thing you couldn’t take back, that everything else was re-doable. You could get married, divorced, then married again. Buy a house. Sell a house. Everything had a do-over.

I amended that to:  if no one died, no one was born, and no one sold a baby into porn, it’s not that big a deal. Giving a life or taking life, those are the deal breakers. Everything else is re-doable.

Except it’s not. Time. There is no do-over. I’m practically 60 and while I don’t regret anything I’ve done, I do regret things I haven’t done. I regret wasting time, because there isn’t a do-over, and I can’t go back and study veterinary science ten years ago. I can only do it now, which means I’d actually be 60 by the time I was able to be certified as even a vet tech––a highly underpaid job that would make me extremely happy and which I would have a helluva a time finding work as since it involves lifting heavy things like Great Danes and St. Bernards.

I’m not loving the numbers. I know I have a good thirty years ahead of me, if not more. But, still, there are a lot of sixes and eights in there.

I Am Bread

I had entirely forgotten that my bloodwork had come back as “borderline diabetic.” Forgotten like I never even knew. Diabetes? You have to be fucking kidding me. I’ve beat tougher things than an insulin imbalance.

Severe ulcerative colitis. Tonsilitis. Hepatitis. Lots of itises. Some I’m sure I’m forgetting. One broken nose, two broken wrists, countless broken dreams. Junior high school. School lunchrooms. Processed cheese product. Canned string beans. Bad haircuts. Questionable dye jobs. Questionable men. Bad men. No men. Too much money. Not enough money. Twenty dental extractions. One abortion. Three miscarriages. Countless near misses. More one-night stands than there are weeks in the year. My parent’s bad marriage. My not exactly legal, but still exactly lousy marriage. Four attempts on my life.

I’ve had a gun to my head. A knife to my ribs. Amoeba tried to eat my liver. There was Drugs. Booze. One sociopath. Four car accidents. Two motorcycle accidents.

I jumped off a cliff and out of an airplane. Flew without an engine. Slept in Washington Square Park in NYC. Slept in Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans. Slept…around

Food poisoning. Alcohol poisoning. Jealous girlfriends. Suspicious wives.

Cat scratch fever. Heartbreaks. Psychotic breaks. Family therapy. Ten different therapists

I’ve been mugged, kidnapped, raped. There was one stalker.

I made it through the public school curriculum. The. Campfire. Girls. Puberty. Suburbia. Summer camp. Yiddish. Cultural. School. Gym class. Frosted eye shadow. Community college. AM radio

The East Village in the 70s and the entertainment “biz” in the 80s. Four different apartments in 3 ½ boroughs of NYC.  Two in which the ceilings collapsed. The NYC subway system. The blackout of 2003. The transit strike of 2005. The blizzard of 2010. The great cockroach debacle of 1979

Both hurricanes Sandy and Gloria. That Portuguese man of war. The UnderToad.

Thirty-five years of cigarette smoking. Twenty-two years of drugs and booze. Nembutals. Seconals. Tuinals. Quaaludes. Crystal Meth. Crank. Heroin. Cocaine. Yukon Jack. Vodka. Halcyon. Elavil. Valium. More vodka. Gin. Tequila. Frangelica. Harveys Bristol Creme. Beer. Wine. Boilermakers. Pretty much anything that could be snorted, shot, or put in a glass and poured down my throat.

Driving while intoxicated. Driving while very intoxicated. Driving in a blackout on the Long Island Expressway. Flying without an engine. Trying to fly without a plane. Or wings. Or feathers.

Every single hair color found in nature and many that are not. A beauty school perm.

The rollerblade craze. The disco era. Platform shoes. Spiked heels and potholes.The Hells Angels. The Hellfire club. Plato’s retreat. The Continental Baths.

The monsters. In my closet. Under my bed. Behind the shower curtain. In my head. That speak with my own voice.

Measles. Mumps. Chicken pox. Three bouts of strep throat. Gonorrhea. Trichomonas. Insomnia. Lethargy. Apathy. OCD. Frozen thumb. Osteonecrosis

Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Laziness (I know it’s supposed to be Sloth, but I like sloths and I don’t want them to get a bad rap). Wrath. Envy. Pride. Shame.

And menopause.

So, this week, instead of buying bread, I bought English muffins.
Next time, flat bread.
Time after that, maybe Zweiback crackers.
Baby steps. One step at a time.

In steel-toed boots.




New Fat / Old Age



I have fat in places I used to have angles. Like my back. I have back fat. And my collarbones have faded into something soft and rolling. I used to say those were my two best features. I was the kind of girl who looked good in backless dresses, showing off my shoulders and collarbone.

My hips were always “too big” – baby making hips although I never wanted babies. And my thighs were thick before that was a good thing. I could tell the size of my ass by the color of the cat callers on the street. Brown, I was just right. Black, I’d put on some pounds. White meant I was seriously underweight. I hardly every got white cat calls. I always had me some serious ass.

A friend had told me the trick was to wear it loose where you were fat and tight where you weren’t. And I would drape the bottom half of me in something flowing, show off the top of me in something snug. My small breasts, gently curving back, strong shoulders and collarbones you could hold a golfball in comfortably.

Until the day I turned around in front of the mirror for some reason and there it was. Back fat. If I was a domestic pig, you could call it fat back and fry me up with some collards.

My therapist gave me a prescription for my usual antidepressants and a note that read: exercise, low carbohydrate diet, practice portion control. This is not about portion control. This is not about control. It’s about being out of control. This is how I’m dealing with stress.

“Don’t use that as an excuse,” my mother says.

It’s not an excuse. It’s a fact. This is a coping mechanism, albeit not the best, its better than many I’ve used in the past. This is about denial. About having to be in control in so many areas of your life, including your brain, keeping everything running, on track, voices down to a low hum, that there has to be someplace to give up control, go wild, not have to be in charge. When I was what anyone else would call “running wild” the drugs and alcohol were the place I could let go, not be in control, relax. I’ve had to be in charge my entire life. To save my mother. To save myself.  To defend my father and save him from his fantasies. I had to be in control or he would have destroyed me. And think again if you don’t think that juggling a life of drugs, sex, mobsters, guns and petty crime is not about control. If you want to stay alive it is. It sure is. Ask all of those people who didn’t control. Yeah, you can’t. They’re dead. I’m not.

Imagine your body, your life is a house. Denial is like a burglar alarm system. It keeps the bad things out. I don’t know how to set it for one part of my life and not for another. So, denial about my eating and my weight––because I know you can look at me and say how can she be in denial. Her stomach pours over her pants, it looks painful. It is. But if I can keep that at bay, then also at bay are the feelings around what’s going on with my mother, her aging, her forgetting, getting smaller, more fearful. The feelings about being alone after she’s gone. The feelings about being alone. The feelings. The fat, and the denial that goes with it, because yes, I can acknowledge I’m fat and still be in denial, much in the way I knew I was an alcoholic, I just didn’t see how that was a problem, are keeping me a sane today.

This is not about portion control. Or excuses. This is about being 25 years clean and sober and not yet having developed a coping mechanism that works. Those old survival skills kick in and they’re comforting. After the drugs, was the promiscuous sex, the spending, the working out. To control the things that need to be controlled, to run the ship properly, I need to have a place I can lose myself, let go. Right now, that is the eating.

Crossing Lines


The thing about drawing lines in the sand, limiting yourself, naming those things you will never do, that you’ll know it’s bad when…the thing is they’re lines in the sand. The wind blows and they get harder to see, you cross them without realizing and then you simply draw another line. I did that with drugs: I was never going to do heroin. I was really self-righteous about it too, until one day, thinking it was something else I snorted it and discovered I loved it. And just like that the line moved. It moved so far I couldn’t see it anymore.

When I went from a size 10 to a 12, I was simply not going to let myself get up to a size 14. When I was at size 14, 16 was the thing that would never happen. My 16s are tight on me. Size 18 is unthinkable. But I keep crossing lines, erasing them, stepping over them. I’m trying not to cross this line. I’m trying to take a few steps back as a matter of fact.

I joined a gym. It’s seven blocks away from me. I have to pass it on my way home from work. It was only $15 a month AND my job will reimburse me for that $15. I didn’t go, so I cancelled the membership.

I bought a FitBit and started walking, at least 10,000 steps a day. The battery died. Twice. I stopped wearing the FitBit, and without that thing on my wrist egging me on and nagging me, I put my sneakers and my feet on the shelf and went back to subways, buses, and automobiles.

I gave up bread. Okay, to be more accurate I didn’t eat bread for one week.

I gave up Half & Half in my tea. That’s pretty much all I’ve been able to stick with. Most of the time.

Lines in the sand are so easy to cross. I need a wall. A brick wall. A brick wall that’s smarter than me, that I can’t climb or find a way around. I’m a woman of extremes and when I was younger I thought of joining the army because I figured bootcamp would get me in shape. The U.S. Army would be my brick wall.

So, lines in the sand. They’re so easy to cross. You. You’re my new line. Public. Exposed. Almost naked. As truthful as I can be. This is a line I cannot help but see because everyone else can see it too. Up or down, everything I do goes on my permanent record.