Thursday, October 8, 2009

2 a.m. Zevonesque

Let Me Break it On Down

So it's 2 a.m. and I'm sitting in the hallway of a hospital, staring up at the ceiling tiles and contemplating making a run for it.

And meanwhile, I can't get this very NSFW Warren Zevon song out of my head. (Embedding's disabled, so click on the link; I'll wait.)

Which reminds me of going to dinner at Bob & Karen's place about seven or eight years ago. For some reason, we started talking about that song and about Warren Zevon in general. And then Karen casually says "he lives in our building." This is followed by anecdotes about people sending Warren cookies and casual encounters they had with him in the hallways.

And I'm thinking: Warren Zevon lives here? In this big, semi-anonymous building with the small pool and labyrinth-like hallways? How could that possibly be true? But when we left, I looked at the buzzer by the front gate. And there it was: Zevon.

But what do you do with this information? Do you ring his buzzer randomly and tell him how much you loved The Envoy? Do you mention how one of your friends still talks about the time he staggered drunkenly into her at a nightclub in the 1980s? Or do you bring him gourmet pastries from the bakery across the street and tell him how you thought about the song "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" every night when you went out with that waitress in 1983 (and looking back, maybe she was with the Russians, too)? And is there a way to do that without seeming like a dork or infringing on someone's well-deserved privacy?

And then you know what happened. Zevon got sick -- and the idea of randomly ringing his buzzer (which had always seemed iffy) just seemed wrong. But every time I was over at Bob & Karen's, I'd touch Zevon's name at the gate, hoping to send back some of the energy his music had given me over the years.

Now the building's had a face-lift. The outside's been painted and the pool's been spruced up. The front gate and buzzer system's been redone. And, of course, Zevon's name is gone.

Which brings me to last Friday.

I suddenly notice that I have what I'll call the OMS (Odd Medical Symptom). I Google the OMS and read all about various serious ailments, but none of them match my symptom (which, again, is very odd and came on very suddenly).

So I go on with the rest of my life until Saturday, when I push through and finally finish something I've been trying to get done for a long time. My sense of accomplishment goes away quickly when I notice the OMS again and wonder what it could be. I examine myself carefully, poking and prodding myself, and go back online, where I find what I'll call the PSI (Potentially Serious Illness).

Sure enough, the OMS is a major symptom of the PSI, but people with the PSI also reportedly have pain. And then I start feeling some pain, maybe because I've been poking and prodding myself for hours -- or maybe because I've been reading WebMD after dark.

And I think about how Warren Zevon avoided doctors for decades until he went to see one after years of pain (and was diagnosed with a terminal illness). Plus, WebMD says that people who have PSI need to be operated on within 6 hours. It also mentions gangrene and other side effects that scare me half to death.

My medical group has a doctor on call and I get through to her around 11:45 pm. I mention that I might have PSI and her first question is "How do you know about that?" I admit I Googled it and emphasize that I don't really have much pain, but I do have OMS. The Doctor says I should definitely go to the Emergency Room instead of waiting for the next morning.

So Mrs. Clicks and Pops and I go off to the E.R., where we hit the quiet time between late-evening accidents and middle-of-the-night, post-bar-closing catastrophes. Ten minutes after walking in the door, I'm examined and poked and prodded some more. I'm told that my OMS isn't that odd in the general population (even if it came on very suddenly for me and is very odd compared to my entire previous life). I'm sent upstairs where a very nice Slavic woman pokes and prods me again (this time with ultrasound), then wheels my bed out into the hall so I can stare at the ceiling tiles and think about Warren Zevon until I'm brought back to the E.R.

By this time, I'm feeling silly about the entire evening (and vow never to read WebMD after dark again). The final verdict: yes, I have OMS, but not PSI. Instead, I have a very common, somewhat annoying, innocuous and non-life threatening condition that requires no medical attention or treatment.

And I wonder if Warren Zevon isn't somewhere laughing at me, thinking "you should've brought the pastries over and rung the buzzer when you had the chance." (Link for Gmail subscribers.)


Mike said...

I never saw the building Zevon lived in but I did share a house with a guy who registered his name in the phone book as, you guessed it, Warren Zevon.

Bob Malone said...

Great piece! I always wanted to knock on the door just to tell him how great "Accidentally Like A Martyr" was and how sometimes I would play it over and over. But I never got the nerve. And then he got sick...

Yes, he is laughing at us :-)