Defending Tobacco

I have set out to write in defense of tobacco.  I do it for the challenge.  There are other things that would be almost equally challenging, but I don’t know enough about them: I’ve never committed  pedophilia or sent out spam emails or run for congress, so  tobacco seems the only remaining choice.

I know very well the cards are stacked against me.  The only people who love the big tobacco companies are those who own the big tobacco companies.  In this way tobacco is not unlike oil.  A difference between them is that, in the last twenty years at least, no country has been invaded for its tobacco crop.  To me, this is a point in favor of tobacco, but no doubt others differ.

Now, I am aware that tobacco is not good for me.  I have been assured of this by, not only the medical profession, but by other good-hearted folk who, I am certain, have been earnestly told by their doctors and clergymen that they should seek me out and inform me.  I have had kindly people travel a thousand miles merely to tell me that tobacco is bad for me.  Sometimes they bring friends and distant relations and remain for weeks to be certain I have this information.  Such evidence of good will cannot be ignored, and I do not ignore it.  I am convinced that they are right and tobacco is not good for me, that I will live longer if I refrain.  And, as has been said before, even if I do not live longer, it will feel longer, which is the same thing.

I am also aware that tobacco is not good for the fellow next to me.  There have been studies indicating that spending forty hours a week for twenty years in smoke-filled rooms may be harmful; it seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that if a chance whiff of my smoke should infiltrate the air of someone next to me he will drop dead on the spot, and therefore I accept this as a fact.  I know that if it should happen I would feel bad.

Another thing that makes it hard to defend tobacco is the recent increase in Federal tax on tobacco.  The tax on loose (roll-your-own) tobacco just increased by a factor of ten.  What makes this especially praiseworthy is that such an increase, like all taxes on goods and services, hits especially hard on the poor.  This will encourage the poor to quit smoking, because as we all know raising the price of something at once causes those addicted or habituated to it to quit; anyone pretending that our government cares little for the poor should be convinced by this statistic.  And it need hardly be said that this tax has the additional benefit of providing much needed funds for bailing out billionaire bankers and invading countries for their tobacco, or whichever resource that was.

With all of this working against me, how can I even consider defending tobacco?

Suddenly I am at a loss.  Let me light a cigarette.  Ah, yes, now I remember.  My defense is as follows: I like it.

Follow-up on health stuff and money stuff

I’m pretty much okay now, assuming nothing else goes wrong.   A bunch of you sent me money, which helped more than I can say.   When we posted a while ago asking for a loan, Matthew Fischer said, “I think you are very likely to get 150 fans to donate $100 in exchange for exclusive access to some signature graphic design element, audiobook, podcast or piece of prose.”

Since then, I’ve been thinking over what sort of cool thing to do to say thank you.  This post is just to say I’ve got an idea, and it’ll take about a month or so to put together.  So hang on, and watch this space for breaking news.

And, really, no shit, thank you all again.  Thank you very much.

And your language skills fail and negativity just won't pull you through.

Doctor Natera came by, I think around 9PM. He’d been delayed by a sudden inrush of patients, I think at the other clinic, where he treats those who can’t afford the services of “Star Medica.” He asked if I was in pain, and we had the “little pain?” conversation. He convinced me not to try to drive home that night, which had been the original plan.

There was a Denny’s about a block away. About midnight or so (my time-sense goes bad around here) I resolved to walk there. I really, really wanted food. Standing up hurt. Reesa helped me dress, and we went downstairs. We tried to communicate to the staff that we were going outside and then back in, but had a lot of trouble getting the message across; no one on duty then spoke English. Eventually, I managed to mime that I was stepping outside to smoke, and they seemed fine with that and pointed me to the correct exit. We walked around the parking lot, out to the street, and about halfway down the block before a security guard on a bicycle from the hospital stopped us. I couldn’t understand his words, but it was obvious we were to return to the hospital. He was friendly, but firm.

We walked back, found what I think was a security manager who spoke English, and explained that we were not permitted to leave the hospital parking lot. He said it was for our safety, and I think it really was. Oh, well. At least I got a cigarette.

I undressed. It hurt whole heaps and bunches.

Then came the night. Mexican hospitals are strange: when you are recovering and need sleep, they let you sleep. Bizarre. The only interruption all night came from someone bringing in a bottle of water and setting it on the inevitable wheeled tray.

A good night’s sleep helped a lot, but I still hurt. In the morning, Sergio and Irene came, and we packed (Reesa packed, actually, I proudly pulled my own socks and boots on) and checked out, which was a very simple procedure. They put is in a hotel shuttle which would drive us to meet Irene, get my perscriptions, and then to the border.

Ooops! The border? The driver had no visa, and in any case the hotel shuttle was not permitted to cross the border, in spite of the hotel saying that they would do so.

So Irene and her brother drove us around a bit to find a pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions for my pain meds, anti-biotic, and anti-inflammatory. It was frustrating, because my credit card, though it worked fine in ATMs, kept failing at the pharmacies. But we got it, and I happily gobbled down the pills.

A lot of pleasant conversation with Irene and her brother, who seemed to think the world of Dr. Natera. And we spoke of the “Wall of Shame” and all cursed those who make the decisions for the US. Irene calmly matter of factly told the story of Sergio being arrested at the border as a suspected terrorist and held for 30 days. He was finally released because (wait for it) he had been a singer for Mariachi band that had played at the White House under the previous Bush, and new the Governer of New Mexico.

Why had he been arrested? They never found out; no one would tell them. Her telling of the story was, as I said, so matter-of-fact, and with so little bitterness, that it seemed as if her attitude was, “This is just part of life if you live near the US.”
How many others has this happened to? How many are still in jail because they don’t have the connections? It is one thing to know this is happening; it is another to hear how it happened to someone you know, and like.

We got into the long, long tine for the border crossing. There are people selling food and trinkets, and begging, all along the bridge over the Rio Grande. We talked of the stupidity of “Homeland Security” and of vague hopes for the future; they seemed to have no more hope that an Obama presidency would change things than I do.

They dropped us off at airport parking in El Paso. We found our car, and began the long drive home. Reesa did the driving, I did the moaning. I’m such a wimp!

I hope we manage to stay in touch with Irene and Sergio; they’re great people. If you are in the position I’m in: rich by Mexican standards, poor by the standards of what is need for healthcare in the US, then I recommend Mexico without reservation.  I also want to thank Dr. Flash Gorden, who advised me about hernia care, treatment, and gave me some reassurances about Dr.  Natera.

I’m sure I’ve left off a thousand interesting things; maybe I’ll talk about them in discussion, or later posts.

It is good to be home; I miss Irene and Sergio and hope we stay in touch.

…and it's surgery time, too.

I think it was around 11:30 or 11:45 at that point.  The anesthesiologist explained that he was going to give me a tranquilizer (or did he say sedative?  I can’t remember), then numb me from the waist down.  I swallowed and nodded, mostly thinking at that moment of long, long needles inserted into me in terrible places in order to numb me from the waist down.  I hoped the tranquilizer would be effective enough that I wouldn’t scream or anything.

He injected three hypodermics into the IV line.  Then there was a blue cloth of some kind in front of me, over my belly, like a small curtain blocking my view of the place where I was being cut, and a nurse looking down at me.  I said, “What’s going on?”  She said, “You’re done.”  I think I remember them starting to remove the blue cloth, but I fell asleep.

I woke up in the recovery room, unable to move my legs.  I knew it was the local causing it, and was never really worried, but nevertheless felt the need to fight it and to try to move my legs.  I tried very hard.  I failed utterly.  I fell asleep again.  When I woke up, I tried to move my feet, failed again, and slept more.  Then I woke up again, tried to move my feet, succeeded a little, and slept.

I was awake when  I was wheeled back into the room. A kiss and a smile from Reesa, and she spoke, I think, about blogging things, but I was a bit fuzzy.  I said, “I can move my feet!  See?”  Then I was in and out of sleep.  I think Sergio and Irene came back then (Irene is the brother of the guy who picked us up at the airport, and Sergio is her husband; they all work for Dr. Natera, the surgeon, and they’re both wonderful) and asked how I was, which was fine.

The local wore off and I hurt badly.  At various times, I was given a pain shot via the IV, a pain shot in my butt, and a pill the doctor described as a “narcotic.”  None of them appeared to do any good.  They all asked how I was, and I said, “There is pain.”  “Little pain?” they all asked.  “A lot of pain,” I said, permanently marking myself as a wimp.  Then I coughed.  That proved to be a terrible mistake.  Reesa gave me a pillow and advised me to clutch it in front of my stomach if I needed to cough.  Good advice; it helped.

Eventually they fed me: rice, and some sort of chicken dish; good for a hospital though not enough of it.  I think this was around 3:30 in the afternoon.

I faded in and out much of the rest of day, until about 8 when I was fed again.  Not enough.  Feh.  I wanted food.  I also wanted a cigarette.  Fortunately, in Mexico, the nicotine inhaler that is by far the best system for not smoking ever, is cheap, and doesn’t require a perscription, so that kept me reasonably sane.

I think it was during that time that Irene and Sergio took Reesa out for some shopping, which was awfully sweet of them.  Or maybe that was earlier; my brain was not in top form, and I did a lot of the things Vlad does when his brain is messed up: getting the order of events wrong.  Nice to have the reassurance I got that stuff right.  (Pats self on back).  Anyway, Reesa showed me the stuff she’d gotten for the kids, and a really beautiful ash tray for me, with what seems to be Aztec designs in it.  I’m using it as I write this.