Archive for November, 2009

The Cholesterol, part 1 (there may not be a part 2)

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009


“Are you taking your Lipitor?” – nurse, as I walked in for my annual physical. I know what that is for, Lipitor. and I have been diagnosed with that ailment before, in my last depraved-living episode. Still, alarm bells did not ring, nor, since they are usually on silent mode, did they vibrate.

“No” I said to her.

“Oh no, did you not get a call from your pharmacy? you should be taking it… anyway, your doctor will be in soon, he’ll talk to you about it…”

She came over to take my blood pressure, saying somewhat apologetically, somewhat soothingly, “you got some NEWS, maybe it will be higher than normal, a little elevated…”

It was 120/60.

The doctor, when he eventually came in, assured me that I should drive to the pharmacy directly from his office, and start taking the medication that same day. There was a threat in his calm that finally began to alarm me. I told him of this episode of bad living that had lasted two years, that I had done everything possible to raise my cholesterol. I had eaten bloody filet mignon, fried chicken – no fried chickens, barbecued everything  – baby back ribs, short ribs, pork, chicken, I had driven rather than walked even the shortest distances, I had smoked many many packs of American Spirits, and, the topper, I had been under lots of stress. Even if it was good stress, it was still stress – a book I had written was out there in the world. I asked that doctor if I could change all that, instead of… but he wouldn’t have any of it. He didn’t believe anyone really changed their lifestyle, their habits. The way he said it, I would die on the way home if I didn’t take the pill.

I picked up my prescription. I put the bottle on the table next to my computer and hit the internet.

I found out a few things: That my numbers were bad, but that they could be a lot worse. That I could take things other than Lipitor, things that would not give me muscle aches or memory loss, or that just plain fear-of-side effects induced side effects. That I wasn’t going to die tomorrow, and probably not the day after. That statins had not shown any positive effect on mortality in women who had not previously had a heart attack or a stroke.

I woke up the next morning and ate a bowl of oats. Raw, like a horse. With raisins. I had a mound of leaves and a can of wild Alaskan salmon for lunch. I drank sterol-fortified orange juice from Minute Maid. I ordered Guggul from Himalaya. I had a glass of red wine as I watched the Thursday night football game.

That was day one. I am still doing many of the things I did on day one. Not as frantically, not with the same manic sense of near-death as day one, but I am still there. And it’s almost the end of week one. I plan to quit smoking on my son’s 13th birthday, which is uncomfortably close. I love my cigarettes, and maybe one day I can smoke a cigarette for the sheer pleasure of it … maybe.

Here are my numbers. I know, I know. They are nasty.

Total Cholesterol – 232, LDL – 170, HDL – 42.

Anyone who thinks I’m going to die in the next day or so, please post your goodbye notes in the comments!

Nice review by John Cheeran…

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Thanks for this review, John Cheeran, I’m glad you liked my book!

First and Goal

Friday, November 13th, 2009
Patriots-Steelers 2005

Patriots-Steelers 2005

The very first blog I wrote was about football. American football. I was dissuaded from posting it, because, I was told, it would have little relevance to those I hoped would read my book. I wondered why. I wasn’t really talking about football, but the inspiration, awe, thrill, high and low emotions that any game we follow and are fanatic are about brings us. For me, when I lived in India, it was cricket. The game, the skill, the teams, the players, wins, losses, arguments about who was the better bowler, batsman, all of it was an endless source of captivation. It was personal. From the time I was eight or nine, I remember the atmosphere in the public bus during the test match season – the whole bus hanging on someone’s radio to listen to the scratchy, tinny commentary, as if a war were in progress, our life depended on it. Then there was tv, and I was delighted when we were playing Australia, and I got to see Jeff Thompson with his blond hair doing a little dance as he ran up to deliver devastation. As an adolescent, I had a crush on Ravi Shastri. Later, I had bitter fights with dear friends about my unpatriotic love for the Sri Lankan team. And then, I moved to Southern California, and there was no more cricket. That space was empty. I tried to understand baseball, but it was not for me. You have to grow up here, play it, or at least watch your children play it, you have to have a sense for it – a cultural sense – just like I had for cricket.

And then one afternoon late in September of 2001, soul tired from watching what was the only thing on every talk show and news show, I surfed away. And there it was, that odd and jerky and violent game, the New England Patriots playing another team in colors that I did not know, yet. I watched. I did not get it. But as the months, and years have gone by, I get it. It will be many years before I fully understand the details of the game – I did not grow up with this one either, as I had with cricket. I don’t have the history, nor do I know every last intricate rule yet. But I get the feeling, and feel the things that every sports fan feels when their team is up, and when their team is down. It allows me, again, to ride those emotions with abandon, to allow myself to be jubilant, or crash and burn without fear.

“New England is back in form” it says in the sports section today.

After losing the final game of a perfect season, after losing number twelve to a shoulder injury the following season, and after a shaky start this season, New England is back in form. And reading that made me feel almost happy. I’m finally ready to take whatever comes, be that reviews that revile me, poor sales, or even, god help me, some people reading my book and liking it. Because, whatever happens with A Pack of Lies, The Patriots have another chance at the Superbowl this February. And a chance is something to look forward to, and to enjoy, and a reason to live in a present with a sense of the future.


Friday, November 6th, 2009

Florida State Jazz: Paul McKee combo

Florida State Jazz: Paul McKee combo

If I had to perform in front of a live audience I would fail. Last night, I saw a 45 minute performance by a group of young men, and was delighted and awed. These kids are not yet twenty, and their passion is undeniable, and, unsurprising. What amazes me is how, at this young age, they sound experienced. How will they sound when they really are experienced? I always said to my son, the saxophone player in this combo, that he will never sound experienced because I hoped he would never be – and by experience I meant only adversity. But I may have been wrong – and Sheila Curran may have been right, when she said, “don’t buy into that myth that you can only be a good artist if you are in pain. If you are good unhappy, you will be good happy.”

Reviews and other strange things…

Sunday, November 1st, 2009