February 2008

Culture Clash

I was showing Rina around town and finally got a pic of Bernard Maybeck’s Palace of Fine Arts. Maybeck definitely knew what part he liked best:

Palace of Fine Arts, detail

Stay tuned for some shoe-on-the-other-foot cross-cultural tales occasioned by Rina’s visit.

Like just a few minutes ago I burst into laughter in the bathroom upon seeing something Rina had brought with her.

You know, when you’re going to a strange land where the natives do not enjoy all the benefits of civilization, you quite naturally bring your toothbrush, anticipating that they’d just use twigs for their dental hygiene.

Well, maybe the toothbrush isn’t a good analogy because we all tend to carry our own toothbrushes around.

What I spotted in the bathroom was Rina’s washandje (that little Dutch bathcloth sack thingy that they use instead of a bathcloth). It’s made out of terrycloth like a bathcloth but instead of being a flat square, it’s a smaller rectangle that’s folded once and then sewn on two sides so that it forms a sort of mitten that you can slip your hand into.

I own a couple of these that Dutch friends have given me because they knew I’d be fascinated by the novelty. What I didn’t know is that apparently they feel it’s utterly barbarous to bathe without using one and that you must carry your own to darkest America.

Hmm. Perhaps the folks who gave them to me were subtly trying to civilize me and expected me to actually use them.


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Rina Alert

Here’s Vesma’s Acacia.  I’m a little iffy about which of the 1300 species it is:


The enormity is sinking in. Rina arrives tomorrow and it’s now 8:00 at night and I’m sitting here paralyzed over what I must do next to prepare for her visit. Instead of snapping into action, I’m writing this.


When Charmazel was due in December, I not only dug out from under a significant percentage of the piles of ‘stuff’ stacked around, but I also re-organized the whole damn flat so there’d be a nice, private bedroom with a real door and an openable window onto Anne’s garden with a view of Twin Peaks. And the window even has blinds.

Now Rina’s coming for two weeks, and I look around and realize that the State of Decoration has not progressed a single step since Charmazel was here.

Sigh. I mean, in most ways it’s just as well that I got a defective copy of the gay gene and have no love for torch singers or flair for flower arrangement, but it wouldn’t have hurt me to have got a basic grasp of interior design and some need to neaten my nest.

I remember fifteen years ago when I was still trying to find a replacement for Allen, and I dated this guy a few times until I figured out that I would never be as important to him as his dog, and I wasn’t even asking him to follow me around with a plastic bag.

But before I’d reached that conclusion, we were sitting in my kitchen for probably the fifth time and he looked around and said, “You know, your place is comfortable.” I thanked him graciously for the compliment, I think convincingly ignoring the glaring subtext “…in spite of how it looks.”

I told that story to my friend David last fall, and he didn’t even have to look up before saying, “Well, it’s not overdone.”

OK, I now have forty-six minutes before bedtime. The pile of boxes in the corner of the dining room is gonna have to just stay there, and there are some stacks of papers at strategic points in the office that will also be remaining. What I will do in the morning is put out my fluffiest towels for her in the bathroom and make up her bed with the good sheets and the duvet, which I hung off the balconette all afternoon in the sun and breeze.

The excellent news from earlier this evening is that I achieved a major breakthrough in design: on two walls I have hung old Mexican blankets from the picture rails, thus getting some color and a little texture into the place. One of those walls is even in the guest room.

Besides, we’re not gonna be in here except to sleep, she never having been to California. Hell, after reading about her in my tales since 2001, everybody wants to meet her. She’s a little nervous about this, but I tried to reassure her when we Skyped this morning that all she has to do is speak perfect English, out-bicycle Lance Armstrong, and fillet a mackerel in three chops.

Oh, good grief: flowers! Yesyesyes. I’ll run down to the Castro in the morning and get a gay florist to sell me some flowers appropriate for a Dutch lady’s bedroom.


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Kenyan Clothing

The following was written in response to the posting of photos of Barack Obama wearing a dashiki and suggesting that this somehow made him Moslem.

Recently, our Campaign Headquarters has received reports that the Opposition is planning to disseminate photographs of me wearing Kenyan clothing in an attempt to associate me with Islamic terrorist activity in that country.

To preempt them, I am releasing this photo myself.

Kenyan dashiki

Yes, a couple of years ago I was on a visit (although not to Kenya). Yes, I was given native garb. Yes, as a courtesy to the givers, I donned it and was photographed. However, I want to unequivocally state that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Kenyan, a Moslem, or even a terrorist.

My greatest regret, though, is that the photo was not taken before the ceremonial dinner.

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The Avastin Chronicles

Another entry in a series explaining the extent of my love for drug companies, unlike my discussion of Merck’s Zetia and Vytorin above, a case in which I am personally involved since I woke up one morning last December with macular edema secondary to retinal vein occlusion in my left eye. Which meant i was going blind.

Luckily, I was referred to Dr. Anne E. Fung, who attempted to get me into a clinical trial for a new wonder drug, and who then, when I was rejected by the sponsoring drug company because I was HIV+, treated me with Bevacizumab (Avastin), which Genentech had developed as a cancer drug.

Intraocular treatment with Bevacizumab means that they strap you down, jab a syringe into your eyeball, and squirt in a couple of milligrams of puréed mouse.

OK, I exaggerate slightly. You’re not strapped down. They deaden your eyeball and you just hold still. Very still. Trying not to imagine what would happen if you twitched. And it’s not really ground-up mouse but rather a mouse antibody that Genentech has brewed in their labs.

The good news is that one injection of it, along with some other treatment, has restored much of the vision I had lost. The bad news is that Genentech is actively fighting intraocular use of Avastin since they make fifteen times as much from another drug of theirs called Ranibizumab (Lucentis), derived from the same parent molecule by the same scientist.

Last fall they stopped sales of Avastin to compounding pharmacies, which effectively prevents retinologists from using it when they have exhausted their supply. Dr. Fung was foresighted enough to lay in a stash, and she is spacing out treatments for patients like me who respond well. This will prolong her ability to help patients whose insurance will not cover Lucentis, but her supply is running out.

Well, yes, let’s confine the luxury of vision to the folks who can afford it.

While you can still see, take a look at this place around the corner on 21st Street.


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