OK, We’re Back

First of all, thanks once again to all of you. We’re back in Brooklyn now, after a brief trip to San Diego to visit my ailing mum.

I’m going to write one more rather personal post here, before returning to the usual bloat and blather.

The situation, though still very grim, is quite different from what I had indicated in my earlier posts. In what I consider an unconscionably callow act of thoughtless indifference to a patient’s feelings, my mother’s doctor, who was on vacation at the time, had given her the original diagnosis of stomach cancer – a diagnosis that would certainly have meant a quick and horrible death – over the phone, without, as it turned out, having personally seen her CAT scan. More careful examination has now shown that while she has metastatic tumors in her abdomen, they may in fact be treatable, and the primary tumor’s type and location is still unknown. It is definitely NOT stomach cancer.

Her prognosis is uncertain at this point; she is going to the hospital tomorrow for more tests. She is very frail, and, as a result of a 40-year course of steroid drugs to treat her progressive rheumatoid arthritis, has many other internal problems, some of which my be severe enough to do her in even if the cancer doesn’t. But she may have more time, if she has the strength for a fight.

By contrast with our original overwhelming shock – we thought we would certainly lose her in a matter of a few weeks – we now have, at least, the sense that we can deal with matters in a more measured way. We are still in some heavy surf here, but what had happened last week was as if we had been overwhelmed without warning as we stood facing the shore. Now at least we can see the waves as they approach. Very different.

I have yet to acquire a taste for Southern California, although I have been there many, many times over the last thirty years. In particular, the area between San Diego and Los Angeles, despite its clement weather and pleasingly three-dimensional topography, has limited appeal for me. Ninety-nine percent of the buildings look as if they had been put up last month, and I always have the feeling that a good gust of wind would sweep it all away. The scenery seems to repeat itself endlessly: the same stucco-sided, tile-roofed middle-income subdivisions, the same low-rise shopping malls, everywhere you look. Driving through it all, it suddenly struck me, is like watching a chase scene in one of those old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Remember how, as Quick Draw McGraw or Fred and Barney zoomed along, you’d see the same background scenery looping by again and again? The only thing that’s different in this case is that, instead of a retiterated sequence of animated cacti or Bedrockian dwellings, it’s an eternal recurrence of Taco Bells and Starbuckses and El Pollo Locos – all, apparently, built just last week.

Anyway, it’s good to be back home, and thank you all.


  1. the one eyed man says

    The reason that a lot of Southern California houses look temporary is that the building codes are much different than in the East, so the buildings will remain viable in an earthquake.

    I can understand disliking the LA-San Diego corridor if you’re on the 405 or the 5 – but it’s something else entirely if you are driving down the coast road at Laguna Niguel with the top down, sitting next to a redhead…

    Posted March 6, 2006 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Peter,

    No, I think what I am reacting to is how prefabricated and shallowly rooted (in a temporal, not a physical, sense) it all feels; I think building codes are not the issue. To me the Northeast just feels much more grown-up and serious, while Southern California always seems splashy and frivolous.

    But right you are, of course, there’s nothing like a snazzy motorcar and an attractive companion to help one adapt to the surroundings.

    It’s all just a matter of taste, really. To each his own.

    Posted March 6, 2006 at 9:35 pm | Permalink
  3. David says

    Glad to hear some better news about your mom.
    9 years on the SoCal coast and it’s still butt-ugly to me.
    Things improve quickly going east into the desert and mountains.

    Posted March 7, 2006 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

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