Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boston, part two

... yah yah yah I know: it's been more than 24 hours (as promised) since I last wrote. But I've got a good excuse, for my ensuing 24 hours do not start well.

At all. I'll pick up where I left off:

So I'm in bed. I've sent my emails, I've shut off my laptop; as I roll over, I marvel at the fact that I'm so tired as to actually be nauseous. It's my life, I think, finally catching up to me.

Fifteen minutes later I change my mind, for the nausea has overtaken the fatigue. This isn't good.

A few minutes later the nausea has intensified, and now something more: dread. A dread that soon turns into an awful certainty I haven't felt in years: in a few minutes, I'm gonna puke. And puke hard.

Nothing changes about this ritual, or the steps that lead relentlessly to it: the sweating, the shallow breathing, the clenched fists... the desperate bargaining with one's own stomach: please, please, not now... the eternal bucket/toilet debate (and where IS the ice bucket, anyway?)... the mental plotting of the bathroom dash, followed the realization that the mere act of standing will seal the deal and the dread that one has waited too long to sprint.

One forgets how painful it is.

...the first time. After an hour or so of this, as my fingernails dig into the toilet seat and my even my legs, fully extended and tensed, are in on the job, I come to hate my body. I hate the level of pain it can endure. I hate its stubborn insistence that the best thing to do now is, ya know... puke more. I hate the fact that every muscle in my body is tense in an effort to squeeze another drop of God-knows-what from my body--and if I could breathe, I'd scream to my body (really, I would): THERE'S SIMPLY. NOTHING. LEFT. Anywhere. Trust me. I know this.

Finally, it recedes. as I collapse onto the tile floor, drenched in a sweat that trickles even into my ears, I am reminded of a fundamental truth of life: few things feel better than the end of pain.

My last thought before passing out is a prayer that this is food poisoning, for there's a stomach flu going around LA that's got a nasty reputation and I simply can't afford a week of this. Time will tell.

6AM: I open my eyes. The sliver-window in the bathroom has turned from black to a dull, slate gray. Dawn. Crawl back to bed.

A lifetime later (but it's only 9:40!) and my body has decided that one final, just-in-case round is in order-- and as I assume the position, this I know: ain't no way I'm teachin a class today. But by noon, the pain-tide has turned a little, and I decide: Peter Kelley is no quitter. I'm in Boston, Dammit, and I've got work to do. Come hell or high water, I'll rally.

2PM: I call my good friend Steve Stapinski, who's registered in the class, and he agrees to stop by with replenishing fluids on his way in to rehearse. A few minutes later, a knock at my door: a bellman, with a bag containing TWO ONE-GALLON JUGS of Gatorade. (Thanks, Steve.) A little after three, and I'm at the BCA. I make it through class, actually rally a little, and when we exit the BCA...

Now THIS is more like it. THIS is the Boston I remember.

I am suddenly walking fast and my head is down and my hands are dug into my pockets and I am squinting in a futile effort to shield my eyes against the wind-driven sleet that sandblasts directly into my face. As we approach steve's car, Steve-- who can never, ever resist talking to a young woman-- asks the valet whether we are in fact dealing with snow or rain.

"Neither," she says... "it's 'snain'. Snain's the worst."

"Snain." That's a good one. Fifteen years in Boston and I never heard that. I am shivering by the time I climb into Steve's car and I am reminded to never, ever take small miracles like heated seats for granted. Five minutes later I am back in my bed. Two minutes after that, I'm asleep.

It is not, as it feels, ten hours later when I wake up. In fact, it's barely nine PM. But I am on the mend, and I'd earlier heard a rumor that I now must confirm, so I get dressed and manage to head outside.

The rumor is true. The "snain" has turned to snow. Real snow, White Christmas snow. Suddenly, I don't even mind the cold. Suddenly, I know there's only one thing to do. I drop my head, squint... and return to the the Oak Room. I order a ginger ale (but for the love of Christ stay away from those Wasabe peas!), and listen.

One thing about Christmas carols: all the good ones succeed on the level of melody, so they don't need to be sung to be enjoyed. But now, in a bold shift... this new tune is not a Christmas carol, and it takes me a second to place it. It's The Beatles: "Here,There, and Everywhere."

Here's the thing about a Beatles song: every element is by now so iconic --the arrangement, the production, those vocals-- that it's sometimes necessary to hear one out of context to realize how beautiful it is. It's a brilliant choice, this, for it's so simple and haunting and sweet that, in another musical life, it could actually be a Christmas carol. And I get the sense I'm not alone in this thought: for the duration of the song, the whole place grows a little quieter.

It ends, and I decide not to press my luck with another Ginger Ale. One more chin-down walk though a Boston night, and in ten minutes I'm back in bed and once again quickly dropping into sleep, and as I do so I think about my day. Despite its horrible start, I taught a class. I heard Christmas carols. I saw snow. And now I'm in a warm bed.

All of our lives go through times of ache. But even then - or especially then - above all things, Gratitude. Which is the point, I think, of the season.


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