The real 8 Mile Road, Detroit
How many times have I said reading a daily newspaper in Detroit is hardly ever boring?
Two years ago, 1-year-old Deante Reid died in his parents’ care — and, to avoid funeral costs, his parents tried to cremate him in a barbecue grill, the boy’s mother told police. But the bones wouldn’t burn completely, so the couple hid what was left of the baby in the ceiling of a home on Dickerson in Detroit.
Jesus Christ. The story gets worse: The authorities found about the barbecue because they’re investigating the abuse of another kid in the same family. Burns.
Well, don’t want to bring you down too early on Monday. I’m writing this on my birthday, a big birthday, one that ends in a zero. It doesn’t make me happy — I don’t feel 50, although I’ve looked it since 40 or so. And while I’m happy to be 50 in the 21st century, when 50 is the new 35, nothing really changes. Women are invisible past 50. Nature is a bitch. Cronehood is scant compensation, but what the hell, we all can’t be Charlotte Rampling.
Self-pity over. I’m glad to be alive, even in a world where people barbecue their children.
Besides — [jarring change of mood; distraction by shiny object] — I got a cool present. I knew it was cool when I couldn’t even play with it the whole first day because Kate was downstairs with her friends, making a series of experimental films involving mutant werewolves and delinquent teenagers. As soon as I retrieve it from the werewolves, I think it’ll be a nice new resource for NN.C. More to come.
So how was everybody’s weekend? Good, I hope. I celebrated my impending midcentury doom by giving blood Friday. I mean, why not? I’ve always been a blood donor; all anyone has ever had to do is ask. This was my 49th unit, and yes, I noted the symmetry. I started when I was young and healthy in Columbus, Ohio, and have seen quite a few things change since then. Image-wise, blood products have gone from being the very stuff of life to agents of contagion more akin to toxic waste. The usually put a sticker on your shirt as you’re leaving, something like, “Be nice to me! I gave blood today.” If they were redesigning the stickers today, they should say, “Bow down before me! I have no communicable diseases, nor do I take Plavix, coumadin or Accutane and to my knowledge have not had sex with a man who’s had sex with another man since 1977.”
I’ve learned that the blood you give isn’t immediately rushed across the street to be infused in an accident victim; sometimes it’s exported to another part of the world. Blood is a commodity, and the Red Cross treats it as such, and you shouldn’t be shocked or offended to learn this. Remember those horrible pictures of 9/11, of all the emergency medical personnel lined up in ambulance bays, waiting for injured that never arrived? Remember how America responded? (The ones without stupid blogs, that is.) Feeling helpless in their living rooms, watching the carnage on TV, they went down to their local blood banks and donated a pint, blood that was, quite frankly, of no use to the thousands who died that day. Blood has a shelf life; gallons had to be discarded, rivers of blood now soaking into bio-waste landfills. Lesson: Think before you give.
Of course, there’s always a need. Most blood stays in the communities where it’s collected. Every year it gets scarcer, and once you’ve donated blood in the 21st century, you understand why. When I started donating in the late ’70s, the questions were about hepatitis and recent vaccinations, and the nice nurses touched you with their bare hands. Within a few years, they started asking about AIDS and HIV, and everyone wore latex. A few years later, they instituted a private-moment interlude in the interview, when you could slip behind a screen and put an anonymous bar-code sticker on your chart that told the computer what you were too embarrassed to tell the nice nurse — that you were an IV drug abuser or a catcher at last Saturday night’s bareback anal-sex orgy.
Friday was my first donor appointment in four years. The last one, in 2003, was memorable because it was in our office, and was marked by two faintings (Emma’s husband swooned, and Emma, watching, swooned in sympathy. Or maybe it was the other way around.) and a set-to between a gay editor and the bureaucracy of the American Red Cross, who found his protestations of rigorous HIV testing, safe-sex practices and mutual monogamy unconvincing, and rejected him permanently. This year, I was told by a gruff nurse to read the manual before I even signed in.
“I’ve got some experience with this,” I said. “Is there anything new?”
“The FDA requires us to make you read the manual,” she replied.
OK. The manual: Do you feel well today? Are you prone to fainting spells? Had a recent tattoo? Positive drug test for HIV? All familiar questions, then a new medical horror: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Variant. Had a dura mater transplant lately? God, no. Cancer? Chemo? Infections? On to the contraindicated drug list, which had grown by a page, now encompassing many of the wonder drugs advertised on prime-time television. Insulin from bovine sources, blood thinners, acne drugs linked to birth defects. I began to wonder if this was worth it for a couple of cookies, a glass of orange juice and a free blood-pressure check.
It took 45 minutes to get through the screening. After that, the needle stick was a relief.
The whole operation was understaffed, and I didn’t have the usual post-donation experience of being walked to the canteen by an old man who keeps a firm grip on your elbow, lest you pass out. They waved me over to the Lorna Doones with a gesture and told me to call if I developed any alarming symptoms or recalled a previously forgotten interlude with a Village Person. The experience was, like so many things these days, not what it used to be.
So be nice to me. I put up with a lot of shit to keep the country’s blood supply safe.
Meet a 3-year-old drum prodigy. Does he have a website? But of course. Sounds like his career’s well underway, which is good, because his parents have enrolled him in a school that will require many record sales to meet the tuition bill.
Amy Winehouse is Judy Garland, 2007 version. What the hell is that hanging down between her legs? A tampon string?
More later, but less of it. I have so much work to do this week I’ll barely have time to make videos. There’s a problem to have, eh?