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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   Asian kids during segregation
Sunday, July 31 2011

Several days ago over the phone, the neurosurgeon back in Staunton had managed to get me on board with my father getting surgery on his lower back to correct the constriction around his spinal cord. I'd been reluctant initially, but then I'd realized that nearly all the problems affecting my father now are a consequence of the failure of nervous control of his lower body. Without the surgery, he would be little more than bedridden for the remainder of his life. He'd have to live out his remaining time in a nursing home. But there was a real possibility that with surgery, he'd regain functions and be able to do things that had been impossible for a number of years. Gretchen and Hoagie (my mother) agreed with me on this, and (somewhat surprisingly), we even managed to get my father on board. But today my mother called with the unsettling news that my father had suddenly changed his mind and was refusing the surgery. The refusal seemed to come from the same place from which "do not resuscitate" clauses spring, though it seemed misguided and irrational, since the likely effect would be to increase the fraction of his life during which he would depend completely on the assistance of others. I suggested to my mother that she get my father's pain medication reduced so he would be more clear-headed and also feel more of the pain coming from recent deterioration in his spine. That might be enough to convince him to change his mind. I also thought that it was important that doctors give my father as little information as possible; there's no telling what nugget of a conversation he might seize on as a reason not to carry through on the surgery, particularly given his weird mix of absolutist ideology and waves of age-related dementia.

This evening Ray and Nancy picked us up and drove us over to Woodstock, where we met up with Deborah at a house she rented for a year and a half about five years ago. She'd become friends with David and Mary Anne, her landlords, who now use that house as a weekend retreat. (They're both Baby Boomers working as college professors in the City.) They were there tonight and the seven of us were getting together for a vegan potluck. (Like Ray, David recently had open hear surgery and observes a strict — though not vegan — diet. Ray already knew David through Deborah; the two guys like to play tennis together.)
David and Mary Anne are funny and down-to-earth in a way that's missing in nearly all our other friends and family from their generation. So the night was entertaining and even a little charged-up at first. Mary Anne regaled us with tales of motorcycling down to Mexico with a boyfriend back in the early 1970s, and then she and David told us of how they'd met in the early 1990s via classified ads (this was well before At some point they also told us what it was like to go to public schools under segregation (he in Baltimore, she in Memphis). David wondered what schools the Asian kids had attended; none were in his all-white school, but he couldn't imagine them being in the black schools either.
Some of the food was good, though potlucks often remind you what truly horrid home cooking can taste like. Nobody was drinking very heavily, so I only ended up having two glasses of wine (the rosé Nancy had brought). Despite the night's initial promise, it's not easy for me to endure hour after hour at a stranger's house when I'm so close to sober, and somehow we ended up staying there for four hours. I kept wishing I was back home in my laboratory, where I'd just had a pleasant breakthrough in one of my xcode projects.

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