Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Existing in New York City: Deep in Debt But Still Alive

Foto by tgw, New York City, March 2012
Say goodbye to: Bert Sugar,
the boxing writer and historian who I first met while slugging down Jameson Golds and puffing on a La Rosa Rothschild cigar at the bar at my favorite Irish pub and Bert was there, wearing his copyrighted fedora and smoking his own copyrighted cigar and drinking his whiskey and talking his boxing and his boxing history and Bert became a fixture in my favorite Irish pub--and I spent many a good afternoon into the evening sitting at that bar listening to Bert talk glowingly about his true love, boxing--and I managed to tell him my boxing stories, how my step-grandfather had been a referee at the old St. Nicholas Arena in Uptown Manhattan and how he kept a diary of all the fights he saw or refereed and how he became pals with Kid Gavillan and Rocky Graziano. And now I'm sorry to read that Bert left the mortal coil for a trip up to the big boxing arena in the sky. Age 74. And from a heart attack. Bert Sugar, 74, American boxing writer and historian, cardiac arrest.
How to Have a Heart Attack and Not Know It
You are walking down the street one day, lollygagging along, picking up some chow, when all of a sudden your chest starts burning like a building on fire. You try to walk forward but you can't. Nor can you breathe easy. You stop. You think: What the hell is this?...is this a heart attack? What the hell should I do? Suddenly you belch. A gaseous belch. A belch that rumbles up from somewhere just below your ribcage and blasts out foghorn like. As it explodes outward it leaves a greenish-gas taste in your mouth. You feel better. You feel relieved. You feel good enough to start moving again. You walk forward. No problem. You walk on and on and you get to your building and you're OK and you're feeling like "Hot damn, whew, glad that's over...BUT what the hell was that?"

In your apartment you quickly go on the Internet. You Google "chest pains belched gone away" and the Internet gives you back just the thing you want to see..."If you can belch it off, it's not a heart attack."

That was over a year and a half ago. Since then nearly every time you had to walk some distances or climb say a 10% grade of subway steps, you start getting heavy in the chest and gulping for air though the minute you get to a destination and relax and you start belching soon everything's A-OK (a cliche from the space age) and you're back to being merry and bright and jovially supping on steaks covered in bleu cheese and rice with mushroom gravy or a red wine sauce; or you're eating beef enchiladas with mole chocolata and devouring chips and chili salsas and eating huge molcajetes of guacamole and you're drinking bottle after bottle of cervaza Superior or Dos Equis; or you're eating tenderloins of pork covered in a mushroom gravy or you're eating a Pub Burger with bacon and cheese and the works at your favorite Irish pub and afterwards you're sidling up to the bar and drinking tumblers full of Jameson's Gold and washing 'em down with pints of Bass Ale. Life is good and life is in the fast lane and you don't mind the occasional heaviness in your chest or the struggling to climb the multi-stairs in the NYC subways or having to stop and catch your breath while walking over to pick up your laundry. Life is good. And there's this friend who brings you over several cold Heinekens and a black and white cookie or a bag of gooey chocolate chip cookies which you devour and then suffer all night from the sugar Jones they leave rhumba-ing in your stomach. Or say you gulp-like-a-d0g-down a pint of Hagen Daas chocolate ice cream along with those cookies and sure enough in the middle of the night you have to get up and throw it all up.

Hey, and while all this is going on, you're taking fish oil and CoQ10s and milk thistle and Vitamin D and Vitamin B-12s and you're drinking a bottle of cranberry juice every morning with a large coffee with half and half and you're chowing down on a French cruller along with the coffee, and you are telling yourself as you go out and order that second large coffee with half and half, "I've got to be one of the healthiest men in New York City. Heart attack? No, it's more like GERD...or at least excess gas."

Sure it is. You're right, pardner...BUT oh how wrong you were. That incident that happened a year and a half ago? What was it? You were having the beginnings of a major blood clot forming in one of your main arteries. You, idiot, were having a heart attack...and you continued having heart attacks for the next year and one half until that Friday night when you ran out of breath singing and playing the harmonica with your friend's band down in SOHO. And that next morning when you threw up your supper (does anyone call it supper anymore?) and you didn't sleep all night and the when the tall beautiful woman brought you breakfast that Sunday morning and you tried to get into it but suddenly you couldn't; suddenly you felt that tiny pressure lurking behind your breastbone--that tiny pressure that you couldn't belch off--that you still foolishly denied was anything, telling the tall beautiful woman that you'd be alright, all you needed was a little sleep and while you were asleep that tall beautiful woman who truly cared for your stubborn ass saved your macho life by calling EMS and them coming and picking your dumb-ass up and in the ambulance after running the EKG on you telling you, "You're having a major heart attack, bro...we're ambulancing your stubborn goofy ass immediately to Bellevue" and at Bellevue in the Cardiovascular Care Unit a young doctor tells you after you woke up from them knocking you out to do the angioplasty on you and implanting a bare metal stent in your worst-clogged artery, "Hey, pal, if you'd a been an hour later, you'd'a probably been dead on arrival." And there stood the tall beautiful woman whose concern and love for your stupid stubborn ass saved your life. Humbled you.

And now you sit on a very cold March morning, freezing, and holding two enormous bills in your hand which you've got to pay or arrange to pay or they may just foreclose on your heart...no, they won't do that, but you sit procrastinating over this bill instead of again getting off your ass and calling the hospital and admitting you can't pay the bill in full...blah, blah, blah.

for The Daily Growler

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