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Blue Star

Blue Star


By Scott Sullivan



Oh boy. Time to be anesthetized — not as I pine for during the Democratic presidential debates, but for real. Doctors are going to play Operation, ala the still-extant children’s game, with me as Cavity Sam.

If you’re my age, you may not remember your wedding anniversary, divorce lawyer’s speed-dial number and other trifles, but recall in detail using tweezers to extract Sam’s Broken Heart, Funny Bone and other organs from their game-board recesses.

You needed a steady hand; if your tweezers hit the electrified sides, Sam’s nose lit up brighter than a trial lawyer’s eyes at the calamity-turned-opportunity.

Now we’ve put away childish things and depend on insurance firms for our healthcare, we are so much weller we may live forever to keep paying premiums. As for me, I blame it all on our puppy.

Three months ago Pilot chewed up and left a dowel on our staircase. One night I stepped on it, found myself in mid-air and knew, boom, this wouldn’t end well. I landed on my left shoulder, tore a rotator-cuff muscle and commenced Monty Python — “It’s only a flesh wound” — therapy.

Self-healing is one thing, stupid another. Ignoring the pain did not make it go away.

“See a doctor,” my wife said.

“Mind over matter,” I replied.

“What’s the matter with your mind? You can’t fix mentally what’s broken physically.”

I got an appointment, drove across town and paid my general practitioner to tell me to get my shoulder x-rayed.

“Doesn’t sound like a broken bone,” he said. “X-rays won’t show a muscle tear. But your insurance won’t pay for an MRI unless you’ve first had an x-ray.”

X-rays showed nothing as expected but the hospital charged me anyway. The next step: therapy. Assume it’s a strain, which that could address without needing surgery.

After three weeks of therapy my shoulder hurt worse. I myself was torn. “Don’t be a weenie,” my Inner Guy said. Trouble was, this was interfering with my photography.

Next step: make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, who could order an MRI my insurance might partly pay for. This took two more weeks.

He ordered the MRI, which involved me lying down and being backed into a tube that bombarded me for a half-hour with magnetic rays. Who knew they had a soundtrack? Some sounded like tennis balls bouncing inside a dryer, others beeps and buzzes like an experimental album. At least there was no Yoko Ono singing.

Results were in the next day but it took three weeks to schedule an appointment to hear what they were.

What I’ve needed since May is slated for Aug. 22. Yippee. I’m told post-op hurts like hell, so why not just stay anesthetized till at least the debates are over? Even better, after the 2020 elections?

In fact, I can see being out like Rip Van Winkle for 20 years, waking up to find bike trails everywhere, much as they’ve spread for the last 20 years, with Saugatuck’s .4 miles the final holdout.

“Isn’t the next Douglas Social Aug. 22?” my wife asked.


“And your paper’s co-sponsoring it?”

“So I’m antisocial.”

“You’re out with other people all the time.

“Out” in what sense? I wondered. If the surgeon operates on the wrong shoulder but my nose doesn’t light up for 20 years, that’s one thing. Not being “In with the In Crowd,” like the old Dobie Gray song, would be another.

“I wasn’t even ‘in’ with ‘out crowd’ when I was in school,” I told my wife.

“I mean out now with other people,” she answered. “You’ve learned to like that.”

“As long as I’m hiding behind a camera.”

“Which just makes you more conspicuous. Why do you use photography and writing as crutches?”

“Beats literal ones,” I said.