Do You Love Me?

I have been to the muffintop!

In the mid-70’s when my cash flow was running light, I signed up to work on election day. The precinct they assigned me was way out in the Sunset.

Not only was it a Herculean effort to be somewhere at 6 a.m., but I was taking public transportation almost to the ocean. The bus left at 5. The hour commute afforded an opportunity to reflect on the previous night’s closing of the Midnight Sun at 2 a.m..

In a neighborhood of working class retirees, it was a boring 13 hours of long waits for some member of the greatest generation to show up and vote.

At 6 p.m. a sudden rush produced a three minute line to cast ballots. A  6’4″, gray flat top veteran stood seething, waiting for his turn to approach my station. He exuded the “white is right” attitude that still enchants the Republican Party today.

Before giving me his name to check off the roster, he asked sharply, “why should I be penalized for speaking English?” It was the first year for bilingual instructional posters in California elections. Being the model of discretion, it was not my place to answer.

The incident has stayed in my memory mainly because I’ve never figured out what penalty he was paying. Maybe he used phonics to read and two-thirds of the way through the instructions realized not all the words were in USofA American. Wasting time and effort like that can be annoying.

I vowed never to work elections again after that day. But this year, in an attempt to pad my portfolio of personal investments, I gave it another shot. The life’s lessons learned in the intervening 40 years made me feel I could bring something new to the experience. Like poll dancing, which didn’t even exist in the 1970’s.

Babs’ love shack. Today she has a 19th C. town house in the Dordogne. Sometimes things just work out.

Yesterday’s precinct was less than a mile away and nowhere near the ocean. What it lacked in distance, however, it made up for in height. The 21st Street hill has the steepest grade in the city. By the time I reached the summit, I was huffing, puffing and looking every bit my age. I had to fend off the roving van from the Death’s Shore Retirement Center which was targeting me for fast-track admission.

I knew this neighborhood well. In the early 80’s Barbara lived a block away on 20th. We gathered there on Wednesdays to watch Dynasty and eat pizza. Between cackles, the conversation ran the gamut from “can you believe Alexis did that?” to “can you believe we’re watching this shit?” Questions that remain unanswered to this day.

Two blocks in the other direction on Fair Oaks is where Gary (aka A-Hole) had his hillbilly wig party. A couple of doors down from where my friend John Acmoody once resided. Today Acmoody’s mansion is owned by a certain M. Zuckerberg. I looked for Marky-Mark’s name on my roster but to no avail. He’s probably bought his own precinct somewhere, population one.

Up on Fair Oaks where the Mountain Dew ran freely.

To share the personal voting information I’ve learned is a violation of the sacred Poll Dancer’s Oath I took. But there was one minor celebrity sighting, former Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg.

Bertie to her friends, Roberta was the first lesbian candidate for San Francisco mayor, a HUD Under Secretary in the Clinton Administration, and a confirmation hearing adversary of Jesse Helms. Always alpha driven, her interest in voting Tuesday seemed a distant second to the breakfast muffin she was multi-tasking on.

Walking in, I had admired her black and white checked pants. Then I looked up to see her wildly gaping mouth chomping away on this banana-walnut concoction. Possessed, she tried to force even more cake into her mouth while she chewed. Her look was one of complete unawareness, to people and to her surroundings. Finally she spoke. It was a garbled mess.

The idea was to engage voters to verify their name and address. But I knew who she was and just wanted her away from the table. I handed her a ballot then watched her spittle a trail of crumbs to the voting booth.

Do you like it like this? Queens’ Christmas 1981, The Brothel Hotel (now Majestic), Sutter at Gough.

It was an interesting day that, in the end, had yet one more sad reminder of my advanced age. I’ve never worked a poll for 13 hours and come away with no tips.

After leaving the polling place I treated myself to a burger at 10:30 p.m. Utterly exhausted I vented my fried mind to the stone cold, millennial chick cashier. Within seconds she was calling me honey, mothering me and throwing in extra fries as she packed me on my way.

My heart was filled with civic pride as I boogalooed down Broadway all the way home. Watch me now, HEY!

 

Misery

Do no harm……to the year-end bonus.

I returned from an east coast jaunt in early December to find my friend Ben in the hospital, his life in chaos. As the doctors searched for the cause of his pain I helped get his affairs in order. To motivate him I said we should try to get him home by Christmas.

He probably wouldn’t have been able to care for himself so I offered to have him stay at my place for a week to transition. I suggested he carefully review Kathy Bates’ performance in Misery.

Reality soon overwhelmed planning and he didn’t go anywhere for Christmas. Last Thursday he was transferred to a skilled nursing facility. Although there had been talk that he would eventually go to one of these places, the move itself came about rather suddenly.

Ben called me around noon that day and was distraught. They were making arrangements to move him that afternoon. He was afraid it would be some “Tenderloin hell-hole.”  As a graduate of Boalt Hall he can be quite argumentative and contentious at times. He put up all kinds of resistance.

I ended up the go-between for Ben and the Client Relations Manager Rihana. They’d determined the sole cause of his hip pain was a bacterial infection and the course of therapy was an IV antibiotic for six weeks. This could be administered at a nursing home. Ben pleaded for one more night at the hospital and said he would go in the morning. Rihana said she would try and it was left at that.

That evening when I visited him at San Francisco Health Care and Rehabilitation Center he was a defeated soul. Plus he looked at me like my powers of advocacy had failed him. I put the best spin on it I could. At least he’d found out the treatment was six weeks, he’d already done two, he just had to ride it out for a month.

Then he told me what happened that morning. He’s had an untreated Sciatica problem for years. In addition to the hip pain he was having a lot of back pain. Another MRI was done at 10:00 am and they found problems with a disc. By the time he got back to his room at 11:00 the transfer had been set in motion.

Had there been a secret meeting of the ODP’s (Obama Death Panels) and was it determined that a second non-emergency surgery paid for by Medicare would not be profitable for Davies Medical Center?  One tries not to be cynical but…

Friday afternoon I went to see him at the home and noticed there was no IV. He hadn’t had any treatment in the last 24 hours. I didn’t have the energy to take on the new mysterious bureaucracy of the nursing home, I preferred the old bureaucracy that I did know. I went outside and called Rihana at Davies.

When I explained the situation she apologized. Then she said the facility was chosen because they could administer the therapy but Davies had no authority over what they actually did. I was flabbergasted. I accused her of being duplicitous and deliberately misleading Ben. I was upset that she had used me to help convince him to move based on her assertion that he would continue to receive treatment. It appeared Davies just wanted to free a bed for a more profitable patient. She kept repeating the “no authority” line so I hung up on her.

I walked around and ran some errands trying to think of a way to present this new development to Ben. When I returned to his room an hour later an IV had miraculously appeared in his arm.

To call this facility a hell hole is being kind. Ben says he’s seen bugs. When I visit he never has water. Nor do they provide pitchers I could fill with tap water. So I bring in bottled. He’s been there five days and has yet to have any physical therapy. They haven’t even helped him out of bed.

I could go on but all you need to know is that there’s one Russian doctor for the 168 patients. My guess is he’s a graduate of the famed Trump University of Ekaterinburg’s Med School by Mail program.

Who needs Kathy Bates to terrorize you when you have Medicare-fraud nursing homes to do it for you?

Happy New Year.

To read Ben’s story or to make a donation go to gofundme.com/ben-and-sydney.

Bitch Stole My Look

 

Me in the Chronicle Pink Section May, 1980

 

Miss Bates in 1990. When is the Academy going to recognize me?