Friday, March 17, 2017

My Skin | Lefsetz Letter

Is freaking out.

Oh to be young again, when eyesight was good and hearing was up to par and…

I didn’t need moisturizer and didn’t have to refrain from long showers and…

Used to be the dry air did not bother me, certainly not on the east coast. Then again, winter is the time of colds and being cold, but with the temperature drop comes hot chocolate and skiing and internal reflection and…

Now I live in Southern California where it rarely rains and never gets cold and dampness is out of the question, never mind bugs. That’s how you know you’re dealing with a real Southern Californian, when they start to complain about bugs. Come to Cape Cod in the spring, when the screen door is covered with mosquitoes, go to Maine, the home of beautiful landscapes and no-see-ums that can sneak through the holes in your bug netting. Yup, when I was in high school I went on a canoe trip down the Allagash, we walked around in our bug hats and with our good eyesight, not needing reading glasses, we could see the no-see-ums breaking in ready to get us. And what bug spray really works. Remember that old 6-12, what crap that was, Off! was a breakthrough, but it barely worked any better. In Maine we got these tiny bottles of citronella, the insects were scared of the smell, they stayed away, and so did humans.

And you know how you itch with a bug bite? My whole body feels that way now. Forget the internet, all that digital disruption, what I want is a machine that scratches my body 24/7, gently but firmly, to relieve me of this terrible condition.

It comes every fall. Sometime around October. And I’ve been to the skin doctor…

Did anybody ever tell you that dermatology is more art than science? Go to an orthopedist and they’ll set your leg, it’ll heal and you’ll be as good as new. Go to a dermatologist and they’ll prescribe a zillion ointments that don’t work even though they say they do and they’ll keep giving you more until you give up and stop going.

At least that’s what happened to me.

I’ve got this condition on my nose. It’s scaling. I look like a junior W.C. Fields. So I went to the big time skin doctor and he gave me medications…

And they didn’t work.

But boy did he service me. Told me to call. We bonded over celebrities we knew. We discussed politics. But my skin condition did not go away.

And then it spread to my head. Google me, I don’t have any hair up there. But I do now have red splotches. And that requires a different juice, but if I put it on before I go to bed doesn’t it get all over the pillow, and normally I sleep on my stomach but I still haven’t fully recovered from my shoulder surgery but I can now roll on my side and if the pillow is infected with the head stuff will I lick it and die? Did I tell you I have OCD? You know now!

And then I went to Colorado. And I was fine in Aspen, but then I got to Vail and…

My skin went nuclear.

Was it the dryness or the long underwear or…

I stopped using the Under Armour 3.0, which you need when it gets close to zero. I’m lathering my body with AmLactin, but I live for that moment in the shower, when I can turn the water blistering hot and have it shoot onto my skin and relieve me. Truly. As hot as it will go. That’s how you know you’ve got it bad, when you get relief from scalding H20. But showers are the worst thing for your skin, they deplete the natural oils. The dermatologist said to try and skip them. But after skiing? What about at physical therapy? There’s nothing worse than a body that smells. You can rarely smell yourself, but others can. And it horrifies them. Hell, I’ve searched for years for the right deodorant. But now my skin is so bad that the deodorant is giving me the itchies, I researched online and ultimately purchased Clinique and it’s better, but it’s still a problem. Can I tell you that on the weekends when I’m not going out in public I don’t use it? There, I did.

But go to a meeting or a doctor’s appointment or a movie without taking a shower right before? Never gonna happen. Those people who wash their hair every once in a while, those who never wash their jeans… Boy are you self-confident. I wash what hair I have every day, as for my jeans, life is tough enough already, interpersonal relationships are challenging, I’m not gonna risk smelling bad. Shirts get one day and one day only. When I read online about these women who reject men because they stink…

Kinda like the men who ghost you. I guess women do that too. But it’s usually men who behave badly, but not me, assuming I make the entreaty to begin with, assuming I can handle the rejection of you saying no.

So then it spread to my chest. And my legs. And I go back to the skin doctor and he mumbles some mumbo-jumbo, some technical term, and is barely concerned. Keeps telling me to call. Ups the strength of the ointment, but doesn’t understand my desperation, my pain.

So I give up.

I go to Ireland, it’s damp and my condition improves.

I go to Vail and I wear my decades old Patagonia underwear, too heavy for the conditions but my skin doesn’t get worse.

But then I make a mistake. After swimming in the Patagonia in Sun Valley, I switch back to the Hot Chillys and…

Come on, just one day?

Now my whole body’s got the heebie-jeebies.

And I don’t understand how you cope if you’re not in a relationship, who’s gonna treat your back, you can’t reach it! And the truth is in our independent society you need a partner, otherwise it’s just too rough. All those single people boasting about their lifestyle, they’re kind of like the childless, talking about being footloose and fancy-free. But who’s gonna visit you in the old age home, take care of you? Not your distant relatives, although there are saints, you need a close blood relation to put up with your crap, as you crankily lose it but hang on before leaving this mortal coil.

You think you want to live forever…

Believe me, you don’t. Who’re you gonna talk to? Who knows Howdy Doody, never mind Moochie and Ernie Kovacs. Hell, they changed the mascot at my high school, you think things are forever and then you go back home and find out they tore your house down. This ain’t Europe, nothing’s forever in America, certainly not in Los Angeles.

And I’m not a girl. I don’t spend time primping. Maybe I should, but I see it as a waste of time. Along with shopping and watching most TV. Especially now, there’s so much I want to do and see, it’s overwhelming, who can be bored, who can burn time? But now I have to, to slather on ointments all over my body, otherwise I can’t sleep.

And I’m scaling inside my ears and behind them and I’m just waiting for spring to come. To relieve me of this condition. My body looks like a battle zone, a war map, with marks from previous campaigns.

They’re busting my balls in Sun Valley, for not going into the hot tub. But if I go into a hot tub I’ll be itching for weeks, truly! I’ve experimented. You don’t want to believe your life is limited.

And what exactly is the biology here. How come it’s worse when you get older.

And am I the only person suffering? That can’t be.

But I’m sitting in the car, listening to Gary Dell’Abate do comedy on AXS TV and Howard’s poking fun at him and I can’t turn it off because I’m too busy scratching the itch, all over my lower legs.

And it’s all about the human condition. They tell you it’s about accumulating wealth but the truth is it’s all about your health. You learn this as you age. All the people no longer here, who used to call me on the phone, not only my dad but Chip Hooper, and those who couldn’t take it and ended their lives prematurely like my old friend Robert, life is about loss and it’s damn hard to cope with but the truth is life ain’t worth living if you’re not healthy.

But you’re young and you’re smoking and drinking and drugging like you’re immune.

You’re not. And one day you’ll end up an old fart just like me, minding your own business and then enduring afflictions you didn’t see on the horizon, that make your life miserable, and you’ll cope for a while and then take action and then become resigned…

This is how it’s gonna be from now on.

(Sorry, I had to take a break to scratch my clavicle…)

You’re going to soldier on in silent desperation as your body withers and…

Are you with me?

I think so. We all fight our silent demons. This is mine.


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