Sunday, January 23, 2011

Part 37 of "Miracle Boy" and a new start

Here is my next installment. Only a few more left, and then a change of direction.

You see, I think I'm moving into a pre-publication phase. Nothing definite, yet. No contracts signed. But I have an offer.

It's not an ideal offer, however. What stands between it and what I'd like to have is the same old thing--a guaranteed readership. A "platform," in publishing parlance.

Never mind the hundreds who visit here every week. They're not enough. Apparently, I need thousands.

To me, there is something funny about this. The Kardashians or Balloon Boy have a better chance of getting a book published than someone who has slaved for years, polishing prose and even doing the right things to amass an audience. Publishing pieces in major newspapers and magazines. Securing a semi-regular gig on NPR. None of that matters. None of that matters because I'm still an unknown in the book world.

Which inspires a new idea!

In the next few weeks, when I run out of memoir installments, I'm going to begin a new series about the aggravations of trying to get published. I'll post some funny rejection letters, and invite readers to share their horror stories, too.

Think of it as Shit My Publishers Say.

In keeping with the promise of this blog, I will not rant or moan or mutter bitterly. I'm going to try to accentuate the humorous side of this absurd pursuit.

It's absurd because so many of us are drawn to it, and yet--especially these days--it's completely impractical. As someone in the biz recently said to me, NO ONE IS BUYING BOOKS! Everybody talks about how important it is to have a platform, but nobody really does because nobody can guarantee book sales these days!

You think it's hard out there for a pimp? Imagine being a publisher! Or, for that matter, an author.

I hope you'll join in my planned new format, and help me in this experimental strategy. It's a strategy to gain attention and a bigger following, and embarrass the publishing community into letting a few of us slip through its golden gateways.

But first, the final few installments of MIRACLE BOY –

It's soon apparent that the staff here is less well trained than the hospital crew I've grown used to; they're rougher, sloppier. My trach is never cleaned. I'm not bathed as thoroughly, if at all. And the place doesn't have wedge pillows (unless, I later learn, you place a special order). Plus it's harder for my parents to visit, being out in the suburbs. Within two days I'm begging for a transfer.

Can't I stay in the city? Or perhaps be cared for at home? Dad calls Dr. Levine. My request is denied. There's no extra room at city hospitals. I need to stay here, to recover slowly and be professionally monitored.


I'll have to make the best of it. Imagine I've been captured by the Gamesters of Triskelion … Oops—I forgot. No Star Trek.

Happydale has a sort of school I'm rolled to every day in my hospital bed, even though it's summer. One thing I like about it is it has an extensive tape library. Through headphones, I listen to articles about politics, science, technology. Soon I have a volunteer—a groovy dude dressed in denim, with big dark glasses and a shaggy haircut, who smells of cigarettes, which is a scent I like, and calls me "buddy"—to read to me from The Pickwick Papers, my assigned summer reading (it's not in the audio library).

When Mom visits, she brings food—kosher London broil and baked chicken, personal favorites, which aren't on the establishment's menu. I keep a stash of Doritos by my bedside, which, believe it or not, is marked kosher. I need someone to feed me, since I'm lying down. I learn it's easier to swallow when rolled on one side.

I have to be rolled like a log, because the metal halo is now attached to a plaster cast that covers my torso and part of one leg. The leg pins have been removed, but my neck and, to a degree, hips are immobilized.

Because of being so stationary, I take physical therapy three times a week. Which reminds me of the pointless exercises of my early childhood, except this time I'm at an age to enjoy the attentions of my therapist, a really attractive brunette. As she flexes my knees and elbows, and orders me to work my fingers by buttoning and unbuttoning a raggedy old shirt, I only grumble slightly and, I hope, with the utmost charm.

The solitary television set in my room, mounted high, is on pretty much all the time. It's the summer of the Son of Sam killer. Elvis Presley dies. A new actress will replace Farrah on Charlie's Angels, and I enjoy reading in People magazine about her measurements (Cheryl Ladd's bust is even bigger than Farrah's!). But the weight of all this, the impact, is the dour realization that the world outside these institutional walls goes on.

One of my cellmates, er, roommates, with whom I have a begrudging affinity because he likes the Beatles and covets my tape collection, wonders aloud about the meaning of Elvis' demise. "Does it mean Elton John is now the king of pop? They always called him the prince, so—"

Try as I might, I can't block out all of it. One sound in particular will haunt me for years to come. It involves poor Murph, another of my roommates, a young man who is rumored to have lived at Happydale most of his seventeen years! It's said he could go home but his family doesn't want him … it's said they visit only on Christmas, Easter and maybe his birthday. I don't know if any of this is true, but he never leaves his bed for a wheelchair (then again, neither do I), and his infrequent speech is hopelessly garbled, probably from cerebral palsy or a brain injury. You don't need to understand his words to hear the urgency, anger, frustration, sorrow.

Yet worst of all is how the nurses tease him . . .

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