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THE FLU : You Give Me Fever

February 04, 1996|Mary McNamara

I didn't think you could get the flu here. During my formative years back East, my mother had made it pretty clear that the flu was caused by Sleeping With the Windows Open in the Winter and Going Outside With Your Hair Wet. In this desert clime, there is no winter to speak of and my hair doesn't stay wet long enough for me to style it properly, much less make it outside, so I figured I was safe.

Pass the Robitussin.

So here I am in week two, which everyone tells me is marked by continued feverish nights, a loss of two of the five senses (sight usually remains; the rest are strictly optional) and a new appreciation for the word expectorant. Lovely.

Having the flu in Los Angeles is, like so many things about this fair city, a unique experience, in the hot-metallic-palms-against-a-bleeding-sky surrealistic sense, that is. (Warning: Do not attempt to read Kate Braverman at this time unless you had already planned to walk into the ocean with your pockets filled with stones.) When you have a winter flu elsewhere, you can expect a little cooperation from the weather--a commiserate drizzle, perhaps, or a full-fledged snowfall that allows you to relax into your illness, thankful for an excuse to avoid the slush and chill.

Here, the sun is brighter and the sky bluer than they have any right to be. When it's 100 in the shade, who knows if you have a fever or if your headache is simply the natural chemical reaction of your frontal lobes to blinding sunlight. Cozy is not even a consideration--how on earth are you supposed to drink hot tea and stay "bundled up" when you obviously should be out working on your Valentine's Day tan?

Of course, those around you are not going to let such weather go to waste. Here in the home-and-garden-improvement capital of the world, sand is blasting, blades are mowing and hedges are surrendering their limbs and tendrils, all in a symphony of squealing, squalling, flybelt-revving wonder. For a city of relatively few leaf-bearing trees, there sure are a lot of leaf blowers around. Not to mention, in my neighborhood at least, the inordinate amount of folks who simply don't go to work during the day. Perhaps they are all theater critics or emergency room nurses or are in other ways gainfully employed after hours. They can't be vampires because, since all the windows in the entire city are open, I can hear them moving about during the day, their slammings, televisions, conversations and, of course, their really, really B-side bad disco music. They can't hear me, naturally, because my voice is gone and my whimpers, my pleas for silence, for silence and darkness and the comfort of a cold winter wind against a tightly shut window, go no farther than my own plugged-up ears.

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