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STYLE & CULTURE | AL MARTINEZ

Post-op, at peace with pain and bad food

May 05, 2003|AL MARTINEZ

Good morning.

I am crawling back once more from death's icy embrace, having decided at the last minute that I'm just not ready to float down that tunnel with the heavenly light at the end. On the whole, to paraphrase W.C. Fields, I'd rather be in L.A.

I'm sorry, among other things, that I missed most of the war during my recent hiatus. I was, well, embedded in bed as the George W. Bush Grand Army of Redemption quickly brought pax Americana to the Middle East. Militarily, it was sort of wham-bam-thank-you-Saddam.

The best I could do was watch on television as we conquered, I mean liberated, Baghdad and scooped up all those weapons of mass destruction that our president promised we would find. The WMD, as they are called, were cleverly concealed under beds, in receptacles disguised as clothes hampers, in cookie jars, in lima-bean cans and under layers of kitty litter. Tons and tons of WMD.

Now if we can only find Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa, all would be right with the world. So far, placing Bin Laden's photo on milk cartons hasn't helped a bit.

Once we find them, it's on to teaching lessons of humility and obedience to Syria, Libya and possibly France. In the case of France, however, I am pleased to note that we have already forgiven its impertinence and are back to French bread and French kissing as hungers spike and hormones bubble in the rush of spring's rutting season.

We have yet to deal with the scoundrels in our own country, however, those who embarrassed Bush by protesting the war, but we'll get to them in due time. The fact that our military charged into Iraq like the Dallas Cowboys and won the game without ever having to kick a field goal ameliorates our anger somewhat toward those who just don't understand the social and economic advantages of conquest, I mean liberation.

What you do, you see, is bomb the blazes out of an enemy's cities, hire American contractors to rebuild them at fat profits and put hundreds, possibly thousands, of grateful liberatees to work at minimum wages. Everyone wins, nobody loses, except possibly those who happened to, you know, die.

But, hey, I'm not here today to discuss war and peace. As I began easing my way back into the fast lane, I wondered aloud what I should write about for my first column in six weeks, and my wife, the luminescent Cinelli, said, "Why don't you write about your favorite subject, dear? You."

All right, but I do so only to warn you that surgery for abdominal aneurysms is no fun. When your doctor says it's either surgery or death, consider the options carefully. Ask yourself, "How bad can death be?" Surgery, I tell you true, is hell. I opted for it only because the death rate is about 90% if an aneurysm blows.

I knew I was in for a rough ride before I was laid, as they say, on the table, but I didn't know how rough. I had to be sliced open like a watermelon for three bulging aortas to be reached, which also required moving internal organs to one side or the other. As a result, I emerged aching in places where I had never ached before. Vicodin became my new best friend. I'd have preferred a martini IV, but it was never offered.

In the end, it wasn't surgery but hospital food that almost sent me spinning down the tunnel. It wasn't just bad, it was superbly bad. I was so impressed with the chef's ability to completely destroy any semblance of taste in what he served that I have created a recipe based on an average hospital dinner: Cook one small chicken breast until semi-fossilized, steam one-half cup of green beans until soggy, add one small undercooked boiled potato, allow the entire dish to turn cold and -- voila! -- dinner.

The food, if one can call it that, numbed my taste buds to such an extent that it took weeks during my recovery at home to reanimate them. The condition helped to ratchet up my discomfort and subsequent whining and moaning until, after six weeks, Cinelli kissed me gently and said, "If you don't go back to work, dear, I'm going to hire a hit man and have you whacked. You wouldn't like that now, would you?"

So I'm limping through town like a wounded lion, and I tell you, man, it's great to be back in the jungle. I feel so good I could eat an eland, but only if it's home-cooked.

*

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Friday. He's at al.martinez@latimes.com.

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