Saturday, October 2, 2010

Reflection of a Former Trendsetter on a Saturday: Slow Motion

*written with patient's permission, but details, etc. changed to protect identity. . . . you know the deal.

No, these Jimmy Choo dandys aren't and won't be my shoe-boots (but the thought of them does make me happy!)

"Whooooo! I like your boots! Those are hot-to-death, honey-chile!"

I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear at this compliment being paid to me by a pretty stylish, male patient I was seeing one afternoon at Grady. He wasn't being fresh either (or at least it didn't feel that way.) He just seemed to really like my shoes which, I have to say, were some pret-ty special ones. I'd picked them up from Loehmann's a few weeks back, and even though they were a bit trendy, I convinced myself to live a little. The sales lady at Loehmann's told me they would really "pop" with a simple outfit. Something about a shoe "popping" against anything I wore had me sold.

When I came home and showed them to Harry, he (in his brutally honest Harry way) said, "Ehhh." Ehhh? Didn't he realize that these shoe-boots were destined to "pop?" I scrawled on a mental post it note:

Tell Harry that cool person complimented my shoe boots that you described as 'Ehhh.'

My stylish patient folded his arms and jutted his chin out in approval. Take that, Harry. "I'm surprised to see somebody wearing fierce shoes like that in slow-ass Atlanta," he said matter-of-factly. He turned the corners of his mouth downward and shook his head. When I furrowed my brow in response to his mini-jab at the city I now call home, he added,"I moved to Atlanta from New York City, but Lord have mercy! This city is so slow!"

Atlanta? Slow? Really?

"Really? Most of us think of Atlanta as pretty 'big city.' I'd say we're up on the happenings."

My savvy, Gotham City native rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Chile please," he replied with a chuckle, "Y'all are a country-day late and a bumpkin-dollar short!"


This patient was interesting. His look definitely gave off a "bright lights, big city" vibe for sure. With neat dreadlocks intricately spun into a crown atop is head and a headband made of some authentic-appearing African fabric, he did make me feel slow. Everything about him seemed worldly and experienced. I felt sure that this was one of those patients who'd been to Iceland, the Galapagos, and Cape Town in his life. Yeah. Just that kind of patient.

His face was pierced--but not in the ways you see every day like above the eyebrow or even the nose or lip. These piercings seemed to be almost hammered into his skull; it wasn't clear to me how or even why they'd been placed in the first place. But this was the kind of patient who would have gladly explained the entire process, if I'd asked. One of those fascinating patients who somehow sucks you into conversations and observations that have virtually zero to do with why they came to the hospital to begin with. My favorite kind of patient, actually.

I decided to go on with the banter. "Well, I'm from L.A., thank you very much, so don't lump me in with your Atlanta insults. L.A. isn't slow."

"Uuuhhhh, I don't know about that one, chile! The last time I was in L.A. it was pretty damn country if you ask me." We both laughed out loud.

"How long have you been here? I mean, in Atlanta?"

"Oh goodness. . . .I've been here for about five years or so. If my sister wasn't here. . . honey-chile, I'd be back in Harlem for sure!" I liked the animated way he called me "chile" and especially his musical "honey-chile." I found it endearing and not the least bit insulting.

"Yeah. . .New York has a great energy. I keep trying to convince one of my friends who used to work with me at Grady to move back here and it's not happening. Guess it's hard to live up to taking your kids to playdates at the Met and the Central Park Zoo."

"Hello?!" He gave me a playful smirk and then smiled wide. "It's like Alicia Keys said. . ." he started snapping his fingers, wagging his head and loudly singing,

"NEW YORK! Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do! Now you're in NEW YORK! These streets will make you feel BRAND NEW, big lights will inspire you!"

I watched him sitting there right in front of me singing boldly like I wasn't even there. Loved it. Especially the finger-popping. He could tell I was fully entertained and stayed with it for a few more beats. Finally, he looked back at me and chuckled again. He was amusing himself, too.

"You've had HIV for some time according to your chart," I spoke getting us back to business.

"Yeah, chile. . . but I am proud to say that I'm undetectable and my T cells are on point!"

T cells on point? Loving this patient.

"What exactly do you mean by 'on point?' I mean, number wise."

He proudly declared in that same musical voice, "Like seven hundred and something? Oh yeah, baby. Magic Johnson ain't got nothin' on me!" He laughed again.

This would be my F.P. (favorite patient) of the day guaranteed. He was being seen for musculoskeletal pain but in no way did any part of his history or physical suggest a septic arthritis. On the review of systems, he endorsed a cough with occasional blood streaks. The fact that he smoked a pack per day made that not such a big deal to me, but that coupled with his HIV status, New York hometown, and travels prompted a colleague to bring him in to exclude tuberculosis. When you work at a place like Grady, TB or not TB is frequently the question (even when it clearly doesn't seem like TB.)

I was glad he wasn't sick-sick. He was so interesting and this would give me more time to talk to him. I wanted to hear his story, or at least part of it. Despite my busy schedule, I wanted to hear his philosophy on a few things and hear him say "honey-chile" a few more times. And that's exactly what I did.

"Do you know how I really knew Atlanta was slow as hell?" he queried with one eyebrow raised. I cocked my head sideways in anticipation of what was sure to be a good answer.

"Crack." He very much caught me off guard.

"I beg your pardon?

"Crack. You know. . . .rocks, base. Come on, chile, don't be slow now!" He threw his head back and cackled.

"No, I know what it is. I meant. . . . like why does crack mean Atlanta is slow?" I was really interested to hear this one.

"Oh crack? Lord, chile, I got down here and could not believe folks was still doing crack down here. Crack? Are you serious? That's so Richard Pryor and 'New Jack City.' I mean, it's like so 1980's and 1990's. Chile, I used to be on that mess. But I started back when nobody understood how addictive it was. I can't believe folks is down here using and selling that mess still. It's so played out. And then folks don't take their HIV meds 'cause they using it, too. Who does that anymore?"

So 1980's. Wow. He made it all so simple. It was like he was talking about bell bottoms or curly perms. "Do drugs 'play out?' I didn't realize they did."

"Crack is played out for sure." He rolled his eyes and waved his hand in the air. "That's why slow cities are the ones with the big crack problems."

"I'm pretty sure crack is still an issue in New York, just like here. Don't you think?" I racked my brain for data on New York and the crack epidemic. It took every bone in my body not to Google it right then and there on my iPhone.

"No way, boo. No way. Y'all Atlanta folks are behind the times. Whitney said, 'Crack is whack.' See what happened with her? That's what happened when she moved to Atlanta, foolin' with y'all and your slow town." There was that infectious laugh again. "Ugggh! Crack? So dated, my Lawd!"

Crack? Is played out? Clearly I'd been caring for a lot of folks who hadn't yet received that memo.

I sat there silently wondering about trends in drug use and trends in general. I thought about how in the last five years, jeans have gone from boot cut, to straight legs to pencil cut silhouettes. I thought about the shoe boots that I had in medical school that I could probably get away with wearing now. I pondered for a moment on the way things go out of style and come back in style. Like skinny jeans (seventh grade, Guess Jeans, oh yeah, baby) and gold hoop earrings (eleventh grade, Salt 'n' Pepa wanna-be, sho nuff!) I found the way he was applying it to the drug thing quite fascinating.

He must have read my mind. "Yeah, everybody in New York is on that retro b.s. now. Can you believe it? Somehow folks got keen on heroin again. Heroin, chile. Can you believe that? They went straight up Billie Holliday, chile. Took it back to the old school. But me? Huh. I had to just keep it Bob Marley. I don't do needles." He shuddered.

I also dug his reference to pop culture in his descriptors of drug eras. "You mean marijuana when you say 'Bob Marley?'"

"Yes, marijuana, chile! What you think I was talking about, Miss L.A.!" He giggled again and gave me a sideways glance. "I don't know, Miss Manning. You might be kinda slow, too."

I drummed my pen on the table for a few moments and looked down at my trendy shoe-boots once again. I thought about the context of this "slow" and smiled. This was a time that I was perfectly fine with being slow and not "popping."

"You know what, sir? Yeah. . . .I guess I am."

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. Love your storytelling. Thanks for letting me be in the room with MY new favorite patient of the day!

    I am now off to troll Loehman's for some fierce booties...


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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