There is no grinding like the Law

The relevant rule governing “retirement” for purposes of not paying the biennial $375 dues:

(g) Each registration statement filed pursuant to this section shall be accompanied by a registration fee of $375. No fee shall be required from an attorney who certifies that he or she has retired from the practice of law. For purposes of this section, the “practice of law” shall mean the giving of legal advice or counsel to, or providing legal representation for, particular body or individual in a particular situation in either the public or private sector in the State of New York or elsewhere, it shall include the appearance as an attorney before any court or administrative agency. An attorney is “retired” from the practice of law when, other than the performance of legal services without compensation, he or she does not practice law in any respect and does not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law. For purposes of section 468-a of the Judiciary Law, a full-time judge or justice of the Unified Court System of the State of New York or of a court of any other state or of a federal court, shall be deemed “retired” from the practice of law. An attorney in good standing, at least 55 years old and with at least 10 years experience, who participates without compensation in an approved pro bono legal services program, may enroll as an “attorney emeritus.”

and does not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law.

Which suggests retirement is final and irreversible.   On that ground I paid my dues every two years, though I haven’t practiced law more than a few times in the last decade.  

I was told by a bright man at the Office of Court Administration that coming out of retirement is easily done.  It is a simple process, though, apparently, a secret one.   You request a Rescind Waiver Form, fill it out, submit it along with the full biennial dues for that period, and take one Continuing Legal Education credit for each month going forward.  A matter of a few weeks to come out of retirement, no problem.

I told him that I had no doubt about what he’d told me but that, as a lawyer, I needed something in writing to that effect.   This is because if I acted relying on a statement of the rules he sent me in writing, I’d have an excellent defense if it ever came to that.   He obliged by sending this email, which is not part of any rule or contained in any on-line guide one can access:

A link to the registration rules can be found here:

NYS does not have an inactive status as may be available in other jurisdictions.

The retirement certification may only be claimed if you do not practice law in New York or elsewhere and do not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law.  If you meet the definition you may sign the retirement exemption and the biennial registration fee of $375 is waived.  As a retired attorney you would remain a duly admitted NY attorney and there would be no bar to you filing on a future registration as active – additionally, Part 118.1(g) allows retired attorneys to continue to perform legal services without compensation.  Therefore, since you remain a duly admitted attorney you would still be required to register every two years.

and do not intend ever to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law.

The devil cavorts in the legal details, yo.   The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say, including, I suppose, the intention never to engage in acts that constitute the practice of law.


Irony is often lost on the nervous

I had a rock vamp I used to play all the time, very groovy little four chord thing that fit together nicely.  One day, years ago, playing an old friend’s beautiful old semi-hollow body electric guitar (a delightfully resonant Gibson ES-335) later sadistically destroyed by a mentally ill musician in a fit of enraged mania, I improvised the following to those chords:

You heard
just what I said
when you had your gun
pointed at my head,
but instead,
you’re dead
I didn’t mean to kill you but…

You should have stayed
home in bed
with a comfy pillow
under your head
you’re dead
I didn’t want to kill you but…
dah dah dah dah dah dah dah

Then I took a heroic guitar solo as the mentally ill keyboard player beamed at  my maliciously macho little lyrical invention, my rock and roll posturing.  I don’t recall how much later it was that he took a file to the beautiful guitar, breaking the F-holes and prying out the humbucker pickups, gouging and mutilating the lovely red-lacquered body beyond recognition, leaving the martyred, irreparably destroyed vintage guitar floating in a dirty bathtub full of sudsy water, the greasy hair from his half-shaved head as the cherry on top.  He wound up back in the laughing academy after that little caper, though it took a village to get him there.

The thing is, once you hold a gun to someone’s head, trust is usually compromised.  I eventually had to take a dirty stake and hammer it through the heart of this highly intelligent, provocatively mirthful idiot.  I reapply the stake as needed, by posting things like this, periodically, prophylactically, to make sure he doesn’t stagger out of his fucking grave imagining that we can be friends again.  

So it is, and so it must be, with people who unthinkingly treat others solely as vehicles to take them where they demand to be taken.  People who fear they are weak will often take a friend’s perceived strength for granted, until that strength is exhausted.  You may not have noticed, friend, but I ain’t no horse.  While I can pick you up, if needed, I can also throw you down.  Neither of those things makes me a horse.  

“What is this about holding a gun to somebody’s head?”  a concerned voice asks, seeking clarification about this disturbing metaphor.  Hoping it’s a metaphor.

It’s a metaphor, it’s a metaphor.  Picture this: you create an emotional emergency, emergency, emergency!  It must be dealt with immediately, now, now, now!  Ah, never mind.  It wearieth me too much.   For the anxiety riddled, it is rare for them to instantly get the joke, unless it comes at the rare moment when their native anxiety recedes enough to let humor in.   Irony is generally wasted on this type. Nuff said.

Walking into a storm

It’s difficult to remember sometimes, but it is best to remain calm when you are walking into a storm.

Some people, I’ve come to understand, are riddled with anxiety under most circumstances.  They will not remember what you talked about last time, because… oh my GOD!!!  You cannot imagine what it’s like to live with constant anxiety, it has got to be the worst thing out there.  I’m sure I can only begin to imagine it because I’m one of those people who take imagination seriously, seriously enough to practice it regularly.   I’ve clung, you might say, to a childish refusal to lose the ability every kid has to wonder about mysterious or amazing things and picture the missing parts.

 The walls in your house are constantly threatening you, they are not straight, they could fall, causing a terrible, agonizing death of broken bones and slow suffocation.  There are a million things to do, crucial protective things that need to be done, and secrets also, terrible shameful ones that can crush you in an instant, but the real threat is that you can only remember to be aware of five or six of these key things at a time.  But there are literally a million!  So many more than can ever be controlled because they can’t even be named! And, of course, it’s the ones you forget that will bite you the hardest, bite you to death, with razor sharp teeth, row upon row of them.

 “We had this conversation last time,” you might say, seeking to avoid going through the whole thing from the beginning,  finding it hard to imagine all that talk was for nothing last time.  Tbe anxious person will say you’re mistaken, eyes looking past you at an approaching catastrophe possibly just past your shoulder.  You know, the whole thing can come tumbling down in a rage of fire and rocks, it happens all the time, but, actually, it’s very late and I have to go now, I should have gone an hour ago, I can’t believe I’m still here!  The Bible may be bullshit, metaphor, whatever you want to call it, but the torments described in it are very real.   Disbelieve at your peril.   Put that pen back exactly where you got it from, it belongs next to the red one.  The RED ONE!   Next to the fucking RED ONE, do I have to explain every…. Oh, my God!  Never mind!   Just give it to me, give it to me, give me the pen, the pen, give me the goddamned pen!

The War on Drugs

Like the War on Terror, the War on Drugs depends on breaking down doors in the middle of the night, dragging people off and putting all the bad guys out of commission.   The war metaphor underscores the idiocy of this massive program which has locked up tens of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders in American prisons. [1]  War is a violent reaction to a thing that can most often better be addressed in other ways.   Most war is waged, let us be frank here, for the profit of certain powerful parties who have others die for them in noble battle.  When war is not profitable anymore, the lion will lie down and let the lamb snuggle against it.   In the meantime, locking Americans up in privatized prisons is lucrative for the owners of those private prisons.   We need to keep the beds full, or the entire industry could collapse.

Speaking of war as the answer to all problems, at one time we had a War on Poverty here too, until, as Ronald Reagan cracked, “poverty won.”    It did indeed.

This is a somewhat random rant, as I have opined here several times about the moronic nature of this somewhat random War on selected criminalized drugs.   As a society America is very fond of drugs, we are dependent on a host of medicines.  If you have any medical condition whatsoever, we use drugs to cure it.  Ads for various drugs are ubiquitous on television: Ask your doctor if Asseffex is right for you.   If you are depressed: antidepressants.   Anxious: anti-anxiety drugs.   Can’t sleep: sleeping pills.  Need to unwind after a stressful day: alcohol or a tranquilizer. Do you fart?  take this.  Does your leg sometimes shake?  This drug cures RLS.  The list is endless.  

Let us be fair– which would you rather do, take a pill or delve into painful things and make hard choices about your life?   Chronic sleeplessness cured by a pill or by doing the unpleasant work involved in understanding what is actually keeping you sleepless and making needed changes in your life?   Go for the pill.   I’m no-one to talk, I’ve been convinced to take a daily blood pressure lowering pill and a statin to control borderline high cholesterol.  Would I need these if I lost the twenty pounds I need to lose?   Hard to say, and something I may never know.  A doctor friend convinced me to take these medications, she and her husband do.  She made some convincing arguments and I was convinced.   It’s very easy to take the two small pills every evening.

The War on Drugs is a war against certain mood-altering substances that the law chooses to criminalize.   The prevailing attitude among national lawmakers about drugs that only serve to get a person high is that folks should talk to their doctors, or bartenders.  Liquor stores are also a legal and readily available option.   Meanwhile, countless poor bastards have been locked up for the crime of procuring or selling illegal drugs, including marijuana.  The annual price tag for this lost War on Drugs was over $15 billion as of 2009.   When you’re preventing evil, the sky’s the limit, I suppose.    

Why do people become dependent on drugs?  Despair, difficulty with feelings of hopelessness, anger, worthlessness.  People take mood-altering drugs in an attempt to make themselves feel better.   The moment when the effect of the drug is felt is a moment of relief for the drug user, the only time in their day when they momentarily feel OK.   The moment when the effect wears off it’s back feeling shitty again for the user.   It is not hard to identify these impulses.   The hard thing is to be in the middle of a war on the thing that makes you feel a little better, in addition to all your other problems.    Not to say people who get addicted to drugs don’t need help managing their pain, they certainly do, but being hunted and locked up does nothing to help nonviolent people who take something everyday because they feel shitty.

In the case of the futile, destructive, perpetual American War on Drugs, the efforts of our government to use criminal laws and punishment as the only cure for a deep psychological problem only reinforces what right wing extremists have been saying for years: shrink the government and drown it in a bath tub.

We have a fairly shitty medical system here in the U.S., almost nothing as far as our medical records is standardized.  That’s because private enterprise is in charge. Our medical records are considered by these private corporations as proprietary information.   The company that provided the service owns them, may charge you for copies of your own medical records in some cases.  Here’s a hilarious, if also somewhat sour, note in our American medical records song and dance.  

I went for a pre-colonoscopy visit to a gastroenterologist’s office.    The first thing the person interviewing me asked was if I’m still taking oxycodone.   That prescription popped up immediately on the screen when she put my name in.

I’d had the side of my nose sliced open in December, by a surgeon removing a basal cell so tiny it could not be detected by the dermatologist.  I didn’t really understand why the eyebrow length incision was necessary, but I immediately understood, once the anesthetic wore off, that I was in considerable agony.   The surgeon called in a prescription for tylenol with codeine.   I took a pill and the pain quickly subsided.  I took another one four or six hours later, whatever it said on the label, and a third before I went to sleep.  I felt no appreciable high, but the pain was gone.  I felt fine the next day and put aside the bottle with the remaining tablets in it.

“Are you still taking oxycodone?” the pretty receptionist asked.

No, I said, and explained about the intensely painful incision on the left side of my nose.   The opioid prescription was the only medical information that popped up about me when she put my name into the medical database.   I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I am thinking of it now:  good old Jared Kushner!   The president had appointed him to cure the Opioid Crisis (which killed more Americans last year than military veteran suicides [2], homicide by firearm and many other common causes of American death) and, by God, Jared is on the case!  

God bless these United States!


[1]  Almost half of all federal prisoners are locked up for drug offenses.  

“Among sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of state correctional authorities on December 31, 2015, 15% (197,200 prisoners) had been convicted of a drug offense as their most serious crime.”


[2]  Check out the shockingly high number of suicides among female veterans, almost 600% the rate of female civilian suicides 2000-2010


Why so Pissed, El? (final)

There are many reasons to be angry, no doubt.  Many reasons to be grateful for the miracle of life, also, though those reasons seem not to be as compelling, as demanding of action, as the reasons to be mad.  I’m thinking about the myths we are fed here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Not that every nationstate does not have its myths, every culture its signature values, but… fuck.

I think about the record disparity in income we have here now in the land of the American Dream.  Men with $35,000 toilet bowls and others, homeless, arrested for shitting in an alley.   What kind of disgusting person do you have to be to shit in an alley?   Can you blame a cop for roughing up a despicable fucker like that?  

America is ruled by advertising, has long been, but now the ads come directly to our pockets, targeted by algorithms that single us out by expressed preferences.  We elect our public representives  based strictly on advertising, branding and marketing.   Everything we see or hear is “brought to you” by some corporation with the money to bring it.   Sponsors pull out, the show is over.  Ten million people used to watch that shit every week, then something that couldn’t be spun quickly enough is said by the host and, bye bye.   Corporations taking principled stands.  We will not support a celebrity who makes a stink when everybody else on TV supports the next war.  Fuck that, we are Americans!

As individuals, we are powerless in the face of what is done in our names.   The champions we are sometimes allowed to vote for, and I think of recent liberal icons who have been devoted, flexible servants of the status quo, Bill Clinton (the “best Republican president of the 20th century”, our “first black president”) and Barack Obama (“the first black president”), are also men who will make every necessary compromise without flinching.  Every president has to pass the psychopath test before being put on the ballot of one of the major parties.  Some are better than others, but each of them, in crunch time, will do what needs to be done.  Usually that involves dropping some massive fucking bombs and selling billions in the latest killing technology to despots.  Few of us get excited about it anymore.   “It’s just the president being presidential,” spoken in the way disgusted but resigned Red Sox players and fans used to say “that’s just Manny being Manny”, referring to the mercurial superstar’s self-centered childishness.

So we cultivate honesty in our dealings with others.  Sometimes that is more fruitful than at other times.  Not everyone is comfortable with everything being on the table.  Honesty, really, what is that shit actually?  How fucking honest do we want to really be, anyway?

Many people I know have stopped watching the news.  You have a famously rabid bullying (though obsequious to superiors, allegedly) war hawk from the Cheney-Bush administration, elevated to sit at the president’s right hand, foaming at the mouth about Libya-style regime change in Iran.  Everyone recalls how well that went.   The Koch brother’s personal former congressman, elevated to Secretary of State recently by the world’s greatest deal-making winner, vows the most severe sanctions in history if Iran does not stop pursuing nuclear deterrence against the U.S., does not stop meddling in the Middle East.  He announces this with a straight face:  Iran must get the fuck out of fucking Yemen or we will fucking fuck you up.   Says this as we are giving massive military support to our close democratic friends in the House of Saud as they pour the explosions and famine on impoverished Yemen.   So, to avoid massive aggravation, you tune out, turn off the news.  Go on a nice vacation, come back, feel a bit better that life is still good.

Not a bad move, my friends.   Take a nice trip, recharge your batteries.  Look after your health.  If there is nothing we can do about the kind of country we live in, the kind of world we leave to the future, at least grant us the serenity to accept that and try to live as well as we can.   Our lives here are only the wink of an eye, after all, and each of us is suspended by a strand of a spider’s web during that wink.   It behooves us to look within, find peace, be grateful for every beautiful thing in our lives, do a little good wherever we can.  It does. 

There is something perverse in me that cannot look away.  I am driven to gather the available facts, try to understand, to put the jagged puzzle pieces together in this dark, stinking room.  I am fucked up.  I get that.  But it is my life, and my world, and it burns me sometimes that, no matter how clear and convincing the truth is, that mere truth doesn’t mean shit against a nicely spun pile of steaming horse shit.  Hell, in our new post-factual world, you don’t even need to spin that shit– just keep it constantly coming.  Heh, you completely dizzy yet, motherfuckers?

Why so Pissed, El? (2)

We live in a culture ruled not by a desire to meet everyone’s basic human needs, or even recognize them, but by an unreasoning competitive lust to acquire more than we can possibly use.   We all need food, shelter, clothing, exercise, love, sex, companionship.   We get tasty, cheaply produced toxic foodstuffs, overpriced shelter that is a burden, (if also a major investment), for many citizens, clothing made in countries where labor is cheapest and health and safety regulations least intrusive.  Instead of walking, most of us drive everywhere in fossil-powered cars whose pollution is destroying the planet.  

There is sadly little love in our society, for most people, in part because advertising creates impossible dreams as divorce rates soar.  Sex is often a commodity in our pay to play culture, pornography is readily available to every adolescent with a phone.   Companionship, in the sense of mutually respecting friends spending time together, having a few laughs, exchanging views, is more and more rare.    Look at me right now, I’m typing these words into a void instead of chatting with a friend.   More and more of our communication, as a society, is via what is grotesquely known as Social Media.   It isn’t hard to see why people become internet trolls in this kind of inhuman environment.   Why not take out your frustrations by shitting on your countrymen when nobody can look into your pathetic eyes?

Why so mad, El?  This sick shit is the only game in town, unless you make herculean exertions to get off the grid.   If you choose not to participate in what is euphemistically called the Rat Race, the competition for wealth, you find yourself a sucker betting against the house.   When I was young banks paid a substantial interest rate to hold your money.  If you had a sum you were saving, you could put it into a long-term, federally insured, bank account that paid 10% interest.  This way you could live on a budget and keep up with inflation without putting your savings on a crooked roulette wheel.  Today banks have merged with investment houses and insurance companies, the whole game is a casino.   Rather than FDIC insurance for your life savings in the bank, you have the federal government turning a willfully blind eye to the massive Ponzi Scheme that is our financial industry-driven economy.

In fairness to the ass-dicking architects of this system [1], I have heard there is nothing like taking a dump into a $35,000 toilet bowl.   It may be nice to own as many homes as you want, I suppose, although you have to wonder about why that might be.  In order to allow these masters of the universe to live such lavish lifestyles there are certain sacrifices the rest of us must make.   Not long ago they came up with a brilliant fraud to ensure that this sacrifice by the 95% would be perpetual.   I refer you to Matt Taibbi’s The Divide, pages 38 and 39, for a clear, concise description of the details [2].

You create a system where large sums of money are continually flowing in.  This is necessary for any Ponzi Scheme.  You need a steady flow of money coming in, to pay off people, to pique their greed, to make them invest more, to keep the shell game profitable.   Some unprincipled geniuses realized there was a huge reservoir of money in the housing market and came up with a scheme to defraud unsuspecting losers of billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars.   For all of its intricateness, it is deceptively simple.  You package and sell misleadingly labeled debt.

You allow millions of people to take mortgages they can not possibly afford to keep paying.  Give them “liar’s loans”, it’s not a problem, the point is to create mountains of debt you can package and sell, the more the better.  Make the initial mortgage payments small, it doesn’t matter, you can always add a clause for balloon payments that nobody will read, or understand.   As long as housing prices are going up, these poor suckers can always sell or borrow more money against the rising price of their homes, to keep their nostrils above water.   Meantime, you package these debts into huge bundles you can sell as rock solid investments, sliced into tranches of collateralized debt obligations, or whatever you want to call them.  

To make these bad debts attractive to investors, you get the ratings agencies to assure buyers that the derivatives they are investing in are AAA-rated, nothing safer than a triple A-rated investment product.   You make the transfers and investment opportunities for these toxic assets insanely complicated for anyone outside of the financial sector to begin to understand.   It doesn’t matter as long as you keep paying high interest rates on these toxic investments in the short term.  You make this golden investment opportunities irresistible.  Then you sit back, skim off the vast profits, and wait for more foreclosures to bundle and sell.  

Since we live in a culture where winners are rewarded with obscene wealth, and losers can go fuck off and die, all this makes perfect sense.   Obama’s justice department, along with not holding John Yoo, Mitchell and Jessen, Cheney and the other creators of our torture program accountable (come on! you will say, that would have been politically impossible– and besides, Cheney would have killed everyone), prosecuted nobody for this massive systemic financial fraud against millions of Americans, a fraud that resulted in the loss of gazillions of dollars for pension funds, senior citizens’ life savings, etc.  Suckers walk, yo.

Why so fucking angry, El?  This has always been the way of the world.  You think the serfs had it any better under feudalism?   Why blame perfect presidential candidate Barack Obama for not seriously addressing the most horrific failures of the system? He was no bomb thrower, he was a pragmatist.  He joked about making some “serious Tubmans” when he was out of office.  I have confidence in his abilities, I’m certain he will be the first ex-president to monetize his talents and status to become a billionaire.  Why not dream huge in the land of the American Dream?  

While we have Obama on the waterboard, I understand that the deep hatred he inspired in much of the country, merely by being “biracial”, may have led him to be more cautious than he would have been in a more just, less racist, society.   He faced a racist lynch mob every day of his presidency.  The most vocal leaders of that lynch mob are literally running the Executive branch today.  OK, leave my man out of it, then.

Why am I so fucking mad?  Because of how little choice there is in how to live by merciful human values in a corrupt, morally bankrupt, insatiably appetitive society like ours.  It is nothing to turn children into charred chopped meat somewhere thousands of miles from here, if you spin it as done in the cause of freedom and democracy.  Collateral Damage.  Sanctions against Iraq over the years cost many thousands of Iraqi children their lives, long before “Shock and Awe”, a perpetual war of aggression for no moral or legal reason.  Nothing to see here.   Drones replace “boots on the ground”, American lives are saved.  It’s all good!  We torture… some folks… call us pisher, as my grandfather used to say.   The bottom line is the economy, stupid.  The Stock Market hums along, practices largely the same as they were right before the big transfer of wealth in 2008 that was disastrous to many millions of people worldwide.  

“Nothing to fucking see here, commie bastard.  You want humble people to be left alone?   Where does that ever fucking happen?  I thought you wanted everyone’s basic so-called human needs taken care of?   How does that happen if you want to be left alone?  Asshole.  Grow some balls, go compete, monetize something, instead of whining to nobody about the infernal unfairness of life among the wise apes.  Nobody cares, do you understand me, you stupid loser fuck?  More than that, nobody is even fucking listening.”

I sit here, sucking my teeth, petulant.  I’m mad, yo.  Get me to a laughing academy, eh?  

And, smartly on cue, the spotty but expensive internet service provided by a duopoly headed by the highest paid CEO in the world, winks out.   God bless.



[1] Apologies to any loving, consensual practitioners of anal intercourse out there.  I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s sexual preference, I just get tired of using “motherfucker” to describe these ruthless motherfuckers.  “Cocksucker” is subject to the same offensive limitations as ass-dicker.  What a fucked up world… I suppose men who behave like the genteel “Planters” of old who raped their slaves for fun and profit are best described as what they are, motherfuckers.  Keep it simple.

[2] On the second of those pages, Taibbi writes:

It was a modern take on the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale.  Big banks took great masses of straw (i.e., the risky home loans of the poor, undocumented and unemployed) and spun it, factory style, into gold (i.e., AAA-rated securities).   They used a technique called securitization that allowed banks and mortgage lenders to take vast pools of home loans belonging to underemployed janitors and immigrants and magically convert them into investments that were ostensibly as safe as Microsoft corporate bonds or the sovereign debt of Luxembourg, but more lucrative than either.

Then we have this “fun fact” about the robust federal investigation into the causes of this great fraud, from page 407.  Try to read it without clenching your jaws after the punchline:

Fun fact:  When the economy crashed in 2008, the federal government formed an investigatory group to look into the causes.  The Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee was given a budget of $9.8.  Committee chairman Phil Angelides acidly noted that this was “roughly one-seventh of the budget of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”

Meanwhile, that same year the federal drug enforcement budget leaped from $13.275 billion to $15.278 billion.  That meant that just the increase in the national drug enforcement budget for the year of the biggest financial crisis since the Depression was roughly two hundred times the size of the budget for the sole executive branch effort at formally investigating the causes of financial corruption.

How It Is Done Here

I spent three hours at the opthamologist’s yesterday and left without what I went there to get.   I was screened for glaucoma and every other eye disease, after a very detailed vision test with the nurse.   Unfortunately, the doctor said, he could not give me a prescription for new glasses because nobody would pay him for it.   “I used to get $20, I’d charge $40 sometimes,” the solo practitioner with the crowded waiting room told me, with only a slight complaint in his tone.   In a few months, when I get the EOB from my insurance company, I’ll learn how much he made to spend ten minutes with me yesterday, above the $25 copay I had to make in cash. I’ll bet they pay him less than $100 for all those minutes.

The doctor claimed, at 4:00, seeing me for my 1:30 appointment, that the optometrists’ lobby (who knew, but why wouldn’t they have one?) had made it virtually impossible for an opthamologist to write a prescription for glasses.  Then, twenty minutes later when the drops had fully dilated my pupils, he chided me for my reflex to close my eye when something with a bright light approached to touch my eyeball to measure it’s pressure.  

“It’s not a reflex,” he corrected me, possibly incorrectly, “you just have to control it.”   On the second or third try he was able to touch the sensor down on my right eyeball, move it around.  The left eye wasn’t as cooperative.   Three tries and I was still blinking when he tried to touch the probe to my eyeball.  He snarled at my lack of cooperation.

“I’m not trying to be a difficult patient, doctor,” I told this affable, slightly gruff eye doctor.

“But you are being a difficult patient,” he said, suddenly graduating from gruff to asshole.

Funny, I had no reflex to say “I might have been a less difficult patient after waiting, say, only 90 minutes, or a scant two hours, for this exam you already told me will not result in what I came here to get, namely an updated prescription for these fifteen year old glasses.”

Nor did it occur to me, angry, scrappy, no tolerance for assholes person I have long been, to say “nor is it a reflex to be a dick, particularly after keeping a patient waiting for almost three hours.  You can control it.   I don’t give a fuck about how much you used to be able to charge for a prescription.   Or how important you think you are, or how sincerely you believe your droppings emit no foul odor, nor any of the rest of it.   I’d be tempted to tell you to fuck yourself a little, but I’m trying to be like fucking Gandhi these days, so kiss yourself instead, my brother.”

The doctor also informed me I have something called blepharitis.   I asked him how one gets blepharitis.   “Bad eyelid hygiene,” he said conclusively, making another note in my new file next to the large printed circle that was one of my eyeballs.   He didn’t seem concerned about it, told me to buy eye wipes and gently scour the area between the hairs on my lower eyelid and the eyeball itself.   I asked how often I needed to do this.  Every day, he said, for the rest of your life.

This guy was just a hardworking American doctor running a successful neighborhood practice.  People are used to waiting as long as they need to in order to see a doctor.   This guy had a waiting room full of people the whole time I was there (though the number grew over the course of the hours I was there).   They were all fairly passive, patient, used to waiting as long as it takes to see the great man.  Every one of them using their cellphones, though the office was plastered with NO CELL PHONE use signs.  The doctor, in fact, snapped at me to turn off my cell phone as he escorted me back to his office.   Nobody but me, I suspect, had any second thoughts about why it took more than three hours to see the great wizard. 

My conversation with the nurse who did the actual vision test was a bit more interesting.  She looked at my paperwork and insisted I fill in my social security number, as requested on the form.    I resent this insistence on something that was once very private and is now required by every bloodsucking corporation one deals with.   I described to her how I’d worked for a bloated, amoral leech, a collections attorney, who had taught me the great value, to creditors and their attorney partners, of a social security number.    You can freeze all their bank accounts, for example, take whatever money they owe you by serving a restraining notice on the bank, sitting back and waiting for the panicked debtor’s call.

“People owe the hospitals millions of dollars they never pay,” she said indignantly.  “Millions!”

I, myself, have an unopened stack of bills from hospitals, and collection notices from an attorney for the most aggressive of them.   I said nothing about this, what was the point?   I told her how many corporations now obtain legally enforceable default judgements, obtained fraudulently by not informing the defendants that there is a case against them.   Since they have no notice of any court case, naturally the alleged debtor doesn’t show up, and bingo, Bird Wins!  Default Judgment.  Their unethical attorneys get bundles if judgements on default, worth many, many millions annually, by simply not serving the required legal notice on millions of suckers.  It’s called “sewer service”, create the legally necessary “proof of service” and put the required notice that your proof swears was legally delivered, directly into the shredder, or sewer, whichever is handier.  No harm, no foul, courts are too busy to inquire into cases where only the powerful side shows up.

I told her that American medical care, the most expensive in the wealthy world, also has far from the best health outcomes.   We argued this point for a moment, with her going on about how poor people in America have the best insurance in the world, then I made my next point, about medical insurance.  

A big part of the cost of expensive American health care is the army of private middlemen who take their cuts.  Why are insurance companies involved in health care, again?   It was an interesting talk, after I conceded her the last four digits of my social security number.  She gave me an excellent and thorough vision test, the results of which I, arguably, do not own.    We call this free enterprise, the free market, the right of entrepreneurs, large and small, to be rewarded as handsomely as possible for the risks they take to make a profit.

Dr. McGruff did give me a recommendation to a local glasses store where there is a young optometrist who seems pretty sharp.  I require a prism lens in my glasses, to make my eyes cooperate more smoothly with one another as they get tired from the endless tracking that is reading.  Prisms are tricky, the opthamologist told me, and I should go to a recent optometry school grad to prescribe the exact prism I need, slightly different from the ones I’ve been wearing for more than forty years.

The insurance company offered me “vision” with my health insurance plan.  It was about $10 or $20 extra a month, but did not include glasses.  It would, presumably, pay the $30 to $50 I will pay this young optometrist for the eye exam.  I figure for the $120- $240 it would cost me for the year, I will make out OK on this particular deal, just like I did with the $88,000 I was charged for Rituximab.  

God bless these United States, eh?  Will you do that, God?   Can I get a fucking “amen” here?