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Jelly Elbow


This was originally published in September of 2010 but I took it down and broke the internet (because I linked to it on youtube). Someone recently asked to read it. So here it is in all its glory: 

I have what I call a “jelly elbow.†The medical term for it is “olecranon bursitis.â€

The olecranon is the tip of the elbow. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa. A bursa is a sack of slippery fluid that pads most joints. At the olecranon, it actually pads the area between your skin and the elbow bones.

I am on the powerful anti-platelet medication, Plavix. My blood doesn’t clot very quickly. This doesn’t marry very well with my chosen hobby: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is, as one friend put it, “kinda-like judo with no rules.†There is throwing and wrestling and choking and joint locks and chin grinds and rib pushing and all other sorts of nastiness.

Because of the Plavix and the jiu-jitsu, I’m susceptible for bleeding and bruising and an assortment of other injuries. One of those injuries was cauliflower ear, where the blood got between the skin and cartilage of my ear — my wife drained the blood out (several times) and, while my ear is a little thick, I don’t have a deformed ear.

Now blood has entered into the bursa sack at the tip my elbow. My elbow is two or three times larger than a regular elbow — but much softer. Softer because my bursa is filled with blood.

I know it’s filled with blood because my wife aspirated 12.5 cc’s of jelly (blood) out of it over the weekend. She did it with 0.5 cc insulin needles. Now if you’ve taken the time to do the math, you have already realized that she jabbed me 25 times. And there’s still at least 10 cc’s of fluid in there — 20 more sticks. (Pic & video at the end of this post.)

My elbow feels like it has a mild toothache. But I’m already imagining my call to the doctor:

Hi, Doc. It’s me, Jim …

Yeh, I know. Long-time, no-see …

Listen, I called because I’m having a bit of a problem. I have olecranon bursitis …

How do I know? I checked it out on The Google. I’m sure it’s what I have …

Thank you.

The Google said the best treatment was ice, rest, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory meds. I tried all that for a month and didn’t get better …

No. I didn’t rest it …

Of course I should have. But that’s not why I’m calling. The Google said that my next line of treatment was to aspirate the fluid out …

Ha! Of course, I didn’t do it myself. I had my wife do it …

No. She’s not a doctor …

Stop laughing. This is the important part. I think she healed the olecranon bursitis but I have another problem. I looked up my new symptoms on The Google and it turns out that I probably have localized staph infection and septic arthritis in the elbow. The Google says that I’m going to need antibiotic treatment right away before I get a systemic infection …

I’m glad you agree with The Google there …

No. I don’t need an appointment. I just need you to call my pharmacy to prescribe some antibiotics …

Hello? Hello?

Sandi, I think another doctor hung up on me. Get the phone book!

Jelly Elbow (Olecranon Bursitis)

Some of the Jelly

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Robots, America, and Halloween


I have a friend from Kenya.

He was born and raised in a very rural village just outside the savanna. The scariest thing, he said, was the sound of lions at night. Monkeys threw fruit at the girls (not the boys, because the boys had slingshots). Young boys became expert in packing t-shirts into tight balls that the older kids would use as soccer balls.

He was educated as Occupational Therapist in Nairobi City. Soon after graduation he told his family that he wanted to move to the United States. This was a scary idea. Even scarier when you consider what he thought the United States was all about.

“There are no trees in America,†Godrick once told me. “And everything was made of metal. Robots, my mother told me, did everything.â€

“This is what you thought?â€

“This isn’t what we thought. This is what we knew.â€

Other than that, Godrick knew very little.

About ten years ago, he landed in the United States. Tired, he hobbled to his hotel room and slept until afternoon.

“I went down into the lobby when I woke up, you know, to see America. I was amazed. The people all dressed in wonderful, elaborate clothes. Costumes. And some had masks! And all handed me candy! Mother was right about America!â€

Godrick had arrived in America on the eve of and awoken on the day of Hallowe’en.


The Gay Man, Marriage, and Me


Not so long ago, I was the guest in the home of a gay man. I don’t think he knows that I know that he’s gay. I hardly think he cares. And, other than the amusing fact that he still has occasional sex with his ex-wife, I don’t care either.

He left his wife and took on a male partner. His wife and his partner don’t like each other. In light of the amusing fact above, I’m not surprised.

I used to work with a gay gentleman. His name was Carl. From time-to-time we’d have lunch together. One afternoon, at a pizzeria, Carl recognized the guy making the pizzas. He knew him from one of the gay bars he frequented.

Carl started flirting with this guy like a girl looking for a prom date. I was surprised that I got a little uncomfortable and excused myself to the parking lot.

When Carl returned I said, “Don’t do that. That made me feel weird.â€

“Don’t do what?â€

“Start batting your eyes at guys like that and acting like a school girl. That was just a little too gay,†I said.

“Why, are you jealous?â€

“Jealous? Of what? Do you think I want to get in your pants?â€

“Well, from the way you’re acting, yes.â€

Carl really thought I was gay. When I told him that I was married, that my wife was expecting our first child, he was shocked.

“I thought for sure you were gay. I mean, you’re a nurse. And you’re slight. And you hang out with a gay guy.â€

Several months after that, he did come on to me. I reiterated that I was married. “Jim, I’ve had more married men than gay men.â€

I believe him.

Human beings are social animals. We have evolved societies beyond the family unit and small regional bands. We have political and religious societies; work and hobby societies; game and support societies. And on and on.

We have a need, a yearning, an instinct to be in a group.

Similarly, the human animal has a strong desire to pair-bond with his/her sexual partner. This strong desire, this biological instinct, evolved because the man-woman pair can more successfully raise children, and pass on the coupled genes, than one person (woman) alone.

Eventually some of our societies formalized this pair-bond, this mating-couple, this marriage. Our religious societies sanctified the marriage. Our governmental societies legalized and heaped benefits on the marriage. The two became one.

What started as instinctual pair-bonding for the process of successfully bringing genes through to the next generation has become a religious and governmental institution that is not bound to raising children.

People who have a sexual attraction to the same gender still have this strong desire to pair-bond with his/her sexual partner. A governmental society that gives benefits and rights to pair-bonded sexual couples and states in its founding document that laws need to treat all citizens equally, ought to be blind to the gender of that couple.

It just makes sense to me that all pair-bonded couples have the same benefits and rights. The pair-bonded homosexual couples ought to legally be married.

Religious organizations, especially Christian ones where Jesus has already given us an example of staying out of governmental affairs, ought not have a say in the government’s role in gay marriage. It has nothing to do with them. Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

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Unknown Poem


Poetry, I believe, has less to do with the poet and more to do with the reader. It is his/her experience that breathes life into the poet’s words.

My wife wrote this. I stole it from her notebook.

“You don’t know what it means,” she protested.

I don’t have to.

night wish

a chance thought did dream you

come escape sweet thought

take soul

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Goodnight, Love


A Welsh couple reading in the dimly lit library of their home. In their eighties, no doubt. Married fifty, maybe sixty years. Sharing bits and pieces from the books in their hands.

SHE: It says here that the libraries of Welsh literature are among the oldest in Europe.

HE: Four-fifths of the oceans’ floors are deep, dark and cold. They thought it was lifeless. Now they figure that there’s more life down there than any we’ve yet catalogued on the surface.

These are their evenings now, as they wind up their lives. Still very much in love.

HE: I make sure that the last thing I say to her at night is “I love you”. At our age, you never know if you’ll wake in the morning. I want her to know, always and forever, that I love her.

It was truly touching. Beautifully heart-felt.

Looking down in the books in our hands, my wife and I felt camaraderie with the Old Ones. We thought this a wonderful tradition and meant to carry it on.

The light went out. I feel her face pull close.

SHE: (whispers) I love you, James.

ME: I love you, Sandra.

There is a pause of moments.

SHE: Move your feet.

ME: Shut yer cake-hole.

Another pause.

ME: We’ll never pull this off. Will we?

SHE: No, damn you.

Good night, Sandi. I love you.


Richard Stockton


My daughter goes to Stockton College. Stockton College’s formal name is Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Richard Stockton.

Several years ago my paternal grandmother emailed me this (in part):

… you have a relative who signed the Declaration of Independence, Richard Stockton. He was my Grandfather Anderson’s Great Uncle. My Grandfather’s (your Great-Great Grandfather’s) name was Adrain Stockton Anderson.

Now, if I got my Great-greats right, that makes him my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather’s brother. Pretty cool, huh?

Stockton is one of those men who, after signing the Declaration of Independence, lost everything. He was betrayed to the British, jailed, “treated with unusual severity and brutality that seriously affected his health”. His home was pillaged, ransacked and burned. He was left in very ill health and died an invalid under the care of friends.

All because he had the bravery and integrity to ball up his fist at oppression and seek freedom. A freedom which still, in somewhat diluted form, embraces this country.

Thank you Uncle Richard.

Thank you Grandma.

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Available Light


I pulled the tiny Nikon 775 out of my pocket and showed him. In describing it I almost apologized that there weren’t many manual controls. “No control over shutter speed or aperture …â€

He jumped in, “Aperture? Either you have light or you don’t.â€

It was a quick, true, one-line lesson in photography. It’s not the aperture; indeed, it’s not any manual setting at all that dictates your photograph. It is the quality of available light that is the begin-all and end-all of photography.

This quick lesson was punctuated by him taking the $4.00 disposable camera I’d bought for him at Staples. A camera with no controls at all. A camera he’d lusted over the day before. A point-and-shoot he’d wanted to try since a friend of his said that it created outstanding 11â€x17†prints.

“I’d already have one if I was able to get out of the house more,†he told me yesterday as he held up his cane and glanced down at his 95-year-old frame.

“I pass Staples everyday. And I work here on campus. I’ll pick one up tonight and drop it off tomorrow,†I said.

Edward Schwartz has been taking photographs for the better part of seventy years. I met him while he was showcasing his Okinawan photos in a public expo. Photos he’d taken during World War II of the indigenous people of Okinawa.

“How much do I owe you?†He reached in his pocket.

“No money, Mr. Schwartz. You owe me a cup of coffee and an hour to hear you talk about photography.â€


Either you have light or you don’t. Edward Schwartz has light.

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