I made it! My goal was to get to my friend’s house in Oakland. I felt if I could get there, I could finally get some medical help for my sciatica and I would get magically cured and be able to move on with my plan.
Well, as we all know, but can’t seem to actually comprehend until it happens, plans are what we make so God can laugh. Or “man plans, god disposes.” Or “man plans, god laughs” or as Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” You get the point.
So, I arrive at my friend, Patti’s house in Oakland just as the sun in setting. We sit on the deck of her home on a hillside in Oakland and watch the sun set as we munch on delicious cheese and wine I had picked up in Mendocino and Sonoma earlier. Beautiful. But Patti has a school function, so she promises to take me to the ER in the morning. I am desperate for help at this point.
I take an Aleve PM and go to bed early, praying I will feel better in the morning.
I don’t. I wake at 4 AM in excruciating pain. I try to stretch and then, after 2 hours, I try to make my way to the bathroom. Patti hears me and wakes up. Kindly, she asks if I want to go to the ER and I don’t hesitate. I feel bad that she is up so early on a Sunday, but I have waited so long to see a doctor (almost 2 weeks).
When we get to the ER at Alta Bates in Berkeley, Patti drops me off as she goes off to find parking. It is only 7:30, so I anticipate a quick check in. What I don’t expect is to find the ER empty. No patients. No receptionist. No staff. No security guard. Nothing.
I set off the metal detector as I enter, but no one is there to inspect my backpack. I stand, helpless, before the check-in desk. “Hello?” Finally, a security guard comes out from behind a wall. “Do you want to look into my bag?”, I ask. He looks at me. “Nah.” He pauses, then asks, “You need some help?” I stand dumbfounded. “Uh, yeah.” And then he disappears behind the wall once again.
While I am waiting, a young woman in her 20’s enters the ER and looks around. “There ain’t nobody here when you need ’em,” she shouts. Then, again. “THERE AIN’T NOBODY HERE WHEN YOU FUCKIN NEED ‘EM!” This elicits some attention. The security guard pops out, followed by another, then a nurse. “Not her again!” she says.
Then, all hell breaks loose. All of the nurses, doctors, security guards emerge, one after another, to witness the young woman, who again is back at the ER, demanding help for her breathing, despite the fact that she is shouting at the top of her lungs. She is apparently high or in deep mental distress, and has been at the ER earlier that night seeking drugs. I said by frozen, hoping the shit doesn’t hit the fan too hard.
Suddenly, Pippin, a nurse, tells me to follow him behind the wall and into a triage area where I am safe from the chaos, yet can still hear the shouting. The police are called. And guess what? My blood pressure is high. Hmm.
So, by the time the doctor sees me for my examination, I am deemed too high a risk for anything more potent than Ibuprofen. My dreams of a cortisone injection or prednisone prescription, are dashed. I get a series of stretching exercises and a prescription for 600 mil of Ibuprofen and sent on my way.
I am disheartened. How am I supposed to get home? I have at least 2-3 weeks more of driving and I have little hope. But then, I start stretching and it works. It takes a few days, but things do improve. I get a massage and soak in a hot tub, and I feel slightly improved. My hope is restored.
It also helps that I have landed in the home of a friend. That human connection and knowledge that someone cares enough to make me a cup of chamomile tea and set aside a bed for me is what really starts to heal my back. The stretching doesn’t hurt either.
By the last day in Oakland, I am well enough to venture into San Francisco for the day, solo. I park at the Rockridge BART station and take the Antioch line into the city.
I get off at the Embarcadero and walk all day. It feels good. Down into North Beach, I enter the sanctuary of City Lights Book Store, followed by an IPA at Vesuvio Cafe. Entering this bar brings back memories from 10 years ago. Then, I was in love and traveling with a boyfriend to California for the first time. We came here, scored some weed (illegal then) and had a good time. Until later, when we fought over whether to go to a bar frequented by Jack London in Oakland – or go back to our apartment for the night. (I was the one insisting we go home, BTW. I’m such a killjoy.)
From North Beach, I follow the trolley tracks down to Pier 39 and then walk along the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio. My phone is dying and I wonder if a friend of a friend who is supposed to connect with me for a drink later will call before I lose juice. As I am sitting on a retraining wall at Fort Mason, admiring the surprisingly clear sky, the phone rings. Terry can meet me in the Mission. Another connection made.
I quickly call for an Uber and within minutes I am sitting next to Thang in his Honda Civic, borrowing his iPhone charger and admiring the sights as I am whisked thru the city past the Opera House and the City Hall where Harvey Milk was murdered.
I arrive in the Mission about 20 minutes early, so I stroll about peeking in stores and checking out menus. When Terry appears, immediately recognize one another as from the same tribe and are instant friends. We share a beer at Blondie’s, then it is time for me to go home and stretch out the back.
Another fine day in sunny California.