Friday, March 27, 2009

My Appendix Says Farewell

I've been pretty healthy person most of my life, with just a glitch here and there. Much to my surprise, I now speak to you as survivor of an emergency appendectomy. Yes, that scary situation, where you rush to the ER in excruciating pain, hoping against hope they won't have to cut on you, hoping it's only gas pains...only to discover that yep, the pain in the right lower quadrant of your abdomen, which has grown increasingly worse over the last 12 hours, is indeed an inflamed and already perforating appendix.

Fortunately, nowadays there is surgery by laparascope, in which you get only two or three little incisions instead of a big one; the surgeon goes in by remote control, snips away the offending vermiform remnant, suctions out the nasty pus and fluid, glues rather than sews closed any openings that shouldn't be there, then neatly withdraws and seals the tiny incisions with butterfly bandages. Tah-dah! Except for a few hours of agonizing gas pains on the day after surgery, recovery is amazingly fast and you're ready to go back to work within a couple of weeks.

Whew! I'd like to leave it all behind as among my less-favorite memories...but alas, during the presurgery testing, they discovered a problem with one of my kidneys, so I'll have to undergo another surgery in a few weeks. Sigh.

I am comforted to realize that if I'd been born fifty years earlier, I probably would have died of the appendicitis. I'm profoundly grateful to live in the world of modern medicine, with CT scans, laparoscopies, and -- last but hardly least -- really effective pain medication. Heh heh heh.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


The title of this post is both ironic and non-ironic.

I'm writing about two funerals--hardly material for celebration. Yet here in New Orleans, a funeral can be as much a celebration of life as it is mourning for the dead.

Two local celebrities died last week, both of them closely connected to the New Orleans music community.

Eaglin jazz funeral; photo by Brett Duke, The Times-Picayune

The first was Snooks Eaglin, a blind R&B guitarist known for his virtuousity, who influenced many other musicians. This excellent article about Snooks includes a YouTube video of Snooks playing at his favorite venue, Rock 'N' Bowl, and simultaneously giving a music lesson to another local musician, George Porter, Jr. The video is vintage Snooks: he treats Porter--famous as a member of The Meters and considered one of the greatest living bass guitarists--like a newbie. (Porter was one of Snooks' biggest fans and loved playing sets with Snooks.)

The second celebrity we lost was Antoinette K-Doe, widow of Ernie K-Doe, who revived Ernie's musical career and reputation in his last years, kept his memory active after his death, and helped many musicians and others in the community.

Apart from their fame on the local music scene, Snooks and Antoinette had something else in common: Their funerals were held at nightclubs.

Snooks' funeral service at The Howlin' Wolf featured tributes, both verbal and musical, by numerous stars of the New Orleans music scene, and concluded with a traditional jazz funeral escort to the cemetery.

It was the Warehouse District nightclub's first funeral.

"We've had people laid out here before," noted Howlin' Wolf owner Howie Kaplan, "but they were still breathing."

(From music writer Keith Spera's blog on the Times-Picayune website)

Antoinette's wake was held at her own club, the Mother-in-Law Lounge, which she had made into a shrine for her late husband. Her funeral service was at a church, and she too had a traditional jazz funeral escort to her interment.

K-Doe jazz funeral; Photo by Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune

All the coverage of the events shows how much the funeral guests celebrated the lives of the deceased. There was sadness, but also joy and happy memories.