Let this be an open apology to everyone I saw at today's Bar Mitzvah. Well, not everyone. There were some people I snubbed on purpose. For the rest of you, though, the reason I mostly sat there like an intert reproduction of Rodin's "The Thinker" was because I had a crippling migraine. I've had it now for three weeks.
It's difficult to describe how it feels, but I'll try. If you can imagine what it would feel like to be hungover all the time, with no hope of feeling better tomorrow, then you'll understand why my conversational skills fell far short of sparkling today. It's the kind of thing that renders obsolete every good and exciting thing that has happened in your life up to that point. Sitting there at my table, trying to stay upright, it was impossible to imagine that I'd ever watched fireworks, rode a motorcycle, proposed to Sandra Bullock while sitting on her mom's sectional after watching "Northern Exposure." Everything is right now, and right now completely blows.
This is not new. Several years ago -- right as we were moving to San Francisco, in fact -- I had the same headache. That time it lasted two years. I'm hoping this one is not as stubborn. Unfortunately, it's a complete personality-changer, debilitating enough as to dominate every moment of consciousness. It even makes crossword puzzles more difficult.
That aside, today's offbeat religious ritual was fine. The room was nice, our table was populated by people I wanted to hang out with and the dessert -- some kind of chocolate cake with more liquidous chocolate inside -- will haunt me for weeks to come. Unfortunately, the dense cloud of migraine that surrounded me rendered my admirable resistance of the uneaten dessert on the next plate insignificant, I am saddened to say. A rare display of willpower was blown away by general malaise.
Nobody knows why I get these headaches, what makes them come and what made them go away for seven years. Last time I ended up going to 17 doctors (counting the groovy homeopathic doc who stuck a very long q-tip up my nose and rubbed my shoulders). No one could figure anything out. "It's stress," said the first one. Ten years later, no one's come up with a better diagnosis, though many of you would wonder what in the world I have to be so stressed about.
I saw everyone. At its most frightening, the headache sent me to the Helen Diller Cancer Center on Divisadero, where I told the admitting nurse, "I'm hoping this is the only time I'll be here."
"That's what they all say," she answered, displaying a spot-in bedside manner.
As a weird aside, at that time I had no idea I'd eventually know Helen Diller's daughter and son-in-law, or that her son-in-law's brother had been friends with my older sister years before. Kind of like how during college Roger A. Hunt showed up wearing a t-shirt promoting a band called the Young Fresh Fellows, which became ironic several years later, when an ex-girlfriend of mine married the drummer from the very same Young Fresh Fellows. As Steven Wright would say, it's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it.
As it turns out, I have not yet been back to the Helen Diller center on Divisadero, and hope to only every see it as I did today -- a blurry building passed at speed on the way to the north side of town. That MRI I got back then was plenty scary, thanks. It gave me lots of focused time to ponder the meaning of life. Then, as now, I came nowhere near figuring anything out. Not even close.
My headache odyssey included two chiropractors and a chiropractic neurologist named Sergio Azzolino, who wrench on my jaw so hard I couldn't eat for a week. Every few weeks he tested my neurological functions by passing before me a strip of paper with lines drawn on it. Sometimes it seemed like he was making stuff up as he went along but man, I kind of dug that post-session dazed feeling I'd get from being beat up for a half hour. Not covered on insurance, though.
I went to the dentist, where they determined I had TMJ, which indirectly led to the weird mouthpiece I now wear to bed each night, thus making me appear even more dashing and romantic to my wife of almost 18 years. It didn't help the headaches, though.
I got a new pillow, designed to relieve the pressure on my neck as I slept. It cost $90. No change.
Eventually, the headache went away -- as mysteriously as it arrived. For the next seven years, it occasionally showed up, usually after what I could concretely point to as a particularly aggravating period of time, and even then it went away like a normal person's headache.
Well, now it's back. Watching "Food, Inc." just now didn't help. Try sitting there with your head feeling like it weighs about 45 pounds, watching pigs get crushed by a machine that looks like a giant drycleaning press. Not too appetizing.
Meanwhile, we are now back where we started. The last time this happened, the accompanying stats -- all of the stuff that had happened to me while feeling awful -- was staggering. I had four separate jobs, for instance, during that period. Unsurprisingly, none of them turned out all that well. I'm sure that the percentage of my head covered with hair fell precipitously from 2000-2002, as well.
So there you go. And since I can't count the number of times in my life that people have thought I was acting rude or standoffish when I had no idea I was doing so, I'd like you all to know that this time, I have an excuse.
We now return you to your regularly-scheduled program.