Sunday, July 5, 2015

Rescue, Triumph, Disaster and Irony

Rescue: Has this ever happened to you? You’ve set up your DVR to record a weekly TV series. All goes well until you discover, too late, that the season finale, the ultimate fadeout or cliffhanger, was not recorded. And that it will not be rebroadcast until months, months!, later.

You can ask Gilda—that’s happened to us more times than I care to recall, the last being for the 10th episode of the inaugural season of Better Call Saul, the prequel to Breaking Bad. I cannot figure out why it repeatedly happens. Why, after diligently recording nine episodes of a series, does the DVR mysteriously end its mission before the last show? Does Cablevision surreptitiously sneak into our DVR settings in the stealth of night to thwart our viewing pleasure? 

I checked the TV listings. AMC was not re-airing the finale. I checked the On Demand menu. AMC offers programs, but not Better Call Saul. I searched the Internet. No luck. Netflix advertised Better Call Saul; I couldn’t find it on its Web site. We called Netflix but the customer agent said it would be months before it would be available. So why did Netflix advertise it? She had no idea.  

We had given up hope until we our salvation stepped forward in the shape of our tech-savvy son-in-law, Donny.   He advised buying Chromecast ($35 at Costco) and then downloading Plex on our iPad ($4.95). Voilá. $40 and  hours of frustration later, courtesy of Donny’s tech expertise we were further enlightened to the development of Jimmy McGill into Saul Gooodman.

Now we can rest easy as we await Season 2.

Triumph: It would be hard to find a more glowing review of a performance by a Broadway star than the one Ellen Greene received from Ben Brantley of The New York Times for the age-defying, dazzling revival of her more than 30-year-old signature role as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, the musical about a plant (Audrey II) from outer space hungry to eat its way toward human domination ( 

Audrey is one of my favorite musical theater characters for a very simple reason—Ellie played the part in a Play Group Theatre production. Wearing a short blonde wig, short skirt, push up bra and studded, stiletto black heels, Ellie hardly looked like the young teenager she was. She spoke in the high-pitched voice Ellen Greene used. When she sang, suddenly Seymour wasn’t the only one who knew Ellie was talented beyond her 14 years. 

After the play ended its short run, I salvaged one of her shoes as a nightstand memento. It’s been there for almost 20 years. 

Audrey was the first of many leading and featured roles Ellie enjoyed in PGT productions as well as plays produced by White Plains High School, a Scarsdale summer production company and the Skidmore College theater department. 

Disaster: I can empathize with Laura Bassett, the defensewoman on England’s World Cup soccer team who accidentally kicked the winning goal into her own net in a semifinal match against Japan. During my middling career as part of the intramural soccer team of my Brooklyn College house plan, Knight House, I inadvertently headed a ball past our goalkeeper. Unlike Bassett’s miscue, mine did not alter the final outcome. We already were losing quite badly when I parked myself under a high kick, hoping to head it away from our goal line. Instead, the ball skipped off the back of my head into our net. 

Not one of my finer athletic achievements. It ranks up there with my seventh grade basketball debut. Inserted in the second half, I snagged a defensive rebound. I looked for the outlet pass. Someone called out, “Here.” I threw him the ball. He scored an easy layup. You probably guessed by now—he was on the other team. The coach quickly took me out of the game before I could do more damage.

Irony: Two decades ago, before she became a specialist on spine surgery, Gilda was an active medical expert and researcher of Lyme Disease as part of the Infectious Disease staff at Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, NY. She co-authored numerous studies on the debilitating ailment. She set up the hospital’s walk-in Lyme Clinic.

Now, 20 years later, how ironic that we were first in line at the clinic last Wednesday evening. She had been feeling significant fatigue for a few days, with a headache and a stiffness in the neck, when a large, telltale red rash, shaped like a bulls-eye, appeared under Gilda’s right shoulder. She knew immediately what it meant. To confirm the diagnosis, and rule out any of the four or five other diseases deer ticks can convey these days, a trip to her old stomping grounds was in order. 

She was greeted like a returning war hero. Veteran staffers kept stopping by her treatment room to reminisce and update. Newer personnel came to see the person who started the clinic so many years ago. Gary, the head of the department, even suggested she return to the clinic, but he readily agreed when Gilda responded, “Orthopedics pays a lot better than infectious diseases.”

A day after starting the two-week regimen of doxycycline Gilda was back to being her old self. She could just as easily have prescribed her own medication, fulfilling the admonition, “Physician, heal thyself.” But it was a worthwhile trip back in time and place to see the fruits of her labor in practice, this time from the patient’s perspective.