Monday, January 23, 2006


I fully intended to write a post on Frederick Exley's "A Fan's Notes," a brilliant fiction-as-memoir, to show a counterpoint to the book fraud "A Million Little Pieces." But it was not to be.

You see, all weekend I spent parked in front of my iMac, hitting buttons and clicking away. Lest you might think I was engaged in productive activity -- that is, in writing -- let me disabuse you of that optimism. No, I was vying for world domination in a computer game called "Rise of Nations," and the last time I checked, I was getting walloped by the Aztecs, the Chinese, and the French, a veritable multi-cultural ass-kicking that would make the most cynical left-winger proud.

Some nerve

In fact, I have not written much the past couple of weeks, and it has interfered with my ability to post stories to this blog. This time, my excuse is not depression, procrastination, or any other state of being ending in "-tion." Instead, this is some beastie called "ulnar entrapment," which, if you know what it is, means you have either suffered from it or are an orthopedic surgeon, which makes me worry about how the nation's physicians are spending their free time.

Ulnar entrapment, or "cubital tunnel syndrome," is a painful little condition involving the nerves in the elbow. These nerves run all the way to your hand, and when you suffer from ulnar entrapment, your pinkie and half of your ring finger (yes, just half the finger) go numb. For the past three weeks, it has felt like those fingers are suffering from a combination of falling asleep and frostbite.

All this makes typing a painful proposition. Depending on what expert to believe, I am to extend my arms while typing, or keep the elbows to my sides, or pick my toes with the bad hand. It doesn't matter -- I can only type for a few minutes at a time.

Which really sucks ass.

I don't know my ulnar got entrapped, except that I woke up on New Year's Day feeling like my hand had fallen alseep and wasn't waking up. I have foolishly searched online for treatments, and discovered a hypocondriac's dream. I read of horror stories involving misdiagnoses, botched surgery, permanent damage. In case the condition does not improve of its own accord, the alternative is a maybe-it-will-work procedure that entails six weeks in a splint. Which is six weeks I can't take off from work, sadly.

Yes, I have been to my physician, who seems to think it will go away on its own; another doctor, a specialist, is of the same opinion. But it may take weeks, or even months -- nerve injuries are notoriously slow to heal.

This may be the case, but since my job (and not just my writing) involves a keyboard, this is of little comfort. It isn't so bad when I don't have to either hit the "Shift" or "Tab" button, or type "a" or "s." Since my name has both an "a" and an "s," you might see why this is a problem, not to mention about 50 percent of the English language.

I really don't know what I've done to deserve this. My skeleton is a catalog of woe: two knee operations, a herniated disc in my back, a recently discovered condition in my shoulder requiring surgery, and now this. It's really quite demoralizing. I need new joints and fast.

Got Demerol?