Well, that was fast…


As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to have to have sinus surgery, to deal with the return of the polyps that contributed so much to my health woes in the past.
What I’m amazed at is how quickly things are happening. In more than one way.
Back when I had this kind of surgery the last time, a little less than a decade ago, I had it done at the Oregon Health Sciences University, a teaching hospital and one of the best medical centers in the region. And everything took forever.
They were so jammed up that it was usually a month, six weeks, sometimes even three months before an appointment was available, and when we’d go in, it took a long time to get up the hill to where OHSU is located, a pain to find parking in the crowded garage, and then we’d check in at the ENT clinic and wait an hour or two beyond our appointment time to see the doctor. I can’t complain at all about the quality of care, but everything was just interminable, at every stage.
This time, things have gone a bit differently.
Last Thursday, I saw my G.P., to discuss the CAT scans of my sinuses that had been done earlier that day. He said they my whole left side was pretty well swollen shut, but there didn’t seem to be any infection to account for it, so I’d better see an ENT specialist. Where was I treated last, OHSU? That sounded good. I started to protest that maybe we should see someone else, it always took forever to get anything done at OHSU…
He picked up the phone and called down to them, explaining that this was an old patient of Dr. Hwang’s (no longer with the university; he’s at Stanford these days), and I needed an ENT consult, and when could they fit me in? Tuesday.
Tuesday? That’s fast. Since Monday was President’s Day, it’s even a little faster than it seems.
Tuesday we go in to OHSU’s relatively-new Center for Health and Healing (pictured above), which is down at the bottom of the hill, right off the highway. Very easy to get to. It’s linked to the main campus by a ski-lift like tram that runs up to the top of the hill on cables, and I’d like to see the view from that thing sometime, but haven’t needed to yet. There’s a brand-new underground parking garage, and we easily found plenty of parking space on the second level.
In to the Center, and instead of being told that we had to trek to the Administration Building to be issued a new “burgundy card,” a standard part of the old procedure, we checked in for the appointment and within ten minutes were seeing the doctor. He scoped my sinuses, confirmed they were full of polyps, recognized that I’d had previous surgery and that Dr. Hwang must have performed it, and discussed my options with me, confirming that I’d need surgery.
Probably two to three weeks from now, someone in Scheduling would call to set it up. Okay.
The next day, Lea in Scheduling called. The doctor had a cancellation. How did next Tuesday sound?
Well, okay, that’s great! But Tuesday’s now less than a week away, and I’ll need to be on pre-op meds for a week before the surgery, is that enough time? She’ll check.
She checks and calls back. It’s fine. Just start the meds tonight.
So I’m having surgery a week after seeing the ENT surgeon, and only twelve days after being referred to him. That’s the speed of light, compared to our previous experiences.
And today, I had to go on to the Center again, to do some pre-op stuff—a new CAT scan to use in the computer-guided surgery process, and a few other things. They tell me to get there at 2:05 for a 2:15 CAT scan, then I’ll go to the Pre-Op clinic for a 3:00 appointment with a nurse practitioner there for the other stuff. I’ve got a little work to do, so I figured I’d bring my laptop and do some writing while I’m sitting around in waiting areas. Just in case, I have a book and my Kindle, too. Can’t be too prepared.
We get a slightly late start, but traffic was light, we get there right at 2:05. By 2:10 we’re sitting down in the Imaging Center waiting area, and I crack open the laptop. Half a sentence later, I’m being ushered in for my CAT scan, and five minutes later, I’m done.
It’s not yet 2:30, and my next appointment’s at 3:00. So should we sit where Ann’s already settled, and head up to he Pre-Op clinic around 3? What the heck, we’ll go up and check in now.
We go up, we check in, we sit down. I start typing. Three words later they’re calling my name.
We’re whisked into an exam room, where my blood pressure, temperature and pulse are taken all at once, and they ask a lot of questions about what medicines and vitamins and such I’m on, to make sure there won’t be any anaesthesia problems. They need to do an EKG, though, so if I hang on, someone will be in shortly.
Great, no problem, back to typing.
Two words later, here’s a nurse practitioner to do the EKG and answer questions about what I can/can’t eat and whether Ann’ll have time to ferry the family down on Tuesday, drop me off, ferry the girls to school and then come back and find me. No problems.
We’re done and out by 2:55, five minutes before we were supposed to check in for our final appointment of the day.
I could get used to this!
Reality reasserts itself on the way home, as we run into traffic and construction, and what took 30 minutes one way taken almost 90 going back. I pop open the laptop a couple of times to add in a phrase or two before I forget it, but I can’t really write in a moving car. Still haven’t opened the book. Or the Kindle, and I have the new Joe Hill novel, Horns, waiting for me on it, too.
So that was the day. I finished the thing I was working on back at home, and it’s printed out for Ann to proofread, but I’m still a little dazed by how fast everything’s happening.
Or maybe it’s the Predisone.

Through the Mail Slot – UPDATED


A reader named Rotem Cohen writes…
Just wanted to say a thing or two, having just finished reading the Marv Wolfman interview from the “READ” section.
Reading it felt a lot like going on a shopping spree in a supermarket when you’re absolutely famished. I’ve always wanted to write, especially comics, but never had the guts to just go with it. Life always came up first. The bit in the interview about writing to describe an emotion, and not a “theme”, made my eyes burst out of their sockets (the room was also a bit dark, and they ached frequently while reading, so wtf, who needs em). I’ve always felt that stories, whatever they are about, always came through to me when there was a coherent feeling behind it, and not just detailed events of some characters’ life.
Anyway, just wanted to say that.
Oh, and good health (I’m one of those who came via the Jean Grey rumors. I’m staying a bit, though, thanks to Google Reader).
Glad to hear it, Rotem. Hope we don’t disappoint.
Doing that interview with Marv was a real treat—Marv’s years of experience as writer and editor, as well as his ongoing enthusiasm for comics, make him a terrific interviewer, and the whole set of interviews up at his website is worth poking through. And on top of that, the bit you mention—I can’t say enough good things about The Fiction Editor by Thomas McCormack. It’s the book that kicked my ass and opened up the doors I needed to open to start thinking like a functioning writer rather than like an uncertain beginner. Every writer should be so lucky—might not be that book they encounter, or it might not be a book at all, but for me it was like dawn over Marblehead.
[And yes, that’s another Amazon link. Quick check—ha! I’ve earned another 60 cents, for selling a copy of Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way. Clearly, it was worth getting on the phone with J.G. and figuring out why all the choices in the Shop section weren’t showing, since that was one of them.]
Another e-mail, from BigWords88…

So… I’ve managed to register for the forum, and the registration has (apparently) gone through, but I’m still not allowed to post replies. Anyways, I just wanted to point out that if your sinus troubles are continuing, maybe you should look into the Chinese herbal concoctions which some people swear by. It isn’t a replacement for conventional medicine, but there are some herbal remedies which can have drastic improvements in ailments.
Hope you’re feeling better. 🙂
Oh, I’ve been on Chinese herbal concoctions of one sort or another for years, B.W., including a spray that we hoped would fix up my current sinus travails, but alas, it didn’t do the trick. But my adventures into alternative medicine began when my regular Western-style doctor told me that there was clearly something wrong that I was suffering from, but allopathy just wasn’t turning it up, and he recommended an acupuncturist and a naturopath. And while I’m not seeing either of the fine folk he referred me to any more, that was what led to things starting to turn around for me.
So I keep one foot in Western medicine and one in Eastern/alternative, and it seems to be heading me off in the right direction, at least.
[And we’re hoping to oneday have the registration process at the message board be entirely automated, but in the meantime, I’ve forwarded your e-mail to J.G. to see what’s up with that “can’t post” thing.]
But as long as we’re talking about my half-compacted head, I figured readers here might enjoy one of the side-effects from it, over at:
Comic Book Resources
It starts out as a thread about the Age of Heroes mini-series, but since I’ve been dizzy and unfocused this weekend, thanks to pseudoephedrine and a vile anti-fungal nasal spray that’s been like flooding my sinuses with acid that doesn’t actually do anything but hurt a lot, I spent a fair about of time sitting at my desk, reading old bits of Neil Gaiman’s online journal, following the early news from the Red Sox at Spring Training, and answering questions on that thread. And it ranges quite a way from the initial subject, covering things like whether anti-mutant prejudice was part of the X-Men series right from the get-go, whether I was ever Marvel’s head writer, my upcoming “untold tale” of Spider-Man, the Silver Age Jon Stewart, whether the phrase “extremist Thor fans” shows proper respect for the audience, how comics from different eras feel like different worlds, a brief and unhealthy fascination with my scrotum, the value of trying to please everyone, political portrayals in comics, Wolverine as super-evolved-weasel, and more.
It’s actually the sort of thing I’d like to see more of in our message board here, more or less (and I’ll bet it’d be easy to separate out which bits are the ‘more’ and which are the ‘less’), but it might be an interesting read, if people want to check it out.
Meanwhile, I’m off to shower and head down to the Oregon Health Sciences University.
UPDATE: Well, I don’t have to take that vile anti-fungal spray any more. But the reason my head is blocked on one side is because the polyps are back, worse than ever on that side, and I’ll be having sinus surgery again in a couple of weeks or so. The good thing is, we know this works, we did it before and it cleared things up for almost a decade. The trick, apparently, is not getting complacent and assuming that if they haven’t come back for two years, we can stop the regular ENT checkups…

Dizzy Days


So about three weeks ago, I came down with a cold.
These used to be regular things, but as my health has improved, I’ve gotten colds less often and recovered from them more quickly. Having six or seven sinus surgeries to make my sinuses drain better probably had something to do with it, too.
But I got a cold, and it wouldn’t go away. Or it wouldn’t go away on one side, at least. For the last couple of weeks, the right side of my sinuses has been clear, and the left side so blocked that my head felt like it was filled in with solid wood. Irrigation didn’t help. NyQuil didn’t help. Even Afrin, which normally makes me feel like I’ve got a vast, windy cavern in my head, didn’t do a thing. And worse, with my sinuses unable to drain, I was starting to feel like I had an infection of some sort.
So I went to the doctor. Two doctors, so far. I’ve had CAT scans of my sinuses and untrasound of my thyroid and neck (there’s a mass in my neck that’s probably a side effect of all this, but you never know), and I’m on antibiotics, and la di da. I’ve been diagnosed with “acute sinusitis on top of chronic sinusitis,” which is medical for “Sheesh, your head just won’t clear out, will it?”
Next week I go to OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University), where they did the surgery that ended most of my sinus problems close to a decade ago, and we’ll see what they say.
And in the meantime, I’m on Sudafed (or, more accurately, its more generic-y cousin, SudaGest), which I don’t like to take because all the way back to when I was a kid, it makes me dizzy and unfocused and kinda bleary, but I gotta do something to get my head to drain, and this seem to work, a little bit. I was unblocked enough last night to make a teeny little whistle through my left nostril, and open enough this morning to irrigate with a sinus rinse, and now I’m blocked up again but I get to take another dizzy pill in about ten minutes.
Fun, fun, fun.
So, what else we got?

The number of visitors here at Busiek.com sure skyrockets when I put up notes of how Jean Grey might have come back, or old Avengers pitches, doesn’t it? Traffic multiplied forty-fold for a while there, and has faded back down to about four-fold. It’s still kind of impressive to look at the counter at 10 a.m. and realize I’ve had more visitors that day than I had in an entire week not so long ago.
I’m sure it won’t last—I don’t have that kind of stuff in every blog entry—but I’ll enjoy it while it’s here. If you dropped by to look at one of those, feel free to poke around, look at what’s in the “Read” section, register for the forum, whatever.

And hey, I made another dime from Amazon! Thank you, Insomniacs fan, whoever you are!

In the mailbag, from Derrick Johnson…
I see that you are coming back to Marvel comics to write for them again. I am a fan of your work and am glad to see that you are working with other companies now. I never was a fan of the “exclusive” writer artist contracts that the major companies have. Anyway, the reason I wanted to write you was to ask you what you think of the current state of the Avengers.
I myself, (prior to Avengers Disassembled) was strictly an X-Men guy. I had never picked up an Avengers comic before. I read Spider-Man, JLA and some various DC stuff, but outside of the random crossovers and character interactions, I had never bought an actual Avengers comic. I read Avengers Disassembled by Brian Michael Bendis and was immediately hooked. (A lot of this had to do with Spider-Man joining the Avengers). I’ve bought every issue of Avengers since then and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I’ve even found myself going back and buying older Avengers stories so that I could learn more about the history of the book and also just to read great stories.
I had a few questions about your feelings on the Avengers franchise right now. There have been many debates on what makes an Avenger, in the comic shops as well as online. What do you think of the current Avengers teams and story arcs? Have you kept up with the characters and developments (Civil War, Bucky, The Death of Cap, House of M, etc..)
I just wanted to get your opinion on all this because your opinion as one of the great Avengers writers is much valued to a fan like me. Thank you.

Thanks very much for the kind words, Derrick.
Unfortunately, I’m really not the best guy to comment, since I’m woefully behind the times when it comes to the Avengers. If find it very difficult, most times, when I leave a book I’ve written for a long stretch, to make the shift back from master puppeteer to audience member. So when I read those books, my reaction is too often, “Well, that’s not what I wold have done.” And that’s not a valid critique, because the book shouldn’t be “what I would have done.” It should be what the new guy would have done, and be judged on that.
[If nothing else, if someone else could do “what I would have done,” then what do they need me for?]
So reading books I had a long run on but am not writing any more feels like work, not like fun, because of my unique perspective. As a result, I generally just put that stuff aside, figuring I’ll get back to it when enough time has passed, or when I need to read those books for research reasons. So I don’t read much Avengers, Thunderbolts, Conan or Superman, not because I’m angry about anything, but because I can’t really make the shift back to being just one more reader, not easily. And I have so much other stuff to read that I read the stuff I have to and the stuff I can approach as a reader and just plain enjoy, and the other stuff kinda piles up, if I’m getting copies of it at all.
And here I’ll hang my head in shame and note that Brian Bendis very kindly gave me a copy of Avengers: Disassembled, in hardcover, no less, and I said I’d read it, and it’s still sitting there in my very packed “to be read” bookcase, along with too much other stuff I have to get to. But I know right where it is, at least!
I do read Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, and I’ve been enjoying that quite a bit. The return of Bucky is practically comic book blasphemy in concept, but Ed not only made it work, he made it thrilling.
And in order to write my Age of Heroes story, I was given a lot of notes and feedback (and got to read all of Siege), to make sure I was portraying the team right. And if and when I’m writing a major Avengers project, I’d certainly catch up and do my research, like I did when Fabian and I wrote the Avengers/Thunderbolts mini-series, and I read through everything he’d done with the characters since I’d been gone.
In the end, though, what matters most is whether you like it. And for the Avengers franchise, it’s pretty clear that Brian, Tom and company have put a new spin on things that’s gotten a whole lot of readers interested and excited, so that’s a victory, for Marvel and for the reading audience. With luck, they’ll be able to keep doing that, though this “Age of Heroes” and on to whatever new spins and surprises and upheavals come along beyond that.

And now the pill’s kicking in, so I think I’ll just watch the room rotate around me for a little while…