Saturday, September 6, 2014


Wayfaring Stranger

I got to that miracle drug "streptomycin" and had to stop. I know Hershel Pine very well, particularly because my wife is a Hungarian Jewess. For some odd reasons she does not take my Depression stories as seriously as I do. I plan to write a book called ORNERY PEOPLE: WHAT WAS A DEPRESSION OKIE? but the Oklahoma presses refuse it by return email. There's something about "Okie" still that they can't stand. When I tell about joblessness and homelessness or living in a tent in the whole winter of 1941-1942 my wife tells me how lucky I am. "Why, when you had cataract surgery this year they had perfected toric interocular implants to reduce astigmatism, and now you see better than ever in your life, you say, and you went down to the DMV to get a license with no restrictions, even age-related ones. And when those teeth broke you had the money to pay for titanium implants and now you say you chew better than you ever did. And by the time you got TB they had streptomycin!"

The other drugs our Holland fellow takes in Wayfaring Stranger? Ah, I was a telegrapher on the Kansas City Southern Railroad in DeQuincy, Louisiana, in 1955 when I found I had TB. I was shipped out east of Shreveport, near the Texas line, to a warehouse called The Pines (that had no trees except a few short pin oaks) where you waited to die. After a few months I drove out to California where doctors knew about streptomycin. I gave myself shots on the thigh. I swallowed para aminosalicylate sodium and isoniazid. Every Monday I lay on a table and a doctor took a horse needle, maybe 6 inches long, and threw it somewhere near my navel, and pumped me up with air. Tearing the layers apart the first time was memorable. This was pneumo-peritoneum.

Yesterday I had my annual physical and I forgot to ask the doctor what he heard in my lungs when he had me breathing hard for his test. I'm just lucky. 
And I love this book. James Lee Burke is America's best living novelist.

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