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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Temporal Enigma And Poppy

This post may be considered a public service announcement. When I gardened public places, I got a T.B. skin test or chest xray every 2 years and continued the process into retirement. But recently, I learned a high school 10 miles away turned up 16 active cases among its student body. So I couldn't write a time-travel post without that cautionary element. Good idea to get checked next medical visit.
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The nickelplate telephone chimed!
"Hello? Please state temporal and geographic coordinates."

"Geo., its Poppy. Am I interrupting?"

 "No, I've received neither email nor comment. Alas, Poppy, it appears nobody loves me, and you?"

"I'm in Paris, or sort of outside Paris. I don't know. I think it's maybe 1885 or 86."

"What's happened?"

"I got into a cab, then this man --a young man..."

"How young?"

"Maybe 25. I don't know, young...got into the cab too and asked where I was going and I said, 'Just around, anywhere, to see the night here and take note of it.' Then he said, 'Good, my destination precisely. May I share? I'll pay both our fares.' "

"Your problem?"

"Geo. I don't know this guy."

"Did he say anything else about destination?"

"Said something about destiny."

"Same thing. Same etymology."

"He said, 'Laissez-nous améliorer sur le destin',then laughed and added, 'ou(?)...renchérissant sur notre sort.' Then he went all thoughtful."

"Scan his face immediately! I'll get my lens!"

"I'll have to be quick. He wants to smoke a cigarette and I told him I'd jump out, so he's going to climb onto  the roof of our cab."

"Not a moment to lose, Poppy! Ah, well done."
"You know him?"

"Not personally, Poppy. But his remark about 'improving upon destiny' and the idea of climbing to the roof of your cab rang some bells. Is the moon up?"

"The moon? Uh, yeah and its a fine night."

"Ok, he's going to lie down on the roof of the moving cab. By the picture, I perceive he's already composing the opening lines that will establish a movement that includes Pound, Eliot, Untermeyer, Ginsberg --too many to enumerate-- a poem, Solo de lune. Offer him this translation: 'On the roof of a coach at night I lie,/My cigarette pointing at the sky/ While my poor bones jostle and roll...O roads, hills, mists, vales./My soul, let's see what it entails.'"

"Yikes! Geo., am I sending Jules Laforgue onto the roof?"

"Very good, Poppy. You remember your literary history."

"But, but, can't I tell him to give up cigarettes or something?"

"Certainly, but what takes him from us is nothing he did to himself, a disease we can't completely eradicate even in the 22nd century. What he does for a living and his recreational studies as a flâneur brings him into constant public contact. Nothing you can do except make sure this poem gets written."

"I...I like him, Geo. --how long?"

"I can't tell you that exactly, but Monsieur Laforgue is on a tight schedule."

"Then so am I. You'll have my report if I have to climb up there myself."

"That's the Poppy I've come to rely on!" 

25 comments:

  1. Once again you've delightfully forged knowledge with entertainment - - not an easy task. Ironically, I recently watched a program about TB on American Experience. It's frightening to know that this dark threat of the past is making a comeback (especially so close to home). I haven't had a TB skin test since I was in my 20's.

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    1. Oh Jon, until 10 years ago I thought regular TB tests were an atavistic requirement. Then a friend, a custodian at an upscale neighborhood high school, tested positive at age 56. Turned out there were 4 cases there and the nurse's office was on his cleaning string. I am thankful I worked outdoors. But the "dark threat", as you aptly call it, has gradually and unhappily returned.

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  2. Poppy is such a star.
    Hiss and spit on the TB front though. Too many people, too soon. Still.

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    1. Beautiful EC, I have long-wanted to write something about one of my favorite poets --a gentleman, who made his contribution modestly and without quitting his day job. Yet, he managed to educate many generations of artists, my own included, despite succumbing to TB at age 27 --as you say, "too soon". Today, Poppy seemed the best way to get him visualized.

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  3. My mom had TB back in the 40's when she was pregnant. My sister was born in a filthy, rat infested sanitarium and stayed there for months. The patients were treated like the Aids patients were in the 80's and 90's. However, it was a very contagious disease and people were frightened. Both she and her sister got the disease from their father who possibly got it from someone at one of the bars he frequented. Twenty years later, TB hit my mom again but after being in a hospital for only 2 weeks and being on a new medication, she was fine. She took the medicine (think it was INH) for the rest of her long life (85). One of my sisters tests false positive for this disease and so does her daughter. They do not have the disease, but will always have to answer many questions.

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    1. Arleen, I'm somehow not surprised you had such a resilient mother. She must have had a strong constitution, and decided determination to wait for INH which has saved the health of so many. My brother, Frank, used to have to get chest xrays because he always flunked the skin tests at school. I tell him he just didn't study enough for them.

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  4. I remember getting the skin test in order to start high school. haven't had one since. The hubs had one a couple of years ago when he had pneumonia and was clean. The disease seems to be making a comeback among our street people.

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    1. I remember when your husband was suffering and am glad for you both that he pulled through so well. Unfortunately there is, as Mike mentions in the next comment, a widespread "lack of compliance by those infected with the bacillus." I sure hope that changes among street people and all people.

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  5. At the time of Poppy's carriage ride, inoculation for TB was still a couple decades away, and actual effective treatment several more than that. At M. Laforgue's time, TB caused a sizable percentage of disease-caused deaths in Europe.
    Our main worry about TB now is the chemotherapy-resistant strains caused by incompetent administration of antibiotics, and lack of compliance by those infected with the bacillus.
    Predictably, I had a positive tine test way back in the early 80's, had a course of ison, and have been clear on xray since. Given my gig during my working life, it was almost a given I'd get a positive test.

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    1. The mention of "incompetent administration of antibiotics" hit home recently when I was given a course of sulfamethoxazole for a problem that got bad enough to lose me two night's sleep last week. I remember getting sulfa drugs when I was a kid in the 1950s, but not since, not til last week. I didn't ask, but figured penicillin must be prescribed more sparingly now. I know bacteria can mutate around the drugs but I'm more impressed with the immune systems you physicians must develop. Quite a gig indeed.

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  6. I tested positive on my TB test. I knew no one who had tuberculosis and said so to my doctor. He told me I could have brushed by someone in an airport... it is that easy. I was treated successfully and never developed TB. The test is easy and if necessary the treatment is just as easy. It beats having to deal with an awful disease. Thank you for reminding us.

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    1. My pleasure and privilege, Emma. I have an old tin dispatch box full of letters written from Towles, and other highSierra mountain sanatoriums that don't exist any more, to my grandparents from relatives who took their cures there or ...not. Those poor folk suffered awfully. Let's be glad we live in these times when timely and effective treatments can bring us together, communicating, instead of the heartbreaking alternative.

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  7. The nursing students at the college I work at have to take a TB test. I hear it's making a comeback.

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    1. Keith, that is an unfortunately general prognosis. Your workplace is doing the right thing.The beginning of a detective story is rooted in these tests. The culprit can be found and victims saved if routine tests are mandatory.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. My apologies for accidentally removing your comment, which was "happy holi". I don't know which "holi" you refer to --we are between World Seal Day (5/1) and National Frog Day(5/20)-- and can only respond by wishing you a happy one too.

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    2. I seem to be in the wrong month as well. It isn't National Book Day, Is it?

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    3. Geo
      In the month of March we have International Women's Day (the 8th), International Happiness Day (a personal fav), the 20th, and many others, including World TB Day, if you can believe that, on the 24th.
      Oh, I think April is the book day, maybe the 23rd....

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    4. A second apology to Race Gurram. My ignorance has abated only slightly since Thursday but here is what I learned: Holi (pronunciation: /ˈhoʊliː/; Sanskrit: होली Holī) is a spring festival, also known as the festival of colours or the festival of love. Thanks for alerting me to this celebration!

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  9. One of the (very old) hospitals where I used to work included a dreary old building which served as a TB Sanitarium for many years. One of my co-workers and I "rescued" a number of books from the abandoned library in that building. What idiots! We had to get frequent tine tests after that, but fortunately, we were much luckier than we were smart.

    It's disheartening that TB is making a comeback, but at least today's treatment is a lot better than what it used to be. (Assuming people actually get the treatment.)

    Happy weekend, dude.

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    1. Glad you survived the library! Come to think of it, a lot of my old books look a bit diseased. Maybe if I set the washing machine on "'delicates".

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  10. Dear Geo., I have to confess that Jules Laforgue was unbeknownst to me - now I saw that he has been also in Berlin, "working as the French reader for the Empress Augusta" (I have a rose named after her). And he was a flaneur!
    As to tuberculosis, I read in the newspaper that a teacher in Berlin just now seems to have infected (they still test) some of his pupils - I always thought that it was a disease of the Fin de siècle - Thomas Mann's "Zauberberg" comes to my mind - a disease been overcome in 'civilized' countries. Well - error on my part.

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    1. Dear Brigitta, Norma introduced me to M. Laforgue with a book she loaned me 45 years ago, "An Anthology Of French Poetry from Nerval to Valery" --Angel Flores, ed.,Doubleday 1962.-- and had to marry me to get it back.
      Isoniazid is now considered basic to all health-care programs. Unfortunately, the poet's life predated its discovery by many years.

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  11. Dead at 27 - just like Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain... He really was on a tight schedule!

    I had to get a TB test before I started student-teaching. Came out clean.

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    1. It's always a relief to find out we haven't got something we don't want to have.

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