Friday, May 28, 2004


Over the course of my thirties I somehow grew a big but completely innocuous lump on my back, square in the middle, as if someone had wedged a golfball under my skin. (Slight exaggeration, but you get the point.) My doctors in the states poked it and pressed it and said, "Well, it's just fatty tissue... we could remove it, but it's purely cosmetic surgery so insurance won't cover it." Which is Latin for, "Leave it alone."

So I left it alone.

Here in Denmark, my doctor said, "That's unattractive. Let's get rid of it."

(All hail Danish aesthetics!)

She gave me a couple of referrals and suggested I make an appointment as soon as possible.

"The thing is," she explained, "it'll take 8-10 weeks to heal, and you can't bend over and pick things up and stuff while it's healing. Since your wife is going to have a baby in August, you'll want to take care of this before then because, believe me, you will not be able to let it heal properly once you have a child."

So I called the doctors she'd referred me to and explained the situation. I was told they could give me a rush appointment in, oh... How's September?

I'm picturing diapers, changing tables, things that require assembly. No thanks.

I call my doctor's receptionist and ask for more referrals. She says to call any old plastic surgeon in the yellow pages. The referral is good anywhere: Danish healthcare is, after all, a government syndicate.

The DMG hit the phones for me and we struck gold on the very first call: a doctor could see me on Wednesday for a preliminary visit to assess the situation.

We went in together on Wednesday. The doctor's offices were located in a beautiful old building in the little square around Marmorskirken, an old and beautiful Danish landmark.

Marmorskirken: the text says 'The Lord's Word is Everlasting.'

I had learned something about beautiful old buildings while attending Emerson College in Boston: they tend to crumble from the inside out. This building was no exception. Nice place for a restoration project, but the big, high-ceilinged apartments were ill-adapted into a doctor's suite. Too many hallways, complicated doorknobs, giant windows, wainscoting, baroque architectural details. Weird.

The doctor's examining room was decorated very nicely, though—tasteful, sparse, and elegant. I took off my shirt and showed him my lump and he said yes, very large, let's get that out of there. How was Friday?

Friday would be great, I said.

"Friday it is," he said.


"Yes yes, right here."

I realized this would be outpatient surgery, but that was hardly consoling. I wanted to see some signs of sterility—sparkling linoleum floors, glistening walls, shiny aluminum medical equipment, annoying bright lights. This suite would have been nice for a psychiatrist or a literary critic, but surgery?


I went in today. His operating room was another big room, probably some old dowager Duchess's bedroom or something back in the 18th century. There was a standard operating table in the middle of the room, and there were little stands of equipment and material here and there, but that was about it. Sparse. Airy. Anachronistic.

The nurse had me lie face down on the table and sterilized my back. She was from Iceland. She'd lived here seven or eight years. We spoke in Danish and she flattered me by pretending to understand most of what I said.

The doctor came in and she told him how clever I was with Danish. He shot off a few sentences at me which I didn't understand; I replied ambiguously with a few random sentences of my own, and he did not do me the flattery of pretending to understand. Shortly thereafter, in fact, he was piercing my flesh with needles.

"Administering a local anaesthetic," he said. Sure. More like, "avenging your abuse of the Danish language!"

We began chatting in the slow and awkward Danish I speak so well, and soon he was slicing into my back and massaging the fatty tissue out.

Here I was in a building older than my own country, talking nonsense talk in a language I don't even understand with a man who had cut a slit in my back and was squeezing God-knows-what out of it, while outside the window I could see the marvel of Marmorskirken... all of this just across the street from the residence of the oldest continuous monarchy in Europe.

And I thought to myself, "this could have a really unhappy ending."

But it didn't. He got the little globby lump out, plopped it into a specimen jar, and showed it to me. It was a brain-shaped, garlic bulb-sized hunk of smooth, buttery fat. It didn't look half bad. It looked like something you'd spread on a hunk of bread as part of a Danish lunch.

And that was that.

(He was actually a great doctor, in that he did what I wanted him to do without killing or maiming me, and I actually did enjoy talking to him. I'd recommend him to anyone. But the situation was no less surreal for all that.)

* * *

As long as I'm finally coming up with some content, here are some pictures I took in the area when the DMG was with me for Wednesday's appointment. This first one is my perspective on Amelienborg (the aforementioned royal residence), and I include it because it's communicative of how I see most of Denmark: from behind the DMG's lovely blonde head:

My perspective on Denmark (Amelienborg guards).

The second is a closeup of the royal guards... I couldn't get over how young they looked.


I took some other nice pictures, but I can't sit at my desk anymore... I have to sit absolutely upright to type, and I can only do that for so long.

Eternal Adolescence 

Today's Almanac is up. It goes on forever. A new X-Box, the forcousin business, conspiracy in Lake Wobegon, junior high school regrets, the uplifting history of the bra, and a whole lot of other crap.

Also, why this rocks my world:

And I'll get this blog back into action over the long weekend.


Monday, May 24, 2004


Now more than ever.

Today's Almanac is up, and reminds you that The 5-Minute Iliad is now more important than ever. It then utterly debases itself in an attempt to persuade you to buy it or pimp it.

Why now? Because of the popularity of the movie Troy, for one thing, which is based on the Iliad, which is way too long to read—except in my version. Also the popularity of the movie Van Helsing, which is based on a character introduced in Dracula, which is also way too long to read. Also because I'm getting ready to shop my next book around, and every last sale of the previous book will help. (A third book may also be ready by the end of the summer.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?