December 7, 2012
Theatricus Interruptus…

Our December EyeSight was to have spun out news of our newest show Gifts, previewing at our Sebastopol home. It was created specifically for house concerts and intimate venues, so this was the obvious first step.

It didn’t happen. For a week or so, I’d been battling fatigue, working a few hours in the morning, then napping, then getting up for a couple of hours’ rehearsal in the afternoon, living a strange half-life sprawled on the couch reading mystery novels—not my normal fare. Soon I added a cough to the repertory, then fever and chills.


After a week of this, I went to our doc, who immediately diagnosed bacterial pneumonia. A chest x-ray quickly proved otherwise, and I began getting fever spikes up to 103. Then followed every test known to humankind, reminding me of my three days of Ph.D exams. When a lab report came back indicating “gram negative coccus,” I was told to get to the ER now!!!

We had already decided a few days before, after postponing the first performance of Gifts, to cancel the rest of the previews: nice idea that “the show must go on,” but not a show about a feverish, shivering zombie. So I went in to the Sebastopol hospital late evening Wednesday, got hooked up via PICC-line (clever little thing) to an antibiotic drip, and continued getting tested from upside to downside.

They finally isolated a very rare bacteria that probably sneaked in when I had my teeth cleaned a couple of weeks before. Meantime, the fevers have vanished, the fatigue is gone (except for what’s induced by the hospital itself), and I’m out of the hospital. Fortunately, it’s covered by Medicare.

Downsides aplenty. I’ll be coming into the hospital for the next four weeks for daily doses of the antibiotic. And as the bacteria like to colonize around internal anomalies, the tests revealed a severely damaged mitral valve in the heart that will require surgery once the infection has cleared. Which means that our lives from now through March at least will be somewhat different than planned. Heart surgery wasn’t on the agenda.

Two look-on-the-bright-side blessings of this episode have been real. The damage to the mitral valve has apparently been long-standing, but never detected in a physical; it’s apparently worsened recently. Had the blood infection not happened, I would have been a prime candidate for heart failure.

The other blessing was, on my way to the hospital, to pick out the longest unread novel on our bookshelf, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I’d seen the musical, disliked it. Now I’m halfway through the 1,500 pages and stunned at its breadth, depth, and sheer humanity. Melodramatic, sure, discursive, and not much of the humor of Dickens, but the honesty of the character portraits in all their contradictory dimensions is tremendously moving. And the very concrete link between the action and the social & historical dimension of its setting paradoxically “distances” it and makes it all the more startlingly contemporary. I’m just wondering why it’s taken me 71 years to get around to reading it.

We still expect to do Gifts, though not till this circus has sent in its last batch of clowns. And I’m hopeful that this forced theatrical hiatus will give us a chance to focus on our fiction writing projects. Of course I’d rather be deep into our novel without a Viking ax stuck in my chest, but you can’t always bargain with the Norns.

Peace & joy—
Conrad Bishop