Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It's now been about two-and-a-half months since we returned from our 25th-anniversary cruise in the Caribbean, and I have been suffering from vertigo that entire time. Treatment with antibiotics and Scopolamine transdermal patches hasn't helped noticeably, and the effects of the vertigo have been extremely debilitating (not to mention bewildering and dismaying). Rather than try to describe what I'm going through in my own words, I thought I'd use excerpts from the WebMD website:

Vertigo is the feeling that you or your environment is moving when no movement occurs. Imprecisely called dizziness, the term vertigo is the specific term used to describe an illusion of movement. Unlike nonspecific lightheadedness or dizziness, vertigo has relatively few causes. ... Vertigo may...be caused by inflammation within the inner ear. This is known as labyrinthitis. This condition is characterized by the sudden onset of vertigo and may be associated with hearing loss. ... To determine if true vertigo exists, you must describe a sensation of disorientation or motion. ... The duration can be from minutes to hours and can be constant or episodic. The onset may be due to movement or change in position. ... The majority of cases of vertigo are harmless. And although vertigo can be extremely debilitating, it is easily treated with prescription medication. ... Specific types of vertigo may require additional treatment and referral: Bacterial infection of the middle ear requires antibiotics. ... The prognosis depends on the source of the vertigo. Vertigo caused by problems in the inner ear, while usually self-limited, in some cases can become completely incapacitating. The use of drugs and rehabilitation exercises are the mainstay of treatment. Most commonly this will make the symptoms completely go away or make the condition tolerable.
The onset of my vertigo occurred either on the cruise or as we debarked in San Juan. I ran on a treadmill in the cruise ship's gym four times while we were passengers, but only the last time was while we were actually on the open sea. I remember struggling to keep my sense of equilibrium while the treadmill was rocking side-to-side with the ship (the irony is that that is how a treadmill on dry land has felt to me ever since we came back). It's common for cruise passengers to take some time to adjust to being back on shore, so initially I didn't think much of the fact that everything seemed to be moving. It appears now, however, that I picked up some kind of hardy bug during the cruise that has caused a long-lasting infection in my sinuses and/or inner ears. It's probably viral in nature, as a standard course of antibiotics didn't touch it. I have an appointment with an ear-nose-throat specialist in late-April (having consulted already with our primary-care doctor), but that's little comfort. I'm certain there are plenty of people with terminal illnesses who don't feel any worse than I do at this juncture!

[Update 4/1/10: What I have now seems more likely to be "mal de debarquement". It's reportedly rare for a man to get it, but everything fits, right down to the fact (a) that it isn't caused by an infection of the sinuses or the inner ear (which I really don't think I have), and (b) that neither Meclizine nor Scopolamine has any effect on it, whereas Temazepam (one of the sleep meds I use, and a benzodiazepine) seems to help somewhat. It's really dismaying to know that the symptoms of MDD can last for years, however -- I don't think I can live like this indefinitely!]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Drive-In Movie Theaters

Going to a drive-in movie theater was one of my favorite things to do as a child. Every once in a while, my mother would tell us to run, put on our pajamas, and grab our pillows, and we'd be off to see a movie at one of the various drive-ins in Albuquerque. I'm not sure now just why I enjoyed it so much -- it certainly wasn't the quality of the viewing experience, especially with the dime-sized speakers that one hung on his car window in order to get audio -- but I think there was a definite sense of adventure that went with seeing a movie and never having to leave the car. (Usually, there was a second feature that would last until well after midnight, during which we kids would invariably fall asleep, which in turn was Mom's cue to go home.)

The photo above shows the combined concession stand/projection room at the Terrace Drive-In, which was located on the south side of Central Ave. between Eubank Blvd. and Wyoming Blvd. (The Terrace had a very distinctive neon sign on the back of its screen, featuring a Flamenco dancer.) Adjacent to the Terrace was the Wyoming Drive-In, which was accessed from Wyoming Blvd. -- the structure of the old sign is still in place, at the entrance of what is now a mobile-home park. Other drive-in theaters that I remember going to when I was a kid were: (1) the Tesuque Drive-In, which was in a residential neighborhood west of Wyoming Blvd. and north of Central Ave. (a city park and community center are located there now); (2) the Duke City Drive-In, which was on Carlisle Blvd. north of Menaul Blvd. (a Wal-Mart store is located there now); and (3) the Silver Dollar Drive-In, which was on the east side of San Mateo Blvd. north of Montgomery Blvd. (There were other drive-ins in town, but they were further away and we rarely, if ever, went to them. Later on, someone had the idea to open a multi-screen drive-in, the Albuquerque 6, which was on the west frontage road of I-25 north of Montano Rd. I can remember going there as late as the mid-1980s, although eventually it, too, went under. I think it is now the location, more or less, of the Century 24 [walk-in] movie theater.)

The drive-in movie theater is a part of Americana that has, generally (and lamentably, from my point of view), gone the way of the dodo. Cable/satellite TV, combined with the advent of the VCR and DVD player -- not to mention changing public tastes with regard to video and audio fidelity -- pretty much killed it. However, I have lots of fond memories of the days when there were few things more fun to do than hop in the car and go see a movie.

[Update 4/12/10: I was just thinking about one of Cheech and Chong's old routines, called "Pedro and Man at the Drive-In." At one point, Chong [Man] is off at the snack bar, and Cheech [Pedro] starts watching the movie as the Charlie Chan character solves the murder: "Every-a-one een thees-a room have-a moteev for keeling Meesta Tayla. But Meesta Tayla only have-a one keela. And deh name of dat keela ees..." [~static~] "Ladies and gentlemen, snack bah remehn open nodder feefteen minutes -- after dat ees closed fah dee eevning." (And then, of course, the closing music plays, so we never find out who the killer was -- classic C&C!)]

[Update 10/17/12: Below is a photo from Google Earth, showing the erstwhile locations of three of the drive-in theaters mentioned above, as well as my parents' home, some of the schools I attended while growing up, and other landmarks in the area.]

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Limited Field of Vision

It feels strange not to feel much of a desire to write, when writing is one of the things I feel most comfortable doing. It's sort of like the feeling one gets when he has the urge to buy something but then realizes he's already bought everything he needs or wants, and that there is no point to spending more money. It's also like the feeling one gets when his mouth is "hungry" -- that is, he feels a desire to eat something -- but his stomach is already full. What can I write about that I haven't already discussed ad nauseum?

Perhaps it's a testament to my lack of curiosity and blinkered thinking that I only seem to have four or five philosophical riffs off which I can improvise. And, even within that limited framework, I seem to repeat myself endlessly, like some mid-60s garage-rock lead guitarist playing the same two or three minor-pentatonic licks in every solo. In that light, it's probably no wonder that even my closest loved ones don't seem to care much what I think (or, fittingly, to listen to my guitar-playing).

On the subject of guitar-playing, I recently got out the old black Squier II Stratocaster that I bought in 1992, which was the only electric guitar I owned for more than ten years (and which I rarely played until I bought my first Line-6 amplifier on eBay a number of years ago). It's a cheaply made Korean model, with a body made of some kind of porous, lightweight plywood, cheesy electronics, a tremolo unit that, when used, immediately throws the instrument completely out of tune, and (now) non-functional tone controls. However, it also has the best neck of any guitar I've ever owned, and the two "out of phase" pickup settings (out of five total) actually produce very pleasing tones. In the last few years, I've given away several guitars to family members, but I've held onto the Squier II for sentimental reasons. Now that I've re-discovered it as a playing instrument, however, I place it up there with my silver MIM "Classic 60s" Fender Stratocaster and my new Epiphone Les Paul Standard -- meaning I have three very kick-A guitars!