Okay, guys. This will be another short one. I don't have a lot of energy right now. But I want you to know I'm still kicking.
First off, a few thank yous. The Mayo Clinic -- Amyloidosis Research Program has acknowledged receipt of donations in my honor from Mr. Kevin Woulfe, Mr. Richard Maxton, Mr. Noam Krendel, Dr. Robert Kluttz, and Mr. Chris Peterson. My deepest thanks, and to you in particular, Bob.
The good news is my numbers are climbing. Five days ago I hit bottom, the nadir, what they call Ralph Day. Well, I call it that; it fits too well. Normal White Blood Cell count is between 3.5 and 10.5. Mine was 0.1, as expected. Can't really get any lower. Same the next day, followed by 0.2. Then 0.3. And today, 0.6. Some of the PAs are talking about the possibility of me going home before next weekend! That seems unlikely, but whatever come around, I'll grab the ring.
The loss of appetite progresses apace, in part because of the amount of antibiotics I'm getting. In any event, it isn't simply a matter of finding yummy food. Fried chicken? Yesterday I ate a drumstick and half a Dolly Parton chicken breast (a reference to size, not breed or brand), plus two immense apple fritters, the size of bullfrogs. Today, I thought about heating up two drumsticks from the same source for lunch, and it was close to stomach turning. Not actually nausea inducing; just imparting the certainty that this would be a very bad idea. Today? Breakfast was an orange, a bran muffin, and two glasses of milk, which has a lot more calories than coffee. Lunch was two apple sauce cups and a couple of cups of hot tea. The days change, you see. They do change.
I certainly think I feel less "sick" today than yesterday. On a 1 to 10 scale of how sick do you feel, yesterday was maybe 4, today maybe 3. Or maybe it was 5 and 4. But my energy level is about 2, as well. Overall, I feel like something you might scrape off the bottom of your shoe. Did I say that already? I hope not. Accurate, though.
I try not to complain, however. Staff tells me I am doing wonderfully well, with my counts recovering in remarkable fashion. I have so far dodged the nausea, which I'm told is unheard of. I have come this far without once being admitted to the hospital, which astonishes everyone here. And there is a woman here -- she was on the floor this morning when I went over for some IV antibiotics -- who got her stem cell transplant 30 days ago. But she hasn't begun engraphment, the growing of new bone marrow. When you think things are tough, look around. You'll see somebody who has it tougher. I guarantee it.
Some of you have asked abut my brothers and male relatives offering to shave their heads. Most have felt that since I did a voluntary slipping of my scalp, the pledge was not invoked yet. Good enough by me. The exception was Bill. Wilson is technically a cousin, but he has always been the fourth of the three Rigney brothers, and I'll tell you, I am as close to him as I am to my brother Reynolds, as close as I was my brother Ted. I could insert some pics here, but I will send them to Jason and let him post them.
For Sarah, I point out that I never expected Harriet to ride in a sidecar. She claims she wants to ride postillion so she can hang onto me. If we go with the bikes, I'll get her a bike of own and we'll see. Now what is this Scottish word? Then again, no. No. I have been ambushed too many times by white-haired grannies with pink-scrubbed cheeks and dewy-eyed schoolgirls whose skin was still moist with innocence. I'll not invite it.
For Egwene, yes, I read Ray and Janny's Empire Trilogy and enjoyed it. Harriet has been the editor from the beginning with these books, but she has never been a co-writer is any sense or I would have credited it. My women come from observation of women in the world around me ranging back to my family. You see, I started early. When I was no more than three or four my mother gave a garden party, and a friend of hers picked me up. It didn't feel like being picked up by mother or by a baby sitter. I remember feeling her soft summer dress slide against her skin. I recall the soft, floral scent of her perfume. My mother might have worn that perfume, but this woman did not smell as all like mother.
She bent to set me down, and her grip on me slipped. Now her dress was one of those summer dresses that buttoned up the front, and as her grip slipped, I slid down, burying my face in her cleavage. My head seemed about to burst with the scent of her. Then she had me upright again, and she laughed, and ruffled my hair, and called me precocious. Which I recall because I ran off to learn what it meant.
After that, I looked around at the boys and girls my age. When we were dressed differently, we were very different, but if we were all dressed alike, in khakis or cut-offs for crabbing or to help with the shrimping, there wasn't much difference at all in how we looked or acted. The thing was, I could see me growing into my father, but I could not see any of the girls growing into that woman who had picked me up. So I began studying these strange creatures. I'll say nothing of methodologies. I have spent more than one night being harried across the rooftops by a mob of women carrying torches and pitchforks. We say nothing of sickles, of whatever size. We will not speak of those.
In any event, along the way I came to some small understanding of a small part of what makes women tick, and this has allowed me to write women that women find to be real.
Oh, me. Me, oh, my, oh, file gumbo. I cannot be argued from this strong point, but then, I don't expect to argue anyone else from theirs, either. Gumbo is a West African word for the vegetable we call okra. A number of African words have passed into common usage in the south. For example, around Charleston, if you asked somebody if they ever cooked with sesame seed, they'd stare at you. Sesame seed is something they use in restaurants. But bennae, now. Oh, sure; there's bennae see all over.
File is used as a thickener in NOLA and vicinity, but there's hardly any need for it. Unless you've washed your okra until it is waterlogged, it will thicken the soup just nicely. Shrimp is all right, I suppose, but as much as I love shrimp -- and you will never meet a Charlestonian who doesn't love shrimp -- it is a pallid flesh to set against the spices of gumbo, much stronger than those of a remoulade sauce, the strongest acceptable accompaniment for shrimp. The same for crawfish, though I love crawfish in any number of other dishes. Just don't try to make me sit through a crawfish boil. The calories expended in getting the tails out and down your neck far exceeds the calories gained from the actual tails. It is like eating celery. There's no way to win, no way to break even, and no way to get out ahead of the game.
The only meat to use in true gumbo is smoked ham. The very best is the meat of the hock, but that does entail a good deal of work, plowing through a fair number of hocks to get enough meat. But it is the sweetest part of the smoked ham, and might have been created to meet the okra and tomatoes and spices.
I won't give you my own personal ground-up recipe for gumbo because then I'd have to hunt you all down and kill you. I intend to ask my assistant, Maria, to send me the recipe from Charleston Receipts, if there is one. Mind, some of these tell you to send the yard man to the market to purchase the terrapin because that is not the chauffeur's job.
For those who would like to try the quick and dirty version I make, remember that any purist will sneer at you for calling it gumbo. At least, they will until they come back for their second or third bowl. And when you want some approximation of gumbo on short notice and you have less than an hour to put into assembling your ingredients, it serves remarkably well.
Begin with 1 and a half to 2 pounds of 85% lean ground beef. Put this in the bottom of your pot and cover it with chicken broth, adding more broth as necessary. Stir this until the meat has broken up into tiny fragments. No lumps, no pieces; it should all be a broth of beef. Now add 6 to 8 cans of okra and tomatoes. These should be plain okra and tomatoes. You can add any spices you need to. Now. Drop in two tablespoons of salt. Add your red pepper. I use flake red pepper. As to amount, I make a mound on the palm of my hand and toss it in, but this may be too much for some people. Finally, for this quantity of soup, forty-fifty dashes of Tabasco sauce. You may want to moderate that, but I find most people will enjoy it at this level, though I will add more Tabasco in the bowl. Now bring it to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Let it cook for about an hour or until the liquid level in the pot has decreased by an inch or an inch and a half. Skim excess fat from the surface and dispose of. You want a touch of that grease left, just not too much. Serve as is or over rice, with fresh, barely cooked corn (Silver Queen is best of all) sprinkled over the surface, with piping hot corn bread. It's quick-and-dirty without a doubt, but it is also pure quill good.
For Zack, I was interested in Ayn Rand when I was in my 20's, but I think she is something that interests the young. Once you get a few years on you, you begin to see the flaws and holes. By the way, did you know that as a young man, Alan Greenspan was an acolyte sitting at the feet of Ayn Rand. Yes, the interest rate Johnny. It just goes to show you.
For those offering support and sympathy to Harriet, thank you ten thousand times over. She tells me that my job is to keep breathing, while she takes care of everything else. That is what they told us at the Clinic. But I have to keep an eye on her to see she doesn't overdo. As I've told her a couple of times, "If you fall over dead, babe, then I'm going to stop breathing anyway. So you won't be doing me any good." I wish that some of you might put together something for her along the lines of the Get-well Card that Wotmania did for me or the one that I understand Dragonmount is putting together. Remember. No Harriet, no me. No reason for me. So anything you can do for her in the way of support and sympathy would be greatly appreciated.
Well, this has turned out much longer than I expected, and I am tired. I want to try a bowl of soup and maybe get an hour nap before I have to head across the street for my evening appointment.
Take care, guys.
Until the next time,