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Biomythography and pharmaceutical calculations

June 30, 2015
A cover from The Portable Wall.  Illustration by Dirk Lee.

A cover from The Portable Wall. Illustration by Dirk Lee.

Our friend Emily told me about a favorite black, feminist, lesbian poet, Audre Lorde, who wrote what she called biomythography: elements of biography, mythology, and history crafted into a tale. This resonated with me because in writing about the central aspects of my life I cannot freely tell a living person’s intimate stories, not even my own.
However, for the record, I have not departed one iota from the truth. Not yet! It’s just that one day I might, in order to tell you ever more and more. However, I promise that I’ll tell you, my reader, when I do. I understand that you owe me nothing.
Can anyone, or even if they could, should they be honest about telling intimacies? Ideally, yes! But only if one were willing to suffer—and inflict on others—severe consequences. Here I’m talking about jealousies, past mistakes, remorse! I still want to get into all of the above, but without all of the painful sequelae. Mind you, I haven’t told the juicy stuff and I may never do so.
I almost did once, in 1978.
When I still published my magazine, The Portable Wall, (1977 to 1996) I discovered that freedom of the press is like so many other constitutionally protected freedoms: it isn’t.
I wrote that my late brother Tom’s painstaking effort in building a harpsichord from a kit to be a kind of “madness.” Tom was in my front room in Missoula, then, and read my remark pasted onto a camera-ready page. Without a word, he reached past me, pinched up the cold type that had been waxed onto the page, rolled it like a booger, and flicked it into a nearby garbage basket.
Angry, I stood up to tell him No fair! I had been kidding! About that time he swung a right hook to my head knocking me to the floor, my glasses clacking away. The next day I had a black, and very sore, ear. That’s only one of the bad things that might happen in publishing. Ask the cartoonists in Paris! Well, you can’t, of course.
Hence, the utility and necessity of Lorde’s biomythography. She was reaching for truth otherwise unattainable. On the other hand, I just want to share stories with my grandkids and any other interested parties. Unlike Ms. Lorde, I am still alive. More and more of the people of my generation are dying. Why tell stories? Well, what else are we supposed to tell?
I read on the internet that one should drink a lot of coffee. Today I drank a pot and a half and wrote steadily from 9 am to 2 pm, 3 hours. I wrote at the rate of 1/2 pot per hour, brewed as instructed, no breaks for lunch: I used one heaping tablespoonful of grounds, per cup, 12 cups per pot.
Reminds me of when I was in pharmacy school when I had trouble, at first, converting various units like tablespoonfuls, minims, grams, avoirdupois ounces, apothecary ounces, gallons, kilograms, liters, pounds, feet, pots, cups, and centimeters. Drops per ml? Don’t get me started. These conversions are troublesome especially on a timed exam in pharmacy school.
Suppose one teaspoonful equals 5 ml and 6 teaspoonfuls equals one ounce. How many teaspoonfuls in 1 gallon? A helpful young pharmacy student from California named Steve helped me set up such problems, thus helping me pass pharmaceutical calculations so that I would ultimately be able to earn a living and retire and write this.
He had me set the problems up so that each expression equals 1. For example, sixteen ounces/pint equals 1, and 5 ml/teaspoonful also equals 1. Also, either expression might be turned upside down without it losing its value of 1. One x one = one. You start with what is known in order to find the desired unknown’s value. Don’t forget to cancel terms!
Bottom line: I drank a lot of damned coffee today for what little I ended up writing. I still crave Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s writing. Emily said his book “Cat’s Cradle” is now a screenplay.
That’s the story that has the substance “ice-9,” she said.

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