You Bet Your Eyesight

Hi.  I’m back.  In the last, truncated post, I was in the middle of describing what happened during my vacation when my wife woke up and I had to bail.  Actually, I could have picked up where I’d left off after she went back to sleep, but I’d already lost the thread after getting bogged down in a few online articles and video clips.  Ah well, c’est la vie.

The funny thing about going back home to New England after being in Seoul for two years was that I was suddenly super-sensitized to the beauty of nature.  Seoul is nice this time of year, now that summer’s finally over.  I even miss the throbbing song of the cicadas in the daytime, their electronic mantra relieved by the softer chant of crickets at night.  But when my wife and I arrived at Inchon Airport a couple of days ago, the still-remaining heat and stuffiness hit me like a pillow in the face applied by a suffocating mafioso.

Back in the U. S., I was lucky to be able to sleep in pitch darkness and silence at night.  If I got up to use the john, I could occasionally take in a sparkling arsenal of stars in the vast blue-black sky and make out (with) some of my favorite constellations.  Due to light pollution here in Seoul, I can’t see diddly squat when I look up at the sky at night.  Most times I don’t even bother anymore.

I was also privileged to enjoy the sound of the surf sifting through the sand pebbles on the beach (though Steve McQueen was nowhere in sight), and smell the sweet saltiness of the sea-soaked breeze through my open bedroom window.  It evoked childhood memories of wandering off on some local adventure in a T-shirt with my name and phone number on it, or coming back home without pants (hey, what do you want?  I was in my twenties).

A month for a vacation may sound like a long time to you, but it was dizzying how quickly the time sped by.  During the first week, I was hamstrung by jet lag and the weather was unseasonably cool and overcast.  A friend of mine helped me out by acting as my personal trainer for two days, just as on Louis C. K.’s show, and I was all excited about putting his tips into practice and tackling my gelatinous midriff when I came down with pink-eye.  I think I probably got it by rubbing my eye after using one of the sweaty pieces of equipment at the gym, not far from the neighborhood methadone clinic.  

So much for becoming un-fat.

In case you’ve never had pink-eye before (also known as conjunctivitis, although fortunately it was not severe enough to afflict the cornea), it involves a reddening of the eyeball(s)–hence the name–accompanied by soreness, itchiness, and tearing.  I’d been planning to get together with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, but decided I’d better quarantine myself in case what I had was contagious.  The eye doctor I went to said it probably wasn’t viral, not that he didn’t excuse himself to the men’s room right after I shook his hand to wash his own.

The infection, which started out in my left eye, scoffed at the antibacterial eyedrops I assaulted it with, laughing in my face in a state of inaudible hysteria.  The doctor had promised me that the prescription he’d written me was for the generic version of the medicine, and that it would be cheap.  Fifty bucks is cheap?  When I mentioned it to him over the phone, he told me the brand-named variety would have cost twice as much.  That’s what I get for not having insurance.  The visit to the doctor “only” set me back forty-five bucks.  I also had to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get my driver’s license renewed, which involved waiting around with the other poor slobs for an hour and a half before shelling out another fifty bucks to a kindly clerk.  While in the course of waiting, I read the opening pages of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod with a pair of special reading glasses that came with the new regular glasses I’d bought back in Korea; you just slide them behind your spectacles and–voila!  My brother told me they made me look like a mad scientist.  The Einstein hairdo helped augment the effect.

A few days later the infection jumped to my other eye.  It only took a day or two for it to catch up with the left eye in appearance.  I went online and found out that meant the infection was indeed viral.  Shucks.  At least I had no commitments or obligations and could potter around the house.  It was hard to do certain things I enjoy, however, namely read, as my vision was fuzzy.  When I looked in the mirror, I looked like an Asian albino who’d dyed his hair brown (the only difference being that my irises retained their natural hue).

For some reason, I had trouble focusing on the book I was reading anyway.  I’d bought it at the airport and was looking forward to the experience, only I found that the author (whose name I won’t mention out of politeness) had done it again and sacrificed forward movement of the story for the sake of dazzling literary observations.  That’s what he gets for being Irish.  

I’d been planning to go and see a movie or two in the theater while I was home; the last movie I saw at the cinema was The Artist, and that was nearly two years ago.  But I ran out of time.  I had fun getting reacquainted with my parents, drinking good orange juice (hard to find in Korea), and eating steak (forgive me, Lord).  I watched all of the first season of “Louis” on my folks’ internet streaming movie and TV service.  

A friend of mine told me over the phone that I should stop using the eyedrops and employ hot compresses of wet cotton balls on my closed eyelids to soak up the infection.  I tried it a few times but it didn’t seem to help.  I also resorted to the old technique of putting wet tea bags on my eyelids, but that just compounded the irritation.

After about ten days, the infection finally cleared up and I was able to go see my friends.  My wife Jina came with ten days of home-time remaining before we both had to shlep back here to Seoul, provided by my intrepid sister with a ride to the airport at four o’clock in the morning.  Jina was an uncooperative ninny much of the time, though she broke out the good behavior in a valiant attempt to fool my parents into thinking she’s not a nut-job.  She had the decency to remain shtum (sp?) as for the Jesus talk, although she did wax flaky in front of two of my friends, and even shared with them her paranoid, third-hand theory about how the Freemasons run the world and Obama’s going to force everyone in America to have computer chips injected in their skin to keep tabs on us all.

In fact, she vehemently attempted once again to persuade me to relinquish my modest retirement savings, vowing that if I didn’t, I would lose access to them in the ensuing takeover (“a year from now it will be too late!”), but I stood my ground (sorry about the unpleasant connotations that phrase has taken on thanks to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case), and told her not to worry.

Of course, when we came back to Korea, at the airport I was fingerprinted and had my retinas scanned.

It’s all part of the gigantic global project of building trust and feelings of good fellowship.

In the course of my eyes’ travails (and I have to admit that rubbing them vigorously afforded a sensation akin to profound orgasmic bliss), I also learned that if you have light-colored eyes, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses on bright days to prevent cataracts, though not catamarans, or even catamites, or cats flung at you with all twenty claws drawn from powerful catapults.  

I also finally broke down and bought an e-reader.  I have to admit I’m enjoying using it.  But I think it’s ruining my eyes even more.  Unless it’s the pdf file I was reading online.  And as an old analog man, I’m a big fan of paper-based books and don’t want them to die out entirely, even though I have a weakness for buying them much faster than I can read them.  Greed takes many forms.

I guess I’ll have to wait till next time to write about my latest misgivings about the future of the earth.

I’ll likewise try to write less about eyes and I’s.

“Aye-aye, sir!”

 

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