Me: 1. Big Pharma: 0. Hair care industry: .5

So I wrote a while back about a new Rx–effective and nondrowsy–that cost $700 for a self-paying patient. It’s been sitting at my local, non-chain pharmacy collecting dust for months. A recent wrench in my back (first I couldn’t bend over, instead forcing myself to do awkward Playboy Bunny squats every time I dropped something) has spread into my neck, so that I now have to turn my entire upper body like an early-era Terminator to look around. This made me desperate & I went to the pharmacy to piece together how much of this script I could afford for this crisis. 6? 10 pills? At this point I’d donate an egg to sit upright comfortably.

As the pharmacist empathized with the absurdity of the price and went to investigate, his assistant (with lovely new single twists) chatted me up about my hair, my products, why she’s shedding, what kind of scarf to sleep in; I’ve had similar conversations with bus drivers, women on the train, on line at the grocery store.  It’s not offensive to me & at this point I have set answers for most questions.

Big_Pharma_(Jacky_Law_book)The pharmacist appeared again, incensed. I steeled myself for horrifying news. “This is already a generic,” he said in disbelief. “So why the brand name?” I asked. Apparently, if a dosage doesn’t exist in a generic, you can create a new dosage and market it as something brand new. For $700. After a quick check with my doc, the generic was approved…for $45. [correction: $35.] “These companies and their money,” the pharmacist said, shaking his head. “We’ll work it out for you,” the assistant said comfortingly.

Big Pharma, you are ridiculous. More importantly, I love my pharmacy (which picks up and delivers, btw). Another reason to get to know your local businesses.

And as for my hair convo: Cantu, yes; Shea Moisture, no; if you can splurge, Jane Carter or Miss Jessie’s; wear a silk scarf; don’t twist edges too tightly (or don’t twist at all and slick back); try bigger twists if too much shedding is happening with tiny twists; be generous with the conditioner; and go for trims!

OK, back to work. Have a good one.

Hot Food in Small Hands

I grew up in Clinton Hill apartments off Myrtle Avenue. There were no coffee bars, pubs, or gourmet grocery stores. There was Cino’s, Joe’s, Venice–wonderful Italian restaurants. Kum Kau may predate my birth (back then it was strictly a narrow takeout spot). We had a few diners (including the Greek one on Myrtle & Vanderbilt), I believe we had a Key Food & there were still butchers I was sent to with a list of meat cuts to buy.

The Freemans lived across the hall from my grandmother. Miss Lee and her husband, Mr. Freeman (I’m still not sure of his first name) were an older couple–only slightly younger than my grandma–who were retired and fascinating to me. I didn’t know many older married couples. They had a daughter…I don’t believe they were close and she lived in Europe with her hubby at a time when such things were still considered a bit odd.

I digress. A few years ago, Miss Lee finally succumbed to dementia-related issues. She was a wanderer, once making it as far as the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, at night, in a nightgown, before she was found. That broke my heart & I worried for her husband being alone.

As a child, every other week or so, I was sent across the hall to pick up some Tupperware from Miss Lee. It was always a mystery what I was picking up: greens? turkey wings? okra (absolutely disgusting)? It didn’t matter what it was, my grandma forced me to eat it and be grateful for it. My grandma’s cooking was fine & I never understood that things were lean in our household, that a childless couple was passing along their extras whenever possible to help us out, and that my scowling at a free meal made me seem spoiled & ungrateful.

But I was never ungrateful. That food helped a lot. I bought Miss Lee Mother’s Day cards (with some hesitation; she was a hard hugger) and that’s just the way it happened. We had another neighbor, Robert, who apparently gifted us with homemade rolls and then there was pre-fame Millie Jackson, who took me (at age 4?) for drives in her first Cadillac and gave long-forgotten clothes to my aunts. This was the 12th floor, and it was expected that we were friendly, didn’t blast music, and they would always buy a chocolate bar during my Catholic school drives and generally put up with me as the only kid on the floor.

Mr. Freeman lasted several years without his partner, but passed a week ago. I was devastated, because I can see things through an adult’s eyes now, and I’m incredibly thankful. He was the last of the old neighbors. 20-somethings live there now, singles and couples with babies and dogs. I should’ve visited him more often. I wish I’d seen Miss Lee while she still remembered me. But I’ll always remember their kindness, and their amused smiles when I rang their bell to return well-washed Tupperware, and when asked if I enjoyed the okra I’d pipe up, “I loved it!”

clinton hill

Happy Mother’s Day (and so help me, you better be mothers)

So I’m coasting on some great spring weather and good visit-with-my-mom vibes, and decide to pop into a bodega before I head home. It’s not my usual spot: it stinks of cat, the lighting is sketchy and there’s always some young neighborhood person who vaguely guards the door. But it’s closest to my house and so for that, I have only myself to blame. The following took place at about 5 pm. It’s approximately 5:20 now.

I’m buying two rolls of toilet paper. The storekeeper wishes me a cheerful “Happy Mother’s Day,” to which I genially reply, “I’m not a mom but thanks!”

The below conversation was transcribed verbatim.

SO: (astonished–kiddingly, I think) “Why no kids?”
Me, chuckling: “I’m an auntie to many, many children.”
SO: “What are you, 35?”
Me: flinging hair and pulling off glasses in dramatic reveal. “Thank you, I’m 41.”
SO: His sudden pounding of the counter deadens my sails. Pounding does not mean kidding. “WHAT? And no kids? Can you have them?”
Me: “Theoretically? Me-Medically? I think… I mean…” (not prepared for this level of interrogation when picking up tp) “Yes, I’m pretty sure I could…” (trying to count out change simultaneously)
SO: Pounding again. My posture keeps tightening. “Listen, you go home & tell your boyfriend, you tell your husband to give you babies NOW. You must have babies. Babies are life.”
Me: “Uhhh–” (contemplate telling him I’m single, decide I’m way over my head already)
SO: “Without babies you become these women with the dogs and cats. They walk them and they have 5 and 6. It’s NO. GOOD. Don’t wait till 50. No babies after 50.”
Me: “Fifty,” I repeat dumbly.
SO: “Tell your husband TODAY. Babies are the answer!” He pats my black plastic bag and with that, I’m dismissed into the bright sunlight, slightly dazed but knowing I need to share this ASAP.

This entire ‘chat’ was over so fast it would take me a full day to process. But if I’m honest with myself, is it really Mother’s Day unless a stranger remarks on my fertility? I feel oddly at peace now.

(Note to self: never be nice to anyone AGAIN.)

eta: Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and women who have been moms to me. I hope my chronicles make you smile, or just shake your head in disbelief, as I think that’s funny too.

choc lab