What Can You Read In The Hospital and Other Questions of Time Management

Posted: May 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

So, when I first went into the hospital in 2005, I was in from January to late May. During that time I watched every episode of Friends at least twice. Hours were lost to Seinfeld reruns. I saw most episodes of Futurama for the first time then. I started watching first run episodes of The Office, and I was able to keep up with Lost and Desperate Housewives.

This I can admit.

What I will now tell you might shock you, it might appall you… it certainly will change the way you see me forever. I also spent huge portions of the day (and nights… long, long, sleepless nights…) watching King of the Hill. I watched Blind Date. I watched loads of some godawful family sitcom with that hick guy from a slightly less appalling sitcom called Boston Common. I watched multiple episodes of these things EACH DAY. I watched reruns of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. There was some weird Nick cartoon called Billy Phantom or Danny Phantom or Joey Phantom, something Phantom that I watched over and over again. Did I mention I watched Blind Date? Lots of Blind Date, because it’s the only goddamn thing on at two in the morning when you only have twelve channels to choose from. January. February. March. April. May. I did these things by choice, because I had not prepared myself for a five month hospital stay, had no laptop, and the only reading material I could focus enough to read was my weekly box of comics (thanks again, Matt, Josh and Laurie! You saved my life!) and Entertainment Weekly. Oh, yeah, the awful sitcom was called “Yes Dear.” Oh god, it was so awful… so, so awful…

Anyway, for the year after I got out of the hospital, I went a little crazy. (Not my usual crazy, this was a specific, new crazy.) I started buying more books, more DVD sets, more runs on comics. I started stacks in my room, organized and sorted. I had a special box of comics kept in order of things to reread. A lot of the DVDs were anime, which I never get to watch at home because I’m the only one who likes it in large portions. Everything was full-season, none of these movies or short run shows. Most of it was bargain or sale stuff. I have seasons 4-9 of Smallville, all unwatched, all of it bought for $14.99 a season when Best Buy liquidates. There was no way in hell I was going to have to watch “Yes Dear” ever again.

The next short run in the hospital went much better. I brought a stack of books and a portable DVD player my sister had given me. I forced my way through the Ender’s Shadow series (good) but most of those fantasy series that looked good in the store and racked up impressive pagecounts were suddenly incomprehensible to me. I tried to watch great epics of anime and found myself completely unable to summon the willpower to read subtitles. The hospital television once more called to me… “I’m easy to watch,” it promised. “You can watch commercials if I don’t make you think about things!”

After a year or so, the packrat behavior subsided somewhat. No longer compulsively buying masses of media, I started to simply focus my attentions on a limited selection of what I had, keeping “active shelves” of things that were on my short list. Some small percentage of this got read as I found time between recovery, child wrangling, and my weekly comic fix. Still, there’s an impressive set of shelves right here full of good stuff waiting to be read.

It’d been about three years since I’d had any extended hospital stay when this year’s Colonpalooza started. Nine days in January, and I had to do a lot of “Hey, can you bring me…” because things weren’t quite ready to haul off at a moment’s notice. I also found that a lot of that stuff I’d been putting off for a nice leisurely read was far too brain intensive for hospital reading. March’s eight day visit was a little better… I had prepped a box of comics, and most of it worked, but I hadn’t put together enough stuff for such a long stay. Also, the Wiseguy Complete Series was too heavy for my viewing abilities. I switched mid-stream to Slings and Arrows, which was light enough to watch, but the second season was disappointing.

This time, I think I nailed it. Few prose books. I’ve been enjoying prose more this year, but I know it’s got to be light and engaging to be more appealing than letting my eyes roll up into my head and doze while listening to Inara George. I had done a garage dive two months ago, and had some significant runs of comicage to keep me going. A lot of it stuff I’ve read before, but that’s also easier. I cruised through season one of Arrested Development without feeling confused or overindulgent. Fortunately, I was only there four days this time, so there was no question of running out of stuff.

Now I’m facing surgery, the big mess-around-with-organs and force-your-flesh-to-reknit-itself kind of surgery. The doctor said that recovery would probably be five to seven days, to which I was somehow able to keep a straight face. I’m good at being in the hospital, not so good at getting out of it. I’m personally estimating a minimum of two weeks, and probably more like three. And this time, I know ahead of time that I’m going in. No more of this “I’m in pain, gotta get to the hospital, put this in the box, where’re those Astro Citys, do I really want to watch The Wire while I’m on painkillers?” This time, I get to plan.


What do I bring?

Obviously, you don’t know what’s on my shelves, and I’m not in any position right now to run out and buy recommendations. What I’m trying to figure out here is my balance. How much television? One show, many seasons, or several different things? Big trade collections or stacks of issues? Do I bring my Concerta and try to take on edifying prose or do I stick to things out of the teenage reader section (where much good fantasy/SF has migrated lately)? I mean, I’ve been meaning for years to read Love and Rockets, and I’ll certainly have the time to… but will I have the will? When else will I have the time to read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest? Am I wasting my time watching Mike’s borrowed seasons of South Park? Is it fair to read my dad’s Li’l Abner collection before I give it to him, or will it just be too heavy to rest on my bisected abdomen? Is playing on Facebook useless calories? Yes. Yes, it is, and I almost thank the firewall that kept me off it this last visit… but I would have liked to be able to blog. But I digress…

Anyway, feedback here is appreciated. I’ll toss off some specific questions as we get going (if you’re canny, you noticed I put some in the paragraph above… answers from those knowledgeable would be appreciated.)

Tomorrow we’ll find out more about what the actual plan for getting this done is, so you can tune in then to find out when I’ll get to read way too much junk. I’ll also talk a little about the novel project, because it was pointed out to me that for all I’ve talked about it so far, I haven’t actually mentioned what it’s about.

By the way: this last visit? I turned on the television once–ONCE!–to see what channels it had. It had lots. I didn’t turn it on again.

Tomorrow: Oh, I told you that already. I just did it without a colon, so you might have missed it. Go back two paragraphs.

  1. MHPayne says:

    I’m not gonna be:

    Much help when it comes to DVDs, and comics? Heck, I didn’t even know Fantagraphics had taken over publishing Castle Waiting! I had to go into your store on Friday and spend $60 on the 15 issues they’ve done since I was last paying attention!

    With books, though, I’ve got a couple suggestions, ones you may already be familiar with, but, well, there it is. First is SF author Karl Schroeder. These are swashbuckling hard SF, a fairly difficult genre to pull off, and he’s got 4 of them so far: Sun of Suns, Queen of Candesce, Pirate Sun, and The Sunless Countries. Fun, fun stuff.

    My second is fantasy author Catherynne Valente. She gets a little convoluted in her plots sometimes–characters telling stories in which other characters tell stories, everything all nested and looping around in the past and the present–so I don’t know how well they’d mix with pain killers, but you can try her latest, a lovely little YA thing called “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making,” for free on her website at http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/fairyland/ You could maybe copy and paste all the chapters onto your laptop and read it that way…

    More if I can think of any!


    • MHPayne says:

      And of course:

      If you’re truly desperate, I can send you a CD-ROM with the entire 2,700 pages (so far) of my Daily Grind comics as well as the 940 or so Terebinth pages. I’m sure those would go well with an altered state of consciousness.

      Mike Again

  2. Yes, facebook is empty calories, but useless? I think not. Sometimes empty calories is just what you need. I don’t know much about surgery. All I’ve been told (Advice for my hubby’s surgery two weeks ago) is to bring a pair of warm socks, cuz who wants cold feet during surgery. Metaphorical is bad enough, but literal… why suffer?

    Do Jelly Belly’s make RC flavor? If so, that might be a good thing to sneak in.

    Oh, I’m sorry. You said answers from those knowledgeable. Guess I should have self selected out. 😉 I’m the type to pack & bring it all just in case… I’m also the type to start packing it all, but pay attention to how my body feels when I do so. If I pick something up and my body suddenly feels tight or I have a sudden uneasy feeling, I leave it behind. Sometimes my body knows more than I do.

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