Checking online listings for things I am missing out on (as I recuperate with a broken foot I’ve gone on about), especially Fridays, I happened upon “Bodies” for Friday, February 8. This exhibition (which closes on Sunday, February 10) I thought of as a Friday activity because of its location at University Towne Centre, where there are so many other Friday-oriented things to do. One can shop, dine, take in a movie, and, depending on how strong your stomach might be, either before or after dinner, educate oneself on the human anatomy. I know it might well put me off of food or induce queasiness afterward.
Not only am I squeamish to a large extent, I have grown to think of the human body, as I age, as treacherous, a complicated system of fragile parts waiting to go wrong.
The “Bodies” exhibit listing reads, in part: “Features more than 250 “real, whole, and partial human body specimens...dissected and preserved, providing up-close looks inside skeletal, muscular, reproductive, respiratory, circulatory, and other human body systems. Many whole-body specimens are dissected in vivid athletic poses.” Found in former Robinson’s-May store. 877-263-4375. When: Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The address, in case you don’t know where UTC is, would be 4425 La Jolla Village Drive.
I have been given much opportunity over the years and more intensively in the recent past for meditations on the human body. So much has gone wrong with my own for reasons having to do with age, lifestyle, heredity, etc., but to a large degree, the seemingly random.
Cancer at the age of 35, for example, has never been explained adequately, even to oncologists who are clueless as to the why of its onset. Hodgkin’s disease (called sometimes “the young person’s disease”), which is a particular type of lymphoma, was the culprit. No history of it in the family. One odious oncologist made a feeble attempt to direct blame at my smoking or drinking, but this idea was shot down by several other MDs in the same field whom I consulted over 14 months. Environmental? Maybe. It is possible they’ve come closer to pinpointing causes since 1985 — they have certainly improved a victim’s odds since then — but I hardly keep up with medical journals on the subject. In fact, I pretty much repress the whole thing. It comes under the category of “Anyone Get the Number of That Truck? No? Oh Well.” Or, Shit Happens or Life’s Rich Tapestry, whatever you like.
That same odious oncologist referred to my heart failure in 2002 (I listed his name as a medical reference, and he came in very briefly to see me in the hospital) as “alcoholic cardio myopathy.” In the weeks and months that followed, I asked cardiologists if my condition could be neatly ascribed to alcohol — after all, my father died of the same thing at the age of 49 and drank a couple of beers he didn’t finish in front of a televised ball game on Sundays — and I was told, “No.”
Recently I broke, fractured, and dislocated an ankle by changing directions suddenly on a staircase. The orthopedic techs and surgeons alike made noises such as, “Oooh, jeez!” while grimacing in the most unreassuring way. I had assumed they saw this kind of thing every day…well, fairly often. That they did not is maybe a point for those in the camp of “the miraculous machine that is the human body.” While it is typical of me and my regrettable cynicism, I will again say that for those reasons mentioned above, along with countless indignities and bits of patchwork that become so necessary with age, I consider the human body, paradoxically, a gift (a major one) from God and a prime example of his awful brand of mercy.
That the exhibit at UTC displays circulatory, muscular, and respiratory systems and whole-body specimens “in vivid athletic poses” strikes me as ironic. Humorous in the way that I find the spectacle of an elderly jogger, his face a rictus of determination as he slams his pancreas and liver against the pavement, one foot after the other, a hellhound called the inevitable on his trail, humorous. Certainly not in a thigh-slapping way, but you know what I mean.
I hope this column is published before the “Bodies” exhibition closes on February 10. If not and I’ve whetted your appetite for nothing, I apologize. Either way, I know I will miss it. Now that I think of it, I have other plans through February 10, which I intend to make immediately.