music, personal

Song du semaine: Suzanne Vega, "Blood Makes Noise"

(Video is here; embedding disabled. Feel free to play it while you’re reading, though it’s a very short song and this is a long story.)

I’ve been holding on to this one until the minor medical question of two weeks ago was completely resolved. When I last mentioned it, my doctor had convinced me that I couldn’t possibly have something that moved from Point A to Point B. But I still had to have Point A and Point B checked individually on the off chance that something was wrong there.

Point B was checked Thursday, a mere 12 days after my initial visit to urgent care. That was done via CT scan. If you haven’t had a CT scan, I highly recommend that you do it. That recommendation is contingent on how many burning sensations you like to have at once.

First, of course, you have the pent-up agitation of waiting 12 days. See, I have a pricey HMO in affluent Fairfax County. I’m not some uninsured Chicago resident who turns up at County on ER and is quickly ushered to a scanner by a couple of pretty people who are busy arguing about the fact that they’re the last heterosexual permutation on the current staff that has yet to consummate its flirtation. So I had 12 days to think of possible things that could be sitting around in my abdomen. The woman waiting next to me cracked up when I said I’d been avoiding the movie Alien.

Second, you have your barium smoothie. Make it a double. 750 milliliters or so of stuff that makes you all tingly. It’s kind of like a loofah for your innards, pushed through by enough liquid to make Hoover Dam say, “Hey, guys? I need some reinforcement in Sector 3.”

Third, you have iodine. Not rubbed on your arm, as if this was just a blood donation. Nope. Pumped into your blood stream. I was told I’d feel a warm sensation and possibly a few other side effects. When the scan started, I did indeed feel warm and a little loopy, with occasional twinges all through me. Then the guy said, “OK, I’m putting in the iodine now.”

On your way out, they tell you to drink about 8-12 glasses of water to get that iodine the heck out of your blood stream. They were telling me this around 9 p.m. Thursday night. So, when was I supposed to drink all this? And if I could drink all that water on top of the barium still sitting in my stomach like nuclear pop rocks, would I really need the CT scan?

Basically, I had a choice between bloating and burning in the four days I was waiting to hear from the kindly folks who would scan my insides. I split the difference.

Today, I finally heard the expected reassuring results, delivered by a doctor who spoke … very … deliberately … like the rabbi who hits on Elaine in Seinfeld. (“Someone .. in my .. syna-gogue .. has a .. time-share in Myr-tle Beach.” Which always begged the question: “What the hell kind of New York synagogue-goer, presumably over age 30, goes to Myrtle Beach?”)

It’s nice, I suppose, now that it’s all done. It’s good to hear my heart and all my other organs are functioning as they should. But when this comes up again, I’d like to do something about that 16-day wait. I’m already a little ticked off at the medical establishment for its failure to do anything for a toddler’s constricting congestion between “stick him in a warm, humid room, but watch the mold” and “strap this to his face and turn on this machine while cranking Sesame Street to a volume approximating The Who circa 1973.”

One positive word about medicine: In 1991, when Magic Johnson told us he had HIV, did anyone think we’d be attending Magic Johnson Theaters rather than Magic Johnson Memorial Tournaments 16 years later? So they’re doing something right.

And that leads to this song, the only tune I know that addresses fear of getting tested. Released less than a year after Magic’s announcement, it’s quite clearly informed by the AIDS fear cutting through society at the time. Sample lyric: “I think that you might want to know the details and the facts / But there’s something in my blood denies the memory of the act.”

If you only know Suzanne Vega from Luka and that dance remix of her a cappella Tom’s Diner — well, first of all, shame on you. Secondly, you’re in for a bit of a shock. Like Indigo Girls, Vega pushed “folk”-rock into all sorts of interesting directions, but my fellow Georgians never veered as close to Eurotechno as Vega does here. It’s a propulsive bass line and a whole lot of noise. When Vega performed this one with David Letterman’s band, drummer Anton Fig played his part on a trash-can lid. (I watched that show when it aired — I recall Dave found it quite amusing after the fact to see Anton take such a low-tech approach.)

The noisiness was the brainchild of Vega’s producer and future former husband Mitchell Froom. I only mention him because a couple of years after he started dating Ally McBeal singer/appearer Vonda Shepard — we’ll just say the ink wasn’t dry on any sort of separation agreement — Vega recorded Songs in Red and Gray, which put the split in philosophical terms but has this wonderful withering cover photo. If there’s ever a mixed martial arts tournament among ’80s folk-rockers, my money’s on Vega.

An intriguing fan site has gathered a few of Vega’s thoughts on most of her songs. She opens up a few interpretations on this one, ranging from simple fear to skepticism of the doctor-patient relationship. Sounds like she was aiming for the personal level, but I hope she doesn’t mind if I apply it to an HMO.


2 thoughts on “Song du semaine: Suzanne Vega, "Blood Makes Noise"

  1. First off, sorry to hear about your health problems. Most of my experience with HMOs have been the horror show they are often rumored to be. Thankfully, now we have a pretty good HMO and doctors who are also quite good.

    Secondly, I’m a big fan of Vega, and thought that “Blood Makes Noise” should have been a big hit. I think her latest CD is quite good, too.

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