In Which We Watch The Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors

Monster Hospital

by Alex Carnevale

A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.

– Groucho Marx

So my dad had a biopsy today. I took the day off from work, evidently to get my mom a baked potato when she was hungry.

Hospitals seem pretty much like Grey’s Anatomy to me. I try to create as much drama as possible. Whenever I see a good looking group of people in Scrubs, I ask the hottest male if he is Zach Braff.

It’s been pretty quiet here. I was wearing a Carlos Delgado jersey that I bought during the game where Jose Reyes hit for the cycle and this guy came up to me in the lobby:

He was like, “Hey, I ring the cowbell.”

I was like, “Dude!”

We talked about whether or not the Mets should get A-Rod. The cowbell guy, also known as Eddie Boison, wants Johan Santana. I was like, “You and me both, guy who watched a Will Ferrell sketch and brought the madness of it to Queens.”

A group of pretty hot interns just walked by as I was blogging. I yelled, “You’re Meredith! You’re the dude with intimacy issues! Where’s Isiah Washington? None of you are black!!!”

My dad’s biopsy went well. It seems that it is probably not cancer, so that is good news.

My friend Andrew had Hodgkin’s recently; he also had a baby.

Andrew and Sofia

Mazel tov! Go Celtics!

Usually hospital stories are sob stories. My mom cried a little after the doctor told us everything was all right. She said she thought the doctor would tell her it was nothing. It wasn’t nothing, but he should be OK after some chemo and an operation. My parents are both quite young, and fit, so I think they will be all right.


To entertain my mother while we were waiting for my dad to get out of surgery, I showed her this thing from Gawker that never ceases to amuse me. These photoshops from Mike Monteiro are amazing, too.

So basically the backstory is Robert Olen Butler is this Pulitzer Prize winner for this really boring book of stories he published in 1993, and his wife left him, so he wrote everyone in the English department of Florida State University an e-mail to tell them what happened:

Rumors will soon be swirling around the department, so I want to tell the full and nuanced story to the five of you among the graduate students and ask that you clarify the issues for any of your fellow grad students who ask. This sort of thing can get wildly distorted pretty quickly. You can feel free to use any part or all of this email to do so. I really appreciate your help.

Put down your cup of coffee or you might spill it.

Elizabeth is leaving me for Ted Turner.

She and I will remain the best of friends. She also knows about, endorses, and even encourages that I tell this much detail of the story:

She has spoken openly in her work and in her public life of the fact that she was molested by her grandfather from an early age, a molestation that was known and tacitly condoned by her radically Evangelical Christian parents. She then went into a decade-long abusive marriage. I met her when she was in a terminally desperate state from this lifetime of abuse, and we married and we truly loved each other.

I was able to help her a great deal. She says I saved her life. But de facto therapy as the initial foundation of a marriage eventually sucks the life out of a relationship. And it is very common for a woman to be drawn to men who remind them of their childhood abusers. Ted is such a man, though fortunately, he is far from being abusive. From all that I can tell, he is kind to her, loyal, considerate, and devoted to his family, and perhaps, therefore, he can redeem some things for her.

Further, Elizabeth has never been able to step out of the shadow of the Pulitzer. As you know-and she knows-I have been an avid admirer and supporter of her work. Everyone has heard me proclaim my sincere high regard for her as an artist. I often did this publicly. But she has published two brilliant novels since she’s been with me and neither has gotten anywhere near the recognition that they richly deserve. That made it harder and harder for her to live with the ongoing praise and opportunity that flows to a Pulitzer winner. Not because of jealousy. She has always been very happy for me. But the multitude of small reflections of regard that came my way inevitably threw a spotlight on the absence of those expressions of regard for her. She felt as if she was failing as a writer.

Then, in March, she nearly died from an intestinal blockage in Argentina while on a trip with Ted. The trauma of that led her further to profoundly question her own identity. It became clear to her that the only way she can truly find herself is by making this change in her life.

She will not be Ted’s only girlfriend. Ted is permanently and avowedly non-monogamous. But though he has several girlfriends, it is a very small number, and he does not take them up lightly and he gives them his absolute support when he does. And Elizabeth’s leaving me is as much about the three weeks a month she is alone as it is about the week a month she is with Ted. She will find her own space and her own light in which to create the great works of art she is destined to create.

I will keep my house. I will keep my dogs and cats. I will keep virtually everything. She is being characteristically generous about that. But I will lose Elizabeth. And that is very sad. But the loss has been happening through many years of our shared struggle to make her whole. In that, I’ve done all I can do, as has she. I wish her the best. I ask you not to think ill of her in any way.

Elizabeth and I will now conduct ourselves as if this is public knowledge. So as I suggested at the outset, you need not keep this to yourself, if the occasion arises to speak of it to someone. This is best anyway, since I am not up to the task of telling this story over and over.

I have a high regard and affection for the students in our program. I hope this will help them sort out this intense story in an appropriate way.


Bob Butler

Bob, you brought us joy on a tough day. You deserved better, and Ted Turner deserved worse.

NB: My mom also believes wholeheartedly in this Lost theory.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


“Today’s the Day” — Aimee Mann (mp3)

“Don’t Touch My Shit” — The Coathangers (mp3)

“I Confess” — Admiral Twin (mp3)

“The Ballad of Richie Lee” — Spiritualized (mp3)

“Blonde on Blonde (live)” — Nada Surf (mp3)

“Secret Heart” — Feist (mp3)

“Lovers Rock” — Sade (mp3)

“No Ordinary Love” — Sade (mp3)

The Marquis de Sade


Jeff discussed his love of the Yiddish Policeman’s Union.

Molly’s a mindfreak.

Why we are the way that we are.

Frank O’Hara was the man.

8 thoughts on “In Which We Watch The Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors

  1. The Butler email is solid gold.

    As is the Admiral Twin mp3, I Confess. All of their stuff is good, but this song is a new favorite of mine.

  2. The Butler thing is bizarre, but hilarious. And this is an excellent post (as usual).

    Oh, and that Lost theory is as sound as any Lost theory can truly be. “Time is not of the essence, but is the essence,” as Pierre Chang says. I wish someone would publish a book of nothing but Lost theories. I’d adore that title: “Lost theories.” This particular one just needs to include Vincent the dog in some way.

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