It's the final day of this week-long blog, and we (my self-interviewer and me) thought it might be nice to reward everyone with a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of the characters and scenes in Larry's Kidney
. We realize that, as readers, nothing's more fun than imagining everything in our minds (that's why we predominantly identify ourselves as readers, after all, rather than TV-watchers), but still it's fun to jump-start our imagination with some of the particulars. So with a great deal of circumspection, so as not to identify any of the people or places that could get themselves in trouble for abetting our illegal kidney hunt, here's a little show-and-tell for your delectation.
We start with my first glimpse of China coming out of the airport gate. My guide Yuh-wonne from Happy Go Luck Travel is in there somewhere, ready to assist me "night and day."
Here's the luxury hotel suite provided by my one-week-only expense account.
Here is Larry and Mary in their hotel room, after Larry throws some clothes on. He's smiling! I'm astonished at how pretty Mary looks in these early photos, because my first impression of her was that she was a giantess. Maybe because she was scrubbing the fixtures in a coat that doubled her mass. Or maybe I was just stunned because I was led to believe (as was Larry) that she was quite a bit younger and... petite.
Now we're sitting for hours among the throng waiting to replace passports, bank cards, and various documents that Larry has misplaced.
Here is Mary dabbing at invisible tears in the cab ride back from the rural dialysis clinic where Larry has refused to have his dialysis. That's the man cabdriver who turns out to be a woman.
With various spectators looking on, now the cabdriver (in orange) is making
himherself at home in the hotel room while Larry bares his feet and Mary explains why she needs to desert us.
Larry doesn't like that Mary is leaving after all.
A tearful goodbye (the first of many), with the mail-order bride who's full of surprises, Mary.
The life-threatening cab ride to Shi, with the sleep-deprived cabbie waving his index finger as though conducting an orchestra of fleas. (Note cracked windshield.)
On our cab ride to the city of Shi where the mystery surgeon Dr. X is supposed to have access to an illegal kidney, the air gets progressively worse. You have to imagine the sound of thousands of particulates hitting the glass. The air when we get to Shi is so bad that it dissolves one of my contact lenses (high sulfur coal smoke + humidity = atmospheric sulfuric acid).
Our first meal in the hospital in Shi. Much to our surprise, it turns out the hospital provides neither food nor dining supplies of any kind, so I go out and forage for this makeshift meal. (Notice tweezers for knife, obtained with much "party English").
Now that Larry has run out of Girl Scout cookies (brought with him in bulk against the possibility of his having to sample the native cuisine), Larry is forced to inspect that which he does not trust.
"See, Larry, it's not such a frightening land, after all!"
Well, it's still maybe a little scary. This is my reunion with The Kidnap Cabbie. I'm still so rattled that I've temporarily misplaced my hat. Notice the strain on both our faces.
Now that I'm realizing this may turn into a book, Larry is only too glad to sign a document saying I have the right to write anything I want about our adventure.
(He signs it again a week later — can't be too careful when dealing with a "black-belt negotiator.")
Here's the replacement passport that cost us $500 US. (Who knows which of us paid for it? We were pooling everything by this point, on our way to becoming one fused being...) Let's just hope that Larry, looking more and more like death chewing a cookie, doesn't lose it again on one of his daring escape runs from the hospital...
Now that I'm off my expense account and back to basics, here's my room for the next two months at the Super 2 (one quarter as fancy as a Super 8). Luckily, I spend most of my time at the hospital anyway. WHOOPS, that one didn't transmit, so here's a picture of Larry telling me more of his life stories, with me cross-checking my notes from the LAST time he told me the exact same life-stories…
The infamous Wooden Tie, off which you can sponge the gravy stains... one of Larry's get-poor-quick inventions that put Larry and me in hot water 15 years ago. (It was when I asked for my subsidizing loan back that he ratted me out to the FBI.) Actually a pretty cool idea if someone wants to help finance...
The Black and Gold Yarmulke that one of the guys gave me after my chutzpatic plea at the synagogue in Beijing that put us in contact with the illegal kidney.
A random page from my notebook, with Chinese scribblings added by one of countless strangers who aided our quest out of the goodness of their hearts.
Some of the daily American medications that the Chinese immediately take Larry off – precipitating a dramatic decline in his blood pressure from 250/200. As Larry says, "We have a lot to learn from these people."
Mary performing Peking Opera for us yet again in the hospital suite...
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Well, I apologize, but time's up just as we settle into our stay in Shi. I wanted to show you more of what becomes of Mary, and how Larry's surgery turns out, and my badminton friends from the Middle East, and the Red Guards waltzing away their sins at midnight... but time prevents.
However, there is one very convenient way you can find out all about it...
Purchase Larry's Kidney: Being the Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride...
"A satisfying, hysterical page-turner that will captivate fans of travel writing and family narratives, with special interest for anyone who's helped a love one through serious illness." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A side-splitting tour de force that...will resonate with readers concerned about the plight of American patients who may be relegated for years to an organ transplant waiting list." Library Journal
"Skillful, funny, fascinating." The New York Observer
See the video!
And thank you, Powell's, for this chance to blog to you all week! (Was it live? Dad, did I say anything profane?)