Walking around in an emotional ‘Haze,’ Dawn brings her new record to The Old Church on November 18 with collaborator Lauren O’Connell and openers The Native Sibling.
Haze is an emotional autopsy of confessions and conversations around the loss of relationships. It captures, as Dawn describes, both “that feeling of walking around in a haze” and “relates to the idea of being hazed: put through some strange and often cruel rite of passage.” As a daughter of missionaries, songs about her father and religion such as “Orchid” and “Amen” feature prominently on Haze. But these aren’t anti-religious anthems or angry breakup ballads. The 10 songs on Haze are melodic and precise—sharp words set to sweet hymnals ranging from sparse guitar and vocals to glittering synth ballads—as if to soften the scalpel she takes to her evangelical upbringing and poignant endings.
I sat waiting for my lunch to be ready. Closing my eyes, the sun warming me, honing in on nearby conversations.
“It was just awful!”
“Do you want to meet later?”
“We have to get back soon.”
“What are you hungry for?”
And then, “Think of a Chinese word you’d like to see written.”
Two young women, students conducting a written language experiment, held a small, dry-erase board and the woman in the steel-grey wool skirt looked sheepishly to the man-in-tow standing next to her, scanning his face for a word, for approval.
“Tomato,” she smiled and shrugged.
“What an uninteresting word,” I thought to myself. Clearly, hunger and condiments dominated her thoughts to choose such an oddly simple thing.
The student began to draw the two characters, then handed the board to steel-grey skirt and asked her to draw it, to copy the lines in her own hand.
“Like this?” She fumbled through and the student asked to take a picture of steel-grey skirt holding up the sign, which she obliged after being assured it wouldn’t end up on the web or Facebook.
Steel-grey skirt and man-in-tow collected their lunches and wandered off back to their meetings and spreadsheets and before the students could walk away, I volunteered, “I have a word I’d like to see.”
“Great! What’s the word?”
“Oh—I’ll have to look that one up, it might be kind of difficult, the Chinese don’t really have an expression for that. Well, depending on the context I guess.”
“I suppose weakness is not a good emotional or political stance,” I mused.
She typed it into her phone where there must’ve been a pinyin and symbology translator of sorts and she mumbled, “Ah, hmm, that’s really pretty.”
She sketched out what looked like two number 5s, curved, bent and spooning, little animals with two quick hatchmarks in the coils and crooks, something warm in their bellies perhaps. The second symbol, like a little house on stick legs, or a bird laying in a field of short reeds or soft, matted grass, or a boat on uneven waves jutting a mast with no sail attached.
She handed me the board and it was my turn to draw.
“Very good!” She encouraged. “You could do calligraphy.”
And I suddenly thought of my high school art class, how I attended my prom for free because I volunteered to hand write every student’s name in my graduating class and their respective date’s name on folded white cardstock for all the seating arrangements at the dinner tables. How I painstakingly wrote every letter with a copper pen tip, sinking the nib into a bottle of crow-black ink, scratching out letters and then with a glue gun, affixing a black bow-tied ribbon and burgundy rose in the corner of every one.
She took my picture holding up the board with “vulnerable” written twice and asked, “Why are you so interested in this word?”
I considered the tomato. Heart-shaped, red, plump, viscous inside, thin-skinned, vulnerable and thought perhaps, it wasn’t such a bad word after all and I said, “I think objects are fine, but I am more curious about concepts, especially emotional ones that are difficult to describe with one word. Like love or home or wonder.” I thought about how big ideas cannot, should not easily be boiled down, compartmentalized, or compressed into a single word or worse, an acronym. Americans are really fond of acronyms and especially mnemonics, trying to make big ideas memorable, and easier to digest, when really, what must be done is some digging, some spelunking, some serious unpacking followed by a gentle examination of all the parts.
I thought of other languages where speakers might have cultural differences and difficulties expressing emotion. For instance, one way of responding to the everyday greeting of “How are you?” in Russian is to say ” I am not unwell.” As if, already expressing in the negative was a way of conveying strength. Things could be worse. I’m not dead yet. My friend told a story where in high school, a Russian exchange student staying at his home was being chastised for taking her host family’s young son out to play in his school clothes on a rainy day. His mother wasn’t at all happy that they had returned so filthy, caked in mud and muck, but the Russian girl sweetly explained to the mother, “he is not unwashable.”
What does it mean to be vulnerable? To be “accessible, assailable, defenseless, exposed, liable, naked, on the line, on the spot, out on a limb, ready, sensitive, sitting duck, sucker, susceptible, tender, thin-skinned, unguarded, unprotected, unsafe, weak, wide open, open to attack.” Why is there no strength in vulnerability when it takes all the courage in the world to allow yourself to let something, some ideas, someone in? To yield with grace to the often terrifying, ever-shifting locus of love, of home, and of wonder.
All three of these ideas have changed greatly for me in the last several years. Losing a beloved pet to cancer, losing a home by being priced out of the neighborhood, losing a job and a marriage; and all of these losses and changes at nearly the same time. It was like witnessing all the love and home and wonder I nurtured suddenly evaporate out from under me. There was a serious unpacking. There was a gentle examination of all my parts. Especially the ones that went missing, where I identified myself.
I thought of many loves lost in my youth, how some of the most tender pieces of me were carried off by wild wolf boys and buried like edible treasure to devour later. How sometimes there were wounds I ignored and over and over I had to revisit the same old traps that closed upon them to extract myself very carefully so as to not lose more pieces still. Sure, I came out licking my wounds, scathed and dirty. But I emerged whole.
Turns out, I am not unwahsable. I am not unwell. I am still hungry and I am getting reacquainted with wonder. I have redefined home. I still don’t fully understand the nature of love, but I am very much an eager student and believer of it in all of its necessary function and beautiful, new forms.
“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts—
for support rather than for illumination.”
— Andrew Lang
“Equations are the devil’s sentences.” — Stephen Colbert
“Like other occult techniques of divination,
the statistical method has a private jargon
deliberately contrived to obscure
its methods from nonpractitioners.“
— Ashley-Perry Statistical Axioms quotes
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
I hate statistics. I hate it so much I’ve re-named it “sadistics.” I hate it so much I’d rather blog about it than DO it for class. I loathe it so hard my husband had a good laugh at me. He came around the corner to find me with damp washcloth and spray bottle in hand, circling a kitchen table splayed out with books and erasers and graphing calculator and he cracked up. He noted that I was purposefully avoiding doing the homework by cleaning the kitchen chairs. That’s right, I’d rather wash wooden legs with Murphy’s oil and scrub food & dinner fart-laden seat upholstery than sit in front of numbers and formulas that after awhile, just start to look like an invasion of picnic ants marching across a description of Greek whoredom.
My eyes begin to gloss over, I let my cheek slump into my hand. Propped up on my elbow, I allow my mouth to go slack and open into a balloon-shaped maw, all in an effort to allow more oxygen to get into the situation. Anything to tease the possible formula i’m supposed to use out of the useless and impertinent question being asked in the longest series of lamest story problems of all time. On any standardized test. Ever. I could be in the same state if I drank 3 fingers of bourbon. And I’d be having way more fun.
I’ve begun creatively insulting the theorists and their theorems. Chebyshev’s theorem? Nope. Chubbynut’s Nonsense (it’s not my fault his first name is “Pafnuty”). No joke. It would take a Russian mad man with a crater on the moon named after him to make me do this crap. In order to get a BS Psychology. Emphasis on the BS.
I want to stab myself in the boxplot with an ogive. That, of course, being a joke that perhaps only someone subjected to statistics would be able to understand.
Which leads me to the only fun thing I learned so far . . .
Because I HAD to know the word origin for the ogivecurve, turns out Wikipedia has this to say:
“In statistics, an ogive is a graph showing the curve of a cumulative distribution function (which, for the normal distribution, resembles one side of an Arabesque or ogival arch.”
An ogival or pointed arch is one of the defining characteristics of Gothic architecture.
Ogives are also used descriptively in ballistics or aerodynamics where an ogive is a pointed, curved surface mainly used to form the approximately streamlined nose of a bullet or other projectile as well as the complex ogives in missiles and aircraft.
Ogives are used in applied physical science, engineering, architecture, woodworking, geology, and yes – even statistics.
That concludes this episode of nerd notes . . . and now, you may have a better insight to my bad attempt at a stats joke, which is like, a monstrous exercise in futility. It does it all on its own. Writes itself, honey.
But what are the postitives? Will I be a better Poker player? I prefer Cranium. I get to act, solve puzzles and play with clay. Better able to understand and plot risk-analysis? I only do dangerous stuff to myself, not to others. (most of the time.) More equipped to look at those numerous, tiresome graphs, dots, squiggles, pointed notation marks and fluffy numbers and make perfect sense of psychological research. I. fucking. doubt it, son.
In fact, if it weren’t for Joe holding my hand through some of these problems and talking me through it (and away from mathematical ledges) I’m certain I wouldn’t be getting any of it at all.
Now let me make something clear . . . I don’t consider myself a dumb bunny. And to his credit, the teacher is excellent, clear, procedural, by the book and full of examples. Why my tiny squirrel brain can’t wrap my head around it all is well, probably mostly due to my obstinance. (SEE above paragraphs)
Then there’s the pretty graph making program called MiniTab (MinorStab) which I have to use in order to complete my Math Labs. I’ve decided I don’t want to trek out to school, find and pay for parking, hang out in a computer lab for an indefinite amount of time, be hungry, cranky and confused and have no means of escape, so I “rented” the program for 6 months for $30. Which is about all I’ll need to get through two semesters of it. And I can drink wine while I load data sets. Yeah. You got my number.
So—I’ll slog my way through it. I feel a low grade B fever coming on.
“There are things you do
because they feel right
& they may make no sense
& they may make no money
& it may be the real reason we are here:
to love each other
& to eat each other’s cooking
& say it was good.”
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
“I’ve been a bad yogi this week,” I mused sadly to Joe. Even talking about yoga to Lia in lieu of actually doing it got my muscles to tingle and miss it.
“Yeah, but sometimes forging new friendships takes the same kind of commitment,” he said to me.
I am consoled to think that at least I’ve been a good friend. or have been having a good time. I can also tell it’s been a full, week of good people, food and silliness when the fridge is full of tasty leftovers, there’s a bouquet of lilies on my living room table, there are a lot of dishes to do, there’s silver spray paint and glass beads in strange places, the laundry turns up stickers, candy wrappers and tiny plastic babies, I am pleasantly tired and I am editing photos of it all.
Sufjan Steven’s “The Henney Buggy Band” lyrics and melody occur to me in snippets.
“Oh life, with your colorful surprises
Eleanor, how you put one on disguises”
“Far in the morning light
We let the movies play
A weekend from the holiday
. . . Forget about yourself and all your plans”
This past Saturday a group of friends all dressed up as Villains attended the Alter Egos Power Struggle. It was pretty much a Heroes & Villains pub crawl all brought to you by Alter Egos Society and Drunken Rampage. And Benja said it best with:
“the event included games and prizes along a route through several downtown Portland bars. The games included initiation games (such as “save the kittens” for heroes and “steal candy from the babies” for villains), “You’ve Met Your Match” finding an Arch Nemesis speed dating style), and a dance-off between good and evil. A number of local businesses (bars and comic shops, etc.) and organizations (Stumptown Comics Foundation, etc.) supported the event as part of official Portland Comics Month.”
But for me to tell you about the evening from the streetside and onlooker POV – well, is to tell the story of running through the city, engaging in an en masse, public, costumed rubber band fight, taking over bars of every variety including strip and gay (Portland famous), community pole-dancing, swinging from the ceiling (on a literal swing suspended by chains) climbing elephant statues in the park, catching free prizes in the air like porn, latex whips, silver-studded leather chastity belts, oh – and comic books too. Sure. To give you ALL the details would read a bit Gonzo-esque so . . . “No. We can’t stop here. This is bat country.”
But there are some photos where my friends are harpies, mad scientists, robots, caped, cylcloptic evil overlords with interchangeable blue & red laser monocles with minions to match, judges dressed in cinched robes & a wrestling unitard, and futuristic underwater murderers of dolphins (it’s quite a backstory). A bit of “so long and thanks for tall the fish.” Dolphins are super smart and take over the world. See: Douglas Adams.
The next morning, Easter Sunday we threw a Pagan Potluck to celebrate Eostre, the goddess of spring fecundity, love and carnal pleasure. How appropriate. There was so much wonderful food! A big spiral-sliced ham I cooked with an orange-maple glaze and served with a side of “last nite’s costumed bar crawl hangover,” with a friendly diner smile. Quiche, potato salad, fruit salad of blood oranges and tangerines, quinoa, spinach salad with goat cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs, chocolate angel food cake, cherry cobbler, coconut balls and more mimosas and white wine than humanly necessary were consumed. Eventually it devolved into a game of Scattergories and Celebrity. Somehow, my dumb ass did NOT take pictures. I was off duty that nite, I suppose.
Last nite we gathered for a loose dinner party at Jeremy’s apartment themed “food on a stick.” The colorful spread ended up consisting of cheese & chocolate fondue with dippers of olive bread, meat, angel food cake, strawberries, apples, pears, sushi and skewered teriyaki chicken and beef, wine (hey, stemmed glasses are on sticks!) the comedic Pabst Blue Ribbon that Cooper brought up from the depths of the ice cooler, carried in on a large branch and hoisted into the room like catch of the day, and Benja’s contribution of candy with Chick-O-Stix. Surprisingly, no popsicles, perhaps a rather obvious choice. This in no way detracted from the rainbow of bountiful foodie goodness we enjoyed. (Once again, no photographic evidence!) Later, we all lay on collective couches in a food coma watching Val Kilmer in Real Genius. A good old fashioned 80’s “nerd saves the world” movie.
Tonite while drinking cold beer on our warm sunny patio talking to Lia & Cooper who were getting ready to depart for their stay at home happy couple date nite of dinner and cuddling, I was cheered as I received, fielded and answered text messages:
Tiffany: “If I get enough work done today i was thinking of going to the tulip festival tomorrow – interested? It’s going to be a beautiful day.”
Chelsea: “Thought I’d take advantage of the sun with a book and my dog. Ran into friends on the Beach. Dungeoness crab for dinner. Call ya when I’m headed back.”
Claire: “We went to the farmers market and now we are relaxing at a park in the SE. If you were at Stumptown I’d join you. Nap in park instead! We are going out for Pho if you are interested.”
And later from Lia: “We love you guys. Seriously. Like love love. U fixed my music collection! i owe you my life.”
Jeremyasked: “What time tomorrow?” in reference to the brunch we’re having on the deck at my house since the weather promises sunny and 74 degrees. i instructed, “Let’s call it a casual noon. Brunch in single digit #’s is called breakfast & is lame.” Claire is coming over to cook some spicy eggs, i’m gonna to fry up some bacon and make a stack of fluffy pancakes. hmm, i have no champagne for mimosas . . .
i smiled to myself a lot for a lot of little reasons today. Odin was hiding in the freshly washed bed sheets in an effort to stalk me. i realized that if i want to fall madly into bed with Joe tonite, the bed must be made, cat or no. There was a time when we got so distracted and caught up in each other, too busy making love that we could rarely be bothered to comb our hair or pack properly for a trip to the woods. The apple butter in the fridge reminded me of the camping trip where, because we were too busy “packing” we had forgotten a knife to cut and spread food, so we simply tore off hunks of bread and dipped it in pumpkin butter (no more apple butter to be had at the roadside stands that late in the afternoon.) How that nite, Joe and i flipped the script on the traditional camping roles: i built a fire and secured the goods from bears and he, my would-be-husband cooked a fabulous dinner of beans and onions and summer sausage. I thought of our long looks in the fire light, and the sound of a large skunk trundling through the brush into our campsite making my eyes go from lovestruck at half-mast to wide and panicked. “Animal. Biggish.” i whispered in a fearful assessment. And he laughed.
i washed the tablecloths from the Easter Pagan Potluck we threw last week and tossed in a few old throws. One of them, a bright blue with red stripes i didn’t recognize until turned the tag to read it:
British Airways. MADE IN ENGLAND. Airline use only. Please do not remove from aircraft.
And i smiled, thinking of Joe taking me to Rome after we got engaged.
“Hey, did i ask you to steal this blanket from the plane ride?” i prodded.
“Well, one of us stole it. It’s unclear who, “Joe smiled.
it’s in my lap right now as i type this in the office.
i am about to take some fruit down to thaw for brunch: a bag full of frozen mango & berries – something called “Mangolicious” from Trader Joe’s that i put with some Vanana (vanilla & banana flavoured yogurt) and some local Hanna’s honey in a cup. i am thinking fondly of myself & two dear friends in our pajamas eating apple pie for breakfast. In bed. Laughing. i am thinking of not waking up earlier than 11 am tomorrow. i am thinking the red & yellow tulips in bloom in my garden should suffice if i don’t make it out to the Wooden Shoe Tulip festival.
This morning a text message came in from the East Coast at 5:45am, PST. It was Meg and i was glad to hear from her, but i was also incoherent and back to sleep in moments. Then Joe kissed me goodbye as he does every morning just before 8am and i look for this happily, then listen to his shoes, the cupboard opening, the retrieval of a travel coffee mug, the door locking behind him marking that i’m safe again and i drift off once more. Then my Google Calender texted me remotely at 9am to remind me to pay Geico car insurance. Greedy lizard bastard. And just when i was drifting off for what i had hoped was the third and final time, a symphony of slamming ensues, the garbage truck begins its Thursday morning rumble through the neighborhood and i am officially awake and staring out the window at a misty fog and as i am surfacing from a sleepy fog of my own, i realize – today marks one month since my surgery . . .
As far as my health goes, forgive my over-explanation, reiteration and just plain TMI-fication if you find it tiresome – but i need to do this, to document it so i can look back on it someday down the line and say to myself, “see, you were going to be fine all along.” Several months from now, i’ll be looking forward to NOT overly concerning myself with all transportation of items in and out of me.
Overall, i AM feeling much better, there are some days i feel awesome and a few days last week where i felt, not so awesome. A couple bouts of the loosey gooseys and a bit of late nite nausea plus vomiting once. Today i feel fine, and it’s mostly because i’ve been able to sleep and eat MORE for several days; both of those things are hard to do when you are anxious and nauseous. Rice and stirfry type food arrangements seem to make me most happy, so i guess i’ll just become Chinese.
i realize that i must give my body time to adjust. Since i no longer contain an organ receptacle for the biliary system, my liver’s all, “WTF mate?” and it just tosses bile down there willy-nilly. This sends acid production into overdrive and makes my stomach go wild, which is the cause of the queasies & uneasies. It’s hard enough out there with the peanut butter salmonella scare or my grocery cashier coughing, blowing her nose and touching all of my food as she scans it, or my friends & family assuming that a female my age just might be pregnant . . . so i tried to separate all that out and got some advice from my doctor as well as friends who’ve gone through this, even if it was anecdotal.
p.s. the next person to attribute my nausea and poo spells to pregnancy gets their gallbladder removed by me. with a spork.
i am also aware that this adjustment is different in different bodies and can be 3-6 months or even a year before things settle down in there, and sadly, some of the symptoms end up being recurrent or chronic in a handful of people. in most other cases, it’s just learning the triggers during the culinary adventure and hoping i don’t have to deal with anything that affects my eating. most food is cool and i’m taking it in smaller meals more often (as i did before, really) it’s obvious and pretty much immediate when food is NOT cool – it’s a straight lever pull to the luge. Amazing really . . . i know potato chips are OUT, perhaps unless they’re baked and Progresso soup proved to be an inexplicably bad experiment. And yeah, i know, i’m a real lady and all, but it’s the humbling stupid human tricks that make us all equals . . . Nothing like being a grown woman and filling your pants. uggghhh, fantastic!
i have added a B-complex with Folic Acid, and have chewed 1-2 Citrucel chocolate/caramel fiber chews (what am i, 60?) this seems to help some with energy and digestion. And the caramel ones aren’t bad, though the chocolate ones taste like a lame-ass diet Tootsie Roll. i don’t want to do the carb/fiber overload and i’ll be damned if i have to mix up some orange bum Tang cocktail in the morning everyday and fuck with my tea ritual, you know? My digestive system is rewiring for sure in there, but seriously, to go from a wealth of crazy delicious cuisine & wine to the BRAT diet and water, tea & juice well . . . did i mention even a leeetle bit of alcohol tends to make me really drunk and also, suddenly nauseous. i have to wait on that a bit too . . . oh, how the mighty have fallen, huh?
My doctor sent me in for more bloodwork to check my liver and pancreatic functions. They got me in both arms, the vampires. It all came back normal, thank goodness. She put me on famotidine. Yup, Pepcid. A histamine H2-receptor antagonist that inhibits stomach acid production. The amber bottles with my name on them just keep lining up in the cabinet like matryoshkas, little nested Russian dolls. i am hoping to pull them and my ailments out from inside each other till i am left with the tiniest one and i can get all the way healthy without them. But i am happy to report, eating has been much more pleasurable since Pepcid, as well as the necessary by-product of eating. It’s calmed me down considerably.
i’ve been mostly convalescing with a smattering of social outings and i think that has been making me a bit batty. Now that the scar tissue isn’t feeling so taut, i am starting back into the swing of things exercise wise, and that includes some yoga. i am also looking into Mayan abdominal and Craniosacral massage to get things moving, to realign and to push the reset button on my nervous system, to let it know it’s all over now and it’s time to busy myself with feeling better. Primarily i need to de-stress and remove the toxins and pain my body has been holding & clenching to itself.
i did find a really nice local yoga studio that i’m gearing up to join full-time. it’s called OmBase Yoga. i’ve been to 4 classes so far this week and have enjoyed the instructors & release in all of them. My legs tremble as they try to support me, my arms quiver under my weight, i can feel the tightness in my hamstrings, shoulders and back moan a little when i call on them to move this way, then push them just a little further, but i am grateful to breathe, to get out of my head-chatter and break existence down to nothing but me and the space on my mat.
The studio is a warm, tall, open space with burnt caramel colored wooden floors and beams, a few orange and magenta colored arches, and a little womb-like fireplace with a fan on top, drawing the heat up out its potbelly to move about. It’s more well-manicured barn than dance studio, crystal singing bowls, lots of Zen-like décor, subtle incense no full-length wall mirrors.
the left side of the studio . . .
i am STILL unemployed and a bit discouraged, which doesn’t lend to the mood of productivity or getting out of my house mouse routine. But, i have a funny little gig lined up for freelance photo work, which is a minor story too. So – firstly, you know, i’m a big fan of socks. Knee-highs & up to be exact. and the more colorful, interesting, sexy, star-spangled, stripey, spidery and silly, the better. There’s this place i used to mail-order from called Sock Dreams when i lived on the east coast (free shipping!) and it turns out it’s located here in Portland. Less that 2 miles from me.
So a few months back i wrote the website, offering my services of ANY type: shipping, storefront, website maintenance, photography, leg model, guinea pig, coffee, tea & bagel donkey . . . you get the idea. i was invited to take a tour of the place where i was introduced to the staff, the 3 resident dogs and her husband/muse who said he’d recognized me through pictures. She’d expressed that she’d love to hire me, but the crush of the Holiday Season, the current economy, possible downsizing already in January, etc. i left with the gentle offer to be kept in mind in the future, perhaps finding some way to edge me in.
This week they got a shipment of baby socks so i took several pairs to photograph on some friends’ one & two year old son and daughter as they “modeled” them. i will be paid in part cash and part socks, per our agreement. The bebe’s get to keep the socks and i may keep a few pairs to send to my friends on the East Coast as gifts, since everyone is busy having babies over there. Barter just works better for me these days than real livelihood. Aside from actual feet in socks, i did get a cute portrait of one of the models . . .
Speaking of lively . . .
As for the Obamamania – i took Joe to work that morning on Inauguration Day, we tuned into NPR, listened to Obama fumble the oath, the quartet bit from John Williams (i joked that the Star Wars Theme would erupt and actually broke into humming the opening strains, which got us both laughing) then i was annoyed that the NPR commentator was golf hush talking over the performance like it was background music. i drove home and listened to the poet in my driveway, then watched the rest through the Luncheon on CNN until i decided that i also, needed some lunch.
Later i went online and caught the highlights of the ball, particularly the Beyonce rendition of “At Last” since i love Etta James. We went to our friend Adam’s house for a party where the guests were encouraged to write all over a 4-foot sketch of Bush taped to wall, including all the things about him we were glad to see GO (we did NOT however spare him the requisite Hitler stache or Devil horns or speech bubbles with Bushisms and his trademark snide, stuttering laugh). This poster was burned in a bonfire in the backyard later. On another wall, a sketch of the American flag hung with empty lines and a star field. With red marker, we filled in all the positive changes we anticipate by having a new administration.
And speaking of REAL change . . . how about the stem cell research approval for spinal injury, and the removal of the Mexico City Policy?!?! Not to stir the shit-pot or anything, but boy howdy, the Pro-Lifers got some tough bits stuck in their craws with those rulings. i don’t know – i just can’t see how you can argue with improved quality of life, healthcare and women’s education and options.
Which really seems to be my trifecta theme lately: healthcare, education and options . . .
Having gone through this has affected more than my body and eating, it has caused me to rethink many things, mainly – what it is i want to DO for work since my previous ventures have always involved the food and wine industries. i know i can’t eat as richly or drink as i once did, mostly because it’s against my constitution but also, i simply don’t want to and i want to simplify my eating. i want to attempt to eat even MORE healthy than before, if that’s possible.
Besides the change-up in my intake, i don’t want to work those late service industry hours anymore. i enjoy time with my husband in the evenings too much. This is a chance to reset everything, really. To see if i might want to go back to school in the Autumn if for nothing else but to finish a few undone things, to re-engage myself in the discipline, to meet people & make connections. To see if something else inspires me. To do something that helps people live better. To not be a server but to truly SERVE.
What will i miss about convalescing besides the sleep, and the forced respite & stillness? i did enjoy some parts of the step back, even if it was for the unfortunate cause of major abdominal surgery. For one, not having to put on a bra or clothes for that matter. Not that my routine was heavy or high-maintenance, but i will miss all the money and time i’ve saved on applying cosmetics and perfume. my skin never looked better! i liked not having to deal with the trappings of going out and presenting myself to the public.
But i will have to do all of that soon enough . . .
Last nite i could not get the idea of a sub sandwich out of my head, it was one of the last things i ate before i went in for surgery and i barely enjoyed it, i had been feeling so poorly. So Joe & i rolled into the local Subway where some quiet, older gentleman, excuse me – “sandwich artist” stood pawing at a box of plastic food-handlers gloves, clearly biding time and waiting for someone to come in.
After some pleasantries and questions initiated by me he reported, “we had a busy lunch but it’s been over an hour since someone came in.”
“My god, this poor man has been making sandwiches for over 9 hours on and off,” i imagined. And probably by himself.
i usually get the BMT but something told me to steer clear of salami and pepperoni, so i had him load up a 6″ wheat with turkey and ham, spinach instead of flavorless, nutritionless iceberg, tomato, extra cucumbers, green peppers, mayo, mustard, oil & vinegar, salt & pepper.
i took this home, unwrapped it at my desk and ate greedily. It was a simple thing, but i felt that sandwich move through and nourish me, diffusing and filling in empty places. It was almost as if i’d been a hollow shell and someone propped me up and filled me with warm foam that hit all the places, even my fingertips and toes. It was the first time i felt full, satisfied and comfortable since, well – awhile.
Of course, this was a relatively “healthy” version of what goes for “fast food” these days, but it was needed protein, needed fiber, needed greens and it was precisely what i was craving.
My body is just starting to talk to me again, and trust me, i’m listening.
So let me just jump right in here and catch you up on the post-Holiday bliss . . . .
December was a CRAZY month. A car accident followed by a week-long visit from my sister & brother-in-law that involved beer tastings, strippers, lost IDs, credit cards, medication, a “Getting To Know You” session with the TSA, a flurry of found & lost employment, a crippling snow storm and a major abdominal surgery . . .
Not much of a Christmas & New Year’s, but – what can you do? Life intervenes sometimes and puts the smack down on all your sparkly plans.
So yeah, from car to job and health matters – it’s been buckets of suck lately, but thank goodness i have my Joe, for better or worse and all.
The Bunny Goes Bang . . .
Joe and i were in a car accident early in December (my poor VW Rabbit). We were simply dropping off a friend so she could avoid taking the bus. Luckily, it was a slo-mo, non-jarring crash that no one was hurt in. In short, some jackoff signaled to go right, then changed his mind and veered into us, even though his lane had ended. This sent us banging into the large SUV to our left, effectively smashing my left quarter panel, taking out the left headlight cluster and ripping my bumper off in one arc over my hood and into the street behind us.
i was all in my Zen-state, post-yoga and coolly remarked from the passenger seat, “well, there goes the bumper,” as it sailed overhead. I was not pleased to discover the no-fault law here in Oregon. The police didn’t even take a report?!?! But we did have two witnesses who volunteered information without even being asked, so it was clearly NOT our fault. i rode home with the bumper in the backseat curled up on the ends like a big, red-lipped smile while the broken eye of the headlamp cluster sat dark and blinded in the trunk.
Surprisingly, all told, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. Even though it was several days before my sister & brother-in-law was scheduled to visit us from Indianapolis and i thought, “great, now what?” The body shop took us VERY early the next morning and gave us a free loaner car, a pimp-ass white ’00 Ford Taurus with the body shop name emblazoned on the doors. The smell of faux strawberry walloped you in the face when you got in, which was better than say, cigarette smoke, though the history of burn marks dotted the seats exposing the fleshy, pale foam below. Then i discovered the source of the scent.
There was a Little Trees air freshener hanging from the steering wheel. This reminded me of an old friend Dave, who became a police officer and used a special sort of profiling. He noticed that a high proportion of criminals in an effort to mask the smell of open intoxicants and / or drugs have an awful lot of the Little Trees air fresheners hanging from air vents and from their rearview mirrors. He referred to these collections as a “felony forest” and a sure sign of unlawful nonsense being perpetrated. So, in all of its red and white, cloyingly fruit-scented glory, i thereby dubbed the pimp car “Strawberry Shortcake Mobile.”
We had the estimate the next day – $5,081.00 worth of damage (we merely paid the $200 deductible). All of this was completed within a week and my car looked factory show room new. Plus – anyone getting $2,000 worth of work done qualifies for their “Detail For Life” plan, which entitles me to come in four times a year and they will clean the inside and polish up the outside of the car for FREE. Even if i sell the car, for the life of the car. The body work also took care of all minor road, gravel, dings scrapes and insults on the first half of the car since i owned it, so THAT was great too!
Jobless but not Hopeless . . .
Joe is happy & successful with his job at PSU and thank goodness he has a good salary and has made good friends & contacts with his workmates. My job search, not so much. Not since October. i started one, then had my driver’s window smashed & my car broken into while working. i could see someone else nearby had the ol’ window trick pulled on them as well. It was next to a dimly lit playground, plenty of places for crazies to crouch. No way i was hanging out there. i drove home sitting on a grocery bag that nite and had the police come to my house to take the report.
To work there, i was spending more money on transportation and parking (unsafely) than i was making and was generally miserable serving happy hour food to VIPs (Visibly Intoxicated Pricks), hotel and rich asshole marina guests. Nice enough people to work for & with, but i am accustomed to a much faster pace and different atmosphere. i quit that job.
i was also interviewed by a winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle (Erath) one of the oldest in Oregon wine country, until Cigarette giant Altria Group, which owns Marlboro, announced an agreement on Sept. 8 to buy smokeless tobacco firm UST for $10.4 billion. As part of the deal, Altria acquired UST’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. In all that, the position fell through or more or less, evaporated when they began reorganizing.
i also interviewed with a woman who was opening a new wine shop. i suspect her bank backing bottomed out or perhaps she chose someone else, either way – i haven’t heard from her again. i worked one day at another wine shop. a week later, he reneged his offer and sent me a check for my time. no loss, i’m afraid i was a bad fit and didn’t make the cheerleading cuts anyway.
i’m sure everyone’s been saturating themselves in the depressing news about the shitty US economy, banks, mortgage crisis, unemployment rates & the systems supporting it crashing & drained. All bad news about how it affects things both locally and globally and i am here to tell you, it’s no bullshit. Being in the service industry, i am also keenly aware that dining out is one of the first things to be culled, the first belt hole to cinch up from the family budget, making my employment search options even more grim.
Then i read this article: Portland’s restaurant scene in trouble. And thought – well hell . . . no wonder i can’t find fuck-all for work! so, i may want to reconsider my line of inquiry and use some of my other “job skills.” this of course being freelance photography or administrative desk slave. i may just start writing that novel i’ve been threatening for years. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Hope & Change guy has in mind and more, what he puts into action.
Briefly, the beer & the boobs . . .
my sister’s visit was mostly, fun. and there are stories i could tell which were hinted at in the opening paragraph, but i will protect the innocent and spare my sister and her husband the embarrassment of me airing a couple kooky escapades that ended in ill consequences . . .
It was during the week of my sister’s visit that i had the surgery consult after an ultrasound revealed several 2mm stones in that useless little bile storing organ, so it slowed things down considerably for us, in a city known for, in addition to its natural beauty, quirky places and fresh local food, its prevalence of brew pubs and strip clubs.
Now – before i get into this last bit, make no mistake, we are eating, and living and loving and surviving just fine. Oregon is wonderful; Portland was not a bad move and my Joe and i are as happy & close as ever, Just little irritating life issues have been getting in the way, like, my gallbladder, for instance.
but let me back up . . .
You Don’t Have The Gall . . .
i had an episode several weeks back where i was waiting to see Quantum Of Solace on Sunday’s opening weekend when, apropos of nothing, i had extreme abdominal pain and pressure – it was so bad and intense i thought it was a heart attack. or a really bad taco. Joe refunded our tickets and drove me home immediately. I thought for sure i would have to go to the emergency room! Turns out that time and the 5 repeat performances afterward were gallbladder attacks. I had a mean, miserable headache for three days after the first one!
and let me tell you – i don’t wish that pain on anyone!
It was as if my body were hi-jacked, my heart pounded, i would sweat and waves of nausea built up into a high pressure weather system that radiated pain concentrated in the center of my chest, lateral right, and shoulder. then i’d wretch and writhe for anywhere from 30 mins to more than an hour until it passed. no position, being still, Maalox or movement eased the pain. the only thing that seemed to mitigate it somewhat was glugging down a big glass of water as the attack symptoms began and i began to ride it out.
Generally, i just felt sorta weak, dizzy & fatigued and simply tried to make myself comfortable, warm, sleep a lot and took it really easy. i’d have several hours a day where i felt good and tried to do some writing and editing photos or read or catch a flick, just to keep myself occupied.
i had another bout of a lesser attacks on and off over several nites following the first major attack, these while my sister was in town. It was all i could do to try to be remotely fun, a decent host, and not a total drag. Those tail end attacks were mostly just overwhelming nausea, pressure, heart pounding, then sudden drop in blood pressure and dizziness (like fainting), the sudden multiple bowel movements/diarrhea (sorry, TMI all indications of a sick gallbladder), but at least it didn’t include any monstrous pain or vomiting. i had some anti-nausea medication (Phenegran), and i took only 1/2 a Vicodin a few times to stave off any pain.
Eating was scary as you can imagine. everything i put into my mouth i worried about, “what will trigger an attack, this time?” i felt WAY too full after even a small meal (which was mostly, lite protein, soups, the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), juices, mint tea, gingerale, etc.) Despite all that, i sometimes felt like there was a lump in my throat, as if it were food that hadn’t gone down. a sort of creepy indigestion. This really pissed me off, and since i love food, i grew quickly fed up with the baby diet!
i was of course, drinking lots of water & tried to avoid any fatty foods or anything that might trigger an attack & send the gallbladder into secretion or action or whatever it is that it does to try to clear out the multiple stones that are in there. Thus, the suggestion that i hydrate more than usual and at the onset of attack, drink down a big glass to try to i guess, move the bile along.
None of this is fun to read, i imagine, but i suppose it helps me to assess what i experienced and to tune in with my body, recounting what i had to do to nurse myself along until i had that evil little sack of pearls out of there! So – thank you for taking the time . . .
“Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful” – But The Fire Inside My Gut Isn’t So Great Either . . .
i was supposed to have my surgery on December 22nd, except, my surgery was canceled due to SNOWPOCALYPSE 2008. ( SEE my photographic evidence). Or as the local news kept referring to it “Arctic Blast.” It was reported as the most snow they’ve seen in Portland in 40 years, and in its soft, white fluffy beauty, it went about crippling the city, crushing public transportation, grinding everything to a halt. The more the snow fell, the more my anxiety mounted. i worried that in the case of an extreme emergency, we were clearly going to have a difficult to impossible time even getting out.
We were lucky enough to have already purchased snow chains from a quick jaunt Joe and my brother-in-law, Flounder took out to Bagby Hot Springs the week before the real snow hit. As the mayor, Sam Adams (yeah, like the beer guy with the funny bowl cut) reported on the news, snow chains were required to travel on Portland roads, but were also SOLD OUT locally. How helpful. We got to try them out a few days before and survived our maiden voyage out to get cat food and return & rent new DVDs for the Holiday pre-surgery stretch.
The only trouble we had was getting back into the garage, if you can believe it. It was messiest in our back alley, kind of a dirty slushie. One of the chains twisted up & fell off, we retrieved it, got a little mired on an ice patch, and i pushed Joe into the driveway, but then the garage door opener and track decided NOT to work. It’s probably an easy fix, but nothing wrong with using our hands to pull the door open in the meantime of investigation. Luckily, it warmed up and some of the snow turned to rain and the roads became only slightly less sloppy the following week.
While the white shit was busy falling in heaps and mounds from the sky, it was three days before someone even answered the god damned phone at the surgery center’s office! This did not contribute to my sense of well-being. When i finally did get a human, Rose, the frazzled sistah on the other end, was mumbling some nonsense about the schedule being pushed into February, to which i declared shenanigans, “i am not waiting and feeling like this with pain, nausea and strict diet management,” i calmly explained to her. i knew it was “elective” surgery, but i was voting to have it out ASAP. So she “caught up” with the doctor and i was rescheduled for the following Monday the 29th. Sad that i have to raise hell to advocate for my own health care. but it was my first major abdominal surgery and i wanted it over with!
The F criteria . . . family, flights, fairness – does FUCK this count?
It’s been a frustrating, confusing health journey, seeing as how i am otherwise, the picture of supposed health – good diet, whole, organic foods when possible, yoga & exercise, 119 lbs, low LDL, normal EKG, healthy heart & lungs, liver function healthy and all other bloodwork levels completely within normal ranges, including thyroid. Even my surgeon said i don’t really fit most of the F criteria (Female, 40, Fat, Fertile & Fair) and remarked questioningly “doesn’t seem fair does it?” In my case, estrogen in my oral contraceptives & the environment, and family history (my aunt) might be the only risk indicators.
My mother’s initial flight had also been canceled, not enough snow plows in the city or de-icers for the planes. But she was able to rebook, came out Sunday and stayed for a week while i recovered at home. Sure, the main calming factor is, my mother is a nurse and she was able to help Joe administer my post-surgery care, but really, when i get down to the basic emotional component of what was happening to my body, i wanted my mommy!
Ladies & Gentlemen, Nurses, Anesthesiologists and a Surgeon! The Main Event . . .
The laparoscopic surgery (cholecystectomy) involved four small incisions for light, scope, suction and instruments, and they pulled that sucker out through an incision above my belly button. Weee! It’s same day outpatient (unless they have to convert to an open cholecystectomy), routinely safe, well-practiced and the most commonly performed surgery. So, you know, i made sure i tortured myself on the internet, reading up on all the truly rare complications incurred during or after, until i whipped myself up into hypochondriac frenzy. i don’t recommend this method of education, but i was prepared for the worst, so i came out with just about the best, of course.
i scrubbed up the nite before with special special surgery soap called CHG (Chlorhexidine Gluconate). It was all wrapped in foil and had a spongy side to wet and release soap and scrubby side to get under nailbeds. It was quite a humbling ritual to remove my wedding bands, my moonstone rings, the small drop earrings i haven’t taken out in more than 6 years, my moonstone necklace & toe rings. And then, the morning of my surgery, absent of all body decoration, i used the second CHG provided me and was instructed – “no shaving, no deodorant, no lotion, no perfume.” No germs. No scent. No signature.
i showed up in comfy clothes, at the Sunnyside Medical Center, had 2-hour prep which included consent forms, a nurse to take my information, a nurse to start my IV, plus an anesthesiologist and his nurse with another battery of questions.
“Do you have anything of value, any jewelry, electronics, medications . . .” the nurse rattled off a big list in rapid fire succession.
“No. No. No No, nope. Nothing. i come to you naked and without frills.” i answered lightheartedly.
She laughed and gave me a big plastic snap bag with the words PATIENT BELONGINGS and a name & info sticker on the front, then told me to take everything off and put on the lavender colored hospital gown that had the words “Bair Paws” and a little foot print of a bear track scrawled across my heart. Now let me “paws” a moment. Go ahead. Groan. i don’t care. This was one of the best things i’ve ever experienced in medical care. It was a soft, longer, thick gown with the usual bum-showing slit down the back, except that it had a sideways wrap around tie so you could make yourself decent. But the best feature is what the thing actually DID.
Pre-op, surgery and recovery areas are usually kept a little chilly to discourage bacteria growth, so you end up with minor hypothermia, and they merely toss an extra blanket on you to stave off the cold. Not with this thing though . . . the Bair Paws had a port in the side where a warming unit hose attached and a temperature control box with a dial was placed beside me. i suppose if you’re the hot-blooded type, you could choose cool air, but not me . . . crank that sucker up! In moments, it filled with warm air that puffed the gown up a little and filled the little channels inside, flooding warm air over my whole body as i lay there waiting for surgery. Awesome! i wanted to take it home with me when i left!
Speaking of comfort, while i lay there the nurse asked me things beyond the normal health battery that crossed over into personal wellness. “Are you employed?” “How would you say your stress levels are?” “On a scale of 0-10, how much pain are you in right now?” And one of the strangest things the nurse asked me was: “Do you feel safe where you live?” Which one could interpret as, “Is your neighborhood kinda sketchy and do you think you can be a bit incapacitated for a week without the worry of having to fend off an attacker or break-in?” Or perhaps an equally unpleasant implication “Is your spouse / partner / parent / roommate abusive or uncooperative?” But maybe this was just a general assessment of “Do you fear having no help or support during your recovery at home or are you safe in the knowledge that you have a loved one or family & friends to help you recuperate?”
The anesthesiologist asked if i’d like a mild sedative but i felt pretty calm and warm and content. Everyone was so pleasant, calm, kind and assuring. The woman who put in my IV was a pro, it didn’t hurt at all.
“Would you like to see your family now before we take you back? It’s almost time,” the nurse said, her eyes motioning to the clock that was 7 minutes from 8am.
“That would be nice,” i said softly and as she walked away i looked beyond her to see that one of the surgery swing doors had a feminine scrolled, handwritten sign taped to it that read “Door To Narnia.” And this made me laugh.
My mother & Joe came back to pat my hand, rub my feet, kiss my forehead and cheeks and assure me before my passage into the back of the wardrobe and on into snow-laden Narnia.
i was wheeled back past a few operating room doors all looking set for procedures, heads wrapped in institution green caps bobbing in and out of the square fields of glass in the doors and finally, there i was, last door on the right. They bumped my hospital bed / gurney against another set below operating lamps and a nice young man with his mask pulled up halfway told me his name, then a nice woman across the way named Tammy said hello, then from my left the surgeon and another nurse came in.
i mentioned i’d like pictures of my gallbladder, which drew a couple strange looks to which i explained, “Hey, i want to see the thing that’s been causing me so much pain. Can i have some of the stones too?”
“We don’t give them out like candy honey,” the nurse to my left quipped, “they usually get sent off to the lab.”
“Well, it’s just that i spent some time making them, so i want to see them too.”
“i hear some people make bracelets and jewelry out of them,” remarked Right Nurse.” i had already thought of this and in fact had joked about it just days before.
Then the male nurse to my right said, “Ok, scoot over to this bed,” while Left Nurse gently instructed, “Move up just a little so your head is on the pillow, your bed is a little lower.”
While i did this, Left Nurse injected something magical into the midsection of my IV and Right Male Nurse put a mask lightly to my nose and mouth with, “Some oxygen?” which seemed mostly a statement but went up a little at the end to form a question.
“Yes, please,” i half-thought and thought nothing else.
There was no counting back from 10 or 100, there was only sleep, then surgery for 45 minutes to an hour, and then i was suddenly awake. None of this drifting back or blurred cinematic visions of white coats flurrying about or a nimbus of faces hovering near me while lights flashed in my eyes checking for response. It was, “Some oxygen?” then, i was wide awake in a bed somewhere in recovery, back in my Bair Paws and feeling amazing. i don’t know what drugs they gave me, but it was more than relief, more than feeling that some offending organ making me sick had been removed. i felt at peace, warm, well-rested, comfortable, not cloudy, no pain, and an oddly light sense of elation. Truly happy.
A nurse picked up the phone at a desk directly across from me. i smiled at her over the tops of my feet. “Yes, she’s very alert,” she reported to someone on the other end.
i was wheeled back to the room in a line of beds where i was first admitted and my mom & Joe came in to see me. it was less than an hour of recovery where i chewed two cups of shaved ice, gulped down 3 apple juices, had two glasses of water and some graham crackers, proved that i could walk across the hall & urinate and i was free to go. A funny little old man cracked corny jokes and wheeled me down to the car where Joe helped me into the passenger seat, we were home before noon, and i rested for a week.
REAL food . . .
My mother & Joe ordered Hawaiian pizza and hot wings that first nite, and sure, i had my juice and water and all that nonsense, but for weeks, i had been craving fried chicken, so i am happy to report i had a slice of pizza with cheese stuffed crust and three little nubby chicken wings just hours after surgery and was SO happy. Nothing like jumpstarting your system by challenging it. Shortly after that i mostly behaved and ate more mild foods: brothy soups, applesauce, cottage cheese, peaches, saltines, tea, gingerale, and managed to destroy a box of graham crackers.
Then my mom would get to cooking and i found myself eating spaghetti and meat sauce, crock-pot slow-cooked pot roast with carrots, potatoes and buttered biscuits, happy, fluffy clouds of 2 scrambled eggs nestled into Franz white bread with a light spread of mayo and cut into little triangles. She made sure i got my protein and ate “real food” as she called it. None of this “organic” shit we usually eat which as everyone knows, is made of ground-up hippies and probably caused my gallbladder to go rogue in the first place. There may be such a thing as eating TOO healthy and not eating some evil stuff once in awhile.
But man, my mother packed this house with 12-packs of three different sodas: Vernors, a Michigan hometown gingerale favorite, Dr. Pepper and Fresca. Then there was a deluge of junk food snacks: three different types of chips, 2 dips, ranch dressing, a box of See’s chocolates, a canister of See’s nuts, a HUGE canister of three flavored popcorns (cheese, butter and caramel), a pound of Twizzler’s red licorice, Raisinettes and Resse’s peanut butter cups that were Christmas Tree shaped. That was just what i took immediate stock of, there was plenty more. i have considered hosting a movie nite or a party just to get RID of some of this!
I’d Like to Introduce You To My Girls, Vicki and Pam . . .
Diet was one concern which seemed to go fine but pain management was a deep worry. i thought for sure that i wouldn’t be able to tolerate the Vicodin, but a few experiments of breaking them in half in the weeks before the surgery proved to be promising and when i came home i simply tapered as the days went and remained a little sore sometimes, but pain free. First two days were every 4-5 hours, days three and four every 6-8, by days 5 & 6 i was taking one at noon and one at midnite, plus a little Motrin for the pain and swelling and by the end of the week and the beginning of next, i was taking ½ a Vicodin at nite to sleep through the nite peacefully.
Though infrequent, my usual fall back sleep aid is Tylenol PM, who i call “Pam,” and just one, because the suggested dosage of two guarantees i won’t be attending anything the next day until after, oh, say 3pm. i also nicknamed my Vicodin, “Vicki.” i only need ½ of her. And the girls now, well, i just keep ’em around for laughs and a good time if i need to just knock myself the fuck out of consciousness for the nite.
Here Kitty, Kitty Or, Taming The Beast . . .
i’ve been introducing food slowly and lightly as a one at a time lineup to my digestion, sort of like tossing bananas and tennis balls and roller skates and live goats into a lion’s den with “here you go – what do you think of THIS?” Experimental interaction. And because what i know of food is occupational, i think of my gallbladder in food & restaurant terms as having been “86ed” or as i said to Joe while pawing through the random generators for the words and distractedly typing on the computer the other day, “my gallbladder’s been deleted.”
To follow that theme – i’m sure it will be awhile before my digestive system reboots & comes back online. And i’m certain that i won’t be able to hork down a bacon cheeseburger and waffle fries without incident anytime soon. i don’t want to piss anything off in there . . . i know very well it’s a first class luge ticket for any food that offends my system currently rewiring itself and trying to figure out why the bile salts storage facility closed down. Sorry, love – it’s the economy. Things are tough all over. Soldier on. Now here’s some Indian Food, some wine, some corn chowder, a fried egg sandwich, some potato chips – oh, no sorry, i take that back. Baked potato chips from now on.
All told, if you find out your gallbladder is angry and you are considering just leaving it in and dealing with it, DON’T! You have to EAT to LIVE, and there was no way i was going to compromise my lifestyle & diet in fear of food and future attacks. i already had the basics and took care of my body, now i just have to bounce all the way back. The incisions are barely anything, one inside my belly-button that you can’t see, one barely the length and width of the edge of my pinkie fingernail, one smaller than the circumference of a pencil top eraser, and the largest one is about a centimeter. That one has character too . . . a little red edge, like its smirking at me which will fade and flatten over time, plus a little kitten whisker edge of a clear, dissolving suture, which i may snip if it doesn’t go away soon.
The cost of this whole adventure via the care of Kaiser Permanente? $14. Two office visits at $5 apiece, $4 for four presecriptions. No cost for the EKG, bloodwork or ultrasound. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Joe. Thank you PSU. Thank you State Of Oregon.
Well, that’s enough for now. i’m sure i have left anyone who made it this far with plenty to digest . . . sorry about that – you can see what occupies my mind these days.
And you’ll just have to forgive me, you see – i’m not all there . . .
It’s not like you haven’t heard from me . . . but i suppose you haven’t heard all the tales and tidbits. i DID just make a cross-country move with my darling husband. So let’s see what i can tell you about what it is to move from Virginia to Oregon with everything you own, a car dragging behind you, plus a landlubbing Bengal Cat to which any confinement in a moving vehicle is a personal affront to be met with vociferous fury . . .
We’ll begin with the end of days: the weekend of Saturday August 23rd was my last day of work, i waited on Joe’s family, we said goodbyes and he sold them his car. Sunday afternoon we were off to a baby shower for my dear friend Megan in Annapolis and a late-night fevered packing session on Sunday which brings us early into Monday . . .
Monday morning we were supposed to pick up our Budget Rental truck. Penske doesn’t do it that far and U-Haul was NOT an option by poor reputation and my friends’ numerous horror stories and breakdown variations on a theme so Budget had our business, begrudgingly we were to find out. Due to some unknown fuckery at the rental shop, we received a phonecall in the morning, informing us that our honkin’ monster truck (24 ft) would be available closer to noon as the current drop-off hadn’t arrived, but that they would call when it was ready. It was verging .. 2pm by the time Joe actually went there in person to experience – more fuckery. Apparently, Larry, Curly, Moe (and possibly Shemp) were not capable of doing anything by hand (filling out forms, figuring out taxes) and the whole Eastern seaboard Budget computer system was apparently mysteriously “broken.” Once it came back online, (and partway through the manual entry) they insisted Joe stay to put it all in the computer. My poor husband, fuming, but controlled did not arrive until 3:30. Luckily we had angels waiting for us.
i don’t know what we would’ve done without Jared and Patrick helping us haul things down and load the truck. i don’t know why we thought we could’ve done it by ourselves; we would’ve had to add another whole day to our trip exhausting ourselves getting everything loaded! Of course, the late truck meant later packing, meant later loading meant later cleaning of the apartment, and we really wanted to be out early evening, get somewhere outside of the DC Beltway morning rush hour, hole up in a little motel and rest, and to then start the trek first thing in the am. Well, it wasn’t until after midnight, when we finally packed the vacuum and cleaning supplies. i gave Odin some PetCalm to ease his nerves (but it didn’t, much) while we drove over an hour (an eternity with howling feline) to Hagerstown, Maryland.
A word about the Motel 6 . . . sketch. Okay, lots of snaky S words. Like, skeevy, scary, bars on the window where the night clerk sits, sketchity spookville. We were only here because they had a pet friendly policy, not to save on any moving expenses as they were covered by Joe’s university job. A quick survey of the area (and the big sign about NO TRUCKS) and it was clear we had to park the moving truck (24 ft + now the extra 10ft or more with my car in a flatbed tow) at the shopping mall lot across the way. We figured it was ok to do since other trucks were parked similarly.
But just to be sure, Joe asked the clerk, “Is it ok to park over there?” motioning to the direction of the trucks.
The clerk offered a nervous, and falsely reassuring answer, “yeah – a security guard patrols there every hour or so. Any room preference?”
“Where we can see the truck,” Joe said plainly.
So, Odin got settled quickly (he can bed down anywhere, he just hates MOVING in a vehicle), chowed down, did some encouraging kitty business in the newly re-located litterbox and perched himself at the highest point in the room, the tv, to survey his new domain. We pulled the scratchy, toilet paper thin bedsheets over us and commenced sleeping into morning one of our cross-country adventure.
The next morning, it was the breakfast buffet at Shoney’s which smelled like greasy, eggy-bacon heaven floating atop pancake clouds; evil and delicious but the type of meal one could not hork down shamelessly every morning without regret or consequence. Our waitress was pleasant, quick and dirty with the coffee cups and water and plodded through the standard “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today.” There wasn’t any fresh fruit, unless you counted all the sugary canned ones for pancake toppings, but there were three types of gravy to include chipped beef and four types of potatoes – all fried.
And boy howdy it hurt my soul; there were some very unhealthy, ungainly, unhappy people milling around the breakfast bar. People shuffled up with oxygen tanks and walkers, sort of a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest revisited meets Dawn Of The Dead, and honestly, forgive me for this description, but between all the medical equipment, the staggering display of obesity, and the general slow-moving malaise owing to an early morning it was not an easy square to maneuver. Conversely, the buffet was patrolled and replenished by a pasty, skinny, pock-marked, shifty-eyed, surlier than Satan, quick-handed, would be mass-murderer type, luckily armed only with a few spatulas. i hesitated to ask for anything that might come off sounding like a snooty, pain in the ass dietary concern, should Jethro James Manson, Jr. decide this was his morning to “waste ’em all.”
The bill didn’t amount to much, as we had a per diem for food in our moving expenses, so Joe left the waitress a $10 tip.
“Whoa, what’s that say?” the cash register jockey drawled, incredulously.
Joe is lovely, but his hand-writing is difficult and deeply codified, plus the pen was a little dry, so i assumed the numbers were hard to make out.
“Joe went back over the numbers in pen and told him “Ten dollars.”
“Wow! That’s a great tip.” This was the lottery to this guy.
As a waitress in fine dining where the average low end tip is a straight $20, this statement made me terribly sad, but i could see the grubby, wrinkled, single bills and piles of change emptied from pockets and cup holders, piled on dirty tables under brown coffee mugs as we walked by, looking more like several police searches than gratuities. We must’ve made, “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today”‘s day.
We wound our way through Appalachia through the first of many many miles of corn on our way to Indianapolis.
What should’ve been an 8-hour drive grew into a 12-hour nitemare of three terrible realizations. One – we had one angry, frightened, inconsolable cat (no matter how much herbal tranquilizer administered) who slept for 20 minutes and howled and climbed windows, dashboard and floorboard the other 40. Two – a mysterious idiot light came on depicting a wrench and an oilcan. This to me meant “You’re fucked, Tin Man.” After one of the first tiffs my sweet husband and i ever had about how to handle this second crap-laden fact, we decided the best course was to pull over and call the Budget help line. After being jockeyed through the phone system of choices, we finally pushed enough numbers and spoke to an informed human service agent who wasn’t reading verbatim from the “How-To Talk To The Pissed And Stranded” manual. She spoke to an actual mechanic who assured us it was simply an early warning oil change interval and that we could tell the delivery place on the other end that it came on and needs the service. They even told us how to disable it, but we never did. And finally, Three – with footnotes a) & b) were realizations we made about the truck. a) it laughed at and evaporated fuel – 5 miles to the gallon. b) uphill grades any steeper than say 4%, with the pedal to the metal resulted in the hazard lights being flicked on and a maximum speed of 35mph.
After we finally arrived in Indianapolis to my sister’s place, hair matted, mood dampened, cat howling, with furrowed brow, exhausted and hungry as hostages, we came around to the idea that we had to add a day to our ambitious arrival time. This was decided over a fabulous pork dinner and several ears of corn on the cob plus two bottles of wine. We also decided (and thankfully, my sister and her husband agreed) to leave Odin to stay with them for a week for a later flight retrieval operation that my poor Joe volunteered for. It was clear that completing the rest of the trip with kitty in the cab would make for a longer, more difficult, harrowing and stressful journey – for all of us. Let’s just say that Odin is not easily calmed or sedated, by natural, herbal, homeopathic, psychological, or pharmacological means. On the two-leg (no direct flights from Indy) trip home, he even managed to surf above the double dose of chicken flavored kitty Valium and maintained a constant meow from under the seat, save for the last hour. Joe reports that he made lots of friends on the planes. When Odin did finally arrive, he was all hyped up. Apparently, diazepam, instead of having the nice calming effect, can cause a paradoxical reaction and instead make a human (or bad kitty) wildly alert and excitable. So Odin, above the normal exploratory passes that go along with an animal in new surroundings, paced, mewed, jumped from window to window and trotted from room to room with a lack of coordination and on wobbly legs until pretty much the next morning when he was able to settle in and have a good long sleep. And he’s doing fine now . . .
But back to the adventures of the Janda’s cross-country excursion . . .
Getting fuel was always exciting. Finding diesel in Hellhole, Nebraska often required the help of my fancy new Instinct phone’s GPS Navigation, then it was determining whether we could get the moving truck under, around and out of places without jackknifing, tearing off the trailer or bringing down awnings and taking out gas pumps. EVERY stop, which was more frequent with the awesome fuel consumption, required this exercise in mathematical probability and turning radius.
The cities moved on as I downloaded the local weather. Amazing to me that i could find where we were and what was close by to eat or refuel by the help of Jenny (the name i have dubbed my cell phone’s navigational voice, as in: “Jenny Jenny, where do i turn now? 867-530 ni-eeee-ine.” and yes, Iain . . . a tip o’ the hat to you as well on the name.) Lore City, OH – Grass Lake, MI – Normal, IL – Exira, IA, Waverly, NE – Grand Island, NE. Oh, which by the way, appears to be in the center, like a bullseye dart throw at the US map. However, Grand Island is, as far as i can tell, neither “grand” nor an “island” and is not even remotely near water. Or culture. Or . . .
The waitstaff at the local Perkins gave me very confused looks when, upon having my own oolong tea, i simply requested a pot of hot water, a pitcher of milk and a cup.
“So, you want a glass of milk, like orange juice?” Lloyd asked.
“No, i want a small container, for milk instead of cream, like for coffee,” i tried to explain. He brought me a pitcher of milk normally reserved for syrup and a plastic carafe big enough for 8 cups of coffee but filled with hot water and still, sadly, no vessel to put any of my tea in. 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad i supposed. i was finally able to flag down another waitress to ask for a coffee mug since i was certain tea cups were not to be had. forget about latte mugs too in case i wanted to make a BIG cup of tea . . .
Douglas, WY – Laramie, WY . . .
In Rock Springs, Wyoming we stayed on Elk Street at the “Outlaw Inn” Best Western, ordered my first breakfast in bed and watched my first episode of “It’s Me Or The Dog.” We had traveled all nite through so much flatland (called the Great Plains for a reason, clearly – they go on plainly forever) and when we woke up, we were surprised that we found ourselves in the desert. Rocky, golden stoned climbs and scrubby green & brown foliage dotted the hillsides and ground like so many funny little clown wigs left out in the sun after the carnival left town and never came back. But here’s what surprised me. Sure, we laughed at first, because the winds picked up and there were some honest to goodness TUMBLEWEEDS moving across the road which to me, signals true desolation and nowhereness. Then the sky grew ominous, black and bruised and instead of being hot and blazing, it rained through most of our trip through the desert and on our way as we dipped barely into Utah north of Salt Lake and on into Idaho.
Hefener, UT – Caldwell, ID . . .
And can i just say here, forgive me if you grew up in, lived or currently live in Idaho, because, i know the northern part is beautiful, but damn. Boise proper, from the road and some of the rare farms and outlying suburbs hurt a little to look at. It was hard for me to imagine where you would live, where you would work, how far you had to drive, the manner and means by which you’d survive. Strange domiciles huddled like hungry masses, bumped up against and thrown together in a manner almost suburban, but more like third world dilapidated houses of clap-trap metal sheds and sheets, some barely wooden, functional farmlike lean-tos. Meant for animals. Weathervanes on top seemed an unnecessary after thought. A spritely windchime tinkling and floating off a broken fence made me sad. i hesitate to say soul-crushing, but it did approach that. Once, after a batch of mean road food, we rolled down the windows to umm . . . get some fresh air, and were assaulted by an even worse smell. and here’s where tasting food and wine and trying to disseminate spices, essences, flavors and smells comes in, though i hope to never come across any food or beverage of the sort. i can only describe the smell in Idaho as a dead squirrel/rodent rolled in mocha and put on a pyre of leaves. It had a pungent, smoky, mocha, sweet, rotting meat, dead, acrid, burnt, dry smell that was enough to make us prefer our own flatulence. damn.
Crossing over into Oregon, we stayed in Baker City at the Oregon Trail Motel & Restaurant to prepare for the last leg of our journey into Portland. What a funny, little old, almost stagecoach town. The room was cheap, and included free breakfast the next morning, which was delightful and a good thing, because our first dinner in Oregon, was when we arrived there near closing time to have a most disappointing steak dinner. flavorless, tough, square shaped strip steak (definitely frozen and hauled in), grey-tinged green beans, sad and soggy (definitely canned and not sautéed), and a dusty baked potato (the best part, sadly) which could’ve benefitted from a good wash and less time in foil, so it was easier to strip it out to eat. we probably should’ve had to the fried chicken dinner special that the kooky local ordered when he bellied up to the counter, because he ordered a second plate. but then again, “special” to me in the far restaurant outreaches does not mean “fresh today, on the mind of the chef,” it means, “get this scary shit out of the kitchen before it violates health code.”
Speaking of health code . . . the not so sanitary, no sneeze-guard, precursory salad bar on a small wheeled cart had a threatening sign tacked to it about allowing only one visit with no sharing and one plate per person limit. This plate, by the way, had a 4in diameter, enough to hold a slice of bread with some overhang. and the usual sad green fare of anemic looking iceberg lettuce, limp, shredded carrots, sulfurous purple cabbage, some unidentifiable, unnaturally colored, jiggling gelatinous something, creamy thick dressings, crushed into sawdust croutons, and luckily for me, some watermelon. a rare one-off fruit treat with more crunch, water, and possibly more nutrients than the iceberg lettuce.
i know – i am spoiled. of course, i did not expect to pass through the middle of the heartland, the dairyland, the plains, the land of plenty and to have a diverse and delicate gourmet experience, but being that close to corn, vegetables, grains and cows, i had my standards set high enough that i might actually receive something on a plate that tasted farm raised and had enough color to shine through the blue pallored spectrum of fluorescent lighting that haunts every diner. i realize, i may come off as a food snob, but more i find myself grateful. it occurs to me how fortunate i am to work in an industry and now live in a city and state where culinary excellence, even in the simplest of places, hinges on fresh, whole, organic, local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources. you can taste the difference, people. tomatoes that aren’t pale pink, mealy and flavorless. Strawberries that although smaller than the grocery bought flats, stain the fingers and taste sweet and heavenly. i made a soup last week with these huge gnarly carrots, just pulled from the ground, bundled with the tops on and even after boiling were the most amazing flavorful carrots i’ve ever eaten.
So on the tip of food et al, we’ve been hitting the wine bars, the sake bars, the breweries, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, dinner here and there and lots cooking at home. a few weeks back, my friend Tiffany and i went to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden where we had a traditional tea and ate a red bean mooncake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Joe and i have already met new people and are definitely getting some socializing done. on one such event, i even canned peaches and tomatoes w/ garlic and green peppers for sauces. first months out here out here and were discovering how to compost, rethinking everything i throw away, recycling the hell out of EVERYTHING i touch, and putting food into Ball jars for the winter! holy granola! stop me if i cease wearing deodorant, let my hair dread, get a nose or lip piercing, go on road trips to support jam bands and start practicing hacky sack in my backyard, k?
One of the prettiest parts of the trip – The Columbia Gorge . . .
i’m the impatient type. i’m the girl who wants to feel established and settled the minute i set foot in a new situation. i crave quick learning and acclimation and seem to give myself a bit of hell if i don’t have all my systems, rituals and routines in place. Joe’s sister, Laura reminded us (me, really, who needs the patience and the temperance) that we are setting up a HOME, not just a house or living space, so i should just ease into it without spazzing out too much. but yes, the “house” is mostly setup and the “home” bit is starting to warm in me. we have been sleeping fitfully in a new king-sized bed, (Odin’s all about it too!) the weather has been stellar to mild, with yes, some rain here and there though we’ve apparently entered the rainy season. But Indian Summer came and went in full-swing (it was in the 90’s a few days in the first weeks of arrival and not a drop of rain) and i am certainly enjoying my little garden, deck space, cool mornings, quiet breakfasts and tea in a sunny kitchen, dinners & wine with my Joe and friends. it’s all been quite good. And i know it’s going to be at least a year until all things truly settle, i have a solid base of friends, a job i enjoy and can get all the way around socially and physically without getting lost.
As for our immediate locale – there’s a little coffee house nearby and as we walk down to it, we get a clear view of Mt. Hood, and off to the left, Mt. St. Helens (which i read are two “active” stratovolcanos, kind of “exciting”). there are pear trees along the walk, overflowing and dropping in the grass – ah, the spoils. In our yard, we have roses lining the wooden fence, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, fennel, ferns, lavender, rosemary, sage, hydrangea and little bursts of wild flowers. In fact, this year i am putting in Spring bulbs and next year, i think i will revive the tomatoes, put in cucumbers and plant squash.
i put out hummingbird feeders and they’ve come and i put out a regular seed feeder and the loudass squawking Scrub and Stellar Jays (plus some sweet Chickadees) have depleted it twice. the squirrels are plentiful – one (or a party of several) gnawed through our Comcast dropline to the house, so we had to have our internets fixed the first few days here. they also chase and skitter across the length of our roof top and you can hear the entire scrabbling pursuit from room to room. This drives Odin wild! Bad little tree rats!
Joe got his haircut at this little local barbershop on the corner by this big brawny tough dude named Justice who had two teensy-weensy grey kittens scurrying about that his friend dumped on him and now he has seemingly been forced to adopt. Their names are Guns & Roses. seriously. And, as recent pictures depict, i also whacked my hair off. it’s a bit curly and untame unless i brush it down some and straighten it, but i like the shortness. Hair clips are my friends.
The fine people i worked with in Virginia bought Joe and i a most original going away gift. A hot air balloon ride over Yamhill wine country which ends in a catered hot, champagne/mimosa brunch! We’re going to try to fit that in while the weather holds . . . but, there is always Spring and Summer next year.
Joe started work on September 15th, and me, after hitting craigslist like a whore, i’ve had a few bites and started a job that’s going to require endurance of some growing pains, but i won’t bore you with those details here. i’m not one to talk shop and air dirty laundry of how i trade time for money; it’s one of those questions i’ve always hated and dislike answering. “So – what do you do?” Of course, i grew a bit bored being a lady of leisure but there are some things i loved about it, like seeing my husband during normal evening hours for dinner in or out and watching or reading things together. Life moves slower here, hours go slower. Life is more leisurely it seems, and it’s not just lack of full-on social or work obligations either, it seems to be an engrained mindset.
On September 23rd, Joe and i celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. We had a low key day of salad, pizza and beer, some board games with some rosé champagne, some tv time, some private time, and some blissful sleep. The beer and first bottle of bubbly did us in, so we didn’t get to some really nice champagne gifted to us last year, but there was always lunch the next day . . . and me, i never need a celebratory excuse to crack the bubbly.
Well, two things i am looking forward to out here – Halloween and voting. Both bring a certain level of ghoulish fright and giddy excitement. It’s safe to say that by lawn and houses alone, it appears that Oregon is largely an Obamanation. (heh!) Voter registration was made pretty easy for us: they got me in front of an organic market out here, and Joe at the Saturday Farmer’s market. It was convenient and fast, done by the last four of my SS (since i don’t have an OR license yet) and the voter’s card arrived days later. Apparently, we send all of our ballots in by mail here, which surprised me. i was really hoping to go into a secret squirrel booth for my first voting experience. But hey – no nervousness about machines to manipulate and no hanging chads. i wonder if it’s a scantron?
And if you need to go back a few lines, yes . . . that’s right. MY FIRST. in all my 36 years i have never been registered to vote. Never cared for the process, and living near DC never endeared me to the constant conversation, the dogged preoccupation nor the convocation. (Apologies to my friends for whom it is an occupation.) But i am doing it this year. i am fortunate to survive and do well in as they say, “times like these,” and it occurs to me that being politically active when it counts is by extension, a survival tactic to hold onto all the ideals in life that brought Joe and i out here in the first place.
Oregon is already proving itself as some manner of heaven and a lifestyle i can love.
So come visit us! We have a nice guest room in the basement, right next to the wine cellar.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote the prose poem The Invitation after returning one night from a party where she had found herself frustrated by the level of superficiality that these events often function at: ‘I just sat down and wrote my responses to all the usual questions that people ask – Where do you live? Who do you know? What do you do for a living? And I wrote what I really wanted to know, not just from others, but also from myself in a sense.’
Every so often i revisit this poem to remind myself the qualities i value in a mate and the ways in which love and companionship can be measured and cherished.
This – especially, on Valentine’s Day . . .
::: ::: ::: :::
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
“You only fall in love once, the rest is merely practice
to make sure your heart can take it.”
“A great proportion of the wretchedness which has embittered married life,
has originated in the negligence of trifles. Connubial happiness is a thing
of too fine a texture to be handled roughly. It is a sensitive plant, which will
not bear even the touch of unkindness; a delicate flower, which indifference
will chill and suspicion blast. It must be watered by the showers of tender
affection, expanded by the cheering glow of kindness, and guarded by the
impregnable barrier of unshaken confidence. Thus matured, it will bloom
with fragrance in every season of life, and sweeten even the loneliness of
~ Thomas Sprat
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird
I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
~ George Eliot
From: Joseph & Andrea Janda To: ALL Subject: autumn equinox celebration Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2007 15:13:43 -0400
Howdy all. Been a while since we’ve seen some of you.
So Andrea and I have contemplated the extensive nonsense that would go into a proper wedding, and we are both lukewarm about the time and expense and public show aspects of such an affair. We want to have a big party with friends and family to celebrate, and we’ve pegged that party to next year, between May and October. More precise details will emerge in the next few months.
In the meantime, we’re eloping to home. Next Sunday, which also happens to be the autumn equinox, we will be married by an approved Fairfax Country celebrant in the comfort of our own apartment, possibly in our pajamas. A courthouse wedding without the courthouse, by a woman who was kind enough to agree to come sign the requisite papers without insisting on any kind of ceremony, god-speech, or tepid couples counseling. At 6pm, we’ll have a little autumn soiree (apple pie, apple cider, pumpkin ale, cheeses, and of course more wine than is likely good for us) for friends and family who are within practical driving distance. E-vite to follow.
Well wishes welcome – no gifts.
Talk to you all soon,
Hello Lovelies . . .
Joe encapsulated it best above, he’s a man of many clever, warming words, which is why, you know – i’m marrying him and all.
Please don’t feel obligated to attend or sad if you can’t, you can even call if you’d like! Note – this is a marriage, not a wedding . . . that will come soon enough to include everyone. This little event is also NOT a VIP members only list of invites . . . our apartment is small – we really wanted it to be no fuss, but also wanted it to be symbolic and private. Upon further discussion, we realized, we don’t want to upset anyone and keep it to all ourselves, thus you’re getting this dual-email / letter so you’re not left out!
We are so happy and very much in love and really wanted to be each other’s on our own terms and before the year’s end. September 23rd, the autumn equinox, was the day we had originally planned to be married and so – we’re following through with that. the “real” wedding next year might fall on that day as well, just to recapitulate the event – both a first time for you, and an anniversary & affirmation for us.
Hope this note finds you well and happy . . .
This is the formal press release . . .
of course, we’re going to piss off the traditionalists and a precious few, but this upcoming first step was really for Joe and i. we wanted to be married on the first day of Fall, so we willed it to happen, with or without a “reception” party or anyone’s necessary approval.
kind of takes the pressure off, really.
to us, the marriage is not the orgasm of the relationship, it’s not a culmination of events and a downslide after. that part is in all practicality, just the legalities of the state – a marriage license. i already know i want to commit to Joe forever, now the Commonwealth of Virginia and Fairfax County knows it too. my friends and family have probably figured it out by now, but i urge them NOT to attach too much to how and when i am going to choose to celebrate it so as not to injure anyone’s feelings.
as for the rest – there’s too much treachery in the idea of marriage and what it means to have a wedding. i am not trying to reinvent the fucker, or insult anyone who by family pressure or by personal taste feels they need to hit all the buzzers, in fact, i think all that normal celebration and successive points of play are just lovely – i have attended many many many weddings and know what to do at them. most people do. despite the procedural expectations that is practically engrained in the culture of traditional American weddings (religious or civil), i have even had fun at them, but still – it’s not what i want.
i know precisely what a wedding does NOT mean to me: a horrible dj who insists on the chicken dance, the electric slide and the macarena, nor does it mean sliding a garter belt up my leg in public to “the stripper,” standing in queues for food, or a rushed event where i hardly get to eat wandering with a frozen glazed smile while intrusive flash bulbs go off in my face all day. i am not a photo op, i am a person who loves the people i know and i know they want to see me and my beloved and capture the day for themselves too, but that’s not my idea of relaxing and beautiful, that’s exhausting! and i apologize to anyone for whom that sounds harsh, but i prefer a more subdued and simple affair. and the MONEY shelled out and the arguments that erupt over these things! i won’t even begin on those topics . . .
all the Pavlovian things that people drool over and actually EXPECT at these events: clinking glasses for kisses, tossing bouquets, head tables, cutting the cake after dinner and smashing food into each other’s faces, big, glorious, highly-anticipated, clunky speeches that everyone dislikes writing and is nervous to hear. these items are NOT going to occur at the “community” version of our wedding later. so please don’t expect to be asked to perform and don’t expect to sit, beg and roll over.
we won’t be having a standup wedding party of bridesmaids, so no women in my life will feel slighted or looked over or have to buy a standard, necessary, one-style-fits-none hideous dress worn only once. we will acknowledge everyone integral to the event by their mere invite and presence. sure, mom and dads (who apply) and those who have most closely witnessed the relationship grow will get heavier nods but that’s where the supposed VIP list ends.
we are trying very hard to de-emphasize the “wedding/marriage” aspect of the day coming up in a week. as far as witnessing, no one will see us exchange vows. there aren’t any, really. the celebrant is coming solely to sign papers at 2pm, Joe and i will privately exchange rings and a simple writing project we have agreed to compose for each other, which we will not see from each other until the day. i will assume his last name, we will . . . you know – take a little nap for a few hours, then have people over to eat at 6pm or so.
when the public wedding occurs down the road, we will have a slightly larger celebration that everyone can attend that is well-announced. on this Sunday, we just want to nosh on some food and see some friends and not keep it selfishly for our own. it is more one of our usual roving dinner / wine parties, with a little extra impetus for the gathering.
you know us little heathens, a pagan wedding suits us. i mean, initially, we weren’t going to tell anyone. we were going to just marry in secret and trek out to the woods to see autumn begin and cook dinner and make love and fall asleep joined in one additional way we hadn’t been before. so this Sunday is our compromise.
i’m not a princess or a virgin and i bring no cattle, no land or a dowry, so white is out.
The single life. one, long, nocturnal highway punctuated by a series of sort of happy zen moments, mostly spent, understood and eventually, at the end of the day, savoured alone. a long rebuilding and recollecting of the self-same parts gone missing, redistributed amongst friends and the short-lived lovers who would not, could not pass muster. being single is like constantly advertising the “me” product when it’s still in upgrades while also having to sell insurance on it. “Hey – look, if you don’t buy this ever-developing thing and protect your investment, it could end up broken/ruined/dead. and no one wants that to happen.”
Some people are never better, never more attractive, self-contained and complete than when they are single. still others are needy, greedy vacuous, emotional suckholes of doom, spinning out like a constant slow-motion car wreck that you can’t help but turn away from. or watch intently. They hang on the next lover or emotional contact like their last meal – slathering on the butter and scraping up the crumbs even after the bread and the baker has up and fled. lust-dealers. killers. short-term serial monogamists who poach at any small game instead of waiting for great hunt and the big (right) catch.
Still, for me, the single life was a strange and glorious one marked with self-discovery and self-satisfaction and the time to write it all down and reflect. and i write this now, not to scare anyone into thinking i miss being single because, in oh-so-many-ways, i don’t. also, i do not intend to make mean or light of what single people, especially women endure to find a suitable lifelong love and all the tiresome expectations and pressures that go along with it. i write it now more as an epitaph to the life I led before and left life, singular, for life, coupled.
The coupled life finds its satisfying breath, its reflective homage basking in the light of the other person, and thus, like a mirror, in the best reflection of the self. “hey baby, you make me not only feel good, but look good too. in fact – i like the way i love because i love you and i love me too.”
Both exercises in singularity and coupledom allow for the same Narcissus to bloom, and the Echo of the self to end. There is within all of us, simultaneous urges: we want desperately to be noticed and needed and also, not be too conspicuous and to be left the hell alone. As one, you can find peace and stillness but, i’ve discovered, you can find it also as two and it’s a lot more meaningful and fun when you can turn to the other person and exclaim, “wow, did you SEE that shit?” suddenly, all those universal signs you look for, all the hidden text and life’s directional maps are no longer for one to decode. the synchronous workings of a gorgeous love affair and the cosmic stamps of approval come trickling at first. they begin in days long conversation where you discover all the uncanny similarities in taste and preoccupations and decide you’ve been separated for too long and are just now making up for lost time. then the fullness of it comes flooding in under the guise of divine and perfect love making and you find yourself practicing and partaking of each other until you fuse together. it’s a blissful time of unraveling.
When you’re wrapped up in your oneness, it seems like everyone knows your business, while in duplicity, like a twin-secret, only the other knows. or whomever you tell. having everyone know your business makes for good storytelling, though. every nite of your life is being courted at a costume ball of strangers on Halloween. which makes dating rather like trick-or-treating. and you think you’ve arrived because the band knows your name and they play your song when you make an appearance and the bartender knows your drink and you find yourself eating candy necklaces off the roving necks of a gaggle of girls in a bachelorette party, hoisting blow up dolls named Ramone over your head, drinking free champagne and sent drinks, guessing the weight of a lobster and winning dinner, ghost-chasing, line-dancing, boardwalking, tripping over the sidewalk and losing your glass flip-flop and the Prince Charming purported to return that missing shoe turns out instead to be your slightly annoyed neighbor who heard your giggly drunk ass cry wee wee wee all the way home and now stands on your doorstep, waking you from your mean hangover if only to be satisfied to see your face, swollen with sleep now just as disturbed as his was. and that’s just one Saturday nite at the bar. oh dear. how very common.
All wild nites not-withstanding, i worried for a time that i was, as i am fond of saying, slowly “cultivating my crazy cat-lady mystique.” luckily one of the qualifiers is four or more cats, so having only one, i was down a few felines. i never feared i might not be taking myself seriously and having too much fun – i feared that i would take myself TOO seriously, and dive headlong into a career of sorts and dry up inside, reverting instead to buying my own chunk of real estate and feathering my nest, collecting things and blocking out every chance a man would walk willingly into my life or personal lair of accomplishment and acquisitions. i kept my life wide open in hopes that i would be more malleable and mutable when i did find love.
This philosphy of life and my adherence to it developed partially after visiting the home of Madison. My friend Marcy was house sitting for “Madison,” who lives in this sort of, as best as i can describe, Victorian home in Annapolis just a few blocks from where i used to live. Here’s the picture: a fine array of authentic, extremely antiquated French Provinical furniture including wing back chairs, burgundy crush velvet couches and throw pillows that have undoubtedly housed and fed generations of dust mites since 1865 which now sit cool and still like taxidermied trophies. i kept imaging all the smallish bodies that have swooned at their bindings and draped themselves across the chairs and sofas and wondered if it’s me, despite my narrow frame, that would make the legs finally give and render one of them no longer sitworthy.
The bathroom boasted plates from old nature books of flowers, the walls and tables displayed photos of ancestors that may or may not have been hers. vellum lamps with scenes of indeterminable French countrysides and waltzing partners lit the rooms with the dim yellow of sallow skin. vanity tables with wash basins & pitchers sat dusty, unused and waiting, as did perfectly displayed bone china tea sets and house plants that looked like they’ve spent some time traveling and growing in many many windows. even the dishes that sat behind the glass cabinets like ladies in waiting in the only modern room, the newly remodeled kitchen, were in contrast, quite old.
Although warm looking in texture and color, the house was more at museum and mausoleum than a collection of sitting rooms. at any time, i expected Abraham Lincoln or Elizabeth Barrett Browning or some long dead ghost to traipse through the room, straighten their suit jacket or skirt, sit down with a swan-like flourish and engage me in parlour talk. After all, mourning and preparation for burial of the deceased were occasions for such a place, the parlour which we now call the “living” room. Being there amongst all the antiquities was a transporting feeling, time out of mind, but NOT in that way that a room textured in burlap and velvet and heavy silk and gold framed photos and plants should. it’s more like you have just crossed the forbidden velvet rope in a historical period museum display and sat down in your dusty blue jeans and wiped your funnel cake and ice cream coated hands on the drapes and marveled at how dainty and formal everything was.
It felt sacrilege to have the tiny tv on in the room, which i think might’ve been black and white, but perhaps i am embellishing here. It was tuned (poorly and perhaps not by cable) to CSI, but Marcy insisted on finishing the episode about the triple homicide, which also made my mind wander to who may have been killed around this furniture and if black lights would reveal blood or cat piss or bone fragments or . . . so i suggested we turn off the tv after and listen to the new Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine which worked well for atmosphere what with its galloping calliope sounds and carnivalesque piano and spare strings and bell-like instrumentations.
Lyrics came pointedly,
“If you don’t have a date,
Go out and sit on the lawn
And do nothing.
‘Cause it’s just what you must do
And nobody does it anymore . . .”
While the music played, i made do with the tea to enhance the mood and we thumbed through magazines and books and sat quietly listening.
Madison has two cats – Lili, a squat, rotund, grey, black and white tabby with bright, gold eyes like doubloons and a very timid voice. Meow comes out a squeaky, whispered “meert.” Then there’s Henry. A lion lord, red, furry fuck of a cat. Henry decided we were great friends and so Marcy observed and laughed (thankful it was not her this time) as he climbed the back of the couch, sat behind my head, purred directly in my ear, then began to “groom” me. He would grab a mouthful of my hair and bite at it, like a little monkey, then pull it through his teeth and gnash a bit. And he’s strong – so my head went back some with his tugs. Really amusing, a little unsettling, and oddly relaxing too.
i hope Marcy is not offended that i should offer up her long-single and very successful, well-educated, well-read and well-traveled friend to the chopping block as an example of the woman i was most afraid of becoming. Because re-reading the above sentence, most of the qualifiers seem pretty desirable and difficult to attain ideals, but concentrate on the introductory statement – “long-single.” something went just a little horribly wrong there. Madison, upon meeting was not so much the graceful, distinguished lady at court in her home as she was the shrewd and tense rabbit, quick on her heels and ready to bite, with little provocation. i wondered had she been married? had she any children? i mean, she didn’t need to have any historical evidence of men in her life, was she instead just a closeted or outed lesbian? was she just unhappy or happy being alone? how did she afford all this strangely lavish but lovely nonsense that padded her home? did she actually sit at that vanity table and comb her hair 300 strokes until it was a groomed horse tail or 500 strokes later, a fine, fox pelt ?
i padded out the door that nite into a light and thought-provoking drizzle and thought about old things, like writing letters to send to friends the old-fashioned way. i even purchased a wax seal with a golden bumblebee and some silver sealing wax.
i actually like sending letters and cards covered in stickers and random doodles or decorations. sometimes it is artwork or pasted text of my own or words cut out from places. the recipients always enjoy it and it’s a nice labor of love to send something homemade to friends. the art of letter writing is not dead, it is just somewhat supplanted by email and phonecalls, so i like the exercise of making a compact hello and keeping it light and cheery with a little bit of news, anecdote, story, mention of old, good times and promise of new ones. and always . . . always love at the end.
i have these friends who we tell each other that we love one another at the closing of letters and phonecalls, not just when we do something nice that pleases us. i’m always so happy when i reach the point where we can express that with people we aren’t actually tethered to sexually and mean love not as salve and bandage or frosting and fluff or wax seal of official business and stature of the relationship that when forgotten to be said or non-exchangeable or refundable becomes grounds for hurt feelings. there is proper etiquette for courting, but it’s all long since vanished so we should all just shrug and give into loving with abandon.
it’s easy to stay frozen in time, to accumulate goodness and sameness, to work on a theme, to breed familiarity and then forget to stay in touch with the current. it’s much harder to start over and reinvent and reinterpret and rework and redecorate. well, unless you consider Madison’s house, then yes – that place could use some new, infused love. unconditional, wildly colorful, moist, biker leathered and Victorian laced, ginger-flavored, spicy, whip-cream, lathered love.
Because damn, if you don’t use it, the source of the well runs dry, sister. and people start dredging up the old names, and tossing them out of the bucket, even for a modern single woman: Spinster, Old Maid, Crazy Cat Lady, Witch. i certainly didn’t want to find myself walking along and suddenly hear a tinkling, clattering sound as my shriveled up cooter dropped out and skittered along the pavement like a wheat penny. “This belong, to you madam?” “Why yes, it did, but i’ve forgotten all about it dear sir! thank you ever so much for reminding me.”
And if you get to that point, honey, close enough to need whetting, they’ll be no more fucking around – it’s time that you had a ravishing laid upon in the manner of a mongol horde. And if you’re wondering how the mongolians do it, they don’t barbeque you before they screw you, it’s done in big groups, with horses. just like some of the freakier Victorians did as a backlash to all that propriety.
But it’s ok – i’m no stranger to odd voices and old muses. i should explain sometime about how i see (channel) writing and how i have a few special guest stars who visit and stand in and they have very distinct voices. one muse who occasionally enters the vessel is a familiar – she’s that sloppy, silly little tart who has no regard for punctuation and lays in bed and eats chocolate covered shortbread cookies and gives me pimples from all the sugar and likes the smell of lavender and of rose water because it reminds her of Victorian times and flush, pinched cheeks and corsets and outrageous shoes defying height and comfort and daisies and lace doilies and hard candy in crystal dishes and salt water taffy from trips to the boardwalk and somehow, she does always come back around to sugar and scent and will stay up to watch the sunrise to prove a point. once she told me to write:
“i like watching a sunrise as it goes from a bruised black-blue purple, to cranberry red, to a smoky salmon color, and then onto a misty yellow, like the inside of a lemon rind with patches of high white, then transitioning back to pale blue. It’s like peeling back the layers of a foreign fruit or pushing something inside out until it yields the thing you know it has tucked away and want to see. Sky surgery. Post-mortem of a long, dark, tangled enchanted night.”
And since i met Joe, he’s been my twin half sharing many long, enchanted evenings. some to include firesides and brandy and all the finery and a spot of world travel and a good amount of wine and a multiple spots of tea. i haven’t written in so long, yet – so much life has happened. and over the series of a few installments, so your eyes don’t hurt and my topic doesn’t wander off course, i’m about to tell you . . . as a newly reformed single-minded but deliciously happy Spindle Maid at the loom.