Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meta-Post: 500

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks have been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned...

This statistic is courtesy of the New York Times (via the Union-Tribune) from June 14th, a timely feature since I've recently been pondering the practice of blogging myself, and this post is one I consider a milestone: my 500th.

7.4 million out of 133 million is a small percentage, right? Yet the article further clarifies that most of the traffic is for a much smaller subset--50,000 to 100,000 of those 7.4 million are getting all the love. Amongst that group, maybe 10 are making money and harvesting notoriety. I kid about the 10, but I know the number is shockingly (or maybe it doesn't shock you?) low.

When Julie Powell decided to blog about her quest to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking in one calendar year (the subsequent book, Julie and Julia, will become a movie this summer) the blogosphere was still in its infancy. And by "infancy" I mean like six years ago. Weird to think that posting a private diary on the internet could become commonplace so quickly, but that's the technological age for you.

When I read about Julia's blog, I thought I'd found my calling. I mean, I don't know anything about French cooking, but I figured I could write movie reviews, and...other stuff. It would be like my own little column. At the time, I was about to adopt a baby from China--surely that would provide some lively subject matter. Little did I know that "mommy blogging" was one of the fastest-growing niches in the blogging world. This would become abundantly clear when a friend suggested me for a KPBS show on "mommy blogs" in May 2006, when I was still quite new to the game (mothering and blogging.) One of the three guests makes a nice living from her blog, and since I've just told you how rare that is, you know I was in illustrious company just by sheer, dumb luck.

Nothing really changed after that. I kept on writing my little (and not-so-little) posts and some really, really nice and patient people left encouraging comments when I was done. I know these are really nice and patient people, since most of them have no need to butter me up, as I can't do a thing for them. That is, besides continue to write my little speculations about the weather and whatnot, and continue to hope that someone will like them. (And, let's be honest--hope someone will like ME.)

But I do write this post with some pride, knowing that I have hung in there longer than the average blogger--I've posted consistently in this space for nearly four years now. That feels like an achievement to me, though of what kind, I can't be sure. I haven't made any money from it. I haven't gotten famous. I HAVE made a few friends this way, some of whom I would certainly never have met otherwise. That is satisfying to a social soul like me, and even more satisfying when you consider that writing is a legendarily solitary pursuit, just me and my buddy Jack Daniels, if you believe the hype.

If I had wanted to "grow" my blog, I have gone about it all wrong, according to Blogging for Dummies and other reputable guides. My first mistake is not having a consistent theme. Sure, I launched the blog as an adoption journal, and while I am proud of my China travel posts, and the few adoption-related topics I've pursued, let's face it--I'm too much of an attention slut to stay focused on my baby, delicious though her exploits may be. My posts are all over the map, rambling from topic to topic like a nomad in the desert of my imagination, searching for oases with sparkling pools and one achingly lonely palm arcing over the sand...

But I digress. I have never updated my links, and several of the ones I have are dormant. (See above.) That's a rookie mistake right there. I don't have an e-mail address on my page, so people can't respond to comments I leave on their blogs. (Being difficult and inaccessible is also textbook bad.) I don't advertise my blog anywhere, or have a link to it in my e-mail signature. I don't run contests or sponsor give-aways or have guest bloggers (though I'd like to.) I get overwhelmed just contemplating the public relations aspect of a blog. Which is weird, because I'm not one of those shy and retiring bloggers who wants to keep my thoughts private. I don't have password protection; my blog is not invitation only. I delight in scrutinizing the little map that tells me where in the world my readers come from. But I am either not following protocol or I'm dead boring--after nearly four years, I can count on just a few comments for each post, not the dozens that my peers (if I may call them so) have cultivated.

It's not that I don't love comments--oh, I love them like cherry pie. Any blogger will tell you that comments are the crack we'd like to sizzle over our spoon every day. But soft, Readers, have you noticed? Economy of expression is not my specialty. Funny, pithy, SHORT posts get the most comments. When and if I'm funny, those bits are cushioned in pink, puffy, insulated layers of exposition. I'm not sure I can get to funny without the pink, puffy layers, and I enjoy that puffiness so. If I couldn't have it, I'm not sure I'd blog at all, and then what would be the point? Notes Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, "There's a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one." And this one--she loves her some of ME.

If I only get a few comments ("Don't knock rationalizations. They're more important than sex." "Oh, I don't know about that." "Really? Ever been a week without a rationalization?") at least they're nice. I guess if I were some big, famous blogger with a huge following, I'd have trolls. Shudder. I'm way too tender-hearted to handle that. Yeah, that's it. Or maybe it's just hard to get anyone to care--7.4 million is still a lot. Laments "retired" blogger Judy Nichols, "I just wanted to post something interesting and get people talking, but mostly it was just my sister commenting."

Funny thing: my sisters don't comment. Nor my brother, father, mother, or any other relatives (except hello, MIL and FIL!) I guess they figure they're forced to listen to my rants in real life, so they've done their time. Many of my close friends, the ones who loyally tell me they love my writing, don't read the blog, and probably don't even remember that I have one. Am I bitter? Nah. I mean, yeah, I probably was for a while. But over time I've realized that reading blogs is a very particular pastime, like rollerblading or cross-stitch. Some people may admire it from afar without the slightest inclination to get involved. That seems as it should be. It's really not personal.

Looking back at my first post is bittersweet for me. My self-consciousness fairly oozes from every comma--it's like I've decided to make my living dancing in my undies on a Webcam, but in giving it a go, I find I'm kinda shy. By the second or third post, I see my style emerging--lo, I have a recklessness that seems to say "This may be the internet, but I know for a fact no one but my husband will ever see it." Once I started getting comments like "Hi! I love your blog--want to buy some steroids?" I tamed that devil-may-care abandon. Now if I dance in my undies, they are cotton with lots of coverage.

There has never been a day when I thought about quitting the blog. I just don't know how to quit you, Blog! If a week goes by without a post, it's just a hard week, or one so fabulous I never sit down. I tend to post 2-3 times a week, though I have dabbled in greater frequency through NaBloPoMo, which began as National Blog Posting Month but now goes year round. I do think the daily practice sharpens me, and I've done some of my finest work in "31 Posts in 31 Days" on the theme of "Lists" and "Food." But that kind of discipline is very difficult.

So why do I do it at all? After four years, it's pretty clear I'm not going to be "discovered" like Lana Turner at the soda fountain. For a while, I imagined publishing a collection of essays from the blog, but I'm not sure there's a unifying theme. So, I think I blog because of this:

I like the practice. My whole life, writing has been my JOB, no more so than the 11 years I was in grad school. Seriously, if you declare that you are writing a thesis, and then you don't write one, you are "not in good standing" and you get booted out. They take away your job and your purpose for being, and that's a lot of pressure. But here, I can write five times a day or once a week, a few lines or several pages. No one clucks over my sentence fragments. My topic sentences are fine. The posts are not followed by evaluations with poor penmanship that break my heart. The more I write, the more I like it, and liking it makes the writing better.

I like to be acknowledged. Publishing a blog on the internet is a public act, whatever its magnitude. Maybe I'll never truly know who's reading my posts, but traditional writers usually don't know, either. The point is, someone might be reading it, and that means I have an audience. Whoever you are, whether I've ever said it in person before or not--thank you. I don't take you for granted, Readers. If I didn't know you were there, I'd still be writing in 79 cent speckled composition notebooks like I did in college, and shelving them neatly in my closet when they got filled.

I hope I can persuade you to stick around for 500 more posts.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Look Homeward, Angels

I'm reeling from today's news about Farrah and Michael. I mean, both in one day...that's not right. Both of them figured so prominently in the pop culture of my youth, even as I'm sure there are many in my demographic with more interesting memories than mine.

Before Farrah was Jill Munroe to me, she was the girl on the wall. Her poster is the only one I remember my brother ever having. And my brother--shy, bespectacled, bookish-- wasn't exactly the sexy-bathing-suit-girl type. But even I stared and stared at that poster, with the blinding teeth and indomitable nipples. I remember her so larger than life that even the bathing suit seemed nice, and it was an ugly bathing suit. And the tonsorial splendor that even a frizzy-headed Jewish child was compelled to emulate, resulting in two unfortunate sausage rolls of hair perched on each side of my head for over a year. Mine just wouldn't feather in that shiny, careless way. She could probably get hers to feather just by wishing on a star.

And Charlies Angels was the best show ever, because it was obvious that Charlie didn't really have any power over those cool, sexy girls. They were just humoring him before they headed out to kick some criminal ass with their go-go boots.

I've never stopped thinking about the serious movie Farrah starred in, Extremities, where she turns the tables on a rapist who has cornered her at home. She was badass in that role. Women in the theater were screaming and cheering. I know I was. Later, I wrote one of my doctoral qualifying exams on rape revenge films--I think my fascination must have started here. It was all about Farrah--she was just that good.

I don't know much about what she's been doing since. Sure, I heard about the meltdown on Letterman and all that. But for me, she's frozen in amber, all tan skin, long legs, and bright teeth. She was literally the poster child for youth, and now she's gone.

My memories of Michael work the same way. There were other albums after Thriller, other songs I liked, but I was focused elsewhere. Certainly, I knew all about his strange predilections in recent years, but I'm pretty sure I pretended that was someone else. I just didn't want to think about him that way. Even on Facebook, I can see the generational divide. My niece Stella, 13, updated her status as "RIP Michael Jackson, you creepy pedo." That sort of stabbed me in the heart, I have to admit.

I remember seeing a play in college, a complicated, non-linear production with strong themes of racism and sexism, and being sort of rigid with defensive non-comprehension, until after the curtain call, when all the actors silently held hands as the speakers blared "Man in the Mirror" as we shuffled out. I felt idiotic, but I had a huge lump in my throat. And later I found it funny that three hours of shouting hadn't touched me, while one pop song messed me up totally.

I remember being at a high school rehearsal when my castmate Larry O'Connor lured me to the dance room with a boom box, saying he wanted to show me something. I was wary to say the least, but he begged. Once we were surrounded by mirrors, he triumphantly pressed play and the crunching, howling intro to "Thriller" started up. I widened my eyes and he gushed "Okay, this is a fantasy of mine. We're going to act out the video!" He started demonstrating how I was supposed to walk in the beginning, and how I should dart my eyes around like I was scared (and that wasn't acting, Readers.)

I wish I can say that I gave in and enjoyed myself, relished the opportunity to dance "Thriller" with an obvious master. But no, I got really self-conscious, and fled. But I wouldn't flee now. Nuh-uh. I wouldn't mind filling a whole room with people who know "Thriller," and dancing the entire thing together, as a way to say goodbye.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Retail Redux

I had to get my car smogged today (ooh, sexy), and happened to be near a mall I never go to anymore. Actually, that's not true--I go there, but when I do I am shelling out tickets for the train and the jump-jump and supervising "cooking" at Pottery Barn Kids, so I don't shop.

But today I was alone, since Jarrah was at camp, and I figured what the hell. I ate some lunch in the sun, and then I wandered, lonely as a cloud, or anyway as aimless as a cloud--I wasn't feeling particularly lonely. I happened upon a Cathy Jean, which is a shoe store. As a teenager, I bought all my shoes at Cathy Jean, so it's hard to believe they're still around. Surveying the shelves, I could also see that the wares haven't changed much. But catching myself in the mirror, I was a bit startled to see that I certainly have.

I was caught off-guard by my distinct "mom look." It's not that I dress conservatively, or have a sensible bob, or pearl earrings or anything like that. No, it's more that the cargo capris and t-shirt and flip-flops that once would have said "casual" and "insouciant" now seem to shout "sloppy" and "apathetic." They also whispered "tired." When I dared check my face, there were the laugh lines, and the little wrinkle in my forehead that I certainly have earned.

Suddenly, I felt deeply self-conscious. I would describe the shoes at Cathy Jean as "catering to a youth market." The fact that I do this instantly excludes me from that market. Next to me, a woman with 20 years on me admired some stilletos. She was wearing skin-tight jeans, towering heels, and a whole lot of Restylane. I made a silent promise that I will not be trying to look like that in 20 years. But when did this happen, this self-consciousness? This awareness that certain shops I've frequented my whole life no longer cater to me? Or rather, that they shouldn't? And why do I feel so sure of that? How can I suddenly tell that I should not be wearing the complicated tops with gold gew-gaws and laces and the giant faux jewelry? What makes it so obvious to me? What the hell happened, and when?

I think I know when it happened. It happened when I became a mom. Pretty much instantly. Because from that moment forward, I spent at least a year--maybe two--bent over strollers and boosters and changing tables and now it's been 3.5 years and--well--I have changed. My looks are the worse for wear. The new wrinkles. The grey hairs. Body parts that seem to have shifted without a good excuse for why. But it's a mental thing, too. I can't pretend to be a teenager, sure, but I've known that for a while. But for many, many years, I was basically a college student who never left college. I was "at college" for 15 years. No, that's not a typo. FIFTEEN YEARS. What incentive did I have to be a "serious" adult? I was single (well, not married.) I didn't have kids. I still had milk crates holding my books. I didn't own a suit. I slept on a futon. I wrote poetry in the woods. I dated inappropriate people. And you know what? I'm not ashamed. I LIKED IT.

I took a deep breath and asked the teenage salesgirl for some silly high heels in my size. What the hell? It's summer. I don't own any frivolous shoes. I may have crossed an invisible line, but I'm not ready for the purple hats. She didn't seem to find anything odd, so I started to relax. And the shoes were cute, and comfortable, and on sale. I may actually wear them someday.

Emboldened, I wandered on. I drifted into The Limited, another store that supplied the bulk of my teenage wardrobe. My first glance frightened me. Mini-skirts. Chain-link belts. Bright colors. Then a salesgirl approached and said all the pants were on sale. I was about to leave, really I was. But her smile was so nice, and let's just say Baby and I both have some back. I blurted out, "I have long legs but a really short waist. I don't want to button the pants right under my boobs. Do you have any that would fit me?"

Readers, she gave me a look that I will cherish. Not just compassionate, but like "Girl, story of my life. Say no more." She swished some hangers around and soon I was holding a bunch of pants. Getting braver, I grabbed some of the bright, complicated shirts, too, and headed to a dressing room.

Inside, I slipped into a pair of black pants that freakin' fit like they'd been tailored for my concert tour. And they were THE RIGHT LENGTH. I'm 5'4". That never happens. I pulled on a bright, ruffly shirt. Not too bad. One of the girlies (I now had about four at my beck and call) knocked on the door with more pants. I was getting into it. The music was blasting. I was posing and dancing around.

Then I looked at my phone. Crap. I have to pick Jarrah up in 15 minutes. There's no way I'm making it, and they're going to charge me a late fee. It was like a bucket of cold water over my red hot sassiness. Plus, I felt like a bad mom. I started calling other moms to see if they could sign Jarrah out for me, yelling my request over "Hella Good," like I'm in a bar or something. Yeah, I'm doing some shots--can you pick up my daughter?

As I speed-walked to the car, I had to shake my head and smile a little. Here I was, thinking I was all that, reminiscing with my bad self, and then I get this little reminder. You're a mom. You can't be wiggling your ass in dressing rooms without a care in the world anymore. Wake up and smell the mac and cheese.

Sure, sure. I get it. But I did buy the pants. And I will strut. Look out, world.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Whatever Lola Wants

Last night, my one-act play, Don't Play Games With Me, opened as part of the San Diego New Perspectives Festival.

We were up first, followed by seven other playlets, some comic, some serious in nature:

Program Three: Sunday, June 21 at 7pm and Friday, June 26 at 8pm
DON'T PLAY GAMES WITH ME by Matt Thompson; directed by Hannah Ryan
THE EARNEST IMPORTANCE OF BEING by Gary Seger; directed by Josh Hyatt
TEACHER TEACHER by Paola Hornbuckle; directed by David Paye
THE FLING THING by Peter Mitsopoulos; directed by Miriam Cuperman
CUE TO EXIT by Michael Thomas Tower; directed by Michael Thomas Tower
LOVE UNREQUITED: EVENING (EUROPEAN GALLERY) by Kevin Six; directed by Christopher Renda
FINE CAN BE FINE by Lizzie Silverman; directed by Kevin Six
HE'S NOT HIM by Craig Abernethy; directed by Walter Cameron

In a funny coincidence, the director of He's Not Him, Walter Cameron, is a friend of ours--he's appeared in several of our 48 Hours short films. We hadn't seen him in a while, so it was cool that we ended up in the same program and could see each other's work.

It was a wonderful night, because not only did we get to perform to an almost-full house in a great little theater in my old neighborhood, but we got to dash around and become part of the audience for the rest of the show. I was especially engaged by Cue to Exit, which is a conversation between two men who have spent many years in the theater together, on the occasion of the younger one having to fire the older one as director of a hinterlands production that has gone awry.

Afterward, we went out for Mexican food at a little neighborhood place I used to frequent, with Eva, Lisa and Calvin. Eva and I are on our third show in a row together, but Lisa and Calvin showed up out of the goodness of their hearts, just to be supportive theater friends, and that was awesome. It was fun to do the play-by-play of the evening's offerings over hot, greasy, cheesy goodness--we were all starving by then, having missed the dinner hour by a lot.

Readers, I may never make peace entirely with my paltry role this time around, but the reception from last night's audience went a long way towards shoring up my fragile ego. I don't have many lines in this show, but no one can say I phoned it in for even one second--I was gesturing and ad-libbing up a storm. For much of the piece, I'm supposed to be listening intently to another cast member tell the story of her "naughty" evening playing Monopoly with a man other than her husband (we're all addicted to board games in this scenario) and I just went for it, practically doing a Meg Ryan in my chair. It was fun, and I think there were a bunch of laughs--I know for sure there were some. At our usual theater, the acoustics are such that it's really hard to tell if anyone is laughing unless they are ROARING, and that's not to case here. So I was getting super-buzzed off their reactions, which is what actors do. There is no high in the world like the one you have when you've just taken your curtain call--I defy anyone to find a drug that makes you feel better. And that feedback goes a long way toward turning my frowns upside down. Dare I say I'm looking forward to Friday?

Two more shows, for anyone who is local: this Friday, June 26 at Swedenborg Hall, and next Friday, July 3, at Point Loma Assembly. Both shows at 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shrinking Violet

I think I might have post-traumatic stress. Not to be a drama queen, but...well, there's no help for that. What with the fainting and the blindness in the space of a couple weeks (very Gothic, according to my friend Caroline) I'm a little sensitive about everything. I get nervous when I drive. When I hear loud noises or feel bright light. I've turned down wine and chocolate. I'm scared to even think about orgasms. (No! Stop thinking!)

I wasn't wholeheartedly jonesing to have a CT scan. It's been scheduled since the nose camera had no results. But I don't do well with the unknown, and I'm super-claustrophobic, and I'm so delicate, and I mean, really--haven't I suffered enough?

So it was with the greatest trepidation that I headed to the imaging center this morning. A sign in their waiting room identified them as the official imaging center for the San Diego Chargers. I sat there, head clanging with the noxious Muzak (that's supposed to relax people?) and tried to picture the Chargers, one by one, getting their stuffy noses checked out. Then I realized they must have other imaging needs.

My appointment time was exact, and as I was led away, I confessed to the tech that I'm claustrophobic and "anxious." As I said "anxious" we passed through a doorway and I could see the machine. Oh, that's just not scary, I thought, but I didn't say anything. Like on TV, there was a sort of bench that would roll through an opening, but unlike on TV, it wasn't like a tunnel--more like a donut. Meaning I wouldn't actually be inside anything.

She asked me to lie face down with my chin in a vise (this has been the week for chin vises) and place my hands under my thighs. It felt like a vaguely uncomfortable yoga pose. Then she told me not to move.

This is fiiiiine, I thought, as the machine started to whir and move forward. Then I realized I was about to have a panic attack anyway, just because it's been that kind of week, so I closed my eyes and thought of Paris. That actually worked, and she didn't yell "Don't close your eyes!" so I kept them closed and before I knew it, I was done.

When I left, I noticed I'm supposed to have a blood test in the building next door, so I went in to check it out. The lab was like steerage (no Chargers here), a closet-sized room crammed with people, and what seemed to be cardboard boxes and broken fans piled in the corner. No cheery, vague pastel paintings, no lamps, no magazines. Not even those brochures that ask you to consider everything from Botox to vasectomy while you wait. The tech was alone, and the wait was 90 minutes. Uh, nooooo. Not today. There was something really unsavory about one sweaty guy in a tiny room luring the huddled masses in to drain their blood. They probably don't even have a fridge back there. He's probably just guzzling it down and then yelling "NEXT!" (Oh, sorry, watching too much vampire television.)

He said the only non-wait times are late afternoon, so I guess I'll have to bring Jarrah. Hopefully I won't swoon or lose one or more senses during the procedure, because I wouldn't want her to be alone in that office. But it's not going to happen this week. No, this week has been crowded with incident already, to quote Oscar Wilde. I'm going to concentrate on my tech dress rehearsal tonight, and the blood can wait.

Edited to add: Just got the call. The news was not good. Jill described my sinuses as "a mess" and mentioned surgery. I'm totally freaking out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sammy In The Sky With Diamonds

So, I'm eating lunch, reading the newspaper, and enjoying the pristine silence of Jarrah's first day at camp, when I noticed something odd. The newspaper was blurry. Not completely blurry. In patches, like I was reading it through a piece of Belgian lace.

That's odd, I thought. I rubbed my eyes. Didn't help. In fact, it seemed a little worse. I put down the cherry I was holding, because suddenly I didn't much feel like eating anymore.

Maybe I finally need reading glasses, I mused. I mean, I've had a good run--it could be time. I walked around the living room, looking at things. Close up--blurry. Far away--blurry. Hand over right eye--blurry. Hand over left eye--blurry. Okay, that doesn't seem right.

I sat on the couch, tracking around. The TV was blurry--sort of. The photos on the shelves were blurry. I needed to face facts. Everything was a little blurry, no matter what the distance.

I called David. "I think I'm going blind."


"Everything is blurry. It happened really suddenly. I'm either going blind, or having a stroke. Ohmigod, am I having a stroke?" My voice broke. I could feel hysteria rising. "Or a brain tumor."

"Okay, let's stay calm. A brain tumor wouldn't come on so fast. And you sound pretty with-it to be having a stroke. And I can't imagine what would make you go blind instantly, either."

I wasn't really listening to him. I was frozen to stone, staring straight ahead with my increasingly useless eyes.

This is it, I thought. My number is up. I'm going to die or go blind, right now, this afternoon, with no one to take me to the hospital. And if I do go blind, I'm going to wish I'd died.

Suddenly I heard David again. "Why don't you call your doctor. Maybe he can see you today, or at least talk to you."

"Okay," I managed. It was a good idea. Since I had to sell my soul to the devil to get my doctor, I might as well take advantage. I walked to the other room, noting that my legs seemed to go where I wanted them to, but my eyes were getting worse. I sat down at the computer and tried to Google my doctor. Only that was kind of difficult, because now I couldn't see the keys or the screen. It took me about 10 semi-crazed tries before I got the number into the phone.

The nurse asked me if I was taking medication, or feeling stressed. Fair questions. "No. I don't think eating lunch counts as stress."

She told me to call my doctor on his cell. While she was telling me this, I noticed that blurriness was no longer my only problem. Now there was a buzzing, shimmering line, kind of like one of those "you're not yet flat-lining" displays in medical television, bisecting my vision. That was both odd and terrifying. Also I had to admit I was losing the left eye completely. It was fuzzing over from the corner.

I am going to lose it, I thought. I can't bear this. I will lose it totally and when I wake up I will be blind.

Somehow I called my doctor. "I'm not in the office, but I can be there by 1:30." Good man. I called David, and begged him to pick up Jarrah from camp and race home to take me to the doctor. Another good man. Then I called my friend Melissa, who was minding her own business at the time, getting lunch with her 3-year-old, when she heard the following:

"Hi. I need you to come over right now. I am dying or going blind, and I need someone here with me. David is still far away. Come now and don't ask any questions." Hey, give me some credit for being clear about my needs.

I could hear a bunch of screaming as Melissa tried to reason with her daughter, but she didn't say no. She got to the house before David, and sat with me on the couch. A big shout-out to Melissa, who stayed calm, and took Jarrah for the whole afternoon so I could concentrate on my blindness.

Now I was alone, sitting on the couch, and something odd started to happen. About 30 minutes had gone by, and I was suddenly aware that the shimmering line had melted away. Shortly after, my fuzzed-over left eye cleared, mostly. And I just sat there, blinking, feeling like I'd just been tossed by the side of the road in a burlap sack after a long ride in someone's trunk.

Is it time now? I wondered. Does this mean death is coming? I tried to concentrate on whether I could be having a stroke, but I had to admit I'd just done a lot of things (walking, calling, Googling) that suggested I retained my faculties. But who knew anything anymore? I had just fallen as blind as Mary Ingalls in my own living room in the space of 15 minutes.

David drove me to the doctor, and he patiently listened to my story. He checked my eyes and said he didn't see anything, but that he was referring me "right away" to an opthamologist. I never imagined he meant "right away" as in the minute I walked out his door. It was hours later before I could fall to my knees to thank him for sparing me the emergency room. In my mind.

We drove over to the eye doctor, where we spent most of the afternoon. Readers, I have never been to the eye doctor. I know what you're thinking--"At your age?" Sue me--I have 20-20 vision. (That was reconfirmed today, by the way.) So I was new to the big metal machines wheeling towards my face with my chin in a vise, and wish I was still new to the experience of something ramming into my cornea while I was supposedly diverted by a shiny blue light.

The doctor was kindly (really, he fit that description) and gently asked me to repeat my story, which I'd now done so many times in the space of three hours it was starting to sound like apocrypha. Still, I was sort of relishing the details--"sudden blurriness," "shimmering lines," and "complete terror." Actually, I did a damn fine job with that story, if you want to know.

I didn't care for the drops. One drop makes you paralyzed, and one drop makes you blur. And the ones that Mother gives you, don't do anything at all. They told me it would wear off in about three hours, but it's been over six hours now, and I'm still a little blurry.

"Is this going to keep me from going to rehearsal?" I said as I leaned back in the big chair. "It's our last rehearsal." No, but I did have to act with my shades on, which is a bit disconcerting. Sitting there with my castmates, my vision was so blurred that I squeezed in some of my regular drops. Then I looked in the mirror, and my Bambi-wide eyes were ringed in yellow from the procedural crapcake running down my face. Lovely.

Oh, I forgot to tell you what the hell happened. Dr. Berger (my primary guy) asked if I got migraines, and I said no. He said that's probably what I had. "Uh, I didn't have a headache." He said it was some other kind of migraine, which sounded like nonsense until Dr. Thomas said the same thing--and eyes are his bread-and-butter. At this point, I had passed all his tests with flying colors (ha!) and he said everything looked great.

"You had an ophthalmic migraine," he explained. "It doesn't hurt." Something about the optic nerve, the muscle, yada yada. They don't know what brings them on. He said they can come in clusters, and that I obviously need to pull over if I get one while driving.

"But that shimmering line you described," he said. "That's textbook. Everyone mentions that. Some people even draw it." I must confess it was viscerally satisfying to have someone diagnose me with such assurance. I haven't seen much of that in my life.

"I could draw it!" I yelped. And I totally could. Except that I still can't focus my eyes. Think good thoughts for me having my normal eyes back tomorrow, and no more sudden blindness. But can you say "grateful?" At the end of the day, that's what I am.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

The planets aligned today and it was time to clean Jarrah's room. This is something I do infrequently, preferring to view the piles of toys and clothes everywhere as "shabby chic." But today I realized that there was very little floor space left, and she's starting camp next week, and it's summer and...it was time.

The first order of business was weeding out the too-small clothes. I have recently been disabused of my belief that her underwear size would remain "absurdly small" until college. Apparently, she is going to need some that are slightly less absurdly small. Same with socks. I went through the racks, yanking all the 3T (and most of the 4T) shirts off the hangers. Hell, most of the 5Ts have got to go. On a roll, I whipped through the drawers, gathering up a pile of hair ornaments that could outfit an entire ballet school. Then I decided to brave the drawers. Yikes, most of them were filled with diapers and diaper paraphernalia: wipes, wipe cases, changing pads, bibs, and the infamous blue bags. I felt so strange gathering all this into a pile and throwing it in a box. Digging deeper in the closet, I discovered an entire bag of plastic pants (never even used those) and a huge box of bottles and nipples. Guess all that can go, too.

Moving on to the bookcase, I realized that most of the board books are too babyish, but just in case I arranged them all on a high shelf which she can't reach anyway. Then I lovingly created a system for the other shelves: Scholastic paperbacks on one, hardcover storybooks on another, collections and treasuries on the bottom. We'll see how long my system lasts. I swept all the junk off the top of the bookcases--most of it ready for the trash. I plucked out the size 9 shoes (my girl has some big feet--nearly 11 already) and threw them in one of the bags, too. I took all the nursing blankets and changing pad covers and put them aside for someone else. And I stuffed all the crib sheets into the drawers vacated by the diapers.

Now the room was looking pretty bare, and Jarrah seemed tickled, like it was a hotel room she was visiting for the first time. She settled down in her easy chair to do some reading, acting like she'd never seen her books before. And I made up my mind that today would be the day we gave in and bought her a real bed.

I am sore amazed how three years has exhausted my need for nearly my entire baby arsenal. A few days ago, I brought out the stroller for the first time in a while, and her head pokes into the shade, feet dangling to the ground. All that diaper stuff I'll never need again. Clothes she's outgrown forever--an entire department at Target is off-limits for us now. I turn the bibs and changing pads over in my hands, trying to remember why I needed them. The stick-on placemats I brought to every restaurant. The tiny case with her personal fork and spoon. The ubiquitous Costco wipes, without which everything I touched would have been sticky.

It amazes me that there is no going back. Whatever I once had a use for, I simply, now, do not. And instead of needing more stuff, we need less. She can use what I use. Even my cache of sweet toddler toothpaste needs to be donated--she's a pro with the mint now. I think back fondly on the many cannisters of Gerber veggie puffs I bought and carried, and how enthusiastically they were consumed. That seems like a lifetime ago.

We did finally get that bed. We've looked at it before, so we knew what we wanted, but it was somehow hard to take the plunge. It's like keeping her in that sideless crib a few more months kept her little, even though her feet moving ever closer to the edge of the mattress kept telling us otherwise.

The new bed, which will arrive in two weeks, is truly a big-girl bed. It's birch, and sleigh, and has a trundle underneath with another mattress, for sleepovers. I dreamed of that kind of set-up when I was a child; I wanted Jarrah to have it. No matter how late she and her friend stay up whispering and giggling, they can sleep in comfort, even in our tiny house. That makes me happy.

And David and I are looking forward to the biggest perk of all: a big bed means we can climb into it at storytime, instead of perching nearby. When I think about reading together in bed, I forget to be sentimental about the past, and I start getting excited about everything still to come.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Assault On My Domestic Tranquility

I have a psychotic break when I see a mouse or roach in my home. I mean, I don't like them elsewhere, either, but when one darts across my kitchen, they can hear me over at Qualcomm Stadium. And I'm not talking a dainty "eek!" I will scream for several minutes, each shattered wave of decibels upping the ante for the next wall of sound. Readers, when I see a roach in my house, I go to 11.

It's not like we have an infestation. Don't be getting all grossed out and refusing my invitations for tea and crumpets. Just the odd beastie, every now and again. But once I've seen one, the emotional damage lasts for months. Hence, it was worth every penny to me when we surrendered and called an exterminator last summer. They come every three months and work some kind of magic that is better than Zanax (well...let's leave that debate for another post.) At any rate, it's better than therapy.

So it was with both disgust and surprise that my eye-corner detected a skittering across our kitchen floor the other night, when I was otherwise cozy and contented on the couch, preparing for bed. This particular path--from the dishwasher to the fridge--seems to be the preferred one for our vermin frequent fliers. If you've been paying attention, you know what I did next. The echoes of which brought David to the room, still holding his floss.

Sam: I saw something. A roach or a mouse.

David: (totally Animal Planet zen as ever) Probably a mouse.

Sam: I doubt it. Mice GLIDE. They look liquid. This was skittering.

David: You probably just didn't see it very well.

Sam: Oh, yes I did. It skittered. It was about three inches long.

David made the face he makes when he wants to say "Woman, what are you on about? Three inches." But he's a smart man, so he kept it to himself.

I told him I was going to the other room, and I wanted the problem dealt with, by any means necessary. It was like ordering up Blackwater for bugs. I sighed as I trudged away, knowing that my usual OCD bedtime precautions would now be in order: removing every item from the floor of the bedroom, bathroom and hallway, and shining a massive Maglite under the bed and all the furniture. Not that I would be doing any of this, mind you. My bodyguard would be throwing himself under the bus for me. Hey, it's what he signed up for. I believe it was right there in our vows.

Moments later, there was a tremendous crash. Not like the dulcet tones of something being crushed to death. More like the protests of a loved one being buried under a bookcase filled with Hummel figurines. I heard crashing and tinkling and the unmistakable sounds of breaking.


David: Damn! I moved the refrigerator and...never mind. I'll clean it up.

I sighed again. I heard a lot of sweeping and dust-busting and more broken-glass sounds. A lot of time went by. Finally, David reappeared, haggard. Was I concerned for him? Nope.

Sam: Did you get it?

David: No, I couldn't find it.

Sam: Oh no! How can I sleep?

David: Whatever it is, it's out there. We'll deal with it tomorrow.

Sam: By the way, what was all that noise?

Turns out it was our wedding hurricanes falling off the fridge. Well, it's my own fault for putting them up there. I should have realized we'd be moving the refrigerator in a hurry on a regular basis.

After an exhaustive hunt where the object was NOT to find anything, we settled into bed. Snuggled under my pristine white Egyptian cotton duvet with my serenely calm husband at my side, I started to relax. We'd deal with it in the morning. Our conversation drifted to other topics, lighthearted pre-sleep chit-chat and preamble to my Kindle-time.

Readers, I have previously claimed that my life is weirder than other people's. Today will not be the day when I retract that claim. Forsooth, my claim remains unchallenged, and I wish to submit further evidence. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a moth flitting in and out of the light of my bedside lamp. It dived briefly at my hair, bounced off the duvet, and sailed over to the window. I glanced over as it alighted on the shutters.

Then I began to scream like I've never screamed before, and that's saying something. I screamed with my belt voice, pulsing with gorgeous vibrato. As each scream reached its natural peak, I dug deeper, refreshing the sound with great lungfuls of oxygen, and screamed those out, too. I screamed as if to wake people in Australia. I screamed as if every person on earth screamed with me. And they might have, if they could see what I saw.

Perched on the shutters was a roach about 10 inches long. Oh, at least. Maybe 12 inches. It was just chilling there, caring not a whit that it had flown into my room, into my bed AND INTO MY FACE. They @#$%&* fly???

I was suddenly conscious of a soft, dreamy faraway voice repeating "It would really help if you'd calm down. Just calm down. I really need you to calm down" and David was smacking it with a book and then it was all over.

There was a short silence, which David cheerfully broke:

David: Well, problem solved!

Sam: Did you see that? IT CAME TO FIND ME. It found its way across the house, through the door, and INTO OUR BED so it could get me. How can that even happen? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

David: Well, em, problem solved!

Sam: I'm calling the exterminator in the morning.

I should mention that Jarrah was listening when I relayed this tale on the phone the next day, and it didn't sit well with her. Later, she said:

Jarrah: Mommy. Why you ask Daddy to smash the roach?

Sam: Because I don't like them.

Jarrah: Mommy, bugs are part of life. We need them in the world. We need all kinds of bugs. So what are you going to do next time?

Sam: Next time?

Jarrah: You're going to stay calm, and ask Daddy to take it outside. Right?

So reasonable, so rational, so logical. So not me. Readers?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have previously mentioned how much I detest the food and coffee at Starbucks. And how much time I spend there anyway, since it's right next to my gym/work and now boasts the "free" (that's negotiable) Wi-Fi for my netbook.

So, on Friday I sauntered into SBs after Nia, only to interrupt three baristas--two female, one possibly male--arguing about pronunciation. One of them I know, meaning she has been cheerfully making me bad coffee drinks for years now, and often asks what's up with Justin Timberlake (who is not a friend of mine, surprisingly, but can be found between the pages of my erudite Friday afternoon reading.) She's a saucy thing, and I rather like her. Her friend seemed a bit more serious in nature. The Possible Male mostly kept his own counsel.

Sam: Hi. Can I get...

Saucy Barista: Hi! So...is it ver-sa-tul?

Sam: What?

Saucy: Ver-sa-tul? Or ver-sa-TILE?

I hesitated.

Serious Barista: She doesn't know. It's okay.

Sam: No, no. I'm just thinking. I'm thinking that it's probably both.

Saucy: Both? Really?

Sam: Yes...

I hesitated some more.

Saucy: It's okay. There's no reason why you should know that.

Okay, and here comes the part where I hate myself. I can't resist flashing my credentials for the ONE THING IN LIFE I have credentials FOR, and that is the English language. It's all I've got--I have to milk it. It's just who I am. Love me anyway.

Sam: No, there is a reason why I should know that. I teach English. At least, I have.

Serious: How cool! What grade?

I hesitated again.

Saucy: You idiot! Why are you asking her what grade?

Serious Barista looked sad and dissed. I wanted to make it all better.

Sam: No, no, it's a good question. A very good question. But actually I taught college.

The conversation veered away, and my order got lost in the shuffle. That's okay. I was really there for the Wi-Fi. I pointed at my Netbook (damn, it's cute) and said:

Sam: I'm going to find out the answer. Right now. In here.

They all looked like they didn't believe me, so I had to prove them wrong. After I'd hacked my way through the various firewalls and security codes SBs has in place, I pulled up Dictionary.com and "versatile." And there it was, just as I'd suspected.


I returned to the counter, and they looked at me expectantly, but I don't think because of versatile. I'm pretty sure that, like goldfish, they had forgotten all about versatile after 14 seconds. But I was not going to.

Sam: It's both. Ver-sa-tul is preferred.

Saucy: I told you! Preferred! What about agile? A-jul? Or a-JILE?

I hesitated again. Then I sighed, like a poser idiot.

Sam: I'm pretty sure it's both again. I'll look it up.

I did. It was both. Now I wondered if I was going to stay here all night, looking up words for them, like an idiot.

Saucy: I've also always wondered if it's tapen-ODD or tapen-AID.

That one threw me. Why would she wonder that? Somebody stop me...

Sam: Well, that's not English. It's French. So I think it has to be tapen-ODD. (And because I'm obnoxious AND insecure, I looked it up. At least I was right.)

Serious: I wonder why so many words can be pronounced more than one way?

I hesitated. I have no idea, of course. I'm sure I pronounce things wrong all the time. But I do get off on looking things up, so eventually I find out.

Possible Male: I think it's just the way words are. You know, like you can say Target or Tar-JHAY.

Now we were all speechless. Finally, because I'm obnoxious, I broke the silence, in the MOST OBNOXIOUS WAY POSSIBLE.

Sam: Well, I don't think that's the same. Because, you know, I don't think Tar-JHAY is in the dictionary. (It probably is.)

So, tonight I subbed a class for a friend, and as I dashed from the car, juggling my stuff, I passed by Saucy Barista, having a smoke on her break. She smiled and waved. I raised my hand and waved back.

And froze as I did so, realizing that what I was waving was my STARBUCKS INSULATED MUG, which didn't even have coffee in it (just water) and I didn't even buy (it was a pre-China gift from Mary) and I never, ever, EVER even use.

Just today. So I could wave it at Saucy Barista like a freakin' walking infomercial. For something I don't even like. And feel even more like an idiot.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Summer Begins Auspiciously

Right now we are having what Jarrah calls an "off week" (not sure where she got this description) between school ending and camp starting. But the "off week" is very much an "on week" for Mama. We have a few playdates planned, but Sunday night as I was dreamily drifting off to sleep (after a merriment and friend-filled evening downtown) I was suddenly reminded of the gaping hole in our social calendar where Monday should be.

It didn't occur to me until later that my last-minute Monday agenda was much more about my needs and desires than Jarrah's. Oops. Luckily, it turned out well. Though she whined (these days the whine is always at the ready) when I said we were going to her "new preschool" (aka the gym) she was so enmeshed at the Kidcare when I came to fetch her, no one could find her. (Apparently, she and about 20 other kids had one of those drunken contests going to see how many people they could fit in the tiny playhouse.) Meanwhile, I'd had a bracing workout and a hot shower and was ready for a hearty lunch. My original suggestion was instantly nixed in favor of "slushie place" which was fine since I am not immune to the charm of the slushies. We had Chinese food, too, and everything was hot and yummicious. We both read magazines while we ate--Glamour for me, and Automotive for Jarrah ("Hey! This magazine is not just about cars. It's also about watches!") So far, so good.

That morning, I'd asked if she was interested in going to the movies. "For candy!" she fairly squealed. "No, to see the movie," I admonished. "But candy can be involved, yes."

I had my eye on My Life in Ruins, the new Nia Vardalos companion-piece to My Big Fat Greek Wedding in which she plays a tour guide in Greece. A feather-light confection, it mixes pretty scenery, a totally telegraphed relationship, and an adorably "quirky" bunch of tourists all finding their "kefe" (Greek for mojo.)

I did look up My Life in Ruins on one of those wrist-slapping parental movie sites first, to see what kind of emotional trauma I'd be inflicting on my child. It seemed like the damage was restricted to "innuendo," which sealed the deal to go. My reasoning is, Jarrah has absolutely no knowledge of sex, let alone implied sex. She hasn't the foggiest clue what these people are on about when they discuss "not getting any for a year." Maybe they're talking about Oreos. I support my theory with the fact that she never asks a single question about the innuendo, and she is quite the question-asker (have you noticed?) If you disagree with any or all parts of this rationalization, please enjoy that.

I explained that this would be a "grown-up" movie, and was that okay?" "Yeah," she said. "I like grown-up movies." Okay. "What's it about?"

"Well..." I hedged. "It's about a princess. She falls in love with a prince, and lives happily ever after."

"Does she have a gown?" she yelped.

"Um, I don't think so. But she's a modern-day princess."

"What's modern-day?"

"Ummmmm. Hmmmm. Well, it means something that's happening right now, instead of in the past."

"But why she not want a gown?"

"I guess it's not...practical in her line of work?" Luckily, she didn't press the issue.

So, we went to the movie. And tickle me Elmo if she didn't sit there quietly, watching with rapt attention while chewing her lollipop. She only addressed me once, right after Nia pretends to be the Oracle of Delphi in raptures and her "prince" (bus driver) gets so distracted he drives into the side of a mountain.

"HE WAS MESSING ABOUT AND NOT PAYING ATTENTION! THAT WAS NOT GOOD!" Well, Jarrah, I'm not sure the people in the back row heard you...can you repeat that?

On the way home (she even allowed me to stop at Trader Joe's for dinner without protest) she suddenly announced:

J: Mommy. You said she falls in love, and I never saw her fall in love.

S: Well, she does, sweetie. She definitely does.

J: But why she not married at the end?

S: Ummm....maybe she gets married after the movie ends.

J: I really doubt that.

A short silence ensued. Like she was mulling something over.

J: Mommy. Why she fall in love with a bus driver? (An aside: the words "bus driver" were dripping with contempt, which frightened me. Is she prejudiced against bus drivers? If so, why? Is that my fault somehow? I'm pretty sure I've only ever said nice things about them...)

S: Well, people fall in love with all kinds of people. Like I fell in love with an engineer.

J: Right. (pause) Who's that?

S: Well, Daddy, of course.

J: Yes. And I am going to fall in love with a slushie maker.

S: Well, that's one way to get all your slushie needs met. (An aside: I stole this line from my friend Jen. What I actually said was "That's a good plan." But I think her response is much funnier.)

When I got home, I lovingly prepared a home-cooked meal for my darling family (frozen pizza), changed into a mini-skirt and stilettos (not really, but I was looking HOT anyway) and headed out on the town for the second night in a row for Happy Hour with some friends. Yup, Readers: it was a hard, hard day.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Note: There's a video at the end! :)

Friday was Jarrah's last day of preschool, and the "Shalom Program" where the kids sing and act generally adorable while the parents cry and frantically film. I was a mess when Myrna, the lady with the guitar, sang a song for the oldest kids which she personalizes for each one (they step forward of the line when she gets to them) imagining Jarrah being "sung out" of preschool, which thankfully won't happen until next year.

Seeing Jarrah perform with her classmates gave me some time to reflect on the changes of the past year. For one thing, she's several inches taller (and her mama is quite a bit smaller, too.) She's still one of the tallest in her class, but this year doesn't tower over the rest. She still looks pretty in a dress from her Grandma--that hasn't changed since last year. I had to laugh that her new hairdo--with the side braid--is catching on with her friends; both Linda and Amelia performed in a similar 'do. The braid style looks more mature than the "waterfall" she's been sporting since her bangs got too long for anything else.

I also couldn't help reminiscing about the day after last year's Shalom Program, when Jarrah announced that she would be wearing her Dora underpants from now on. And so we were very suddenly launched into potty-training last June, and even more amazingly, done in about two weeks. Diapers seem like a long-ago dream now (nightmare?) that I hardly ever think about anymore. Amazing.

Other milestones of the past year:

1. Bones. I do think I've become a bit more fearful for her bones when I see her running on uneven terrain. She's very fast, and there are so many other bones available to break...
2. Cooties. She missed so much less school this year than last. I guess some of that fabled preschool immunity is starting to kick in.
3. Vocab. She talks constantly, but she's also curious about words now. "What does that mean?" is what I hear all day long. She knows all her letters, and can recognize some words, but doesn't get that words have their own sounds yet. And, of course, she can write her name (albeit upside-down most of the time.) Oh, and she finally understands that talking on the phone is not just saying "Hi." and handing the phone back to Daddy.
4. Curiosity. She knows where she came from, and once asked if she grew in my tummy. When I said no, she said "Daddy's?"
5. Beddie-bye. I can hardly remember her contained now. Though (cringe) we still haven't bought an actual bed for her, and she's almost too long for the sideless crib. And it was a sad day in Mudville when we said goodbye to naps six months ago...but it's better for everyone at 8 p.m.
6. Self. She really enjoys her own company now (especially when there are small, rubber people around.) She's rediscovered her puzzles, her blocks, her train set, and can really concentrate for long periods of time.
7. Girl. I think the weirdest thing is recognizing that there's no baby in her (well, she still has tantrums) at least in the way she looks. She's tall and leggy with long, swingy hair and lots to say, and sometimes I can squint and see her in high school (eeeeeek!) For the first time, I look at the round baby photos and almost think that's someone else. Almost.

My Little Negotiator

Jarrah really digs mac and cheese. I mean like, last-meal-on-earth kind of digs. So today when she noticed that Kraft makes both Spiderman and Spongebob versions, she was all over it. I ended up buying them both. I don't usually give in to the marketing ploys, but in this case I figured I'd be buying the stuff anyway...just in a different form. That's my defense and I'm sticking to it.

Then she asked me to make her some as a "snack" when we got home from the store. I demurred, since it was going to be dinner time in two hours. She asked if she could have mac and cheese after dinner. "Sure," I said. "You can have mac and cheese if you eat every bite of your spaghetti and meatballs first." I figured I was safe there.

So, we're eating dinner, and she's picked out the meatballs and left a whole mess of pasta just sitting there. "I can't eat this!" she whined.

"No whining. What you really meant to say is: 'Mommy. Daddy. I have finished my dinner and would like to be excused.'"

"Mommy. Daddy. I have finished my dinner and...hey, I want my mac and cheese now." David cracked up.

"I said if you finished your spaghetti. You clearly have not."


"Let me see if I understand you. You are suggesting that I THROW AWAY PERFECTLY GOOD FOOD so that I can make you some other food. Is that correct?"

"Yes," she said, prompt and agreeable.

"Let me ask you again. You would like me to THROW GOOD FOOD INTO THE GARBAGE so I can cook you some other food. Yes?"

"Yes. Just not my Twirlies."

"WHAT?" I countered, trying to get my bearings. Apparently, she thought we were just putting a reasonable plan in place.

"Not my Twirlies. But you can throw away a bunch of food that I don't like. And then I'll have mac and cheese."

Clearly, I am outwitted and outplayed here. Can I get arbitration, please?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Oh My Stars

So, I had my appointment with the fancy-shmancy NoCo ENT this morning. And it all went very well, except for the part where I swooned and blacked-out a teeny bit for an hour. That part was less than successful.

Apparently, I had a "vasovagal episode" while she had her little camera up my nose. I know that sounds vaguely vaginal, but it's not. It's like fainting. One minute I was thinking "I don't really care for this tube being all up in my brain" and doing surprisingly painful things like "saying the letter E." The next minute, everything went black and I heard myself say, as if from a great distance, "I don't feel so well..." and suddenly someone slammed my chair backwards and down, a bright line shined in my eyes, an ice pack dropped onto my forehead, and I heard the "scriiiitch" of a blood pressure cuff as it wrapped around my arm.

The doctor and her nurse told me not to worry, and to think nice thoughts, but I could hear myself making plaintive little noises, like I was about to cry but couldn't quite get there. I was scared. Nurse Jill massaged my arms, and I realized that both my hands were completely numb and my arms were tingling. I couldn't catch my breath, and my stomach hurt really bad--possibly from the poisonous-tasting stuff she had squirted up my nose before the scope followed. (I guess it's supposed to numb you.) I mumbled "I'm such a drama queen!" and felt really embarrassed.

Jill started telling me about a "huge dude" they'd had in recently who jumped out of the chair afterward, only to hit the ground like a sack of potatoes seconds later. "And this guy was totally unconscious, and NOT BREATHING." She told me she started yelling "Holy @#$%, he's dead!" and was it my imagination, or did she sound a little disappointed when he turned out not to be? At any rate, I felt a bit better about my own display--at least I had stayed in the chair.

She tried to hoist me up about 10 minutes later, but I got all swoony, so back down I went. Doc came back in and asked me if I'd eaten anything today, and I murmured "An English muffin," which for some reason sounded really stupid to me. When I finally sat up, Jill had brought me an apple juice box (which made me feel like Jarrah) and a bite-sized chunk of bagel (why only a chunk? They didn't want to add any yakking to the morning's festivities?) "Here," said Jill. "I hate apple juice. Disgusting. But drink it anyway." Weirdly, her particular brand of bedside manner worked for me, as I ended up laughing weakly and not thinking about my delicate sensibilities. (Earlier, when I was of sound mind, she had regaled me with stories about the Australian horse-racing circuit, where the jockeys "all drink and smoke and @#$%, and the horses have names like @#$%& and &*%$" and I was all like "WHAT?")

When I was able to sit up entirely, Doc came back and walked me through the National Geographic special inside my nose, which was actually kind of cool, especially since it looked pretty normal to me (and her, which is what counts.) No polyps (ick), no deviated septum, no disgusting litany of symptoms that might indicate an infection. Now I need more tests on my sinuses and allergies before she can diagnose me, but I'm actually quite surprised I don't share my dad's nasal passages. I have always believed that was his special legacy to me. Also, right before Jill squirted the poison into my nostrils, she commented "Damn, you have a fine-looking nose. The kind someone might ask for if they were getting a nose job." "Mmm-hmmm." I smiled. "I've always thought my nose was pretty nice...on the OUTSIDE."

David told me that what happened has something to do with tigers or bears, when they try to eat you--it's better to have a lot of blood and oxygen near your heart, where it can keep you alive, rather than serving no purpose in your head, hands and feet. And I Wiki'd "vasovagal episode" when I got home, discovering that there many reasons they happen, including "pressing on the sinuses, throat or eyes." I'm guessing that's what happened, because while one of the other options was "stressful medical procedure" my Readers can't imagine the sheer glut of stressful medical procedures I've endured in the past five years, most of them unsedated, and while I sobbed and screamed a few choice epiphets and may have tried to kill a medical professional or two, I never felt the least bit faint.

Which is good, because I'd like to believe this episode was out of my control. I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm losing my edge.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Movie Review Monday

I've seen a bunch of movies in the last couple of weeks, so I thought I'd review a couple of the best. If you don't get to them in the theater, you'll have some ideas for your Netflix queue.

Up, from Pixar in Disney Digital 3-D

I had already seen the trailer for the latest animated feature from Pixar about a dozen times, and was totally unimpressed. I mean, sure it looks cool that this old guy's house lifts into the sky, powered by thousands of balloons, but what was the point? And then there was this little scout, an accidental stowaway, and clearly there was going to be some sort of antagonistic relationship between them, yet another tedious incarnation of the classic buddy motif.

Well, the trailer doesn't give you the backstory, and that's where the heart is. See, this old guy was once a kid who fell in love with a little girl, and they both dreamed of big adventures, particularly a trip to Paradise Falls in South America, just like their idol, professional explorer Charles Muntz. They grow up, they get married, and the whole trajectory of their marriage is lovingly and subtly depicted without a word. They are also childless, and not by choice. I had no idea this was going to be an infertility story, and the missing piece in the pie of their love made me weep. I don't want to spoil it for you, but by the time that house is wrenched from its moorings, it's the only option left for a life-long adventurer (and lover) making good on his word.

And the little stowaway, Russell, has his own backstory. See, he's a wildnerness explorer, and he needs the "Assisting the Elderly" badge in order to get senior status. Too bad no one in his family is interested in helping out. So you see, these two are made for each other.

For once, the 3-D glasses didn't give me a headache; in fact, I forgot about them completely, so riveted was I by the gorgeous aerial panoramas, lush vegetation, and surprising wildlife, including a giant bird named Kevin who turns out to be a girl. There is also a delicious subplot involving a bunch of dogs, some of them fierce, but represented by the sloppy-sweetest member of the pack, Dug, who runs away with the best line in the movie (and many others besides.)

Let's just say that our growing band of explorers tests their limits in one adventure after another, and that a lifestory comes full-circle, and that Russell not only earns his badge, he re-earns all the others ten times over. And though there's some crazy action in sequences, there's also a lovely quiet, infused with the magnitude of life's choices, in many others.

Up left me buoyant. And if you're wondering how the youngest critic in our gang received it, she was riveted, especially when Kevin sustains a leg injury and young Russell applies a bandage from his wilderness kit. She heartily approves of the motto "Be Prepared."

Every Little Step

I first saw A Chorus Line at age 12, on Broadway, fifth row center, courtesy of my generous Uncle Gerry. I hadn't seen many (if any) musicals before, and this one struck me as the coolest idea ever--a musical about casting a musical. I loved every dance, every song, especially the one modestly titled "Dance 10, Looks 3" which contained the most shocking refrain I had ever heard, and had me averting my eyes from the adults for the rest of the evening:

Tits and ass
Bought myself a fancy pair
Tightened up the derriere
Did the nose with it
All that goes with it

As I grew, it was no surprise to me that the show became the longest running ever on Broadway--some 15 years--and I would see it again and again on the West coast, in every community and school production I could snag a ticket for. It wasn't long before I knew every song by heart, and most of the book, too. For a long time, I couldn't have explained what made every other musical pale in comparison (and I came of age in the Andrew Lloyd Weber era) but I think I can now. Some of the primal urgency at the show's heart emerges in the opening number "I Hope I Get It." A Chorus Line is about wanting something passionately, something that might be out of your control: to be hired, to be noticed, to be LOVED. I can relate.

I hope I get it
I hope I get it
How many people does he need?

In the wonderful documentary Every Little Step, the filmmakers choose from 500 hours of footage from the eight month (!) audition process for the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. Along the way, we get to know several of the actor/dancers in the running for particular characters, who are winnowed from 3,000 to a couple dozen hopefuls at the "final-final" callbacks. We learn a bit about the history of the show, and get to hear some of the original tapes that Michael Bennet and 22 dancer friends made in a single night of confessions over wine. We get to know the producers and casting crew, including Baayork Lee, one of the choreographers and the original Broadway Connie. In the film's opening moments, there is a wonderfully visceral scene in which she asks the sweating hopefuls, a mixture of unknowns and Actors Equity players: "Have you ever heard the expression 'Eat Nails?'" Then she screams as if her heart is breaking and the most important thing is for the audience to notice it. "So...EAT NAILS!" she commands. Yes. Point taken.

Throughout the film, it's the actors who eat nails--not contemplate eating them, but truly open themselves to the searing, superabundant vitality it takes to make someone notice you in a crowd. Like Jessica, an unknown from New Jersey who tells us "I don't have a fallback plan. When you have a fallback plan...you fall back." And like Yuka, who is fighting for Connie against her best friend, and lets us know that she is going to lose her apartment if she doesn't get this job. Like Rachelle, who impresses the hell out of the committee on her first read, and somehow loses it eight months later. "What the f*$@% did I do eight months ago?" she anguishes behind the scenes when they ask her to try again. "I have no idea!" And most memorably, like Jason Tam, who strolls into a stark, fluorescent room, stands in front of six strangers, and practically summons the apocalypse with his take on Paul's wrenching monologue--the heart of the show. The producers watch him, stony-faced, thank him for coming, and the door shuts behind him. But then there is the camera to capture every last one of them whipping off their glasses to wipe tears from their eyes. This is good stuff, people. (And it doesn't hurt that Jason Tam is yummy enough to eat with a spoon.)

What makes the film so mesmerizing is the weird combination of objectives: these people need a job, sometimes badly, but they are seeking that job in the most raw, vulnerable fashion imaginable. They are asking to be found beautiful, graceful, charismatic, likeable. That's a lot to ask of strangers. But if they didn't put themselves out there, there would be no magic. In the name of magic--for themselves, for an audience--these individuals eat nails. It's a noble calling.

Late in the film, one of the dancers comments that she's just noticed Jessica for the first time, because she is "killing it" in the final dance audition. This expression caught my notice because it's so violent, and it's used to describe something so impossibly beautiful--the moment when a dancer is in the zone. Perhaps it's a little like those gorgeous butterflies that only live a few hours--that kind of beauty can't last, and that's what makes it so precious.