Cultural Things

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Chinatown Philly 2019

Last week I accompanied Veruca on a class trip to Chinatown (Philly). The Chinese teacher gave the students strict instructions to be respectful, walk no more than two astride, and absolutely “no frog on school bus.” I was given an itinerary with a list of students I was supervising (hey – I did NOT sign up for THAT) and we passed under the Friendship Gate – a beautifully painted arch that marks the entryway into Chinatown.

We split into 3 groups for shopping. The first store had knickknacks, books (particularly one on Chinese medicine, which I would like to explore again), dishes, some Bruce Lee Kung-Fu statues in various stages of combat, and beautiful CHOPSTICKS (which I bought). The second store was a Hello Kitty store – need I say more?

The last was a grocery – boxes of fruit lined up outside and large vinyl refrigerator flaps covering the entryway. I followed V and her friends inside where she snatched up a bag of these candies she’s always swiping from the nail salon. I wandered around, the funky “off” smell burning a hole in my sinuses, looking at the meat cases filled with normal everyday things and then some obscenely long pig legs with hooves still intact. I snapped some pictures of the fish display in the back, which was quite impressive, and no – I am not embarrassed. Someone said the fish area was disturbing but I still don’t know why, unless she was referring to the football-sized bloody fish head, its eyes facing the back wall. I wandered downstairs and bought chili sauce, sesame chili oil, and seaweed wraps.

Afterward, we walked around the block to a very small Asian bakery where we entered in waves. It was hotter than a South Street pizza shop in there, so I bought a butter cream bun and hightailed it back outside. V and friends bought Bubble Tea that resembled a pink smoothie with little black balls floating in the bottom that you’d suck up through the straw. They were oddly, simultaneously slimy and spongy and I was afraid to ask but I did. They’re tapioca balls.

Next stop – the Chinese restaurant that was booked for lunch. I googled this place the night before just to see what it looked like, what the menu was like, etc. and the first thing to come up was a series of Yelp reviews, which everyone knows is just a bitch-board because everyone’s a food critic. HOWEVER. One review pointed out the very real news that this restaurant was responsible for the largest food poisoning incident in recent Philadelphia history. Over 100 people in one day, in 2015. I googled the article and found more – as recent as last summer – meat stored at temps above 50 degrees and black mildew inside an ice machine, just two of TWENTY health code violations in a single visit. Who’s hungry now?

So we sit down. All I can think of is – what is the safest thing to eat that is least likely to lead to explosive diarrhea and vomiting? And – I’ll have water – NO ICE – thank you.

Anyway. The dishes were served family style – pork fried rice, lo mein, some sort of red meat on a stick (that V said was raw in the middle – I didn’t eat it), sweet and sour chicken, General Tso chicken with broccoli, orange wedges and fortune cookies. The two chicken dishes were good. Everything else? Nothing to blog about. Even my fortune – he who is shipwrecked the second time cannot lay blame on Neptune – what the heck am I supposed to take away from this? I’m safe to eat here this time, but don’t come back? Or perhaps a deeper message about watching for my ex’s other shoe?

I will say this – that peculiar smell from the grocery store followed me around the block and into the restaurant. It was also in the underground grocery we went to after lunch. In retrospect, although it isn’t a smell you want to encounter in a food establishment, it is a smell often encountered in city back streets that smell like wet garbage and rotting food.

The underground grocery is quite well-known but could easily be missed because it’s through a set of dirty glass doors and down a flight of gray concrete steps with fluorescent lighting reminiscent of old subway stairwells. There are live crabs and jellyfish, and FROGS in a Rubbermaid tote (presumably where last year’s student bought the live frog), and purple (black) packaged chickens that drew everyone’s attention. (They are Silkies, according to my birding friend Dave.) The kids bought a shit-ton of candy and I bought a 5lb bag of sushi rice.

In all, we had beautiful weather and no one got sick. I watched the folks who live and work in Chinatown, the tourists popping in and out of the stores, the men seated in the back of the bakery, looking like Asian Goodfellas and speaking in the hushed tones of their native language, and the boys in Veruca’s class all wearing those ridiculous Chinese straw hats (that screamed, tourist!) looking like they were headed to the rice fields. The boys – all of 13 or 14 years old and varying degrees of tall and short – the tallest boy seated at our table muttering about propaganda on the television and the shortest boy giggling like a chimpanzee.

*****

***Trigger Warning: The following is NOT kosher but (I think) hilariously funny, and may also be offensive to those without a sense of humor.

Friday night was Seder. Todd and I drove down to Baltimore to his parents’ house. Just a couple of their friends, Aunt Marilyn and cousin, Michael. We went through the motions like a drive-thru version of Passover, and got to the eating. Someone started talking about pigs feet and Michael said the hind legs aren’t kosher. But the front legs are, because they’re split-hooved.

I leaned over and said to Todd, I bet all the pigs in Israel only have back legs. Father-in-law’s shoulders started shaking, and then Michael said, they have to put them in those little carts so they can get around. Which in turn made me burst into red-faced laughter. But he wasn’t done. Because he said, but then they’d get stuck in the mud… so they have to put them in all-terrain vehicles, and I had an instant picture of those big all-terrain tires they put on monster trucks, which is where Michael was going and now there are tears running out of my eyes. Aunt Marilyn and I are falling into each other and the whole thing was monstrously inappropriate but we’re a fun family and if you’re offended you don’t have to join us for dinner next time. Oh – and YES – I KNOW that Orthodox Jews don’t eat pork.

 

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I Bought An Indoor Plant & Life Goes On

I did. I haven’t had a true indoor plant since I killed the last one in over 7 years. I say “true” because I do occasionally keep a basil plant inside, until summer, unless it dies before I can move it outside. I have one presently, and it’s still alive so – so far so good. I also currently have the rosemary plant that I brought in for the winter, but those things have to be supernatural because I had a rosemary plant years ago that I left outside all year long; it turned brown and dry – all the symptoms of a dead plant – and then bounced back like it had nine lives.

Anyway. It’s a palm. I saw it and thought – yes! We need plants in the house. I won’t say why we haven’t had them for so long, but it’s not just because I’m a serial plant killer. Veruca saw it and exclaimed, wow! Because it’s way bigger than it looked at the store. And then she said in all seriousness, don’t kill it, mom. And then she said she can’t wait until it drops coconuts. It’s not that kind of palm, but she wasn’t hearing it. Kind of like when she says she’s Chinese even though it’s plainly obvious she has not one percent of Asian in her.

I’m trying to find the emotional balance again. The grief hits me from time to time, when the thought drops like an empty bomb, clearing the hollow of my stomach and reminding me of his absence, and that it is permanent. The stages of grief always catch me by surprise, you know? Like they talk about the stages and it’s like yeah, yeah, that’s what they say. But it’s real. I found myself feeling something other than sadness when I saw others’ posts of their cats. WHY OLIVER?

Anyway, I am busying myself with completing the tasks of tidying, a la Marie Kondo. I have packed up 12 boxes of miscellania and 7 bags of clothing to be donated to Purple Heart. I organized the junk drawer, and the kitchen cabinets are shaping up slowly. No – I’m not following her program to a “t.” But I’m getting the job done and it’s bringing joy.  I folded my clothes Kondo-style and my drawers look like a work of art and I can’t stop opening and closing them. I did Todd’s too – would you believe he owns 78 t-shirts? SEVENTY EIGHT. I told him no one can use that many t-shirts. And this was after we purged some. And then went out shopping and doesn’t he buy 3 more? So that ups the count to 81. (And no – I did NOT buy him a t-shirt at Opac’s college a few weeks ago. Sue me.)

Anyway, emotional balance. I go to work and it’s pleasant and we laugh a lot (well, except for the absurd. More on that later).  At home, this perimenopause business makes me edgy and impatient. It’s probably partly because we have a canine houseguest, and he’s big and hairy and licks his paws. A few people know this makes me absolutely nuts. There’s hair everywhere, something I am not fond of and one reason why poodles are perfect. It’s no secret I have a threshold for tolerance when it comes to changes in the household dynamic.

Other things that make me stabby: slow internet connection, parents who think the student drop-off rules don’t apply to them, really – anyone who thinks the rules don’t apply to them, someone throwing a cigarette out their car window at the grocery store, and everyone who continually undermines my Kondo house. On a larger scale, the horrific lack of justice in the world and the fact that it’s not illegal for evil people to reproduce.

So I’m focusing on my own habits and making healthy changes. I’m back on the self-imposed wagon again, and truth be told: your body will tell you what you need and what you don’t, IF you pay attention. I have a story about that too, for another day.

I have breakfast quinoa simmering on the stove this morning. I made $80 hummus yesterday. It’s $80 because we had to buy a food processor on Sunday (old one crapped out months ago). I started a new 21-day exercise program because I am almost-50-going-on-25 in my head and my body is all like, hey, feel this.  I took a bikini pic yesterday and recorded my weight and intentions in my journal. It’s only 3 weeks. I can do this.

V is running a 5k in a few weeks, and I was aiming to run it with her. Or, rather, at the same time – since she doesn’t think we can keep the same pace. And she’s right. At this point I am not ruling it out, but I’m also not very optimistic about my knees holding up.

In spite of all the dumbfuckery of the present day, Todd and I have confirmed plans for New York and Phantom of the Opera, another trip to Erie for the State Bowling Tournament, and Vegas over the summer, coinciding with the National Bowling Tournament – because, apparently, very little happens without bowling balls. And, to that end, let me say now that also apparently – in case you didn’t know – all balls are not created equal. This was born of a conversation with Todd about how many balls he needs for the tournament, and the answer is four. He needs four balls. Seriously. Because all balls are not created equal. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The Absurd (as promised)

*These can also be classified under the “what not to do” tab.

People going through divorce are not normal. (I can say this because I was once one of them and fully understand the crazy.) Sometimes mothers call up tearfully sharing their shitstorm. Others, like the one a couple of weeks ago, forget their manners when they come into the office and turn on us – like, “why don’t you use your knowledge and figure it out?” while attempting to get her child an appointment for “she-doesn’t’-know-what.” (Oh yes, she did.) *For the record, she later called and apologized.

There are also – and this is a fun one – a handful of acrimonious parents who spend their time transferring their kids to other practices, while the other parent is trying to keep them in our office.

What not to do: do not involve us in your custody disputes. Unless there are court documents on file, there is nothing we can do.

Patients in the 16-17 range who arrive for appointments alone. FYI: children under 18 need a parent with them, or at the very least, parental consent to be there alone, and not all offices will even allow that. This situation requires us to call parent and get a verbal, taking up valuable time for other things and not to mention the amount of time said patient is with the provider.                                                                                                           

What not to do: Do not send your minor child to the doctor’s office alone.   I’m all for leading them down the path of adult responsibility, but at least accompany them for it.

And now, my personal favorite:

Parent who calls our office for an appointment Today. Today translates as a “sick” appointment. Child has not been seen in our office. I ask if we have records (this is a requirement to schedule any kind of appointment, as well as what insurance they have and whether or not they have to choose a PCP, which is a whole other story for another time), which is when I find out that child is a patient of another office in our network. I mention this to the parent, as well as the fact that I can see he is scheduled for a well appointment there in less than two weeks (which is going to matter A LOT as the conversation continues).

It is the parent’s responsibility to call the other office and cancel that appointment and inform them they’d like to transfer to our office.* The other office doesn’t “give good service.” I say I’m sorry that he had this experience, but reiterated what I said above. He was surprisingly NOT HAPPY with my response. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go to any location in the network whenever he wanted; I explained that while we are all connected, we operate as separate offices. That’s when he said this was “like a scene from a socialist movie,” and I have a limited knowledge of political ideologies but I think he might have gotten this one wrong?

*Turns out he wanted a Well appointment not a sick appointment. Currently, well appointments are out at least 3 months, which is why it makes more sense for him to keep the one he already has. It also turns out that the other office doesn’t give good service because he wanted one sooner than that two-week one he already had.

What not to do: Oh my, where to start? Expecting the rules to be changed for you? (see my earlier stabby-trigger) Being rude? 

 

Coping With Loss

I’ve not been eager to write. The month of March has passed very quickly, yet [mostly] uneventfully save for the one thing I never thought I’d have to face.

And here’s where I am going to quite possibly write the shortest blog post I’ve ever written.

Friday, March 15th I had to put Oliver to sleep. Oliver was our stray, who turned up on my doorstep almost 8 years ago in a neighborhood full of strays, yet he belonged to none of the ferals we TNR’d and kept fed on our property. He was a tiny little orange kitten and he decided he was ours.

Over the years I’ve shared pictures of him and stories, videos of him “dancing” with Veruca. He was the first pet that was really mine in, maybe, ever. I worried incessantly over him, like I would my children. Worried he’d get outside, and get lost – or beat up by the strays outside where we now live.

Everyone who met him, loved him. He was beautiful, sweet, remarkably tolerant, and – big. He used to curl up next to me on the couch, half his body on my lap sometimes. He also loved Todd. He often curled up next to him instead of me, and I used to joke that he loved Todd more.

At 5:30 a.m. on March 15th, he woke me up howling. He was lying on the floor in the hallway outside our door, which was ajar. He couldn’t use his hind legs. He was vomiting and panting and howling.

Saddle thrombus is a life-threatening medical emergency. A blood clot that has formed in the heart breaks free and travels down the aorta where it lodges in the “saddle,” the point where the aorta splits into two arteries that supply oxygen and blood to the hind legs. This is where Oliver’s was, and why he lost control of both hind legs. I lifted his leg up and it just fell back down with no resistance. The pads of his feet were ice cold.

It’s also known as feline aortic thromboembolism (acronym, ironically – FATE) and is extremely painful. It’s often the first and only sign of heart disease in cats. The emergency vet told me that when they see cats in their facility, it is commonly saddle thrombus.

And sadly, no cure. Blood thinners can be used to try to break up the clot, but meanwhile your cat has no use of his legs and must be on pain medication to manage his pain. This equals long-term nursing care until he “might” regain use of his legs, and a recurrence of saddle thrombus is highly likely, leaving those who love him with the unthinkable decision to face.

The suddenness of this condition is what makes the shock all the more painful. He was not quite eight years old. He was perfectly normal the night before. I never saw this coming. I thought we had years and years left with him, chewing on my plants and sleeping in our laundry baskets full of clean clothes, sitting at the kitchen counter by the computer waiting for us to turn on his video game, and standing by the treat cabinet waiting for his handout.

My heart is broken.

 

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New York Chronicles – September 10, 1989

September 10, 1989 Sunday

Yesterday Alena and I took the subway uptown to MOMA, which was awesome, and an opportunity for us to hang out alone and get to know each other away from Daphne and the other roommates. We talked about our upbringings and families, and things we like. She’s very easy to talk to, not judgmental or critical. We wandered around the museum, checking out the Cubism exhibit and some of Picasso’s work, and some other now forgotten modern artwork. I enjoyed the Cubism pieces, but I’m not much for modern art I guess. I got bored and hungry and suggested we get dinner. We stopped at this Chinese place on the way home – lots of great food and we split everything. So good!!

Last night Jane and two of her friends, and Alena and I went to the Cat Club. All black walls, black stage, and black floors, very industrial looking and a bit bare bones in a New Wave-ish way. There were a lot of music flyers advertising upcoming artists I’ve barely heard of plastered to the walls inside the doors. The huge industrial-looking bar was on the left and then a few steps down was a cavernous dance floor only half-full of a menagerie of interesting characters. The music was awesome, but I had one drink and just kind of watched.

September 13, 1989 Wednesday

I got a letter from Charles, postmarked from Italy, telling me he won’t be home now until the 21st or 22nd. I guess I’m a bit disappointed, I don’t know.

Classes are fine – I really like my Human Society and Culture class, and the instructor is great!

I dropped off the phone deposit at Bell today for $100. Hopefully we’ll have a working phone in a few days.

Last night Jane took me to Veniero’s down 11th, oh my God! There’s this enormous glass case filled with Italian pastries, cookies, cannolis, little fruit tarts, and so much more. I think I died and went to heaven in there. The first order of business is taking a number, and waiting on line until it’s called, though good luck deciding what you want when you can’t get near the case until it’s your turn. The space inside is small and Old-World feeling; it reminded me of Greece and the pastry shops on every corner. The store is split in two: between the shop side for carry-out, and the seated side, with its copper tiled-ceiling filled with little 2-top tables pressed so closely together there’s barely room to walk between them.

We bought a box full of cannolis and cookies, and two coffees, and headed back to the dorm. I’m not sure its proximity to our dorm is going to be a good thing.

September 15, 1989 Friday

I’ve decided to go home tomorrow morning. I called Erikah on my lunch break and she said she and her mom would pick me up at 30th Street Station.

I wasn’t feeling well last night so I decided to stay in and go to bed early. Well. Daphne and Alena were so loud coming in and out of our bedroom, flicking on the overhead light, in and out, light on, light out. I was so pissed. It was mostly Daphne. I have been trying to tolerate this situation but personally I don’t think I should have to.

Anyway, they went out for about an hour and then came back. Then Daphne’s friend Dimitri was with them, and he needs a place to stay – guess where? I didn’t get to sleep until after 2:30 thanks to all their commotion, and I had to get up at 6:30 for work. I was so pissed.

Apparently Jane had said no way to Dimitri staying over so she was pissed when she found out. She had a talk with Daphne while I was at work, so when I got home at lunch Daphne confronts me with all this drama the minute I walked in the door. Tried to blame the whole thing on Dimitri and everyone but herself. Like then I’m supposed to feel bad, which I absolutely didn’t because no one asked ME if it was okay for him to stay, or for HER to live with us for that matter. She said she “sensed hostility” every time she walked through the door. And now she’s never going to see her sister because of her “Greek Pride.” What a crock of shit.

Still, I was worried about Alena since she’s the one who actually IS my roommate. I was afraid she might be upset by all of it but everything is fine. She seemed unphased by it, even as Daphne moved out today.

Daphne’s parting words: “I’ll just have to commute every day an hour and a half now. But so what? I’ll just have to suffer.”  Yep, good luck.

September 20, 1989 Wednesday

This guy in my Human Society and Culture class sat down next to me on Monday, I mean right next to me, and all through class his arm would brush against mine while he was writing. Today he was right behind me coming into the classroom today, followed me all the way up to the second to the last row and sat down – out of a choice of, count them, four seats in the row – right next to me. I was dying. He has beautiful eyes. He was fidgeting a lot and tapping his pen on his desk, loudly. I was trying so hard to keep a straight face. If he sits there again, I’m going to have to talk to him.

Meanwhile, Charles sent a message through his dad to my mom that he ran out of money. He and his friend are in the south of France working in a vineyard picking grapes for a living. Well, at least he’ll have stories to tell his children one day.

I’m still amazed that I was so in love with someone for such a long time and yet now I haven’t the slightest idea of what it really is anymore. I’m not even sure I know what it is, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. I hardly think of Rob anymore, and thank God for that. I do feel something for Charles, although I’m not quite sure what it is. Then, there’s this guy in my class that makes me feel giddy, even though we haven’t said a single word to each other. So weird.

Daphne has moved temporarily back in. Ugh. I knew it was only a matter of time. She’s already making excuses for herself. I do like her – she’s riot and we have great fun together – I just don’t want share a room with her. Or deal with the bullshit.

September 22, 1989 Friday

Nothing like a fire drill to end the day. The entire building – all three towers and 14 floors – evacuated. So we’re all standing outside on 11th street in various states of dress, while the firetrucks pull up and the guys get out and go assess the situation, which is likely just a smoke alarm activated by something burning on somebody’s stove (we are an apartment-style dorm, after all) and some asshole opened their door and activated the entire building’s system.

Daphne started talking about going to bartending school, you know, to earn some extra cash. Jane glanced over at me and snickered. Under her breath, she muttered, “stupidity knows no bounds.” She’s not so fond of Daphne, methinks.

 

What Silverfox Calls a Clusterf*ck

The day after my bilateral nerve blocks, we had our “snow event.” We were extremely low on propane and the guy couldn’t get the gate open the week before. He was scheduled to come out again so I was watching for him. Todd had fixed the gate and closed it again even though I told him to just leave it propped open so there’d be NO problem.

Well, propane man couldn’t open the gate again because the bottom part was somehow stuck on the outside of the fence. I have no idea WTF happened or how, but I trudged out there with a screwdriver, in the falling snow, slipped and damn-near fell on my ass (already tender from the day before) and unscrewed the plate that holds the door in place at the bottom so it could be opened, all the while cursing the gods and my dear husband the fix-it man who couldn’t just leave well enough alone until after the propane was delivered. (And yes, we have a drill – but God only knows where Todd left it.)

Todd was at a conference in Long Beach, so I roused Opac from his bed midway through the day and told him to start clearing the driveway. So he goes out and fires up the snow blower and gets to work. I sent V out to shovel. It must be noted: there was barely a complaint from either of them all day. I looked out the window at one point and the two shovels were lying on the driveway and no one to be seen anywhere.

Suddenly the two of them came thundering across the back deck… engaged in a wicked snowball fight and both of them soaking wet. Stop the press! They were having fun with each other. I made them hot chocolate and fed them French toast for dinner.

Friday night Opac had friends over and I drove Veruca to her dad’s. When I got home I changed out of my work clothes and decided to take a shower. Our master bath has a [somewhat opaque] glass door that opens out to the deck, which is on the second story. This sounds weird but it’s in a corner and so – private. But it overlooks the side yard and that gate I mentioned above. I was toweling off when I saw a shadow on the fence below – I assumed to be O and his friends. I walked closer to the door, pulled the curtain aside and looked out. That’s when I saw him.

There was a man bent over, creeping up to the door. My first reaction was – Ted! What the fuck! So I banged on the glass and he started to back away. I rushed out of my bedroom and yelled for Opac, who came running from downstairs with all three friends behind him like a herd of elephants. They ran out through the living room sliders and Ted came out of the garage apartment wondering what all the commotion was about.

So. It wasn’t Ted. Some creeper lurking in our backyard, who had been in our detached garage out back. Ted found the garage door half open and tools spread around the table saw. But what’s really alarming is that this person had the balls to cross the yard where he could clearly see O and his friends through the sliders to the family room, creep up the adjacent stairs to do what? Look in my windows? I still don’t know why I’m not having a nervous breakdown.

(Yes, I called the police. Yes, we have taken further measures to protect ourselves and our property.)

The neurotomy went well. It was very nearly painless, though there were a few moments where I think I stopped breathing. When it was over and he asked me if I was doing okay, I told him I was very disappointed because he promised me bacon and I didn’t smell any bacon.

The next day I returned my car to the dealer. While they had the car for two weeks, they were supposed to address a number of issues – most importantly, the grinding, humming noise coming from the front driver’s side wheel. Well. They fixed the anti-freeze leak, replaced some thingy that prevents oil from leaking, and replaced a broken splash plate they said was causing the rattling we hear on the passenger side. Never addressed the most important part we brought it in for.

They gave me a loaner – guess what? The same fucking Taurus, which Veruca had nicknamed “Rosa.” When I picked her up at the bus stop that day, she laughed her little ass off. By the weekend, they said they had fixed the car and so Todd and I drove down Saturday morning. I forget what it was they fixed, but it had something to do with the axle or whatever – I don’t know, I’m not a mechanic.

So we drove to the Costco next door – and once we left there and got the car up to 50 mph, there was the grinding noise at the left front wheel and rattling in the passenger door. BACK to the dealer and oh! your loaner is still parked outside and I’m STILL driving Rosa. Long story short – Todd spoke to the manager yesterday who said the mechanic drove it and didn’t hear anything. I cannot tell you how angry I am. This whole time I think no one ever actually drove the car. Now this mechanic is either not the brightest crayon in the box, or he’s deaf, or needs a new career.

My car has literally been in the dealership for a month, and they can’t diagnose the problem. We’ve had the car for two years. I know what’s next, and I’m ready. I’ve had enough. And, (V says not to say it in front of her), I’m sick of driving Rosa.

V and I went to the high school information night, which was a total waste of time for me since I’ve already done this with #1 and V didn’t get to tour the school anyway. But she did get to meet her Chinese teacher for next year and the night was probably more for the kids anyway. I personally didn’t need to hear all the statistics on retention and attendance. It reminded me of the days in PA schools where we parents sat and listened to the principal preach about the legal ramifications of truancy. Every principal has their “campaign promise.”

Opac has officially confirmed his acceptance. The check was sent and we’re going up soon to visit again. I am cautiously optimistic since he still needs to secure a student loan for the difference that he will owe, and I don’t earn enough to co-sign. His dad does, but he had previously suggested that he couldn’t co-sign either. I don’t know where that’s going, but suffice it to say that nothing is ever not difficult with him, when he chooses to make an issue out of something. We had an issue a few weeks ago that had absolutely nothing to do with me and he turned on me like a rattlesnake, and I – like the fool I am – was actually blindsided by the degree of ugliness he can hurl at me.

Meanwhile…Eighty days to 50. And the dog and cat have taken their relationship to the next level.

New York Chronicles – September 8, 1989

dugout

Photo credit belongs to Jason Fernau, via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York website.

Last night was a riot. We went first to the Dugout, a neighborhood bar two blocks away from the dorm. Three steps down into the brightly lit bar, its façade lending the impression of an old English pub with wood shingles and a single gable window above the door, and standing room only among the wooden tables. Three frosty drafts went down like water and Alena and Daphne decided we were going to MKay’s.

MKay’s is midtown and more upscale and it was crowded with well-dressed people. We detoured downstairs to the lower level which was more clubby and darker with the flashing lights of DJs and dance music. We met these Italian guys from Milan, which was about the only thing any of them said that I could make out since I think they had about a dozen English words between the three of them. Two more beers went down and it was hilarious – the six of us struggling to have a conversation above the booming music and soon it was just lame.

Getting up for work this morning was rough, and I was still nauseous. I worked from 8 to 4, with an hour lunch break which was great because I really needed the fresh air. The area I work in is basically in the basement, with a separate entrance from the main Admissions office upstairs; we’re kind of like the worker trolls hidden in the basement. I swear I’m going to spend a lot of time underground in New York, and I’m not talking about the “edgy” side of the city.

My boss is nice enough but strange as a three-legged bird, and I haven’t yet figured out which eye to focus on when I talk to her. She’s tough but not unkind. Kind of like a retired military sergeant. Her husband, who works there too and I’m not sure exactly what he does, is a dead ringer for Howdy Doody, and equally as strange. He has an off-color sense of humor that I’m sure isn’t appropriate for the work place, and more than likely he’s got a closet full of bondage paraphernalia at home, or he’s a serial killer. Which, when I think about it, makes it very difficult for me to look him in the eye.

 

**Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York is a favorite of mine. There’s also a Facebook page and a published book. It makes me very nostalgic for the New York of my twenties.

Always Welcome in Any Gathering

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So the bowling fundraiser thing was last weekend and Todd went to represent the college, bringing along Jonathan (for fun), Eddie (who he bowls with regularly), and Bill (who he used to bowl with). There was an endless of buffet of food – ALL of it was fried food which, if you bowl regularly, you know you shouldn’t eat because all that salt makes your fingers swell. But I ate it, because – onion rings and mozzarella sticks and beer. Paid dearly for it later. It really sucks not being 22 anymore. Sometimes.

So we’re waiting to get started and Bill arrives. He and Todd have known each other for decades, used to bowl together. Bill is 85. He was thrilled to pieces to see me… exclaiming, “it’s the sausage lover,” and Jonathan looked at me and I looked at him like, what the fuck did he just say? I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering what the hell he meant by that. He said something later about my sausage dip (from a party a couple years back) and then changed the subject to my hot stepmom.

Bill is an interesting guy. He sat down with me between turns to chat about life, Todd, that party we had where he thought he was going to score a dinner date with my stepmom until she told him she was married, how my mom was doing, and “Uncle Harry.” He was pretty vocal about Todd’s health, yelling about him getting a colonoscopy because apparently that’s what we old folks do now – talk about health screenings and extreme invasions of personal space.

He told me to kick him in the arse about getting healthy – which, if you know Todd, is about as successful as bathing a cat. And then he went on about his days in the Navy and how he knew Harry Truman and called him Uncle Harry. I really wanted to hear more about this, but – the lanes were calling. Meanwhile, Jonathan texted me a meme of a man licking his bowling ball. I love him. He gets me.

There were raffle tickets for door prizes and by the end Jonathan had cleared off our table and threw the tickets away, not realizing they were still calling numbers. And he did it – he went over to the trash can and went digging for the tickets and I took a picture because some things just must be documented for my amusement.

Eddie, meanwhile, hung back like he always does, a quiet observer and serious bowler, every so often showing me memes on his phone. If he gets me, he never lets on. He tolerates my relentless innuendos with quiet bursts of laughter, so I never really know if he’s shocked or not but I refuse to give up. Which brings me to a story.

About a year ago, Todd and Eddie and Tish were laughing about Eddie’s stats: he kept rolling sixes and nines and so the three of them made some innuendos about it and they were all cracking up. Eddie walked up to where I was sitting and told me about it. I looked at him puzzled and innocently said, I don’t get it. He said, “sixes and nines, …..you know, SIXTY NINE.” I said, sixty-nine? okaaayyy… why is that funny? I don’t get it. He stared at me and emphasized sixty-nine again, and then again, and waited for me to get it. I just stared blankly back at him like I had no idea what he was talking about. He went back to the group and told Todd, “she doesn’t know what 69 means.” Todd said, “she does… she just doesn’t want to do it.” Tish nearly fell over and they all looked back at me and I just sat there grinning like the cat that got the canary. Eddie knew he’d been fooled. This is what I do for fun at bowling.

Meanwhile, I had the EMG which is relatively unchanged in 5 years… which is good although somewhat disappointing in that I have the numbness in my hands which is frustrating and uncomfortable but apparently not even in the “moderate” range where surgical release is an option.

Yesterday I had my second test round of nerve block injections, this time bilaterally. My doctor is this cool, self-described “crazy Japanese guy with a needle,” who plays Hawaiian music in the operative room and praised me for my sense of humor over this whole thing. But that was before he told me that if I smell bacon during the neurotomy next week, not to worry – that’s just my flesh burning. I can tell you today that “some” pain is gone but my back is hurting and right now I’m feeling a bit concerned. I felt great when I left the surgi-center, but hours later after icing periodically, my lower back was hurting like a bitch. I was hopeful that it was just temporary and that today I’d wake up differently, and I did, but now that I’m sitting in a chair my back pain is heating up again and my right leg is achy. I have a script for more Flector patches that most likely insurance does not cover and are ridonculously (borrowing a favorite expression from my friend Jason) expensive. Shouldn’t I NOT be feeling this?

Maybe I shouldn’t have been driving around for 3 hours last night? I don’t know. I finally got to pick up my car from the dealership. They’ve had it for 18 days. I don’t want to talk about all the problems it has had. It’s been ongoing for the two years we’ve had it, and I think it should’ve been replaced but here we are. Nevertheless, today we’re getting 3-5 inches of snow and other icy crap over the next several hours, and I thought it prudent to get it right away. Veruca rode along and we picked up sushi and Chinese food from my favorite place, which meant that it was a nearly 3 hour round-trip excursion. BUT – my car is home. I’m not driving a dad-car* anymore and I’m soooo happy! I beeped the horn when I pulled in the driveway.

We feasted on sesame chicken, moo shu vegetables, sweet and sour chicken, wonton soup, spicy tuna roll, Philadelphia roll, and shrimp tempura roll. This is the second time I’ve watched Opac – the finickiest of finicky eaters – gobble up sushi like candy. I know I’ve said it before… who IS this kid? Meanwhile, V – my adventurous foodie – only tasted the shrimp tempura roll. She doesn’t like sushi, really, though she does like my homemade veggie nori rolls (and so does O, for that matter). She shares my love of clams, but I do not share her love of mussels. Weird kids.

More updates tomorrow.

 

Miscellaneous:

The “dad-car” was a Ford Taurus, which I didn’t even know they made anymore. We were supposed to get a rental, and I texted Todd to get a Mustang. Instead, apparently beggars can’t be choosers or they just wanted to get the ornery customer with “the car that’s seen the inside of garage more times than all of our Fords combined” out of their service department as fast as possible, so we got the demo. It was a base model and spoiled me had to suffer without remote start, heated seats, and no Sirius XM for over two weeks. If you like big boat cars and FM radio with a smooth ride and room for 20 grandkids, this is right up your alley.

The only good part was I rediscovered regular radio, including some county station where I heard Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here and, heaven help me, I rushed home to play it for my son, who loved it and has added it to his rotating playlist with Pickup Man and some other song about Honky Tonks.

I could tell Todd until I’m blue in the face about the healthy changes “we” need to make and, depending on his mood, the answer is either, yeah, I know or, but I don’t eat that bad. Case in point, Sunday morning I came out of the bedroom for coffee and found him elbow deep in the potato chip bag. He was just having one chip.

More advice from the pediatrics trenches: when you take your child to urgent care or the ER, they will always tell you to follow up with your pediatrician. This does NOT mean you have to have an appointment to follow up. However, DO call. The nurse can ask and answer questions and concerns and reassure you, and let you know when it might be necessary to return.

 

Valentine’s Day and 100 Days to Go

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I read an article about all the things you should and shouldn’t do when you’re over 40. Exercise every day, but not too much. Don’t eat the junk food that sustained you in your 20s. Your body doesn’t like it. Don’t drink too much. Apparently your body doesn’t like that either. Make sure you get enough rest, but not too much. Don’t stare at your cell phone before bed… it affects melatonin. Sex is important. Spend time with your friends. But not while having sex. Well, unless that’s how you roll, but that’s none of my business.

Let’s see how we’re doing so far in 2019: Um, 1) not so good 2) reasonable food choices 3) failed 4) mostly 5) failed 6) none of your business and 7) yes. I can’t speak for Todd.

The T ~n~ T house hosted two parties the last weekend in January. The first was Opac’s… a crowd of about 17 downstairs playing pool, poker, and darts, and standing around the firepit outside. I stayed upstairs in the living room, stone cold sober, and watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey because I’m a classy bitch. Todd left the house for his usual bowling night. I finally broke out the wine around 11:30 as most of them were dispersing.

The following night was our quarterly poker party that in its infancy began as a group of about 6 guys, with beer and brats, pulled pork, and buffalo chicken dip. It has grown to a mixed crowd of about 22 including spouses and children, only a handful in the poker game and the rest playing pool and darts. Because I grew up “in the business,” I put out a spread I slaved and worried over all day and felt was adequate, and then was surprised that anyone was impressed.

Side note: Cards Against Humanity – Funniest. Game. Ever. Make sure you are properly sauced and have emptied your bladder. This is not for the faint of heart and definitely NOT for children. Shout out to Jonathan for knowing exactly how to entertain me.

Got my first round of injections in my L4-5 and L5-S1 which, I later learned, was a “test run.” WTF?? I woke up 5 days after with pain topping a seven, and Todd said, oh yeah, it’s been five days, right? That’s good – that means it worked. And I said, what do you MEAN, “it worked?” I repeat, W.T.F.

I’m going back next week to repeat it bilaterally, and then the week after to burn the nerves. Injections in the spine must be horrible, you say? Not so much. No one is more surprised than I am, that I have willingly submitted myself for injections ANYWHERE. No one likes needles, but when I was young I took it to a new level.

I’ve stopped wearing heeled shoes/boots. I’ve been wearing flat shoes or sneakers in an effort to curb some of the more intense pain. This new development for me is temporary, I assure you. My love affair with a chunky heel will not be curbed by back pain, numb toes, or my husband’s height.

Social life continues. Todd overbooked us last weekend and I spent the better part of Friday at work trying not to resent him focus on the lack of rest I was staring down over the next two days.

Friday night is always bowling night. It depends on my work schedule and my level of fatigue, whether I go with him. Last week I did. Friday morning he had “reminded” me of the tournament Saturday night that he’d never told me about. Saturday afternoon was a long-planned meetup with friends in Federal Hill to watch the Bayern soccer game. Which was great. We ate Schnitzel fingers and drank Stiegl Grapefruit Radler (light, refreshing, 2% alcohol).

We came home and rested a whole twenty minutes before we had to leave to meet friends for dinner an hour and a half away, before the tournament. Which, by the way, is roughly an hour and 45 minutes from home. The tournament is held in a firehouse bowling alley that has to be the only place north of Alabama that still allows smoking in the bar. But the drinks are cheap and the bartenders friendly. I was everybody’s drink bitch, since I was only spectating. We got home sometime around 12:30 a.m.

Sunday was a Dean-and-Mrs day; the college had an afternoon of music and fine arts presented by the faculty in Todd’s division. The music was great, but I was thoroughly distracted by the musicians’ shoes. Have you ever looked at musicians’ shoes? This led me down the rabbit hole of my thoughts until I was snapped out of my reverie by a lingering, and particularly foul, fart. What is WRONG with people?

Another weekend is approaching and there is a fundraiser that involves bowling and so here we go again. Somehow bowling has become my life and I don’t even bowl. Years ago I tried to make it fun, hanging out with the other bowlers and drinking, and cheering when they’d strike, which apparently is not something you do so I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm and just stick to drinking.

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Meanwhile, today – 100 days before my 50th birthday – is Valentine’s Day. Veruca was buzzing last night with the glow only a 13-year-old can have… hoping her crush would finally ask her out today. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d bet my life he isn’t going to be thinking, it’s Valentine’s Day, I think I finally have the balls to ask her out.

Back in school I remember Valentine’s Day carnations… white, pink, or red… available to buy and send to whoever you wanted… and the hoping against hope that you’d get one. And I’m not talking about Todd. Valentine’s 1986 – I filled his VW bug with balloons that blew all over the school parking lot when he opened the door. I gave him cards. He gave me cards, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a tiny bottle of his cologne, and a pink gold heart necklace. I tried to give him something else but – relax Dad – he didn’t take it.

I’m refocusing my energies on goals in the coming year. Not the least of which is writing that damn novel. There – I said it. Accountability is a thing, right?

 

Miscellaneous:

There is no vaccine for the stomach virus. (Oh yes, they did.)

If you’ve ever wondered if your hippie parents still smoke grass, the answer is yes. Also, if you walk into their house at the right moment, expect to be accosted with pleas to “just smell” this peanut butter cracker.

Leopards don’t change their spots. Shame on you for believing those days might finally be over. (Those unfamiliar: I’ll elaborate in another post, once I recover from the whiplash.)

 

 

 

Middle Age Shenanigans

A couple of weeks ago Todd told me we were invited to a party by one of his former colleagues. He told me it was the coming Saturday. That I heard clearly. Short notice – no big deal. My visceral reaction was more akin to, ah man, do we HAVE to? Contrary to popular opinion, I tend sometimes to lean closer to introvert. But he said something about it being a taco party and so I thought, I’m in!

[We interrupt this blog post with an over-the-shoulder conversation with him about what he should do with himself today, but he’s talking slowly because he just took an HCTZ pill – which is new – and he’s slurring his words just a little and giggling like a chimpanzee.]

So the day before this supposed event I asked him what time we’re supposed to be at this Taco Party, and he said it’s not a taco party, it’s an 80s party. Turns out, when he first mentioned the party, I heard taco instead of Paco – the hostess’s husband’s NAME.

So much for my claim that I do listen to him. Clearly evidence that he was right – that I don’t. But for what it’s worth, I’m easily squirrel! distracted.

However, HE had the date wrong. Because with my question he decided to open the invitation and it turns out it’s a few weeks out. So, plenty of time to plan an outfit for a decade I’d sooner forget the looks of. Millennials!

I have 126 days until I kiss my fourth decade goodbye. 126 days until I’m officially a half-century old – older than what I thought was old when I was 10. 126 days away from invitations from the AARP and the colonoscopy clinic. Good times ahead!

[Singing, All we are saying, give peace a chance… cough, cough, hack. Maybe he’ll fall asleep for an hour so I can finish this post.]

Todd has already crossed the bridge overlooking the Golden years. And with that, last week at the grocery store a revelation that what’s great about being over 50 is that you no longer give a shit what people think of you. Because he decided to return the shopping cart to the inside of the store once we unloaded, and he as he did… he let go the cart with a gentle push, raised his arms slightly and said, “currrrrrrling….” (Lady behind him sniggled to herself as she passed.)

Middle Age definitely has its merits. We have many adventures to look forward to and more than a few necessary medical screenings to run from, or face with the tenacity of a honey badger, or a sense of humor and a pen to write it all into a future blog post.

Todd has this penchant for turning everything I say into a song. I just announced that it’s 1:00 already.

[It’s one o’clock on a Saturday…and Tara is writing her blog…] a la Piano Man

HCTZ, by the way, has quite a few unpleasant side effects, twenty of which are related to sexual function. (Okay maybe not twenty.) I don’t remember if impaired judgement is one of them, but he’s over there looking at cars for sale again and decided aloud that

[She’s writing about me and I think it is fine, as she gets everything off of her mind…]

he doesn’t want another Explorer, because this car here is a great deal for the price. A Ferrari. I told him that’s perfect. It will go well with the loss of erection and sexual function from the medication he took today.

I’m thinking it’s going to be a long weekend.

 

 

Just Another Thursday Morning

Opac and Veruca were getting ready for school this morning and Todd was cooking bacon and sausage for a breakfast meeting. I’m still trying to ward off the alien invader who made my lip swell up. V has a presentation in Chinese today, so she wanted to practice with us. It sounded great to me – even though I don’t understand a word of it – and I’m still marveling at how well she’s doing with it, since Chinese can be difficult to learn.

Opac stepped up and said it was his turn, said “ni hao” and followed up with “Shanghai, Hong Kong, egg foo young…” at which point I started cracking up…”fortune cookie always wrong!”

He was bumbling his way around the house this morning, first kicking the step stool and startling me. He said, that’s what happens when a steel-toed boot hits a metal stool. Because today he’s wearing shit-kickers. A few minutes later I heard the toilet lid crash down, and from down the hall I heard, “I’m good!” Apparently he caught his boot on the lid, and I just don’t even want to know how that happened. For a brief moment I had a flashback to Neph who, you may recall, I once said Neanderthal’s his way through life.

While I’m marveling at how my daughter is speaking Chinese, I’m beginning to marvel at who-T-F this boy is living in my house. He’s evolving again, from video-gaming, rap-music-loving sport dude to this man wearing cowboy boots or shit-kickers, jeans and flannels, and now listening to ….. country music. It’s all good, just never saw the country music thing coming. Although, to say he doesn’t have an appreciation for all kinds of music would be disingenuous. He likes rock, metal, and reggae too.

He’s a young adult now. His newfound freedom of driving has boosted his confidence to get out and do stuff. He called me at work the other day to tell me, breathlessly, that he drove himself to get a haircut – which in itself must have felt very liberating but was ruined by some “hick” who appeared out of nowhere on his bumper and [likely scared the bejesus out him] pissed him off. I’m thinking, given his penchant for flannel and boots and while driving a 1990 Ford pickup, that he should limit his use of the word, “hick.”

He played me a song called Pickup Man and now I can’t get it out of my head. Not that, or the sound of him singing, you can set my truck on fire and roll it down a hill… and I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coup de Ville… and now I hate my life. Okay, not really. I think it’s hilarious, especially when he told me that Mason got him into country music and when he asked him to send his MP3 list, Mason sent each song separately. Can’t help but wonder how this trend will evolve next year when he’s at college with a whole new set of friends he hasn’t met yet.

I never liked the music my parents listened to, growing up. My mom and stepdad made me and a cousin see Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers at the Valley Forge Music Fair when I was in high school. I hated the idea from the get-go. The worst part – the seats were split up so Jimmy and I sat in one section, and Mom and George sat in another section. But guess what? Though I wasn’t about to tell them, it was a fantastic concert. First, Ziggy sounded like the ghost of his father, and Rita was just breathtaking. Second, it was constructed as a theater-in-the-round with a revolving stage so that there were no bad seats. It was hard NOT to be engaged in the show.

In high school I listened mostly to pop music, except when I was riding in Todd’s car with Dokken and Bon Jovi just beginning to effect what is now hearing loss. So there you have it Todd – you can’t get mad at me for not hearing you, because it’s all your fault I can’t hear!

In college, my first roommate turned me on to INXS and REM, and at my then-boyfriend’s frat house I picked up rock and metal music. One of my sorority sisters played Meatloaf at a dorm party once and now I never turn the dial when Meatloaf comes on. Friends at another fraternity used to play Werewolves of London, and it had other connotations I’d rather not disclose but I still can’t hear that song without thinking of them.

When I moved to New York, my new roommate turned me on to alternative music – New Order, Depeche Mode, the Cure – and one of my suite-mates interned at Elektra and so I came by quite a few cassette tapes of these and other, what SiriusXM now calls, First Wave artists. Conversely, I turned my roommate on to club music.

I used to listen to the country station driving to and from the kids’ preschool – and  a number of favorites are still on the playlist today. I listen to Eminem, mostly but not only, because of Opac. I appreciate the beat of some rap tunes, but not all. Classical music was never my thing at all. I tried to, I really did, thinking it would make me more cultured. But instead it either put me to sleep or made me laugh at someone who did (true story).

Todd’s music tastes – as evidenced by his playlist – run the gamut. This would have surprised me 30 years ago, just like imagining him as a college professor. He’s still HIM, but he’s evolved a lot since those motorhead metal days.

Especially after what he did at the grocery store last week.