Archive | My So-Called Life

It’s a small world, after all

The world is large, the world is small.

I called my friend this morning to see if she’d heard yet from her sister in London. She hadn’t heard the news yet but took it in stride. “I can’t see my sister riding public transportation,” she said archly.

I laughed. “Now, if she dies, you’re going to feel really bad. And we’re both going to hell,” I said.

“Oh, come on,” she said. “I’m still laughing over that woman running over her kid with her Volvo. If I’m not going to hell for that, I’m not going at all.” (A few years ago, a soccer mom in an affluent local suburb backed out of her driveway and over her child. And although of course the death was a horrible thing, the irony was irresistible: Every Volvo owner we know is fixated on protecting their children. That’s why they bought the car, after all.)

I turned on some reruns of “E.R.” after I hung up. In this episode, an elderly man with pancreatic cancer was in liver failure, and a surgeon talked him into having a Whipple procedure. Elizabeth Corday ripped into the surgeon, telling him he had a lot of nerve pushing such a risky procedure in someone so old, with so little chance of success. Gulp. I changed the channel.

At least I’m not watching cable news. I don’t want to see Bush again.

The world is large, the world is small.

My sister is waiting for my niece (who’s married to a reservist) to give birth to her third baby. My dad had his first chemo treatment yesterday. We’re worried about how my mom’s holding up.

For the past three days, there’s been a work crew outside putting cutesy Victorian shingles on my building; they start early and finish late. Bang, bang, bang, go their hammers.

I hate my new haircut but at least it only cost $13. I may have a new motherboard soon. What should I defrost for dinner?

Forty dead, 700 injured, 150 seriously. Riding to work in the morning, thinking about what to have for dinner, thenboom. And suddenly, you’re a survivor and CNN is sticking a microphone in your face. How did it feel? What was it like?

There was a loud bang, there was thick smoke, we couldn’t breathe. People broke windows, some people cried, some people prayed. Body parts, everywhere. We walked over the wounded to get out of the tunnel. No one was there to help us.

Heavy mortar strikes targeting the local government headquarters in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul hit nearby shops, killing at least three people and wounding 46 people, hospital officials said on Thursday.

We kill them there, they kill us here.

Somewhere, everywhere, a child wiggles at his school desk, waiting impatiently for recess.

The world is large, the world is small.

Celebrity time

I was walking down Lombard Street toward Tangier when I spotted Alberton his way home.

“Hey,” he said. “You have a couple of fans from Boston waiting for you.”

“Really?” I said, incredulous. “No shit.” (You have to understand, it’s hard to feel like a celebrity when all you do is sit around the house half-dressed and blog.)

As I approached the side door of Tangier, Steve from All Spin Zone grabbed my elbow and steered me inside. “Some people are here to meet you,” he said.

“People” were Michael and Priscilla, who are planning to move here within the next year from Boston. Very nice folks. He’s a COBOL programmer and she’s in school for interior design. (Plus, he looks like legendary WMMR DJPierre Robert. “Usually, people tell me I look like Jerry Garcia,” he said.)

Anyway, I can’t tell you how strange it feels to be a destination – like the steps of the Art Museum from “Rocky.” (And did I mention that Steve wrote only last week: “I’m beginning to think Drinking Liberally in Philly will soon become a tourist attraction”? Dude!)

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Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack

By on June 27, 2005 in My So-Called Life, The American Game

I finally found the field where my Dead Ex-Husband’s brother was playing ball yesterday morning. (It was tucked all the way in the corner of a township baseball complex I didn’t even know was there.)

Ex-Brother-in-Law had the power, but his swing was off and the most he got while I was there was a single. He had a pop-up that could have been a single, but he didn’t run out the ball. (Fundamentals, guys, fundamentals.)

Anyway, ballplayers are such nosy old ladies. Three or four times, one came over to say, “So, who are you here with?”

I pointed. “I came to see my ex-brother-in-law play.”

One time, this happened while I was behind the batting cage while my ex-BIL was at bat. “Oh, does your brother know his ex is here?” one of them taunted.

“I don’t know. He’s dead,” I said cheerily. “I mean, I believehe knows, but I can’t prove it.”

“She’s the mother of my nephews,” BIL explained. “Whyshouldn’t she be here?”

When his team was in the field, I sat in the bleachers – where someone had erected a screened canopy that covered the seating area. Another nosy ballplayer came over: “Where are you from?” I told him I used to cover one of their tournaments for the league magazine. I don’t remember how it came up, but I told him about watching a bench-clearing dispute in a championship semi-final when one of the pitchers threw underhanded.

“You should have seen the look on the batter’s face,” I said. “The other team cleared the bench: ‘Blue, he can’t do that!’ The ref said, ‘Oh yes, he can.’ One of the funniest things I ever saw.”

“One of the guys was just talking about that,” the ballplayer said with admiration. (To these guys, a woman talking baseball is much like the old saw about the talking dog. It’s not that he does it well, but that he does it at all.)

I said how nice it was to have a shade canopy over the bleachers. “Very civilized,” I told him.

“Well, you know, for a couple of weeks, some of the players had their wives and kids here,” he said. “It was really, really hot…”

I know ballplayers; I could see where this was going.

“And they were in the dugout. So now we put this up.”

“Can’t have that,” I said, nodding. Because you can’t. Other people may call it a game, but it’s serious.

The return of the Uberblonde

By on June 14, 2005 in My So-Called Life

“Geeze, you’re so depressed,” said my oldest friend, Lidaphonic Lee. (We’ve known each other since I was twelve.)

“Whattayou expect?” I said. (Lidaphonic is one of the few people with whom I speak only pure Philadelphian.) “My life is completely screwed, ya know? No job, no money, no house, no savings, no fucking future. Who wouldn’t be depressed?”

“What are you gonna do?” she said.

“What I always do: Self-destructive and flamboyant things to my hair. I’m going to cut it all off and bleach it back to my naturally unnatural shade of blonde,” I said.

Lee, a former hairdresser whose religion regarding hair is length, thought a moment before giving her reluctant blessing. “I think it’s a good idea,” she finally said. “All this bullshit started to happen to you when you lost touch with your inner Uberblonde.”

The Uberblonde is my alter ego, who indeed fell by the wayside a few years back. The Uberblonde’s hair is a comedically unnatural shade of platinum blonde, and she’s an Unsinkable Molly Brown type who always bounces back. But a few years back, I stopped keeping faith with her and we parted ways.

I was trying to fit into the rest of the world as determined by other, more timid people, and I ended up toning my hair down to what I thought was a more respectable (read: employable, less conspicuous) color. And Lidaphonic’s right; that’s when life really hit the skids.

The Uberblonde isn’t shy. She writes her phone number in lipstick on napkins for attractive men; she thinks nothing of playing eight-ball in a short skirt and high heels. (The Uberblonde also weighed a lot less; she could pull it off.)

The Uberblonde isn’t afraid all the time. (Her life’s motto: “What the fuck, tomorrow’s another day.”) She always knows what to do. She has this compelling belief in her own talent, a clear vision of the future and a determination to make things happen.

In other words, she’s not a fucking pussy. Not at all that whipped, depressed person I’ve been inhabiting for the past two years.

Well, today I invited the Uberblonde back into my life. I took the $6.99 I probably couldn’t spare, walked into the CVS and said to myself, “What the fuck, tomorrow’s another day.” I bought a box of suitably flamboyant color, stripped all the natural pigment from my hair and now a once-familiar person greets me when I look in the mirror.

Welcome back, Uber honey. I missed you.

Shoot the moon

By on June 14, 2005 in Blogosphere, My So-Called Life

Okay, I’m giving this a shot because, well, why not? Technorati is offering an all-expenses-paid trip to the conference:

The selected author will receive a flight to the Bay Area, two nights at the Westin Santa Clara hotel complete with in-room Internet access, and registration for the BlogHer conference.Technorati will pay for your flight from a major air hub in the continental United States (Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle).

Sounds good. What do I have to do?

How has blogging changed your life? Did it lead to a new job, new friends, a new life? How would a trip to Silicon Valley to meet other female bloggers help you accomplish your goals? We want to hear your story!

“Female bloggers”? There are female bloggers? (I kid, I kid.)

Blogging has changed my life in so many ways, I hardly know where to begin. (There’s the weight gain and the chronic underemployment, but that probably isn’t what you mean.)

In a very practical sense, each blog builds a community, and the members share resources with the other members. My readers have helped me over many a rough spot (including covering my bills through a bout with pneumonia and donating money for a new car when my old one died), but it’s really the emotional connection that keeps me doing this crazy thing.

I post some political monkey business that makes my eyeballs spin, wondering if I’m the only person who thinks the world is going nuts, and a few minutes later, ten different people have assured me I’m not. And each of them have offered their own unique take, grounded in their life experiences.

There must be something about my voice people like, because this year they named me “Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” at the fabulous Koufax awards.

Blogging is helping me come to terms with the idea I might not be cut out for the corporate world into which I keep trying to shoehorn my soul.

This is a toughie. I’m a working class kid, born and bred. “You don’t ever walk away from a job unless you have another one.” “You never turn a job down if you need one.” “Nothing’s more important than a regular paycheck.”

And that old favorite, “Just who do you think you are? What makes you think you’re so special?”

And yet. And yet… Can I live with a job that demands I stop blogging, or seriously curb my opinions? I. Don’t. Know. I just don’t. As an editorial writer, I sometimes had to write opinions with which I disagreed with my heart and soul. But this feels different.

Blogging hasn’t led to a job – yet. But I have hopes.

Blogging has re-opened the same world I knew as a journalist – except this lifetime around, I get to take sides. I get to meet and speak (and argue) with bloggers of all stripes. I’m addicted to having such easy access to expertise.

Because female political bloggers aren’t clustered in my immediate geographic area, I haven’t met as many of them face-to-face as I’d like. (Plus, I’m poor; I don’t travel much. See “chronically underemployed.”)

Going to this conference would add that much more depth to the bench of blogging resources on which I so often draw.

Plus, we can do each others’ makeup and shit. So there’s that, too.

Howling at the moon

By on June 11, 2005 in My So-Called Life

My father is depressed. He sits in the chair, head down, clutching a pillow and saying little. And why shouldn’t he be depressed? He has cancer and it’s starting to seep in that this is much more than a temporary bump in life’s road.

“I asked the doctor if he’s going to live, and you know how they are,” my mother whispered to me in another room. “He didn’t really want to give a direct answer. He finally said he didn’t think there was any point to radiation and chemo, that this was a very aggressive cancer. But he doesn’t know, I don’t want him to know. I’m going to try to talk to him tonight.”

Later, I am helping my mother get dinner in their tiny galley kitchen, and she breaks down. “I told him he has to fight, I can’t do this alone. I’m notready to be a widow,” she says. I hold her until she stops crying. As I’m heating my father’s soup, I tell her, “Mom, I don’t care either way what he decides. But I want it to be what he wants.”

I think she thinks the force of her will is enough to keep him alive. The thing is, we’ll all going to die and when it’s time, nothing stops it. But hardly anyone’s ever as ready as they might be.

I remember talking to my ex-husband the December afternoon before he died. He was very angry that he didn’t have the two years they promised him after the stem cell transplant.

“The thing is, the time you have is the time you have,” I said after he was done. “Whether it’s two days, two weeks or two years, it’s what you have. So you can spend it being angry that you don’t have more time, or you can spend it living. But whatever it is, it’s yours. Live it.”

He just nodded. A few minutes later, he went to sleep. The next morning, he died peacefully on a hospital gurney during a liver scan. No one even noticed until they brought him back to his room.

I was thinking about that tonight, driving home on I-95. By the time I hit Bridge Street, I was crying out loud. For my father, for my mother, for myself. For all the time we always think we have and how carelessly we spend it.

Howling at the moon, for all the good it did me.


By on June 8, 2005 in My So-Called Life

I lead a relatively pristine life. I don’t smoke, drink rarely, eat well and take lots of vitamins. (Okay, no exercise, but still.)

Ever since my dad got sick, though, I’ve been living on absolute crap. For breakfast this morning, I had two pudding snacks, a piece of honey-baked ham left over from my niece’s college-graduation party Sunday (actual protein!), a Fudgesicle and a couple of crackers. For lunch, nachos and a Pepsi.

It’s as if I’m compelled to punish my own body for being alive – or maybe it’s to make myself feel alive. I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it’s the strangest thing.

What’s even weirder is, everyone keeps telling me how great I look. “Did you lose weight?”

Yeah, my father’s malignancy is eating away at me from the inside.

Death warmed over

By on May 30, 2005 in My So-Called Life

It was gray and drizzly, so we went to a restaurant for Memorial Day burgers instead of cooking out. I told my friend what a shitty, shitty week I’d had. Suddenly, the little dancing lights appeared.

“Oh shit, I’m having another migraine,” I muttered. “This is just not fair. Two in one day? That’s never happened before.”

The pulsating geometric crescent got bigger and bigger. I could hardly read the menu. Then the damned thing switched to the other eye. What the fuck? That never happened before, either.

It felt like my face was swelling up; everything started to hurt. “Shit, shit,shit,” I said. “Why is this happening?”

“Look, you’re under a lot of stress,” my friend said. “All this stuff with your father, you’re worried about money…”

“This is really freaking me out,” I said. “The migraine never switched eyes before. That’s weird.” I confessed my secret fear.

See, I don’t have fused vision like most people. I have a dominant eye, and the other one is mostly for peripheral vision. For years, they didn’t even line up. Then three years ago, I accidentally slammed the side of my head into the car door, and just like that, my eyes were suddenly in line. I was mostly delighted, but also a little wary. How come this happened? What if I had an aneurysm, a ticking time bomb in my head?

I eventually forgot about it – until last summer, when I started seeing double. It got to the point where I had to close one eye to read. As I told the doctor, though, I didn’t think I was really seeing double. It seemed more like my vision was trying to fuse, I said.

He told me whenever there was a vision change, that was important. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I never did get to the neurologist and right now, I need a break. I’m so sick of doctors.

My friend was sympathetic. “Look, your father’s sick. It’s perfectly normal that you’re paranoid about your health now. It goes with the turf. Let’s have some dessert.” So we did.

Yes, I know. My father has cancer and now every little thing is going to freak me out. But what if I miss something important because I’m convinced I’m only imagining things?

When I saw the cardiologist last week, he told me he didn’t think I’d have any problem getting my HDL levels up. “When you face your parents’ mortality, you go into denial mode about your own and you start taking better care of yourself,” he predicted.

Last week, one of my cousins was in the hospital with meningitis – from a sinus infection. (Did you know that’s how Michael Graves ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair? A sinus infection that turned to meningitis. He was too busy to go to the doctor.)

Please, God, no migraines tomorrow. Please.

Body, betraying

By on May 30, 2005 in My So-Called Life

Woke at 5:15 a.m. to a ringing phone. The adrenaline rushed through me in that way only a late-night phone call can cause – especially when you have a sick relative.

I felt a little nauseated when I got up. Checked the Caller ID (naturally, it was a stranger) and decided to check my email. Now the weird flashing lights have started and I’m seeing the crescent-shaped geometric pattern that signals the onset of a migraine. The only way I can see to type this is to close my left eye.

I hate when my body betrays me.

And speaking of.

I found out yesterday that everything they tested from my father was positive for malignancy – all the lymph nodes, all the tissue samples. It’s a particularly aggressive form, the surgeon said. (My sister said it seemed like he couldn’t wait to wash his hands of the matter.)

Assuming he makes it through the rest of his recovery OK, he’ll be home in a week or so. But they’re having trouble controlling his blood pressure and his now-high blood sugar. (He’ll have diabetes now for whatever time he has.)

Once he’s recovered, it’s time to see the oncologist and find out whether he’s a candidate for chemo – or hospice. Time will tell.

Maybe yes, maybe no

By on May 23, 2005 in My So-Called Life

There’s a Zen parable about a farmer whose wife gives birth to a healthy baby boy. “How lucky you are!” the villagers exclaim. “You’ll have a strong son to help you work the farm.”

The farmer shrugs. “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

The son grows and helps his father. One day, he runs over his own foot with a plow and damages himself permanently. The villagers commiserate: “What bad luck, that your son is now a cripple!”

The farmer: “Who knows? Maybe yes, maybe no.”

Some years later, there is a huge war. The Emperor’s men come to the village and all able-bodied men are taken into the army, where they will almost surely perish. Because the farmer’s son is crippled, he is left at home with his parents. “How lucky you are, that your son wasn’t taken!” the villagers says.

The farmer says (you guessed it), “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

This is all by way of saying that my father will be operated on in a few short hours. I don’t know what will happen and I’m trying not to have any expectations. Until they open him up and check to see whether the tumor spread, they won’t even know if they can complete the surgery.

Would that be a bad thing? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Because cancer is a horrible disease, and the treatment is no picnic. Hospitals often treat cancer patients more like guinea pigs than humans.

I just want my father to go through the least pain possible. Right now, it seems to be the best I can hope for.

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