Friday, December 21, 2012

Big City Doctors

Probing Politics of the GOPBack when I worked in Manhattan, all my doctors were also in Manhattan. I may have been living way the hell out in Queens or Brooklyn, but most of my doctor visits were during lunchtime, so that worked. Also, when you have migraines (and mine are especially difficult in the morning) and sleep inertia (it is too a thing), you often have to get all the way to the office before you know if you're actually sick or just needed a little more caffeine.

When I started freelancing, I started finding doctors closer to home. The problem? Some of them sucked. Like showed up to open the office an hour late and didn't even apologize. Or shrugged off two inconclusive scans (inconclusive because they were done by an incompetent person) and didn't order any more scans because...I dunno...she acted like the whole thing was a test to see if she should keep sending people to that radiology place like I was a secret shopper and not a patient.

Of course the problem with Manhattan doctors is that they include a class of elite doctors who are really good at what they do, but don't bother taking insurance because it's too much bullshit. So you have to pay them up front whatever they damn well please and then pray your insurance will reimburse you. And if they charge $800 for an office visit, and your insurance says they should only charge $300 and reimburse you based on that, well tough titties. Which then becomes a pre-existing condition.

When I worked on staff, I sometimes went to these doctors, at least until one decided that she was going to charge $100 if you called the office for a prescription refill. Which, yeah, no. But as a freelancer, I just don't have disposable income to throw around on fancy things like out of network medical care.

But I still prefer Manhattan doctors. Where else can you go in for a mammogram and be told to "drape your arm over the board like the railing of a beautiful veranda" in a Russian accent? It's also nice to be able to have an ultrasound done immediately when the doctor wants to get a closer look at that thing in my left boob which is nothing, and has been nothing for something like fifteen years now, can you people stop scaring me and doing the super-squishie mammo that makes me ache just thinking about it? (Pro-tip: when you go to the same place for a few years, they finally do stop worrying about the nothing. Who knew? You get your card punched five times and you get to skip the super-squishie.)

The inconclusive scan I mentioned before? It was of my ovaries - my grandmother died of ovarian cancer, so I just need to have them looked at every decade or so. On my first visit, the technician did an external ultrasound. She told me nothing, but when I got to the doctor, I discovered that the tech couldn't see my ovaries because of my body type. Um, I'm not 700 pounds here. It should've been possible to press the ultrasound wand hard enough to displace the blubber enough for her to catch a glimpse. But no.

On my second visit, it was trans-vag-a-go-go. She still couldn't see my ovaries, and felt perfectly justified in writing this in a report. Like they had popped around back for a smoke. She was actually pissed that my doctor had sent me back for another scan, started complaining about her day and since I had a migraine and had been stuck listening to crap TV in the waiting room for an hour after my appointment time, I told her to go fuck herself. 

I am not sorry, embarrassed or ashamed of this.

After relaying this whole fiasco to my Manhattan gyn (out of network, but for once a year, I'll splurge), she hooked me up with a referral to THE guy for this sort of thing. And he takes insurance, bless him.

It was like going from Motel 6 to the Ritz. There was no TV in the waiting room. The nurse didn't tell me to drink a ton of water beforehand - I'm not sure if that's because she assumed I'd know that, or because this guy is just that good. I drank anyway, just in case.

The nurse led me to the exam room, and let me chance in private. (In Brooklyn, I'd been expected to disrobe while the tech fiddled around with the equipment in the same room. Classy.) When the doctor and nurse joined me, he actually asked me why I needed a scan, so he'd know what to look for.

Now, my gyn had told me that he was likely to start transvag, because he wasn't going to mess around. What no one had warned me was that thanks to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, transvaginal ultrasound wands are now hilarious to me. Remember when there was all that nonsense about the mandatory pre-abortion scans, and each of them held up a wand on their show and said, "no, that's not invasive at all"?

Yeah, that's still funny months later when a doctor kindly shows you one and explains that he's going to have you insert it.

I'm getting the church giggles now just writing about it, but with god's divine help, I was able to hold it together at the doctor's office. Because all I could think of when watching those bits on TV was how the hell did their production staff get transvag wands with 4 hours notice? Did they borrow an old one from a doctor? Did they track down a medical equipment sales rep? This is really not what I wanted to be discussing with a doctor and nurse I'd just met while I was wearing nothing below the belt.

So I kept my shizz together and the doctor started scanning, and even showed me the screen. 

"That's your right ovary,"

What I said: "Hmm."

What I wanted to say: "If you say so."

I did not say this because the human brain really has a hard time cracking jokes while remaining aware of the big statue of liberty torch inserted into one's hoo-hah.

The image was as blurry as a big foot photo, and what he said was my ovary looked like black nothingness. I didn't give it much thought at the time, but was that because that's how ovaries look? Or had they really popped around back for a smoke and that was just the space where they should've been?

When he got to the left side, he stopped talking and I realized that he'd found something worth looking at. I refused to panic because I'd been tricked too many times by the nothing in my left boob. I may have gotten a little concerned when he decided to do an external ultrasound to get a better look, but the ultrasound gel was pre-heated, which is a really nice touch, so that calmed me right down. (Need I tell you that in Brooklyn, the ultrasound gel wasn't heated? You don't get that kind of pampering on the mean streets of Marine Park.)

When he was done, he told me it was just a little uterine fibroid, nothing to worry about. I know this is nothing to worry about because he did everything but tap on my abdomen and yell "hello, little fibroid there," and he didn't tell me I needed to see my doctor immediately, which he would have if it had been something to worry about. Because Manhattan doctors don't fuck around.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Cleanup, Part Two

Gas CanThe second weekend of cleanup was all about the garage. What can I say about it? The garage took on several feet of water and it was a study in injustice.

Items that were damaged or destroyed:

  • my mother's high school yearbooks
  • several canopy/shade tents that actually did get used at least once a year
Items that came through just fine:
  • the crocheted afghans from the 70s, in colors as ugly as you're imagining
See? We do not live in a just universe. We just don't. Though once they get washed, I'm totally going to start using some of those afghans. Some things are just so ugly that they've come right back around again to awesome.

After they'd been without power for about a week, my dad went to the store a bought a generator. By that point, it was still possible to buy generators in the area, but you couldn't buy a gas can for love or money. They were able to borrow two cans, and I was able to convince my dad that since they owned a generator, they needed to own some gas cans. So we went on Amazon and ordered two*.

Guess what we found while cleaning out the garage? 

Yes, that's right. Two gas cans. 

It was such a mess that no one had any inkling they were there. My dad is lucky that mom didn't try to beat him to death with them. I say "try" because I'm really not sure how effective plastic gas cans are as weapons, especially when empty. I'm thinking they'd bounce right off him. I'm really enjoying the mental image way too much.

Anyhoodle, the indestructible afghans did get wet, so we draped them over the fence to dry. At one point, a car packed full of people (three woman and two kids) drove down the street very slowly. They were having a close look at the trash piles. Because waterlogged crap is ripe for the scavenging, I guess? They stopped right where I was standing because they spied a crate of liquor bottles. Bottles that had been open when they were stashed in the garage, left there for, oh let's say ten years, then covered in sea water, mixed with motor oil, raccoon poo and whatever the fuck else was in that garage.

The woman in the back of the car got out and started picking up bottles. My mom and I warned them. "No, no. They're full of salt water. They're poison."  The woman in the front passenger seat, apparently the Imperious Leader said, "I'll take my chances," and her underling took a couple of bottles while my mother yelled at them for being tacky enough to scavenge from disaster victims. 

Seriously, with the cost of gas, it would've been cheaper for them to just go to a liquor store. Apparently, people will keep looking to naturally de-select themselves even after society collapses. Or something. I got nothing.

*For those of you outside of the storm zone, smaller gas cans were better than large ones, hence the need for more than one. With the gas shortage, real or imagined, you couldn't just drive up to the gas station and get your gas can filled. There was one line for cars and one line for gas cans. I guess the gas can people had to park several blocks away. Five gallon cans were way too heavy when filled, but 2.5 gallon were OK. So file that info away for your own Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic experience.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Don't Even Know Anymore

Not So PeculiarThe Setting: A festive family gathering in honor of my cousin Caitlin's birthday. The same menu as the annual corned beef fest, but with a more intimate guest list (translation: less than everybody we've ever met ever). Ain't no party like a corned beef party.

The Dialogue

Me: [quietly] Mom, why is Dad wearing suspenders and a belt?

Mom: [shrugs the shrug to end all shrugs, a shrug that conveys the futility of trying to understand my Dad, a shrug meant to remind me that some of us are just more Asperger's than others.] Go ahead, ask him.

Me: Dad, why are you wearing suspenders* and a belt?

Dad: Let me put it very simply. [pause long enough for us all to contemplate how this is in no way going to be simple explanation**] The suspenders are to hold my pants up, and the belt is to hold my pants together because my previous pants*** were missing a button.

* Let the record show that they were stars and stripes suspenders, so faded that they may actually have been purchased for the bicentennial. 

** Nothing that is actually put simply begins with a six word preamble. I get tons of blog material out of stuff my Dad says, but I could never start a Twitter feed, a la Shit My Dad Says because nothing my father has ever said EVER has been 140 characters or less.

*** So he was wearing a belt because the pants he was wearing the day before (henceforth to be referred to as "previous pants") required a belt. He also said something about having lost some weight now that he finally has his diabetes under control after three decades, but I failed to grasp how that situation was more than the suspenders could handle. 

And now we see once again why my brother lives way the hell over in another time zone. Because of previous pants.

Friday, November 30, 2012

As You Wish

"As you wish."I Love The Princess Bride. It's one of my favorite movies. (And if you have the chance to listen to the audiobook read by Rob Reiner, do it.) 

I've seen the movie so many times that the whole pirate thing has started to bother me. The Dread Pirate Roberts leaves no survivors, you know. So Buttercup's Sweet Wesley has spent the past five years as a mass murderer. 

Yeah, um.

Then, at the end, he offers Inigo the chance to take over. I have to think that someone who just killed his father's murderer in the name of vengeance wouldn't go into the mass murdering business just to make a few dubloons.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Cleanup, Part One

His Awesomeness and I spent the second and third weekends after Sandy helping my parents sort through the little they could salvage from their basement and garage, and set out the rest for trash. It's the sort of occasion that's impossible to dress for, because if you walk around in sloppy work clothes in unaffected areas, people will think you're mentally unstable, but decent clothes become inappropriate several yards before you get a chance to go inside and change. I opted to change when I got to the old homestead because I knew that after working, my clothes wouldn't be wearable and I've have to change anyway. There's one main road in Gerritsen Beach, and as we rode the bus down it, I saw relief centers, industrial equipment, food trucks feeding the locals for free and a FEMA command trailer. A far cry from the usual Saturday morning soccer games. 

 When we got off the bus, we started walking the five short blocks to my parents' house. First came the fishy, low tide smell. It is EVERYWHERE. All the mud reeks of it. Who knows if anyone will be able to get their lawns to grow in the spring with all the salt water that came to visit? Then came the roar of the generators. Holy fuck those things are loud. 

 Weekend #1 was dedicated to the basement, more appropriately called, "Oh Dear God, that basement." It was the sort of thing that haunts your nightmares, even if you've only seen it once. My parents would head off on summer road trips and I'd fear that they'd bicker themselves into a fatal accident, leaving me to deal with The Basement. Rather than describe The Basement, let me just show you how much trash we'd put out at the end of Day One. (The Basement took almost two full days to empty, with hired help.)
To be fair, the sidewalks are two feet wide at most. Our trash goes all the way down to the utility pole with the yellow sign. And yes, if you spotted trash on the inside of the fence, you are correct.  Right after taking that picture, I turned around and photographed the trash piled around the car in the driveway:
And here's a shot of the trash pile from the other end (by the utility pole). Those wee tiny people in the picture are HA, Aunt Bea and my parents. Please note that they are all normal people sized, and not tiny enough to all fit in your pocket together, so that should giv eyou an idea of the scale of this trash pile.
And what was in this pile, you ask? More than forty years of crap. Remarkable considering they've only lived there for a little over thirty. But we brought a bunch of stuff with us when we moved in. Including the junk my Dad's parents left behind when they sold us their house and moved to a retirement condo in Florida.

Why didn't we sort through it some time in the past thirty years? Well, the day we moved in, my Dad walked down the block to have a look around. On the corner, he discovered the volunteer fire department and ambulance squad. He came home declaring "I'm going to be a dispatcher," and it all kind of snowballed from there and kept both parents busy for the next couple of decades.

Over the years, my Dad has been blamed for state of The Basement, mostly due to his habit of "putting things in the basement" by hurling them on top of the heap of stuff so that anyone trying to sort through the mess was also playing a very large game of Jenga.

And then they had to face my parents when trying to throw anything out. At one point in the nineties, my brother and I tried to get rid of a pair of metal ski boots. My Mom wasn't having any of it because they belonged to my Dad and were perfectly fine. Except that they hadn't skied in decades and no one uses metal ski bots anymore, so they wouldn't be able to find any skis with compatible bindings, but OK, we kept them. Shortly thereafter, Dad tried them on in preparation for a ski trip with some relatives. They didn't fit anymore. (I know. You're totally shocked.) So they donated them to the Salvation Army so that someone else could get some use out of them. As hipster bookends, I'm sure.

But still, my mother isn't a pack rat. It's all him. Just ask her.

But then we found what I call The Telltale Hair Dryer. Behold, this little blue suitcase holds a hair dryer from the 1960s. The kind with a long hose and cap you put over your head. A-ha! Even Mom couldn't deny that it was hers. She just lamented the impossibility of throwing it out all these years because she'd never been able to work her way that far back into the mess to find it.
Imagine how overjoyed my Dad was when he finally got to share the blame. Yeah, no, he totally wasn't. He was all, "You see, you keep the old hair dryer around for when the pipes freeze, so you're not heating them up with the new hair dryer and ruining it." He further explained that the old fashioned hair dryers were the best for this because he cut off the hair cap part and stuck the hose right into the frozen pipe. 

Not that he'd been able to use this particular hair dryer in the past thirty years because it was buried under all the stuff that was in those bags.

If your brain hurts now, you can understand why my brother lives way the Hell over in another part of the country. 

We were able to save some sentimental things, including photos. My childhood dollhouse didn't make it. In fact, it's like having a little water-damaged house of my own. There's even a miniature electrical system that's probably all messed up from the saltwater. Oh well.

My Aunt Bea was lobbying for us to throw out one or both of the punch bowls we unearthed, but I figured that we should save them and start using them. It's a good thing we kept them, because the first thing my Dad asked at the end of the day, after being off getting gas and keeping his hoarder self away from the sorting was, "Did you find both punch bowls?"

The worst was the Christmas ornaments. Completely waterlogged. Plastic totes and ziptop bags were no match for the flood. My mother and I would open a big plastic tub and reminisce over the ornaments as we threw them out. We were able to save some. There's one of Winkin, Blinkin and Nod in a boat, only Nod didn't make it. He got detached and probably thrown out. Poor little guy.

I gotta tell you, my Mom kicked The Basement's Ass. She really showed Sandy who's boss. If you had to throw out paint by numbers Christmas ornaments you made with your kids, would you do without cursing the storm gods at the top of your lungs? Could you throw out their baby clothes without taking to your bed for the rest of the day? She kept going until the job was done. She knew they weren't the worst hit in the neighborhood, and that this wasn't the worst thing that's ever happened to her. 

As for Dad, I'm just glad that we kept both punch bowls. That could've turned ugly.

And now Mom gets to turn the basement into a rec room like she's been planning for thirty years. Which means that there will be a place to send all the kids at parties so the adults can hear themselves think. So everybody wins. Except for Winkin and Blinkin. They're probably going to miss Nod.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Thanksgiving at the Trolls

Every Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the usual things. That I live close enough to my family that I can go home after dinner. That Aunt Bea's stuffing and Uncle Brian's gravy are worth all the chaos that comes with trying to fit an extended family this big around a table that became too small ten second cousins ago.

But this year, complements of Hurricane Sandy, and a storm surge that flooded swaths of my ancestral neighborhood of Gerritsen Brooklyn, I have a longer gratitude list.

I'm thankful that my entire clan is still alive. Spotty cell phone serve meant this took a day or two to verify this. One beloved cousin had two close calls in as many weeks, first in the flood, later from carbon monoxide from a neighbor's generator. 

I'm thankful that my Aunt Bea didn't lose heat or hot water, so my parents and others had someplace to thaw out and take a shower.

I'm thankful that Aunt Bea's house got power restored well before Turkey Day because there was no way we were going to fit all those people in my apartment.

I'm thankful that we didn't run out of room to set out the garbage from my parents' basement. Forty years of sodden hoardings take up a lot of space.

I'm thankful that the garbage trucks came by before we had to empty out the garage.

I'm thankful that the waters receded before they did more damage to my parents' first floor. (The basement was flooded to the ceiling, so the kitchen floor needs some work, but that's it.) I don't think they could've handled the destruction of rooms they actually used. 

I'm thankful that my cousins whose houses did get flooding on the first floor, rendering them uninhabitable have someplace nearby to live while they rebuild.

I'm thankful the gas shortage is over because I have no idea how we'd get 3 folding chairs, and 2 pies to Thanksgiving dinner on public transportation.

I'm thankful my apple pie crust seems to have turned out flaky because at this point, I simply don't have the emotional resources to cope with tough pastry.

I'm thankful that I'm not needed for any manual labor this weekend, because I really need to chill the fuck out.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Disruption

That's what they call it when a pre-adoptive placement doesn't work out. And it didn't.

These things happen sometimes. To protect The Kid's privacy, I won't be discussing the details online. I may be discussing how I'm coping. I may not. We'll see. 

We're going to take a few months to recover and then start the whole process over again. 

It's been a little over two weeks now and since so many of my relatives have been hit hard by Sandy, we've been trying to process all this while helping with the cleanup. Which means that we haven't really been processing this. 

So this afternoon, I'll be making two pies, thus launching our first holiday season as not a family after all. My extended family is pulling together as awesomely as they always do in a crisis, so between the damaged houses, destroyed Christmas ornaments and soon to be restored heat and hot water, the rest of this year is likely to suck, but not as much as it could.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oh Sandy, Baby

Combine a natural disaster and a kid who doesn't trust her designated adults to keep her safe* while being completely oblivious to any potential dangers created by said natural disaster** and you get an interesting few days. (*This is a typical side effect of her background.) (**This is a typical side effect of being a teenager. Maybe? I have no idea.)

The storm is coming. The Kid wants to go out to the playground and meet up with some friends. We impose an arbitrary 3pm curfew because we don't live in an evacuation zone, but who the hell lets their kids wander around the neighborhood this close to a natural disaster? I was never allowed to go out this close to a storm, but am being treated like Mussolini for not letting her stay out until 6:30.

We try to explain the likelihood that none of her friends were allowed to go out and the dangers of flying objects in hurricanes and pre-hurricanes.

She comes home at 3 claiming that she's going right back out again because her friends are allowed to stay out until 5:30. We manage to persuade her that we're not trying to trick her into spending quality time with us and she retreats to just inside her door where she listens to music on her cell phone (on speakerphone) loudly enough that we can't really hear the TV. 

HA giggles at her sit-in protest. I fear the day that she learns about the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s and starts utilizing some of those tactics. She's already got the sit-in down, but I'm not looking forward to the chanting and signs.

We abandon our plans to clean the kitchen and bathroom and start a jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table so we can guard the front door without dying of boredom. We discover that we have different styles of jigsaw puzzling and worry that this may have implications on our continued marital bliss. I mean really. Who sets out all the puzzle pieces facing up before you've even separated and assembled the outside pieces?

Public transportation is shut down, local businesses are closed, I sit at my computer desk by the front window and see exactly no cars drive by in two hours. The Kid asks if we can get takeout for lunch. 

I explain all the logistical problems that combined to keep the pizza place closed today. Her answer? "I wasn't talking about pizza."

Further explain the dangers of delivery persons riding bicycles, mopeds and cars in high winds. And the stores are closed anyway.

She seems unimpressed by this information.

Two and a half hours later, she decides to have crackers. She does not want cheese because "we only have the sandwich kind" meaning swiss cheese slices, and she feels that she must save the slices for sandwiches (or she refuses to eat them on crackers, I don't even). (She only eats swiss cheese. She does NOT eat cheddar. Except when shredded and mixed with Monterey jack in the combo known to her as "regular cheese" and to the rest of the planet as "cheddar jack". The rules regarding her eating are Byzantine as fuck.)

I try to tempt her with Laughing Cow cheese only to discover that it expired months ago. We find some turkey bacon and she asks HA to make it for her (the smoke gives me a migraine). 

She actually let me help her look for alternatives to the sandwich kind of cheese and voluntarily spoke to HA to ask him to make the bacon. We're getting all kinds of quality time here. Thanks, Sandy!

After 9.5 hours of watching TV, she decides that she's sick of watching television and wants to do something else. We read scary stories aloud and play cards. 

Things take a turn for the impossible to write about humorously, so I'll wrap up here.

We remain safe, dry and with electricity, but cannot say the same for large swaths of my family. Everyone is confirmed OK with the exception of a few people who are probably perfectly safe somewhere with a bottle of scotch not even thinking that their dozens of relatives might want them to check in.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Imagine My Chagrin

Last Monday, I had a spot in my vision that wouldn't go away. Everything around the spot looked distorted, so it was annoying as fuck. Well, come to think of it since bringing a teenager into my apartment, I've discovered whole new levels of annoying, so I guess this was just annoying as hell in comparison to say, three episodes of Spongebob in a row.

So I googled "persistent spot in vision" and the internets told me that it was probably an ocular migraine or caused by leftover fluid from a cold. I get loads of migraines and it's been post-nasal drip a-go-go over here, so I figured that was it. I bought an eye patch so I could keep working (not seeing out of that eye means the spot isn't bothering me. I also discovered how awesome I look in an eye patch, took a picture and posted it to Facebook to show off. As you do.

Tuesday, I had an appointment with my migraine neurologist. Who was worried that the spot might have been caused by a stroke.

We may have the world's first case of the Intertubes convincing someone that their symptoms were LESS worrisome than they really were.

I'll spare you the worry - I didn't have a stroke. Neither on Monday morning, or when the doctor told me I may have had one. 

But how embarrassing would that have been? Imagine the Facebook update.

The bad news is I had a stroke, but the good news is I still look great in an eye patch.

So I went to my opthamologist who sent me to a retina specialist who determined that the spot is some blood that leaked through a crack in my retina. Apparently, that can happen when you're as nearsighted as I am. (Another thing that can happen is being led around the office by hand because you left your glasses home and you had to take your contacts out for the exam and treatment. Good times.)

Oh yes, the treatment. I got an injection in my eyeball to help break down the spot. I got the Clockwork Orange eyelid opener things that felt like they were going to pop out of place and fly across the room at any moment. I asked the doctor beforehand how much I'd actually feel the needle and he said it would be only 5% pain and 95% instinctual terror. (I'm paraphrasing here.) It may have been more like 10% pain, but then again, the holy fuck sensation that accompanies having a needle inserted in the eyeball tends to intensify feelings of pain.

I also had the doctor reassure me that my eyeball wasn't going to pop like a balloon when he stuck a needle in it. Intellectually, I understand the anatomy of the eyeball, but on a gut level, I was still betting on pop like a balloon.

It didn't pop. The doctor kept telling me I was doing great, I guess by not screaming or running out of the room. Go me.

So that was fun. 

The little kids pointing at me and saying "pirate!" ? That's pretty damn awesome.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie Update

186/365 - 04/02/10 [365 Days @ 50mm] - D'Comeback Movie PremiereI've been busy with my paid writing gigs, and no, the one penny I earn in ad revenue from each post here doesn't count. (If you're new here, the ads are mostly for my own amusement, since I love seeing what the Google elves decide makes a good match or each post. Let me know in the comments if you see an ad that amuses you by its presence too.)

I had a piece up on Your Tango about how some NYC high schools are giving kids Plan B without parental notification. If you haven't checked it out already, please do. Or don't. I know you've got shit to do.

Anyway, the cultural exchange has continued. S has introduced us to the awesome cartoons Adventure Time and Invader Zim. She has also subjected us to Back at the Barnyard (which, dudes, seriously, that cow has udders and yet it's a guy? um what?), Fan Boy & Chum Chum (which didn't make any more sense to me when I actually paid attention to it, so ok, I guess) and Happy Tree Friends (which I took the fuck off the Netflix Instant Queue because I couldn't stand the sound of woodland creatures being squished to death in every single episode).

On the movie front, she's selected Gothika (way better than expected going from her taste, I mean, it's actually good, you should totally see it), Paranormal Activity 2 (agony, except that agony would at least be interesting. even she was annoyed by it), Candyman (hey, at least it had a plot), Dolls (stupid, but awesome and I totally called who was going to make it to the end), Bag of Bones (good, and day-m Pierce Brosnan still looks yummy, but SPOILER ALERT, seriously, Stephen King? There's a curse made by a black woman with her dying breath that's actually a real curse that makes people do stuff they wouldn't do otherwise because...she was black, I guess? That is some "mystical primitive" racist BS right there Uncle Stevie), and Paranormal Entity (such a lame Paranormal Activity rip off that the Netflix description points out that it's not the famous movie you're thinking of.)

We have shown her Labyrinth (shrug), The Dark Crystal (shrug), Star Wars (shrug) and Evil Dead 2 ("it was a good story, but the effects were cheap", as opposed to Paranormal Activity and its $10,000 budget, I guess). I attempted to show her the Make Em Laugh bit from Singin' in the Rain and she texted through the whole thing, refusing to look at the TV. She will now be haunted by the ghost of Donald O'Conner. I did warn her.

I'll include it here because I know you have better sense than to miss a chance to watch this awesome number.

I, for one, look forward to the haunting.

I Tivo'd Jeff Dunham's new special for her because she thinks he's hilarious. If you're unaware of him, Jeff Dunham is America's favorite racist, misogynist ventriloquist. I thought he was hilarious when I was 13 too, but he didn't have as many racist puppets then and certainly wasn't making the hacky "my ex-wife took all my money" jokes. It made me so sad to see an audience of adults laugh at his unfunny shit. And yes, I watched it. It went down like this.

Me to HA: Do you think she's going to make us watch it with her?
HA to me: I dunno. 

Later, The Kid to us: Can we watch Jeff Dunham together later?
Me: sure.
HA & Me: [laughter]
TK: What's so funny?
Me: We were just wondering before if you were going to let us watch it with you.

So what have your kids been subjecting you to?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Enjoying the Silence

School Yard Wall-eIt's the kid's first full day of school and I'm in the middle of 6 hours of alone time for the first time in six weeks. Even the toddler howling in the street isn't grating my nerves. I had foot surgery last week and it was the most relaxing thing I've done in ages.

His Awesomeness is taking the kid to school until the school bus kicks in (it's on his way to work) and I'll pick her up. This is his account of how it went:
Trip to school went okay.  Arrived right at 8:20.  I walked her to the schoolyard and stopped about 20 feet from the gate, because I figured she’d want to walk in on her own without her nerdy dad around.  But she immediately asked “Is that only as far as you’re going to take me?”  I apologized, saying that I didn’t know how far she wanted me to walk with her, and that I’d be happy to walk further.  So, I walked her into the yard, at which point she surreptitiously waved me away, as apparently I had now walked *too* far with her.  Oops!  So much to learn...
Ah yes, nothing is easy. I'm thinking of creating a game to amuse myself. Maybe I'll make bingo cards, or maybe I'll just give myself a prize every fifth or tenth time I say certain phrases. So far I have:

  • You can have a snack AFTER you eat some real food.
  • You have to eat a protein that isn't pepperoni.
  • suppressing the urge to say "Because I said so" because it would be pointless to say it out loud.
  • Pepperoni isn't a carbohydrate.
  • You can buy it with your own money (but I'm not buying it for you).
  • Not even if you buy it with your own money (usually refers to age-inappropriate clothes or inappropriately-timed sweets).
  • When you join a band, we can talk about it (in reference to faux leather mini-skirts, metal studded bras and other garments that would be appropriate stage wear, but slut wear in most other contexts.
Join in. What sentences do you say too often, either at home or at work?

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Enroll a Child in the NYC School System

Step 1. Get packet of paperwork from DSS including birth certificate and immunization record (Which you then forget to take to the pediatrician when you go for initial checkup).

Step 2. Call the Board of Ed's info number to find out when you can register kid. Be told to go to local district school on the first day of school. Be assured that the local school can handle the kid's Individual Education Plan.

Step 3. Notice that the DSS person has noted to go to an administrative office. Call info number again. Be told to go to local school in the 2 weeks before first day of school. Be assured again that the local school can handle the kid's Individual Education Plan.

Step 4. Go to local district school only to be told to come back the next day at 7 am when they give out numbers. Only 14 numbers a day are given out.

Step 5. Seriously?

Step 6. Seriously

Step 7. His awesomeness takes the kid to the school at 7 am because trying to get her out of the house that early would reduce me to tears.

Step 8. HA discovers that we need to get an interim service plan (which none of us has ever heard of) from an inconveniently located administrative office, the kid is missing 2 immunizations and btw the list of immunizations was so badly copied that you can't see the names of the shots. This will require a second 7 am visit to the school.

Step 9. Leave irate message for DSS worker, furious at self for not checking, instead trusting the photocopying skills of strangers and the judgement of DSS workers.

Step 10 When DSS calls back, discover that DSS got a decent copy of the records and did a crappy job of copying them.

Step 11 Take child on subway to inconveniently located administrative office. Seriously, it's an hour by train or bus, but 24 minutes by bike, according to hopstop.

Step 12. Spend 2 hours talking to intake worker while a special ed teacher, shrink and other workers stop by. It's all hands on deck to get her case evaluated and entered into the computer system.

Step 13. Except that at the end of the 13 hours, she's still not in the computer system.

Step 14. Be told that they've decided to keep the kid in a 12 student classroom setting. They have to send her case to an office in Manhattan for a placement decision. We might not hear by the first day of school.

Step 15. First day of school. Place first of many calls to the placement office. Discover that they don't believe in returning voicemails, so you have to keep calling until they actually answer.

Step 16. Get through and find out the name and number of the guy in Brooklyn handling the case.

Step 17. Call that guy repeatedly, starting the second day of school. Push and press until he takes the extraordinary step of sending an additional email to the person in Manhattan. Be told that maybe we're not hearing anything because there's no desks for the kid anywhere, which means that they could stick her god knows where and if I object because they've given her a long commute with no chance to do any school activities, we're screwed because there wouldn't be anywhere else to place her.

Step 18. Watch kid get increasingly stressed out over not being in school, having no friends in the area and having nothing to do.

Step 19. A week later, after bringing the kid's Bridges to Health coordinator into the effort, discover that the person in Manhattan has been on jury duty with no one covering her work.

Step 20. Discover that the jury duty person's supervisor also received the emails from the guy in Brooklyn but did nothing.

Step 21. Get school assignment in Downtown Brooklyn, conveniently reachable by subway. Which is good because it'll take a few days for the bus service to kick in.

Step 22. Take child to school to register on a Friday before a four-day weekend (Rosh Hashanah, doncha know). 

Step 23. Wander around a bit because the entrance that matches the address of the school is unlocked, but is not in any way a main entrance.

Step 24. Find someone who tells you where the office is.

Step 25. Wait around. Finally start the intake process. Be handed a bunch of papers to fill out while someone tells your kid that the school requires "uniforms" (really a dress code).

Step 26. Do not fill out paperwork, but instead have a meltdown while finding out details of dress code. Kid owns exactly one shirt and no pants that fit the dress code.

Step 27. Kid agrees to dress code precisely because you're freaking out for her. And because she really wants to start school already.

Step 28. Still don't do paperwork because you have to write down more rules: no electronics, no more than $3 (no they are not kidding me). They're not allowed to bring in lunch.

Step 29. Ask to see a sample lunch menu since kid is quite picky and you want to be sure she'll actually eat. Be treated like you're the one being difficult.

Step 30. Start to fill out paperwork while kid and teacher go check out cafeteria and get menu. Be amazed that no one seems to care if kids choose to go hungry all day.

Step 31. Look over menu, which seems full of kiddie menu crap, some of which the kid will actually eat. Try to get kid to look at menu and promise she'll actually eat. Fail. 

Step 32. Teacher takes kid up to her class while you fill out more paperwork, some of which involves information you don't actually know.

Step 33. Get quick tour of school, including briefly meeting kid's new teacher and being shown the main entrance of the school, which is through the yard on a different street than the school's street address.

Step 34. Brace oneself for yet another wave of clothes shopping. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to School Shopping

No time for blogging since I've been clothes shopping practically every. fucking. day. Including the day The Kid moved into our home. I'll just say that there is a difference between owning a lot of clothes and owning clothes that one has not outgrown.

I'm sure you can imagine that the added stress has been awesome.

But allow me to share an insight that hit me in the dressing room at Macy's Herald Square.

My mother owes me an apology.

It certainly seemed that buying me school clothes when I was in high school was agonizing. But since I hadn't been brainwashed by the invention of skinny jeans, my mother had it so easy, she doesn't even know.

Most mothers and daughters fight while buying clothes because the daughter wants to push the envelope on what she's allowed to wear. Not me & my mom. Our problem was the ricockulous dress code at my high school. You see, the dumbassess in charge, in their infinite dumbassery, banned all pants with outside back pockets. Think about that for a moment. Their "logic," if I may insult logic by calling it that, was that by banning any pants that looked like jeans, they could easily identify any public school kids who'd snuck into the building to cause trouble. In my four years of high school, this happened exactly never times.

So my mom and I would go on these ludicrous quests for pants with no outside back pockets and when we found a pair, she'd be fed up and want me to just buy them already. I had the slightly higher standards of wanting my pants to also be flattering, and not polyester.

This is a problem that could've been solved by my mom handing me some cash and sending me on my way. She could've enjoyed the entire experience from the comfort of a fainting couch.

Leap ahead to the new millennium where, to paraphrase Patsy Stone, pants are so tight that the whole world's your gynecologist. I've managed to explain fit and drape to The Kid and I've quoted Michael Kors ("that crotch is insane!") more times than is healthy. She's at peace with the fact that you have to try everything on and you can walk into a dressing room with twenty items and end up buying three.

But we're completely at an impasse over one thing.

See those pants over there? She says they're too big. Absolutely refused to buy them.

Take a moment to absorb that.

The jeans are not completely tight around her ankles. Therefore, they are too big.

This could take an intervention from Tim Gunn, the entire What Not to Wear team and skinny jeans deprogramming team. And I'm still not confident they'd convince her that she's being a mite silly.

I'll be on the fainting couch if anyone needs me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cultural Exchange

Cherry Tree Blossoms & Jefferson MemorialThe Kid has been very eager to share her favorite movies and TV shows with us. As in, "You HAVE to watch this Chucky movie." And here I thought my life was happier sans Chucky. We watched Child's Play the weekend before last and boy, am I glad I had my knitting to keep me company.

In exchange, we showed her the Alice Cooper episode of The Muppet Show, which she dug, so we're good there.

This past weekend, we showed her The Muppet Movie (the original), which she also enjoyed. In return, or retaliation, she showed us Insidious. (She totally wanted to show us another Chucky movie, but I shot that down early in the negotiations.)

Insidious is a movie about haunting, astral projection and how men are useless. It was written by a man, so I don't know how much of the male-bashing is deliberate, but it's there. I won't go into a spoilerific examination of this movie, but let's just have a quick breakdown of the adult males in this movie.

The Dad: Starts working late every single night after the house starts acting haunted so that his wife gets to deal with it alone. Goes into denial when the wise woman explain what's really happening. After he comes around and sets off to do what he has to, ignores most of the wise woman's instructions. He may be a bigger idiot than the characters on The Walking Dead.

The Wise Woman's Assistants: Bicker over which one of them is more important and freak out when they see actual ghosts. You would think that a couple of guys who work for a Freelance Exorcist who have built ghost-detection equipment out of a view master would've seen enough real ghosts that they'd be used to it.

And the spirit who triumphs in the inevitable twist ending that leaves the door open for a sequel? Is a female ghostie.

I'm really torn between wanting to write a detailed feminist critique of this film and submitting it for publication somewhere and wanting to scrub my brain out so I never have to think about it again.

Any thoughts on horror films? I'm going to be watching a lot of them in the coming weeks and months. Apparently. Sigh.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's Just a Fucking Toe

81/365: sad toeAs I've mentioned before, I have a busted toe that is totally my husband's fault. (I stubbed it really hard on a suitcase he should've put away two weeks earlier.) If only I had broken the fucking thing. I hurt it in December. Or maybe November. It was a really long time ago. A broken toe would've healed in less than a month.

But I'm way too talented to simply break a toe. I have a screwed up hammer toe situation going on that requires surgery.

First, I decided to delay surgery because it was Winter and who wants to wear a surgical shoe in the snow? And then it didn't snow. So I spent all Winter wearing orthopedic sneakers which I already owned because I'm sexy like that.

Then, in the Spring, I went through all the pre-surgical tests and doctor's appointments just to find out that the ambulatory surgical center where my podiatrist wanted to do the surgery was run by idiots. When he called to schedule the surgery, they said that they had to redo his certification this year instead of next year because they have new rules. So he sent over his paperwork and the person who does certifications when on vacation for two weeks while his paperwork just sat on his desk. And then I don't even know because it's August and they still haven't recertified the poor guy.

In the meantime, I decided that I didn't want the type of surgery that podiatrist #1 does because I'd lose the flexibility in that toe and I might miss that when I do yoga. I might not, but the doctor was glad that I decided to go to someone else instead of waiting for the idiots, so everybody's happy.

So I went to see podiatrist #2 this week. He'd rather do the surgery in the ambulatory surgical center in his building with an anesthesiologist and four part harmony, as long as they participate in my insurance network. I'd rather do it in his office. Sitting up, swilling scotch and biting on a piece of leather if truth be told.

When he described the actual surgical procedure, I was all, "well, that sounds gross, but as long as I can wear shoes again." But I really just do not want to be assed with anesthesia. I get migraines several days a week - I don't need to be knocked out for an additional day. Plus the pre-anesthesia fasting is sure to give me a migraine. That I won't be able to treat with anything stronger than Tylenol because of the risk of extra bleeding.

So I'm hoping I can get the most local local anesthesia they have. I had something removed from the inside of my eyelid (a weird-thing-ectomy, if you will) while I was wide awake and they only numbed the actual eyelid in question. If they try to tell me that they have to numb more than my foot, I'm kicking someone.

I remember when I had knee surgery about 15 years ago, there was another woman there for the same surgery. She had an overnight bag, so it was clear that she was going for the full unconsciousness anesthesia complete with overnight hospital stay. I, of course, just got a spinal and it felt shitty enough coming out of that. When I saw that woman, I thought she was such a wuss. Because I am full of sympathy and kindness like that.

I mean, come on. It's a freaking knee. It's way down there. It was arthroscopic. Our surgeon was the best knee guy in the city. I really didn't see anything to be scared of.

Of course, I had surgery on my face when I was twelve (hit by a car, landed face & knees first) and damn straight, I was knocked out for that (and for when I had my septum undeviated years later). But a knee? Or a foot? Or an eyelid? Child's play.

What's your anesthesia threshold?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Girl on the Subway

Subway, New York
When you get on the subway, you have only a few seconds to select a seat. I live just far enough out in Brooklyn that there may be several empty seats when the train arrives, but if you consider your seating options for more than five seconds, you'll be shit outa luck and standing.

So last Friday, I chose quickly and got a seat, but boy, did I choose wrong. Or right, since I'd clearly stumbled on a situation so blog-worthy that I was tempted to pull out a notebook and start writing on the spot.

At the end of each subway car there's seating for 4 people facing each other. In this spot, there were two girls, let's say in their mid-teens since it was the middle of the morning and they didn't seem to have to be anywhere. They were sitting opposite each other, one with a shopping bag on the seat next to her, the other with a crumpled McDonald's bag on the seat next to her. I sat next to McD's girl. I assumed they were not together because usually when people are together they sit next to each other so that they can keep talking to each other when the train fills up.

I was mistaken.

At first, I was able to ignore their conversation, because it was drowned out by the smell coming from the McDonald's bag. It smelled like the ghost of artificial maple syrup, so I guess she had one of those egg/pancake sandwiches. But then the smell was banished by the Tourette's-like squeals she punctuated her conversation with.

First I listened more intently to make sure that she didn't actually have Tourette's and that she was just making annoying teenager noises. Secondly, I thanked all the interested deities that I didn't have a headache, because that would've suuuuuucked. Thirdly, I considered screeching out of the blue to show her how annoying it was. But then I realized that she was clearly the sort of person who would decide that *I* was the crazy, annoying one and I was not about to spend the rest of my ride listening to her go on and on to her friend all the way on the other side of the train about how rude I am.

And then I heard her say this gem:

My teachers tell me that I have to read if I want to write, but no, I don't. I've only read 2 books. I read A Child Called It all the way through. I don't even like to reread what I wrote myself. That's why I'm going to get a professional editor.

In retrospect, I should've handed her my card and quoted my rates for editing.

You know, I honestly don't know whether to be appalled at her sense of entitlement or impressed by it. I mean, is it a sign of feminist progress that girls now think that the world owes them accolades just for showing up? Yes, it's delusional, but is it progress that such delusion is no longer solely the domain of male privilege? Obviously, it would be better if no one had their head up their ass, but isn't equally distributed idiocy a slight improvement?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thank Giuliani

sid&nancySo for the last few weekends before The Kid moves in with us, we're picking her up on Friday afternoon, and dropping her off Sunday evening so we have nice, long weekends together. Since HA has to work for part of Friday, we decided that it makes the most sense for us to pick up a Zipcar (rental car by the hour) in Manhattan instead of me getting one in Brooklyn near home, then driving an hour into midtown traffic (oh dear God no) to pick him up at the office before heading upstate. So we picked a lot at 53rd and 8th avenue, way over on the west side.

This means that we have to return the car there, then take The Kid to the subway to get home. My thought the morning before we did this the first time was that I was going to have to hold her hand the entire way to ensure that no one kidnapped her into a life of prostitution. And then I remembered that it isn't the 1980s anymore. And that area is perfectly safe.

Yes, Giuliani was a bit of a fascist and I couldn't wait for him to stop being mayor, but cleaning up Times Square and the surrounding 10 block radius really did need to be done. Hell, people, I remember riding in a car after seeing the circus at Madison Square Garden in the late 80s and a prostitute stepped out in front of the car advertising her wares even though the driver (my uncle) was clearly not alone. In th afternoon. Fortunately, explaining the entire incident to my little cousin was easy because she'd heard the word "ho" on Blossom. And who said sitcoms weren't educational?

Of course, getting the strip clubs and hookers out of Times Square meant that they relocated to the outer boroughs, which was probably more convenient for their clientele, but not so much for people who have escort services running out of the house next door.

Digression: In my days as a volunteer EMT, I took one of a mother-daughter madam team to the hospital (I don't remember which). I had no idea what they were because I was just paying attention to the sick person, but they did have several cordless phones on the tables, which seemed odd. One of the other EMTs noticed that they had a spreadsheet on the table with all the different client's kinks, so clearly I was missing out by focusing on taking this woman's blood pressure.

Anyhoodle, my other pro-Giuliani bugaboo is about the lower east side. I mean, yeah, the luxury apartments across the street from Katz's Deli are clearly a sign that gentrification has gone way too far. But goddamit, that place was a shithole in the 90s. I know people adore Rent, and the songs are great, but Jesus H, how is the villain the guy who's trying to make the area safe and non-disgusting for the artists? I remember visiting a friend in Alphabet City and being warned that I may have to climb over crack dealers to get into the building. Now you have to climb over hipsters, which may not seem like an improvement, but it is.

A little gentrification can be a good thing. I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early aughts. Have you ever shopped in a poor people supermarket? There's grey meat and moldy cheese in the refrigerator cases. The entire "fresh" meat section smells funny, and you want to believe that it's because of the pig's feet, but in your heart of hearts, you know that *something* in the meat department has gone off and that shopping there means that you're taking chances. So you buy your groceries near work, drag them home on the subway and wonder when your neighborhood will gentrify enough for you to start buying you food closer to home.

I know so many transplants to New York who lament the changes, who miss the grit. Who weren't actually here to witness the grit. It's almost surefire way to tell that someone isn't actually from here.