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November 14 2011


Help! I'm Old!

   For those of you who have been kind enough to wonder where I have been these past few months, the answer is this: I have been living the life of a mid to late-stage geriatric patient.
   It began with an impromptu run of the Ring Cycle: I was given two days to learn several hundred pages of music. Cram sessions started right away, in order that I not humiliate myself on a daily, nay, hourly basis in the rehearsals that followed. Sleep, stretching, even solid food quickly fell by the wayside.
   Before each act, I would pound a Red Bull, washing down a handful of ibuprofen, in order to stave off the possibility that I or one of my arms would drop off to sleep during a crucial point of the 4 hour commute, or the 5 hour opera.
   As the season progressed, I added antacids to my daily regimen, as the caffeine and ibuprofen seemed to have worn away the better part of my upper digestive tract. Despite all these protective measures, a puzzling new ache in my rib announced its presence, at first subtly, and then with increasing and inconvenient persistence. 
   I should back up and mention that a year ago I began to take up cross-fit. My aim was to strengthen body and mind, in preparation for old age. My coach, a 20-year-old elite athlete, took issue with my goal
   "You're doing cross-fit to kick *ss!" he insisted, and in his optimistic and testosterone-filled youth, I imagine he could well believe this.
   I, in the mid-September of my life, knew differently, and staving off old age remained my primary goal. To the battle cry of "Pecs! Lats! Delts!", my genetics replied, "Hip replacement! Osteoperosis! Dementia!"
  Yet with every squat, dead-lift, and ungainly pull-up I completed, I felt myself dealing a blow to "the man" ("the man" being my unfortunate genetic makeup), in hopes that, at least for a short period of time, he would be unable to"keep me down". I embraced my goal with the fervour of the newly converted. Neck pain diminished, PR's rose, and I found myself with an intimidating pair of biceps and quads...at least by musicians' standards. 
   When the inexplicable rib pain hit, all that changed. With the summer opera season over, I was left with unlimited time to contemplate, and hopefully combat it. My primary care physician discovered a lipoma (benign fatty tumour) on the point of pain, and, after a few weeks of ineffective physical therapy, we elected to hack it out.
   While often given to hyperbole, in this case I feel I feel I describe with crystalline clarity the experience I underwent during the lipoma removal, which I can only equate with an episode of "Ren and Stimpy". (For the uninitiated, "Ren and Stimpy" is a cartoon series in which the characters inflict bodily injury on one another in increasingly graphic and inventive ways).
   I was placed on what appeared to be a chopping block in the middle of a white room. A red bucket (I assumed it was to be used for offal collection) sat unobtrusively nearby. After a few tentative pokes and prods, the surgeon got down to business. He drew an incision line and injected what he assured me was a sufficient amount of anaesthetic to the spot.
   Suddenly I felt a sharp stabbing sensation in my left side. "Ow!" I (Ren) ventured.
   "Sorry" (Stimpy). "I'll give you more numbing agent." He injected the wound. "You should feel a slight pulling" (yank!) " as I begin to detatch the lipoma from your muscle. Now I'll cauterize some of the blood vessels." I see him bring a red hot poker iron to my side and feel a searing pain as steam rises from the spot. 
   "Ow!" (Ren). 
   "Sorry." (Stimpy). You must metabolize the anaesthetic fairly fast." This is news to me and would constitute the first and only thing my body has ever processed at anything other than a glacial pace. Still I, lying on my side with an open wound, was in no position to argue. In any case, this amusing series of events repeated and sequenced for a longer period of time than I care to relive, becoming less and less amusing with the passage of time.
   In the end, though, the day was permeated with triumph. I left the facility with a gnarly scar, a jarful of painkillers, and a picture of the glistening mass formerly known as my tumour on my iphone. All in all, I felt it couldn't have been more successful. I returned home looking forward to an end to my rib pain, a week of convalescence, and piles and piles of Scandinavian murder mysteries I intended to devour.
   The pain never left, and, inexplicably, spread through my back and to the other side of my ribcage.
   I realize that the better part of this blog is taken up with complaints, and for that I apologise. I apologise, not for having subjected the reader to a litany of ailments that any self-respecting old person could surely trump, but for the fact that I should have known better. As a violinist, I had long been aware that a future of penury and bodily dessication was a distinct possibility. Still, I found myself taken aback by the precociousness with which my body followed this path.
   So how does one proceed? It would seem that after spending the mornings: phoning my physician, phoning insurance, phoning the pharmacy, phoning insurance, phoning the specialists, phoning insurance, and spending the afternoons: driving to visit said physicians and pharmacies, that I would have ample time in the evening to:take up yoga, volunteer at a local homeless shelter, learn a foreign language, write a novel, facilitate World Peace.
   So far I have done exactly none of those things.I have: taken a few decent walks with my dog, prepared an inordinate amount of elaborate meals, devoured the entire Scandinavian murder mystery genre, and consumed more than my fair share of heavy-duty pharmaceuticals. Until the next Jo Nesbo thriller arrives in print, I intend to revisit the Harry Potter series and give special attention to the linguistic, literary, and historical roots of the names of characters, sites, and magical objects. World Peace will, apparently, have to wait.
   In the face of bodily injury, it would be noble of me to state that my appreciating for the body as a functioning mechanism (rather than an aesthetic object) has greatly increased. I would love to state that I rejoice in a heart that beats as it should, legs that carry me where they well, arms that carry my burdens, and a mind that retains at least some of its original vigour. Sadly, lying is not my forte, and I continue to poke at unsightly bulges, pull at sagging skin, and worry at grey hairs.
   I consider the book 1Q84 to be a 1,000-plus page ripoff for the most part, however, in looking back upon it, I am struck by a speech given by the friendless Ushikawa. He states that life, after the initial bloom of youth, is a continual process of loss: loss of loved ones, loss of one's faculties, loss of health, and, inevitably, of life itself. While the book poses an alternate universe as a solution for the naive and feckless hero and heroine, we in this particular universe have no such luck.
   I suppose that I would wish on the bulk of humanity a long lifetime of accomplishments, children, adventures, and love, followed by a peaceful death in one's sleep.
   While this seems not to be the case in general, and the world seems not to be so bright a place for the bulk of its inhabitants, a glimmer of light has insisted its way into my consciousness in the form of...my newly minted fiance! To my gripes, groans, and shouted expletives, he responds with, "Where does it hurt? How can I help?", and the occasional nuggie or wet-willie. He has carted me to surgeries, driven me to specialists, and even gone so far as to kiss my (or, should I say, "our") dog SMACK on the lips solely for my amusement.
   So while I retain my less than sanguine outlook on life followed by death, a splinter of hope has managed to dig itself under the fingernail of my consciousness: inexplicable, irrational, and unconditional love, transcending body, mind, time, space, and even my congenital and constitutional grumpiness.

July 15 2011

Part V
   Despite my dog's psychoses and evident and blatant racism, I had fallen in love. I would come home to a bundle of fur waggling and squeaking at me, and all of my reservations about my life, the career I had chosen, the school I had chosen 2,000 miles away from friends and family would melt away. 
   At first I would only practice with a mute on, and put the dog in another room. He quickly crept in and sat at my feet. After a spell, I took the mute off. Rocky was nonplussed. His only objections were to very loud (and out of tune) etudes, which I quickly learned to tune. The barometer was this: If the dog hides under the bed and snarls, then it sounds like crap. Tune it. Now. And I did. And I continue to do so. So thank you, Rocky...

Part IV
   It didn't take me long to realize my dog had been traumatized by more than abandonment and a botched "snip". He would duck his head every time I went in for a pet. Every member of the household (and there were many, seeing as how we were students in San Francisco during the dot-com boom) got a chomp on the nose when going in for a kissie. Ankles were fair game. Ankles with jeans made him see red. Ankles with nylon sweatpants were a catastrophe, and a lawsuit waiting to happen. 
   Strangely, it was the Chinese men who aroused Rocky's vengeance the most. Japanese and Korean men could come and go at their leisure, but woe unto the Chinese man who ventured forth unto our house, for he would be chomped. This was particularly unfortunate for me, as I lived in the  outer Sunset, near several choice barbecue and dim sum restaurants. Also, our landlord was Chinese. He also favored the particular type of nylon sweatpants that set Rocky so on edge that it was a wonder (and a testament to our landlord's good will) that we were not evicted. 
Part III
   I am writing this on a deadline. My boyfriend read my first two entries and threatened his own retaliatory blog entry, "Satan Wants His Dog Back" (see ebovee@soup,io), and I knew I had to act. 
   Fortunately, the fates are smiling upon me, and jetlag has felled my bitter foe...er..boyfriend. On a good day, I believe we see eye to eye with regards to a dog. On the other 364 days...well, you be the judge!
   I got the call one wet January day in San Francisco. I had visited the pound, the SPCA, and put out feelers to local rescue groups. Most of the rescue groups were wary of me, as I was a student and had had no previous experience owning a dog, so the one call I got seemed a godsend. A small dog, probably a shitzu, abandoned in the hills of Oakland with a note pinned to his collar saying, "Please find me a good home", has been delivered to the Oakland Animal Shelter.
   I and my tiny corolla hightailed it over there - rush hour be damned! It turned out that said dog was perhaps a shitzu, perhaps a lhasa, mixed with terrier. I picked him up, said. "Rocky, will you be my dog?" and the deal was done. Almost. Sadly, my soon-to-be-dog was unneutered, and the powers that be sent him immediately to their vet. I was to wait another two days.
   When I picked him up he had i silly pink ribbon around his neck and was bleeding from his incision. When I asked the vet about this, he said, "I'll fix this", and took him back, ostensibly to give him a few more stitches. The job didn't look neat or pretty, and I was wary of taking the dog home, but my liason from the rescue group urged me to get him out of there, saying I could take him to a more reputable vet later.
   He whimpered in the seat next to me, and then all night, despite pain pills, "treaties", and any other comfort I tried to offer him. I took him to Pets Unlimited the next morning, where they promptly put him on IV, painkillers and 24 hour watch. The next day I picked up a fully hydrated, newly stitched, and fairly healed dog. I imagined our troubles were over, and took him merrily home.

July 13 2011

Part II
   I feared them when I was a child. Growing up in the country, neighbors' mongrels would bound at me on my way home from school. Submissive grins and waggling tails were lost on me; all I saw were teeth, on the level if my hands and face. I grew up with cats, who never barked, overturned the garbage cans, or made unsightly messes on the front porch (to this day I'll never be sure if it was the neighbor's dog or the neighbor himself who was responsible for that)! In any case, I far preferred the quiet, sporadic affection from my semi-feral cats.
   This all changed when my sister and her fiance (now husband) got a puppy. I was not surprised by my infatuation with the puppy, who cuddled and cajoled his way into all our affections. Once he became an unruly adolescent, and finally a firmly ensconced member of the family, I knew I was hooked. One summer, home from college (conservatory for purists) said dog became my mascot. Or I became his. We would go running in the morning, take naps in the afternoon..he even tolerated the screechiest of my violin etudes without batting an eyelash. 
  The summer ended and we were forced to part, yet I knew it was not the end. I began envisioning a life with a dog of my own... 

"My Dog Is An Awesome Dog!"
   Being new to the medium, I asked my facebook friends what my topic-du-jour should be. It was an anxious period for me: not even a writer and experiencing writer's block, forced to rely on the wisdom (or foolhardiness) of my facebook cronies, I twiddled my thumbs, scrubbed down the house, and awaited my fate. 
   The response was underwhelming. Although I wasn't surprised - in today's blogosphere everyone thinks himself a Mark Twain, while fellow readers gnash their teeth in despair at a world where any insipid, semi-literate "auteur" can vomit up page after page for our viewing predilection, without consequence or censor.
   I count myself among these unwashed masses, having had a high-school education (and a sub-par one at that), followed by what one can only euphemistically call "trade school" (conservatory for purists), and cannot boast a greater insight nor a broader view of world events than my fellow-man. Still, since the medium is open to me, and a few devout friends saw fit to suggest a fitting topic, I defer to their judgement, and commence with the most popular of themes: my dog.
— Part I

July 07 2011

"The Curse"

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Oh, lay my ashes on the wind
That blows across the sea.
And I shall meet a fisherman
Out of Capri,

And he will say, seeing me,
"What a Strange Thing!
Like a fish's scale or a 
Butterfly's wing."

Oh, lay my ashes on the wind
That blows away the fog.
And I shall meet a farmer boy
Leaping through the bog,

And he will say, seeing me,
"What a Strange Thing!
Like a peat-ash or a 
Butterfly's wing."

And I shall blow to YOUR house
And, sucked against the pane,
See you take your sewing up
And lay it down again.

And you will say, seeing me,
"What a strange thing!
Like a plum petal or a 
Butterfly's wing."

And none at all will know me
That knew me well before.
But I will settle at the root
That climbs about your door,

And fishermen and farmers
May see me and forget,
But I'll be a bitter berry
In your brewing yet. 
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