tinkerbell

February 15, 2014

so today i finished my last long run before the la marathon in three weeks. with 20 miles under my hydration belt i am confident in knowing i will not die. i can actually run 20 miles. and it doesn’t hurt that bad. not nearly as bad as the 7.22 hill run this week. side benefits are you can eat as much as you want and drink beer.

20miles

in case you didn’t know, i’m running the marathon to raise money for a charity called kitten rescue. they rescue kittens! and dogs! i don’t get it when someone says “i don’t like cats” in response to hearing i’m running for kitten rescue. so when they hit me up for money for homeless people or a disease i don’t have should i respond, “i’m not homeless and i don’t have leukemia. fuck off.” that flippant comment aside, i actually do donate to a variety of charities including kxlu, the la food bank, midnight mission, and any disease any of my friends raise money for. i do not donate to religious organizations or to Big Charity. Big Charity functions like big corporations – huge bureaucratic infrastructure, big salaries.

so as i was running today i was mulling over why exactly i’m running for an animal rescue charity. aside from the fact that i adopted my three cats from kitten rescue, including the charming genius cat molly, seen here waiting for me to come home from my run.

mollyfence

which brings me to the story of tinkerbell.

tinkerbell was originally my neighbor’s cat. then tinkerbell got knocked up and had kittens and a friend of my neighbor’s adopted both tinkerbell and one (i think) of her kittens. this person has something of a menagerie going and apparently tinkerbell did not adjust well to all the children and other animals. i seriously doubt this person — hey, why don’t we just call them IPO, for Irresponsible Pet Owner — did anything to make things any better. when tinkerbell started peeing outside the litterbox (a classic symptom of stress and not enough litter boxes), IPO simply decided to kick tinkerbell outside. because, as she put it, tinkerbell “didn’t appear to be comfortable in [her] house”.

let’s just stop right there. so let’s just assume there was a problem with one of IPO’s kids. they started acting out and misbehaving. i hope that IPO wouldn’t kick her kid out without trying to fix the problem. [but btw i unfortunately suspect that's exactly what she'd do]

so IPO kicked the cat out, to fend for itself. as you might imagine, that didn’t go so well. tinkerbell got sick. IPO did nothing to take care of the cat. didn’t take the cat to a vet. didn’t bring her inside. nada, zip. instead, when IPO finally got her hands on tinkerbell, she took her to the west valley shelter, where, being sick, she was promptly euthanized. problem solved for IPO! no more sick cat!

how fucking sick is that. seriously. my newsfeed is FULL of stories about people just like this, who dump their (sometimes sick) pets at shelters because they are too irresponsible to take care of them. the comments are the same, every single time. WHO THE HELL WOULD DO SUCH A THING? well, people, i’m here to tell you who would do such a thing. this person looks just like everyone else you’ll meet, normal life, kids, career blah blah. perfectly nice in person face to face. but when it all boils down to it, they don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves. vacation versus sick kitten? vacation! taking time to make sure animals are ok versus going to time share? time share! spend money on vet versus magic castle? magic castle! so basically, the animals can all drop dead from disease, dehydration and heat, she’s going on vacation and enjoying herself at magic castle.

as those of you who are my friends know, i am not one to mince words. i wrote an email to this woman. this is what i said:

[neighbor] sent me the email below, after a series of emails about Tinkerbell, and after contacting me a while back in the hopes that I might be able to take her in. I didn’t take Tinkerbell into my home because I knew I could not care for her. I have three cats, and bringing a new cat in takes a lot of time to make sure they get along and there aren’t behavioral incidents. I don’t have any, much less a lot, of time. I wish I could have taken Tinkerbell in, frankly, but it would have been unrealistic.

I cannot tell you how much this entire debacle has upset me. It has upset [neighbor] as well, as you probably know. I volunteer my time with an animal rescue organization (Kitten Rescue) and I’m training to run in the LA Marathon to raise money for abused, neglected and homeless animals. In other words, animals like Tinkerbell, who was abused and neglected by you.

Tinkerbell was sick, and in desperate need of veterinary care. Rather than making sure she got veterinary care, you allowed her illness to get to the point where she developed necrotic tissue and maggots. That doesn’t happen overnight, and Tinkerbell certainly was not “healthy”. I cannot imagine how much Tinkerbell was suffering, but you did not take her to the vet. Finally, you dumped the “inconvenient” cat at the West Valley shelter, where she was sure to be put down. Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

To say what happened was grossly irresponsible is an understatement. It’s flat out cruel. When you accept an animal into your home, it becomes your responsibility to care for it – that includes taking it to the vet, cleaning out litter boxes, walking, giving them decent housing conditions. If you can’t do that for some reason, whether it’s financial (there are low cost vets, btw), personal, a time issue, or whatever, then you should not have pets. PERIOD. If you cannot take care of your pets, give them to someone who will take care of them and not have them suffer.

The bottom line is that Tinkerbell died because you failed to take care of her, you failed to take her to a vet, and you didn’t bother to find a home or organization which could help or save her. Please reconsider whether it’s appropriate for you to have pets at all — I personally don’t think it is. The message you’re sending to your children is terrible on so many levels… starting with “pets are disposable. when one becomes inconvenient, just get rid of it.”

That is not what I believe, at all. In fact, it’s so completely repugnant to me that I would appreciate it if you would take me off your mailing lists. I will not do business with someone who treats animals in this way.

ME

p.s. If you were to google “no kill animal shelter los angeles” you would get millions of hits – below are just a few. I strongly suggest you contact these organizations to give them your other pets, or at least before you drop them off at a city shelter to be killed like you did with Tinkerbell. If you’re going to do that, save yourself the drive and throw them out a car window – it’s no better.

http://www.nokillnetwork.org/d/California/

http://nkla.org/FindPartners

http://www.save-a-life.org/

http://www.langefoundation.com/index/Home.html

http://kittenrescue.org

i don’t know about you, but i thought that was pretty well written and made the point. this was her response:

Then it’s a crying shame that [neighbor] did not relocate her over the past year and a half! I told her on numerous occasions that TinkerBell did not appear comfortable in my house and was living as an outdoor cat. I told her she deserved to be inside. The cat has not been around in the past two weeks. When we saw her on Saturday we were going to take her to [neighbor]‘s but [neighbor] never responded. Don’t worry. I will not be contacting you again.

IPO’s name here
“Oh, by the way…I’m never too busy for your referrals!”

wait, whaaaattt? how did this whole thing turn into the blame game? this was my response:

wow. talk about missing the whole point.
tinkerbell was YOUR CAT. the responsibility was YOURS. you blew it. you failed. don’t try to shove it off on [neighbor], or anyone else. it’s absolutely appalling that somehow you’ve taken this and twisted it into something someone else should have done.
that really speaks volumes, [IPO]. you won’t take responsibility, and you blame others.
do everyone a favor and give all your pets up to no kill shelters before they all die of starvation, disease, or whatever else in your home because you can’t be bothered.

now, i doubt IPO will actually take her pets to no kill shelters to give them up. she’s stubborn and doesn’t want to be perceived as a “failure” or the kind of person who would give up. instead, she’s the kind of person who cruelly neglects her animals to the point where they are put down.

so. . . if you want to know why i’m running to raise money for kitten rescue, it’s in large part due to ass hats like IPO, who dump their sick and neglected animals off at shelters to be put down, because they are so grossly irresponsible that they neglect their animals to the point of sickness. unfortunately, there are many many people like IPO, and therefore many, many animals who are sick, neglected, mistreated, and finally dumped at shelters. these animals deserve better homes than IPO can provide. they deserve veterinary care and love, which obviously IPO is totally incapable of providing.

so look at it this way. i’m running for tinkerbell.

if you would like to donate, please go to my crowdrise website. ALL donations, even ONE DOLLAR are appreciated and meaningful.
http://www.crowdrise.com/teamkittenrescue2014/fundraiser/anetadubow

have some

August 7, 2013

tupperware party tonight

every weekend the refrigerator at work is purportedly cleaned out although i’m not entirely sure what the specific criteria is for discarding something versus keeping it.  salad dressing is not discarded.  an entire drawer of mini coffee creamers has been there forever.  i kept buying yogurt under the mistaken belief that it was being tossed only to find three full containers with my initials* on them.

*in a completely misguided attempt to thwart the Food Thief

so no my three yogurts were not thrown out.  but i have lost container after container of partially or not at all eaten leftovers.   gone.  hasta la never.  where do they go, these seemingly but not really unwanted foodstuffs, i wonder.  the theory is that the cleaning person comes in and coldly discards all of them into the garbage.  i can’t bring myself to believe this.  why would someone throw away perfectly good food storage containers?  all they need is a run in the dishwasher and they’re good as new.  that’s the whole point.  i think she [it has to be a woman.  whoever saw a man clean out a refrigerator?  such a man would be a saint.] tells us they’ve been thrown out, but secretly cleans them and takes them away to a vast criminal underworld trading in gently used flip lock, oxo, tupperware, etc.  there must be a market for these things.  this thought first occurred to me when i read about a chinese doctor who was telling new parents their babies died or had a tragic deadly congenital condition but actually spirited them away to be sold on the chinese boy black market.  which of course must be next door to the food storage container black market.  or perhaps she hoards them.  someday she will be found, like emily dickinson and her poems, except with thousands of tupperware containers some with my initials carved into them.   bitch. 

the scene is dead

i have to admit that i really cruise through life with blinders on and frankly i’m better off for it.  i don’t want to know what everyone else does or is interested in and i care about the news only peripherally.  i especially don’t care about what music is popular or big or winning awards or whatever it is they do to pat themselves on a job shittily done.   i have not been tricked into listening to mumford and sons as i have studiously avoided them the same way i have avoided listening to any radio station other than kxlu.  i have an ipod with years of music on it.  i have backup music on my phone.  if all else fails i have emergency back up cds to play in the car.  if all of that doesn’t work, i start drinking. 

but you know, what is music nowadays.  what’s the scene.  who are you, who who who who.   it used to be fairly easy to tell and say.   you could be a stoner, a punk, a goth (assuming you were into music and identified yourself that way).   you could say you were into soul, techno, industrial music, black metal, death rock, southern rock, glam, hair bands.   post punk.  new romantic.  po po po punk.  new wave.  skater and/or surf rock. 

but honest to god i don’t know what these kids are doing anymore.   i was driving down sunset today doncha know and there were hundreds of teenage girls lined up outside the roxy and i swear to god they all looked alike and i have no idea what they were into.  other than high rise shorts.  [fashion tip!  high rise shorts look good on exactly 1% of the population and that girl is currently modeling in europe.]   those girls are only one step removed from the faux self proclaimed hipsters in echo park and you know there was a day a long long time ago when black skinny jeans really meant something, just like ironic facial hair and stupid hats [trucker.  newspaper boy.  fedora.].  but now?   

which brings me to my point [finally, you say].  i was on a blog with the name something something indie.  indie being the musical equivalent to organic i said, oh ok let’s check some of this stuff out.  i had not heard of most of the bands and i thought perhaps in my old age i was missing something.  god knows i don’t want to turn into one of those people who has nights listening to shit from junior high.  anyway so i slapped some tunes onto the system and perused them. 

oh.  my.  god.  is this indie?  really?  because it totally blows.  indie used to be shorthand for cool bands which weren’t signed to a major.  now apparently indie is shorthand for banal shit.  this was music that made me fear for the souls of american youth.  certainly you cannot be an interesting person and listen to such  trite garbage.  what’s wrong with you kids?  and why do you all dress alike (and poorly, i might add)?  is that your goal, to be average, boring people?  ac/dc was on the highway to hell and you’re on the rocketship to mundane. 

i have a special message to the creators and purveyors of this hackneyed tripe.  what you’re doing is more evil, more damaging, than crop dusting kindergardens with crack cocaine.  you’re turning generations of innocent children into mindless, complacent zombies nodding their heads and tapping their toes to faux folk or passionless emo.  and isn’t that funny?  emo is so dead fish.  good god, do i hate emo.  which invites me to introduce a theory of mine which is that sadly that the ideas of kindness and acceptance and inclusion (which are good!) have resulted in abject dishonesty, both cultural and personal (which is bad IMHBCO).  sheep aesthetics are exalted over talent, style and design whatever the medium.  niceness gets more miles than truth or good.   i swear to god, i’m probably more passionate in my dislike of these lame-ass bands than any of their fans are.   and you know, if you can’t be someone’s favorite band, stop making music.  

in reality, of course, it has always been this way except that the really lame bands never got written up by lester bangs.  they just released their crappy music to whoever it is that bought them and eventually all these records, good and bad, ended up at my house, aka The Repository Of [The Decline Of]  Western Civilization.  i have countless records of bands i have absolutely no interest in listening to, on the off chance that there may be one decent song that’s all i need, one decent song on their lousy records.  it mystifies me that someone could spend so much time and energy recording and not lay down one good track on an album, but i am here to tell you it happens, and it’s happened to lou reed with alarming regularity.    are mumford and sons any worse than manhattan transfer?  probably not. 

but wait, there’s hope!

ironically, there’s actually a wealth of excellent music being created right here right now today probably not far from wherever you are.   and with the magick of the interwebs, you too can access all of this glorious music at the touch of your fingers instantaneously.   you can stream kxlu or wfmu.  you can check out rollo grady or burger records or drag city or castle face.  there is absolute reason why you, a poor schmuck in indiana, can’t rise above whatever it is that your lazy classmates are listening to or whatever is on your [poor excuse of a] radio station to actually listen to music that, in 20 years, will still matter – or ought to, unless we really are going the way of idiocracy.    i have three words to say in that regard and they are THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (1964-1973, RIP).   now obviously i did not see any VU shows as i did not go out much when i was five.  however, my contact lens guy ned claims to have seen VU on many occasions (as well as the MC5 etc etc) and claims they were absolutely terrible, that lou reed nodded off in the middle of songs and the venues were empty.  probably so.  but i’ll tell you this much, ten and fifteen years later, more bands were influenced by VU than gale garnett or tony orlando and dawn. where was i going with that?    oh yea.  popularity does not equal worthiness.   mcdonalds is incredibly popular.   few people [setting aside the crazy scottish guy i dated in a fit of benevolence decades ago] would argue that mcdonalds is actually good food.  

here.  listen to this. 

here.  wear this.

i’d rather see this than high rise shorts

 

2013 – the year i get [the right] shit done

December 23, 2012

wow, is it That Time of The Year again?  wasn’t it just summer?   wasn’t it just new year’s eve?  what the hell happened to 2012? 

ahhh, dear reader.  every year i like to reflect on the past 365 days (give or take) and kind of check the map to see where i’m going.  personally i wish i was going to saint barths, like jill bumby prophesied, but that’s not going to happen unless santa brings me a winning lottery ticket.  i’m satisfying myself with doing Productive Things around the casa this long weekend. 

so 2012 was one of those freaky generally life changing years but in a really subtle way that doesn’t sink in for a while.  i’m not sure its sunk in yet, to be frank.   i should have probably kept a journal so that i could have a more reliable record other than vague, drugged out memory. [note to self: purchase handsome leather bound journal for 2013]  speaking of which, i read bits of richard burton’s journal and i was comforted to read that even the fabulous are mundane and unconscious at times.  oh thank god, i thought it was just me.

to be honest, i actually got a crap done off the list of Things To Do and Personal Improvement so i can’t (and don’t!) feel bad at all.  but when i was thinking about the highs and lows of this year i was struck by the literalness of it.  the high was climbing mount toubkal (and really the entire trip to spain / morocco). 

Image

cocktails at the alhambra hotel, granada, spain

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arriving at la mamounia, marrakech, morocco

 

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mounting mount toubkal

 

the low was falling down a flight of stairs and cracking my skull. 

Image

that was, of course, super helpful just in case i was one of these people who didn’t get the idea that every day could be your last.  but i knew that from reading andrew marvell in college (forgive the editing):

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
. . .
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

believe me, the lesson was knocked firmly into my skull even more solidly than before. 

at any rate it was a big year.  did a lot.  accomplished plenty.  feel [mostly] good about stuff despite the fact that i once again did not learn italian.  i did try to learn french but that was a miserable failure.  the best i can do is sing along to petula clark or jacque dutronc with a heavy faux french accent. 

so yesterday i was inexplicably filled with energy and literally ripped up the entire yard, chopped down a tree, replanted huge swaths of the garden, and then came inside and took everything off the bookshelves and cleaned each shelf.  good god, i have a lot of books.  it looks like the repository of western civilization in here, to steal from Naked Ralph The Sitcom Writer (oh i’ll miss him.  not very much at all.).   nearly every book has a receipt or piece of paper stuck in it, demarcating how far i’d read before i abandoned ship.   this is useful because i can tell, for example, that i’ve been slowly ploughing through The Golden Bough for 21 years, judging from the 1991 newberry library book fair bookmark nestled at page 277. 

to be fair, i did finish numerous books this year.  but not nearly as many as i started but did not finish.  worse than that, this year i bought ulysses, the infinite jest AND remembrance of things past undoubtedly as some kind of a sick challenge.  you know, i didn’t want people whispering at my funeral that i was an english major who never polished off the number one classic on most lists.   how embarrassing.  and how is it that i STILL have never read tolstoy or been to paris? why am i reading crappy books instead of good ones?  why am i wasting my time watching shitty movies instead of good ones?  why eat pf changs when you can have momofuku’s bo ssam pork?  why am i spending time with people doing shit i do not care about when i haven’t seen friends i dearly love in ages?  

dovetailing with all this is the goal  (resolution is a dirty word) to practice danshari: actively look at my life and minimize.  get rid of things i don’t need, don’t want, and that don’t make my life better.  concentrate on those things which are important. 

断捨離 Danshari – “de-clutter.”
The three kanji in this compound mean “refuse – throw away – separate” – a three-step system for de-cluttering one’s life (both physical and mental):
1) refuse to bring unnecessary new possessions into your life;
2) throw away existing clutter in your living space; and
3) separate from a desire for material possessions.

the exact same thing applies to people and activities.  i’m just too fucking busy, to be blunt.  everyone is.  i have too much stuff pulling me in all directions, too many demands for my time, too much on my plate.  i lose things and lose track of people.  everyone does – it’s the nature of modern life.   i tend to overload myself under the carpe diem approach; others just collapse from the weight of life and spend every night on the couch drinking wine.  the problem is the same – our lives are filled with clutter, white noise which doesn’t allow us to differentiate between the important and the insignificant.   i’m sure the resolution is different for everyone, but for me it’s active reprioritization.   making time for things and people i love, and not feeling bad in turning down things i don’t care for.  and not feeling bad or beating myself up when i can’t get to something.

that means cleaning out the tshirt drawer.  giving books i’ve read to friends.  not buying more shoes (… cue quiet sobbing… ).  making time for friends i love (and politely not spending time with people who are negative, energy vampires, or, frankly, just not worth the effort).  saying NO to free things.  buying good records, instead of wanting all records.  making and eating delicious food.  eliminating wasted time, negativity.  bringing in beauty and good.  shanti shanti shanti. 

2013.  the year to get the right shit done. 

Image

 

 

life **** 1/2

September 13, 2012

Today I felt compelled to write a Yelp review.  Two, actually.  One totally slamming these jackasses for trying to rip me off and having shitty customer service, and the other five star review for the other company which did a great job blah blah blah.  Then I talked to my mom and had to try to explain the concept of Yelp to her.  My mother still lives in simpler times, where if you had a beef with someone, you could do absolutely nothing about it.  You could report them to the Better Business Bureau, I guess, but that’s sort of like asking someone for their myspace account or beeper number. 

Anyway I was thinking about it afterwards and I was like, when did we turn into this culture of people who feel compelled to give their opinion on everything?   Or caring about other people’s opinions?  Yesterday I was reading amazon reviews for a book I was thinking of getting.  I always read the one star reviews to see what kind of crazy vitriol spews out of these disgusted, disappointed, usually self-important people.  For the record, the book was one on pairing food and wine, and this one guy gave them a shitty review because they didn’t feature more wines from New Mexico.  New Mexico?  That’s your big complaint?  Who gives a fuck! 

 I think we need to broaden our base of opinionating and reviewing.  There should be Yelp for everything on earth.  I want to know what you think.  What do you think of the weather?  Traffic on the 405?  How was your mom’s turkey for thanksgiving?   What about the sexual prowess of your lover – five stars or just one?  I WANT TO KNOW. 

 

Molly the Cat **** ½

Frankly, molly would have gotten the full five stars if it wasn’t for an incident this morning.  Usually molly is charming, sweet, full of love and cuteness.  She comes when called, jumps on my lap and meows and is generally absolutely the most wonderful cat on earth.  Sadly, I had to deduct a half point because of an intentional scratching incident.  First, this morning molly just wouldn’t shut the hell up about going outside.  Helloooo, molly.  It’s THURSDAY, not SATURDAY.  It’s not outside day.  I know I spoiled her when I was off work, but for the love of god, kitten, look at the goddamn calendar.  Anyway so then I was trying to be nice and I picked her up and went outside. 

This was a big mistake. 

 Molly immediately got out the sharp needle like claws and started going at me like I was a goddamn tree she was trying to climb.  After nailing me a few times hard, I held her little face in my hands and said BAD KITTEN SCRATCHING MOMMY! BAD! BAD MOLLY BAD!  And with that, we went back inside. 

 

I’m hoping this is a minor incident, and not indicative of a new trend of bad kitten behavior which will require stripping molly of more stars in the future. 

 

 Commute to Work  *

 Have you seen the SNL skit called the Californians?  My commute to work is like an episode of the Californians.  Every day I struggle with which route to take and every day I feel like I’ve made some kind of a laughable mistake, seduced by Satan himself into taking surface streets when there’s a closure, the freeway during a SIG alert.  Commuting to work in Los Angeles is a thankless, sisyphusian task.  Half the time I feel like  my mental abilities for the day are fully exhausted just figuring out whether I should take Santa Monica or Pico or just stay home.  After nearly six years of doing this, I can say definitively that, using an Orwellian phrase, all the routes are bad, but some are worse than others. 

 Generally speaking, in my opinion you’re best off on either Santa Monica or the 10.  There’s no point in going down either Olympic or Pico.  If you’re that far, you might as well take the 10, unless you discovery late in the game that there’s a problem with the 10.  Taking Sunset is sheer insanity.  If you’re already past Pico and you see the 10 is effed, you have no choice but to take Venice.  Side streets are sheer folly at that point. 

 What I really want to know is, when will google maps or the iphone or some smart app related company finally give us a real time best route?  Like, without me having to do anything?  Are you telling me we can put a rover on Mars but the directions on my phone can’t figure out that I’m better off going under the 405 at Ohio than trying to cross at Santa Monica?  I mean, come on people.  What affects my life more day to day, shitty traffic or moon rocks? 

 They’re called priorities, geeks.  Get them. 

 

Bathroom Cleaning Schedule At Office **

 What the hell is UP with this?  Why does that guy always come around when I need to use the bathroom?  Why does he take so goddamn long? And why is the tp always out at the worst moments?  The only reason he gets two stars instead of one is because the poor sap has to clean up after the slobs on our floor. 

 

The Weather Lately **

Ok, again, the ONLY reason the weather is getting two stars instead of one is because it cooled off last night.  But up until 8 pm yesterday, the weather was earning itself a straight up one star kiss my ass.  Did I move to LA or the surface of the fucking sun?  and why is the weather hot when my AC is broken?  All I can say is, I’m totally fine with warm days, but hot nights?  That’s bullshit. 

 

Water *****

 What can I say, I love water.  Quenches the thirst and no calories!  Plentiful and free! 

 

Stupid Bitch At Garden Section of Local Hardware Store  **

 How can you work in the garden section of a store and not know that a MEYER lemon is a type of lemon, and not a lemon owned by some guy named Meyer.  Why do I need to spell FOUR for you?  The only reason you got two stars is because I’ve spent days getting sympathy for having to deal with someone so stupid. 

 

My Childhood ****

I mean, I guess it was pretty good, from what I remember.  Usual bad stuff, nothing too terrible.  Didn’t go hungry or have to work in a sweat shop, so I have to give it four stars.

 

Brain Surgery ***

 I know everyone is shocked that brain surgery is getting three stars.  What’s up with that, brain surgery is better than my commute to work?? 

 

I know, I know.  But here’s the thing, it’s all about expectations.  I only live 11 miles from work.  So that should take me what, 20 minutes?  And yet, it takes me AN HOUR, every day.  Sometimes more!   I didn’t have any positive expectations of brain surgery whatsoever.  I heard everything as bad as “you could die” to “you will be a vegetable” to “shaved head and big scar” to  weird personality changes, pain, and inability to recognize sounds.  No one ever mentions that you get three weeks off of work high as a kite on painkillers!   Not to mention everyone feeling really bad for you, bringing flowers and food and stuff.  Who would know that a brush with death could be so awsum, and reap such great rewards?  I didn’t even have to ask, people just did these totally sweet things!  Another side benefit is that you really get to know who your friends are, so it’s helpful if this happens right before Christmas — I can totally knock a couple people right off the “nice” list. 

Tips for Accident Preparedness

August 16, 2012

part three in the Dealing with Head Injury series

emergency preparedness

most of us are really ill-prepared for emergencies, disasters and accidents.   non mormons, anyway.  just think to yourself — what if you fell down at home and passed out?  what is a “must” to do if you are going to be hospitalized, or have to leave your house?   you probably have no idea, or think something stupid like “grab family photos”. 

luckily, i have the kind of mind that, when confronted by an emergency, immediately snaps into high gear and a laser sharp focus, even when i am bleeding from the head.   your first and immediate need in the event of an emergency is to assess whether you need help.  if you are even thinking you might need help, you probably do.  if you need help, do you need to call 911, or can you call a friend or relative?  are any of your friends sober enough to drive you to the ER?  think fast and clearly. 

in either case, take a look around your house.  can you unlock the door for the paramedics?  if you pass out again, they’ll have to break it down and that’s a drag.   is there anything laying around which could cause potential embarrassment or arrest?  what will you need for your vacation to the ER?  my short list included cell phone, wallet, and lipstick.   being taken out immobilized on a back board is no excuse for looking grim. 

remember that accident / emergency preparedness is about being prepared before an accident happens.  these are things you really need to think about ahead of time, and make part of your life:

Preparedness “Don’ts”

  • DON’T leave things that might be illegal laying around the house where anyone can see them.
  • DON’T have potentially embarrassing items* strewn everywhere.  [*the litmus test: "would i be totally ok with my mother seeing this on my coffee table?]
  • DON’T run out of clean underwear.
  • DON’T leave porn on the computer screen.

Preparedness “Do’s”

  • DO secure all your electronic devices with passwords!
  • DO keep a master list of your passwords, on a secure app such as mSecure.  Remembering passwords is hard, but try to do it after a brain injury!
  • DO erase your browsing history frequently, especially if your caretaker can use a computer and will use yours. 
  • DO keep your dirty pictures in a secure folder.
  • DO stow away any potentially embarrassing / possibly illegal items, immediately after use.  Put them in the same place every time, so that you don’t have difficulty locating things while all doped up on pain killers. 
  • DO have at least one awsum friend who will step up and “take care” of (i.e. “hide”) things for you.
  • DO have extra keys so that your awsum friends can feed your cats.

Remember that after a serious injury or accident, your ability to function and memory may be compromised.  the less you have to remember, the better.  the more smoothly things were coordinated before, the less work later.   dealing with stuff like bills, money, insurance, medication, disability forms, etc., is a real headache inducing drag.   if you can, put everything on auto pay now, so that when you’re injured all you do is sit around writing blogs and watching netflix and focusing on your recovery.  

Focus On Recovery

when i had the eye surgery thing last year, a friend of mine gave me some great advice which i can now say i absolutely adopt 100%.  first, get a lot of sleep.  sleep is key.  good REM sleep.  do whatever it takes to get sleep.  he suggested the delta sleep system, which is sort of whale noises you can buy on itunes.  i tried this and it is, in fact, helpful.  second, eat a high nutrient diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

i have a fancy twin gear juicer, but the drag about using it is that it’s slow and a pain in the ass to clean.  then about two months ago, i bought a vitamix.  i am madly in love with my vitamix and would totally appliance marry it if i could.  the biggest difference in juicing with a vitamix vs a juicer is that the vitamix is basically blending the fuck out of whatever you put in, so the end result has pulp in it.  which is better for you, nutrition wise, but can result in a sludge like product versus a juice.   i usually make the garden blend, which tastes like v8 but is totally fresh and awsum.  i did try to make it with kale instead of spinach and the result was totally not awsum at all.  live n learn. 

when i was in pre-op the anesthesiologists predicted a fast recovery, due to my level of fitness and my diet.  i’m not going to beat the drum about that here, other than to generally say that i try to avoid processed foods, prepared foods, and eating out.  i try to eat a LOT of fresh fruits and vegetables, organic unless that’s not possible for some reason.  i generally buy organic, free-range, humanely raised meat and poultry, and hormone and antibiotic free dairy.   i limit the amount of meat i eat.  i try to grow my own fruits and vegetables, and obviously i do not spray.   these are my preferences, for a multitude of reasons.  if you want to eat fast food every day, go right ahead and follow your bliss.  just don’t be surprised when you develop diabetes or heart disease.  since i’ve already seen what that looks like, courtesy of my dad, i’m going to do my level best to avoid that. 

i have to give a lot of credit to the paramedics and medical team at cedars, including the neurosurgeons.  obviously being whisked to the ER and then into surgery within a few hours made a huge difference. 

the rest is having great friends and a positive attitude.  my absolutely awsum friends rallied around me asap.  they texted, emailed and called asking how i was.  they offered to help, care for me, visit.  they ran errands, bought kitty litter, fed the cats, delivered stuff to the hospital, visited me, drove me around, brought food, ordered food, cooked, visited me, send flowers, brought magazines, sent gifts and cards.  it’s just overwhelmingly sweet!   you know who you are, people, and your kind words and actions made a HUGE DIFFERENCE!  you rock!  thank you so very much! 

believe it or not, it does not take much in a situation like this.  when you hear someone is going through something, just shoot them a text or email.  you don’t actually need to do anything, most of the time.  i did need some help and i’m super grateful for that, but i certainly didn’t expect people to haul their asses to my house and clean my toilets.   my awsum mom did that, in between hemming a bunch of drapes, making pillows, cushions, and reorganizing the kitchen.  my mom is a whirlwind of activity. 

the other key thing IMHBCO is keeping a positive attitude.  sure, cracking my head open sucked.  sure, there’s pain and for the time being limitations.  i’m very lucky the limits don’t appear to be permanent, but even if they were, the bottom line is, life is made up of great things and shitty things.  you can either look at your situation and feel sorry for yourself and moan about how much it sucks, or you can just say this is really not so bad.   i mean — look at stephen hawking.  the guy is paralyzed, and yet look how much he accomplishes every day.   do you think he wakes up and silently weeps for an hour?  i’m thinking he doesn’t.   and i’m not going to, either.  i’m going to look around and go, wow, this is actually a good situation, all things considered.  i got to spend some time with my mom, rest, relax, hang out with my friends, think about things i never have time for, usually.   yesterday i watched battleship potemkin, which had been in my netflix queue forever.  great movie.  and at least i didn’t fall down the odessa steps! 

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MANY THANKS to all my great friends!  give yourselves a high five and a pat on the back. 

onward and upward!

August 9, 2012

so dear friends and readers, i continue with my journey towards recuperation and recovery. 

today started out with a visit to the UCLA jules stein eye center, to see if whacking my head on some stairs caused any problems with my retinal tear.  parenthetically, there are two eye centers at UCLA, the doris and the jules stein.  doris and jules were married to each other, and yet they donated money separately to have their own eye centers.  i think this is super weird and is sort of the eye center equivalent of the petries having separate beds and people who take separate vacations. 

anyway mama drove.   drove should be in quotes.   after this  trip i can safely say that i am at far greater risk of being killed in a car accident with her at the wheel than suffering any serious repercussions from last week’s tumble. 

mama is one of these drivers that constantly makes you tense.  the herky jerky hitting the brakes.  driving too close to one side or another.  going to slow and then stopping within two inches of the car in front.  complete confusion with signs.  easily flustered.  easily confused.  easily freaked out.  tends to go the wrong way down a one way. 

she also hates it when i’m not paying attention to her driving and am texting instead.  so in this regard we are reduced to every teenager and her mother, except that i am texting not out of petulant rebellion, but because i fear for my life and i want my last words to be preserved by my friends (“she was so witty!  you know, right before her mom drove into the back of that truck, she sent me the funniest text!”). 

anyway the appointment went well.  i wore a cute mini skirt and a matching hermes scarf in my favorite pattern, the same one favored by jackie o, although frankly i looked less like jackie than an orthodox jewish mom going shopping at the grove. 

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anyway the visit went as usual.  they dilated and then poked my eyes and said things about how interesting something was.  the best best advise i got was to take as many pain killers as i needed to stave off the pain.  i had been feeling like i needed to be judicious because everyone always makes you sound like a drug seeking junkie when you ask for vicodin or whatever.  but, as my doc pointed out, i just had brain surgery.   can this shit get any more real than brain surgery?  is someone going to stand up and say, no you aren’t really in pain?  you’re not anxious or whatever?  what kind of a callous fuck are you, anyway?  

so speaking of which, on my return home i decided that i really ought to bone up on the potential sequelae of craniotomies and left temporal lobe injuries, just so that i knew what to be on the lookout for.  

according to wikipedia, the temporal lobes are involved in auditory perception, and visual and auditory semantics.  in other words, perceiving and understanding what we see and hear.  the left temporal lobe specifically is not limited to low-level perception but extend to comprehension, naming, verbal memory, and other language functions.  admittedly my entire understanding of this field of neurology is based that great book “the man who mistook his wife for a hat”, so i’m totally spitballing here.  i’m going to guess that what we’re dealing with here is the ability of the brain to process audio and visual information and then to tell you what it is.  so, hearing a phone ring and understanding it’s a phone ringing.  so far so good – the phone has rung, and i understood it was the phone.  i am having some difficulty hearing, but i’m pretty sure that’s the blood in my ear.  i don’t think i’m having any difficulty with comprehension, naming, or verbal memory (word finding), but if i’m going to leave that to my friends to tell me if i am.  maybe i’m deluding myself.  maybe this entire blog sounds as incomprehensible and blathering as a sarah palin speech. 

then i read this site, which was super interesting as it listed off the most common problems with left temporal injuries: 

1) disturbance of auditory sensation and perception so far i don’t think i’m hearing things but like i said, i wouldn’t mind this happening as long as it sounded like ty segall or something.

2) disturbance of selective attention of auditory and visual input admittedly, i don’t know what this really means.  does it have to do with selectively pretending like i can’t hear my mom?  guilty as charged.

3) disorders of visual perception apparently the floating paramecium really are in my eyeball, so i’m clear on this one. 

4) impaired organization and categorization of verbal material again, i don’t know what this means exactly but it says something about putting things into categories.  i was really working on being non-judgmental and not putting things into categories but i guess i’m supposed to categorize.  ok, things are either stupid, or not stupid.  how’s that.  like today i watched NBC’s coverage of the olympics and there was this clip on lolo jones, and i said, what the eff is the point of this?  who cares? why are they showing this, this is stupid.  

5) disturbance of language comprehension  i really did not understand what the point of the lolo jones story was, or why i should give a flying eff that she’s a 30 year old virgin.  i actually thought that was craycray.  

6) impaired long-term memory only time will tell, right?

7) altered personality and affective behavior  LET ME KNOW IF I START TO ACT “NICE”. 

8) altered sexual behavior now, i was really really curious about this one.  what do they mean by altered?  do they mean that i’ll suddenly find myself attracted to women?  what’s the deal?  as it turns out, “[s]evere damage to the temporal lobes can also alter sexual behavior (e.g. increase in activity) (Blumer and Walker, 1975).”  oh my!  i’m not a slut, i have temporal lobe damage!!   guys, now that i’ve put this information out there, i think the hottest spot in town will be the cedars sinai neurology ward.  trashy girls with no long term memory.  

 

insofar as my actual recovery goes, today was one of those painful days.  it’s to be expected and you just need to ride it out and keep a positive attitude.  there will be days when your energy is high, others low.  some days you won’t hurt, others it’ll be bad.  just concentrate on the positive, do things to promote your own good health and be satisfied with that.   i spend the day sleeping in back, which was actually quite nice.  

 

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Tips for Dealing With Closed Head Injuries

August 7, 2012
Dearest reader,
As some of you may know, your beloved author suffered a horrible and potentially fatal head injury, just three days ago  Most mere mortals would still be in the intensive care ward hooked up to a saline IV being tube fed solylent green.  But not me!  Hells no!  All the thrill of having a fractured skull was exhausted when the last hit of morphine dissipated. 
 
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Anyway, people, to start at the beginning, Friday last I took a tumble down my own front stairs.  The irony was that I was wearing flat sandals and actually paying attention to where I was stepping.  How many times have I stomped out of here in seven inch Lanvin wooden heels, or six inch YSL sandals, with no problem at all?  I even managed to negotiate the stairs in those Philip Lim wooden clod hoppers in which I twisted my ankle six times in one day. 
In retrospect,  I should have known these sandals were diabolical, as I had previously fallen down a circular staircase in fez wearing them.    Luckily on that occasion I managed to grab a rail to avoid taking a header. 
This time I was not so lucky.  My right foot slipped forward, and my head fell backwards, hitting the stairs hard.  I bounced on my ass down the remaining steps and collapsed unconscious in a heap on the landing.
 
 
When I came too, ten minutes later, I remember looking up at concrete and asking myself where I was and what happened.  It all came back to me when I saw my purse and lunch laying on the stairs. 
A lot of people find it amazing that I got up and walked back up the stairs into my house.  I don’t find this amazing at all.  First of all, I didn’t think I was really hurt.  Seemed like a flesh wound, a glancing blow.  Like I just needed a 15 minute nap to get over it.  Second,  it didn’t seem like I had a hella choice, at that point.  What was I supposed to do, sit on the landing with my thumb in my mouth and wait for someone to find me?
And speaking of having my thumb in my mouth, just to get ahead of myself a little, one of the horrible side effects of the craniotomy is that you basically can’t open your jaw, not even wide enough to get a fork in, much less a thumb or anything else.  No one warns you before you agree to surgery that this is going to happen, and let me tell you, if they had, I’d have had some serious misgivings.  I’ve spent three days doing mouth stretching exercises just to get a tolerable range of motion.  It’ll take me weeks to get back to normal!
Anyway so after I woke up I dragged myself up to the house figuring I just needed a short nap and I’d be fine.  Then I felt the massive contusion on my head and realized I really was injured.  Then I tried to walk to the fridge to get an ice pack and the journey felt like I’d downed a bottle of jack for breakfast, which sounds like a good thing, but in this case was not.
Fortunately, I have a wise and caring friend who ordered me to call 911,  which I did because I recognize that my friend is, in fact, wise and caring.  Would that we all had such a friend, we would all be better off.
The paramedics came in less than five minutes one of them vaulting the wall by the gate to appear at my bedroom door to save me.  After a few minutes, my bedroom was full of strapping paramedics eager to do whatever they could to rescue this damsel in distress.  After asking me a bunch of questions they strapped my head into a cervical collar and the tied me down to a spine immobilized.  Sadly, just when it seemed like things were looking up, they loaded me into the truck and took me to the emergency room.  The last thing Before they shut the door was a nightmarish scenario as a bunch of people were standing around the street asking what happened to me, but I couldn’t see who they were, nor could I respond.
The ride down the hill was, frankly, sheer hell.  For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, my left ear and jaw were screaming in pain.  I hope the paramedic was not a religious man, because he heard some really sacrilegious foul language on that ride.  As I learned later, the pain was being caused by a blood seeping from a hematoma through a skull fracture, down into my ear canal. 
I wasn’t really sure what to expect at the hospital.  Maybe an elbow fracture, or something like that.  Nothing super serious.  Imagine my chagrin when the doctor told me the ct scan showed I had bleeding in my skull, and the neurosurgeon came in with a very sad looking face to describe what a craniotomy entailed.  And believe me, he really glossed over the details.  He didn’t even mention the huge disgusting scar, the lock jaw, and the quandary of having half your hair shaved off.  Not to mention the fact that craniotomies are you know sometimes fatal. 
 
 
 
I’d had enough brain injury cases to know that not treating a hematoma is never a good thing, so there was never a question as to whether I was going to go through with it.  Besides, anyone remember Natasha Richardson?  She died of an untreated hematoma. 
There’s really not much to say about the actual procedure.  You go under general anesthesia, then you wake up a couple hours later with a big bandage on your head.  You’re woozy.  You’re hooked up to an IV.  You’re not really feeling any pain.. Or really anything.    You just look forward to the hits of dilaudid and later morphine.  You’re uncomfortable.    You get some morphine and you feel better, all wrapped up on numbness and that floaty care free sensation.  The downside is that if someone comes to talk to you, you catch maybe 25% of what they’re saying, no matter how hard you try to pay attention.  I suppose it’s poor etiquette to get a hit of morphine when you have visitors, for that reason. 
According to the nurses in the ward I inhabited, the usual recovery process is slow and arduous.  Most people don’t get up out of bed for days and days.  Some don’t try to walk until a week later.  Some can’t eat food for a week.  Then there’s the risk of cognitive impairment and neurological deficits.  For some reason, I was very very lucky.  I wanted to walk around the following morning, and went short distances that day.  At first you’re dizzy and your sense of equilibrium is not good, but that improves.  Right now I’m still a little tentative, but that may be because my mother hovers over me cautioning me to BE CAREFUL.  Right now my problems are pretty limited – my head hurts.  My entire head.  I have head aches, and my jaw feels like I was in a dentist chair for 8 hours a day for a week.  It’s sore and painful.  When I bent over, the pressure fills my brain and it feels like the side of my skull is going to pop off.  But the worst is my ear, which apparently filled with blood internally.  It feels stuffed with liquid, which gurgles and bubbles, beeps and squeaks.  It’s like there are alien spiders trapped in my ear waiting to burst out.  Image
 
 
I ate solid food around lunchtime on Saturday.  It was disgusting.  How can anyone screw up a scrambled egg?  They didn’t even taste like eggs, they tasted like yellow curds of unknown origin.  I picked up the pieces and squeezed them into my mouth.  They also didn’t mention that post op I would not be able to open my mouth, not even to get a spoon in.  This is a real drag. 
By saturday night I was bored out of my mind and wanted out of dodge.  I’d already talked the ears off of every nurse, assistant, and janitor on the floor.  I didn’t have my iPod and the lack of music and easy internet access was making me really edgy.  My bosses did stop by and dropped off a bunch of music magazines, so I was able to catch up on info from the world of popular culture. 
You know, when they were putting me under, the anesthesiologists were asking me some basic questions like height and weight, level of physical activity, and the anesthesiologist said “you’re in really good shape” (they may have lifted my gown to look at my legs) and I said, yeah, I run and/or exercise daily, and try to eat healthy.  And he said, that’s really going to help you in your recovery.  At the time I didn’t put too much stock in it, but in retrospect, this is apparently true.  I bounced back much much quicker than normal.  Not that I’m without pain, but I’m able to walk, balance, function with a certain degree of self sufficiency within just a few days.    They said a large number of closed head injury patients get depressed — I’ll bet.  Your level of functioning and self sufficiency is reduced dramatically, to about the level of a three year old.  You can’t cook for yourself, going to the bathroom is an ordeal, some people can’t walk more than 10-15 feet.    Who wants to live like that?  That’s depressing.
 
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Anyway, I can’t exercise for two weeks, minimum.  BUT, what I am doing is sticking to a very high nutrition diet high in fruits, vegetables, and low fat protein and carbs.  The shit they feed you at the hospital is crap.  They actually gave me one of those awful blueberry muffins that you get at 7-11 all sticky sweet and decidedly un-blueberry like. 
So far I can’t discern any personality changes or cognitive impairments although I’m keeping a close eye.  When I asked the doctor if he was going to test me for neurological problems he laughed and said there was “no way” I had any.  Oh really?  How can he be so sure?  What if I was part of the jpl curiosity rover team but now I couldn’t remember where I put my keys to the rover?  I think that would be a big deal. 
Something like 50% of people suffer some kind of psychiatric disturbance  following a traumatic brain injury and I’m really curious what mine will be.  I’m hoping for something entertaining, like visions or hearing voices.  It would be best if the voices were actually a talented band, as I’m terrifically bored and I don’t think I’ll be getting out much. 
 
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Finally my mom has come to care for me until I’m all better.  This is truly her greatest wish – her self sufficient daughter being reduced to a drooling invalid.  This way she can rearrange my cabinets and all I can do is slur thanks and acquiescence.    She’s also become highly protective of me, as if my falling down the stairs is an indication of greater recklessness and incompetence with basic life skills.  I really don’t need to be told how to walk or to hold the hand rail when I go up stairs.  And this kind of thing from someone who can’t back into a parking spot is just richly ironic.  I mean, what does it say that a 45 year old who just had brain surgery can park better than you?  It means you need to reappraise the legitimacy of your position,  that’s what. 
 
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My mom has been very very helpful and obviously right now I need her help.  I can’t drive (supposedly).  I can’t lift more than 10 lbs.  I can’t bend over all the way (puts pressure on the surgical area).  So I can’t do something as basic as buy kitty litter and clean out the litter box.  Which is great, because I hated doing that. 
I will say that the outpouring of kind thoughts, support, love, has truly been overwhelming.  My house is filled with beautiful bouquets of flowers, and wonderful friends have been coming by with food.  Earlier this year, after the debacle with a deadbeat staying in the guest house, I had kind of given up on karma.  I mean, I did a nice thing and I got screwed, so what was the point.  But I suppose the lesson is to look at things in the more global sense.  One of my personal credos is that if you can help someone, you ought to, whether it’s an old lady cross the street, or a friend with a problem.  Not in a phony way, and not to the level where you’re a sucker and a chump, but just in general, spread some kindness.  I’m pretty sure I read this in a dalai lama book years ago.  And you know — it will come back to you, one way or another.   

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A lot of you have asked what you can do.  This is really so very super sweet, it warms the cockles of my heart.   I’m trying to listen to music, watch movies, and of course, the most critical thing is figuring out what to do with my hair.   Should I rock the one sided shave, ala the Coathangers?  Go totally short, like mia farrow?  Or, as my neurosurgeon recommended, a combover? 
 
Use your voting buttons now!!
 
WARNING:  GRAPHIC PHOTO BELOW
 
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we should be on by now

July 23, 2012

time.

does anyone remember the good old days when our lives and by that i don’t really mean our lives, i mean the lives of our grandparents and depending on your age your parents, were filled with day to day drudgery like cooking, cleaning, and mowing the lawn?   gawd, how did they survive?  how did they manage to live without time saving appliances and devices, without cleaning ladies, gardeners, take out and frozen dinners?  they must have collapsed at 8 pm from exhaustion.  where did they find the time to do what they did, when we can barely do what we need to do much less anything else?

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i was reading this awsum cookbook the other day (because it is true, i read cookbooks to relax) by arabella boxer, about english cooking between the two world wars.  fascinating book.  boxer was born in scotland, in a wealthy home, and describes the social life of those times and that class, as well as the food eaten.  the multitude of servants, many of whose basic jobs were to just keep the homes functioning.  stoves which ran on wood or coal needed to be cleaned daily.  gas lights as well.  obviously before cars horses needed to be fed and cared for as well.  the wealthy had servants, and those who weren’t wealthy did it themselves. all the time that went into just keeping life moving forward!  but with the advent of gas or electric cooking, electricity, cars, appliances, all this became a thing of the past, leaving the modern generation with boundless time to pursue other, more important activities.  

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like sitting on our asses and watching tv, playing video games, reading facebook status updates or texting our friends. 

yesterday there was an article in the new york times about how americans are losing the ability to do “skilled” work around the house, like installing windows or basic carpentry.   this comes as no surprise to me, and i actually think the situation is far more dire than suggested in the article.  in a matter of a couple generations we went from a nation of people who were able to run and maintain their own households to one where even the most basic necessities, like cooking or fixing a broken window, are outsourced.   there are actually men who do not know the difference between a philips head and a flat head screw driver.  true story!  i’m pretty sure that within 10 years the only tools most people will have will be the ones that come in ikea boxes. 

theoretically delegating all the drudgery would leave us with tons of free time, because the idea behind not cooking, for example, is that cooking is too time consuming and we’re saving time by ordering or getting take out.  or that we gain leisure time by hiring someone to mow our lawn instead of doing it ourselves.  or that our time is better spent doing things other than fixing a sink or painting a door frame.

so how are we spending all this free time?  are we reading more?  are we enjoying the great outdoors?  maybe we’ve gotten some great new hobby which is super time consuming, like building model airplanes.  perhaps we’re going out more, seeing friends, going to exciting places to experience life to the fullest. 

apparently not.  apparently most americans spend half their non-working “leisure” time watching tv.  in fact, most people spend virtually no time preparing food (27 minutes a day), which suggests that unless you’re poor, (or you really know what you’re doing) you’re probably not cooking a meal from scratch at home on a daily basis. 

no surprise there, if you think about it.  people are choosing more and more to live vicariously through tv.  instead of cooking, they watch cooking shows.  instead of experiencing life, they watch reality tv.  instead of getting exercise, they watch sports on tv and will soon be absorbed in watching the olympics.  

actually doing anything productive or useful, which can’t be outsourced, has become fetishized.  for most people, basic things like cooking or gardening are poorly mastered mystical skills pulled out for special occasions or as rare treats. then there are the diy hipsters, who get into things like making their own kombucha and sausage.  there are actually at least 10 different types of foodies, but i’m only talking about the DIYers and the made it yourselfers here.

personally, i think we are quickly becoming a national of people who have no skills other than those required for our jobs, presuming we still have jobs.  in my grandmother’s generation people knew how to hunt, fish, farm, distill liquor, preserve food, sew, cook, clean, do basic construction, and fix practically anything.  my grandmother was actually trained as a nurse, and my grandfather was a bookkeeper.  my mom, who was a full time microbiologist, still managed to cook every day*, garden in the summer, sew, play racquetball and tennis, and have a spotless, well organized house every single day. 

*my mom was not the greatest cook when i was younger, but she did manage to hold down the fort for several years before i learned how to cook.  no one starved and we never ate out. 

in my generation, i know of many many people who essentially “don’t cook”.  baking a cake from scratch, or making bread, would be a very big deal.  putting food up, which is really pretty basic, is inconceivable.  fixing electrical wiring, plumbing, or carpentry are considered jobs for specialized laborers.  i will bet you that many of the people reading this blog do not know how to pop the hood of their car, and if they did, they wouldn’t know where to find, say, the battery.

so what does it all mean and where am i going with this? 

we’ve bought into the myth of leisure time by losing sight of the big picture, which is to lead healthy, balanced lives.  we’ve bought into the myth that the opposite of “work” is “sitting on the couch watching tv”, and that a pre-requisite to relaxing is doing absolutely nothing productive or beneficial at all.  somehow most of us believe that knowing how to do, or actually doing, things like basic car maintenance or home repair, is beneath us or, paradoxically, fantastically complicated.  this mind set is turning us into a nation of unhealthy, fat, unproductive slobs who will soon lose the ability to change a roll of toilet paper.  ironically, a similar threat was perceived at the end of the 19th century, which lead to the craftman movement and groups like the roycrofters — anti industrial revolution reactionaries.  now, instead of elbert hubbard we have darina allen, author of “forgotten skills of cookery” (a great book, btw). 

aaannnyway, without being too pedantic, i have a modest proposal. 

tonight, during your long commute, give some thought to how you really want to spend the last four or five waking hours of the day, and the best way to strike some balance into your life.   do you really want to eat a lousy, unhealthy dinner?  do you really want to veg out and watch tv?  when was the last time you exercised?  maybe you could read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie, make something healthy to eat.  hell, you could probably do all of that, in one night.  

just a thought. 

 

recipe o the day

so for a couple weeks i really got into this spicy peanut sauce.  it’s good for the summer, because you can effectively dress up a bunch of different things with the same sauce.  the sauce takes maybe 5 minutes to make, which means you can pull together an entire dinner in something like 15 minutes — less time than it takes to order.

the taste is like the dipping sauce for sate.  other than using it for sate, my other favorite thing to do is to make a cold noodle salad, mix in the sauce (made a little looser with water), and add a variety of veggies, depending on what you can easily get / have.  i like shredded napa cabbage, red pepper, cucumbers, and cilantro.  you could also add eggplant (boiled!  try it, its not gross and oily like fried eggplant), zucchini, green peppers.  if you want protein you can add cooked chicken, shrimp, or tofu.  for the record, i am not a fan of tofu. 

spicy peanut sauce

smooth peanut butter

vinegar (i prefer rice wine vinegar)

lime juice

sesame oil

green onion, chopped

tiny bit of ginger, minced

red pepper flakes (to taste)

sirachi (to taste)

brown sugar or molasses

thai fish sauce (seriously.  makes all the difference)

soy sauce

mix everything together.  add vinegar to make sharper, sugar to sweeten.  once you get the taste you want, you can add water to make it looser, for cold noodle salad.  if you are using it for that, run the noodles under cold water and add them to the sauce and mix thoroughly before adding the other ingredients.

i use either chow mein, soba, or udon for cold noodle salad, and add chopped peanuts, cilantro, shredded napa cabbage, finely sliced red peppers and cucumbers.  without shrimp or chicken, this is perfect for picnics.  if you add meat, make sure it stays cold.     

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROmdX7hXDdE

 

 

 

 

 

 

travelogue

May 2, 2012

there are different kinds of travel. travel for business, for the holidays. travel to see and experience something new, knock something off the proverbial bucket list. travel to take a break from stress. travel to recenter yourself and take stock of life. and sometimes we just need to get the fuck out of dodge and all of its hassles and problems.

i like to travel, though i don’t get to do much of that big vacation thing too often. most of the time i can tear myself away for four or five days, which is never enough time to do any real thinking. just enough of a break to make you wish it was longer. the last big one, before this one, was some seven years ago, when i was between jobs. i took a month off and then went to prague and poland for two weeks on my own. traveling on your own gives you plenty of time to think about where you are, where you were, and where you want to go from here. not just in the physical sense, but also in greater life sense. god knows you have plenty of time to think, which, if you ask me, is never a bad thing.

i didn’t come back from prague with any kind of epiphany or life-changing plan. that was more one of those trips where i really needed to draw a line between past and future and turn the page in grand fashion. sometimes, though, it becomes apparent when you get away from your life that something is dramatically wrong with things. that drastic change is needed, of some sort. i remember one trip, years ago, where i was astonished that i didn’t miss someone, or think of them at all, other than in passing or when talking about them. and even then i didn’t think about them, if you know what i mean. which surprised and somewhat horrified me, at the time. this obviously had greater implications down the road.

and then there are the trips that remind you of what you do miss, of what is right and good in life, and the things (and people!) which are important, which enrich your life in innumerable ways.

goats heads, for soup

more !

a guide to the blues

April 11, 2012

it occurred to me, about five seconds after i wrote that, that everyone is going to think that this is a post about the musical genre. which i actually really like and listen to, but i truly don’t feel qualified to write a blog about robert johnson or blind willie mctell or whoever. i will note, anecdotally and strictly by way of information, that i’ve always wanted to do one of those whitey goes to the delta road trips. you know, where you stop off at the cross roads where robert johnson sold his soul, and the old stomping grounds (before he moved to chicago) of (howlin’ wolf / bb king / bo diddley / robert lockwood jr / buddy guy / _________).

anyway so this is not about the influence (for lack of a better term) of blues artists on the stones or zeppelin. it’s about the blues, man. and if you don’t know what i’m talking about, then read no further.

there are apparently people who float through life seemingly unafflicted by the slightest bout of the blues, or its cousin, the mean reds. i do not envy them. if they don’t know what it means to feel the blues, they must live in a world without any deep feeling – neither profound joy, passion, or sadness. which is a little like living in a world without color or contrast. like being able to listen to music without being moved to tears, or totally uplifted. that’s a good thing? i don’t think so.

but anyway, when you’re in the throes of the blues or mean reds, you’re not thinking of how lucky you are to be able to feel such profoundly deep and awful feelings. when i was younger (because i’m infinitely more jaded now) i used to read french symbolist poets and walk around in the rain without an umbrella so that my tears would mix with the rain, falling, falling, falling. later i got into rilke and red wine, and smoking on the porch and congratulating myself on my kinship with All Great Artists.

nowadays, by contrast, i’m perfectly happy wallowing for a few hours and then after that, i really need to snap out of it. and being a predictable sort of person i’ve noticed that the same stuff makes me happ[ier] time and time again. hence, the Guide To The Blues.

first of all, i don’t know about you, but i loathe a filthy and disheveled home. i spent years being a terrible secret slob but a few years ago i got goddamn tired of thinking i lost something only to find it a year later in the back of the closet or having the power turned off because the bill was in a box or having things fall out of the pantry and hit me on the head. how did i change? in short, i have turned into my mother. except sans polish accent and neurosis (she said hopefully). i just put shit away now. like, right away. i can’t tell you the profound difference this has made in my life. it’s like i discovered fucking oxygen or something. i have all this extra time and i never look around all squashed under the weight of a thousand tee shirts and kitty litter.

so if right now you’re sitting there, in your apartment of disorganized filth, feeling depressed, i say to you: stuff all that shit in a closet for now and deal with it later. clear the room. you need tabula rasa.

after that, i like to light up some stinky candles to set the mood. then i throw on some music. now, the soundtrack to the blues really depends on where you want to go with this. do you want to wallow for a bit? have a good cry? you will be wanting the cure or joy division, or maybe one of those hey! won’t you play! another, somebody done somebody wrong songs (except not that one). i used to do that a lot but that was when i was heavily into rimbaud and clove cigarettes. the smoke. drifting drifting drifting. now i prefer to put on something like chet baker, or sigur ros, or maybe django reinhart. not really happy, not too sad. i really don’t want to hear any songs about women sitting around drinking black coffee waiting for their man to come home. jesus christ, slit my wrists already.

whatever you do, do NOT watch a depressing movie. you know what happened to ian curtis, right? no stroszek. no dekalog. that shit will fuck you UP.

next, you need to crack open a good bottle of wine (i myself am enjoying a bottle of errr… it’s white. yummy.) and make yourself dinner. seriously, can you really be sad after eating the most delicious meal of your life? hello no! and so here is the most delicious meal i’ve ever made, tonight.

crustacean garlic noodles with crab

so there’s this restaurant in beverly hills, called crustacean. they have this secret kitchen bullshit there which is supposedly where they make all these top secret vietnamese recipes. whatever. i’ve eaten there a few times and it really is great, but fucking spendy as all hell. and nothing will make you more depressed than blowing money [i presume you don't have, because why would you be depressed if you were loaded, go take a fucking trip, asshole] on a meal you can cook yourself.

for 2, you will need….. (everything is a guestimate, i never measure)
crab. i got a long legged thing that gave me about 2 cups of succulent meat.
chow mein noodles (the kind you boil, not the crunchy topping kind)
2 big cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 spring garlic (save the green part for garnish. it’s yummy.)
oyster sauce (about a tablespoon)
fish sauce (maybe a 1/3 cup)
vegeta, or chicken bouillon* (*vegeta is a powdered chicken bouillon used in eastern european cookery. i used about a 1/2 teaspoon of it.)
generous but not overwhelming grating of parmesan

slice up the white part of the spring garlic. if it’s not spring, just use garlic, but use A LOT (6 cloves, i’d say). use half in this, the other half with the asparagus. saute in garlic oil with the over very low heat until mushy. meanwhile, back at the ranch, boil up your noodles. chinese noodles can be drained when done – they hold up well. when your garlic gets to mushy, add in the remaining ingredients (including the crab) and stir up. you may need to add a little water to loosen it up. don’t add salt, the vegeta has salt as do the oyster and fish sauces. add the mostly cooked noodles and enough water so that the noodles boil in what’s left of the water, to absorb the unctuous flavor. after a few minutes, put on the plate and top with a few slivers of the green part of the garlic.

asparagus with spring garlic
put asparagus broken up into segments (randomly, as i did) and sliced white part of spring garlic, in frying pan with olive oil, over medium heat. cover. spend too much time picking crab out of shells and burn dish. oh my god, it’s delicious!

oh my god, i love me.

trust me. after this, whatever mood you were in will be elevated about three notches. and i suggest passion fruit gelato for desert.

you’re welcome.

and if you like zeppelin, you need to listen to sonny boy — although this isn’t the best version of this.


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