adventures in corporeality

1) Whenever the local police station hosts a blood drive, I always at least attempt to donate (full disclosure: this time I was also interested in getting the incidental free anemia screening).  A few weeks ago, during one of those vile, scorching New England days, they were indeed hosting a drive, so I headed over in the morning.  While the blood was being collected I noted an unusual queasy feeling that donation had never before induced.  I remembered that my blood pressure had been lower than normal when they checked it during the interview, but it wasn’t dangerously low; I also noted that for a breastfeeding woman I hadn’t hydrated terribly well before heading over.

Alas, I filled my blood-bag and was released to the canteen area for some bottled water.  I downed a bottle, glanced with disinterest at the snack options (Lorna Doones?  Surely you jest) and decided to fetch some juice.  When I sat back down I was overcome with a familiar feeling.  A nurse who was eating her lunch nearby dropped her sandwich and asked if I was ok; I mumbled something in reply and she dashed over.  She yelled “DAVE!” and grabbed my shoulders.  As soon as she touched me I promptly ate shit.

Several minutes later I heard people yelling my name but, having no idea where I was or what was going on, resisted a full return to consciousness for a moment due to a vague feeling of embarrassment.  Had I been…singing along to the radio?  Touching myself?  Why did I feel so weird?  Whose floor is this?

2)  For a couple of years I’ve been wearing a custom mouthguard every night.  It had started to feel slightly out of whack, so I made an appointment with my TMJ doctor for an adjustment.  When I handed him the mouthguard he said, “Oh, I can see exactly what you’ve done,” and gnarled his hand into a tense claw.  “You’ve dug a groove into the acrylic with your teeth.  You’ve changed the shape.  We’ll fix it.”

He made some adjustments with his magical machines and then returned to feel my jaw muscles.  After determining that they were tight and not releasing, he decided to do some quick acupuncture.  I had previously tried acupuncture for this very medical issue with no success, but this is the man who made it possible for me to eat food without having to smush it through the barely five-millimeter gap between my top and bottom teeth; i.e., he unlocked my jaw after it had been locked mostly shut for eight months.  Needless to say I pretty much let him do what he wants.

He put one needle superficially into my cheek, warned “This is going to be uncomfortable” as he advanced it into the muscle, and repeated on the other side.  I thought we were done, but then to my considerable surprise he produced and fired up a small blow torch.  He used the flame to heat up what appeared to be a large moxa stick.  When the stick was hot he used it to heat the ends of the needles that were protruding from my face (offering reassurance that he wasn’t going to burn me).   I sat and relaxed for a few minutes, agreed to come back and do it again in two weeks (for an hour, next time), and then left, feeling not so bad, in fact.

a funny thing happened on the way to the food bank

Last week I arrived at the local food bank for a volunteer shift (note: I am not bragging about my altruism; I am required to do volunteer work all summer because of what I did to the sheriff’s daughter for school).  As I approached the building I noticed that it was directly next to the county house of corrections and that there were a bunch of dudes in jumpsuits looking at me from an outdoor enclosure.

I was so busy ruminating on this that when I entered the lobby of the food bank I didn’t immediately notice that someone was lying flat on the floor.  My offer of medical assistance was refused, as the situation was stable, and I was directed to “just follow those guys and go upstairs.”  ‘Those guys’ turned out to be a group of young men doing community service, one of whom hassled me in the elevator, but whom I followed nonetheless.

We all headed to a volunteer orientation area, where I noticed that every other person there was part of a large group – mostly guys from tech companies wearing matching Special Event t-shirts, and another bunch of people in normal clothes who were obviously co-workers.  When the food bank’s volunteer coordinator saw me sitting there in my normal clothes, she assumed I was with the Normal Clothes Gang (despite my panicked why is everyone else together and I’m so alooone expression), and that’s how I wound up spending the afternoon making weekend snack bags for poor kids with the good people of Welch’s Grape Juice.

Humorously, due to some sort of hivemind psychological phenomenon, some of the Welch’s people took my sudden presence in their group as evidence that I actually worked at Welch’s myself, although they had never seen me before and I had not arrived with them.  The man standing next to me in the assembly line had to repeat himself roughly four times, the poor guy, as it took me that long to understand what he meant by, “I know you from R&D, right?”  They were all quite friendly, and insisted that I pose in their company photo after our volunteering was done.  I went home, tired from putting six hundred and fifty containers of off-brand Easy Mac and six hundred and fifty boxes of shelf-safe chocolate milk into bags, and looked forward to my next shift.

the past few days

-I was in a truly shittastic mood all weekend, and a trip to the beach (to a friend’s place for an annual holiday bash) paradoxically made things much worse.  To wit: while standing by the calm blue yonder of the Atlantic, under the first clear sky of summer, I became annoyed with the way my hair was blowing into my face and remarked, “Ugh, this goddamn ocean breeze!”  I become more and more like a curmudgeonly old Jewish man every day.

-During that ill-fated beach excursion, as I grew increasingly melancholy about some recent family drama, and increasingly uncomfortable about being at a party with dozens of strangers, I received a text message that my pregnant friend had been in a car accident and was possibly in premature labor.  I spent the next several minutes in my car, staring listlessly at distant fireworks, until I decided I was officially done and drove back to Boston.  (She’s fine and the bun is still safely in the oven.)

-I gave blood today and, instead of the usual ten minutes of screening questions (“In the past two hours, have you shot up with a dirty needle while simultaneously having anal sex with an AIDS-infected bonobo chimp?”  Who hasn’t?!) the nurse asked me just one question, then instructed me to answer the rest myself by clicking yes/no buttons on her laptop.  The question she asked me herself was “You were born a woman, right?”

-I was torn asunder by a client’s power wheelchair, which I was driving to help him get around a corner.  My steering technique was poor and I managed to get myself wedged between the chair and the wall, and when I tried to put the chair in reverse the joystick got stuck in forward mode and I was trapped!, wriggling and struggling in grievous pain.  It pretty much sucked, but I think the bruising will be spectacular.

scaredy cat

Last night I had just managed to drift off to sleep when I was jolted from the land of Nod by a sound from the kitchen.  I could hear someone’s clothes rustling as they slowly and stealthily made their way towards the bedroom where the mister and I were reposed.  Still in a hazy twilight phase of consciousness, my body produced a cascading reaction of pure animal terror even as my mind perceived that the cat had jumped onto the bed and was creeping towards me, the sound of her paws on the comforter erroneously mapping as the sound of an intruder in the next room.  Though the whole thing lasted no more than a few seconds, my heart was pounding so furiously that it hurt and seemed to echo throughout the quiet room.

In the morning I reviewed scary experiences from my past–roller coasters, car accidents, bomb scares–and nothing even came close.

in which wall street prevents me from being mighty-mighty, and lettin’ it all hang out

So the global economy is sort of collapsing, except sort of not, and those of us in the middle class (i.e. me and pretty much everyone I know) don’t much know what to make of it.  In fact, until very recently, I counted myself among those who were totally unaffected by the crisis.  That all changed with one fell instant message, in which Jared informed me that his office’s holiday party has been canceled this year due to financial constraints.

Jared’s Office Holiday Party is something we live for all year round.  It’s a beautiful, magical event that involves things like the renting out of a ballroom in a fancy hotel in Harvard Square, free hotel rooms for every attendee, and such an endless, decadent, ridiculous supply of top-notch victuals and libations that you are pretty much guaranteed to need that free hotel room.  I very much dislike parties, especially parties where I don’t know most of the people, especially parties where everyone gets crazy drunk…but I love this party.  It cannot be explained; it just is.

It occurs to me that I never told the story of Jared’s Office Holiday Party Aught-Seven, which happened to fall on the same night as a friend’s wedding.  And it wasn’t just any friend’s wedding, but our friend Juju who is a delightful guy and whose bride-to-be was immigrating from Pakistan.  It was a very big deal.  But fortunately, the wedding ceremony was brief and in the evening, and the reception was to occur two days later (per Muslim custom), which meant we could go to the wedding and then go to the office party and not miss a moment of either.

On the big night, we obtained directions to the wedding venue (something called the Old State House), and from the venue back to the party. We set out for the wedding, giddy with excitement for both our friend and our party.  We drove into Boston, expecting to wind up more or less downtown.  Instead, our directions lead us into Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, which, for those of you who don’t know, is pretty much the ghetto.  (Yeah, there are some nice parts, but let’s not split hairs here; it’s the frigging ghetto.) “This doesn’t seem right,” we said.  “From the website, the wedding venue looked like an upscale place, and this is Dorchester…but then again, there are some nice parts.”  We arrived at the address and parked on the street.  There was nothing resembling an Old State House, but instead an actual shack covered in graffiti.  Something was definitely wrong.

I got out of the car, determined to ask a local for advice.  I noticed a man walking down the sidewalk in my general direction. “Excuse me,” said I, “is there an Old State House around here?”  And I shit you not, when the man opened his mouth to reply that I was most definitely in the wrong part of town, I saw that he was wearing a full gold grill over his teeth.

Well, fuck. By that point there was definitely no time to make it to wherever the Old State House actually was.  We made some frantic phone calls and found that some friends of ours were also running disgustingly late, but they were able to give us correct directions to the venue, which was not in Dorchester but in downtown Boston (which, no shit?  The Old State House is downtown?  Because we thought it was in fucking DORCHESTER).  We drove there as fast as we could, and made it there and parked and ran.  When we arrived at the venue, we dashed up to the second floor and saw:  our late-ass friends, who had made it there before us, a room full of people who appeared to be deep in prayer (many of whom had travelled all the way from Pakistan just to hear us creaking the floor boards as we interrupted the wedding), and our friend Juju with his incredibly beautiful bride, being pronounced husband and wife.

Well, we had totally fucked that up, but the wedding was over and there was nothing we could do about it, other than go to the Office Holiday Party and try to forget our woes.  So go we did, and we got there and ate amazing food and desserts and drank drinks.  Now, y’all who know me know that I do not dance.  But on this particular night, I not only danced, but I somehow wound up dancing with the singer of the live band while he sang “Brick House”.  I ended up hugging Jared’s boss (the CEO of the company), who later joined the band on lead guitar.  I ended up wearing a lei and eating sushi with my fingers while clinging to Jared, who was drinking out of a plastic coconut.  All in all, it was one of the more successful parties I’ve been to.

All year I’ve looked forward to experiencing that night once again, except with less “missing the most significant day of my friend’s life” and also less “wearing a quasi-gothic black dress to an island-themed party”, but let’s face it, with probably more “waking up in the hotel room in the middle of the night in abject misery, wanting nothing more than a swift and immediate death”.  But because a few people in high places were wicked dumb, I don’t get to re-live that unique joy.  Instead, I now have the night free to go to my office holiday party, which lacks swank hotel ballrooms and free gourmet food, but features a top-forty DJ and two drink tickets!

Hard times are definitely upon us, friends.

so happy together

I received an email from my ex-roommate’s ex-boyfriend today, alerting me to the fact that said ex-roommate had just moved in with my ex-boyfriend. My only contact with any of these people for the past several years has been when my ex occasionally writes to me wanting to “get together”. While I find the whole thing amazingly random and weird, I would generally prefer not to think about it. (Put it this way: when I lived with this chick, our bedrooms were separated by only a few feet. I have heard the sounds she makes during intimate moments. As for the ex, I dated him for a year. One could say that I have a horrifying surplus of data about this union.)

However, I was sufficiently intrigued by this turn of events to google the ex-roommate and see if she was up to any other madness. One of the only results for her name was an article published a few years ago in the local disreputable newspaper about messy roommates. In the article she describes me as “passive-aggressively” leaving dishes in the sink and letting my cat shit in the tub, an incident after which she “shook me awake”. I was never that messy a roommate, but I was a teenager when we lived together and I was definitely less concerned with utter cleanliness back then. So we’d get into arguments about it, but people who share apartments always fight about that shit, so it’s hardly newsworthy. (Oh wait–it is!) Anyway, one day Petra took a dump in the bathtub and I didn’t notice it right away, and instead of telling me (see also: bedrooms mere feet apart), she sent an angry missive to my work email telling me what a dick I was. (Clearly, I was the more passive-aggressive roommate.) There was no shaking awake or anything like that, but what kind of journalistic integrity can you really expect from the Globe, or from people who write stories about several-year-old cat shit for the Globe?

Anyway, it’s true that when she and I lived together, I was sometimes slow to take out the trash. I just never expected that she’d wind up digging through my garbage can and taking the leftovers!

Good luck, kids.

separate but equal

Yesterday, while heading into the shared basement to do laundry, I locked myself out of the condo. I realized my blunder the moment I committed it, and grimaced silently. Since Jared was already on his way home, I figured I’d make the most of the next forty minutes. I entered our (unlocked!) storage unit in the basement, sat down on a plastic bin, and rifled through various semi-unpacked boxes. I found something I had been looking for for months, read an article in an outdated music magazine, perused the transcript of my 1989 bladder surgery, and laughed at some remnants of a party game called “The Paper Game” that some friends and I used to play quite often.

Then I came upon a photocopy of a former employer’s newsletter, and now we must back up several years to provide some context.

When I was eighteen, I began working at my first (and second to last) office job in Boston. The company had been established in 1895 as a sort of drafting supply and blueprints outfit, and had changed with the times as those technologies became obsolete. By the time I got there in aught-one, there were departments for digital imaging, large format printing, construction supplies, and survey equipment. I started as the receptionist and after a while switched to the inside sales department. I mainly sold paper, thus ensuring that by the time the original The Office series came to DVD in the US, I fully empathized with its characters. The current president was the nostalgic type, and he had a large archive of materials from the company’s one-hundred-plus year history which he loved to share with us youngins. One such item was the company’s first newsletter from June 1941, which opened hilariously with:

“Have you a transit that needs repairing? Or a microscope that is out of kilter? Or any scientific instrument that needs repairs?” It also cotained some great retro ads for tracing papers, and less explicably, a small section called Just For a Laugh which featured the following joke:

Judge: Guilty or not guilty?
Sambo: Not guilty, suh.
Judge: Have you ever been in jail?
Sambo: No, yo’ honah, ah nevah stole nuthin’ befo’.

After this trip down Shameful Memory Lane, I started to desire some fresh air, so I went outside and around to the front porch and sat by my impenetrable front door. Our building contains four separate units that share a common porch, and over the next twenty minutes I encountered the residents of each unit. First, one of the girls from Unit #1 returned home after a dog walk. By way of small talk I explained my situation, and she offered me the keys to her home, stating that she and Unit #2 had the same keys and that it was therefore worth a shot. I tried her key, but it didn’t work. She went inside. A short time later, the girl from Unit #2 came out. She too offered me her key and then told me she was heading out, but that I should go inside and watch sports with her husband if I was bored. Soon thereafter, the girl from Unit #3 came outside, and together we theorized that if Units 1 and 2 shared keys, then 3 and 4 might share a set as well. She gave me her key and it worked, and I entered my home at last. Roughly three minutes later, Jared came home, and I regaled him with Jim Crow era relics and tales of our friendly neighbors.

fitting in

One of my closest friends is getting married this weekend, and I am in the wedding party, which necessitated the purchase of a bridesmatron dress. It’s actually quite pretty, although when it arrived it was very slightly loose in the bust and the waist. I didn’t think it was worth paying for alterations, considering what I’d already paid for the dress itself and since only about half an inch of fabric needed to be nipped in. I figured I’d fix the problem with creative undergarment technology, and I put the whole thing out of my mind. Today, however, I tried it on again and I’m starting to worry. The dress is strapless, which is not a style I would ordinarily wear. The euphemism “rack” does not really apply to my particular set of breasts, as their modest size precludes their usefulness at supporting or holding up articles of clothing. There is a very real risk that the slight gap between myself and the dress, combined with the lack of straps, will not bode well for anyone involved. Especially me.

At first this dilemma made me feel a bit smug: aren’t I just the most twee, skinny thing, I thought to myself. Even clothes that are quasi-custom made are too big for little old me! That load of tripe quickly came crashing down all around me today, when I found myself trying on a summery dress (this one to wear as a guest at yet another wedding) at the mall. This dress had a band of fabric at the bodice that was meant to fit close to the ribcage. However, there were no zippers or buttons or give in the material to enlarge said band enough to allow passage of the rest of the body into the garment. This silly engineering was no match for my sticktoitiveness, and since the dress was in my size I put in some legwork and managed to get myself into it. Once it was on it fit perfectly. I considered purchasing it. Then I tried to take it off, and that’s where this story takes a turn for the truly horrific. That band of fabric, which refused to stretch but still had somehow made it over my shoulders, would not budge at all when I tried to remove the dress. I briefly attempted to pull it down over my hips, but it was quite obvious that this approach would not work. I tried to pull it over my shoulders again, but I could only get one arm halfway into the bodice of the dress. As I pulled and twisted, I became more and more entrapped. I was stuck, and clearly I was going to die in this dress. The possibility of somehow getting it up around my neck and strangling myself with it, forcing me to run out of the dressing room half naked and gasping for help before passing out, was becoming more and more real. The arm I had wedged under the fabric band was actually starting to bruise as a result of my struggles. Deciding that this aggression would no longer stand, I was left with no choice but to remove the leatherman tool from my purse and make a couple of crucial snips, thus freeing myself forever from the demon dress.

It is a shameful, dark moment indeed when you are forced to cut yourself out of an item of clothing. I imagine it will be darker still when, sometime tomorrow, my bridesmatron dress loses contact altogether with my girlish chest and causes some form of awful humiliation that I will not be able to hide behind a dressing room door.

an idiot walks into a phlebotomist’s office

This afternoon at the doctor’s office, a woman and I were sitting in the waiting area for the phlebotomist. She asked me what I was having done, and told me she was not looking forward to her tetanus shot. I murmured politely in response. A moment later, apropos of absolutely nothing, she said, “So what do you call two gay Irishmen?” She dropped the foul punchline and I told her I’d never heard that one.

What I didn’t tell her was that Darryl, the phlebotomist we were waiting for, had stuck me many times over the years, and not only was I quite certain that he was homosexual, but that his surname is common to both the Scots and the Irish, and furthermore he and his collection of large-bore needles were well within earshot of her and her amazingly random and indecent joke.

Luckily for her, and sadly for me, Darryl is not the malicious type.

love in the time of rhinovirus

Every day last week I woke up with a sore throat and a feeling of doom. The sore throat prodrome before a cold is one of my very least favorite sensations in life, as it foretells an even sorer throat and then the misery of the cold itself. However, each day I would go to work and come home feeling more or less fine. Then I’d wake up the next day with the same foreboding soreness.

Yesterday my body finally mounted a reasonable facsimile of an immune response, and I began with the coughing and the sneezing. It was quite mild and I took some cold medicine only to avoid sliming my clients at work. I went to bed and fell asleep without incident. When I woke up, I discovered that my nose had become congested to the point of being useless as an oxygen transmission device, so for the greater good, my mouth had assumed breathing duty all night. Since I sleep on my stomach, this means my open jaw was mashed into the pillow at a certain angle and had gotten stiff by the time I woke up. This is nothing unusual for me, and in fact my jaw occasionally gets locked in the mornings such that I have to massage it a bit to make it open all the way. This morning, however, it really got stuck and has remained so all day. I can talk, and I can eat most foods (sandwich yes, apple no!), but despite all my rubbing and wiggling I cannot get my damned jaw to open all the way.

This is one of those stupid health problems that causes minor discomfort and moderate annoyance, and yet offers no collateral benefits. I am not sick enough to demand that Jared make me dinner or to stay home from work. I’m also not well enough that I can eat a banana out of the peel like nature intended instead of breaking off a piece with my fingers and mashing it through the half-inch of space I can create between my upper and lower teeth. I’ll probably be right as rain by tomorrow if I leave my poor jaw alone and stick to soft foods that I can gum into a bolus instead of crunchy, chewy fare. There is some risk that tonight’s runny nose will lead to yet another pillow-eating situation that will only exacerbate my problem, but alas. This is by far the stupidest thing that has happened to me this week, which is no small feat to accomplish.