A Shot in the Ass

There is something about going to the doctor’s office that I just don’t like. It is not the nuisance of getting there, or the lengthy wait in what is apparently a magazine graveyard from early 2009. It is not even the fear of hearing bad news. It is the absolute certainty that whatever the state of my health when I walk through the doors, I am about to take a hit to the dignity that will offend more than than the original affliction. Case in point: yesterday.

I have, at this very moment, a summer cold that is a nasty specimen of its much-loathed kind. My head is stuffed, there is coughing and sneezing and crackling in the ears, and even the obligatory low-grade fever. These combined make even taking a shower seem like a truly monumental task. (But I love my husband  so I maintain basic hygiene–although it tends to result in me needing a nap.) Feeling like my griping and grousing was doing surprisingly little to alleviate my symptoms, I bit the bullet and made an appointment to see my GP. The only time they could fit me in was yesterday at 3:30, and that was with the doctor who was covering for the one I normally see. Fine. I should have taken this for the warning from the universe that it undoubtedly was, but under the circumstances could see little alternative.

Ordinarily when I must go to the doctor’s office, I try to go in the morning to get it out of the way and get on with my day. An additional reason being that in the morning the office is far less likely to already be backed up with other patients. Clearly this was a right-thinking policy as I passed the first 45 minutes of my wait in grudging conversation with the other lobby losers of the late afternoon. In terms of the quality of the people watching, it was like a tiny little Walmart all to myself. I sat next to a man who explained at some length that he could no longer work due to his heart (or maybe it was his lungs), and had to sit down several times to catch his breath just while vacuuming his living room. I would have perhaps had more sympathy had he not also told me of his hobby of cycling twenty or more miles a day. I suggested that he attach the vacuum to one of his bikes.

By 4:30 my head was thick and my patience was thin, and I was the last loser in the room. The nurse, Cookie, called me in and began the examination in a very all-or-nothing manner that felt like something out of a cartoon. Of course I had to be weighed in like a boxer–strike one for the ego–and quickly found myself with a thermometer in my mouth (“Did you know you have a fever?” Yes. Yes I did.) and a blood-pressure cuff on my arm and standing in the dark…. apparently it had gotten so late in the day that other nurses were leaving. Oops. Lights back on and finally heading to the exam room. Cookie is jotting down notes when the doctor comes in an introduces herself. I say hello, which causes her eyebrows to go up. “I am guessing your voice isn’t usually that deep.” Well, no. Not being the Marlboro man, no. “She’s going to need a shot. I’ll be right back.” A shot? Of what? Cookie explained that I was about to be the grateful recipient of a miracle shot of some kind of steroid that would clear up my head like a needleful of ammonia. Outstanding. At this point they could have told me they were going to administer wasabi directly into my sinuses with a turkey baster and I would have agreed.

Cookie brought a tiny little syringe with a needle a could barely see into the room. I scoffed at the tiny needle, thinking of the garden hose variety they stick you with when you donate blood. “I’m sorry but this will likely burn a bit,” she said to me. I explained my sanguine attitude towards the tiny needle. “Not from the needle, but in your rear at the injection site.” Excuse me? Did I just hear that I am to get a needle, full of medicine for my head, in the ass? Why yes. That is exactly what I heard, in 2014 we are still getting shots in the ass. As adults. Classic. Here is where I started looking for the hidden camera.

So. One shot in the ass later, which did indeed burn thank you very much, I was again leafing through aged magazines waiting for the doctor to return. Casually grabbing a Kleenex from the box, I gave my long-suffering nose a good hard blow and was rewarded with a sudden nosebleed. Having had one earlier in the day this was not a huge surprise, and a hopped quickly over to the shiny white sink in the corner to ensure that I did not make a mess. Naturally this is when the doctor returned, while I was leaning over said sink with a wad of bloody tissues. She grabbed a swab with something on it that would help seal off the bleed, and had me sit up on the table. Apparently this particular nose bleed had a pinata-like quality, as the swab did not stop it so much as give it a joyous new hole through with to energetically flow. And flow it did.

Once again standing over the now less-than-shiny sink, using up Kleenex at a very high rate of speed. I am now being attended by both the doctor, who is using peroxide to sponge blood off of my clothes, and Cookie who has returned with another plunger-style device. Not a syringe this time, but a suspiciously familiar looking purple plastic gizmo that she is aiming for my right nostril. While the two of them explain there there is such a thing as a nasal tampon, and that the office used to have them, really they are much more expensive than the regular kind and it’s just the same thing really. At this point I can only hope that wherever the hidden camera is, it’s getting my good side. Or at least the most flattering shot of the tampon sticking out of my nose.

In a moment of pity for the last shreds of my dignity, Cookie replaces the tampon with a new one that has been mercifully shorn of its bottom two-thirds. Since I still have to visit the pharmacy on the way home, perhaps cotton strings are not the way to convince a pharmacist that I am a person who can be trusted with drugs. The examination and diagnosis complete (it turns out I have a sinus infection and an ear infection) I scrape together my self-possession and head to checkout, remembering that I need to give them money in return for this experience. I have in my hand a receipt, a note for work, and an order for a for a head xray.

Somehow I think I will hold off on getting my head examined until it is tampon-free.

ICAS

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I come away from ICAS (the International Council of Airshows) with a whole mix of feelings.Why did it go by so fast? What was I supposed to get out of it that maybe I didn’t? What did I get out of it really? I do not think that it is the nature of the convention to cause personal concerns like this, I think that it is just a function of my brain.

Perhaps I should stop watching movies, or even shows that have too much of personalities in them. I get so personally involved. At first it seemed that this was just a problem of programs that had some kind of humiliation in them. I would (and do) get completely caught up in the pain that a given character is going through. It is frankly bizarre. I have to remind myself to let go, it isn’t real. At times I am actually concerned for my mental health. It “normal” for someone to be so wrapped up like that? Especially someone who is essentially a pragmatic and capable individual? I am not sure. Maybe that is why I like animated pictures so much, I can enjoy them and the artistry without feeling like I have something at stake.

I read a wonderful quote in the book I am reading right now, “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales. He says that …

Some damn thing. It was a great book but I never finished the sentence…

Ghost Light

There was a time when I wanted to be an actress. Not that I wanted to act. I enjoyed acting and at times I was even good at it. This is not about fame, which I am sure I don’t understand. It is about the theater itself.

I am an unbelieveably critical person and have often said that my calling in life is to be a living female version of Stadtler and Waldorf–the two heckling old man Muppets who sit in the balcony, making remarks and killing themselves laughing. I am awful to go to the theater with. Especially with my mother who is as critical as I am although less cutting. Unless it is wonderful I am obnoxious. I mostly avoid amateur productions, but some companies are better than others and if I am not put off by the first play or musical I see them produce will return many times hoping for something wonderful. But each time I go, no matter how bad I think it is, there is a little worm in my heart of something like jealousy.

Envy is usually a material thing, and an expression of self-pity. It is covetousness or perhaps resentment. This worm, this tiny pang, is not a wish to be treading the boards with these thumping goofy self-important actors. It is a forlorn sorrow for a lost moment.

When I was in college I had an acting scholarship, a half-ride on the strength of a monologue and an audition. I did not then know good from bad but I knew the strength of my imagination and that I could create a world for myself out of someone else’s words and that just for a moment I could make myself believe in this other person that however briefly, I was. I loved that moment. I loved knowing that it was possible. I loved knowing that I could look into the blossoms of an orchard that existed for Juliet and that if anyone was watching me they would see them too. I didn’t need the audience, but I loved that they could come with me into that other me.

In a theater, when no one is there, there is sometimes a single torchiere light that stands front and center, alone trying to illuminate the great spaces of a stage. This is the ghost light. That light is stronger in my memory than any set I ever saw. So simple, but standing beside it you could see all the way to the curved seat backs in the last rows. These empty seats and the soft light was an open invitation to imagine a perfect moment, a full house and all eyes with a complete suspension of the world they are really a part of. So the moment you hope for can be there always, an imagined imagined moment.

It is hard not to think that others you watch diligently and innocently killing a beautifully written character are without sensitivity to the lovely magic of a shared vision. Maybe I don’t want to think that even though I didn’t care for their performance I should still respect the love they have for their craft. Perhaps they have the sensitivity and the love, and perhaps they just have more ambition than I ever did to stay the course. I find it hard not to begrudge them that.

So I mourn the loss of the ghost light and the possibilities I saw there. I gave it up of my own volition and can not change the past even if I would. I must search for a ghost light that will illuminate the openness somewhere else in my life.

Lost at Sea

November 30, 2012, MS Eurodam 1630 EST

Why is it that I feel the urge for spirituality at such random times? The priest just heard my confession, such as it was, in the relaxation room here on the Eurodam. Perhaps it is not such a strange time after all. Yesterday morning well before light we were woken by ship’s announcements looking for one of our fellow passengers who could not be found. He was reported missing at 3:30 in the morning, and by 5:15 am it was feared that he had gone overboard. We spent the day traversing the section of ocean we had travelled (adjusted for wind and currents) during the time frame between when he had last been seen and when he was discovered missing. It was an area some 85 miles North of Puerto Rico–not far from where the first Pride of Baltimore had been lost. We sailed huge racetracks in the water and were soon joined in our elliptical search by two Coast Guard cutters, a helicopter, and even a C130. Our efforts were unrewarded and by sunset the Coast Guard released us from our search, which had become more of a vigil. We were to continue and the missing passenger was now considered truly lost. It was a sad, somber day.

Today is our last day aboard the ship, and originally the cruise should have included a stop at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. After so prolonged a time spent sifting the waters, that stop was now impossible and we are continuing on at full speed to get back to Fort Lauderdale on time tomorrow morning. Brian and I both felt the change in the boat and in ourselves yesterday, being uncharacteristially somber and almost lethargic. We had spoken to the man who was lost during our port visit in San Juan, and spent a long time thinking of his wife, who is likely still aboard. Sh ewould have had no opportunity to get off since the tragedy, so must be trapped here still.

I had intended to be confessed since mom mentioned it after they went to mass on Sunday. It seemed even more important now. It was hard to explain to Brian who felt that I must be holding guilt to want to be confessed. I explained that it is more like going to the dentist. You brush every day but nowand then you need to go in for a cleaning.

I suppose if I do feel guilt it is that vague gnawing thing that seems to be like a monkey on my back so much anymore. The priest said I should try to do God’s will–but what is God’s will for me? He gave me two Our Fathers and two Hail Marys, but I mostly still feel the same.

Snakebitten II

For anyone who has never seen a brush axe–I certainly hadn’t–it looks a bit like a dental flosser, but bigger, rustier and far more threatening. It is actually a steel implement with a handle about three feet long and a half circle about ten inches in diameter perched at the business end. Across the half circle is a saw blade which in our case was definitely looking well-used. It is one of those tools that if you don’t know what it is for makes you blurt out questions like “What the hell is that?” while your eyebrows make a run for your hairline. And this is what Paige intended to use to exterminate the snake.

It seemed like a bad idea to keep leaning on the bucket while Paige was swinging the dental flosser of death, so I removed myself and the bucket to give her a clear field. Luckily the annoyed half of the snake which had been swaying and reaching for the nearby juniper scrub took a moment to collect itself rather than simply darting off. I still held the flashlight on it while Paige swung away. It is not easy to hit a moving target with this particular tool, but our girl was on a mission. Twice she struck sparks from the rocks before finally dealing the fatal blow. Still wriggling but with a nasty slice through its middle (I could see vertebrae), the little bastard was done for. Somehow we got him into the bucket for transport and identification. Killing the snake, it turned out, was not going to be the most harrowing part of the night. We still had to get to the hospital.

Our little friend safely dead-ish and now in the bottom of the bucket that had been his erstwhile prison, Paige and I made tracks back up to the house to check on Brian and get him medical attention. Which he was still protesting (and would continue to protest until we actually got him into the ambulance) that he didn’t need.

When Paige had talked to them, 911 had been adamant about several things. One: that we not tourniquet the foot, cut it open, or try to suck out the poison, and also that we needed to get him to a hospital. It turns out that the only ideas anyone has about how to field-treat snakebite are wrong, and that occasionally people do come in who have complicated the issue drastically by having two snakebite patients– the one who had been bitten and was now both poisoned AND bleeding, and the one who tried to help but had now ingested both venom and blood and looked like a serial killer with red smears everywhere. Gross. We had kept it relatively simple and only one of us was going to need hospitalization.

The problem was, we were on a very small island. On a very small island in the Georgian Bay, which is treacherous with exposed rock and submerged hazards even in broad daylight, and it was now almost 11 at night. It was six miles to the marina through water that should only be navigated with caution, daylight, and preferably an expert and sober captain. The marina itself was 35 miles from the hospital across unlit Canadian two-lane roads rather thrillingly decorated with moose warnings. I hadn’t seen a moose yet but given the way the evening was going I wouldn’t have been surprised to hit one on the way (we didn’t).

JR, our captain for the mandatory boat excursion, had sobered up fast. Adrenaline is great like that. All four of us, Paige and JR, Brian and I, piled into the boat. Paige would hold the light if we needed it, JR would drive, Brian would sit still and I… well. Being left without an immediate task in an emergency situation, I thought that this would be a good time to freak out a just little bit about the fact that Brian had just been bitten by a rattlesnake and as far as I knew could go into shock or die at any time. So I sat cuddled with Brian in the front while I alternated crying with trying to make him keep still, but failed because he was busy patting me and reassuring me that he would be fine.

The bright, even, moonlight and the lack of wind were a blessing. There was almost no chop to the water and the red and green channel markers glowed in the night to show us the way. We made it in under half an hour. It was probably the longest boat ride of my life, and I have been on a cruise. When the marina finally came into view and we saw the flashing lights of the ambulance casting the docks in alternating glows of red and white l almost started crying again. We helped Brian hobble up the dock to the ambulance, our bucket-o-snake in tow.

While Brian was being helped into the vehicle, the techs peered in at our inert scaly burden. “Yup, that’s a Massasauga Rattler all right–but don’t tell anyone that you killed it.” Turns out the damn thing is endangered, and there is some monstrous fine for killing one. Great.

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Snakebitten I

Herein begins the true but somehow odd story of how Brian Scott Norris got bitten by a rattlesnake on a very very small speck of an island in Norgate Inlet, on the Eastern edge of the Georgian Bay, in Ontario, Canada this past summer.

One more time I am bid to remember as best I can the story… what follows is a narrative of our adventures on the evening of Thursday, August 23rd 2012 on Kathleen Island.

Thursday night was wonderful. A night such as one hopes for on the island, a day with sparkling blue skies, water not too cold to jump into twice, boats and planes and good food and great friends and a nice long sauna into the bargain. (What happened in the sauna once JR and Paige went back up to the house shall remain between me and Brian, but I will leave it to your imagination.) We went back up to the house to enjoy our dinner–the ribs JR made were inspired by Rendezvous in Memphis but believe me they were FAR superior. Ribs and bread and a bit of red wine for me and Paige. I am not sure what JR and Brian were drinking by this time, but they had started with very strong margaritas and I am not sure that they stopped. We all enjoyed dinner to the hilt and barely made it the 8 feet to the comfy couch before we were collapsed, sprawled out, digesting and enjoying each others’ company. The maple cookie taste-test continued but was short lived. Brian had to be stopped from doing the washing up at least three times, and JR took the late dinner as an opportunity to make it an early evening.

Brian and I said our goodnights, grabbed our flashlights and headed for the door. We walked giggling and sweeping our paths with the beams from the lights, towards the Love Shack with a quick stop at the sauna house to pick up things that we had left behind earlier. I walked ahead of Brian all tis time, but once we were near the boat house I stood aside for him to step ahead of me. He had drunk a few more than I had, and I wanted to be sure that he would keep heading fr the cabin and not end up in the water somehow. This proved to be almost prophetic, as he barely took three steps before stumbling and falling to the right, slightly downhill on the rocks.

I thought Brian was just a bit more the worse for the drink than I had originally guessed. Normally he is very coordinated and athletic. Of course I immediately asked if he was okay, and he told me that that he had been bitten by something. This sounded like nonsense to me, what could possibly have bitten him?–but he showed me his right foot, which had three tiny marks on upper, fleshy area of his instep. The marks were spaced so that two of them were almost on top of one another, separated by a mere millimeter or two, and the third was about half an inch away from the first tiny set. It looked for all the world like a snakebite, and one of the marks was bleeding.

Still skeptical I turned and kept my flashlight down at my feet, looking for a snake I only half believed in. My feet rooted themselves to the rock when the flashlight beam found the small jumbled pile of coiled-up snake on the rocks beside a small juniper bush growing from a crevice. The snake was not large, the widest part of its body that I could see was about the diameter of a quarter and the whole thing looked to be about two feet long. It made no sound and did not appear to be going anywhere although it was very much alive.

Brian, seeing the snake, began to reassure me that he was fine, it was just a little snake. I–rather forcefully but not panicking–instructed him to go calmly up to the house to wake JR and Paige and tell them what had happened. I stayed by the snake, with my flashlight trained on his mottled skin, to wait for more informed opinions to arrive. The snake ignored me and my anger and fear-filled vigil, and I directed as much malice as I could into holding a beam of light on his hateful little form. How dare this creature threaten my husband! My wait was short-lived as I soon heard Paige’s voice calling for me as she came in my direction. “I’m here,” I called back to her, “I have my flashlight on the snake.” “Did it rattle?” she asked, “No,” I said, and then it promptly did as soon as the beam from Paige’s flashlight joined the first.

I swore.

Paige felt that we should make sure the snake was correctly identified, and to that end we needed to capture and/or kill it. Being deeply uninterested in keeping the little bastard alive I was all for killing it. She had me keep my flashlight trained on it while she went back to the boathouse for a bucket and a weapon. She returned in seconds with a five-gallon bucket, which we placed over the snake, and turned back to keep looking for a weapon. The snake, which had been mostly quiescent the whole time, seemed to take exception to being trapped in the bucket. It began to slither under the rim at a place where the rocks allowed passage beneath. I was not about to let this awful creature enjoy life much less freedom after what it had done, so I leaned on the bucket to keep it trapped, pinning it half in and half out.

“Paige!” I hollered, “Get the weapon, it is trying to escape!” Like a knight Paige rushed to the rescue in with the only thing she had to hand, namely an old bush axe.

Old Bee Story

How on Earth am I ever to be a travel writer if I am too lazy to actually copy down the words in my head?? I was inspired to write today by a passage in Bill Bryson’s In A Sunburned Country, where he relates an unfortunate incident with a spiderweb and some rocks… It was strongly reminiscent of an episode I had with some bees almost 5 years ago.

Of course, this is not me writing today, this is my copying and pasting today. Well done me. Note: It is not particularly well written, I was in a bit of a dash. Sorry.


My Blog

3/14/2008
I couldn’t write this stuff…

Poster: Devan
Mood: exhausted
Category: None

Well there I was… In Jackson Mississippi of all places (although I suppose that is as likely a place as any other these days). Finally to the hotel after a couple of days of 3 AM wake-up calls and with a long enough overnight to have a beer or two and take a walk in the beautiful Southern sunshine. So the tunes and I tie on the tennies and head out the door to see what there is to see in outdoors Jackson.

Walking along a service road was the best I could muster because the swamps are too muddy and the hotel is too far from anything and was picking early wildflowers because you can’t kill 30 years of habit. It was kind of small-time happy, tiny fish to look at in the pond and plenty of grass-type flowers to pluck. Even a fire hydrant in ankle-deep agua which amused me greatly. (See pic!) And there in the pines and the muck I spot a beekeeper. A real one. A guy in the Discovery Channel type screen suit slinging boxes of bees. This was clearly WAY too interesting to walk past too quickly.

So I stopped. Not too close, just to watch this guy move boxes of bees from the woods to his pickup and vice versa. I ask about hive collapses and what the bees are for (honey, not farmers it turns out) and he is real friendly and a couple of bees bump into me all dopey and nothing to worry about. And then.

And then he drops a box a little less then gently, and the bees are pissed. For some reason, they are pissed at me. At my head. I notice the not-too-subtle increase of zooming and take a step or two back from the pickup. Right around the time he says maybe I should move a bit further, the bees get organized and I take off down the street like a swarm of bees was after my head.

Half of my mind was running full tilt with a swarm of bees angrily trying to fly through my hair and sting it, me, my sunglasses–which only stayed on my head for as long as it took to fling them away (on the chance that they were harboring backup bees), and the other half was videotaping a blond lunatic running down the street beating herself about the head with a limp and flailing bunch of ditch-grown wildflowers. Yes, I did. Poor little flowers. I am guessing that wildflowers are not bee-repellent after all. According to Brian something like trying to fend off an angry dog with a raw steak.

When the buzzing trailed off and all of the bee bits were cursed and flipped out of the unwelcome locks I pulled myself together enough to aim back towards the hotel. With as much cool as I could muster I released the shirt hostage that had mercifully not stung me and took stock of who had. I am thinking upwards of half-a-dozen bees lost their lives in the attack and ALL of them stung me on the scalp. Not countable wounds to feel sorry for oneself about, not even a respectable booboo show to go with the ridiculous story! And they hurt. A lot, in fact. My heart was racing and I was flushed and my head was on fire. I made the executive decision that I had had enough fresh air for one day and started to walk back.

I tried to regain my dignity a little bit. Which was hard since I had my hand pressed to my head a bunch and was swearing like I had Tourrette’s. This was the moment for the beekeeper to drive by in the red pickup with his bees, which he did. He slowed down and drawled “Did they get ya?” I answered in the affirmative and that it was likely only 6 or 8 stings. He tried to cheer me with the proclamation that this would increase my immunity to future stings, and the wisdom that “Bees love Blondes.” A cocked eyebrow was all I could manage as he followed with “ya cain’t blame ’em for that…” and took a drag on his cigarette and drove off.

I decided I had earned two beers.
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Starting with philosophy, apparently…

If we are made in the image of God, surely our ability to make choices is an ability that He has as well. Ergo He must have made choices of his own in the process creation. Infinite things must have been discarded as decisions were made, and infinite more are discarded every moment as the universe evolves.

If God ‘was’ before all else existed, then all things are of Him, including all discards. Anyone who suggests that a specific human choice will please or displease God is only correct in the sense that God would possibly agree or disagree at that precise moment in space-time. At other moments such a suggestion would be absurd or even anathema. Other moments would be out of context in the whole of history–meaning all history rather than just human history.

It is easier and more comforting to relate to God as His Son, where human choices and experiences prevail. My own context is Christian, but the principle is the same in most religions. A human figure is required to prove to humans the relationship between themselves and their deity.

The irony is that to prove we have a relationship with God, and that we are like Him, we require one who is human like ourselves to tell us what decisions to make.

Beats me.