Friday, December 14, 2007

The Level Playing Field

First of all, it’s good to be back. I was hard at work on my first big freelance assignment since hanging out my shingle. It was for a web magazine, and my task was to motivate readers to improve their health so they won’t have to pay for higher health insurance premiums when the consequences of their bad habits catch up with them. Among others, I interviewed lots of consultants, an adventure in itself, and I’ll tell you more in detail what I learned later on.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

I was momentarily shocked (or maybe I wasn’t) when I heard the list of alleged steroid users in baseball, among them some of my favorite players. (Johnny, how could you?) Putting aside the argument for the moment that HGH (human growth hormone) is given to help heal injuries faster and in some drug trials, has been used as a treatment for fibromyalgia, this issue, I think, is more about the entertainment factor in baseball rather than sport.

I mean, didn’t all this business start after the strike in the mid 90s? Owners wanted butts in the seats, and what better way than to give them hard-hitting home run sluggers? So have we then crossed the line even farther into entertainment?

Steroid use is called cheating by some, but in the entertainment field, things like this are done all time under the guise of getting more work and getting more butts in the seats. Actresses get their faces done, even some actors, and the breast implant and liposuction businesses are booming. Do we call these men and women cheaters, and deny them their Oscars and their stars on the walk of fame, and put an asterisk next to their names in the record books? No. The world lined up to see Angelina Jolie’s breasts star in “Tomb Raider”, and many, many actresses are still getting work as romantic leads into their 40s, 50s, and 60s, looking like women half their age thanks to Botox and other "injectibles."

I’m not saying this is right either. I just think we shouldn’t judge baseball players so harshly. Yes, they make a boatload of money, but so does Pamela Anderson.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Secret Agent Penguin

Op is off on assignment... will be back soon...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hell In The Name Of Health

It’s been a while since I gave you an update on the various procedures I’ve been plunging into all in the name of improving my health, so here goes:

I’d been feeling kind of crappy for a while, with various digestive complaints, headaches, and a general uptick in the number of fibro flares I had been experiencing. So while I was at the swanky spa, I took the opportunity to have some blood tests done. Among other things, they revealed that I have a systemic yeast overgrowth. This is when the normally present candida takes over your system, crowding out the other good bacteria and causing all kinds of havoc, including digestive problems, skin problems, sinus infections, allergies of all stripes, and general annoyance. Also, it estimated that up to 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia have a yeast imbalance. It can be exacerbated by stress, antibiotic use, and steroid use, among other things. (hopefully this is not too much information for you guys, in fact, you guys can get this as well).

Treatment began with a regimen of various herbal concoctions and probiotics, which I was to stay on for four weeks and then report back to the doctor. I followed this down to the last crossed T and dotted I, e-mailed the results back to the doctor (which, I’m sorry to say, were little to none) and then I didn’t hear from him for three weeks. Finally as a result of my patented abilities to nag, I got his reply.

Now, in this interim period, I’d been doing some research, and learned through a variety of books (one recommended by Husband’s sister, thank you so much), web sites, and other doctors, that there is a special diet that I should have been following as well as taking the herbs.

Yes, the spa doctor told me, I should have been following this diet (which he failed to tell me about) and included it with his return e-mail.

On the web, and in the books, I’d seen some diets that were fairly…well, Spartan would be a generous term. All of them involved eliminating sugar in all forms, alcohol, fruit juices, and several other things, but none of them were as restrictive as this one. I thought I was eating healthfully before: no sugar, caffeine, fruit juice, alcohol, etc. I had brown rice, and organic cereal, and rice milk instead of dairy. That, I thought, (plus my daily dose of an apple or a few blueberries) would be enough.

But no.

The doctor’s diet consisted basically of vegetables and meat. I’m serious. For four weeks, I am encouraged to eat nothing but lean cuts of meat, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, a variety of nuts and seeds, and for fun, a daily cup of nonfat plain yogurt and a cup of beans of any kind, plus a spritz of lemon juice just to spice things up. Yippee!! I used to make fun of people who were on the South Beach and Atkins diets (you know who you are) but now I was developing a new sympathy with them. And how did you make that mashed cauliflower stuff that was supposed to taste like mashed potatoes? Oh, right. It was made with apples. Which I can’t have.

I’ve been at this for two days now, and it hasn’t been as much of the challenge as I thought (the promised cravings haven’t taken place yet; or perhaps I’m still in shock). It has, however, challenged what I’ve grown to think of as meals. For example, this morning I looked down at my breakfast plate and saw the following: two hard-boiled eggs and a stalk of celery stuffed with almond butter. And I thought, this is not breakfast. This is the money shot for “Snax: Erotica For Anorexic Celebrities.”

Fortunately, the sadists (I mean, people) who devised this minimalist diet also were kind enough to give me a few pages of recipes, including something called “Tofu Mash,” which I’m just dying to try (not).

The doctor also still wants me to take the same herbal concoctions as before, but with a twist. He suggested I take something called grapefruit seed extract. Just to throw a hand grenade at the little beasties, in case the bunker buster failed to work. Luckily, the friendly folks of my local health food are used to me asking for all kinds of bizarre things). I was supposed to take fifteen drops in 6 ounces of warm water twice a day between meals.

Now, I am used to swallowing all kinds of nasty substances (no off-color comments please), but this one… this one could take rust off a bicycle. It could peel paint from the hull of a ship. It could take the makeup off Hillary Clinton’s face. After I downed the first glass, I thought I could feel my teeth dissolving, and ran to brush my teeth to get that godawful taste out of my mouth.

But hey, maybe the diet will actually work. I’ll wrestle those little yeast beasts to the ground, and lose those last few pounds.

And the very least, I’ll have very clean teeth.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hey, It Could Be True...

The heck with the writers' strike! You can find all your fake TV news items right here...

Televangelist Performs Miracle.
When Rev. Pat Robertson gave his endorsement to Rudy Giuliani instead of a pro-life Republican, John McCain said he was “speechless.” It was reportedly the first time in recorded history that a politician had made that claim. The Vatican is investigating.

Drugs, Not Hugs:
Now that hugging other children is illegal in Alabama schools, teachers will be giving them Ritalin so they will focus on their work and keep their hands to themselves. If successful, Hillary Clinton will administer the drug to her husband.

Brewery’s Plan To “Go Green” Is Thwarted:
“If Nancy Pelosi can pollute with her private jet and get out of it by purchasing those energy credits,” a rep from Anheiser-Busch said, “why can’t we?” Al Gore called a press conference to clarify that he meant “carbon credits,” not “carbonated credits.”

Priest Was Only Trying To Be A Scab:
A Boston priest, arrested for stalking Conan O’Brien, claims he was only trying to give the late-night talk show host his writing samples, should he need extra staff during the strike. Conan said the jokes weren’t bad, except too many of them began, “A priest and a rabbi went into a bar…”

Hollywood Writers Strike!
When asked for his take on the situation, one of the writers on the picket line said, “________________”

VP Shoots Man:
During a hunting trip, an Iowa man was shot by his dog. The “dog” turned out to be Dick Cheney, who had forgotten to remove his Halloween costume while stumping for John McCain.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Oh, Brave New World..."

Just for fun, I've been rereading the classics that I was made to study in school. Hopefully now, without having to write essays about metaphors and such, I can simply sit back and enjoy them.

First up is "Brave New World." And it is sending chills up my spine. Almost seventy years later, the book not only still holds up, but is creepily prescient. The world that Huxley imagined is upon us. The cult of the automobile. Promiscuity. In-vitro fertilization. Genetic Engineering. Aromatherapy. There is even a drug named "Soma," (which muffles signals from the central nervous system) but it might as well have been reality shows. Or Starbucks. Or all the ways that society has engineered to keep us distracted and happy.

It's a vision of the future that, while arguably has come as true as 1984, is a little more spot on.

I'll let you know what's on the table next.

While not a classic, I just finished reading a little book titled "Conservatize Me," By John Moe. It's a bit of a spoof on the documentary from a few years ago, "Super Size Me," but in this version, Mr. Moe crafts his 30-day experiment as follows: a self-described liberal democrat who works for a public radio station in Seattle immerses himself into the "conservative" world, to see if he can make himself become conservative by osmosis. It's a bit stereotypical - meaning that in choosing his influences he shops at Wal-Mart, listens to Country/Western music, learns to shoot a gun, and changes his brand of beer, just for starters.

If you care to read it, I won't spoil the ending. But as he went upon his journey, actually talking to conservatives, reading their books, and living (his version) of their lives, he actually ended up in a less stereotypical place then I thought he would.

Overall, this was an amusing journey.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Words! Words! Words!

All right, once again I'm copping out... er, passing along this amusing list for today's blog entry, courtesy of one of my favorite readers. Enjoy! I'm now off to start today's decafelon...

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners. Read them carefully. Each is an artificial word with only one letter altered to form a real word. Some are terrifically innovative:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts ntil you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The Bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease.

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: All talk and no action.

13. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

14. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the lot:

17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be lawyers...

I don't have much use for the alumni publications I get from Syracuse.

One, I don't go there any more, and know no one who does, so I have no stake in the new building they're constructing on their Disney-fied version of a college campus, no interest in the programs sending freshmen overseas, don't care who is now a sitting professor in the College of Take-Your-Money-And-Give-You-Kids-Who-Don't-Know-Shit. (which is not how it used to be, so Mom, Dad, no, I did find my four years there a valuable and educational experience...)

Two, I resent the fact that if I DID send in any alumni contributions (come on, what do you think they use them for?), they'd mostly go toward producing the several slick, oversized, five color extravaganzas I receive in the mail every quarter or so. Plus all of the salaries of everyone on the masthead.

What I am interested in is that section in the back where alum can write in little blurbs about what they're doing now, that they've married Buffy or Biff or finally learned to read. Along with a little photo, that, while there are some that are really creatively shot, most are the standard top-of-the-balding-head-to-the-bottom-of-the-necktie bio shots.

Come on. Don't tell me you don't go there, too. It's like watching NASCAR for the accidents or Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan for, well, any move they might make.

Yes, it's potentially destructive and definitely cynical (there is a study going that says that people who are cynical die earlier than their more positive-minded counterparts, but, hey, if you're cynical, you already knew that, didn't you?) but I often compare people's bios to where I am in my own life. And the women - well, I just have to see if they're aging faster than I am.

And no, it's not fair that I graduated with Vanessa Williams. And it's definitely not fair that I torment my poor husband about it when we're watching Ugly Betty:

Me: We're the same age, you know. She was in my Art History class.
Him: Yeah, you tell me all the time.
Me: I don't look older than she does, do I?
Him: (silence)

Which is probably the smartest thing he could have said.

But anyway, I opened my latest "How are we spending your alumni contributions now" publication, flipped to the back and BAM! There's a blurb (with photo!) of the first guy I kissed at SU. We met at a party. He was adorable, with curly hair and eyes like Bambi. Picture that guy from Scrubs with a faux 'fro (hey, it was the late 70s). We met at one of those spontaneous dorm parties that spread like mold during that first week or so of school. He tried to get me drunk on Pink Champale. One kiss was as far as we got and I never hung out with him again, as we both quickly discovered that we had nothing in common except being away from home for the first time. We greeted each other with embarrassed grunts whenever we passed in the halls, which gradually petered out to no contact whatsoever.

But oh, my god, this picture! He's a lawyer (which I never would have predicted - CPA, maybe, but not a lawyer), just joined some new firm in New Jersey. I tried reading between the lines...hmm, simply joining a new firm, not a partner, what happened at the old firm...(it's a joy to be a writer sometimes...) Perhaps he tried to get some intern drunk on Pink Champale...and then the photo! I'm sorry to say the years have not been kind. I looked for the adorable eighteen year old in there and...nope. Couldn't see a whit of it. This guy looked like a shoe salesman from Long Island. (not meaning, of course, to disparage the shoe salesmen from Long Island)

I'm hoping it was a bad photo.

Or a misprint.

I just don't like knowing that the first guy I kissed when I was away from home for the first time became a lawyer.

It could have been worse, I suppose.

We could have missed each other entirely at that party. Then I wouldn't have the memory at all of this pure moment, the sweet deliriousness of being partially tipsy at my first college party and the cutest guy in the room kisses me, not some mega-babe, which of course meant that life was perfect and I belonged.

Even if he did turn out to be a lawyer with an overbite.

And I DO think that I don't look any older than Vanessa Williams.

No matter what my husband doesn't say.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Do The "Seven Dirty Words" Still Matter?

Words have always fascinated me. Particularly the contexts in which you can say certain words and can't say others. This started in childhood, with some very interesting discrepancies on my parents' part (remind me to tell you that story later.) But I really got hooked into it when I swiped my father's copy (or was of my brothers?) of George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television."

And with that, a writer was born. At least one who appreciates the power and hidden meanings behind words. I learned that if the context was correct, you could get away with practically anything. Even on television.

But lately, it's getting ridiculous. Like the little man at the bleeper switch has fallen asleep. Or, wakes up and shaking himself into consciousness, realizes he better start making an example of somebody so he can justify his existence. (or make up for the ones that got away)

Will the FCC get its act in gear already? We seem to have a consistency problem. I'm no prude, and by now I've heard every single word there is to say and then some, including some very creative combinations.

But what they allow to be said on TV makes no sense whatsoever.

I think it all started with "NYPD Blue," with David Caruso's bare buttocks. It proved that not only could you say "ass" on network television after a certain time, you could even show them. (As long it was a was a tasteful glimpse - and believe me, even a tasteful glimpse of Caruso's hindquarters is nowhere near my list of the "thousand things I want to see before I die.")

Then the boundaries began to blur. I've seen some shows lately where you could say the word "penis," but couldn't say (except you could imply, by careful use of euphemisms) its function. But I've yet to see a TV program where you could say the word "vagina," except in the context of the play, "The Vagina Monologues." (an interesting aside: my text-to-speech program recognized "penis" immediately but I had to teach it how to say "vagina." Twice, in fact)

And there are some words - those that describe the scatological functions - that, although they may not be uttered, can be creatively described or inferred by their euphemisms. Everybody knows what you're talking about although the actual word cannot be said. So what's the big deal about saying the actual word? Would it kill anyone? Would any child actually be scarred for life? Many years ago, you couldn't say "pregnant" on television. You could say, "expecting." You could say "with child." For Christ’s sake. TV couples slept in separate beds. Which made me wonder how the wife got to be "expecting" at all.

It's just stupid, and an insult to our intelligence.

An argument may be that it lowers the level of the conversation. Have these people actually watched television lately? Could the level of the conversation get any lower?

Some of the more inane examples I've heard lately:

--You can say boobs, knockers, headlights, any number of clever euphemisms for the female mammary glands, but you still can't say "tits." But isn't that just another euphemism? Why is this one forbidden? Also, you can say "breast," but only in the context of their biological function or if it relates to cancer.

--You can say any number of the thousands of euphemisms for the procreative act. You can even show it, after a certain hour. Yet the "f" bomb is just that - something that will bring the censors down on you like it's the Blitz and you're London. Yet everyone over the age of, say eleven or so, knows exactly what you're referring to.

Yet avoiding these certain words does allow for a vast world of creativity. I’m willing to bet that the English language has just as many expressions for the procreative act than Yiddish has for lack of intelligence or that Inuit has for snow.

Which proves what is most important around here.

If it’s that important, why can’t we just call it what it is, and get over ourselves already?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Can You Put A Price On Integrity?

I know I'm late to weigh in on this, but I'm still rankled by the September 14th scandal in which the New England Patriots" Bill Belichick was found to be spying on his opponents defensive signals using video tape from the sidelines.

So much for "America's Team." So much for Tom Brady as "America's Quarterback." The supposed "best" team in football has to cheat in order to win against... the JETS?

Come on. The lowliest ranked NCAA team could probably stomp the Jets into the sod and Belichick needs to cheat against them?

OK. They didn't get off completely scot-free (or, as will probably wind up in the American lexicon "O. J.'d it). They were fined $750,000 ($500,000 was to come from Belichick personally) and they lost a draft pick for next season. And they got the mildest slap on the wrist (it was more like a disappointed eye-roll) from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field," Goodell said in a letter to the Patriots.

He said he considered suspending Belichick but didn't "largely because I believe that the discipline I am imposing of a maximum fine and forfeiture of a first-round draft choice, or multiple draft choices, is in fact more significant and long-lasting, and therefore more effective, than a suspension."

Who says? A guy whose interest it's in NOT to sideline the winningest coach of the winningest team that gives the NFL the most winningest pile of green?

It's not good enough. A token suspension at least, at the very very least, they should have had to forfeit the game to the Jets.

Anything to cut "Mean Green" a break.

I've seen a few peevish editorials, a few letters from a few angry fans, but the following Sunday, it was back to business as usual. Tom Brady looked tall in the saddle and the Patriots went on winning and nothing more was said.

So is this the way it's going to work, now? If you put asses in the seats, if you throw enough money at the problem, it simply goes away? If Pete Rose coughs up enough to build a Cal Ripkin wing onto the Cooperstown museum, will he be allowed into the Hall of Fame? If Michael Vick makes a 750G donation to the ASPCA will he be back in the pocket the following Sunday?

It's wrong. All of it's wrong. Apparently we're going down a cash-laden path that tells kids that it's OK to lie, cheat, steal, and make animals fight each other as long as you were previously almost a living legend. Then you can just write a check and look appropriately ashamed for as long as it takes to get a few sound bites out for ESPN.

Now the Pats are cracking down on scalpers who use StubHub to get money for their tickets. Probably most of these scalpers are season-ticket holders trying to unload seats they won't be using. Way to go, Pats. Take it out on the fans who help pay your inflated salaries.

But damned sure that if any of them are caught, they won't be able to simply write a check and walk away smiling

They might have to actually (gulp) suffer lasting consequences of their actions.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Oh, Brave New World..."

Just for fun, I've been rereading the classics that I was made to study in school. Hopefully now, without having to write essays about metaphors and such, I can simply sit back and enjoy them.

First up is "Brave New World." And it is sending chills up my spine. Almost seventy years later, the book not only still holds up, but is creepily prescient. The world that Huxley imagined is upon us. The cult of the automobile. Promiscuity. In-vitro fertilization. Genetic Engineering. Aromatherapy. There is even a drug named "Soma," (which muffles signals from the central nervous system) but it might as well have been reality shows. Or Starbucks. Or all the ways that society has engineered to keep us distracted and happy.

It's a vision of the future that, while arguably has come as true as 1984, is a little more spot on.

I'll let you know what's on the table next.

While not a classic, I just finished reading a little book titled "Conservatize Me," By John Moe. It's a bit of a spoof on the documentary from a few years ago, "Super Size Me," but in this version, Mr. Moe crafts his 30-day experiment as follows: a self-described liberal democrat who works for a public radio station in Seattle immerses himself into the "conservative" world, to see if he can make himself become conservative by osmosis. It's a bit stereotypical - meaning that in choosing his influences he shops at Wal-Mart, listens to Country/Western music, learns to shoot a gun, and changes his brand of beer, just for starters.

If you care to read it, I won't spoil the ending. But as he went upon his journey, actually talking to conservatives, reading their books, and living (his version) of their lives, he actually ended up in a less stereotypical place then I thought he would.

Overall, this was an amusing journey.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Grandmother

I didn't want to go another day without mentioning my grandmother, who passed away last week at the age of 96, mercifully after a brief illness. She managed to evade the two things she feared most about getting old: going senile and being put in a nursing home (she only had to go as far as moving into an assisted living facililty.) She had all her marbles, up until the end. Just two weeks ago, at my mother's wedding, we passed the phone around, and she was wisecracking with Husband:

"So, Grandma, when are you getting remarried?" he asked.
"Hah," she said. "You should see what's here."

On Sunday, she was laid to rest in Miami, next to her husband, Phil, who died when I was five and predeceased her by over 40 years. What a long time to be away from someone you love. I can only imagine the conversations they are having now (if such things happen).

Him, smirking, taking the cigar from his mouth: "So, Yetta, what took you so long?"
Her, giving him a playful smack: "It's your fault for leaving so soon?"
Him: "Did you have a nice life, a good life?"
Her, smiling: "Yes. A lovely life."
Him: "You'll show me the pictures. But not just yet. Come on. We need a fourth for bridge."

I wasn't at the service, although I sent along something for my brother to read. But there will never be enough words to tell what she meant to me and how she influenced my life and how much I loved her. Words are weak conductors of feelings, but sometimes they are all we have, and sometimes there are no words at all.

This is what I offered:

I have so many memories of the ways that Grandma Yetta enriched my life that it’s hard to choose which ones to share.

She expanded my cooking repertoire. She made me beautiful scarves and sweaters (and one my favorite dresses), taught me how to knit and crochet (even though I promptly forgot how), but mostly what I remember is her wonderful sense of humor.

When I was a child, and Grandma came to visit, my younger brother and I loved to play tricks on her. During the 60s and early 70s, family cars had back seats with humps in the middle, which, if you had more than the standard 2.4 children, started many an argument about who got stuck sitting on that seat. My brother and I had a little routine that we used on Grandma on trips when my older brother didn’t come with us. We’d make a big show of letting her get in first to the backseat, then I would get it after her, but my brother would run around to the other side of the car and get in, leaving her to sit on the hump, and she would laugh and laugh with that wonderful cackle of hers, yet she kept letting us do that to her each time we got in the car.

But my favorite story, and one that I might have told some of you already, was one summer when Grandma was visiting. We were walking along the streets of Poughkeepsie to meet my mother after work. I was about 16 or so, and one of the fashions of the time was Danskin wrap skirts. I was wearing mine and it was a rather windy day. So I discretely held the flap in place so I wouldn’t expose myself.

Grandma turned to me and said, “Honey, if I was your age, I’d wear red panties and let the wind blow.”

If nothing else, at least I got someone to say "panties" at a funeral.

I think Grandma would have gotten a good laugh out of that.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fun With Typos

I love to collect typos: call it an editor's enthusiasm, call it OCD, but at the very least, call it fun. And a constant reminder that computer spell-checks are stupid.

This, from a flyer I received from a massage therapist:

"It is estimated that $85 BILLION a year is spent directly and indirectly on treading low back pain." (wow, no wonder we all hurt so much with all that treading upon our lower backs...)

"Low Back Pain is Devastating! You are in constant pain, always shifting your weight to take the pressure off your lower back (and, I assume, from all that treading...). Standing, sitting or even lying in bed doesn't seem to ease the pain. When all else fails you turn to a bottle of pain killers. Knowing full well the affects oral medication has on your lover and gastrointestinal track." (um...uh...this is a family blog so when I see "oral" and "lover" in the same sentence the censors here in Opusville get a little nervous. But feel free to write your own joke.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Bride Buys A Book... The Bride Buys A Book

I had the privilege and honor to attend my mother's third wedding ceremony last weekend (since I missed the first one and all).

It warmed my heart to see the bride and groom so happy and to be with them as they shared that joy with our combined families.

You never know quite what's going to happen when two families are joined by a pair of wedding bands and a pair of hearts, but I can say that there is one thing that most of us have in common.

As the ceremony in the Brooklyn gallery ended early, and the restaurant where we were to have the reception was not quite ready for the two-dozen or so of us, we had some time to kill. My new sister in law, a very talented artist, who together with her husband, the groom's son, arranged most of the details - said the eight words that are like music to my heart: "who wants to go to Barnes and Noble?"

Not a single dissenting voice was heard.

And with that, we decided, that a new wedding tradition had been formed: the ceremonial tour of a local book store. (And I won't say which one of us took the opportunity to use the stop for some last-minute wedding gift shopping.)

All and all, it was a beautiful afternoon (adorned with two adorable flower girls). I stand (or sit, as the case may be)humbled at the courage my mother and her beloved have shown in this simple but powerful act of trusting their hearts to each other.

Congratulations and Mazel Tov and welcome to the family!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Not another season of Survivor...

I know I know, I skipped over many more important topics to blog about (yes, there will be a wedding blog, when I get some pictures), but last night something really ruffled my feathers.

It happened when I was watching Survivor. I know, it’s gotta be like the twenty third season already, but I still watch because it’s fun brain dead TV, and this one is set in China.

If you’ve never watched, each season begins with the introduction of all of the Survivor contestants, and shows them making the transition from regular life to the Spartan Survivor camps.

And I don’t know where they get these people, but inevitably, there’s always a handful who come completely unprepared and act as if they have never seen the show before in their lives. You think that if you were going on a TV show to win a million dollars that you would want to have some kind of idea what you’re getting yourself into.

Particularly, what you should be wearing. You have got to know that no matter what kind of luggage you are bringing along (or are asked to bring along), inevitably you will be told that from here on in you will go to your camp with nothing but the clothes on your back.

The girls are the worst. One came in a mini skirt and motorcycle boots. One, a self confessed “city girl,” hated everyone and, came wearing full-on makeup, a skimpy top with no bra and flat thong sandals.

I’d vote her off for stupidity alone.

But then again, I’m watching the show, so who can I claim is more stupid?

Yet if I were going on (and I’m not, as I’d never make it past the opening credits, if I got that far), I’d start with Under Armor bike shorts and a sports bra. Layer that with a quick-drying t-shirt, rain-resistant overshirt, work pants, running shoes that I can wear with or without socks, and, of course, a hat.

Of course I’m a sensible sort.

My vote for this season is on the gay Mormon flight attendant. Because surely anyone in that position could use a million dollars.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Is that an iliac crest in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

No offense meant to the men in my audience, but male authors write lousy sex scenes. Especially Tom Wolfe. I’m sorry, but reading the words “iliac crest” and “pectoral sheath” as the romantic leads are getting busy is about as sexy as reading the Congressional Quarterly.

I’m having the most marvelous time mocking the prose of his latest, “I Am Charlotte Simmons.” I picked it up at Barnes & Noble, because it was remaindered and because I have a weakness for fat novels. And I finally got around to reading it.

I’ve read other male authors who seem to be suffering from the same problem. They have a great set up. They have great characters. They have prose to die for. But when a sex scene looms, they either pan up into the trees or go about it as clumsily as an anatomy lesson. In fact I believe that the contest held every year for the worst sex scene in literature has been won by a male author. Philip Roth and Salmon Rushdie have won, and in 2004 Tom Wolfe garnered the dubious honor for “…Charlotte Simmons.”

Here is an example of one of his “winning” passages:

“Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns.

Oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest no, the hand was cupping her entire right - Now! She must say 'No, Hoyt' and talk to him like a dog...”

It only goes downhill (or, as he might say, a slither on the southbound express to her iliac crest) from there.

My solution for these well-meaning men? Hire a woman to write your sex scenes. At the very least, have one of the XX persuasion read it for you and comment. If she either laughs or falls asleep, that’s not good.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

And Many Returns...

It’s odd, the feeling of being back in my room again. It’s not an unfamiliar place, as I’ve written in here for many years before, but it’s different this time.

The only thing I’ve been able to concretely put my finger on is that I’m approaching this space after an extended period of writer’s block. I had my occasional days where the characters weren’t doing what I wanted, or the plot was not quite working out as I planned, but I don’t think I’ve experienced anything that’s commonly referred to as writer’s block. (See, those of you in my writers group who tease me about my prolific tendencies, you’re not the only ones.)

It’s not that I’ve been trying to write and failing to come up with anything but an empty page, or screen, it’s that I haven’t felt driven to write much at all. I’m hanging my hat on faith - faith that I’m only at the bottom of a dry well that will once again fill. Or that someday soon, I’ll wake from this magic spell, and my characters will be there again, clamoring to tell their stories. Oh, do I miss that! (as are several others who are waiting for the next installment) That feeling of wanting to jump out of bed and get to my novel, that feeling of going to sleep at night knowing I had put in a good days work, and knowing where I had to start again the next day.

Ironically, I’m the one who’s fond of telling other writers that (supposedly) Michael Crichton told an interviewer that the secret of writing is butt to chair; that is, get yon buttocks hither into yon chair. But I’m finding it much more satisfying to feather my old-but-new-again little nest – to get the keyboard and monitor at the right height, to find a proper footrest (Norton’s “Encyclopedia of Literature” – is that blasphemy?), to place my mug o’pens within arm’s reach, ditto the wireless mouse and the copy stand, to dust off my baseball bobble-heads and stuffed penguins.

Is it good enough to be close to one’s chair during this process? Sigh. I guess it’s not the same thing.

But here I am, having sat mine posterior end in the heretofore mentioned writer’s throne, waiting…waiting…waiting.

I’m leaning more toward Woody Allen’s secret to success. That 99% of luck is simply showing up.

Or so they say.

(PS: and for those of you who are interested, I typed the last five paragraphs of this blog, using my actual fingers on my actual keyboard. So begins the return…and keep your fingers crossed)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Exercises for Women of a Certain Age

Yes, it's one of those hard facts of life that none of us wants to deal with, but we women of a certain age sometimes have to work a little harder to burn off the same number of calories as we used to. Here are just a few ways you can add more exercise into your daily life:

Where Did I Park My Car-dio

This is one of my favorites. Forgetting where you parked your car, especially in any giant box store parking lot, is an excellent way to add more exercise to your routine. I've been known to walk at least half a mile out of my way just to find my vehicle. For beginners, you may want to tie a very bright piece of clothing to your antenna to make it easier, and as you progress, you can either make this color less apparent, or feel the burn by removing the article completely.

The "I Missed My Turn" Upper Body Workout

I don't know about you, but those little brain blips often cause me to do things like miss my turn, find myself going in the wrong direction, etc. I've found that wrenching the wheel around to get where I'm supposed to be going really works those arms and shoulders, especially when I'm doing an 18-point turn on a side road or in somebody's driveway. The more garden gnomes or flower beds or other decorative frou-frou to avoid, the better. For the beginner, try a simple U - turn on any three lane highway.

The "Why Am I Here?" Dash

No need to be embarrassed about it - we all do it (some of us more than others). We find ourselves in a room of our abode and wonder why we came in there and what were we looking for in the first place. Don't fret and think you're losing your mind - use your mental lapse as an opportunity to get more exercise! When you find yourself in the wrong room, instead of scolding yourself, just dash to the next. Burn more calories by dragging a vacuum cleaner or bucket of cleaning supplies along with you. This exercise can also be used when you find yourself putting something in to the freezer when you intended to put it into the microwave, or socks into the garbage instead of the hamper. Use thse hidden opportunities to get a good stretch.

So be creative - instead of fretting about those little menopausal moments, use them to shape up! And don't forget, each hot flash burns at least 100 calories.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moving day...

Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll the funnier, but today, I’m reclaiming my Space.

With that I mean my writing room. Since Husband was the one who was using the fancy computer, the fancy scanner, and the fancy drawing tablet more frequently than I was, I let him have the use of the Space, while I had moved my command control center to the kitchen table.

The arrangements have been made. The shiny new workstation stands twinkling in the corner of Husband’s studio. All his equipment in a nice shiny row.

Even though my Space is not yet exactly a “turnkey” operation, today I moved the first piece of my equipment – my keyboard – back into my new old home.

It looked a little lonely there – of course most of the diagonal desk had been taken up by a big ass monitor – but when I get everything else set up, I will make it mine again.

I feel like I should have some kind of ceremony, a ritual, something to commemorate the occasion. A room-warming, if you will. Flowers don’t quite cut it – while they’re beautiful, sometimes they make me sneeze. A fresh coat of paint? It’s already painted the color I like – a nice, soothing shade of pink. Some art on the walls? I already have some prints up that I like – a framed movie poster from “Picasso,” another from “Casablanca,” and the room is too small to take on too much more. Plus sometimes I like looking up and seeing a broad expanse of soothing pink, just to clear my head.

Speaking of clearing my head, perhaps I’ll light a few sage candles and intone passages from Virginia Woolf. Paint my face and do a ritual dance or two.

I’m open to suggestions…

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Didn't miss a thing...or did I?

Just flew in from paradise and boy, are my wings tired.

I suppose that among various problems one could have, spa withdrawal is one of the better ones.

After having wonderful meals ready and waiting for you, hot tubs and massage therapists and every kind of exercise possibility at your disposal, it's a little tough to go back to the real world.

Reentry has been difficult. But I think I can handle it.

I learned several things about myself. One, I can physically handle more then I thought I could. Two, I'm not alone. And three, for christ sake I need to lighten up a little.

One thing I took away from the experience is that for the good of my soul, I need to take more walks in the woods. I never realized the subtle power of letting nature clear your head and soothe your psychic wounds.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

No offense to those of you in the media business, but for five days I didn't so much as pick up the newspaper, watch news on television, listen to the radio, or cruise the Internet. And you know what? Nothing has changed. I figured as much. I figured that when I remerged, the war would still be going on, the media and the majority of the American public would still hate Bush, and things would still be blowing up halfway across the world. Presidential would-be candidates would still be polluting the atmosphere with their sound bites and rhetoric, and no minds would have been changed.

So what does this say about what we're doing? I suppose that more voices offering their dissent raised up to the stream of consciousness is a good thing, I still admire the people who really put it out there, the ones who stand on street corners with signs, the ones who write letters to the editor, and the regular bloggers who daily add their voices - opinionated and strong - into the atmosphere, but I'm left wondering at what level of commitment I'm willing to give.

It just takes so much energy. And I'd much rather make people laugh.

After all, we need laughter just as much as we need a sign of protest thrust into the air.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Opus is off the ice floe

I'm off to the land of low-fat rice milk and organic honey.

Back next week !

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Deja vu all over again

It’s hard enough getting my courage together to talk to a computer without that little “tah –dah” sound my computer makes on start-up.

It’s almost as if the computer is saying, “All right folks, now watch this!”

Oh, the pressure.

Of course I could simply turn it off, but what’s the fun in that. I like a good challenge, some more than others. Especially challenges that don’t involve pain and getting over thereof.

Speaking of which, each morning I strap on my black elbow braces (I’m vascilling between referring to them as my wonder woman magic bracelets and looking like I’m ready to take a piece out of somebody) with a sense of déjà vu.

About 15 years ago, I was doing the same thing. The elbow braces were less high-tech (a foam - lined plastic cuff with a woven strap) but the condition was much the same. My wedding gown had those detachable sleeves in case I needed them to cover my braces, because without them (the braces, not the sleeves) I was worried that have been be able to carry my bouquet down the aisle.

But that pain went away (after the stress of planning the wedding was over, and after lost my job) and this pain will go away too.

I don’t even want to wonder to the universe what I’ll have to give up in order to make this one better.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Is There A Doctor In The House?

I’ve been going to the same general practitioner for nearly twenty years. He’s a very odd man; and normally begins each appointment with me by telling me what’s wrong with him.

This week’s visit was no different. "Oh, I have this pain in my shoulder,” he said. "I go swimming, and it doesn’t hurt when I go swimming but when I wake up the next morning… Oh, man that hurts.” All the while he’s rubbing at this spot in his shoulder that’s been bugging him. “So that’s why I’m glad that this summer’s almost over so I can stop swimming.”

“Why don’t you join a gym so you can keep swimming?” I said. Which sounded logical to me. There are lots of doctors and gym, and some have ridiculous hours. Both the doctor and the gym.

“Yeah but who am I kidding,” he said. “I’m up at 5:30, don’t get home until 6:30, and at lunch I’m really hungry and need to eat.” I start wondering if maybe I should see somebody else instead. But he’s helped me lot, and it’s been real interesting to see his growth for the past 20 years.

“Anyway,” he says, “what’s wrong with you?”

I tell him about my elbows. About when the pain started, when it hurts, what makes it hurt, etc. While I’m talking, he turns his back and takes a very large manual out of the cupboard. If you’ve never seen a physician’s desk reference (usually called the PDR), is about the size of your average microwave. I’m thinking, oh great, once again I have something so strange he’s got to look it up. But no. It’s much worse than that. He holds the book out to me grasped by one spidery hand, tells me to hold out my right hand, and take it from him.

I just look at him like he just asked me to pick up the Statue of Liberty.

Whatever, I think, and take it from him. “That hurts,” I tell him, sagging under its weight. Then he asked me to hold it with my hand going in the other way, and then comes the worst part. He wants me to the same thing with my left hand (that arm is the one that’s been hurting more).

“That hurts a lot more,” I tell him, gritting my teeth and sagging under its weight.

“You have tennis elbow,” he tells me. So much for scientific diagnostics.

And this is only one reason why he’s an interesting guy. He’s also gone a little more anti-meds than he used to be. Now he’s into stretching as the cure for everything.

“Now here’s what you do,” he said. He then showed me a series of very scary looking, very intense looking, and not very fibro-friendly stretches.

And had expected me to do them three times a day. Including mashing the lights out of anything that hurts.

Afterward, I went to work out at my physical therapist’s. I asked him about the stretching and the mashing, including the physician’s opinion that the weight regimen (extremely light and wimpy one pound weights) that the physical therapist had put me on would only make the situation worse. The physical therapist disagreed. This makes me crazy. Sometimes I want to get all of them in a room, give them a pot of coffee and half an hour, then come out with three alternatives for me to choose among. So during my workout I let my doctor’s advice and the PT’s advice duke it out in my head. My gut told me to go with the weights. After all, a PT treats more cases of tendonitis than a doctor in any one year. Plus the idea of all that mashing gives me the heebie-jeebies.

All I can do is make the best decision for me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Laugh Any Way I Can Get It

At this point, I’m willing to do almost anything to get a good laugh. Even if it takes nearly burning my house down to get it (and no, I didn’t do it).

Husband was grilling some chicken on the barbecue for dinner. He finished, and like he usually does, he left the grill on low with the cover closed to burn off the residual fat. He was at the sink doing some dishes, and I was sitting at the kitchen table watching a DVD on my computer.

I looked up and happened to notice flames licking at the bottom of the barbecue, where the grease cup normally is.

“Um, husband? You might like to take a look at the grill. It’s on fire,” I told him.

He looked up. Then scrambled outside. He opened the hood, and it’s dancing with flame. He turned off all the knobs, and that only licked them down a little. Then he turned off the propane tank.

“You need the fire extinguisher?” I asked him.

“Nah, it’ll be alright.”

It might have been alright, except that (he claims) when he blew some of the cinders back into the grease cup, he created a spectacular fire ball that had that engulfed most of the barbecue. Anyone else looking at the scene would think that he was trying to blow out a grease fire.

“Now do you want the fire extinguisher?” I asked him.

“ Get it,” he said.

I got it. I also told him that he might want to move the aerosol can of wasp and hornet killer (does anyone know the difference between a wasp and a hornet, and does it really matter when they’re swarming around your back deck?) out of harm’s way. That’s all we needed, a house fire, and a true aerosol bomb.

Turns out he didn’t need the extinguisher (although he did more the aerosol can) and the fire, while it had flared spectacularly, had now burned itself out.

I’m saving the irony for last. For on the side of the propane canister was a magnet which read, “Danger Men Cooking.”

Apparently, printing the magnet with one inch high letters is not a prominent enough warning for some.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Blame Game

A horrible tragedy happens, and we look for someone to blame.

The epoxy failed. Somebody sold the sick kid a gun. The project went to the lowest bidder.

The rubble is still settling around the Minnesota overpass, and the media is there, compasses out, wanting to know where to point the finger.

I suppose this is only natural, the human thing to do. We simply do not want to believe that something horrible can happen for no good reason.

But there’s nobody that I can blame.

The lost jobs, the money I spent at doctor’s offices, the procedures I’ve undergone. There’s no finger that I can point, no lowest bidder that I can chastise for using the wrong 0 ring, no epoxy that I can claim did not live up to its promises.

Even if I believed in him I couldn’t even blame God.

And it wasn’t my parents' fault. They didn’t know what kind of primordial soup their combined DNA would foster; and nobody even knows if this thing is genetic anyway.

Meanwhile I keep on going, this little energizer bunny, having long ago given up on the idea of looking for someone to sue.

Friday, August 03, 2007

What am I afraid of?

You might have heard it said that as far as fears go, more people are afraid of speaking in public then they are of death.

I’m afraid of speaking to computers.

Because of an undisclosed and undetermined pain in my elbows, my physical therapist recommended that I try voice-activated software so I can rest my arms for a while.

But the way my brain is wired, it’s so much easier for me to write than to speak. My verbal skills, sadly, fall far behind of my written skills.

So I sit here looking at a blank screen, wondering what to say. No. Not just wondering. Afraid of how to start, is more like it.

I used to be afraid of thunderstorms. Deadly afraid. Like hiding under the covers screaming kind of afraid. That lasted until my early teens, when I cured myself of it through aversion therapy.

It was nothing formal; No therapists involved. At the time we live in a house on a hill with a view of the Catskill Mountains, which was the direction the weather came from. Including the thunderstorms.

One day a storm was developing, and I forced myself to sit in the center of that room, floor to ceiling glass pane windows on two sides, and experienced that storm from beginning to end.

I was nervous at first, but eventually realized I had nothing to fear. Eventually instead of seeing the fear and danger of the thunderstorm, I began to see its beauty. The dramatic colors of the sky as the clouds bunched up, the way it took hold of the trees and battered the leaves to and fro, the way the rain pelted down on the windows, and the clean way the sky and the air looks after the storm was done.

And I suppose to cure myself of the fear of speaking to computers, I should approach it the same way.

Just sit in my chair, make a cup of tea, and talk to the stupid thing.

I think I can handle that.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Feels like Daytona to me...

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, we've joined the 21st century here on the hill, with high speed internet and all that stuff, and man, this thing is fast. Where's that checkered flag!

More later; still working the bugs out...of the system and out of me. Something that might be tendonitis or just fibro in my elbows is slowing me down.

Guess I won't be finishing in the top five today...

Friday, June 29, 2007

What Was Your Name Again?

When one is in the belly of a run of perimenopausal insomnia, there are some endeavors that are simply not safe to endeavor.

Proper grammar and spelling, for one.

Lion taming might be another.

That thing where the magician straps a girl to a spinning wheel and flings knives at her head, that might be something that would be safest to avoid. Unless you are the girl and really, really trust the guy throwing the knives.

Ditto pair juggling flaming torches. (damn, there goes Husband’s weekend)

I suppose I should put off trying to land that 747. Or swimming with sharks. Or coherent political debate. And above all, trying to compose amusing blogs.

Because this piece isn’t going the way I planned. With an elevator that stops short of the observation deck, nothing is going to go the way that I planned and I should probably stick to “safe” activities like operating the DVD player, making snacks that don’t involve sharp implements, and signing up for the Secret Service.

I didn’t see anything in the manual about driving an hour to my massage appointment, though.

I will drive a long way, even with a pounding headache, even on four days of crummy sleep, to get a good massage.

I will probably drive too fast, and rely on a sniff of peppermint oil instead of coffee, and sing very loud with the radio.

Don’t worry. That’s what keeps me focused. And if I’m pulled over by one of New York’s Finest, I will simply burst into tears.

And I won’t have to fake it. I’m getting pretty good at that, too.

I watched “Hitch” last night and cried at the ending, for Pete’s sake.

I cried at the end of last season’s final episode of “24.” And that’s pathetic.

And if I call on you to bail me out of the PMS tank this afternoon, please bring my pillow.

And a box of tissues. Maybe two.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A vessel of nothing and how it relates to the world around it

Paris Hilton must be Rupert Murdoch’s wet dream – she and her in-and-out-and-in-and-out of the slammer story can be linked to every segment of TV news and every section of the newspaper.

She’s the top headline in the entertainment and court news, of course.

Fashion and Beauty Reports. TV News. Celebrity Updates. Business.


Yes, I heard it this morning. Husband listens to the financial shows when he wakes up. And there it was. A teaser for the next segment: How does Paris’s release from prison effect the Hilton brand?

I almost dropped my tea.

And that’s all this media outlet has to say on the subject.

Because I don’t care.

I really don’t care.

Until she’s back in jail for something else, of course.

There was also a news story speculating if she would be getting as much media attention if she were overweight and ugly. And, perhaps, if didn’t have a trust fund, or at the very least, kept her underwear on in public.

Does that really require an answer? In this country? Please. It’s something we all grow up with as part of the fabric of our cultural footy-pajamas that thin, pretty rich people have it pretty good around here.

If Rosie O’Donnell went to the slammer maybe there would be a bit of hoopla for a bit but I’m certain there would be a segment of the population who would happy to see her there, and happy to see her there for a very long time.

And my overarching question still remains – why is Paris Hilton that important? What has she ever done to merit so much media attention, when kids are dying in Iraq and a whole bunch of sometimes-interesting people are dying to be President?

Certainly it would be more interesting to follow Barack Obama or Rudy Guiliani around for a day or so, just to hear what they’ll say to cut through the traffic than to lurk outside a prison at midnight waiting for a glimpse of an empty-headed heiress.

Clearly there is something wrong with us. Something of the order of when the British people looked up and noticed that the countries they used to control wanted them and their language and religion and lousy cooking off their property.

I’m half expecting gladiator battles to show up on the front page of the Sports section. I’m sure Rupert Murdoch is figuring out a way to get Paris on there, too.

She could always box Tanya Harding.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

FDA Approves First Fibromyalgia Drug!!

On June 21, the Food and Drug Administration approved Lyrica (generic name: pregabalin) as the first drug to treat fibromyalgia, according to Pfizer.

This is a milestone, because prior to this FDA approval, those living with fibromyalgia (approximately six million in this country alone, myself included) had been forced to “make do” with drugs not officially approved for the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Medications were prescribed “off label” to treat the pain, fatigue, insomnia, headaches and digestive problems that are the hallmarks of the disease. Patients and their health care providers complained of needing to take multiple medications, and having problems with what their health insurance companies would cover. For instance, two of the most basic types of medications prescribed for fibromyalgia – anti-depressants and sleep aids – are classified by some HMOs as “mental health related” which not only perpetuates a long-fought-against stigma that fibromyalgia is “all in one’s head.” And in some cases, the HMO refuses to cover medications in these categories. (I'm still fighting this one.)

While Lyrica may not treat every symptom of fibromyalgia, it has been shown to help the major ones, and it also lends stronger credibility to the medical and health insurance communities that the disease is real and should be treated as such.

“This is an important day for people with fibromyalgia and a real opportunity to help physicians effectively manage this disorder,” said Dr. Don Goldenberg, M.D., co-chair of the fibromyalgia guideline panel for the American Pain Society and professor of medicine, Tufts University. "Having a medication approved for use in fibromyalgia, along with research advances, will go a long way to improving our understanding and treatment of this common disorder."

Fibromyalgia is thought to result from neurological changes in the perception of pain, specifically a heightened sensitivity to stimuli that for most people would not normally be painful. Lyrica binds to a specific protein in these overexcited nerve cells and works to soothe damaged nerves. This is thought to reduce pain in patients living with fibromyalgia, although the exact mechanism of how Lyrica acts in fibromyalgia is not known.

Lyrica is not a completely new drug. It was developed in January of 2005 by Pfizer to treat the peripheral neuropathetic pain often suffered by diabetic patients. But after a number of studies, it was found that the medication showed some benefit for fibromyalgia, and it has been prescribed “off label” ever since.

While many patients enjoyed a reduction in their pain, improvements in their sleep and energy levels, some disagreed. Dizziness and daytime drowsiness were the most commonly mentioned side effects. For some, these side effects dissipated over time, but for some, they were too disruptive to continue taking the medication. Anecdotal evidence also showed that for some, lower doses improved sleep but higher doses were needed for pain control.

“I had to give up my career and I wasn’t able to participate in a lot of my children’s activities,” said Carolyn Bishop, a fibromyalgia patient and participant in one of the Lyrica clinical trials. But since she started taking Lyrica, she’s “had less pain and felt better.”

"I've been on Lyrica for over a year," said Opus P. Penguin. "It's really knocked down the pain except I can't dose up to the optimal level because then it keeps me awake. But I have weird reactions to drugs."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Can We Please Move On Now?

I can’t decide which media story I’m more disgusted with – Paris Hilton, or the legions of people who should know better saying that the 2008 election will be a backlash against President Bush.

The Jailbird Heiress deserves not an agate more space in any media but the entertainment outlets, so I’m reluctant to put her name out there once more. But here’s a news flash to those who keep perpetuating the latter story: Bush can’t run for a third term.

It’s in the Constitution.

I’ll repeat myself one more time to make it clear. President Bush is not running in 2008, and neither is the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Chief of Staff nor a single member of his administration.

Not even his wife.

Even the slate of hopefuls for the 2008 nomination is quietly (and some, like probable candidate-to-be Newt Gingrich, not so quietly) sneaking away from any association from or agreement with the fiasco that has been the Bush presidency. In fact the candidate who has worked the most closely with Bush & Co. has been Democrat Bill Richardson, former US Ambassador to the UN, a Clinton appointee, who has accepted various diplomatic missions for the current administration when asked.

But I hope that what Latifa Lyles, VP for membership with the National Organization for Women, meant by her recent remark that the ’08 vote will be a backlash against Bush is that the election will be a referendum against the Iraq war and all things related.

And that I’d agree with. Yet somehow I don’t think that that’s what she meant.

Yes, at this stage of the campaign, it’s almost a requirement that the Democratic candidates Bush-bash to beat the band. Because they know that throwing out a big old slab of red meat will rally the base faster than you can say “impeachment.”

What they are conveniently ignoring is that the current administration will be gone by the time the next punching bag – I mean president-elect – puts his or her hand on the Bible (or the Koran, for Barack Obama).

And then it will be time to look forward. At least I hope so.

Pushing the half-truth that the election is all about Bush does us no favors. It deflects the conversation from what comes next. After all, who wants to hear “boring” plans for nationalized health care when you can get a guaranteed quote on the news if you say that Bush got us into an illegal war and you’re going to make it right, or that you were against the war earlier than the other guy was against the war. So we can at least attempt to move on, the candidates have to get over something and they have to get over it now: They lost to Bush in 2000. They lost to Bush in 2004. It doesn’t matter any more.

What matters is what comes next.

And I’m one of those all-important woman voters waiting to be courted by a shiny Democratic hopeful. I want to know why you’re qualified for the job. I don’t give a flying hurrah how you were against the war now but not then, then but not now, whether you voted quietly or rancorously or while wearing a Richard Nixon mask, for Pete’s sake. And I don’t want to hear what a lousy job Bush is doing.

I already know that. I want to know what you’re going to do. I don’t want sound bites, or poll numbers, or spin.

I want to know where you stand on troop deployment. I want a long-range plan for giving Iraq back to the Iraqis. I want to know your views on immigration, on employment, on health care. Not every jot and tittle, because I know you’ll have to work with Congress and they have a way of chucking a president’s dreams off the White House balcony.

I want acknowledgment that despite the bumper stickers, some of us aren’t satisfied merely with “anyone but Bush.”

Maybe it looks as if the average citizen is too fat and happy to care about dull things like presidential elections. Like we’re all parked in front of American Idol waiting for the latest starlet’s trip to rehab. Heck, (as I've written before) even Cindy Sheehan gave up and went home. I don’t blame her. It can’t be easy standing out in the Texas heat holding up a banner when no one is paying attention.

But we’re just waiting for someone to raise the level of the discourse.

Or for a certain heiress to get released again. After all, we’ll always have Paris. (you had to know I was going to try to work that in somewhere)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Wrong Trousers

Apparently with the Anna Nicole Smith trial mostly straightened out and Paris Hilton in jail, lawyers are looking for something to do.

Or someone else to sue.

They’re scraping the bottom of the legal barrel with the case of the Roy Pearson, DC lawyer (excuse me, Administrative Law Judge) who is suing his dry cleaner for $54 million dollars for losing his pants.

And frankly I’m worried less about the state of rampant litigiousness in this country and more about this guy’s sanity.

Because not only has he brought this absurd case – which is something I’d expect to see on “Boston Legal” or “Ally McBeal” – but he is representing himself. Which either means that Pearson is deranged or he couldn’t get another lawyer to stop laughing long enough to choke out the words, “Get out of my office, you blithering unpanted fool.”

Heck, if I tried to sue everyone who caused me “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort,” I wouldn’t have time to put on my pants, let alone sue anyone over them.

But this gets even more ridiculous. Because Pearson has had dealings with the Chungs, the Korean dry cleaners, in the past. According to the defense attorney, Pearson was recompensed $150 in 2002 when they lost an earlier pair of pants (ironic, that in DC some have trouble keeping their trousers zipped, when this guy can’t even find his), and was banned from the store after, presumably, some exchange of words. Pearson “begged” to be let back in because he claimed he didn’t have a car and this was the only dry cleaner in his neighborhood. (has he not heard of the DC Metro?) Three years later he returned and yet another pair of pants went missing.

Now, for the average sensible person, this would be a sign not to do business with this particular dry cleaner ever again. Heck, get a taxi, get on the subway, find a dry cleaner near your place of employment, but don’t go back to these guys.

Pearson apparently didn’t make that link. Because he kept going there.

With this final pair, I guess Pearson had had enough. He and the three owners of the store kept swapping offers of recompense and the figures went higher and higher. The negotiations dragged on for two years and Pearson multiplied the damages by the number of days since the incident and by three for each of the three owners of the store, which is how he got the stupendously insane figure of $54 million. And that was knocked down from $67 million.

There hasn’t been this much fuss about a garment in Washington since a certain little blue dress.

Pearson’s claim got so huge that the first judge dropped the case, and now there will be a new one. What I want to know is why the first judge hadn’t dropped the case earlier. Every trial lawyer that has been interviewed calls it in embarrassment to the legal profession, so either the first judge had a sadistic streak and just wanted to see how ridiculous this case would get, or she’s just as deranged as Pearson in thinking the case has merit.

Meanwhile the Chungs have spent thousands of dollars defending themselves. So much sympathy has developed since the story first aired that there has been a massive Internet campaign to collect money for them.

And yet Pearson marches on. Pants or no pants. My hunch? As one in the legal profession, eventually all pairs of Pearson’s trousers will self-combust.

So a liar’s pants do indeed burst into flames.

Let that be a lesson to you.

If you're going to practice law, get yourself a few Nomex suits.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Right Message, Wrong Messenger

There are some who will always have an albatross around their necks, and no matter how many good deeds they do, the smell of that dead bird will follow them into the grave. Think about Bill Buckner, and the easy grounder that rolled through his legs to cost the Red Sox Game Six of the ’86 World Series. Think about Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick tragedy (Google it, kids).

Think about the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Actually, a lot of people who were living in the Mid-Hudson Valley in the 1980’s don’t want to think about Al Sharpton. It’s hard to shake memories of the damage he did with the Tawana Brawley case. Sharpton, along with lawyers Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, defended an African-American teenager who claimed a group of Dutchess County police officers sexually and racially attacked her. A year later Brawley admitted it was a hoax, which cost county residents hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and ruined the reputations of the accused officers, including then-assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones, who sued Sharpton for defamation and won.

The case, like many the reverend has become involved with, only served to deepen the racial divide, only served to hurt rather than heal, and only served to help Sharpton get more media attention.

I’m glad that he’s doing something positive with his new campaign to clean up the lyrics in hip-hop music (including collecting symbolic bars of soap), but from what I’ve seen of his actions, I can’t help but be skeptical.

Is Sharpton, given his past and his penchant for self-promotion, the right messenger for the task?

For instance, where was Sharpton when hip-hop jumped the tracks to the dark side in the early 90’s, going from energetic dance music to an in-your-face hand-grenade with lyrics glorifying shooting cops and rape? Was it not important to Sharpton then, to clean up the obscenities that were making their way into American pop culture?

Not then, apparently. Sharpton was spreading his own hate speech. In an address at Kean College in 1994, he said, “White folks was in caves while we was building empires ... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.” (Yet he’s leading a grassroots campaign to eliminate homophobia in the black church.)

Was it not important to Sharpton when “Gangsta” rappers were shooting each other dead and flooding the cosmic atmosphere with language I will not repeat here? Apparently it was only serious enough for him merely to make the occasional statement on his web site, even though the media had bestowed celebrity status upon him and he could have had the ears of so many more who were in a position to do something about the problem.

Or perhaps he was too busy whipping up hatred between African Americans and Jews following the Crown Heights riots. And again, in the Freddie’s Fashion Mart case in Harlem, where the Jewish tenant of clothing store wanted to evict his African-American subtenant. Sharpton told the protesters, "We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” Following this speech, one of the protesters burned down the store, killing seven customers and himself. Yet Sharpton, while regretting the violence and his use of “white interloper,” claimed no responsibility for inflaming the protesters.

Meanwhile rap lyrics were weaving their tentacles into the minds of our children. I lived in uptown Kingston around that time, and it seemed that every day I’d hear young African-American boys calling each other the “n” word. Once I asked a couple of the boys why they called each other such denigrating names. One of the kids looked at me like I had two heads and simply said, “It’s a black thing.”

But it wasn’t just a “black thing.” White kids, too, were quickly adopting the language, the culture, the giant pants hanging below their underwear. The words they used were a noxious cloud so impervious that I was afraid that some day soon I’d open my online dictionary and find them there.

And when Sharpton called for Don Imus’s resignation after the morning shock jock uttered his infamous comments about the Rutgers women’s’ basketball team, he was accused by Jason Whitlock, a Kansas City Star journalist, of using the victims to further his own agenda of raising his profile in the media. Instead of drawing attention to himself, Whitlock wrote, Sharpton should have been doing everything he could to clean up the lyrics of hip-hop music that glorify indignities toward women.

Yet at the same time Sharpton was criticizing Imus, the reverend was on the agenda to give an award to Island Def Jam music group, a record label that boasts foul-mouthed rapper Ludacris as one of its artists. But realizing how bad this would look, Sharpton had the good sense to cancel. It makes me wonder: when Sharpton had already begun his “campaign” against hip-hop lyrics, why he was on the award agenda at all?

How can we look upon Sharpton as a leader in the fight against hip-hop music when he’s lauding the creators at the same time, and when he can’t even keep his own hate speak in check?

Perhaps Sharpton should take one of those iconic bars of soap he hopes to collect and use it to clean up his own act first. Then use the rest to wash away the smell of the albatross still hanging around his neck.

Friday, June 08, 2007

It's Enough To Make You Crazy

Insomnia is a mental illness.

Or so my HMO says. And since my particular HMO, partially sponsored by New York State, does not cover mental health, in turn it won’t cover medications prescribed for mental health disorders.

This includes anti-depressants and sleep aids, which are commonly prescribed for conditions that have nothing to do with depression, anxiety or any other “mental illness.”

So since, by their classification, insomnia is a mental health disorder, and since insomnia is a side effect of both the perimenopause and fibromyalgia that I’m living with, then these disorders are mental illnesses.

I beg to differ. In fact I beg to differ so strongly I want to strap the person who thought of this into a chair and slap them very, very hard.

That said, I told my HMO that I would like to appeal their decision. I wanted to go off on them like Alec Baldwin, but then they might get the idea that I do have a mental illness, and would blacklist all of my medications.

Unfortunately I only had a limited amount of space in which to record my appeal, but if I had more room I would have told them that with one numerical classification, they’ve set back the Fibromyalgia Awareness movement back thirty years. All the studies that have been done, all the doctors weighing in, all the people living with fibromyalgia – forget the progress they’ve made. Let’s go back to the years when doctors thought you were crazy, that your symptoms were all in your head, that you just needed to get a hobby and get some exercise and a psychiatrist and get a life.

But I’m deluding myself if I believe HMOs are the business of helping people get the proper care they need. They’re in the business of refraining from spending money so they can make more money. They’re in the business of putting people into categories to make life easier for their employees and further help the companies hold onto their profits.

This must change.

But how? Everyone is making money out of this deal: the pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs, the doctors (though doctors aren’t making as much as people think), and the lobbyists and politicians. Whichever candidate or elected official truly gets elbow-deep into this muck will find that it is not the easy five-step plan they claimed it to be.

They might spend some sleepless nights fretting over it. And if the insomnia turns chronic, I hope they have better health insurance than I do.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way

As so many with more politically savvy minds than mine have noted, when the Democrats attained the majority in the 2006 mid-term elections, newly-elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi promised to do a lot of things in the first hundred days, one of which was to stop Bush from continuing the war.

I’m still waiting.

I learned enough from high school civics classes to know that aside from writing lots of angry Letters To The Editor, the only influence I truly have is over my own political representation: two Senators from my state and one Congressional Representative from my district. And, more specifically, in my power to get as many people as I can to choose the other guy (or gal) next time the elections come around.

And, occasionally, there are people like Cindy Sheehan, but she got tired and went home. I don’t blame her. I guess there’s only so long a person can bear to stand out in the Texas heat and wave a banner when no one is paying attention anymore.

As I’m really not the type to chain myself to a tree or get myself dragged away from a presidential speaking engagement wearing an uncomplimentary message on my t-shirt, I guess I’m stuck with the latter forms of influence.

However I’m not placing much faith in the hands of my two Senators. Hillary Clinton has already written New York off, although she “vowed” when reelected to finish out her term. We’re bluer than the blue sky of Wyoming, here. So she figures she doesn’t need to court our votes, and can spend all her time frantically trying to spin herself into a position that won’t alienate too many potential voters at either end of the political spectrum. However, she did “vow” to do something about the war “when” she becomes president.

Frankly I’m losing faith in her “vows.”

Then there’s Chuck Schumer. What rock did he crawl under? A check of his web site shows that he’s racking up frequent flier miles jetting around doing all kinds of wonderful things for the state (as he’s New York’s only working Senator these days). And that’s terrific. Go Chuck. He’s one of my favorites in Washington, if one can have such a thing. But one more wonderful thing he can do for the state is to keep our men and women from dying in Iraq by bringing them home. But his record shows that all of his committee involvements and legislative work is on domestic issues only. Re Iraq, other than a token (and very quiet) vote against the spending bill, he’s been laying as low as Don Imus.

My last hope is my own Congressional representative, Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, who is as left as they come. Here’s a taste of what he’s doing now:

1. Trying to reinstate the “Fairness Doctrine” (which requires political balance in public media) so he can get his mug on more Sunday talk shows and further his own agenda (most of which includes getting reelected).

2. Leading Congressional efforts to stop the Department of Energy from putting a 200-mile long power line through upstate New York.

3. Helping the House pass a bill to punish “gas gougers,” that is, fuel vendors who artificially inflate their prices. (also known as the piece of news that could have the most unintentionally funny headline of the week)

4. Pushed for answers in a “friendly fire” incident involving a local soldier. “It’s time for misleading answers and half-truths to end,” Hinchey said. “We must lift the cloud hanging over Eddie Ryan’s case and obtain the Bronze Star medals for the marines who put their own lives at risk in order to save Eddie.”

Which are all wonderful things. Any non-Republican looking at Hinchey’s record would be proud that he’s working so hard for us.

But my hopes were raised when I saw, in a note further down on his web site, mention that he voted against the Iraq spending bill. His explanation, taken from his web site:

"Congress has an obligation to our servicemen and women and the American people as a whole to use the power of the purse to end this illegal occupation of Iraq and bring our troops home. Unfortunately, the new Iraq spending measure fails to include withdrawal dates and readiness standards for our troops. This new spending measure pretty much amounts to a blank check for President Bush who has shown himself to be the most incompetent president in our country's history. It makes no sense to continue giving President Bush the keys to the car when he has repeatedly crashed into a wall with every other time.

"I fully recognize the tough position the House leadership faced in trying to put together a bill that would pass and ensure our troops in Iraq have the resources they need to stay safe. However, I personally cannot support a measure that does not come close to adequately holding President Bush accountable and does not put this country on a timeline for getting out of Iraq. I refuse to buy into this false argument that the only way to support the troops in Iraq is to fund their operations there. The real way to support our troops is to fully fund their withdrawal from Iraq. It is well past the time our troops begin to redeploy home and to other parts of the world where they are truly needed such as Afghanistan where the Taliban is regaining strength and al Qaeda continues to operate."

I agree with one or two things here. Yes. Absolutely. Fully fund a withdrawal from Iraq now. Get thy equipment on a bunch of C-5A Galaxys and get thine selves home.

But why can't they, those who are in the positions to do so, do anything more than bitch about what is or isn't happening?

I might be politically naïve, but don’t the Democrats have the keys to the car? Can’t they simply rise as the majority and take away the checkbook? Heck, deal with Bush’s accountability afterward, if that’s what’s holding up the legislation. He’s not going anywhere until the next sucker puts his or her hand on the Bible (or Koran, if the case may be).

If they feel so strongly about ending the war, why not simply push to get what needs to be done now? I’m not buying what Joe Biden tried to explain to Dennis Kucinich in last night’s debates, that they don’t have the 67 votes it would take to override a presidential veto so therefore they can't do anything. Can they still rise as a body and send a stronger message to the White House without denying the funds that the troops need to stay safe until WHOEVER grows a pair, writes some clear legislation and decides that this nonsense should come to an end?

Unless…unless Hinchey and Biden and Clinton and the other Democrats WANT to keep us in Iraq. So they can continue to hammer Bush about it, oh, right through the 2008 election or thereabouts, assuring that they get to keep their jobs. So when they get one of their own into the Oval Office, they can proclaim, like Hillary kept beating it into the ground last night, that this is “Bush’s War,” and they will be the big heroes and get out troops the heck out of there.

No. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. Would a responsible member of our government actually put his or her own office and keeping their party in power ahead of the life of a young man or woman in Iraq?

Now who would be that cynical?

Not me.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Attack with a Deadly Legume

The debate has now been settled, once and for all.

Guns don’t kill people.

Baked beans kill people.

Or at the very least, they can cause some nasty burns and a really big lawsuit.

But fortunately, if you have a lot of money and are a big celebrity, like Hugh Grant found out recently, you can make the lawsuit go away.

Only the stains are left behind.

But because Hugh Grant (despite the recent tossing out of the lawsuit for lack of corroborating evidence) might have intended to use the tub of baked beans as a weapon to repel photographer Ian Whittaker from snapping pix of ex Liz Hurley, the potentially dangerous picnic food should be added to the “no-fly” list and confiscated if found in passenger’s belongings.

After all, the trained professionals who pat us down with wands before we can get on the plane are going after food now. My mother told me that before a recent flight, security personnel gave her breakfast a once over, and said that they would not allow her to bring a small container of yogurt aboard.

When she asked why, she was told that she was “over the limit” for liquid-type products.

Yeah. I can just see a terrorist (in the form of my 5’2” mother) leap from her seat, grab the nearest flight attendant around the throat and threaten to hijack the plane using a plastic container of live and active yogurt cultures.

Yet they let her keep her banana.

And you can do a lot more damage with a banana than you can with yogurt. You could put someone’s eye out. Or slowly poison them from the pesticides in the peel.

But baked beans?

Hell. You don’t want them, or any kind of food aboard.

Just ask Ian Whittaker. Or my mother.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Lesser-Known Baseball Curse (updated 6/3)

You can’t help but feel bad for Armando Benitez. The Mets just spell poison for him. When he was in their bullpen, fans groaned when he was called in, because…well, because he just sucked, to be plain and simple. He blew more saves than a Kryptonite-addled Superman. Then he was sent to the Yankees. And much more quickly than the Mets’ front office had, the Yanks wised up and traded him to Seattle. He was bounced back to the Mets for the remainder of the 2003 season (only God and Brian Cashman knows why), but we’d had enough and he was packed off to Florida. Then something happened to him. We call it the “reverse curse.” Seems that when a mediocre-to-bad player is traded by the Mets, often he has the season of his career. It took getting out of New York for this to happen to him, And away from the fishbowl of the New York sports media, he shone, and came up with the lowest ERA of his career.

But every time he faced the Mets, something happened.

They knew how to get to him.

Unfortunately the reverse curse only seems good for a season, maybe two. And when Benitez wound up at San Francisco, every time he blew a save or walked in the winning run or just plain self-destructed, New York area reporters would say, “And Mets fans would have said, ‘we told you so.’”

Then the Giants came to Shea.

The pre-game coverage seemed to be dominated by one name – Bonds, Barry Bonds – and why he was sitting on the bench when nearly every Met fan with the transportation and the wherewithal had come to Shea to see the mega-man wield his bat, even if nearly every pitcher tries to pitch around him.

But it seemed like a pitchers’ duel broke out instead.

The two teams took a 3-3 tie into extra innings. When the Giants went ahead one run in the top of the twelfth, it looked like all was lost. While the Mets (I think) hold the record for extra-inning games, they don’t often win them. But this is a different Mets team this year. There seems to be something – and I hate to use this word – almost inevitable about them. From the camaraderie to the depth of their bench to the way they’re consistently winning, and that even when one of their big guns slumps, someone else picks up the slack.

But when the Giants called Benitez in to finish the game, hope in Shea sprang eternal once more. You have to thank Jose Reyes’ deadly speed on the bases - and the Mets’ knowledge of what rattles Benitez’s cage - for the tying run. He drew a walk, danced around threatening to steal, which unnerved Benitez enough so that he balked Jose to second. Endy Chavez sacrificed to move Reyes to third, and in a repeat performance, Armando balked in the tying run.

Then red-hot Carlos Delgado unloaded a walk-off homer – his second four-bagger of the night - to win the game.

And Armando, now 0-3 on the season, could do nothing but watch the ball sail over the fence, and his Mets’ curse continue.

Editor's note: Benitez was traded back to the Marlins last week. Let's hope he can get his groove back there.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Race Day

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a more fitting way to show support for the men and women who gave their lives for their country than for 43 guys to climb into fireproof suits, don helmets, get installed into souped-up cars and race around an oval track for a few hundred miles.

Or, a few hundred miles north-northwest in Indianapolis, for 33 guys and gals (go, Danica!) to suit up and do the same.

Oh, but they do sing the “National Anthem” first (and Jim Nabors sings at Indy), so I guess that makes it all right. And they’ll probably all take a moment of silence to remember our fallen heroes while a squadron of F-18s flies overhead.

Yeah, OK, Husband is a big fan and I, while not quite that excited about NASCAR and Indy, have been known to sit down and watch for a few dozen laps, and have learned enough of the terms to impress the neighborhood guys.

But we always seem to let the actual meaning of holidays get lost in the shuffle. Yes, there’s the small town parade, the ceremonies, the laying of wreaths. Then we rush home to start the barbecue, watch the race, vegetate in front of the war movie marathon on TV, or just enjoy a day off from work.

Or, like all good Americans, we go to the mall.

I’m not saying we should sit shiva for the troops who made the ultimate sacrifice, but just take a moment to think about why you have the day off before you head to the beach or start warming up your credit card.

Because you know the media won’t. You’ll see coverage of war protests. And in the presidential race, you’ll see every single candidate get into a fireproof suit and…no, wait, that was the other race. But you’ll see every candidate who can get his or her face in front of a camera lay a wreath and make a speech pontificating their views on the best way to support the troops.

But come on, wouldn’t you like to see Mitt Romney and Hillary and Obama get into Nomex suits and really race each other? The Repubs could bump-draft each other to try to get the lead and you know Guiliani and Clinton will be trading paint until the checkered flag.

Damn straight it would be more fun to watch than the debates.

Friday, May 25, 2007

On Being An “01”

A couple months back, Husband and I were forced, due to the termination of my COBRA benefits, to search for alternative health insurance that one, wouldn’t bankrupt us; and two, would cover most of our needs.

We found one, a stripped-down version of our “current” HMO, offered through the state of New York at about half the price of a “standard” HMO for individuals. It didn’t offer mental health coverage, but if we wanted health insurance, we had no other choices.

After much research and many phone calls to this company, I decided that it would be in our best interest to buy the insurance under the aegis of our being sole proprietors. Doing this would give us, supposedly, more benefits for the same price as if we bought it as individuals. And as I was just starting up as a freelancer and Husband was a well-established sole proprietor, we applied for the insurance under his name.

At the time, I had no problems with this. For a variety of reasons, and for some, who the hell knows why, some household bills and investments are primarily in his name and some are primarily in mine. It just worked out that way.

But the insurance, as I’d been the one with the steady jobs, was always in my name.

We even had our first problem with the HMO, which had to do with which prescription drugs were covered and which weren’t (it will require another blog to vent about this). And all during those phone calls, when every time another person picked up the line I was required to supply my account number, it didn’t bother me that the insurance was in Husband’s name.

Until this morning.

The prescription drug coverage argument eventually came down to my doctor being required to submit a preauthorization letter to the HMO so that the certain drug they wouldn’t cover would be covered.

I’d talked to my doctor’s assistant about it yesterday afternoon and she agreed to do it, except that this morning she called back and needed my new ID number. After I read it off to her, she said, “Are you the 00 or the 01?” Meaning was I the primary carrier on the insurance or the “domestic partner,” as they so politically correctly called it.

I felt my shoulders sag. “I’m the 01,” I said.

I’m the 01. I know, it really means nothing. Just like it means nothing that his name appears over mine on our mortgage and I’m the “junior owner” on our investments.

But at the time, assigned a number that put my name below my husband’s, I became “the wife.” Subordinate. Dependent. In the kitchen with my pearls and apron.
And for about ten seconds, I hated it. I hated the position I know felt myself boxed into by that one little digit.

I’ve struggled with “the dependency thing” since I lost my source of steady income. And I thought I was, if not completely OK with it, at least arriving at some sort of peace within myself.

I guess I’m not quite done yet.

But, just like Patrick McGoohan always says in the intro to “The Prisoner,” I am not a number. I am a human being. One that might have to have my name below my husband’s for a while, but still, a human being.

But, for the sake of computer records, you can just call me “01.”

Just don’t ever expect to see me in the kitchen wearing pearls and an apron.