Sunday, February 25, 2007

“What’s in that vial?” or The Unmarked Container Law

Earlier this week we received a dinner invitation from some friends who live just short of an hour north of here. It had been so long since we were out on a Saturday night, and longer since we’d seen them. It’s a bit challenging for me to travel even that short a distance sometimes, but worth it to get out to see friends for a night of fun.

We stayed later than I’d expected – after a leisurely (and very good) dinner we went back to our friends’ apartment for dessert (excellent rum cake) and to look at some photos of the property where they will be building their dream house – and Husband drove home, with me close to comatose in the passenger seat. One of the last things we joked about before we parted was that if we should get pulled over, we could set off a Breathalyzer from that cake. And if so, we should offer the nice officer a serving (from the section of the cake we were sent home with).

Anyhow, halfway through our trip, I needed to get out of the car and stretch my legs. That may sound odd, as I was nearly too exhausted to move, but it had been a long evening of not too much moving and a lot of sitting – in the car on the way up, in the restaurant, in the apartment - and now sitting again in the car, I was stiffening up again (The “usual” fibro care recommendation is to get up and move around every half hour or so).

We were driving through an area where most things were closed and it was very cold outside and I was thinking about what supermarkets might be on the way where I could walk inside. And as I was thinking about this, Husband said there was a cop behind us.

And then his lights started flashing.

Husband (good boy) pulled over immediately.

“I did take that last turn a little fast,” Husband said to me. “Damn, we’re going to get a ticket, I just know it.”

We waited.

Husband, most politely, greeted the officer (good boy), as the flashlight blared into our car.

After the usual questions about if we’d been drinking and where we’d come from (to determine if we were actually drunk, I imagine) he said, “I stopped you because you have no front license plate.” he said.

I said a few swear words to myself for my negligence. The car had been my mother’s. The car used to live in Florida. I’d changed the registration, the title, got an inspection, replaced the back license plate but (as Florida does not require a front license plate, and New York does) had not gotten around to having the other plate mounted on the front of the car. That plate was (and still is) bouncing around somewhere in the back of my car, because it kept falling off of the dashboard.

Husband explained the situation to him. But apparently this wasn’t enough. State Troopers are tougher than the local cops. He pointed the flashlight into the back.

“What’s in that drug vial back there?” he said.

“What drug vial?” I said, totally flummoxed.

Husband rummaged around on the floor behind me. “This one?” he said, and handed it to the officer.

The officer took it and held it up for my view. It was one of those plastic amber vials prescription drugs come in. Minus all the labeling. “What’s this?” he asked.

I squinted to see it better. “I think that’s my Skelaxin.” My stomach tightened. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember why that was on the floor of my car. I took Skelaxin a while back, and often if I were going out for an afternoon, I’d take whatever drugs I might need along in an empty drug vial (I routinely peel the labels off the vials and save them for this purpose, or just recycle them). But I don’t remember ever just leaving one in the car. Yes, I’d carry them in my purse, and maybe once a vial had fallen out. I am not the most diligent person about cleaning my car.

“What’s that?” the officer said.

“It’s a muscle relaxant,” I said, and Husband stepped in to explain that his wife had fibromyalgia.

The officer continued to examine it. “Is it a controlled substance?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. Thank God it didn’t contain two of my other drugs, which are controlled substances, which I take legally, of course.

He asked why the container had no labels. I explained about the vials, as I mentioned to you before. And that when I recycle them, I wouldn’t want anyone to get my personal information.

Then he asked Husband for his license and registration and disappeared with my Skelaxin.

Husband said a few swear words. “We’re going to get a ticket, I know it,” he said once more.

It was a long wait. We said little. The window was still open, the car was off, and we were getting cold.

After what seemed like forever, the officer came back.

He told us to get the license plate on. And he told us to keep our drugs in their original bottles. “If I wanted to, I could take you in on this,” he said, holding up the vial. “According to Public Health Law, you can’t carry prescription drugs in unlabelled containers.”

I apologized. I told him I had no idea. Which was the truth. Who knew this could land me in jail? Doesn’t everybody do it? It seemed ridiculous. To get thrown into the slammer for packin’ Skelaxin.

“Why don’t you carry the original container?” he asked.

I explained that it was too big. Which was true. Skelaxin is dispensed in big-ass bottles almost as tall as a drinking glass, and if I’m going out and think I might need a half a pill (which is about all I can tolerate of the stuff), I don’t want to load up my purse with the ginormous drug vial.

“Do you have a doctor’s prescription for this?”

“Yes,” I said.

And he let us go with a warning.

And we slowly drove away. And Husband reminded me at least three times before we got to Kingston not to take the pills out of the house in unmarked containers. OK. I get it.

I’m just glad my purse was in the trunk. Because if he’d searched that he’d find a unlabelled drug vial with half a Trileptal (one of the cocktail of drugs I take for the fibro), another with about half a dozen Tylenol, a baggie with about a dozen Motrin, a Lidoderm patch (gasp) outside of it’s prescription-labeled box (I mean, come one, the patches come in a box as big as a John Irving novel. I’m supposed to keep this in my purse?) and God knows what else.

And I’m going to clean out my car today. If I get around to it.

Anyway, let that be a lesson to you. Even if I think it’s a stupid law, it’s still the law. Though if I get caught with a Tylenol in a Ziploc, I hope some judge would have the good sense to send me home. But with our current luck, I’d get that guy from the Anna Nicole trial.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


I’m a little late with some kind of acknowledgement of the one-year anniversary of my adventures in blogsville, but I’m finally getting to it. I’d planned to post answers to questions many of you (OK, a couple of you) have been asking about me, and the blog, and how everything is going here on the hill.

Q: Who the heck is Gargamel and why are you rooting for him?

A: Those of a certain age might remember the Smurfs, a Saturday morning cartoon from the late 70s that featured some very irritating little blue characters, called, oddly enough, Smurfs. A bunch of guy Smurfs lived in their little Smurf village with one Smurfette, which people though was kind of…well, a bit unfortunate and not really fair at best, and kind of sick at worst. Their arch enemy was Gargamel, this twisted guy who looked like a monk on the wrong medication, and he was continually plotting ways to get the Smurfs. I don’t remember why (perhaps he merely thought them too irritating to live), but å la the Coyote and the Roadrunner, Gargamel’s complex plots were always thwarted. I (and many people I know) secretly rooted for Gargamel to squish all the Smurfs into little blue road pizzas. Hence the name.I was also psyched on a Google search to find out that "Gargamel" is also the name of an American rock band and a Norwegian "progrock" band.

Q: What’s with the penguins?

A: I was (still am, when I can find it, or what it morphed into) a big fan of the comic strip Bloom County. Particularly Opus P. Penguin. Op starting showing up as a stuffed toy in the stores in the mid 80s, and Gladys (a frequent commenter to RFG) bought me my first. He became my “buddy” when I lived in Boston (remember “The Velveteen Rabbit?”), and soon, more followed. Once, as a Christmas present for a couple of Husband’s friends (this was about the time of the Jamaican Bobsled Team), we bought two plain small Ops and converted them, with yarn dreadlocks, little Hawaiian shirts, and sunglasses, into Rasta Ops, and packaged them in burlap sacks stenciled “Jamaica” on them. Don’t know what happened to them over time, but we’ve got a good dozen or so of the little guys (and some not so little) scattered throughout the house. They get a little demanding when it comes to fish and Pop Tarts, but other than that, they’re easy to keep.

Q: What’s fibromyalgia and how are you doing with it?

A: For a full explanation of what fibro is, check out this article I wrote for AC. I have good stretches and bad, and right now I’m just gritting my teeth and waiting for spring (fibro doesn’t like the cold). Fortunately, there’s getting to be a lot more good information out there (books and on the web) and I’m working on an article about what to do when you first learn you have it. Thanks for asking.

Q: You talk about this Husband guy but we never hear from him. What’s the deal with that?

A: He reads some of my posts, and has commented one or two times, but says he “lives” each blog entry so therefore doesn’t feel he needs to read or respond to each one. But check out his own rantings at The Happy In Hell Radio Show. Leave a comment. He likes to feel needed. ;)

Q: Whatever happened with that sleep study?

A: This question refers to an entry I posted about going through a sleep study (All Hail The Borg Queen). Not much was revealed. I don’t have sleep apnea or any kind of nocturnal arrhythmias, which I guess are the big kahunas they’re looking for. It also speculated that I shouldn’t eat too close to bedtime. (then why the heck do they call them “bedtime snacks?”) So basically, it was a night connected to an oxygen sensor and a lot of electrodes with a camera inserted into my sleep mask and a microphone in my mouth. Which here at the Playhouse we call “Tuesday.”

Anyhow…thanks for reading, and thank you for your support. Especially to Highlander for getting me started. It’s been a great year. Especially for penguins.

But not so much for Gargamel.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Decline and Fall Continues

Enough, already.

I’m growing more and more appalled at the attention the Anna Nicole Smith trial is getting in the media. We are surely past the apex of our civilization when someone thinks it would be entertaining to televise – let alone bring into a court of law – a suit arguing who gets custody of a freakin’ corpse. No wonder the rest of the world thinks so badly of us. And surely this is another argument for the removal of cameras in the courtroom. We didn’t learn our lesson from the Simpson trial, so now we are only left to reap what we have sewn, lay in our own beds, pick the cliché of your choice.

Now they’re arguing not who the father is, but what district has the jurisdiction to argue paternity.

And, for those people who can’t be glued to their TVs, you can get the trial in streaming video on your computer.

I am growing closer and closer to running over my television in the driveway.

And as I’m down a little tire tread from a previous incident (see yesterday’s blog), perhaps now would be a good time. Since I may have to replace them anyway.

Husband just made a good point. That if we, as a culture, have nothing better to do than obsess about this trial, then we can’t be doing so badly.

But I say that we aren’t doing as well as he surmises, and this trial is merely serving as a convenient distraction. Perhaps a plot by the Bush administration? Hmm. Could W be the father?

Here’s an idea: Apparently there are not enough people being blown up to get our populace sufficiently riled and for the politicians to take action. So tell Al Qaeda to forget about the suicide bombers and IEDs. Figure out a way to take out our television networks. Particularly Fox. Imagine the weight of public outcry when they can’t watch “American Idol.” Then hit our Internet access. Start with “My Space,” “YouTube,” and then, if that’s not enough, go after the porn.

Then you’ll get people taking to the streets with pitchforks.

Hey, I’m just one citizen trying to make a difference.

And here at the Playhouse, the electronics whammy lives on. I woke up to no heat. Not upstairs, or down. OK, I could accept it if the downstairs furnace was on the fritz, since that one was original issue when we bought the house nine years ago (Cripes, has it already been nine years???), but the upstairs one is only two years old and was recently serviced. Husband checked the propane tank and we’re almost down to the red line, and none of the pilot lights (both furnaces and the water heater) are lit.

Propane is on the way as I write this. Let’s hope that’s the only problem.

Or at least pray that the next whammy takes out the satellite feed from the trial. Maybe if we pray hard enough together, it just might happen.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

There’s stuck and then there’s…STUCK

I heard this morning that despite the Valentine’s Day storm, this winter Boston has received merely 14% of its usual snowfall totals. A welcome respite for many of its denizens, as last year was a back-breaking record-buster.

Here, too, in the Valley, we haven’t been faring much better this season. Well, of course, if you’re not a big fan of the white stuff, you’ve been in hog-heaven. I’m not a skier, nor especially wild about winter driving, but I’d hoped to try snow-shoeing, and I guess I’m going to have to wait until next year to give it a whirl. But I do like that feeling of being snugly snowed in, with food and cable and electricity, while the world becomes a snow-globe.

Somehow being trapped in the house is fine when there’s a snowstorm. It’s fate. There’s nothing I can do, so I might as well look out the window at the snow piling up and make another cup of hot tea and get out the journal or a DVD or the book I’ve been meaning to delve into.

But getting stuck in the house is different when the roads are passable.

This happened last week.

We had a spate of bad household karma. Mercury must have been in retrograde, the gods of things mechanical were not smiling on us, or it was just one giant coincidence, but one after another, things malfunctioned or broke.

• As Fred the Plowman left the run-up to our driveway a mess (For those of you who have not had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with our driveway, it hooks backward from the road, goes uphill rather steeply and around a curve into a circular drive which (finally) is flat. The "winter strategy" is to pass the house, turn around in the neighbor's driveway, then gun it up ours so you don't get stuck.) I spun out halfway up, tried to back down, got stuck in a snowbank and had to be rescued by Husband. He wailed on the tires for a while, trying to get out of the snowpack, then managed to back up all the way down, turned around in the neighbor's drive, then summoned the spirit of his favorite NASCAR driver and pedaled-to-the-metal all the way up. It was a bit embarrassing for me, and fortunately, the car is no worse for wear, although minus a little tire rubber.

• My bad luck with hot beverages continued when a full mug of tea (a mixture of ginger and detox) accidentally tipped over into the keyboard, shorting it out and confusing the computer to the point where Husband had to drag it to Mac repair-land. (for the sake of brevity, I’m leaving out the sequence of events that lead up to the vein on Husband’s forehead throbbing) Fortunately, the computer was only confused to the point where it didn’t cost too much money to make it right again. And the keyboard, once Husband took it apart and dried it, was fine.

• My treadmill started rumbling like a magnitude 6.2 when I reached my usual walking speed. But it only needed a minor adjustment and a good cleaning and I was off and…er…walking again.

But right between these two problems came the largest. My automatic garage door broke. Not merely broke, but both wires snapped and the door could not even be opened manually (like we have to do when we have a power failure). And, we found out later, what sounded like a loud THUMP and shook the house on Saturday night was actually the sound of the main garage door spring giving way from metal fatigue. God knows where the remains wound up. But a very good thing neither of us were in the garage at the time.

Of course this happened on a Sunday, when the outfit that “fixed it” a few months before wasn’t open.

I hadn’t planned on going out that day at all. I’d had a relatively busy week, and was looking forward to a day just resting and puttering around the house and not driving.

But just knowing that I COULDN’T leave the house made me want to escape as if I were a caged animal. I could have clawed the walls down. It took me back to the days when my back hurt so badly I couldn’t get out and would just stare out doors and windows with my fingertips against the glass, feeling oddly like a dog waiting for its owner to return.

But with some deep breathing and meditation, somehow I made it through.

And the next day we got the repair guy to come and rescue me.

And I thought again about how, in this age of having everything you want right away, how dependant we are on our electronic whos-its and gizmos. (while I type this on one computer, transfer it electronically to my laptop, then post it on the web…) That the world comes to a halt when the computer goes away for a while. And like I secretly enjoy the silence of blackouts, I kind of like when there’s no computer, too. (as long as I know it’s not out having hundreds of dollars of repairs and it will be back soon) It forces us to remember what it was like not having this electronic umbilicus we plug into each day. Not that I don’t enjoy the benefits of instant communications, (I’m rather fond of this blog, and like the idea of monitoring my page hits on AC and making a few dollars writing some article or whatever while looking out the window at some beautiful scenery) but sometimes it takes a few deep breaths away to appreciate them.

And read a book. And actually…talk to each other.

And no, I didn’t spill the tea into the keyboard on purpose.

Monday, February 19, 2007

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up…OK, Maybe You Can…

This morning’s news was too ridiculous to let pass without some serious mocking.

They’ve got medication for that

The headline, before the commercial, was that a man who works for IBM was fired for cruising adult chat room sites on the web during working hours.

When that’s all I knew, I thought it was absurd. A while back, an IBM employee had sex with his secretary on a desk and wasn’t even fired. In fact, he was promoted. (for a time in IBM’s history, kicking someone upstairs was akin to kicking someone out)

Then the details were revealed. James Pacenza, 58, is suing IBM for five million dollars for wrongful termination, because, according to his lawyers, the man has post traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, and is addicted to sex and the internet for self-medication. He is also citing protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act. He also claims that IBM “encouraged” him to use the internet at work to “self-medicate.” And his lawyer is also hinting that the firing could have been a case of age discrimination.

Now, come on. First, anyone with this many problems might benefit from Zoloft and a therapist. Then, they should either be out on full disability or working part-time, and definitely not working on any projects that might be a part of anything that might potentially fail and kill me or my loved ones because he was too busy getting off to check that, say, the measurement between the ventilation ports was in inches, not centimeters.

And why does such a large, international, web-savvy company such as IBM not have something as simple as a utility that blocks access to these sites? I worked for a company of 150 and they had one. It was even so sophisticated that it would only allow access to certain sites (such as those where you could pick up your personal e-mail) during lunch or break times.

IBM countered by saying that the ADA does not cover sexual behavior disorders.

Otherwise half of Congress would be claiming ADA protection.

They’ve got medication for that, too

Didn’t we prove with the death of Princess Diana that too much media attention can kill? (Or at the very least, drive someone mad, the public included) Yes, the jury is still out whether or not people who need this attention gravitate to the spotlight or whether it’s the spotlight that does it. So Britney Spears is having a little…shall we say, tantrum at the moment. She’s getting divorced, has a couple of kids at home. Isn’t she kind of due for an outburst like this? What woman hasn’t had the urge to shave her head and get a tattoo after a difficult breakup? And she’s doing it all with a camera in her face. The shame of this, though, is not as much with the paparazzi as with the media coverage. Let people who “care” about Britney (or like watching train wrecks) tune into MTV or the entertainment networks and tabloids to check on the latest status of what she drank while she was getting inked or how she sheared herself when the stylist refused. Let them bid for her locks on e-Bay. But to see this played out in the national networks? The “news” channels? To watch Meredith Vieira interview a psychologist to get her insights on whether Britney is having a “true” nervous breakdown? Please. Stop. Now. Isn’t there a hiker stuck on Mt. Hood or a suicide bomber blowing himself up or something more important you should be covering? It really, truly, makes me want to put my television in the driveway and run over it several times.

And don’t make me do that. I can’t afford new tires.

Hey, maybe I could sue NBC for that. Say that I was driven over the brink by their coverage of not just Spears’ potential breakdown but speculation over the paternity of Anna Nicole’s daughter. That now I have PTSD and am addicted to NPR and internet crossword puzzles (as long as none of their clues is “Britney.”)

Anyone know a good lawyer?

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Words for 2007

As I'm working on other projects today, I leave you these "New Words for 2007." which a friend e-mailed to me. I wish I knew the source. Some of them are pretty clever.

1. BLAMESTORMING : Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
2. SEAGULL MANAGER: A manager, who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.
3. ASSMOSIS: The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard
4. SALMON DAY : The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.
5. CUBE FARM : An office filled with cubicles.
6. PRAIRIE DOGGING : When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people's heads pop up over the walls to see what's going on.
7. MOUSE POTATO : The on-line, wired generation's answer to the couch potato.
8. SITCOMs: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. What Yuppies get into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids.
9. STRESS PUPPY : A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
10. SWIPEOUT: An ATM or credit card that has been rendered usel ess because magnetic strip is worn away from extensive use.
11. XEROX SUBSIDY : Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one's workplace.
12. IRRITAINMENT: Entertainment and media spectacles that are Annoying but you find yourself unable to stop watching them.
13. PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE : The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again. Often feel like doing this to my computer------
14. ADMINISPHERE : The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.
15. 404 : Someone who's clueless. From the World! Wide Web error Message "404 Not Found," meaning that the requested si te could not be located.
16. GENERICA : Features of the American landscape that are exactly the same no matter where one is, such as fast food joints, strip malls, and subdivisions.
17. OHNOSECOND : That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you've just made a BIG mistake. (Like after hitting send on an email by mistake).
18. WOOFS : Well-Off Older Folks.
19. CROP DUSTING : Surreptitiously passing gas while passing through a Cube Farm.
- Author Unknown

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ice, Ice, Baby

As we are being pelted with ice this Valentine’s Day (and before we lose power), I want to share a memory of another Valentine’s Day, many years ago, when Husband and I were not yet married.

In fact we hadn’t been living together very long at all, since I’d moved back from Boston only a year or so past. At long last I’d landed a full time job I liked, in an advertising agency in Rhinebeck, down the highway a tad and across the river from Saugerties, where we lived with his mother and his dog and (for a time) his sister.

And I didn’t know it yet, but Husband-to-be had a surprise in store for me that Valentine’s Day. He’d made dinner reservations and booked a room at the beautiful, historic (and romantic) Beekman Arms, which was just around the corner from where I worked. He said he wanted to take me to dinner in Rhinebeck and he’d pick me up at the office (VD was plum-smack in the middle of the work-week that year). When he arrived, not only did he tell me what he’d done but also surprised me further having packed up a complete business-appropriate outfit for the next day (well, the blouse didn’t quite go with the pants, and the shoes…heck, I just give the guy props for thinking ahead). Not only would this be perfectly wonderfully romantic, he’d thought, but probably thought also that we could sleep in the next morning since the agency was literally a hop, skip and a jump away.

There was one thing he didn’t plan for. (Actually, two, but I’ll get to the other one later.) Since the ad agency was very tiny and on a very tight budget, there were no bucks in the coffers for things like couriers and overnight packages when items being delivered fell within driving distance of an employee’s normal commute. And earlier that afternoon, I’d promised my co-worker that I would pick up some film she needed from our photographer in Kingston on my way in the next morning. And now, since Husband and I would be waking up just a hop, skip and jump away from the agency, I’d have to wake up even earlier in order to hop, skip and jump over the river and through the woods to the photographer’s house we go and back again in time for Janette to make the printer’s deadline on her project.

OK, I let that go. We still had a romantic dinner ahead of us, and an actual night in an actual inn all to ourselves, and I didn’t want to ruin it by thinking of the next morning.

And it was nice. Dinner was served beside a roaring fireplace, then we retired to our room (in a private little annex building in back of the inn). Except I remember at one point waking up in the wee hours, Husband sleeping soundly next to me, and hearing the sound of ice pelting the roof of the inn.

Which was another thing he didn’t plan for. An ice storm. A navigatable bit of snow was in the forecast, nothing to sweat about, but this was one of those February surprises. I went back to sleep, hoping it was just a dream, but when I woke again, I saw it was true. A good half-inch of ice had coated the world. The inn. The roads. And both of our cars.

But I was not yet a recovering workaholic at the time, and gol’ darn it, I was going to chip out my car and drive to Kingston and pick up that film and drive it back to Rhinebeck.

Fortunately, I didn’t hit anything, but the drive was dicey. And I made it to work, film in glove, albeit a little late, but boy, I would like that morning back. I’d have called Janette at home, said that going anywhere would be completely ridiculous, suggest she arrange a courier and expense it under “acts of God,” and then I’d snuggle back under the covers beside my future husband. And when we got up, we’d call room service for breakfast. And when we were good and ready (or checkout time, whichever came first), we’d say our goodbyes, and hopefully by then the road crews would have worked their magic.

And twenty years later we have another ice storm. On this Valentine’s Day, Husband wakes up, shuffles into my computer room to grumble “Happy VD.” He’s grumpy. The ice on the roof kept waking him up. I sleep with earplugs, so I can afford the charity to like the sound now. It makes me feel safe and protected, snuggled dry and warm into my house with hot tea and heat, with no cars to chip out and nowhere to go. I’m missing a massage appointment, which annoys me mildly, but I’ll reschedule it for another day.

He’s gone downstairs to start the coffee IV. And I’m upstairs, remembering another storm, another time, a time with surprises that were good and sweet instead of the bad kind that hit you like bricks in the face. Remembering fireside dinners, and when being iced in alone together in a romantic hotel room would have been enough.

But we have a different kind of warmth and safety now. In knowing that every morning he’ll come into my room to say hello, and be just downstairs.

In any kind of weather.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Let's Hear It For The Boy!

I’m pleased to announce that at long last, Husband is taking his bloviations to the world of blogination!

Check out his blog, The Happy In Hell Radio Show, and let him know what you think!

(Note: The opinions expressed on The Happy In Hell Radio Show do not necessarily reflect those of Opus P. Penguin or any of her parent companies.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Where to start, where to start…

Pelosi One

You might have heard this one already, but the current administration originally agreed to give Nancy Pelosi access to an Air Force jet and services “to the equivalent of” what was used by her predecessor, Dennis Hastert. Hastert used a small Air Force commuter-sized jet to get from Washington to his district in Illinois.

But apparently this was not good enough for the current speaker. Or, shall I say, big enough to provide room for her staff, delegation, family members and various hangers-on to be shuttled back and forth non-stop from San Francisco to Washington or wherever else she would like to take them at the taxpayer’s expense. But the type of military jet she wants not only seats 120 and has a conference facility, an entertainment system and luxury sleeping accommodations for the primary passenger, but Air Force models that can fly from Washington to San Francisco non-stop are in short supply, as most of them currently carry various things back and forth from Iraq.

Even though Rep. John P. Murtha, chairman of House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, urged those Pentagon officials who grant such requests to give House Speaker Pelosi what she wanted, Pelosi’s office immediately accused them of sexism for not granting it soon enough.

Republican critics say she’s abusing the perks of her power, and have also called this request, if granted, “a flying Lincoln Bedroom.” And that it would be the equivalent of the same type of Air Force jet service that the president and vice-president are provided, essentially making this craft “Pelosi One,” said republican Rep. Patrick McHenry

And sources say that it’s likely that she’ll get it.

And I don’t know why she shouldn’t. Hastert only had to fly to Illinois. California is a heck of a lot farther away. Even though Bill Clinton might have been able to get away with touching down on tarmac to get a haircut, Pelosi would never get away with such a stunt.

So why make her stop to refuel?

Anyway…the media ought to leave this story alone and get on to more important news, like…

Enough already! You'd think she was a Kennedy!

Anna Nicole Smith’s whole life has been a tragedy. The media have been falling all over themselves to get dirt, to get autopsy results…the crowd of microphones waiting for the coroner was so dense I wondered who was covering the war.

The real tragedy is a child now bereft of a mother, a step-brother, and with her paternity a question mark.

My opinion is that Zsa Zsa’s husband is claiming parentage only because she needs the money. And it’s been too long since she’s punched out a cop, so she also needs the attention.

And it’s only going to get uglier.

Speaking of not having to stop to refuel…or love means never having to pepper-spray your rivals

John Glenn was the first astronaut to orbit the earth. Neil Armstrong was the first astronaut to land on the moon. Sally Ride was the first woman astronaut in space. But Lisa Nowick has the honor of becoming the first astronaut to be charged with a major crime. As well as the first astronaut, as far as the media knows, to drive from Houston to Orlando wearing a trench coat, wig and a diapers (so she wouldn’t have to stop for restroom breaks) so she could apparently do bodily harm to a romantic rival with a BB gun, pepper spray, a steel mallet, a knife, rubber tubing and large plastic garbage bags. And that’s only what they caught her with.

According to police, Nowak saw Claire Shipman as a rival for the affections of fellow astronaut William Oefelein. Nowak, a divorced mother of three, trained with the unmarried Oefelein but claimed not to have a romantic relationship with him. But, she claimed, they were more than friends. And, when arrested, was armed with e-mails between Oefelein and Shipman and a love letter Nowak wrote to Oefelein. And Nowak claimed she’d only driven that distance to “talk” to Shipman.

"If you were just going to talk to someone, I don't know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray," according to Orlando police sergeant Beth Jones.

Hey, maybe if she had Nancy Pelosi’s jet, she wouldn’t have needed the diapers.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why I'm Really, Really Sick of Tom Cruise

Apparently I’m one of the few people in this world who don’t give a rat’s rump if Tom Cruise is gay, straight, a Scientologist, married, divorced, jumping on people’s couches, or whatever. Forget about rumors of his marrying Nicole Kidman as a dodge to cover his sexual preference. I think it’s just a dodge to cover up the fact that he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. Even if said paper bag were on fire.

And the thing is, he knows it. Which is how he’s made a boatload of money and become an uber-celeb: by choosing roles that keep him within his very limited range.

Because Tom Cruise – entourage in tow, photographed more often than Britney Spears or any member of the British royal family, his star (and teeth) so big and bright that he can be seen with the naked eye from other planets, so “wonderful” that either the National Enquirer or People Magazine would be awash in material if they were to do a special issue on his “greatness” – reached his acting peak playing a teenager dancing in his underwear in Risky Business .

OK, maybe again, fully clothed, in Rain Man.

But ever since then, the most successful roles that Tom Cruise has had was when he was playing…Tom Cruise. You know the guy. That flashy guy with the swagger on the outside who eventually caves – to an autistic brother, to a child, to a woman, or, you know, morality – and becomes “a better man.” And that’s what made films like Top Gun, Jerry McGuire, The Color of Money, and Rain Man so successful - because Cruise was acting within his limitations. Writer and critic Dorothy Parker could have been talking about Cruise when she commented (in another context) that his range “ran the gamut from A to B.”

Also, any generic action hero could have starred in Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, the Last Samurai or Mission: Impossible and all of its sequels. Stick Keanu Reeves or Vin Diesel in there and nobody would have noticed. And Cocktail was essentially Risky Business set in a bar.

When Cruise has chosen roles that require him to stretch beyond his safety net, he’s fallen flat on his pretty face. I didn’t buy him for a second as the vampire Lestat in Interview With The Vampire (despite author Anne Rice’s full-page apology for doubting his talents). Nicole Kidman carried him in Far and Away and Eyes Wide Shut. Maybe this is why she decided to divorce him, and stop carrying him for good. And in The Firm, and Born on the Fourth of July. he just looked like he was trying too hard.

Yes, critics were whispering “Oscar” for Magnolia, and Cruise won some minor awards for Best Supporting Actor, but this was just another instance of Cruise playing Cruise, which is why he came off smelling like a rose.

It’s a cliché that all actors secretly want to direct or produce or write. And now that Cruise is going to run United Artists Film Studio, he has his own chance to be behind the camera.

I’d vote that he stay there, and let the paparazzi chase someone with real talent. Or, you know, Paris Hilton.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Spare Parts

I was sitting in yet another chiropractor’s office this afternoon. Clipped to the light box on the wall were x-rays of my lower spine, taken earlier this fall to see if I’d fractured or otherwise injured anything when I took that short attempt at flight at the acupuncturist’s.

At the time they came back negative.

But now, someone who knows spines pointed out a little bit of bone just above my sacrum. And I’m wondering how I could have gotten to a certain age, with all the doctors of every stripe who have looked at me inside and out, without somebody telling me that I have six lumbar vertebrae instead of the usual five.

Yes, it’s true. I have extra parts. Excess baggage, a spare for when I have a blowout and need a replacement. Does AAA cover that, I wonder? (The answer is yes, but you don’t want to know where they keep the jack.)

Many moons ago, when I first sprained my back, the x-ray came back with this on the report: “transverse vertebrae within the range of normal.”

Apparently, this little bonus was what that line partially referred to, but as it was being reviewed by an HMO, then ignored when the MRI came around, showing what it showed, nobody thought anything of a useless little x-ray.

Now this guy is telling me that it isn’t exactly normal. And could be the source of a great deal of the physical misery that’s been plaguing me since the summer. The transverse flange on one side of the vertebrae is larger than the other. The larger side is too tight against the sacrum, and the smaller side is stretched too much and has become too loose.

Apparently this spare part needs some mechanical attention.

The first step of which is why I’m wearing this gunslinger-like apparatus around my hips. It’s called a sacroiliac belt. And it’s so freaking weird. For one, the idea of wearing something hospital-white strapped around that part of my anatomy with Velcro makes me feel like I’m ready for Geritol and something to make my dentures feel minty fresh. For two, it presses into my achy parts when I sit, and since I’m just wearing the chiro’s trial belt and he wants me to wear it outside my clothes, I have to take it off every time I have to attend to certain biological needs. Which is probably too much information but part of why this thing is so strange.

But it’s a good thing. Like I said before, it’s a trial. If I try it for a couple days, and it helps, then we’ve diagnosed that a possible source of the problem is the left transverse flange, and we can proceed from there (which means that I buy the thing, wear it inside my clothes, and wear it until the inflammation subsides and the muscles supporting the SI joint get stronger.

And if it doesn’t work, the right side of the flange might be the culprit, and we’ll proceed with a manual adjustment.

Either way, I’m trying to look at this positively.

Maybe we’re finally onto something.

Yeah. That’s it.

Meanwhile I hitch up my supportive device and smile. Maybe if I have to buy my own, I could decorate it. Dye it purple, sew in seed pearls and write dirty graffiti across the back.

Because I’m not ready for Geritol and dentures.

Not yet.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Not Quite A Jellyfish Day

My friend Linda sent me an email the other day about some guy’s unfortunate encounter with a jellyfish (which I suspect was made up). I deleted it, but basically it was a letter from a brother to a sister, and he was trying to console her for something lousy she’d been going through. The guy wrote about his day at work. He worked underwater, and to make a long and rambling story short, it ended with a jellyfish being sucked into one of his intake tubes and landing…well, in an unfortunate place.

While my day yesterday was not quite like having a jellyfish in my butt, I’d put it up there close.

I’d been having this weird new back pain for days. (On top of the usual pain.) It was bilateral, just above the belt line, hurt when I stood up and sat down, hurt when I got in and out of my car, and when I was sitting still or lying down, didn’t hurt at all.

I took it to the PT on Tuesday, he snapped a couple of things, stretched me around a bit, and when I got up onto his treadmill, it had started to feel better.

Until the next afternoon, when it came back stronger. Now it was only on the right side, but all the way up and down my spine and into my sacroiliac joint. It was not the usual post-manipulation soreness. This was bad.

As he’d told me I could call Thursday if it wasn’t better, I called. He was busy, so I talked to Linda, his assistant (the same Linda of jellyfish fame, above). While Tom didn’t have any appointment slots, Linda said he’d squeeze me in if I showed up that afternoon.

Then she told me that was having her own almost-jellyfish day – her car was in the shop and the only ride she could get dropped her at work at 7:30 AM. She hadn’t brought her breakfast. And she also couldn’t get out for lunch. I asked her if I could bring her anything and she said she’d LOVE a cup of coffee, since Tom’s wife had taken their coffee maker home to clean, since it wasn’t working right. No problem, I told her, and remembered the coffee bar on my way to the clinic.

I not only bought her a cup but an extra for Tom, since he was being so nice to get me in without an appointment. I puzzled about how I was going to handle getting two cups of coffee in and out of my car, since I need both hands to get into the driver’s seat.

Somehow I got them in, using one of those handy cardboard drink holder thingies. Then, when I was installed into the driver’s seat, I moved them into the drink holder.

No problem on the drive over, except a few drops of spillage. No problem with the bumps in the road and the hills and the sharp turn in the clinic’s driveway.

Then I pulled into the parking lot. I debated putting the cups back into the holder, putting the filled holder back on the passenger’s seat, then leaning over to pick them up once I was out of the car. I wondered if this would hurt my back even more, so I went for my usual beverage removal system – when I open my door, put the cup (or water bottle, if the case may be) on top of the car, then retrieve it when I get out.

I lifted the first cup out. Put it on top of the car, fumbling around with the positioning so the car antennae wouldn’t knock it over. I put it down and thought I had a safe landing but – and these things always happen in slow motion – it started to fall, cascading me with hot coffee (with cream and sugar). Fortunately, by then it was no long so hot. And But it was just as wet. And fortunately, very little of it landed in the car. Most of it soaked my left leg (I was wearing heavy knit pants (black, fortunately) and long underwear underneath.) and the two sweatshirts I was wearing. I remember not yelling out something unladylike but in my mind just mentally shrugging my shoulders, like these kinds of things happen to me every time (which they don’t). I also remember the coffee going from lukewarm to chilled very quickly.

At least I like the smell of coffee.

Amazingly, about a quarter of what was left of Linda’s java was sitting upright, in its cup, on the ground. I salvaged that, plus the other cup (which I got out of the car by sticking it back into the beverage holder and picking it up from the passenger’s side (no pain, of course).

Then went inside to report the bad news to Linda.

Her face registered shock, and asked if I was all right.

“Just wet,” I said. “Here’s what’s left of your coffee.”

“Just as well,” she said. “I just needed a little buzz anyway.”

After she took me into the locker room and blow-dried the worst of the saturation away, I went back into the clinic. Did whatever exercise I could before the pain was too bad to try anymore. Meanwhile Tom kept saying he’d get right to me in a little while, just be patient.

I didn’t see him for two and a half hours.

The good news was that by the time he worked on me, the coffee was dry.

The bad news was that the one little snap he got out of my back did very little and I still had the worst of the sacroiliac pain.

But I guess it beats having a jellyfish on your butt.