Bloody, Stinking Smoke Alarms

New blankety-blankety %$#*@# rule for Hunky Hubby: Before you leave on a trip, you must change ALL the smoke alarm batteries. I don’t care if you just did that a week ago!

It’s only when you’re not here that they decide to fail. One? Two? All of them? Who knows…I’m chasing annoying-as-feck, shrill beeps around the house. The small, portable step ladder isn’t tall enough for me to reach the damn noisemakers. I had to drag the large, unwieldy step ladder out of the garage.

Up and down the stairs. One beeped, I followed the sound to where I thought it originated, then it beeped on a whole different floor. My sense of humor is wearing thin. The wee Pocket Loonhound is cowering in a corner. The Bobtailed Dorkhound is not bothered by the noise, my frantic activity, nor my loud and fluent use of Sailor talk.He’s snoring, in fact.

I’m going to change all the fecking batteries. Then I’m going to throw the step ladder down the front steps (because that will make me feel better), stomp around the house while swearing profusely, then check to see if Lacey was so traumatized that she left me a present.

I have work to do, and this is interrupting it. Wonderful house guests will arrive soon and, while they’ve known me most of my adult life, they don’t need to be greeted by a profanity-spewing grump. I have to take the car in for an estimate, I need to stop by my friendly neighborhood FFL dealer, I have some house cleaning to do, and did I mention I have actual, real, pays-the-bills work that is not getting done while I rant and chase annoying beeps?!

Our next house will be one-story. Can’t someone invent smoke alarms that are all tied together, wired to the electricity, and hooked up to a generator in the event of a power outage? There HAS GOT to be a better way than the current, vexing smoke alarm method.

Either that, or Hunky Hubby never gets to leave the house again.

Bloody HELL.

Don’t Make Me Unleash the FFYFoD

[Disclaimer: if you are in any way offended by random spattering of the actual F-word, you should read no further. If you get your knickers in a knot, don’t say I didn’t warn you.]

There are very few things that irk me more than idiot drivers. Especially when said ignoramuses (shouldn’t that be “ignorami”) are in my sphere of awareness. I attempt to avoid road rage. I am generally successful. Usually, I smile sweetly at the halfwit, and wave, using all five fingers. Usually.

Work, of late, has been a little stressful. I enjoy my job. I am happy to be employed. I confess that I could live without the stress. A stress-free environment is good for my health and good for the general well-being of those around me. Just ask those around me when my stress-o-meter starts to climb.

This past Thursday, I felt a little wound up as I was driving home. Usually, listening to Tom Petty Radio knocks the tension right out of me. Not this week. I often  manage to calm my bad self by turning to Faction Talk on SiriusXM© to listen to Craig Ferguson. Neither of those two options produced the desired effect, so I tuned to First Wave, then merged onto US 29, en route the dreaded I-66W.

The very short stretch of US 29 that I must traverse every day is a magnet for moronic motorists. I must turn right off Trinity Parkway, putting me into the far right lane that feeds to I-66E. In order to position myself to travel west on I-66, I have to move left two lanes in a jiffy. Many people who are already on US 29 get into those soon-to-end two lanes, knowing they will have to merge left shortly. All to save, what?…five seconds? I do not play with my phone or other electronic devices, I always use my turn signal, and I try to wave a polite “cheerio and mahalo” to those kind motorists who permit me to get in front of them. It’s not like I have a fecking choice – MY LANE IS ENDING.

On Thursday, several people ignored my lawful and polite left blinker and kept going. I eventually got into the correct track just as I was running out of lane. I rolled down my window and waved, employing all five fingers of my left hand to show my grateful appreciation.

As I rolled to the red light, I noticed a silver van in my rearview mirror. Apparently, he had to move left, but drove quickly up the disappearing right lane(s), then turned sharply left. Apparently, he didn’t notice the red light and stopped cars in all lanes. And, apparently, somehow this was my fault. I just hoped that he would avoid careening into my trunk, as I had nowhere to go. He overshot my lane, and ended up cattywampus in both my lane and the lane to my left. I breathed a sigh of relief that he missed my little coupe. He started gesturing at me. I ignored him. I was trying to get to my happy place, and SiriusXM© was not helping.

Naturally, Syd Numbnuts was also headed to I-66W. Entry onto the frightful freeway is gained via a sweeping semi-cloverleaf to the right, dumping traffic into a short merge lane. Where, of course, one has to get to the left, while not being smashed into by cars who do not want one to be there. Again – no choice here, morons. I HAVE TO MERGE.

I merged, with the appropriate and licit turn signal employment, and settled into the right lane. Herr Dipshit in the van raced up to my bumper, then veered sharply to get behind me, followed by a frantic sprint into the next lane to the left. In executing this stupid maneuver, the dipshit-in-question cut off a driver who, thankfully, was paying attention to the road and not his phone. Mr. Hostilepants then drove up next to me. I looked over and called him an asshole, but my windows (and his) were up, so it was futile. I looked up at him and he was nearly apoplectic  – screaming, gesticulating (and not the peace sign), and seemed to be frothing at the mouth. My work-induced tension came back instantly. I was not amused. Now, had I done something to warrant anger, I may have waved sheepishly and mouthed “I’m sorry.” I had, however, been a model-fecking-driver. The kind of driver, in fact, who has policemen pull them over to heap accolades upon them.

As this turd was shrieking at me, he decided, simultaneously, to endanger another innocent motorist and jerk his dowdy, ugly, silver minivan to the left. The flow of traffic, slow as it was, enabled me to pull into a position such that he could see me clearly. It was then that I unleashed the Flying Fuck You Fingers of Death (FFYFoD). A double-barrel salute, even, with great vim and passion. I felt immediately better. I suggested, loudly but tragically unheard, that he’d be happier riding a damn camel. His burka-clad woman was cowering in the back seat. To be fair, given his behavior, this was probably what she habitually did. Syd Asswipe was decidedly put out that an infidel, and a female one at that, one-upped his hand signals. Don’t mess with me, you schmuck – I drove for years in Naples. Italy. Not Florida. Bitch, please.

The cretin was not the only one who witnessed my fluent, albeit unorthodox, sign language. The man he cut off in his haste to get into the next-lane-to-the-left took that moment to pull abreast of me. I glanced in his direction. He sported a huge grin, was chuckling, guffawing even, and then he gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up. We were kindred spirits, both of us lucky to escape unscathed from the menacing antics of a misogynist assclown.

That thumbs up really buoyed my spirits. I drove home in a much calmer mood. I think I was still giggling when I got home, too late mind you, to watch the beginning of Jeopardy.

I didn’t let any more aggravated dumbassery on the road perturb me for the rest of the week. Okay, so, by “rest of the week,” I mean Friday. I’ll take my wee victories where I can find them. My zen was a short-lived. As I was driving to Costco today, I was once again set upon by a world class idiot, this one driving a silver Nissan coupe. (I hate silver cars. I won’t own one. If someone offered me a brand new silver Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio, I would turn it down – that’s how much I hate silver vehicles. I won’t even drive a rental car if it’s silver). This time, I was minding my own damn business on Sudley Manor Drive, a four-lane divided road, complete with traffic lights. And speed limits. Evidently, my five miles over the speed limit (only because of the flow of traffic), vexed this young buck. He moved from my lane, directly behind me, to the left lane and got nowhere, then moved back to the right lane. He repeated these antics a few times. Finally, when we got to the RED light at Ashton Drive, I had to stop far enough back from the light as to obstruct, inadvertently, the right turn lane. I could not avoid it, unless I felt like driving into the bed of the pick-up stopped directly in front of me. I did not want to do that. Mr. Toomuchtestosterone was not to be dissuaded from turning right. He didn’t even slow down as he navigated the right turn, nearly sideswiping my car. I was not amused.

I took a deep, cleansing breath and yelled, “Don’t make me unleash the Flying Fuck You Fingers of Death.”

I felt instantly better.

7 October 2017

Armed Forces Day

Boot Camp or Bust

Today is Armed Forces Day (2017). Huzzah! I should be cleaning the house, before the Department of Health comes by to condemn it, but I am not. So there. I’m sure Hunky Hubby (HH), AKA the Blog Nazi, won’t mind. He reminds me incessantly that I have not added to my blogopedia lately. It’s his own fault that the house remains cloaked in squalor! If only he’d let me stop working full-time, I could do both. But, I digress. Quelle surprise.

Our son left for Navy Boot Camp five days ago. Our Navy family adds one more to our ranks. I am so stinkin’ proud of him that I could burst. Additionally, I didn’t realize how much I’d miss him. Hunky Hubby and Koa the Bobtailed Dorkhound join me in that sentiment, as does Mancub’s lovely fiancée. I had the extreme honor of administering Mancub’s Oath of Enlistment. I don’t know how I managed to get through it without bawling my eyes out, or even choking up a bit. I did, therefore I deserve another merit badge! I have administered the oath many, many times, but never did it mean so much to me. I’m completely tickled that my name and signature are on his official enlistment papers.

I did not go to Boot Camp, therefore I am woefully uninformed about the happenings there. We were told we’d get one phone call from our Recruit within the first day or so. After that, we’d get a box from him, inside of which would be all the belongings he took and/or wore to Boot Camp, including his cell phone. There was some mumbo-jumbo (highly technical Navy terminology) about “P-Hold,” “P-Days,” Pushme-Pullyous (okay, I’m making that up), Start days, etc. The initial research I did was to try to determine his PIR date – that’s “Pass In Review” for you landlubbers. That’s the day he graduates from Basic Training and moves on with his career. When I do find out, I still won’t share it with any of you. OPSEC, don’t you know!

My initial, paltry research indicated that his start day (day 1-1) would be the day he arrived in scenic Great Lakes, Illinois. Great, I thought, I can count weeks forward from there, even though I hate math. “The” call was supposed to come upon arrival at Recruit Training Center (RTC – yes the Navy loves them some abbreviations and acronyms). We got a brief call on Monday night. Mancub said he was safe in Chicago. We presumed he meant O’Hare, and that he was about to embark upon a bus to get his happy butt to RTC. There surely would be another call, I thought. Then nothing. I pestered poor HH to death, fretting about why we hadn’t received “the” call. And still, nothing.

So, I dived headlong back into the interwebz. That’s where I unearthed those alien terms of “P-this” and “Hold-that.” Why, my precious Mancub could wait 7 – 11 days for his ship or division or herd to form up. Who knew when day 1-1 would occur? He’d be put through all sorts of paces to keep him tired and off-balance, all while learning that lovely military philosophy of “hurry up and wait, you maroon.” Surely they would let Mancub make a phone call during this P-time to let us know he was safe. He was supposed to tell us that a box was coming our way – but only after forming up in his flock and getting into uniform. I continued to pepper HH with ansgst-ridden questions. Mostly along the lines of “When are we getting THE fecking call?” HH went to Boot Camp. He must be overflowing with answers. Never mind that he went before electricity was invented…there must still be some similarities. Right? When will we get the ding dang call? Was Mancub on Hold? Were there P-Days involved. What. The. Hell!!! I want to know exactly what is going on and I want to know it now. Patience never has been one of my virtues (HH offers an Amen!).

Yesterday at work, while I was in spreadsheet hell (AKA job security), HH sent me a PM. We received the box! Never in all my life have I been so happy to get a pile of dirty laundry dumped at my feet. Huzzah and hurray – that must mean that Mancub is IN UNIFORM! Maybe his ship formed up. Maybe we’ll get that form letter, telling us his mailing address and PIR date. Maybe the clock started ticking. So, that earlier call was likely THE call. Mancub may not have articulated that he was in Great Lakes, not Chicago. All is right in my world, now. Rationally, I knew he was safe. I knew that, in this case, no news really is good news. After all, had he been turned away for some hitherto unforeseen medical reason, he would have had ample time to make lengthy calls! Mancub is in Boot Camp and will emerge at the end of his training as a Seaman Apprentice, if not a Seaman. Then, his real adventure will begin, as he heads off to his first Technical School. I envy him this journey. Only because I had a wonderful time in the Navy, although my start was much different, which is why I am unblissfully ignorant of the inner-workings of Boot Camp. This got me thinking about my own Navy training…

I Joined the Navy to See the World (tra la la)

I joined the Navy many years ago. Right after electricity was invented. Almost as long ago as HH did. I just went to college first, which delayed my service start date. As my time at Cal was coming to an end, I began to wonder what the hell I would do with my life. I majored in Anthropology, fer crying out loud! I started out majoring in Egyptology, but that was a bit narrow. Fun, exciting, enthralling, but narrow. I had big dreams of going on to grad school. In fact, I chose the University of Chicago (close to where Mancub is now!). I was going to specialize in the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egyptian history. Mainly because most of the Ptolemaic experts were French, and I thought they needed an American in the bunch to stir the pot. Fulldemerde, my Mother’s evil (and late) consort, had other ideas. “Girls don’t need advanced degrees,” he stated. Say what? “We will not pay for grad school. Face it, you’re going to college to get an MRS degree. It’s a man’s job to support you.” (This was massively ironic, seeing as he let my mother’s family money, and then her inheritance, support him, but I didn’t know that then. I surely would have brought that up in any ensuing conversation!) It didn’t matter that Cal was nearly free, and that the money my father provided for child support more than paid the tuition and board, Fulldemerde had spoken. I was completely ignorant of grants and scholarships, so I stopped majoring in Egyptology and moved over to the Anthropology Department. As a bonus, one of my all -time archaeologist heroes, the foremost expert in African pre-history, became my advisor. I jumped for joy when he agreed to take me under his wing. Yet, after Fulldemerde issued his dire proclamation, I had to decide what I would do as an adult. There didn’t seem to be much opportunity for me to work in my field with a Bachelor’s Degree…and I sure as hell wasn’t looking for my MRS. What to do?

I’d had the opportunity to see a great deal of this wonderful world of ours. Starting at the ripe old age of two, my family had carted my ass around the world. Mostly Europe, but I wasn’t complaining. When I was nine years old, transfixed by mummies and other dusty relics in some massive European museum, I made the declaration that I would be an archaeologist! This was met with eye-rolls from Fulldemerde and adoring glee by Mom, who had a similar passion. I loved to travel. I’d seen a lot of the Communist bloc nations (ask me later about my first interview for a TS clearance…), in addition to Western Europe. No matter what fascinating things I’d seen, I was always happy to come home. I came to realize at a young age just how lucky we Americans are. As college graduation loomed and I realized that I would not be the next famous Ptolemaic wunderkind, I started to consider my employment options. I didn’t want to stay in the Bay Area and do whatever it was that newly-minted liberal arts majors did. I wanted to go further afield. I wanted to serve my country more than anything else. I wanted to thwart the Dirty Rotten Commie Bastards (DRCBs). Marriage would wait (I’d show Fulldemerde – I didn’t need no stinkin’ man to support me), corporate America would wait, all “usual” occupations would wait. I would join the military.

Which branch of the service was right for me? Once I decided to serve my country, I enrolled in some ROTC courses at Cal, to learn something of the military. Ironically, I didn’t take the Navy ROTC course, because that quarter it was Celestial Navigation and I thought that subject might kill me. Or at least kill my GPA! I dipped my toe into Air Force and Army ROTC courses. After some time in the classes, I marched off to visit the various Recruiters. I decided rather quickly that green was not my color, so the Army was off the table. The Army recruiter wanted me to enlist and be guaranteed language training. I informed him that I thought my college degree could be put to better use for me, so why couldn’t I be an officer and offered the same guarantees. He couldn’t answer that, so off I went to the Air Force. The Air Force had no problem discussing officer programs with me. But, there was a catch. I would have to wait at least a year after graduating for an OTS class, and they were fuzzy on what I would do once I got there. Nope – not for me. I didn’t know much about the Coast Guard, so I gave them a pass. I love the Marine Corps, but didn’t think that would be a good fit. What was left? The Navy recruiter was informed and helpful. The office I visited near my folks’ home didn’t have an officer recruiter, so they set up an appointment for me to visit the Navy recruiter in Oakland. Bingo – close to school, even. I took the tests, qualified for Officer Candidate School (OCS), raised my right hand, and waited. I felt like Goldilocks – this was just the right fit!

I graduated in June, but didn’t head to OCS until November. I was technically delayed entry, but it was nothing like the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) that Mancub just completed. I didn’t have to check in with the recruiter, didn’t have any tests, training, nothing. The recruiter mailed me a plane ticket. When it was time to depart, I went off all by my little lonesome. In contrast, Mancub shipped out of MEPS with two van loads of Navy Recruits for the flight to Great Lakes, after having had much adult supervision during his DEP months. I flew from Oakland, with a plane change in Atlanta, to Providence, RI. OCS is in Newport. I was rarin’ to go – four months of fun, right?

I’m Sure Newport is Lovely in the Summer

This is where the differences began with a vengeance! Boot Camp is eight weeks long; OCS is sixteen. I’m from California. I didn’t do winter. If I wanted winter, I’d go TO it – it never came to me. That changed immediately upon arrival in Rhode Island. Or so I vaguely recall. Though I was the lone Officer Candidate (OC) on my flight from Oakland, there was a veritable pack of OCs waiting in Atlanta to fly to Providence. How nice to have company. I quickly noticed that I was the youngest in the group. I may not have come to this conclusion myself, but I was heartily teased by my comrades-in-arms-to-be for being 21. As if I could help that. Most of the travelers were prior enlisted, so I yearned to hear about what was in store. That would have to wait…or maybe I did learn something on the flight, but I don’t remember. This is where “vaguely” comes into play. I met Bill and Ed, both of whom were prior enlisted, both of whom were happily-married 32 year olds. Bill was prior Air Force, Ed was Navy. Ed was the more reticent of the two, and this continued through our training. Bill, being a loudmouth, took charge of the gaggle of OCs at the gate in Atlanta, and shared with us his infinite wisdom and experience. It went like so:

Prior Air Force Bill (PAFB): “How many of us are going to Rhode Island for OCS?” [Hands flew up everywhere]. “How many of you are Priors?” [Fewer hands, but still a lot]. “Oh, holy crap Goldilocks, how old are you?” [I may have looked young for my years].

Naïve Mari (NM): “I’m 21.” [Good natured guffawing from the herd ensued].

PAFB: “Okay. Listen up. Our orders say we are to report No Later Than Sunday. It is now Friday. They won’t do anything to us until Sunday, so we’ll have the weekend to relax on base before they form us up and training begins. I suggest we drink heavily!” [Later, I realized that there were vast differences between Air Force and Navy expectations].

NM: “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

PAFB: “Goldilocks! You’re of legal drinking age. Plus, you’re in the Navy. That means you have to drink.”

NM: “I don’t know about the need to drink before reporting to OCS.”

PAFB: “It’s a great idea. Everyone else is already off to the bar to order one.” [Except those who stayed behind to tease me].

NM: “Huzzah! I’ll have a martini!”

We boarded the plane. Our group was fairly large, and generally seated in the same section. We were not inebriated. Yet. Turns out there was plenty of time to have another adult beverage or two on the flight. Some even managed more than that. All I remember is that Bill and Ed were kind and helpful and tried to tell me about the military. I should have just stopped listening to Bill. His military was not the same one as the one we were hurtling to in the darkness.

When we arrived in Providence, we poured ourselves off the plane and went to baggage claim. Unlike for Boot Camp, where there were buses or vans waiting for the Recruits, we had to find our own onward transportation. Some intrepid Prior took it upon himself to round up two 15-passenger vans for the trip to Newport. Since there were about 20 of us, that would work for people and luggage. ”Don’t worry,” asserted Bill and the other Air Force veterans, “Once we get there, we’ll go straight to a holding dormitory until Monday morning.” Dormitory. How cute. I think he’d watched “Private Benjamin” one too many times and thought he was going to the service with yachts and condos and long lunches. It wasn’t a long trip to Newport (Rhode Island is tiny), but most of us dozed fitfully. It was cold; dark and cold; Antarctica cold. My buzz was beginning to dissipate. In retrospect, I should have just gotten a hotel in Providence to acclimate to the time change, the temperature change, and to take advantage of one more day of freedom.

The vans pulled up to King Hall at OCS. We were rudely evicted from the van and told to form up (now, now, NOW) and cage our eyes. What the hell did that mean? I looked around in confusion. Bill looked at me and put his hands over his eyes, fingers cupped and spread, as if his hands were cages. Good idea, I thought, so I followed suit. That caught the attention of the Military Instructors (MIs), most of whom were Officer Candidates in their Senior session, their last eight weeks of training. I had no earthly clue that I’d ever get there, and my unique method of “caging my eyes” convinced most of the MIs that I’d never get there, either! I really didn’t want the attention of the MIs. Their volume level increased. I hoped I didn’t smell like vodka and olives. After being taken to PSD to drop off our records and complete OCS paperwork, we were loudly herded back to King Hall, home sweet home for the next sixteen weeks.

In the Navy – So Sayeth the Village People

That first night was a blur, and not only because I had unwisely taken Bill’s advice and consumed a martooni or tee. We were unceremoniously dumped into a large classroom. By this time, our plane tribe was ready to kill Bill. This was no “they’re not going to do anything to us because we don’t have to report until Sunday” treatment. There was lots of yelling and issuing of instructions. Loud MIs would enter the classroom, where we were supervised by more MIs whose heads exploded if we talked amongst each other or foolishly tried to ask a question. The new MIs would bark a few orders, ask some questions and remove the OCs by ones and twos from the classroom. Great. Where were my newfound friends going? Would we end up in the same Company? No Ships or Divisions here.

We sat quietly and waited. Soon, a big, tall, handsome MI came in and asked if any of the female Candidates could swim. There were very few of us, either females or swimmers. One of us (moi), hadn’t yet learned not to volunteer. Up flew my hand. I was briefly interrogated. I assured him that I could swim, yes I could play water polo, yes I could fling myself off a tower into the pool and not drown. I was told that Kilo Company needed a female swimmer, ordered to gather my crap, and follow him, eyes straight ahead and no talking. Off we wandered, through a few passageways (hallways), up a deck or two (upstairs), finally into a dark wing of the building. I was lugging a suitcase, as the literature provided to me in advance of my departure was full of bold-face lies and said we could bring civilian clothes. My gypsy tendencies come naturally – Mom helpfully packed a huge suitcase with lots of heavy, winter clothing and other items. Big, tall MI, Officer Candidate K (OC K) loudly announced that this was in Kilo territory and showed me to my quarters.

Big Handsome Dude (BHD): “This is your stateroom. You’ll need to make the rack (bed). You WILL have a roommate. You will get further instructions later. You’ll have to ditch that massive suitcase.”

NM: “What?” [I may have been concentrating more on the person than the instructions he was blurting].

BHD: “I don’t like repeating myself.”

NM: “Okay.”

BHD: “The proper response is YES SIR!” [This was looking up to be a long sixteen weeks].

NM: “Yes, sir. May I at least retrieve my jammies and toiletries before saying good bye to the hundred pounds of crap my mother needlessly packed for me?”

At this point, OC K turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him. I did not detect the grin that he later assured me was on his face. OC K intimidated me. He was very tall, seemed eat up with military bearing, was older, handsome, had shoulders so wide he nearly had to turn sideways to get through the hatch (doorway), long legs, narrow hips and waist…generally, he was swoon-worthy. I had to get over this little infatuation forthwith. I was sure even then that drool didn’t belong on a uniform. (Note: had anyone told me then that he would ask me to marry him two years later and I would turn him down, I’d have called them delusional. It’s true and a story for another time).

I sat on my rack in the dark, and reflected on my situation. Mostly, I wondered where the toilet was, since clearly the Navy was behind the times and did not offer me en-suite accommodations. Maybe I should have joined the Air Force after all, I thought. Surely, they would have had a private potty. I timidly looked out the door and down the passageway, where another MI was skulking about, and I tip-toed out into the darkness. When he accosted me, I must have looked pitiful enough to elicit some kindness, as he showed me the women’s head (toilet and bath facilities) without an inordinate amount of yelling. Fortunately, the women’s head was on the third deck (floor), where Kilo Company resided. King Hall had four decks, only two of which had female heads. At least I didn’t have to tromp up or down a ladder (stairway) to go answer the call of nature. I scooted back to my room and made the bed. Thanks to Mom, I already knew about hospital corners. The sheets were rough, the blanket was scratchy (and full of who knows how many cooties and microbes), but I turned off the light and tried to get some sleep…only to be rudely awakened by the door flinging open and hitting the bulkhead (wall).

BHD (AKA OC K): “Wake up, OC Mari.” [He really used my last name, but since I used Fulldemerde’s last name at the time, we’ll forego that]. “You have a roommate.”

I looked up, bleary-eyed. I was too tired, flustered, and off-balance to care anymore to notice his looks. What I did notice was the person he shoved into the room. I almost blurted “Wait! I’m a girl. Shouldn’t I get a girl roommate?!,” but couldn’t get that out before the door slammed again. My new cellmate introduced herself as “Carla.” Boy, was I glad I didn’t have the opportunity to stick my foot in my mouth for once. In the light, she was clearly a girl, she simply possessed a deeper voice (which I envied) and was very fit, not curvaceous (which I also envied). I asked Carla if she was selected for Kilo Company because she could swim. Nope, she assured me, she sank like a rock. I helped her get settled, told her where the head was located, and showed her how to make hospital corners. We each huddled in our racks, nervously awaiting the next step. Carla and I became fast friends, did all of our post-OCS training together, and even crossed paths professionally in later years.

Moments later (probably it was a few hours), there was a great ruckus in the passageway outside. Yes, Virginia, the MIs did launch empty metal garbage cans down the passageway, yelled like banshees, and banged their fists on the doors and walls. One enterprising sadist even had a megaphone. They rousted us and told us to be at attention, on either side of the door, schell, schnell, SCHNELL! Carla and I popped to, looked around wide-eyed, and flung open our door. Thankfully, we had on nightgowns. Some of the guys slept in boxers, which I bet they didn’t do again in OCS. We jumped into the P-way (Navy-ese for passageway), and stood at what we erroneously thought was attention on either side of the open door.

We’re in the Navy now, I thought! I looked up to see how many other OCs had reported. Our wing was mostly full, but clearly others were too smart to report until the next day. I looked directly across the P-way and saw the smiling, smirking faces of Ed and Bill. Bill even winked. The next sixteen weeks would be interesting, but first we had to get through two weeks of loud shenanigans. Ed was prepared – he’d been through Navy Boot Camp. Bill, the USAF vet, was going to be as shocked as we newbies.

To be continued…

Completed on 26 May 2017

Vote for Zelda

The least alarming headline today was that Britain’s Prince Philip announced his retirement at the age of 95. He will retire from royal duties later in the year. Good on him. I shared the news with Hunky Hubby. He proclaimed that he will cease his royal duties WAY (and that is quote, emphasis and all) before he turns 95. To whom will Zelda turn once HH steps away from his princely tasks? Queen Lizzy the Deuce has her corgis. Maybe we can have our Regal Hounds of the (Rac)Coonhunt? They certainly will be qualified to announce our royal presence; their hue and cry will be heard far and wide. And, once we have an exalted position, we must forget our first person singular pronoun. Because, to do otherwise would show an amazing lack of progress from one’s peasant roots to royalty. One may kiss our ring now.

Before we venture into a suitable replacement at public appearances, let’s just review why I do not want to dwell on the other headlines of late. A woman was shot over a disabled parking spot dispute. Well, that’s unpleasant. An animal sanctuary in Colorado euthanized eleven lions, tigers, and bears (really), without trying to re-home them. I hope the owners’ kids try to re-home the parents before turning to Dr. Kevorkian. Or not. Rosie O’Donnell and her daughter are calling each other names. The one claims abuse, the other (Rosie) calls her daughter crazy. I bet the young O’Donnell does have Dr. Kevorkian on speed dial. North Korea and its Nutjob-in-Chief-for-Life are on my last nerve. Our bloated and out of touch Congressional representatives can’t play nice. I didn’t vote for people to go to The Circus Big Top on Capitol Hill to fight amongst themselves. I voted for them in the hopes they’d represent their constituents, of which I am one. They are failing epically – both parties – and should be flogged. Then replaced. Stephen Hawking predicts that humans will need to find a replacement for Earth within the next 100 years. I do not vote for Mars, for the record. Syria, Iraq. Iran. Afghanistan. ISIS. Putin. Fake news. French election woes. Enough. We need some sanity in the world.

For this very reason, I have conducted an informal (and, as yet, unsuccessful) campaign for Empress of the Universe. It hasn’t gotten any traction yet, but that doesn’t mean I have surrendered. Vote for Zelda! I may have to think up a catchier phrase at some point. I do want to retain Zelda as my nom du guerre, if for no other reason that it is easy to pronounce in every language. You cannot imagine how infrequently people pronounce “Mari” correctly. One has to think of these things when one conducts a universal campaign. Now that I think of it, Zelda may not translate well into Khoisan languages, as they have click consonants are do not belong to any other language family, but we’ll work something out for Bushmen and other speakers of the click. I had a dog, Xugana, with a Xanekwe name, and I just pronounced the click consonants the way an English speaker did. Which is to say that it was completely incorrect and ignorant in the nuance of the tongue of the River Bushmen of the Okavango. Xugana knew her name and didn’t hold my pronunciation against me. She was honored to have such a noble name and amused that it meant “Kneels down to drink.” Hmmm…I wonder if they have squirrels in the Okavango?!…

Back to the matter at hand. You may scoff at the idea of me equating myself with sanity. It’s all relative. Compared to the vast majority of elected nitwits, I’m a paragon of prudence. A shining example of stability, even. It does occur to me that my claim to rationality goes down the tubes when I talk about running for Empress of the Universe. I haven’t defined every aspect of my platform yet. That doesn’t stop most people who run for office, so the precedent is set. I may even flip-flop, which I will explain as changing my mind. Not just because I’m a girl and it’s my prerogative, but because there may be times when I hear such a compelling and civilly-delivered counter argument that I will be compelled to switch sides. I can’t think of an example now, but neither can I rule out the possibility. To do otherwise is just silly and benighted.

I have identified a few areas that will need immediate correction, once I’m installed as Empress. On the practical side, an empress needs a residence befitting her stature. I will not ask any of the numerous members of European royal families to cough up a castle. If some, out of the kindness of their hearts, want to give me a villa on Santorini and a cottage with all the modern amenities somewhere in the United Kingdom, I wouldn’t insult them by refusing! Hunky Hubby (who will be known as His Hunkiness) and I would probably like a suitable home in Southern Africa, a pied-à-terre in Vancouver, BC, and a private hideaway on the Big Island of Hawaii. We do not need hundreds of bedrooms or palatial grounds and fanfare. Hoopla is overrated. I’ll continue to work on the location of Our Regal Homestead in America, which we will also use as our retirement home. One must be practical in these matters, and be able to multitask.

What? The Empress’ and His Hunkiness’ living arrangements are not important to the campaign? Forsooth! Without a suitable abode or eight, we will not be able to turn our attention to more important matters. We need to be comfortable, as there is much to be done before His Hunkiness turn 95.

I’ve been wrestling with the best way to discourage, nay, eliminate, distracted driving. One must have achievable goals so that one gets favorable ratings. While “world peace” is honorable (not just amongst the beauty pageant crowd), we do not believe it to be achievable within the first 100 days. That may take a few hundred days and lots of stern warnings. While life sentences for distracted drivers may be tempting, it may be too harsh. Besides, we do not want to build more jails. Therefore, the punishment for distracted driving will be to send the offenders to areas where their treacherous driving habits will not impact us or our friends. I’m sorry, Dakotas, Detroit, and Siberia, your roads will be much more heavily traveled now. Look at the bright side – these menaces may bring in some good commerce and favorably impact the economy. Earlier in my informal campaign, I proposed to deal with distracted drivers by booking them on the Death Plane. I have become kinder and gentler, and will reserve the Death Plane for more heinous criminals, such as second time distracted driving offenders.

Other attainable goals are to discipline (or eliminate, depending on the severity) people who toss their cigarettes on the ground, people who don’t recycle, people who waste or pollute our waning natural resources, people who hunt / poach animals for trophies (we’re all for hunting for food), people who ruin our National Parks and engage in activities that would harm endangered species, animal abusers, people who abandon children and pets and others. When we say “people,” we also mean “corporations” and “government entities,” since we haven’t found a way to populate these groups with intelligent robots instead of humans. We also have heartburn with bullies (cyber and traditional), cheaters, liars, burglars, people who wear pajamas and bedroom slippers in public, terrible drivers, narrow-minded twat waffles…the list goes on. We’ll work on a plan to address these misdeeds and those who perpetrate them.

The Death Plane may come into play for Kim Jong Un, terrorists, child molesters, sexual predators, serial killers, pirates (the bad kind, not the silly Jimmy Buffett kind), corrupt governments who keep aid from reaching those who need it, and others who have evil intent. We will take suggestions from our constituents. For other serious transgressions, but those not warranting a flight that ends up like Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, we would implement the “Serious Injury to Correct Your Dumbass Villainy” Plane. There are any number of wicked behaviors that would result in a ticket for that ride. Any and all ideas will be considered. We won’t start our reign as a malevolent dictator, nor do we aspire to end it as one. Benevolence is key. Except it may take some serious mean to end war.

While I refine my platform, I will also need to select my Cabinet. Plus, I’ll be looking for a new, catchy name to replace “Cabinet.” There is so much to do. Please submit your ideas and applications, as you never know when this will get traction. Please act quickly, His Hunkiness and I aren’t getting any younger. And, we all know there is no suitable replacement for HH, not corgis, not hounds. I may be able to convince him to carry out his royal duties a little longer, and put off retirement . But, before you know it, we’ll both be 95 ad ready to retire. It would be a shame to deprive the Universe of my leadership and heartfelt dedication to eradicating dumbassery. Remember, Vote for Zelda!

4 May 2017
May the Fourth be with you

I Prefer My Broad Cave

It’s 12:56 AM and I have a thought!

I was awakened by the combination of Augmentin and Prednisone doing their thing on my insides.  I do not recommend this combination unless it is absolutely necessary.  Even then, think twice before ingesting these nasty, gut-tumbling pills.

After the crisis passed, I went back to bed, crawled in next to the gently-snoring Hunky Hubby, and started to giggle. Then, I thought things through and said to myself, “you’ll remember this in the morning. Go to sleep.”

The logical me prevailed and replied, “you’ll never remember a word. Get up and get thee to thy Broad Cave.” Which is what brings me to my keyboard when I should be snoring alongside HH.

I thought something funny yesterday. I think “funny” all the damn time. I may have written something funny yesterday, but who really knows? In reality, I likely find much more mirth in my thoughts and writings than others do. C’est ma vie.

My mind, as it is wont to do, carried that concept. Wouldn’t it be fun to work on a screenplay or script? As much as I’d like to think that I could be part of a team that would produce something meaningful for humankind, narrated by David Attenborough, I’m really more suited to working on something for the whoopee cushion crowd. Yet, I followed this thread, wondering what it would be like to be part of a writing team that would make a difference.

Visions of working in a somber milieu filled my head. I’ll work on an intellectual project, surrounded by scholarly writers, with the goal of producing something to enlighten the  reader. Maybe this place looks like the Bodleian Library. I exchange lofty ideas with my learned colleagues, all of whom will reflect deeply on my momentous thoughts and respond with profundity. We will be civilized and follow Robert’s Rules of Order in our brainstorming sessions. We will change the world. We will bring light into intellectual darkness. We will create brilliance in somber, scholarly settings and have prizes and gratitude heaped upon us.

Or not. You all know, I’m not that highbrow, much as it appeals to me. I’m more suited to generate something that will make J. Q. Citizen laugh and snort his/her beverage out of their nose. Therefore, I began to picture myself writing a comedy screenplay or contributing to a sitcom. I imagine that the energy is amazing. A team of comedic geniuses, writing furiously, making dialogue improvements in a frenzy. Laughing, interrupting each other, working late into the night, drinking coffee, making people laugh. Maybe even launching the occasional spitball or two. Certainly, noogies would be in play.

Then it occurred to me. That fun group probably sits around a room that looks and smells as if it belongs in a fraternity. And they smoke. They’re convinced that they can’t be viciously funny without cigarettes. Instead of coffee, they drink beer; lots of cheap beer. But it’s the cigarette smoke that drives me out of that room straight back to my blog. Oh, who are we kidding?! Life is too short to drink cheap beer, so there’s the double whammy. I’m not a social creature. I will not be part of a writing team. I am really not THAT clever or funny. I prefer my Broad Cave, sometimes supervised by the hounds. They laugh at my jokes. Trust me.

3 May 2017*

* I’m hopeless. I started this in June 2016, tossed it into the draft folder, and ignored it. Now that too much time has passed, I can’t for the life of me remember how I was going to finish it. Certainly with more aplomb than it has. Sigh.

A Slight Intermission Before Returning to the Broken Ankle Saga

A Slight Intermission Before Returning to the Broken Ankle Saga

When we last pondered broken bones and other bodily harm, I confessed about Mom…not just about her propensity to fracture her ankles, but her tendencies to concoct wild-ass stories about them. Before I displayed the inherited trait of clumsiness-resulting-in-destroying-one’s-lower-limbs, I never considered altering the facts behind the injury. Mind you, I had many boo-boos under my belt at a fairly early age. Not once did I think to lie about  exaggerate the cause of my injuries…until later in life. At one point, I channeled my inner Clara, and did so with great ease.

My injuries, prior to the Year of Mari’s First Broken Ankle, were varied and numerous. I can categorize them: concussions; blood and guts; and broken bones. Ian Drury and the Blockheads had sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. I had thump and slice and snap’dem’bones. Methinks I will need to return for a concussion discussion. Unless I forget about that before circling back around to the topic. You know, really, I suffered a lot of concussions. I was not a dainty flower of a girl growing up. No sirree…I was a rough and tumble tomboy and, unfortunately, have some head trauma to show for it. My mom should have locked a helmet onto my head for the first 35 years of my life.

The blood and guts category has slightly fewer entries in it. I think I mentioned in a previous blog that Mom and her evil consort Fulldemerde (my late,  former stepfather) found it prohibitively expensive to haul my young ass to various Emergency Rooms. Leading up to the decision to move to Kaiser Permanente (stat), I had already visited the ERs of Marin County for several injuries. Generally, we would not make the trek unless I was spurting blood like a Monty Python sketch, or seeing birds tweet around my head after concussing myself as if I were an NFL player. One particular injury was the culminating point of Mom and the Spawn of Satan not being able to perform their fiscal duties of paying for emergency room care.

It was a hot summer day. July in northern Marin could be brutally hot. Thankfully, we had a pool in the backyard. We were all frolicking in the water, with the exception of my brother. He was seven years old and could not swim, so his pool play involved a rubber swim vest called Tommy the Turtle. He was not overly amused, but without Tommy, he would sink or flap around and claim he was drowning. (The method of teaching my younger sibling to swim may be discussed later…if I remember).

The crowd in the pool this day consisted of Mom, Fulldemerde, my brother, likely our next door neighbors, and our 180lb Saint Bernard, Muttley. After splashing about for a few hours, I decided that the kids and canine needed Otter Pops. I jumped out of the pool and darted into the house without drying myself. I ran into the kitchen entrance, through a sliding glass door, rather than going through the carpeted side entrance. As I careened onto the tile floor, I slipped and fell headlong (or leglong) onto the treacherous stepstool. This horrid thing was a weapon, lurking in wait to cause bodily harm. Who had a stepstool with a sharp metal edge, anyway? Wet feet, dripping water, tile floor…a formula for mayhem. I slammed my shin straight onto that razor edge, cutting myself down to the bone. And, oh my, was there blood! I was a sanguineous, spurting mess. It was just a flesh wound, I thought, and certainly wouldn’t keep me from enjoying the pool or my Otter Pop. I simply ran to Mom’s bathroom (leaving a trail of blood in my wake), patched myself up with some gauze and ran back poolside.

At which point, my mom shrieked. She probably cried out in alarm because her spidey sense already deduced the gory mess I’d left inside. Mom removed my dressing, wide-eyed. The conversation that ensued was brief:

Mari, the Wee Princess of Denial (MWPD): “It is but a flesh wound. I’m fine. As soon as I finish my Otter Pop, I’ll just jump back into the pool and wash off both the sticky blood and the OP remnants.”

Saint Mother (SM): “Like Hell you will.”

MWPD: “Really. It’s hot out and I hear chlorine is good for wounds.”

[In the background, my brother fainted at the sight of my blood and was momentarily left bobbing on the surface of the pool, buoyed by Tommy Turtle.]

Most Vile Fulldemerde (MVF): “Oh, let her back in the pool. It’ll be cheaper than hauling her injury-prone heiny to a hospital. Hey…is anyone gonna eat her Otter Pop”

Large Dog: “Woof. I just ate it. I think I’ll cannonball into the pool and take the OP from the unconscious boy, too.”

MWPD: “Huzzah!”

SM: “Mari, honey. Don’t be a fool. You have seriously slashed your leg. You need medical attention.

MWPD: “Pshaw…I channeled my inner Clara Barton. I’m fine. I even got to see my shinbone.”

[My brother, who finally regained consciousness, fainted dead away again. Somebody hauled him out of the pool at this point.]

SM: Everyone leave. No, not you, Mari. You may need stitches. Saddle up…the rest of us are going to the ER.”

MWPD: “Stitches? STITCHES??? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo.”

MVF: “Stitches? Nooooooooooooooo. My poor wallet.”

And off we went. Muttley stayed home. But first, Mom did a much better job of patching up my gaping gash. For good measure, she wrapped my lower half in a beach towel. Our damp, chlorine-scented, bedraggled group tromped into the ER which, thankfully, was empty. I was whisked into a vacant room, where a crotchety old doctor tended to me. The laceration on my leg was not only deep, it was jagged. I think my brother fainted again.

Rather than just sew me up and let me go home, the doctor decided he needed to trim the wound. He determined that, since I was a girl, I would someday care about how my leg looked. I assured him that I would not. (I was right, BTW). He said that no young woman should have a jagged scar, so he’d fix it to make it a straight, hairline incision. I opined that a jagged scar would be cool – if a lightning bold was good enough for Thor, it was good enough for me. I lost the argument.

So, Dr. Dingbat scooped out a lot of meat. And commenced sewing. Now, I was not a doctor, and this was before Holiday Inn Express came into being, but I didn’t think this was a good idea. My precocious, eleven-year old opinion was not desired. I was sent home with orders not to get my leg wet for two weeks. Two weeks without swimming. The horror.

Dr. Dingbat should have known that removing that much flesh on my shin would prolong the healing. My skin was stretched taut, and when the stitches were removed, the wound opened right back up. Dr. Dingbat said I should go to see a Plastic Surgeon, to fix my leg so that the scar wouldn’t be even worse than a cute little lightning bolt. I didn’t get a chance to refuse…Fulldemerde’s wallet did that for me. So, the medical staff applied far too many butterfly bandages to try to keep the wound closed and told me to stay out of the water for 2 – 4 weeks. Are you kidding me?

I mostly obeyed their orders. I devised all sorts of ways to get wet without soaking my leg. The simplest solution was to lie on the side of the pool and contort myself into such a position that I could get my upper body into the water. The most satisfactory solution was to get into an inflatable canoe (we did have some rockin’ pool toys) and prop my offending limb up on the gunwale. That worked well…and I could eat Otter Pops. My brother and Muttley wanted to join me when the Otter Pops appeared, but I repelled all boarders.

As a result of the horrendously expensive medical bills for one measly leg, Fulldemerde signed up for Kaiser forthwith. The big bonus, for me, was that the Kaiser ER was much, much closer to where we lived than the other county facilities. It was not long before I became a regular at Kaiser.

In addition to the aforementioned concussions (a discussion for later), I apparently decided at some level that bleeding profusely was overrated and I subconsciously channeled my klutziness into broken bones (and concussions).

I loved that house with the pool. It was in Northern Marin and was in a fun neighborhood, where I knew lots of kids. I wouldn’t be permitted to go to junior high and high school with my friends, but I didn’t know that then. We lived on a loop with a tennis court in the middle. How cool is that? I didn’t play tennis, but I liked leaping over the net. My noggin did not like this, but, again, another time…In addition to our pool, there was a huge community pool. This was a Tomboy Wonderland.

But, Fulldemerde decided he wanted to live in Southern Marin. He’s always been obsessed with labels and such. A San Rafael address was nowhere near as prestigious as a Tiburon one, so off we went. Truth be told, this (first) house in Tiburon was much nicer than the one we left. But, it had no pool. It did, however, have a flat cul-de-sac, where I rode my unicycle and indulged in other non-girly antics, with reckless abandon.

Because I was the quintessential tomboy, I hung around with the neighborhood boys. The girls didn’t warm up to me. No surprise there. One of the boys, Mike, was a dirtbike savant. This was well before BMX, Canondale, and readily-available mountain bikes. Mike built mountain bikes for himself and his friends. I badgered him enough to get him to build me one. Off we went to the dump and rifled around for bike parts. Fulldemerde drove us because the cost savings to make me happy with a frankencycle constructed from discarded parts clearly surpassed the cost of gas to get us there. There was an area in the neighborhood that we called “The Plateau.” We would race down the long street from the top of the cul-de-sac, take a hard left down another hill, pray there were no cars coming in the opposite direction, then fling ourselves into the dirt beyond the end of the street. From there, we could either head left across some open, bumpy fields towards a different neighborhood, or we could pump our pedals like maniacs to get to the top of The Plateau. This was a forerunner to single track, which was not a term at the time. Mike and his other bike-crazed buddies had made a large course, with dips and turns, crazy roller coaster swoops, blind drops and the like. I was in heaven. I used the crap out of that bike. I fell, I was launched out of the saddle, I got no sympathy from the big boys, and I usually made it home covered in dirt with a perma-grin. I didn’t even break any bones while riding my frankencycle like crazed fiend. I should have stuck with that activity.

Mom, on the other hand, broke an ankle and blames my bike and unicycle riding. [See the previous blog post entitled “Broken Ankles Run in the Family (Part One)].” We carted her off to the Kaiser ER (which, ironically, now was much further from our domicile), where her broken ankle was diagnosed. She also had to have surgery to insert hardware. This was the start of my new nickname for Mom: The Queen of Hyperbole. It was also the time that I learned that telling imaginative stories about the cause of broken bones was much more satisfying than the boring old truth. [“Broken Ankles Run in the Family (Part Two)”] will provide further enlightenment.

This was also the start of the Era of the Broken Bones. In short order, I broke three ribs. Then, two weeks later, I broke a thumb. Both of these injuries were dealt with at my new favorite hang-out, the Kaiser ER. As luck would have it, the same orthopedic surgeon was on duty in the ER for both my ribs and thumb. During the first visit, he looked at my X-rays, looked at me, and asked what I’d done to break ribs. I told him I’d had a unicycle mishap. He nodded, acted as if that were a perfectly reasonable explanation, and sent me home with strict orders not to ride my unicycle for six weeks. The horror. Actually, it wasn’t terribly comfortable to breathe or laugh for the first couple of weeks, so the unicycle ban was not initially torturous.

After a couple of weeks, ennui set in. No unicycle. No touch football. No single-track riding on The Plateau (parental restriction). No backyard pool. What was a girl to do?

The boys in the ‘hood were next door playing basketball. I didn’t excel at that sport, but it was better than nothing. To make it more interesting, I went next door pretending that I was a gymnast (this was the late summer of 1972, and the Olympics were in full swing). I left common sense in my wake, channeled my inner Cathy Rigby and OIga Korbut, and walked along the curb as if it were a balance beam. No matter that there was a large juniper bush planted in the yard, covering much of the curb with prickly branches. I had my arms out for balance and went for it. I caught my foot under the damn juniper and fell off the curb and splat onto the street. The boys laughed. I borrowed from Mom’s vocabulary and joined them to play hoops. Pretty soon, it was apparent that I had broken something. Again.

Off we went to the Kaiser ER. Again. By this time, the staff knew not only my name, but my Kaiser medical number by heart. I kid you not. I still remember my number, all these years later. Off I went for X-rays. Imagine my surprise when the same orthopedic surgeon waltzed into the exam room. I believe he may have been more shocked to see me than vice versa.

Orthopedic Surgeon (OS): “You again. What is it this time?”

Mari the Clumsy Misreant (MCM): “I fell. Look at the nifty colors on my hand. It looks a little big, however. Do you think I can forego a baseball mitt with a hand this big?”

OM: “You may need a psychiatrist.”

MCM: “Nah. Just wrap me up so I can get out of here.” [Brave words for a 12 year old who needed parents to driver her everywhere.]

OM: “You did a number on your thumb. We’ll have to cast you, then you’ll have to come back in a few days, after the swelling goes down, so we can determine if we need to operate and put in pins.”

MCM: “I’m sure pins won’t be necessary. The cast will be a real bummer, though. I guess that means I can’t go swimming.” [I said this for effect, as I did not have easy access to a pool.]

OM: “By the way, didn’t I tell you to stay off your unicycle? And, yes, swimming is out, too.”

MCM: You did tell me that. But the joke’s on you. I wasn’t riding my unicycle.”

OM: “Then how on earth did you do this to yourself?”

[I regaled him with the balance beam routine, complete with a mini-reenactment, sans curb.]

OM: “You’re a menace. Not only should you stay off your unicycle, I think you need to stay off your feet. Perhaps you can find another ER next time.” [I’m sure he didn’t mean that. I was charming and fun. He probably still misses me!]

The broken bones didn’t end there. I did, however, refrain from breaking anything else (other than numerous ribs and a toe) for many moons. No more unicycle-related injuries, even though I got back on and continued to ride it for a few years. I got cocky. So what, I broke some more ribs and a phalange over the years. These breaks don’t even require casts. I was in the clear and borderline bulletproof. Maybe the klutz gene really hadn’t been passed to me. Maybe I had a period of clumsiness and outgrew it. I laughed and jumped back into the adventure that is life.

As the old commercial said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” I flew too close to the sun and needed a reality-check. The earlier breaks were warm-up injuries. Twenty years down the road, I found out just what fresh hell orthopedic injuries could really be. Turns out that I took after Mom in more than just the art of appendage destruction – I, too, learned the joys of hyperbole. I was about to channel my inner Clara and love it.

1 May 2017

Springtime for Promsters in Marin County

Part 1 – Setting the stage

I have spent most of my life trying to forget the spring – prom connection. I love spring. Proms, not so much. However, I have recently been included in a Facebook group that is dedicated to the xxth reunion of my high school graduation. Suffice it to say that it has been a few decades. Ugh. I really can’t be THIS old. Trust me. Anyway, many of the posts in this group talk about prom, or which song defined our class, or other stuff. I’m not complaining about this activity. The folks who are taking on the responsibility of arranging a suitable reunion should get medals for their dedication.

I did answer one question that was posed on this Facebook site. The question ran something like this: I always wanted to be___________________. I really became_________________. In case you’re wondering, the first blank is “archaeologist,” and the second was something like “professional warrior.”

Really, I don’t for a moment believe that anyone in my graduating class gives a flying feck about what I wanted to be or what I became. I was raised in Northern California. Marin County, even. Since I am not sure that “Naval Officer” is the norm, how could I even begin to explain my title of “Mistress of War?” I may be banned from California forever for that job description. Normally, being cast out of a geographical region wouldn’t bother me. But, I have family and friends there, and it would be nice to return without wearing Groucho Marx glasses and traveling under some cheesy alias.

Maybe one of the reasons I was mostly ambivalent is that I didn’t fit in during high school. Not only did I wander around to a different drummer, my drummer was usually in a completely different band. I liked my drummer. There were times when I longed to be accepted by the “cool” kids, but I’d usually come to my senses. My friends were the coolest of the cool, so I felt disloyal when I occasionally wanted to be accepted by the Big Kids on Campus. That was all just silliness, because of course, now, I’m beyond cool: I have a Hunky Hubby, I have marvelous and interesting friends, I’m funny (even if my kids don’t agree), I’m successful, I have seen a lot of the world, and I’ve maintained my irreverent nature. And, yes, I still have that nutjob drummer.

I went to a private school for 9th and 10th grades. This, mind you, was not my idea. My Mom was fixated, well before my birth, on sending a future daughter to the Kissing Bottoms School for Children Raised by Affluent Parents. All I wanted to do was attend high school with my junior high buddies. Actually, I wanted to attend junior high with my elementary school pals, but that didn’t happen. My Mom’s evil consort, Fulldemerde, had it in his pea brain to move me out of the school district when I entered 7th grade. Apparently, our local junior high was not acceptable because the only foreign language classes they offered were Spanish. The horror. Therefore, I was, without my buy-in, wrenched away from my childhood friends and unceremoniously tossed into a school in a different district. There, I was enrolled in French and German classes, and was taught Latin at home in the afternoons. Yeah – THAT ensured I wouldn’t ever be in the cool club. Oh, then the German instruction was deemed unsatisfactory, so I was hauled off to a private tutor. He was an old, smelly, Dutch curmudgeon, with a lovely wife. I was amused, because Dutch Tutor was from Friesland and had a horrendous German accent. According to Fulldemerde, this was acceptable. I finally pitched enough of a fit to be excused from Latin instruction. Naturally, in retrospect, I wish I had taken Latin in high school…

Ah…high school…let’s move to that topic, shall we? I ended up making some nice friends in junior high. They were, for the most part, going to the local (yet outside of the district where I lived, but when did THAT matter) high school, San Rafael High School. I couldn’t wait to be in ninth grade with people I knew. The high school transition was tough enough, but I looked forward to NOT being wrenched away from my buddies for the second time in as many years. What was I thinking? This is where Mom asserted her will. No public school for her precious daughter. Nope, I was sent packing to Kissing Bottoms School for Children Raised by Affluent Parents, her dream school, where I could wear ugly uniforms, to boot. They had a boarding school component, but I wasn’t permitted to board. I tried. Home life was not measuring up to my standards and I thought it would be a good experience for me stretch my independence by going to school in a different city. (I’d have preferred a different state…). I even tried to convince Mom to let me attend a private school in La Jolla (as long as she was on a private school kick). No joy.

Looking back on it, there were some moments that were not unpleasant. I just did not fit in at all. I made one life-long friend there, and thankfully she pledged my sorority, so we’ve kept in touch all these years. Many of the kids had been to private schools for their entire lives, and they knew each other. It was difficult for one with her own drummer to be accepted. Honestly, I probably could have tried harder to play nice and fire the drummer. Alas.

There were some awesome faculty members. I made friends with some of the boarding students, so it was a real treat for me to be allowed to spend the weekend with them at school, and to be invited to their homes over holidays. There were some other kind and wonderful young people there, so reminiscing about the two years at Kissing Bottoms does not utterly fill me with dread and revulsion. Academically, it was great. 100% college acceptance for the graduating seniors. On the other hand, the headmaster was a putz who looked like a massive toad wearing a bow tie. He did not like me, imagine that! I had the audacity to complain about something one day, and he opined that since I was unhappy, I might consider another school. That was all it took! I reported this discussion to Mom, told her she was spending far too much money on tuition, and gave her lots of good reasons why finishing up a public school was the best option. Fulldemerde wasn’t paying the tuition at Kissing Bottoms. Bills were either paid by the child support my Dad was forking out each month or by my Mom’s parents. Either way, in my case, it was not money well spent and the parental units finally saw the light.

In my sophomore year at Kissing Bottoms, I made friends with some of the kids at Redwood High School (RHS). Not the same school where my junior high mates went, because we’d moved. Again. I made friends with the Redwood crowd in our neighborhood. We moved to Tiburon before eighth grade, moved again (same neighborhood) when I was in tenth grade, then moved to yet another house in Tiburon before eleventh grade. Early on, I hung out with the boys, rode bikes and unicycles, did rough and tumble stuff, and continued to eschew girly-activities. My first parent-sanctioned “date” was with a neighborhood boy. Ross was a junior at Redwood and I was in eighth grade. I didn’t realize it was a date, but I was informed later that it was. Yep – clueless tomboy! Through Ross, I met lots of great people who attended Redwood. Therefore, I was determined to join them.

Although I had several friends at Redwood, popping in as a junior was not a cake walk. I was still a dork, and though it didn’t matter that I didn’t have a brand new Mercedes (or a car at all or even a driver’s license!), I was still on the outside looking in. I didn’t care. I finally was in the right place for me at the time. Fulldemerde was mollified because I took French and German, in addition to the other classes he chose for me. At one point, because he didn’t let me take any non-academic courses, my counselor told him I HAD to take an elective to graduate. He was not amused, I was ecstatic.

I went to a pre-season track meet in my junior year. It was held at the local community college and I was enthralled. I’d been on the diving team at Kissing Bottoms School (I wasn’t any good, but damn it, I tried), and I liked sports. The day I watched that meet I stomped home and imperiously informed my parents that I would be running hurdles on the track team that year. Never mind that I’d never run hurdles or been on a track team. Trifling details. I tried out for the team and made it, mainly because I sucked at hurdles less than some of the other aspiring athletes. And, an obsession was born.

Part 2 – The dashed expectations of a first prom

Back to prom. I wish we had been as comfortable in our own skins then as our kids are now. No date? No fecking problem…I’ll just go with friends. But, back in the Middle Ages, that was just not done. One had to have a Date. I honestly don’t remember if one had to have a Limousine, because I didn’t travel in those circles and didn’t notice if anyone arrived avec chauffeur. I’m relatively certain that one didn’t need professional hair and make-up, manis and pedis and all that other hoopla. We sure as hell didn’t need that silliness for Homecoming. Come to think of it, was Homecoming even a thing? I didn’t have a boyfriend in my junior or senior years, so I didn’t really care about prom. I didn’t think I’d go. Imagine my surprise when I ended up going to three?!

Prom numero uno was in my junior year. My life was track. In my case, practice didn’t make perfect, but I got determination points. I ran hurdles, and filled in at long jump, shot put (I sucked), and other events as necessary. I didn’t pay a whit of attention to the impending excitement about prom. It was a Friday night. How do I remember that? Because, I had a track meet that Friday afternoon, and track trumped all. Besides, as we’ve already covered, I didn’t have a boyfriend. That made it easy. No silly dress-up dance for this tomboy.

A week or so before the non-event, I was asked to prom. You could have knocked me over with a feather. The poor, unsuspecting boy was in one of my classes. He was on the swim and water polo teams (I knew that because of his green-blond hair and the company he kept). I didn’t know him. I really didn’t want to accept, but I didn’t know how to decline the invitation. I was less thrilled than I was put-out that I’d have to find a dress and shoes and who knows what other nonsense. I did inform him that we’d have to arrive late because I had a meet that afternoon, and, no, I would not miss it. My Mom took it upon herself to buy me a dress, as I was too busy doing track stuff. I didn’t even look at it until I got home, all sweaty and icky, and had to get ready for a dance that night. OMG. The dress was gawdawful. My mother got a dress that may have been suitable for a sixth grader. The dress was blue and white gingham, for crying out loud. I think Mom was trying to get back at me for fleeing uniforms and the cachet of private school. I was not a promiscuous dresser, but neither did I aspire to look Amish.  I’m kidding about appearing Amish because I didn’t arrive in a horse-drawn buggy. All I needed was a little white bonnet and I could have passed for a Mennonite, so I had that going for me.

My date arrived. Ross (not the same Ross as my first date ever, who was in college by this time) picked me up and could not hide his horror. “That’ll teach you to ambush a complete stranger a week before prom,” was all I could think. His parents let him drive some version of a German sedan, and I don’t know why I remember that. It was old and I thought it might fall apart at any moment. I would have asserted my tomboyish liberation and offered to drive. But, I’d been grounded forever, and wasn’t allowed to drive. Fortunately, being grounded didn’t include track (thanks to my amazing guidance counselor); unfortunately, it didn’t include missing prom. (PS – I’d lived in a constant state of “you’re grounded!” for as long as I could remember. Not only was I a mouthy feck, I had a totalitarian step-parent. He grounded me for a month for getting a B- on a hellaciously difficult history quiz in my freshman year).

I was a sweaty, post-track meet, ambivalent, Mennonite-appearing mess, on a date with someone I didn’t know and to whom prom was obviously a bigger deal than it was for me. What more could go wrong? He’d asked me what color my dress was. I’d replied that I had no idea. He showed up with a large corsage that looked like Genitals of the Universe (GUs). It was at that moment that I decided I hated corsages. This one was to be pinned on, so at least it hid an acre of dress in my mammary region. Really, he should have brought me one of those flower blankets that get draped over horses in the winner’s circle. Only then might I have looked acceptable. Ross’ first order of business was to drive to Paradise Cay, a neighborhood with bayside home sites and a marina just down the street from my abode. I was perplexed. The damn prom was at the San Geronimo Country Club and we were running late (because of me). Why did we need to stop? It was at this point that I made Ross’ evening even more horrendous for him. He parked the car in Paradises Cay, got out, opened his trunk and brought out two enormous cans of beer. I didn’t drink beer (much), and I certainly didn’t drink beer out of huge cans. While driving (or being driven by a teenager). I adamantly refused to partake and told him that if he drank it, I’d walk my happy ass back home and call it a night. He should have taken me up on my kind offer.

We didn’t talk much on the way out to San Geronimo. It was a long drive. I recall that dinner was served there. Or maybe not. We didn’t go somewhere before the event. All I remember was that I had a miserable time. Ross hung out with his friends. They’d all had booze. They were having a blast. Of course, he didn’t include me in the shenanigans because of my charming dress and lovely demeanor. Ross mercifully made it a short night and took me home. I don’t think we even stayed for the whole prom. We certainly didn’t go to any after-parties. I’m sure Ross did – he was a borderline cool kid with jock friends. I was happy to be home and told Mom we needed to burn my dress. She disagreed, the party pooper.

Part 3 – Apparently, the second prom was also a crapfest

Prom numero dos happened the same year. You’d think that after my earlier abysmal experience, I’d have stopped the prom experiment right then and there. Au contraire. The senior prom was later in the year, closer to graduation. I wouldn’t normally have cared, but Pablo Cruise was the band. I might have missed my track meet if they’d been the musical entertainment for the junior prom. As luck would have it, I was invited to the senior prom by a friend of mine. Acquaintance might have been a better term, but I knew this guy. Actually, one of my best friends was a senior named Mark, but he didn’t want to go and I couldn’t persuade him otherwise. He didn’t have a girlfriend (but he had me, his BFF). Even so, that was not enough to make prom appealing to Mark. Smart man.

Dan asked me to go, I said yes, and thought there was no way this would be as awful as the other prom. Dan asked me what color dress I was wearing. Mom had gone out of her way to make up for the Mennonite look, and she brought back this atrocious dress from a French boutique. It was skin-tight, strappy, and bright yellow. Who, with my coloring, wears a canary yellow dress to anything? I was mortified. Not only was it not a good color on me, it was as skimpy as a long dress could be. Instead of material, the back of the dress started at the waist and had these multi-strand, criss-crossing straps that required an engineering degree to arrange. I’ve never been a fashion plate, but this was terrifying. Maybe I should have recycled the Amish dress. Maybe I should have added a burka.

I should have told Dan that my dress was black. Because color-matching was de rigueur, Dan somehow found a yellow tux. With a frilly shirt, accented by yellow. His yellow was not the day-glow, ski patrol tone of my dress. Instead, it was a pale yellow concoction that would have been fine at a baby shower. The white shirt with masses of frothy, baby poop yellow frills was the icing on a very ugly cake. At least I’d informed him of my aversion to corsages, so he brought me a lovely bouquet of yellow and white roses. If only the night ended there.

We went to Dan’s home for a photo op. His mom was lovely. One of her male relatives was Chester Nimitz and she’d gotten reservations for us to dine at the Marine’s Memorial Club in San Francisco. We were the youngest diners by several decades, but the location was good. I’d have appreciated the locale more a few years later…

Prom itself was at Bimbo’s 365 Club in North Beach. Much more rocking a venue than the San Geronimo Country Club. Bimbo’s was one of the oldest nightclubs in the City, and had panache. Back in the day, Xavier Cugat played there! During my high school years, the performers trended more to punk groups – Iggy Pop, The Tubes, The Stooges, the Dead Kennedys. I was thrilled to be going to Bimbo’s as much as I anticipated seeing Pablo Cruise. And, that, my friends, was where the night took a dive. We got a good table, right alongside the dance floor and close to the stage. I didn’t see Dan the rest of the evening. I enjoyed Pablo Cruise, but felt naked and abandoned in my fluorescent yellow frock. There was nobody at my table, I couldn’t find my “date,” and I don’t think anyone spoke to me. As the entertainment and dancing wound down, I was about to go to a pay phone and call home. At that moment, Dan stumbled up to me. I believe he’d indulged in some recreational stuff during the evening, but he denied it. No matter, this was platonic and after being left in the lurch all night, there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that there would be even so much as a handshake shared between us.

Did he drive me straight home? Oh, hell no. You see, since we were acquaintances, he’d met my parents. He’d gotten permission from them to take me to an after-party. It would be fun and low key, he said. He lied. I don’t know whose home we went to, but there were a bunch of stoned, drunk seniors acting with wild abandon. Apparently, I was expected to join in the fun. I took Dan aside, pitched a fit, and demanded to be taken home. He took that moment to tell me he was in no condition to drive, so I might as well enjoy it. These people all knew each other, this was their last hoorah before the halcyon days of high school ended. Although I was scantily clothed (thanks, Mom!), I wasn’t ready to join the naked-splashy-pool fun. Before I could call my folks to come get me (once I’d figured out where the hell we were), a senior named Charles bailed me out. I knew him a little. He was uncomfortable there, too. He offered to drive me home. I was very grateful. I tried to burn the dress, but it just turned into a blob of molten goop. I did have the fun of driving Fulldemerde into an apoplectic fit, because I chose to torch the offending garb in the fireplace.

Part 4 – I was certifiably crazy to try this again

Prom numero tres. Why in hell would there be a prom number three? Was I really daft enough to entertain the thought of a third prom. That, of course, is a rhetorical question. The only explanation is that my brain cells responsible for memories of prom hell up and died. One year later and I was raring to go to Prom.

The third time is the charm, right? Wrong. This time, I went with the assistant coach of one of the JV athletic teams. He and I had mutual friends. He wasn’t REALLY an adult – he was a student in the local Community College, so he was closer to my age than his job title might indicate. We both liked cars. Dan (yes, another one), took me to the San Francisco International Auto Show, which was a blast. I thought he was pleasant and that we’d have a bearable time at prom. Hah. Because I wanted it to be a special night, I convinced my male BFF, Mark (also a student at our local Community College at the time) and my female BFF, Valerie, to attend with us. Mark and I had remained thick as thieves. We spent much of the previous summer going to the beach and other outdoorsy locations together. Nothing romantic ever happened between us. The times I decided I really had a crush on him, he didn’t feel the same way. And vice versa. Mark was a wonderful, loyal, supportive, smart, fun dude and we were two peas in a pod. In retrospect, I should have set Valerie and Dan up together and just gone to the damn dance with Mark.

We double-dated that night. Mom let me assist in the dress-picking-outing activities. As previously asserted, I had zero fashion sense. To this day, I’m a big ol’ fashion don’t. It doesn’t matter as much now as it did then, apparently. It really never mattered to me, but kids are mean. I chose a vanilla colored dress. It was long, had a modest bodice without being Amish, and had a matching cover-up. This was a chic as I was ever going to get. No bling, no frills, no shiny, satiny fabric, no décolletage to the waist, none of that crap. I washed my hair, put on some make-up, threw on the dress and was ready to go in less than an hour. Shazzam!

The other three met at my house for the requisite photo ops. I had informed Dan of my hatred of corsages, so he brought a lovely bouquet. I think I convinced Mark that Valerie would rather have a beautiful bouquet, so if she’s harboring any ill-will about not getting a corsage on that night, I confess now that it was my fault. We four tromped to Valerie’s home for more photo ops (and for her to put her flowers in water), then off to Mark’s house for more pictures. He’d never been to a high school prom, so his mom was tickled. If I recall, we also ended up at a few more homes of friends for more endless photos. The boys (young men) took us to dinner at a trendy, fern-bar type restaurant in San Francisco. Then, it was off to the main event.

Prom was at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. The ball room was jammed. I don’t think the band was any good…they certainly weren’t Pablo Cruise! We mingled and danced. Mark and I danced, and then I was hit by the realization that I was back in one of those “I really, really like this guy” phases. My heart went pitter pat. Then I looked at Dan and my heart went “thud.” He was a decent guy, trying too hard to be my boyfriend, which never would have happened under any circumstances, certainly not when I was back in love with Mark. The rest of the evening is a miserable blur. My draconian step-parent gave us permission to stay out as long as we wanted. I thought we’d go to a friend’s house, change into jeans, listen to music and laugh the night away. Dan had other ideas.

We did change out of our finery into jeans. Then, Dan drove us to the area around the Cannery and Fisherman’s Wharf. We wandered around a bit, then ended up at the beach (such as it is) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. It was a lovely, clear night, but I did not want to spend my prom night shivering on some benches overlooking the water. Dan brought some wine, but neither Mark nor I wanted any. There was nothing untoward about Dan’s and Valerie’s activities, but they were clearly having more fun than Mark and I! They enjoyed the moment, didn’t put unrealistic expectations on the evening, and kicked up their heels. I moped and fretted and wondered if Mark could possibly be “in love” with me. Since our non-platonic attractions to each other never occurred simultaneously, this was highly improbable! I don’t remember how long we spent there. Dan and Valerie went off to have their wine, rather than spend time with two grouchy imbeciles. Eventually, they wandered back and asked what fun thing we should do next. Mark and I replied that going home would be a great idea. I think Mark drove Dan’s car, because Dan ingested a fair amount of wine.

We got to my house. Dan said he’d follow Valerie to make sure she got home safely. Mark hugged me and looked wistful. I, knowing that I’d probably ruined everyone’s evening, sulked and went to bed. I never saw Dan again, which was fine. Once again, I was clueless. I figured we were friends, he thought maybe there was hope for something more (why else would someone in their early 20s want to take a girl to a high school prom). Mark and I stayed friends and spent much of our free time together over the summer. Our crushes remained unrequited. Valerie and I spent some time together, but we were both preparing to go to college in the fall. I had chosen UC San Diego (for the sole reason that it was the school in the UC system the furthest from my home). Life went on, in spite of three horrendous prom experiences!

Part 5 – I never learn

Fast forward one year. I had transferred to UC Berkeley, and pledged a sorority. We didn’t call them “proms,” but we had Spring Formals every year. As did every sorority and fraternity, so we went to lots and lots of soirées. Once again, my brain cells went on vacation and I thought that dressing up and going to formal dances sounded like a grand idea! Would I never learn? Although Mark and I remained steadfast friends, and he visited me a lot at Cal, I could never talk him into attending another prom-like event.

I learned some lessons. Really. For instance, unlike at my high school proms, I did not eschew the wine or beer. These endless spring formals became much more bearable! I never recycled my Amish dress (Mom didn’t let me burn it because it was “precious” and she wanted to keep it), but I did bring the vanilla dress out of mothballs. Since we all went to numerous spring events, we traded dresses, laughed while we readied ourselves, had photographers take fun group photos, and whooped it up as college kids should. Smaller, more intimate evenings with my sisters, regardless of whether I had a date or if I was set up, were too fun. Wine, women, and song had a total different meaning for me now! And, on the upside, I got to to teach my sorority sisters the term “GUs,” as many of our dates insisted upon purchasing massive orchid corsages. If a formal was less-than-exciting, my sisters and I could always get a huge guffaw out of comparing our GU corsages.

In short, if you want to go to a prom, just say no. Wait until you’re able to temper the ridiculous expectations of “a magical evening” with bosom buddies and adult beverages. You can thank me later!

 

30 April 2017

A Short Dip Back Into the Blogpool

I grow weary of the Blog Nazi (BN), AKA Hunky Hubby (HH) nattering at me to resume blogging. Therefore, I have decided to dip my big toe back into the blogpool and see if I drown. Luckily, my trip to Starbucks this morning provided some blogfodder.

I think I’m catching the plague from my son, Typhoid Matthew. He’s been down hard with the crud for a week or so. Naturally, because my work week will be nuts, I’ve started to demonstrate many of the same symptoms. As it is a federal holiday today, I decided at the last minute to take the day off to recuperate and get ahead of this pestilence; I can make up the hours later.

My first, last, and only, official  act this morning was to go to a local Starbucks for my bucket’o’caffeine. There was a lovely family ahead of me in line – mom, tween son, and adorable toddler daughter. The wee girl didn’t recoil in fear and revulsion when I made googly eyes at her. Instead, she beamed at me and drooled slightly. I briefly conversed with her mother:

Mari the Crone (MtC): What an adorable girl [Googly, googly, baby talk directed at said toddler]. And, how wonderful that your son seems to be so good with her.

Pretty Mom (PM): Why, thank you. Yes, my son is patient and caring. He’s twelve. (He’ll get over it, they all do, but I don’t want to burst her bubble. They get it back, so  no need to inject reality. I thought it was nice of me not to share the voice in my head).

MtC: [Comments directed at toddler]: Who wouldn’t want to be rolled around in a comfy chair, while being supplied with Pepperidge Farm© Goldfish? [I’d probably want something stronger in my bottle, however].

PM: It’ll probably happen someday [being pushed around in a chair]. I just hope I find it as amusing then as you do now.

MtC: It’ll happen to me sooner than later. I’d better go home and be nice to my kids so they [put something stronger in my bottle and] feed me Goldfish and provide me with a bib for my drool!

As the young mother was placing her order, her son spoke to the wee, grinning girl, while making zoom-zoom sounds He’s twelve, after all. I think they mutually agreed that the baby carriage would make a fine Formula One car, so off they went. This particular Starbucks is in a large grocery store. Last seen, the brother was pushing the buggy at full tilt while the little sister laughed and threw Goldfish in celebration. The mom turned around when her order was complete and noticed her kids were missing. She looked at me. I helpfully shrugged, pointed left and said “they went that-away.” What?! What was I supposed to do? Detain them?

My turn to order. The cashier asked me if I wanted my usual and I nodded. My “usual” is a Venti Doubleshot. Contrary to the name, it is five shots of espresso, poured over ice into a large, plastic cocktail-shaker thingy, and shaken vigorously. I always decline the five pumps of Classic Syrup that traditionally come with this beverage. Normally, I add two or three pumps of flavored syrup and milk, then top it off with a dollop of half-and-half.

As I waited for my morning nectar, I conversed with the barista, as I am wont to do. He was new, and not used to my banter.

MtC: This is how James Bond drinks coffee.

Clueless Barista (CB): [Shaking the Doubleshot] James Bond drinks coffee?

MtC: [Eyeroll] Um, sure, when he’s not drinking martinis. Which are, wait for it…shaken not stirred.

I looked at PM, who was still waiting for her son, Mario Andretti, to complete a lap of the store and return with the toddler, and said “I’m funny. Really!” She laughed, but didn’t sound convinced. I think I need some new material.

CB fixed me with a blank stare and completed my order. Thankfully, it didn’t include spit. I turned then to see a large, odd looking man with a T-shirt that read: Survivor of Walking Dead.” Not to appear too uncharitable, the first thought that occurred to me was, “If I were a zombie, I’d give you a pass, too.”

Thank goodness there are times when the voice inside my head stays there.

20 February 2017

Aneurysm Schmaneurysm

I intended to write a quick blurb last night about one of my peculiar traits. Note that I quantified that as “one of” them. As I was drifting off to sleep, I had a brain bolt regarding my irreverence. However, I was not inclined, nor was I able, to leap nimbly out of bed, rush to the Broad Cave and record my revelations.

The gist of the blog-to-be was this: I am an irreverent person. I often think that people don’t appreciate my brand of humor as much as they should. This can be mildly annoying. My approach to life frequently requires a certain offbeat viewpoint. I can either try to find the humor in situations that would terrify the rational human or I can wrap my bad self even further around the axle of angst and hasten my demise. I choose humor. Although when I voice it, it is neither always appreciated nor even recognized. I have come to accept that the lack of recognition is not my problem. Please note that I don’t mean to offend with my flagrant irreverence. When I want to be snarky, I’ll do so deliberately…and you’ll know it.

There have been numerous occasions in the past four months where my ability to see humor in very dark situations has been evident. Take, for example, the life-threatening motorcycle accident in November 2015. More on that later. Suffice it to say that the EMTs and other medical personnel who helped me from the moment they encountered my prone body in the middle of a remote road, to the ER staffed by the Keystone medics, to the crew on the helicopter flight, and on to the trauma center staff…they all received a double-barrel dose of “Full Mari.” While I was being wheeled to pre-op, twelve hours after the accident happened, my sense of humor abruptly stopped. Dead in its tracks. I even told Hunky Hubby to stop joking because I could no longer endure it. The fact that I was a stubborn moron who refused narcotics probably caused the sudden humorectomy.

Guess what? I digress. Quelle surprise! This is not about the accident nor the injuries suffered during that mishap. I’ll meander back to that subject at a later date. This is about something that was detected in the Keystone ER (Keystone, as in Keystone Cops, not a real location). The backwoods ER to which I was transported was less-than-confidence-inspiring. They did, however, manage finally to complete a full body CT scan. Which, naturally, they could not interpret. They had to send the images to somewhere in Maryland. Really? There isn’t a facility in the entire state of West Virginia with the technology and expertise to read CTs and X-rays? That, my friends, is a rhetorical question, to which you know the answer.

When they finally cleared me off the back-board, they completed the CT scan. Then, I was shuffled back to the ER to wait for something. A decision. Godot. I’m not sure what. At this point, they were still discussing where they would drive me. I just wanted them to pick an acceptable location and get me the hell out of there. It should be no surprise that I vigorously declined being transported anywhere other than to a Virginia facility. I think I even told them the clock was a-ticking and I wasn’t healing spontaneously on my own. Finally, the doctor raced back in and paid the attention to me that I believed (as the only occupant of the freaking ER) was my due. “How long have you had an abdominal aortic aneurysm?,” he inquired. After HH pried me off the ceiling and we determined that I was having a panic, not heart, attack, I replied that, to the best of my knowledge, I didn’t have one of those things. Nor did I want one.

The radiologist in Maryland did a thorough job in reading the images sent to him. Yes, it was a him; I saw the bill. At the time, I was aghast at how much it cost for some dude in another state to look at a few images. He must have been having a slow day; how else could he devote time to pore over my scans? Whether or not I wanted an aneurysm, I was the proud owner of one. As you can probably surmise, I was not amused. The conversation went thusly:

Dingbat ER Doc (DERD) – “Yes, aneurysm. How long have you had it?” [Isn’t this like asking when you stopped beating your dog?]

Worried Mari (WM) – “How the hell should I know. I don’t even know what that means. What does that mean?”

DERD – “The radiologist detected an abdominal aortic aneurysm (Triple-A). I really don’t know what that means, or even if you sustained it during your accident.” [THAT was helpful, so I shared my opinion with him.]

WM – “Well, you know Doctor, that’s not entirely comforting. I really don’t want the Triple-A, so can we just send it back?”

I said that last bit to the retreating back of the doctor, as he rushed out of the ER. He returned. Much to my chagrin.

DERD – “I have further news from the radiologist. Apparently this is a pre-existing condition, so we can focus on your injuries.”

WM – “How the hell does he know it’s pre-existing? Is it like a tree with age rings? Holy crap, you’re not making me feel better. But, certainly, great idea, focus the hell on my current injuries. When do I get to leave?”

At this point, DERD whipped out an ultrasound device. I informed him that I wasn’t pregnant. He did not laugh. He waved it over my left foot and rushed out of the room again. I remarked to HH that I had that effect on men until he arrived in my life. Someone came in and offered me morphine. I declined. He insisted. I told him he’d need to give me Benadryl and anti-nausea meds, or I’d go all Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” on him. Morphine, at that point, didn’t work. I guess I should give him props for trying. I think it was a diversionary tactic.

DERD raced back in, and said that he had just called for a helicopter.  He couldn’t find the pulse in my foot. Driving me anywhere was off the table. Great. Six hours after I splatted onto the pavement, they decided to airlift me. I was told that the Triple-A was small and not immediately life-threatening, and off I went to the Winchester, VA Trauma Center. As if that nitwit would know what small or life-threatening really meant. In retrospect, he was correct. I’m still here. Happy coincidence, not proof of medical acumen.

Fast forward four months. I’m finally mobile enough that I thought I should probably deal with this Triple-A thingy. I did convince my foot surgeon to prescribe valium for those nights I woke up in a cold sweat, feeling my heart beat through my chest, wondering if this was the night the aneurysm would burst. I thought about wearing full makeup, with jewelry and a tiara, to bed so that I would be presentable should I croak during the night. I decided that was too much work. I screwed up my courage instead and made an appointment with a vascular surgeon. The Winchester Trauma Team told me that the aneurysm was small enough that I could tend to it after I got my other injuries under control, as long as I kept my blood pressure low (you try doing that with a ticking time bomb in, you think, your abdomen).

Today was the day. I met with the vascular surgeon. What a great guy, in addition to routinely being named one of the Top Docs in Northern VA. As opposed to one of the white-coated quacks in WV.

Dr. F, the surgeon, listened to my explanation and relieved me of the CD containing all the CT scans and X-Rays. Thankfully, I had procured a CD from the ER. He took it to another room, then popped his head back in for clarification:

Great Vascular Surgeon (GVS) – “What did they tell you about the aneurysm? Where did they say it was?”

Irreverent Mari (IM) – “They said it was small and in my abdomen.”

GVS – “What do they mean by small?”

IM – “Beats the hell out of me. I guess it’s not at the “you’re dead now” size.”

GVS – [huge eye roll] “You’ve characterized it as “you’re not dead now” in size? That’s a novel interpretation.”

IM – “As of now, it’s a correct interpretation.”

Dr. F left again to peer at the images, then came back to the exam room.

GVS – “The aneurysm isn’t in your abdomen.” [I had a fleeting moment of hope where I imagined that it wasn’t anywhere in my zip code]. “It’s in your chest. It is what we call an Ascending Aortic Aneurysm.”

IM – “HOLY SHIT.” [Direct quote. No kidding. Exclaimed loudly and with purpose, in fact]. “That sounds decidedly not good.”

After Dr. F looked sideways at me, and after I apologized for my sailor mouth, he offered to let me look at the images. There it was, not clear as day to me, but clear as a bell to him. And crystal clear to the wonderful radiologist in Maryland who spent enough time on a Sunday afternoon in November to give my scans more than a cursory glance. I don’t think he was a football fan, otherwise he’d not have looked so carefully. I think he should have charged the insurance company more, though at the time I saw the bill, I thought it was highway robbery. Funny how one’s perspective can change. Oh, and he provided a written report. I didn’t see it until today, as it was included on the CD. I presume, though, that the WV ER staff saw it. On the report was written clearly: “ascending aortic aneurysm,” along with a lot of other pertinent medical  jibber-jabber.

I may have to name the aneurysm-that-isn’t-a-Triple-A. Although, it too has three As, the notorious AAA is in the abdomen. Apparently, the ascending variety can be a little bigger than the abdominal one without causing medical personnel to go to General Quarters. I have an appointment for another CT scan in May, so Dr. F can see if there is any change. We’ll take it from there. I’m not in a Monty Python movie – no need to walk around me exclaiming “Bring out your dead.” I am, emphatically, not dead yet.

The not so good news is that, should surgery be required, Dr. F won’t be able to do it. He knows some excellent surgeons who specialize in this. But, we’re not there yet. This is me being serious, not irreverent. The other news is that there are three hospitals in a 100-mile radius that have the facilities to handle surgeries of this nature. I deduce, therefore, that it isn’t out-patient surgery. I fearfully deduce that, should surgery become necessary (and it will not), they’ll have to crack me open like a walnut to place the stent / mesh / replacement-aorta-thingy at the top of my heart. It would be so much less complicated if I had aortic loops, as does a worm. Actually, I’ve claimed that for years. Turns out I was lying.

Dr. F also told me to get a Primary Care Physician. No, I don’t have one right now. I’ve been preoccupied with other things. So, I did that. I see her next week. Since low blood pressure is the best way to ensure that aneurysms don’t do bad things, I need to ensure mine is under control. Dr. F asked if I had high blood pressure. I told him I didn’t, until now. He snickered. Really. He asked if I smoke. I told him I quit over 20 years ago. He told me that, in my case, smoking likely wasn’t the cause, but, then, who knows. [Smokers: STOP NOW while you’re ahead. One of the leading causes of aneurysms (abdominal or otherwise) is smoking.] I may very well have had this thingy since birth. I likely would never have known, were it not for my accident in November. This proves HH’s assertion that I am just a defective human whose warranty has expired. Thankfully, he does not want to trade me in for a younger model, if only because a younger model would be too difficult to train. Yes, I let him think I’m trained. We all really know that I’m untrainable.

So…aneurysm, schmaneurysm. I’ve got one, yet I don’t want one. I probably can’t sell it on Craig’s List. Therefore, I’ll just deal with it. I’m confident that the annoying thingy will just remain its current size and not bother me in the slightest. Since I’ll be monitoring it very closely, with the help of Dr. F and other competent medical professionals, I’ll know if it becomes problematic. For now, I’ll come up with some appropriate name, make inappropriate jokes about it (and everything else) and use it as an excuse when HH wants me to mow the lawn.

Once again, the adage “getting old is not for sissies” comes to mind. Turns out I’m no longer ten feet tall and bulletproof. Confronting one’s own mortality is unnerving. Pass the wine. I’m off valium!

23 March 2016

Musings Du Jour

After a long hiatus, I may be ready to dip my toe into the blogging waters. I’ll start out slow. That’s really best for everyone. I had a few random thoughts today. Yes, I have random thoughts every day, but that’s neither here nor there.

1. On the subject of Pinterest. I have had many people gleefully recommend the joys of Pinterest to me. I have politely declined every invitation. I don’t mean to be rude. But, really people, you honestly think that Pinterest is the place for me? Allow me to remind you that I have a slight Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (self-diagnosed, and really without merit, but I like to claim it). I would NEVER leave Pinterest. It would be my downfall, the cause of the decline of Mari as we know her. Now, before you get nasty and say that Mari “as we know her” isn’t really an Easter basket full of chocolate and peeps, let me remind you that this persona is a result of decades of work. Therefore, I do not want to hasten the demise of my quirky personality by becoming so immersed in Pinterest that they’d have to invent a whole new 12-Step program to treat me. No thanks, I’ll just remain the lovable, annoying person I am. I won’t even peek at Pinterest. The evil that lies within beckons me. I will resist the siren song.

2. It occurs to me that I have not written a haiku in months. I must remedy that.

3. I saw an eagle flying over our house a few days ago. I wonder where it was going? It was a juvenile bird. Was it running away from aerie? Did its parents have the audacity to suggest that the young bird might want to pick up after himself? Were the parental birds tired of tossing crap and detritus and dinner leftovers out of the nest? Did the youngster strike out, hoping to find another nest to occupy? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t ready to construct its own home. Those things are huge and take time, commitment and concentration. I could tell this particular bird wasn’t ready. Maybe he / she returned home after she completed the snit fit. I hope it apologized to the parental birds and started taking some responsibility in the nest. Sheesh.

4. Thinking of fleeing the coop reminded me of the first time I tried to run away from home. I was four years old. My mother and father had irked me (probably by declining to sign my emancipation papers yet again), so I left. I was enamored of cartoons wherein the runaway rolled all their belongings into a bandanna and hung the parcel from the end of a stick. Seemed pretty ingenious to me, so I put some precious items into a scarf, tied it up and affixed it to a stick of some sort. I then marched determinedly out the front door, down our long driveway and arrived on the sidewalk, where I faced a dilemma. I wasn’t allowed to cross the street, so I turned right and wandered up the sidewalk. I may have been a rebel, but rules are rules, don’t you know. I walked around the block a few times before my Mom intercepted my march. She knew I’d left, (she’d probably given me the scarf), but she wisely thought it best to let me get my ire out of my system. Mom probably tempted me back inside with a cookie. I’d try for emancipation some other time.

Time to finish cooking dinner. It’s good to be back. Let’s see if my ability to concentrate has improved enough for me to return to my blog often.

                                                                     –22 March 2016

The Menopausal Musings of a Sports Car Driving, Harley Riding, Coonhound Loving, Green Bay Packers Fanatic, Navy Veteran Broad