Friday, July 30, 2010

Run Away, Run Away...

I'll be transporting a dog to the small city where Hopkins lives this Saturday afternoon. The lady who works with my rescue in the western half of the state usually meets me there, and this is our second transfer of the month.

I am such a coward.

I'm there for a legitimate reason from time to time, but my fear of rejection is so overwhelming that I typically run about two errands (tomorrow, I need dog biscuits that I have to get from the Petco store) and flee.

Nope, "flee" really does cover it.

I write a good game, now, don't I? Being a disembodied typist is a whole lot easier than the self-inflicted psychological beatdown that goes with seeing someone face-to-face. At the end of the day, I'm still that terrified fifteen year-old girl, waiting for him to speak up and petrified of what he might say.

Once again, I'm a little tired, so here's my philosophical thought for the evening: I'm not so petty that I judge anyone by a superfluous piece of paper or lack thereof. Character and intellect matter a great deal more than some indicator that you've spent a lot of money sitting in a classroom for a couple hundred course hours. The people who love you know that...the ones who don't can go squarely to hell.

On that note, I have a headache and I'm going to bed; I've got a lot of driving to do in the morning. It's a hundred and ten miles, one way.

Shakespeare Makes Sense, Though...

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no, it is an ever-fixèd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his heighth be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
~sonnet 116

I think it speaks reasonably well for itself- although I'm not trying to be obscure or disingenuous. More on this later when I've had a bit more sleep.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don't Try This @ Home

For some reason, the scientific mind can be, well, unquiet.

This leads to some really strange experimentation that may or may not be related to one's more inquisitive bent, such making, or the brewing of beer, or, heaven help us, home canning.

I understand that canning is making a comeback. Most everybody with whom I grew up had more than passing familiarity with this process, having sweated it out in the kitchen with various of our female relatives as the tomatoes, green beans, pickles, preserves, etc., were laid down using mason jars, a canner, and a WHOLE lot of elbow grease. What's amusing is that one of my male friends of a very kitchen-mad scientist sort of bent has apparently decided that canning would be a useful and "green" hobby to pursue.

This scares me. I was around when he blew up more than one thing not in the chemistry textbook out of sheer boredom.

See, you don't want the Beautiful Minds to get bored. Nothing good can really come of it, although I hope his relatives have a garden floating around somewhere that he can, uh, let's just call it what it is, kids- victimize, as his general culinary ability as I knew it was distinctly lacking. This is going to turn out along the lines of my beloved (if not inept in the kitchen) godmother's cooking skills: it may be pretty, it may be accurate, but is it edible? Nine times out of ten, bless her heart, the answer's no, so I'm kind of betting that this is how his latest flight of fancy is going to pan out.

Which brings me to the next point: if you're that bored, I really think you should probably be back in college. In chemistry. Or culinary arts. Or something, anything- before you blow up the kitchen and yourself along with it...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reunion and Remembrance

Little Sister is three years younger, which translates as "she was a pesky freshman when I was a senior in high school". In the last few months, especially, as I've untangled certain threads of my past, I've realized that in a way, I'm glad (although it was frequently painful at the time) that we did cross paths then. She wasn't quite as much of a child when I graduated from high school, so I knew her better than if she'd been four or five years younger and still in junior high.

Tonight is their twentieth class reunion. One of her close friends died of a molecular genetic degenerative disorder in college, so they're one short. She almost didn't make into her junior year herself.

Two weeks after I returned to SFU for my sophomore year, I phoned home, as was my habit, at ten o'clock on Saturday morning. A friend of my mother's answered our phone, and my first thought was, "Holy ****, my father's dead!" Instead, she insisted that I speak with my mother, whose first words to me were, "Promise me that you won't come home." I crossed my fingers where my roommate could see me do it, lied to her, and she added, "Your sister was nearly killed in a car accident last night."

(She was thrown out a two-inch gap in the passenger window of her friend's ancient Honda during a flip-and-roll accident and sailed some hundred yards through the cornfield into which they'd crashed. The impact was sufficient to split her clothing and her bra...she was clutching her shirt closed when she staggered out of the corn and collapsed at the feet of passersby who stopped to assist- one of whom was an EMT who attended our church. He still can't talk about it without going white as a sheet. The driver, who was in shock, insisted she was alone in the car; Little Sister would've died that night had she not emerged from the field under her own steam.)

I don't know how much of the conversation I missed before I could focus again. After lying a second time about not rushing the hundred miles south to home, I hung up, called my fiance, and said, "You have to drive me home. It's an emergency!" I was still in shock when I told my roommate, as we got into the car, "Gummi bears. I need to go to the student store and get her some gummi bears!" I bought five pounds, which I'm told our mythology teacher's son sat on the edge of the hospital bed and ate over the course of the next four weeks while they tried and failed to re-inflate my sister's lung so she could breathe on her own.

She wasn't in our hospital; she was in the next county over, so our father didn't have medical privileges there. When I arrived, Little Sister's morphine IV had run dry, and she was screaming hysterically in pain. I grabbed the nurse on rounds and told her; she looked me up and down and said, sarcastically, "Well, she can wait until I get to her!" Normally, I'm not rude to nurses. I grew up with them and I know better, but something just snapped and I hissed, "We'll see about that," and marched off as she muttered under her breath about "damn doctors' kids, think they're God Almighty". I found the supervising nurse, who was incidentally not only a patient of my father's but also the mother of one of my sister's friends- and you'd damn well better believe we got that morphine bag changed in short order.

A few years later, I ran into the young doctor who took care of her during that nightmare- he was a little hard to miss because he had Wiedemann's syndrome, also known as the Elephant Man's Disease. He was making rounds while I was visiting a friend at the SFU hospital's cancer ward. "You won't remember me, Doctor. You saved my sister's life a few years ago- car accident, pneumothorax, broken ankle and wrist. You were externing at a small hospital south of here." He remembered. He talked about my father, crumpled against the wall of the OR, as the attending surgeon tried to include him in the triage as a courtesy. He recalled fighting the endless lines of my sister's friends while trying to examine her during rounds, and our mother's stealing off to quietly retch from the stress and the effects of incipient gallbladder disease.

In the midst of this chaos, the fiance decided to demand that I drop out at the end of the school year to marry him. He was upset at no longer being the center of my attention, and he had badly miscalculated my reaction, which was: "Wait, we're both pre-law, and I have the higher grades and larger scholarship. Are you NUTS?". Long story short, exit fiance, re-enter, albeit briefly, Hopkins, until chaos broke out on his side of the fence as well. It wasn't the best year for anybody, actually. I became the co-signator on my parents' checking account and redirected their bills to my college mailbox so I could pay them.

Little Sister's recovery took endless months of bed rest and therapy, after the interminable hospital stay because she couldn't breathe unassisted by machines. During that time, we acquired, lost, and reacquired the stray Papillon who became our family nursemaid throughout the trauma...and who returned to us, discarded by the owners to whom we'd dutifully given her back, pregnant by a Cocker Spaniel. Puppies are very therapeutic, by the way...the last of them, Libby, died two years ago at the ripe old age of seventeen.

A year and a half later, Little Sister crossed the stage and received her diploma. It was something we'd always so blithely assumed would happen, until the night that a State Trooper who knew my parents summoned my them to the neighboring hospital in the middle of the night. It is something I'd never wish on my worst enemy, and when the daughter of the local chiropractor died the following year in a horrifying car accident, it was both emotionally devastating and a reminder of what might have been.

Tonight they celebrate the twenty years since they graduated. Tonight I mourn for Matt Wright, lost to a conspiracy of DNA and the inadequacies of modern medicine, and I celebrate the fact that my sister lived to graduate with the Class of 1990.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Am I Blue?

Recently I've reached the conclusion that food should probably not be blue, and also, that as an adult, there are just some foods and beverages that I shouldn't consume. I had this epiphany while scrubbing my teeth with Listerine strips in the restroom of a fairly posh salon in Louisville during my sister's mani-pedi. It wasn't that I'd eaten enough garlic to flatten a horde of rampaging vampires, it was because my teeth were blue. It dawned on me at the same time that I probably should've just stuck to coffee when we blew through the Mini Mart on the way to her salon appointment.

A little later, I e-mailed Hopkins that I'm not nearly as colorful as I sound most of the time, adding that I'd achieved the dubious distinction of dyeing my teeth, tongue, and gums blue while simultaneously sucking down more sugar in one sitting than I'm supposed to have in a month. This is a ping on the tribal memory- I don't know if he remembers or not, but one of my standard beyond-parental-control eating habits on quick recall trips was oddly-colored, sugar-loaded slushies. Via the combination of that and a few Dr. Pepper chasers, I was usually higher (on caffeine and sugar) than a Georgia pine by the time we got home. In those days, though, I favored the red and radioactive-waste colored I'm stuck with the blue, largely because it's the only variety not based on a carbonated soft drink.

Several hours later, the sugar did a number on my digestive tract. I felt like I'd eaten a whole package of sweat socks that had subsequently caused my guts to knot up like an obi. You're warned when you have weight loss surgery that dietary indiscretions of this nature will kick your butt, although it's hard to imagine that it'll happen on quite this scale. I broke a cold sweat and waited for the sugar and dye to exit my system while vowing, "Never again!" There's nothing like the sensation that you're being disemboweled by The Cookie Monster, and it's not anything I'd care to repeat.

So much for the $.89 summer slushie special. Who knew that so little pocket change coupled with a heapin' helpin' of nostalgia could cause so much pain. Ugh.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Shoestring Broke

Last night, an urgent message went out to the band alumni from my high school: the band boosters are broke, and it's up to the alumni to take the situation in hand.

I remember what it was like to operate with no cash flow. We had to skip some contests because we couldn't afford the travel costs and entry fees. The band moms sewed the guard uniforms and flags. We wore the rapidly disintegrating wool pants from the mid-1970s uniforms because we didn't have anything else that would work and couldn't afford new ones. The director purchased percussion equipment out-of-pocket and reconditioned the old drums himself with white contact paper and black paint on the bass drum rims- although the cost of new bass heads outstripped him for a couple of years, and we marched with ghetto-looking mismatched ones until I was a junior (as soon as there was a little money, we were the first band in Kentucky to have matched black bass heads and they ROCKED). We held band camp at home all five years that I marched, with college classmates of our band director as the instructors.

I can list the major purchases from that era off the top of my head, and they were all after my first year: new XL percussion carriers for snares, quad, and bass drums; two shoulder-slung nickel-plated Yamaha marching tubas, a la DCI; one new set of cutaway quad tenors and three Challenger marching snares; the aforementioned matching black bass drum heads; and at the dead end of my sophomore year, a set of brand new DeMoulin uniforms. The uniforms were bought with a loan, and the tubas were bought on an installment plan after we traded some old school-owned instruments for them, including a double English horn that brought way more than we thought it would in trade.

Our boosters were hoofin' it, bigtime. They sold the concessions at football games and had baked goods booths at the county fair and the local fall festival, Cow Days. They sold ad space in the program for our marching contest, which they organized and ran. They did all the cooking for band camp to save money. Our two bus drivers were band parents and often waived their driving fee so we'd have money for other things. I could fold a white handkerchief into an ascot when we had the old uniforms, because we didn't have enough to go around. That's just the way it was.

So, deja vu, here we go again. After twenty-one years of trying, in the twenty-second year of the KMEA-sanctioned marching circuit, they finally placed in the top ten, and not only the top ten, but placed fourth overall in the state- then they went on to do exceedingly well in concert competition in the spring. On the heels of all of that accomplishment, there's no money; talk about your major irony! Here we are, circling the wagons and trying to get past this; I know we will, because that's just how we've always been. Once upon a time, band saved my life, and the time to pay it forward has arrived.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Season of Eight-to-Five

If you're a bandie, past or present, you got that title immediately.

The camp with which I volunteer every year takes place at a facility that was built in the 1960s as a residential band camp. It's now owned by the Kentucky Lions Clubs, and yes, I'm a Lion, and we still operate band camps to defray the cost of our charitable camps. The first week of band camp is underway and it will be followed by a second; this is not actually a Good Thing, as we usually book three to four weeks of band camp. Nobody can afford it this year, so they're doing what my band always did and holding camp at home.

During our camp, we went out to Field 8, one of the slightly far-flung marching fields (there are ten total, and the dorms at the height of the camp's use could accommodate over 600 students simultaneously) to take commemorative photos of the campers. As we stood there squinting toward the observation tower in the late afternoon sun, I looked back across the field and thought, "I bet I can still do it." Now, I was in a sort of bridge era between the old-fashioned military-style marching that's still seen mostly at Historically Black Colleges and Universities now and the more asymmetrical, free-floating, fast-paced flat-footed marching of Drum Corps International, which means we still learned to high mark-time, could do old-school linear drill, and more fast, elastic shapes than a Petri-dishful of high-strung amoebae.

While we were waiting, I pulled my ankle up to my knee, foot pointed directly down, and locked myself in place, perfectly motionless, for about two minutes (we used to do this in marching fundamentals so we could stop suddenly in that pose without rocking or bobbling). A little later, I found a place where I could see the depressions from previous field markings, since Kevin, the property manager, didn't plan to lay the markings until the next day, and quickly cut eight steps from yardline to yardline...eight steps to five yards, or eight-to-five. Funny what the body can remember after five years of stepping off the line, two weeks of camp, then four days a week for ten or so weeks in the Fall.

The camp deejay, D.J. (no, I am not making that up), is my age and also an old leftover percussionist. He's also the E.M.T. for the band camp sessions at the camp. Every year, when he comes out to do the music for our kids' dance, he and I make a brief trip down memory lane. This year, I told him I'd heard that Madison Scouts were using a high mark-time in their Slaughter on Tenth Avenue show and it was being marveled at as "totally old-school". "We're 'old-school', D.J.! We're old school. They had to teach them how to do it! It's a form of arcane knowledge now!" He kind of blinked and said, "I didn't have to know how. You know I was in the drumline. You mean you had to know how to to do it?" The rationale being, he continued, that as percussionists, we were never going to actually execute a high mark-time while wearing a drum. No, indeedy, we weren't, but that's why they were fundamentals...our director made us learn it all, whether we were going to have to use it or not.

The other thing is, well, I couldn't possibly endure that kind of heat anymore- not on a dare. State law in Kentucky requires that all outdoor activities for children cease when the heat index reaches a hundred and five degrees. I know I marched in hotter weather than that more than once in high school, but then again, nobody died of heatstroke during band camp back then. Frankly, I think it's a good rule, because I remember not being able to concentrate on anything once it got blazing hot. Our band director (unlike some) was sane about that kind of thing, and if we started getting a little well-done or looking like we were about to drop over, he'd call for a break followed by a musical rehearsal in the band room for a few hours.

So, 'tis the season, folks. Remember, if your child is involved in outdoor activities such as sports or marching band, they not only need water but also electrolytes. Hydrating with too much water actually leaches electrolytes, so Gatorade does have a purpose even if it does taste slightly nasty sometimes. If your band director/coach/whatever is pushing them too hard, or the kids start dropping like flies, don't hesitate to complain to the school administration. It's supposed to be fun, not deadly.

Friday, July 9, 2010

...And Hope Remained

When Pandora opened the box, all the evil in the world flew forth to wreak havoc, and in the bottom of the box a single thing remained: hope.

My Pandora's box contained a pastiche of stories, emotions, and an entire history I foolishly believed I'd put behind me. It's time to gather everything in, replace the lid, and walk away for however long it takes to bury it again. Somewhere in the bottom of the box, under the debris of life and love and everything else, is hope. See, even when you think the only things driving you forward are anger and fear, you have to realize that underneath it, there's still hope...the hope that things will get better when you arrive at your destination.

People, I'm not so good at...dogs, maybe. People, no. People have expectations, and sometimes, they misread your intentions to the point of ridiculousness. I get a little tired of excusing or explaining myself- an invitation to go somewhere is only an invitation to go somewhere, for example. Saying that I miss someone is because I miss them, no more, and no less. I accept what is, I hope for better, and I go on. I'm a survivor; I always have been, and I see no point in changing at this late date. Maybe it's suffering under the weight of all the disappointments and shortfalls, the little evils and great evils, and pain both old and new...but it's there. I know it's there, even if it's a little difficult to find.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Have Tickets, Will Travel

Well, I've found out that Weird Al has a photo restriction on the concert, so rather than risk it, I've abandoned my idea about the binary message. Not that it matters, particularly, since communication with Hopkins seems to have evaporated as quickly as it materialized; once a recluse, always a recluse, I suppose. Yes, it bothers me, but I refuse to let it bum me out for the time being.

Anyway, my supervisor is running late, our afternoon workstudy is off for the rest of the week with a family emergency, and I really REALLY need to go home to redo my makeup, get the tickets, and change clothes. Wayne is supposed to be here in about forty-five minutes- it's a two-and-a-half-hour drive once we get on the road. Uptight much? Moving on.

This is the Big Event of my summer, and then tomorrow immediately after work, I have to transport a rescued Airedale to the City of Hopkins' Current Residence, a shade over a hundred miles south of where I live. I'm just all over the place this week. Anyway, I hope my supervisor shows up soon...if not, I'm kind of SOL.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Julia Child, You're Not...

Long about the time I left for college, my parents got me a little compact microwave with Green Stamps. They decided that we'd 'test it' by using it in our kitchen for a month or so before I went away to school. After they got used to it, they ended up buying a humongous Kenmore microwave from friends who were remodeling their kitchen and adding under-cabinet appliances. Dad never quite got the hang of programming the Kenmore behemoth; I found out about the first flaming breakfast muffin when I came home from SFU for the weekend and my bedroom smelled like smoke. In our two-story home, the laundry chute went from a pantry in the kitchen to my room, so all cooking odors, good or bad, invaded my space with regularity.

On further inquiry, my mother quietly told me that Dad had put his frozen fiber muffin in the microwave to thaw, thinking he'd set the oven for thirty seconds- turns out that he'd actually set it for thirty minutes, and then gone off to read the newspaper. The muffin burst into flames and smoke belched forth long before the timer went off, resulting in a permanently-charred spot in the interior of that microwave. Although he incinerated a second and then a third muffin over the years, that particular microwave lasted from 1987-2008, when it died on Thanksgiving. Luckily, Lowe's was open, so I (who was cooking Thanksgiving dinner) dispatched my father and brother-in-law to buy a replacement.

The muffins themselves are a bone of contention. It's a recipe that Mom created many years ago so that Dad could get plenty of fiber every day; it includes a couple of cups of bran flakes, a cup of oat bran, and golden raisins (Dad hates black raisins) in the ingredients. The G*D muffins, as my sister and I have come to lovingly call them, don't take that long to make, but they are messy, time-consuming to put in the muffin tins, and take forever to bake. Mom made the things in batches of 36 to 48 at a time and then froze them, and Dad would eat a single muffin with his morning coffee provided that he didn't turn it into a block of smoldering charcoal first. I am eternally in my sister's debt for figuring out that Kroger makes an Oat Bran Muffin mix that can be easily expanded to resemble Mom's original 'scratch' recipe.

It is not uncommon for Dad to greet either of us with, "I'm out of muffins!" as we walk into their house. Given the current state of affairs, it's often followed by Mom's response: "Then eat some d**** Grape Nuts instead!" Well, only if somebody gets the Grape Nuts out of the cabinet for him first- I'm still amazed that Dr. Picky-Eater didn't starve to death during bivouac in the Army!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

One Week and Counting

The tickets are purchased...the plans are not finalized, but hey, we know when it is, where it is, and who's going: one week until the Weird Al concert, baby!

I have also prepared a sign in binary with its English translation (because the binary turned out a little on the small side) with which to be photographed. I'll post it after the concert's over, but it's a shout-out to He Who Could Not Go With that I intend to e-mail from my iPhone just before the concert begins.

FTR, I am truly sorry that he's not going, because it's about the most neutral available ground in Nerd World short of some kind of Con and also because he's a lifelong fan. Really, you can't fall over your own feet or strangle on your words if you're shrieking "Dare to Be Stupid" at the top of your lungs- and it's impossible to rehash the drama of twenty-odd years ago when you're distracted by the faux mosh pit that accompanies "Smells Like Nirvana".

Now I've only got a week to figure out what I'm going to wear. I may be a geek, but I'm still a she-geek and I do care about the appropriateness of my outfit to the occasion!