Tuesday, July 23, 2013

La Poitrine

I am rather bereft in the feminine wiles department, although I notably have one (or rather, two) weapon(s) at my disposal. All it takes is a good bra and a low collar...strategically folded arms and leaning across a tabletop also help.

For some reason, my *ahem* assets crept into conversation as I was talking about one of the most bizarre things that ever happened to me in a gay nightclub...while I was on the dancefloor, I happened to become separated from my friends.

Next thing I knew, a perfectly strange man had latched on with both hands and was squeezing. "They feel so real!" he exclaimed. "Are they yours?" I'd stopped dead still, and the power of speech failed me for once in my life. Fortunately, my friend David noticed and inserted himself between us: "If you want to keep those hands, you will remove them. NOW."

When I found my voice, I squeaked, "OF COURSE they're mine! Whose else would they be?"

My new-found bosom buddy dropped his hands and asked, "Where did you get them?"

"God? Nature? Look, I'm a biological female! A real girl!" David advanced until he was squarely in front of me, glaring at Mr. Hands.

"Oh," he said, and then it registered. "OH! Oh my God! I'm so sorry! I thought you were a drag queen!"

In a gay club, kids, that's actually a compliment, but I was so taken aback that I had to have a couple of White Russians to work past the whole incident. You see, that's the kind of thing one expects to avoid entirely if one is a straight girl in a gay bar, but trust me to prove otherwise!

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Is How a Heart Breaks

In the midst of everything that's falling apart in my life, I've been in the process of salvaging something that's very important to me: my friendship with Hopkins. Not in e-mail, but face-to-face.
It has its benefits and its pitfalls...every once in a great while, something creeps into the conversation that stings one or the other of us- and this time, it was my turn.

He's currently working in the travel industry, and the subject of Florida came up. Everybody still wants to go to Disney World, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens, all centered around the Orlando area. Some folks still go to Daytona, and then there's the large contingent who still make the pilgrimage to Panama City. I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck when it came up, and I wasn't sure why. I had never talked to him about my disastrous Senior Trip, but my stomach began churning and I could hear a little voice hissing, "Context!" in my mind.

As I concluded the story of that nightmarish trip, I said, "I don't remember, did you even go on your senior trip?" The moment the words hit the air and evaporated, I realized before he answered that I knew. I had just made a very concerted effort to forget.

"Yeah, I went; there was a lot of drinking. We went to the beach. There was an amusement park. That was about it," his voice trailed off.

An image flashed through my mind of my friend (and his classmate) Stacy sitting at the kitchen table at our house talking about the trip. I can't remember a word of it. I just remember telling him that I hadn't come to see the bus off, as I had done the three previous years when my friends left for Florida, because Hopkins had already said his good-byes- and then I burst into tears.

After Hopkins lowered the boom on me graduation night, I collected myself enough to make it to my room before losing my shit, but then I took to my bed for the duration of their trip with a wretchedness that would do Blanche DuBois proud. My mother forced me to attend meals and bathe, but I otherwise refused to do anything except listen to depressing music at high volume and try to melodramatically die from a broken heart in the way only devastated teenage girls can.

"We are going out tonight," Stacy snapped, "to hell with him, or Baltimore, that's where he's going to college isn't it? F--- that, and f--- him." He told me when he would be back to pick me up and departed, knowing that he might need dynamite to dislodge me from the house later.

True to his word, he showed up that night and pretty much dragged me out the door to points distant. We went to the next town over and cruised. We hung out in parking lots and talked to our friends. He told all of them his theory of what he thought Hopkins was and why (it was quite unflattering, because he was being righteously indignant on my behalf). The girls consoled me. The boys who knew me best told me I was a nice girl and I'd find somebody better. Somebody, and I don't remember who, told me to go home and start packing for college, because that would be my fresh start.

So it was, but I spent the whole summer in Bowling Green writing dozens of letters that I never sent, much as the pile I composed and never sent to Maryland over the course of the next academic year. While having him back in my life is a source of joy, it's best never to forget the pain, either. The two are inextricably bound together, no matter how much one believes in the green light.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fresh Frozen Hamster

Once upon a time, one of my college roommates, Juanita, got a pair of what she believed were male dwarf hamsters. Soon, however, they proved that they were a boy-girl pair of hamsters by presenting her with a slew of tiny baby hamsters. She called me and asked if I wanted one; I lived in an apartment where the only warm-blooded pets we could keep were small rodents in contained environments. I already had goldfish, which, while soothing, are not exactly cuddly. I agreed to take a baby dwarf hamster.

Templeton (so sue me, I was a big fan of the animated Charlotte's Web, with Templeton voiced by Paul Lynde) was an ungodly little terror. Although I endured many tiny sharp bites in order to hand-tame the him, he remained mean enough that I couldn't let my friends handle him. He was also an escape artist- I'd come home from class to find that he'd popped out yet another little cap off the tunnel connectors on his Hamster Habitat and gotten loose in the apartment. The police were called twice when this happened because a dwarf hamster, despite its size, screams loudly and sounds like a small child who's being beaten. I had to grab him out of the cage to prove to the police that no children were being tortured; Templeton readily obliged and then bit my hand to cement his ire. Still, it was fun putting him out in his transparent Hamster Ball to run around on the floor, and he was complacent as long as we kept giving him chew sticks, Cheerios, or another little square of hamster bedding to pull apart.

Dwarf hamsters don't have a long lifespan. He was only supposed to live about a year or so, but he surprised me by surviving my second round of grad school and moving with me for my first 'real' (full-time) library job. Then the sad day came when I woke up and he was cold and rigid in the bottom of his Hamster Habitat...and I realized that I had nowhere to bury him and wouldn't for several days, so I did what anyone in my position would do: I put him in a plastic baggie and stuck him in the freezer.

I forgot, however, to warn my sister that he was there when she went looking for ice. Templeton unceremoniously fell out on her foot. For a couple of seconds she stood there, transfixed by the dead, frozen hamster-in-a-baggie resting on her foot. She snatched him up and waved the bag in the air, demanding, "WHY is Templeton in your FREEZER?"

When the time came, I dutifully took him to my then-fiance's family's pet cemetery and buried him among Chuck's many goats, cats, and his childhood dog, Pup, in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. The only other time I got close to putting a deceased pet in the freezer was when I had to argue with my father to secure burial in our family pet cemetery for my first cat, Mr. Cat. Mr. Cat reposed in a boot box in my refrigerator for about ten hours until I cried enough over the phone for Dad to relent and agree to bury him at their house.

Morbid, but true. I just needed to not think about my mom's health for a while...and watch out for frozen Hamstercicles dropping out of my freezer!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

The line is Dylan Thomas. He wrote it when his father was dying. We want them to fight every step of the way, even when it seems counterproductive or futile...but is this for their benefit, or ours?

My family began another medical odyssey with my mother on June 23rd, when she fell and suffered a spiral fracture of the femur. This isn't technically a broken hip, because that would have been easier- both on her and to repair surgically. The break was below the femoral head, the knob at the top of the bone where it meets the hip. I saw the initial images at the local hospital- it was nasty and fragments were floating around inside her upper thigh; the fracture itself resembled a length of unspooled ribbon where the bone should have been plumb-straight.

One of the more frightening moments, because I'm the one who was with her when she fell, secondary to being unable to initially raise my father via cellphone (it was a Sunday morning and he was fishing), was Dad standing in the driveway bewildered as the EMT on the ambulance crew asked where to take her. This kid was maybe nineteen and he added, "Well, there's no point in taking her to (the hospital where my father has been chief of staff several times). They can't do anything here. There's not a decent doctor in the whole county." My anger flashed white-hot as I gestured to my father and spat, "Allow me to introduce DOCTOR AIREDALEPARENT, who was the first chief of staff there!" He at least had the decency to go white as a sheet as I finished with, "Take her to the hospital. We'll get the images there and make a decision. GO. NOW."

I opened the directory on my iPhone, found the contact information for my father's classmate who is an orthopedic surgeon, and called him. By the time Mom had been x-rayed and given morphine at the hospital, he had hooked us up with a young surgeon with whom he used to work who specializes in hip and femur fractures in the elderly. Off we raced to The Big City.

Three weeks out, there have been...complications...there are other things in play that I'm unprepared to air at this juncture.

There's something else that I'm going to harp about here, and about which if you don't care, you SHOULD: lack of coordination of care. As one of my nurse friends pointed out, the medical establishment now considers it your (the patient's) responsibility to ride herd on everything that's happening in the course of treatment. We have an advantage that most people lack: my father's a doctor, and as a direct result, my sister and I are perfectly willing to verbally castrate anyone who's falling down on the job. We have a Road House mentality: we're nice until it's time to not be nice, and when we reach that point, the medical persona in question will feel it. If we, who recognize what's going wrong, are reticent to speak up until it's reached fever pitch, what happens to those who don't recognize the mistakes, or catch a thread of dangerous, life-threatening laissez-faire?

So here we are. I've had to add a layer to my persistent facade for this situation. I just have to keep pushing forward, always forward, sometimes against the tide, constantly raging against the dying of the light inasmuch as it's my purview. It's not much, but it's all I've got right now.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

White Hats and Tales

The current controversy surrounding Edward Snowden has made me realize that very few people understand hacker culture, much less what hacker collectives like Anonymous are trying to achieve. As someone who long ago did some minor white-hatting (and trust me, I couldn't hack my way out of a wet paper sack at present), I got a grip on it way back when. White hats are usually just trying to see if they can exploit a weakness to gain access to something from which they should be barred- they might leave a signature or a harmless Easter egg behind to announce that they've been there, but that's about it. Sometimes, when they encounter something dangerous, they'll blow the whistle. If it's a hacker collective working toward a higher purpose or a greater good, that may make some folks at the top of the information food chain uncomfortable.

I was attempting to explain hacker logic and ethics to my brother-in-law when I'd had little sleep and was possessed of even less patience. My mother was hospitalized pending major emergency surgery, and the conversation was taking place in the hospital cafeteria before 8:00 a.m. . Finally, in exasperation (and with a hint of disgust), the BiL exclaimed, "It would just be simpler if we went back to older forms of communication, and left off computers." The irony, of course, is that his parents are both retired IBM hardware engineers-

So, out of nowhere, I hear myself softly singing the opening chords of "Thus Spake Zarathustra", i.e., the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I then went on to re-enact the monolith scene. My nerdcore friends would've gotten the 2001 reference; it was a little lost on my audience that morning in the cafeteria, though, and my sister demanded to know how much (or little, as the case was) sleep I'd had.

Bottom line: if you hide it, someone will find it. Even if your digital footprint is so small as to not be believed, it's still traceable. Doing dirt on a secured system doesn't mean that it's invulnerable. It's when we think ourselves immortal that we are most likely to be felled- even Achilles had that troublesome heel...