Saturday, December 29, 2012

What happened yesterday (from what I understand. I wasn't there) ...

1. I had the best intentions when I put those clothes in the washing machine a week ago. Unfortunately I can never quite predict when one of my productivity spells will get smothered beneath the quilt I use for watching many episodes of something in a row.

2. The quilt is named "Hep to Be Square." Grandma Pista, the quiltmaker, named it. I've not renamed it because I really like the word "hep." 

3. Now that the clothes had dried in the washing machine, I sent them for another spin to hopefully erase the smell of laundry neglect (a smell I was currently wearing on a body-colored tank top and, probably, my Hanes Her Way). 

4. I left the house and my dear Chuck, who had the day off of work. 

5. Twenty minutes later I got a text message from Chuck. The laundry room floor was covered in sewage. "Call me ASAP," he said. 

6. Impossible, I told him. I was just down there. Barefoot. It was totally fine. 

7. But this is now. And now the laundry room floor is wet with sewage. He can see turds. The cats want to play in it. 

8. I find the number for the guy who fixes these things. 

9. Chuck makes the call, and in the meantime throws away a bunch of our clothes, moves the litter box to a different room, bleaches the floor until it's clean enough to make hamburger patties on while he waits.

10. The Fixer shows up in less than an hour. He was in the neighborhood. He repeatedly calls the guy who remodeled our house before we bought it "an asshole." 

11. Chuck uses a crow bar to dismantle a homemade bench that was built to mask some unsightly pipes  -- which are actually the sewer clean-out pipe the Fixer will need access to in order to blast the sewer line and ultimately keep Orin from developing an affinity for Olympic-level Feces Soccer. 

12. The massive tree in our neighbor's yard has roots that are clogging our sewer system. We should plan on having the Fixer return every year and a half -- or the second we hear a gurgle within the walls -- for maintenance purposes. 

13. If we ever plan on selling our house, we're going to have to get this sewer line situation straightened out, which will require tearing down the garage that the remodeler built. Which is ... whatever. It might be nice to have a garage that exits into our yard instead of the neighbor's yard. 

14. Unrelated: It was discovered that an heirloom from my high school cross country years was being used as a kitty toilet and so it, too, was tossed. Goodbye, Steve Urkle sleeping bag from the dollar store.  You were good for a whole lotta laughs. 

15. An informal poll has revealed that this happens to everyone. Like, everyone. You might find craps in your shower, shrug. The only difference is how often the Fixer has to come mind your personal turd stew. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How we came to own an iPad (for no reason) ...

There is no reason to buy an iPad. We agree on this. We both have iPhones, which are just mini iPads you can talk into (though why would you). We both have laptops, which are like giant iPads with keyboards and antique CD drives. Sure there are apps of interest. And I could stream "Party of Five" from Amazon directly to the comfort of my bed using this sleek and sexy futuristic vehicle. We do not need an iPad. We both agree.

But should we get the iPad mini, the iPad 2 or the iPad with retina display? Definitely the iPad mini. Chuck compares the sizes of the mini and the regular sized iPads using books he's pulled from the shelf.  We should probably get the iPad mini since it's about $200 less and we don't even need an iPad.

Now that we don't need an iPad and have decided to acknowledge that with an iPad mini, I make for the mall. This is urgent. The iPad store is packed with people swiping, I assume, their nacho-stained fingers across pretty, high-def surfaces. I catch an employee's eye, through no fault of his, and quickly spit out "Doyouhaveanyipadminisleft?" And it seems like he would laugh if he hadn't laughed at 300 costumers before me who had asked the same question.

I realize this communication with an official has been a fluke, so I get in line. When I finally get to the front I ask for an iPad, any iPad, I don't care which one. We've just spent all day talking about iPads and now I have to go home with one or we'll both wilt in disappointment. Because even though we don't need an iPad, now we REALLY REALLY want one.

"We have six iPads with retina display left," he tells me and even though I'm at the front of this line I am looking around this store anxious that before I can give the nod, the guy next to me will spontaneously tack on six iPads to his bill for an iPhone.

"I WANT ONE OF THEM GIVE ME ONE!" I say hurriedly.

Then last night we laid in bed and watched episode one of season one of "Party of Five."




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gettin' 'Girls' ...

We have in our neighborhood a big box discount retail store that I usually forget exists unless I need something embarrassing like a Tony Home Perm or Hot Pockets. Since I don't shop there, I assume other people don't shop there. Sometimes the parking lot looks like an abandoned carnival midway.

I had a major life conflict on Saturday. I really wanted to spend the day watching "Girls," which recently came out on DVD. I also really wanted to not change out of the army green long underwear-leggings and Cloud Cult T-shirt I was wearing and planned to wear all weekend. The former had a saggy butt, the latter had kidney beans crusted to the front. So, even though "Girls" wasn't embarrassing, I was. I decided to quickly sneak in and out of the big box discount retail store.

This was a laughably bad experience that I later described as: Pluto, 1972. It was as though this store suddenly cropped up a bunch of decades ago at this forgotten outpost and then no one from the official big box headquarters ever again set foot in the store. Now everyone carries on with their chores with one eye on the sky watching for the rescue helicopters.

Here are a few tips for improving this store:

1. Shrines. In America, things become popular and then huge triangular shrines are built toward them in big box retail stores. This means there is plenty of the popular thing available and that the popular thing is easy to find in the store. There was no shrine to the DVD release of "Girls." There were, however, two copies of "Inception" -- the most current film I could find -- next to each other on a shelf. I can only assume, based on lack of shelf organization, that this was an accident.

2. Computerized (or manual) Inventory. I took my droopy pants and stained shirt to customer service. "Do you know if you guys have any copies of the 'Girls' DVD?" I asked a woman who looked like the star of an indie flick about a woman who works at a forgotten big box discount retail store in Duluth, Minnesota by day, but plays in an all-girl punk band called Big Giant Tampon Commercial by night.

"Hm," she said. "We don't like have a list of what we have in the store."
Which is the most nonsensical thing I've ever heard. If it's true, it is time to start shoplifting at this store. If you're stopped at the door, just say: "Oh. I brought this Tony Home Perm into the store with me. Think I didn't? Prove it."

An employee in the electronics department said the same thing.

3. Know your buzz. Whether you think Lena Dunham is An Entitled Vagina-Gazing Monster or The Bold Voice of a Generation, the truth is that she's one of 2012's more buzzed about figures. Just not in this store. This big box discount retail store did not carry one of the most popular new DVD releases for December. How was that decision made? And is it possible that I'm the only one in the city who went there looking for it? Does the audience for 'Girls' favor adult pants and Target?

4. Claustrophobia. Also, the aisles are super thin in the checkout area and I thought I was going to get crushed by Mars Bars and Sour Ice Breakers. Not cool.

Postscript: I ended up getting "Girls" at Target in Superior, Wisconsin, where it is also appropriate to wear leggings that are saggy with sleep sweat and bean-coated concert Ts.

Note: I did not want to download episodes from iTunes and I didn't notice that I could do it on Amazon.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's official ...

Step One: laying a base at Gronk's.
Every year Chuck and The Great Archivist have a double birthday party at a different venue in West Duluth, ranging from Chinese restaurants to bar-bars to bowling alleys to dive bars where pull tabs count as live entertainment. They call this The Birthday Rally in Spirit Valley and their crazy maniac friend from Minneapolis sets the tone with his rock 'n' roll and devil horns and either six people show up or sixty and it's always at least kind of fun if not the best night ever. And it is always different. No two birthday rallys would ever be confused, even if you met them in a dark alley and they were wearing the same hat and you could only see out of one eye.

This year's party was held at a coffee shop (a coffee shop that also serves beer and wine) and included a local jazzy space lounge band wearing shiny baby blue choir robes.

Here are a few facts from the 40th Annual Birthday Rally in Spirit Valley:


Old Knifey set up a craft station with pipe cleaners, red and green beads, coloring books and crayons. I didn't think it was a terrible idea, but I didn't realize it was a great idea until I'd made myself a wreath bracelet and colored a picture of two elves. "Do you think I'm being antisocial?" I asked Chuck when he found me hours later at this table in the back of the coffee shop. "No," he said. "You're coloring with friends."

True story: The band stalled its set to read a proclamation from the mayor of Duluth declaring December 14, 2012 Rally in Spirit Valley Day. It had an official seal and was contained in a menu-like binder. Meanwhile, the mayor looked on and nodded his approval. This is only shocking if you don't live here, but cool either way.

I didn't get a good photo of the band, but here is a video by them that I really like:



Old Knifey also brought a Santa suit to the party -- not sure why or how he managed to bring a costume and craft station with him on the bus -- and introduced the special guest with an acoustic version of something Christmas-y that escapes me now. Santa passed out CDs, Candy Canes, holiday mugs. I would definitely recommend inviting Old Knifey to your birthday rally.


After the coffee shop closed, we all went to a bar across the street. People had been sneaking off there all night anyway to chug shots. It was karaoke night.

Here's Chuck with some of his birthday loot. Photo by Millsy. 
The Lake Superior Cacophonic Choir performed "I Got all the Fucking Work I Need" which, oddly enough, seemed to delight the regulars who joined in on the very catchy chorus, simply "I Got All The Fucking Work I Need." Like, when The Great Archivist yelled out "Just the men!" they complied. Same with when he yelled "Just the Roller Dames!"


Apparently I've been tossing out my "voice of an angel" compliment in a way that has been deemed willy nilly. When Old Knifey, who has earned that distinction, saw Nels, who has earned that distinction, he said "Oh, yeah. You're one of three people who Christa said 'has the voice of an angel' at her birthday party." I actually mean it literally every time I say it. These people are great singers. Later, while Nels was performing an Alan Jackson song, Knifey admitted: "You're right. He does have the voice of an angel."

Millsy and Nels! Love these cute faces. 
Aside from poorly lit karaoke photos, I seem to have stopped taking meaningful photos at this point. Chuck performed "Gin & Juice," but crapped out on "Jump Around." The Great Archivist sang "MacArthur Park," a song I'd never heard but that Millsy said was part of the lineup on an old player piano she had when she was growing up.

I only sang new untested material, including Whitney Houston and Madonna. For JCrew I broke my personal karaoke regulations and agreed to perform a song I've never sung with another person. We did "Knowing Me, Knowing You" by ABBA, which wasn't terrible. Although she mostly stood there and sang quietly and later told me she didn't want to bust it out because she is "afraid" of me. She should be. I hate duets to non-duet songs and I hate novelty songs. I take karaoke pretty seriously. The DJ only calls your name so often, and I never want to waste a round on something silly. On this occasion, I decided to stop being such a fucking snob and to live a little. I'll probably go back to my old ways the next time I'm near a microphone.

At the end of the night we packed up Chuck's loot -- mayoral proclamations, mugs, gift certificates and Christmas ornaments -- and hit the Taco John's drive thru. "I like the No. 6," Chuck said before we even saw the menu board. "With chicken." We went home and watched part of "Alive." I ate the remainder of Chuck's No. 6 -- he's right about that -- and put another Birthday Rally in Spirit Valley to bed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

That's just how it is now ...

Once you've had constant head and face pain on the right side of your noggin for three weeks, you just assume that it will probably never go away. And there is nothing on the internet that will make you think otherwise. You find people who have had this pain for four years and you think "Well. I think I'd just rather have my head amputated."

First there was a root canal.
Then there was a presumed infection and Penicillin.
Then there was urgent care for a different antibiotic and insistence that this was dental.
Then it was back to the dentist, where a theory was floated: "Maybe this is TMJ."

TMJ sounded right. Can barely open my mouth. Head and jaw pain. Cheek hurts. Teeth hurt. I bought a mouthguard for sleeping, thinking it would eliminate teeth grinding and keep me from sitting upright in the middle of the night and shrieking OHSWEETJESUSMAKEITSTOP. Plus, my brother and dad played hockey when I was growing up. I've been envious of the mouthguard boiling-shaping-forming process for years.

The mouthguard lasted two nights. Now it's under the bed.

I tell my regular doctor the TMJ theory and he feels the side of my face when I open and close my mouth. He explains the layout of this section of the skull and the interconnectedness of pieces. How if one thing is off, everything is off and ouch. He gives me some TMJ exercises and muscle relaxers. He tells me to apply heat, spend the weekend relaxing, it will probably be better next week. Thursday at the latest. If not, have him or my dentist refer me to a TMJ specialist.

I am miserable every second of the weekend, just like every day of the past two weeks. I watch two entire seasons of "Parenthood" and think a lot about huge families and the complex dynamics. I watch until I can't decide if I love or hate this show. I can't read, I'm sensitive to noise. I have to adjust the screen on my phone to the lowest level of brightness or else I wince when I look at it. I apply heat. I exercise it. I google it. I find my pulse points and experiment with those. I wake up at either 1 a.m. or 4 a.m. or both every night, sit up in bed, rub my face and cry. I wonder if this whole thing is just going to explode.

I hear myself snapping at people. I don't sing in the shower or fake punch people when they walk past. I stop making meals and only eat things that are soft: Naked Juice, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, soup, Mac & Cheese. Sometimes I don't talk for 10 consecutive hours. I think of how easy it is to just morph into not yourself and how easy it could be to never find your way back. Now I'm this person: a quiet woman who eats mashed potatoes and pain killers for dinner.

My dentist refers me to another dentist, I think a TMJ specialist. Good, I think. We're moving toward the end of my pain. But the new dentist is just a root canal specialist who takes some X-rays and compliments the bang-up job my dentist did on the original root canal. So ... great! Kudos, first dentist. I never doubted your work, still I'm glad we could confirm your skill level.

But my head still fucking hurts and now a strange dentist is leaning against a counter in a strange office in practically a different city with his arms folded and for some reason it seems like his chest hair is exposed and moving. He's staring at me with a puzzled expression. And all I can think about is the waste of money and the waste of a day that could have been spent working toward pain-free.

"It's not your teeth," he said. "And I called your dentist and we don't think it's TMJ either. So."

Double fucks.

So I take the rest of the day off from researching my symptoms. Cluster headaches, migraines, clogged salivary glands, cysts and brain tumors. How, if you take too many pain killers, you can start to get headaches from the painkillers. I start a Headache Journal that includes a detailed description of the pain, action taken and food consumed. I test not taking pills before bed so I can take them when I inevitably wake up. That goes okay.

But like I said, after three weeks things don't just suddenly go away. So, who knows.


Monday, December 3, 2012

The worst ...


I'm just going to put this out there: If you were considering getting a tooth infection just to see what it feels like, I'd advise you to not. The past week of my life has been the most horrible week of my life. No joke. That's saying a lot because I saw Cloud Cult perform on Friday night -- after eating some pretty delicious pizza with roasted garlic -- which should have cancelled out some of the awfulness but it didn't because this is seriously the worst. The. Worst.


I'm also surprised that I have any friends left, because I haven't shut up about this pain for even five seconds. And at least two times per night I ask Chuck to rub the neck muscles that I've strained from wincing.

Also: I was combatting this with Penicillin for 5 days, which seemed really steampunk to me. That didn't work at all. I went to urgent care for a new antibiotic on Saturday. I want to say it's working better, but I once made the mistake of thinking "Oh, ok. Maybe this is working now" last week and whoa was I wrong.

I have a gland that is so swollen that it is like trying to swallow around a boulder. And that's one of the better parts of this. I am pretty sure there is a pill-shaped hole in my liver. My head hurts so bad I can't even touch my skull without setting off a new chain of pain. I like to wake myself (and my emergency contact) every two hours by screaming in the night.

FYI: Pain pills work for two hours at the most, but can only be taken every four to six hours. I try to cram as much fun into that two hours as is humanly possible. (Like this time I won a new Nike headband and ankle weights).


Anyway, here is what I've been up to in addition to hiding from bright lights and shrinking from loud noises.

MOVIES
Dark Horse The holy hell. An emotionally stunted, unhinged middle-aged man works for his dad, lives with his parents and meets a woman at a wedding and gets gaga about her. She's got Hep-B and a touch of depression and thinks, Meh. Why not marry him and have kids and make a family. Filled with weird little almost realistic fantasies and strange plot points. I think I liked it.

Safety Not GuaranteedA team from a Seattle magazine goes to a small resort town to write about this guy who wants a time-travel companion. Except, the companion they toss at him develops and actual fondness for him. And even though he's a little out there, he's not necessarily wrong about people tailing him. This is like "Garden State" if it had a schizophrenic male lead.

The Tall Man: Lots of twists in this scary plot about a once thriving town that died when the mines closed and now every so often a young kid goes missing. Super stupid. But also pretty unpredictable.

WATCHING ON THE INTERNET
"Maria Bamford's Special Special Special" is so great. She recorded a live performance in her living room in front of an audience of her parents. Like.



READING
Leaving the Atocha Stationby Ben Lerner: Adam Gordon is a poet who seems to hate poetry. He’s gotten himself a pretty sweet fellowship, a year-long stay in Spain with a project, that, when explained, rings sort of false. He’s got a flexible relationship with truth and suffers no shame for wiping spit under his eyes and pretending his mother has died to gain sympathy. There is no crisis of conscience when he takes a tragic story his friend tells and makes it his own meaningful tale. He’s also got a steady diet of white pills and spliffs and a fascination with what he looks like when he a) makes this face; b) scribbles in his notebook; c) is viewed from an airplane. 

Man. The protagonist of Ben Lerner’s debut novel “Leaving the Atocha Station” is a serious weasel. Or, maybe he isn’t. Maybe he is just like everyone who regularly looks around, adjusts his underwear and wonders how the hell he has gotten away with this whole I’m-an-adult-and- people-assume-I-know-what-I’m-doing thing. Maybe he just seems like someone I would have accidentally dated in college because we, as a reader, have access to what he internalizes. Maybe he’s only a fraction of the asshole he thinks he is, the amount that is visible from the outside.

Full review here