On being a 12 year-old boy…

Last week, i was immersed in the sunshine of the south, while indulging in some much needed ‘down time’.  But despite the strong “R&R” overtones, i was also on this trip to perform some small measure of business activities.  Which i attempted to do.

One of my responsibilities at the workshop was to chair a technical session.  Not particularly hard work.  The job requires introducing the session, introducing the speakers, and then holding them to their allotted time.  Upon completion of the presentation, the session chair also moderates a short question and answer session. 

Not rocket surgery by any stretch.

Also in attendance for the workshop?  My posse of Dawg Boyz.  We are known for some raucous “drinkin’ and whorin'” sessions, not to mention a full measure of childish stupidity.  One of our favorite games is “Would you do X?” – in reference to some other workshop attendee.  Can be male, female, or some indeterminate combination, given the huge ‘geek factor’ of our community.

By early in the workshop, we were all in complete agreement about one participant – Dr. S was looking mighty fine!  Not only was she looking particularly hot, she is a charming woman, very good at what she does, and has a smile that will melt high temperature ceramic compounds.  Originally from Germany, she speaks perfect english with a bit of an accent.  We were all smitten – and consensus dictated that she would be particularly effective as a dominatrix.

Needless to say, Dr. S was giving her presentation during my session.  Shortly after she started, i got a message on my blackberry from Dawg Boy #1, known as “Titan of Industry”.

ToI:  She wants to dominate you!  Submit!

daisyfae:  i’d submit in a nanosecond. She can improve my stability anytime. [‘stability’ in reference to the content of her presentation]

ToI:   She said “tightly bound”!  Heh,heh, heh! [“tightly bound” in reference to some electrons she was attempting to photograph or something]

daisyfae:   Gag me with rhodium…. She’s all about the vibrations. [“rhodium” and “vibration” were also part of her talk – i really can’t remember why]

ToI:   With the push of one button….  A whole chain of additional structures grows out of the excitement.  I almost spooged my pants! [She referenced this stuff too.  Clearly i need to pay more attention when i’m chairing a session.]

daisyfae:  She wants me to take off with her…  Fly me, you Teutonic Titwillow!  [She made an airline reference – something about “Put up ze tray table, and hang on, because ve’re off to even greater heights!”]

ToI:  She wants to strap on her geschaften and schluct your schleimfliesch.

daisyfae [shaking with stifled laughter]:  you win.

i know it when i see it

The hotel on my recent trip was perfectly located – within walking distance of the city market, and the river district. Considered a “3-star” place, it could have used a little update to the room decor.

Specifically, the bathrooms. Old style tub, craptastic water pressure, and limited countertop space – space on the sink was so limited you pretty much have to stow some toiletries on the back of the toilet, and excercise care not to accidently send your toothpaste for a swim.

Contemplating the meaning of life one morning, i noticed the print across from the toilet. Thought perhaps it was just me, but after discussing it with friends at the workshop – who had the same print in the bathroom – it wasn’t.

Does anything strike you as odd about this little bit of artwork?

“There once was a monkey from Nantucket…*”

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For what it’s worth, i didn’t know the classic obscene version of this limerick, but was coached by one of the Dawg Boyz, who also found this particular bit of artwork inspiring…

Solo Act

Maybe it’s about twenty years of business travel under my skirt.  Maybe it’s my age.  Approaching 50, i find i could give far less than a fractional fuck about what strangers think of me. 

Or maybe it’s just because time alone is a luxury, providing a little time to think without distraction, or the need to attend to someone else.

Spending just over 24 hours alone, on the front end of a business trip.  Some combination of a need for sunshine and a need to change up the scenery brought me to the airport a day earlier than truly necessary for this trip.

Soaking up my share of photons poolside in the unseasonably warm afternoon, while blowing the dust off of a book i’d started and abandoned months ago.  Floating on the edge of the pool, with my chin on the warm red bricks.  The smell of baking clay and chlorine.

Wandering off to the river district, watching the families, couples and roving hen parties gearing up for a big Saturday night out on the town.  Slow stroll on the cobblestones as the sun dropped. 

Looking at the bars and restaurants and taking my time deciding on what i wanted to do for dinner.  No need to consult anyone else, it was entirely my choice, and i didn’t want to rush.

The winner?  Irish pub on the river made the cut.  Fish and chips, with malt vinegar.  At the bar, settled in between a couple engrossed in conversation, and a group of probable business folks, collecting for happy hour. 

No book.  No television to catch my gaze.  No newspaper, blackberry, phone or magazine in my hand.  It hit me — ten years ago, i could never have done this.  Sitting alone at a bar in a somewhat unfamiliar city.  Ordering a pint, and dinner.

But “the game” never fails to amuse me…. Eavesdropping on conversations.  Trying to imagine what sorts of bodies belong to the voices from behind me.  Watching the bartenders – racing here and there, washing glasses and settling tabs as if world peace depended on it. 

Reconsidering my retirement plans to tend bar as the ass-nugget next to me reveals his hootin’ and hollerin’ voice.  Attempting to chat up the bartender, and pretend that they’ve been best buddies for years.  The little blonde next to him mutters something about “inside voice” but he can’t hear it over his own bleating stupidity.

Finishing my dinner, i asked for another pint in a ‘go cup’ – the civilized city i’m camped in allows alcohol in ‘open containers’ on the street, with a rather fierce enforcement policy about public intoxication.  You can drink on the streets, but you damn well better not be drunk.

Wandering the river district after dark.  Sipping a beer on a beautiful evening, while watching the container ships move out to sea.  Watching couples snuggle on a bench.  A man cleaning up after a dog the size of a small ox.  A fellow who seemed to be the official ‘greeter’, welcoming everyone who came along with a “How ya doin’ tonight, folks?”

My skin.  It’s getting more comfortable with each passing year.

Honk!

Three of them, standing on the overpass as i was heading home with a head full of “i’ve still gotta” items for my day.   Boys at that magic age where they’re old enough to have freedom for adventure, but young enough that it’s still cool to just play.

i scooted to the right lane to exit the highway, and watched them signalling the trucks – that universal kid gesture that says “Hey, Mister!  Honk your big loud air horn when you go under the bridge!”   Before i rounded the corner, i heard a trucker comply with their semaphore request.

Flashing back to my own days on the bridge, i could almost feel their giddiness!  Growing up, we had an interstate bridge on our street – maybe a half mile down the road from our house.  Before the days when large, chain-link fences are erected to keep people from dropping projectiles onto the cars below, we spent many hours on that bridge.  Watching for trucks.  Running from side to side to catch them as they approached. 

This is, by the way, the definition of the phrase “Small town, not much to do”. 

We’d get lost in it, though.  The kind of thing you do when you’re a bored kid.  The kind of thing that everyone did.  In the grand scheme of things?  Pretty damn meaningless.

But i miss that feeling. 

With the weight of a couple more dead people* dropping on me this week, along with a few more bits of annoyance and vexation for good measure, i was dragging ass on the way home.  People have noticed that i’ve acquired the habit of a very deep sigh.  Sometimes it comes with nearly every exhale.

When did i forget how to leave it behind?  When did i lose my ability to find mindless amusement in the most simple things?  When did i get so fucking old? 

i’m off on another business trip in the morning.  Some time being stoopid with the Dawg Boyz with friends.  May be just exactly what this ol’ bag of sighs needs… Shame i’m not driving.

adorable traveler found here

* Not literally.  Mom’s sister died on Tuesday at the age of 84.  My boss lost her father within about an hour.  While i’m not close to either of the deceased, their deaths triggered a multitude of things for me to take care of – namely, finding a way for Mom to get to that fucking funeral today, while clearing the massive piles of work-stink that i needed to cover for the boss so she could attend to planting her father.

Filter? What filter?

Last Sunday afternoon, i had a ‘first date’ with a new gent. We were having a grand time, playing pool and yakking our heads off. Although i don’t pretend to be someone i’m not, i’ve learned that i should meter out the doses of ‘daisyfae’, so as not to completely terrify a man unused to my… um… direct communication style.

In short? i was trying to be nice-ish, and make a reasonably good first impression.

After a few games of pool, we stopped by the bar for a beer. Asking the bartender what he had on draft, he went on to describe their craft brew selections – including several regional beers.  He mentioned an amber bock style, which is one that i like. Both of us selected that particular beer, and as the bartender turned to pull the tap he said “Uh oh! I think we’re out of it!”

Before i knew it – “You are SUCH a bock tease!” came out of my mouth.

Momentary silence. Thirty seconds later, a gal at the bar started cracking up. The bartender turned and grinned at the bad joke. And my date about fell over – laughing. It all ended well, but i swear, i need to see about getting some neuro-linguistic filters installed…

And it sort of makes me wonder just how obnoxious i’m gonna be when i’m really old.

Riding the cancer coaster

Two trips to The Park this week.  Two visits with oncologists – medical oncologist on Monday and radiological oncologist on Thursday.  The 240 additional miles put on the odometer of my re-animated shit mobile brought very promising news.

Stage 1 (ie: localized) non-small cell carcinoma.  Just a cancer nugget – about an inch and a half long – in the lower lobe of Mom’s right lung.  This was discovered almost accidentally in November as a result of a chest x-ray ordered to see if she had pneumonia.  Accidental discovery. 

Given that Mom has already told us she would not be having any sort of surgery for this, nor did she want to do chemo*, it is even MORE miraculous that the oncologists agree that this particular cancer is quite treatable.  Only radiation.  Stereotactic radiation, to be specific.  Like a ‘gamma knife’ procedure, only using very localized x-rays, it will only hit the cancer, leaving no burns, no systemic effects, and quite possibly no substantial side effects.

One ‘planning’ visit.  Four treatments of 30 minutes each over the course of 2 weeks.  That’s it.

Scheduling is underway, and the radiation oncologist was rather optimistic that this procedure will ‘control’ the cancer.  As in, it won’t spread.  It won’t grow.  It won’t cause her any further trouble.

Whew.

Some snippets from the past week:

– Flipping through Mom’s medical charts, she is classified as a “98 Pack Year Smoker” – given that she smoked 2-3 packs a day for about 65 years.  At 82 years old?  i almost want to ask that cancer nugget “what took you so long?”

– My niece, DQ, is stepping up to the role of “Number One Son” for this particular journey.  She is earning that house.  But it’s frustrating… The docs will ask Mom a question – “Why did you have the initial chest x-ray? What were your symptoms?”.  Mom will start to respond with a long story about how she was sick with some breathing problems, but it was just because of the inhaler, and that stupid breathing machine she has to use to sleep…. and then DQ will jump in with more details, about how Mom didn’t want to go to the doctor, but we made her…  The two of them, full of nervous energy, will go back and forth, overwhelming the doc as he tries to pull the pixels together into something useful.  And i sit on my hands and shut up…

– Waiting for the radiation oncologist to review the PET Scan results, we were asked to have Mom fill out a ‘general health’ questionnaire.  Questions such as “How many surgeries have you had?”, “List your medications”, and “Do you have diabetes?”.  There is also a section on mental health.  As i read through the questions, i asked Mom “Are you generally happy with your life?” and she immediately said “No”.  Improvising a question, without breaking cadence, i asked her “Have you ever been happy with your life?” and she immediately said “No”.

– There was a section of the health questionnaire that asked about pain.  Three questions:  “Do you have joint pain?”  “Do you have back pain?” and “Do you have neck pain?”  She replied affirmative to the back pain question.  i added “Carrier” on the line next to the neck pain question.  i hope someone reads it one of these days and laughs…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* When talking with my niece, DQ, and me about possible treatments prior to our first visit to the oncologist, Mom stated quite clearly that she would not consider chemotherapy.  Her reason?  “Eating is the only thing I enjoy, and if I can’t eat, or I can’t taste anything?  Life isn’t worth much.”

A Winter Tail

My dog, Mr. Pickles, is 10 years old.  If the conversion factor for “dog to human years” is to be believed, that makes him 70 years old.  He still likes to run in snow.
 
It brings me joy to watch him bound along the side of the road as we go for our morning and evening walks, sproinging through fluffy white powder, as well as leaping over the plow-turds* left by the maintenance folks.  For an old dog, he’s got a lot of life left in him.
 
This morning, however, i was essentially asleep on my end of the leash.  It had snowed again last night, after a brief warming period.  It was only when 100 pounds of brown mutt sproinged merrily away from me – playing out the entire length of leash – that i realized i was, in fact, standing on a solid sheet of ice.
 
Suddenly awake, i flapped and slid like a windmill in a hurricane.  In my head?  Cartoon noises were playing… that “Scooby Doo” sound effect used when he’s skittering across a wet floor.  If the overgrown puppy hadn’t suddenly located the EXACT spot to drop his morning poo, and stopped yanking the leash, i was destined for a certain assplant on asphalt.
 
It’s a damn good thing he’s cute…

Mr. Pickles says "Always play in the snow!"

* “plow turd” is a term i learned from my ex-husband, who grew up in the snowy frontier of upstate New York.  These are the big clumps of gray, icky, icy snow that are dumped at the end of your driveway when the plow trucks come by… generally right after you finish shoveling.

Rock and Roll – Now With Ovaries!

One of the things ‘on my list’ is to find a band.  Not a serious band that is all “let’s practice until we’re good and make recordings and travel” and shit… But a band that wants to just play – with a few gigs here and there to force a teeny tiny bit of discipline into the enterprise.

Last fall, my organization was rumored to be getting a new Director.  This is the guy in charge of some thousand research and engineering dorks, so it’s a fairly high level position.  Word on the streets was that it would be WB – a known good manager, and studio quality guitarist. 

i’ve known of WB for years, and he’d heard of me – musicians tend to talk a lot of shit amongst themselves, so if someone plays, word gets out.  But we’d never had a chance to connect musically.

When we had the organizational Christmas party (i think it was last December…), it took all of a nanosecond for a colleague to convince me to join the ‘Lab Rat” band that was providing background music.  They were doing just fine, but didn’t have a vocalist, and were mostly playing Christmas music.

Dropped in, did some rock and roll with them, and dropped out.  Why?  i considered it my ‘audition’ for WB.  As could be expected, word got back to WB before he even occupied the front office.  He was on the lookout for me… His band plays out at a local bar for a happy hour gig on the first Friday of every month, so i was easily convinced to drop by after work last night to hear them play.

Sitting at a table near the stage by myself, i was instantaneously blown away by two facts:

1)  They were really good.  Probably “Out of my league” good.

2) They already have a woman in the band – vocalist playing keyboards.

Anyone who knows anything about bands knows the Laws of Band Dynamics. 

The First Law of Band Dynamics:  If you introduce a female member to an existing band of males, you will lose one of the original members within six months.

The Second Law of Band Dynamics:  If you introduce a second female member to an existing band that has incorporated a female member, you will completely destroy any chance of the band staying together.

My hopes of finally finding the right band were dashed, so i just sat back and enjoyed the gig.  Good stuff, but fantasies of fronting this particular band disintegrated. 

Joining me later in the evening were two other work colleagues – one of whom insisted on introducing me to WB after they were done.  He’s good, and personable, and i’m still finding it hard to believe he’s going to be “Large and In Charge” of the organization… 

We discussed music tastes, and my general disdain for ‘chick songs’, and he strongly suggested i drop in for a future practice.  Reminding him of the “Laws” – which he fully acknowledged as gospel – he still insisted that i drop in, and that the laws could be managed… 

So let the month of February begin, with the prospect of finally finding the right band of brothers, and a sister, to get my music-jones satiated…

Oh, and by the way?  The best way to overcome the Laws of Band Dynamics?  All chick band.  And if it’s an All Chick, Japanese Rockabillly trio?  Even better!

Bitez moi, Janvier

It has been noted that i seem a bit darker than usual.  There is a very good reason for that. 

i am.

Looking back, it started in November, with the likely prospect that Mom would be starting to ride the cancer coaster.  Surprisingly, we got a reprieve just before Christmas.

Getting the call from my cousin for the temporary use of my shoulder as she had to bury her husband a bit sooner than expected.  Glad i could be close by to help her.  That was just before Christmas.

My ex-father-in-law died in late December, too.  While not directly engaged with the death/funeral process, i listened as my children got their heads around the death of someone they knew and loved.  Talking about death.  Talking about life, and how to live it.

After a mini-holiday in warmer climate, i then started playing a game of “Stuck in a Fucking Airport – Extreme Sport Edition”.  First the refugee camp, then an unexpectedly pleasant evening with strangers, followed by last week’s “Snow Blow” on the east coast*. 

Then there was the round of “Dead Fucking Car” while looking at the multi-megabuck property tax bills, which are due in February.  No.  Not buying a new car.  The shit-mobile was successfully re-animated, but for how long? Will it last til summer?

But the mother-of-all-darkness?  The dead sixteen year old kid.  Time spent with his father, JB, as he grieved.  And continues to grieve and break down and cry at work and send e-mails exposing the darkest of the dark inside of his soul. 

Under no circumstances can i back away from  JB, just because i’ve had a few minor annoyances crop up.  But i am mad at myself – because i want to. 

Given the degree of pain this man is enduring, who the fuck am i to whine about a dead car?  He’s got a dead kid!  Being stuck in an airport?  Not on the same emotional Richter scale as losing your young son to suicide.

It was through an e-mail exchange with a brilliant friend that i gained some perspective – “It’s easier to forget about all the hungry homeless people when they don’t have their noses pressed up against the restaurant window.  Even when they do, it’s impossible to ignore the fly in your soup…”

So i’ll suck it up.  January can chomp my fucking shorts.  But as these things go, January wanted to get in the last word.  One more jab in my ribcage.  Another whack upside the head with a plank.

Leaving the gym on Monday (that would be the last day of January), i received a call from my niece, DQ.  Mom had gone in for a second opinion on the mass in her lung, and had another biopsy the previous week.  A skeptical surgeon didn’t believe the results of the first biopsy.  And it turns out that the skeptical surgeon was correct.

Mom will indeed be hitching a ride on the cancer coaster.  Welcome February.  Bring it…

~~~~~~~~~~~

* i was scheduled to fly to the east coast yesterday, but the mere thought of going into an airport with a storm lurking made me get all tweaky… and i cancelled the trip, and buried myself under the blankets at home yesterday to wait out the ice storm of the week.