Monthly Archives: March 2016

Happy Dead Jesus, or Easter for Catholics

I might finally be turning the corner on my dread of Easter. I’ve written before about my religious disposition and how that whole Catholic thing just didn’t seem to take in me or in my family. In fact, one might say I ran screaming from being Catholic, and there are many reasons why, but the big one was Easter. Or should I say, the three bloody, gory days leading up to Easter. Despite my potty mouth and my penchant for channeling my gin-soaked, cigarette smoking alter ego Blanche, I’m a sensitive person. Well, at least in a squeamish sort of way. They call it the “Passion of Christ,” but I like to think of passion as either doing something you absolute love that feeds your mind, body, and soul, or, alternately, going at it with someone hot and sexy who thinks you’re hot and sexy. Call me crazy, but I’ve never associated passion with getting the snot beaten out of you and getting nailed to wood.

But growing up that’s what Easter was for me EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Rehashing the gory details of a man’s crucifixion for three days straight — a guy who by most accounts was just trying to be a decent person. Then, on Easter Sunday, the fact that Jesus is risen and the appearance of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans are supposed to erase all that. But it never did for me because my Catholic guilt had been honed to perfection. It was made perfectly clear to me that I caused his death. Jesus was getting beat up for me, specifically; the text is very clear on this part. Believe me, I was always looking for some loophole to pin it on the lame people of the time. No such luck. So you can perhaps forgive me if I wasn’t quite getting the joy of Jesus going to heaven thing.

Intellectually, I get that for some people Easter Sunday is just that. I only kind of understand it from years of asking enthusiastic Catholics what they get out of their religion because I was 1) stumped and 2) genuinely curious. The most common answer is they like the ritual, pomp, and pageantry. I thought that’s what the British monarchy is for, but apparently that’s just me.

The only thing that saved me from the Easter horror was the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. Yes, I get that Andrew Lloyd Weber ain’t no Stephen Sondheim, but I didn’t need Broadway perfection, just a transmutation. The music made me finally realize this is a rich human story set to some ass-kicking guitar riffs. I’ll never have the faith required to forget three days of pain to revel in the euphoria of the Easter morning, but I can sing, “Die if you want to, you innocent puppet!” like a Broadway bad-ass.

But I think I might finally be getting past all this — you all may only have to endure another year or two of an “Easter is gory” blog. Did I mention I tend to have a hard time letting things go?

I offered to bring dessert to my sister’s house for Easter — my sister’s extensive wine collection helps me keep everything in perspective and keeps my gory observations to myself. On Saturday I went to the Italian bakery in my neighborhood, and it was a beehive of people buying cakes, pastries, and cookies decorated with bunnies and chocolate eggs. There were eight people behind the counter, and the door to the back room swung open to reveal an additional small army of bakers and decorators. People were smiling. People were happy. One older couple laughed about spending $90 on pastries. We both knew they’d be bringing it to some big family gathering and enjoying each other’s company. I wished them a happy Easter as I lugged my own 7-pound box of fruit tarts and chocolate cake heaven back to my car. I wasn’t thinking about dead Jesus, I was thinking about blazing guitar riffs, heavenly bakery goodies, the cold spring day filled with the promise of warmth, and being with people you love. Happy Easter.

Photo credit: 20 creepiest Easter bunnies

You Should Be Dancing Part II

I’ve written a couple of times about dancing.  Nearly every Sunday early evening I dance at a mostly disco tea dance. Friends and family have asked me at various times in disbelief, “Do you really go dancing every Sunday?” Then they recount how they are in their pajamas on Sunday nights or don’t have that kind of energy. But what I try to explain is that the dancing and the music feeds me. I want to go. Unlike the gym, which is rarely fun to drag myself to, but I’m glad I did, dancing for me is fun to anticipate, fun to do, and  fun when I get home sweaty and hepped up endorphins by 9:30 or 10 pm (so much easier than club dancing that starts at 10 pm). Body moved! Calories burned! I certainly wouldn’t drag my ass out on a Sunday afternoon to listen to a lecture on the meaning of dance as a transformative activity in society. Heck, I probably wouldn’t watch other people dance on stage, either. I recently went on a  Sunday to see the Oscar-nominated short films at the Institute of contemporary art a few weeks ago, but that freaked me out, so that was not a good substitute for dancing. All I’m saying is if there’s something you love to do and it happens on a Sunday from 6 to 9 pm, you do it, which brings me to my topic. You were having serious doubts that I was going to get there, weren’t you?

The harsh reality is that I have not been going dancing as much lately, mostly because my fabulous dancing friend Mike broke his foot. The story we’re sticking with is that he was getting chased by a group of hot, young man who wanted to have their way with him; he is such a giving man, but in trying to accommodate them all, he broke his foot. As a result of his Herculean heroics, he’s been in a cast and on crutches for six weeks and just found out it will be four more weeks of the boot.

You’d think that would’ve stopped our dancing in its tracks, but it actually had only curtailed us. The photo above is exhibit A: dancing with cast. We’ve gone dancing twice now and because we’re professionals we quickly adapted to the new situation.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are our 4 tips for dancing with a broken foot.

  1. Get a stool, preferably one that rotates, but a non-rotating one will do. This seems like a no-brainer, but what we quickly realized is that the stool becomes a dancing prop much like my scarves. Sure, at first Mike just sat on it, but the beat of the music has its own life force and it must be obeyed. Soon Mike was rocking it out in the stool.
  2. Stool placement is critical. Do not place the stool next to a fellow dancing regular who always sits in the same place every week. This is his or her territory, so be mindful of that. Where we dance, Whistle Guy has such a spot. He sits there for most of the night, blows a whistle rhythmically and with discretion during the right songs (Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” is a favorite), and he bestows beaded necklaces that he makes himself on the lucky few during the night. I’ve been lucky four times in the past two years. His stool is near the tables at the back of the dance space. Because it’s more practical to not have to drag chair through a crowd of dancing people, we set up Mike’s stool close to Whistle Guy. He was pretty good about it, but I got the undertone to his joke about “not getting too comfortable.” Rule #1 among the regulars is to keep peace among us. The interlopers will come and go and may disrupt the routine from time to time, but we regulars are in for the long-haul and must get along. As the night went on, I understood that he’s got his thing going on and didn’t want us cramping his style. Duly noted. The second time we went dancing I cleared a path through the bodies and carried the stool closer to the front of the room. I waved at Whistle Guy as I went past. His big smile and thumbs up was all I needed to know. All was well in our little dance regulars world.
  3. Your stool is a dance partner, not a piece of furniture. If you’ve ever seen that scene where Fred Astaire dances marvelously with a coat rack, you know this is true. It took us a little time, but Mike was soon learning to move around on the stool. Then when he turned it around and straddled it with the back support between us, we were transformed. Suddenly, his leg was up in the air and I was holding on to the back of the stool and sliding underneath it. I shimmied, Mike swirled. We hit our stride when Mike, an infuriatingly natural back-bender, began to do back bends to the floor, sometimes holding on to the back of the stool, sometimes not. I held on to the back and did my own back bend in counterpoint.
  4. Have fun, and don’t worry what you look like. The fact is you’re dancing with a boot. You look and are absolutely fabulous.

Mike and I have 4 more weeks of stool dancing–who knows what moves we’ll make up next.

An Epic Journey of Persistence, Resilience, and Prevailing

Anyone with a year’s worth of training, a boatload of cash, and a pile of sherpas can pull off an epic journey. But the truly remarkable epic journeys are the ones we mere mortals navigate in our cashless, sherpa-less lives. For example, last year during my two-week 50th birthday celebration, when I jumped off a 15-foot cliff  into the ocean, I lost a ring in the process. The ring meant a lot to me — it was my son’s birthstone, and I bought it in a consignment shop during a solo writing weekend when my son was small. I wasn’t happy about losing it, but it somehow seemed fitting. It was like shedding the old me and making an offering to the ocean in exchange for the fantastic birthday and year I was having. And let’s be serious, it was also an opportunity to get a new ring.

I took my time and found a handmade wrapped wire style on Etsy that I liked, and the site’s owner Tammy agreed to make me a custom one with my son’s birthstone.

And that’s where the easy part ended. The first ring she made me (notice I said first) was never delivered. Correction. The USPS sent me an annoying text and email saying that it had been delivered, but I can tell you it was never in my mailbox. They claimed it was probably stolen, which is all fine and good, except for one small detail. I had only recently recovered from the four packages and various cards and important letters my local carrier had failed to deliver in the previous several months. During that time in the black hole of USPS ineptitude, my attempts to find out what was going on ended up with the USPS package center manager telling me (after I called her five times over three weeks) “We looked everywhere and can’t find it. Just order another one,” which I’m sure the folks at Amazon and Lands End love to hear. She never even apologized.

So I must be forgiven if I find the USPS explanation of theft a tad insincere. But it wasn’t Tammy’s fault that my Zip code seems to have become some sort of delivery Bermuda Triangle, so I ordered another one. Tammy was nice enough not to charge me a delivery fee, and I had it sent to my work address in Boston, hoping that would help.

It didn’t.

This time the USPS decided to mess things up on Tammy’s end. She’s in California and I’m in Boston. Did I mention the only thing possibly more annoying than the USPS’s inability to simply deliver things is their utterly useless tracking website? Whereas before you had no idea where it was or an ability to track, you could just say, “well, it got lost in the mail.” Annoying, but not nearly annoying as seeing, for example that ring number two was, according to the tracking bar, still in California a week and a half after Tammy sent it. I kept checking, but that little line from California to the East Coast hadn’t moved. I think I’d rather be blissfully ignorant.

Between us, Tammy and I made about four phone calls to our respective postal people. The Boston guys couldn’t do much except tell me exactly what the stupid tracking website said. “Uh, it’s in California.” Thanks, Einstein. And do you have any thoughts about why a package would be in the same place for more than week? Are the Californians sitting around getting high or going to the beach or doing whatever it is those weird West Coast people do? Finally whether it was the phone calls or the Californians came back from the beach, the little tracking bar started to move again. And of course no explanation or apology from the USPS was offered. So after putting in my first order on December 23, I finally received the second ring on February 26.

And it was too big. Like 2.5 sizes too big, almost like the Grinch’s heart, only I was feeling more like the Grinch with the shriveled heart. It was totally my fault. I printed out a ring sizer from the Zales website — what the hell was I thinking? So there was nothing to do but take it to jeweler number one (notice I said jeweler number one). He asked me if the ring was solid silver. Tammy’s website said silver, but didn’t specify solid. When I told him, he turned out to be one of those people who insists on doing quality work when you don’t necessarily want it. He didn’t want to take the chance if it wasn’t silver. Of course he also said, “Just have her send you the right size,” which nearly put me into a USPS-induced stress seizure right there in the store. I did not have the time to explain the full agony of what I had gone through, and the shortened version fell on deaf ears. Apparently everyone thinks everything is replaceable and people are willing to send you second and thirds for free.

I emailed Tammy about the type of silver, but frankly I think she was sick of me by this point, and I can’t say I blame her. If I were her, I would have started blocking my messages. My resolve started to flag, but my coworkers, who had been listening to this saga for two months, were encouraging. They probably were just sick of hearing about it and wanted it to end, but still I appreciated the support. One commented that the ring had become a great symbol of perseverance and another pointed out that even if the resizing messed up the band, it would be on the part of the band no one could see when I was wearing it. True enough.

So I went in search of a less scrupulous jeweler and saw there was one in the sketchier part of town. Perfect. After getting honked at by a couple of mean looking guys because I had the nerve to back into a metered space, I locked my door and walked past the shuttered and fading storefronts to the one I was looking for. The minute I walked in though it felt like home. An older couple was at the back of the store chatting with a customer they knew and cooing over her baby granddaughter. While I waited, another woman came in and they knew her too. I looked around the store — it was filled with cool, old jewelry and all kinds of knickknacks and old toys. It could have been overwhelming, but everything seemed carefully curated. When it was my turn, they listen to my story, and he said the same caveat about the silver. I said if it’s not perfect that’s OK, and the woman practically finished my sentence, saying “You just want to wear it.”

Yes. Exactly. I. Just. Want. To. Wear. It.

Five days later I picked up the solid silver ring that had been resized without a blemish, and I’m the proud wearer of a ring that inspired the most epic journey of persistence, resilience, and prevailing ever.

And so check out Tammy’s store on Etsy, Spirals and Spice, but it’s probably best if you don’t say I sent you. She may still be recovering from her own epic journey of dealing with me.

Can I Hear You Now?

As I’ve discussed in this blog before, I go dancing almost once a week and have been for more than two years. I love it, but the very loud music doesn’t love me. Even before then, I’ve had that ringing in my ears, called tinnitus, which looks like it should be pronounced “tIn-EYE-tus” like every other “-itis” word; but no, it’s pronounced “TIN-uh-tus,” as if we need it to be any more annoying than it already is. It generally doesn’t bother me, but over the past few years, I noticed it was getting a little louder, so I first tried wearing sleeping ear plugs while dancing, which were aesthetically and auditorily useless — why do they come in Day-Glo colors? I quickly moved on to some off-the-shelf musician earplugs, and they worked fairly well for the past year, except they slip out while I’m dancing. What can I say? I’m grooving and sweating, and the damn things need to keep up. Recently the ringing kicked up another notch, so I decided it was time to move up to the big guns — custom musician ear plugs.

But that requires an audiologist, a hearing test, and before that, a referral from my doctor for a hearing test. My initial mature reaction to that was, I don’t want to know if my hearing has been damaged. Because if I don’t know about it, then it can’t be real, right? Besides no one is yelling at me. Yet.

In the end it was my love of dancing and not maturity that won the day, and on a recent Friday I found myself in a little booth talking with a perky audiologist student placing headphones on me. It was a more elaborate version of the kind of hearing test we got in grammar school — beeping in your ear and raising your hand when you can hear it. Of course, I’m a lot older, and lately I’ve had the focus of a dog in a squirrel park, so it was hard and tedious. Plus, I knew when I wasn’t hearing stuff.

Boop, boop boop (silent pause), I raised my hand. Softer boop, boop, boop (silent pause), raised hand. Barely there soft boop, boop, boop (silent pause), raised hand. And then… nothing. Shit. I knew damn well there was a boop, boop, boop going on, but I couldn’t hear it. For a second I thought about raising my hand and cheating, as if doing that would get me something, like admission into a better college. But apparently I have matured, because I next heard in my brain, “I’d only be hurting myself,” said in the Ben Stein voice from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

But my tricky mind wasn’t done yet. During that disappointing silence, my brain said:

“Hey, hey! I think I heard something! Raise your hand!”

Ears said, “Shut up, you idiot! We didn’t hear diddly. You just want to hear a sound.”

“No, no, really! I heard something!”

“Shut it!”

And then the faintest boop, boop, boop came back, and with it, a sigh of relief as I raised my hand. That is until the audiologist changed the tone, and it started all over again: Beep, beep, beep (silence pause), raise hand. I thought it would be done after we went through the range of sounds, but then she came in and put more headphone things on my head. Then we did it all again, but with various kinds of white noise in the background, as if I always have conversations on the side of a highway or by active train tracks.

Once again my brain tried to tell me we could hear stuff, but it and my ears were getting tired, so it gave up pretty quickly. Then came the third part the test. The audiologist explained that I’d be hearing a man’s voice saying sentences, and I needed to say the last word of the sentence. I’m not sure if it was because of the way she explained it, or that I’m a die-hard English major, or that my brain was on the verge of over-focused delirium, or that my son is studying for the SATs, but I immediately thought I was going to have to listen to a guy while he recited a paragraph, say from literature, and I was going to have to do a kind of verbal listening comprehension and pick out the last word of each sentence.

As I was wrestling with my low-level panic, I had to stifle a full on laugh when a computer-generated voice said, “Say the word, ‘eye’.” Oh. Duh. “Eye.” “Say the word, ‘ear’. “Ear.” My relief quickly gave way to fatigue-generated irritation: Why is a man telling me what to do? Why can’t it be a women? Of course, the sentences kept coming, so drifting off with irrelevant side thoughts wasn’t helping.

Then, because my perimenopause sometimes renders me into a teenage boy, the sentences themselves started to distract me.

“Say the word, ‘wood’.” I immediately heard Beavis and Butthead giggling, “He said ‘wood,’ heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh.”

Now my brain was having to rein itself in: “Pay attention, focus, and say, ‘wood,’ goddamnit! We’re going to fail this test too!” A couple of sentences later the man said, “Say the word, ‘stiff’.” I mean, come on! Really?

But before I could go too far down that puerile path, he said, “Say the word ‘mews’,” which turned out to be my equivalent of trying to read that last line of impossibly tiny print on the eye chart. Mews is a British term, and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t use that in an American hearing test, unless he also asked me to say “lorry” and “footman.” Then he said. “Say the word, ‘mees’.” Oh fudge. I also knew it was wrong because he continued to ask for that word three different times, like a teacher trying to help me out on a test. I finally realized by the third time he was was probably saying “knees” and that “mews” was most likely “news,” but by then I was too tired to care. I just wanted to say the word “done.” And finally it was.

The student audiologist came in and explained that I have some hearing loss, but not enough for hearing aids (no shit, Sherlock!), but I couldn’t really get mad at her because she earnestly gave me these helpful pamphlets, one called “Tips for Talking to Hard of Hearing Persons.” She said I could give it to my “loved ones” (seemed presumptuous). Then she told me the highlights of the pamphlet, looking directly at me just like tip number one said to. Then the supervising doctor came in and gave me the seasoned version, but I was already moving onto getting my custom musician earplugs. Both of them seemed to forget the main and very important reason I was there — to keep on dancing. Interestingly, because of some hearing differences in my ears, she didn’t think it was the dancing music that was causing the ringing. “But it’s not helping, either,” she said, giving me her stern doctor’s hairy eyeball. She thought it may be genetic, which means I really don’t have any control over it, so blah, blah, hearing, blah, blah, can we get on with the custom ear plugs?

Getting the molds done for the plugs was much more fun — they come in cool colors, and I picked clear with gold sparkles because if I’m going to be hard of hearing I can still look fabulous. And just a tip for all of my loved ones. Next time you’re giving me mews about your mees, be sure to look at me directly.