October 31, 2003
Or more to the point, Pumpkinbelly.
I am stuuuuuuuuuffed. I had a semi-big lunch (pulled pork and a sweet potato at Sonny's BBQ) and then tonight for dinner I went to Golden Corral with my mom and stepdad. I ate:
Approximately 4 oz. of bourbon chicken
1/2 cup corn
1 cup romaine lettuce
1 cup spinach leaves
1 cup tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup raw broccoli
1T shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cantalope
1/2 cup honeydew
One yeast roll (because they are soooooooo good, and I was weak)
Now, most of that stuff (other than the roll) is very healthy and good for me. But I am so full right now that I need someone to jab my stomach with a knitting needle, so I can deflate.
Pre-dinner I saw my nephew Alex and my brother and sister-in-law. Alex, who will be 8 in December, dressed up as a ninja this year for Halloween and he looked SO. FREAKING. COOL. My mom took photos, which I will hopefully receive soon.
I've lost enough weight at this point that my beloved Mossimo brown pants are way, WAY too long, and I nearly fell down the stairs at work this morning after stepping on the hem of them. But I don't want to buy more clothes yet. And I don't know how much it's worth trying to hem these pants. I've been told to try that Stitch Witchery stuff, so I'm going to pick some up tomorrow.
So that's it for today. Oh, I'd like to thank Copssister and TVJunkie for the good thoughts and helpful information re: yesterday's entry. Cops, I'll drop you a line if anything bad happens with my auto insurance policy.
Just another reason I love - and could never again live without - the Internet.
October 30, 2003
Here In My Car
Okay, I'm doing this because Overg told me I should keep track of everything that has happened. And since I always do what Overg tells me to do ...
On Saturday, October 25 at approximately 12:45 p.m. I was involved in a minor accident at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa, Florida. I had just left the Saturn of Carrollwood dealership after having my oil changed and the recall work done on my car.
As I was heading south on Dale Mabry and approaching the turn off for Hillsborough, I began applying my brakes to slow down before manuevering into incoming, westbound traffic. I slowed down to approximately 15 mph, then noticed resistance in pushing down the brake pedal further. I backed off the pedal a bit, then pressed it hard again. At this point my wheels started spinning a little bit, and then - going about 5-10 mph - I slid into the car in front of me.
I got out of the car and looked down at my brake pedal. I saw that the driver's side floor mat was folded over on itself, so that it was bunched up underneath the brake pedal (which resulted in my not being able to depress the brake pedal all the way). I then went around to the front of my car to assess the damage.
The other driver's husband exited their car and inspected the cars with me. Neither of us could see any damage to either car. I kneeled down to look more closely at each car's bumper. I didn't see anything on mine, but on closer inspection of the other car I noticed a vertical nick on the bumper. I pointed this out to the husband and he told me that the nick was already on the bumper before I slid into their car. He refered to the nick having occured from something his wife had done.
The husband told me that his wife was on the phone with the police, so I stood beside my car. He leaned into the car to speak to her, then came back and told me that the police dispatcher had told his wife that, since there appeared to be no damage, they would not send an officer out to the scene. The dispatcher recommended that the involved parties exchange insurance information.
The husband asked me to drive a short distance and meet them in the parking lot of Pep Boys, about 1/8 mile away. I did so and parked my car across from his car. I got out of my car and walked over to the other car to talk to the driver, Anne Roberts. I asked her if she was injured, and she said no. I asked if her husband or daughter was injured, and she said no. I looked at her bumper again and expressed my shock that there didn't appear to be any damage. She agreed and we both commented on the having late-model cars with flexible bumpers.
We then walked over to my car. She asked me if I was injured and I said "no." She asked if my car was damaged and I said it was not. We walked around to the front of my car to look at the bumper. She didn't see any damage to my car either. We then exchanged insurance and driver's license information while standing at the trunk of my car. We also exchanged home addresses and phone numbers, "just in case" something was damaged on her car that could not be seen.
I mentioned that I appreciated her husband being honest about the nick in her bumper not being from the accident. She said that she did that herself by closing the garage door on her car the day after she got it, on April 1.
She left first, and I pulled out onto Hillsborough Ave. behind her, heading west. I drove behind her for approximately 2 miles to make sure her car was driving okay. Then I continued home.
I did not hear from Mrs. Roberts on Sunday. On Monday night I came home from work to find a message from her on my answering machine (which I have saved). She said that she had called her insurance agent in order to make a report about what happened so it would be on file, and that her agent said that I was supposed to call my agent and do the same. She also mentioned something about how this needed to be done to avoid a fradulent claim of some sort, but I didn't really understand what she meant.
I called her back and asked her specifically if there was any damage to her car, because I was concerned that maybe something had happened to it after I left her on the weekend. She said that there was "no damage that I can see" but that she just wanted something on file in case there was damage "that isn't visible." She gave as an example something being bent underneath the car.
I agreed and asked her again if she and her husband and daughter were physically okay, and she said they were fine. I also asked if her car was driving okay and she said it was. I apologized again for inconveniencing her on Saturday and told her I would call my agent the next day.
I called my insurance agent, Bill Ruggie, on Tuesday morning to report what had happened. The assistant I spoke to said that since there was no damage, there would be no claim.
About an hour later I got a call from Mrs. Roberts' agent's office, asking me if my agent was going to put in the claim against my insurance. I replied that I was under the assumption that, since there was no damage, there was no claim. Then the person told me that no, Mrs. Roberts was claiming that there are scratches on her bumper. I said that there were no scratches on her bumper on Saturday other than the one she and her husband both admitted was already there prior to the accident. The person told me she would call Mrs. Roberts to clarify and then call me back. I never heard from the person again.
On Wednesday night I got a call from a State Farm claims representative who wanted to ask me questions about the accident. I again reiterated that I was surprised there was any claim being made, because there was no damage. The claim rep refered to "scratches" being in the report. He couldn't tell me if a claim had actually been filed. So I gave him all of the details about what happened. He seemed to think the discrepency was strange, too - especially the fact that I talked to Mrs. Roberts on Monday night and she told me then that there was no damage to her car. He has scheduled an inspection of my car for Friday, Oct. 31. He told me he would be calling Mrs. Roberts after he got off the phone with me to schedule an inspection of her car as well.
October 28, 2003
I'm not sure you know this, but there's a new meal at Subway (Eat Fresh!) called the "Teem Supreme." The Teem Supreme consists of a six-inch turkey breast sub on wheat, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, honey mustard, salt and pepper (occasionally sweet peppers, but NEVER OLIVES, and you add cheese at your own risk), with a bag of KC Masterpiece Baked Lays and a medium Diet Pepsi.
When you eat that, you're eating the Teem Supreme. And it fills you up right.
The name is in honor of my friend, Cap'n Teem, who is obsessed with this particular meal at Subway and gets it 3-4 times a day. I swear!
Tonight! Premiere! 24! Be in chat or forever wish you had been.
OH, and another thing - my back yard is apparently Ground Zero for animals who have missing/injured legs. There's a pigeon - his name is Cass (and a lollipop goes to the first person to figure out why he's named that) - who has a broken foot, so he can't walk on the ground; he has to hop. But he's been coming around with the rest of the pigeons for about six months now, so I guess he does okay.
This afternoon I threw out some Boo Blend [tm] bird food and after awhile a grackle came around to eat. A ONE-LEGGED grackle, I should say. It looked evil, whereas Cass just looks pathetic and sweet.
They made me think of my beloved Gimpy.
My triceps, they are killing me.
I've been lifting weights again. I am hardcore. HARDCORE, I SAY! And my triceps are paying for it. Wait, triceps are the muscles under your arms, right?
So anyway, my triceps are apparently weak-ass bitches, because they ache like a mofo and my biceps? Laugh at their agony. My biceps are like, "DAMMIT, triceps, that was nothing! Feel the burn! Embrace the pain! Microtears are your friends, and you'll be stronger for them!"
In response, my triceps cower in the corner and whimper.
I was basically doing backwards rows. Wait, I just realized - I have no idea what the hell I'm talking about. I don't know the terminology. I was essentially doing the backstroke while holding 10-pound weights in each hand. What is that called? (My triceps: "Stupidity!") Is that a row? Or is it a fly? At any rate, it was difficult to finish those 20 reps (and I did two sets!) and by the end I could envision the lactic acid coursing through my body. Mmm, acid.
Oh, and I'm also on this kick where I'm doing situps. I know, I know - what the hell? What is that about? I hate abdominal exercises. But I just got this weird idea that it would be cool to be able to do 100 situps.
Right now I can do 20. Go ahead and laugh. I would, except I'm in too much pain from them and my sides might very well explode if I did laugh. So I'll just chuckle.
You, on the other hand, can guffaw.
October 27, 2003
Sometimes I forget I have this thing.
So. The weekend. I didn't do much that was important. In fact now that I'm trying to remember what I did, I can't remember. I know at some point I watched 28 Days Later. I also watched episodes of The West Wing and Law & Order that I had taped. I chatted with friends, both on the phone and online. I talked to my mommy. I did laundry, bought groceries, bought the components of Boo Blend birdseed (dove seed, cracked corn, black oil sunflower seeds, and trail mix for birds), got the oil changed on my car (and had the recall stuff done while I was there - yes, the 2003 Saturn L-series was recalled). I watched a few eps of I Love the 80s Strikes Back on VH-1.
And I played with the cats.
It didn't get cold yesterday like it was supposed to, which makes me peevish and crabby. So I consoled myself today with the purchase of Bobbi Brown Shimmering Tube Tints. A set of four for $20. Which is a bargain if I do say so myself.
But in going to Saks on my lunch hour, I used up my time to procure and eat food. Luckily I had a thing of Campbell's Soup In Hand (blended vegetable) in my desk, along with a packet of saltines from Wendy's. So I had that, but, well, I am still freakishly hungry. So I just ate a fruit cup. That's not really holding me, though, and there is a big huge thing of candy over on Melissa's desk (including miniature Milky Way, Snickers, Twix, Kit Kat, 3 Musketeers and other stuff).
But I will not be weak. Besides, I already had four this morning.
Other miscellaneous stuff - I have painted my fingernails with OPI London Bridge Is Falling Brown, and they are very pretty. I'm listening to Las Ketchups' "Asereje" and I have a headache and I'm sleepy.
October 24, 2003
Reason #764 Why I Love Teem - She posted this on Looking Good today:
Can't touch this! Dun dundundun dundun dundun! Dun dundundun dundun dundun! *shimmies back in forth in low-crotch poofy pants*
There's a little heewig celebration going on in my office.
… And Seven Years Ago
What a weird day it's shaping up to be. It was actually cool this morning when I left for work. Well, Florida's version of cool, which is approximately 65 degrees. In almost-November.
So it's cool out, and I'm tired this morning for some inexplicable reason. I woke up, showered, fed the cats (a can of IAMS wet food, which they snottily refused to eat at first - but eventually they got hungry enough and they slinked back into the kitchen to eat when I wasn't looking). All standard morning activities. Couldn't decide what to have for breakfast, so I had another Flavor Adventure - otherwise known as a Healthy Choice Grilled Chicken Marinara frozen dinner - caught up with email, read a few threads on Looking Good, and fed Otis.
My betta fish, Otis Redding, is being a pistol lately. He's halfway flaring at me all the time. Which is funny and yet upsetting. He's supposed to love me, not bite my face off.
It was right around this time - about 7 a.m. - that I remembered what today was.
So I blowdried (hmm, Word is telling me that isn't a word) my hair, and decided that I really wasn't in the mood to care how it looked, so I didn't bother with any styling products. Screw 'em if they can't take a joke. Finished that, sat down on the bed and petted Caygeon a little bit, then sat down to do my makeup. And in the interest of documenting all the minute details of this day, here is what I put on:
Olay Complete moisturizer followed by Lancome Adaptivé foundation in Beige 4 (I'm doing this from memory, and being able to recall these details is either going to be jaw-droppingly impressive or extremely unsettling) followed by Origins Quick, Hide concealer in Medium (under the eyes and at the corners of the nose) …
Wait, let me do this as a bulleted list. *fires up Homesite*
- Olay Complete Moisturizer SPF 15 Fragrance Free
- Lancome Adaptivé foundation in Beige 4
- Origins Quick, Hide! concealer in Medium
- Sonia Kashuk loose powder in Flesh
- Nars blush in Lovejoy
- Clinique Touch Base in Canvas
- MAC Honestly eyeshadow on the lid
- MAC Samoa Silk eyeshadow at the corner and in the crease
- MAC Brulé eyeshadow on the brow bone
- Cover Girl kohl eyeliner in Espresso
- Curl lashes with Shu Uemura eyelash curler
- Jane Hi-Fiber Mascara
- Fill in eyebrows with Sonia Kashuk eyebrow palette
- Revlon Moisturous lipstick in Tawny Dew
Good god, it really seems like a lot. I fully admit to being a product ho, but all of those steps only take me 15 minutes to do (20 if I'm being slow), so yeah, hush up.
And then I contemplated clothing. I just didn't really care about anything this morning, for some reason. I'm not a big fashion person anyway, but this morning I just felt ... not blah or depressed, just ... indifferent, I guess. I'm wearing jeans, a red/yellow/black striped shirt and black loafers. And the appropriate undergarments.
My choice of anti-perspirant today, as it is every day, was Almay Clear Gel in Unscented. And then I scented my body with MMU Shea Butter Body Soufflé in Lemon Blondie.
And then I went to work. Here's where the day gets interesting. (I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "About damn time.")
I'm walking out of my apartment when I realize that that stupid "Soundtrack of My Life" CD theme last month has really messed me up. In both good ways and bad. Because I walked out of my apartment this morning and just started thinking about all these different people in my past that I've lost touch with. They were all important people, too. But I don't know them anymore. I've been so busy in the last two years that I haven't even really thought about it, but working on that mix CD brought everything to just below the surface, and now it's all coming out.
So I've spent the morning reliving moments from my past with various people. All men, as it turns out. That's either typical or depressing. People like Pete Hansen. I would love to know where Pete Hansen is, but I'm not even sure that Pete Hansen is still alive.
And Jason Carter from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. And Steve Burnett. And Lee Dempsey. And Ryan Warden. All friends who once meant so much to me, but whom I now have no idea if they are living or dead. I haven't thought of them for so long, and now I can't stop.
It doesn't help that I'm listening to the soundtrack. I really should stop that.
So anyway, today marks seven years that I have been in remission from Hodgkin's disease. I'm going to buy thank you cards for my oncologist, radiologist and surgeon and send them out next week. "Thank you for giving me a life." It's a different life than the one I had, but I'm so lucky to have it.
How do I feel about this anniversary? Mostly I just feel like, hey, it's kinda cool that I'm still alive. And then I think about all the really difficult stuff I went through to get to this point, and I feel a certain measure of pride in myself. And then I remember that, um, I really just sat there while they pumped me full of chemo drugs, or laid there while they blasted me with massive amounts of radiation (the equivalent of 312,500 chest x-rays over a period of four weeks - a chest x-ray delivers .008 rads of radiation; I received 2500 rads to my chest and neck).
So really, what did I do? Physically, at least. Mentally and emotionally I do think I dealt with it pretty well. I explained this well in the liner notes I wrote for my mix CDs. Here's an excerpt, from the second disk, "After":
8. Wilco, "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway" - This is an important song. This CD (Summerteeth) came out in early 1999. This was the point in my life, about three years after I finished treatment for HD, that I think I fully accepted everything that had happened to me and the fact that I was irrevocably different because of it. And that being different was okay. My experience has made me worse off than most people (from a health standpoint), but better off as well (I think I have a fuller understanding of the value of life). Neither thing makes me superior or inferior to people, it just makes me different. This song became my new anthem - I had embraced my experience and was going to do everything I could to make it something that ADDED meaning to my life, and I wasn't going to let it hold me back in any way. And that's the way I've tried to live.
9. Gin Blossoms, "29" - This was another song that gained so much meaning for me later in my life. I played this a lot when I was, in fact, 29 years old, because it resonated so much with what I had been through in the last few years. "Time won't stand by forever." "Only time will tell if wishing wells will bring us anything." And especially "Some rides don't have much of a finish, that's the ride I took. Through good and bad and straight through indifference, without a second look." The overriding theme of the song, I think, is that you just can't know what is going to happen in your life, and only the passage of time can make some things clearer to you. That's definitely what happened to me. At the time I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn't know what I was supposed to gain from being sick, but after a few years I started to understand, and to really truly believe, that the experience had enriched my life beyond measure.
That about sums it up.
And my 15 minute break is over, so I have to get back to work.
October 21, 2003
I just realized that Friday will be the anniversary of my remission from Hodgkin's disease. Seven years. Seven and a half since I was diagnosed.
Wow. In some ways it feels like it all happened much longer ago than that. But it other ways, it feels like it was so much more recent than seven years. I should do something special on Friday. Like ... go to work.
I am considering writing a fan letter to Nick Marsh. Nick Marsh was the lead singer of a band called Flesh For Lulu, which I used to listen to constantly in high school. I even met the band at a mall appearance, and had them sign my car. Yes, my car.
Anyway, in our last mix CD swap on Looking Good, the theme was Soundtrack of Myself. I put a Flesh song on the mix, and ended up listening to Big Fun City/Blue Sisters Swing for a solid two weeks. I'd forgotten how much I loved it. I think it might be nice for Nick Marsh to hear how much I loved it, too. Especially since I'm sure Flesh For Lulu is pretty well forgotten at this point (I think they disbanded in the early 90s).
So, is this a weird and freaky idea? I mean, who wouldn't want to hear that something they created - even though they created it two decades ago - was still significant to someone?
October 20, 2003
Pain and Agony
Okay, so, last night as I was changing the sheets on my bed I bent my pinkie nail backwards. Which stung like a mofo. Fast forward to this morning when I'm blowdrying my hair - I SNAG THE EDGE OF THE NAIL in my hair, and it RIPS OFF. Way down on the nail bed.
And you know what? It hurts now. A lot. A LOT.
Heh, when you click on one of the girls, you don't get information about her - you get information about her country of origin. Did you know that "in 2001, the Italian Supreme Court ruled a man grabbing a woman's butt was not sexual harassment as long as the act was not premeditated"?
I don't think I'd do very well in Italy.
One of the German chicks, Johanna, looks nice. I'll bet Anique is going to be a bitch - you know how those girls from the Netherlands are. Always going on and on about how they've got the best damn tulips.
So the lemmings of Looking Good should be back today to regale me with stories from LolaCon 2003. I cannot wait for the scoopage. And I hope Proo manages to get on a flight soon; last we heard, she had camped out overnight in LaGuardia Airport.
October 18, 2003
From the Archives III
And this is our final archive entry. This is about my friend Derek Going, and it's probably one of the most emotionally honest things I've ever written.
February 28, 2003 - 9:49 a.m.
Mister Rogers died yesterday from stomach cancer. There's already been so much written about the man, and his death, so I'm not going to go into much detail on that here. Suffice it to say that a part of my childhood - a wholly positive and happy part - died along with him.
So I'm not going to write about Mister Rogers. I'm going to write about what Mister Rogers' death has reminded me of, and that is Derek Going.
Derek Going is the only thing I regret in my life. I've done many stupid things in my life, and made many rash decisions, many mistakes, but I can honestly say that I've learned from those things and they've made me the person I am. I like the person I am, so I don't feel regret when I look back on those silly, immature acts.
But that's not the case when I think about Derek. Derek was someone that I met when I was going through chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease. We met in an AOL chatroom for young adults with cancer. He lived in south Florida and used to attend USF over in Tampa, so we had an immediate bond. Well, in addition to the instantaneous bond of being afflicted with cancer in our early 20s.
Derek had a type of bone cancer called Ewing's sarcoma. You don't want to be diagnosed with this. It is, typically, very difficult to recover from. Especially when you have it in certain locations of your body, like Derek did. His tumors were in his tailbone area. By the time I met him they had been beaten back by radiation, only to return again, stronger and more vicious than before.
But Derek still had a sense of humor about everything, and we became fast friends. We would email, IM and talk on the phone a few times a week. He was a silly, sweet boy who had a sarcastic sense of humor that I found wildly engaging.
There was just one problem. Over the course of our friendship, I was getting better. Hodgkin's disease is fairly treatable as cancers go, and when I was diagnosed I was Stage IIA and had a pretty good prognosis. Chemo was knocking me on my ass, especially towards the end of my six months of treatment, but all my CT scans showed the tumors receeding.
Derek's scans showed his tumors were spreading.
I began to feel guilty about getting better. At the same time, Derek started trying to hold me closer. I think he just wanted to be close to someone who was beating their disease, since he was having a hard time beating his own. Maybe it helped give him hope to talk to me and hear that I was doing well.
But I couldn't deal with it. We would talk, and Derek would tell me about his latest scan, how the cancer was advancing into his spine, how his doctors thought it was only a matter or time before it showed up in his brain. I didn't know what to say. I was so happy to be getting better, and Derek's situation would either remind me that I could still die yet - Hodgkin's is treatable, yes, but I knew many patients who died from it nonetheless - or that I shouldn't be so happy about my recovery because my dear friend wasn't going to make it.
Because he wasn't. Derek was going to die. He knew that, and I knew that, and I couldn't find the words to tell him how sorry I was that he wasn't going to make it. I couldn't begin to formulate the thoughts that would lead to the words that I would need to speak in order to tell my friend that I was sorry he was going to die.
My brain just could not reconcile that fact with my own reality. Why was I so lucky? Yes, our cancers were vastly different with different prognoses - was that it? People have beaten Ewing's sarcoma, and people have died from Hodgkin's disease. Why wasn't that the case for me and Derek?
I'm a strong person. I've always been proud of that fact. I've always been the friend who could listen to your problems and come up with something to help - some alternative you hadn't considered, or some plan of action that you didn't think was possible. That is me. When you need a shoulder, I'm there. When you want the truth, come to me.
But I failed Derek. All he wanted was someone who would listen. Someone who understood what happens when you have cancer, what you think about, how your entire life turns on a dime and becomes something you never dreamed it would be. I couldn't be that for him in the end. I wasn't strong enough to listen to him die. I wasn't strong enough to get past what was happening to me and provide the comfort that he needed. All it would have required of me was to listen to him speak, and I could not do it, simple as that seems.
So our friendship started fading away, just like Derek. I stopped responding to his emails, and I didn't return his calls. I avoided being on AOL. I know he understood what was happening. When you're diagnosed with cancer, you find out very quickly that people that you thought were good friends are going to fall drastically short of your expectations. You truly do find out who your real friends are.
I wasn't a real friend to Derek, I guess. I wanted to be. I can't even say that I was doing the best I could at the time. I knew I was failing him. I knew I was taking the coward's way out, and I did it anyway. I pulled away and left him, and his dying, because it was the easiest thing for me to do. And I needed my life to be easier.
About three months after I finished treatment and was declared to be in remission I got a phone call. It was Derek's aunt, calling to tell me he had died. It had been about six months since he and I had spoken. He had made a list of the friends that he wanted notified when he died, so that his family could contact those friends and let them know how much Derek loved and appreciated them.
I was on that list. I didn't deserve to be.
So I think about Derek whenever I read about a beloved person dying of cancer, like Mister Rogers. I can't think about Derek without crying.
I don't know if I'm crying for him, or for me.
From the Archives IIAnother archival entry - this one is one of my favorite things that cartoonist Berkeley Breathed has ever written.
April 24, 2003 - 9:09 a.m.
April 24, 2003 - 9:09 a.m.
Note: This is one of my favorite Berkeley Breathed pieces.
The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog MassacreeThe summer of 1988 descended on Bloom County much as it had for each of the previous nine years of my life; humid and without hint of the chaos ahead. We needed no hints, however, for calamity always rode shotgun with Bloom County summers. Each spring, bored boys awaited the hot months with giddy anticipation normally reserved for the imminent approach of a gang of Nazi motorcyclists. Things were going to happen. Wonderful things. Catastrophic things. And if that meant, say, that my dad's new Chrysler LeBaron were to be dynamited by Japanese antiprotectionist guerillas, so be it. This was summer, after all, and such things simply happen. Confident in the knowledge that soon the June sun would fry most of the common sense out of everyone's noodle, Milo and I would kick back among the meadow dandelions and wait for things to generally fall apart. As I said, this summer would be no different.
These were contented times for me, being, at age ten, still safely ignorant of what my adulthood would bring (namely, a clerkship at the lingerie counter of Wal-mart, a job that would send some fetishists I know into palm-sweating ecstasy but which, alas, still sends me to my knees with nausea. See chapter 11, "Women and Nausea"). These were, in fact, generally contented times for everyone. A presidential election was approaching, but it would be another four years before Clint Eastwood reached the White House and really stirred things up, so for the moment, life was pretty tranquil. This, I figure, helps explain the exaggerated behavior of Bloom Countians over what happened that summer.
The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog Massacree, as it became known, had its roots in two entirely separate and unrelated events: a conspiracy of happenstance which was to test the civil defense preparedness of an entire American community and forever alter the ecological food chain of the North Meadow Pond.
On June 21, 1988, the following item appeared on page 3 of the daily Bloom Beacon, sandwiched between an article on the plummeting price of cow tongue and "Dear Abby":
COMMUNISTS AT U.S. DOORSTEP
by Milo Bloom, Investigative Reporter
|Today it was discovered that after years of aggressive expansion, the Soviet Union has stretched its borders to within a mere 12 miles of American soil. The State Department has no immediate comment.|
"SOMETHING," bellowed Steve Dallas at a hastily called town meeting, "SHOULD BE DONE!" He pounded the table, looking properly drunk with nationalistic fervor. Eunice Annanburg suggested CIA assassinations of most of the Kremlin, but she was soundly overruled in favor of a more moderate response. A letter would be dispatched to the President informing him of the crisis. (Years later, Caspar Weinberger would write in his memoirs that he had been sent to the White House to reassure Mr. Reagan that it wasn't necessary to send the Sixth Fleet to investigate this new business. We were pleased our letter had attracted the attention it deserved. The President was a fave-rave in Bloom County.)
A high level of media-inspired hysteria and paranoia having now been generated, the stage was set for the second minor incident to complete the general breakdown of order that led to the The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog Massacree. And it happened early the next Sunday morning, deep within the Bloom County Volunteer Fire Department's wiring system. Several errant electrons jumped when they shouldn't have at a place they shouldn't have, resulting in what shouldn't have happened. In short, a short. The air-raid siren came to life for the first time in Bloom County history.
It must have started about 6:00 in the morning and, it being Sunday, caught everyone asleep. At least everyone in Milo's boardinghouse, where my father and I lived. Bolting upright in bed, eyes wide, I listened to the wail outside and I knew immediately that this day was to be dealt a prefectly proper dose of pandemonium. The Nazi motorcyclists had, so to speak, arrived. A nuclear missile attack was not safe but it certainly was not boring.
"Get under the door frames!" yelled Dad, huddling beneath his as I emerged from my room. I told Dad that standing under door frames was usually something done during an earthquake and that he might have been mixing up his catastrophes - but by then the rest of the residents had emerged and were milling around the top of the staircase, listening to the siren and peering up at the ceiling. These, I later thought, are the many foolish things people do while waiting for Russian missiles.
Standing there in our various forms of undress, nobody had to say what we were all thinking. The newly discovered twelve-mile gap between our peace-loving people and the Soviet hordes had been just too tempting and the Bolsheviks had decided to get the jump on us. "I TOLD you all that something should have been done!" said Steve Dallas, who was pounding the wall wearing only Fruit of the Loom briefs. That Steve also was barefoot was actually the greatest danger we faced at the moment, his feet being considered a public health hazard within a five-county area. In Bloom County, prolonged bachelorhood is often looked at with suspicion, but in Steve's case it was merely a consequence of poor foot hygiene: women were simply never seen in his company. Now, Steve didn't look much like what a homosexual was generally presumed to look like, so folks accepted the foot theory and gave him little trouble as long as he kept his loafers on. Normally, aging bachelors can be a real moral strain on a small town.
The siren still screamed and Milo quickly took control of the situation. "Okay!" he said, "Where's our Civil Defense Coordinator?" This was a good question, since Opus, who held that office, was missing.... A quick search found him sitting on the pot with the Sunday funnies. A late night of questionable activities had apparently taken their toll, for he was asleep with the comics draped over him like a quilt. Our Civil Defense Coordinator was awakened rudely and dragged, struggling in a half nelson, to the top of the stairs.
I should digress to explain that the more unsavory positions of official authority within the boardinghouse bureaucracy were given to those members who made the unfortunate mistake of being absent for house meetings. Thus Opus, much to his eventual horror, had been given the honor of being voted Official Trash Coordinator, Official Wasp Nest Remover, Official Rain Gutter Cleaner, Official Chimneysweep, and Official Handler of Steve Dallas's socks - positions he earned by being off somewhere in Milo's Meadow picking his nose when the nominations were made. These were underhanded actions and complaints were lodged. But this - this Official Defense Coordinator business was something altogether different. That awful Sunday morning in June was the first Opus had heard about this new office. "ME?" he cried. "ME? Nope! No way! No no no! Uh-uh! ME?" He started to hyperventilate, so we wiped his brow with a cool rag and got him some herring entrails and grape juice, which calmed him down some.
With the collapse of the only official leadership, the situation began to deteriorate. Thermonuclear bombs were due any moment, things had to be done. Panic had to be averted. Steve realized what he needed to do and returned to his room while the rest of us regrouped outside in the street. Opus, dazed and faint with anxiety, was propped up and federal civil defense instructions were shoved into his hands. Dad, Milo, his grandfather, Oliver Wendell Jones and his parents from next door, passerby in the street, all came to attention and awaited instructions. The sirens wailed on. Obviously only minutes remained.
" 'First,' " said Opus, reading from the government manual, " 'Gather shovels.' " We dispersed and looked for shovels, returning with several. " 'Second, quickly and without panic, take refuge in the countryside.' " Shovels in hand, we formed an orderly line and proceeded to march behind our hyperventilating leader down the street, passing by others who were clearly reacting to the threat of thermonuclear annihilation with less self-control than ourselves. We, after all, had taken the precaution of procuring not only an official federal civil defense handbook, but an official - if reluctant - Civil Defense Coordinator as well.
Upon reaching the dandelions of Milo's Meadow, well removed, we supposed, for Ground Zero, we stood at attention and awaited further instructions. " 'Dig shallow trenches, " Opus continued. " 'Lie down in trenches, cover self with wooden door or like object and await blast. After shock wave passes, emerge and go to nearest emergency Civil Defense Center and fill out emergency change of address forms.' "
With this, we seized the handbook and hacked it to pieces with our shovels. Opus was officially decommissioned and we quickly adopted a favorite stand-by approach to an approaching holocaust - hysterical panic. This is always fun to watch, so Milo and I settled back into the grass to savor the confusion, our own fates apparently sealed. Opus wrung his hands and worried about what radiation would do to his complexion.
Steve Dallas jogged by, dressed in designer fatigues and wearing an extraordinarily full backpack. "JOIN ME IN THE HILLS!" he yelled in passing. "ONLY THE PROPERLY EQUIPPED WILL SURVIVE!" Or the lawyers, we thought. "JOIN ME AND WE'LL CRAWL FROM THE RUBBLE AND LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY. TO THE HILLS! ONLY THE WEAK WILL PERISH!" This was no comfort to the nearly shattered Opus, who had no illusions as to where he stood in the strong/weak classification. Watching his best friend Steve Dallas disappear into the woods dressed like Rambo proved the final decisive blow to an already critical frame of mind and he plopped over unconscious. Lying serenely among the clover, Opus was blessedly unaware of Portnoy and Hodge-Podge marching up the hill with a fully automatic 45mm American Ruger Assault rifle, apparently intent on massacring the imminent hordes of Communists in groups of fifty or more. "We're gonna massacree 'em!" bellowed Portnoy, waving the weapon that had obviously been borrowed from the shelves of the K-Mart Sporting Goods Section. Milo and I, concluding that the general scheme of things just couldn't handle this much fun, tried to dissuade Portnoy and his fellow conspirator from their patriotic mission. They would not hear of it. These, after all, were a groundhog and a rabbit, two of the most excitable critters to be found in modern meadows and wont to excessive behavior. "We'll go out blasting!" they said.
Down we went, following these two warriors, to the North Meadow Pond, where invading Russians were suspected. Opus awoke and trailed this dangerous procession, rubbing his stomach, for nulcear war had upset it. If he was to die in a fireball, he thought, it would be nice to go to Heaven without gas. This was obviously not to be and the crushing reality pushed him further into a deep funk. He was nearly at the point of tears when Portnoy, aiming into the water of the North Meadow Pond where the Communists were hiding in their scuba equipment, pulled the trigger of his massacre machine. "I CAN SEE THEIR EYES! YAAAAAAA!" he screamed, or something like that. For a full minute, automatic weapon fire tore into the little pond, turning it into a horrible, savage, boiling froth of hot lead and foam. We hit the ground as the spray of bullets continued, tearing up trees, rocks, sod, an old inner tube - oh, it was simply horrific. Order was restored when the ammo was exhausted and we picked ourselves off the ground. Opus had, at the first blast, collapsed in cardiac arrest and was briefly thought to be shot, but after thorough and prolonged CPR, was brought back to full consciousness, walking away from the incident with only minor emotional troubles.
Back at the battle scene, we survivors checked for bullet holes in our clothing. Portnoy sat on his rump, the gun on his lap smoking. He surveyed the sight in front of him and quietly exhaled a low, sliding whistle, much as one might do when passing a terrible car wreck.
There, floating facedown in the turbid water, were hundreds, no, thousands of corpses . . . legs wide apart, arms spread, tongues extended their full eight or ten inches. It was plain as pie that there wasn't a single living toad-frog remaining in that pond. The overwhelming magnitude of the crime grew on us as we stood around, eyese bulging and mouths agape. "Look at Portnoy," I whispered to Milo, for indeed the crushing realization of guilt at what he'd done came across his face like a shadow, and he slumped in shame. These tragic victims were clearly not Russians, although he could have sworn they were when he first saw their gleaming eyes in the early morning light.
Milo, realizing that Portnoy's emotional stability was at stake, went to his side and explalined that while, admittedly, the likelihood of those toad-frogs being Communists, or even liberals, was not great, there was no reason to assume that he had wiped out Republicans instead. In fact, there was an excellent chance that the vast majority of them were LaRouche Democrats, who, of course, were better off dead.
This revelation appeared to cheer Portnoy, and the entire party headed back into town where we stopped off for Egg McMuffins, the air-raid siren having long since been silenced and the general domestic tranquility restored. The news-papers recorded Portnoy's excesses that pandemonious day as The Great LaRouche Toad-Frog Massacree, an honor which won him some brief celebrity and a quick appearance, via satellite, on "Nightline." Things settled down soon afterward and, except for the frequency of fried LaRouche frogs' legs served at supper, normalcy returned to haunt the remaining summer.
I neglected to mention, however, that Steve Dallas was eventually discovered by a small and enthusiastic search team several days after the Massacree, lying spread-eagled and dazed among the summer hyacinths and surrounded by the remnants of his survivalist base camp, now in a state of higgledy-piggledy. A blow-dryer, blender, toaster, piña colada mix, microwave oven, and other essentials of survival lay scattered among the barbed wire and camouflage netting. His formerly impressive fatigues were nowhere to be seen. The shocking truth is that all he was wearing was an argyle sock and a bad sunburn. Opus bent down and put an ear to Steve's mouth just in time to hear him whisper, "The horror . . . the horror . . . I . . . forgot . . . the . . . mayonnaise." We took him home and rubbed Noxzema all over him and put him to bed, where he remained for the better part of the week stuck to the sheets.
From the Archives
Here are the first of three entries that I made in my Diaryland diary that I want to make sure I bring over to my permanent website (i.e. the website you're on now). This one involves some of my poetry, as well as one of my favorite opening paragraphs of a book.
March 11, 2003 - 12:37 p.m.
And here's the other poem I need to unleash upon the world. It was written one day when I was pondering my life after having had cancer, what I felt about the situation, etc. This is copyright me, 1997. Please don't steal this one or the other one ... but if you like them, feel free to bestow me with all kinds of praise.
This poem has the best two lines I think I've ever written.
Mine is the one, life's prison
Standing still to listen in the silence
A toothless beggar
Holding out their cup
Depending on the kindness of strangers
Is kind of strange
Always with a hand out, grasping
Sagging under the weight
Like a tree branch heavy with rain
Reaching for comfort
Love labors and is lost
Bound by freedom, found by pain
To rest the day weary
Tell me a story and sing me to sleep
Or chase the fireflies
Scars are a map and a record of history
Of my borrowed time trickling
Down the drain
March 11, 2003 - 10:13 a.m.
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man has the best opening paragraph of any book, ever:
It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to be born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!
March 11, 2003 - 8:18 a.m.
So last night I woke up suddenly, bolted upright in bed, and realized that I have never committed some of my best poems to the ether that is the Internet. I started thinking that if something happened to the journals where I'd written the poems, they would be lost and gone forever.
So I jumped out of bed, dug out the old journal from its hiding place, and resolved that today I would commit the poems to the posterity of the World Wide Web.
Here's the first:
Life Among the Ruins
Turned upon himself
A boy walks down the road
Matter doesn't matter
And regrets are for the weak
Stopping there in the swirl of dust
Running headlong into nothing
Another day, another dollar
Another lamb for the slaughter
Teach me, he thinks, or I will learn
I will be, I will live, I will burn
Set upon the stars he wanders
Aimless as the clouds
Spinning yarns, resting twice
Until his mind no longer fights
Skipping stones and bending time
Denying the past, anticipating
And the questions left unanswered
Forging an alibi and shifting the blame
There is no self
Only part of the greater whole:
Dependent and anonymous and excluded.