SPOONFUL OF SUGAR
I have a really small mouth cavity. I should have had my rear molars taken out and replaced with implants or partial dentures in my late teens, because there was never enough room in my head for all my grinding teeth to fit. Over decades of friction against each other, one by one they have crushed one another, and broken, often suddenly and painfully, as I’ve now lost 3 out of 4 of them. Seems it never happens at a time when a dentist’s office is open, and I can never afford to pay the out-of-pocket costs for an emergency extraction with a non-network provider, but always have to wait until Monday morning when I can get an appointment with a DDS whose costs insurance will (mostly) cover. Three days is an agony to wait when you have a hole in your head with exposed nerve endings, but I’ve been fortunate on 2 other occasions that the emergency room visit was able to help me limp along well enough to survive until I could implement a more permanent solution.
A few weeks ago, though, at 3AM on a Friday night, when the 3rd one broke, and I was in so much pain that I was doing my best to manage by taking such ridiculous amounts of ibuprofen I’m certain I was damaging my liver — for no other reason than just so I could stop feeling the need to claw my own jaw out, of course — after spending all of Saturday making every attempt to find a dentist who would take me ASAP, I finally scheduled an appointment for first thing Monday AM, and went to the emergency room, as advised by every dental office I’d spoken with. The closest hospital was Regions in St. Paul.
There was no obvious place to park the car, so my husband dropped me off at the door and went in search of a lot or ramp, and parked the car just after midnight, while I walked in calmly on my own, in tears of pain, barely able to speak to counter personnel in the emergency room lobby. But I managed to explain that a tooth had broken in my mouth, and that I had exposed nerve endings causing me a great deal of pain. I further explained that I could not afford the $1600 for a merely half-covered $3200 root canal, only the $150 co-pay for a $400 extraction, for which I had an appointment Monday morning with a dentist (though I hoped to find another office open sooner), but that I’d been advised by dental staff to seek out pain management assistance at the emergency room in the meantime. I also made clear that I had no particular request about how a medical professional should go about helping to ease my suffering, but wanted it understood I was not seeking narcotics. I was told to go through the sliding glass doors and talk to the nurses at the next station, who took my vitals and my insurance information, gave me a wristband, and told me to go back to sitting in the lobby.
When I’d gone there, I’d taken a last dosage of ibuprofen shortly before my husband had come home (we only have one car and he was away with it for the evening at a previously scheduled event, not knowing how bad I was at home, or we’d have gone sooner), and it wore off slowly over the time period I was left sitting in the lobby nearly unable to breathe from the pain, and growing steadily more nauseous and pale. When I’d asked if anyone could find me some gum or a peppermint or point me to a vending machine where I could purchase such to help with the nausea from the pain, one of the counter people gave me one anti nausea tablet and a barf bag, and told me to keep waiting. It seemed to help for about half an hour, but eventually I succumbed and had to vomit, but at least did manage to do so in the toilet.
In the nearly 4 hours I was there, as I watched person after person — at least 6 or more — walk in calmly on their own two feet with no bleeding, no breathing obstructions, no other obvious indications of damage or pain (except for one man with a cast on his leg, and a pregnant woman), and be taken through the doors to the nurses station (where I’d been given a wristband), then asked to wait there at another smaller waiting area with just a few chairs for only a few minutes before being taken back to another area and not seen again — I can only assume to be admitted — I had actually thrown up in the hospital restroom several times, and approached counter personnel again on two other occasions after asking about mints for nausea, each time inquiring as to some level of status report, explaining that what very little pain assistance I had in the ibuprofen I’d taken prior was initially waning, and then completely non-existent, between the wearing off and vomiting combined. I went from a pain margin of 8 out of 10, to 10 out of 10, to 12 out of 10, to 15 out of 10. Over 4 hours. With a hole the size of a pinky fingernail in my farthest rear molar. And exposed nerve endings.
Each of those other two times I was told they were very busy, there were other cases more urgent, I would just have to wait, it could be a while. They further explained that some people had been waiting for several hours before I’d arrived. I could see that they had been. They were all still in the lobby. All 4 of them, plus a spouse or significant other with one of them. Sleeping, most of them (except for the spouse), across chairs, many with blankets. No one coughing. No one shivering. No one bleeding. No one struggling to breathe. Not even any limping. To look at them, you’d think they were just having a snooze, waiting for loved ones in an ER somewhere. Coincidentally, every one of them, a person of color, like my husband. Also, coincidentally, every one of the people who’d been taken through was NOT a person of color.
Now, I really don’t believe those two most likely unrelated coincidences had any impact on the way I was treated. Nor did the fact that I am obese, and my husband and I were dressed at midnight in what more or less amounted to casual house clothes barely one step away from pajamas — though while we are a mixed race couple, we could certainly not be considered anywhere near “ghetto” in appearance. One doesn’t have to speak to me for more than a sentence or two to determine I am intelligent and well educated, and the same is surely even more true of him than me, as he is infinitely more educated, but speaks an awful lot less. (Not to say my care should have the slightest variation whether either of us were not.) I can’t believe that, because I refuse to believe it’s possible of the city I live in, our state’s multicultural and colorfully diverse capital.
I understand triage. I really do. I could breathe. I could speak, though not very well. Nothing was broken or bleeding. (Well, not visibly, that is. Technically, a tooth is a bone, and it surely was bleeding. Draining into the back of my throat, in fact.) But it would have been clear to anyone who bothered to take more than a cursory glance up from a counter at me that I was the only one who’d been seen in that timeframe showing any visible signs of genuinely unmanageable pain, growing with an intensity increasing exponentially as time wore on. Not a single representative of that health institution ever even bothered to so much as shine a flashlight in my mouth to confirm there was in fact a half broken tooth there.
And though I was never hysterical, not surprisingly, I did become more and more distraught the longer I waited. Each time I was responded to with increasing frustration, even annoyance. The tone I was given made me feel like I was more than a minor inconvenience. I was talked to as if I was the rabble, and it was irritating for the help to have to look up from other, more interesting activities simply because I dared to not know my place. I had been at one point told to wait just a bit to speak with a nurse on duty, so I could check in with her on a time frame. That “just a bit” turned out to be 50 minutes later. Fifty minutes later, that nurse — possibly new on shift, as she’d replaced someone snarkier who’d been in that spot previously — gave me the same rhetoric, although with slightly less condescension (I can only assume because I’d never had the gall to speak to her before that point), with a firmer, more authoritative tone, and a less genuine smile. They were very busy, there were other cases more urgent, I would just have to wait, it could be a quite while. At least she identified “quite a while” as possibly several more hours. I should probably expect it would be at least 3 – 5 or so more. After I’d already been there for 4. So, it seemed, this was the plan, then. To leave a walk-in patient with a hole in her head and exposed nerve endings suffering in unbearable pain in their lobby for the better part of an entire night, and well into the next morning. There were other cases more urgent. That’s just the way it was. Sorry.
That’s just the way it was that night at Regions. Six or more Anglos walked in and were admitted to receive treatment while we watched and waited. Four minorities still waiting since before we arrived were still waiting after we left, except one, who woke up, spoke briefly to a counter person — who responded with pursed lips and a shaking head — then left. We followed him out a few minutes before 4AM. If I was going to be made to wait indefinitely in unbearable pain, I might as well be in my own home, where I wasn’t bothering anyone, and could at least experience the smallest creature comforts of familiar surroundings. The counter personnel nodded as we took our leave. Oh well. If you think that’s best. Sorry we couldn’t get to you sooner.
At home, my husband gave me another dose of ibuprofen, a natural herbal sleep aid (an OTC remedy — I think it contains valerian root and chamomile or something similar), and put me in a warm bubble bath until I dozed slightly, then helped me to bed, where I tossed and turned in something akin to a fitful rest for barely 40 minutes at a time before having to rush to the restroom to vomit violently, and could then return to bed to start the cycle over again. This went on for a little while, until just before 7am, when I got dressed, and my husband and I went to an emergency dental office we were hoping would see us for the “toothectomy” without an appointment. Turns out they would not take my insurance, and would expect the full price covered up front. So I would have to keep the Monday appointment. And wait. For another 28 hours. With a gaping hole inside my head. And exposed nerve endings.
The Emergency Dental Office advised me to seek interim pain management support with my local ER. I was near hysterical at that point. My local ER? Not a chance. But how about the next nearest? I Googled it. Abbott Northwestern. In Minneapolis. 10 miles away. I called. Would they take my insurance? Of course. I should come in right away.
When we arrived, just after 8AM, my husband parked the car. There was a ramp. It was attached. I walked in as best I could to the counter, crying quietly. By that time, 29 hours into this ordeal, I was moving slowly, hunched over and shaking slightly, breathing haltingly, whimpering softly. I reached the woman behind the counter, and tried to find my license and insurance cards. I was so humiliated, I could barely stand to look at her, with my sweat-matted hair, stains on my face and on my shirt, a mint in my mouth to soothe my nausea and mask the smell of vomit on my breath. I tried to speak, but my lips stuck together briefly before popping open, the sound of my dehydrated tongue “clucking” off the roof of my mouth.
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” she said, not waiting for me to get anything out. “Just come on back.”
I came around the corner from her counter, she took my vitals, gave me a wristband, and some water. With a scratchy throat and a dry, cracked voice, I managed to explain my need. She said she would have someone see me right away, and by the time my husband came in from the attached parking ramp, I was already in an adjoining room just across the hall. He was brought in to join me.
A nurse came in a few minutes later, talked to me in a little further detail, created a case file. A doctor showed up before 15 minutes had passed. She had a look at the tooth, did a tap test, found an abscess. It was infected. I was not surprised. I’d told the nurses at Regions that was probably the case. I’d explained to them I’d been unable to see it myself, but had been through this twice before, and had suspected as much. The vomiting was a fairly clear indicator, probably the result of drainage. That and more ibuprofen than is healthy. And I’d even said the infection was probably the result of a bug I’d been fighting for a few days. Flu/cold-like symptoms, sustained over more than a week. I’d told them so at Regions, as well, but they never looked. They never tapped. They just slapped me with a wristband and shuffled me back to the lobby.
The sweet, pretty young Abbotts Doctor told me the plan of attack would be to give me a local anesthetic, a prescription for an antibiotic, and some pain meds. I told her I wasn’t looking for narcotics. She said given the nature of this pain, and the infection, they likely wouldn’t help anyway, it would probably just be heavy doses of ibuprofen. I explained I’d already been over using ibuprofen, and she suggested I continue as I had been, but offered a prescription for anti nausea meds to counteract their effects. I asked about liver damage. She said considering the timeframe, the concern would be minimal, but to follow up with my primary caregiver if there were any further developments. She took a few minutes to prepare a local, then gave me the shot, and left me to sit with it for a while, to determine how well it was going to work. A bit later, when she returned, it was clear the shot had numbed the entire area around the infection, but not the area of infection itself. She prepared and administered another shot, and left me for a little while longer to relax with it and see how the second attempt fared. In another little bit, I’d actually been resting for a while, experiencing the first real respite I’d known in more than a full day. She said she expected the pain relief would last about 8 hours. I was released shortly thereafter with my 2 prescriptions, and some general instructions.
My husband took me to Walgreen’s to get the pills, stopping on the way for an egg sandwich. We’d both barely slept all night, and neither of us had eaten in hours. I wouldn’t have been able to keep anything down. We picked up home treatments for nauseous, flu/cold-like conditions. Ginger ale, Gatorade, sugar free jello, freeze pops, chicken boullion. It’s important to keep hydrated and avoid malnourishment when you’re that sick.
The local didn’t last 8 hours. It had begun to wear off even before we got home. The whole trip to the 2nd hospital of the weekend — the one that actually treated us like people — along with all its subsequent errands, took just under 2 hours. I was asleep in bed just after 10AM. I didn’t have the succor of the local anymore, but I had a survival strategy. I was going to be okay. The worst was behind me, and relief was now closer than ever. I found a manageable balance with a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, along with supportive care, and, armed with knowledge of what to expect, as well as my hope and strength renewed, my energy and stamina refueled by the experience of being handled with basic human dignity, kindness, and respect, I was going to make it until the next dawn.
Thank you, Allina Health Partners at Abbott Northwestern, for teaching your medical professionals what it means to actually care for someone who needs help.
Who loves ya? ;)
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February is Black History Month in the US. You might assume that, as a black man, I’d be happy about this, perhaps even proud of the special focus, just for us. But I’m not. It’s frustrating to me that after centuries of slavery, segregation, discrimination and second-class citizenship, despite having a man of color in the white house, and all attempts of the Civil Rights Movement to put everyone on equal footing, racism still remains an issue to this day. It frustrates me that we have to designate a specific month to learn about our past, when the people who made this country what it is today ought to have just one, singular, collective history of our shared experience. Yet, instead, we get Black History Month. I can’t be proud of that. It doesn’t change the past. It doesn’t fix the present. And it doesn’t make everything else okay.
I am being bombarded every day by issues of racial prejudice. It’s an election year, so matters of race are at the forefront of this process. One of the more prominent candidates is campaigning with the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” But African Americans know that sliding backwards is not a good direction for us. The further back in our history we go, the more rights we’d be forced to give up... rights that had to be legislated, that were hard won by our own campaign of freedom fighting, through protests, marches, sit-ins, arrests, bloodshed, and even martyrdom. Looking behind us is the wrong way to go. How is that becoming “great again?” We know where we’ve come from, we where we’ve been, and we’re not going back.
The Blacks Lives Matter movement is in full force, in our faces, bringing these matters to the attention of those who’d like to look the other way, and pretend. Black entertainers are boycotting the Oscars, because in 85 years of voting from The Academy, only 4% of ALL awards of any kind — in TOTAL, have been given to people of color. I’ll say that again. 85 years. 4%.
And the US is not the only source of this plague... just its greatest contributor. We like to say, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” Well, in this case, there are certainly some who would in fact say, quantifiably, that we are #1, indeed. In matters of racial inequity, the United States is often ranked #1 in lists of the top 10, 12, or 25 most racist countries in the world. Though, the problem is rampant everywhere. All across the world, racism is on the rise. The United Nations has been making note of this shifting tide for nearly a decade. I recently heard about black entertainers in both England and Australia feeling under represented on television and in movies. In Europe, a large percentage of the commonplace riots that break out at football events are begun with the crowd chanting racist threats and making animals noises against players of color on the field. In Australia, the laws still enforced today against the aboriginals — which more or less amount to apartheid, allowing for legal discrimination, and the separation of a darker skinned people from the culture of their natural heritage — have never been abolished since they were established in the 1800s when the British first invaded. And I could certainly go on. In every part of the globe, it seems, people of deeper pigmentation are marginalized by those of lighter hue.
Racism is a cancer; a blight on the commonwealth of mankind. It is a contamination of humanity — a sickness that spreads, passed down from generation to generation, sometimes in secret, but still carried from host to host through human contact. And it has never been stopped; only beaten back into shadow at times. It is a destructive pandemic, and if left unchecked, it will surely dismantle everything man has created. So the question of what drives its longevity must be answered. A sense of self-preservation should create within each of us, regardless of culture, a compelling need to determine the reason why racism continues to fester in our society, so that we may work together to finally put an end to it, once and for all. Otherwise, we will be destroyed by it.
Being a history buff, I naturally sought to look at the issue from an historical angle. The truths I have extracted in doing so are disturbing, at best. First, it appears that racism and the Americas go hand in hand. Racial superiority was used as the excuse to introduce slavery to the continent. Initially, it was the Spanish conquerors enslaving Native Americans in South America, then the Portuguese brought Africans to Brazil, and the British introduced human trafficking in what would later become the United States. And yet, differences in race were only just beginning to be discussed around the 18th Century. Before then, the idea of race never occurred to either the Greeks or the Romans. Uncovering this, I theorized that racism might have come about as white Europeans first encountered other races during the age of exploration; that the people they came into contact with were not as technologically advanced, and so they were deemed inferior. But that hypothesis proved incorrect.
In actuality, the brown skinned Muslims of the Middle East and the North African Moors who inhabited Spain until the 15th Century were more technologically advanced than their white European neighbors. In fact, my assumptions about first contacts with blacks were completely flawed. In Medieval times, there were plenty of blacks in Europe during the Renaissance. It isn’t commonly known, because prior to those times, race was never acknowledged in history. This is because it simply made no difference what color a man’s skin was, and so it was never even worth noting at all.
Septimius Severus was a black North African emperor of Rome, and his son, Caracalla, succeeded him. There were other black emperors, as well, and prominent blacks in other areas of Roman society. In those cultures, the only aspect of your background that really mattered was whether or not you were a citizen of either Rome or Greece. There were slaves, of course, but the slaves of that time came from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds, depending on who the Greeks or Romans conquered. And, there were probably a lot more white slaves than blacks, as the Empire spent a lot of time conquering northern Europe — mostly in the Germanic territories, where they considered the peoples there to be barbaric, uncivilized savages.
It wasn’t until the Renaissance and Reformation periods that race became an issue. At first, it started with persecution of the Jews by the Catholics, and then by the Christian church against darker skinned blacks on the African continent, as they were considered heathens. So, at that time, it would have appeared to any outsider that racism went hand in hand with Christianity. Also, a majority of Muslims were of darker skin, which helped lend itself to the natural prejudice brewing from a religious context, because it made the infidels easier to distinguish at a glance, and a more obvious target.
Throughout history, those with darker skin have been making significant contributions to the arts, sciences and technology. But did you know that? I’m guessing you probably didn’t. And why not? Because the history of the entire world has been so white-washed as to show all of Europe having always been mostly white. And, so successfully, I might add, that I, a student of history, had been certain until recently that there was never any blacks in Europe during the middle ages, nor any donations of art, higher learning, or skill brought about by blacks to the Renaissance era. So you can imagine how infuriated I was to have discovered, through a story on NPR — which is trying to shine a light on this problem — that I, like so many others, had been duped.
So, my search into history didn’t yield any answers. After taking a walk through time, I’m only left with more questions. But they are questions that demand either answers, or action. Why we — not just in America but around the world — have continued to let this vile infestation of backwards thinking from a bygone era permeate our culture for so long is beyond me.
In high school, my biology teacher showed us different samples of human skin under a microscope, and he pointed out that the difference in skin color is only 0.1 millimeters. That stuck with me. And it struck me then, as it still provokes me now, that we let 0.1 millimeters of color affect how we view, perceive, judge, react to, and interact with, other members of our own people. That is, our own race; the one race, the only race — the human race. COLOR. Which science has proven to be an illusion, anyway! COLOR doesn’t actually exist. Which means, racism — or, judgment based on skin color — is all in our heads.
We have come into the 21st Century, because time marches forward, and we must with it. But we have not yet arrived. We should be beyond this by now. We should all be treating one another simply as people. As beings, of life and light. Beings of humanity. Of skin and bone and flesh and blood, and love and grace and joy and hope and wonder. Human. Beings. That is all we are. Animated, sentient bags of mostly water. Nothing more. Nothing less. Our media should reflect our collective consciousness, our thinking should reflect our way of life, and our lives should celebrate the diversity of all humankind.
Author’s note: Thank you for reading. Whether you are a person of color, or of privilege — or both, or neither — please visit the links embedded in this piece. They offer so much more information on this subject than I was able to convey here, and if not of use to you, then perhaps to someone else. And please, feel free to do your own research, and to share what you learn. I would also encourage you to read the book, “A History of White People” by Nell Irvin Painter.
LJ Idol | Friends & Rivals • Week 9 - Topic: WHITE OUT
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- Current Mood: aggravated
THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE
When you get married, you pledge your life to another person. You promise to be faithful, and to be there in times of sorrow, as well as in happiness. Some couples choose to make additional vows, of a more personal nature, instead of merely settling for the common traditional promises almost everyone agrees to by rote. My wife, karmasoup, and I wrote our own vows to one another. Of course, before we could even hope to get to that point, I’d already had to sacrifice some things that had become core to who I was then, even prior to the point of popping the question.
I’d been a smoker for 20+ years, and one of the conditions of us sharing a home was that I had to give that up. Don’t get me wrong, karmasoup never made this a condition of us living together. In fact, she didn’t even know I was planning to quit when she agreed for us to look for a place to share. But I knew her, and I knew she would never become close to someone with that kind of monkey on his back, and I really hoped that being under the same roof would allow us to get a lot closer. I promised myself I would do it for her, and I’m proud to say that I did. But there was something else I promised to the love of my life, who is now my wife, before we got married, that I am finding may prove to be a more difficult promise to keep than giving up cigarettes. I made the promise to stick around for as long as possible. And that promise, as it turns out, comes with strings attached.
I should clarify. Besides the 20+ years of smoking — which has done who knows what to my lungs and heart — I also have high blood pressure. More specfically, hypertension. Not too long ago, my cardiologist put me on a couple different regulation medications to help control it, and my primary physician placed me on the MEDITERRANEAN DIET, to help me manage the impact of my food intake on my bloodflow and overall heart health. Even more recently, however, I been having some more extensive medical issues, and have been to see the doctor more often than I’d like. I had to get an ANGIOGRAM on the advice of my medical team. (Yes, it now takes a whole TEAM of doctors to keep me well.) It came back negative — which is good, and means that my arteries are not blocked. In fact, they look pretty healthy, I’m told, which is also great news. But, I think the stress of that procedure weakened my immune system against common bugs, and I came down with a nasty cold shortly thereafter.
No big deal, right? RIIIiiiiight.
So, my last visit to the doctor was for a throat culture. And of course, I had strep. Cause I needed that, too, on top of everything else, you know? I got nice big shot in the rump for it. (Sitting down for the rest of that day SUCKED.) They also wanted to get a blood sample and check my cholesterol levels, so I gave them more blood. Again. This is getting to be a habit for these people. I swear they are vampires in disguise. Like, if my next story is about a crackpot team of clinic professionals slowly sucking the life out of unwitting patients, or hell, if I just stop showing up here one day, you’ll all be my witnesses, and know exactly what happened. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The next Monday, I missed 2 calls from my Doctor while I was napping, but figured they were just follow up, so I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to them. I already knew I had strep. I was on fluids and work leave, trying to keep myself hydrated, rested, and recovering. I already took the needle in the butt. What more could they do to me next? My throat hurt, I could barely talk... when are these people going to quit harrassing me already? But the calls kept coming. So, okay, fine, what do you want, already?
Type 2 Diabetes. Adult onset.
It was like a hammer blow for me. I spent a couple hours curled up on the couch with the dog, just trying to figure out how to deal. Would I need to take insulin? How was this going to effect my daily life? The team had already sent in a couple prescriptions, for a pill to help with my cholesterol, and a glucose meter.
On my angiogram followup visit, my doctor gave me a list of foods I could eat, and foods to avoid for my heart issues, and to control my diabetes. That promise I made to my wife to stick around as long as I am able now seems a much longer road than I’d have thought it would have been at that time... a road that I can now see includes hurdles I hadn’t imagined before.
If I were to write my vows over again, they might look something like this:
• I vow to honor and love you for as long as we both shall live, in Sickness and in Health, ’til Death do us part.
• I also vow to abstain from bacon (gasp!), sausage, hot dogs, and brats (aiergghhh!).
• I promise not to eat candy. No more Snickers ™, Twix™, KitKats™, or Whatchamacallits™ (my personal favorite).
• I pledge never again to indulge in pecan pie, *shudder* cinnamon rolls, *sob!* or any other baked goods.
(Oh Heaven help me, is life really worth living without CHEESECAKE???)
• I assure that no sugar sweetened beverages will pass my lips.
(This one’s actually not so bad — I stopped drinking soda in my 20s, so I’ve been carbonation-free for nearly two decades.)
• I will abstain from enriched breads, white flour, rice, and potatoes.
(I always thought of myself as a meat-and-potatoes kinda guy. *SIGH* Not anymore. And so much for the “Bread of Life,” I guess.)
I really should be more positive about this, though. It will lead us to healthier eating all around, and that means our future children will have grown up with healthy nutritional habits for life from the very beginning. Maybe I should focus on what I can have, instead.
I can pretty much eat all the nuts I want. That’s great. I like almonds, pecans, and peanuts. I can make nut butters (I don’t mean to be Beavis here, but that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?), such as peanut butter, almond butter and even hazelnut butter, and the like. (You can’t see it, but I’m actually drooling right now.)
I can have most dairy products, though in moderation. I like yogurt and milk. (And life is NOT worth living without CHEESE!)
But, I can’t have ice cream anymore. (NOOOooooo!)
I can have limited quantities of red meat, and eggs, as a source of protein, but only up to 3 per week.
(So, no more egg sandwiches, omelettes, or quiche 5 times a week. *whimper* Whatever happened to “The Incredible Edible Egg?” *sigh* Hello, granola, oatmeal, and grapefruit! *BLEARGH!*)
The most amazing part about this whole experience, though, is how patient my wife has been through it all. How she’s been right there with me, every step of the way, holding my hand, walking me through it, taking off work when she needs to, getting after me to stay in bed when I’m pushing myself too hard, and, most impressively, keeping her chin up higher than I can lift mine sometimes. (I knew there was something useful about a pessimist marrying an optimist!) I know she agreed to better or worse, in health AND in sickness, but in the mere three months we’ve been married, I do believe I’ve already had to put that commitment to the test.
She teases me that someone should have told her to check the fine print before taking delivery on her new, late model husband. Or at least reminded her to have kept the receipt! I told her I’m already past the lemon law stage, though, so, nothing to be done about it now. No backsies!
She jokes, but, in reality, she refuses to let me feel bad about myself. I’m constantly telling her I’m sorry, but she won’t accept it... says I have nothing to apologize for. She’s keeping me afloat right now, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. I don’t know how I’d get through this. She’s taking the Diabetes class with me next week. (Yeah, this mess is so complicated, we now have to take a CLASS to figure out how to live with it.) She’s helping plan our grocery list, she’s putting together a schedule of meals, she’s calling on family members with a background in this field to give us pointers, she’s assembling support groups, she’s getting rid of the food we can’t have, and she’s even going on this diet with me. That’s right, she’s giving up everything I am, too. She says major life changes like this will only work if we support each other in them. Because we’re a team, she says. We’re in this together, for better or worse.
Except, of course, those few cases where she’s thrown herself on the grenade of eating the last of a few items that I’m not permitted to have anymore. Like the last of the Christmas candy. And the ice cream. And those French Toast English muffins with sausage and egg. Cause that’s how much she loves me, she says. Her and the dog. Only looking out for my best interests. No other motivation whatsoever. So altruistic of them both. They’re so good to me. I’m really such a lucky guy, aren’t I?
But seriously. If I was still single, I might not be as committed to such an extreme regiment of dietary restrictions. I might just throw caution to the wind, eat what I want, and die early, a fat and happy man. But I’m not on my own anymore. I’m the partner to a better half, and someday I’ll be a father to her children. She’s depending on me not to leave her struggling to raise them alone. So I will trudge the bland road for you, my love, my karmasoup, because I said I would, and because you’re worth it.
But if any man should ever question my commitment to this vow, or how much I love the woman to whom I said “I Do,” all you’d ever really need to know about us is this:
I gave up bacon for her. Bacon!
Oh well. At least she still loves me.
LJ Idol | Friends & Rivals • Week 8 - Topic: THE ABSTAINERS’ VOW
This post has been brought to you through an association with the online writing community, LJ IDOL,
by the collaborative partnership of karmasoup and mamas_minion.
If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, SHARE THE LOVE, and pass it on...
Her eyelids as heavy as a broken garage door, Runa came to haltingly, like a newborn fawn trying to stand, blinking slowly, until the haze began to lift. Gradually, her world came into focus, revealing glaring fluorescent overhead lights, a bed railing, and... a heart monitor? She was in a hospital. She tried to sit up, but couldn’t move her arms or legs. Her neck tensed, aching as she tried to take in her surroundings.
A pleasant-faced, matronly woman appeared in Runa’s field of vision, hovering just over her.
“Oh, good, we’re awake!” the nurse exclaimed cheerfully, as Runa’s pupils dilated to the flashing of a pen light, verifying the older woman’s assessment. “Now watch my finger,” the sweet-sounding lady instructed, moving her index to the edge of Runa’s line of sight and back.
Runa complied, her head trying to follow as the woman’s pointer reached her periphery.
“No, no, no!,” Runa’s caretaker corrected quickly, with a touch of alarm. “Just your eyes, hon. Don’t try to move your neck just yet.”
Runa instinctively blinked once, understanding, and complied.
“Okay, then!,” the attendant declared, obviously pleased. “That’s very good!,” she beamed at Runa, jotting some notes on the chart at the end of the bed. “My name is D’Amica, and I will be your day shift nurse,” she continued, straightening the bed sheets, fussing a bit about the pillows, putting another behind Runa to prop her up a bit. “Raylene will be with you in the evenings, and Dr. Newell is your primary physician while you’re here. He’ll be in shortly to update you on your status.”
Runa had so many questions. She tried to find her voice, but her throat was so dry, her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. Her breath tasted like she’d been sucking on a sofa cushion stuffed with moldy twigs for the last eight days. Just how long had she been under, anyway? She tried to wet her lips, but just getting them to part was a struggle.
“Don’t try to talk yet, honey,” D’Amica advised, sitting on the edge of Runa’s bed, pulling a rolling tray over. “Your muscles are still adjusting to the transition, and that includes your vocal chords,” she told her patient, emptying the contents of a hospital kit onto the small tray table. “Plus, they will need some priming before you can use them,” D’Amica winked at Runa.
The kindly woman put on a pair of latex gloves from the kit, inserted a syringe into the hypodermic fitting of a liquid bottle, then flipped the bottle upside down, and pulled the pump to full. Runa watched with growing intensity as her nurse turned the syringe toward her, reaching for her wrist. She could feel the IV attached to her hand, but couldn’t move her fingers.
“Don’t worry, sweetie,” D’Amica reassured Runa, catching her eye. “It’s just a little pickmeup to help give you the energy you’re going to need. We can’t give it to you until you come out of dormancy, because what a body needs most after transmittal is intermission.”
Runa’s brow furrowed. D’Amica brightened.
“Well, would ya look at that! You’re already regaining some greater muscle control!,” she cooed, moistening her thumb and straightening a few errant hairs in Runa’s eyebrows. It struck Runa to wonder about the hygienics of this action, but D’Amica felt so much like a surrogate grandmother, it just somehow seemed okay.
“Intermission is a just fancy word for a kind of recovery period,” the nurse continued. “...It’s an induced rest, designed to let the body be settled while the brain reconnects the synapses. And we can’t have this little proprietary booster competing with that,” she said as she tapped the syringe.
D’Amica inserted a long, winding tube into a large bottle of water, and rested the other end gently between Runa’s lips, taping the edge of the tube to Runa’s cheek just outside her mouth. Then she refilled the syringe, and emptied the remaining contents into a receiving notch in the bottle. The fluid in the syringe was as colorless as the water. Runa could feel the liquid on her lips, but could not smell it. She tongued the edge of the straw, but it had no taste.
D’Amica snapped off the gloves, and began gathering up the rest of the kit — mostly packaging for the items she’d used. She collected it all in a bag, and sealed the bag, then held Runa’s hand and leaned towards her, connecting directly at eye level.
“As soon as you feel you have enough energy, you’re going to want to try to suck down as much of that as you can manage to take in,” D’Amica recommended. “It will help you find your strength. When it’s gone, I will bring you more, and then we’ll see about maybe finding you something with some taste to enjoy, okay?” she smiled warmly, patting Runa’s hand. Then she got up to leave.
Runa suddenly became frantic. She blinked twice. No. Don’t understand. Twice again. Again. And again. Blink, blink. Blink, blink. Blink, blink. Blink, blink.
“Oh, honey,” D’Amica clucked sympathetically. “I know you have lots of questions. Trust me, dear, I promise, none of this news to you. It was all in the disclosure packet. You’re just having a hard time processing right now... Your brain is all fuzzy.” The kindly nurse pursed her lips and frowned, stroking a stray eyelash from Runa’s PJs. “Just rest your eyes, sweetheart, and give it a little time. It will all start to come back to you in a bit, and Dr. Newell will be here to give you a report before you know it.” And with a bustle of starched cotton, the congenial, attentive nurse D’Amica was gone from Runa’s sight.
Runa closed her eyes. It felt good to relax them. They were strained, sore. There wasn’t anything interesting to look at in the twenty or so square feet she could see, anyway. She felt something nagging her, gnawing at the back of her subconscious. There was something she needed to think of, she was sure of it... something... unfinished? Remember... something... she told herself, as she drifted off into a quiet dreamland.
The sound of her door, and the sense of a presence in the room woke her a short while later. Runa couldn’t tell quite how much time had passed since Nurse D’Amica was gone, but it seemed to her she’d just dozed off only moments ago. Time gets so distorted when one is inert, though, so it was impossible to know for sure. That little bit of rest had apparently done her some good, though — or perhaps it was that go-juice they’d given her? —as she was able to move her head, with some difficulty. The strain was still there, but the ache was gone, at least. She suckled more at the water from the straw in her lips.
“All rightey, then, let’s see here...,” the man in the lab coat mumbled, looking over his clipboard before addressing his patient. “It says your name is... Runa?,” he peered over his glasses at her. She nodded, slightly.
“Oh, good, your motor functionality is coming along nicely, then,” he grinned, acknowledging the nod. “I bet you’d like to be done napping now, wouldn’t you?”
Runa managed a weak smile.
“The nurses usually should have had you sitting up by the time I come around,” the Doctor reported, flipping pages in her chart. “But it looks like you haven’t finished your roborant yet,” he frowned, checking the bottle on her table. “Well, I think I can probably manage this,” he mused, wryly. “Let’s get you situated, shall we?”
The man in the lab coat operated the mechanism to raise Runa’s bed to an upright position, and adjusted the straw taped to her mouth so she could more easily drink from it while sitting. Runa began drawing deeper, longer sips immediately. She was so parched.
“I am Dr. Newell,” he announced, pulling up a chair to sit next to her. “I’m in charge of your after care for the duration of your stay with us, and I’ll be your followup contact once you are discharged.”
The Doctor seemed cordial enough. Mid 50s, probably — only slightly graying. About average height, with just the barest hint of a developing belly. Still fairly handsome, for his age bracket, Runa thought.
“I’m sure you’re wondering how all this works, and I’m here to help walk you through the process,” Newell informed her, crossing his legs and getting comfortable in the chair. “This first meeting is a basic status report, not just for you, to let you know how the procedure went, but for us, to get a handle on how you’re adjusting so far.”
Runa blinked once. She was eager to understand both aspects of this report.
“For a little while, our visits will seem a tad one-sided, until you’ve got a better handle on communicating again,” Newell nodded at her, with a reassuring pat on her knee. “For now, I’ll keep the information I need from you to a minimum, and we’ll use the signals.”
Runa felt compelled by an overwhelming urge to express herself in a more complex manner than one or two blinks.
“Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhuh,” she gasped, feeling as if she’d just released all the air in her lungs. “Hhhhhhhhhhoooww ssssssooon,” she spluttered — sounding like an infected snake being stepped on by a drunken cow, followed immediately by a violent coughing fit.
Dr. Newell hurriedly leaned forward to grab the bottle on her rolling tray. Quickly pulling the straw out, and the cap off, he untaped the tube from her cheek, and fed her the charged water directly from the bottle, which she eagerly gulped down.
“Apparently, sooner than we’d imagined,” he remarked, with a raised eyebrow at her. “But probably not quite as soon as you’d like,” the Doctor explained, with a mild look of reproach. “You’re going to want to get a lot more liquids in your system before you try anything like that again,” Newell cautioned, a touch firmly, before continuing. “In general, we’d like to see you taking solid food before we have you up and moving about,” he added, flipping through his notes. “...and then we’ll put you through a series of standard tests to confirm you’re meeting basic performance requirements before we let you go.”
“Now, don’t be like that, Runa,” Newell urged. “You’ve got to relax, and let us take care of you. I know you want to jump out of this bed and rush out that door and have your old life back right now, but you just can’t do everything you used to do anymore. Not yet, anyway,” he chided. “You need to be able to accept, things are never going to be like they were before. It’s a whole new life that awaits you out there, and we are here to show you how to adjust to that life.”
Runa turned away. She was sure he was right, but it wasn’t easy to hear. The Doctor sensed her frustration, and reached for her hand.
“But don’t worry, we’ll get you there,” he encouraged, his tone rich with compassion. “You may very well be on solid food as early as tonight or tomorrow morning,” Newell told her, shaking her fingers, which had involuntarily closed into a loose fist.
Runa’s eyes brightened, her smile returning, a little wider this time.
“But it will probably take you at least a week or more to pass the physical tests that will allow us to release you,” he disclosed.
Runa nodded again, blinking once.
“I’m encouraged by the fact that you’re already familiar with your name,” Newell added. “I’m assuming that means you’re beginning to regain your primary memories, and that’s the first, most important step, in the recovery process.”
Runa thought about what she couldn’t remember. Of course she knew her name, why wouldn’t she? But what was it she had forgotten, again? She tried to think... How did she get here? How long had it been since... she stopped... wait... since... since what? She felt dizzy. Her head hurt. Doctor Newell scribbled some notes in his clipboard.
“Some patients take several days just to figure out who they are, and why they’re here,” he confessed. “It’s a rough road, in those cases, and for a while, it can be touch and go.” The Doctor shook his head and sighed, looking down at the floor. “...I’ll be honest, not everyone in that situation makes it,” he scowled, his face darkening momentarily. Then he turned back to Runa, and lit up again. “But you’re apparently one of the smarter ones. I believe this is going to be an easy transition for you, and we’ll have you out of here in no time.”
Runa beamed at that news. Newell stuck his pen back in the clipboard, and stood up to leave.
“I would normally spend some time with you now, to figure out what else you remember,” he said, adjusting the clipboard to his side. “But I think I’m going to give you a little longer while with your thoughts, and come back after you’ve had a chance to absorb this better.” The Doctor placed the half empty water bottle in his patient’s palm. “So much of this depends on you, you know, and what’s going on up there,” Newell tapped on Runa’s forehead. “So use what you got,” he said, maneuvering her hand into a position that allowed her to squeeze.
Runa could feel her grip returning as she enclosed her fingers around the bottle. The Doctor also picked up a corded device attached to her bed with an alarm button at its center, and showed it to her.
“The nurses will be in and out, checking on you every so often, but this will call them, if you should need them sooner,” he said, placing the device within her reach. “You just need to understand, Runa, this is a marathon, not a sprint.” Dr. Newell reached the door, and stopped, looking back at her with his hand on the handle. “I know I’m repeating myself, when I restate the procedural regulations we spent so long reviewing, but in your case, it bears repeating. Two months is a long time in the cloud. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with your progress.”
Runa blinked twice. Two months??? She began blinking again, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 blinks, more, until she regressed into a series of rapid, uncontrolled blinks. TWO MONTHS. She felt nauseous. The Doctor had turned his attention to the window, failing to notice her distress as he watched the clouds roll by while he spoke.
“A total reboot doesn’t happen automatically,” he told the clouds. “It’s not as easy as flipping a switch. It takes a total commitment from everyone involved, and no one works harder than the patient,” Newell droned, on automatic pilot. “We ALL WORK TOGETHER to bring good things BACK to life, Runa!” he said, shaking his finger in the air and quoting the company motto as he turned on his heel and was out the door.
She was going to vomit. Runa mustered every ounce of strength she had to lift the water bottle to her mouth, turned it bottoms up, drank it dry, and grabbed the alarm button, pecking at it repeatedly. A moment later, a flurry of skirts, D’Amica was at her side again, clucking and cooing. Runa’s water had fallen from her hand, and the nurse quickly obtained another from a kit in the cabinet, preparing the straw to be fitted, but Runa surprised her and grabbed it from her hand, downing every last drop in seconds flat.
“TWO-OO MONTHS,” Runa spat out forcefully, this time coming across merely like an angry bullfrog.
D’Amica seemed alarmed, but tried to calm her patient. Runa threw the water bottle across the room at the supportive, considerate nurse, who might have been hit, if she hadn’t moved with surprisingly quick reflexes. Undeterred by the outburst, and concerned for the young woman’s welfare, the warmhearted D’Amica rushed to the bedside, tenderly taking up Runa’s hands in her own, and firmly holding them steady.
“Reboot??,” Runa cried out, in almost full voice, hot tears welling up behind her eyes. “REBOOT?!!,” she yelled, her throat scraping, her voice cracking, before breaking down into hysterical sobbing, the kindly Nurse D’Amica holding her head and rocking her. D’Amica had seen this sort of thing before. She understood the emotional trauma transition could bring on.
Memories flooded back to Runa. This was never supposed to be a reboot. They had ordered an upgrade. That’s what they’d paid for. When they’d found out she had a malignant carcinoma, it was only a matter of time before it would spread to unmanageable, and often quicker than you’d prepared for, so they’d have to act fast if they were going to retain enough viability. She was just a generation too early to have had her embryonic stem cells set aside at birth, so an upgrade without congenital material would have been out of their reach, if her father-in-law hadn’t just passed a few months prior, leaving them enough to cover the costs. She’d been willing to accept treatments, saying they should keep that money set aside for other possible needs in their future, and take their chances with the new medicinal trials rumored to be showing signs of curative properties, but her husband wouldn’t hear of it. He was sure his Dad would have wanted his progeny to have the most assured guarantee of a long and healthy life for their primary caregiver, because no child should grow up without a mother. And this was exactly the kind of situation that constitutes reaching into the emergency fund.
When Runa regained her composure, after getting over the initial shock, D’Amica explained they had indeed ordered an upgrade, but there’d been a problem with the deposit. It turned out the financial institution her father-in-law had invested the bulk of their inheritance in — comprising the majority of his life’s savings — had been involved in shady dealings, and had gone under. An investigation was pending, and a class action lawsuit had been filed, but it could be generations before any of the swindled victims would see a greatly reduced partial recovery of their losses. But by then it had been too late to turn back. Runa’s consciousness had already been uploaded to the cloud. The GE Corporeal Regeneration Dispensary was a non-profit organization, and still in an evolutionary stage of development. The specialists there — the best on the planet in their field — were sympathetic to Runa’s case, but there was simply not enough funding on hand to complete the procedure.
If not for her husband’s persistence in finding the funding, through any means possible, from harvesting some of their nest egg, picking up quick turnaround side construction projects, borrowing from family and friends, and chasing down charitable donations...
Her husband. Athan! How could she have forgotten him? How could she have forgotten her children?? Runa began crying again, softly this time, when she realized her own flesh and blood had been part of the gray haziness on the edge of her subconscious, trying to push forward into her mind. She thought about how anxious she’d been when she’d first awakened. What had she been in such a hurry to do, if not to get back to them?
D’Amica assured Runa that after 2 months of consciousness in the initial stages of digital degradation, it was a wonder she even knew her own name, much less anything about her former life. The nurse was certain she must be sort of a medical miracle, or have the world’s most potent brain. Runa smiled. The emotional psyche is the most critical element of sentience, and from it, love is more powerful than even the latest advances in medicine. Even if her consciousness had faded into oblivion, she’d have still found her way back to her family.
Once she felt like she had a handle on what had happened, with D’Amica answering all her questions, Runa thought to inquire about her new — er, used — body.
It turned out, a significant portion of the delay in moving forward with the download procedure had been in procuring a suitable “chassis,” as they called the reboots. Like any other transplant surgery, there’s always a danger of a rejection between the body and the downloaded consciousness. Part of the requirements necessary for the brain to adjust effectively is to make sure the chassis resembles the original well enough to not cause any immediate damage from the mental shock of seeing a completely different face in the mirror. This is easier done when planned for in advance. In Runa’s situation, they’d had to wait for a suitable compatible chassis to become available, but it’s imperative to the transference to get it done right the first time. Otherwise, the risks could potentially involve a total personal meltdown: the brain’s subconscious refusal to accept the new identity, leading to split personalities, psychosis/psychopathy, occasionally a permanent catatonic state, and sometimes, even death.
The chassis donated to the institution and infused with Runa’s consciousness, as it happened, was a standard human female, 25 years in age, Caucasian, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes, 5’7”, 165 lbs.
Huh. White. Guess she’d finally get a chance to find out what all the fuss was about. Runa was born in Italy, which is close enough to pass for white, and she often did, in the American Cooperatives, but there were still places in the third world sections of the Coops where people noted her olive complexion with indifference, at best. The skin tone was apparently relatively similar, only with a slightly pinker undercarriage. She’d have to start using a new foundation. She chuckled to herself. Athan would be excited to have married a genuine blueblood! She was fairly certain he’d be pretty pleased about the proportions on these few extra pounds, too, noting in looking over the profile in her dossier, that the new chassis was considerably curvier than she had been. She’d have to get used to moving around with the 2 extra inches of height, but she’d always wanted to be taller. The facial features, though, were otherwise eerily similar, looking at the pictures, and reminded her of pictures of herself when she was in college.
The most amazing part, though, was the 20 year age difference. Runa had been 45 when she’d been diagnosed. Ha! Now Athan was robbing the cradle! But, 20 extra years... Wow. 20 more years with her children. 20 more years to parent them, to help them parent their own children, once they made her a grandmother. 20 more years with her husband... Oh, Dear! They’d have to save up and get Athan rebooted, too!
Runa shook free of her daydream. There’d be time for that. Time, yes. And plenty of it.
There were no mirrors in the room. D’Amica explained that it’s part of the process to acclimate the brain to the physical motion of the chassis before asking the mind to adjust emotionally to a new look for the overall identity of the psyche. That was still the most dangerous hurdle ahead of them, but her nurse felt confident Runa had what it takes to overcome it. Until then, Runa would be shown pictures of the face and body of her new chassis, and study them until she knew them, well... like the back of her hand. This would help with the transition.
“What about my body?” Runa asked, trembling, still somewhat shaken.
The information provided to her did not include any detail on what happened to the consciousness that was in this chassis before her. She assumed the young woman who’d donated it had been in a similar situation, and had gone on to an upgrade or a reboot of her own, but Runa really did not want to think about it, and though no one called it a faux pas, Runa got the impression maybe it was impolite to ask. The thought of her body being gone forever, though, of the hips that had borne her children, of the bosom that had nursed them, the hands that had cared for them... that was a loss she would have to get used to, and spend some time mourning. The data packet was also absent on detail related to the outcome of her original body. She learned pursuing this line of investigation, especially within the adjustment period, is generally discouraged, if not prohibited, depending on the non-disclosure agreements involved in each case, as it could be detrimental to recovery. Given her unusual circumstances, though, D’Amica didn’t mind bending policy slightly to oblige her.
The cooperative nurse informed Runa that Athan had donated her body to cancer research, and if the trials were successful in ridding it of any cell corruption, then it would be donated back to the Dispensary. More importantly, to a different branch of the Dispensary in another Coops district. This was to avoid the possibility of having Runa or any of her family accidentally run into her old body, as the mental and emotional fallout for any of them could be psychologically devastating. D’Amica told her that Athan had specifically directed for her healed body to be donated to a third world Coops sector, and helped set up a scholarship program in which it would be given at no cost to a single mother with no other options to otherwise continue raising her children.
Runa become emotional at this news. The thought of her body — infused with the love of her family, from every ounce of caring she’d poured into every cell of it, over 20+ years of looking after those closest to her — out there, somewhere, the last remaining hope for a desperate mother with children in need, to be used to tend to them as she had to her own, was as perfect a fate as she ever could have imagined for it. She smiled at her husband’s generosity, fighting back tears. Oh how she loved that man. She thought of his rugged, handsome face, and imagined the look in his eyes when he got to “check her out” for the first time, all over again. And her children... she closed her eyes and tried to remember the feel of their soft skin, the smell of their hair. She could hardly wait to see them again.
With renewed determination, Runa set about steeling her mind to making the fastest reboot recovery the Dispensary had every known. Charged water, solid food, hypersleep, somersaults... whatever it takes. She was getting out of there, and soon. Her family had been waiting for her, and it was about time she got back to them.
LJ Idol | Friends & Rivals • Week 7 - Topic: LIQUIDATED DAMAGES
This post has been brought to you through an association with the online writing community, LJ IDOL,
by the collaborative partnership of karmasoup and mamas_minion.
If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, SHARE THE LOVE, and pass it on...
Alonso quietly hummed along with his Walkman feeding him New Order as he lazily zoned out upside down in the papasan, his feet tapping against the wall, abstractedly ignoring Chet, whose focus was intently honed in on using Liu Kang to put a proper beat down on Johnny Cage. When his match finished, Chet idly tossed aside the controller, turned off the Nintendo, and after looking around a moment, carefully wadded up one corner of his lecture notes, then took aim in his Wendy’s cup straw, and expertly landed a spitball in Alonso’s hair.
“Earth to Alonso,” Chet whistled, waving his hand in front of Alonso’s face. “Let’s get out of here and go do something.”
“Like what?” Alonso asked, pulling out an ear bud and shaking the projectile from his dreads while spinning his feet around to the floor. “It’s a Thursday night and I haven’t heard about anything going on.”
“So? We’ll just have to hit the streets and find some trouble to get into!” Chet winked, hopping to his feet. “Come on, Dude! Get your ass in gear, and let’s roll, man!” Chet tossed Alonso’s jacket at him, picked up his own, and headed for the door.
Alonso sighed, fished his car keys from his jacket pocket, and reluctantly heaved himself from the comfy lounge chair. Chet was currently without wheels, but that was not entirely a new situation. The list of repairs his Camaro needed to function was beyond ridiculous. It hadn’t run in months, but there was no way Chet would even consider getting rid of it, and there was no point in arguing with him.
Alonso pointed his Suburban toward their usual haunt, with Chet babbling all the way about some chick who was into him, or some scheme he was cooking up, and Alonso occasionally nodding feigned attention. They made it all the way into the pool hall parking lot before Chet noticed where they were and ducked below the car window.
“We can’t hang here!” Chet hissed, as if he thought the establishment patrons might otherwise hear him.
Alonso rolled his eyes, but shifted into reverse, and backed out of a sweet rockstar corral.
“Why not?” Alonso asked casually, as if he didn’t know, shooting a narrow glance at his passenger while getting back on the town’s main drag.
“I owe most of the people in there!” Chet whined, planting his feet on the glove compartment, and then added, as soon they had cleared sight of the bar, in a slightly less frantic mumble, “and I am currently broke.”
“You are always broke,” Alonso thought to himself, as he took note of Chet’s muddy bootprints on his dashboard, but out loud only queried of his crony, “So where to now, fearless leader?”
“I don’t friggin know,” Chet harumphed, folding his arms across his chest and sulking for a moment before suddenly bolting upright a split-second later. “Damn it, let’s go to the Perkins over by the mall!” he blurted out.
“I thought you were broke?” Alonso gently prodded without missing a beat.
“Uh, yeah...” Chet murmured, slinking back down an inch or two. “Figured maybe you could spot me a coffee?”
“Yeah, I can spot you a coffee.”
Alonso drove into the mall parking lot, shut the engine off near the lower food court entrance, and got out. Chet followed, a bit more slowly, somewhat puzzled.
“Dude,” he buzzed, taking in their surroundings. “This is not Perkins. How much weed did you smoke today, man?”
“Not that much,” Alonso answered, going around to the back end of the Suburban. “I just want to make sure this night is not a total bust.”
He opened the rear door, grabbed a small, wrinkled brown paper bag from the wheel well cubby, and stuffed it into his inner jacket pocket. Chet cut his eyes askance at his companion. Alonso caught his glimpse.
“Don’t ask,” he acknowledged the unspoken question, and then, when the answer didn’t seem to satisfy, added, “...you’re better off not knowing.”
“Okay!” Chet responded quickly, throwing his hands in the air, palms up.
In the mall, Alonso made a beeline for the arcade, and Chet trailed closely at his heels. Once they reached it, Alonso passed Chet a fiver, and posted himself by the Mortal Kombat station, next to the entrance looking out on the food court. Chet’s eyes lit up, and he darted to the changing machine with his treasure, then came back with a cup full of tokens, immediately loading every last one of them into the game next to his friend.
“Watch for security guards or cops,” Alonso muttered, never losing sight of the field in front of him, leaning back against the game and tilting his head to speak sideways at his buddy, by then thoroughly locked into the contest just behind him. Chet just nodded without looking up.
A lone teen approached the pair with a subtle gesture at Alonso, who responded with a slight nod. Absorbed in battle, Chet missed the exchange completely, but Alonso reached into his pocket, shook hands with the teen, then snapped and pointed his finger at the young man, gently punching his shoulder in a friendly expression of familiar greeting. The kid gaped for a moment, taken aback only briefly before smiling brightly with a neighborly wave while heading out. Alonso slipped the folded twenty into his pocket, then took a long look at Chet, whose head bounced with the movements of his fingers, shoulders tensed in concentration, teeth biting down onto a slightly protruding tongue. Alonso smirked.
“You know, your recreational addictions may yet prove useful, after all.”
“What?” Chet looked up, confused, just as Alonso was turning back toward the mall.
“Nothing,” Alonso snickered. “Let’s hang here for a couple hours before we hit Perkins, okay?”
“Works for me!” Chet beamed. “I can keep myself busy here!”
“Me too,” Alonso chuckled, wryly. “And then I’ll spot you that coffee, to get you back for spotting me.”
LJ Idol | Friends & Rivals • Week 6 - Topic: LET'S ALL GO TO THE MALL
This post has been brought to you through an association with the online writing community, LJ IDOL,
by the collaborative partnership of karmasoup and mamas_minion.
If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, SHARE THE LOVE, and pass it on...
This would be a lot easier if I didn’t take Idol very seriously. But I do. Partially because I’m one of those people Gary mentioned in today’s green room who never really bothers to write for pleasure outside of the imposition of a topic and a deadline. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that life otherwise gets in the way, and Idol gives me a reason to rearrange my priorities. My husband, mamas_minion, is the same way.
Which is why it’s very hard to be throwing in the towel so early in the game. Even though I’ve never played to win, I play just to write, but clearly, bowing out on only the 5th prompt, having missed TWO of the others, means that I have already apparently failed even in that endeavor. And I actually paid for the opportunity this time. Not that it was much, but that just adds to the emotional punch to the gut that sticks in the craw. Especially since we’re not so well off that we didn’t feel it. But we pay for what we value, right? And this is worth it. It always has been.
If I didn’t care so much, if I was willing to half-assedly throw something together on the fly, and let the chips fall where they may, maybe we could stay. And if I was writing to win, and winning just meant to make sure I would stick around until the following week, one more time than everyone else, then maybe I wouldn’t care so much about what I write each week. But the things I write here — well, on LJ in general, not necessarily from this account, as I’ve only written two submissions and a few helpful public service entries since I just created it at the beginning of this season — they matter to me, and make a difference in my life, far longer than after Idol has moved on. So I can never just squeak by. And I can never just phone it in.
Last week, I wrote an entry that accurately represents who we genuinely are. It was a snapshot of us — a private moment in our lives that actually happened much as you see it there, now immortalized in this space. And I was quite pleased with it, and will be so happy to keep track of it, looking back on it for future reference, as a representation of just the kinds of nerds we are, how well we communicate, how in tune we are with one another, and how much we love each other, for years to come.
But I didn’t read a single entry from anyone else here during the whole voting period. I didn’t even update my spreadsheet. (Those of you know me are probably gasping in shock right now.) And that isn’t Idol to me. Idol, for me, is community. A kind of brethren of writers coming together to share a part of themselves with each other, in whatever form that presents itself. It’s a give and take. It has to be, or it doesn’t work. I feel like if I just put myself out there, for you to connect with, but I don’t connect to you, then I have only taken from you, and haven’t done my part to give back. And that isn’t who I am. It isn’t who my husband is.
I guess it must be showing, too. I’m rarely in the green room, but I thought I had connections here. I friended everyone either of us is attached to with our primary accounts, but so few have friended me back, I feel like a social leper.
And I would like to say I could do better next week, or from here on out, for the rest of this season. I really would, you have no idea. But the truth is, I just don’t have it in me right now. And neither does mamas_minion. We’re spent. We’ve been married less than three months now, and we’ve already faced enough challenges to sustain us in our quota of tests and trials for quite some time yet to come, I would hope. Our relationship is as strong and stable as it’s ever been, but our lives are just a little more chaotic than we would ever need for a while, and that is just a touch more chaos than we can handle right now.
Before we’d been married two weeks, we lost a family member. She was elderly, and had lived a good life. It was her time, and we were at peace with it. But we’ve just experienced another sudden loss, only this past week. A very unexpected one, in which a family member in her prime — who had been in what seemed like perfect health, and we’d always imagined would outlive us both — suddenly had to be hospitalized, and after a week of supportive care, was gone.
It still aches so bad some days I have trouble breathing. I can’t stop focusing on the loss of the future I thought we’d have together, and the hardest part is mourning the time we’ll never get now. People keep sending flowers, and I want to be grateful for their love and sympathy, I really do. And I’m sure in some way, I am, truly. Yet I can’t help but to look at them and be angry. Because I don’t want flowers. I want my family to be whole. I want her at home with me. I wanted my children to know her. I wanted her to know their children. Now that can never happen. And all I have is a house full of flowers, and a broken heart.
But I don’t have time to slow down. I barely have time to grieve. Mornings are hard, and evenings are hard, and I thought I could distract myself in between with telling stories and reading stories here. But my husband has hypertension and has been in and out of the hospital. I’m underemployed, he’s overdocked, and there’s just not enough hours in the day to work as much as is needed to cover us, and I’m afraid it’s killing him.
I’m not complaining. I’m not whining about my life and feeling sorry for myself. That’s not who I am. I’m just sad, and I’m stressed, and I don’t have anything left for you. I’m very sorry. But this has to be all from us. For now.
Good luck to you all. We still love you. Maybe we’ll see you around some time.
I’ve seen a lot of bad movies. Have even enjoyed a few, despite their quality, for the rare delightful moments that might be scattered throughout, of pure comedic genius, narrative charm, brilliant effect, contemplative “provoca-tourism,” or whatever other singular simple thrill allows me to rationalize my indulgence. I’m an optimist. I like to find the good in things.
Now, my husband, though, on the other hand, is a pessimist, and if you were to hear mamas_minion tell it, has never liked a bad movie. This from the man who used to regularly attend our social circle’s monthly "Bad Movie Night" gatherings. I would go for a while on occasion, myself, but, never for too long, because the movies weren’t actually just bad. They were terrible. I mean, seriously. Gutwrenchingly awful.
I think the idea was that if we’re all doing it together, we’ll each be able to somehow cooperatively enjoy the experience, right? Perhaps if a movie is bad enough, it tips the scale in the other direction, and becomes so bad, it’s good. Especially if you have a dozen or so clever, nerdy pals in the room, along with some alcohol, to MST3K the pain away. (Not that that actually makes the pain go away... it just makes it easier to inflict on others, I guess. Misery loves company... Might as well spread the wealth!)
And I get how some movies are obviously trying to pull that off. There’s very little that could be considered redeeming about BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, for example, except perhaps the minor entertainment value in watching KURT RUSSELL performing what can only be describe as ELVIS doing JOHN WAYNE. (No, really, you should check it out, if for no other reason, that one is enough.)
But, DANCE FU?? This movie should just NOT have been made. I mean, really, who the heck paid to create this global offense to all filmdom??? They ought to be dragged through the streets of LA and horsewhipped at the foot of the Hollywood sign.
Now, I, at least, have had the sense to suffer through 90 minutes or so of pure cinematic torture for the companionship of good friends, but then declare my “crap trap” full, and excuse myself to retire for the evening to my own devices, to lick my wounds and attempt to recover from the torment in solitude, or perhaps with a different set of friends, suffering through a whole other kind of misery at karaoke night. But my husband, whom I first met in this collective of degenerates, would always stay for the duration of the event, which could sometimes amount to a 3-day marathon. 18 or more hours of motion picture persecution.
But he’s never liked a bad movie, he says.
So, why would he put himself through that hell? He said hanging out with friends was motivation enough, considering it was better than the alternative, which was playing video games alone at what constituted as home then, after his divorce... the cupboard-under-the-stairs at his tyrannical Dad’s place, which also doubled as a lockup for his younger sister, and a reformatory for his younger brother. Makes me glad I “rescued” him from that life.
These days it’s not easy to get him to make a commitment to sit through a movie with me. Perhaps because our evening work schedule doesn’t usually allow for much boob tube. Perhaps because he’s afraid to admit that he still gets twitchy at the thought of the mere possibility of being forced into seeing a bad movie again. Perhaps just because he doesn’t like to sit still in our bed for that long. We are newlyweds, after all.
But, we are also nerds. Our casual conversations run the gambit from comic books, video games, table top RPGs, literature, history, science, technology, physics, and politics. Sometimes, mamas_minion tries to wriggle sports in there, but unless it’s one of our regularly recurring spirited debates about why organized sports represent the worst of humanity, then it mostly just garnishes “the look” from me, which, loosely translated, is shorthand for, “You do realize I don’t actually care, right?” And, of course, there’s always TV and movies and music.
Just the other day, as we were considering what to try to recollect from our current DVR (which is almost full because we really don’t spend much time in front of it) after we upgrade to the new version the cable company is pushing on us, I was reviewing and endorsing to my husband some of the movies I’d recorded for us, which was easier for some than others. Hubby balked at a few of my choices, barely concealing his amusement at times, gently rebuffing me with a mild, “I ain’t touching that” sort of attitude. I wondered aloud to him if he hasn’t ever had any “guilty pleasures” in movies. You know, those movies that make every fiber of your being scream you have absolutely no business getting any gratification from, and yet you still find yourself unable to control your constant return to it, like a dog to its own stuff. mamas_minion flatly insisted he had no such vice.
Naturally, I took this as a challenge. The ensuing interaction might have gone something like this.
Dinner and a Movie with the Misfits:
A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION, A LITTLE MORE ACTION.
This has been just another small sampling of a typical Thursday evening at Misfit Manor. From the Princess Bride and her Dread Pirate Captain, Good Night, everyone, and, as always, be good to each other.
LJ Idol | Friends & Rivals • Week 4 - Topic: BAD MOVIE NIGHT
This post has been brought to you through an association with the online writing community, LJ IDOL,
by the collaborative partnership of karmasoup and mamas_minion.
If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, SHARE THE LOVE, and pass it on...
ME: So what did you think of ARMAGEDDON?
(This is a flick any self-respecting nerd should find intellectually insulting, at best. And yet, I still find myself watching to the end from any random point I happen to flip to it, at least a couple times a year or so.)
HIM: It was ok. I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it.
ME: What about TREMORS?
(I would definitely put this in the same category as Armageddon, except, it ups the camp and cheese factors by about 327%, which is just enough to make it much more fun, minus the crying, of course.)
HIM: It was cheesy and bad.
ME: It was SUPPOSED to be cheesy! That’s what made it great!
HIM: It was NOT great. It tried to be a throwback to 50s B-release creature films, and failed. Dismally.
ME: Okay, fine. We’ll table that discussion for now, but I’m going to get you to watch it again with me, you just wait.
HIM: I’m holding my breath.
ME: LAST ACTION HERO
HIM: Aside from the fact it was a MIB ripoff?
ME: Honey, we’re NERDS. We LOVED MIB. We should be encouraging filmmakers to try for a lightning strike in that same spot again.
HIM: It fell apart in the end.
ME: MAN, you are a tough sell! Okay. I know one you shouldn’t be able to say no to: ROADHOUSE!
HIM: That was a bad movie. Even for a fighting movie, which are usually horrendous, that one was BAD.
ME: I know it was a bad movie! But we’re TALKING ABOUT bad movies, silly! Which movies you know are bad have you actually LIKED?
HIM: The best thing about that movie is getting to say “ROADHOUSE!!!” while punching or kicking someone or something. It was useful only for the string of memes it inspired.
ME: All right, you know what? New approach. Let’s try this by theme. You know about my obsession with movies about music makers and making music. I’ve endured a ton of terrible flicks because I’ll watch anything with a music making theme. I even sat all the way through JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS for that reason. I’m pretty sure you’re the same with fantasy movies and comic book adaptations, aren’t you?
HIM: I beg to differ. I haven’t read every comic book series ever written, and wasn’t crazy about every one I did read. You know good and well I have successfully refused to see the most recent SPIDERMAN reboot.
ME: Yes, I know, you’re stubborn. That’s why it’s still sitting on the DVR. Fantasy then.
HIM: . . .
ME: I’ll take your silence as an admission of guilt. So. You’ve seen a lot of fantasy flicks. Which means you’ve seen a lot of bad ones.
HIM: (*sniffs*) Yes. (*bottom lip quivers*) It’s been a nightmare. You have no idea.
ME: There, there, you poor thing. (*caressing his head to my bosom*) It’s okay. Mama’s here.
HIM: (*nuzzles his head into my cleavage, whimpering softly, like a puppy*)
ME: All right. So, let’s go back to your childhood. (*stroking his bald head*) Something that would win your heart just for the sake of nostalgia. How about KRULL?
(My husband jerks up suddenly, immediately all righteous nerd outrage.)
HIM: Are you frickgen kidding me???
HIM: That was quite possibly the worst fantasy movie EVER MADE.
ME: Plbthft! It wasn’t THAT bad. It had monsters, and magic, and swordplay, and extraordinary creatures and adventure and action. You were just a kid. I wasn’t even 10 when it came out, so you couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7. There must have been something you liked about it.
HIM: There was absolutely NOTHING redeemable about that movie.
ME: Oh, come on. It had its moments.
HIM: Name ONE.
ME: Well, there were the firehorses.
HIM: An utterly RIDICULOUS concept that suddenly came into the storyline from clear out of absolutely NOWHERE.
ME: Sure, but you don’t think of those things when you’re little. You’re not even supposed to when you’re big. But they were HORSES. That left a trail of FIRE behind them, and FLEW! How is that any less fantastic than flying reindeer?
HIM: I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I turned 3.
ME: You must have had some childhood, dear.
HIM: You never believed in Santa Claus.
ME: Yes, and I had some childhood, didn’t I? Still, the horses were pretty incredible on screen, especially to an 8-yr-old girl.
HIM: I was never an 8-yr-old girl.
ME: I should hope not, or you’d have some explaining to do about what else you’ve been keeping from me. So, then there was the shapeshifter. I know you love animals.
HIM: Okay, so I love animals. Doesn’t mean I have to like that stupid movie.
ME: Remember that scene where he turns himself into a puppy? He hangs out with the kid for a while, because what little boy doesn’t love to play with puppies? And someone comes by on the trail and asks where the shapeshifter character has gone – I forget his name... actually, I don’t remember the name of anyone in the film, except the woman in the spider web and the princess, come to think of it — and the little boy looks down at the puppy in his lap, and says, “Oh... he’ll be back in a little while.” That scene was priceless!
HIM: I barely remember that scene.
ME: And then there’s the whole scene in the spider mountain, too. That brave journey by the fat old guy on the web of the giant spider, jingling all the way, to the center where waits his long lost love, who bears the name of the kidnapped princess, and she turns over the sand in the hourglass to let him through, then breaks the glass when he leaves to give him the sand that represents her life, so he may carry it out of the web in safety from the spider monster, thus sacrificing herself to a painful spider monster death for the sake of the woman she’s never met who bears her name... LISA!
HIM: Such an idiotic name for a fantasy character.
ME: You know, I remember thinking that, too. I knew so many Lisas already. Lisas were ordinary. Fantasy characters, especially Princesses and Sorceresses, were supposed to have much cooler, unobtainable names. Not the same as three kids in your 3rd grade class.
HIM: That was not what I would consider a redeeming moment.
ME: Oh. Be a little romantic once in a while, can’t you?
HIM: I married you, didn’t I?
ME: That you did, sweetheart. And our PRINCESS BRIDE-themed fantasy fairytale wedding was spectacular. But does the rest of our life have to be all business?
HIM: Don’t you think we have romance?
ME: I’m talking about suspension of disbelief. You know, getting taken up with just enough of the action and adventure of the fantasy to lose yourself in the love story! Getting misty because the old guy barely escapes the spider mountain with just enough sand left to get out and get the message to the young prince that will allow him to go and rescue the princess, contributing his life to the cause of young love.
HIM: That was a really dumb scene any way you slice it. There was not enough worthwhile action and adventure in that entire movie to save anything left for wistfulness over the romance of it.
ME: Okay, let’s talk about the swashbuckling, then. What about the Cyclops, who, like all Cyclops kind, has the power to see into the future — but only his own, and only his death — who knows when to leave the group and go off to meet his predestined fate, but instead chooses to set that plan aside in order to continue with the group, further helping them in doing so, but also thereby knowingly committing himself to a hideous and excruciating death. . . . You know, looking back, there was actually an awful lot of self-sacrifice and gruesome violence in this film.
HIM: That was probably the one moment of the entire movie that was the least bit cringeworthy.
ME: Well, that grisly death certainly caused a bit of cringing on my part. I’m pretty sure I actually stuck my tongue out in the theater and muttered, “BLEAH!” It was pretty GROSS.
HIM: Hon, the whole movie was gross.
ME: I do remember that giant monster at the end was pretty weak. They never really did show much of it throughout the whole thing, except bits and pieces... a hand, a chest, a big red eye... it was some pretty well done suspenseful cinematography, leaving you to wonder what the heck you were actually looking at, but when you finally got to see it, it was pretty disappointing. Wasn’t even as scary as those empty armor creatures that squealed like pigs and turned to powder when you hit them with one shot. They were so easy to kill, but man, they cropped up everywhere!
HIM: They were just as weak.
ME: That castle in the mountain was something else, too. I remember the princess always getting lost in its halls as she tried to find a way out, while the whole place morphed into different shapes around her, each with such an organic look. The burgeoning artist in me loved the way that entire interior flowed, some of it like a giant rib cage, part of it like an eye, another space like a brain... made you feel like the whole place had once been some grand prehistoric being, and these characters were trapped in its bones. It was breathtaking.
HIM: PRETTY can’t save a movie. I believe that’s YOUR distinction, as I recall. Otherwise, you'd have been into the TOTAL RECALL remake.
ME: Well, I don’t remember much else about it, honestly. I was only 8.
HIM: Sweetheart, you probably remember about as much of that movie as you will ever need to know. That’s your brain damage kicking in. It has saved you remembering the rest of it, to protect you from it. That’s what brain damage is supposed to do. Consider yourself fortunate.
ME: Still. I do feel a certain sense of nostalgia toward it. I know it was bad. I knew it was bad then, and you’d have to be pretty dang bad if an 8-yr-old kid notices how bad it is.
HIM: Darling, you were no ordinary 8-yr-old kid.
ME: No. But I liked it anyway.
HIM: And that’s okay, dear. (*kisses my forehead*) But that is ALL YOU.
ME: (*razzberries*) Plbthft!
HIM: Hey, don’t stick your tongue out at me! I didn’t start this. I just said I’ve never liked a bad movie. You took it upon yourself to prove me wrong.
ME: Oh! Oh! (*snaps fingers*) I’ve got it! I know what bad movie you like! In fact, you didn’t just like it, you LOVED it!!! BEASTMASTER!!!
HIM: Bite your tongue! Beastmaster is NOT a BAD movie!!!
ME: I see. NOW we’re getting to the crux of the problem.
HIM: There’s no problem here. I’m right, you’re wrong. No problem.
ME: Darling, I can extend disbelief pretty far, but that does not include pretending that movie was any good. And I’m not knocking it... I liked it when I was little. It falls into the same category as Krull for me... they were both fantasy movies I remember fondly from my childhood. I’m sure I’ve seen Beastmaster quite a bit more since then... when I was in high school, there was a rumor circulating basic cable wouldn’t have survived without it, and people joked HBO stood for “Hey, Beastmaster’s On!”
HIM: (*pouts*) It’s NOT just a kid’s movie.
ME: (trying not to laugh) Okay, so you loved it as an adult. That’s fine. That’s... healthy, I’m sure. (*stifles a snort*) But, sugarlumpkin, it has FERRETS.
HIM: They’re some of the best parts of it!
ME: I won’t disagree! I loved them, too! Of course, I was more partial to the black tiger.
HIM: It was a black panther.
ME: Is that a black joke?
HIM: (*raises an eyebrow, cuts eyes sideways at me*) I mean, I KNOW it was actually a tiger. Tigers are trainable, panthers are not. Panthers wouldn’t ever learn to do what you’d want them to do, they’d just kill you. So they couldn’t ACTUALLY use a panther. But it was a tiger masquerading as a panther.
ME: (*checking IMDB app*) Let’s see, every official poster, tagline, and preview refers to it as a Black TIGER. That’s why I thought it was so cool. I love tigers, and there’s no such thing as a real black tiger. They had to put this one in a shoe polish, though, and the orange stripes could often be seen under the dye. Also, for half the movie the tiger’s muzzle is white, because the black color would wash off its face every time it drank or sweat too much. It was terrible and fabulous all at the same time!
HIM: That really had to be the world’s most patient tiger.
ME: (*pointing to the IMDB page*) And, oh, hey, woodja lookit that. Says right here, “People who liked this movie also liked KRULL.”
HIM: There’s no accounting for taste.
ME: Let’s check the rating for Krull against the rating for Beastmaster. Yep. (*amused*) Only 2 tiny 10ths of a point difference! Still trying to say Beastmaster is a GOOD movie???
HIM: But everyone I know likes that movie!
ME: And this is a surprise to you? Hon, everyone we know has the same bad taste. We all like the same kinds of things, and that’s part of the reason we’re drawn to do them together. It’s not exactly like we represent an accurate cross-section of American popularity. I mean, do you really want to be in company with the type of people who like everything they’re told to??
HIM: I guess not.
ME: Do you know what the most popular band in the country was in the year 2000?
HIM: (confused) No...?
ME: It was NSYNC.
ME: I remember hearing that, and being so disappointed, because that was what kind of caliber entertainment got to mark our milestone passage into the new millennium, to be recorded for posterity, and referenced for all eternity. THAT is who this country is. Do you really want to be like them???
ME: So, let’s just admit you actually like at least ONE bad movie, and be okay with that.
HIM: You know, just because the ignorant masses don’t like it, that doesn’t mean it was a BAD movie. Maybe our tastes are just more refined than everyone else’s.
ME: Our tastes are more refined??? You’re assuming other people who like it consider it as a GOOD movie? Ask all your friends. Ask anyone who likes it, even they’ll tell you it’s a bad movie. Hell, I admit I like it, but, I ALSO admit it was a BAD MOVIE.
HIM: What was so bad about it?
ME: Well, for one, it had a tiger in blackface, who couldn’t keep his roots from showing.
(Yes, my husband actually says this from time to time, with a very silly ridiculous toothy grin, a bobbing up and down of the head, and a shrug of the shoulders. It’s very cute.)
ME: The story was pretty thin, and in some places there are aspects of it that actually hurts the brain.
HIM: I thought it was a pretty well fleshed out world.
ME: Yeah, well, you were 6. Your brain obviously just filled in all the gaps. For example: I understand it’s the Bronze Age and all, but why would a KING who has enough power and authority to have gone to the expense of employing a Captain of the Guard leave his own sleeping quarters so unprotected any old woman with a COW can wander unchecked into the ROYAL BEDCHAMBERS???
HIM: Uh... you got me there... magic?
ME: And again, maybe it’s because of the Bronze Age, and no one knows anything about messing with the gene pool, but why does no one mind the love interests of the film are actually cousins?
HIM: Maybe she was the kid’s cousin on his mother’s side?
ME: Also, since when did pretending to rescue a woman, then forcing yourself on her as “payment” ever amount to a romantic gesture?
HIM: Well, she got the drop on him, didn’t she? They talked it out. It was a different era.
ME: Apparently. And how is it he can command the animals without talking to them, but he sometimes does talk to them anyway, or at least the ferrets and the tiger, telling them what to do? I mean, I get the real reason is because he’s playing “Exposition Man,” so the audience knows what he has in mind, but I’m pretty sure even though they can see through his eyes, I’m betting they still don’t speak human. Yet, when it comes to the eagle, he just makes that bizarre squawking sound. You reckon that was just so MARC SINGER could show off what a cool sound he could make?
HIM: Probably. It WAS a pretty cool sound.
ME: And how come the ferrets and the tiger get names, but the eagle doesn’t?
HIM: You find out the eagle’s name in the sequels.
ME: Why does it not surprise me you know that? You actually invested the time commitment to sequels???
HIM: I only watched one of them. And I instantly regretted it.
ME: Well, THAT should have told you something about the quality of this movie.
HIM: Sequels are often bad, even when the original is good.
ME: Is the eagle’s name any more original than the rest of them? He called his dog Todo, he called the ferrets Kodo and Podo. Who’s the eagle, Frodo?
HIM: No, that’s A HOBBIT. And a totally different franchise.
ME: Trust me, dear, there is absolutely ZERO chance of me — or anyone else — getting these movies confused with LOTR. EVER.
HIM: The eagle’s name is Sharak.
ME: Well, at least he broke the “-Odo” pattern.
HIM: You know, he COULD actually communicate with animals. For all we know, those actually WERE the ferret’s names.
ME: Then, too, this entire plot is set into motion by an evil priest hoping he can outrun a prophecy by killing his would-be killer first, but the whole thing could have been avoided in the first place if only everyone had known the prophecy was in fact wrong — Maax actually would not be killed by Zed’s unborn son, but by a kamikaze ferret!
HIM: Yes, but it was a ferret who could COMMUNICATE with Zed’s unborn son.
ME: Which would never have been possible in the first place if the sorceress Butterface hadn’t put Zed’s unborn son into a cow!
HIM: It’s a classic archetypal storyline style, taken from the time-honored tradition of Greek mythology.
ME: Actually, the movie did remind me of the original CLASH OF THE TITANS, quite a bit. Particularly some of the effects, like that creepy eye ring, used by the cauldron of witches. The effects in this were not that good, but they were way worse in Clash. At least in Clash of the Titans, though, the acting was great.
HIM: Clash had a lot of stars.
ME: Oh yeah, it did. LAURENCE OLIVIER, MAGGIE SMITH, BURGESS MEREDITH. You can’t beat that line up. This one didn’t have anyone of much note, though, so you couldn’t expect a whole lot.
HIM: It had RIP TORN.
ME: Yes, and he was certainly at least as talented as the Tiger. But holy crap, what was the deal with the Vulcan eyebrows and the prosthetic nose? Did they not think his acting was enough to play the part, they had to try and make him look more EEEeeeeeVIIIIIIILLL?
HIM: I guess?
ME: Maybe it was like the STAR TREK thing, where all the evil twins have to wear goatees.
HIM: You like goatees.
ME: I do. They’re sexy. And they make nice handles.
HIM: I’m just gonna leave that one alone.
ME: For NOW.
HIM: It had JOHN AMOS.
ME: Yeah. Every time I see him now, all I can think of him as is the Dad from COMING TO AMERICA.
HIM: To me, at the time, anyway, he was the Dad from GOOD TIMES.
ME: I never did watch that show. It was a little before my time. Which means it was before yours, too. How did you see it?
ME: I remember RERUN! But only vaguely. He was the big guy, right?
HIM: Different show. That was WHAT’S HAPPENING.
ME: Oh yeah. Aaaaaaannnnnd now I have that theme song stuck in my head.
HIM: You watched that show, but not Good Times?
ME: I didn’t watch either of them. I was just around when they were on. I was too little to remember much of them, but theme songs stick with you. And JIMMIE WALKER as JJ, of course. That “Dyno-MITE” catch phrase was sing-songy enough to have staying power, not to mention her reprised it in guest appearances all throughout the 80s.
HIM: Kind of a Black FONZ.
ME: Except nowhere near as cool.
HIM: He had his OWN style. It was a black thing.
ME: The Good Times theme song was awesome, too. So was THE JEFFERSONS - “We’re moving on up! To the East Sy-hai-hide!” And SANFORD AND SON. Man, that one kicked ass. Bum bah Ba-da. Bum bah Ba-da bada baaah, Bum bum bada bada Bah-baah baaaaah!
HIM: Classic 70s junk funk. Good show, too.
ME: Don’t remember it, either. But the BARNEY MILLER opening, that was fabulous, also. (*hums a bit of the bass line*)
HIM: Another great show.
ME: I wouldn’t know.
HIM: How do you know all these theme songs, but not the shows themselves?
ME: I do music. Not so much TV.
HIM: I must educate you.
ME: Okay. I’d like that. Let's put them all on our to-get list. But holy cow, though, we got way off track there for a minute there, didn’t we? ON the topic of discussion, regarding people of note... Marc Singer was somebody to me, at the time. I’d been a big fan of V, so I thought he was sexy. Of course, sexiness is a relative thing when you’re 8. He was the hero who fought against the alien visitors taking over the earth, and that was enough for me at the time.
HIM: I liked V, too. I heard they did a TV remake.
ME: It wasn’t entirely a remake… it sorta harkened back to the initial storyline in some respects... had guest appearances by original cast members reprising the same roles, in some cases, including JANE BADLER as DIANA. She was sublime. Marc Singer showed up, too, but I think not as the same character, I don’t think... can’t really remember. It was pretty good, though. The original series was great for its time, or at least I thought so when I was younger, but I’ve seen enough clips since to know it wouldn’t hold up to today’s standards anymore. The remake starred MORENA BACCARIN from FIREFLY. Absolutely FABULOUS.
HIM: Ooooh! INARA SERRA! Mental note... must add V remake to watch list.
ME: Yeah... I think you’d like it. But, we’re sidetracking again.
HIM: I’m okay with that.
ME: I’m not. I was just about to get you to admit you loved a bad movie.
HIM: Says who?
ME: Where were we? Oh yes, things that hurt the brain. You’re the one who always pans movies that don’t follow hard scifi logic.
HIM: This is different. This is fantasy.
ME: So, it just gets a pass?
HIM: Basically, yes. That’s just the way it works.
ME: Okay, so, in a fantasy world, it’s acceptable that TAR explodes?
HIM: It was probably magic tar.
ME: Uh-huh. And were they magic horses? Cause I gotta say, not buying mounted riders crawling up out of flaming tar STILL ON HORSEBACK to continue the attack.
HIM: But that’s what made the Juns so badass! They were hardcore!
ME: And, by extension, we’re supposed to believe their horses are just as badass, and can swim through flaming tar.
HIM: Just go with it.
ME: Sure. Whatever you say. So, moving on... in the temple dungeon, when Dar pulls that lever, how does he know it’s going to close those cell doors? One would think, especially since we later find out the kid not only knows what those things are, but how they’re made — which, by the way, is a completely pointless scene... did they just need to draw out the move length, or was it just an excuse to get some weird leather minotaur dudes to chase the ferrets? — anyway. If those things are the temple’s twisted gimp army of “Death Guards,” wouldn’t you think any levers around would be to release them on the unsuspecting intruders in the corridor, not shut them off to keep the infidels safe so they can continue plundering the temple?
HIM: Um... you’re not supposed to think about that?
ME: Riiiiiiiiiiiight. And what’s with the wardrobe change in the middle of storming the temple? I mean, I can understand going after a knife, and maybe if you’ve thrown off the shackles of slavery, you don’t want to wear a slave’s garments anymore, but, seriously... you change out of one muslin colored sackcloth into another muslin colored sackcloth with a few less rips, but, oh yeah, SHOULDER PADS.
HIM: It WAS the 80s.
ME: Like, TOTALLY, man! And how is it, btw, the people of Aruk still considered their King to be a symbol of hope, after he got his son stolen, got his wife killed, got a crazed megalomaniac put in power who sacrificed babies, locked him up, took his eyes out, and left him there for THIRTY-FIVE YEARS??? It’s not quite like these are the actions of a ruler who exactly inspires confidence!
HIM: Same way NELSON MANDELA still meant something to his people even after being in prison for 28 years.
ME: Maybe, except when Nelson Mandela got out, he was not only a man of peace, but a profoundly effective leader. The smattering of loyalists Seth was able to round up were still willing to follow their King after he proved himself to a raving lunatic incapable of strategic planning or rational thought, and so hell bent on revenge he would most assuredly lead them to certain doom. How come nobody said, “Uh, hey, yo, CAPTAIN AHAB? Could you just let me off at the next port, please?”
HIM: Many people would prefer death to that way of life.
ME: If that was the case, then why didn’t those people rise up against the horde themselves???
HIM: Okay, ONE, because they needed someone to lead them. Someone to get them over their fear, make them realize they were not alone, to see the power of strength in numbers, and to believe they had a chance. That’s why tyrants are able to control people all over the world even now, and revolutions don’t happen every opposite Tuesday. It’s human nature. And, TWO, because THAT would be a totally different movie.
ME: I see. So, it was just trying to be STAR WARS.
HIM: A blonde Marc Singer with a sword does stand in effectively as a fantasy version of LUKE SKYWALKER.
ME: Perhaps, but PLEASE don’t tell me you hold this movie in the same regard as you do Star Wars.
HIM: Oh HELL no.
ME: Good. Cause I about thought I was going to get you to come to my side with the Star Wars comparison.
HIM: Apples and oranges.
ME: Gotchya. So, you’re not saying it’s as good as Star Wars.
HIM: Nothing is as good as Star Wars. The ORIGINAL, that is.
ME: Yes, let’s not get tangented off on THAT discussion.
HIM: Just sayin’.
ME: But you are still trying to say it’s a good movie?
HIM: (*sighs*) No.
ME: What?!! You’re admitting it’s a bad movie??? How did that happen?
HIM: (*hangs head*) Because... I’ve been Googling it. (*hides droid under the pillow*)
ME: (*cackles loudly and hysterically*) Oh! (trying to catch breath between fits of giggles) Oh, oh, my! (*holding sides, wipes away tears of laughter*) OMG, that’s rich! That is so fantastic! The world wide web of nerd movie critics finally gets you to see the light!
HIM: (*pouts*) Yes.
ME: Honey, you know this doesn’t make me think any less of you. (*smooches his cheek*) I knew you were a man of questionable taste... how else could you have married me??? (*bats eyelashes*)
HIM: (*scowling*) Hey!
ME: So, we BOTH like a movie that’s bad, and now we finally both ADMIT it! So... WHY do we like this movie???
HIM: Well, we both like animals. Being able to talk to animals is a pretty damn cool superpower.
ME: Yeah... not sure I’d want to have been birthed by a cow to get it, though.
HIM: I mean, he can see through their eyes. Watching the eagle soar like it was him has got to be the closest thing to flying on your own power there is.
ME: The ferrets were adorable.
ME: Would you ever want a ferret?
HIM: Hell no. They reek something awful.
HIM: Oh yeah. They stink to high heaven.
ME: Okay. I love when the ferrets steal the arrows right off of those trapper’s crossbows.
HIM: That was pretty cute.
ME: Not so cute was when one of them crawled up under the guard’s leathers and had a nut snack to stop the guard from cutting his mate in half.
HIM: That’s true love, right there.
ME: Oh, honey... you ARE a romantic, after all! Would you do that for me?
HIM: (*grimacing*) Um... do I have to answer that?
ME: (*chuckling*) I suppose not.
HIM: I like the elements of comedy in it.
ME: I’m not so sure that was intentional comedy, and not just the campy effect, or the cheese factor.
HIM: Well, I thought parts of it were funny.
ME: When you were 6?
HIM: I still think it’s funny in places.
ME: Out of curiosity, do you honestly think you would have liked this movie at all if you hadn’t seen it until you were an adult?
HIM: Let’s not go there.
ME: You know, you’re right. Let’s not set this conversation back by a couple of hours. So, okay, what else did we like about it?
HIM: That spinning boomerang weapon was SUPER cool.
ME: Oh yeah, wadn’t it though? The “caber” — which is a pretty amusing name for it, considering what that means in Scotland. It was like some spliced-together cross between a switchblade, a chakram, a throwing star, and a glaive. You know, Krull had something similar.
HIM: Copycats. Wannabes.
ME: Actually, I think a lot of movies have since modeled other fantasy weaponry after that piece.
HIM: They should. It’s an homage to actual historical weapons, and deserves repeating. It’s one of the awesome things about this movie.
ME: You’re on a roll, now. What else?
HIM: The witches were scary.
ME: The witches were UGLY, for sure. And definitely malevolent and creepy. I certainly got a feel for that when I was a kid. As an adult, though, I couldn’t stop laughing at how terrible those face prosthetics were. It seriously looked like someone took the infamous WILLIAM SHATNER / MICHAEL MYERS “MASK OF HORROR” out into a torrential rain, left it on a busy freeway to get trampled by rush hour traffic, then hurled it into a field of stampeding goats, and afterwards picked it up, dusted it off, and glued it to some hot model’s bodies.
HIM: Low budget film.
ME: Tell me about it! “Look, there, over yonder! Is that a pencil-and-colored-marker-drawn animated dust cloud dancing on a popsicle stick at the edge of the painted backdrop??? Why, no, it’s the Jun Horde approaching! Quickly, friends! Everybody to the moat! We haven’t much time!”
HIM: I thought the Jun horde was awesome.
ME: You liked the villains???
HIM: They were totally badass. It was super intimidating.
ME: Again, if you’re 6. I think you just liked they were all decked out in black leather on horseback with batwing helmets.
HIM: And the monsters were SUPER scary.
ME: Oh holy cow, yes. Those bat-human hybrids that turned you to human goo like the BRUNDLEFLY. Those may, quite possibly be, even still to this day, the scariest, most creepy monsters ever imagined in film.
HIM: You’re not kidding.
ME: Even DOCTOR WHO never created anything that freaky.
ME: They’d have probably totally given me nightmares if they didn’t turn out to be the heroes who saved the day in the end.
HIM: That’s what I’m saying about the animals... they were incredibly smart! I mean, here’s this bizarre, frightening brood of something straight out of the 7th layer of hell, having a cocoon-bursting party featuring human head soup around their black eagle idol, closing in on Dar and the tiger, when the eagle swoops in and lands on Dar’s arm. As if that wasn’t enough to give them pause, then it flies straight to the top of their statue, and just perches there starting at them. If that isn’t genius, I don’t know what is.
ME: Yeah, that was some quick thinking. And, it got them that pretty bauble to carry, too... the kind that comes in handy if you’ve got a mess of firelit-tar resistant Jun mounties closing in on you.
HIM: For sure!
ME: Yeah, the animals were cool. But the underlying themes were noteworthy, as well. Standing up against oppression and tyranny, being willing to gather with others who know when and where to draw the line, stand together and say, NO MORE. This is WRONG. It has to END. HERE, and NOW. Of course, too bad it took 35 years of baby-killing to bring them to that point, but, you know... Human nature, and all.
HIM: Yeah, it did have a great good vs. evil element to it, but that wasn’t really what did the most for me.
ME: Oh? What was the best part for you?
HIM: I was 6 years old, and I got to go to the theater, look up on the big screen, and watch a strong, free black man, in a position of power, who was wise and capable, be a good leader, protect those who could not protect themselves, rally good men to come together and motivate them into action, fight for what he believed in, and speak the truth, unafraid of the consequences. He was the hero of the film for me.
ME: (*bats away mist from eyelashes*) You know what, darling? That’s the best reason yet. Do you still have the movie?
HIM: (indignant) OF COURSE.
ME: (*wrap arms around him, lays head on his chest*) Let’s watch it tonight. I want to see it again for the first time, through your eyes.
HIM: (*pulls my chin up to look at my face*) I love you.
ME: (*kisses his lips*) I love you, too, sugar. Now, I’ll go make the snacks, you get the bed ready. Deal? (*hops off the bed to head toward the kitchen*)
HIM: Deal. (*smacks my ass on my way out*)
Hi ho, Idolers! karmasoup here again.
Hubby mamas_minion and I didn't submit an entry on our combined account this week because this Christmas was our 2-month anniversary. Not that we are in the habit of celebrating monthly anniversaries, but it was hard not to notice this one... it's Christmas, after all... our third together, but our first as a married couple. With all the comings and goings and preparation beforehand, the celebrating, the family time, the special events, there was just never a moment within this timeframe that we wanted to give up anything we were doing to hide ourselves away from one another behind a computer screen to write.
Sadly, that means we are out of byes going forward, but, we are still here, and most importantly, still reading. To that end, if any of you must have, as I do, your trusty alphabetical list to make sense of the entries, even sans poll, I give you the following*:
|adoptedwriter||Why We Can't Have Nice Things|
|alexpgp||Fremd, Shame on You!|
|alycewilson||New Year's Resolutions|
|amandalor||Yo Ho Ho|
|aresrising05's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|bad_tibbers's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|banyangirl1832||Return of the Southern Witches|
|barrelofrain||Proceed with Caution|
|bleodswean||The Art Palace Equinox|
|bookishgeek's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|calicoumbrella's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|chasing_silver's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|cheapxdate's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|copyright1983||Talk To Me|
|dee_aar2||The One I Cannot Have|
|dmousey||Fox in the Henhouse|
|dreamsreflected's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|ellakite||The Best of All Possible Worlds|
|ellison's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|emo_snal||Arriving in Kampala|
|ewok_626's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|fodschwazzle's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|fourth_horseman's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|grail76||Two Trips To Greece|
|halfshellvenus's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|heinleinfan||Lessons From The Ladies|
|i_love_freddie's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|idekmybffjill's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|impoetry's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|inteus_mika||Rigging the Game, Bumpkin Style|
|kathrynrose||Yellow Jackets Don't Die When They Sting You|
|kehlen_crow's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|kickthehobbit's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|lawchicky||My Children Make Me Optimistic|
|leni_ba||Haven: The Holy Man Who Wouldn't Shut Up|
|lordrexfear's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|m_malcontent's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|mac_arthur_park's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|majesticarky's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|misfitmanor's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|murielle||The Milliners Assistant|
|oxymoron67's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|peteyplane's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|poppetawoppet's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|porn_this_way||STFU and GTFO|
|prog_schlock's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|pshaw_raven||PEBCAK: The Tycoon|
|rayaso||Oodles of Ferhoodles|
|reckless_blues's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|rejeneration's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|sarcasmoqueen||Things Cost Money|
|sinnamongirl's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|spydielives's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|the_lettersea||For Pangloss: The Best of All Possible Worlds|
|thistle_verse's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|tijuanagringo||Don't Wake Them Sleeping Dogs|
|tjoel2's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|tonithegreat's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|uf0s's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|verseinabottle's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|vik_thor||Masters of the Universe|
|voidandblank's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|whipchick||Panglossian Was I|
|wickedsin's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|witchwife||The Truth About Ebby|
|wupuga's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|xo_kizzy_xo's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
|zhent's BYE Week. Votes for this contestant will not count.|
*also available in spreadsheet form upon request. PM me for a blank copy. But don't send the spreadsheet to Gary. He just wants your short list in a brief email, in alphabetical form, preferably.