New glasses + weekend shenanigans. (Wedding! Anime Comic Con! Dinosaurs! etc.)

It seems like a long time has passed since my last posting date on Thursday, but that’s just because I’ve spent most of the intervening days out of town. We went to the Bay Area for a friend’s wedding. It was a French wedding attended by lots of (mostly) French people speaking (mostly) French. It took place on Bastille Day and the day before France won the World Cup, so it was a very French affair.

We made our hotel reservation months in advance. Unbeknownst to us, the Anime Comic Con would be going on in the hotel at the same time. Surprise!

Spoils from Anime Comic Con 2018:

 

Marvel Black Panther bag and Sen. John McCain action figure

 

[Sidenote 1: I got to chatting with the cool guy who sold me the Marvel Black Panther bag. Turns out he’s a musician. He’s a member of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.). He said they’re coming to my town at the end of October to play a gig. We’re going, Callaghan and me.]

[Sidenote 2: I thought it was hilarious that they were selling Sen. John McCain action figures at Anime Comic Con in California. I couldn’t resist. McCain’s been my senator since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t have to agree with all of his political positions (and I certainly do not) to say in all honesty that he’s one of my heroes.]

Next:

New glasses, part I-don’t-even-know-what.

 

[Sidenote: These pics were taken late last week during a time of hot dusty winds, when the AZ monsoon skies were a haze of golden brown. Even the indoor pic on the left looks dusty.]

You may be wondering how many new pairs of glasses a person needs in a year. I am, too. Hopefully the saga ends here. It should, provided that a). my prescription doesn’t change again, b). I don’t step on my new glasses, and c). in the event that I do, my replacement frames don’t come from overseas on a slow boat that either hits an iceberg or gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Those are the three things that have happened in the last 12 months. Luckily, the debacle cost only $25.00 to fix – it was $25.00 to replace the broken frames, and when they never showed up, the glasses lady let me pick new frames for a complete re-make (fresh lenses included) and trade the new glasses for the replacement ones.

I’m enjoying my new granny specs. I’ve worn dark, plastic/acrylic frames for as long as I can remember; these super thin gold-toned ones are a change I’m loving. They seem treacherously light and delicate, but the glasses lady assured me that they’re very strong (titanium) and difficult to break.

Returning to the weekend! We got back yesterday in a dramatic climatic shift. On a summer morning in San Francisco, middle of July, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, as usual, but also a sweatshirt over the t-shirt, and a pleather motorcycle jacket over the sweatshirt… and I was still cold. San Francisco in the summer is antithetical. I boarded the plane dressed for a Phoenix winter, landed in Phoenix 1.5 hours later, and stripped myself back down to summer while still on the plane. I walked into Sky Harbor airport in just the jeans and t-shirt again.

And that, my friends, is one reason why I’ll never move back.

The day before, though, we spent a balmy and beautiful afternoon strolling through Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. We had a great time, but I was glad to come home, as usual. There’ll just never be anything like the steady hum of creative energy in our quiet house in our quiet neighborhood in our quiet desert – it always seems quiet, even when it’s not – with the wide-open space all around, the huge sky overhead, and the sound of our Arcosanti bells speaking for the monsoon breeze out front.

OH! We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom while in Concord. I thought it was good enough for entertainment, but not good enough for a “monthly favorites” list.

The movie-makers told a familiar story this time, didn’t they? An ark with all the different species, a clashing of good and greed-driven evil, and the not-subtle suggestion that Owen and Claire are Adam and Eve in their neo-Jurassic world. Even the movie’s title (Fallen Kingdom) sounds biblical.

I found myself emotionally wrought at the beginning when the brachiosaurus got left behind on the island, watching everyone sailing away to safety. I cried. Callaghan assured me, “No brachiosaurus was harmed in the making of the movie,” but it didn’t help. I spent most of the movie thinking the poor dinosaurs. Gah. I’m always upset to tears when I see horrible things happening to animals, and I guess CGI dinosaurs are no exception.

 

THE PLOT THICKENS

Remember this post? I have updates.

THE PLOT THICKENS

A man parks his nondescript SUV along a curve on a residential street and crosses the street. He is Delivery Guy. He walks up to the house and rings the doorbell. No one answers the door. Delivery Guy sticks a small piece of paper on the door, crosses the street, gets in his SUV, and drives away.

A woman and a man are inside the house. They are Kristi and Callaghan. They watch Delivery Guy leave from their living-room window. Callaghan opens the door to get the piece of paper stuck to the door.

Callaghan brings the piece of paper to Kristi. They see that it’s a pre-printed form note that looks like it came from a quirky gag gift post-it pad one can buy at a hip independent bookstore. The note is printed with: DELIVERY NOTICE! Important Time & Date Sensitive Material

Kristi sees her name hand-written on the note. The note does not feature the names of either the sending company or the shipping company. The note is printed with: Please call within 24 hours to reschedule your delivery

CUT TO FIVE DAYS LATER

Kristi calls the number on the note. A funeral home voice mail recording picks up.

We see Kristi’s face. Her expression is wondering what Time & Date Sensitive Material a funeral home would need to deliver to someone’s door.

We see her face remembering that she received in the mail an invitation to purchase a cemetery plot.

We see her face realizing that it’s the same funeral home.

CUT TO THREE HOURS LATER

Callaghan walks into the house.

KRISTI

They REALLY want to sell me a cemetery plot. But why does their note say Time & Date Sensitive? Do they know something I don’t? Am I on their list of people who are going to die, like, tomorrow?

CALLAGHAN

It’s time and date sensitive for them. They have to grab you first, and before you die.

[/END SCRIPT]

(Sorry, I don’t know how else to show that I’m done writing in screenplay mode)

So here’s the punchline: I finally got the funeral home person on the phone and found out that the delivery guy was trying to deliver the funeral home’s “complimentary gift.” The one they said they’d include with any promotional info I’d request. Remember how I filled out their form just to see what they’d send as a complimentary gift?

“Please share your name and address to receive your complimentary gift and any information you requested.”

I asked the guy, “What’s the complimentary gift you were trying to deliver?”

He said, “The complimentary gift is a brochure.”

Er, right.

 

File this under “Things no one tells you about aging.” (Mortuary letter WTF.)

Have you ever received a survey asking whether you’ve made your final arrangements? If you’re 50+, you probably have, because evidently you’re ripe for the picking.

I’m turning 50 this year, and I’m now being solicited by mortuaries (in a letter sent by an umbrella mortuary corporation) whose promotional mailing wants to know all kinds of intimate details about my death plans.

My jaw dropped in disbelief and amusement last week when I opened the mail addressed to me (not to Callaghan, who’s 14 months younger) and read this letter and survey asking the following questions:

  • Have you already arranged for a funeral in advance? If no, would you like more information?
  • Are you aware that you can lock in your costs at today’s prices by arranging for a funeral in advance, no matter how many years it is between commitment and use?
  • In the event of your death, who is responsible for making your final arrangements?
  • Are your loved ones aware of your preference in funeral arrangements? If yes, have you provided detailed written instructions to them about your arrangements?
  • Have you already purchased a cemetery plot? If no, would you like more information?

I have a question for them: Really?

First of all, if you’re struggling with depression, it is – at the least – darkly hilarious to receive a mortuary corporation’s sales pitch. It’s not every day Callaghan walks into the kitchen and finds me laughing over a random piece of junk mail. 

At the worst, this sort of mail could be awful should it reach a person at the wrong time, during the wrong circumstances, depression or otherwise.

Secondly? Everything.

But it gets better. Beneath the survey, the letter says, “Please share your name and address to receive your complimentary gift and any information you requested.”

I’m tempted to send in the survey just for that, because I would LOVE to see what a “complimentary gift” from a mortuary would be. In fact, I think I will. Seriously.

We’re all on their list, my friends. THEY are waiting for us to reach their target demographic. They’ve decided that 50 (49.5!) puts you in the shadow of death’s door. These mortuary corporations have your birth dates, names, and addresses, and they’re waiting.  

So here we are with my minor gripe: AARP forgot all about me, but the mortuary people did not… and they’ve wasted no time in attempting to sell me their wares.

I want DISCOUNTS, not a cemetery plot.

“The Beast in the Belly.” (My favorite medical mystery.)

Have you ever read an essay or a magazine article that’s stayed with you?

24 years ago, a surgeon in New Haven, CT wrote a narrative essay about one of his patients, a young woman whose mysterious ailment led him to investigate a medical condition the likes of which he’d never seen before. His essay appeared as an article in the February 1995 issue of Discover Magazine, which I found lying on a table somewhere – probably in an office at ASU, as I was in college at the time.

I opened the magazine to the most interesting and horrifying medical story I’ve ever read. I say this without a shred of hyperbole.

Real-life mysteries fascinate me.

I’ve never forgotten this particular medical mystery; I’ve sought out the article several times in the 20+ years since. It’s the only magazine article I’ve wanted to re-read over and over, and it’s the only article whose title I’ve never forgotten. Granted, its title is somewhat sensational: “The Beast in the Belly.” Sensational, yet apt.

The first time I wanted to revisit the article, I had to go to the media library in the campus’ main library’s basement to hunt through the archived magazines. I Xerox’d the article so I wouldn’t have to repeat the effort in the future. I re-read the article several times over the passing years, and I also shared it with friends and family, like you do when your fascination borders on obsession. At some point, I lost my copy of the article, but by then we were far enough into the Digital Age that I was able to find the article online. (I remember how amazed I was at the idea of someone putting archived magazine articles on the internet!)

Perhaps the medical mystery in question may not be as much of a mystery today as it was 20+ years ago. It’d been mysterious enough back then, though, that this surgeon encountered it for the first time and learned about it as he frantically worked with a team to save the young woman’s life (which they did). Even if the ailment is less of a mystery now, it’s still rare in western countries, I believe.

The ailment is not common in western countries, and that is why this surgeon and his medical team in New Haven didn’t know what they were dealing with when this patient landed on their table with her guts rapidly necrotizing.

I’ll now leave you to read this essay – “The Beast in the Belly” – for yourselves, if you’re so inclined. (I spent the morning at the hospital, and this story occupied my thoughts while I was there, in case you were wondering why the medical mystery came back to mind this time.)

Grab the beverage of your choice and enjoy!

 

When historical energy lingers. (Story-time!)

I don’t usually come at you with far-out stories, but I read something interesting the other day, and I had to share it. It’s kind of a weird story:

The first night Callaghan and I spent in this house, we both dreamed about Nazis.

We were both in each other’s dream, and our dreams were similarly, unusually detailed and eventful, marked by a sense of vivid awareness. “It was so real” – that kind of dream awareness.

Within minutes of waking up, we told each other what we’d dreamed. We woke up and said, “I dreamed about Nazis,” and then found out that the other one did, too, and not only that, but we were in each other’s dream, and the story-lines of our dreams overlapped.

Of course, we were kind of creeped-out to learn that we’d basically had the same dream. About Nazis.

In Callaghan’s dream, he and I were with a hundred other people engaged in some sort of battle at a Bavarian castle, and only 10 of us made it out alive. The Nazis, he said, were turning into actual demons.

My dream picked up where his left off, but it branched into another direction: the two of us were running through a horror camp outside of the castle, trying to find a way out, except we were already on the outside, and we were trying to find a way in.

Totally over-the-top, right? As in, the brain takes something random yet specific and drops it into LSD before releasing it into your dreams… that kind of over-the-top.

Totally over-the-top, totally out-of-the-blue. It wasn’t like we’d recently seen a movie or anything on T.V. about WWII, either.

So what could have caused us to both dream about Nazis? And why on our first night in this house – and only then?

Maybe, we speculated, a Nazi lived in this house at some point. The house was built in 1958; it was possible, though unlikely, we thought, that a German war criminal lived here in Tempe, Arizona.

This brings me to the weird part: The other day, I stumbled upon this bit of trivia on the “interesting facts” page of “things to do in Arizona” (last bullet point):

The largest escape from a U.S. Prisoner of War camp during WWII occurred in the Phoenix area at Papago Park POW camp. 25 German prisoners escaped.

Papago Park is a five-minute drive from our house.

Our house was built in 1958, 13 years after the war, but being in the vicinity of the POW camp, we’re thinking it is possible that a Nazi or two (or 25) made their way across this land. We’re thinking that it’s maybe more than likely, because we did both dream about Nazis the first night we spent in this house.

It’s just too uncanny. It seems to me that we picked up on some sort of residual historical energy that first night here.

[/storytime]

Anyway, apropos of nothing, here’s a gratuitous selfie I took for no reason at all except that I was outside (yesterday) and felt like taking pics:

 

(07 Feb selfie for no reason at all)

 

If you will, please admire that gorgeous fence behind me (on the left side of the pic), as Callaghan has worked hard building it! He just finished it. This weekend is going to be all about building a kick-ass tortoise burrow. I ordered two tons of dirt to be delivered tomorrow. Exciting times!

Phoenix Forgotten. (Failed non-review movie review!) (+PTSD diagnosis story)

We went to watch Phoenix Forgotten, which brought back the year of 1997.

As I sat there, it occurred to me for the first time that the beginning of my PTSD coincided with the Phoenix Lights.

[NOTE: The link function to open the linked page in a new window is down at the moment, so you’ll have to back-arrow to get back here]

 

 

Probably many of us living here in Phoenix metro in 1997 remember the lights that moved over the Valley in March. For me, 1997 was also eventful because it involved numerous doctors throughout the year. 1997 was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yes – six years post-main event.

I wasn’t in school in 1997. I was taking a year off, the year after college and before grad school. There were only two things on my agenda for 1997: write poems and train for my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I was also working.

So I was doing all of that, just minding my own business, like you do, and then, one night, I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. As soon as I closed my eyes, my heart jumped in and crashed the party, like, Hey! I’m here too! Whheeeeeee! Cannonball!!!… and I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was going to die of a cardiac event.

Then I was waking up. It was morning. What the hell just happened?

It happened again the next night, and the next and the next. It got to a point where I was too gun-shy to go bed. Going to bed had become a horrifying prospect, so every night, I put it off until I was passing-out tired. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the doctor sooner.

Eventually, I did go to the doctor, because I had an episode that was different than the others, and that was the proverbial last straw.

In that episode, I was trapped in another dimension and I was going to die for sure. Somewhere between awake and sleep, something happened. If I was completely asleep, it would’ve been a nightmare. Whatever this was, it was psychedelic and real, like, 3D real… and that was on top of the physical Armageddon that was my new normal. After I survived that night, I finally went to the doctor.

*****

1997 became a year of medical mystery. I went back and forth between different internists and specialists, cardiology and gastroenterology and cardiology again, everyone referring me to everyone else. I was deemed healthy – good news! – but I was still having these ridiculous episodes.

Then my baffled first internist started asking me questions about my background. When it came out that I was a combat vet, she referred me to a shrink. The shrink explained that panic attacks mimic heart conditions and other physical issues, which was why no one thought of the PTSD possibility.

He explained that the first episode was a panic attack. After it recurred nightly for a period of time, it became a panic disorder (PTSD, in my case). And the next-level attacks, he said, were “night terrors.”

Why did it take so long for the PTSD to manifest? He said it wasn’t unusual for vets to come home fine and then experience a trigger years later. The trigger could be anything, he said. So what was my trigger? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

All we know is that my PTSD was triggered by something in the spring of 1997. Coincidentally, I’m sure, the Phoenix Lights also happened in the spring of 1997.

*****

I sat in the movie theater remembering and pondering all of this, and that is how my non-review movie review became a post about my PTSD diagnosis.

I can’t be objective about this movie, but I can say that in my opinion, it wasn’t bad.

Phoenix Forgotten begins on a robust note, then bleeds out into the Found Footage horror movie sub-genre. In my experience, Found Footage movies made after the first Blair Witch Project are doomed to the basement where Bad Horror Flicks live. I often really enjoy Bad Horror Flicks, but I can’t even say whether this movie was bad enough to qualify as that bad.

If you’re intrigued by the Phoenix Lights and/or you’re a fan of Found Footage horror movies, you may dig this one.

 

 

A little levity, literally. (Height doesn’t work that way!)

If we’re friends on Facebook, you might already know that I went to the doctor recently and found out that I’d lost over an inch in height. Almost two inches, actually.

My whole worldview was shattered.

I’d gone to my mid-day appointment and stepped onto the height-measuring apparatus without thinking about it, because I had no reason to. There was no suspense. My height’s never changed: I’m 65 inches tall. That’s 5′,5″.

But the guy in the blue scrubs said, “Looks like you’re 5′,3″ and just about…” He looked closer at the number lines. “A quarter.”

I shook my head in surprise. “No, I’m 5′,5″.”

“Sorry. It says 5′,3” and a maybe a quarter.”

“There must be something wrong with it,” I said, referring to the apparatus. “I’ve always been 5′,5″.”

He chuckled. “Okay. Here… let’s try it one more time.”

I stepped onto the apparatus again (is there a name for that thing?) and stood as tall as I could.

“Five three and a quarter,” he said. “For sure.”

I thought, This is fake news. 

“Everyone loses height as they age, I’m afraid,” he said, still grinning and chuckling.

I stalked after him to the examination room. His cheerfulness was out of line. It could be that his height-measuring apparatus needed to be recalibrated, but he wasn’t questioning it!

I thought, how could I lose almost two inches?  I was measured at the V.A. – where I usually go – just weeks ago, and their result was the same as always: 65 inches. 5′,5″.

It wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it was wrong.

Later, a friend told me on Facebook that most people tend to measure, on average, half an inch shorter during the day, then spring back to their normal height overnight while they sleep. My appointment had been in the middle of the day, so I thought, that could be it. But still! Almost two inches?

I asked Callaghan to measure me first thing the morning. The result was exactly 65 inches, as it should be. Ha! Then he measured me again in the afternoon, and GUESS WHAT. Still 65 inches. Ha! Ha! Not only am I 65 inches tall, but I’m 65 inches tall all day. My driver’s license is still correct: 5′-05″.

 

65 inches.

 

“His apparatus does need to be recalibrated,” I said to Callaghan. I was annoyed. “The guy was totally condescending. He didn’t even consider that his equipment might be faulty. He probably just thought, ‘She’s old, so she’s shrinking, and I’m young, and I’m wearing blue scrubs, so I’m right, and I’m not going to listen to her, ha ha ha’.”

How would this be characterized in the parlance of our times? Did he mansplain my own height to me, or did he youngsplain it? (If he -splained anything by way of not questioning the apparatus.)

“It’s true, two inches is too big of a difference, especially all at once. It doesn’t matter anyway, though,” Callaghan said. “He’s going to die of a moltnoma!!”

“What’s a moltnoma?”

“I can’t believe you still don’t know what a moltnoma is. Over the last seven years you’ve asked me five times what is a moltnoma, and you never remember it when I say that someone will die of it.”

“I don’t know why I can’t remember it. So what is a moltnoma?”

“It’s a county in Portland, Oregon.”

Typical Callaghan.

“…when I was working in California, we worked with this person who lived in Portland,” he explained. “And then I learned that the county was “moltnoma.” That’s where Portland is.”

I was already cracking up when he concluded, “So I was like, it sounds like a disease like “melanoma” so now I just say that someone will die of a moltnoma as a general cause of death.”

I looked it up. “Multnomah County.” Cool.

Anyway, I’m going back to that doctor on Wednesday, and I’m going to inform the guy in the blue scrubs that his machine is off. People probably do shrink a little over time as they age, but I’m not there yet, and I’m probably not going to lose almost two inches all at once, either. Ha.