Thursday, June 25, 2009

hero worship vs. celebrity worship

Let's note from the start that I plan completely to avoid any religious discussion in this post and am using the word "worship" to mean "extreme interest, adulation, etc."

The media frenzy over Michael Jackson is bugging me. I am a member of the original MTV generation, as in, I remember when it debuted and when it still actually played music videos. I was in high school when the frenzy over "Thriller" and all that was going on. I was a sophomore in college when he set his hair on fire shooting a Pepsi commercial. I mean, let's face it, the dude had been weird for a solid 25 years. Whatever you may think of his music -- and I can take or leave it, honestly -- he's going to be remembered more for the weirdness than the tunes. Which is sad.

The last .... whatever you call this outpouring of what, grief? from people who never laid eyes on the famous person -- that I remember being this bad was over Princess Diana. Didn't understand that one either. Definitely didn't understand why Mother Teresa, who died around the same time, and who devoted her life to society's outcasts, didn't get 1/10th the press of a pretty young thing in need of significant amounts of therapy. But I digress.

I wanted to reach through the screen this afternoon and kiss the guy who directed a MJ documentary. He told Keith Olbermann that he really didn't get celebrity worship and didn't believe in it. Me either. Is it the fantasy aspect? Am I just too practical? Because really, I would trade one abnormally attractive person without two brain cells to rub together for 100 bridge trolls with brains and a sense of humor. (It could be my self-concept that's coloring that, I suppose, and Bob DeFeo, if you're out there somewhere reading this, I have never forgotten what you said about me in 10th grade biology, you son of a bitch. But that's a whole other post.) I appreciate reality, and not "reality." The vacuous and juvenile sorts who end up on shows like The Bachelor (BARF) aren't real; nor are they interesting. Attention whores? You bet. Insecure? Absolutely. But not interesting.

So what exactly fascinates people about them, then? I wouldn't be famous for all the tea in China. People have told me for decades that I need to "tell my story." I have responded for decades that I will never write an autobiography because 1, nobody gives a shit, and 2, I am so uninterested in spilling my guts to the planet that my interest is clear off the negative end of the scale. There are people I will tell one-on-one, if the situation -- mine or theirs -- warrants it. Otherwise, therapists exist for a reason. I don't need to write a book to unburden myself and I don't want the attention that comes with it. My fantasies involve things like getting a job that makes me enough money to pay all my bills in full every month. I don't understand the sorts who need to be the center of 6 billion people's attention.

Hero worship, OTOH, is entirely different. Celebrities get worshipped for being attractive and only occasionally for being talented. Heroes are something else again. Heroes DESERVE adulation. Funnily enough, though, they'll usually shy from it.

The definition of "heroes" varies for everyone, I guess, but my heroes are people who live their lives with integrity, stand up for what they believe in, no matter how unpopular they might become for it, and treat ALL people with the respect they earn simply by virtue of being human. All people, from the richest person in the world to the starving leper in a gutter in India, automatically earn basic dignity. Some earn more through good words and deeds; some earn less through bad ones. But some of it is a simple birthright. And most of the time, you never hear about the real heroes. I suppose they have the satisfaction of knowing their lives have been well lived. What do you suppose the people who are worshipped for their looks or their money or their talent do when whatever makes them special disappears? It's got to leave a huge void.

I dunno. I don't get the whole celebrity thing. I don't know how "entertainment" reporters are able to sleep at night (I'm lookin' at YOU, employees of TMZ and Entertainment Tonight and the like). I don't know why something like the death of someone who sang a few songs -- which is a talent zillions of people have, you know -- overshadows "minor details" (sarcasm alert) like genocide and bombing innocent people to death and the inability of the richest country in the world to ensure that every one of its citizens can afford good health care. In a nutshell -- WTF, world?

Duncan Sheik, Earthbound Starlight

What are you looking at, what do you see?
Is it the truth or a strange fantasy?
Whenever you're watching
You're changing the scene
Time is a place, this place is a song
Where mothers are distant and fathers are gone
He too may be watching but he's not letting on

Can't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
Even though he might
And she can't kiss your cheek
As the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
Days, nights, wrongs, rights, earthbound starlight

Hey, are you listening?
What is the sound of things that you lose that you never have found?
You're finding the way
Or turning around
Dancer with destiny
Tempter of fate
The life that you lived is only a taste
Sometimes the sweetest is the time that you waste

I won't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
'Cause sometimes that's the lie
Even if she kissed your cheek
Still the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
Steal your heart
Life is hard
Never easy, believe me

Need no more questions
Maybes are mights
Darkness descends, run out of light
When you go blind
You get second sight
The deeper you dive
The greater the heights

So don't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
Life is hard
It's a fight
Even if she kissed your cheek
Still the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
As the days become weeks
No remind
No repeats
Days, nights, wrongs, rights, earthbound starlight

Now playing: Duncan Sheik - Earthbound Starlight
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

lessons learned, and learned, and learned...till next time....

Periodically, I get really hard on myself for being what I consider a pretty significant failure. At the very least, at 44, I am nowhere near where I assumed I'd be when I was 18-22. (I know, I know, who is, right?)

I look at high school friends who became doctors and lawyers and investment bankers. I look at college friends who have won Pulitzers or now work for national media outlets like ESPN (true in both cases). I look at my buddy Gregory (hi Mr. G, I know you read this :-), who decided what he wanted to do in high school and went straight through and did it, "it" involving the also-lengthy process of earning a doctorate -- I assure you, grad school is no picnic -- so that he could share his wonderfully compassionate and loving self with people in desperate need of same. And then I look at myself, and I feel like shit, because WOWZA did my life ever take some serious detours. Some of them have turned out to be wonderful and some have turned out to be disastrous, but in the end, I'm still at least a decade behind my peers, and I feel it acutely. But then I get reminded that you never really know what other people are contending with, no matter how good it looks for them on the outside.

There was this guy in high school who had friggin' EVERYTHING. He was totally gorgeous (and in fact made a fortune modeling while still in his teens), popular, etc, and the best part was that he not only didn't treat the outcasts like me like shit but had a genuine smile and kind word for all. I mean, I not only wasn't in his league, I wasn't even on the same planet. Most guys (and definitely most girls!) who had all that didn't know the people like me existed, or managed to stare right through me, if they saw me at all. But Bryan was always really nice to me.

Today I found out a bit of what became of him. The looks disappeared, I hear, which, you know, they generally do that. It's just a matter of earlier or later. The much, much sadder part was that he wound up doing prison time for aggravated assault, along with other stuff.

Whoda guessed? Not me. So I looked up the online court records. At one point he was found incompetent to stand trial, which means a bunch of shrinks found credible evidence of serious mental illness. He eventually took a deal that involved him pleading guilty to assorted charges.

A couple of years ago, someone else in kind of the same position -- cute, exceptionally kind, seemed to have it all -- also ended up in some seriously hot water. Difference is that this was someone I had been very close to for years. It blew me away to find out what had allegedly happened; to find out that his perfect life of overachievement actually wasn't all that perfect. His case *did* go to trial, and thankfully, he was acquitted on all counts and is rebuilding his life and his reputation. But to be slapped in the face with the reality that, even through all the problems he tried to help me with, he had his own, was difficult.

I skipped all my high school reunions for one reason or another. (The only valid excuse was for the 5th-year one, when I was 9 months pregnant and living in another state :-). At the 10-year, I had a crappy job and no degree as yet and couldn't face showing up and seeing how well everyone else was doing, looking at endless pictures of happy families, etc. At the 15-year, I was so disgusted with the way I look that I couldn't bear to show up and face what I was sure would be pointing and laughing behind my back. At the 20-year, I finally had a respectable job and education and was starting to make something of my life, but decided it was kind of pointless by then, as I hadn't been to any of the others.

By the 25th, we were all on Facebook and there was no reason to have an actual reunion. ;-) And guess what I found out? Most of us have a few (or many multiples of a few) extra pounds. Many of the guys I last saw with thick heads of hair no longer have same. Almost all of us have had some sort of trauma -- bad relationships, ugly divorces, kids with critical health issues, trouble with aging parents, etc etc etc. In other words -- even the people who looked like they were on an arrow-straight trajectory for perfect lives? They missed.

I long ago lost count of all the times I've been told how futile it is to compare myself to others. I wonder when I'll learn.

Now playing: The Beat - The Limits We Set
via FoxyTunes

life, death, and perspective.

So I spent 2 hours in the "community psychiatry and psychology" clinic at Mayo this morning for an intake appointment. I mentioned to Dr. Doogie that it would just be easier, even though I love my pdoc in Eau Claire, not to have to drive 2 hours to see him, so he gave me a referral.

Turns out that Dr. Doogie, being new, didn't know that this particular clinic only does "short-term" care. Which means I spent all that time filling out forms and retelling my history (which they had, via electronic medical records, since my pdoc in EC is Mayo-affiliated) just to be told, "yeah, well, we'll refer you to the resident outpatient clinic. They'll call you sometime. Oh, and you want a therapist? Great. Here's a bunch of them -- OUTSIDE MAYO." (Because, you know, who needs continuity of care or anything? Wouldn't it make sense to keep all the medical types in the same system?)

"Resident outpatient clinic" doesn't mean it's for folks who live in Rochester, it means it's staffed by 3rd-year psych residents. They leave. Every year. So, no continuity of care there either.

So, already peeved, I head off to another Clinic building (essentially in Siberia, from the one I was leaving -- quite a hike) to get my blood thinner level checked. After another 20-minute-past-the-appointment-time wait, I get called back, walk in, and see the damn CoaguChek. They run on the same principle as diabetic glucose meters. They also are proven to be wildly inaccurate on people with APS (my clotting disorder).

I mention that to the nurse. She, nor any of her nurse buddies, had ever heard that. My INR came back at 1.5, which basically means I am no more anticoagulated than someone who doesn't take Coumadin.

Nurse Karen calls Dr. Doogie, who says it's OK with him if I go down to the lab for a blood draw for comparison. So now I'm waiting for the results of that.

Cranky and starving, I stop by the vending machines near the lab (healthy snacks only, natch) for a small bag of trail mix. Mayo being a place that sees a lot of really, really sick and elderly people, there are places to sit where you wouldn't find them elsewhere. I plopped down on a nice padded bench right by the machines to have my snack.

As I'm sitting there, eating and stewing about my wasted morning, medical professionals who really ought to know more than their patients, etc, 3 little boys, clearly brothers, come barreling around the corner. The two older ones -- 6 and 8, maybe -- start wrestling. The little one, who was 2 at the most, walks straight up to me, wordlessly, and sticks his hand out and waits.

Well! How does one refuse a cute little kid? I shook out a little of the trail mix into my hand. He picked out a raisin and went merrily on his way, without a word, leaving his brothers in his dust.

That worked temporarily, but by the time I was halfway to the parking garage I was annoyed again. There's a piano in the lobby of the Gonda Building, which is pretty much the point of entry for anywhere else in the Mayo complex (it's all connected by indoor subways). I looked at the scene unfolding there and started grumbling about cliches, because it really did look like one -- the beautiful, young blonde maiden, fashionably dressed, with her teacher, the old maid with the ponytail and the way-oversized glasses, accompanying her.

Then, she opened her mouth.

The first thing she tried was kind of operatic, and while she had the voice for it, she abandoned it pretty quickly after noticing what her audience had become -- largely old people, but some in really bad shape -- wheelchairs, oxygen, prostheses, whatever. She started in on some oldies but goodies and I watched as the old folks, especially, started singing along. Her first one was "Someone To Watch Over Me," which is particularly poignant, given the setting. When she started into "I'll Be Seeing You" and the woman in the wheelchair by the piano got this dreamy look in her eyes and started to sing along, I left -- because I'll be damned if I'm going to bust out sobbing in the middle of the frigging Gonda Building.

That's the thing about Mayo: you get people from all over the world, different cultures, languages, and life stages coming through its doors. In about half an hour today I ran the gamut from toddler to young adult to aged -- and no matter what had brought them there, they all taught me a little something about life, and sharing. And perspective.

Ol' Blue Eyes

I'll be seeing you
In all the old, familiar places;
That this heart of mine embraces;
All day through.

In that small cafe;
The park across the way;
The children's carousel;
The chestnut tree;
The wishing well.

I'll be seeing you;
In every lovely summer's day;
And everything that's bright and gay;
I'll always think of you that way;
I'll find you in the morning sun;
And when the night is new;
I'll be looking at the moon;
But I'll be seeing you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

preserve your memories....

...they're all that's left you.

"old friends"

I have been having absolutely hideous attacks of severe melancholia lately. I suppose it's all to be expected for my life stage and such, but that doesn't make it easier to take. I blame Facebook. ;-)

Seriously, reconnecting with folks who, for the most part, I've not seen since high school in 1980-something has been wonderful, but saddish. Nobody gets out of life unscathed, of course, but I do wish it were possible to get through it without getting overly battered, bruised and otherwise wounded.

I started thinking last night about all the "me's" that have been "me" in my lifetime. I can sort of vaguely recall being a bouncy, fearless little kid. Then I hit 12-13 and it all went to hell.

So here's what I've come up with, more or less in order:

-- happy me
-- brutal teenage depression/angst me
-- wild child me ('swhat happens when a repressed Catholic girl raised on guilt gets away from home for the first time ;-)
-- Lost-and-drifting me
-- Motivated to finally finish school and get a job doing what I'd always wanted me
-- Academic achiever me (bolstered by the ed psych who finally believed me and apologized for all the other educators who hadn't from ages 5-31)
-- Starting off 10 years behind but at least I have a decent job finally me (aka professional me)
-- Onward and upward me (with interruptions for serious illness, both physical and emotional)
-- Older, wiser, sadder me having to figure out all over again what's next and what matters

What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil....?

For the record, here's the lyrics to the song:

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city
Sifting through trees
Settles like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear...

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; they're all that's left you

horror movie ideas

If there are any aspiring scriptwriters out there, I grant you permission to freely steal these ideas. :-)

Every time I go through an automatic car wash, I sit there and think what a terrific scene that would be in a horror movie: Some nubile young wench trapped in her car, unable to stop the onslaught of the approaching robots who dump so much soap on the car she can't see out the windshield ... those funky things that look giant vertical blinds attacking ... a blood-curdling scream, and then the car is rinsed to reveal .... ??

Yeah, I'm weird. So sue me. :-p

Today I had an experience that convinced me once and for all to create another horror movie (or scene within), one I live all too often: Some poor schlub (has to be middle-aged or elderly, because young adults still have functioning, non-overloaded brain cells) drives into a multi-level parking garage, doomed to drive in endless half-circles, looking for the exit. Kind of like the Eagles' "Hotel California" set to film -- "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Now playing: Elliott Smith - Let's Get Lost
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

seen and heard

-- A friend and I have a hobby (compulsion? fetish?) that involves trading instances we spot of truly bizarre names. It generally also involves a discussion of what that person's parents were thinking/toking/snorting/drinking/etc to come up with said name.

Today I met a very nice woman whose first name is -- I kid you not -- Lo Jean. Pronounced like it looks, spelled just that way.

Perhaps I have spent too much of my adult life in or near da hood, but the first thing I thought of was "lo jack" -- those homing devices to keep said hoodrats from stealing your ride. (I once chased one across 3 lanes of traffic on 12th and State, the heart of cracktown in downtown Milwaukee, for a car that totally wasn't worth saving, but that's a story for another time.)

-- Lo Jean is a nurse for a very nice doctor who is, I believe, roughly 11 years old. Things like this always get me because, for such a long time, people always thought I was older than I was. (My late BIL's best friend tried to pick me up at BIL and sis's wedding reception -- at which I was 13 -- because he thought I was 19, but that too is a story for another time.)

Then for a while, people always thought I was younger than I was. One of my fondest memories is of a convenience store clerk carding me at age 36 and then going on and on about how there is NO. WAY. I really could have been 36. (Alas, those days are gone, perhaps until I start coloring my hair again, anyway.)

And now, irretrievably middle-aged, I look at the young pups like this resident, who I'm guessing (realistically now) probably isn't 30 yet ... and DAMN I feel old. Also a little depressed because he's already achieved a helluva lot more than I ever will, but that is an old whine NOT for another time. (I need to get over it already.)

-- While I was waiting for Dr. Doogie, I had nothing better to do than read the posters on the wall. One of them was provided courtesy of the "Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Foundation."

I suspect Ms. Lips or her parents or husband or whoever shaved some syllables off that name (I'm lookin' at YOU, Bernie MiklaszEWSKI of the Post-Dispatch), but how much worse could the original have been? You gotta hope she came into it as an adult, because kids would be absolutely horrible with that and scar her for life.

-- Wigger overheard this afternoon while I was attempting to eat lunch:

"Yeah, that's my word for the day, reh-TEE-cent. I gotta use it in a sentence."

Wigger 2: "reh-TEE-cent? What the hell is that?"

Wigger 1: "I dunno, man. I think it means, like, hesitant."

Why yes, he DID mean "reticent." Which native English speakers with two brain cells to rub together pronounce "REH-tih-cent."

BTW, for those on the East Coast, wiggers are a variant of guidos, but without the 14 layers of orange spray tan and the 4 popped collars.

-- Sign outside Great Harvest Bread Co: "Every day is a challah day here!" :-) (I had to close on a nice bit of intelligent wordplay. :-)

Now playing: Ingrid Michaelson - The Chain [Live from Webster Hall]
via FoxyTunes

Monday, June 1, 2009

random thoughts from a cluttered mind....

-- I've been thinking about names lately, particularly as they relate to assumptions that turn out to be false.

1) I recently met someone who has the most Irish name in the world and yet clearly is Laotian or Thai. To see her nameplate on the door and then see her walk out of her office was a surprise. :-)

2) I once had a student named Bradley Richter. One would expect, especially having been in Milwaukee, a nice, blue-eyed, blond-haired German boy. As I was looking over my class list before the first day, I wondered if he were related to another former student of mine with the same last name (who was indeed blond, blue-eyed, etc).

Bradley Richter turned out to be an absolutely flamboyantly gay Asian nerdboy.

Life is like a box of chocolates, as Forrest's mama said: Never know what you're gonna get. Good to keep that in mind.

-- Is there a group of people on this earth who have bigger egos than MDs with Napoleon complexes?

I gotta cut this guy some slack, because for one, he saw me for free, and for two, when I told him I had the one clotting disorder no one's ever heard of and gave him the name, he said, "Really? Everybody's heard of that!" Which, I assure you, is news to me and my fellow APSers. But boy, give a short guy (I am 5'4" and he was shorter than me) an advanced education and you have the perfect recipe for smug.

-- Weirdness: A freight train -- not an El or a light rail car, but a freight train -- running on tracks that cut across a major downtown artery.

-- Tics, verbal or written: Every frigging time I edit one, I remember an associate pastor we had at St. Blaise (which no longer exists, sadly). Fr. Rich was an OK homilist, but by the time you'd heard a few, you could write them because they were so formulaic. I will never forget the line that signaled his impending conclusion: "Maybe that's the challenge for us today."

I deal with one writer who quotes the same effing Leonard Cohen line every effing chance she gets, and am tempted to send her a "best of" CD so she has exposure to more of his stuff. I have one who ends every other sentence with a question mark instead of a period. And I'm on an apparently futile mission to end the world of the construction "it was, well, irrelevant." UGH.

I wonder how people get on these kicks. I just haven't figured out a way to get them off them.

-- I wonder too, as long as I'm ranting about language, how people who haven't heard English before and don't understand it think it sounds. I mean, face it, German is an ugly language to hear and a difficult one to write, since they're prone to stringing 5 nouns together to make one word. But in the "broke and uninsured" medical clinic the Mayo Clinic runs, and where I was tonight, Spanish was pedestrian. Hmong I'm used to, living where I do. And then there were two African folks whose language I could not begin to figure out. But it sounded really weird to my foreign ears. (I dug the Eddie Murphy, "Coming to America" dress of the guy, though -- complete with cream-colored, faux-alligator shoes. Stylin'. :-)

Lest anyone jump my shit for being un-PC, all I'm saying is that's one interesting waiting room to be stuck in for 2 to 4 hours every few weeks.

-- And, to complete the language-bitching trifecta on an amusing-slash-kinda-depressing note, herewith the note at the top of my patient information leaflet for one of my meds:

Take one tablet on the first day and take one and one-half tablets on the second day alternating in this mannor

Mayo Clinic, folks. Let's give 'em a hand for demonstrating that English is irretrievably in the toilet (or at least proofreading is).
Now playing: Billy Bragg - At My Window Sad and Lonely
via FoxyTunes