Sunday, December 28, 2008

On a Lighter Note...

On IMDB, there is a page for a 2009 movie of Atlas Shrugged, the fantastic novel by Ayn Rand. There is a lively discussion going on, where fans have listed which actors they would like to see in the roles. I have to agree with them - here are some of their picks:

Dagny Taggart: Cate Blanchett
Hank Rearden: Jon Hamm
Lilian Rearden: Julianne Moore
Francisco D'Anconia: Antonio Banderas
Cheryl Brooks-Taggart: Amy Adams (If she makes it into the movie)
James Taggart: Kevin Spacey
Hugh Akston: Michael Caine
Ellis Wyatt: Joaquin Phoenix

I myself would like to see Greg Grunberg as Eddie, and Cary Elwes as Ragnar Danneskold - assuming, of course, that Daniel Craig won't be available. (I'll bet Craig would LOVE that role!)

And I agree with posters that John Galt should be played by an unknown.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thanks Pua!

Thanks Pua!
Originally uploaded by MzOuiser
I couldn't believe it when Pua said she wanted to knit me a scarf. She expresses love with her needles and yarn. I've seen her work and it's beautiful, makes me want to learn to knit!

Pua and I have been blogging for several years, and gone through some ups and downs together, even though we are an entire country apart. This is the greatest gift of blogging - of the internet, really - the wonderful people who have come into my life, sharing each others stories, lending supportive words, ready with a laugh or a virtual hug.

I never do anything just because it's a fad.

After being on hiatus for a year, I'm one of many on the internet that is thrilled to read Pua's postings again. You see Pua? We were all here when you decided to come back. You matter to us!

Thanks again for your wonderful gift!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

After what seemed like weeks of overcast, rainy days, the sun finally shone. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, just endless miles of blue and crip, clear air. I filled my lungs over and over and thought of nothing but the moment, the clean, fresh air, the bright sunshine, the relative warmth of forty-ish degrees celsius during Christmas season.

The Metro-North was fast. I stepped off the train and walked through Grand Central behind a model. In flat converse sneakers, she towered over everyone, easily 6 feet tall and thin. I couldn't see her face, but her hair was incredible, thick and glowing with health, a too-perfect shade of light red. Something in me wanted to meet her, make friends, but it's been a long time since I was that spontaneous. And I felt the thickness of my 37-year old body acutely, my short squat self who stood barely to her shoulder.

The minute we emerged into the main hall of Grand Central Station, I forgot she existed.

I met Piano Man for lunch. He lives in my old neighborhood, at 102nd and Broadway. Everytime I go there I feel calm. We had lunch at Cafe Du Soleil, a french bistro that opened when I was still living there. We were among their first customers, and they never disappoint.

PM is pretty distinctive-looking. He's almost six feet tall, very pale, and what's left of his hair is still the same soft strawberry blonde it's always been. He has striking blue eyes, and wears black leather New Balance sneakers virtually everywhere, although he doesn't own a pair of jeans. He also doesn't have a cell phone, a computer, a DVD player or cable TV.

The center of his life is his music, and dominating his studio apartment is his steinway upright, a modest instrument, with an incredibly comfortable leather padded seat. There are stacks and stacks of music piled high on the piano, and sometimes everywhere else. A few years ago he had a cabinet custom-designed to hold all his sheet music, which helps. His apartment is his music studio... or really, it's the other way around.

He and I talked incessantly for two hours. Somehow I devoured an omelet with spinach and fine herbs, and some salad. A cup of earl grey managed to disappear as well, but all I really remember is talking about the recession, his 401k, my consistent underemployment, gossiping about mutual friends, and the value of friendship in general. I teased the gorgeous french waiters, and PM rolled his eyes. He asked if he could get a cable box at radio shack, and I rolled my eyes.

I had a Karaoke date with Dave at two. Dave was my Man-of-Honor, and one of my oldest and very best friends. We meet for Karaoke all the time, and I often oversing, which I really should be more careful about. This time I was meeting him at this place near Union Square. It's been years since I went to Union Square! I got turned around walking in the wrong direction, and wound up almost a half hour late, but I found the place.

Dave had Christmas gifts for me, a bunch of EsteƩ Lauder stuff, which he always gives me since he works for the company and is drowning in product. Which makes me one incredibly lucky hag. I still buy from him, and probably spend more than I should, but I've got more new makeup now than I think I've ever had. I've been wearing it to work a lot, which is new for me, and frankly, a lot of fun. I feel glamorous and new - not young, just new. I'm getting better at using the stuff, from all the practice. I experiment with colors, blues and greens and purples, Eyeliner or no, less mascara or more, depending on my mood and what I'm wearing.

I used to say I only wore makeup when I was feeling bad about myself, and that was, for the most part, true. Now I wear it for fun, and because I feel I deserve some glamour. I love this change in my attitude.

Dave wanted me to sing "Buenos Aires" from Evita. I managed to pull it off, and with flare. I was in the children's chorus of that musical when I was eleven, and during the course of that show, I learned all of Eva's role, every word, every note. Over the years, I've forgotten much of it, so I was pretty nervous now that I'm asked to sing it, but with the lyrics in front of me, it all came back. Something in me burned hotly with the realization that I'm getting too old to play Eva. It would have been a perfect role for me, if I'd ever had the opportunity. I get furious sometimes, that my life has flown past me in the blink of an eye. I'm too old for most of my dream roles. Recently I've gotten just a little too fat. And I certainly don't have the dance abilities I once did. But my voice is intact, and in some ways better than ever. So I ran with it. And it felt amazing.

Listening to my friends sing, I managed to release my rage, and my sadness. I sipped my water and lost myself in the moment... and moved on.

I called Ameleh to see if she wanted to come into the city to see a movie with me, but she demurred, too comfy in her pajamas on her couch in Peekskill after a long season of hard work at her high-stress job. So I hit up PM again, and we met at Lincoln Square. I finally got someone to see Quantum of Solace with me.

Most people don't know I'm a Bond Fan. PM bought me a book called "The Man Who Saved Britain", which I haven't gotten around to reading yet but I'm planning to read on vacation in a couple of weeks. I've seen almost all the films, mostly on TV, but most since the early 90's in the theatres.

The problem with Bond is people have ridiculously high expectations. None of my friends, not even G, really wanted to see Quantum of Solace with me because the reviewers didn't like it. this always pisses me off. I have this problem with a lot of movies, my friends and family decide what to see based on reviewers. I NEVER do. I seldom agree with the reviewers, so screw them. The problem is, I wind up never going at all, because everyone would rather do something else, and there's only so many evenings in a week. Next thing I know a year has gone by.

So this time I bought the tickets, PM came with me, and we had a grand time watching things blow up and drooling over gorgeous people in various states of undress. I think I know why people don't like the film though. He never ordered the martini, and there were no gadgets, so no trip though Q's laboratory. The famous theme song has been relegated to the closing credits. It looks like they are trying to change something familiar, something we rely on seeing with each new film, that never disappoints. I disagree - I don't think they are changing anything. I think those elements will return. But I can see how people would be disappointed.

There were also a lot of bits in the film that were throwbacks to other films. I can see people deriding this as copying, or being unimaginative or lame, but I liked it. I saw it as a tip of the hat to us long-time fans, an attempt to make us feel special, and included. I think this film was a love letter to Bond fans. It wasn't what we were expecting, but I appreciated it. I don't get many love letters these days.

On my way back to Tarrytown, I slept.

G met my train, and I hopped in the car, excited as usual, and we chatted about Bond the whole way home. We talked about the stronger heroines in recent films, the good girl/bad girl dynamic, and the innocent victims of the Connery days, nice girls who would up dead. Casino Royale had a good girl who also was a bad girl, who wound up dead - a combination of all three. This film had a girl who you couldn't tell was good or bad for awhile, and another girl who was the classic Connery-era innocent - a pretty thing named Strawberry Fields, who had no idea what she was getting herself into. After an undoubtedly superb roll in 100-thread count sheets, she wound up dead.

My favorite quotes come from the bad girls. Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp: "I had to ventilate someone." Barbara Carerra: as Fatima Blush "WRITE IT DOWN!" Sophie Marceau as Elektra King: "What's the point of living if you never feel alive?" Even Grace Jones as Mayday: "What is there to say?" They always seem to know just what to say. They're clever.

This morning, I slept until 11:00. I have so much on my plate this week, I'm overbooked with wonderful things to do. G is afraid I'll make myself sick. I have done that in the past. But I don't want to miss anything. I'm going to our company's christmas party - one of my work friends is bringing me as his date. I'm going to a concert that my neighbor is playing. I'm working the whole week. And I'm supposed to bake cookies to give to various local persons as a Christmas gift - the guys who fix our cars, the guy I rent my parking space from, the girls at our Veterinary clinic, etc. Oh, and I still haven't done my Holiday cards.

I'll get it done.

I feel healthy.

This is normally the darkest part of the year, but right now it's sunny and bright, and not very cold out. I know that the worst weather usually comes after the holidays. There's always blizzards in February, and March and April are grey and wet and depressing. And I know that I'm still working on managing my depression, and that my expectations are never on target for pretty much anything these days.

I'm taking a lot of deep breaths these days. Reminding myself that the past is the past, and there is still a lot of future ahead of me, but the best part is now. Just being in the now. Sitting here, the sun streaming in the windows, my cat sleeping peacefully, my husband showering out the bits of hair after getting a trim.

Ameleh is preparing to move into her very first Manhattan apartment. Dave is at work, making women feel beautiful. Kristin and Lisa are with their families. My parents are working. Donna is watching the Bears game.

2009 is coming. What will I do with it?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Smilin' Ouiser Gloats over the Rotting Corpse of her Fear

Sorry... I've been playing violent board games.

I've written in the past about my fear of dental work, which is really a fear of medical procedures in general, especially my phobia of needles. I also wrote about overcoming that fear, and having eight cavities filled in two visits, not to mention a smidgen of cosmetic dentistry. It was a pretty amazing experience... but it was two years ago.

Yesterday, I had a gum graft, over just one molar, in the back on the left. Just for that one tooth, the gum had receded so far that I basically had none. I've been living with it for years, and it's never caused me any real discomfort, but it was sort of a time bomb. The wrong bacteria could so easily get in there, and cause serious infectious problems. So, I had to have a skin graft.

And no, all you gen-Xers out there, this was not caused by brushing too hard. This is something that just happens to certain people. It's not because I didn't floss for awhile. They don't know exactly what causes it. And you know what? I don't really care.

'Cause mine's fixed now. And it didn't even hurt.

Sadly, I do still have to deal with my fear. I had a consult with the periodontist a month or so ago, during which I explained to him that I am basically a phobic, crying, nutjob. My brain knows exactly what's going to happen, and it doesn't matter. I'm even quite fascinated by the medical science behind it all, and I think the teeny scalpels and circular needles are totally cool. But the minute I see that novocaine injector, I'm going to freak out. It's not rational, and I'm working it, but it's going to happen. I will probably cry. I may shrivel into the chair, and tremble, even as I'm muttering it's ok, I can do this and opening my jaws wide.

The good doctor was completely unfazed. "I need to know how you will react to me," I told him, somewhat sheepishly, but determined to be understood, and respected. "In the past, professionals have not handled me well, and that's why this has gone untreated for so long. How are you going to handle me?"

The doctor sat down next to me, and said all the right things. He wants this to be a positive experience for me. He scheduled me 2.5 hours for a 30-minute procedure. He prescribed me Xanax, so I could get a good night's sleep the night before, and said it was ok to take one in the morning if I was still really scared. He reassured me that my comfort and happiness was his priority.

This guy was recommended to me by the brilliant dentist who filled my cavities in 2005, and I trusted him... so I decided to trust this gentle, polite periodontist who cracks jokes like they are going out of style.

He took a long, long time to numb me. He did this slowly, in tiny injections, instead of pushing a lot of fluid in quickly. I honestly did not feel them. There was one in the upper palate - a VERY sensitive area - that felt like the tiniest of mosquito bites, but then it was over. He'd give me two mini-shots, and then chat with me about living upstate. Then two more mini-shots, and more banter. and this continued while we watched NY1 in the background. Sassy Pat Kiernan read me the papers, and I got another mini-shot. Some joking about overpriced restaurants in Piermont, another mini-shot.

Next thing I know, it's scalpel time, and I'm laughing at the doctor and his assistant while they crack jokes over me.

My appointment was at 8:00. The whole thing was over before 9:30. When they were finished, they put these weird rubber band-aids over my surgical wounds. I have two small rubber band-aid thingys inside my mouth. This is some weird-feelin' shit. They'll be here until next Monday, when I go back to have the stitches removed. Meanwhile, the one on my gumline is thick, so my left jaw looks like Marlon Brando. Oh well. I'll live with it.

The hardest part was after the surgery. For the rest of the day yesterday, I was in recovery. Since the inside of your mouth bleeds freely and easily, I was instructed not to engage in any physical activity for the day. I had to keep my blood pressure down - I was instructed to "walk slow." Walk SLOW?? In MANHATTAN? Can I tell you how hard that is? And I had been thinking I could do some shopping after the surgery. Nope.

Well, I was pretty wrecked anyway. Instead of shopping I went to a friend's apartment and crashed on his couch for several hours.

I couldn't eat or drink anything hot, or even warm. Room temperature or colder, again, to prevent bleeding. And No biting into anything, like a sandwich. I could only eat things in small pieces, and I could only chew on the right side. Ok, again, no problem, it's just for one day.

This morning, I was free to have hot coffee and soup. And I did, and they were delish. But I'm still chewing only on the right side. I'm just too creeped out to do otherwise.

Oh - and most fun - I am forbidden to brush my teeth on the left side for two weeks. TWO WEEKS. I can swish - gently - with Listerine to kill the bacteria, but oh, Goddess, how disgusting. It's only been two days and I'm already yearning for a toothbrush. Another reason to only eat on the right side - the side I can brush.

Again though - seriously - I can live with all this. It's really not that big a deal, compared to the idea of what could have happened, had I not had the procedure. Jaw infection anyone? *shudder*

Also, I'm thinking about my fillings, done in 2005, and how far I've come. I used to get nauseated just flossing my teeth, and watching other do it. Now I floss every day, sometimes just because my teeth feel sticky. My last cleaning was a breeze, and I bounced out of that office, calling G and bragging like I'd gotten an 800 on my SAT.

Yesterday morning I handled that needle pretty well - and best of all, the doctor and his assistant handled me with tenderness, compassion and some mad skillz with those instruments. I felt genuinely cared about, and respected. Is this what it's like for celebrities? I wondered.

It's worth mentioning that G and I paid THROUGH THE NOSE for this minor surgery, because this doc is such a rockstar, and does stuff like schedule 2.5 hours of his time for a 30-minute procedure. And it was worth every penny. My liberal guilt rises when I realize that nobody I know would have this kind of experience, because this doc doesn't take insurance, and charges high fees to boot. I am simply incredibly lucky that G and I were able to take two years to prepare for this experience, both financially and emotionally. We will submit the expenses to our PPO, but we don't expect much. Whatever we get will be gravy. This is just how we choose to spend our money.

It's interesting... we don't own a DVD player. We have one piece-o-shit Dell Vista-running laptop. We have a 19-inch thick, fat TV. We do have TiVo, but we don't get any premium channels or anything HD. We don't own a video game system. We don't eat out a lot. We don't spend our money in ways that most Americans seem to enjoy. Sometimes it seems like sacrifice... but really, a very small, petty one. Yesterday was my reward.

It's weird to think of rewarding myself for a simple, frugal lifestyle with dental surgery, but that's how I feel. I'd rather have this level of healthcare than movie or theater or concert tickets. I'd give up a vacation for this. (Hm.. I kind of did.)

Would this doc still be allowed to practice in this manner under a Universal Healthcare system? Would his fees have to go even higher, so that even with our financial planning I would no longer be able to afford him? Now that the surgery is over, and I'm recovering, I'm thinking about this. I realize that the availability of premium services is something I'm grateful for, and that somehow I have become a person to whom they are actually available. G and my household income is firmly middle-class - but I was able to do this, and I couldn't be more grateful. Maybe ten years ago when I was deeply in debt and alone, I would have been bitter, and said that nobody deserves special treatment just because they can pay for it.

I still feel that way. What I say now, is why doesn't everybody get this kind of compassion and skill? I know taking insurance means not getting paid half the time, and getting underpaid a lot of the time. So I know that "non-premium" docs, so to speak, can't afford to spend 2.5 hours of their time hand-holding a phobic patient. I do understand the economics of that. But... still... Maybe this is the part of the system that needs fixing first? Why can't more doctors have this great attitude, these great assistants, these mad skills with their instruments? And all that patience?

I sound like a bleeding heart, but hey, why not? I also know that 50% of all practicing physicians are in the bottom half of their class - but maybe there are some standards of care that could be examined as well. After all those years working in hospitals, yeah, that much I know.

So... much pondering going on.

And much gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude.

After I had convalesced on my friend's couch, I slowly crept to the 102nd street 1/9 stop. I baby-stepped onto the train, baby-stepped my way though the transfer at 42nd street, walking like a 90-year old. I caught the N to 34th street, and molasses-walked over to the PATH trains. I rode to Hoboken, and met my husband there. We rode the NJ Transit train home to Nanuet together. And I talked about the surgery the whole way home. I felt so proud of myself, and I felt so lucky, and so blessed, to have received such good care.

The first day after Thanksgiving weekend, and I am still coming up with things to be thankful for.

Oh - and wasn't I pleased to note that there was a new moon on Thanksgiving. I was having my procedure during the early stages of the waxing moon, a time of growth.

Blessed be.