On the Monday before Thanksgiving, I broke my wrist. The next day, following the advice of Rose Medical Center, I scheduled a follow-up appointment with a hand surgeon to get the stupid thing put in a cast or something. The options were pretty vague to me, since the hospital gave me a prescription for Vicodin along with a few sample pills to get me started.
Ethan drove me to the doctor’s office and offered to come in with me when I got called back. I waved him off, which was really stupid in retrospect. I’d decided just before getting in the car that one Vicodin wasn’t enough, so I took two. I was now higher than most layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and thinking that the uncomfortable-looking table would make a great place to take a nap.
The doctor came in and frowned over my x-rays. He explained what was going on there. I nodded and made note of the pretty colors.
“We’ve got three options,” he said. “We can either leave it in that splint and see if it heals up on its own, we can put it in a cast, or we can do some surgery. You’ll regain more use of your hand right after the surgery.”
“I like option # 3 the best,” I said to him, or at least, to one of him. He left and got his assistant to schedule me for surgery.
On Sunday, the Vicodin wore off and I panicked over what I’d agreed to. I was convinced that I would be among the incredibly minuscule minority of patients to die on the operating table, and since I don’t believe in an afterlife or anything like it, I was not okay with that.
Naturally, I didn’t sleep so great the night before the surgery. Of course, that could also have had something to do with not taking Vicodin at all, knowing I would need to get up at 4:30 for my insanely early surgery.
Ethan somehow managed to direct the car to the surgery center without hitting any old ladies in wheelchairs, and I got directed to the back, where I got to answer all kinds of completely non-privacy invasive questions such as, “What medications are you on?” (one of ’em: birth control) and, “When was the date of your last menstruation?” (the answer: “Just finished it.”).
The nurse said, “We need to give you a pregnancy test.”
So in addition to the upcoming pokes, proddings, and possible death, I would also need to pee in a cup one-handed. Excellent.
They got me set up in a bed and brought Ethan back to keep me company and receive some post-op care instructions. I don’t know what would have happened if he’d decided he couldn’t handle the stress. I can only assume I would’ve needed to dig up a responsible adult on Craigslist.
He got himself settled in. “Guess what,” I asked proudly.
“I’m not pregnant!”
He nodded. “Too bad. That would’ve been a hell of a lawsuit against the birth control company.”
Soon the anesthesiologist came in. He was a confident, friendly man with a great bedside manner, and my fears of death by intravenous injection were quickly assuaged. I didn’t start to worry again until the surgeon came in, had me sign a consent form, and then took out a pen and held it against my bad arm.
As my cousins and I discussed later, it was both uninspiring and reassuring at the same time. Sure, he had all the paperwork and the splint to prove that it was my right wrist in need of a metal plate, but hey, screw-ups happen. It was probably just as well he made a note of the correct arm, especially if he’s still at the same stage I am of needing to make an L with his thumbs and forefingers to identify sides correctly.
They wheeled me into the OR. I squinted at the anesthesiologist.
“Did you already put some knockout drugs in my IV?”
“I sure did,” he said.
“That would explain why the ceiling’s moving,” I said.
Suddenly, I was in another room. “What else do they have to do?” I asked the nurse, alarmed.
“Nothing. You’re done,” she said brightly.
“I didn’t even get to count back from 100!” I marveled.
Ethan took me home, where I spent the rest of the day sleeping. I told my dad about my experience, or lack thereof, on the operating table the next night.
“They think patients under general anesthesia can be used as models for what death is like,” he said. “If there is something going on there, there sure aren’t any brain waves registering.”
“Well, I can tell you there wasn’t anything going on up there yesterday,” I responded. Both he and Ethan resisted the urge to make jokes about this usually being the case.
So if that was my first taste of death, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, either. It just…wasn’t.
In the meantime, I can type two-handed again, albeit slowly and somewhat painstakingly with the thick bandage wrapped around my wrist. That should come off on Monday. Since I can’t get my ski glove or parka sleeve on over the cast, I’ve been unable to indulge in my favorite hobby of skiing, and my ass is not-so-slowly growing in size, hastening that hopefully distant day when I get to taste death for real.
Have a bright and happy weekend, everyone!
I love visiting the Denver Public Library’s Central Library. Not only is the 1.5-mile one-way walk a good source of much-needed exercise, there’s usually something interesting going on–the library is downtown, and there’s always somebody fighting with a cop or a straggle of protesters shouting about ending the New World Order outside the Capitol building.
The library itself is always a delight to visit. Since it’s the district’s main library, the books I want are usually there, if they’re anywhere in Denver. The building is one of those great old public institutions with seven grand levels and an awesome open area in the lobby. Some of the upper levels look out in the lobby, thus allowing for the newfound reason I came to love the library even more as of today.
Two women stuck their heads over the second-floor railing. “Security! We need security up here! This guy hit his head–”
A woman in the lobby stopped to look at the commotion. Recognizing the shouting woman, she exclaimed, “Oh, hey! How are you?”
The first paused her shouting for security to shout at her friend. “Pretty good, you?”
“Great,” crowed the second. “I just got my child support. Three hundred dollars, baby!”
“All right! You go, girl!” the first yelled back. By now, security had arrived, but it was only to glare at the woman in the lobby. The woman on the second floor waved her arms. “Up here! Dude hit his head.”
I shook my head and went to find a catalog computer. I got a text from Ethan: “This is going to be good.”
“Where are you?” I asked, though I was less than concerned. The library had the only non-checked out copy of a new book I’ve wanted to read, and I was in hot pursuit before someone else could snatch it.
“2nd floor,” he replied. The book was on the first level. I triumphantly hunted down my quarry, then clutched it to my chest, ready to fight off any competitors barehanded. Hey, there were already cops in the building to come to my rescue–or, knowing DPD, beat both my attacker and me to a pulp.
I strode up to the real source of action. Paramedics surrounded a dazed-looking man sitting cross-legged on the floor.
“You have any allergies?” a paramedic asked.
The man thought for a minute.
“Alcohol,” he finally replied.
It got a laugh out of the paramedic. “Okay,” he chuckled. “Any conditions you might be taking medications for that could have reacted with the alcohol?”
The man on the floor struggled to parse that sentence. The paramedic got impatient.
“You have HIV, hep C, anything like that?”
The man thought still more. “Hep C,” he finally declared.
The paramedic nodded. “If you’ll just come with me, sir,” he said. Without a fuss, the seated man stood unsteadily and allowed himself to be led out of the library. And without further ado, business continued as usual.
And that is why (if I may wax poetic for a minute; if not, why are you still reading?) I love the library. So many stories, mostly in flash fiction form, on display, available for the passing observer. Sure, you could make a beeline for the shelves right away, but you’re missing out on half the experience if you only read about extreme human behaviors without witnessing them yourself.
On an amusingly coincidental note: the book I sought so earnestly? Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test. Applying the reality of human behavior to the experts’ thoughts, indeed.
I have a complicated relationship with Judaism. It’s not even serious enough to qualify for the “It’s Complicated” status on Facebook, but it is there, nonetheless. See, I’m what one might call a secular Jew. How the hell does that work? you might ask. I suppose it doesn’t, if you’re only looking at Judaism as a religion. If you recognize it as encompassing a culture and ethnicity as well, however, you have a lot of my family and me pegged.
Unlike my father, aunt, uncle, and three male cousins, I didn’t even have to squirm and roll my eyes through Hebrew school. I was never Bat Mitzvahed, and if Ethan and I ever do tie the knot (something that only comes up when both of us are at least two sheets to the wind, so don’t hold your breath for breathless wedding posts), our plan is to go before a Justice of the Peace. If we even spend that much money. I hear we can get it done for free at the DMV, and given how annoying wedding planning sounds, I’d rather substitute three hours in line for months of stress anyway.
Thus leaving me wrestling with the question of what, exactly, to do on the high holidays. Contrary to popular belief, Hanukkah is relatively insignificant. None of the events commemorated even took place during Biblical times. It only gets the attention because it happens to be right around Christmas. By the way, there is nothing in the traditional Hanukkah story that lends the holiday to any gift-giving, let alone eight nights of it. I’m pretty sure that was only put in to stop American Jews from converting to Christmas–I mean, Christianity–en masse.
But Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Passover–I gleefully attend dinners the night they start. I’m supposed to take the following day off work or any activity that might resemble work. I couldn’t take the day off for Passover this year; I already had to get a substitute just to come to dinner, and the community college I worked at docked part-time instructors’ pay for any time taken off. I also would have needed to secure a substitute for two evenings instead of one, none of which added up to pretending to be a good Jewish girl for a god I don’t even believe in.
But sometimes, you get nagging questions about your beliefs. I also don’t believe in an afterlife–very few Jewish people do, and I certainly know of no atheists who do–but I started asking questions when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last year. After years upon years of sucking elephant balls, Chicago’s hockey team finally won the trophy. The only way that seemed possible was if my mother, a Chicago native and Chicago sports fanatic who died nearly four years ago, had been up there somewhere, nagging whatever powers that be until they conceded and let her precious hockey team walk away with something more than butkis.
Or take today. My boyfriend and I were supposed to go down to Albuquerque, leaving Denver after our radio show this morning. Devout Jews would never drive on the Sabbath or a high holiday, so I would be committing a major no-no here, and no way in hell would I let Ethan drive the entire 440-something miles. But plans are plans, and Ethan’s mother is intimidating enough that I would not want to interfere with the itinerary I gave her.
So it was with some displeasure that I woke up with a splitting headache, a raw throat, snot clogging my airways, and eyes sticky and unfocused from a lack of sleep. The show must go on, so Ethan and I finished our broadcast and mulled whether or not we really wanted to drive down today or wait until tomorrow.
“You look groggy,” he said as my eyes drooped during our discussion.
“I’m exhausted,” I admitted.
“I didn’t sleep too well, either,” he said.
“Like I’d let you drive anyway,” I snorted.
“Like I’d want to.”
So Ethan called his mother and explained that we were a little too sick and tired to begin driving. Two of her relatives had died in a car crash when they both fell asleep and the road made a curve that they didn’t follow, so she was eager to let us catch up on some much-needed shuteye. I was more than thrilled to collapse on the couch and sawed logs for the next four hours.
I didn’t drive after all. I did manage to get in my radio show, but the Torah was written well before Yahweh could put an express prohibition against internet usage. Besides, it’s not work if I’m not getting paid. I know I merely caught a head cold from tutoring in a public place with all kinds of public germs on Monday, but I suppose you never know for sure.
On Monday, I got a great deal. In exchange for buying dinner at Vine Street Pub, my cousin gave me a pair of Dynastar skis. They’ll make great rock skis–light and gently used, bindings already included. I just need to get the bindings fitted to the boots, and I’ll be ready to go in October. It was a better deal than I could have gotten anywhere else in the Denver area.
After the exchange, I just had a wee bit of a problem. Ethan and I had walked to Vine Street with the intention of enjoying a few beers. Under normal circumstances, the six blocks between the restaurant and our house is a piddling distance for us. We’re used to walking distances of around a mile and a half to get to some of our haunts.
But tonight, in the rapidly chilling September air, the walk home would be a little more interesting. I’m used to carrying skis from my car to the chairlift, the equivalent of no more than a short city block. Resort planners understand how grueling walking any distance in ski boots, especially while loaded down with skis and poles, can be. They provide shuttles if the walk is any longer.
To make things slightly more entertaining, the stormclouds that had been brooding overhead had their catharsis as soon as we paid up. I’d brought my jacket. Ethan was in nothing but his shirt sleeves. He shivered at the first drops of rain.
“Here, take this,” I said, handing him my jacket.
“Don’t be an idiot. What kind of guy does that make me look like if I take your jacket?”
“A dry one.” He gave me a doubtful look. “I’ll have the skis to keep me warm.”
He rolled his eyes but took the jacket. The rain started to come down more insistently as he zipped up.
I strode out of the restaurant, mindful not to hit the waitresses with my skis. Since I had little protection from the rain besides the shoulder on which my new-old skis were balanced and my black camisole and sports bra, I ran across the street in front of the bar, cursing under my breath as Ethan stopped to wait for a passing car that was moving at a pace to rival the drowning earthworms.
He finally got across. “Last chance to take the jacket,” he offered halfheartedly. I ignored him and strode on.
I expected some glares, a few swerved cars, maybe a briefly rolled-down window and a shouted, “What the fuck?” or, “Where’s the pow at?” But the six blocks home passed uneventfully for me, despite being the only person walking down York Street in the middle of September with a pair of skis. I would have gotten more attention in a short black dress, six-inch stilettos, and pancake makeup.
Which I think is more a comment on fashion and femininity in the Mile High City than the excitability of men here, there, and everywhere. Even I stop and gawk at women in tight clothing with less-than-breathable fabrics, artificially pouty lips, and makeup that’s going to run as soon as they have to walk up Capitol Hill–forget if they happen to venture to the foothills.
They’re not exactly a common sight here. While it’s unquestionably an exaggeration to say that all or even most women (or men) in a city fit a stereotype, many of the women you see walking the streets place priority on things besides fashion and beauty in their spare time. There are runners, cyclists, power walkers, dog enthusiasts, beer hounds, and even overenthusiastic skiers who are getting geared up a month before the season could conceivably start.
Linguists talk about the marked and unmarked cases in language–the unmarked case referring to whatever is the standard or norm. The marked, of course, is whatever is unusual or noteworthy, abnormal, even. Deborah Tannen argues that women can never be unmarked. If we’re wearing makeup, that’s obviously different from the male standard. If not, then we’re defying the female standard. Either way, we can’t win.
But with all due respect to Dr. Tannen, who is a wonderful teacher in the classroom, I would say Denver is the exception to that rule. Here, it isn’t unusual if a woman decides to forego makeup while out on the town. The standard here is devotion, usually to some outdoor activity, but certainly to some hobby or study. As long as you have an answer to the question, “What do you do?” and your answer revolves around whatever you’re passionate about, you’ll fit right in here. It’s a wonderfully permissive, relaxed attitude that allows everyone to sit back and just chill, man.
Even if you are trying to hunch under your skis as protection from the rain near City Park.
I wasn’t much of an enthusiastic camper until last year. Even after I realized that Yellowstone was too damn far away from even Jackson (an hour and a half from town to the park entrance? Oy!) to take in much in a day, I still used camping as a means to an end more than a spiritual, reconnecting-with-nature experience. Sure, we made s’mores, commented on the beauty of the stars, and even kept campfires going with some degree of success, but to say that my boyfriend and I were camping for any other reason than to be closer to our proposed hiking trail, especially when we had cushy and free accommodations at my dad’s place in Jackson, would be folly.
It was an experience in June that cemented that my boyfriend and I are not nearly as hardcore as we think we are. We were a wee bit suspicious when we crossed into the park and found that the surrounding peaks were still covered with snow. Granted, this was not unusual in the high Rockies–as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, there are parts of the mountains that are skiable year-round–but the peaks in Yellowstone are a tad too low to still be sparkling white that close to the Summer Solstice. Which either meant that it had been snowing a shit ton, or that it still got damn cold at night.
The second sign that maybe we were in over our heads was when were able to find a campground pretty deep into Yellowstone well after the 11 a.m. cutoff, the time after which all the campsites have usually been scooped up in summertime. At the time, we blessed our good fortune as we set up our tent. A site well-placed between two of the trails we wanted to do–we could actually get them both in one trip!
So we set up our tent and went on our merry way. It was a bit nippy when we were hiking, to be sure, but we were exercising and had proper hiking gear. No sweat–literally.
We bought wood from the ranger station at our campsite when we returned. I shivered a bit and decided to change into my long underwear even though the sun hadn’t set yet. Ethan did the same, then set to work getting the fire going.
I huddled next to the stove as I waited for the water to boil so we could get some hot, if disgusting, camp rations into our guts. Ethan got the fire up to a good roar with the starter kit and some newspaper, but as soon as he added a proper piece of wood, it faltered. Seeing that the water had been going for fifteen minutes and wasn’t liable to boil any time soon, I jumped over to help. We huffed and we puffed with enough intensity to either blow a house down or to bogart a really big bong. Finally, the fire warily crackled up to something passable just as the rain started.
“And you said I don’t give good blow jobs,” I crowed to Ethan. He shook his head and laughed.
“You think you can hold down the fort? I really need to pee.”
The water was finally coming close to boiling. I went to the back of the car to grab our backpackers’ rations. A group of twenty-somethings, two rugged-looking guys and a girl who looked like she’d wandered off from her volunteer library position, walked into our campsite.
“Hello!” the girl exclaimed.
“Uh, hi,” I said, dumping my goods and frowning at the fire.
“We’re with the Yellowstone Ranger Council. We just wanted to let everyone know that there’s going to be a presentation on bears of Yellowstone tonight at 8:30 in the amphitheater, and tomorrow there will be interdenominational faith services there at 8 a.m.”
I wanted to retort that for the faith services to be truly inclusive of Jewish campers, they would have been held this morning, not merely on Sunday. Instead I smiled, cast a weary eye at the fire, and said, “Great. Thanks.”
The girl nodded pleasantly, and I smiled to let her know that she’d done her duty and she could go interrupt other campers who were making serious attempts not to freeze their asses off or starve to death. Instead, she glanced off to the side.
“Oh! Are you from Colorado?” she asked.
I followed her gaze. She was looking at the back of my car.
“However did you guess?” I replied.
“I used to live in Granby,” she continued. “I kind of miss it sometimes.”
“Oh, yeah, the Icebox of North America!” I said. Then I shivered, throwing an anxious glance at the happily suicidal fire.
“Well, you’re welcome to come to either of the events. Just come find us or one of the rangers if you have questions!” she said, taking her silent guardians with her.
“Thanks!” I hastily replied as I went back to blowing the fire back to life with everything I had in me.
Ethan came back once they were gone. The water finally boiled, and we finally ate. We would have to eat in shifts, one person shoveling in something that might once have resembled chili with beans, the other blowing like mad on the fire and gagging once the wind blew smoke directly into their face.
The sun set. It started to rain. Still we attempted to keep the fire going. We’d brought up s’more materials, and damned if we weren’t gonna eat them.
We finally judged the fire passable enough to lower our marshmallow sticks into. Just as the marshmallows were getting close to the idealized golden brown, there was a fierce howling that sounded like it was just outside our campsite. Then another howl. Then another, and another, and soon the whole pack had chimed in. Ethan and I froze.
“That’s a game trail just south of our campsite, isn’t it?” Ethan asked.
“Uhhh…wolves are afraid of fire, aren’t they?”
“Don’t think so. Well, good night!” I said, shoving my marshmallow into its graham-cracker and Hershey bar coating, taking the whole thing down in one bite. At least the wolves might keep the bears at bay, I thought as I watched huge crumbs escape my mouth.
I actually did stay out with Ethan for another s’more, then until the fire died down (not too long after we gave up on it). The wolves must’ve found something else to keep them satiated, because we crawled into bed and made it through the night without, even when we both discovered we had to pee like mofos at 1:30 a.m.
In the morning, we packed up, determined to make it back to Jackson that night to regain something like feeling in our fingers. Even the guys in the site next to us who hailed from Minnesota agreed that it had been kind of a chilly evening.
The hiking trail, however, made the previous night’s stay in the park worthwhile. As was the fascinating fresh wolf kill–a bison calf–that we found near the trailhead.
This Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of 9/11, just in case you’ve been living under a rock and weren’t aware of this fact. For those of us who are all too aware of it, however, we as a nation seem to struggle to figure out how best to respond to this event. That bittersweet slice of poetic justice that was Osama bin Laden’s death came early enough in the summer for citizens to toast the Navy SEALS who brought it about, then go on carping about how the government needs to DO SOMETHING about the economy.
On Slate, retrospectives focused not so much on the event itself as the conspiracy theories and their propagators who continue to believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that Bush was somehow smart enough to orchestrate the whole thing for some nefarious political purposes that remain undefined to this day. Landmark Theatres responded by almost putting a reprint of Airplane! in its theaters for midnight showings this weekend, then backing off when HQ realized that the poster featured an airplane tied in knots around a skyscraper. Bad juju, apparently. (Shameless self-promotion: For more of my thoughts on that controversy, listen to my podcast from my radio show on Party 934.)
It’s undeniable the impact this tragedy has had on the country as a whole. Every region has lost soldiers to two costly wars, only one directly linked to hunting down the men responsible, the other a piece of political machination that would make Machiavelli lose faith in humanity. We’ve become paranoid and insular, and some have even hinted that our response to the attacks helped nudge our economy down the toilet.
And yet I understand the ambivalence about how much or what exactly to say about the anniversary itself. While I will never forget where I was when I heard about the attacks–the end of the Intro to Business class I took as a sophomore, where one of my classmates and I wondered aloud who exactly belonged to Grandview High School’s Emergency Response Task Force and what they were going to do about destroyed buildings in New York City–the day seemed not to affect Denver personally. The most said in the Denver Post about the matter was that some officials had put the Colorado National Guard on high alert, fearing that the Qwest building downtown was at a risk. You know, being the tallest building in our landlocked and only semi-strategically important city.
Sure, we were all two or three degrees from someone who had been affected. My father worked for the Veterans’ Administration at the time and happened to talk to an officer who was in the Pentagon during the attacks. The man had vivid flashbacks of the plane hitting the building. Just before it had, he’d been chatting with a colleague over coffee. They turned and parted ways. The officer, of course, had the wind knocked out of him but was otherwise physically fine. But his colleague had gone the wrong way.
Still, it seems fair to say that this day really belongs to longtime residents of New York City and longtime employees at the Pentagon and families of the Flight 93 passengers to set the tempo. They’re the ones who still have to deal with the mental scarring, not just this Sunday, but every day for the rest of their lives. If they want it to be a day of mourning, so be it. But so far, all the reactions I’ve seen have approached the date with a pause for reflection, perhaps even a glimmer of humor, but definitely a sense that life marches on. And so I will carry on mindfully but normally this Sunday and raise a toast on their behalf when Airplane! finally does get shown at the Esquire in November.