December 15, 2007

The more that's expected of me...

...the harder it is to get it done!

Maybe that's obvious. I used to think I worked my best under pressure, but I've learned I don't work very well (if at all!) when I feel there's a knife to my throat. At least I've figured out how to make this feeling not drag me down. I don't feel miserable or depressed very much like I'm used to feeling up here. The problem is, the way I manage to evade those feelings is by allowing my brain to drift to "rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens", metaphorically speaking--the things that make me happy. But then I get distracted by them. It's such a battle. Even sleep is not very restful as my dreams are chock full of either amazing costumes and incredible artists and inspiring creative spaces or books books books books. I can't get away from myself to do the work at hand!!!

December 12, 2007

Wreath and a Walk

I took a short study break today to get a smithereen of exercise. It was nice to have some fresh air and to feel my feet moving one in front of the other. On the way home, I gathered some berry vines--I forget what they're called, but I know they're an invasive exotic species, so I felt double good about removing them from the environment--and made a wreath. It reminded me of the amazing thick awesome beautiful wreaths my mom used to make from wild grape vines every year. Mine pales in comparison, but I like that there's at least a hint of the wild on my door now.

December 7, 2007

Feeling empathic

I just wanted to say that I have a lot of compassion and love for Ben.

November 25, 2007

Poem by Alex

I am not sure exactly what date this was written, but it was sent to me april 8th, 2003. It is interesting to read it now, several years later, and realize how Ben's 'demons' haunt him. In one sense he has an advantage over most of us who live our lives glibly, in that he faces and has faced mortality directly. I think it makes him appreciate his life more. But on the other hand, I think he feels chased by his own mortality so much that he only seems to live for the present and sometimes stops from living for the future too.

Ben, I love you, I'm here. We're all here. Together.

[Poem By Alex Brooks]

no, this is not just another drunk Lexington Saturday night story
so fucking listen
this is what happened
I was walk9ing home and I saw Ben on Maxwell
driving down Maxwell at the light at upper and he said
hey, we’re going to a prom party
so we went to this prom party, not for high school kids
but for college kids
and it was funny
like I never feel comfortable at parties
especially prom kind of parties
but after a few beers I felt better
and then I sat down
in a comfortable chair
and started to drift
and Ben said
hey scoot over and I said
o.k. and he sat down and started talking about
how one day someone like a doctor or someone
was going to tell me that one day I was going to die
and how you had know this all your life, but then
it was different
what are you supposed to tell
that you should live every day like this
that you should know
with this in mind how every minute
if you weren’t doing something that you wanted to do them you were wasting time
and how all the things we liked like
sailing and rock climbing
inherently included death and that if
you were out on the ocean and a storm came along with thousand foot swells
you were fucking toast
but you were doing exactly what you wanted to do
and he said yes, yes, and
god but I didn’t think I answered him right,
didn’t say anything important
and alyssum had her hand on his leg
and she was laying her head on his leg
and I had my arm around his shoulder,
sitting in the same wing backed chair
and he kept pointing to his chest where some doctor had told him
seventy five percent and cut him fucking open
and what kind of heart is under there
what kid of beating thing and how long it was going to last
and Ben said you know what if you knew you were gonna die some day
like sooner than everyone else
and what happened if you had to make the decision again to seventy five it or not what
would you do
and I just kept saying you had to do whatever you wanted to
each day
and I kept squeezing his shoulder with my fingers
because that was all I could do
all I could do drunk
and not knowing what to say except
live and it doesn’t matter to you if
you die it only matters to those around you
and he agreeing and us
sitting around him
and I though
I am not very important
I feel out of place
I don’t make much difference
and I told him this
we don’t think we make much difference
but really, when we get down to it
that circle that we leave feels a great importance
a great difference
and now
at home
typing this
I just want to be back there
with my arm around him
alyssum at his side
I want us to all close our eyes, lay down
I said I thought I would go into the mountains
and if they said I had a few months on chemo or death I would
go into the mountains and he said
yeah, that would be great but you
don’t really know
I said I don’t really know because that’
s just saying it
and now I wanna be back there and both of us
alyssum and I who would miss him sit there
and fall asleep in that wing back chair
fall asleep and
god I just wanted to tell him it didn’t matter because
we were there

November 15, 2007

Journal while Ben was in Surgery

Ben is in surgery right now. We got here at 6 am after a fitful night of nervous, earnest cuddling and cold sweats. He went back immediately and we saw him before he went into the OR at 7:30. He was crying silently, his lips were quivering. I just wanted to comfort him, but the lines, the hospital bed…it’s all so sterile and offputting. I overcame what I could and stroked his cheek, told him he was being brave and held his hand. I wondered if he was crying because his Dad wasn’t there. I didn’t want to make things worse, so I didn’t bring it up. Marty said a simple “it’s no fun, is it,” which was somehow exactly what needed to be said, and so hard to come up with. The nurse went about his duties giving me Ben’s clothes, letting me exchange Ben’s prana hat for a lunchlady bouffant cap, and giving us all the heads up that we were headed in, but that 6 people would be in there with Dr. Sekela making sure everything went well. Phillip stood at the back and just gave his silent encouragement. We walked down the hall, and were followed by Ben in the hospital bed. Ben’s Mom was really upset, and Ben was obviously scared. It was so hard to see him like that, so absolutely vulnerable and knowledgeable about the trauma and risk he was about to undertake. He gave me one last kiss and a soulful “I love you” and they wheeled him away. I managed to stay sunny for him, and only cried when we got to the surgery waiting room and Phillip hugged me. We both shed some tears, rather overwhelmed with how scared Ben was, and wishing the situation Just Wasn’t.
I shared the cat alarm clock cartoon to lighten the mood, which everyone in the waiting room appreciated enormously. People shared their personal cat stories as I excused myself to the corner to begin studying dermatology. The surgery began at 8:30. At 9 we got a call that everything was going alright. In my head that meant that they had successfully gotten into the thoracic cavity. I wonder what the timeline actually was. My dad arrived so Phillip and I enjoyed a needed breakfast downstairs in the cafeteria with him, discussing Ben’s demeanor and physical mien as of late. We had a long, conversational breakfast which was really nice, but I started to get worrisome. So we went back up to the waiting room just in time to hear that (10:30 am) things were going well and that they were about to put him on the heart/lung machine.
I started studying again, talked to Chelsea briefly…very tired. Kind of distracted from studying. Anxious. Kind of wondering exactly what is going on, what the surgery table looks like with Ben on it, how he’s doing, and how similar or different it will be to see him afterward compared to last time. I occasionally recall how many people are sending warm and healing thoughts today, and feel like a reiki conduit. I am a calm bundle of nerves if that makes sense. One breath at a time.

Updated that everything is okay at 12:45.
Updated that everything is okay at 1:20.
1:26 a nurse came out to say that he was off the bypass! Only 5 hours on it! I was so happy to hear that everything had gone well and so quickly. The nurse was clearly impressed with the awesomeness of Dr. Sekela.
We were ushered into a consultation room at 3 (phillip, me, dad, Sarah, jim, sue) and waited for Dr. Sekela who eventually made it in and told us everything went as expected, there were no surprises and he showed us pictures that he’d taken of Ben’s aortic graft. I was so excited I could have kissed him. Dr. Sekela was clearly impressed with Ben’s acuity…kind of excited by it himself. He took pictures just because he thought Ben would like to see them and would have lots of questions. Awww. Now it’s 5:30 and we STILL haven’t been in to see him…and I’m starting to get anxious, but I have been so happy for a couple hours that he made it through. I emailed my class and some other people to let them know.

[picture of him in ICU just a few hours after the surgery]

November 11, 2007

Ben in my life

His surgery went perfectly, took 2 hrs less time than anticipated and the recovery so far has been impressive. The relief that this knowledge gives the rest of us is immense. Here's what they did; it was really three surgeries in one:
1) replace the aortic valve with a state-of-the-art carbon mechanical valve;
2) repair the stressed and extended mitral valve with a constricting band;
3) repair the aneurysm of his ascending aorta with a Dacron graft.

I have been so amazed that he looked as good as he did the day after the surgery. As opposed to his first heart surgery when he looked like death for a month and was incredibly weak, this time he's just very very tired. He's able to carry on a coherent conversation, was standing and sitting up on day 2, and walking by day 3. He's on very little morphine compared to most cardiac patients, and I'm so so glad. This is him in the ICU the day after his surgery managing a smile, straining to keep his sleepy eyes awake while Phillip, Dad and I grin for the camera.

I was so so glad to be home for him in the few days before the surgery to comfort him and just to spend some quality time with him. The anxiety he was feeling and that I was not allowing myself to feel was strong. Getting to the other side of the surgery is no small deal.

However, I have had to return to the striking world of vet school where my time is not my own, and everyone around me speaks in exam-mode constantly. It was pretty amazing to me how culture-shocking it was to me to come back to my life here and realize that THIS is my life. How is possible to forget in the space of just a few days like that?! I write about it in concrete terms--how many hours I spent studying (21+) vs how many hours I spent sleeping (<3) in a day, how many pages I read in a week and have to memorize, etc....and while these things kind of express part of the extent of insanity, they don't really express the FEELING of what it's like to live in this world. Not just to experience it once or twice, but to LIVE IT DAY IN AND DAY OUT. For YEARS. (there I go expressing it again in concretes...). It becomes an overwhelming drive to continue on, ahead of the present moment. You never get to sit where you are and say "this is where I am". You constantly are comparing what little you've accomplished (quite a lot, actually) with the amount you haven't accomplished yet (unfortunately, quite a bit a 'shit ton' more.) Instead of enjoying your friends' phone calls, you kind of absently start a count-down timer in your head when you pick up the phone and get very nervous and agitated as their voice (the same voice that used to be so calming and enjoyable) drones on longer than 45 seconds. You furtively anticipate the next moment you can escape the conversation and get back to whatever it is that you "SHOULD" be doing. Then you realize you're doing this and feel guilty so you allow the conversation to continue for another minute, but you start multitasking to feel productive, and then all of a sudden you're paying more attention to filing papers than to the conversation at hand. And again you feel guilty--or worse, the other person calls you out. Sometimes you tell yourself to go easy on yourself, but it seems you are always in the position of choosing between sleep, a clean house, hygiene or eating well. You can rarely accomplish more than one of those at a time, and never all four.
With school the way it is, you can imagine how I might carry on a long-distance relationship. You would be correct if you picture me stealing every trip in the car to call Ben and chat for a few moments as I drive to the grocery, to and from school, as I walk between class and other buildings. I call him as I'm falling asleep, lights out, under the covers. I make dates with him over videochat that last 5-30 mins some evenings (the happiest ones). With him in recovery now, I feel lonelier than usual. I've talked to him once in the past 4 days. He was so tired he just let me tell him about my day since he couldn't muster enough energy to carry on his side of the conversation. I was very happy to hear his voice on the other line, and touched that he was content to just let me yammer on for several minutes, but I wish that I could hear his thoughts and share our feelings back and forth. I just miss him. I miss being able to call him during the five-minutes-here-and-there that make up our connection.

Anyways, when you read this Ben, I love you. You're a tremendously important reminder of the life that I get to participate in again after school. I can't wait to spend it with you.

Oh, and friends of Ben: his mom's address where he will be in recovery for the next month or so is 1336 New Ridge Ct, Lexington, KY, 40514 if you feel like sending him some recovery wishes.

November 2, 2007

Rock Climbing on NPR

I dreamed last night that I was out with a group of newbies about to share the love of climbing with them. I looked up at this rad overhanging grey slit with a traverse up this slab 50 feet high at the end. I had my harness and shoes on but hadn't tied in or grabbed any draws. I started bouldering on the lower part of the route, but before I knew it I had already passed the first 4 bolts, and was near the top. If I let go, I would land on my back, 35 feet below, and no one was paying attention to realize maybe they could spot my fall. So I kept going. Both hands in underclings, feet spread wide, stemming under the ledge, gone from sight but smearing on the unseen nubbins in a precarious but strong stance for at least the next few seconds. I kept my right hand pinched on the tiny tufa by my right shoulder and committed as I swung my left hand from the undercling to a dime-width crimp. Chalk dust flitted down and my left arm started to shake. I looked down and decided it was too far to fall. I looked up and was intimidated by the last 10 or 15 feet, but knew I had to do it. I cranked down on my right hand and stretched my body diagonally as much as I could, reaching my left arm up to a nice little chickenhead. My feet scrambled upward onto the face and my right hand matched on the chickenhead jug. I was nearing the end of my strength, but knew I could make it to the anchors. I yelled down asking someone to throw up some draws so I could clip myself directly into the anchors until someone lead the route with rope and I could rappel down. People below looked up and shrieked, realizing I was soloing, and started throwing up draws (which magically reached WAS a dream), as I rocked my weight steadily to the left toward the bomber last holds.

I haven't dreamed of climbing in so long. It used to be such an important, all-encompassing part of my life. I often yearn for those days of singular determination for something outdoors and fun, strengthening and social. I miss all my guy friends. I miss coming home, muscles aching, feeling strong and hungry and worn out. I miss feeling like I put everything I had into something and feeling better for it instead of beaten down. I miss the tinny click of draws snapping shut; the welcome sound of hiking up to a crag and knowing you're among friends. I miss the encouraging bellowing of friends below yelling "you can do it! Come on!! Crank! YEAHHH!!" and the naughty stories of how to outwit The Man in the evenings that followed.

Imagine my nostalgia and pride when I saw that NPR did a block on Chris Sharma this morning. *glowing happy*.

October 30, 2007

Peppermint and so on

A breath! I look so forward to the day when I no longer have a stressful exam every freakin week. It’s only 131 days away, as long as I pass everything this year. (Please, oh PLEEEEZ). So; studying for 2 exams that cover over 450 pages together simultaneously…how does one do that? Well, I studied all day every day last week for 12-16 hrs/day. Then on Thursday night, I went to bed at midnight, woke up 3 hrs later to finish studying for my 7am exam Friday morning. I took the 3 hr exam, skipped class to go study and continued studying until 1:30 am. That’s 21.5 hrs of school work, folks! And it doesn’t end there…more studying all day Saturday and Sunday, and another 3 hr night of sleep last night to take my other exam this morning.

I am now on anti-anxiety/antidepressant medication which is wonderful. I was afraid that I would feel high or blissed out or, I don’t know, just not ME. But I am so so happy that the contrary is true: I feel like a calm me. Like me, normally. Like me, not stressed the fuck out all the time. Like me when I’m in places other than vet school. Yay! I am calm enough to sit and study. Just sit and study. Like I’ve not been able to do for long periods of time since I moved up here 3 ½ yrs ago! My doctor feels really really bad that he misdiagnosed me with ADD when I was really just depressed and anxious. It makes differences in my life that are slight but significant. Such as; I noticed the other day when I bought new shampoo/conditioner that I chose ‘peppermint’ (invigorating) rather than ‘lavender’ (calming) for the first time since school started. Cool.

And in the meantime, Ben has to have another open-heart surgery (he’s 28, his first was on his 21st birthday—he has a congenital heart defect that was fixed incorrectly the first time). Great timing. We were really hoping that he wouldn’t have to have another surgery until AT LEAST after I finished school. He’s done tons and tons of studying to educate himself on whether he should go for another tissue valve (and look forward to another surgery in the future to replace it again), or a mechanical valve (and look forward to taking coumadin for the rest of his life and all the fun things that go along with that: diet changes, possibility of stroke/hemorrhage, etc). But the stress is rather overwhelming if you let yourself think about it. Will he live through it? (We assume/hope so, it’s a dangerous procedure because it’s so uncommon and such a long procedure to have to be on the heart/lung machine on. But he has a great surgeon whom is encouraging). What is he going to do in the next few months when he won’t be able to do much of anything? (He’ll be staying at his Mom’s for the couple weeks after the surgery, but I’m sure she’s not going to be there every day for him…I so wish I could be!) Ugh. Luckily, I have gotten permission from school to skip classes for a week to be with him several days before the surgery, the day of (Nov 6th), and the day after. Still have an exam waiting for me when I return though. (Of course). I’m really proud of him, he’s keeping it together so well. I know how stressed he is, but he maintains a positive outlook and just does the best he can. Some days are better than others, and though vet school is something I CHOSE to do, and having a heart defect is NOT something Ben chose, the feeling of stress and how to live with it is similar in some respects—and so I empathize.

Anyway, these are the big issues in my life for the past few weeks. Studying, calm (for once), Ben’s upcoming surgery.
Also, my neice, Tiger, is exceptionally cute when she rocks out.

September 26, 2007

Bearing Soul

When I write entries like yesterday's I feel a little conflicted. On one hand I don't want to seem like I'm complaining, and in that sense, maybe it would be better to keep some things private. On the other hand, I don't feel like I have anything to hide, and I've even been told that seeing a 'strong' person admit to 'weak' feelings can be encouraging for other people going through similar feelings of defeat or hopelessness. In the end, I guess I'm just sharing my feelings, and I hope I don't come across as whiny.

September 25, 2007

Just as I succumb to defeat...

This past weekend I came to the conclusion that I was okay with having to repeat 3rd year. I figured that I am so supremely stressed out, and it all comes from the impending feeling of doom and/or failure--a failure I have tasted before, and understand intimately. Repeating a year, for me, is not theoretical or an abstract threat, it's a visceral and terrible feeling, and I've spent an entire year of my life living in that feeling. And another year before that dreading it, and another year after that feeling like I was running (slowly, like in a bad dream) away from it. I came to school this semester refreshed, and excited, ready to take on 3rd year and kick its ass. Only 3 exams into the semester and I have been beaten over the head with the fact that I apparantly am unable of kicking exams-at-Tufts' asses. So, I succumbed to defeat. But before you protest, it was the good sort of succumbing. It was done in the spirit of pacifists. "I will not fight, and it might take me longer to win this battle, but I'm doing it on my terms". I decided that I have to do what is in my heart. And as contradicting as it feels because of all the stress vet school causes me, my heart tells me what I'm doing (going to vet school) is right. I enjoy learning about spider medicine. I think it's fricking cool that you can put oragel on a goldfish after you've excised a tumor. Thinking about spending my days driving in the country and talking to farmers or going to foreign lands to help save endangered species really really turns me on. Sigh. And so I am not giving up. What I AM giving up on, though, is studying for exams, because that has not done me any good and it makes me miserable. Instead, I am studying for my own learning, slowly at my own pace, and I am going to try my very very best not to care about the exam results. But just for fun, I created an excel worksheet the figure out how well I could do this semester (based on GPA) and also how poorly I could do. It turns out that the chances of my actually either failing or getting below a 2.0, while possible, is pretty darn low--lower than I thought. And that's encouraging! It means that I am validated in my conviction to study as well as I can in my own way. I'll get through it one way or another, and I don't even have to worry about repeating. Hopefully.

In the meantime, I'm being treated for severe depression and anxiety. It surprises me that I would be considered to have "severe" versions of both since I spend part of most of my days smiling and laughing and enjoying the day....but then again, I've been chronically depressed up here since August 2004, had to repeat a year, have a long distance relationship, had a house burn down and my cats die, and am still doing poorly academically. Okay, yeah, that's grounds for severe depression & anxiety, I guess.

September 24, 2007

Spider Gut

did you know that a spider's esophagus passes through it's brain? Or that the gut "stomachs" expand to places like into their legs and above their brain, under their eyes? (green)

September 11, 2007

From philisophical May

"Tests are life's way of saying, 'what's that, you don't have enough to worry about? Here you go.' "

I am so bummed. The first exam of the semester--the one that people were saying to me, "Wow, you really know your stuff; Oh god, how do you remember that?", the one where people were saying "you're going to get an A!" to which I realistically replied, "I'll hope for a C+".....I got a D+. I feel like quitting everything. But I'll plod on. Fuckers.

September 6, 2007

Real Astrology

(Rob Brezny's version of my horoscope for this week. Aries)

A few years ago, the Cambodian government decided that the country's karaoke bars had become hotbeds of vice. To suppress their evil influence, the prime minister called out the army's bulldozers and demolished them. Keep that in mind as an example of how NOT to proceed in the coming week, Aries. While the astrological omens do suggest that you should phase out bad and inferior influences from your life, they also warn against resorting to overkill. As you rightfully purge the weird karma lingering in your vicinity, don't create a new batch of weird karma.

September 5, 2007

Oh no!

Today we practiced a few things with the surgeons like hand ties, instrument ties, instrument identification, SOAPing (medical write-up), and scrubbing/gowning/gloving. While exams often frustrate me and make me feel stupid, this was the first ‘hands-on’ thing that has done the same. I could feel the blood rushing to my face in embarrassment and anger as the surgeon marked red all over the page, telling me I had left things out and to start again (3 separate times). It was frustrating because I actually HAD included the relevant information each time, and she jumped to the conclusion that I hadn’t when it wasn’t in the order that she was looking for. But of course, the point is that my organization was lacking and that’s really what she wanted me to fix. I appreciate that because in the long run it will save me a lot of oversight and poor planning. But I just wish that she would have been a little clearer in the first place about what it was that she expected from us so that I could have been better prepared to do a good job and not look like I was fumbling through the exercise that I actually had prepared for!

August 23, 2007


319 pages, that is, that I have to read and memorize to stay on top of material. This week. Just this week.

August 19, 2007

August 16, 2007

Thanks to All Who've Helped Me...

And to those of you who asked me to repost my wishlist from my fire--updated for what I realize I need still, now that I've moved back north to Massachusetts.
Click here for that link.

And for people who would like to help, but want to dedicate their donation to a specific cause, I recently spent
200 on bookshelves
25 on a chair
100 on a drill
50 on kitchen utensils
170 on hangers, shelving
200 on a mattress

paypal works for me: send $ to alyssumclimbs (at) hotmail (dot) com
and my new address is:

174 Providence Rd
Apt 505
Grafton, MA 01519

Again, thank you, I've had the most wonderful, recharging, relaxing summer and am amazingly ready to start school again. Your care and generous support has meant so so much to me, and I really appreciate everything my (large!) group of friends and family have done. I am blessed to know you.

August 13, 2007

Boulder Fun

Seeing Tiger, Chelsea & Vinny, Dave & Colleen, etc.
Vinny's tattoo parlour opening, "Bonfire Bellydance Bonanza" (at which I danced).
Rafting down the Boulder Creek (getting splashed and banged up).
Riding bikes (a 5 yr old's bike. uphill. for miles. not so fun, but worth a good story).
Hiking around Bear Creek.
Eating at the Dushanbe/Boulder Tea House.
Eating/Drinking at the Mountain Sun.

August 12, 2007

Poor little Car

The drive from Wisconsin to Boulder, CO included our car that had already been fixed in Chicago, breaking down repeatedly. Specifically, the car would overheat. For nine hours we drove in 20 minute spurts (that's how long the car would last before overheating) mingled with 30-45 minute spurts of waiting on the side of the road for it to cool down. We think the thermostat was screwy, but in the end, the head gasket blew and that's when we gave up and sold the car for peanuts and rented a car to Boulder. During our 20 minute spurts of driving, though, all three of us were anxiously watching the temp gauge waver in the white, slowly getting warmer--toward the red, and we'd just wish and wish that it would stay in the white. To help the car stay 'cool' we blasted the heat (it was already 97 degrees outside, so with the heat blazing in the car it was near 120 degrees). We had the windows down to try to help the heat, which meant that the traffic and semi trucks whizing by were killing our eardrums as much as the buffetting wind. I wore a blanket over my head --increasing the heat, but decreasing the damage to my ears. Here are more pictures to illustrate. We were blessed with a lovely rainbow in Colorado when we finally got there.

Sailing Interim

And then we made it to Wisconsin and had a very very wonderful time sailing and hanging out with the Grabers and friends. We spent 3 days sailing among the Apostle Islands, eating marvelous food and jumping in the frigid waters once a day to keep us invigorated. Personally, I thought the water was a little too close to death defying rather than invigorating, but with people ready to save me all around, I went in anyway and swam around the two boats (outside the anchor rode) once and also to shore once. Not sure if I've ever swam so fast!
I loved sailing with them, one of the boats was so much like Feather, I felt just at home. I was also amazed how much more relaxing it is to sail with people other than my Dad (don't get me wrong, I love sailing with Dad, but I just noticed how other people are able to relax when they're sailing...). It was beautiful and lovely and wonderful all around. I'll let some pictures do the talking.

Roadtrip Disaster: New Jackson Hotel, etc.

Last month, Ben and I, along with our friend, Phillip, embarked on a roadtrip. We took Ben's car because it had the least # of miles and also had locking doors and airconditioning. Unfortunately, the little 1988 Honda Accord that Ben's family had bought when he was 8 yrs old bit the dust on this roadtrip and we had to leave it in Omaha, Nebraska. But not before it blew out its cooling system not once, but twice. (Here it is losing coolant:)

That's right. We were stuck in Chicago (on our way up to Wisconsin for some sailing with friends) for a night while we had it fixed the first time: had $700 worth of repairs done to it, and it worked just fine all the way up to Wisconsin. That night in Chicago, though, we ended up staying in one of those hotels you see in movies like Trainspotting that you don't really believe exist in real life. Oh, I assure you, they actually do. Here are some highlights/accoutrements afforded to us at The New Jackson Hotel (and Ben's Dismay at the place):

First of all, the only room available was the Honeymoon Suite-- for $50/night. The other rooms were rented by the week. Okay.
1. No wireless internet access (this is a joke, because the idea of that is ludicrous as you shall see).
2. Jizz fiesta (nickname of our bed. EEeeeewwwww.)
3. "original" radio (old timey radio/bedstand combo that hadn't worked in decades)
4. six sockets in bathroom, only 2 light bulbs, and only one that actually worked
5. large, unexplainable nook in bathroom with peg.
6. plastic on windows
7. crappy plastic satellite dish pointed straight to hell (wasn't even plugged in....oh wait, the wire is cut and this is actually just a peice of junk in our room).
8. duct-taped stool (the seat of the stool was held together with duct tape. Yes, in the honeymoon suite.)
9. stank carpet (we were going to sleep on the floor rather than the Jizz Fiesta. And then I took my shoes off and realized that it was nastier than any bar floor I've ever been to. We never took our shoes off after that).
10. particle board dresser/drawers (the fronts of which were all broken or missing)
11. red neon sign directly outside our window
12. frayed swatch of stank carpet in bathroom as bath mat
13. resident hobos and policemen outside the doors at all times, "How was your stay at the New Jackson?"
14. 2 mm of nastiness on the fan blades and walls (grime grime grime)
15. fake-ass fireplace full of green blocks. Ben said, "What ARE those? Are they like, styrofoam to put your used needles in or something? Alyssum, you know medical things, go check them out." So I did. And on closer inspection I was able to confirm that they were not styrofoam, but rat poison. Phew, just rat poison.
16. TV from the 1970's
17. moth-eaten, cratered ottoman that might have used to be pink, but was now a dingy grey.
18. gin glasses in ashtrays (???)
19. toilet paper wadded up and plugging the peephole
20. broken dead bolt
21. no keys (the security man lets you in)
22. stained sheets (of course)
23. spooge bubble floor (it bubbled under your feet in about a 5'square portion of the room
and finally,
24. when we used the nasty ottoman to hold open the window to get some fresh air, what do we see on the window sill???
(drum roll, please...........) an honest to goodness Crack Pipe. Oh. God.

The three of us slept (lied awake, more like) like sardines--clothes on, no covers, shoes on, scared to death of falling on the floor or being interrupted by druglords--side by side on the full-sized Jizz Fiesta.
(Ben and I are here, pretending to act out what we imagined happened here frequently with prostitutes and abusive clients: Oh, yes, the rates were listed by the week and also by the hour. We were strange in that we were there just overnight. "what? normal guests?")

July 29, 2007

Before and After

Sometimes I think it's hard to imagine the damage a fire can do, even when looking directly at pictures of the damage. It just doesn't really fit in our frame of reference. Here are a few before and after photos I scavenged and pasted to try to make it more comparable for you.

Our Hallway:

The 'chaise':

The Kitchen:

July 1, 2007

"Are those your legs?"

The flag of Sicily looks like this:

The three bent legs conjoined at the crotch is called a triskelion. It's supposed to represent good luck and prosperity. If you've been to my house (Ben's apartment) you probably recognize this scene:

Oft I've been asked if they are my legs. I mean I know I used to have hairy legs, but these are obviously a man's leg. Right? Okay, so what's up with the legs anyway? Let me tell you a little story.

I was in Sicily with a class from school in undergrad. After Sicily, I went to Barcelona with 2 friends. We went to lots of museums and in one of them, there was a room with a honeycomb on the wall, a huge clear bin with white plastic disks in it, and a pillar in the middle of the room with the image of the leg on top. I thought it was quite a strange exhibit, but I kept coming back to it thinking there must be more to it. Somehow it dawned on me that the plastic disks fit in the holes of the honey comb--and with that realization I noticed that, in fact, Yes, the honeycomb was actually a wall of poster tubes stacked horizontally, and the bin of plastic disks were the ends to the cardboard poster tubes. But why have poster tubes without posters? AHA! The image on the top of the pillar must be a poster! I went to the pillar, looked around, saw a guard watching me, but touched the image of the leg anyway. The guard did nothing. I squidged my fingers on the image of the leg, and behold! the leg poster glided off the top of the pillar with ease. The guard still did nothing, so I ventured to the honeycomb, collected a tube, tentatively rolled the leg poster and put it inside. The guard did not react at all, and I was sure that this strange exhibit was interactive. Cool! I put the plastic disks on the ends of the tube and voila, I had my very own leg poster. I had so much fun doing it, I did it twice more to get posters for my two friends. The other museum goers took my que and began packing their very own leg posters too.
My friends were not as impressed by the exhibit or the posters as me, so I ended up with three. Which I thought was appropriate because it's like the three disjointed legs of the triskelion.