My friend and travel companion is an accomplished philosophy professor. He’s German and has written a lot of books. We traveled 5,000 miles together, all in. We made Kant jokes and I finally learned exactly what the term “hermeneutics” meant (don’t ask me right now.) He learned quilt history, the scoop on my upcoming project — he won’t tell and neither will I, but prepare! — and all about my family, just as I learned all about his. Five-thousand miles is a lot of miles. Dollar Rent-a-Car hates us.
My friend is a good driver and drove every mile himself, as the car was rented in his name. I was the full-time passenger, then, and let me tell you: it’s an art. Here’s what you Kant do:
– talk incessantly
– sing loudly (or at all, unless your companion likes to listen to someone singing in close proximity, which is highly unlikely)
– bite your nails
– clear your throat a lot
– toot (a lot)
– eat ice all the time from your drink
My passenger self did none of those things, except for the last one; I love eating ice and I think my friend was slightly annoyed in Week Three, but it’s a minor offense compared to tooting. But aside from all that, there’s something a passenger on a long road trip has to do: you must entertain yourself. The landscapes out the window will do most of this for you, but if you like to draw, sit quietly and think while you look out the window, or read — if you don’t get carsick — you and your companion(s) will be much happier.
Above is one of the many drawings I made on the road; each is a scene from the journey. I only had a pen and a pencil and I liked the limitation, actually. I haven’t drawn so much since high school. It was one of the gifts of the trip.
I spent the majority of the day in the hospital yesterday, dagnabbit.
Sometimes it seems that I get sick or have something go wrong and when I recover, it’s time to set my stopwatch and wait for the 00:00 to hit and then it’s back to the nurses and doctors. My 00:00 came the other night and yesterday, I could wait no longer to take my watch to the ER.
Starting last week taping TV, I felt this a strange, new pain. (It’s always exciting to experience a symptom for the first time! It’s like making a new friend.) There was intense pain and a strange gripping, clenching, internal dripping (??) feeling around my old ostomy site. I’ve got a fabulous scar to the right of my bellybutton and all around it, tenderness and a disturbing hardness had arrived. And did I detect streaks? Under the skin? Oh, dear. Oh, boy. It was worse when I bent over to pick up my house keys, which happens all the time for some reason.
My new friend Elle (a quilter, no surprise) told me when I got to DC that if I ever needed medical care, to call her immediately. “I know from ER trips,” she said, having taken various members of her family on a regular basis. “I’ll be your advocate. I know about that, too.”
I really, really hate calling in favors, but I did. Elle and baby Miles took me to Sibley and I’m happy to say I received excellent care. Surgeons poked at me, internal medicine doctors prodded me, CT scans were ordered, and pain medicine was blessedly dispensed. I barfed a lot, too. We were there for eight hours and Miles was an angel. He also was useful: when Elle would go out of my room to ask for something, the staff was like, “Oh!! Adorable baby!! Yes, how can we help you? Adorable baby!!”
Results were inconclusive. The surgeon thinks it’s sutures working themselves out, maybe adhesions shifting around. But I got bonus diagnoses: I have a small gallstone and a 2” ovarian cyst on my right side. Wow! And I just came in for what I thought was a piece of my intestine ready to quit on me. I told my surgeon about my lipoma, too. He said it was no big deal and laughed when I told him how I found it.
All you have to do is get out of bed in the morning. Things will happen to you. Experiences will arrive. What will happen today? Time to wake up.
Sometimes, the universe cuts you a break and life’s cheese grater is swapped for a feather pillow. This morning, I flew into NYC to have a procedure that would determine the health of my intestines.
There is no detectable inflammation. My pouch is scarred, it’s too small, and related aspects of all this will cause me discomfort from here on out, but how could I possibly care when the doctor tells me I’m not bleeding internally? My long-lost colon literally ate itself to death, but it appears my j-pouch don’t even want a snack.
When you think you’re on a bullet train to very bad news, it colors everything you do. Having a bad day? It’s worse than it would be, because in the back of your mind, you think, “This day is lousy and also I’m dying.” When you think the clock is ticking toward bad test results, a good day is tinged, too, just a little, because you find yourself fleetingly thinking, “This day is fantastic; I don’t even care that there may be something terribly wrong with me.” O, pernicious subconscious; how ye thwart joy and gladness.
That this burden is lifted from me for the foreseeable future… It’s hard to express my relief. To be absolutely honest, the tiny August Strindberg in me does wonder how long the good news can last, but the Chiquita Banana in me is beating him down with a banana.
For most of my life, I have had a relationship with poetry — the good, the bad, and most levels in between. In betwixt. Betwither? Anyway.
When we were little, my sisters and I memorized the Shel Silverstein catalogue. In junior high, I was unpopular; many days were spent alone, writing lyrics to Debbie Gibson songs. You might be thinking, “That’s not poetry!” and you are correct. But I was rhyming about love, so I’m counting it.
By high school I was writing angsty poems in study hall with titles like “ripped” and “truth”, always in lowercase everything because capitalization was “establishment.” I’d shove those poems deep into my jeans pockets with my pain. I read Nikki Giovanni and Dorothy Parker and listened to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos, so my poetic education, such as it was, continued apace. Plus, my sister and our friends would take Honky, my grandmother’s white station wagon (I named it) into Des Moines and a few of us would read at open mic nights at Java Joe’s, the only coffeehouse in a 200-mile radius. I had guts, I’ll give myself that much. My picture was even in the Des Moines Register once for sharing poems at the local Barnes & Noble open mic; this is probably because I had a full mouth of braces and a shirt that said “Marlboro” on it. Sorry, Mom.
Speed up. College. I made theater for four years, but isn’t theater just one big open mic? Also, my boyfriend Dan moved to New York City and got deep into the poetry slam scene. I saw him perform at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and thought, “I could do that.”
After college, I moved to Chicago and tried to keep being an actress but the bottom had dropped out. I didn’t actually like pretending to be someone else; I wanted to write and perform my own stuff. As it happens, Chicago is the birthplace of the poetry slam and the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge was the premier place for it, the place where it all started. For the next several years, I was there every Sunday night, listening, gagging, applauding, performing, laughing, crying, and above all, learning as much as I could about poetry. I also learned about gin and tonic.
Now that I’ve outlined this history, you’ll have context for what I consider to be the most significant moments in my poetical life thus far. And now, The Most Significant Moments In My Poetical Life Thus Far:
1. Getting a perfect score at the Mill (10-10-10)
2. Seeing my first poem published in a literary magazine that no one reads
3. Discovering Philip Larkin
4. The birth of the word “vape”
Let’s look at this most recent development. Poets — and I’m talking mostly to the slammers out there, but this works for everyone — do you realize what has happened? Do you understand what you’ve been given? The word “vape” has entered the lexicon! Earth’s metering, rhyme-scheming citizens will never be the same! Not only do poets have a new word to rhyme, we have a word that happens to rhyme with some of the most often used words in poetry: escape, agape, rape (and possibly crepe.) Just think of the possibilities:
Black hair like velvet Her face: a heart shape Her voice, my song: “You wanna vape?”
We stood in the rain Emotions escaping Under the awning Quietly vaping
This is big. Huge. Seismic. I’m just wondering if I’m the last to figure this out. It (almost) makes me want to go to a poetry slam and see what people are doing with the brand new word. It also makes me want to visit that hilariously named vape shop across from my sister and Jack’s condo in Chicago. It’s actually called “Let’s All Vape.” That’s the name of the store. I’d like to start any store and name it like that. “Let’s All Have Tacos” or “Let’s All Buy Shoes” or “Let’s All Get An MRI” — these are all viable shop names. Don’t wait for me, by any means — this is my gift to you. I fully support anyone who wants to name their shop “Let’s All [Insert Thing Here].” I will be your first customer, that’s how much I love that idea.**
New words, a basketful of retail possibilities — all of this, and I still have no desire to vape. Tough customer, I guess.
**I can’t stop: Let’s All Have Our Engines Examined, Let’s All At Least Have a Look at The Buffet, Let’s All Copy Something, Let’s All Get Gas, Let’s All Buy Things We Don’t Need, Let’s All Get Uncomfortable (sex shop), Let’s All Get a Headache (bath and body shop)