The Next Stokowski?

I got to attend the symphony while I was home on leave recently. I am a little ashamed to admit that at 44 years of age, this was my first symphony. I’ve always been a jeans, t-shirt, and rock concert kind of guy. The symphony never held any real appeal. I know now that this is because I never experienced one for myself. I’ll not go into great detail as to what pieces were played. I’m not an aficionado who is able to offer a cultured critique, but I thought it pretty good. However, I will share several observations that, at times, became quite distracting. To me. And anyone near me, it seems.

Before we got settled in, it occurred to Doc that she’d left her phone in the car and lest she become textually frustrated, I offered to go retrieve it for her. Besides, I was wearing a killer suit. There is nothing quite like the feeling a well-made suit imparts and I felt like walking around in it. Perhaps strut is a better term for it. Obviously not a Mick Jagger or Tina Turner strut. That would look ludicrous in a black, double breasted, pin striped suit. There is a point to this. Not the suit part. The me going to get the phone part. So, as I crossed the street to the parking garage, a young woman in a black dress (skirt?) and white button up shirt (blouse? Don’t judge me. I don’t know the correct terms for what she was wearing) was crossing in the opposite direction. She smiled in acknowledgement of my suit and cast her eyes downward while pushing her hair behind her ear. I’m not implying she only had one ear or that all the hair went behind that one. It just happened on one side. Anyway, I thought nothing of it except that she had a spectacular head of hair and a pleasant smile. As I entered the garage, a young jovial looking bearded fellow wearing black slacks and a white shirt (wait staff I presumed), came sauntering out of the garage with a lit cigarette hanging from his grin. It wasn’t until the show got underway that I remembered either of them. As it turns out, she was the first-string cellist. An odd sort of name for it, I think. She sat in the first chair. Maybe she should be first chair cellist? Later in the performance, the happy looking smoker came forward to play a duet with another guy. They both played these miniature versions of trumpets in a manner that impressed me considering at least one of them was a known connoisseur of cheap tobacco. The realization of what I’d witnessed struck during that duet. Flustered, slightly embarrassed looking girl followed at distance from the shadows of a parking garage by a grinning, smoking guy? My head went straight to American Pie and band camp, at which point I was promptly shushed. Do you have any idea what it is like to have all of this to say when it is apparently inappropriate to do so? I was sure my head would explode.

Then there was the choir. Oh, my God, the choir. They weren’t bad, mind you. I’m not a huge fan of choral music though. Their apparent lack of organizational acumen distracted me to no end. In my mind, they should have been arranged in some fashion by height. Ascending order. Descending order. Maybe like a pyramid. Give them all special stools so they were of uniform height. Anything but this random placement based solely on something as arbitrary as voice sections would have aided in calming the twitch in my left eye.

I also took umbrage with what instrument gets to lead. There was no piano present and the extent of my knowledge on lead instruments told me that the piano should lead. Being a former percussionist, I think percussion should lead in the absence of the piano. Doc informed me that the largest string leads when there is no piano. See where I’m going with this? If the piano makes noise by banging on strings with little hammers, it is clearly a percussion instrument. Without the hammers, it’s just a box full of wire. Therefore, the biggest drum should lead. In this case that would be the timpani. Boom! Percussion dominance established.

I should direct a symphony. The biggest drum would reign supreme. Center stage would be dominated by the largest Japanese hurricane drum I could find, and the choir (if I had one) would be as uniform in height as a platoon of Imperial Storm Troopers. Also, the members of the string section could consort freely with members of the brass section without the apparent stigma currently keeping two lovers from openly professing their affections. My symphony would be awesome. And possibly syphilitic. You never know where brass players have been.

3 A.M.

Three o’clock in the morning. Again. Why am I awake? Welcome to my mind on jet lag.

Wednesday:

I think my right pinky toe is broken. It hurts like all hell at the very least which is essentially the same thing as far as I’m concerned. It seems that the left foot learned proper target acquisition from the right foot, which is an old pro at this game it likes to play. I have to wonder if it isn’t from being tall. You know, like dinosaurs had two brains because they were big and needed additional globs of self-aware cholesterol in order to get around without dragging their back end behind them? It’s a sound theory. My noodle is too far away from my skis for the skis to function in such a manner as to NOT cause me harm. It only took 44 years, but the right foot is now getting good at finding things for me in the dark. It’s a slow learner. Apparently. This may explain why I can’t dance. I think these considerations may strengthen my theory.

Come to think of it, I didn’t have this problem when I was younger. My head was closer to my feet back then. I didn’t exceed six feet until after high school. Add to this the observation of my father that I walked around with my head up my butt or with my butt on my shoulders (he was full of these fun little observations), and you may find that my theory is plausible.

Yet there is my grandson to consider. Tiny little guy who bumps into everything. His head and feet share close proximity and neither are pointed in the same direction at any given time. More research is required. I wonder if I could get a government grant for this one.

Tuesday:

Burning existential questions: If a step is one foot moved forward and a pace is two steps, what is a stride? Is it just a long step or is it like a pace? Who cares? I do. This may impact how 10,000 steps a day is reached. If I knock out 10,000 steps first thing in the morning, maybe I can just lay down under a warm blanket today. All day. Why am I awake at 0300? Does putting my foot onto the floor count as one step? Sometimes I hate my brain. Is this why we sleep? To give us time away from that annoying organ? Maybe I can bank the excess steps every day so I can be a vegetable on Saturday. I’m so frigging tired…

Monday:

It’s all about Sex. Except for Power and Ants

Oscar Wilde said that “Everything is about sex except sex. Sex is about power”. So, now I am second guessing this. If everything is about sex except for sex because sex is about power, then by extension isn’t power about sex because it is part and parcel to the “everything” that is about sex? BAM! Take that Foucault! Ooooh. Too soon? Or maybe too insensitive. I don’t do well at sensitive. Which is probably about sex and power since Oscar Wilde and Sigmund Freud apparently drank together and made everything about sex. But is everything about sex? Even power? Certainly, power can get you sex. Why else would beautiful women throw themselves at Pablo Escobar? Have you seen that dude with his tiny shirts and bloated belly? This is not the kind of dude I have been led to believe that women are attracted to. So here I sit, wracking my brains in an attempt to find something that is about something that isn’t about sex.

Behold! I’ve found it. *gesticulation with hands to mimic a magician. Leaf Cutter ants

Leaf cutter ants are almost certainly not about sex. I was introduced to them in Panama long ago. As a kid I was impressed by them. They built fortresses guarded by ferocious warriors who would rather lose their bodies than let go of you when you offended their heads. I loved screwing their world up when I was a kid.

I was all “HAHAHA! You have infrastructure upon which to move these leaf bits to your oppressive bourgeoisie figurehead? BOOM! I am Ant-Shiv! Destroyer of Ant-Worlds!” Then I would wipe out their puny ant roads and march impudently through their crumbling fortifications and laugh as they scurried about in confusion at the absence of their pheromone trails.

Look. I was in third grade. Don’t judge me.

Then they were all “Screw you and your liberation false deity!” As they deployed their Soldier caste to bite my legs and leave me with a primitive version of surgical stitches. Good times…

So, everything is about sex except for sex and leaf cutter ants. Sex is about power which makes it about sex. Leaf cutter ants are about pain that has nothing to do with sex. Seriously. That kind of pain isn’t kinky or in any way beautiful. There is nothing sexy about having pincers the size of your fingernail latch onto your delicate boy bits and leave just a bitey head attached while you run screaming and simultaneously stripping through the streets in a third world country wearing the tighty whities that should have kept ant heads off of your dangly bits.

PS. I like rum

PPS. I am also an proponent of the “write drunk, edit sober” philosophy.

 

Mad Skills

Don’t fret. The rum is safe. Things were not always thus. Try and focus and the important part here: I just proved how easy it is to become a professional at hacky sack! This discovery was made during a decidedly un-officer like display after returning from the store with one of my three monthly rations of liquor. My hands were full with a case of mixers in one and in the other a stretched to capacity plastic bag containing some of life’s necessities like coffee, energy drinks, bread, and of course, rum. Twenty feet from any form of soft ground, the bag gave way. What followed was an undignified attempt at not smashing one unit of a limited supply of rum. Watch this graphic reenactment but imagine it’s an old guy in uniform foot juggling a 750-milliliter bottle away from a concrete parking lot and you’ll have a pretty good idea.

Dear Army Sock Maker

Dear Army sock maker,
You suck. Find a new line of work. Preferably one that does not require the matching of length or color on anything under the sun. I pulled out eleven different socks this morning. I have no clue as to where the twelfth might have absconded. Though I did notice new coat hangers in my closet I have no recollection of buying. This may confirm the theory that socks are indeed the larval form of wire coat hangers. Given enough incubation time in a drier, they hatch and migrate under the cover of darkness to their point of origin to guard the other larvae. These eleven unhatched coat hangers are from a two different packs of size large, allegedly olive drab socks. Of these eleven, there were ten different sizes and 47.3 varying shades of a drab that were most assuredly not olive. Any olive that shade is unfit for human consumption. Some socks had entire panels turned almost tan and the panel for the top of the foot on one sock was rust colored. I refuse to relinquish them though as I insist upon get my money’s worth out of them.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S.

Your elastic vendor is ripping you off too and may be slipping spaghetti noodles into your purchases. Serves you right.

Convos with Doc

Being unaccompanied overseas is occasionally a double-edged blade. On the one hand, it sucks because my family isn’t here. On the other hand, family not being able to reach across 4,000 miles and react violently to numerous forms of self-entertainment has it perks. I’ve always been one to make the best of a situation, so I often opt to live dangerously. The urge to risk the ire of loved ones often becomes more acute when, as I am now, on the verge of recovering from whatever sickness threatens my survival. Maybe it’s a misguided sense of overconfidence having brushed so close with death and emerging unscathed. I’m telling y’all, this bout of anthrax-flu-pox was rough.

The first day of feeling better, I was presented with yet another form to fill out. Contrary to popular belief, the Army does not march on its stomach. It careens down a greased slope on a torrent of documentation despite its decade-plus old claim to be going digital. Seriously. Every paper form eliminated for a digital analog is replaced by and requires for submission: at least two locally generated paper forms, a folder, a tracking form (also paper), and the printed version of the digital form because apparently we all hate digital signatures. However, this affords for some interesting methods by which one can entertain themselves if one were willing to risk hiding the devil in the details.

The Platoon Sergeant walked in and handed me a formerly digital form so that I could fill it out manually. The idea was that once they are all collected for the entire company, they could be scanned and sent to a certain individual’s email. Makes perfect sense. But I was feeling better and feeling playful. For those not familiar, there are these abhorrent little clubs in the Army that are mandatory for one’s spouse to join, or the service member must attend the little get togethers designed to equip spouses with the tools for survival in the absence of service member. The dreaded FRG, or Family Readiness Group. They are often chaired by the Commander’s spouses unless said spouse is in the service as well. Though in retrospect, I know a male Master Sergeant who would have been a stellar FRG leader and there would be no tolerance of the ludicrous complaints or requests often witnessed. Imagine an angry, opinionated, scowling white version of Michael Clarke Duncan and you’ll have a pretty good idea why.

Anyway, the form had all the standard data. Name, Rank, Social, contact data for spouse, etc. etc. There was also a block for spouse’s native language. If you aren’t aware, my wife is a psychologist which becomes important in a minute. She’d had to teach the night prior on her side of the planet and I’d been up early on mine. This meant that she would be sleeping in and I would be going to bed early which disrupts the timeline for our daily video chats. So, I needed to send her a message to let her know I was thinking of her. I’m attentive like that. And a great communicator.

“Hi, love. If the FRG leader contacts you, just know that it was me entertaining myself.”

Before I fell asleep, she’d already awakened.

“What”? That question keeps getting asked around me.

“I don’t think they read those forms anyway,” I assured her.

“I swear if you tried to get me into anything…”

“Noooope!” I beamed. “Just an interesting choice for the spouse’s native language section.”

“Just tell me which Rosetta Stone program to buy.”

“That’s the beauty of it! You are already a doctor in the lingo!”

“You didn’t say woman-speak.”

“Of course not,” I was a little hurt right there. “How insensitive do you think I am? I said Psychobabble.”

She then launched a few unflattering terms of what is most certainly not what one might expect in a shrink’s vernacular. “You just told your Commander’s wife that I’m an idiot!”

“You do know I’m the English major, right?”

“What?”

“You don’t get to analyze words. That’s my job. You’re a shrink.”

No response. Sometimes you have to draw academics in using their own language.

“So, unless you want to discuss psychoanalytic literary theory….” I began. “Or linguistics and word origin, it seems your response was too focused on the babble part rather than the psycho part your vehemence might suggest.”

Did I fail to mention that despite being an English major, I am not the great communicator I once suspected?

*Insert blinking, non-responsive cursor here.

Plan B: “But I’m sick. A shrink wouldn’t treat a patient this way.”

“LOL,” She replied.

A line from Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia ran through my head. Jubilation! She loves me again! I fall on the floor and I’m laughing!

In Extremis

It happens every year. The Army mandated flu vaccine. I despise it more than I despise the anthrax and small pox vaccines. These are pretty much my top three most hated injections. This year was something of an anomaly in that I got all three of these. The trifecta of doom. Anthrax and flu happened on the same day. Once again I am left questioning the safety of combining diseases within my person and since the flu shot always gives me the flu, I had no way of really knowing if I was displaying anthrax symptoms or just flu symptoms.

As per my standard operating procedures, I filled out the pre-injection questionnaire with the claim that I do in fact experience a serious reaction to the flu shot.

“What kind of reaction do you have to the vaccine, Chief?” The medic asked.

“I get the flu.”

“That doesn’t count, Sir. Besides, it’s an inactive form of the virus. It can’t make you sick.” She used the same line of logic offered by the last twelve medics to give me a shot twenty-four hours before I get the flu.

“Look,” I began. “If I don’t get the shot, I have a 50/50 chance at not getting sick. With the shot, I get sick 100% of the time. Just let me take my chances.”

“Sir. This cannot make you sick.”

“So why do pregnant people, people with babies, and people with elderly at home get told not to take the shot? It’s right there on your questionnaire.” I needed to try a different tack.

“Because those people are more susceptible to the flu and we can’t risk injected people around those high-risk ones, Chief.”

“And you don’t see a flaw in this logic, do you?” I asked.

“Sir?”

“Just get it over with.” I caved.

It may be psychosomatic, but I always experience headaches shortly after this shot. I was looking for that reaction as I put my uniform top back on.

“Chief, you’re due for anthrax as well.”

“You can’t be serious. Is that even safe? You just gave me the flu.” I pulled my top back off and offered the same arm.

“Other arm, Sir.” The next medic said.

“But I got small pox in that arm.”

“When?” He began to put the syringe down.

“Four months ago.”

He picked it back up.

“Wait!” I balked. “You are going to inject one cow disease into the site of another cow disease? You medics are worse than the Russians who weaponized these cow diseases.”

So here I sit. In Korea with the flu, the muscle pain that accompanies the anthrax shot, and a bio-hazard bag of small pox band-aids under my sink that I’m afraid to turn in because the scab went missing. Hopefully down the shower drain, but I’ve already covered that in a previous post. I’m a walking biological weapon or self incubating petri dish at this point. I’m pretty sure Monty Python’s boys would gladly hurl my carcass over the castle walls at the French…

Digital Safari with Norman Bates and Gunga Din

It’s been over a month since I’ve put any new material up here. I’ll not bore you with the mundane aspects hindering my posts. School, work, etc. One source of hindrance worth noting though is my computer itself. It started with access to my blog. I’d go to open it up and just get an alternating indication of the site loading then not loading. I really didn’t think much of it at the time. Maybe WordPress was doing scheduled maintenance or something? After a week, I gave up that theory. I was being incrementally locked out of sites and programs at such a slow pace that one could liken it to the whole boiling a frog thing where you put it in room temperature water and gradually raise the temperature. This brings up two questions. 1. Has this been proven? And 2. What kind of person even wants to prove something like this? That whole topic could be a standalone blog entry.

The next thing I knew, the water was boiling and I didn’t react like the frog. I flipped out. My final project for school was due in two days and I no longer had access to any Office program or any word processor. Being technologically challenged, I resorted to tech support and bemoaned the inoperability of Word. I spent the next seven hours on live chat with some friendly gentlemen from India who demonstrated next to nothing in the way of a sense of humor. Please bear in mind that there is no way I can possibly portray in writing the wonderful accent of a native Hindi speaker conversing in English. So, you’ll have to work that out for yourself.

The first to come to my aid was a young man who told me his name was Gunga Din. I promise you that one of us is not exercising the spirit of full disclosure and I am not that one. I am fairly certain this was something like a stage name used to protect call center workers from irate customers. Seeking some harmless entertainment after hours a fruitless work on restoring program function, I had to address the name.

“So you’re a fan of Kipling then?” I asked.

“No, Sir,” Gunga began. “I can assure you that I have no Idea to what you are referring. I prefer John Grisham novels.”

“Really, Gunga? We were getting on so well, you and I.”

“What?” He asked in a tone of feigned innocence.

“Trust, Gunga. Trust. You hope I will trust you to fix my computer. You hope I will trust you to remote into my computer. It’s a two-way streak, Gunga.”

“What?” Maybe it was perplexation rather than an attempt at guile. These accents are disarming.

“How can I stay mad at you, Gunga?”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“Just reinstall and restart now and I assure you it will work.”

“Your assurances carry no weight with me any longer,” I told him.

I was right not to trust him. Same problem. I made contact again. This time I was greeted cheerfully by another gentleman from India named Norman. As it turns out, Norman was Gunga’s supervisor and was “Intimately familiar with your problem today, Sir. I tell you.”

“Well, Norman. Gunga was quite helpful but the problem is unresolved.”

“May I have the product activation key so we can get started?”

“We are already getting off on the wrong foot here, Norman.”

“What?” The call center is apparently filled with perplexed people.

“Trust, Norman. I’m talking about trust.”

“I can assure you that I don’t understand your meaning, Sir.” They are also very full of reassuring people. I like that. Who doesn’t?

“It’s fine, Norman,” I assured him in turn. I like to give back to the giving. “The intimately familiar would know that the product was bought on-line. There is no key, Norman.”

“I see,” He said as one might expect from a philosopher or psychoanalyst. “That is not a problem, Sir. I tell you. We shall get you fixed straightaway.”

It wasn’t long before I felt the need to entertain myself again and questions about weather and culture were first received skeptically, then dismissed. I went back to names.

“Norman, I know you guys at the call center can’t tell your real names and you choose the name for the job. Gunga claimed no knowledge of Kipling but then told me he preferred a different author. So, I have to ask. How’s the hotel business?”

“I’m sorry?”

Oh. My. God. Did I just commit unintended insult?

“As in the Bates Motel? It was a Hitchcock reference. I did not mean to imply you were in the hotel business.”

“I do not understand your meaning, Sir. I tell you.”

“That probably for the best, Norman.”

So, long story short. Neither the unfazed Norman not Bates, nor the heroic efforts of Gunga Din could return my word processor to functionality. I ended up doing a restore to factory settings and having my IP address and phone number blocked in India. Forgive my absence, y’all. My digital safari is over.

A day at the Dentist

“Your blood pressure is elevated,” the snooty dental hygienist accused.

“You think?” I’m not a fan of snootiness. “Why do you need my BP to examine my teeth anyway? Are you going to stop a heart attack with an emergency tooth extraction?” Maybe it came out more, ah… less civil than I’d hoped. But in my defense, I was quite traumatized at this point.

*Crickets.

“I apologize. My pressure runs borderline anyway. Add to that a 300-pound dude in a lab coat jamming “bite wings” down my throat while he shoots radiation through a plastic basketball hoop attached to and dangling from the side of my head and you might understand my anxious state. Danged thing herniated a disk in my neck. And why do they cover my torso in a lead vest while leaving my face in the path of directed radiation? Is my face not as important? Why no crotch flap? I’m pretty sure that’s important too. Also, I saw my own toes sticking out of my own nose, my innie is now an outie, and I think I have a hernia now.” I took a short breath and spoke in the general direction of the x-ray tech. “Thanks for that by the way, Gigantor.”

Feeling better, I turned and almost attempted my best disarming smile. I don’t know that it’s ever disarmed anyone and may even more closely resemble a snarl that has at least frightened some children. She was about to get intimate with my teeth anyway so I deprived her of the opportunity to experience disarmament and kept that smile in check just in case she got paid by the number of exposures to my teeth. You aren’t getting double time pay out of me, snooty one.

“We need those x-rays, Sir.” That sounded like a weak excuse. Maybe because she couldn’t close her mouth and it’s hard to enunciate when you hang your mouth open like a fish out of water at every little inconsequential thing your patient says.

“Yeah. But do the “bite wings” have to come off of a 747? Then they cover these gargantuan airfoils with enough sharp-edged tarpaulins to cover the entire plane. Seriously, my bowel movements are going to come out shrink wrapped for the next three weeks.”

“You miiiight be overreacting at this point. You should just try to calm down.”

“And how does that work out when your husband says that to you? YOU START GETTING indexEXCITED!!” *Note to self: I need to watch Boondock Saints again.

I actually just thought that bit, but decided to keep it to myself. After all, she was hovering over my face with a Dremel and what looked like a small scythe. “Do you have to mow grass on my tongue?” I offered instead.

“What?”

“Never mind. Where were we? BP? I can explain that beyond having passenger planes shoved down my throat. Also, I do not get along with dental dams.”

“Oooo-K?”

“It’s your coat.” I stated it as plainly as I could. “Not the not-getting-along-with-dental-dams part. The BP part, I mean.”

“My coat? What’s wrong with my coat?” She sniffed it. I almost left.

“My BP goes up any time I’m near you medical types. Something to do with the coat. It might help if you had a nice camouflaged one. That probably wouldn’t help with X-Ray Kong in there though. I bet his kids freak out when he makes airplane noises with a giant spoonful of gag reflex coming their way. I honestly don’t know how you guys’ heads don’t explode every time you put one on. Which I guess would only happen once. Each.”12345678

She affected a look that reminded me of the one my wife wears quite often, sighed, and had me lay back. Then she put these safety glasses on me that are designed for the sole purpose of rendering all men unattractive to anything other than vultures.

“We’re just going to slip this dental dam in…”

I sat up. “No we are not. Didn’t I just tell you I don’t get on well with those things?”

“Just let me give it a try. I’m really good with these things. Just breathe through your nose. You won’t even notice it.”

“And that is what the last thirteen people to attempt it said. Statistically speaking, you just lied to me. I have no real reason to trust you anymore. Besides, this is just supposed to be a cleaning and exam. And I don’t appreciate the mouth breather accusations.”

“What? No. Looking at your x-rays here,” she pointed at a dark spot, deflecting. “You are going to need a filling immediately.”

I looked at the film for myself

“That’s a boot lace eyelet. If you squint, you can make out the rest of the boot. Told you I saw my toes. I’d also like to point out that gold crowns don’t get cavities so unless I have some mutant oral bacteria, you aren’t filling my crown.”

So yeah. That last part wasn’t true, but I’ve been waiting to use that whole bit about trust since my last visit where they attempted to choke me with a wad of latex bearing the innocuous sounding moniker “dental dam”.

Turns out I did need a filling, but not in the gold tooth, and they had time. I guess they saw more discussion coming from me and knocked me out which is incredibly unfair considering the amount of talking and question posing they normally do while they have you as a captive audience incapable of response other than thumbs up.

“Where were you May 28th?” I asked as a woke.

“What?”

“See what you did right there? To me? You could have saved Harambe….”

“Please stop talking.”

Be snooty with me, will you?