Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day, You're Going Down...and not in the good way

On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, St. Valentine's Day, 7 members of Bugs Moran's Gang, were lined up against the rear inside wall of a garage on Chicago's North Side and riddled with machine gun bullets until they looked like human colanders. The hit was executed by members of Al Capone's gang and was called The St. Valentine's Massacre.

Every February 14th, a march occurs in my hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia to protest the large number of women who have been murdered or gone missing in that city.

Valentine's Day is ruefully mentioned by Ophelia in Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, when she says:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

And we all know how well that relationship worked out.

It gets worse.

I grew up in a time before schools mandated that every student receive a Valentine or else no students were to receive one. In other words, the little construction paper envelope (or mailbox) taped to my desk and decorated with scraps of wool and bits of glitter affixed with Elmer's glue (which, by the way, is the tastiest of all the glues) was a little thinner than the envelopes overflowing with gushing homemade lace doily trimmed hearts, chocolates and those heart-shaped cookies with the pink icing and sprinkles. I learned pretty early that some people got lots of Valentines and me not so many... and that this pattern would repeat itself in various aspects of my life over and over and over again until I got a blog. Thus began my strong dislike for Valentine's Day.

But it's not the years of disappointment that irk me, it's the lack of imagination. It seems somehow cold to have one day a year be mandated as the day on which to be romantic. I hate the uniformity of it. I hated getting the same stupid shit year after year when it meant nothing to me. It made me feel like the person giving me the Valentine knew nothing about me, like they were looking at me, but couldn't really see me.

My house is filled with flowers. I fucking love flowers. My favorite is the Gerber Daisy. It's a brilliant color and the bloom is so big and heavy that it tips over like somebody whose brain is so big their body can't support their head. It's the Stephen Hawking of flowers. I also love the brilliant oranges and yellows of the Gerber Daisy and how, after one or two days, they wilt and sag and you need to cut the stem off and turn them into "floaters." I have special crystal bowls that are only used to float flower heads. People buy me flowers all the time and since I started hospice, my house looks like a hippie funeral home. I mention all this so that there's no mistake. I love flowers. I have always hated it though when the men in my life didn't give me shit all year round, and then brought me a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day. It's so trite and boring. I did, however, once date a guy who used to show up at every date with a single flower. Sometimes, a white rose, sometimes a red one, and he actually had the good sense to ask me what flowers were my favorites. I remember one date in which he said, "Whoops. I have to run back to the car. I forgot your flower" as though it were the price of admission to dateland with Carla. I really appreciated that about him.

Let's talk chocolate. Valentine's Day is the one day of the year that people think you want to eat really shitty chocolates instead of the great bittersweet free trade 85% Dark chocolate that you can get all year round. All of a sudden, just because it's February 14th, you get these shitty chocolates that splooge caramel cum into your mouth when you bite them, completely masking the taste of the chocolate despite your best attempt to try to find the one or two fucking pieces with nuts in the middle. I have to tear each chocolate in half searching for the one or two edible ones and leaving a countertop that looks like a battlefield after shock and awe warfare between the cherries and the nougats. And I'm supposed to be excited about this because these cardboard flavored confections came in a box shaped like a heart? Hello! That's not even the shape of a heart. This is the shape of heart:

And while we're at it, here's the Oxford English Dictionary definition:

heart: noun 1 a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation. 2 the central, innermost, or vital part: the heart of the city. 3 a person’s feeling of or capacity for love or compassion. 4 mood or feeling: a change of heart. 5 courage or enthusiasm. 6 a symbolic representation of a heart with two equal curves meeting at a point at the bottom and a cusp at the top. 7 (hearts) one of the four suits in a pack of playing cards, denoted by a red symbol of a heart.

You will note that it is not 'til the 6th (2nd to last) definition that the shape people refer to as heart shaped is even mentioned. And that's from the Oxford English dictionary bitches.

Now, if someone were to give me a box of chocolates shaped like this:
I would sleep with them right then and there. No questions asked. You see, it's that kind thinking outside the heart-shaped box that turns me on.

And what about the history of Valentine's Day besides the murders and massacres I've already mentioned?

There were at least three martyrs named Valentine, so no one knows exactly which one St. Valentine's Day is named for, but it's widely agreed that the holiday was not connected to romantic love until the time of Geoffrey Chaucer. As much as Valentine's Day wrecked my school years, Chaucer fucked them up even harder with The (fucking) Canterbury Tales. I honestly felt like we were forced to read The Canterbury Tales as punishment because our English teacher secretly hated us. The book is impossible to understand in its irritating old English. For example, here is some Chaucer:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

Do you have any idea what the hell that means? Me neither. Something about birds making cheese on Valentine's Day, which is utterly illogical since birds, to my knowledge, do not make cheese. If this is a clever allusion to birdshit, I'm missing it completely.

One popular theory is that Valentine's Day was named after a priest name Valentine during the rein of Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius had an edict preventing men from marrying. Sound familiar? Only in this case, they were prevented from marrying women since Claudius thought single men made better soldiers. Take that, Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Anyhow, Valentine secretly married men to their sweethearts in direct defiance of the Emperor. It sounds really romantic, but if you've been married, you might see things a little differently. If I were Claudius, I would make an army of men and women who'd been married to each other a long time since the front line would feel like a nice break from all the fighting.

Based on all the sordid tales I have shared with you, I am suggesting a mass international postponement of Valentine's Day in which each individual agrees to reschedule it to a day on which they feel romantic toward their partner. We can replace Valentine's Day with Have-an-Original-Thought Day. As for romantic day, pick a day or days and give your partner something they would actually like--like sex or shoes or, if they insist, a dozen red roses and See's Candies in a box shaped like two equal curves meeting at a point at the bottom and a cusp at the top.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Things I'm Missing Tonight

1. Being able to mime the rapid one handed jerking off motion that indicates to a person that you somehow disapprove of what they are saying
2. Being able to put my hand flat in front of me for an ironic high five
3. Rolling over
4. Owning the destiny of my own chin hairs rather than leave my fate to caregivers too young to know the pain of lady whiskers
5. Sex
6. A TV series that I'm obsessed with that I haven't already watched
7. A nice non- thickened Chardonnay
8. Holding a warm cup of coffee or tea with both hands and bringing it up to my cheek while I read in the morning all alone
9. Keeping ass wiping and suppository inserting to myself rather than having to share my shit with the entire world
10. Putting my arms around someone...anyone... and giving them a big strong hug

Thursday, February 04, 2010

It's depressing as fuck because it's true.

There are a lot of ways to suffer on this planet. Haiti, cancer, health care, ALS. As long as there are humans in the world, there will be suffering. However, if you’re inclined to support a cause and you haven’t picked one yet, this blog is intended to help you understand what it’s like to be trapped in a body that has ALS.

It begins innocently enough. First, a strange tremor, then, an unaccountably violent fall. A shoulder that won’t heal, then a hand. The kind of panic that you feel in those early months is as palpable as the panic you will later feel when you have lost control of everything. You are told you have ALS. The average person lives 2-5 years with the disease. But that’s the easy part.

When you have ALS, you begin your post-graduate study in the discipline of losing things. You lose muscle in your hands and ankles so you drop things and trip a lot. It’s almost comical. Pretty soon, you lose the ability to button a button, or to cut something with a pair of scissors and then, to pick up a fork, spoon or pen. Your typing devolves until you peck the words one letter at a time. Then you get someone to type for you. This goes well, until eventually, no one can understand you so they don’t know what to type. You lose muscles in your hands and ankles. You have to wear braces and sensible shoes. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but now, you fall all the time. You break bones. They don’t heal. You begin with a cane and then your friend paints a walker leopard-skin, but before you can make friends with the walker, you fall backwards twice onto the back of your head. Now you’re in a wheelchair full-time.

It’s okay though. Your friend reminds you that now that you can’t lift your hands over your head to put on your sports bra, you can go back to the lacey sexy ones that hook in the back that you love. You threw all your sexy bras out when you couldn’t hook them yourself and so you get to buy a bunch of new ones. Mostly red. When you lament being stuck in a wheelchair, you friend reminds you that you can un-retire your sexy Fuck Me pumps. You give away the sensible shoes. You teach people how to do your hair and make-up. You buy orthotic devices so you can feed yourself. You live a normal life, but you happen to be in a wheelchair.

You lose sleep. At first, your problems are self-inflicted. You lie awake, wondering about death, loss and when and how it will all happen. Later, you lose sleep because your blanket falls off you and you aren’t strong enough to lift it back up or you swallow too much air with your breathing machine and get nauseous and burpy. Or maybe you accidentally roll on your back and you can’t roll back to your side. It’s too hard to breathe when you’re lying on your back.

You’re tired a lot. This seems like the cruelest loss of all. Each nap represents hours that can’t be returned. Hours that you’re running out of. There’s too much to say and too much to do, yet you feel like someone has placed a pile of bricks on your chest. You try to read a story aloud to your little niece and nephew and have to give up halfway through the picture book. You go out for lunch and you feel like you spent the day at Six Flags in the blazing sun. You can summon up enough air to be loud enough to be heard or you can articulate clearly, but you can’t do both at the same time.

You get tired eating. Chewing is an effort and swallowing has to be done with full and complete attention on the task. Choking might kill you. You eat fattening and irresistible food because you have decided you will not get a feeding tube, so you want to keep up your caloric intake at all costs. Sometimes, you choke on saliva. You breathe so much of it down your esophagus that you gag and throw up the saliva. Then, you find a great medication do deal with the saliva, but it dries you out so much that you have cracks in the corners of your mouth that make it painful to smile or to open wide. If you’re too dry, it’s hard to talk. If you have too much saliva, it’s hard to talk. If you’re tired, it’s hard to talk. It gets to a point where all you want to do is get lost in stories or music or poetry.

You start getting pressure sores. You cramp up painfully. Your legs tremor out of control. It’s the leg tremors that wake you up early in the morning. Your legs shake so much it’s hard for people to get you out of bed in the morning and onto the toilet because they have no stable pivot point. Your feet think they belong to Donald O’Connor and your legs are identical to Ray Bolger’s in The Wizard of Oz.

You are 100% dependent on other people. You begin needing a helper first thing in the morning for dressing and showers and last thing in the evening for the reverse. Then you need someone to cook for you, to do your make-up, and pretty soon you can’t cook or serve food. When you can no longer use the toilet by yourself or bring your hand to your mouth to eat or lift a glass of water to drink you need full-time care. This is not only challenging to your privacy, but it’s impossible to afford on a long-term basis. With caregiver bills and other related expenses in the 12,000-15,000 a month area you face the sad fact that there is an up-side to the fact that you are dying, which is that you can’t really afford to live much longer anyway. You are never alone except when you are in bed and a feeling of dread comes over you when you wonder what will happen if you get trapped under the covers and can’t reach the bell for help. Even if someone was interested in a romantic relationship with you, you would never be alone to have one anyway.

Your life is 180 degrees away from where you thought it would be at this point. Everything that you thought you couldn’t live without, you have had to let go of. Everything you will lose in the future will take you further and further away from the larger world. You feel like you are on a snowdrift riding a brisk current away from the mainland.

You make fledgling efforts to communicate. You try to stay sassy on Facebook. You laugh a lot. You say “Goodbye” to people from out of town and you don’t know if you are saying “Goodbye” or “Goodbye.” You do this with your son and it is almost but not quite unbearable.

You are being dismantled piece by piece like a newspaper chain. You watch in slow motion as everything is lost. You play and you replay the videos and recordings of the old you and you recognize her in a very full way that you don’t recognize in recent videos, which makes you think, “Who is that woman with such jerky, awkward gestures? And what is she saying? I can’t understand the way she slurs her words. Oh, my bad - it’s me.”

You know how life can knock the wind out of you so suddenly and you envy the innocence of the rest of the people around you who don’t realize that just like you they could die at any moment. You want people to know how hard it is, but you don’t want them to feel sorry for you or to think you’re brave or to give you the Olympic Gold Medal for Suffering. You want people to see how easy it would be for them to wake up one morning and decide to give up their self-inflicted pain and enjoy their wonderful life. How easy it is to have a great day when you can make and eat you own toast, throw on your own clothes, go out into the world and do whatever you damn well feel like.

You want people to live all the life you’re going to miss.

Monday, February 01, 2010

How's this for a book jacket?

If you know any literary agents or publishers show them this cover and then defy them to not want to make the blog into a book.