Ear Defenders

I have been bitching for years about the universal plague of the earbud, the solipsistic me-world accessory that isolates other gym members in their own little music bubble and makes them impervious to things like friendly conversation or requests to “work in” on the machine they’ve been hogging for three sets without getting off in between. Well, you can talk to them, but you have to cause an international incident by raising your voice and waving your hand in front of their faces and repeating yourself when they fork the gross wax-glazed bud out of their ear and say “Huh?” like an old deefer in a retirement home.

Only I seem to have joined them. No, I don’t stick things in my ears. Never have, never will; it’s disgusting, and TOO GODDAM LOUD. I don’t need my music inside my bodily orifices; I really don’t need it in the gym at all. Which is sort of the reason. Gold’s was bad enough — they had their own disgusting radio station peppered with repetitions of the same ads every fifteen minutes,, for teeth whitener or Spandex leggings or what not. Back at Planet Fitness, where I reluctantly retreated after the millionth commercial and one too many rude assholes and a paucity of warmup bikes — they pick a Sirius station, and on Sundays I can stand the classic rock, which sort of takes me back to my roots at the biker gym that was my home in the 80s. The current top forty, however, can take a hike. It either sounds like a bad case of fleas or someone banging his head on a wall for eternity, and one of the current songs features a talentless female vocalist ascending to a dramatic peak note — practically in whistle register and grotesquely flat. I was raised on real music, goddammit — Mozart and Bruckner and Schumann and Brahms. I don’t know why people need to fray their nerves with this amateurish shit all day. No wonder society is in a mess.

So what happened was, I was reading the Twitter feed of Steven Silberman, who wrote the book, literally, about autistic people finding their place in human culture, and one of his autistic tweeps posted about wearing his Ear Defenders in the subway and meeting a gradeschool-age autistic kid who was excited at the sight because he wore them too.

I perked up. I have always gravitated toward people on the spectrum, though I didn’t usually know it because “on the spectrum” hasn’t been a term for most of my life. But forex, my first decent boyfriend (my “transgender ex,” as it turned out) ticked all the boxes for Aspie whiz kid with tics and quirks — could play reams of Bach and Beethoven by heart, chess maniac, used to make weird rolling movements with his hands and hum to himself, wore clothes until they were in tatters because they were familiar and soft. The Congressional protest candidate that I worked for in the oughts used to routinely stim while driving the car, holding his hand over the air vents and waving it continually at the wrist; couldn’t remember a face for five minutes; couldn’t shut up once he started talking, did statistics for a living, handled carefully planned public speaking with grace but had genuine meltdowns when there was too much unscripted interaction. (I earned some kind of an award for stage-managing his candidacy.) He had had a ham radio call sign since his teens — a hobby that was home to autistic people before the digital age gave them a larger playground. I was always sorry that I couldn’t coax him, a man born long before adult autism diagnosis was a “thing,” into getting evaluated, but like neurotypicals (that’s me and pro’lly you) of his generation, could only hear me suggesting that he had an awful defect instead of alternative wiring.

The common ground is that I get the characteristic low threshold that autistic people have for sensory input. I get a violent headache and throw up if I view 3-D movies or even the vivid animations that often precede a feature film. I cannot be near anything like a disco or party and, lacking any desire to attend a rock concert, can detect (and be crazed by) a loud stereo two houses away that the Engineer can’t even hear. This is a “thing,” too, though it is kind of mortifying that it is termed “high sensitivity,” which sounds like I am trying to align with a cohort of tender weepers who swoon if you say “fuck.” Whatever. It makes me a good bodyworker and ruthless lifter who says “fuck” a lot in the presence of excess commotion. Maybe that is its own neurotribe.

I stuck “Ear Defender” into the search bar.

A few days later this wonderful pair of orange things showed up.


They look like the headphones that a lot of gym peeps wear, they’re just not connected to anything. No one else has to know that. They muffle 37 decibels, are considered adequate for driving monster trucks or light shooting, and I can attest that while they do not obliterate the vile noise that pours from the gym speakers, they move it way up the road. Also, I don’t have to overhear screamingly banal conversation from the schlubby housewives and shuffling pudgy men who use the machines backward and operate the bikes on zero resistance in slo-mo just so they can tell their doctors they “work out.” I miss the days when only goons and buff gay men (and me) hung out in gyms.

Now I get to be the one saying “Hm?” What the hell. It’s nice and quiet in here.




I tried to get a photo, but the light was either blazing through or reflecting off the windows of the station wagon. Also I was trying not to be too obvious. With luck I’ll never see the damn thing again, but if I do I’ll have another try.

It was in the parking rank right beside the door of my gym, a beige, battered family-with-kids wagon whose windows had been repurposed as billboards, painted with white lettering in about an inch-high, fussy hand, as dense and intense as a Dr. Bronner’s soap label but not nearly so engaging. “Latinos are the Domestic Terrorists of the West!,” it said, with convergent ramblings about rapists and child traffickers and “Espanole people” (I only found out later the same day that people use that term). Oh, and Califori-something is to be hated and, most inscrutable of all, a column of words: “Celibate/Proud/Jew/Greek/Roman.” Sort of a roster of the civilizations that people usually mean when they say “Western,” but celibate? Not surprised, at least.

Presumably, someone was in there working out, who had driven this mobile hate-fest into our parking lot and would eventually come out and drive away in it, no doubt swelled with pride of some kind.

I wanted to do something and I couldn’t. Vandalism is ineffective and the front desk guys were already checking it out. One of them is deeply black, a sweet guy whose smile always elevates my mood. Our best trainer is Hispanic. I had a sort of heartburn in my bone marrow from it. I let them know how I felt, but was stumped for a better action.

So this is where we’re at. First a pickup truck that hated refugees, now this unhinged window decoration. And this is in the deepest blue part of my state.

Dear God, make it stop.

Not Little Nemo

For those who don’t get the reference, “Little Nemo In Slumberland” was a classic comic strip involving a child protagonist who had a series of weird but fairly sentimental dream adventures.

Then there’s this. Props to the Engineer, a webcomics geek, for cuing it up after the 1300th time I woke up in the morning and told him about my weird dream.


I have been getting early morning stress dreams more and more recently. I wake up taut as a guy wire and feeling as if I’m trying to break out of six restraints at once. Today, I dreamed I was interned in some sort of residential school/prison and that a few people had organized a plan in which I and another inmate, a lanky light skinned young black man, would escape. We had to have our “go bags” ready but avoid risk of their being detected in a locker check — there was some sort of kerfuffle about the combination locks — and the escape was timed for midnight on a specific night, something to do with the security schedule. I got my clothing and supplies all stuffed into a small rucksack. The time hit and we moved, aided by someone who was something like the facility nurse. I was focused on connecting, on the outside, with former FBI director and current hot-headline memoirist James Comey, whom I have apparently internalized as the personification of straight-arrow authority ready to help people in flight from evil state oppression. (He’s a bit of a diva, and I will never figure out what the hell he was thinking with the Clinton matter, but probably that characterization’s not far off.)

I just wish I could draw like Lackadaisy.

homenaje a rosa

I don’t reblog often, but this is a small jewel that the fabulous Azahar shared with us.

There can be so much history, beauty and thought in an old person’s face. I tend to be allergic to “feelgood” stories, but this is a good one, and you don’t need to understand the language.

casa azahar

I can’t find a way to embed this so you’ll have to click through to this twitter feed and watch it there – it’s worth it! Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you will understand it. Rosa and her husband have had to leave their home of 40 years in Jerez, due to her husband’s failing health. She said she was leaving her beloved barrio with a heavy heart, until…

Homenaje a Rosa

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OK, this is bullshit.


Background: It is now high tree pollen season in the Tidewater, a beautiful time of year distinguished by blowing blossom, temperate breezes and the complete impaction of my sinuses. For a month now, I have been practicing the disgusting morning ritual of boiling water, mixing a solution of baking soda and Himalayan salt, putting about a quart of it in an old fashioned red rubber douche bag, sticking the hose up one nostril and letting it rip, swapping nostrils half way through. We will not discuss the precise nature of what emerges. It’s the only way I can get through the day, but it works a treat — no sneezing, sniffing or stuffiness.

The magic bullet of this is a quick douse of decongestant spray a minute or two before you open the sluice — trickled into your nose, not sprayed, with head tilted back. Believe me the stuff tastes disgusting, but it opens all the crevices, and the immediate rinse keeps you from getting the rebound congestion that is a problem with these nostrums. Of course, this goes through a lot of it, so yesterday I opened a new three-pack of the stuff. The outer box instructed me to Push Down And Turn on the Safety Cap, which I presume is there so some kid does not go through a whole bottle of the stuff at once and decongest to death — it’s impossible to imagine someone actually drinking it.

I pushed. The neck of the plastic bottle bent, and the lid went round and round fruitlessly.

The Engineer wandered by, and gave it a try. “Design flaw,” he said, which is something engineers like to say when they can’t get shit to work. I had to agree though.

After a few more tries he went to the utility room and brought back a large and small channel lock wrench, a strap wrench and a pair of pliers. A few struggles using the small channel lock got the outer lid off, leaving the inner clear plastic lid, which was too small and slick for the channel lock and required the pliers. The spray nozzle popped off with it, but snapped back in after the Engineer retrieved it from across the room.

So there it was, ten minutes  and two different tools for an engineer and a weightlifter to get into a bottle of SAFETY SEALED… nasal spray.

I can see a bottle of prescription Valium maybe, or a drowsy nostrum like Benadryl, needing a safety seal, But Afrin? Really? This has gotten out of control.

Seriously, in general, I have mostly scorn for this habit of kid-proofing everything. I shout curses inside my car every time i have to stop for a school bus with the flashing red lights and Stop sign that bring traffic to a  halt in BOTH directions at every stop, not just because in These Our Times every mommeee has to come meet the bus, greet her child, greet the driver and ask how Precious’s day was before the next mommeee steps up to the bus door in turn and does the same thing, while your hair grows. FFS if they are old enough to ride the bus, they are old enough to know to look both ways before crossing the street, and if they don’t, I’m a firm believer in Darwin in such instances. Same with all these safety sealed mouth washes and God knows what else. If some child is enough of a dimwit to chug it, let nature take its course, I say.

When I was eight, we lived next door to a family with three children — a girl about my age with the lively mind of a sweet potato and the mean streak that usually goes with that kind of drab intellect; and fraternal twins about five years younger, who were bluntly dumber than a box of rocks. I don’t think I ever heard the boy say anything but “Huh?” My father was heard to remark to guests that “the people next door have retarded twins” — this was the 1960s when no one expected you to use precious circumlocutions — and I don’t know if they were, clinically, but there didn’t seem to be much upstairs but cole slaw. One day the boy was found eating a box of moth balls and apparently actually did utter the words “Good candy,” leading to drama on the block with an emergency rush to get his stomach pumped. Though this is possibly an argument that some kid would, if left to it, drink a tot of Afrin, I defy anyone to argue that the world would have been a poorer place if they had left him alone with the moth balls.

So for crying out loud, Bayer Healthcare. And Bristol Myers and all you other people. Give us a break. I shouldn’t need a toolkit to get into a bottle of allergy medicine, which, by the way, I now can’t exactly seal again, though it will be OK as long as it sits upright. Just, if I ever meet the guy that designed this travesty, something is going up his nose, and it won’t be decongestant.



The Evil “P” Place

Costco is one of life’s necessary evils. Well, fundamentally, it isn’t evil. I shop there two or three times a year — and not at other warehouse stores — because Costco, formerly Price Club, has a track record of treating employees well and good citizenship generally, something that can’t be said for the Wal-Mart affiliates of the world. It’s just that, between the death-trap parking lot and the crush of people and the sensory inundation of acres of fluorescent-lit aisles, I go in there like someone making a foray into No Man’s Land in 1916 or so, not quite with my bayonet in my teeth but damn close. When I was dating my Albino Ex, who loved economies of scale even if it meant keeping a gallon of mustard in the refrigerator for four and a half years, he dubbed it the Evil “P” (for Price Club) Place in honor of my hostile-territory approach.

The place is the size of the Air And Space Museum, for one thing, and about as easy to navigate as the Chartres Labyrinth. Especially now, with a handful of spots in my legs that never, ever stop hurting, trundling that SUV-sized cart up and down is a penitence even when the place doesn’t look like Hong Kong at rush hour. You have to go through complicated rituals with the membership card and the parking ticket and your receipt, and half the time, at my local store, the parking lot exit bar won’t work and an ancient gentleman in a reflective vest has to shuffle out of his fishbowl work station and manually release me. And there is always, guaranteed, at least one wretched infant or toddler in there who starts uttering that hitching, howling, poor-me-I’m-not-happy-fix-it-NOW wail that falls somewhere between a fire klaxon and a pig being killed. This always awakens in me a volcanic, barely suppressible urge to bring a brain-rattling bitch-slap or five right up out of my hip pocket. Not a recipe for inner peace.

But I go there, because for one thing I run a business out of my place and people getting bodywork always want to pee first and the only sane strategy is to go buy a couple of those 48-count pallets of bog roll and hope it lasts till the next time I can face the place. Also, they make my glasses for about a quarter the cost at my optometrist’s.  I just steel myself.

Today was oddly calm for the week before Easter; I couldn’t put it off any longer, but I was gloomily resigned to a demolition derby. In fact it was empty by Costco standards, there was only one screeching toddler, and the card checker at the entrance wished me a good holiday. I had already tried to forget about it, and did a double take.

The cashier wished me a good holiday too. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I always keep my head down until holidays are over.

On the way out, the lady who always looks at your receipt to make sure you haven’t boosted something glanced into my cart at the case of Port City IPA — a nice local Belgian — that was my impulse purchase of the day.

“Only one box beer for holiday then?” she said in a lilting Asian accent.

Go figure. If Easter has become a beer drinking holiday there may be hope.

Stick ‘Em Up

OK, this thing is the everlasting balls.


It is called, succinctly, the Massage Gun, and it pretty much is what it says on the can. I think it probably evolved from a kludge job on a power chisel (stick “massage gun” into the YouTube search field and you will see what I mean), only instead of a chisel there is a hard rubber ball on the business end. It pummels your muscles with several zillion turbocharged percussions a minute, sounding and feeling, from the handle end, a lot like an electric hedge clipper. You literally see the flesh rippling out from the point of impact as if someone were dribbling a Superball off a dish of Jello.

So far, only the Minotaur and I can take this. Oh, and the Engineer, who is built for comfort not for speed and needs at least a four pound maul to get through to his muscles most days.

It was actually the Minotaur who tipped me off. He is a Masters competitor in Olympic lifting, with a string of records and a state Hall Of Fame to his credit, and lately I have been having to wale on him every blessed week because there’s a competition coming up. One day he described using a gadget like this — several companies are in the market now — at the power gym where he goes through his paces, starting with things like squatting five hundred pounds for triples. Oh yeah.

Someone had told him this product was the best bang for the buck. Well, as John Carter of Mars says so often in the books, with me, to think is to act. At least. to see this thing demonstrated on the website’s video was to click the Order button.

I’ve tried it on a half dozen clients and they all yelled something like “Uncle!” or “Christmas!” after around five seconds. Me. I put my feet up after a hard day’s work. brace that baby against the wads and knots of chronic pain that nothing else seems to reach in my thighs (in my business, the junkies become the dealers, and I’m having trouble finding capable dealers), and let it rip. The cats think it is a weird purring animal.

I think the LED over the percussion ball is a nice touch. Sort of like the laser sight on the Engineer’s cordless jigsaw that helps you make an exact cut, even though with this baby, you really have to go by feel. No one on this earth has a precision ass.