Restricted Content

So I got an e mail from the “YouTube Community” alerting me that one of my videos had been “age-restricted” because it’s “not in line with our community guidelines.” No one who is logged out or under 18 can now view it.

This is the video, in case you are over 18 and logged in.

A tutorial on how to put two tennis balls in a sock and use it to massage/adjust your back. That’s all you see. Me in gym clothes, two tennis balls and a sock. At one point I do describe the resulting device as “vaguely obscene-looking,” but…. really, YouTube?

This is why the Internet is a trash fire. I’ve been spammed like 100 times by Twitter hoes inviting me to look at their XXX pictures, and even “YouTube” frankly sounds like some kind of silicone male masturbation device, but some robot thinks adjusting your vertebrocostal joints with a couple of tennis balls is problematic. FFS, I have videos up of my cats in flagrante delicto, one of them titled “Torvald Does Teenage Jailbait” (Aggie was in heat awaiting her spay and Torvald was neutered at the time, but tell him that). You don’t know how many hits that one got.

I doubt this is worth the bother of disputing. Odds are no one under 18 needs their back adjusted that badly anyhow.

In Pieces In Antwerp

What happened was, the Engineer looked upon his motor vehicle, and beheld that it was a beater. The Red Rover has withstood two owners and twenty years of commuter driving, and I gave it a glow-up a few Christmases back to the tune of three new hubcaps and a side mirror with an intact frame, but the inside door panel threatens to come off every time you pull it shut, the gas cap hatch won’t stay hatched, the rear bumper hangs at a casual angle and the engine light keeps coming on for no reason anyone can determine. Oh, and the aircon doesn’t work. Even before climate change DC was pretty much intolerable in summer without aircon.

This was how we met Vinny Malatesta.

Fun fact: the Malatesta were a powerful condottiere family in the 1500’s, and somehow the name still makes me think of being received in the back room of a restaurant by someone who expects you to bow your head over his hand, but Our Cousin Vinny was really an ordinary unprepossessing salesman in the Cooper dealership down the road a piece.

It was kind of a Goldilocks thing. The Engineer has had his heart set on an electric car ever since it became apparent the Rover was quietly decaying. We tried out a Chevy Bolt, which rode as smoothly as a monorail and had bags of room in the back but no place to put your arms down the midline. I mean if he shifted gears his elbow was in my lap. The Nissan Leaf felt like bumping over ruts in a wooden-wheeled cart, cost the earth, and exposed us to the kind of sales people who suck up to you and tell you how special you are and that you deserve the best and, well, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Vinny handed us the keys and called me Mrs. Engineer. Oh well.

It was just right. On the down side, you only get 110 miles to a charge, but then it’s a poot-around-town car. Also, theoretically there is a back seat but it’s really only usable by toddlers or amputees.

Fuck it. It’s fun. Moon roof, snazzy body options, and sensible toggle vs. touch screen controls (who the hell wants to take their eyes off the road to look at a touchscreen?). The Engineer has never bought a NEW new car, and went nuts picking out options, meaning this baby had to be built from scratch, to order.

Vinny sent an e-mail a few weeks later. The car was in production, basically in pieces in a factory in Antwerp. Who knew.

Guys showed up one morning in a couple of ramshackle station wagons and began banging around in the utility room and noisily digging next to the driveway, pausing every couple of hours to run to the hardware store (“they switched teams on this job at the last minute and we need some parts”). By the end of the day (“it’s usually quicker than this”) a rather elegant little parking-meter-like dingus was in place, connected to a new 240V circuit in my breaker box by a cable run through the duct chase in the cellar::

Then a few weeks later it was going through customs.

A few days ago it arrived at the Port of Baltimore, and is presumably having the floor mats and custom “tentacle” wheel covers put on (I told you he went nuts). Next week.

Eyes Up Here

Well, that was unexpected.

I like the new ocular surgeon. I like his practice, where they have their shit together and run on time and address you with basic courtesy, instead of acting as if you should be grovellingly grateful to be in a medical office receiving perfunctory attention from scrubs-clad people young enough to be your grandkid.

I like being told “actually, your corneas aren’t that bad, and the only thing that makes sense is to repair the cataracts and see how your vision is then. And oh, of course, it would be the minimal surgery if we do have to go on to a transplant.”

That bitch I consulted last year was ready to whip off my whole corneas and stick entire brand new ones on. At least, if she had any other suggestions, I didn’t hear them.

The intake forms had the usual rude questions about your health status and habits, and then, rather unexpectedly, at the bottom a horizontal line across the page, with the direction: “Mark the point along the line that best describes your personality.” At the left hand end of the line was the word “Easy-going.” The far-right end was labeled “Perfectionistic.”

I made an X mark at the extreme right-hand end, then on reflection scribbled it out and drew another at the absolute right margin of the page.

They need to know, I’ll tell them.

I have a date August third with someone who does nothing all day every day but measure eyes for replacement lenses. It seems like no one is rushing this. Well, another month to get back in condition from that godawful pandemic year, when I couldn’t get to a gym and spent half of it recuperating from forty-four staples worth of surgery. You want to be in fighting shape in case they need you to punch the cataract while it’s down.

Better Than A Fork In Your Eye (IV)

I sure as hell hope it is.

I wrote, years back, about the Engineer’s early cataract repairs (his family apparently has a rogue gene that predisposes to cataracts, some forms of arthritis, and compulsive deployment of power tools). I remember thinking at the time that I kind of hoped I’d get cataracts eventually, because the bastard has never stopped trolling me by demonstrating that he can read the end-user agreement on the computer screen from out in the hallway, and that sort of thing. I can’t remember being able to see without glasses as thick as Little Debbies (at least until they invented polycarbonate), not ever in my life.

Back in the 90s my optometrist, a woman with skill sets beyond her professional certifications, remarked that I had the beginnings of a thing called map-dot corneal dystrophy, in which areas of the clear surface of your eye lose their normal fluid volume — it’s a defect in the osmotic pump of the hydrating cells, for you fellow medical geeks out there — and create a shifting, irregular distortion that can be seen on exam as a sort of archipelago of deflated tissue, like the Maldives, hence the nickname.

I didn’t notice anything for years, but eventually the astigmatism prescription in a new pair of lenses got into an argument with the astigmatism created by the map-dot condition, leading to an epic 45-minute phone fight with an optician who was hell bent on proving to me she knew what was wrong (narrator’s voice: she didn’t know shit). “Hello, I’m Janice. I’m the optician. That’s the lady who makes your glasses. I have a new lens blank here and I’m ready to go ahead with regrinding your right lens…” You know how you can always tell an idiot in the medical and related professions? They talk to you like you’re an idiot. I finally got her to talk to the optometrist and we stopped doing an astigmatism refraction, because the corneal condition creates an astigmatism that can change from one day to the next (think of fly’s eyes), and I resigned myself to a lifetime of 20/70 vision and seeing two or three of any high contrast road sign, license plate or traffic signal. You can adapt.

Then I did get fucking cataracts. Fine, we know they can fix that.

Then I got distortion in yet another layer of the cornea (think of double-paned glass, you know with the argon layer in the middle, or… well, more or less like that).

The world looks like what you see in a steamy locker room most days, or like looking through very diluted milk, or right after a flash goes off. I quit driving when it became clear the sun hitting someone’s metallic-painted fender on a bright day was enough to completely blind me for several seconds; hey, there was a pandemic, where was there to drive anyway? I wear sunglasses even when it’s cloudy. I yell “seeing-eye boyfriend” to the Engineer six times a day and patiently explain to people that I can’t see what they’re pointing out to me, no, really, I CANNOT SEE. By now I’m using such big fonts you can probably read what I’m typing from the next time zone.

There was supposed to be a surgery in March of 2020. Instead there was a fucking pandemic. It may have been the felixest culpa of my life, because the longer I had to reflect, the less I thought of the surgeon to whom my very wonderful optometrist had sent me. Having to go to the mat with her financial office to get a refund of a four-figure deposit didn’t help. And seriously, who decides that the thing to do in a practice entirely devoted to visual deficiencies is establish a touch-screen sign-in station facing picture windows that suffuse the screen with blinding glare? That should have tipped me off right before you start.

So once I made friends with Moderna, I called someone recommended by the Engineer’s surgeon, who did a damn good job. Everyone does cataracts, it’s like you can get coffee anywhere, practically drive-thru, but corneal problems are a lot rarer. Forget finding someone who’s actually had the experience. One of the things I had time to ponder about the surgeon I walked away from was a complete absence of orientation to what I could expect and how the surgery was done. (I spent two hours in the waiting room for twenty minutes of actual examination, mostly by machines under the control of a woman whose face would have legit broken if she smiled, got five minutes with the surgeon, by which time I was exhausted, and formed my most lasting bond with the financial manager, who practically became my new best friend.)

So I have this appointment on Thursday. A couple weeks back, I dropped in on a sci-fi geekchat that I visit irregularly (we’re talking fans who forex make Doctor Who videomontages set to Elvis songs), and said something like “I wish I could see that videomontage more clearly but my eyes are due for surgery.” The usual chorus of Oh You’ll Love The Results of Cataract Surgery followed. No, I explained, it’s this other thing and no one can tell me what it’s like and I’m scared. I don’t know anyone who’s had it. “Oh, I’ll call my mom,” said the videomontage lady.

A perfect stranger in Northern California spent forty minutes on the phone with me, walking me through it all (“no, you really won’t be allowed to do kettlebell goblet squats right away”) and took the time, being medically credentialed herself, to look up my new surgeon in the databases and report back that he had, in fact, all the correct qualifications and skill sets to deal with my specific flavors of corneal defect, and maybe even get away with two surgical episodes instead of the four that Doctor Waiting Room proposed. Sometimes the human race can still astonish me.

News as I get it. I am shopping for a pirate patch on Amazon.

Goddamn You, Pod

I suppose it is guerdon for my many sins. What it was, see, was that when I met the Engineer he lived in a group house, and in that house there also lived a Woman Of Easy Virtue ™, by which I mean not that she had many lovers (she did) but that the Official BF was a Republican cable-show host from the neighboring county. That, I regarded as a shocking lack of discrimination.

That said, he was an affable chump, the character in every group-house situation comedy who doesn’t really live there or contribute to the household but merely takes possession of one end of the couch and watches the cable he’s too cheap to pay for at his own place. I can’t remember who nicknamed him Pod, or why, but he always did look like something that would eventually yield up a life form. I was doing a good deal of local political activawhatsit then, and Republicans hadn’t manifested the level of prion disease they do nowadays, meaning we had pleasant enough conversations (he actually ran a campaign against one of the wingnuts the Former Guy eventually appointed to run something or other; yes, there was a time when Republicans-in-the-street actually begged to differ with the Tin Foil wing of the party). So when he asked if he could put me on his mailing list, I said fine, sure, worth knowing what the opposition is doing.

Fast forward fifteen years.

There is no other explanation. I can’t remember the last time I got mail from the guy, but suddenly I — having been deluged by every left-of-center entity that can compose a begging e-mail for years — am now receiving desperate solicitations from the Former Guy and all his tribe. The one who ignores molestation going on in front of his eyes. The one with a head like a breadbox. The one with hair like a pubic toupee whose neighbor beat the crap out of him, probably with cause. I assume they all bought and traded mailing lists like Pod’s.

Every fkin morning. “We’ve reached out to you SEVEN TIMES — won’t you join our movement?”

Um, no.

These things are low tech. You Click Here To Unsubscribe and an e-mail form pops up, which sounds like a great way to confirm they have a live e-mail address. Screw that. There’s a reason God made the Delete key. Like the cicadas which are making Virginia’s outdoors into an H. R. Giger Hellscape, I figure they will eventually go away.

Goddamn you, Pod. I should have known better. And tried harder the day I arm wrestled you to a standstill.

A Visit From Tango

Cats call at our house with the regularity of political canvassers and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I sometimes forget why.

We haven’t seen White Kitty, who dropped by a few times before Thanksgiving, but earlier today we got a visit from Tango.

I think Tango is a girl, and we know her name because it’s on her tag. She walked up to the porch as if she meant to knock, but by the time I’d called the Engineer down to look she was over there in the herb bed, rolling and lolling and… oh right. The catnip has started coming up.

She stayed there so long I almost worried, the way you do when you see someone order their third whisky in an hour, but eventually looked around, spied the Engineer taking her picture, and sauntered over. He checked the collar tag, and then remarked that there was a little box on her collar too, and that she appeared to be outfitted with a cat cam and was taking our picture right back.

So when Tango comes home saying “wow, look at the colors,” her people will have ocular proof of who gave her the drugs. Oh well. She looks like a grown adult.

Still plenty of nip out there. News as I get it.

Man Of Gondor

I looked up the other night and realized I was sharing a house with an extra from Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings.

The Engineer has always sported a fairly relaxed hairstyle, and a beard that… well… the term “bear” comes to mind… oh, well, he’s hairy. And I made the cardinal error, years ago, of saying that while I would like to be a good girlfriend and save him money by cutting his hair, I was hopelessly inept at it. Thus it was that, two days before we all freaked out and locked down, he glanced in the mirror and said “Y’know, I haven’t gotten a haircut since December.”

Which was fourteen months ago.

You know how in Jackson’s Middle-Earth, the Men seem never to have met a barber — no matter how nobly born? The hobbits have cute heads of frizzy or tousled curls. The Elves iron their hair like refugees from the Sixties and adorn it with dinguses probably crafted in the forges of Eregion. But in Rohan?

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Among the Dunedain?

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In Minas Tirith?

Faramir & Boromir | Lord of the rings, The hobbit, Lotr

Combs and shears are apparently so last year.

I am living with a Man Of Gondor.

I mean, fight me. Stick him in a tabard with the White Tree on it, or hand him the banner of the White Horse, and he’s there. (Unless he leans forward and straightens up again, in which case you are looking at something more like Cousin It.) I keep telling him I can at least even up the ends and get his bangs out of his eyes, but I must have left a hell of an impression when I described how all my past attempts at haircutting looked like they were done by a third grader with blunt classroom scissors, because he just says very firmly NO.

Every so often he will come pounding up from the basement and I expect to hear “My Lord! The defenses of Osgiliath are overrun! Shall we pull back to the walls?” Of course it’s always actually something like “Do you remember where you put away the almond flour?”

A few weeks ago he had a dream with a pretty impressive Star Trek storyline that involved Captain Kirk being inaugurated as the President of the Federation and an assassination plot and Mr. Spock with a Tommy gun, and said as he finished the narration, “And do you know what the coolest thing was about it? I was able to get a haircut!”

So we just have to wait from the Third Age of Middle-Earth to Stardate something-or-other to get this situation resolved. Right.

World’s Best Boyfriend

I am ready to argue the case. Here we are going into the twelfth month of lockdown. Which we have been taking brutally seriously. No restaurant food, not even delivered; grocery and booze deliveries left to decontaminate on the porch, masks to take out the trash, no excursions into enclosed spaces that aren’t utterly necessary (like being in the hospital, that was fun).

No gym.

Alpine pole walks, yeah. There’s a couple of kettlebells in the living room and you know what they say about bodyweight exercise? I’ve been doing my damnedest, really. There are local householders who’ve become used to seeing me do push-ups and dips off their retaining walls and wave from their windows (“Harold, the crazy lady is out there again”). It winds me up tighter than a two-dollar watch and feels as if I’m levering off my joint surfaces. Give me a weight I can position and push against.

Feature your host clutching two ten-pound dumbbells in clawed fingers and doing crossbench pullovers she can almost feel, over the back of the couch.

So I walk out on the porch the day before Valentine’s Day and find this enormous box. Folding weight bench, it says. I have never trusted such things; home gym equipment is notoriously rickety and I just wasn’t going to go there — even if every day I couldn’t get my hands on a serious weight I felt like I was dying a little. Okay, I had started having crying jags about it. But I forgot I have an engineer in-house who can review the load bearing specs for equipment on the Best Of Men’s Health website, knowing damn well that the little vinyl earrings sold for “women’s weight training” are about as much use to me as paperweights.

This thing is a BEAST. It’s solid as a brick wall and amazingly folds up into a foot-square footprint, if you need to. There are benches at my gym that rock and wobble more.

A day later these arrived.

Just in case there was any doubt in your mind about what you ordered. They’re each 55 pounds with a wizzo, rugged adjustment dial that allows you to take them down to why-bother weights (already got those). One’s a little balky, but I figure the movement will loosen up.

Store your dumbbells on a level surface in front of your least-played vinyl albums.

So right now ice and dreck are falling from the sky and the white is pretty but it looks like a serious rink out there, and Mama Sled is not interested in hydroplaning and it is the perfect moment for new toys. I legit choked up. Actual bench presses on an actual bench. Real pullovers. FLYES. Intrinsic muscles that haven’t engaged in months kicking in. (I’m going to feel that, even if I backed off to about two-thirds what I’d usually push; I’ve read all those stories about junkies who get clean and then relapse and use their old dose and die of it.) The calf muscle that’s been half screwed from a nasty Achilles strain kicked in, and I wasn’t even doing calf work. Your whole body engages. It’s like a hologram.

And oh, yeah, that abdomen that got opened up like a duffel bag let me hear about it, but it did its job — rolling back onto the bench with both hands loaded, stretching out cooperatively when I got into place for the pullovers crosswise. I did need the Engineer to help me lever back up out of that, but like I said, World’s Best Boyfriend.

Yep. Right there between the spinet piano and the inversion table, wearing your L. L. Bean scuffs, isn’t that how you work out?

I think I’m going to make it now.

The Army Of The Potomac

A little over four years ago, after a near decade of blogging almost daily, I dried up. Every couple of weeks, every month or two, months. I had nothing to say that seemed important. I was numb, and it felt as if I were already carrying around an insupportable weight, like Rodin’s Fallen Caryatid — feelings that I believe are recognizable to anyone in the United States who has a scrap of decency. We knew it was going to be bad.

I put up this post a few days after the election, and old blogfriend Paul Costopoulos — I hope he is still out there somewhere — commented that many in Canada thought it would end in civil war.

Well, we came close. Veterans and law enforcement officers were among those who stormed the Capitol building — where I used to sit on the steps of a summer evening, listening to my father’s band play — with the expressed intent of lynching members of Congress, and other members of Congress helped them do it. (Yeah, I know you’re supposed to say “allegedly,” but after about an hour I get tired.) And there’s a modern-day Army of the Potomac bivouacked in the capital, some of whom had to be removed from duty after they didn’t pass the Treason Smell Test.

You really can’t make a complete list. Muslim Ban, fucking over DACA recipients, kids in cages, the grossest Supreme Court Justices ever nominated, you barely scratch the surface. There was no reason to be surprised by any of it. I grew up under the thumb of a malignant narcissist, someone for whom abuse and cruelty were as necessary as breathing, to whom you were the best and most wonderful person in the world until you were the worst and most despicable, even if you stayed the same person. I saw what he was entire. So did a lot of other people. I don’t know how anyone cannot. It is what it says on the can.

It’s been four years of fear and despair that I think a lot of us won’t begin to comprehend until the weight’s been off for days or weeks. Until we don’t wonder every night what fresh hell we’ll wake up to. And probably not until people aren’t dying by the thousands every day because of a bumbling and uncaring response to a virus that gives no fucks what your politics are.

I don’t know if I’ll go back to writing two or three times a week. I feel as if I’ve been on a death march, and I’m one of the people who had it easy. I haven’t worked in longer than it takes to gestate a human infant, and I’ve gone so blind that I’m working in eighteen-point type, but so far I’m pulling through, I’m signed up for vaccination, and I’m sitting in front of a newly upgraded computer listening to a service band play on the West Front of the Capitol. And I’m crying.

Oh, F**k, Here It Comes Again

Bad Drunken Smoking Santa Claus Reindeer Christmas ...

There is no place to hide.

So it is that time of year again, which means time for my annual rant about CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS blaring from every quarter until I am reduced to inarticulate shrill screaming. The silver lining of living in Coronastan is that currently all our groceries are being delivered, sparing me the endless Yuletide crap on the store PA, and I don’t expect the underpaid service workers (we try to tip well) to carol me when they drop stuff off, so there’s that. But then there’s my beloved classical radio station, which commenced at 11:43 today with an orchestral rendering (as over a slow flame) of Adolphe Adam’s well known “Oh Holy Shit Night.”

To the bomb shelter.

Really. Every fracking year. One-twelfth of my ambient musical life (I could stack CDs, and do, but sometimes you just want to tune in and be surprised by a string trio you never heard before, instead of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” set for saxophone quartet). WHY DO YOU THINK I WANT TO HEAR ADESTE FIDELES SIXTEEN TIMES A DAY? I go around humming “O come let us deplore him, O come let us ignore him,” but it keeps happening.

This is on top of the dismaying revelation of last night that the station’s listeners have a taste for schlock. Most years they have  “Classical Countdown,” and people vote for favorite pieces which are ranked and broadcast starting the Monday before Thanksgiving, working up through 100 top vote getters till the winner airs at nine on Thanksgiving.

It’s almost always Beethoven’s Ninth. This year, the station took Beethoven out of the mix because they’ve been doing  a month-long Beethoven retrospective (six different performances of the headlong, coked-up Seventh Symphony: that I can take). And I was afraid what I’d learn from that, and I did.

Brahms and Mahler, with their meticulous contrapuntal construction and wrenchingly Romantic themes? Way down in the mix. Mozart’s sublime, heartbreaking Clarinet Quintet? Even further down, barely squeaking in at 90th place. The epically narrative opium dream of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique? Almost fell off the boat at 98th.

The final evening? While I’m dressing for dinner, they’re playing Gershwin’s pandering garbage Rhapsody In Blue. Lookie me, I’m an American Composer! I can make cool noises and insert unearned climaxes and make the tempo start and stop! Tenth place? Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, aptly described by my late and ex husband, a walking Schwann catalog, as mostly “deedle music” (in which the violins interminably run up and down the scale or repeat an eighth note figure over and over, deedle-deedle-deedle). I realized that this was one of the handful of pieces known to people who don’t know music when some idiot in my massage class, assigned to make the choice because someone had hear her play guitar once, selected a bouncy movement that sounds like a hopscotch rhyme as processional music for our graduation. Who the hell can process to boop-de-boop-boop? (But they used it. Christ.) I braced myself for nine p.m., after a nice interlude of Respighi, not on the Countdown.

The New World fucking Symphony.

Don’t get me wrong about Dvorak. He was amazing. The 8th Symphony? You get out of your chair and dance in places, feel like bowing down in others. The A Minor Piano Quintet? First time I heard it was an epiphany. But the New World? He tried, as an hommage to his experience in the US, to string together something that “sounded American” (fun fact: he did not use the tune of a spiritual, he wrote a melody that he thought sounded like a spiritual, and succeeded well enough that it’s now sung in churches because someone set words to it but… he was a Czech guy on sabbatical in Spillville, Iowa, people).

It’s corny. It’s tired. The New World, the war horse that every sixth grade class breaks out in Music Appreciation because it’s simple-minded enough for kids who only know what’s on pop radio and don’t have much patience for a complex piece of music.  Those kids grew up without ever paying much attention to a single other classical piece long enough to remember the title, and voted it top of the list. You know it.

Here I am in the “most educated county in the nation” and their tacky soul is laid bare. They vote up Beethoven’s Ninth when they can because they’ve been told it’s Great Music, and dang if it ain’t, but they really want cheap movie music dressed up with an orchestra. They want something that’s ‘MURRICAN ’cause ‘MURRICAN.

They want a month of droning Christmas carols. Apparently. I don’t know why else the station plays them.

I think I’ll slap Elektra, Salome and maybe Tosca on the barbie and listen to blood and mayhem for awhile, to cheer myself up.