Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Visit With Doctor Dilf

Last time I saw Dr. Dilf was late last year for my annual physical. While mostly healthy, my cholesterol was high and something about my pee essay wasn't right. (Pee essay? Oh, PSA. He said it had to do with my prostate.) Anyway, he advised me once again to work on my diet and scheduled follow-up bloodwork for April 27. In the meantime he told me to stay healthy as he was going away on a three month sabbatical. Something about helping children with AIDS in Africa. Wow. Hot, rich and benevolent.

So yesterday morning I was ready for my triumphant bloodletting. I'd been on a strict diet for two months, upped my running milage, and dropped nearly ten pounds. In my house, Metamucil is the new beer. I was confident my cholesterol was going to be dangerously low. I wasn't quite sure what to do about my pee essay, so I'd been massaging my prostate daily with a Mont Blanc pen. I was ready.

I was about to get in the car for my 7:30am appointment when I looked down at the pedometer I'd been wearing these past few weeks. Fuck it, I'm walking! I strode to my doctor's office with perfect crosswalk timing, wondering why I instinctively drive so many places to which I could easily walk. I passed two Starbucks and the post office before nearly walking right on past Dr. Dilf's elegantly Victorian-styled office. I checked my watch, 9 minutes door-to-door. With the traffic and one-way streets, I don't think I could drive there that quickly.

As the first patient there, the nurse immediately ushered me into the back office and onto the scale. 200 pounds?? Well, I'm fully dressed and carrying my iPhone, wallet and keys. Of course I'm going to weigh more than I do butt naked. As I climbed onto the examination table, I was still huffing from my brisk walk. "Your blood pressure is a bit high." Hmm. Maybe I should have driven.

When Dr. Dilf came in, he gave me a hug. His sabbatical was good to him. He looked relaxed, focussed and handsome as ever. Tucked under his arm was a manilla folder containing graphs of my historical lab results going back to 2003. If the Excel pivot charts weren't enough, I could tell from his demeanor he'd prepared for this.

Dr. Dilf is quite aware of my aversion to long-term medication. I'd explained to him my grandmother's fatal reaction to Lipitor. But he also knows the rest of my family history and has been quietly collecting stats for the better part of a decade, evidently. He's been letting me slide all these years as I promised to eat better and exercise more. Maybe it was his time in Africa, but I could tell he came into my appointment with a determination I hadn't seen before. My "follow-up" had become an intervention.

He covered the medication's benefits, warnings and side-effects. "If you feel any muscle pain or weakness, you need to stop taking these pills immediately. Understand? Oh, and you need a tetanus booster."

"Ow!"

"Yeah, that'll be sore for a while."

As if to console me, he had me drop my pants and bend over the examination table before digitally violating me. (Did I mention Dr. Dilf's sausage fingers? Way better than a stinky old fountain pen.) And he complimented me on my Under Armours. As I awkwardly tried to restore my dignity, we scheduled another follow-up visit for next week. One last hug before sending me to the lab for my blood tests.

I felt defeated. Without even getting the result of these past two months of effort, I left my appointment with a prescription for Lipitor. And something else for my elevated blood pressure. As I began my walk home, it started to rain.

Next week I'm driving.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Wrapup

Well, Lent is officially over. I say "officially" because it unofficially ended a bit prematurely. The actual diet went pretty well. Overall I'm down close to ten pounds. I got excited when LoseIt awarded me my Ten Pound Club badge Saturday night. I knew I was close but it turns out my celebration was premature. Seems my cat sitter had been stepping on my WiFi scale while I was out of town for Easter weekend. Poor thing has no idea she was transmitting her weight to the world at the speed of light. (Or whatever upload speed AT&T throttles to me.) I've deleted the errant entries, but I can't unsee them. All I can say is... Damn, Girl! I'm setting you up a LoseIt account.

The giving up of the alcohol made it further than most years I've tried it. The wagon started to tip a couple weeks ago with a margarita craving that no amount of diet root beer could quench. It was a beautiful Friday happy hour and I was somehow able to rationalize joining my friends at my favorite Mexican restaurant. Of course, once the tequila's out of the bottle, it's so hard to get it back in. By the end of last week, the wheels came off that wagon wreck completely. But it sure was a fun weekend!

Speaking of the weekend, we left Friday morning to visit the Houston cluster of JB's family. We stayed with his sister and brother-in-law and their hospitality was amazing. JB and I were a year into our relationship when he came out to his sister. It took her nearly a year to come to terms with her brother's homosexuality and resume their relationship, but since then they've always made me feel like part of the family. Now over a decade later, their baby daughter -- JB's niece -- is a 24-year-old out and proud lesbian in a long-term relationship.

JB's sister has always been active in Texas Republican politics. So I wasn't particularly excited about the idea of spending Saturday at a mayoral campaign rally in a downtown Houston park. I had no idea the mayor of Houston is a big ol' lady 'mo. I'm so impressed with JB's family! Our family. It was an unexpectedly nice afternoon of kite flying, easter-egg hunting, free hot dogs and flirting with cute campaign volunteers.

The non-gay family members are fertile breeders. On Sunday there were so many kids running around I wondered how they manage not to lose a few here and there at each family barbecue. But it was a lot of fun experiencing Easter from their perspective.

Hey, watch it! Do you even know what
Grey Goose is? 

"Be careful sweetie. Hold on tight to
Uncle Pac's eye sockets!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Deep Fried

This weekend was the annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park. This meant swarms of people in the park using up all our already weak AT&T wireless signal. The event seems later than usual this year, as the dogwood blossoms peaked weeks ago. On my morning runs last week I watched as tents and amusements were set up.

On Saturday, JB and I walked out the front door of our building to merge into the stream of humanity flowing into the park. It was nice, sunny yet comfortably cool. We stopped for a while to watch the frisbee dogs perform. Well, their owners were performing, the dogs were simply following their training. But they did it with such natural joy that you can't help believe it's all they live for.

That same joy was mirrored in the faces of the little kids who rode the carousel and climbed inflatable slides. Despite a large colorful ferris wheel, the main attraction seemed to be the rows of trampolines above which children were safely suspended by bungee cords. While the kids squealed and leaped in slow-motion summersaults, the real amusement was had by the adults looking on. I can understand why there weren't Xboxes when I was a kid, but I can only blame the dearth of bungee trampolines on a lack of 1970's imagination.

Going into the final week of my Lenten diet, the time spent walking around the park was great but I could have gone without the aroma of carnival food. It seemed every other person walking toward me carried a funnel cake dusted with powdered sugar. And I didn't even want to guess how many calories might be in a deep-fried Snickers bar.

This morning when I ran, the tents and amusement rides were gone. All that was left where the echos of children's laughter and a couple greasy spots on the pavement.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baked Goods

I somehow managed to get duplicates of half the people in my address book so I spent some time the other day cleaning out my contacts. I stopped when I got to my dad. I didn't want to think about how it doesn't make sense to keep his phone number and email address in my contact list now that he's gone, yet it somehow didn't feel right deleting it. Not yet.

This was already on my mind this week when a very dear friend told me one of his parents passed away.

My first reaction to news like this is always an urge to bake. I'm sure it's all about finding a way to provide comfort, but it makes me wonder if my grief stages are messed up.
  • Stage 1: Denial - "I shouldn't be anywhere near pastries now, I'm on a diet!"
  • Stage 2: Anger - "Cream cheese frosting has how many fucking calories??"
  • Stage 3: Bargaining - "I'm just going to try one cupcake and put the rest into this tin for Aunt Ida. You know, for quality control purposes. She already lost Uncle Odie, the last thing that poor woman needs now is a shitty cupcake."
  • Stage 4: Depression - "I can't believe I ate all the cupcakes."
  • Stage 5: Acceptance - "There's always Scruff. I'll find a cute chaser."

I suppose baking is a way of expressing my care and support nonverbally. Because I always feel awkward verbalizing to someone who's recently lost a loved one. I just always think they have enough to deal with, they don't need me in their face yapping at them. I'd probably just make them feel worse. And what if I say the wrong thing? Oh God, what if they start to cry? I can already feel my drama hives starting to itch. Better just to send a gift or flowers to let them know I'm thinking of them.

But after recently experiencing this from the other side, I've come to realize I need to be less uptight and self-conscious, and more caring and expressive with my love. I want to be more like my amazing friends.

The following is my personal opinion and I know it won't apply to everyone. But I don't think I'm that much different from my friends in this regard. So I'm going to let my personal experience guide my actions going forward when someone I care about loses someone they care about:

  • Formalities are nice, but informalities are just as good and often warmer and more immediate. Send your condolences in a thoughtful, somber Hallmark card if your breeding and etiquette simply won't allow otherwise. But a call, email or text message will mean every bit as much. I know it's hard to judge how long to wait for the initial shock to pass, and it depends on the circumstances. But don't wait too long. Now is the time it helps most to be reminded what a wonderful support system I have. Still, late is always better than never.
  • Don't worry about saying the wrong thing. There's almost* nothing you can say that would make me feel worse. But knowing that you care will make me feel better. (*Exception to this rule: Someone actually told me "I'm so sorry. These things always happen in threes, you know." Yeah, don't do that.)
  • Don't be afraid to make me laugh. So many of my friendships are based on a complimentary sense of humor. Don't change those dynamics now. It's very likely the person I've lost loved to laugh too. If so, our laughter honors them.
  • If I do start to cry, don't worry. You're not doing anything wrong, you're probably doing just the right thing.
  • If you're at a loss for words, the best thing to say is "Tell me about him/her." If I'm mourning the loss of someone dear, the opportunity to share what makes them special with someone who never had the chance to know them is profoundly comforting.
  • And if words completely fail you, a long, tight hug never will. Nor will cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Alter Ego

In his recent Jim's Stuff blog post, Jim asks "How are you different in person from your blog persona?"

That's an excellent question, and speaks to my motivation for starting my blog in the first place. Like Jim, my friends may find that my blog persona to be a bit different from my real-time self. Maybe more confident, well-spoken and sure of myself. Maybe even more thoughtful and intelligent. But I hope the two personas are never incongruent.

In a way my blog persona is an alter-ego. I have the ability to disclose exactly what I wish about myself in a perfectly controlled manner. Maybe that's a reaction to the perceived lack of such control in my daily face-to-face interactions. That said, I've never wanted to present myself in an unbalanced, unrealistic fashion. Sure, I could put my best face forward and try to make people believe I'm something better than I know I really am. But that's not my intention at all.

I have human failings, bouts with stupidity and plain bad luck. I try to share these too. It's important to me to be real and relatable. I want my blog to be a window to my real self, not an idealized portrait of it.

This begs the question, why then do I need an alter ego? Maybe it's a midlife crisis issue. When I first moved to Atlanta, I found myself in a strange city without a single familiar face. It was both scary and incredibly liberating. Over the past seventeen years I built not only a circle of good friends but a family here. For the first time in my life, I'm living honestly about who I am. I look upon the life I've built here with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I never want to take these blessings for granted, but I don't want to stop challenging myself and growing in the process.

In a way, starting my blog was a way of getting that feeling of a fresh start without actually having to move away from my home and the people I love. Here I have the freedom to be more open and explore new aspects. I didn't expect to make new friends in the process, that's just been a really great bonus. My hope is when I someday meet them face-to-face, it won't be at all like meeting a stranger, but being reunited with an old friend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Zap!

On Monday night a spectacular storm rolled through Georgia prompting numerous watches and warnings. I was home alone as JB had left for London earlier in the day. Shortly after the storm began the power went out. This prompted me to begin groping in the dark for candles and batteries, wondering why I never think to prepare ahead of time for such occurrences.

Once the candles were lit, I thought how much nicer it would be to not be alone. It's not that I was particularly worried or frightened, it just seemed kind of romantic. And I was horny. Maybe it was the electrical charge in the atmosphere. Maybe it was adrenaline. Maybe it was the husky synthetic voice on the weather radio droning on like Stephen Hawking. (I find intelligence sexy, don't judge.)

Fortunately my DSL and Wi-fi router are on a battery backup, so I had an hour's worth of broadband iPad porn to keep my occupied. I guess I'm not so bad at contingency planning after all.

These amazing lightning photos were taken Monday night by a photographer
in a building near mine. The Bank of America building attracted several strikes.

It's been just over three years since a tornado hit Atlanta in March 2008, passing less than
a mile from my building. The tornado can be seen on the left near the B of A building.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

46 Days and 46 Nights

How many days is Lent? This may be a trick question. Many people consider Lent to be forty days. (Hence the title of the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights.) But a look at the calendar shows it's actually 46 days between Good Friday and Easter. Why is this?

I learned in fifth grade CCD that the Sundays during Lent don't really count. In fact, we were taught that no matter what we gave up for Lent, on Sundays we were allowed to freely indulge with zero spiritual consequences.

At the time I thought this was a fantastic loophole. I gave up Oreos that year, and I think I ate more Oreos those six weeks than ever. The following year I gave up touching myself. I didn't even make it to my first loophole.

The diet this year is actually pretty easy. The food is good and I'm finding 1700 calories to be perfectly satisfying. When I do have cravings, I know it's not hunger but usually boredom or anxiety. Unfortunately this year I also committed to giving up my usual cure for boredom and anxiety: booze.

This I'm having a harder time with. I've given up alcohol for Lent a half dozen times before and only once did I make it all the way to Easter. Often, my downfall was the loopholes. In my mind, a loophole only serves to call the entire effort into question. What kind of real sacrifice comes with loopholes? Enjoying a drink out with friends once a week would not be a sacrifice... it would be a slightly sub-average week.

But yesterday was a beautiful Sunday, and I live in a neighborhood that has a lively social scene. Walking past the crowded outdoor patios reminded me how much I missed hanging out with my friends over beers and cocktails. And how I tend to be less shy and more charmingly flirtatious when I drink. (At least in my own mind. But I enjoy being charming and flirtatious there as much as anywhere.)

So I grabbed JB and went for a hike up Stone Mountain. On the way up, I thought how nice a cold beer would taste after the strenuous climb. And I thought about the loophole. Then I got a sign...

I guess if you carry your cross a mile up a steep
hill, you can be excused for not following
through with the rest of the passion play.
I know it wasn't really Jesus. But I enjoyed my usual diet root beer when I got home.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pac Welcomes/Fears Change

I've been exploring some of the new Blogger features trying to decide if I like them or not.

My mobile templates are now enabled. I think I do like this, although it's not as fancy in a Safari HTML5 kinda way as the WordPress mobile presentation. But I do like that the mobile templates are only used on my iPhone and that the normal layout is chosen on my iPad. Mobile presentations seem a bit simplistic on an iPad, and the feeling is the same as when running an iPhone-only app on it. I'm curious to hear from Android users how it looks on that platform.

As for the new Dynamic Views, I'm not sure yet. I like the "Sidebar" layout for quickly reviewing posts and catching up. And some of the others (like "Snapshot" and "Mosaic") seem perfect for a more photo-oriented blog. But there are no widgets and my blog-roll disappears. I don't like that. And the the links to take the reader back to the normal layout are unclear.


I'm still deciding whether to keep the Dynamic Views enabled. Feel free to try them out and let me know what you think.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Special Moments

For better or worse, I have a tendency to remember the good experiences of life and suppress the negative ones. While I'm sure that explains my perpetually sunny disposition, I sometimes wonder if all those bad moments are still inside me somewhere. Festering and metastasizing. Biding their time. Waiting for the day they're finally ready to burst out like a ravenous larval alien monster, completely spoiling the appetite of everyone who -- up to that moment -- was enjoying a perfectly pleasant dinner. (I hate when I put so much effort into dessert and no one touches it.)

Maybe that's why I don't remember how absolutely bleak some of the Peanuts comic strips were. Seriously, was Charles Schultz on medication? If he was, the dosage wasn't always right.

The moment Peppermint Patty gives up on men forever.
The moment Charlie Brown regrets ever wanting a dog.
The moment Snoopy stopped dancing. Forever.
The moment Lucy always looks back upon with mild regret that
she didn't recognize the warning signs.
The moment Charlie Brown realized he was chosen by God to
once and for all rid the world of Lucy Van Pelt.

There are many, many more examples of existential angst, self-doubt and sadness at 3eanuts. Check it out if you have the stomach for it. As for me, I'll be doing my Friday happy-dance!