Technology Grandma

When technology surpasses my ability to understand how it works

Me, eventually

Back when my mother sold the family home in Menlo Park and moved out to Pacific Grove, me and my eight sibs were cautiously optimistic. I remember asking her if she needed instructions on how to record on the VCR (this was the early Nineties). It was a seriously old top-loader VCR, complete with corded remote that could pretty much only STOP, PAUSE and PLAY. Anything else, you had to get up and do it directly on the machine. Setting the timer to record was a complicated process that was super easy to screw up, so I wasn’t too surprised when my mom responded to my question with a laugh. “I don’t think I need to know that,” she added.

I got it. All she needed to know was STOP, PAUSE and PLAY, and that was on the remote, cord or no. I used to think to myself, all this new technology must be confusing. And I was probably right. She never did get herself a cellphone. Why would she? She only went outside for walks or maybe to the grocery store. And when she relocated eventually to assisted living, she had even less use for technology. There were nurses for that shit.

Meanwhile, technology has surpassed my own capability to understand it. Case in point: I recently started watching WandaVision streaming on Disney+. At home, I have an ultra-easy Roku. But I’m dogsitting this weekend, and last night, I decided to pick up watching on my client’s Apple TV. And as I touchpadded my way to the correct episode and got it to play, I was surprised to hear a female robot voice describing everything that was happening on the screen:

“Agent Monica Rambeaux materializes, surrounded by an ashy substance. All around her, people are appearing as ash whirls around them…” says Magic Voice. What’s happening? Is this on purpose? Is this another kooky Wanda Maximoff trick? I mean, she is forcing a town to take part in her dream sitcom life. Adding a narrator wouldn’t be all that weird, would it?

But yeah, it was weird. And I quickly realized that in my struggle to pause playback on the tiny Apple TV remote, I’d somehow managed to turn on voiceover narration…but only for Disney+. Shit. So I for-real paused it and went to the Disney+ settings…..okay, nothing there about audio or accessibility. I found the accessibility settings for the Apple TV, but voiceover narration was already turned off. So…..what now?

Stuck, I did what everyone else in my age group or younger would do: I Googled “how do you turn off voiceover narration on Disney+ on Apple TV”? At least I’m young enough to know that Google still has all the answers. The Apple TV forum had the answer at their seventh option: swiping downward on the touchpad would bring up the option to turn voiceover narration on and off. Somehow, when trying to pause the playback, I’d swiped downward and then arrowed down and then clicked, turning on the narration option. It’s such a random but specific set of actions! How could anyone know that without instructions?

I guess I, like my mom, “don’t really need to know that.” But when I did need to know it, at least Google could bail me out! I know that probably won’t always be the case, so I’d better get all my binge-watching in now.

Our Neighbor, Sasquatch

“Yeah, so I’m a little loud. So what???”

A while back, I was chatting on the phone with my friend Pam. We were in the middle of chatting about work and movies and daily life, when my floor and walls shook a bit. I looked over at my husband, Mike, who was sitting a few feet away, working on his computer.

“Exists is home,” we both said. A distant BOOM followed, as if someone just dropped an anvil downstairs. Then a door slam and more structural quaking caused by the being that occupies the apartment beneath us.

“What’s ‘Exists’?” Pam asked.

“Our downstairs neighbor,” I reply. “We have no idea what the hell this guy is doing down there, but either he’s throwing heavy equipment around, or he himself is a Sasquatch. We prefer to think it’s the latter.”

“But what does ‘Exists’ mean?” Pam is still confused, and I don’t blame her. I forget that Mike and I speak in a near-secret language compromised almost entirely of obscure film references. Like Mike Brady, who is our other neighbor with kinda ’70s Dad/Mike Brady hair. Or Andy Richter, a former neighbor who used to live down the hall who reminded us of Conan O’Brien’s sidekick.

“Oh! You haven’t seen Exists? It’s an awesome Bigfoot movie. I mean, the found footage thing is kind of played, but all told, it’s legit scary and the creature effects are the best I’ve seen of all the Bigfoot movies.” And I should know, because I’ve watched almost all the horrible Bigfoot movies out there. Or at least the first 10 minutes of the really bad ones. But out of those, only Willow Creek and Exists are worth multiple viewings. “Our neighbor is super loud and stompy, so we call him Exists. It’s kind of a compliment, if you think about it.”

Pam is amused enough by this to give Exists a viewing, and agrees: it’s downright scary and even a little sad when you realize why Bigfoot’s so pissed off. Maybe our neighbor is pissed off by something sad and that’s why he bangs shit around at 1 a.m. and stomps his way up and down the stairs, rattling the building. Whenever we feel the vibration of the building around us, we have to wonder if the pandemic is what’s troubling Bigfoot, because his walks in the woods are now crowded with people who can’t go sit in a café like they normally would. Plus, the guy downstairs shares a name with a tree, so that’s gotta be a little harsh.

It’s tough being a Bigfoot in the City, I guess.

What’s in a Genre Name?

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

So, I have some exciting news: at long last, I have a literary agent! This is huge for me, obviously. I’ve been writing pretty much my entire life, but only recently has it become of high enough quality that someone who doesn’t personally know me thinks it can sell.

But the question is: what genre does this new story fall under?

I think the overarching and oversimplified answer is simply: HORROR. If you want to get fancy with it, I’d say paranormal mystery. But the thing is, some publishers who may be super into HORROR are less excited by the term “paranormal mystery”. I was hoping my agent might have a snappy answer for me, but then she asked me what genre I felt this book was. So naturally, I turned to the Interwebz for answers.

I came away with about a million different answers, a lot of which ended up at “paranormal mystery” and “horror.”

My agent then brought up the idea of using the subgenre term Magical Realism, and HOLY SHIT that sounds cool! And look at the amazing writers who fall under that (sub)category: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, Milan Kundera, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King… of course, that’s super-specific but it adds a lot of class to HORROR.

Now I’m wondering why HORROR has such a bad rep? Is it because it’s a genre fiction category that some consider automatically cheesy or bad? If so, why is that? Is it all Twilight‘s fault? Discuss.

Which leads me to want to create some new subgenre that’s accurate without undercutting deeper themes within the book. So here are a few ideas:

  • Modern Gothic Horror (I like this one the best!)
  • Natural Horror (This sounds like what would happen if David Cronenberg set a film in the woods)
  • Ghost Mystery (This one is confusing! Like, is it about ghosts solving mysteries, or what is it…?)
  • Cabin Gothic (This sort of sounds like the shabby-chic of fiction, like a style of furniture called Rustic Baroque. HARD PASS.)

Did Shirley Jackson have to struggle with this? Or did they only use the term FICTION back then? Not that I’m as amazing as Shirley Jackson. (I wish!) But I have to wonder if the writers I love would even get published now because breaking down the barriers of genre can be so tricksy. But worth it! I hope…

A Comfortable Sort of Terror

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

A friend recently told me, “I love how you’re all deep cuts, only with bad horror movies instead of music.” And I gotta say, I love that people both love and notice that about me. But after this crazy Pandemic Year, I got to thinking: I wonder why this is? Why is it cheesy horror that often comforts me in times of stress?

I suspect it has a lot to do with nostalgia. When the Pandemic first started last March, I spent at least six weeks watching Night of the Comet repeatedly. It got to the point where I’d just turn it on while playing computer solitaire late at night until I was finally tired enough to go to bed. It was such a cheerful portrait of the Endtimes, after all, in that ’80s consumer bliss way. It’s the story of two sisters, one a teenager and the other just out of high school, who find themselves in L.A. after a passing comet has vaporized almost everyone on the planet but a handful of survivors…many of whom start turning into mutant zombies. The apocalypse itself was blissfully fast, something that seemed sooooo enviable from our standpoint of stay-home-and-wait while our government did little if anything to give us guidance.

A lot of the movies I turn to for feel-good vibes (or at least, survival vibes) are films that I associate with younger, carefree days. Sometimes, they were movies that scared me as a kid, but now are more funny/bad/cheesy than they are scary. Yet, the times they take me back to fill me with fond memories and feelings of security that only come from a pretty well-adjusted childhood.

Example: When I was about twelve, I was visiting my oldest sister Ginny in Seattle for a few weeks. She always had the latest thriller paperbacks or would buy me whatever book I was interested in reading. And when it came to television, she was more than happy to make recommendations for movies to watch. In retrospect, she probably just wanted to keep me happily busy while she went about her day, but I think she also enjoyed chatting about the movie with me afterwards (to a POINT…before I just got nerdy-chatty and started basically reciting entire scenes from the film). I’ll never forget one such recommendation: Burnt Offerings, a mid-’70s schlocky horror film with Karen Black, Oliver Reed, and Bette Davis as their aunt.

An incredibly detailed lobby card for Burnt Offerings (1976) by United Artists

It’s your basic family-wants-a-cheap-summer-rental, become-summer-caretakers, then-become-possessed-by-the-house-and-somehow-consumed-by-the-house story. It’s effectively creepy, mainly because everyone in the cast is effectively creepy. Being only twelve, it totally worked for me for the same reason Let’s Scare Jessica to Death worked for me when it played on Creature Features late one Saturday night. Basically: I had no better thrillers in my frame of reference to compare them to. But also, there was something undeniably foreboding about that grainy filmstock and the telltale signs of what I now recognize as a low-budget film: bad sound that echoes because of only one boom mic and lighting filled with unintentional shadows. Things that would be a turn-off to a schooled moviegoer just added to my this-is-creepy meter.

Also, I just plain loved being scared, preferably by the supernatural. Ghosts were always just a more comfortable scare because I knew the chances that I’d encounter ghosts, killer houses and vampires in real life were slim to none. But a human killer stalking babysitters, like in When a Stranger Calls? That was straight up terrifying. The more normal the setting, the more uncomfortable the scares became.

Which begs the question: Do Michael Meyers and Jason Voorhees fall under the category of supernatural or human killers? Wait, you mean that wasn’t the first question that popped into your head? You clearly don’t know me at all. But Michael Meyers in Halloween is, for all practical purposes, just a guy. But as Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis tells us repeatedly, he is also the physical embodiment of EEEEEEVIIIIIL. And by the end of the film, we believe it a hundred percent. Jason Voorhees’ entire existence is pretty much never explained beyond, well-I-guess-he-never-really-drowned-and-is-somehow-alive-and-keeps-coming-back-so….? But again, I saw both Halloween and Friday the 13th for the first time at age 12, edited-for-television complete with commercial breaks, and therefore wasn’t entirely immersed in them. I watched them in the warmth and safety of my own home, possibly on a black-and-white portable TV in my room, so those are go-to feel-good films.

Does this make me weird? Probably. But who wants to be normal? Besides, it’s not like these are the only films that make me feel better on a dark and dreary day. Like anyone, there are a slew of other films that took me out of my world and that I love to revisit: Raiders of the Lost Ark, the OG Star Wars and (again, horror!) Poltergeist all do the job nicely. Just like Die Hard at Christmas, right? 

But for someone who loves Halloween more than Christmas, nothing warms my heart more than the comfortable fear I get from watching John Carpenter’s Halloween, and knowing that Jamie Lee Curtis will get away….for now.

Songs of Loss Become Inspiration

Revisiting Loss Through Music and Finding the Flame of Hope Within

Every year for the past thirteen years, this date sneaks up on me: November 30. My son Jack’s birthday is also the date on which we lost him in 2007. There were a number of complications throughout my pregnancy, since I was on a few medications and at 39, I was far from my prime. I know I should have been a lot more worried when the ultrasound showed lack of growth and the doctor advised they induce labor two weeks early. But honestly, I was excited. Sure, there was a problem with just leaving him in there, but since we were going to get him out while the getting was good, I didn’t allow myself to consider all that could (and would) go wrong.

I think it’s a mom thing, that inability to let yourself linger on the idea that you might lose your child. In my case, my husband and I had not planned this pregnancy (thus the medications that I was still on), but we embraced it nonetheless. We were living in a large enough rental house in the ‘burbs, and I had a new business in college counseling for high school students in Silicon Valley. I was at the age where I really was running out of time to have kids, and even though I’d never really wanted them, I couldn’t think of a reason not to carry this pregnancy through. After all, is there ever a good time to have kids?

I made playlists to listen to in the car on my commute or while running errands, and some of those songs became forever associated with that brief window in time where we were parents. Okay, maybe not in practice, but in our hearts. We set up a nursery, and my husband spent hours putting the furniture together with inscrutable printed directions composed entirely of Swedish hieroglyphs. We had a baby shower (actually TWO — one for friends, and another for family). We were excited. We learned our baby’s sex was male, and struggled to find a name that made us both happy.

And then, in a matter of hours, everything fell apart. I won’t go into detail here, but things went from joyous to panicked to stunned shock pretty damn fast. I remember my husband sitting right there with me, as if afraid I might break into a million pieces. I remember feeling oddly ripped off, as we were moved from the delivery ward to some nameless recovery area downstairs in the hospital, where we wouldn’t bum any of the new families out. And my playlist? I deleted it, and certain songs were unchecked for several years so that I wouldn’t have to hear them.

Among the songs, there are at least three that I cannot listen to today without being catapulted in time back to those hopeful days, and images of a future that never got a chance to happen. Those songs: “Lullabye” by the Dixie Chicks (I’m not really a fan of theirs, but this one sucker-punches me every time), “The Host of Seraphim” by Dead Can Dance (this wasn’t on my playlist, but it was used at the heartbreaking ending of The Mist, which we saw in the theater the day before going into the hospital) and a hidden song at the very end of Rasputina’s “A Quitter”, in which lead singer Melora Creager’s infant son makes noises while she sings a lovely song to him. I call it “My Son” but it’s not credited anywhere on the album. That one is beautiful and I still love it, even though I feel a bittersweet sadness every time I hear it.

During those first years, I was very aware of this date, and dreaded it. I’d get very downhearted as the day approached, and even as more years passed, if the day slipped past me, I’d still be depressed or quick to anger and not know why until the day was almost gone. Or one of those songs would mysteriously pop up on my song rotation, like a persistent specter of hopes gone by. Hey, remember me? it seemed to say while the music played in my car, forcing me to pull over. I’m still here! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!

Music is one of my most heavily associative mediums. Media in general is like that for me, but nothing transports me — for better or worse — as immediately and thoroughly as music. I’m actually toying with the idea of creating a soundtrack of my life thus far, but such a project feels far too huge for someone with a questionable memory.

I used to dread these associations and visitations of plans and dreams that never quite materialized. Hearing these songs, though, can really be restorative. It acknowledges those hopes and plans, and rather than feeling the failure, now I let myself feel it without trying to interfere or muffle the pain. Because what comes with the sadness is the knowledge that even though those people I loved are gone now, or those great plans never quite happened, or my heart got crushed for the hundredth time…here I am. And a lot of other truly amazing and wonderful things have happened and I’ve met people and made decisions I may never have made if those losses didn’t happen. For everything, every wish and hope and desire, there is a price to pay. And paying it is not for the squeamish.

So today, I am taking out the memory box that the hospital put together back on that sad day, November 30, 2007. And I will listen to those songs and feel those feels, and remember to be grateful that I was lucky enough to know, even for a short time, what it was like to be a mother in spirit. And that today, while I don’t have children of my own, I’ve embraced my caretaker role in my dog care business while I try to carve out a life as a writer. My husband is here with me, too, and a whole support system of loving friends and family who make every second of pain worthwhile.

What are your songs of pain? Do they inspire you and drive you forward? Or are they still angry ghosts for you? I hope you can befriend and embrace them someday. It’s a hard journey, but it’s worth it. Keep going, my loves. Keep. Fucking. Going.

Happy birthday, Jack. Mom and Dad miss you and love you.

Living the Dream in COVID-19

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Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Last Summer, you may recall that I suddenly found myself trapped at home for 13 weeks with a broken ankle. And if you know me, you understand that this was actually a HUGE gift. As a dog walker who takes out two groups of six dogs for off-leash play daily, I’m generally exhausted at the end of each day, and making writing near-impossible. In fact, I’m lucky if I can even play Candy Crush while watching Bob’s Burgers endlessly at the end of a normal workday.

Facing 13 weeks of being mostly bedridden, I now had no excuse to procrastinate working on the novel I’d been attempting to write since late 2017. I’ll admit, the first three weeks of being bedridden were mostly wasted on watching TV, listening to podcasts and writing a few blog posts. But eventually, I got serious, got organized, got plotted, and wrote the majority of my latest novel (paranormal thriller, BTW) between late August and late October of 2019. The premise was strong, the characters were awesome and the plot eventually found a great pattern, once I cut out all the dragging-it-down stuff.

Then, in late October, I went back to work. The first month kicked my ass so seriously that I’d pretty much go to bed by ten or eleven. I basically went from 100 steps a day to 5,000 and then 9,000 steps a day. On top of that, there were SO MANY ERRANDS that needed to be run that I was quite useless by the time I got home. I did get to work on editing, but that work was mostly spent taking notes about all the crap I should change in the second draft rather than actually working on it.

In January and February, I did manage to get a fair amount of progress done on Draft 2, and when we took a short five-night holiday to a cabin on the Russian River, I really cooked on it. I made it almost to the very end before we left to come home, knowing full well that work was going to massively mess with my mojo.

We got home on Thursday, March 12.

Talk of Coronavirus was really ramping up while we were away, but all of that was a distant drama happening outside of our little woodsy vacation bubble. I’d check the news, and did worry sometimes about what the future held, but it wasn’t until the trip home that we realized the oh-shit implications. Lockdown in San Francisco seemed imminent. I’d come down with a bad head-cold just before my vacation, and while I doubted it was COVID-19, I knew it could conceivably be an easy version of it. I wanted to get tested, but friends who straight-up KNEW they had it could not get tested, so I knew it wasn’t going to happen for the vaguely curious.

I was supposed to start back up at work on March 16th, but instead, stayed home. I just felt so worried about potentially spreading whatever I had to someone whose system might not be able to handle it that I was up all night the night before. And by the time I finally woke up on Monday afternoon, I had a text from  a client telling me she’d have to cancel due to the shelter-in-place order. She wanted to take her dog with her to her parents’ home rather than be stuck alone in the City.

I squinted at my phone, confused. Shelter-in-place? I turned to the news, and realized that I was just ahead of my time, because work was cancelled for the immediate future.

I’m going to admit it: I was pretty thrilled. Firstly, I had no idea if I had a cold or something worse and did not want to spread it, least of all to my clients. Secondly, I already knew from the Summer of My Broken Ankle that I EXCELLED at staying home. I TOTALLY TRAINED FOR THIS! Thirdly, I knew I could finish editing Draft 2 and maybe even Draft 3 with the extra month or two of no work.

Cut to: Me, obsessively checking different news sources online for pretty much two weeks non-stop. Those first two weeks of lockdown were a haze of Tiger King, internet surfing, and considering booking a trip back to the Russian River. Also looking at a lot of distant real estate and daydreaming about moving far, far away from the maddening pandemic crowd.

Finally, though, I prepped for finishing Draft 2. For some reason, truly serious work was hard to do with my husband sitting right there, so I started getting to it after he’d gone to bed. I stayed up ridiculously late working heavily on Act 3 of my book, rewriting just about all of it and throwing out huge chunks of anti-climactic chatter.

Now, I am ONE SCENE away from being finished with Draft 2. This is a FAR CRY from being Actually Finished; Drafts 3 and 4 await and man, are they pushing at me to get on it! But the writing of this last scene is staring at me, and I’m running away, just as I did with Draft 1. I suspect that I don’t want it to be over because I love this book so much, even though I know damn well that it’s far from over, as Frank Stallone once sang (or his ghost singer did–whatever!.

So I’m here now, committing to finishing Draft 2 TONIGHT, and prepping notes for what I want to start doing with Draft 3 TOMORROW. You heard me: I’m creating SHORT-TERM GOALS, with an eye towards getting a draft worthy of being edited by a pro by early May.

I hate to sound like I’m finding a silver lining on the COVID-19 cloud that’s all about me, but you know what? I kind of am. I mean, I can’t think of a worse way to get this much time off short of setting myself or a loved one on fire, and I know there’s going to be ongoing adjustments in a post-quarantine world. But if you’re gonna be quarantined, you may as well find a project to work on, amirite?

I don’t think that simply wishing for more time off brought all of this on–I’m not that self-aggrandizing. For now, though, I’d better get back to work! Happy COVID project, everyone!

 

 

The Weekend in Silly Creature Movies!

Up first: 47 Meters Down: Uncaged!blind sharkQ: What’s scarier than a great white shark hunting unsuspecting divers?

A: A blind great white shark hunting unsuspecting divers… in a sunken ancient Mayan city. With CATACOMBS.

Okay, so the blind thing may not actually be as scary as it looks. But look at the picture! It’s creepy, amirite?? And it can find you even if you’re being really, really quiet. Or…wait, did I get that wrong? I’m not sure. Seriously, I’m still not sure!

Plot rundown: Odd-girl-out Mia (Sophie Nélisse) ditches a boring trip with her step-sister Sasha (Corinne Foxx) to go diving with Sasha’s bitchy friends Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone – Rocky’s daughter!) and Alexa (Brianne Tju). Where are they diving? At the recently-discovered underwater Mayan temple site Mia’s diver dad is excavating! Turns out, there’s a blind shark cruising around down there, though. I don’t know why this is scary, but it does kind of look like a zombie shark, so maybe that’s it?

What’s to Love about this film: The underwater city! It’s never named or explained, but all we need to know is that the father of the main character, Mia, is not just handling the underwater excavations, he’s also Chris, the DJ from Northern Exposure! Sadly, he pulls a Samuel L. Jackson/Deep Blue Sea about half-way in, womp-wommmmmp!

What’s to Hate about this film: The absolutely bonkers logic of just about everything that happens. First of all, why is Mia considered a loser? Since when are the beautiful blond girls the losers at school? They don’t even try to make her look like the geeky good girl they try to present her as. No glasses, even!

Next: If you were with a bunch of idiot teenaged girls looking for fun, would you really go diving in uncharted waters that are off-limits to the public to admire the beauty of a lost Mayan temple? Wouldn’t you rather go to the beach or on the Popular Kid Boat Trip that they ditch out on?

Third: I think there are some sort of communicators/speakers built into the full face-mask/breathing apparatus they all wear, which explains how they are hearing one another speak. But…when they locate one of Mia’s dad’s team members doing…underwater welding? That’s what it looked like. Anyway, he is fully submerged underwater, yet SOMEWHERE, SOMEHOW he has what can only be a waterproof boombox blaring some horrible ’90s tune THAT THEY CAN ALL HEAR. Yes, it’s muffled as hell. Because they are all UNDERWATER. There is absolutely no reason why anyone would attempt to listen to music underwater in this manner. FAIL.

Fourth, and worst of all: To make yet another shark release Sasha, Mia takes a FLARE GUN from above deck down into the water and shoots it at the shark, hitting it and thus saving Sasha from becoming a Shark Lunch Special. Here’s the problem…that absolutely cannot happen. Because water. There are such things as underwater flares, but she is clearly using a regular ol’ flare gun, which pretty much needs air to work. So again, MONUMENTAL FAIL.

Is it worth a $3 rental? Sure! Best if watched with friends, some booze, and a sense of humor.

Tune in tomorrow for the next movie we watched, Indigenous.

More Gimp Gear: The Cast Cover and the Leg Pillow!

So yeah, I know, this is really more of a continuation than an addition of new info. BUT hey, a post is a post, right?

I could probably do an entire post about the perils of taking a shower with a busted ankle. But instead, let’s just say that at the ortho’s office, it was made very clear that I should never, ever get my splint or cast wet. I’m not sure what would happen exactly, aside from losing its integrity and having to be redone, but I like to imagine that maybe it would turn into a gremlin? Or multiply into many useless splints?

gremlin

“Ohhhh, whataworld!!!”

 

Okay, so my first shower involved a trashbag, a dishtowel and a rubber band, none of which really make a terrific cast guard (but it does sound like a great teaser for an episode of “Forensic Files”, doncha think?). So I ordered this cast cover from the magical Amazon site, and got one delivered pretty quickly. It’s just a thick plastic bag with a big band and a silicon seal that has an opening in it. A teeny, tiny opening that barely will fit around my leg normally, let alone my leg with a cast or a bandaged splint. But with Michael’s help, I got the damn thing on and managed to take shower number 2 with relative peace of mind.

No shower would even be possible without all the stuff that Leslie brought me the other day – shower stool, shower head attachment…but the suction cup handles that attach to the shower walls? They are not terribly reliable as far as staying put goes. So…instead, I’ve worked out a system of sitting my way into the bathtub, lame and bagged leg dangling out of the bath. It’s not a perfect system, and you still have to be super careful getting in and out and not using the crutches on slippery steamed tile floors. TILE FLOORS ARE WHAT GOT ME HERE. I’m not falling for that again (#dadjokeagain).

Okay, so the other piece of gear I purchased is this: a medical elevating pillow for my leg and cast. It is much better than the many pillows I was using before, in that the pillows tend to slide around and then scatter across the bed while I sleep. This thing pretty much just sits here, doing what it’s supposed to be doing – keeping my foot up.

I was trying to think of another movie/pop culture reference for the medical supportive pillow, but I can’t really think of anything, other than I’m surprised I have not seen ads for it on Investigation Discovery, which has about three long nighttime ads that it repeats ALL NIGHT LONG: Proactiv skin care, Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty skin care, and Life Alert, which tells me all I need to know about their viewership.

Okay, that’s it for now. But tune in tomorrow for other things I’m trying to keep busy with, such as binge-ing TV shows. Stranger Things 3, anyone?

 

Gimp Gear: My New Look for the Next 10 Weeks or So

PFBS8200

My view for the next several weeks.

It was a Monday like any other…until it wasn’t.

I’m a dog walker, by the way. In case it hasn’t come up before. Twice a day, I take my muttley crew (see what I did there? #dadjoke) out to some wide open expanse where such things are legal, and let them run, play, and be goofy dogs off leash. This week was going to be light – only five dogs in each group, which is a nice way to ease back into things from a four-day weekend.

But while picking up Dog #4, I noticed two dudes in the lobby, polishing the shiny tile floors. There wasn’t really a dry walkway to the elevator, and I briefly contemplated taking the stairs instead. But alas, I walked instead, ALMOST slipping despite being careful. And in the elevator I thought, Hmmmm, perhaps I ought to harness the dog, as she’s a puller and I need to walk slowly on that slippery floor. Because my only prior experiences with slipping on floors has been that I slip, fall, and maybe hurt my back or ankle a little bit. It’s not like I’m going to really hurt anything, right?

Right???

Wrong! So I did not harness the dog, and she pulled me, and I not only slipped, but I EXTREME SLIPPED. Like, if slipping was an Olympic sport, I really gave this slip my all and brought home the gold for the US of A. I was bloody AIRBORNE.

And as I went down, I felt something go SNAP! in my ankle. Like a cord. It’s weird, but it didn’t hurt at first. Then it did, and there was SO MUCH SWEARING. The two dudes working on the floor thought it was my knee, and one of them was like, trying to pop it back in like it was dislocated. I’m a little disturbed at how ready he was to leap to this conclusion, but I said no, no, it’s my ankle.

They helped me stand up, and it felt weird and hurt but not like I thought a broken ankle might feel. Like, there was no bone sticking out or searing pain. But I think maybe the adrenaline your body releases to give you that boost you might need to get yourself out of danger may have been what made me think I’d be fine. Because once I got to the truck, I realized that I was screwed.

Several phone calls, texts, and returned dogs later, my husband and hero, Michael, and I arrived at Urgent Care, who promptly instructed us that they had a two-hour wait BUT if we wanted to go to the ER, the guy at the check-in desk suggested St. Mary’s, since it gets less traffic than CPMC or UCSF. THANK YOU SO MUCH, DUDE AT URGENT CARE! That was the best tip we got EVER. I seriously want to send him a bouquet of flowers for this, because he was so, so right.

St. Mary’s is a hidden gem. Okay, not really hidden per se, but it’s off the main ambulance route so unless someone specifically requests it, nobody goes there. Yet they are amazing! Nothing but nice from start to finish. A few hours later, I was released with a splint, a referral to an orthopedic doc, pain meds, and crutches PLUS a walker because I failed miserably at crutches (Round One) to start. Also, x-rays were taken and the PA advised that I should count on being out for 8 weeks, but that probably there would be no surgery needed.

Cut to later that night: in the midst of sending out a flurry of texts and emails in an attempt to NOT lose all my business forever, I hear from Leslie, a former client (the late Jackson’s mom!) and now-friend. She tells me she has GIMP GEAR from when she had to have knee surgery, and even brings it over to me THAT NIGHT, bless her heart, veins and her arteries.

Included: shower stool, shower nozzle attachment, an ice machine for icing sore bits (not needed yet, but hanging on to this), suction handles for inside of the shower, and most appreciated of all: CRUTCH PADS!

The crutch pads are really boss. In case you’ve never experienced crutches before, they’re harder than they look on TV or when other people use them. And more than anything, they really have a way of digging painfully into your armpits. But really, that serves as a reminder that you’re supposed to be using the hand grips for support. And honestly, once I adjusted the crutches and found the right height for both the lower part and the grips, they got a lot easier. Before, it felt like they were just a little too long, especially on carpeting, and I imagined I looked a little like the Cloverfield monster:

cloverfield crutch monster

“Grrrr! Maybe I don’t wanna smash all the buildings, ever think of that? Maybe I’m just really stupidly proportioned! RAH!”

No wonder that monster was cranky! SO AWKWARD.

At the orthopedic clinic the next day, my crutch pads were the envy of all the other patients.  I can’t blame them – I certainly wouldn’t have thought to look into their existence. You just don’t know how nice they are to have until your pits are aching from your awful crutches.

Anyway, I started to look into gear I would need, especially after the orthopedic doc told me to hold off on ruling out surgery (something about the other bone on the other side of the ankle being stressed and possibly damaged, which means it might heal wrong and blah blah blah we’ll know more Monday). And she added that I should plan on NOT driving or walking large groups of dogs for at least 10 weeks.

TEN WEEKS!?! But that’s another post, I think: COVERING MY WALKS FOR TEN WEEKS.

So it was off to Amazon for me to look up Cool Stuff I Need Now, like a cast cover for the shower (my splint is rather cast-like in many ways, only a bit lighter and less plaster-filled), and a proper elevation pillow for the right leg, which needs to be elevated above heart-level to aid in de-swellifying. Which is a word now.

I also am investing in more pajama pants because I cannot wear my Lazy Pants every single day for ten weeks, as comfy as they are.

So every day, in addition to the novel I’m working on, I’m going to try to get in the habit of blogging about The Adventures of Slick Corso, or: How Much Are People Willing to Hear About Being Temporarily Hobbled? A Social Experiment. ENJOY!

IMG_1745

“Anybody want to read my blog? Anybody…?”

Step to My Mad (Survival) Skillz!

[Note: I’ll admit it. This is an older essay I wrote probably over five years ago. But hey, I still feel the same way, only I’ve seen WAY more of these shows than anyone should admit to. Perhaps I’ll do a Part Two someday.]

Remember when Survivor first hit the airwaves? It was as if every network executive suddenly was scrambling to hop on the reality TV train. Part of this may have something to do with the idea that they could get the network to pay for their vacations, but it wasn’t just Survivor-styled television that took off. Suddenly, reality TV became television. You couldn’t turn on the TV without ending up on Bad Girls ClubAmerican IdolRoad Rules or the unfortunate Rock of Love (Brett Michaels, have you no shame?). It was trash TV heaven.

Then, just when reality TV was about to die its just death in the court of public opinion, some douchebag at A&E dreamed up Intervention, suddenly lending a sleazy sort of class (like an heiress with a chancre sore) to the genre by creating a sub-genre. Yeah, that’s right — I call it the Somewhat Scripted Penny Dreadful. We, the viewers, get treated to a PAINFUL 60 minutes of someone who once had a mediocre existence and now clings tenuously to a totally miserable one. It could be anything from booze to meth to hoarding (which was so popular it got its own show, like Flo from Alice) to gambling to OCD that drags us down into the vicarious snake pit of their lives; it all ends in tears one way or another. Yet, somehow, these people have families and friends willing to humiliate themselves on national television, on the off chance that it might save their lives.

And that, my friends, is what I call true Television Genius. It’s the same sort of network brilliance that decided a WWII Nazi prison camp was a great idea for a sitcom, or that Americans would actually watch a show where amateur Christina Aguileras galore compete for a questionable prize. Shows like these should never have made it past the pitch…and yet they did. Not only that, but they each pulled in obscene amounts of viewers who actually went back week after week for more punishment.

Me? I prefer the old-school documentary true crime shows like Forensic FilesCold Case Files (featuring the dulcet narration of Bill Kurtis), and FBI Files. Why do I like these shows? Obviously, not for the high production value or excellent reenactments (in fact, the grainier and hammier the reenactment, the better). I like them mainly for two reasons: (1) to ponder what it is that makes people do bad/stupid/evil things, and (2) because the narrations cure my insomnia faster than warm milk. An extension of this is shows that simply rehash old news footage and add wacky noises, like World’s Wildest Police ChasesWorld’s Dumbest Criminals, Part 457 etc. This is just my version of crack. Don’t hate me, pity my ignorance.

Most recently, however, I’ve noticed a new trend in reality grit TV: I call it Survival TV. This trend hit it big with 2008’s newest entry from A&E (somebody gave that douchebag a promotion and a film school education) titled I Survived.

At last: a show that speaks to ME. I think it’s significant that just after Hurricane Katrina throws our post-9/11 psyche to the wolves, this show is pitched. Imagine the tough sell here: for the most part, this is just one person (okay, three people per episode) sitting against a black background, telling their true and gritty story. The only soundtrack is a very ominous, low tone (not tonestone). Sometimes, they’ll flash a picture of what we interpret to be the setting, artfully arranged and shot in an honestly creepy way. But it’s only creepy because we know that the story this woman is telling about that quaint-looking cottage is about her three days of terror with a lunatic. And I don’t need to tell you why that dusky shot of the woods is terrifying. Simple: it scares us because we supply the mental picture. Our storytellers are providing us with the story that comes alive with a disturbing clarity that a re-enactment could not possibly top. The stories for the most part are illustrations of how totally at the mercy of random moments and sheer luck we all are…and that the spoken word as story conveyor is not yet dead.

I meant to give a big critique of these shows when I started out, but I have to admit: this is the one survival show that takes us back to the days when we’d sit around the fire and trade ghost stories (yes, I mean summer camp, but also back before the days of the written word). Real, true storytelling can be very compelling, and congrats to the bold producers for sensing that we’re smart enough to paint our own pictures.

Is it also exploitative? Hell, yeah! But it’s as tasteful as exploitative gets. Apparently, many Americans enjoy a vicarious piercing of the veil that the tension in this show provides. But we know the hero survives because hello! It’s in the title.

Which brings us to Escaped, recently premiering on my new favorite channel, Investigation Discovery. I’m not going to say much, other than it’s like American Justice meets I Survived, only without the dramatic tension of I Survived. I guess you could say that it’s the poor man’s I Survived. I don’t mean to trash the show; they tell stories from the standpoint of survivors, but because of the nature of the title, it tends to mostly tell stories of women who escaped sex slavery. And while it’s made me much more disparaging of the porn business at its worst level, at no point am I on the edge of my chair wondering if the girls will get out of the basement in time. There’s a slightly lurid feel to watching this show; it’s something akin to how you feel watching a documentary on Jeffrey Dahmer. I mean, do we really need to hear this story again?

I think the biggest problem with Escaped (or Escaped!, as the network refers to it) is that for all its stories of human degradation and depravity, it lacks the heart that I Survived relies on for its backbone: the tale of the man who makes a wrong turn and ends up stuck in his car in a snowbank for a week, or the elderly couple attacked by a mountain lion. Man vs. Nature! And that’s where this show picks up:

I happened upon it while trying to lull myself to sleep one night, and ended up recording it to watch with my husband the next day. I Shouldn’t Be Alive is like I Survived with re-enactments; however, it focuses entirely on situations where man missteps in nature and realizes just how ill-prepared for a worst-case scenario he really is. It’s largely hit-or-miss; either you’re on the edge of your chair, or you hate the bickering jackasses who were stupid enough to try and sail across the Sea of Cortez on a freakin‘ catamaran… on a dare.

The episode that hooked me, though, was one where a father and son get stranded in the Alaskan wilderness when their raft flips into freezing cold water. They lose all their gear — food, camping equipment, and dry clothes — about 60 miles from the nearest town. BOOYEAH! With good actors for the re-enactment scenes, this one stands out in my mind as a Story With Heart *and* Tension.

But here’s the deal: you love them or you hate them. At least half the time, the surviving storytellers are testosterone-driven dicks who goad each other into ridiculous situations which they never would have ended up in had they paused to give it proper thought.

Then again, what on earth would we have to watch if they did?

Food for thought: Just how many categories and sub-categories of reality TV are there? Talk amongst yourselves, class — break into discussion groups and show me your comments.