Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mommy's Great Evacuation -- Happy Spring!

  Dearest Best-Friend Anna,

    Did you ever hear about Saint Augustine’s “Confessions?”  He was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church back in the fifth century for confessing his sins in emotion-drenched sermons he delivered throughout all of Europe and parts of Eastern Minnesota.
     You’re still Catholic, right?  So I am wondering if there is, at least, a Christian Forgiveness Card I can redeem at Shaw’s if I confess my sins. I know that I, for one, will feel better getting this off my chest, so allow me to confess to you my… special journey … with unspeakable physical atrocity.
     So there we all were, all of our available family members, together for Movie Night: it was me, Jonathan, Abigail with Zachary due in a bit later. We were watching Robin Hood, Men in Tights. I'm lying on the sofa and Abby is lying with me, her head on a pillow on my hip, and we're laughing and laughing. At the movie.  At each other.
     Jonathan is in a rocking chair by the staircase, and he's about to get up to go catch a little cat-nap, but the movie is too funny. He's had a long work day -- plus I made him meet me at a tennis court for a rousing one-hour game. (I am about to become a mother-in-law in five weeks, so I have embarked on a crucial fitness craze and carb-restricted diet.)  Anyway, I am TEEMING with energy.  Jonathan is laugh-yawning.
     Ten minutes before the movie ended, Jonathan took his case of Bilateral Eyelid Dropsy off for a rest. But Abby and I finished the movie, laughing and laughing. Which is when a strange rumbling in my belly started. I laughed at a particularly funny part of the movie... and unexpectedly experienced what I thought was indigestion.  A spontaneous ...  southerly belch.
     That is not – precisely-- what happened.
     Abby bolted upright, taking her pillow with her -- stood -- and screamed.
     You know last year’s TV ad for Travelocity, when the vacationing husband tells his wife she looks like a beach angel, and his wife scream-giggles? Exactly the sound Abby made.  Check it out here:

     Plus, Abby’s face was wearing the same trauma-expression I’d seen in 1998 when she got off a now-condemned rollercoaster:  her mouth wide open, tears brimming, face purple, and the only noise issued from her throat was a strangled gasping snort.
     Finally she managed, "My pillow is ... MOM! WHAT KIND OF GAS WAS TH... OH... Mom... UGHHH!"

     I had forgotten the secret side effect of sudden exercise and diet change: malaria-style dysentery you don't know is en route because there is simply no warning. One minute, you’re lying sideways enjoying a movie, and the next, misadventure ensues.
     I’d experienced this side effect only once before on a similarly-unsafe fad diet. But at least I had been in my own powder room, startled … but safe. I surely was not prone on a leather sofa with my daughter’s head resting on my haunch, giggling uncontrollably.
     I am now collecting the saggy sisterhood of the traveling pants ... giggling and screaming myself. I couldn't recall ever before experiencing a public befouling.
     That is when Jonathan appeared in the hallway roused from slumber, unaware of the tragedy that befell my compression shorts, and he inadvertently blocked my path to the bathroom.
     "Why," he began, "are you guys so NOISY and--UGH... my GAWD.  Something in the house smells like …”
     "Uh, Dad,” clucked Abigail, hands on hips. “Your WIFE just crapped herself."
     "Is THAT wh—Jesus, Carolyn. You smell like dead people. My GAWD."

     I am still laughing... still evacuating...  he is still in my WAY.
     I’d never experienced this kind of 'people proximity’ in a moment of personal crisis.
    Abby is jumping up and down next to Jonathan, micrometers away from me, and I can barely squeeze over the bathroom threshold for the crowd... trying to contain as much of myself and my trail of sadness as I can.
     I close the door... they are LEANING on the door, talking directly ONTO Wood-Muffle voices.
      "I bet," Jonathan boomed, (he is enunciating carefully, so the hollow door can BEST amplify his words) "that you're feeling pretty unhappy you didn't wear cotton foundation garments today. Without SOME kind of barrier, all the evacuation just runs downward from gravity and-- "
     Abby is now making gurgling snort-squeaks but I can't worry if she's choking because I'm busy with the holocaust in my loose, nylon-mesh tennis shorts.
     But I managed to answer Jonathan.
     "It's not so much anything running from gravity.  It's all pretty contained in the seat... but I'm worried about the sofa and pillow because this sports-mesh is designed to expel liquids. I'm wearing... an atomic SEIVE. OH LOOK! Hot PEPPER seeds!"
     There is a thud outside the door where Abby has collapsed from hypoxic pig-squeals and Jonathan is still speaking directly into the door... "I hope you don't think WE are cleaning the sofa. My GAWD this hallway smells. Why don't I hear the bathwater running?"
     Abby has regained her ability to speak, but can only discuss Depends Undergarments. And also, "Why are we pinned against the bathroom door?"
     "I am thinking the same thing," I shouted, still fairly occupied with Dante's Fifth Circle of Hell in my ex-pants.
     Now the two of them are pretending to talk to each other, but they are using the Door Speaker Phone. Abby is noting the "essence" is eeking through the space under the door.
    Assuming they're both flat on the floor like caught fugitives -- nostrils flaring to huff as much evac as possible through the gap -- I open a bottle of peppermint conditioner and squeeze the whole thing at the bottom of the door.
     "Gawd," Jonathan gasps, "It smells like shit and a breath mint. I still don't hear the bathwater running."
     There is conversation about the use of sponge baths and face cloths -- the hope that everything I use in there will be sent to the landfill -- more hope that I find the bottle of Febreze in the linen closet and use it on myself. AFTER I fill the tub and put me in it.
     Eventually, Jonathan returns to his nap.  Abby gets online.  She did not share my story. I asked. It would, she said, be far too embarrassing. For her.
     I did actually throw away my sieve pants and got the sofa et al springtime fresh. Tilex, Murphy's Oil Soap, Orange Pledge with a Febreze chaser. I did eventually turn on the bathwater. And I did get in it.
     I also wore a clean pair of Abigail's pajama bottoms.
     "Oh. I see you're wearing my Sushi Swimming Fish PJ bottoms. You know WHAT? They look REALLY cute on you. They're yours."
     That's when Zachary came home. We decided not to say anything to him... about any of this.
     He didn't seem to ‘notice’ anything, so I assume the exorcism was successful.

     I have SOOO much energy-adrenaline from the Great Evacuation. I may never sleep again.
Gurgle, rumble... :)... I am SO glad I am sending this confession to you. Does this qualify me for canonization?  Please do not post this on the internet,
xxoo carolyn   

Summer and the Smell of De-Comp In The Morning

     The last time summer beckoned with me teaching in a classroom, my school remained in session  until June 30th, making July 1st my first formal day of intensive and purposeful torpor. 
     But this was not to be. 
     My husband learned he had an emergency business trip for several weeks that began on this same day.

    In decades of marriage, I'd learned these 'extended business trips' coincided with local apocalypse:
    Storm doors blew off hinges.  Pets and children went missing.  Roofs leaked, about which I was happy: I stuck plants underneath the drippage. It was the only way they'd get watered.

   Nothing like this happened when he was home. 
Not my corpulent vermin-corpse: this one was too fresh

   So on July 1, 2011, Jonathan leaves, and I wake up to the smell of death.

   I realize it must be coming from outdoors and the wind is blowing the stench inside -- but I need to rid myself of death-smell as I was writing curriculum, right by the smell window. (Okay, I lied about purposeful torpor. But writing curricula in a balmy morning breeze was a welcome change in routine and I greatly enjoyed the process.  Just not with corpulent-rot wafting over Unit Plans for Oedipus at Collonus).

      So I donned chain mail and football helmet, brandished a scythe and Tilex; my third hand grasped a flashlight and out to my front lawn I repaired.
      But there was no befouling odor outdoors.
      It was coming from inside the house.
      This is my favorite line from horror movies: 'We've traced the call. It's coming from inside the house! Get out! Get out NOW!"
     So I trudged back inside and huffed every nook and cranny that would hold the melted vermin, used my flashlight to look under all the baseboards. 
     That's when I spotted a shadow... turd-shaped... of a being resting its corpse on the top tier of the square aluminum conductor-fins that wrap around the pipe inside the baseboard.
     How did a mouse or mole or death-rodent get UP in there?
     More important was how something so small could emit a Level-Five Death Vapor.  This one harbored the typical fruity de-comp -- but with notes of ammonia and a low-tide crab finish. I sure was not going to feed my fingers inside the little half-inch space and start yanking at its dead parts.
     So I pondered and fretted… “What should I DO?”
     I called every English teacher I know.
     I even phoned Jonathan who said, "Oh, yeah. I smelled that this morning, after I came back inside for my sunglasses I'd forgotten."
     "You SMELLED the death and left ANYWAY?"
     "Well... yeah."

     Reina, a grade 6 English teacher, suggested I phone the Boy Scouts of America who could dispatch an Area Scout in need of a Badge.
     Her other helpful suggestion was to call the Fire Department.
     Or Mark. (Grade 7 English)
     Or wait for her to get back from Kennebunkport, so her ex-husband (employed in green, renewable, sustainable energy) could remove the beast.
     I hung up.
     I bought myself time to hatch a plan by spraying half a bottle of Tilex over the area and covering it with a towel I didn't want anymore, then sealing the site with opened Ziploc Freezer Bags duct-taped around The Zone.
     The only way I could DO any of this was… pretending I was the star investigator in an episode of CSI.  Because our college-bound daughter, Abigail, was not of much help. 
     Actually, in fairness, once I’d spied the turd-shadow and enjoyed a panic attack, I scream-handed her the flashlight to get a closer look. Abby went in like a pro, got close, then announced, “I see a tail … and one eye looking up at me.”
     That was the last I saw of her.
     I pushed a piece of furniture toward the containment-site, turned on a fan, and burned Rainforest-flavored incense OUTDOORS so it could waft its fragrance IN. It was a very Medieval experience, smelling death-rot conjoined with incense.   I am glad we live in the 21st century.
      Satisfied I was safe from inhaling rodent rot-spores into my lungs, I was able to calmly hatch a plan.      
      The beast was resting inside a baseboard. Using my literary-device skills, I thought about THEME.
      I will call…. my OIL COMPANY. They INSTALLED these baseboards.
      They arrived in an hour.
      It is a good thing I did not have Mark, an innocent Boy Scout, Reina’s husband OR the Fire Department come.  This job needed Professionals.  It needed… Sochia’s Gas and Oil.
     This intrepid team comprises our Plumber Contingent. In the past 26 years they have come to our home to snake toilets and sink-traps; they have disassembled entire drains to retrieve things too horrific to report using words.
    Once, when one plumbing artisan decided I had clearly dropped a candle or cellphone from the tank top into my acutely-clogged toilet (saying very Top Gun things like, "YA GOTTA KEEP THE TANKTOP CLEAR OF MISSILES!"), he began to begrudgingly disassemble the upstairs toilet, then carried it off to our front lawn to retrieve some child's toy or my cellphone or candle missile...
     . . .and discovered a poop the size of a Buick lodged inside the toilet trap curve.
     I know which child was constipated at that time, but I will protect her confidentiality.
     Suffice to say, I trust these guys to come to my home to retrieve things only Stephen King could write about; and they did not fail me yesterday.
     The creature had decomposed to some anti-corporeal melting point and leaked itself onto the series of conducting fins serving as coffin. And there were entymological beings that begin with the letter that comes before N. They are the opposite of black in color.
     He had to disassemble the entire baseboard...
     He had to use needle nose pliers to remove six inches of aluminum finning.
     He had to take pieces and parts out-of-doors with a brush and Tilex and scour them.
     He asked for paper towels.
     He wore Hazmat gloves.
     He is my hero.

From my son Zach, by phone, after I reported our mis-adventure on his answering machine. 
"Lovely story, Mom.  My favorite part is the imagery of football gear and Medieval armor.  I'm off to Yoga Class."

Me to Zach's voicemail.  "I am blogging the second half of this story since your machine has limited memory."

  Death Smell, Part II

     I just this second had to have Abby help me push a dead, obviously pregnant, female rodent in the driveway onto a paper plate so I could cast it into the wilderness out back.
     It was freshly dead. Or sort of fresh. Maybe six hours old... starting to stiffen.
     It had a big belly and nipples -- I assume the rodent feti were also dead.
     I decided, as I have no gloves and I’m now OUT of Ziploc baggies, I had to use the plastic packaging to a bag of mouse-traps to nudge the beast onto the paper plate. Talk about theme!
     I flung the plate, the beast and the mouse trap wrapping frisbee-style into the woods, beyond dad's woodpile at Abby's recommendation: "Dad puts his HANDS into the wood pile... you have to go much FARTHER."
     She taunts me, that girl. I was happy casting it just short of the wood pile so I didn't have to walk with pregnant-death balanced on a festive Dixie plate any longer, “Happy BIRTHDAY!”
     I am going to stop thinking of the rodents... because EVEN WHEN I JUST WENT TO THE MOBILE STATION JUST NOW the actual SOCHIA’S DEATH-WRANGLER-Expert who removed the carrion AND all the aluminum fins was there... at the Mobile Station... and he SPOKE to me.
     "Hi, did your problem get resolved? Did we get... you know... everything taken care of?"
He meant the smell, of course -- but I am in a deep and purposeful amnesiac state about this Event so I had no idea who he was or to what her referred.  I had to make him be more specific.
     “Who ARE you?”
     He struggled, as he was trying to be SO appropriate. He said,
     "Yesterday, when we captured -- your little friend."
     THEN I remembered who he was.
     Actually, post-trauma, he looked younger and kinder and softer.
     DURING the capture of my death-creature, he looked older, more formidable and rugged.

     I had that same psychological context-memory of Nick's hematologist, when he was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder. Before we knew it wasn't anything like leukemia, I pictured her with spiky, dark teeth, an overbite, garrish red lipstick and dark, over processed hair.
     Actually, she had a blonde, choppy stylish cut, perfect teeth, kind smile, and wore no makeup except mascara.
    I didn't recognize her, either, upon our second meeting: this time, after Nick was diagnosed as healthy... just a reaction to his theophylline medication.
     Trauma memories, at least for ME, are terribly unreliable.

I know, yuck, right?  :(
     Oh, please, can we see one more picture of corpulent rodent-rot so I can feel confident I DID experience trauma?

     . . . and thank you for your attention to this matter. Moreover, thank you to my oil company and their Intrepid Plumbing Contingent for so many years of service, care and recovery.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bang Camaro's Easter Show, Where my Son Nick and Vocalist Nate Went Missing

Speaking of terrorist hijackings, do you remember how in the 60s and 70s that was all terrorists could do? No one worried about an Underwear Bomber or concealed knives and C-4 inside sneakers or nerve gas sprinkled in greeting cards.  

Back In The Day, we were just afraid that our planes might be hijacked to Cuba, causing a delay.

Those were good times.

Meanwhile that is not what this evening's post is about.

 This post is about EASTER!  I love writing posts about Religious Holidays and I sort of forgot to update you on Easter, which was not precisely the Easter I had planned in my musings.  I'd planned on being out of the country, and when I found myself still here, I pretty much threw a ham together and went out with a couple of my kids to play Viking Chess.  It was uneventful, but fun. This forces me to offer a retrospective humorous vignette about an Easter from my past.  Let's get to it, shall we?

(…This Easter, Jesus Had Nothin on Them)
Easter: a deeply spiritual Christian holiday, punctuated by Mystical Bunnies who lay chocolate eggs and colored bonnets in the yards of unsuspecting children. 

A time of renewal and rebirth.

And this year, a time to traipse to Philadelphia to enjoy Bang Camaro’s Spiritual Easter-Eve Show.  In fact, this Easter we experienced Resurrection Itself via the Very Missing For Eighteen Hours Nick Given and Nate Wells – each of whom draws breath because, this Easter, I let them live.

This… is their Holy Story.
“Carolyn,” gushed our children’s father, several weeks ago, “Did you hear about Jake and Zach?”
“I’m making a sandwich for lunch and I have to concentrate. Is this important?”
“Well, only if you consider Jake and Zach BEING IN BANG CAMARO WITH THEIR BROTHER, NICK, IM PORT ANT … WOO HOOO!!”
“Did someone die?”
“Um, they had a NEED for two BC Choir-ists and our own SONS were—”
“Who quit?”
“I don’t know.  Aren’t you EXCITED about your S—”
“I wanna know who quit and if it’s temporary or permanent but I have to go cuz of the mayonnaise and the meat.”

That was how the Unconfirmed Deaths of Nick and Nate began.
Once news was confirmed that Zachary and Jacob had officially been added to the BC Choir Roster, AND that the Easter-Weekend Tour to New York then Philadelphia was on with all three of our boys included, the GIVEN FAMILY-CAMARO WAS DOWN, AGAIN!  Only this time, we didn’t have to drive Zach and Jake to the shows since they were IN them. They Rode The Camaro-Convoy in the professional driving-hands of Nate Wells with Nick Given as Co-Pilot … like God and Jesus Christ.

What could possibly go wrong?
Nothing went wrong en route to NY.  And the NY show was to die for, though, technically, no one did. This performance was the second where the Givens-Three performed together without us in attendance, and both shows were HITS! Could everything go RIGHT with us IN AUDIENCE??

We believed so.

Which is why we boarded a Philadelphia-bound plane the morning of the Philly Debut with Abby, and Jess McGuire – our adopted Given daughter – both in tow. (Notice how her name begins with the letters Jes ??)

Once our plane touched ground and we bustled into the hotel, Jessie discovered she’d left her green purse-satchel on the airport-to-hotel shuttle … a deja-vu replay of my New York LEAVING OF OVERNIGHT BAG IN MASSACHUSETTS last November. I took this as a sign, and sent up to the Rock Gods a Prayer of Thanksgiving for this Portend of Good Things To Come.

Within minutes, Jessie’s purse was resurrected and delivered unto her, and we cried out, “Amen.”
That evening would hold another miracle with Dinner Reservations hours before kick-off of the Philly Show. We’d reserved a table for 7 at a restaurant across the street from the Khyber venue. *DISCLAIMER: The Given Family WELCOMES Spontaneous Dinner Guests (which Given-Camaro-Bros brought) but which Evil Restaurants Who Depend on Actual Reservation NUMBERS… Do Not.

Before our eyes, a rotating choreography of musical chairs afforded our ensemble sufficient time and space for all apostles to eat … almost together.  It was the Loaves and the Fishes… at the Last Supper.

Given this Rock-Solid Beginning, how could I have EVER questioned the safety of Nick and Nate when they Went Hopelessly Missing for Eighteen Hours After the Philly Show?

The Easter-Eve Philly Show was a phenomenon. The crowd was ecstatic, engaged, enraged (did Dirty Dan or Diamond Dick die that night?) arriving steeped in Camaro-lyrics and accompanied by celebrities such as ALEX’S MOM AND BROTHER, AND ALEX’S IN-LAWS WHO KNEW NOTHING OF THE ACTUAL CAMARO CAR THE BAND GAVE HIM AS A WEDDING GIFT but rest easy Alex cuz I told them. Also there was a girl in studded skull-and-crossbones T-shirt that matched my hat, attending with half dozen of her friends who’d seen the northeast Comcast promo of BC who fell SO in love with this band, they were prepared to convoy to Boston. Fortunately, they conveniently lived in Philly this particular Easter weekend.

Best of all was my proximity to Bang Camaro Documentarian, Rob, grabbing video of multiply poignant Philadelphian moments. I was positioned up front, just behind Rob, but technically beneath him due to height-disparity which brought my face to precision-armpit level and I have to tell you: Rob smells wonderful.  All evening I enjoyed his deodorant fragrance and hoped to learn its name.

The evening ended with Pete and Jake dancing with Abby, Nate convincing her to purchase a drum kit and take lessons, Nick dancing with me, last call happened, the Camaro Van was being loaded. And that is when the Badness began.

Jake and Zach were joining us back at our hotel, then flying with us to Providence Easter morning.  Nick and Nate would convoy back to the Fant’s house in New Jersey, then we’d all connect by phone Easter afternoon and settle on a restaurant rendezvous at suppertime. (Since I’d apparently agreed to adopt Nate, Graeme and Doz that evening, I excitedly made mental restaurant-reservations for 11 that could be bumped to 13 without stress or need for miracles.)

At 2:00 AM, Nick and Nate headed off to the parking garage with Zach and Jake to retrieve their overnight things. 

Four of them entered the garage. 

Only two would emerge.

Meanwhile, Jess, Abs and I had hailed a cab and climbed aboard, so when the two boys approached the car with their gear and boarded with their dad, it seemed natural to call into the darkness, ‘Safe trip, Nick and Nate! See you Easter afternoon,’ as we sped into the night.

Easter morning involved check-out and Easter brunch and a rush to our flight and Zachary being patted down and detained by Homeland Security. (They released him). Then came the near-crash landing in Providence. This still felt pretty natural.

The phone call Jake made to fellow Camaro-ists at 4:45PM after no one had heard from Nick was not, however, natural. It seems Nick’s third Pink Razor Cell in about as many days supernaturally died and Nate, of course, the Given that he’d become, left his cell in Massachusetts.

Jake on cell w/Clifford:  “Yeah, so since Nick and Nate have no phones, we’re wondering if maybe they could borrow one of yours so we can plan an Easter rendezvous with them and--     Oh.   Really.   No kidding.   Eh, no, dude, we left them in the parking garage after the show.   Huh.  Well, okay, then – thanks.”


“What’s up?”
“Mom, I’m sure it’s nothing, but it seems Nick and Nate never made it to the Fant’s in New Jersey last night. And ahh – apparently everyone at the Fant’s figured they’d stayed at our hotel in Philly.”
“I see.”
“I’m sure they’re fine.”
“Mom, they’re FINE,” yelled Zach. “They’re FINE,” smiled Abby and Jess.

We drove in silence from Providence to Douglas, each absorbed by his own personal hypothesis on Nick and Nate’s demise.

I won’t prolong the agony. Naturally, they were fine. But just yesterday when I was reading the Boston Herald’s write-up on Nick’s band The Vershok releasing a new CD, I closed the paper and was assaulted by the 150-point, bold front page headline, WHERE IS MY SON?  with subhead: Anguished Mom’s Desperate Plea.  See Disappearance, page 7.  While Nick and Nate evaded police across three state lines and countless counties to arrive in our driveway at 8PM, not all families are so… lucky.

But Nick and Nate are too Rock-Crazy for sad fates to befall them. And we enjoyed this notion in the three-hour wait between discovering they’d gone missing, and when they rolled in alive.  Some of us used laptops to look up Mercedes SUV mileage and crash-test ratings; others phoned the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and alerted four sets of state police that Nate Wells’ car was “overdue.” We exchanged witty, bemusing tragedy-free scenarios that might have caused delay. (Please note that each proved true. In fact, Nate and Nick would relay additional events that Chevy Chase -- on Fudgeweisers -- with Hardening of the Arteries -- could never fancy in his wildest musings.)

Before I share Their Plight, huge thanks to the Local Douglas Police Authorities and their Heroic Dispatcher whom I contacted on the advice of a Boston-based State Policeman.  Our Douglas Dispatcher ran a Safety Check on Nate’s car – and checked on their status throughout Pennsylvania, NJ, NY and MA. (The New Jersey Turnpike Authority and their TRUSTY ANSWERING MACHINE were of no help, nor was the Philly PD or the PA, NJ and NY staties combined.)

Indeed, amid the incoming 911 calls where our dispatcher coordinated ambulances, fire trucks and rescue choppers to quell area-disasters, he managed to extract the following Nick and Nate data:

  • A white Mercedes SUV had, in fact, experienced “difficulty” – but it wasn’t registered to Nate Wells.  PHEW!
  • Nate was born on Christmas Eve in the late 70’s; his parents live in Vermont.
  • He has no outstanding warrants; he has no criminal record.
  • The same could not be said for our son, Nicholas.
  • Nate has an active, viable driver’s license and no recent moving violations.
  • The same could not be said for our son, Nicholas.
  • We know the VIN number of Nate Well’s Mercedes SUV, which our dispatcher learned had been tagged for tow in Philadelphia. (How come the Philly Police Force was unable to extract THAT data but 300 miles away our fearless dispatcher acquired it in one keystroke I ask you, HUH?)
  • Nate’s car is registered legally in Massachusetts, is insured, and is in his name.
  • Nick’s last cell phone call was made early the previous morning – then All Went Silent – according to the report our Dispatching Wizard obtained from Verizon itself.
  • Neither Nick nor Nate nor their dismembered body parts had turned up on even a single of the involved highways where state police were summoned to crash scenes.

The list below comprises scenarios we all GUESSED CORRECTLY had taken place – as well as outlandish events too bizarre for conscious thought that Nick and Nate swore actually happened.

To distinguish between each category, I have placed a smiley face :) after those situations we’d accurately predicted.  The frowns :( are for those ADDITIONAL events that actually took place, despite all laws of physics and human decency.

  • Nick and Nate got lost trying to leave the parking garage :) -- asked local STREET WANDERERS for directions back to the Khyber :( several times:) :) only to find themselves WAY outside the city limits hopelessly lost.  :) (The muffled giggles from the Street Wanderers echo through Philly today.)
  • Nick and Nate genuinely drove for hours, in circles :) still hoping to find the Khyber :) where the Camaro Convoy last was.  By this time, The Camaro Convoy had been in sleeping bags at the Fant’s in New Jersey for more than half an hour. :)
  • Nick and Nate Drove and Drove Until The Day-Moon Rise… :)
  • Which is when they ran out of gas :)
  • After getting gasoline –then an Italian Sub -- :(  Nick discovered he’d managed to park between two intractable barriers at such an angle that it was impossible to get the SUV out :(
  • After an 18-point turn, they were back on the road :(
  • They decided to check into a motel :)
  • It was a motel harboring a troupe of cute, black transvestites :(
  • The notion of learning to use a Pay Phone to alert the BC or families as to a “delay” never occurred to either of them :)
  • In fact, they told themselves that if they JUST woke up early enough and drove safely, NO ONE WOULD EVER KNOW. :)
  • And when they DID wake up at 11 AM :) and got back on the road with maps and directions :)they realized they were in VISUAL SIGHT… of the Khyber :(

By 7:55PM, I’d started absently braiding and unbraiding a lock of bang-hair to release tension.

At 7:59, Zach peered through the diningroom window then perked up, “There they are! They’re pulling into the driveway now!”

From the kitchen someone said, “They are Risen.”

Apparently I DID adopt Nate Wells.  In my Relief-Hysteria where I threw open Nate’s car-door and shoved my braid at his face screaming “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS NATE THIS IS A STRESS BRAID” then burst into tears – Nate calmly responded as would any Given.  “But neither of us had a PHONE.”

You know, I am reminded of a lovely church hymn from my childhood:
              As it was in the beginning –
               Is now and ever shall be: 
                Nick & Nate … Without End
                    Making Amends …

(Also the anthem, Fists Up If You Believe in Us.  I’ll never doubt again.)

  Thanks again to Douglas PD… (and the Rock Gods who smile upon us).
                                  xxxxxxxxoooooooo –cg

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 15 -- not just for taxes anymore

I truly enjoyed last week’s The Onion, which ran a piece entitled, “Jesus, this week.”  It was just what the psychiatrist ordered.  So on-point was this piece, the title alone was Pulitzer-worthy. Check out the link:,32105/

Beyond the Boston Marathon attacks where my daughter-in-law cheered on four workmates at the finish line hours before the bombings…beyond the Thursday FBI photo-release of bomb-suspects and that evening’s ambush of MIT Policeman Sean Collier… beyond the “Shelter In Place” ordered in Watertown and Cambridge where both of my sons and their fiancĂ©es live … beyond all of this was the ongoing journey of our favorite myeloma hero and my personal spousal unit, enjoying a neural-reaction to a new medicine. 

It’s times like these that I find the human psyche impressive.  My personal psyche likes to play a game called, “Which horror shall we focus on now? We can only do one at a time.  Choose wisely.”

By Tuesday, 24 hours post-bombings, he’d enjoyed a similar number of hours on a new medicine designed to combat nerve pain from myeloma therapies.

But instead of racing to his nerve endings, the drug coiled its way inside a piece of brain tissue responsible for generating incorrect emotions. Specifically, emotions wildly disconnected to events unfolding around him.

Oh, he was concerned for his daughter-in-law, his sons, a ski mate that ran in the Marathon. But alongside these concerns rested an uncharacteristically euphoric expectation that his upcoming myeloma blood test would reveal a long-awaited remission. There was no real reason to believe this miracle was en route.  But his emotion-generator was busy generating manic optimism. He even phoned to request his test results early, only to learn he, in fact, was NOT yet in remission. 

This went over… poorly.

The guy is genuinely happy and stable, so – between watching the news to ensure my children’s safety (a ridiculous but essential exercise in magical thinking) I researched his medication. What was my un-surprise to discover this drug caused mood-changes.

My handicapped focus continued to ping-pong between terrorist-updates and Jonathan’s mind-set, between follow-up emails about a family bridal shower thrown the eve of the Marathon, and emails from a realtor alerting us that a buyer wanted to buy – then not buy – then buy a piece of property my husband’s family was selling.

By Wednesday, I was addled.

This happened to be the day Jonathan’s drug-enhanced emotion-generator went into a new mode. His neural tissue now viewed his unchanged myeloma marker-number as a harbinger of stable disease… about which he was ringing peals of personal thanksgiving.

I was busy opening personal bottles of leftover bridal shower wine. 

Wednesday was not one of my finer-moment days.

Thursday wasn’t lots better, given that a member of his oncology team called his cell phone at dinnertime to confess that he had – and I am not making this up – “forgotten” to order his cancer medication.  

Normally it arrives each month on a Thursday or Friday and I sign for it in person. It arrives in a plain brown wrapper, causing my neighbors speculative envy.

I realized there had been no such plain brown-wrapper delivery that day.  And I was curious to know which way this news would spin inside his emotion-generator.

He could not have been more PLEASED to get to drive to Boston the next day to acquire those meds. He hung up as excited as someone who’d learned they’d won the lottery and got to drive to Boston to embark on a ten week cruise to paradise.

 "How inconvenient might it be, Mr. Given, for you to drive to Boston Friday to get your cancer medication in person?  Otherwise, it's not going to arrive until next Tuesday at your home, so you'd miss four days' doses. . . "

“Why, it would be my pleasure to drive to Boston tomorrow.  I’m en route to New Hampshire anyway on some personal real estate business.  See you then!”  

Why not?

Watertown wasn't yet under siege, nor on lockdown; the MIT policeman was four hours from being murdered; the radicalized bomb brothers were not yet minus one bomber in a shootout a few neighborhoods away from the home of our son.

Therefore, it was not spectacularly horrid when my husband’s work called, noting he had to delay his trip to New Hampshire and to Boston for his medicine.  There was a small work crisis afoot.

This was news of monumental good fortune!  “Great!  Now I can get some work done in Natick, go to Beantown and get my Revlimid, come back here to meet you and we can pack up for an afternoon ride. This is working out WONDERFULLY!”  He fairly skipped to bed.  Friday was going to be fun, fun, fun.




I had insomnia from real estate insanity co-mingled with terrorist thoughts, so I was awake when the MIT shooting broke on the news – and even more awake when Watertown was placed on lockdown in the wee hours.

It’s the town my son Zach and his fiancee Marina live in, so I am texting them both – before sunrise – then texting Jake and his Alexandra who live in Cambridge. Also on lockdown. I alerted our third son in Canada just so he could know everyone was safe.

And off Jonathan went in high spirits to his work crisis and his journey into Boston to get his Revlimid.

“But babe,” said I to him, “it seems that maybe everything is on lock-down in Boston.”

“Oh they can’t lock down hospitals.  Everything will be FINE.”

It appears that hospitals are the first places that are locked down. Which Jonathan confirmed late morning.  He called to tell me they are having his medicine mailed out.  “It will arrive next Tuesday. I’ll only miss a few days’ doses so DON’T … You… Worry.”




It is not possible to argue with Happy Neural Tissue.

 I instead went into Execute Mode and rummaged through a special cabinet near my spices reserved for Leftover Medicines.  I save them for special occasions.

Guess what I found?

Enough of his Revlimid medication to get him through Tuesday in the correct dosage.  It was left over from a January prescribing-misadventure. 

Now this stuff is a relative of Thalidomide, so it requires special handling and storage. I confess I didn’t exactly ‘store it’ appropriately in triple wrapped latex-free Hazmat coverings.  It was in its plastic bottle right next to my oregano.

 I’d have called to tell him all of this, but feared the joy he’d experience might cause him to drive into a tree.

So I distracted myself with plans my sister-in-law and I were making to share meal-preparation for Friday, Saturday and Sunday up in New Hampshire where we’d all convene to prep the property for sale. I agreed to “make something yummy.” 

But with Watertown, Cambridge and all of Boston locked down and a manhunt afoot – I couldn’t tear myself from the TV to go buy ingredients. 

By noon it was clear all of the fast-breaking action was neither fast, nor breaking, nor active. So I left the TV room to scour pantry shelves for ingredients, hoping for the same success I’d had unearthing cancer medicine.

I swiftly built a casserole from the only ingredients I could find: five blocks of pre-expired cheese, two boxes of pasta, half a curling zuccini, soy milk, and a hologram of swiss chard SO translucent from age, I almost missed it while reaching for a shallot.

I began assembling the ingredients hoping the Culinary Muses would inspire wizardry, and voila:  I built a casserole to which I added half a can of Pantene … no wait … Progresso-brand Lentil Soup.  It was so amazing I am sharing the non-recipe:

Lockdown Casserole

Take a box of tri-color rotini, whole wheat rotini or any pasta in your cabinet and toss it in boiling water until it is pre al dente.

While the pasta roils away, into a microwave-safe vat toss generic Velveeta, soy milk, aged cheddar, horseradish cheddar, American sandwich cheese and mozzarella  (*or pre-green cheese your particular refrigerator harbors.)  Microwave for as long as it takes to melt – which is way long – so you should stick a spoon in there and give it a good stir to keep apprised of its melt-status.

Drain the pasta and stick in a bucket.

Pour the runny cheese mess over the pasta and stir until your biceps seize. Finish with a half-can of either Pantene-brand Lentil Soup or Progresso. Both work well.

In separate bowl, snip an old shallot with scissors, use the same scissors on withering swiss chard, and use a knife to dice a flaccid zuccini-remnant.  Toss them in seasoned rice vinegar and citrus soy sauce, then fold the whole mess into the Bicep Pasta.

Finish with parsley or anything green, unless it comes from a darkened Rubbermaid vessel.

There you have it:  a casserole made of things in my house on a day I could not leave it.

It was fucking delicious.

While I have your attention, I’d like to discuss the eff-word for a moment.  It’s “The Word” teachers vow never to use but they break that vow daily.

Anyway.  I would like to ask … now that the remaining bomb-brother has been extracted from a boat on property less than a mile from my kid’s home … I want to know … what kind of oncology personnel forgets to order life-saving cancer medication, causing the patient to have to drive into Boston the day he is to start his treatment – except – oops – the whole city is on effing lockdown?

If you choose oncology as your life’s passion, you just do not GET to be human and ‘forget’ to order cancer medicines.

It is just lucky that Carolyn saves leftover drugs. 

I vow to continue to horde every expired antibiotic, sedative and opioid capsule, every ozone-defiling inhaler, every over-the-counter cold elixir containing phenylpropanolamine – an ingredient pulled from the market years ago and I’m never giving mine up. I’m not tossing the used nasal saline nor nasal steroids whose applicators teem with plague spores of random-guests whose nostrils I stuck em in when they arrived at my home complaining of colds and flu.

I’m a giver.

Jonathan arrived home that Friday afternoon, much less elated about things like the sunrise and the fact that his car started.

He was returning to Neural Ground Control.


So I felt comfortable sharing my day.

“Since I was unable to extract myself from the TV, I used every viable house-ingredient and built tonight’s dinner, then I went to the pizza place and got us wraps for the ride to New Hampshire.  I gas’d up the car and deposited money in the bank and guess what?  I can no longer tell you what our balance is. Instead of a deposit slip revealing our balance, I got a receipt.  Like the kind that rolls out of a cash-register only flimsier. It started to compost itself once it came in contact with my skin, but not before it informed me that I had – get this -- just deposited money… then had taken some out. THEN, the receipt instructed me to go a computer somewhere to establish a password and securely read my balance.  The only way we’ll ever know how much we have in the bank is if we close out the account.”

“Yeah, I got an email saying they upgraded the system last weekend.  So this is what they upgraded?”

“Apparently. Anyway, when I got gas, the attendant told me our local Post Office was on lockdown.  It was one more Friday Irritant.  I feel like an oyster.”

“WHY was our post office locked down?”

“Seems all the post offices in the state were on lockdown. They released our local workers to their homes at 1:30 today.”

 “Well that’s good. We don’t wanna keep postal workers locked down much past 2.”

“They locked it down – get this -- in case the marathon bomber car-jacked a mail truck.”

“And the danger would be what, Carolyn? He’d deliver the mail even more poorly than our driver Jan with the wandering eye?”

 His humor had returned with his newly stable mood. 

 Which totally went south once a befouling odor enveloped him. 

“My gawd what is that smell?”

“Oh.  That.  Well.  I’d been awake since 3 am so by 9:30 I was starving.  And there was no food in the house, so I had lentil soup for breakfast.  But just half a can.”

“Where is the other half?  Throw it away now.”

“It’s in my Lockdown Casserole.”

As of Friday, the Marathon Terrorist Attack was responsible for mayhem and misery beyond understanding.

But it was also responsible for napalm-like farts that caused my immune-compromised husband to stagger off ‘to go pack up the car for New Hampshire.’

As the slider closed behind him, I noticed nothing in his hands to pack up.

The ride up was reasonably uneventful, with all four windows rolled down.  We were exhausted for so many reasons, with just enough energy to be grateful our children and their loved ones were safe, that we had each other, that we had that day together.  And that our pulverized hearts still held tightly to the hundreds of families whose lives are irreconcilably broken.

We were tapped out at precisely the right time to be in the sticks without access to news, other than texts from our kids that the second guy was taken alive.  The lock downs, the mayhem, the manhunt.  Those parts ended.

The educator and analyst in me still struggles to make sense of all of this, but how can you make sense of a nightmare?

Meanwhile, the English teacher and literary-device enthusiast in me did discern, albeit obliquely, one “theme” so here it is: During our three-hour road trip last Friday, my Breakfast Lentils caused my guts to feel like a pressure-cooker and my ass sounded like Watertown at 1 in the morning.

Given the circumstances, it’s the best I could do.