It seems that Jessica is okay for now, or at least as okay as one with viral meningitis is going to be.
She didn't have the rash on the spine that suggests the bacterial kind, which will fuck you up like a hurricane. Apparently she'll just be laid out for ten days or so with a stinker of a headache. My mom is there, pushing fluids on her every hour.
She forwarded me this email that her friend sent her...it cracked me up.
So you know how we have to rehash every situation, So...I had to
email you because you are still unconscious! I don't want to
forget any of the details!
Can we say DRUG SEEKER! Your records are like permanantly coded DS! You won't be able to go into any ER and ask for more Percocet!
We got to the ER, and do you remember asking the tech, "How long
have you worked here?" before he drew blood! He was like, "6 years"
and then you asked, "what time did you get here today, are just
coming on?" Jess what is that? You were so out it before the
OH, and Felicia was your new BFF cuz she had the drugs. She would
look up and smile when you said some crazy shit! Jess you are the
only person, who has thrown up 23 (no 24 times in the past 24 hours)
AND still has to be a smart ASS! :-) Gotta love ya!
Then when Dr. Ott came in to do the spinal tap, You were like, "Dr.
OTtttttt(speech was slightly slurrrreedd at this point) Dr. OTTT, I
am really nerrrrvvous about this, how long have you been a doctor?"
But hey, do you even remember the spinal tap? You were doped up!
Then every time the nurses would same somehting to each other about
another patient, you kept thinking it was about you. So when
Felicia said, "she's needed in triage" You flipped up and yelled,
"WHAT'S TRIAGE!" Jess right about now I am sitting at my computer
laughing with tears in my eyes!
Then when the other nurse is checking you out to release you, your
BP was low, so she wanted to make sure that you could stand up. So
she asked you to stand up, and you were standing there swaying back
and forth. She kept talking to you, and you said, "CAN I SIT DOWN
YET?" Then you fell back into the bed with you feet on the floor!
Then the nurse was talking to your mom. She said, she may begin to
feel tired and drowsy....and all three of us looked down at you
laying in the bed with your clothes half on you, one leg hanging off
the bed, your hair was like cousin IT, and you were snoring! Jess,
you are KILLING IT!
Then...we are in the Kroger parking lot, and your mom was getting
your perscriptions. You were sound asleep in the car. All of a
sudden you perk up, look at me, and hollered, "DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE
FAX MACHINE IS?" That topped that night!
For real, I hope you start feeling better! I called and let Pam know
you wouldn't be there Monday most likely. I told her I wasn't sure
when you'd be conscious to call her!
It's so amazing to me, how things turn out better when they seem so scary at the time. I get perversely nervous when something awful turns out to not be such a big deal...like my time is coming and it's just going to be that much worse. Is this normal?
Get Outed, Get Out
My friend is a conservative lawyer in Virginia Beach--we met at the Young Republicans meeting I wrote about last week. This guy is a fountain of scuttlebutt and damning gossip about cops, criminals and lawmakers in this ever-so-conservative military town.
He told me two weeks ago that the latest buzz was that Representative Ed Schrock
had been taped requesting a sexual encounter with a young man via telephone from a gay escort service. As a straight guy, I'm not sure of the rules here, but I think that makes one even gayer.
Now, two weeks later, the guy is resigning
over these allegations
, which supposedly cropped up on the website/blog run by a gay man who has a history of outing closeted opponents to gay rights.
But think about it: just because someone posts something on a blog doesn't make it true. Are these allegations truer because I just reposted them? Were they less true before I heard them, almost truer when I decided not to blog about them, then truer now?
But what adds validity to the story is this: the fact that this guy decided to resign rather than fight for himself. It takes about ten minutes to set up a weblog, another ten to post to it. Any idiot can do it. But caving in this quickly makes you wonder, doesn't it?
One final questions: since when does being gay make one unfit to govern? Or being in the closet? Barney Frank is openly gay, he's doing fine. Bill Clinton and almost every politician ever has had heaps of affairs and nobody's sweating it too hard. So why is it this big problem if a government official has a gay affair?
If people act like something is wrong, it's going to stay wrong, and I am not lying.
Ten Years, One Block
This is a self-portrait, taken in a quiet, reflective moment at work. Norfolk Public School alumni will recognize the t-shirt.
This is a panorama of my current workplace. I work in the kitchen, the brightly lit area on the right, with a surplus of male employees. It's like cooking on a submarine.
Spinal Mighty Jesus
I had planned to sit down and write another arch and self-deprecating post about work in this pizza place--but something came up.
My sister most probably has meningitis. She called last night, talking about "I have had a headache for like three days and I can't stop puking." And this morning, a friend of hers took her to the doc-in-a-box, who said "My name is Whit and I ain't in this shit. Go to the emergency room for a spinal tap."
So my sister, who lives twelve hours away, is being taken to the hospital for a spinal tap. My parents have been runnign around the house freaking out all morning, packing and talking on the phone to her friends, her friends' mom, sorting out the details of my mom going to visit.
Jess came to stay with me and my girlfriend in Australia for a week a few months ago. To say it went badly would be an understatement. There's been a cold war between us ever since. We've been playing nice with each other, feigned cheer on the phone, etc, but something's been off.
Now her brain could hemorrhage and kill her, or just make her all retarded or blind.
I may not be running around the house hollering, but this is really really freaking me out.
If you've ever worked in a restaurant, you already know my cast of coworkers. Until I get to know them as actual complex human beings, I take comfort in the fact that they fit in pretty predictable roles. See if you don’t recognize them:
The Skinny Dude Who Has Facial Hair
: He has this really deep voice and never talks. It always turns out that he’s like 18.
: Strapped with muscle you just know he got in prison, it’s hard to tell precisely which of his eyes is fake. The only thing worse than his attitude is the heavy jive he speaks in, which the head cook often has to translate. He will claim to be a rapper or hip-hop producer, but this is mostly bullshit. The other dishwasher is always a high-school kid who has an annoying haircut and stands around with his mouth open.
The Wily 22 year-old With A Do-Rag
: He may be the same dude as the first on the list, he may just smoke weed with him in the walk-in. But one thing is for damn sure—he’s got two kids already, usually by different mothers.
The Educated Couple
: Often they are in grad school…he is getting his MBA, she’s working on her thesis. No strangers to the restaurant scene through years of education-induced poverty, they are nevertheless getting the fuck out at their first opportunity.
The Retiree Deliveryman
: Nice guy, can hang but will bum you out
for real when he talks about the election.
: This guy is invariably a class-A dipshit. He has never worked a single shift in the kitchen, but has no problem with telling you how to cook. Usually he points out what you did wrong after you did it, and says something in a resigned and exasperated tone like “Well, I guess go ahead and send it out anyway…but that stuff’s expensive and we can’t be using it like that.”
He got after me tonight for using too much spinach on a pizza. “Oh my god, take that off, take it all off, that shit’s expensive!!” He reached over my reasonably spinached pie and snatched off almost all the greens. By the time he finished it looked like somebody flossed over a pizza.
The Former Jock
: Friendly in a beefy sort of way, this harmless fellow is a lot like Chris Farley, but less funny. His ball hat is always backwards, and he loves to sneak beer but still gets offended when you don’t feel safe having him drive you home. He loves to call people “brother,” which is a major no-no. Unless you’re my sister or a black man, you can keep that “brother” shit. He’ll be friendly and all for your first few days, but may turn on you.
The Guy Who Has Been Around Here Forever
: Loud, outspoken and tattooed before anyone else in this town, he was in your favorite local band ten years ago
That Dude/Chick That Is Too Quiet And Kinda Grumpy
: He/she thinks s/he's really smart, and above all this stuff. Might be a frustrated artist. Can be really condescending and judgemental, but is just insecure.
Believe, Achieve, Succeed
The cycle of day to night loses all meaning when you get most of your light from a laptop beaming the light of far-off job listings onto your face. I’ve been regarding the outside world with suspicion, shutting the blinds on too many sunny summer days only to go nuts by five pm and force myself into a four-mile run. I always end up at video store, renting something to make the relentless indoors more bearable.
All play and no work makes Jeff an extremely neurotic boy. It’s high time for a job, no matter what.
I’ve landed a gig as a cook at Cogan’s, a bar and pizza joint a block from my high school. I work nights, leaving my days free to pursue the sort of job that will allow me to repay my debts from traveling and move up out of my momma’s house.
The walls at Cogan's are covered with airbrushed renderings of spacemen and planets and angry apes fighting laser-spraying aliens. Giant renderings of the Cars’ first album and the Talking Heads’ album “Naked” preside over the back room, home to the air hockey, pool table, and pinball machine.
Making pizzas is really fun, and the food is fantastic. I find it very difficult not to sneak bits of Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella cheese every chance that I get, ducking down behind the counter to pack them between teeth and lower lip. The casual observer would think I had gum in my mouth but no, it’s just sausage.
I went to high school with one of the waitresses. Her dad was my 8th-grade soccer coach. A girl we couldn’t stand in high school teaches at Maury now and comes in sometimes. Most of the people I recognize from way back don’t recognize me, or keep it quiet if they do. I like it that way.
I wear my old gym shirt around as a sot of silly hipster statement, the sort of statement that has led Urban Outfitters to make a killing on reprinted t-shirts from a strawberry festival in the 70s. But as I mop out the walk-in at closing time, an unsettling thought hits me. I mopped floors during the summers of 1993 and 1994, and I’m wearing my gym shirt from that period as well. Creepy.
Whenever I run into someone I knew here from way back, I think “Sweet Jesus, you got stuck, didn’t you? Just working in the restaurant and getting by…nice work.” Now these people are co-workers and I am one of them. What once was a bit of comforting condescension now stings my brain.
It’s been ten years since high school, and I’ve moved a grand total of one block.
There’s no better way to get boring than to hang out with people that always mirror your beliefs. How do you even know what it is you believe if you don’t test it? I’ve spent my whole life hanging out with artsy liberal slackers, and I gotta tell you, they can be pretty boring. I lived in Richmond, VA for five years, and that town does the same thing with punk rock
that it does with the Civil War
In the days since September 11th, America has gotten so partisan that it seems like we’re all at each other’s throats. You can’t befriend across party lines anymore or it’s some kind of loyalty issue. Nobody has intelligent, reasoned debates that end with agreeing to disagree. I’m a big fan of Michael Moore, but I can’t honestly say that I think he’d be a nice guy to go on a picnic with. We all know that Ann Coulter
is actually some rare species of venomous bipedal lizard—but what about regular Republicans? My dad is the most loving, giving man I can think of, and he’s voted Republican since Nixon.
We all know that less than 50 percent of America voted Bush in 2000, but even 40 percent of America is an apeload of people. They can’t all be violence-obsessed people who don’t care about poor kids. There’s got to be some abusive alcoholic Democrats to balance out Republicans like my dad.
So I went to the meeting with a concerned but open mind. And I got to tell you; I met some really nice people. I talked with four strangers in depth, and only one was a total dipshit.
What follows is a transcript/impressions of the four conversations, reconstituted from my scribbled note almost a full week after the fact. They’re accurate in spirit, if not necessarily word-for-word.
The writer from American Partisan
was far and away my favorite. With a head so bald it gleamed and a tendency to wink that bordered on a Tourette’s-like tic, he radiated an uneasy, anxious charm. True dorkiness transcends generation, and this fortysomething man and I clustered like comic book fans at the prom.
“I’m not actually a party-line Republican,” he confided in hushed tones. “I consider myself conservative on most issues, except healthcare. Man, our healthcare system is fucked
A warm, relieved smile exploded across my face. I love to cuss healthcare in the States to anyone who will listen. Before I could get out my soapbox, he grabbed the mike.
“My father just passed away,” he elaborated, “and my mom is getting ready to go as well from the same condition. And you know, for two people that worked their whole lives to have to petition drug companies for free medication because they can’t afford to take care of themselves? That’s just fucked up. Sorta, actually not really luckily at all, I went through some of this with my dad so I know what forms to fill out and who to petition on my mom’s behalf, but that’s just so fucked.”
Partisan or no, the guy’s got a real point.
We chatted more, just about writing and travel and other stuff I don’t even remember, but then got into this debate…
Him: “So why is it you like Kerry, exactly? What is it about the guy?”
To be quite honest, I have no idea why I like him. I mostly like him for not being Bush, but there’s got to be more. My response was actually pretty lame:
“Well, look. They’re both politicians, and we know they’ [re both great big fat liars. But at least Kerry tells me the lies I want to hear. Bush isn’t even trying to say the right stuff. And he’s got a proven track record of lying and getting people killed. I guess my feeling is that with Kerry’s record of being in a really controversial, unpopular, just pretty much totally wrong
war, he’s not going to get us into conflict unless it’s really really necessary.”
“True,” concurred the bald man, “but military service is not a prerequisite for being President of the United States. A lot of Presidents haven’t been in the military.”
“Well, FDR is the biggest example. The guy led us to victory in WWII, for god’s sakes.”
Crap. He had me on that one, and I had to think fast.
“Well, the other thing Kerry’s Vietnam service indicates is that he’s been out of America for something other than a long weekend in Tijuana.”
The bald man smiled huge and snickered, saying “I gotta give you that one.” We celebrated our friendship over a plateful of shrimp and tiny slices of pizza from the buffet.
I met an undercover cop as well. He’s 26, and lived right down the street from me at college. He was extremely proud of his efforts to get head shops in Virginia Beach to stop selling weed paraphernalia. True, nobody really believes that that double-chambered hookah shaped like a wizard is really used to smoke Drum, but it seemed a little obsessive to me.
I just don’t see marijuana as that big of a problem. It’ll turn you into one of these dudes
if you’re not careful but I hardly see it as a crime.
His take was valid, though. The Vice guy felt that drugs are illegal for a reason. And if we make drug paraphernalia harder to get, drugs are therefore going to be that much more of a pain to do. Apparently he’s never hung out with the sort of marijuana geniuses
that can turn two apple seeds and a tic-tac into a bowl.
Vice felt that America couldn’t handle the more relaxed approach to drugs that the Netherlands has. Ours is a culture of excess, he reasoned, and most people in this day and age could not responsibly handle legal, government-sanctioned narcotics. And you know what? He’s right. Americans, as a people, cannot handle their shit. There is no concept of “a little goes a long way” here.
The chairman was a really friendly, welcoming guy. For a mental picture, close your eyes and imagine Conan O’Brien with 60 extra pounds on him. Red-faced and earnest in a way that only a friendly big man in the dog days of a southern summer can be (I know because I am one), Chairman’s eyes, smile, and handshake were “on-message.” That message was “welcome, friend!”
I told him that while I was a Kerry supporter, I was really curious to see how the other side worked. I mean, we’re all after the best leader for America, right? So if we all want the best for America, how different can we really be?
Here goes the transcript:
Me: When I had to explain the American two-party system to my friends in Australia, I had a really hard time doing it without resorting to name-calling and sweeping generalizations. How would you describe the Republican Party?
Chairman: Well, I really think that in our time, it’s more the difference between liberal and conservative rather than Republican or Democrat. Zell Miller is a Democrat, but very conservative, for example. I would have to say that conservatives value individual liberties, and trust people to make their own decisions about what’s right for them, the best decisions for their own lives. Whereas Liberals tend to lean more towards government being an answer to people’s problems—they think the government ought to give things out to people. We feel that government intervention hold people back instead of allowing them to provide for themselves.
This is an unfair interjection after the fact…call me crazy, but how does a government-funded breakfast prevent a malnourished third grader in South Carolina from eating breakfast? What are his choices otherwise, a few mentholated cigarette butts or an apple Jolly Rancher? You got any ideas, put ‘em in the comments on this post. Back to the transcript…
Chairman: Generally speaking, and this is an extremely sweeping generalization, liberals will take money form everyone and buy fish with it and hand it out, whereas conservatives will teach people to fish.
Me: Hmmm, interesting. How do you feel about the perception that Americans are way overworked, and in desperate need of some more holiday time to relax?
Chairman: Well, again, I think that it’s up to the private sector to provide the time off and compensation that they feel comfortable with. And some of them are.
Me: Oh, come on, sure, you read about those freak companies with the nap rooms in the Wall Street Journal, but how many actually exist? You know, we as a people get so much less time to relax than any other country…
Chairman: Yeah, like the European-based model, like the siesta in Spain, or what have you. And you’ve got a point, it would be pretty nice. But our economy tend to be much more robust than the economies of any of those countries…I know we have more people, but even if you scale it…
Me: True, true. But what’s the point of having a robust economy?
Chairman: Having a better quality of life.
Me: But if you don’t have time to see your family or friends or do anything but work, how good is your life in the first place? What it was like Australia where people maybe made less money compared to Americans, but everyone liked their lives better?
At this point, lightning struck me. I had a total brainstorm and I had to spit it out right then. I wasn’t trying to be a clown, this was revolutionary!
Me: Holy shit.
Chairman: What, what’s wrong?
I jabbed him in the chest with my finger.
Me: Naptime, dude! NAPTIME! If you want to put Bush in the White House this fall, keep Allen as Governor, do whatever you want as republicans for the rest of your lives, flex a little tiny bit on this big-government thing and federally mandate NAPTIME! You hate it when you’re a kid, but after about age 12, it’s crucial.
Chairman: (blushing a little, looks around. Obviously he wants to leave but is way too nice to just split.) True, you have a point. But…
Me: But, nothin’! You’re an attorney, and you work some insane hours. What if you had a naptime? What about doctors having naps? You know the quality of our healthcare would skyrocket! This could change everything!
Chairman: You know, I, uh
Me: Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be a clown there. I mean, I know it’s ridiculous, but I mean it. Thanks for talking to me, I know you’ve got to make the rounds. But I’ll be in touch.
He smiled broadly and shook my hand again. Again, it takes a special man to open up about his beliefs and tolerate a nutjob like me. These Republicans, they’re not all bad.
Tanner was the dipshit. Covered in an orange-based tan, her impressively toned body looked like it had been poured from a rare form of wrinkly milk chocolate. The one thing you could say for her is that she lived up to her namesake. She looked like she’d been subjected to prenatal tanning the way that the children of more motivated parents have French lessons or Mozart broadcast through the walls of the womb.
I was definitely on the back foot through the whole conversation, as the undercover cop had been laying some heavy rap on her as I approached. I don’t think the world needs more republicans, but I didn’t wanna lay an accidental cock-block on the guy either.
The topic of healthcare came up (again!) and I let it drop that Australia actually has free healthcare for everyone 30 and under.
“Really?" she replied, astonished. "Is Australia a socialist country? I thought they were our allies?”
That was pretty much it. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and went to see Sonic Youth instead. I’m all for having an open mind, but there are limits.
Short Before Something Longer
I had this massive post all about my trip to the Young Republican meeting all set up, and the whole thing just shat itself when I went to post.
Here's a few quick things:
Saw Open Water
, aka The Blair Shark Project
with my dad the other day. It's amazing, terrifying, so freaking suspenseful. The whole effect was ruined by a family that sat directly in front of us. Suffice it to say that these were precisely the people that Bill Cosby has been referring to.
Discovered a really cool magazine.
I really wanna work for them, except that they are only taking interns for 4 months, full time and not paying them. This guarantees that the intern will be the child of wealthy parents, contributing to the sort of editorial sameness that they claim to be against.
This bloated dog wants a morsel of weirdness
My dog Russell once spoiled Christmas Eve dinner by eating heaping platter of Smithfield ham. He passed on his trademark effervescent greeting when we came home from church, preferring to lie on the kitchen floor and pant shallowly. Occasionally he paused to lick subatomic ham particles off the linoleum, but otherwise he stayed put.
We stood over Russel in a circle, too angry to pat him and reassure his obvious discomfort. One of us pointed out that even for a ninety pound Irish Setter, his belly was stretched way past the size of a Christmas ham. He looked like the rarest of all dog breeds, the red Biafran Setter. The mystery came to a sudden close when my sister shouted from the bathroom, “For god’s sake, he drank the TOILET as a chaser!”
My dad was disgusted at Russell’s gluttony, but we all knew he was planning to do the same thing with a toilet bowl’s worth of eggnog. We stood in the kitchen, grumbling and eating cold turkey sandwiches for Christmas Eve supper when a small clump of meat fell to the floor. Russell, lying satiated like a python in a daycare center, craned his head to hone in on the errant meat. His paws scrabbled feebly on the linoleum, but he was too full to get up. He had eaten an entire ham, drank a toilet and ruined Christmas and here he was killing himself for that one stray morsel.
Me, I go for the strange, just as passionately. I’ve got a large tattoo, love the new Blonde Redhead record, and will definitely be voting Bush out of office this fall. And it all bores the shit out of me.
How do you know what you like, what you really believe in, if you don’t keep testing it?
How do you know a good record if you don’t hear some real stinkers?
I’ve spent my whole life loathing political conservatism at a knee-jerk level. Sure, I read more mainstream news more often than most people. But I don’t actually have anything other than a gut reaction.
That’s why I went to the Young Republicans meeting right before going to see Sonic Youth the other night. For real.
He Just Wouldn't Shut Up
I run sprints around Larchmont Field, circling tennis players and an endless pickup soccer game like a panting shark with tiny man-boobs. My sprints may have gotten me out of manssiere territory, but there is work to do yet. Nevertheless, the sprints burn off the frustration caused by nine solid hours of online job-hunting.
The grass has been too wet to mow for six weeks, a byproduct of the biblical downpours Norfolk gets six days a week this summer. Empty 40s and roaches flicked at midnight by teens fooling nobody are standard flotsam in that green sea of neglect.
The book I found last week was special.
If movies and television have taught me anything, it’s that it should have been a portal to an alternate universe, or at least a cannibal killer’s recipe book/sex manual. The reality was just as weird, but altogether unscripted. It didn’t change my life at all, and apart from giving me another weird story to tell, the whole experience just sort of pissed me off.
Several pages of the day planner had been completely drawn over with full-color Batman comics. The drawing style was angular and harsh, clearly the work of an aggressive and frustrated personality. Instead of words, the dialogue bubbles contained large dollar amounts. The Batmobile was a Humvee, and the Jokers’ henchwomen were unusually buff.
I flipped past the Batman comics and found the calendar portion—it was jam-packed with scrawled notes for meetings and mysterious “sessions” with a guy named Klaus.
I called the number embossed in the inside front cover, and if you’ve read this far, you probably guessed it already: It was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s day planner.
His assistant said “My God, he’s been like, sooooo grumpy since he lost that thing! I’ll send him over to pick it up right away.”
“Isn’t he busy? Shouldn’t I just mail it in?”
“Nah,” his assistant said. I could be wrong, but I swear I heard a nail file in the background. “He needs something to do today. What’s your address? Cool, He’ll be right there,” she said, then hung up on me before I even got to say that I lived in Virginia.
About an hour later, I heard a low rumble outside. I recognized the sleek black Hummer from the comics in Arnie’s planner, sans bat-symbol.
“Hey man, good to see you! Hop in!” Arnie enthused. “Can I take you to lunch? Is there a good Mexican place
The guy talked nonstop all through lunch. It was kind of amazing the way he hoovered up the nachos and salsa without stopping conversation for a second. All I could do was agree with him, and he was off again, talking about movies, the upcoming election, all kinds of stuff. It was like I wasn’t even there.
He was especially obsessed with getting some new “gear.” He kept saying he needed some “gear,” like a little too much, and winking at me knowingly. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but I suggested we go to the mall. They have all kinds of stuff in there. Maybe he could find his “gear.”
Nobody recognized him at all. It was so bizarre, just walking around the mall with Arnold freaking Schwarzenegger, watching him try on sweatpants and just about every stupid shoe at Foot Locker. He just jabbered the whole time, and I kind of quit listening.
It was like when you’re seeing a band you really like, but they’re just playing forever. You really want to go home and just go to sleep, but you paid good money for that ticket. You’re going to wrest every iota of life experience out of the situation in a grim determination to have fun later through memory, even if it sucks now.
While Arnie was sucking on an Orange Julius (his second of the day!!) I got a chance to ask him who Klaus was. He coughed and feigned a brainfreeze. He’s not that great an actor in the first place, but I think anyone can bullshit a brainfreeze. For real. After he pretended to regain his composure, I asked him again, all innocent, “Who’s Klaus?”
“He, uh, he’s, ahh, my trainer. Yeah.”
Finally, I just snapped. “For fuck's sake, man, aren’t you supposed to be the Governor of California? I’m unemployed, but how the fuck do you have the time to kick it at the mall on a Tuesday?”
His answer: “I outsource.”
That’s all he had to say for himself, and I am not lying.