Sunday, November 30, 2008

goodpill industries

My medicine cabinet probably looks a lot like yours: analgesics and cold medicines; assorted eye and butt creams (the latter rarely used, of course, and certainly not by me); clippers and cutters; Vaseline and Vicks Vapor Rub; an ear bulb someone might someday need—and where would we be without it?

Once or twice a year, I throw away bottles of pills, drugs that time finished when I couldn’t. Usually they are pain relievers from migraines or back aches or thoracic outlet syndrome. Sometimes they are anti-depressants that I decided against after the second dose, or they’re prescriptions for a misdiagnosed condition. In the last year, I’ve tossed whole bottles of Roxicet, Percocet, Oxycodone, Flexeril, Nortriptyline. Antivert, and Cymbalta. It’s thousands of dollars in pharmaceuticals—useful to some, I’m sure. Too bad there’s no Goodpill Industries. I’d drive up the alley and whisper, “Psssst…yo, Spike, I got the Percs.” If I could drive, that is.

The other day, I met with a surgeon to discuss my laminectomy and discectomy (L5-S1, in case you're new). He asked what I’ve been taking, and I complained that nothing worked, that if I take Percocet, I become a zombie. I’ve got five months worth of sample bottles of Cymbalta. I took it for two days and stood drooling in the grocery store, forgetting which aisles had the foods I buy.

This doctor actually listened to me for a change. He gave me two prescriptions and told me I absolutely must take them.

Before he wrote down the instructions, I told him I didn’t know what it was about prescription drugs in particular. He could tell me to smoke pot or take Quaaludes, Black Beauties, or mushrooms—no problem. But that mean ol’ Roxicet is scary! My mother tried, unsuccessfully, to hide the look of fear and horror (there was no shock) until I reassured her that once I became pregnant, I stopped taking any of those recreational medicinal risks.

She and the doctor were relieved as I waxed poetic over my drug of choice: “delicious beer.” I love the taste of beer, yes. And I love the way two beers make me feel. I’ve often wished someone could invent the two-beer pill—something just relaxing enough but not too mind altering. When you’re a control freak in pain, all you’ve got is your brain, and even that gets hijacked by the suck voice. You tend to agree with everything it says when your cognitive ability is equal to that of oatmeal.

The doc advised me how to take the Neurontin; the hydrocodone was to be taken around the clock, unless I preferred the Percocet, in which case that’s the one I should take around the clock. Whole pills, too, he warned, not the quarters and halves I’ve been taking.

The first morning, I took half a hydrocodone—just to make sure I wouldn't lose my mind. Not much happened, so I took the other half.

I’m a few days late for Thanksgiving shout-outs, but I want to thank the Norco people. I can now cross one item off my list of things to accomplish during my lifetime: Invent or discover the two-beer pill.

Though it hasn't done a whole lot for the pain, I will not be dropping any leftovers into the charity bin.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

twenty-six-year itch

Two days ago, my mother-in-law would have celebrated her sixty-first wedding anniversary, had Marty’s dad not died a decade ago. This Christmas, my parents will have been married forty-seven years. Maybe long marriages are in our genes. My husband and I will celebrate our fifteenth anniversary next May, and we lived together for eleven years before the big day.

In twenty-six years, neither of us has ever cheated. There was an almost or two, but, unless you count my visibly swooning (and probably drooling) over Bob Schneider, we’re pathetically faithful.

Certain kinds of people always chuckle when I say I’m certain my husband has never had an affair—either sexual or emotional. Cheaters—they think everyone cheats.

A few times in our relationship—usually, coincidentally, before or after a Bob Schneider concert—I have given Marty permission to get himself some strange, but he just won’t do it. I know it’s because he loves me—and he’s terrified that it would give me permission. And then someone else might fall in love with me, too.

I've been thinking about it, and I wonder whether it would bother me, after all these years, if he had a meaningless romp in the hay with some nubile thing. I could say yes with certainty a decade ago, but now I wonder if all marriages shouldn’t come with a Get Out of Jail Free card or a built-in marriage vacation for a week every seven years.

Marty can't believe I'd give him up so easily, even for a night. “What if you came home and found Catherine Zeta Jones in bed with me?”

"I would point at her and laugh," I say. "No, really, if you could tap that, you deserve to!”

Marty looks wounded. “What if she falls in love with me?”

“Oh, yeah. Because poverty is so sexy.”

Maybe that’s what makes men’s fantasies so much more unrealistic than women’s. No, I’m not a 24-year-old blow-up doll, but I’m not bad for forty-inaudible mumbling], and I could very well be the hottest offering in a room—like those couple of times we trekked to small rock clubs on weeknights in snow storms. It was slim pickin’s for rockers. I could do in a pinch.

But even with permission, I couldn’t do it. What would be the point? Who needs the heartbreak, the disillusionment? Who needs to get naked in front of a stranger at my age? And who needs the host of dangerous microbes that only a lead condom could stop? (Talk about a seven-year-itch!)

What most people need to keep the sparks in their marriage is the knowledge that someone else desires them.

So, Catherine, now you know that you are at the top of my husband's list. This is my gift to you and Michael. Happy Anniversary.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

they catch bad guys, don't they?

I have a television in my bedroom. I borrowed it from my sister, who upgraded. I used to bring the kitchen TV upstairs when my husband was out of town; I liked the company. But it was heavy, and I got tired of carrying it up and down the stairs. Besides, I have my own room, and it can have its own TV.

Back when we were twenty-something, Marty and I had a little black and white TV in our bedroom on 27th Street in Remington. I don’t remember what we watched—LA Law and NYPD Blue, probably—but I do remember that our roommate, an unemployed used car salesman, used to take that TV from our room while we were at work so that he could stay in his room all day, freebasing cocaine and peeing in a one-gallon apple cider jug. Imagine the day I came home and searched the house for that little TV only to find it illuminating the tighty whities of our roommate, a giant bottle of urine next to his bed. He muttered an apology, but he still stole it every day, even rummaging through my things when I hid it from him.

When we moved, we got a bigger TV, and the little one went in the den. (The roommate did not come with us.)

I never used to watch the tube a lot, though I confess to having a thing for the various incarnations of The People’s Court. Winter nights for the past fifteen years have always been capped with an hour-long soak in the tub with a good book. But since I put my sister’s TV in my bedroom, I’ve all but stopped reading and bathing. Instead, I get in bed and watch the cop shows—CSI, Law and Order, Without a Trace, Cold Case. If it’s got a bad guy and airs between nine and eleven, it’s on in my bedroom.

My husband hates it. He wants to be the only bad guy in my bedroom. Instead, he comes in to say his passive-aggressive goodnight before filling the adjacent room with hurricane-force snores.

You’d think that all these shootings and robberies and rapes and murders would keep me up nights, but I actually sleep a little better. In the past few weeks, in fact, something odd has happened. I can’t seem to stay awake for the ends of the shows. I’ve been falling asleep at quarter of ten and quarter of eleven, just before they catch the bad guys. I’ve seen magicians die, their killers disappear. I’ve seen kids get lost but never found. I’ve seen cops almost get their man. Then it’s all blank, and I wake up in time for the next show’s theme song.

You’d think this would have some kind of effect on me—that I would have begun to lose my faith in law enforcement or that I'd be worried all the time. Nuh-uh. The fact that TV shows no longer resolve has not made a

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I ba-ROCKED the vote—and I'm proud of it

When I awoke this morning to what I consider good news, I logged on to Facebook to change my status message to something appropriate for an injured person who wants to express delight: “Leslie F. Miller is cheering, gently.”

This afternoon, I logged on and found an acquaintance’s status message: “[so-and-so] thinks seeing your politics in your status update yesterday is like seeing you naked -- in most cases, we'd be better off if it hadn't happened.”

First of all, that’s awfully presumptuous! Seeing me naked could have any number of positive results, not the least of them a determination to lay off the cake and beer!

Second, what’s the secret? Sure, voters have the right to privacy, but few people find it necessary or even desirable to hide their beliefs. Some post choices on their lawns or slap them on their bumpers. Others, like me, wear t-shirts in honor of our candidates. A political party affiliation is certainly no more sacred than a religious one, yet Orthodox Jews don’t hide their yarmulkes, and Christians don’t hide the crosses around their necks. Telling someone you’re a Jew is probably more dangerous, in fact, than telling someone you’re a Democrat.

Third, a Facebook status message is very much like a bumper sticker on a car, but it’s a car that you drive around a parking lot full of your friends and acquaintances. You choose who sees that sticker.

Finally, I’m proud of my vote. I made my informed decision based on my core values. That’s what people do. It’s how we pick our spouses and our friends; if we have the luxury of means, it’s how we decide where to live and where to send our children to school. And while we don’t always agree with our neighbors (close friends and family members voted for “that other guy”), we usually have other, more important things that unite us—like our love of music, our appreciation for art, our children’s friendship, and love.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ho v. Slut*

I have had my costume for a year—since Halloween Spirit marked down their black wings. Add a big-schnoz mask and black clothing, and Corvus corvax is your uncle.

Since slut-ness is still all the rage, I considered being a Slut Crow—maybe fashioning a Madonna-esque bra out of golden beaks to wear over my shirt as an ironic expression of disapproval. (For one day of the year, beautiful women ought to look forward to wearing comfortable shoes!) But it’s hard enough just to be a crow.

At the first costume party, I wore the full regalia for about thirty minutes, but I was having trouble fitting through doorways. I couldn’t sit, and I was knocking over drinks and empty cups and dragging my feathers in the macaroni and cheese. At least the slut costumes don’t mess with people’s junk. I mean their stuff. How many Slut Catholic Girls poke their husbands in the eye with a beak?

I like a clever costume. I was fall, once, with fabric leaves glued to my pants and shirt, sparser toward the top, in a mask with tree branches sticking up, a few leaves waving in the breeze.

I have been a heavenly body (ironic unless you are really, really into sagging boobs and wobbly thighs), with a moon/sun mask and the solar system painted on my clothing. And I have been Medusa, with green skin and snakes sewn into my wig.

But Halloween was just not into me this year like it was my daughter, a petite Sarah Palin, a glittery, ketchup-bloodied Miss Maverick sash draped across her Target dress. Though the dress was expensive ($35!), it can be worn again to any spiffy function—with her tights and eight dollar red snakeskin boots. I popped the lenses out of some +3 dollar-store readers, put her hair in a bun, and stuck a rifle in her hand. And JimBob was her uncle.

At our first party, Serena's Sarah met up with my friend Kim’s Bristol, pregnant belly popping out of designer clothes, hands full of shopping bags. She put some of her son’s game balls in her bra, which upset the ten-year-old boy so severely that he vowed never to touch the balls again. (Pardon all the double entendres.)

If you’re a ten-year-old tomboy, being Sarah Palin is like being a pretty girl in a dress. And I like seeing my kid in a dress, even if she exemplifies wretchedness. But although it’s something she is not for at least 360 days in the year (my problem with the first half of Slut Witch and Slut Cop and Slut Majorette), it’s not enough for her to be an instantly recognizable star; she has to be an instantly recognizable zombie version of that star.

Enter Sarah Impalin.

I’m not an off-the- rack-costume fan anyway, so no way was I wearing those wings to yet another party. An hour before the Halloween dance at school, I was standing in my kitchen in a messy-hair wig, ironing a just-designed Cherry’s Liquors decal onto a ripped t-shirt. I added red Converse high-tops and exercise pants, and I made up my face with a black eye and a wad of sugar pasted below my nose. That's right, beyotches. I was a crack whore—and not just any crack whore, either. I was a Harford Road crack ho.

Maybe you're trying hard to find the difference between a whore and a slut. Here it is: sexy. There is no sex in the Harford Road crack ho—not even with the red bra exposed. I spent the entire night wandering from Beatnik to Goddess, Verizon Network to Zombie, Lucy Ricardo to Flapper, asking for "corters" for some "Pampers over Cherry's." While scratching myself. Crabs, lice, drug DTs—you name it, and I acted the part.

Marty accompanied me as my Harford Road pimp, a yo-boy wannabe, in size XXXL sweat clothes and sideways baseball cap, an outfit he found on three separate trips to the park.

I guess my inner beauty shined through, because Christopher Reeve felt something when I sat on his lap. And a devil whispered to me that he had just gone to the change machine and had a whole pocket full of "corters."

So, hey, listen up, my slut compatriots: Leave your thigh-high boots in the closet with your bustier—just for one night. Because you may turn heads with them, but I made a buck fitty.

*Ho. This time.