Twitting

Yes, I have begun twittering again. It’s sort of a writing project, not just updates on what donuts I ate today.

Anyway, please check it out at http://twitter.com/jkonrath and add me if you’re on there, too.  (You can also see updates over there in the right sidebar.

Share

Cardinals-Giants

Just a quick note on yesterday’s game. We went to see the Cardinals play the Giants at AT&T park, and managed to get seats from Sarah’s work – they have a luxury box and rotate who gets tickets, so we went with maybe a dozen of Sarah’s coworkers and their families. This was the first time I ever had box seats, and it was pretty cool, especially the fact that the food was all right there and catered. I spent most of the time talking to other people, which is also nice, because you can go back inside and sit around there away from the game if you want. I had no real vested interest in either team, although I secretly wanted St. Louis to win, and they did.

Photos are on flickr, and here’s the slide show below, although if you’re reading this on facebook, it will be stripped out and you’ll have to do the old fashioned thing and actually go to flickr to look at the pictures. This was my first run with the new camera, and the zoom lens did great. I expect it to do even better if we’re close for a game – we were up in right field for this one. Good view of the water and the boats and bridges and people in canoes, though.

Share

Spring sprung

There’s this day that’s absolutely ethereal to me, when the winter cold vanishes and the summer heat isn’t here yet, and the air is crisp and feels good, and it’s always a time machine to past eras when this brief ripple between seasons occurs.  And it’s happening right now, but just for a few hours, until the sun arcs high and burns off the morning fog in the bay and heats the air from the fifties to the seventies. It’s hard to describe the in-between season, and it’s not as pronounced here as it is in places with real winters.  But it’s here, and it has me thinking.

Here’s one thing it reminds me of: in Indiana, in the summer months, sometimes the temps would dip at night.  Like it would be a hundred at noon, and by midnight, the temps would touch the sixties. I can remember so many sleepless nights, staying up late, staying out until dawn, and cherishing that hour at four or five in the morning, when it still felt humane, before the humidity hit a hundred percent again.  I remember the summers I would work the six AM shift, unloading trucks at Montgomery Ward, climbing out of bed at five to get into a beat-up Camaro with dew on the windows and a black interior that made every day feel like an Indian sweat lodge without the cool hallucinations, but in that hour before the sun’s heat, it felt nice.  One summer, I didn’t even have the car, and would walk the mile to the mall.  Everything would be quiet, no cars on the road, no kids on their bikes or suburbanites on their riding lawn mowers, grooming their chemlawn pissing contests.  I had the world to myself, and this invigorating feeling from the light air.  I’d be dead asleep, sleep deprived, hungry, wanting to go home and get back in bed for another six hours.  But I also knew that atmosphere would be gone if I rolled out of bed at noon and faced the brutality of the Indiana summer.

It’s hard to say when spring happens here, since it’s never brutally cold, and here by the water, the temps never climb that high.  There’s outside indicators, like when baseball season starts, when At Bat comes back to life on the iPhone and my page of RSS feeds that provide two updates a day on extended roster hot stove boredom suddenly come to life with thousands of stories of tradition and optimism and prediction. And I notice a chance in traffic patterns, the number of cars on the road during my commute.  It’s my only indicator that schools are in session or out of session, parents changing their morning commute to hurry their kids to schools and preschools.  I remember a time when the school year versus the summer months was a stark contrast, like the atmosphere on the moon versus that on the Earth.  Now half the time I can’t remember if it’s summer or spring or Halloween without looking at my desktop calendar first.

Speaking of, I’m going to a game in a bit, so I need to gather my gear, pack my camera bag, and find my rulebook and AM radio and binoculars and all of the other junk I bring to the ballpark.

Share

Ketchup. Catsup.

I feel a need to write some giant, overarching, incredible story that spends a thousand words telling some great concept about life, but all I really have at 9am this Saturday is an overwhelming urge to sit on the PS3 for a few hours, and enough random updates to make a giant bulleted list.  So I’ll try to stick with the latter, but with different formatting.

Probably the most exciting news of the week is that Sarah started a new job.  She likes it and it’s the job she was wanting, and that’s all great.  But what’s really great is that her new job has a corporate suite at AT&T park, and she got us tickets to Sunday’s Giants-Cardinals game.  I do not have a vested interest in either team (except that I have Lincecum and McGhee on my fantasy team, and the Giants will need to finish worse than the Rockies again this year, of course.  And Julie’s a huge Cards fan) but I have never seen a game from a suite, and I am very excited to see how the upper crust accommodations work out.  This does mean I can’t wear a Rockies jersey to the game, and I probably should keep the Rockies talk to a minimum during the game.  At least it isn’t a Giants/Rockies game, which would be problematic.  This will be my first game of ’10, and my first game with the new camera, so expect pictures.

I have moved to iPhone ’09 due to the computer upgrade, and they now include Flickr updating from the app.  That’s good news, in that Flickr Exportr (or whatever clever name it had) was one of the worst-behaving OSX program ever (except for Missing Sync for Windows Mobile) and the new support has some neat features, like bidirectional sync  (change a description in flickr, and it changes in iPhoto.)  Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to get your sets from Flickr to show up in iPhoto.  I mean, the photos are still in my library, but the set isn’t importable.  I will save the ugly details for another post – I may have a partial workaround, but I really need screenshots and diagrams.

I upgraded the wordpress software here, because I heard someone’s horror stories about getting hacked, and the auto update software failed, so I had to backpedal and reinstall by hand.  I think everything works fine, but if you see anything weird, let me know.  I’ve also been going back to old posts and adding titles by hand, because my old journal had no titles, and parts of wordpress assume you have a title.

I’m currently 7th in my fantasy baseball league.  It’s amazing that I have some of the best pitching out there, but I have no offense.  The second the draft was over, I realized exactly how I should have went into it, and now I’m screwed until next April.  I need to take furious notes and force myself to follow them next March.

OK, to the PS3.

Share

Cardiac arrest is self-expression

Peter Steele, the bassist and singer of Type O Negative died on Wednesday, something that came completely out of left field for me.  He was only 48, and apparently died of heart failure after a short illness.  It took a few google searches for this to really sink in, since he (or maybe his record label) hoaxed his death in 2005 for an album release, and he’s got a pretty morbid sense of humor.  But I guess he had health and substance abuse problems, and it’s been confirmed by many sources, so I guess it’s true.

Type O Negative (and his earlier band, Carnivore) are pretty intertwined with my life in college and in the 90s.  When I worked at WQAX, my biggest “get” interview-wise was a phone interview with him on the air.  I have a tape of this somewhere, and I ran it in my zine. (You can read it here.)  He was pretty hilarious and odd on the phone; I was incredibly intimidated going into the interview, and then didn’t think it was going to happen, because they were late calling, and the manager I was dealing with seemed a bit flaky.  But as I sat in that shithole apartment of a studio, I got the phone call from New York, and we went on the air and got started.  He was not serious about any of the questions, and gave hilarious answers to everything, even when I started throwing out bizarre questions.  It was such a refreshing change from pretty much every other death metal or thrash metal band I interviewed, who pretty much ran through the same ten questions with an incredible seriousness, telling me their influences (always the same list of bands), the reasons their music was heavier than anyone else’s, why they hated Metallica, and how much the PMRC sucked.  But Pete was truly entertaining, and realized this wasn’t about looking cool and brutal; it was entertainment.

I remember first hearing Type O Negative in the fall of 1991.  Ray came down to Bloomington to visit for a weekend, and I was dating Jo at the time, and the two of them were fighting the entire time, both trying to out-whatever the other and assert control over the situation.  I hung out on a Saturday afternoon with him, while she was off doing something.  We went to the Fine Arts computer lab, where they had the super-high-tech Mac IIfx computers with giant dual-screen monitors, color laserprinters, and color flatbed scanners, the first time I’d ever seen any of those things in real life.  The computers had this brand new program called Photoshop, which you could use to edit images.  It came with a sample image of nine babies lying in cribs, a sort of top-down artsy shot of a hospital nursery.  We used the clunky 1.0 features of the Adobe program to demonize the kids; one had a severed head; one had a Manson-style swastika on the forehead; another puked blood.  We made color printouts, then went out to a dreary-sky campus and drove to Pizza Express on 10th street to get a pizza for lunch.  We ate in Ray’s car, and he produced this tape with a grainy green cover that vaguely looked like a poor night-vision snapshot of sexual penetration, entitled Slow, Deep, and Hard.  “This is the fucking heaviest thing you’ve ever heard,” he said.  “It makes Black Sabbath sound like, fuckin’, Charlie Brown.”

And he was right.  I fell in love with the album and bought my own copy of the tape that day.  A big part of that love was that I was going through a really rough patch of life then, a caustic relationship with someone who constantly played mind games with me and caused me to go into deep cycles of depression.  And here was this music that was both extremely depressing – talking about infidelity, suicide, depression, you name it – but also had a lot of black humor to it, a very clever and dark twist on the darkest part of life.  I spent so much time poring over that album, just absolutely bathing in its negative emotion, using it as a soundtrack for this ugly tail-end of a relationship.

I spent all of the summer of 92 listening to Type O Negative, as documented in Summer Rain. I got a Type O Negative pin in the mail from the band, after I did the interview, and I wore it on the lapel of my leather jacket for years, serving as a sort of litmus test for people who actually knew the band.  Bloody Kisses came out in 93, and I was thanked in the album (albeit misspelled) and also memorized this one, listening to it constantly on those long walks across campus with nothing but my Aiwa walkman to keep me sane.  After my bad breakup in the fall of 93, that album kept at my brain constantly, and it was somewhat ironic that the band actually gained incredible success, with Bloody Kisses eventually going gold and then platinum.

Their 1996 release October Rust also burrowed a permanent position into my brain when it came out. I know it’s stupid that in 1996, I was still morose over a breakup that happened three years before, but I was in such an extreme state of angst about having nothing going on dating-wise and being alone in a new city.  The album became this touchstone to that era three years before, and in a way, reopened many of the wounds, splashing them with rubbing alcohol and stinging them back to life.  I absolutely loved this album, every part of it, even though the band had almost completely moved away from their original metal origins.

I never got into the band’s later work, but those first three albums are still in constant rotation in the iTunes library, and probably at least once a day, one of them comes up during my drive to work or while I’m at the computer.  So it was shocking and sad to hear the news about his death.  It’s also weird to go back over his lyrics post-mortem, because they all talk about death and dying and killing and suicide in such a heavy and tongue-in-cheek way.

I don’t really know how to end this post without sounding stupid or sappy, and I keep wandering to my iTunes library to look things up, so I better wrap this up here.

Share

FrameMaker key annoyance solved

I always vow to write down the small annoyances I solve, so that a) I can look them up in three years when they happen again and I’ve completely forgotten the solution; and b) so people googling might get lucky and find the answer.  So here goes.

In FrameMaker, you can do a million things using weird, barely-documented keyboard shortcuts.  One of the most frequent combos is using F8 or F9 and then typing the first few letters of a character style or paragraph style to apply it, instead of opening up a dialog and picking it from a list.  That’s great, especially when you’re importing a Word document and you have tons of ugly font fondling to undo, because 95% of Word’s users manually override styles and apply font changes by hand.

But I’ve noticed lately that I get in a weird state where the F8 and F9 keys stop working.  This is a new laptop, new job, new docset, new Frame install, and it’s my first shot at using FM9.  So I went nuts trying various combinations of turning on and off those stupid pods and docks and panels and dialogs and other crap they added to this version, with no joy.  I also tried googling, and couldn’t find much.

I’ll cut to the chase: I’m using one of those Microsoft ergo keyboards with a ton of extra keys for doing a web search (sorry, a “Bing” search…), controlling the media player, opening the calculator, and so on.  And next to all of those function keys is a little key called “F-lock”.  I don’t entirely know what it does, something like turn on a second set of keymappings or some other thing I’ll never use.  What it does do is mess up your keyboard, at least function key-wise.  And I somehow was randomly hitting it.  (It’s located to the right of the F12 key, at least on my setup.)

So yeah, hit that key again, and you’ll be fine.  End of digression about FrameMaker annoyance.

Share

There are no coincidences

The last time I bought a new computer, the Rockies beat the Mets.  Today, the Rockies beat the Mets.  And guess what I did?  No, I did not buy a computer because Denver beat New York.  (If that was true, I’d own many computers.)  But I did replace my 2007 MacBook.

I ordered the new MacBook Pro, which was announced yesterday.  I got the 15-inch version, with the 2.66 GHz  Intel Core i7.  This is the latest and greatest chip, which is a dual core, but is also hyperthreaded, so it’s more like a quad-core, sort of.  And it has this new turboboost technology, so as long as you are not running hot, the system will overclock one or both cores up to 3.33 Ghz as needed.  It also has both integrated graphics plus an NVIDIA GPU, and can intelligently switch between the two on the fly, which is new in this model.  It also has a nine-hour battery, and the unibody aluminum case.

I did not spec up at all, so it comes with the stock half-terabyte 5400RPM drive and 4 GB of RAM.  I also didn’t opt up for the new higher-res screen, or preinstall any optional software.  I think I’m taking a big enough bump up in performance that I’ll be happy with what I get.

And because I was impatient, I went to the Apple Store at lunch to see if they actually had them in stock, and they did, so I cancelled my order online and picked one.   And now the cruel irony of any new computer purchase:  I have spent the last four hours with both new and old machines tethered together, slowly copying the last three years of my life through a cable and onto the new machine.  And it does not look like it will finish by bedtime here, so I will have to play more tomorrow.

For those keeping score at home, that brings our household to two MacBook Pros, a MacBook, two iPhones, two iPods, and an AirPort Express.  No iPad.  I didn’t even get to check them out, I was in such a hurry to get in and out of the Palo Alto Apple Store.  I saw one out of the corner of my eye, and it looked neato, but I think Apple has taken enough of my money for a bit.

So I guess it’s a good thing I have this journal on WordPress now; I can type away from my Samsung netbook while sitting in bed.  I’d write a bit, but all of my writing is locked away on the Mac(s) until the transfer is complete.  At least six hours of copying is better than six days of waiting on FedEx.  Right?

BTW I don’t know how it happened, but I went from 10th place to 3rd place in my fantasy baseball league in a matter of days.  I don’t think this will last long-term though, given that I don’t have a closer, I have two catchers in my active lineup, neither one getting more than like 35% of their respective teams’ starts, and my team’s batting average is just over the Mendoza line.  Still, they’re doing better than a few real teams out there right now.

Share

Jet City

I keep – or try to keep – a daily journal of automatic writing.  I sit down at 6AM and try to write whatever is in my head for a thousand words or an hour, whichever comes first.  I never publish this stuff, because most of it is random, a lot of it is personal, and most of it is junk.  But for whatever reason, I’m mining through some of it now and thought I’d share a bit of it.  So here goes.

From 9/24/09:

It’s easy for me to romanticize Seattle, especially the beginning of Seattle, because it was that magic period after college, the time where you’re cashing in on those years of alleged hard work, and instead of paying out money to bursars and book stores and dormitories, you’re finally pulling in money.  You’re in the black, at least in a theoretical sense; you’re still selling CDs you got from a splurge period through the Columbia House mail-order club to keep the occasional groceries in the cabinets.  But in theory, you’ve got money coming in, instead of working on the economy that you need to borrow and budget and save to keep yourself in the game.

Part of that era, the early era, back in 95 and early 96 reminded me of the Korean War.  Korea was a completely new animal, this UN-sanctioned police action and not a true dynasty grab of a war, an empire-building thing.  But so much of Korea was defined by the leftovers of World War II.  All of the hardware was stuff pulled out of mothballs, all the old surplus planes and jeeps and other throwbacks to the earlier conflict.  Even the food used in Korea was shit on a shingle canned back in the early forties, a direct tie back to the previous dynasty.

And Seattle felt like that to me.  A new city surrounded me, an Emerald City, the Jet City.  But I hacked away every night on the 486 computer I built back in my Mitchell Street roominghouse, staring at a greyscale paperwhite VGA monitor I got on my birthday, on the day I met RMS in Bloomington.  My writing table was the kitchen table I got for my Colonial Crest townhouse back in 93.  I loaded up my Kenwood CD changer every night, the same 6+1 CD machine I bought from an HH Gregg back in Indiana with a tax refund check that was burning a hole in my pocket, the same one that clunked from Nine Inch Nails to Chick Corea to Tori Amos, the same 6+1 CDs I had in constant rotation during the start of my writing days.  Everything in the apartment was surplus; the bed from my bedroom as a kid; the coffeetable from my parents’ old house, now functioning as a stereo stand; even the spices and mismatched pots and pans that were a grab from my mom’s destined-for-garage-sale extras.

I guess I was depressed back then.  I was single, alone, with no game and no hopes to proceed anywhere romantically.  Ever since high school I nursed this dream of meeting the Right Woman, of falling in love with her in college, of sharing the experience with her, of finding my soulmate, graduating, getting a job, and living the Happily Ever After.  This probably burned me, in a period when I should have approached dating like a starved man approached an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Instead, I approached every possible dating situation with the attitude that this could be The One, which ultimately made me a marked man and doomed everything.  I thought meeting women was hard back in college, and that once I got a real job, an apartment, a car, and a life, it would all lock in, and I’d be rolling in women.  I wasn’t, of course.  I spent my nights alone, wandering from Denny’s to bookstore to mall, doing anything but talking to women.

I was a writer.  That was my dream to work on, when I had no money to do anything else.  Becoming a writer was something born out of a shattered romantic relationship.  When Tanya left in 1993, I was reborn a writer.  I don’t know how that switch got flipped in my head, but I filled the desperation and emptiness left by her absence with the scribbling in notebooks, the consumption and analysis of Henry Miller, the dream of cobbling together books like Jack Kerouac or Charles Bukowski, of wandering life, being outside looking in, having these keen observations of the obvious, the things I could dissect and recapitulate in an artistic form, the analysis of the things we all saw and ignored every day.

Writing has always tickled this one loose nerve in my head that ties together so many things in my life: being alone, being brought up to think you were special and had some great destiny larger than just loading up boxes on an assembly line.  I needed to create, and I needed to make something that was larger than one of the senses. You can paint or draw what you see, or play what you hear, but you can write what you feel, observe, live, think, dream.  You construct an entire world from your words, a world greater than the one you experience, because you can turn it inside-out, you can over-analyze it and slow it down and break it apart and re-form it in new ways that do more than just rehash the facts that happened.

I wasn’t doing that though, at least not yet.  I was chipping away at Summer Rain, a thinly veneered autobiography of a summer in Bloomington, a glorified three months that I spent wallowing in depression, trying to find my place in life, and attempting to screw every piece of trim that crossed my path.  I succeeded on the wallowing/depression part; the other two escaped me.  At that point, SR wasn’t much more than a chronological retell of the summer, with names changed to protect the innocent.  I finished my first draft that Semtember: 80,000-odd words.  No humor, no shaping, no plot, no surprises – my only goal was to get words on a page until I had something that almost resembled a book.  It’s a pretty cringe-worthy bit of work.

The writing wasn’t as important as the act of writing, though.  I needed to be a writer.  I needed to be alone on a late Friday night, hacking away in an emacs buffer while the Chick Corea spun in the player, the black sky out my huge windows facing the south side of jet city, the kingdome in the distance, the cars humming past on the I-5 expresway.  I needed to write every Friday night, well past midnight, chipping at the book, taking breaks to read everything I could find, then going back to the buffers, back to the book, until 4 AM, when the automatic sprinklers on the landscaping five floors below would switch on, bathing the air with a white noise bath of artificial rain on the narrow strips of grass below.

Share

Twelve

Another LJ writer’s block question:

If you were 12 and could see yourself now, do you think you’d be happy or disappointed, and why?

I think to answer that question, I need to look at where I was when I was twelve.

I turned twelve in the second semester of sixth grade, which puts me pretty much in the period when life was nothing but Dungeons and Dragons and computers.  This was before D&D was cool and nerds were the new jocks, and while I wasn’t severely beaten for being a geek, there was a fair amount of psychological warfare involved.  Actually, that was pretty much the turning point; in 6th grade, I was still in grade school, which was largely flat from a social standpoint.  We were still kids, nobody had discovered the opposite sex, and while there may have been some cliques and friendships and class structure, it wasn’t that pronounced.

The second half of twelve though, was junior high.  This is where all of the elementary schools were dumped into the big pond, plus puberty had kicked in.  Not only that, but it became important who you knew, what you wore, what your parents drove, and how you looked.  And I didn’t get the memo, and kept buried in the Dungeon Master’s Guide with a handful of D20s in my pocket, some Asimov in my backpack, and the ability to type SYS 49152 faster than anyone around.  I didn’t think that this was the time to “brand” myself, and I feel like I spent the next decade trying to reverse the person I instantly became on that August in 1983.

Another big game-changer when I was twelve was that I went on this long Christmas holiday trip to Florida, first to Tampa to go to Busch Gardens, and then to Orlando to go to Disney World.  My family never did these kinds of things; other kids at school always went to Florida, or on these ski trips.  I don’t know if it was economical reasons or that my parents back then were not nomadic in any way, but if we went anywhere, it was the quick trip to Chicago to my grandparents’ place.  At that point, I think I’d been to maybe six states, but other than those I saw as an infant, I’d never left the Indiana-Michigan-Illinois region, except for a couple of trips to Wisconsin, and a couple to St. Louis.  So this trip became a huge life experience at the time, even if it was just to ride the Haunted Mansion ride with 2.7 million other people like dopey tourists.

What the trip to Florida showed me was that there’s a lot outside of Indiana.  And maybe before that, I thought of going to college and getting a job and leaving.  But I never thought much outside of Indiana, because I never saw anything outside it.  It’s like that developmental step in childhood where you learn to stand; prior to that, you spend all of your time laying on your back in a crib, looking up at these giant monsters that feed and change you.  And when you learn to pull yourself up on the side of a couch and plant both feet on the ground and totter around upright, your entire worldview massively changes.  I mean, it literally changes by ninety degrees, but this mental switch is thrown where you realize that these giant feeding and diapering monsters are the same thing as you.  And I think this trip is what made me start to think that someday I could leave, and my world was bigger than the 40,000-person city where I grew up.

And the computer geek in me thought California was some uptopian paradise.  Every other movie back in the early 80s was about California, and this new thing called MTV showed a constant barrage of music from the region.  And I think a part of the twelve year old me would be surprised and pleased that I ended up here.  And while I’m not designing the next Commodore 64, I am working in the heart of Silicon Valley, and I’m making more money than I ever could have imagined.    (To be fair, I think when I was twelve, my total net worth was maybe a third of what I have in my wallet right now.)  In that sense, I think I would be happy.

And maybe there’s part of me that would be disappointed.  I mean, when I was twelve, I was being groomed to be the next Albert Einstein or something; my parents were pushing me into these gifted and talented programs; I was already reading at a high school senior level; and I was already outscoring a lot of college-bound kids on the SATs.  I think the twelve-year-old me would think I would have several PhDs in physics or chemistry and would be inventing some anti-gravity serum or cancer cure.  So yeah, I didn’t do that.  But I think the twelve-year-old me would also expect us all to have jet packs and time machines and an EZ Pass to drive your car into Low Earth Orbit on your daily commute to the moon.  That said, I think the 1983 me would be sufficiently mind-blown by five minutes at my 2007-era Macbook.

I think the big thing though is I would be happy that I finally figured out to some functional level how the social things worked.  I mean, I am not a social diva, and it’s still something I struggle with greatly.  But I am married, and I had more than a couple of dating experiences, and while I did not master things, I could say I figured them out.  And in 1983, at least toward the end of my first year in junior high, that stuff completely paralyzed me.  Like I said, the puberty thing set in, and I started having obsessive crushes on girls who would never talk to me, and I started my quick slide into depression, and I had no idea what the hell to do.  I had that deer-in-headlights thing for years, and slid backward into my own little world.  And I think to look 27 years in the future and see what I have now, I would be pretty amazed.

I feel a need to make a side-reference to the movie Hot Tub Time Machine, which I saw last night, and which roughly touched on some of this concept, but in a completely tasteless and so-awful-I-liked-it way.  I never thought we’d get to the point where looking back into the 80s would be a whole genre of art, not that HTTM is exactly art.  I still dug it, although Sarah was somewhat horrified.  I’m not saying it fired on all cylinders or it worked perfectly, or even as good as something like The Hangover, but I still dug it.

Okay, off to get some allergy meds going…

Share

May cause vomit-inducing migranes, loss of smell

I have allergies.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have them, starting with a trip to the hospital when I was maybe four, when I had an allergic reaction to penicillin like most people have a reaction to agent orange.  It was a defining force of my childhood: weekly trips for allergy shots; the torture of testing, where they draw a giant battleship grid on your back and scratch you with a needle a thousand times; driving in circles in the family car with the AC running to filter out the first ragweed epidemic of the year, a washcloth over my eyes, which resembled Rocky’s after nine rounds of pummeling with an eight-foot tall Russian.  My parents thought I was allergic to chocolate, so I had all of my Easter candy confiscated and rifled over, leaving only the crappy jelly beans and no chocolate bunny.  Every day in Kindergarten, they would bring in a giant crate of half-pint cartons of chocolate milk, and I got to walk back to the cafeteria to exchange mine for plain old white milk.  And it turns out I wasn’t allergic to chocolate.  Just advil, aspirin, penecillin, ragweed, pollen, fresh-cut grass, tumbleweed, horsehair, and 96 other things bothered me.

And then, I hit my teens, and I exchanged most of my allergies for social awkwardness and crippling depression.  It wasn’t the best tradeoff, but I could mow lawns and leave the house in April.  I also erroneously thought I was allergic to Tylenol, but during the great dental rebuild of 1996, I risked it, and found I was AOK with the aceto-stuff, and started a long habit of Tylenol PM to knock me out at night.  I’m sure my liver will thank me later.

But here’s the deal: I think they’re back.  Maybe since New York, I’d have one or two bad allergy days in April, enough where I’d need a Claritin.  (I used to get them from Canada, but now they’re OTC.)  But here in the Bay area, the allergies have been pummeling me, giving me blurry eyes and headaches and that first-day-of-cold raspiness and itchiness in the back of the throat.  So I’ve been playing with the OTC drugs.  Zyrtec-D isn’t bad, although its blister pack is impossible to open without a team of engineers and a chainsaw.  Benadryl knocks me out; claritin doesn’t do much anymore.  I need something more, but I fear the chemical lobotomy the hard stuff brings.

I tried some flonase this week, and it gave me crippling headaches, to the verge of vomiting.  I don’t know if it affected my smell, since I can’t smell anyway because of allergies.  Anyway, I made an appointment with an allergist.  Maybe I will get a new script; maybe it involves a bunch of shots and whatnot.  Actually I am sure it will involve a ton of appointments and tests and copays and waiting rooms, and I will be handed from specialist to specialist who don’t want a liability issue and can’t fix anything.  You know, the usual.

I think I told the story before, but when I was in the hospital as a kid, I shared a room with an Amish kid who got his arm cut off in some kind of plow accident.  Maybe he was Mennonite; all I know is it was my first experience with strange dudes with beards and no mustaches and 19th century clothes, and my first experience with a kid with no arm.  He only stayed a day, but I remember it freaking the hell out of me.  I wonder what happened to that kid, if he’s knocking around Goshen in a buggy with twelve kids, or if he dropped out, joined the English, became a heroin junkie, and works at a Wal-Mart somewhere, or collects disability, lives in a trailer, shoots speed, and listens to Judas Priest, occasionally wondering what happened to that kid 35 years ago who was puffed up like a balloon, upset because he couldn’t watch the TV because his roommate’s parents thought TV was of the devil.

I’m last in my fantasy baseball league, BTW.  And 5 of my pitchers had wins this week.  It takes a special kind of bad to pull that one off.

Share