Back To Life, Back To Reality

I had the pleasure of planning my arts high school’s 25th reunion for my classmates. It’s difficult to explain, but our school was unlike any other that most people have attended. It’s a public school and we came from all over the state of Minnesota, we had to audition or submit portfolios as well as letters of recommendation, we lived on campus like a college, and we created life-long friendships (most of us). I’m not saying it was without flaws. But going to college was a complete let-down because we already did it all, and our skills were senior level when we went to our respective schools post-high school.

19453172_10154458922161260_4730874156490643839_o

The reunion officially lasted nine hours. We started with performances, some dancing, I handed out random door prizes (which included ramen, Pop Tarts or macaroni and cheese plus sticks of margarine but NOT milk – because we never had milk; also Nerf guns, and cassette tapes such as Crash Test Dummies, The Sundays, REM, M.C. Hammer, Bullet Boys, anything that would have been released by 1992). Then we headed over to a pub that served microbrews and sausages where whomever couldn’t make it to the portion at school hung out with us there. We were officially done at 10 pm, but some people wanted to keep partying, so they went back to one couple’s hotel room and kept it going until 4 am. I didn’t – I was toast.

(By the way, the picture with the classmates trying to pull open the doors is something I didn’t find out about until later. They were giving themselves a tour, not realizing that they locked themselves in an area and they would have to wait for someone to randomly walk by and let them out.)

Our turnout was excellent. My classmates are literally scattered around the U.S. and the globe. I haven’t lived in Minnesota for 20 years and would have been counted as an out-of-towner if I hadn’t been forced to move back because of my circumstances. I know that I have classmates in Sweden, South Africa, the UK and France for sure, but I’m also sure that I’m missing some places. So to have this many show up is considered a small victory. And everyone was helpful, mostly sober and didn’t want to leave.

When I was attending school here, my major was theater (located directly to the right of the dancing space where everyone is slapping hands and their shoes are off). I discovered there that I had a natural affinity for organization and detail. So that was the reason that I gave everyone for wanting to organize the 25th reunion.

But I had an ulterior motive.  Two years ago, and even continuing through to today, a lot of the classmates that traveled back for the reunion (either by driving or flying) have helped me. When I relocated from Phoenix to St. Paul, they contributed to a fund. Sometimes they organize and send me gifts. A lot of them have their own hardships to worry about, so I appreciate their contributions even more for that reason. So the fact that I could work out every damn detail for them and all they had to do is show up was great – and even better that they all had a really great time and didn’t want to leave. 

Unfortunately, I did have to ask for some work from a few of them, but being the wonderful people that they are, they stepped up and said of course, and blew the rest of us away. The school was under great scrutiny and was nearly closed, and I had gone to all of the state senators and representatives, asking them to come to about an hour and a half of our reunion to meet us to see what had become of one of the first graduating classes from this school. One of the representatives, Mike Freiberg, happened to be a classically trained pianist and agreed to accompany our opera singer – and wow! It was fantastic! In all, we had two writers, a violinist, an opera singer, and a dance instructor.

Pictured below is an example of many of the lockers – students are allowed to paint them however they choose. Also, the woman in the phone booth is one of the readers from the performances. The phone booth is an infamous one; it was down the road from us and is from before the advent of cell phones, and we all used to walk down the road to use it when we wanted privacy. 


So for the week after the reunion, I stayed in bed. It was totally worth it. I love these people. Some of them I’m lucky enough to see frequently, and some I suppose I’ll have to wait another 25 years to see, but we know we had a unique experience and kinda feel sorry for people who had to drag through regular schools. We had a completely amazing experience for our junior and senior years.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Today, I had a doctor’s appointment for an outpatient surgical procedure. I’m not going to go into detail for what it was. I was just dreading it. So I got the usual notification from the cab company that the driver was on his way, and then I got a notification that he was outside. So I went out. He wasn’t out there. Sometimes it happens that the notification comes about 60 seconds before the cab. I wasn’t alarmed.

However, after waiting for about 12 minutes, the cab still didn’t show. Today the temp was 91 degrees Farenheit, and Minnesota is humid this time of year. Also a problem: My high-rent building’s front door was vandalized, so I can’t actually get in with my key. If I want to enter the building, I have to walk around to the back, which is the equivalent of walking the length of a city block because the spaces between the buildings are fenced and locked off. I also had no idea when this cab was going to show. So I called the cab company.

They claimed he was five minutes away. I have a GPS tracking map and he hadn’t moved. I explained that the heat makes my condition worse. I also can’t go back inside because I can’t go in the front. They told me to just wait. This is what happens to me because the cerebrospinal fluid builds up in my cranium because my shunt hasn’t worked for two years:

20170706_152454
Many times my facial droop has been mistaken for myasthenia gravis. I can assure you that I do not have that. I can actually slosh my CSF around, and when I tilt my head parallel to the floor, the paralysis goes away within seconds. Also, my face is not swollen. The muscles on the left have relaxed because they are paralyzed.

I was actually stuck out in the heat for a total of 35 minutes. When the driver finally got there, he first tried to force me to cross the road to him. I can’t see very well like this – this is as far as my eyes will open. When he finally came to my side of the road, he parked up the street so I had to walk to him, even though there were spots open in front of me. When I got in the car, I asked him to turn on the air conditioning. He told me I had to wait until he “got going.”

20170706_152912
When he finally did turn on the a/c, it was at the lowest setting to spite me. I had to tip over in the back seat to take the pressure off of my head, which at that point was absolutely unbearable.

When I got to my appointment, they took me back to the exam room and got me on the table. However, I wasn’t doing so well. The nurse and the PA both said I looked grey and the PA reclined the table while the nurse ran to get me some sugary drink. I whipped off my wig and they slapped wet cloths on my neck and head. I could tell my pulse was all over the place, but I knew this wasn’t a blood sugar problem – those feel completely different to me. [I am getting checked for POTS next month.] When I got up from the table, I saw that I had completely soaked through the paper with my sweat, which was disgusting, but they said it was an obvious sign that I was in distress. We made sure everything had returned to normal and we got on with it.

I absolutely wrote up a complaint to the cab company, with details and times. They have a contract with my insurance company, and if this driver can’t handle medical rides, he shouldn’t get them. Period. 

The Boyfriend Invasion

The Saint Paul and I have been dating for two and a half months now. Our first date was many hours long, so many that we approximated it to be the equivalent of four dates. We’ve had many dates since then where we’ve had up to fourteen hours together until I’m physically holding my eyelids up with my fingers and he’s stumbling into his shoes to go home. We’ve also fallen into the habit of not going more than three days without seeing each other. But we’ve never had a full-on sleep-over; he’s always gone home.

I live in a historic area of St. Paul, Minnesota, and every year on the first Sunday of June there is a celebration called Grand Old Days that includes music, food vendors, a parade, artists and sports/health vendors. Attendance has been anywhere between 170,000 and 270,000, and attendees can even print a bus pass for certain routes to park and ride to this area for free. It has gotten so large that this year they have expanded the festival to the whole weekend instead of just Sunday. My flat just happens to be right next to one of the sound stages – and I’ve checked the lineup, doesn’t look promising.

Healthy me would have been absolutely thrilled. This is the stuff I used to live for, and it’s right at my front door. But the new me has to come to terms with the fact that I can’t walk a couple of miles or stand for hours to listen to live music or spend money on food and pottery. The thought of trying to navigate throngs of people while my brain is being squeezed and my eyes are drooping gives me extra anxiety. If I’m being completely honest I can whine and say that it’s not fair, but then who in the world can I blame that on?

The Saint Paul has opted to come over Friday night so he can score a parking spot and not have to stress about it after that. We might run out to get a few groceries, which will require us planning out meals for two whole days together, and then he’ll head home Sunday night. He’s going to try to borrow a camp chair for the parade, since I have my own already – we have to stake out a place on the sidewalk along the parade route pretty early in the morning Sunday, because it’s going to get gnarly. We’re fully expecting drunks to be trying to get into my building or to be peeing in our planters or every barfing in every doorway. I’ve heard stories. Non-food businesses are now in the habit of shutting down completely for this festival.

Other things take planning too. I’ve suggested that he bring over his favorite pillow to help him sleep better (because we all know that makes a huge difference when sleeping in unfamiliar territory). Sometimes I wake up coughing because of acid reflux, so I kind of have to be ready to move to my couch (five steps from my bed) if I think I can’t get back to sleep right away. And to hear The Saint Paul tell it, he flops around like a fish when he sleeps, which does not bode well for me, the ultimate light sleeper.

Most importantly, 48 hours together guarantees that there is going to be poo involved. Knowing my GI tract means there’s going to be multiple incidents each day. I have a brand new bottle coming that should be arriving just in time for Friday that is ruby red grapefruit-scented that may prolong my relationship with The Saint Paul. I am telling you, every house should have PooPourri because everyone poops, and no one wants to die by Lysol or any other chemical stuff that you spray in the air that makes it smell like you shit out a pine tree. I cannot say enough good things about this product. Buy it. You spritz it in the toilet bowl before you unload your load, and all is right in the world.

Lastly, most of my lounging and sleeping when I am solo in my flat is done sans hair. My wigs are just not at all comfortable, and wearing them in bed actually wrecks the fibers. So The Saint Paul is going to get a full dose of me au natural, and I have warned him that once I have taken them off in his presence, I will probably lose all motivation to wear them all of the time. I like how I look in them, but they are so damned scratchy and uncomfortable, plus wearing them less will also help me to be able to keep them longer since I have no money coming in. So for your viewing pleasure, here is (a very dirty) Mr. Clean taking your day to a whole different level:

Me and Ziggy

 

Today may have been the first time that I have listened to “Ziggy Stardust” in its entirety since 1993.

David Bowie and I have a pretty solid history. When I was little, I loved the song “Space Oddity.” I don’t know if it’s because I’ve always felt a little out of place in my world, as if I’m living on a different plane than the general public, or quite possibly that I’m an alien trapped in a human body. Whatever the reason, I would sing that song over and over; I have always used singing as a sort of comfort to myself, like the proverbial blankie or stuffed animal.

When I was in elementary school, MTV was born. Our dad was pirating his cable from a neighbor’s wire and we had access to this fabulous station with music and stories 24/7. I loved the really creative videos that gave me interesting visuals to go along with the musicianship. It was the first time I actually saw David Bowie in motion thanks to his new wave pop tunes “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance.” In fact, the “Let’s Dance” album is the first one our father purchased to play on his brand new contraption, the CD player. If we jumped hard enough we could make the CD skip like a record. Our father’s side of the family was blessed with innate rhythm, so we would often have dance parties in our living room, sometimes including our aunt’s five children.

In high school, I joined one of those CD clubs – you know, buy one full price and get 11 more for 1 cent? I got a best of from Bowie that included all of my favorite songs up to that point. It got heavy play. I was listening to it during my first week on Mackinac Island for my second season after I had just turned 19, when I lived above the busiest bar on the island and we had a lot of people coming and going. That is when a guy knocked on my door, started making out with me and coaxed me out of my knickers and my virginity. “Ziggy Stardust” was the song playing when it all went down – I distinctly remember the guy drunkenly saying that he loved that song. I loved that song. Unfortunately, because I had resolved to just getting my virginity out of the way and not trying to make it a movie-type romance, it was not a good experience. He was very rough. He bruised me deeply, my lips were purple and cut. I had bruises all over my ribs, ass and thighs. He was drunk and he doubted it was my first time. My first sexual partner did not care for me or about me, and I paid the price. Well, me and Ziggy. I stopped playing that song.

When I was 22, I had been living in New Mexico when I flew back to be in a friend’s wedding. It was the last time my father and I saw each other. He had cut my hair (the “Rachael”) and we were chatting about his Bowie box set that he received from a client the week before. We also talked about this new cabin Dad had purchased two months prior, and how Dad intended to fix it up and retire there, but that he didn’t think he would see retirement. I told him frankly that I didn’t think he would live to retirement either. He asked me why I said that, and I told him that I couldn’t envision him as an old man, that everything went black when I tried, like a newly washed chalkboard. Three weeks later I had to fly back to Minnesota because Dad died of a heart attack – at the cabin he wanted to retire in. He had gone up there for a weekend by himself to work on a few things and maybe do a little duck hunting. From what we could tell, he entered the cabin, set down his pack, laid down on the bed and died. He was discovered by the local sheriff when my step-mom called for a wellness check after Dad didn’t return home at his scheduled time. The Bowie box set is one of the first things my step-mom thought to give me when she was dividing up mementos between us four kids. She knew Dad and I loved our David Bowie.

I believe in a continuation of the soul when we die. Relating to that, I have a question that I suppose will never be answered, but I’ll ask it anyway. When famous people die, and are so universally mourned, does their soul visit every single person every time they are thought of? Souls must be infinite, but is their energy ever depleted by the millions of times they are tugged and pulled by our sadness? Or do they only have a connection to the people they loved in their lives?

I’ll leave you with my favorite Bowie song, which is his collaboration with Queen. I get goosebumps every time I hear it.