Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Nice purse, fag..."

Most people, including many Angelenos themselves, don't realize Los Angeles has an extensive transit system. In fact, among the largest in the US. It is one that continues to grow albeit way late for such a large, innovative, city.

I live Downtown. Admittedly, it makes using transit far easier. So, I went to West Hollywood today by bus.

I enjoyed a Happy Hour with friends and new acquaintances, taking off on the bus knowing my husband was home trying to master my Great Grandmother's recipe for fruit cake. 

I left on a bus from San Vicente and Santa Monica in West Hollywood towards Downtown. Initially, it was crowded and somewhat uncomfortable. My husband text me telling me he was making progress. I know why people don't like fruit cake. But, they haven't had our family recipe. I dislike almost everyone else's fruit cake but that which I had every year growing up and have missed for at least the last 7.

I was walking back from the #4 bus, 3 blocks from our home. Passed by our Board of County Supervisors Chambers, then though the Music Center. The tree at the Music Center was in all it's glory. I crossed the street to the LA Department of Water and Power Headquarters. The fountains were in Christmas colors. For Los Angeles, it was a chilly evening, almost welcoming given the season and far from unbearable.

I was crossing my corner at First and Hope Streets and I hear from a car turning left "nice purse fag." Honestly, my bag receives lots of compliments on a frequent basis. In fact, just that afternoon, I had a nurse in my Doctor's office proclaim "I can't get enough of that bag." She then went on to compliment my boots. Unfortunately, this proclamation was anything but a compliment and was spoiling my otherwise very pleasant evening. Out of impulse, I screamed, "Yeah, come here and tell me that." But, they were gone, which is a good thing. While at the side of my complex and it having high security, I didn't need a confrontation. Then again, I refused to whimper away. Most idiots that would shout such a thing are nothing more than insecure wimps. One can make the argument that ignoring them shows power. I don't buy that; it makes more believe they have intimidated, humiliated you. Yet, we must be careful on how and where we throw ourselves out as a martyr. I would just like to believe it isn't something I would not confront in my immediate community, in Los Angeles, in 2012. It just reminds you that no matter how much progress, there is still more to be done.

My husband, to my amazement, mastered the fruit cake recipe. He is a good cook, but this is something which was such an effort in my family growing up I didn't think that someone who neither had liked fruit cake prior, let alone made one, would get it down on his first try. He has changed his own position, loving his fruit cake. Many are receiving them as gifts.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Closer and Closer to home

I remember when Columbine happened in 1999. Not somewhere I knew personally, but watching video at the time, I thought, "this reminds me of where I lived in West Bloomfield, Michigan." I could be off on one statistic or another, but it was a middle-class suburban America that I was well familiar. My Father said to me that night "I am so glad to not be raising children now." Mind you, this came before all his grandchildren where his reflection might have been all the greater. While uncomfortably seemingly similar, it was somewhere else. I had been to Colorado only once in my life at that point and never Littleton.

The recent shooting at Clackamas made me reflect. I've been to Portland many times, but Clackamas? It's a name that kind of sticks with you. I thought for a minute... Didn't I work out at a 24 Hour Fitness there? In fact, I think I went to that mall that same day. After a little checking online, there is in fact a 24 hour Fitness in Clackamas right by the mall and seeing further pictures of the shopping center, while not particularly unique to many a shopping center across America, I know I was there once, if not a couple of times 5 or 6 years ago. I had friends that lived in the area at the time.

Then, there was the senseless, inexplicable shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. That was sounding way too familiar. I never lived in Connecticut, but my brother did and graduated from Western Connecticut University in Danbury, just a couple of towns over. He lived for a while in Bethel, which is adjacent Newtown. I have a friend who lives now in neighboring Southbury, and I used to visit her when we were teens and she was growing up in Waterbury, also just a few towns over. I had other friends in Nagatuck and Middlebury; all in the same region of the small state. Sandy Hook stood out to me because I remember commenting about it then, as there is a State beach with the only nude beach in New Jersey called Sandy Hook.

My step Mother, sister and brother, spent many years in nearby Ridgefield, also in the same area. They too lived there for the same reasons many parents spoke of post this incident; a different world away from the intensity of New York City, albeit commutable. Great schools, bucolic and calm. I didn't know them then, so I only know limited stories of their time there. But, yet another registration of this was really apart of "my world" in more ways than one.

My Father and step Mother lived in Guilford, CT at the same time my brother was at West Conn. It is to the East of New Haven, down by the coast and a bit of a drive. Remind you, small state. The biggest part of the drive was the twisting and winding 2 lane roads to avoid the congested, limited freeways. Perhaps it was through visiting my brother with them I passed through Sandy Hook.

I am waiting to talk to my brother. But, I've been there. More significantly, I really know a community like Newtown. This is surreal to most anyone, but has totally blown away why so many of those families live with a longer commute, deal with the greater difficulty with often greater snow and more hills, and often long drives just to good malls.

As I was about to distance myself from news coverage for the evening, I learned of a shooting at Excalibur Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. We have an unofficial "adopted" son that is a student at UNLV. He works further down the strip at another casino.

There has been a shooting at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Nobody injured, but over 40 rounds shot off and must have been terrifying. I live in Southern CA. I have shopped there with frequency. A friend of ours happened to be working there while it happened.

It certainly seems like we need to logically rethink much in America. Freedom begins with safety and security. The answer isn't to arm every school teacher, let alone retail worker, but to make their environments more safe. We also don't want to create a police state that makes us all feel burdened and discouraged at our every move. There is and we must find some middle ground.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fear of...Part Two

The next morning, a cardiologist came to visit and reaffirmed how lucky I was to had "made it." It still wasn't totally registering with me. I had horrible leg pain when I went into the hospital; I never felt my life was in danger. I thought perhaps this was something that built over time; later to learn that it can happen in seconds, including a clot starting in your leg and travelling to your lungs.

What is most frustrating is it isn't because of anything I did or did not do. At least, nobody yet, and I have been seen by no less than 10 physicians through since entering that ER, has a concrete reason for this to have happened. I had taken up smoking again, but I doubt my few smokes a day for 6 months caused the clot. I've since quit for good, by the way. 5 days in the hospital was perfect for stopping. I had flown home from New York some 3 weeks earlier; but I must have gotten up at least 3 times in the flight and have certainly flown greater distances and that journey no less than 100 times. I work from home, but am constantly moving. I pace on the phone. In short, the only tie we can make is genetics.

My Mother died of congestive heart failure in 2006. She had varicose veins stripped when I was a kid. In the last decade of her life or even longer, she was on blood thinners, as I am now. She had water retention in her legs for years, as I do in my left leg now. Her leg would itch to the point she'd scratch it until it bled and scared. Thankfully, I learned from her to control my itching. But, it is annoying.

I am not as ill as my Mother and hope never to be. But, this unexpected near death experience certainly gives reason to be concerned. To some extent, almost annoyed. I eat well overall, I work out, I moisturize. It doesn't seem fair or reasonable to have my leg in a compression stocking and to add yet another medication to my pill box for the rest of my life.

Fear of being your family

Let's face it. Most, if not all of us, carry attributes we most despise of our parents and other family members. Despite everything we said growing up about how we were "never going to be" like either our Mother or Father in one arena or another; there we are, in circumstance after another, where we are kicking ourselves saying "I swear I'd never be that way."

We can try to fight genetics in our personality. We can certainly eat better, not smoke, not drink, exercise more, any list of health aspects that may have been beneficial to our predecessors. We can decide to take medications to help or avoid them all together because of family history. We can spend lots of time and money in therapy to be less argumentative, more assertive; whatever it is we are lacking. But, at what point do you accept that is who you are and how to best manage it? Whether it be your genetic link to diabetes, outbursts of anger, alcoholism or name an issue, can you really fight your own destiny and being? Now, I am reminding myself of Greek Mythology.

In my first post, I mentioned a recent scare. I woke up one weekday morning with a quick chest pain. Didn't think anything of it as it passed in seconds. Then, I got out of bed. It was so painful to walk. Perhaps, a momentary thing, I dragged myself to the restroom for morning relief. I walked down my stairs, a task far more challenging that morning that normal. I made coffee. I fed the cats, all the time thinking "WTF." I walked over to my desk which passes a mirror. I was wearing either just my underwear or shorts, I honestly don't remember and who cares? My left calf was twice the size of my right calf. I knew "this ain't right." I immediately, and have no idea why, thought, blood clot. But, even in thinking that and quickly believing I needed to do something, I wasn't as threatened as perhaps I should have been at the time.

I struggled to get upstairs and shower. I had extreme difficultly drying myself and getting dressed. I returned downstairs to my desk and knew I needed to go to the hospital. I called my husband, but got his voice mail. I tried to do a bit more at my computer and instinct said "call an ambulance." So, I called our front desk (as they escort them anyway) and had them call one. At this point, I knew I couldn't make it upstairs to get shoes. I had been awake just over an hour.At least the cats had been fed.

LAFD was there very quickly. The paramedics were so LA they could be written into any TV show or movie. He was this, at best, 30 year old, tall, handsome, stunning eyed man with just a personality that made you feel confident in him the second you saw him. She was about the same age, muscular for a woman, also stunning, compassionate and comforting. I remember her saying "great digs" when they first walked in. We have a nice place. It isn't all that, but that comment at that moment was certainly an ice breaker.

It turns out at the ER, while I am waiting to be admitted, that the brother in law of my one paramedic is also at the same hospital. Also a scripted looking character, both in looks and personality. It turns out he has roughly 1 year old triplets. I have 2 family members with twins. I can't imagine triplets. It turns out the female paramedic used to be an award winning weight lifter and such, but got out of it not liking all the steroid and other drug use. This I all learned while waiting with them wondering why I was really there.

It took near an hour to get a space in the ER. However, once in, I was incredibly well treated and they had not only diagnosed that yup, I had a blood clot in my left leg, but that I had a pulmonary embolism in both lungs. At this juncture, I still wasn't really aware of how lucky I was to just be alive.

That reality still wasn't with me when they said I would be admitted, something I didn't think necessary initially. Wasn't there just an injection that makes this all go away and I go home? I went to the ICU and still thought, well, they are being cautious. That evening,  a Doctor visited and said "It is good you came when you did, otherwise we would likely not be having this conversation." Even then, I was thinking, well it took over an hour to be seen in the ER, it was a few hours before a diagnosis....