Hypochondria and my fascination with medical procedures

And if you go camping in drag it's called Vamping

Here is the joke I made up last night: Q: What's it called when you get your period while you're camping?

A: Cramping!

One thing that Jack loves above all things is camping, and one thing I fear above all others is camping, and so up until last week we have spent every moment of our lives as a couple not-camping. Jack would take Jackson up to camp in Big Sur every summer and try to patch the sad camping-hole in his soul while I'd stay at home and guard our stuff, reveling in clean linens and locked doors and the sterile, bug-free existence that modern civilization provides.

I have been camping three times in my life, all of them terrible, sleepless affairs on lumpy ground, soaked with rain, or intruded upon by bears. I am at two with nature, as the saying goes, and despite Jack's assurances that he would provide me with a four-star campsite -- a veritable Mandalay Bay of roughing it -- one thing I knew he wouldn't be able to control was me getting carsick on the way to the Nature. Nature has some twisty roads into it, for some reason. Teddy Roosevelt and his horse both had something to prove, no doubt. But this summer I decided that maybe if I loved my husband I ought to give him this one thing, this camping thing, so here is everything I did/you can do to successfully avoid nausea on the road to Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur. I offer this list for posterity and nothing more, for I am not some asshole blogger being paid to pretend she knows more than you about anything. If I were I would have titled this post, "Ten Ways To Avoid Carsickness This Summer!" and been paid $500 for it. I could still use the $500, so if you find this post useful, please PayPal a lot of money to me.

1. You have to want to not get sick. Some people have inner ear problems, or they're undergoing chemo, or God knows what's wrong, and I'm deeply sorry if that's you, for that sucks. However, other people (and this used to be me) unconsciously get sick for the attention, or to get out of doing things out in the world, or they just assume that's the way they are. "I get carsick." Well, maybe you do, but maybe you don't have to. Do you want to try?

2. Do not hit the road hungover. The last time we drove to Big Sur I had a wee bit of wine the night before, which led to insomnia and dehydration, all of which ensured that I wanted to barf all the way up Highway 1 the next day.

3. Hydration. So simple. You have a bottle of water? Drink it. Drink two. If someone complains that they don't want to stop for you to pee, say to them, "Would you rather stop to have me barf?" If they still complain, roll down your window and barf all over the side of their car. That will show them how serious you are.

4. Have a nice, fatty meal. I had eggs with buttered toast before we hit the road. It doesn't have to be a huge meal, if that sort of thing makes you nervous, if you think, "What if this doesn't work? It will just be more for me to barf." If you're afraid of eating too much on a nervous stomach, I don't know what to tell you apart from what I told myself: "You have to get something down, protein and fat. Figure it out."

 5. Anti-emetics are our friends. In Morro Bay I bought some off-brand, non-drowsy, pseudo Dramamine from an angry, sarcastic young woman at the grocery store. I'm not a big fan of too many OTC drugs, but it was $2.99, and I'm sorry she hates her life or whatever, but I took half a dose and immediately felt like Wonder Woman.

6. There are natural quease-easers, too. As a back-up I also had a bottle of herbs from the acupuncturist, they're called Curing Pills, you can get them in Asian markets, and I have never had a digestive issue that hasn't vanished within ten minutes of taking them. AND I had a box of hard-core ginger candy with me, and every half hour I'd eat one because ginger is a digestive stimulant (as opposed to peppermint, which is a digestive coolant, but which works well against nausea, too, as long as it's real peppermint, not just peppermint flavoring). I am also thinking of getting a couple of magical anti-nausea acupressure wrist bands for next time -- clang! clang! Wonder Woman!

7. Do you want to drive? Some people feel better when they're driving, but I let Jack do it because it was his truck, and his patience and nerves of steel were what was needed for Highway 1, whereas if I were behind the wheel no doubt I'd be too absorbed in prayer not to drive us off a cliff.

8. Pat yourself on the back when you get there, you did not want to barf even once!

9. Except then your period came on like gangbusters. I'm sorry, I have no advice, that part of your body is totally out of my control. Would you like to hear about the convenience of Diva Cups? No?

10. Ha ha, unreliable narrator. Guess what? Half of this post is a lie because once we got to Big Sur, Jack had booked us into a cabin just in case I changed my mind about this whole outdoors thing and crawled into the bed of his truck to die. So at the end of a long day of hanging around the campsite with friends eating weenies, going for bicycle rides, waving at deer and turkeys, taunting squirrels with Doritos, drinking beer, and soaking up the glorious Parkitecture, we would drive up the hill and sleep in not-tents. But now that I seem more amenable to the not-indoors, we're going to try camping a little closer to home before the summer's over, and Jack has already started his grocery list. And I still managed to write what sounds like a sponsored post for a group of products that paid me no money to endorse them, in a way that still makes me sound like some asshole blogger who probably knows less than you do about not throwing up. You're an expert at not-barfing, aren't you?

Goddamnit, sometimes you just have to barf. It's okay, you'll feel better.

Highway 1

An un-Photoshopped photo of California Highway 1 on July 22, 2014.

And if you go camping in the rain it's called Damping.

And if you go camping with Lionel Hampton accompanying you on vibes it's called Hamping.

And if you go camping in your pajamas it's called Jamping.

And if you read a book in your tent all night it's called Lamping.

And if you go with a baby it's called Pamping.


Also, there are so many elephant seals just laying around on the beach on the north side of Hearst Castle, above the zebra herd (California is a crazy place, if you haven't heard). After watching them do nothing for awhile I said to Jack, "If you're a stressed-out executive in this life, in your next life you get to be one of those."

Elephant Seals Outside of Cambria, California from Eden M. Kennedy on Vimeo.

That dude was the ambitious one.

What will happen on Day Three?

Here's something interesting you may not know about me (and millions of other people): I am/we are not allowed to donate blood. Because I was a student in the U.K. (at the University of Edinburgh) for a year during the Mad Cow Disease Era, my blood is now suspect. It doesn't matter that I don't remember being much of a spinal-cord-and-brain eater at the time*, and feel fairly confident that I don't have The Madness lying dormant in me (oh my god), but just saying I survived on baked potatoes and shortbread cookies that year isn't good enough for the Red Cross. *And never will be no matter what Anthony Bourdain says

My "donate to Charity Water/Red Cross and get a whimsical drawing!" plea is still in full force. However, I have to cap my Red Cross matching funds to double what you wonderful, beautiful people donated during the first two days only. I'm sorry to have to do that, but even as new donations come in we're still going to end up sending $200 to Charity Water and (as of this morning) nearly $500 to the Red Cross. All new donations will get a drawing from me and the money will henceforth go straight to the Red Cross.

So, FINE, Red Cross, you won't take my BLOOD so here's a big pile of MONEY.

I hope it helps.

I also wanted to grow up and be a Playboy Bunny

Sunday morning I was lollygagging in bed with a small but persistent headache and occasional nose bleed, probably due to the fact that I wasn't quite ready to enjoy normal dinner-with-friends wine drinking quite so close to the finale of my very important head cold. It occurred to me that nose bleeds can be symptomatic of all sorts of fun, including (1) change of seasons/dry weather, (2) brain hemorrhage, (3) getting punched in the face, or (4) over-blowing due to frantic amounts of congestion. But these days I'm also having hourly hot flashes and I haven't had my period for a couple of months, and so for a moment I was actually addled enough to think, Is that a menopause thing? You start bleeding out of your nose? My mother never warned me about anything like that. We had a warm but shame-based relationship, though, so who knows? My organs could be migrating all over the place but I wouldn't recognize the symptoms were because there wasn't a Modess pamphlet about placental nose bleeds for my mom to leave on my bed. Anyway. Sunday morning I'm lying in bed trying to will myself into the shower, wondering whether I'd be better off with two Advil or a Heineken, when Jackson comes flying in with his blanket over him like a cape. I love my son with all my heart, but not so much when he's JUMPing UP and DOWN on the BED and then trying to suffocate me. With his love. And his blanket.

I managed to elbow him off me in the most passive, loving, sick-lady way possible, which he adores. We have the world's laziest wrestling matches. We'll be lying there watching TV and slowly trying to push each other onto the floor. So there I was with my headache and my bloody nose (and a very attractive dry cough that makes me sound like Lauren Bacall) trying to stiff-arm 100 pounds of boy, who then reared up with his blanket all dramatically and said, "DAMMINT, PAMELA!" and then covered my head like he was actually trying to suffocate me.

I was trapped under the blanket trying fruitlessly to elbow him in the groin in a way that wouldn't ruin his life, so all he could hear was my muffled, "Oh my God, who is Pamela?"

"I don't know!" he giggled, trying to sit on my head, "She's your alter ego! And she's blonde! . . . And she has a DRINKING PROBLEM!"

I managed to push him off, where he collapsed into a pile of his own hilarity, and I thought, Things are so much more well-defined for Pamela. I'm graying and have a cold-medicine dependency, but she gets to be blonde and call two bottles of champagne a good start.

But also, what in hell does he know to throw around the phrase "drinking problem"? Is he secretly watching Celebrity Rehab? Did I watch Lost Weekend when I was pregnant and Ray Milland crossed the placenta? It's a shock to hear grown-up phrases come out of your child's mouth like they know what they're saying. I mean, kids pick stuff up all over the place, and I know Jackson's fascinated with what it means to be an adult. When I was his age I was sitting in my bedroom memorizing Cheech and Chong routines and pretending to be Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and my parents didn't have a clue.

The Chair

Yesterday, I got my teeth cleaned. It was a last-minute appointment so I got a hygienist I'd never met before. Let's call her Mira. Mira was pleasant but it seemed more important to her to be professional than spend any time getting to know me. That's unusual for this dentist's office, since the dentist himself is such a goofy, chatty guy; normally I get a good chunk of life story from whoever's poking me in the gums, and they at least get the basics from me. But nothing is fine, too, Mira. Poke away in silence! I will meditate upon these ceiling tiles and form my plan for world domination. Bwa ha.

So after a few minutes of poking and scraping, Mira sits back as says, "Do you have trouble with acid reflux?" I say, No, why? "There's some wear on the back of your front teeth consistent with what we see in patients with acid reflux." Now, the other type of people who get that kind of wear is bulimics, but she can't ask me if I throw up to stay skinny, she has to start with something that sounds less accusatory. I get that.

"What's another way you'd get that kind of wear on your teeth?" I ask, because I want to see if she says "barfing up your guts all the time" or "losing your lunch due to body dysmorphia" or what.

"Purging," she says. "Or sometimes our pregnant patients get it, if they have extreme morning sickness or acid reflux from the baby --" She mimed having a baby bump so large it pushed her breasts toward her throat. My god! A gorgon baby! You'd never stop throwing up!

She poked around a little more until she found something else to be suspicious about, with her dental forensics mind. I have a lot of crowns due to terrible dental hygiene as a child (and by child I mean the first 27 years of my life), and a typical place for cavities to hide is at the place where the crown and tooth meet. I know what happens when they find a cavity in your tooth: the little probe they poke into it sticks. Cavities are grabby.

Mira stuck her probe in the suspicious spot over and over and over again, but it wouldn't stick. I knew she was waiting for it to stick, or maybe thinking that if she approached it from a different angle it would stick, but it wouldn't stick. No doubt she was mentally urging my tooth to crumble in her hands. "Be a cavity, you son of a bitch! STICK, GODDAMNIT!"

She finally called the dentist in to see if he could make it stick.

"Hellooooo!" he said, walking in and shaking my hand. "You look great! Have you lost weight?"

Mira looked at me knowingly. I felt like I was in some sort of Kafkaesque situation where people project their own fears and fantasies onto other people and think they're real. Oh, wait, that's called Life.

"I am not bulimic!" I wanted to shout. Instead, I said, "I cut my hair."

"It looks fantastic!" he yelled, putting on gloves so he could poke my tooth, too.

It turns out I do not have a cavity, but we're going to put some sealant on the spot as a preventative measure. It also turns out that Mira read my X-rays wrong and insisted for a full minute that I had a crown on a tooth that did not actually have a crown. She also doesn't like it when people use Glide floss, even if they double it up to make it thicker, like I do. No, don't do that! It's bad! Use this other floss that is stretchy and weird that Mira approves of! And not because Mira is in the pocket of Big Floss!

"Mira recommends that I stop using Glide floss," I said to my dentist when he was done poking my tooth.

"Mira has a different flossosophy!" he shouted.

I scheduled another cleaning in six months, and I hope I don't get Mira again, but a part of me hopes I do. What other dental crimes will she subtly accuse me of? Vampirism? Circus Geekism? Should I show up with small feathers in my teeth, my breath smelling of roadkill? I mean, I have better things to do than bait an otherwise perfectly normal dental hygienist, but when you're staring at ceiling tiles having your gums poked, the mind does tend to wander.

UPDATE: So this just happened -- I went to CVS to buy floss with Jackson, and as we were standing in the floss aisle and I was explaining to him that my dental hygienist told me not to buy Glide, a woman standing there turns around and says to me, "I'm a hygienist. I hate Glide, too. It doesn't work." And then she told me that if my teeth were close together and regular floss always frayed and broke, I should buy satin floss. SATIN FLOSS, FOLKS. Oral-B makes a thing called Satin Tape and I bought it! The end.

I don't want to set the world on fire, I just want to start a flame in your heart

Well, here we are, you looking for something to read and me looking for something to write about. My ovaries? They're still a little sore, thanks for asking, but the doctor didn't think my symptoms sounded serious enough to warrant a sonogram, or an ultrasound, or whatever they're doing these days to get to the crux of the biscuit. So then I asked my acupuncturist to do her peculiar magic on me, which stopped the bleeding right away. I don't know why I didn't go to her first. Well, I do know -- it's because I thought something was really wrong. Feeling a little bit off sends me to acupuncture; being afraid I might need surgery sends me to the HMO. And I might have to hop back on the vegetarian wagon because that seems to be the cure for -- I hesitate to call them hot flashes because it's more accurate to call them waves of warmth or sudden feelings of pleasant normality. It's nice to feel, for thirty seconds or so, like I don't need to wear a sweater, or sleep under the extra quilt, or wear the fuzzy slippers when it's 78 degrees outside. (Right now it's 72 degrees inside and I am wearing the slippers AND the sweater AND I'm tucked underneath a quilt while Jackson plays a Naruto game on his Xbox. I'd have Peewee asleep in my lap if I didn't feel like the weight of him would pop my ovaries like two sad old grapes.)

Jack was out of circulation yesterday so I took Jackson downtown to see Thor. I'd been avoiding reading the reviews because sometimes it's better not to know what you're getting into, and for that reason I had a pleasant viewing experience untainted by A.O. Scott. (I just went over to see what A.O. Scott thought and then I closed the browser tab because I STILL don't want to know.) I will never be as demanding of films as a professional critic. Part of the reason is that my mind is being washed away by menopause, and the other part is that my date for these things is usually a nine-year-old boy. So we had a fine time seeing Thor. The characters were good-natured and handsome, the special effects were ridiculous and confusing, and we got to have popcorn, nachos, Red Vines, and cokes for lunch.

Here are some pictures from the last time we were in Pismo Beach, which seems like forever ago. I can't look at these photos without thinking about Jackson, who'd just finished a science unit on sea creatures and the sea shore, telling me how fishermen used to tear starfish in half and throw them back into the sea, presumably in disgust about how useless they were, but then the starfish would just grow back their missing portions and then you'd have TWO starfish where you would have had ONE if the fishermen had just tossed them back into the sea without getting all ANGRY about it. "Can we tear one in half?" asked Jackson, to my horror, resulting in a short but impassioned speech about sentient beings, no matter how simple and faceless, still feeling pain. Then Jack followed up with a story about when he was a kid and people at Jones Beach would take shovels and beat jellyfish that had washed up on the sand until they exploded. Nature! Top of the food chain! Next life we'll all be plankton. [gallery order="DESC" orderby="rand"]

Things Fall Apart

You've been waiting a long time to Internet-diagnose my latest disease or uncomfortable physical symptom, and now that wait is over. Sunday morning I woke up around 3:00 a.m. -- okay, no, it started earlier. Last month I remember lying in my bed at the Fisherman's Wharf hotel where Alice and I were staying, and I had a weird little sensation in my lower right torso quadrant. Just a little, "Huh, that's unusual" feeling, an intestinal princess-and-the-pea moment. I kept an eye on it, so to speak, and then I got my ladies time and the feeling went away. The consciousness of the feeling went away? I went back to my usual brain-in-a-jar, neutral body mode feeling like I'd managed to dodge, if not a bullet, then something benign but potentially inconvenient like a runaway shopping cart or a surprised skunk.

Fortunately for you, the Internet, the story does not end there. Sunday morning, around 3:00 a.m., I got a little jolt in the now-forgotten-about lower right torso quadrant. I lay there in a pool of adrenaline and felt around my whole abdomen, thinking about a friend I ran into years ago when he was recovering from an emergency appendectomy. Standing there in his elastic-waisted pants he told me that the only symptom he'd had was that his whole abdomen had felt sore, like he'd done too many sit-ups. Was my whole abdomen sore? Well, no, not exactly, but I'd gone to a fairly vigorous yoga class the day before so maybe it was sore, but maybe I was confusing some latent core soreness with internal organ . . . huffiness.

I got up. I went to the bathroom. I got a glass of water. I came back and sat back down on the edge of the bed and I thought about the week ahead. I had to work Monday, but I could go into the hospital Monday night and get my appendix removed and be well enough to make an important meeting on Thursday. Yes, that could work. I lay back down. It was so lucky that we'd cancelled this week's book events in Denver and L.A.! Clearly the Gods who were in charge of my monthly schedule had foreseen this bump in the road.

I finally got back to sleep by convincing myself to think about something else. I may have prayed myself to sleep. My prayers usually go a little something like this:

Hi, whoever is protecting me. You are doing a really great job, I have nothing to complain about and I am really lucky to have you looking out for me. Like when I was driving home from that party but really shouldn't have been because once I got on the road I realized I was seeing two of everything and had to drive home with one eye shut. Thank you for letting me and everyone on the road with me that night live, I will never do that again. Thank you also for my family. Thank you for my job that I love. Thank you for letting some of my dreams come true. Thank you for all the crazy little ways you make my life work more smoothly. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

And then I say "thank you" in my head a couple of dozen times and then I fall asleep because I've forgotten what I was worried about.

And then I woke up and it was Mother's Day, which I spent in bed having food brought to me and watching movies cuddled up with my son. And bleeding a little bit, but let's look at some flowers first.

These were from my mother-in-law in New York.

These were from Jackson.

These were from Jack. EDITED TO ADD: Jack would like me to add that he went to Sarah and said, "Give me a dozen roses," and Sarah said, "No, I have something else in mind for Eden," and gave him those. Sarah is a bro. She also sells Webkinz, Mighty Beanz, Playmobil, and Legos, so we've spent some time in her shop over the years.

These were also from Jack (from here). (The Buddha is full of caramel!)

And this I bought for myself. It's a self-portrait Jackson did in kindergarten set in silver (from here).

Movies watched: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, Kung Fu Panda, Galaxy Quest.

Monday morning I got up and went to work. Work, work, work. At one point I Googled the symptoms for ovarian cyst but then things got busy and I spent the rest of my work time working. I felt a little light-headed at one point, and I decided that this was the result of some badly repressed late-onset panic, and had nothing to do with the fact that I'd eaten a cookie for lunch. Then I got off of work and got into my car and started down the road and suddenly, horribly realized that neither my head lights, my tail lights, nor my turn signals were functioning. This gave me an even deeper flashback: in tenth grade we covered my friend Marcia's car with banners explaining how our team was going to kick some other team's ass, and we taped one of the banners over Marcia's tail lights. We were then almost rear-ended several times until a kindly motorist got out of her car and explained to us that tail lights serve an important function in that they warn the cars behind you that you are slowing down. We don't drive around calculating each other's speed using astrolabes or Doppler sonography, we depend on the simple visual cue that tail lights provide.

In honor of that important life lesson, I drove home from work in the slow lane with 200 yards between me and the car ahead of me, letting everyone and their dog pass me so that I wouldn't get rear-ended or kill anyone behind me when I got to my exit. I did not go so far as to roll down my window and use hand signals in place of turn signals, but I made it home without meeting any other cars, so.

Professional called to ask for advice about car problem: Mechanic.

Mechanic's advice: Turn the ignition to the left, then halfway to the right, and see if lights begin to work again. (They did!)

Mechanic's further advice: You probably need a new ignition.

My response to mechanic: What? I can't hear you over the sound of my blinkers, which are working fine now.

Jack's response: Sure, why not wait until the ignition goes out completely and strands you somewhere. In the dark. While you're drunk.

My response to Jack: This is how God will continue to protect me from ever drinking and driving again.

Meanwhile . . .

Professional called to consult about abdominal abnormality: Midwife.

Midwife's advice: Get a sonogram.

Midwife's further advice: Or you could wait until your next cycle and see what happens.

My response to midwife: Thank you for letting me call you for free medical advice ten years after you helped my baby to be born.

Jack's response: Do it now, while we have health insurance.

My response to Jack: I think I'll go get a sonogram.

and the winner is . . .

Cellulitis. For me the highlight of the description linked above is "left untreated, the spreading bacterial infection may rapidly turn into a life-threatening condition."

I guess now's not the time to get all hippie health food with the saline nasal spray and chamomile compresses. My initial response is always just to let things run their course, but when running its course = death, I have only my action-hero husband to thank for the motivation. ("If that thing was on Jackson's nose you'd have taken him to the doctor three days ago," said he, and it's the truth.)

With me it's a combination of laziness and a morbid curiosity: how bad will it get? What does my face looked like when it's all fucked up? A similar impulse was behind all the self-portraits I took after I had my bike accident. Did I ever tell you about that? I will, as it serves a classic example of yet another thing you shouldn't do without the supervision of professional stunt men.

Oh, let's just take one more look before it goes away:

Now it's off to the drug store for a heroic dose of antibiotics.

What Else

Well, spring break is over and we all survived without broken bones or lawsuits, just a few long playdates and several hours in front of the computer discovering the intricacies of cereal company-driven computer games. And one trip to Chuck E. Cheese's where a couple of preschoolers cleaned me out for token money, but I was able to finish an entire New Yorker magazine for the first time in months, as well as observe a woman wearing a navy blue silk shorts ensemble and black pantyhose stalk around shrieking, "CRYSTAL! Well, you lost the helicopter machine, Crystal, someone else is on it now!" while little Crystal could not possibly have given a shit, as the Whack-A-Mole! game was open and she had her own token. I actually felt sympathetic toward this mom's competitive instincts, because I have them, too, and I think most parents will cop to heated moments of wanting their kid to be first and get what s/he wants to have a good time and blah blah blah, and I am often reining myself in so that Jackson can explore and learn to wait and fall on his face without me hectoring him like a ninny. Yes, these are the deep thoughts you, too, can have while occupying a booth at Chuck E. Cheese's and eating several slices of terrible, terrible pizza. They have great ice cubes, though, the Chuck E. Cheese's in Ventura. Not too big, kind of crumbly. I've become, in the last few months, a tooth enamel-destroying ice eater. Edentate cubicalis. I'm told that's because I have too much internal heat -- my yang is outpacing my yin two-to-one but I've been too busy to consult my acupuncturist for the proper compensating herbs.

However, I did have to high-tail it over to the HMO urgent care office last Thursday for an unspeakable and sudden-onset condition which did not require the removal of my clothes, and for which was prescribed Cipro. Cipro! Did she have anthrax? you may be asking yourself. No, I did not have anthrax, but the antibiotic drove my internal fire ever higher until my little hot spot of eczema re-erupted on my left shin. (For new readers, let me just say that I have a little hot spot of eczema that occasionally erupts on my left shin.) This reminded me of two things. One, it's time to call in for the goddamned herbs, and Two, maybe I was misdiagnosed and I actually have Guinea worm. In case you're not interested in clicking on that link I will tell you that once the Guinea worm gets inside you it eventually makes its way into your body cavity, often preferring the lower limbs, and then when it's a good foot or three long it secretes an acid from its mouth to burn a hole through your skin and worm its way out (pardon the obviousness of that turn of phrase). "Once the worm emerges from the wound, it can only be pulled out a few centimeters each day and wrapped around a small stick. Sometimes the worm can be pulled out completely within a few days, but this process usually takes weeks or months."

Well, I doubt I have Guinea worm, but if reading that doesn't make you want to donate twenty bucks to Doctors Without Borders then you're a stronger man than I.

What else. It's been raining. Apart from some predictable traffic hazards I've discovered that taking Katie out for a nighttime poop in the rain can result in some inadvertent snail and worm carnage, which we find littering the sidewalks the next morning. Jackson claimed to like the crunch made by stepping on a snail's shell, but after I told him a little bit about how some people like to eat snails, maybe with a little butter and garlic, while other people get angry at snails and go after them with Slug and Snail DEATH, Jackson suddenly became quite protective and compassionate toward the gastropod class, and has declared his intention to protect and cuddle with all who slime their way through our lives.

The only other thing that happened that was kind of funny was one day when the three of us were sitting in Jack's truck waiting for a train to pass at Milpas Street. It wasn't the Surfliner, it was a regular freight train and Jack and I talked a little bit about what each car was for -- cattle car, cattle car, oil tank, oil tank, oil tank, boxcar, boxcar, hey! Where's the caboose! No caboose!

And this little voice from the back says, "That's cold-blooded."

Okay, Little G, no more Tivo'd Dave Chappelle shows for you.

Checks and balances

If you had a chance to flip through Monday's New York Times "Giving" section you might have noticed a picture of Grace in an article about organizing relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina entitled Internet Matchmaking: Those Offering Help and Those Needing It. The online version of the story, unfortunately, doesn't show her photo, and I know you've probably seen enough people wearing one of my goddamned t-shirts, but Grace chose to wear her "Writing Well is the Best Revenge" Boob Billboard for her photo session and I couldn't be prouder. The relief effort is far from over, so if you haven't given already hop on over to Grace's Direct Relief blog to see what you can do.

I suppose it's time I followed my own advice, because I still haven't given any money for Katrina relief. After New Orleans turned into a vast saltwater swimming pool I, perhaps rather stupidly, was busy writing checks to (a) my high school, (b) my local public radio station for airing NPR's extraordinary, week-long coverage of John Roberts' Supreme Court grillings, and (c) Doctors Without Borders for everything they do for people on this earth who face pain, illness, and death without the bleakest hope that an entity even half as incompetent as FEMA will ever lumber to the rescue.

Of course, the real tragedy is that my month-long "post-infectious" cough has been joined by a bossy little sinus headache, stuffed-up ears, and lots of mouth breathing. And my period. I can think of nothing more attractive than a sunburned, sneezing, perpetualy irritated woman in a Wicked Weasel with a sanitary pad spilling out of it. No, actually I just wear the top with a pair of board shorts and hang on to my water wings until it seems appropriate (and we start watching the clock at 3:30) to order a mojito.

You don't care. Why would you want to read about my vacation? You just want to see the pictures. Well, here are a few.