July 27, 2007

Behind the gates

Here in Wonderland, we joke that a gated community is the kitchen Clover's Companion fences off with window screens so her puppy doesn't have a chance to have an accident someplace untoward, like the living room rug.

Other gated communities are homes, like the cage in which the off-White Rabbit lived, or the bars that separate the monkeys in the zoo. In short, gates are for the animals; however, Alice does realize that is within a microcosm of larger gates, ones that have no bearing on Christo's orange gate installation in Central Park a few years ago.

In Florida, from which Alice has just returned, gates are for people. She visited three people in three different communities, each of which had its own gate configuration for entry.

Assuming you are in a car, and if you're in Florida, that would be the main form of transportation available -- you must roll down the driver's side window, give your name to the gate lady, wait until it is accepted, then show an ID, all to get into the parking lot. If there's no gate guard, you need to know the magic code to punch into what would be the order-taker box at a drive-thru to allow you to enter. At the very least, your host must leave some indication that you are among the blessed and wanted.

Alice has encountered this before: in Arizona, she visited friends whose gate was controlled either by intercom or via swipe card. She can't imagine what a nuisance it would be to have the world shield her with a piece of metal. It generates as false a sense of security as the TSA does at the airport, waiting to seize a contraband lighter or a bottle with more than 3.4 ounces of liquid.

True, as Adrienne Rich wrote: "the door is simply a door. It makes no promises." In Wonderland, an entryway door begs to be rung, so that she who speaks into the intercom can be buzzed in to the building without other tenants assuming the worst.

If there is to be a gatekeeper, Alice prefers it be a person, like her doorman. While a good part of his job consists of determining who is allowed entry into the apartment building -- a guest arrives, he takes the guest's name, and rings Alice on the intercom or by telephone to get her blessing to send the person upstairs -- he provides a human touch.

The gate to Alice's abode is strictly for people, not for animals, unless the animal is a guest, like Clover's Companion's puppy. What goes on inside any apartment is basically his/her own business, so long as they meet the requisite percentage of rugs on their floor. Our "homeowners' association" is the co-op board, members of which Alice doesn't always recognize and whose control is primarily deadbeats and decibels.

At Alice's friend's house, one of about 100 meeting the architectural criteria for inclusion in Sea Breeze, or River Walk, or Atlantic Gardens, or whatever that particular gated assemblage is called, the homeowners' association clearly has too much time on their hands. Her friend, like 21 others in their compound, has received notice of fascia dysplasia.

Fascia has something to do with gutters or is connected with the roof in some way. In a "private community," the fascia police, like the dog-size/noise police in New York apartments, have the power. (Alice doesn't understand why the decibel police don't exist for crying babies. She is quite sure her mother would have shushed her but good, without raising a fist, if Alice's tantrums rose above the level her mother could tolerate.)

Whether co-op board nazis or fascia fascists, each requires that you must live up to a group standard that may or may not leave you with Constitutional rights . This is becoming a trend across more and more of the U.S. according to The New York Times.

Even when Big Brother, in the name of "homeland security," doesn't take away your right to free speech, you sign an agreement with the co-op board or the condo/homeowners' association in order to have a decent place to live. No wonder no one realizes our rights are melting away; they have already signed contracts spelling that out. We're all behind one gate or another.

Janis Joplin knew what she was singing: freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

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July 13, 2007

My first meme

This is courtesy of frog, whose blog I can't link to, but you can. Until now, I've never been intrigued by the meme concept (and the tell-it-to-me-tuesdays or thursdays) and the like. This one, however, contains questions that interest me, though I'm not sure what they reveal.

[Spell your first name backwards] ycnan
[The story behind your user name] I live in Wonderland, a city most of the country cannot imagine, except to visit.
[How old are you?] over 40
[Date of birth] 10/08
[Where do you live?] white brick postwar apartment building
[Occupation] paying? financial planning. for love, writing.
[4 words that sum you up] devoted friend, sardonic eccentric

Describe your....
[Wallet] European red leather
[Key holder] Sterling silver with initials
[Jewelry worn daily] gold bracelet, lapis lazuli ring; gold wire ring, diamond earrings -- all gifts
[Pillow cover] high-thread count, white Egyptian cotton
[Coffee cup] travel mug with college logo
[Shoes] summer sandals, winter loafers
[School bag] I’m not in school
[Favorite dress] one I have yet to own
[Cologne/Perfume] Jean Patou's "Joy." If I can't feel it, at least I can wear it.
[Piercing] 2 in right ear, 1 in left ear
[What you are wearing now] cotton flowered dress bought on the street
[Hair] brown
[Makeup] none
[in my mouth] iced coffee
[In My Head] another sleepy day, another day I haven't worked
[Wish] that I will start publishing again
[Eating Habit] a nutritionist's nightmare
[Some of your favorite movies] Holiday; The Best of Everything; The Big Chill
[Do you believe in love at first sight] not so much
[The last thing you ate?] chocolate souffle
[Do you believe in love] yes
[Do you believe in soul mates] yes
[Do you believe in forgiveness] yes
[Three cities you wouldn't mind relocating to?] Paris, and that is only the most remote possibility. I travel; I don't relocate.
[What are some of your favorite foods?] smoked salmon, coffee ice cream, grilled mozzarella sandwiches

Yes or No...
[you keep a diary] had diary, now a blog
[you have a secret you have not shared with anyone] yes
[you fold your underwear] Actually, the housekeeper does it.

[movie you bought] I have no idea.
[song you listened to] James Taylor's "Mexico"
[song that was stuck in your head] "The First Cut is the Deepest"
[song you've downloaded] I’ve never downloaded a song.
[CD you bought] No idea--I haven't bought one in ages.
[CD you listened to] Woodstock
[person you've called] my neurologist
[person who called you] Clover's Companion
[TV show you've watched] Crossing Jordan
[Thing you said] “Where are my cigarettes?"
[Black or White?] black
[Cats or Dogs?] dogs
[Tea or Coffee?] both
[Achiever or Slacker?] slacker
[Leader or Follower?] neither
[Beer or Cider?] cider
[Drinks or Shots?] drinks
[Single or Taken?] single
[Matches or a Lighter?] lighter
[Letters or Emails?] email
[Short hair or Long hair?] long

I want to...
[Go] to sleep
[Kill] Big Brother
[Hear from] The Croquet Player
[Meet] the love of my life
[Look like] I'm as thin as I was in college
[Avoid] pain
[Hug] my niece, Kayanna
[Kiss] TCP
[Loved somebody so much it makes you cry?] yes
[Drank alcohol?] some
[Done drugs?] yes
[Broken the law?] depends on who's asking
[Ran away from home?] no
[Broken a bone?] no
[Cheated on a test?] yes
[Played Truth Or Dare?] yes
[Flashed someone?] yes
[Mooned Someone?] no
[Kissed someone you didn’t know?] yes
[Been on a game show/talk show] no
[Been in a fight?] not physical
[Ridden in a fire truck?] no
[Been on a plane?] yes, and flown one
[Come close to dying?] yes
[Gave someone a piggy back/shoulder ride?] no
[Swam in the ocean?] yes
[Had a nightmare/dream that made you wake up?] yes
[Kissed someone of the same sex] yes

[Girlfriend/Boyfriend] Yes/Yes
[When and who was your 1st crush?]
Sixth grade. A boy named Steven.
[Your idea of a perfect date] anything with someone I love
[Name a moment that you thought was really sweet] Meeting my niece for the first time. A classmate sending me a postcard thanking me for working as 25th reunion co-chair.
[Your first kiss] (real kiss) can't remember who. I was 17.
[Do you have a crush] not at the moment

Are you a...[Vegetarian?] no
[Good Student?] have been
[Good Singer?] fair
[A good Actor/Actress?] fair
[A deep sleeper?] Yes, but also an insomniac.
[A Good Dancer?] yes
[Shy?] no
[Outgoing?] yes

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July 07, 2007

Go ask Alice...

for, indeed, she'll know. She has neither medical nor pharmacological degree, but she seems to be the go-to person recently for dispensing information and advice about pain relief and psychoactive drugs on a regular basis.

My next-door neighbor inquired about the antidepressants her friend was taking. How long until they would show effectiveness or lack thereof? I'd taken them both, so that was easily answered.

A blogging friend was diagnosed with kidney stones, which did not "pass" in a timely manner, leaving her doped up on percoset, a pain reliever second only to demerol or morphine, for weeks. She finally had surgery, followed by another percoset script. After five weeks, she ended up going through minor-league withdrawal.

My concern for her wasn't the narcotic (because when you live with migraine, 30 years of taking narcotics as needed aren't much of an issue, and by the time anyone expressed a concern, it was 15 years ago, 15 years past Alice's due date for caring) but the Tylenol with which every painkiller is compounded.

That Tylenol is serious business. (Hospitals use it only because it isn't a blood thinner like aspirin or ibuprophen. It's not because it's great against pain.)

The warning on my current migraine drug isn't against addiction; it is against ODing on Tylenol, which, in relatively large amounts, can cause permanent liver damage. Or worse: a lethal dose of Tylenol is 2g to 4g. So 500 mg here, 500 mg there can really add up. Do the math.

Next up, my mom, who never feels pain -- she could have given birth in a field. She came down with shingles, which, in her percoset haze, she referred to as "roof tiles" one night. This disease is one where long-dormant chicken pox virus (assuming you had chicken pox) re-emerges and plays painful hell on your skin for a good three to four weeks, minimum.

Note to self: shingles vaccine just invented. Put on calendar for age 60, the age after which most people develop shingles. Do not want roof tiles redux -- there's already been enough pain in my life.

Then a call from mom's best friend: she has retired, with her boyfriend, to a small coastal town in Florida, where she believes available medical care is akin to voodoo, and her shrink wouldn't know his ass from a hole in the ground even with an anatomy chart. She can't sleep, and wants to know why her so-called sleeping pill isn't working for her.

Once again, Alice pulls out her handbook of psychiatric drugs, reads off dosages, and, playing cautious, counsels mom's friend to confirm with doctor or pharmacy.

In Alice's life, it's the pharmacy that has her back. She fills every prescription at the same independent store. Forget meds by mail, or meds from a 1,000-store chain. Alice would bet she has more pharmacy experience than some of the chain-store pill-bottle fillers. She certainly can recite all the side effect labels from memory. Her pharmacy telephones her any time there is a chance of an interaction.

(Alice is on intimate terms with the entire staff at her drug store. She knows the pharmacist and everyone else, save the delivery boy, by name, and she recognizes their voices, as they do hers, on the phone. She has the number memorized and has her own charge account. They get a fruit basket every Thanksgiving.)

Useful things to know: barbiturates of any sort will make birth control pills less effective. This information wasn't given to one of Alice's friends, whose unplanned child will be 9 next year. Antibiotics also don't mix well with many pharmaceuticals -- Alice's pharmacy told her that, although it was so many years ago that she can't remember what doesn't go with what.

For Alice's mom, a stern warning from Alice: I told you not to drink with Xanax on the airplane, and you finally admitted you did anyway. Alice is sure it made for a pleasant (and fast) flight, but her mom didn't have Alice's doctor's blessing on the mix-and-match front, and mom could have woken up way farther across the pond than she intended.

Revised warning, emphasis added: Please don't drink on percoset. It's a much stronger drug and will knock you flat on your ass for days even without a Dewars chaser. Alice knows how much she can drink (two glasses of wine, max, per the shrink) on her psychopharm cocktail, but her mother -- who equates sleeping pills with arsenic, according to mom's friend who dared to make the suggestion -- has neither Alice's metabolism nor knowledge of how you can make drugs your friends -- in judicious quantity.

So, Google may be your pal, but if you really need to know your pain relievers or your psychopharms, Alice recommends a drugstore where they know your name, and she is here if you need her.

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July 04, 2007

Independence Day?

Once upon a time I pledged allegiance to Richard Stands, as did many of us in the confusion of elementary school in the 1960s. Now, not so much. Right now it seems the best thing we have going for us vs. the United Kingdom is that Congress is not -- assuming the Democrats have some interest in what shreds pass for privacy -- debating a national identity card. The kind with your finger print and iris scan.

If Big Brother wants to know where I live, I'm sure he can get the job done without any further assistance from me. What I want to know is, why do we celebrate our "independence" with what, for all intents and purposes, sounds exactly like the proverbial bombs bursting in air?

Couldn't we try for patriotism with a bit less gunpowder? It is unseemly, the number of soldiers getting blown to shreds in Iraq and elsewhere, and what do we do? We throw a multimillion-dollar fireworks display for the folks at home. Is this the best use of our resources? Would the right wing curl up and mourn without its annual firepower celebration?

I think there are many ways to be patriotic, if one wants. Waving a flag doesn't do it for me. I'd rather stick with fighting for liberty -- justice, though blind, probably has a smirk on her face given the Supreme Court's latest decisions.

Our local Big Brother of Wonderland has pushed through some more laws to protect us from ourselves: no more trans fat in our food, thank you. I never realized a need to legislate food stuffs beyond assuring that they won't result in a nation keeling over from food poisoning. If I knew anything about cooking, or nutrition, I imagine I'd feel some deep seated hostility toward Wonderland's fascist food police.

Then, too, I wonder: Wonderland just passed some noise abatement laws -- including a five-minute limit on the time your dog is allowed to bark. Well, okay; I'd rather have dogs seen but not heard. But that goes for babies, too, and I don't see anyone legislating where and when it is appropriate for your child to have a public meltdown, or how long you have to rescue your child, in whatever form that takes.

And the fireworks: sound like bombs, much? Going off for nearly half an hour tonight? Surely that should fall under the decibel police's province. Or is it only unacceptable when the decibels are not emanating from a so-called public purpose "celebration"? Since Macy's foots the bill for the Grucci brother's handiwork, then beer ads are sold to subsidize the cost of broadcasting the affair, doesn't that take it into private hands? Isn't that where the decibel police come in? What about the folks measuring our carbon footprints?

Mind you, I don't take all of this as seriously as all that. I just happen to like a little less hypocrisy, a few more protected civil rights, in my legal system. I don't think it's going to happen. Happy Independence Day, anyone?

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