Monday, August 31, 2009

Take that, Ipod girl!

Yesterday, I had my first moment of hip-replacement triumph and today my streak continues. I better walk my ass down to the lotto store and get a Scratch-N-Win, because the luck train has rolled into the station and it's calling, "All aboard, Arley! All a-freaking-board!" That's right. Because today, I finally walked faster than someone on the street. Better yet, that person was not hooked up to oxygen tank, was not a toddler and was not carrying a small dog in the basket of their walker. Ambulation win!

Before the surgery (I use this phrase so often I feel like I should abbreviate it - BTS), I was an aggressive pedestrian. I walked with an arm crutch and I was not afraid to swing that baby in crowded sidewalks if it meant wading through a stream of undergraduates with greater ease. There's nothing worse than trying to walk somewhere in a college town in springtime because all the undergraduates are in heat and they are sauntering dreamily down the sidewalk hand in hand, taking up as much real estate as humanly possible, causing traffic jams when they become so overwhelmingly attracted to one another that they are forced to stop in the middle of the sidewalk to kiss. ("Like, oh my God! The smell of stale beer and vomit outside this campus bar just turns me on! Let us exchange bodily fluids immediately!") I have become so used to fighting my way like a spawning salmon along Champaign-Urbana sidewalks that I have cultivated a healthy dose of pedestrian rage. (Or, you know, I might just be an angry person).

Since the surgery, however, I have been the human equivalent of a horsedrawn carriage on a four-lane highway. Businessmen have breathed down my neck in crowded streets and contemplated pushing me into traffic to shave 15 seconds off their commute. Old men have jogged by me wearing outlandish sweatbands and socks pulled up to their knees, shooting me smug glances and making me feel like I was trapped in a Viagra commercial. It was all very embarrassing. 

But not anymore. It's time to sharpen up the old elbows, because today, I finally passed an able-bodied women of approximately my own age. Now, I will admit that this woman was listening to an Ipod and I have no doubt that she was probably all wrapped up in some slow song somewhere along the lines of "Let's Get It On" and she was thinking about when she would, in fact, get it on. Perhaps she was thinking impure thoughts about Zac Efron. Who knows? All I know is that she had slowed down to low gear just as I was kicking the Arley Express (read: my cane and I) into overdrive. I passed her, nearly stepping in dog droppings while doing so, and emerged gleefully in front of her.

She didn't appear to notice. I, however, felt like the Queen of Mobility for roughly 2.5 seconds, until I realized that the girl had picked up her pace and I would have to keep up with her if I wanted to maintain my lead. I sped up, she sped up. I sped up (my cane tapping like a freaking metronome playing "Flight of the Bumblebees"), she sped up. I knew how this would end: either she'd beat me or I'd trip over a root, land on my hip and spend the next three months recovering from emergency surgery. 

There was no choice but to abort the mission. To save face, I pretended that there was something of great interest in my purse and stepped off to the side. She strode by without a backwards glance, no doubt now grooving to a more up-beat song. Still, I can see the end of the tunnel ahead. It won't be long now before I'm once again speeding past dawdlers, giving them a look that says, "I'm honking at you with my eyes." The Arley Express is back on the tracks and she's a freaking bullet train!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What? You mean everything doesn't suck?

I spend a lot of time on this blog detailing the crappiness of my post-replacement life. Well, today you can put away your raincoats and umbrellas because the little black storm cloud that's following me around has taken the day off. Yesterday was S. G's bachelorette party on Bowen Island, (I have two friends whose names start with S getting married within a week of each other, so this whole 'giving people initials to preserve their anonymity' business is getting complicated!) and while the day was meant to celebrate her upcoming marriage, it ended up being a big step forward (pun intended) for my recovery. (Everything is, of course, all about me).

Vancouver is one of the few major cities where you can travel for twenty minutes and be in peaceful, secluded wilderness. (Well, I guess Detroit has one up on Vancouver, since there is wilderness within abandoned parts of the city and apparently red foxes roam the downtown streets, but I'm not sure if this is true or if I've just been watching too much "Life After People" on Discovery). Bowen Island therefore offers all the relaxation of off-the-grid living without all the "driving for five hours and spending four of those fighting about what music to play and passing the last hour arguing about how much gas mileage the car actually gets because of a controversy over whether the driver remembered to reset the trip calculator at the last fill-up" business. (Ah, road trips!)

My day went lik this: pleasant boat ride, lunch at a cute cafe sipping homemade lemonade with a tiny sprig of mint on the top of the glass, a massage with aromatherapy-scented oil to work the knots out of my cranky back, relaxing outside amidst bamboo trees and little creeks sampling organic Mexican hot chocolate, which was served on a tiny silver tray with an equally tiny glass of water, enraging the waitress at a local pub when we tried to get our food to go so we could catch the water taxi, then sitting on a picnic table looking out at the water (because the water taxi was full) and eating yam fries and potstickers. Granted, I got a sunburn (because my skin burns if I even think about sun), but I arrived home smelling amazing, pleasantly exhausted, packed to the brim with good food and sunshine and the company of real non-television people, about ready to move to Bowen Island to live by the water, write novels and raise babies (whose babies I'm not sure, since I am not exactly a heavy-hitter on the dating scene, but let a girl dream). It was the perfect day.

It was also the perfect day to put my hip to the test. I found myself trying to get out of a boat, which was moving with the tides, on to a dock, which was also moving with the tides, without any sort of ramp or assistance at all, which required breaking hip restrictions in ways that were too complex and dramatic to even be mentioned in the "things not to do post-hip replacement" handbook. Then, I walked down a steeply inclined gravel path for over a kilometer. Then I spent more than a few minutes trying to contort myself into sitting correctly at a picnic table, which I could not figure out, so ended up sitting on it side-saddle and twisting around to eat yam fries (very little stands in the way of me and yam fries). Then I walked for over 3 kilometers up and down a mountain. My physiotherapists would either be very proud of me or else beat me senseless with my own cane.

After a long day, S.G. and I both noticed at the same time that I was still keeping up with the pack. Before the surgery, I would have been lagging behind after half an hour, my leg twisted in unnatural directions, stopping to sit down at every tree stump/fence/road sign/bus stop/patch of grass/strangers' porch swing, delivering monologues most commonly found in those movies about people stranded on a desert island/top of a mountain/in the jungle and one of them is injured and must sacrifice himself for the good of the rest: "Go on! Leave me! I have lived a good and noble life! Don't look back!" I would have ended the day in agony, staring glassy-eyed off at some fixed point for hours. For the first time since the surgery, I did something that I couldn't do before. For the first time, the hip replacement made a positive change in my life, instead of costing me all my independence and roughly 3/4 of my sanity.

After the past three years (hip subluxations! Super mono! Breakups! Heart medication that numbed my scalp for two months! The end of my elite sports career! The end of my varsity sports career! Hip replacement! Complications! Hours spent in bed staring out the window! No one wanting to hire me to teach the joys of the thesis statement!), one good day feels like winning the lottery. Even the mere act of drinking a perfect chai latte (not too watery, not too strong that the chai concentrate burns your throat) is enough to make me feel a little giddy.

It's like when you have a crappy boyfriend. When you have a good boyfriend, you begin to take it for granted that he will do certain nice things, like call you when he says he will, or make you dinner, or drive you to the airport at 3 a.m even though the airport happens to be 2.5 hours away and it's snowing. When you have a crappy boyfriend, however, you find yourself thinking, "Aww, how sweet! He didn't go through my wallet while I was sleeping this time to pay his meth dealer! That talk about personal boundaries must have really helped! What a great guy!" (Simmer down, gossip mill! That's never happened to me).

So, thank you life for beating me down for years on end with soul crushing disappointment, then building me back up stronger (and more cyborg-y) than before. Arley Version 2.0: now being beta tested at an island near you.

Walking a Mile in My Shoes (Okay, maybe not a mile. And maybe 'walk' is too enthusiastic a verb)

As I've said before, having a hip replacement in summer was a good read and is probably the best decision I've made in this last 5 years, (which, if you're familiar with my talent of messing up my life in astounding and intricate ways, probably doesn't say much). Anyhow, the benefit of a summer hip replacement is that you can walk outside without slipping on a wet/icy sidewalk, your post-surgery depression isn't worsened by endless fog and rain (or, in the case of the Midwest, temperatures so cold you could literally die by going outside without protection) and (best of all!) you don't have to spend 20 minutes a day trying to put on pair of running shoes/boots because you can slip your feet into the faux-Croc rubber Mary Janes you got four years ago at the B.C. ferry terminal and which you have worn so often that they are about two weeks away from crumbling into dust.

In order to perfect my gait pattern, however, my physiotherapist has talked me into putting on running shoes. It turns out that you can probably change the oil in your car, build yourself some custom cabinets and perform cataract surgery using fewer tools than what I need to put on my shoes. So here, for those of you who want to add an extra dose of complexity into your day by putting on your New Balances using more tools than there are at an Ed Hardy fashion show, here are the steps:
  1. Outfit your running shoes in those curly no-tie elastic laces. Where can you find such laces? In the medical supply store. Somewhere between the incontinence supplies and the adult bibs. (Hint: the rainbow ones bring an extra dose of glam and go with every outfit).
  2. Gather up your socks, shoes, shoe horn, sock aid, grabber, a bottle of bourbon, some Valium and every last ounce of patience that hasn't dwindled away from spending the past 2 months in bed watching Ty Pennington's meth-fueled enthusiasm for over-decorating. Look down at your feet and think, "God, I have hairy feet. I look like a hobbit." (Reason #452 why I'm still single).
  3. Take your sock aid, (see accompanying photo), roll it up and insert it into a sock. (By the way, doesn't that guy in the photo look like he's in some state of zen mastery? He's the Yoda of sock aids. You can imagine him saying, "Do or do not, young Jedi. There is no try.") Make sure to put the sock on straight because, if you don't, you will walk around for the rest of the day thinking, "Damn. Is there something in my shoe?" but then realize that it's just the sock's seam rubbing against your foot and there's nothing you can do about it because by now you're out of the house and you don't have your sock aid. And then you will cry real tears.
  4. Think, hey, I wonder if this sock aid could be used to help fat guys put on condoms. (Yes, I realize that I used this joke in my novel, but since it's probably the one thing in my novel that was true-to-life about having a hip replacement, I'm recycling it).
  5. Lower the sock aid by the string and go fishing for your feet, which should not be hard because those bad boys are size 9 and have arches higher than several Lower Mainland bridges.
  6. Wiggle your toes into the sock, making sure you keep your foot straight, which is no easy feat (no pun intended) because your foot is twisted after 2 years of rolling your ankle whenever your hip wandered out of the socket.
  7. Pull upwards on the string so that the sock slides (crookedly) on. If you drop the string, swear, use your grabber to pick it up, and try it again.
  8. Stare for several long moments at your running shoe, wondering how in the world you are going to do this without throwing something through a window.
  9. Steel yourself. Say, "patience, don't fail me now." Say, "Do or do not. There is no try!" Take several deep, calming breaths (and maybe a low-grade sedative and a shot of whiskey).
  10. Drop the shoe and use the grabber to push it so that it aligns with your foot. Stick in the shoe horn.
  11. Try to wiggle your toes into the shoe without getting the tongue caught under your foot.
  12. Sigh. Pick the shoe back up with the grabber, try to pull the tongue up, but it keeps sliding down again, so loosen the elastic laces, but that doesn't work because you so obviously suck at life and why can't you get this when old grandpa in the picture is rocking this with ease.
  13. Use the grabber to hold the tongue up, but the grabber's claws don't have the grip strength to do the job and, besides, you lack the coordination.
  14. Stick your foot in to the shoe and slip it on using the shoe horn. Try to use the grabber to adjust the tongue, fail, get frustrated and break your hip restrictions by reaching down and grabbing the tongue with the tips of your fingers because you barely have the flexion to even break your hip restrictions. Tighten the laces while you're down there.
  15. Commend yourself on your great personal courage and restraint and embark on an exciting journey involving an elliptical machine and/or a walk to the local 7-11 to get a slurpee, since you can only enjoy them in Canada because America has still not gotten the memo that slurpees/icees/whatever should. not. be. carbonated.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Friendly Greeting From the King of Canes!

If you go to your average Starbucks, you will probably see the following sights: a very angry man filled with rage because he asked for a three-pump skinny vanilla latte and there is very clearly only two pumps in this skinny vanilla latte; an old guy who just. wants. a. coffee. dammit; a group of young mothers discussing the benefits of home-made baby food and name-dropping stroller brands....and me, ordering a tall, non-fat, no water, extra hot chai latte. But go to the Starbucks on 6th in New West and you will see a different sight, because that Starbucks has its own biker gang, who sit in their full leathers outside the shop and talks about hard-core biker shit; (you can just imagine the news report: "at night, they cruise the mean streets of New Westminster armed to the teeth. By day, they prowl the local Starbucks, scaring the foam off their cinnamon dolce lattes"). I call them the Hells' Baristas.

Today, now that I have a brand, spankin' new gait, I decided to take a page out of the Hells' Baristas handbook by walking up to the local Starbucks. My plan: walk up there, get a chai latte, chill with the Hells' Baristas to up my street cred by several degrees, then walk home and celebrate my independence.

One of my favourite albums to walk to is John Cale's "Paris, 1919," because it is impossible not to have a spring in your steps when you're listening to a rock album about the Treaty of Versailles, especially when roughly 80 violins are rocking the shit out of those eighth notes and there's a fucking bass taking the party down low and slow and John Cale is at the piano directing traffic and bringing a little dose of Velvet Underground cool. Sometimes, I will admit, I have been known to sing a little bit while walking down the street and move my pointer finger as if I am conducting an orchestra, which is probably reason #289 why I am single.

So there I am, strolling jauntily down the street, just about to open the door to Starbucks, when an obese man dressed all in black burst through the door with a black cane that appeared to have some sort of duck/cobra/deer head on the handle. The man sees me, stops half-way through the door, twirls his cane around like he's starring in a dinner-theatre production of "Singin' In the Rain," winks (winks!), then thrusts his cane in the air in triumph. He said something to me, but since I could only hear the sweet strains of John Cale singing the "you're a ghost la la la la la la la" part, I did not catch his message.

I can only assume that I had just been greeted by the King of Canes, or that there is a secret handshake (cane shake?) that one needs to know to be inducted into some secret cane society. It has also crossed my mind that the man had performed some sort of cane-user's mating ritual, since all that thrusting and twirling of a long stick does seem a wee bit phallic. The King of Canes disappeared and I gave my hip an extra dose of calcium, while getting to overhear such gems as "Now, experts recommend that you register for a policy of 8 to 9 times the person's annual income if you want to profit off the death of a loved one." (true story). The Hells' Baristas gave me side-eye but did not challenge me to a turf war and I spent 20 happy minutes sipping my latte while reading the latest headlines; (apparently, Stephen Harper recently appointed to the senate a former NHL coach who admitted in a 2005 memoir that while he could sign his name, he could not read sentences. Oh, Canadian politics. How I love you). I think I might have to make a ritual out of a daily Starbucks run. So watch out, Hells' Baristas. I am jonesing for a latte, I am armed to the teeth with a three-foot metal bar and I am ready to rumble.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walk Like You Inject Heroin into the Webbing Between Your Toes

For whatever reason, my body has still not figured out what to do with this new hip. Before the surgery, I had a limp that was usually pretty minor: the limp of a war hero with some shrapnel in his leg, or a firefighter whose knees got arthritis after years of carrying people out of burning buildings. I looked as if I earned my limp by sacrificing myself for some noble cause. Perhaps this is why, when people on the street used to ask me what was "wrong with me," I used to look away and murmur, "I don't want to talk about it. All that matters is that the orphans survived." (I also used to tell the "put a hand on your shoulder and say, fighting back tears, that I'm so brave to be out in public trying to live a normal life" types that I have leprosy, but that is another story).

Since the surgery, however, I walk like a crackhead. Those of you who have never driven down Hastings Street after dark may not be aware of the crackhead walk, which is found in people who inject drugs into their feet. It's a sort of half-stumbling, tip-toed, keep-the-head-down-in-case-you-see-a-crack-rock-on-the-sidewalk, swaying gait and it's exactly what I look like when I'm setting off for my daily stroll. (The rashes do not help matters).

Yesterday, however, my physiotherapist tried to change that. She tried to get me to remember how normal people walk so that I would not spend the rest of my days having passersby think I'm about to break into their car and steal their stereo (though, given that I'm unemployed....) There's something inherently strange about re-learning a skill that young children figure out on their own. When I walk past children in strollers, I can almost see them thinking, "Dude. It's not hard. Heel-toe. Heel-toe. Shove an animal cracker in your mouth, pick up your sippy cup of apple juice and get with the program, lady." Well, screw you, toddlers of America and Canada! I don't have the advantage of weighing, like, 15 pounds, being low to the ground, and being rewarded with Cheerios every time I take a step.

It was therefore a strange process to spend 30 minutes trying to figure out when to lift my heel and when to press down with my toe. Worse, no matter how often my physio said, "Heel TOE. No, heel THEN toe. Heel toe," I could not manage it. I felt like I was in the first 20 minutes of one of those movies about an impoverished but plucky dancer who gets accepted into a prestigious dance academy but almost cracks under the strain of the strict dance teacher and the overwhelming pressure to succeed until a handsome male dancer with a tragic past who rides a motorcycle in his spare time teaches her the meaning of love and renews her passion for dance. Except, instead of auditioning for a solo in the world's best ballet company, I was trying to learn how not to scare young children when I walk down the street. And there was no handsome, tragic, motorcycle-riding male dancer.

After a great deal of work, however, I am happy to debut a walk that, while incredibly unnatural-looking and slow, is closer to a normal gait pattern. I walk perfectly straightbacked, eyes ahead, my legs making an incredible exaggeration of the whole "heel-toe" business. Instead of looking like Amy Winehouse after a bad night, I look like someone's impeccably well-dressed but alcoholic Great Uncle Maxwell trying to convince everyone at Christmas Eve dinner that he's only had a few and he's fine to drive.

Hopefully, however, my walk will become more natural as the weeks go by and I'll be able to again walk in a way that makes people say, "Look at that girl with the cane. I wonder if she pulled kittens from a house fire with no thought to her own personal safety." Or, better yet, hopefully I will one day walk so smoothly that I will get rid of the cane and I will blend in with a crowd and pass by completely unnoticed. Stealth mode!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Little Gift from the Gods of Hip Arthroplasty

A note to scientists of the world: you all need to have a conference and figure out this whole "teleportation" business. I know there are risks, (I have seen "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," though being shrunk down to miniature might not be such a bad deal right now), but getting from Point A to Point B is about 500 times more difficult than it needs to be, considering that it is 2009 and the Jetsons promised me flying cars, like, 8 years ago.

I hate traveling. Poor hip flexion + legs the length of Highway 61 = complete, utter and total inability to get through an airplane/train/bus ride unscathed. (The fact that Champaign-Urbana is not exactly a great transportation hub does not help). When the person in front of me puts their seat back into my knees, I am filled with the rage of small animals. I once bought an NFL player from the New Orleans Saints a drink in exchange for the aisle seat (and then spent 3 hours talking about Noam Chomsky with him, which is another story). My feet get run over by drink carts, my spine contorts itself into alignments seen only on Cirque Du Soliel, and my hip gives me its two-week notice and begins handing out resumes.

Usually, the biggest source of travel-related ridiculousness is a certain local bus company that shall remain nameless. The last time I rode with this company, I wound up in a tiny van that seemed to be held together by dental floss and the chewed-up gum the driver let overflow out of the ashtray, squished next to one of the largest men I've ever seen (like "cyst on the pituitary gland" large), while the driver's tumor-faced dog named Bun Bun, who was lounging in his own seat even though one other passenger didn't have a seatbelt, snapped and growled at anyone who moved a fraction of an inch. Every thirty minutes, the driver got out to let Bun Bun "do his business" and as the van pulled into Champaign at 3:30 in the morning with Bun Bun snoring his tiny, tumor-encrusted face off, I vowed never to ride with this particular company again for the rest of my life, so help me God.

Which lasted 8 months. Alas, my vow was broken by a combination of poor planning and difficult train schedules. I was expecting divinr punishment for having broken so solemn of an oath, especially considering that I have also broken my "no blogging because I will become so self-obsessed that no one will be able to stand me" vow as well.

Happily, lightning did not strike me down. Instead: a miracle. I guess the Gods of Arthroplastic Surgery won a battle against the Gods of Travel Inconveniences and granted me the greatest gift of all: a trip that did not claw my sanity into ragged shreds. Though there were only two passengers, they'd sent a bus instead of a van and that bus was driven by a grad student (instead of, say, a woman who belonged on the hit series 'I'm Obsessed With My Pet'). I spent three hours (we were early!) taking up all the room I could and chatting with the bus driver and the other passenger. The conversation did not even involve an animated discussion on a) whether or not I am Australian, since I have "one of those accents," b) what is wrong with America today and why Mexicans are to blame or c) how the best way to end the Iraq war is to knock it down with bulldozers, kill all them Muslims and fill the place with Americans. (These are all conversations I've had with bus drivers over the years).

To top it off, we stopped at a cool hot-dog stand in Chicago and I got a polish sausage with delicious onions. Any journey that involves polish sausage is a journey I can get behind. I felt like Tiny Tim getting his Christmas goose. Or someone getting their name called on "The Price is Right." It was an August miracle.

Alas, the plane ride was not nearly so smooth (because Air Canada was involved), but the glow of my excellent bus ride remains. I feel as if I should have some sage advice about traveling post-hip replacement, but it seems to me that traveling is more about luck than anything else. I do, however, recommend buying drinks in exchange for aisle seats. And maybe some Valium. (My apologies to those of you looking for actual advice about hip replacements. Apparently, my blog is not really "the twentysomething's guide to rocking the hip replacement" but "a twentysomething's guide to listening to Arley examine her life in explicit detail, some of which involves having a hip replacement.")

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How I Spent My (Real) Summer Vacation

Considering that I have spent the past 2 months perfecting the ass groove in my bed and having one-sided conversations with the TV, a trip back to Champaign was just what I needed to get me out of my post-surgical rut. Since so much happened on the trip, I cannot be bothered to put it into paragraph form. Here, then, are some lists of how I spent my only summer vacation

Things I Did
  • Ate delicious pork schnitzel under the watchful (yet creepy) gaze of a taxidermied white swan.
  • Lived predominately on beer, pizza, polish sausages, chai lattes and Starbucks oatmeal.
  • Got my "Farmer's Market and sunshine" fix.
  • Lost A.'s keys within five minutes of him giving them to me, then got my arm caught under the seat of his Dodge Aries while looking for them, since I didn't have the hip flexion to free myself. Amused several passing cyclists in the process.
  • Took a writing-aptitude test that involved me writing a thousand-word article on something that interests me in the NFL (a.k.a. the place where Tom Brady got all those fine, fine muscles), which resulted in two tense hours at the Urbana Free Library surrounded by people who insisted on playing their soul music without headphones on and discussing their desires to move to Hollywood to become entertainment reporters "like Mario Lopez."
  • Brought my usual "Hurricane Arley" routine into the lives of those I care about. Actually, it was mostly my car's fault, since it got so comfy napping over the past two months when I was away recovering that it didn't feel like waking up.
Things I Did Not Do
  • My physio exercises: because, honestly, the number one rule of being a good house guests is not to do any pelvis thrusts on someone else's couch. Also, when I was doing some knee exercises, my cat was judging me mercilessly.
  • Eat delicious Coco Mero frozen yogurt. Damn. And since there's calcium in frozen yogurt, I could have had a medically sanctioned treat.
  • Do the whole "budgeting" thing. Though, it was A's birthday. And chai lattes are good for my hip. And I needed that $4 chocolate-covered marshmallow.

Hip Restrictions? What Hip Restrictions?

I am a little over two months post surgery. According to the handy "So, You're Having a Hip Replacement" guide book, this means I should have to follow hip restrictions (no bending, no lifting, no twisting, no crossing) for another month. Want to know what activity involves all of those in soul-crushing, back-spasming quantities? Moving.

Moving is, of course, its own hell, and moving after a hip replacement adds its own extra layer of suckery.: the extra sauce on the stress burger. Since I was relying on the good nature of my friends to do the bulk of the grunt work, I figured that moving wouldn't be that bad, seeing as how I thought that I'd packed up nearly everything I owned before I left. All I would have to do, I figured, was throw a few loose pots and pans in a bin, then direct traffic while my poor friends pulled muscles in their backs carting my bright-yellow dresser down the stairs.

A few hours before moving was to commence, I arrived at my old house to find my room piled to the lees with all of my worldly goods, most of which I'd forgotten to pack, since I thought that I would be back with time to spare before moving. A half-empty bottle of apple-cider vinegar. 3.5 million crocheted blankets (my mom has a habit). Enough pots, pans and bowls to outfit a small restaurant. Boxes of student papers with tiny spiders crawling on the pages. I felt like I was walking into one of those ridiculous TLC documentaries about people with hoarding addictions. Considering that I arrived in Champaign-Urbana only three years ago with two suitcases, how in the world did I accumulate all this on a grad-student's budget?

I was confronted with a problem: everything was on the ground. I cannot reach the ground. Another problem: to make my way into the room, I would have to lift some stuff out of the way. I can't lift. I was, however, unable to make that phone call to A. to say, "So, I know that you've already lent me your car, since mine's battery has taken a little power nap, and I know that you spent two hours searching for your keys after I lost them within 5 minutes of you giving them to me, and I know you've already agreed to move my stuff, arranged for a truck and for your friends to come help, and that your boss has found me a kick-ass apartment for cheap, but...can you come over and help me put a lifetime's worth of cake pans into boxes, since I failed to anticipate how truly gimped-up I would be after the surgery?"

I couldn't do it. Instead, gave my chest a thump, took a swig of Diet Coke, hummed the first few bars of "Eye of the Tiger" and got down to business. Four bags of garbage (after awhile, the line between 'garbage' and 'stuff I need to function' became a little blurry), countless boxes, a few recycling bins and one seriously strained back later, I'd managed to break every hip restriction multiple times over. Lifting heavy garbage bags while walking without my cane? Check. Bending down to pick up heavy boxes so that I had enough room to move? Check. Twisting while bending to pick up a flip-flop that had found its way to the back of my closet? Check.

Happily, my hip did not quit me and move to Mexico. A., his two friends, and S.C. all pitched in to carry my stuff to safety. E.C. showed up to carry a broom. (She was teaching, not lazy). Thankfully, A. did not hesitate to remind me that kneeling inside my car while twisting a heavy bag into place might not be the most hip-friendly move (thanks, A.). After the last box was stored away, we retreated to A's house where we celebrated with beer, pizza and cake (since I refuse to let A. celebrate his birthday without cake, mostly because I will take any opportunity to eat cake).

Still, it wasn't my smartest moment. My suggestion to people planning to move shortly after a hip replacement: don't. Hole yourself up in your apartment and cling to the drapery when the landlord comes to take you kicking and screaming (well, screaming, maybe not so much with the kicking). Do not move. Hopefully I will be slightly more bendy when I return to Champaign on Sept. 21st to unpack all my crap. If not, I'm glad to know that I have good friends who will do hard labour for beer and pizza. Thanks, guys!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Shout-Out to Denver

My brother Denver has alerted me to the fact that I have not yet mention him on this blog except in the context of his cat, Mr. Chubbz. In fact, I have spent more time discussing the raccoons in my backyard than I have my own brother. And, since Denver has promised to give "Young and Hip" a shout-out on Twitter, I couldn't pass up the chance. (You can tell by this blog why I don't have Twitter; it takes me at least 500 words to say anything).

Actually, Denver deserves a shout-out because he's had to deal with his fair share of hip replacement dramatics. First, he made the mistake of visiting me in the hospital right after surgery, when I was higher than Whitney Houston circa 1994; (morphine is whack). Then, he brought me books from the UBC library, even though I asked for obscure shit. He also worked his connections to put the fear of God in the hospital nursing staff. He did all this for me even though, when he was young, I routinely married him off to neighbourhood girls. I feel a little bad that the only thing I have to offer him in return is last-minute essay editing, since I don't have any connections, marketable skills, or even (since I'm no longer at U of I), a half-decent library card. (Unless he's looking for some catnip, since I'm pretty sure Mika knows a guy).

So, thanks Denver!

Nighttime on the City of New Orleans

Right now, I am sitting on the train they call the City of New Orleans, am literally in Kankakee, and will have gone 500 miles since the day is done. Is it a bad sign when your life is plagiarising Arlo Guthrie songs? (Though, given the macabre quality of some folk songs, I guess I should be glad I'm not stuck in one of those old-school folk songs where a man takes his low-down woman, often named Bess, to the river and/or strangles her with her long, blonde hair).

I did not see any passing trains that have no names or freight cars full of old black men, but I did see the following (and I think Arlo Guthrie should update the song to reflect this).
  • Over two dozen people wearing Michael Jackson tribute shirts.
  • A conductor who called me "precious" and stopped the entire line of passengers with loud cries of, "People, you're going to have to step aside. Precious is coming through here."
  • A 20-something asshole who claimed (loudly) to have diplomatic immunity and that his passport was signed by the Minister of the Interior, remarked (loudly) that he had come from the Middle East and wondered if everyone thought he was going to blow up the train, noted (louder) that he was going to "pitch a tent in his girlfriend's p*ssy and camp there for 48 hours straight," (which sounds uncomfortable), then compelled the drunk chick he'd met on the train to burn his knuckle hair with her lighter, which she did and the entire train smelled like burnt hair.

Good morning, America, how are ya? Don't you know me, I'm you're foreign alien with a tenuous claim to be residing in your country. I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans. I'll be gone 2500 miles when the day is done.

Angry Sauce Man Wants More Sauce, Dammit!

It's difficult to summarize the first post-surgical flight without boring readers as much as I was while the events were unfolding. On the plus side, no one brought out the rubber gloves, even though I had a connecting flight through Edmonton International airports, whose pat-down routines border on soft-core porn. Only in Edmonton have I had a security guard spend three minutes inspecting the waistband of my pants (as I did today) or give me a little forearm massage to determine if I had "real skin." Though my hip is ceramic, it did indeed set off metal detectors and the security lady was intent on feeling-up my sore hip, inquiring as to why it was hot; (because I have a very small nuclear reactor sewn into my hip, which is right now manufacturing weapons-grade plutonium. Why do you think?) The fact that I had roughly three minutes to catch my flight made the whole experience slightly tenser, but I caught my connection with 30 seconds to spare (they were closing the door while I zombie-sprinted up to the counter).

Because of the duration of my Homeland-Security-sanction fondling, I arrived on the plane without lunch. Usually, airlines will sell little snack boxes, but with Air Canada (motto: "we're not happy until you're not happy"), no such luck. I was therefore starving to the point of nausea and made a bee-line for the nearest food vendor: Quizno's. The fact that I was even willing to eat Quizno's was a testament to my powerful hunger, since last semester I ate it every freaking weekend on bus rides back home from varsity tournaments. I associate Quizno's with mild motion sickness, the film of grime that the poor water pressure of locker-room showers won't wash off, a pissed-off hip and freezing toes from braving sub-zero temperatures to bring dozens of sandwiches and drinks to the people on the bus and distributing them to cries of, "I ordered extra bacon! There's no bacon on this sandwich! Did you get my cookie? I ordered a cookie. Did you get it? Did you get the cookie I ordered?"

So, yes, the fact that my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder did not kick in and I was able to go up to the counter without flasbacks suggests how hungry I was. Unfortunately, I was behind Angry Sauce Man in line. Angry sauce man wanted extra sauce. First, though, he wanted extra veggies. When the lady told him that veggies cost extra, he compelled her to list (twice) every veggie and its corresponding price, then repeated it back to her in an incredulous, outraged tone. (Thirty cents for onions?! Fifty cents for tomatoes?!) Where were his free veggies? Why doesn't Quizno's offer free veggies like Subway? Was extra sauce free? (It was). Well, fine then. He would have some extra fucking sauce. As much sauce as they had, that's how much sauce he wanted, if they weren't going to give him free veggies. He made a point of stressing this to, not one, not two, but all three ladies working behind the counter.

Now, this is not your ordinary Quizno's. This is an airport Quizno's. Not only that, but it's an airport Quizno's at O'Hare, (which is the capital of the great nation of I Don't Give a Fuck) and, true to form, none of the ladies gave a fuck. Which is why he had to lean over the counter to remind them that, yes, he wanted more sauce. As much sauce as possible.

The truly beautiful moment came when the ladies finally granted his wish by pulling out the big gun: a sauce-dispensing udder. The sauce udder looked like a squeeze bottle, except that it was massive and instead of one tip, it had three in a row. Quizno's has officially mastered its sauce-dispensing productivity.

Was three lines of southwest sauce enough for Angry Sauce Man? It was not. They doused his salad once with the sauce udder. He wanted more. They doused it twice. He wanted more. He wasn't satisfied until there was so much sauce that you couldn't see one sliver of shredded lettuce. Then, with the sauce already pooling in the bottom of the bag and threatening to leak out all over his pants, he stormed off.

Usually, since I was so hungry I was about ready to eat my own face, I would have been pissed off at Angry Sauce Man. Since the hip replacement, however, I have a much longer fuse for these moments of supreme ridiculousness. Everything gets judged according to Hip Replacement Math: guy holding up the entire line to satisfy his passive-aggressive craving for southwest sauce < getting a metal stake driven through your decapitated femur. Nearly missing your connection because the Edmonton customs squad wanted to get to second base < worrying that you might walk like something out of Night of the Living Dead for the rest of your life. So, thanks hip replacement, for saving me from committing an act of airport violence and giving me a newfound sense of patience and perspective. Now, if only the hip could grant me a little "employment" or "long-term career options," I'd be set.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Revenge of the Raccoon Mafia

The raccoons in my backyard are pissed. For some reason, they don't like that added dash of Arley (better than MSG!) in their pool fondue pot, though they don't seem to mind a hefty dose of chlorine with each meal. They're also not exactly sympathetic about my need to not have bits of their food floating around as I work on my doggy-paddle.

Round 1 of the turf war, however, goes to the raccoons. They have brought their A-game. A few nights ago, the raccoons left me a little message. Now that I don't need my crutches anymore, I leave one outside so that I don't fill my cane with mold and rust by using it to get in and out of the pool. My mom came outside to find my crutch laying cross-wise by the pool steps, as if barring my entrance. They'd managed to take it from leaning against the side of the house to being horizontal along the stairs. The message: you may be bigger than me, but after the sun goes down it's a potluck and no one on the guest list is wearing a bathing suit (though, actually, neither am). It's the raccoon equivalent of a horse's head at the end of the bed.

The raccoons are lucky I'm busy with the whole finding a job/moving to Illinois/trying to figure out what the hell I'm going to do with my entire life business because I have a lot of pent-up frustration and I don't mind chasing those little bastards. You think you're tough now, raccoons, but wait until six-foot two-inches of Arley is coming towards you in full zombie-walking mode, cane swinging wildly, arms making windmills in order to propel her left leg forward. It's on, furry b*tches. It's on.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No Persons With Ear Discharge Are Allowed in the Pool!

Today, I pretended that I was a fancy, rich tourist (I stopped short of putting on a fake accent, though I considered it) at my posh hotel in downtown Vancouver. I allowed the bellhop to hold my cane as I (with the style, grace and charm you would expect) entered and exited a taxi. I strolled  down Robson Street, keeping my elbows up to avoid being knocked over by bag-laden tourists, armed with pistachio and Toblerone gelato (fancy!), which was an adventure in itself because I couldn't walk with my cane and eat at the same time and so resorted to holding the gelato cup up to my face every few minutes to lick at the gelato, which resulted in a nose full of green gelato and a near spoon-in-eye impaling. 

Unfortunately, the sidewalks on Robson Street are narrow and I am not yet at the speed of most foot traffic, so my mom and I caused quite the pedestrian traffic jam. It was kind of amusing to watch men in expensive suits power-strutting up the sidewalk, weaving past dogs and tourists and sandwich-board signs, totally in the zone and ready to rock the shit out of some business deal, before coming to a screeching halt right behind me. One guy was tailgating me so badly that I could feel his breath on my neck every time he sighed in impatience. You could almost hear him weighing the options of whether he was allowed to push me out of the way. That's me: Arley the walking pylon: inspiring rage in venture capitalists since 2009.

My favorite part of high living, however, is reading the extensive warning signs on the ultra-posh pool. There's the standard "no diving, no running, no horseplay," but I love how the fancier the pool, the more elaborate the restrictions. My favorite: "No persons with ear discharge are allowed in the pool!" I have been sitting here wondering exactly what ailment would cause "ear discharge," since in my experience ear infections just hurt like hell. I've had a lot of bizarre health problems in my life (super mono! Avascular necrosis! Some weird strawberry virus I got as a result of working in a petting zoo and which prompted several concerned phone calls from the good people at Health Canada's Infectious Disease Department), but I've never had anything leak out of my ears. Is this the result of vacations to third-world countries? Is this a side-effect of some designer form of ecstasy? Rich people must get different diseases.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chick Magnet

They are filming an episode of "Supernatural" in my house, so for the next few days I am playing tourist in my own town and spending my $75-a-day per diem on Diet Coke (yes, I'm off the wagon), fancy gelato and a pair of fall boots. (Or so is the plan. It's hard enough trying to wedge your feet into boots without needing a grabber to do up the zipper, so I have no doubt that any shoe-shopping excursion will end in a pulled muscle and a boot through a plate-glass window). 

Today, S. and I went shopping for a dress for her bachelorette party. You can tell I'm gearing up for six months of unemployment because I did not let my eye wander to the skirt department; I did, however, spend $8 on special pink popcorn for my mom, though given the free room and board and the fact that she's had to dote on my annoying ass for the past two months, it seems like a small price to pay. I also bought a little bag of nougat from a candy speciality shop, since I am of the opinion that nougat is actually a health food because it is made with egg-whites, which is a source of protein, and protein builds muscle, and muscle causes your metabolism to speed up. (See? Practically like eating carrots!) And there might have been some candy corn mixed in with the nougat, but it was stale and had a grainy texture and I threw it out. Throwing out the candy corn actually ranked higher on the "Disappointments of Arley's Life" scale than it probably should have. I digress.

Since the hip replacement, I have found myself appealing to a new demographic. Before, I was popular within the "hey, sweetheart! What's wrong with your leg? Do you have a man in your life?" disability-fetish crowd. Now, however, I've become a shining beacon for middle-aged ladies and their unquenchable thirst for fashion advice. First, I met a lady who recognized by my limp that I had recently had a hip replacement. She assured me that it would only take a year for things to clear up (gee, thanks) and I counseled her on various silhouettes of sweater-vests and the figure-flatteringness of certain sizes. (I have watched "What Not To Wear" probably a million times since the hip replacement, so I felt comfortable doling out fashion advice, despite the fact that I have spent the last two months in track pants and a "House of 'Paign" T-shirt). 

At the next store, I met another middle-aged lady who sought my advice on the draping of a hot-pink tunic blouse with a drop waist. I, again, felt perfectly at home recommending pairing it with a pencil skirt or dark denim fitted jeans in order to balance out the shirt's volume. She asked if I had trouble finding pants because of my height. I said I did until the advent of premium denim about five years ago. She said I was very tall. I agreed. I think we bonded a little.

I'm not sure why I've been attracting middle-aged ladies--I suspect the presence of the cane makes me look innocuous and a little bit lonely--but I suppose it's better than having to invent a bodybuilder/mafia boss boyfriend to chase away the "let me follow you in my car through the Schnuck's parking lot because that is the true, respectful way to show affection" crowd. Progress.

I have noticed, however, that I am no longer a contender for the clothes-shoes-purses triathlon. After an hour, I was exhausted. After 90 minutes, I was drawing "I wonder what's wrong with her. I wonder if it's bad enough for her to get a free trip to Disneyland. I saw an episode of Oprah about someone who walks like her, but the girl on Oprah had an inspirational zest for life and this girl just looks pissed" stares. After two hours, I was slinging my hip in a zombie-ate-my-brainz fashion, lurching drunkenly into tourists and trying not to fall down. 

But now, success. I have taken an Extra Strength Tylenol and Diet Coke cocktail (and a piece of nougat) and am snuggled under the covers waiting for room service. Someone get me a fluffy robe and cigar.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Surgery Hangover

**Note: If you are squeamish, overly sensitive to the pain/suffering of others and/or are eating a lime-green popsicle, you should skip this post**

There's a reason I'm not a big drinker. (Well, ok, there are two. The first reason is that I'm a completely obnoxious drunk and spend most of my time reporting on my level of intoxication with various exclamations of "I'm so drunk! I'm SO drunk! I'm so DRUNK!"). The most important, reason, however, is that drinking makes me really, really sick. The last time I got wasted was on my 25th birthday, when I decided that the best way to celebrate my quarter century (and simutaneously mourn the fact that my hip had recently started subluxing, I was recently single, and I was staring head-first into the end of my elite basketball career) was to follow four shots with a big slice of double-chocolate cake with mocha fudge icing that my friend had kindly spent hours making for me. Cut to me, 15 minutes later, puking in the bathroom of The Esquire and trying to arrange my hip-flexion-less body around the toilet while J. held up my hair. Cut to me, two days later, still laying on my couch nibbling on saltines, getting dizzy at the frenetic camera work on "Iron Chef America" and generally hating the world. Despite my Irish heritage and the fact that I am not exactly waif-like, I am a drinking lightweight, embarrassingly so.

Point is: I hate getting sick. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. I hate it so much that I will spend an evening nursing a beer and making excuses about how early I have to get up the next morning/ how much work I have to do/ how I can't walk far enough to get home without a taxi and I'm broke and I don't want to leave my car parked downtown because how will I get it in the morning; (does this sound familiar, Aussies?) I did not realize, however, that I'm also a painkiller lightweight.

After the surgery, I found myself in the recovery room swaddled in warm blankets (bliss!), slowly drifting down from the sedative cloud, and finding myself the proud owner of a handy little button that would give me as much morphine as I wanted. And, believe me, I wanted it, since as the spinal anesthetic wore off, my hip began to feel, well, like someone had sawed off my hip ball and pounded a large metal stake into my femur. The personal-narcotics-administration device (it has a name, but I'm too lazy to look it up) looks like the buzz-in button on Jeopardy! and I felt like I was on the worst game show ever. Instead of questions, it was unrelenting pain and nausea, and instead of money, it was morphine. I'll take "Things that make you want to saw your leg off and beat yourself into sweet, sweet unconsciousness with it" for $200, Alex!

The next 24 hours went like this: morphine. Puke. Anti-nausea medication. Dry heave, then puke. Various cocktails of narcotic painkillers. Projectile-vomit luridly green bile, the level of disgustingness of which had not been seen since I threw up a fluorescent-green lime popsicle in front of the grandparents of a guy I was dating on a trip to Yosemite because I was carsick, which really made a fantastic first impression. More anti-nausea medication. Dry heave. Grunt hello at visitors, unable to open more than one eye. Sleep. Sleep. Puke. Sleep.

In fact, the ability to cover the front of my hospital gown in stomach acid was pretty much the only thing that the narcotics gave me. I didn't actually get much pain relief. The lowest point came two days after the surgery when my back seized up, my hip was massively bruised and swollen, I couldn't walk, a bad reaction to the surgery tape had left oozing blisters on the back of my leg that caused my thigh to stick to the sheets, nothing was working, I wanted my old hip back, it was 3 a.m. and I showed no signs of falling asleep, I couldn't get out of bed without a team of nurses, nothing was working, nothing would ever work, and I was supposed to be discharged the next day. The nurse who came in to find me sobbing gave me the old "they don't pay me enough to pretend to feel sorry for you" eye roll, put a pillow behind my back and offered me a sedative. I declined and spent the night trying not to wake up the lady in the next bed with my crying.

Before the surgery, the doctor had predicted a recovery course of sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. Reassurances of "you're so young!" and "they get you up and walking the next day!" abounded. I wish that someone would have sat me down and said, "Look, Arles. Let me give this to you straight. Getting your hip replacement is going to suck in ways that your life has never sucked before. You will want to reattach your hip yourself using the bush surgery techniques you've learned from Cormac McCarthy novels. Having a spinal instead of a general anesthetic will not make the levels of suckery any less. You will spend the next two months as a raging, seething ball of frustration and misery." Then, I would have steeled my loins, mustered my courage and marched bravely into battle knowing that I was in for a dogfight. Instead, I felt like a WWI calvary soldier charging confidently into battle with my sword drawn and running head-on into machine-gun fire.

So, those of you who are planning a hip replacement, have a seat. Getting your hip replacement is going to suck in ways that your life has never sucked before. You will want to reattach your hip yourself using the bush surgery techniques you've learned from Cormac McCarthy novels. Having a spinal instead of a general anesthetic will not make the levels of suckery any less. You will spend the next two months as a raging, seething ball of frustration and misery.

You're welcome.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Low-Grade Muscle Relaxants

Ladies of Vancouver, we need to talk. I have just come from watching the Vancouver Canadians play the Tri-City Dusters (I can't keep track of whether they're single A or double A, but they played like a Rhet 105 A- [read: C+]) and quite a few of you ladies need a lesson in Single A Baseball Date Etiquette.

I realize the irony of this, seeing as how I was hanging with my parents on a Saturday night and they were on a date. Also, the whole "going on dates" thing: not my forte. Given that one of the last true dates I was on (as opposed to "let's hang out and I'll spend the next 4 hours rehashing every innuendo and eyebrow wiggle trying to determine whether it was, in fact, a date") involved a guy who forgot his wallet but remembered to bring some porn, then got mad at me when I called it porn since it was apparently "erotic art" (true story).....let's just say that I'm in no position to be giving advice.

But I do know this: when you go to a baseball game, you need to check your sequins at the door. Also, your stilettos, short-short overalls, leopard-print tights, and those decorative scarves. At the club: fine. When you're at a venue where your sole job is to shove beer and fried dough rolled in sugar in your face: no. Incorrect. And this brings me to food. Nat Bailey Stadium not only features the usual hot dog, hamburger, cotton candy deliciousness, but also brown rice vegetable sushi. Wrong. Fail. What is the purpose of going to a Single A baseball game (because it sure as hell isn't the baseball) if you're not going to sweat onions and nitrates out of your pores for weeks to come? If you don't plan to pump yourself full of salt, beer, sugar and fat, then you need to stay home doing Wii Yoga. (You can expect a "why don't my skinny jeans fit?" rant in 5...4...3...2...)

Rant aside, the game was pretty fun. I like doing the wave, dancing the Chicken Dance during the middle of the sixth (Note to S: you better have the Chicken Dance at your wedding), and watching men dressed up as pieces of sushi race around the diamond (it's a Vancouver thing). What I don't like, however, are the seats. One of the reasons I chose to go to the baseball game was to practice sitting, since I'm going to be on an airplane soon. The math, however, just doesn't add up: hard, low metal seats + no leg room + long legs + knobby spine that gets bruised if you don't sit on something double or triple padded = leaving at the bottom of the sixth. (Although my mom was right when she pointed out that a baseball is the only place you can lug around a heavy cushion without drawing stares). It wasn't long before I was sitting sideways to avoid a bruised back, which caused muscle spasms all up my back, which caused me to O.D. on mini donuts, though, ok, I would have done that anyways.

I, however, will do pretty much anything for mini donuts, so it was worth it. I have learned a valuable lesson for the airplane: bring a dazzling array of painkillers. And maybe some of those little Sour Patch Kids things.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do (At a Farmer's Market) Again

Sometimes, when you're spending your days shuffling around your neighbourhood and trying to navigate your gimpy leg around the used condoms, needles and dog-shit obstacle course that is downtown Vancouver, it's hard to feel like you're making any progress. You begin to think, "Will I always have to shut the car door by kicking my good leg at it until I finally hook my heel on the handle and pull it in? Will I ever be able to wipe that satisfied smirk off the face of Grandpa McGramperson with his speedy new knee?" But today, I can provide you with photographic evidence that I am, in fact, making progress.

When you first have a hip replacement, the recovery exercises are something along the lines of "squeeze your knees. No, your KNEES. No, contract the muscle...The muscle on your KNEES." Then, you graduate to various pelvic thrusts and leg lifts and all the old guys in physio become your best friend. Finally, however, they pull out the toys. I know that I am cooking with gas now because I have graduated to doing mildly embarrassing things with oversized exercise balls.

I call this pose the Reverse-Sisyphus (I'm pulling out the allusions to Greek myths today to compensate for the 8.3 million times I've talked about my ass since this blog has started). I really do feel like Sisyphus, except instead of a hill, it's a wall and instead of a rock, it's a shockingly orange exercise ball, and instead of rolling it up a hill, I'm pushing it with my ass, and instead of eternity, it's just one set of 15 three times a day. (This metaphor is not perfect). And, look. You can see my little calf muscle trying to hold up the weight of my anti-ass...look at the poor little guy working so hard, giving it the old college try. You can almost hear it humming "Eye of the Tiger." Verdict: progress.

Since having the hip replacement, I've been complaining about not feeling sexy. Want to know one thing you should not do when you're feeling a little deficient in the "put my rocking body on the cover of Cosmo magazine because I am the official poster-child for sex appeal" department? Weigh yourself at a Farmer's Market. Remember this. Farmer's Markets are for buying carrots, mercilessly judging the handiwork of the local craftspeople and trying to determine whether the clown making balloon animals is a tranny. Not for weighing. But scales are kind of like meth to me (not even once!), to the point that I can't keep them in the house, so I couldn't resist. Worse, it was one of the fancy scales that supposedly tells you your body fat composition, though not so fancy that it measures this by any objective standard (it asks you to input your activity level, then makes a ballpark estimate). The good news: I'm the lowest weight I've been since I was, like, 15. The bad news: I am apparently 35% body fat, which puts me into the "significantly overweight" department. No wonder I float so well. This caused me to make a big fuss loudly protesting to anyone within earshot that I'm a size 6, dammit, and I'm six foot two and more than one person has referred to me as "gaunt" in the past few weeks and one of those was a medical professional, so that scale better stop taking lessons from "Make Me a Supermodel" and eat a cupcake.

But worry not. Today I am again rocking the sexy. Today, I finally grabber-ed my way into my skinny jeans. And not just my normal skinny jeans. I fit into ultra-skinny ones, the ones I used to have to do a special "skinny jeans dance"to put on, wiggling my hips and flinging myself around like a dying salmon on my bed, cursing myself for having such puffy knees. Thank you post-surgical atrophy! I guess a couple months of partial paralysis has some positive side-effects. Is the fact that I view the fact that I can now pass as a hipster as the ultimate sign of medical progress mind-blowingly vain? Yes. Does it give me the motivation to keep thrusting my ass into an exercise ball for what seems like forever? Abso-f*cking-lutely. Now if only the rashes would go away.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Little Feline Familiar

Since writing this blog, I have been counting the days until I have amassed enough hip-replacement-related content that I can throw in a little bragging-about-my-cat content. And now, since it's Mika's 5th birthday (yes, I know her birthday. Don't judge), that day is finally here.

Mika is a tortoiseshell cat and was born on an organic lavender farm in Metchosin, which perhaps accounts for her general craziness and wild-child hippie spirit (and the fact that she's a catnip fiend). Her real name is Mykonos (she's named after the greek island, which is in itself a long story), but she has 8.5 million nicknames: Pika-toes, Pika, Meeks, Miss 'Nos, Sweet Peek, Peeking Toes, Little 'Nos. She also responds to "pretty girl" because she is so incredibly spoiled. Though I originally tried to keep Mika as an indoor cat, she launched a six-month guerrilla warfare campaign to get outdoors, taking advantage of the fact that if she slunk down low on my left side when I opened the door, I would not have enough hip flexion to pick her up. Mika: 1. Arley: 0. I gave in, she became an outdoor cat and proceeded to live a fast-paced lifestyle of hasseling squirrels, terrorizing insects and climbing up to high places to sneak attack my brother's 20-pound monster-cat named Mr. Chubbz.

When Mika was 18 months old, however, she was hit by a car. I called her in one day and she didn't come. I called her again, still nothing. Soon, I heard something that sounded like a baby bird. It was Mika, slowly dragging herself up the steps, mewling pathetically. She collapsed on my lap, her eyes all scruffy and squinted with pain, looking up at me. The vet diagnosed her with a hip dislocation, she underwent surgery, was put into a cast and quickly made herself famous in the vet's office for her cast-Houdini antics. Though the vet claimed he'd never in 20 years had a cat get out of one of his special casts, she managed to do so in a matter of weeks. Twice. For this reason, her hip wanders in and out of its socket and she walks with a varying degree of a limp. Has this stopped her from doing backflips off the couch to catch a toy mouse in her paws? No. Has it stopped her from running circles around my bed when she's freaked out during thunderstorms? No. Has it stopped her from catching cicaedas mid-flight, carrying them inside and playing with them for hours until they die of fright, then leaving them for A. as a special gift for taking such good care of her while I'm recovering up here in Canada and feeding her tuna and trout? Not one bit.

Both Mika and I therefore have the same disability in the same place (my left leg, her left hind leg), which prompted the editor of my first book to refer to her as my devil's familiar. A few years after Mika was injured, I began to experience hip subluxations (or whatever they were), which would cause me to flop around and shake and generally make a big fuss. It was hilarious to watch Mika sitting there watching me as I tugged at my leg and swore, her head cocked to one side, looking at me with a cat-like expression of bemusement/ annoyance as if to say, "What are you complaining about? I've been doing this sh*t for years. Roll around in catnip, shut the hell up and come over here to tell me how incredibly attractive I am."

While my hip subluxations were excruciating, and while they would often make me throw up and shake exorcist-style, none of them were particularly traumatic (embarrassing, maybe. Traumatic, not really). Watching Mika drag her little self up the stairs, however, was one of the worst moments of my life and I still hate to think about it. This makes me wonder about the impact that my hip episodes had on people around me: Jen and Zach, who had to hang me from doorframes and tug on my hip while they had other athletes to attend to; A., who became quite adept at pulling me off the couch and walking with his foot against mine until my hip went back in, even though I know it made him queasy to do so; E.C. who had to keep reminding me not to sit on the ground. And though I have moments where I regret the hip replacement, I'm glad that I'm no longer upsetting the people around me with my hip's diva theatrics.

So here (courtesy of A.) is a photo of Mika displaying on her own blogging talents. It's hard work.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Believe I Can Fly! And Drive. And Get Deported.

Watch your rearview mirror Vancouverites, because the Arleymobile is coming for you at 120 km/hour with the Bob Dylan a'blasting and the disabled parking permit a'swinging merrily in the breeze. Yup, after 7.5 weeks of feeling like a teenager (and an old lady, simultaneously), I'm back in the driving saddle. You might also want to come an extra 30 minutes early at Vancouver International Airport, because I've also been cleared to fly and you can bet your $15 airport sandwich that I will be holding up the entire security line having the old "Even though I'm only 26, I had a hip replacement; no I'm not smuggling weapons under my skin and that comment about having a cyborg hip that shoots lasers was just a joke and please don't take me behind the curtain for a friendly game of Spot the Surgery Scar" conversation.

Today, I visited my surgeon and the results were good. While the muscles around my hip are still inexplicably weak, I've been cleared to do pretty much everything. Driving! Flying! Elliptical Machine-ing! Sitting on Low Toilets! Lurking Around the Greater Vancouver Area Groveling for Employment! Stalking the Cast of "Supernatural," Which is Filming At My House Next Week! That's right, I can pretty much do anything that doesn't involve jumping up and down, (which will sadly cut down on my jumping-jack, heel-knee-toe-kick-kick, grapevine combo mastery at my mom's aerobic classes). Still, it's a good feeling to be free of the slings and arrows of outrageous hip restrictions. Now if only I had enough muscle to go down the stairs without hitting my heel on every step. (Baby steps, people).

But all the news was not good. I didn't get an adjuncting job at the University of Illinois and it looks like America is, indeed, hell-bent on breaking up with me. And, truth be told, the prospect of losing the support network of all the friends who have helped me through an incredibly rough three years (Super-mono! Hip subluxations! The end of my wheelchair-basketball career! Throwing away 250 pages of a novel!) does feel like the worst breakup ever. Plus, I have grown attached to midwestern living, where the rents are cheap, the beer is cheap and there are bars where you can eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor; (this, to me, is a classy night out). Since I did my undergrad degree in Victoria, I have only lived in Vancouver for one year in the past nine years. And how did I spend that year? Going to concerts by myself and getting hit on by men whose claim to fame was being the go-to S&M practioner every time the show "Kink" filmed in Vancouver (true story). Living in Vancouver is a little like dating Paris Hilton: it's pretty, sure, but you'll pay heavily to support the lifestyle and you find yourself longing for a half-decent conversation. (Granted, I do know a few wonderful people in Vancouver, but this is small compared to the many people I know in Urbana and Vancouver is a notoriously hard city to meet new people in).

But America has underestimated my ability to cling. I have about a year's income saved up (thanks Athlete's Assistance Plan and an isolated midwestern college town where I can't spend money on clothes!). In theory, I could spend a year in Champaign writing and applying for fellowships/ grad school, maybe working at an unpaid internship to maintain my visa status. So what will it be? A year of busting my ass to start a new life in Vancouver? A year of avoiding the fact that I have no recognisable job skills and blowing through my house fund? I'll let you know when/ if I ever figure it out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goin' to the chapel and we're...going to make a loud clunking sound going down the aisle

In a few weeks, I am going to be the Maid of Honour at my best friend's wedding. This is, of course, very exciting, but the hip replacement is providing an unexpected twist in wedding decor. I was planning on walking down the aisle unassisted (au naturale?), but based on the way things are developing, it looks like I'll be escorted by my Airgo Comfort-Plus super-deluxe cane.

I have the following questions. What the hell do you do with a cane when you're walking down the aisle? Do you decorate it as you would a ring-bearer's pillow? Put a little corsage on it and a bow? Do you spray-paint it to match your dress, the way people dye their shoes? And, if you try to make it blend in with the decor/ colour scheme, would you only succeed in making it look as if you're about to perform a little tap-dance "cane and hat" routine and at any moment will launch into "Ragtime Gal" like that dancing frog on the Warner Brothers cartoons? Would it be better to walk normally with a cane or Igor-walk it down the aisle unassisted? All of these are vital questions.

Then, there's the issue of the sound. I have never been able to make a cane/ crutch not emit a rattling/ tapping sound whenever I walk. I am so hard on medical equipment that after the first few weeks, I have done so much damage to the poor cane/ crutch that it rattles for the rest of its life (until it meets an untimely end being run over by a truck...but that is a story for a different post). My fear is that my poor friend will walk down the aisle to the lovely strains of "Here comes the (CLUNK!) Here comes the (CLUNK!!)." At least the organist/harpist/whatever will have a metronome.

Ideas? Suggestions? Where's when you need it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dead Woman's Grabber Meets Dead Guy's Bedroom Set

Today, I went clothes shopping. The experience was pretty strange, because it's hard to buy clothes when you don't know what lifestyle you're going to be living in two weeks time (do you buy professional-y teaching clothes if you may be working at Starbucks? Do you buy short sleeves if you might not get to wear them once an Illinois winter rears its ugly head?) I have, however, learned a valuable lesson. If you want to receive a grade-A bitch stare from a sales clerk, the best way to do it is to walk into a fancy clothing store wearing dri-fit running shorts, a "House of 'Paign" Illinois T-shirt (sans bra) and blue rubber shoes. Complete the outfit with a cane. (Being six-feet tall and having glasses that are slightly askew also helps). Next, reach into your purse and pull out a large metal stick with an immense claw on the tip and, once in the change room, appear to be engaging in a non-holds-barred wrestling match with the clothing using said metal stick. (Bonus points if your grabber is called a "Handi-reacher" and proclaims this name on the handle. Nothing like a handi-reacher to make you feel a little more handi-capable).

All in all, however, it was a pretty fun day. I enjoyed getting spoiled by my mom and sampling delicious Vancouver bakery food. If you're going to be stuck in recovery limbo-land, there might as well be feta-and-artichoke paninis.

The most exciting part of the day, however, was yet to come. I am a fan of roadside furniture (or, really, anything free). Unfortunately, my roadside-furniture palate is not highly discerning. Last year, I found a great desk by the side of the road (and by "great" I mean "it was made of rotting particle-board and sagged badly in the middle"). The desk was immensely heavy and awkward, but I managed to carry it back to my house in the darkness, tripping and stumbling all the while, causing people to pull over to see if I was ok. If you've never had the pleasure of an Illinois summer, you should know it's muggy even at night, (going out in the day feels like being stuck inside a dog's mouth), so I was so sweaty it looked like I'd just gotten out of a swimming pool by the time I'd staggered the three blocks to my house. The next morning, I woke up covered in bites. Turns out, the desk was infested with spiders. (Happily, the teenagers from next door were happy to take the desk off my hands, subject it to a drunken finger-painting party, and display it on their porch, so at least I didn't have to pay to cart it off to the dump).

But today, I am proud to report that I have redeemed myself in the roadside-furniture department. While driving home, my mom and I passed an old Russian couple sitting on their front porch, watching over a bunch of furniture marked "free." I had hit the roadside-furniture mother lode. Within twenty minutes, my mom's friends had arrived with his truck (thanks Ken and Colleen!) and I was the proud owner of a 1960s-era bedroom set, complete with bedframe (with funky sliding-door compartments for books), two dressers with zig-zaggy knobs and two bedside tables. The fact that all of this furniture belonged to a recently dead man did not bother me as much as it should have, though now that I'm writing this I'm wondering whether the man, in fact, died in the bed, which would explain why the mattress did not come with the bedframe, which is, okay, mildly disconcerting. Maybe a bit more than 'mildly.' But still, if the lingering ghost of some old grandpa is the price of such a charming bedroom set, that's a price I'm willing to pay. (Why do I feel like the previous sentence belongs at the beginning of a horror movie?)

Between my dead woman's grabber and my dead man's bedroom set, I feel like I'm amassing an impressive collection of items belonging to the recently deceased. Once I move into my new place, (whatever country that might be in), you don't need to think hard to come up with a housewarming gift. Give me a ouiji board and some spirit-banishing incense and I will keep myself entertained for hours.

I am attaching a picture of one of the dressers so you can all bask in my moment of roadside-furniture glory.

Just another moment in my glamorous life

I have spent the past 15 minutes trying to figure out whether the creatures swinging from branch to branch in the tree outside my window are baby squirrels or some crazy brand of tree rat. On the positive side, they have tails that could be described as "fuzzy" and are going to town on the unripe walnuts in the trees in a distinctly squirrel-like fashion. On the "rat" side, they are missing large patches of fur and have weird beady little eyes and we have suffered tree rat infestations in the past, since our cats are ridiculously useless in the "doing their job" department, catching only one single rat, which had already been caught in a trap, and then putting great effort into bringing said rat upstairs still in the trap (crowing with pride all the while and strutting around) and dismantling it in our hall.

The amount of mental energy I am expending on this important issue suggests that it might be time to dust off the old resume and look for employment. My plan was to spend another year in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where I went to grad school, and teach various forms of writing. Since school starts in about two weeks and I haven't heard, however, I'm guessing that I'm going to get my little Canadian ass put on the first bus back to Vancouver.

And, so, I am taking stock of my employment options. Alas, "MFA in Creative Writing" does not necessarily translate into "give me a corner office and stock options." I'm beginning to see the flaws in my previous life plan, which was to have Oprah feature my first novel on her show and get me a million dollars in royalties, which I would use to purchase a house in Berkeley and spend the rest of my life selecting the perfect organic carrots from the farmer's market and raising babies. (Come on, Oprah! What do you have against quadriplegic sex scenes? Let's go!). Alas, the royalities from "Post" have so far topped out at around $800, which is hardly keeping me in the lifestyle I've grown accustomed to and would barely support my chai-latte habit.

Here is the problem. I am still having trouble with the whole "sitting down and standing up" business. This means that traditional jobs open to MFA grads (read: Starbucks) are off-limits to me. I am therefore on the hunt for a job that doesn't require me to sit for long periods of time, stand for long periods of time, or come home smelling of grease and ketchup. Ideas? Suggestions? Offers of marriage to a wealthy (but handsome and intelligent) man? What sort of jobs are hip-replacement friendly?

Monday, August 10, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation Pt 2.

Thank God I didn't get my hip replacement done in winter. Putting aside the whole "how do you put on long underwear without having your grabber pack its bag and quit you?" issue, having a hip replacement in the winter would mean that you'd have to do your rehab walking indoors to avoid falling on slippery sidewalks/ snow. That would mean that you'd be logging major miles in your local mall. Since it was rainy today, I got a little taste of what most people who have hip replacements must experience: I went mall walking.

New Westminster is a mall graveyard. Various malls have tried to conquer the Royal City and every one has failed. Metrotown is but a Skytrain-ride away and Vancouver is not that much further, meaning that few people choose to shop in the city. Visiting Royal City Centre is therefore a unique shopping experience. It is filled with clothing stores that seem to simultaneously cater to old people and day-shift hookers. You will therefore see gold sequinned halter tops sharing rack space with floor-length floral mu-mus. There's something for everyone, from the "retiree heading down to Miami for the winter to hook herself a rich hottie" crowd to the "You know I am filled with rage because I wear sarcastic slogans on my T-shirt" set. Velour tracksuits with jeweled pockets abound, as do sweatshirts that proclaim that it's "Party time!" in sequinned letters. If you have spent sleepless night fretting that the Bedazzler does not get the respect it deserves in the fashion industry, then Royal City Center is the place for you.

As it turns out, many other people had the same goal as me. My mom and I did laps around the mall using various elderly people as pace cars. I am finally proud to report that I passed one or two of them and I hope to soon best some of the sportier old people at physio (dignity win!). My God, though. There's nothing worse than being in a decaying mall on a Monday afternoon. There's the lady selling adult bibs and tea-cozies patterned with roosters and kittens, the owner of "Sweater Collection" (a store that apparently sells the same style of sweater in various colours and somehow has managed to stay in business without being a front for a drug operation...I think) pacing around her store pretending to be a customer, the ancient couples sitting on benches not looking at one another for hours. It's enough to make you reach for the Prozac bottle.

So even though I've complained about watching summer go by through my window, you will not catch me complaining about the heat. And so, (since I'm still keeping up the pretense of trying to be useful), this is my suggestion of the day: schedule your surgery for a time when the weather will not force you to spend hours browsing through stores that apparently sell only fairy merchandise, trying to avoid the over-eager owner intent on selling you something --anything-- so she won't go bankrupt.

What Not to Wear

After the excitement of my dim sum adventure, I was ready to venture out into the wilds of Vancouver again, this time for a friend's birthday party. Usually, I am of the "put on whatever's clean/ minimally wrinkled and hope my friends will be too drunk to care what I'm wearing by the time I get there" school of party fashion. Last night, however, I was thrown into a state of fashion anxiety.

First, I decided to shave my legs to give my outfit that extra dash of sexy. Technically, this is a hip-precaution no-no (since it requires bending past 90 degrees), but I have had bad hip flexion for so long that I am an elite athlete in the sport of shower gymnastics and (with a great number of contortions and expletives), managed to shave enough of my legs that I could rock a skirt with minimal self-consciousness; (I decided to overlook the blinding whiteness of my legs).

You'd think my newly smooth legs would make my choice of outfits easier, but the hip replacement brought up so many fashion questions: Does this skirt make my obscenely swollen hip look fat? Is it too short, so that I'll be giving passersby a little show when I get out of the car? If I wear a dress, does that mean I don't have to bring my grabber? But will a dress make me feel like I'm trying too hard? Will I be sitting there all tarted up in my dress with everyone else in jeans and a T-shirt being like, "damn" as I try not to spill salsa all over myself? Should I coordinate my outfit with my cane/ hip cushion? How do I balance the fact that it's hot outside with my desire the cover the rashes and the fact that I live in Vancouver where temperature can swing 30 degrees in like 5 minutes? And on. And on.

With the aid of my grabber, I tried on pretty much every article of clothing I own. Since it takes me a ridiculous amount of wrestling with my grabber to put on anything, I spent about 30 minutes throwing clothes around my room as I tried to decide. Finally, I emerged fully dressed and ready to go, already an hour late, already exhausted and sore. I hadn't even left my house and I needed a nap.

Still I sucked it up and headed downtown, driven by my mom and dad who nicely agreed to go out for dinner while I partied it up. And it turned out that the party was a good time. I met lots of cool people, including someone who'd recently had a hip replacement and even though I spent half the party contorting myself on a chair to keep from bruising the knobs on my spine, I had a great time. Hurrah!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Handbike Attacks!

My biggest fear going into the surgery was inactivity (little did I know how much inactivity I was in for). For this reason, I purchased one of those cheap little pedals that you can use to work out either your arms or your legs and set up shop in the kitchen by putting the pedal on a table under a bathmat so it won't move around. I never thought I would be so happy to use a handbike.

I have a rather ambivalent history with handbikes. Two years ago, I was not allowed to play basketball because no one knew whether my crazy hip was causing nerve damage. I was therefore the only one who didn't suit up when the Fighting Illini visited Alabama for a women's tournament. And I was the only one to receive a concussion.

Frustrated by being on the sidelines, I slipped away for a little handbiking in one of the facility's many workout facilities. I had my ipod cranked up and was sweating away in the little room, sweating out my incredible frustration levels, getting the old exercise-induced endorphins flowing, totally caught up in the kick-ass fiddle of some Celtic rock, when I reached down to change the track on my Ipod. And was thrown backwards. For a moment, I thought that someone had thrown a rock at me and I looked around to see where the attack was coming from. There was a sharp pain in my forehead and blood on my fingers when I put my hand up there to test. And suddenly it occurred to me: I had not been shot or hit by any other flying projectile. I had not been bitten by an exotic Southern bug and I had not been the victim of a random attack. I had conked my stupid head on a sharp metal piece protruding out of the handbike when I bent down to change the song. With blood running down my nose, I went to sheepishly alert our poor athletic trainer Jen that I would require some assistance.

Ten minutes later, I was remarking on how painfully bright the light coming through the windows was. A few minutes after that, I was suddenly immensely tired. I have a few hazy memories of JB poking me and urging me to wake up and fighting off the urge to tell her to f*ck off because I was so incredibly, unbelievably exhausted and I had a bad headache. That's right. I was the only one player in the entire tournament to not spend a minute on the court. And I was the only one to be off for two weeks with a concussion. Because I am just that special.

Fast forward to today. Same euphoric state of hand-bike bliss, different music (The New Pornographers' "Challengers"). I reached out to again change the volume on my Ipod and felt a pain in my hand, which was quickly turning red and throbbing. It turns out that you get what you pay for. My poor little handbike was not used to my particular brand of enthusiasm and friction had caused the metal I had rested my hand against had been heated to red-hot. I had been burned by my own kinetic energy.

Still, (since I am supposed to be in the business of doling of hip replacement advice), a handbike is a cheap and effective way to get your heartrate up when you're spending months perfecting the ass-indentation in your bed. It is more fun than trying to predict just how low TLC will go in their quest for the most ridiculous reality show (their latest offering: "I'm a Hoarder!") Just make sure that you invest in a model that does not pose a significant burn risk or you, too, will be unable to fully grip the handrails as you descend the stairs because the side of your hand has been lightly seared.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Please Allow Me to Direct Your Question to the Dragons on my Breasts

Today, I officially ventured out into the public eye. The venue for my grand re-entrance into society: The Pink Pearl. This restaurant may sound like a nickname for a part of the female anatomy, but it is actually a delicious dim sum restaurant. Like any true Vancouverite, I am a dim sum fiend. An offer of dim sum is enough to induce me to do pretty much anything, including braving the weekend crowds and taking a long car-ride into Vancouver, and I pine for a taste of The Pink Pearl whenever I'm in the "good-BBQ-and-mediocre-mexican-food" Midwest. I had been looking forward to this trip for ages.

The Pink Pearl belongs to that category of restaurant where, even though you will get food poisoning roughly 30% of the time, you keep going back. It's part of the charm. You just have to tell your G.I. tract, "Ok, rally the troops, shore up the perimeter, mount the sentry, because this is happening whether you like it or not." And so I shed my daily shorts-and-T-shirt uniform and put on jeans and a form-fitting black shirt with two white dragons silkscreened on the chest (fancy!), steeled my lower intestine and headed out, ready to experience what glorious creations can be made out of pork, white flour, lard, sugar and red dye.

While my mom was parking the car and I was waiting for my entourage to arrive, I sat alone at the table, when I was greeted by the waiter with the seven little words I have not heard since before the surgery: "Do you want something to drink, sir?"

Sir. I am over six feet tall* and am admittedly less-than-gifted in the boob department (read: Simon Cowell is better endowed than I am. Read: I have gone into bra stores and been told by the owner, "I'm not sure why you bother.") Still, it is always a little blow to your ego (not to mention your sense of femininity) to be mistaken for a man when you are wearing a tight-fitting shirt with dragons (dragons!) over your nipples: dragons whose sole purpose is to draw attention to your chest in a non-subtle way, dragons who are supposed to proclaim to the world, "Look! No, really! Those aren't just over-developed pecs!" Plus, I was rocking form-fitting jeans and the swelling around my incision was actually compensating for the atrophy on my left side quite nicely, I thought.

Well, fuck. I told the waiter that I would like tea and a water (no tip for him!) and soon my friends and my mom showed up. I was not about to let a little case of mistaken gender identity spoil my big day. And so began two hours of feasting on BBQ pork wrapped in various types of pastry, (including my special favorite, steamed BBQ pork buns, which are like biting into a cloud and finding it suprisingly filled with garishly red pork); steamed egg cake; those delicious custard tarts, (which were still so hot and fresh out of the oven that the custard hadn't fully set up and will be the subject of many happy dreams for weeks to come); sticky rice in the banana leaf so it's like unwrapping your presents on Christmas morning, except instead of a dead woman's grabber, you get delicious rice and meat; hai gao; those long flat rice noodles with more pork inside. The list went on. My belly expanded to look as if I'd just entered my second trimester. It was wonderful.

Since I'd planned ahead and worn a black shirt, I did not even mind when my inability to full lean over the table caused me to become covered in a fur of greasy pastry crumbs (nothing a little Spray n' Wash won't fix). Note to those planning a hip replacement: invest in a bib. Even my hip-precaution cushion (also black) was covered with so much fallen food that it should have requested a doggy bag.

I have, however, learned a valuable lesson. Next time my fragile ego and I venture out into public after months away, I will wear a pink party dress, a padded bra, false eyelashes, hair bows and a prosthetic ass. And I will probably be mistaken for a drag queen.

* Potential "Young and Hip" drinking game. Take a shot every time I mention my height.

Revenge of the Anti-Ass!

Anti-ass: 2. Arley: 0.

When we last met our intrepid hero, she was pondering whether or not to buy a hemorrhoid cushion to soothe her anti-ass, which had been worn raw from riding on the exercise bike (yes, the excitement of this blog never ceases). Not wanting to be seen purchasing said hemorrhoid cushion anywhere in the greater New Westminster area lest I run into someone I went to high school with, I decided to improvise. I therefore spent my Friday night fashioning a hemorrhoid cushion out of my exercise donut (a rolled-up handtowel covered in a sock that they give you in the hospital to put your ankle on while you're doing exercises) and watching re-runs of "What Not to Wear." The fact that this "donut" is roughly three inches in diameter, covered in a slippery sock and nowhere near the size of the surface area I needed to cover did not deter me in the slightest.

Getting on an exercise-bike after a hip replacement is no easy feat in itself. You have to swing your good leg over the bike and on to the pedal, then try to pedal backwards with one leg to get the opposing pedal in the right position to raise your bad leg on to it, which is no small feat in itself because lifting the bad leg is hard when your hip flexors don't "work" so much as "twitch pathetically in some semblance of movement."

The delicate bike-mounting dance is made all the more difficult when you throw a handtowel covered in a sock into the mix. I, however, was undaunted. I swung my leg over the bike, pedaled backwards, somehow managed to hook my bad leg on to the pedal and sat on the little handtowel donut. Which promptly slipped out from under me. Which promptly launched me forward and tilted the exercise bike into a vertical position, causing me to crash into a nearby dresser. When the smoke cleared, I was straddling the exercise bike as if doing a wheelie and clinging for dear life to the corner of the dresser. Happily, my hip did not dislocate from this little adventure, but I managed to scrape various limbs.

Back to the drawing board.

Friday, August 7, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I've never been a fan of free time, mostly because I've never had much of it. Between grad school and writing and teaching and wheelchair basketball and my robust social life (don't laugh), I have grown used to a certain level of chaos. Because I am of the "put your head down and keep going" school of problem-solving and life-living, time off can be a dangerous opportunity to think too much. The most difficult part of the hip replacement has therefore not been the pain, (which there wasn't much of), but the sheer frustration of being forced to stay in one place for an extended period of time. Recovery has therefore not just required adjusting to a new joint, but an entirely new itinerary:

My life pre-replacement: Get up at 5:35 a.m. to my cat (who faithfully wakes me 5 minutes before my alarm) licking my face. Tell her she's pretty. Go to practice for 2 - 3 hours, 45 minutes of which will involve me standing up out of my chair and doing the hip-relocation booty dance and another 15 of which will involve me adjusting my mantooth (that's a story for another post), shower at the ARC and realize that I've forgotten some important article of underclothing. Try to dress in a way that does not make this fact obvious. Impart my endless and unceasing wisdom (most of it thesis-statement-related) to the youth of America. Remind my drowsy/hungover freshmen that if I can get up at 5:30 a.m. and be at least semi-coherent they can damn well stop sleeping in the front row. Teach another class (selflessly offering more shining pearls of knowledge i.e. "how to make a citation sandwich"). Sit in my office and grade diligently (read: complain about grading, gossip and empty the office candy jar -- oh room 248 how I will miss you). Work out again (repeat hip reduction booty dance. Call "Jennnn!" and have her tug on my leg and hang me from various high places). Return home to sit on the couch with E.C., watch my cat renovate her cardboard box condo, and catch up on the latest episode of "My Big Redneck Wedding" while eating Lean Cuisine and microwave popcorn (or else hang out with A. drinking whiskey, listening to records and talking about evolution). Pack my gym bag for the next day and have a detailed conversation with my cat about whether she is, in fact, a pretty girl. Try to read a book, but fall asleep after a few sentences (sorry David Foster Wallace. I may never be done with "Infinite Jest). Wake up dreaming of drowning because my hip has come out during the night and my back is spasming, making it hard to breathe. Repeat. (Note: this is also a really great recipe for getting mono).

My life post-hip replacement: Wake up already dressed in my recovery uniform (shorts and a T-shirt). Try to remember when I last wore a bra. Watch "A Baby Story" and chide the women on the screen for whining and crying during their epidural because mine really wasn't that bad. Do exercises, most of which involve me either with my legs spread apart or slung face-down over my bed and think, "Wow, this is not the most fun I've ever had in these positions." Read a book. Stare out the window. Go for a walk with my mom and pass women walking their babies in various states of domestic bliss. Watch one of those home-buying shows and tsk-tsk at people buying expensive homes with 100% financing in California circa 2006. Stare out the window. Brood, usually over the whole unemployment/ deportation/ "short on long-term goals"-ness of my life. Get on the exercise bike/ hand bike and spend a blissful hour working my ass off, getting all wonderfully sweaty with my IPod cranked way the hell up as Dan Bejar sings with just the right amount of self-loating and sarcasm and anger and regret and meloncholy that "tonight is not your night/ no it's not your night -- ooooooh yeah." Stare out the window and realize that my sweat smells of chlorine. Get into the pool and paddle around trying to ward off roving raccoon gangs. Realize that I have had "The Internationale" stuck in my head for a solid two weeks. Remind the racoons that "freedom is merely priviledge extended unless enjoyed by one and all." Shower. Put on another pair of shorts and a T-shirt (see "In Praise of Grabbers"). Still no bra. Fail to resist the siren's song of Smarties ice cream. Spend twenty minutes trying to find the perfect pillow to stick between my legs so I can sleep on my side. Brood. Sleep. Repeat.

As you can see, blogging is not just a way to share my experience with other young people having a hip replacement, (since I'm not sure anyone who's not my friend has discovered this blog), but a way to rehab my brain. Less over-thinking, more telling other people about my ass: just what the physio ordered.