Monday, March 29, 2010

Things That Rocked This Week

This week, a girl who lived a few doors down from me while I was growing up, and who was friends with my sister, passed away from Cystic Fibrosis. Eva Markvoort blogged about her life and her preparation for death and was a spokesperson for Cystic Fibrosis research. When she received a double-lung transplant a few years ago, she allowed camera crews to film a documentary about her. (Check out her blog here: I didn't know Eva very well, so I don't feel as if it's right to wax poetic about her, but I will say that I admire her commitment to both living well and dying well.

In that spirit, I've decided to inject some positivity into my own blog. I mean, if the worst thing that ever happens to you in life is that your ass gets detached and you have to walk like a zombie for a little while (knock on wood that it's only a little while), then you can count your blessings. So here, then, is a brief list of Things That Rocked This Week.
  • Watching the sun rise at Dunkin Donuts with A. at 5:45 a.m on the way to the train station. I am lucky to have a friend who's willing to get up at obscene hours to drive me places. I am also lucky that coffee exists in the universe.
  • Getting to come back to Vancouver for a little while and see my friends and family.
  • My mom's Easter feast. When Warren Zevon was dying of lung cancer and was asked by his pal David Letterman if he had any advice about living/dying, he said, "Enjoy every sandwich." I enjoyed every sandwich. And every slice of turkey. And about 18 pounds of Easter candy, especially anything with the word "mellowcreme" or "mallowcreme" in its name. What is "mallowcreme?" Lord knows. Probably rendered beef fat and high-fructose corn syrup, but man do those little pastel-colored candies go down easy.
  • My awesome job. I worked at a wheelchair rugby tournament this weekend and somehow ended up doing the play-by-play commentary for the webcasts, which would not normally be a problem (as you can imagine, I'm a talker) but for the fact that I know next to nothing about wheelchair rugby. Happily, Kevin Orr and Duncan Campbell were there to provide the expert commentary, while I was there to get the rules wrong, the names of the players wrong, the team names wrong, and say "um" a lot. It was actually a lot of fun, and now I know how to play wheelchair rugby. (If you want to see me in action, check out
  • The fact that my awesome job allowed me to reconnect with some friends I haven't seen in ages and reminisce about the old days...when I once got stranded on a Greek island without any of my luggage and was rescued by three Canadian wheelchair rugby players. By "rescued," I mean "given a jacket and enough alcohol that I no longer cared what country I was in." You know those St. Bernards with the barrel of rum around their necks? Same principle. Anyhow, it was good to see D. and be filled in (six years later) about the drunken exploits I do not remember.
  • My mom bought me two nifty sweaters! One has an owl on it!
  • The fact that the Edible Book Competition is approaching. I still have not decided what my entry will be (and even if I did it would clearly be classified information. The Edible Book Competition is serious business!), but whatever it ends up being, I'll probably spend at least a few days covered in molten Starburst, which is my idea of a good time.
  • Champaign-Urbana no longer resembles a vast Arctic tundra.
  • The Chicago O'Hare airport did not lose my luggage. Granted, this was because I did not have luggage, but considering the potent screwing-up-your-travel-plans black magic of the O'Hare airport, getting out with only a minorly over-aggressive pat-down from security staff is a miracle.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Discrimination: Ur Doin It Wrong

One of the burdens of being relentlessly attractive is that you're constantly harassed by cat calls and wolf whistles as you walk down the street. You can barely go a foot without someone complimenting you on what your mama gave you or what a fine, fine piece of top quality ass you are. And the guilt that comes from causing distracted motorists to crash into street signs: it keeps you up at night! Yeah, it's tough being pretty.

Okay, I wouldn't know. Usually, the comments I get on the street fall within the spectrum of "damn, girl, you're TALL" and "Hey, sweetheart. What's wrong with your legs? Want me to teach you how to spread them?" I do get cat calls, but they're literally from my cat and therefore have the subtext of "feed me now before I slice you." Well, today the boys of Champaign-Urbana took their harassment game to a whole new level. I got my first cat call. Cat call...homophobic, to-mah-to.

Last night, I was walking to a friend's birthday party. Incidentally, the party had a "Crazy Hat" theme and I was decked out in an orange-and-blue toque (knit cap for you Americans) complete with a pom pom on top. In the dark, I kind of resembled "Where's Waldo?" (I'm not sure if this played into what happened or not). Also, I wasn't using my cane, so I was in full swamp-creature lurch mode. Inconspicuous as always.

As I neared the apartment, a silver Camry-Accord-Tercel-mid-level-manager-or-accountant-type car drove past me and slowed down. The passenger rolled down the window, leaned out, and informed me that I was a (wait for it...wait for it...) "fucking faggot." Now, I tend to assume that if someone's yelling at me from their car, they must know me, so my first reaction before I processed what he said was to wave and I had a moment of " isn't a friendly yell...Abort wave! Abort wave!" Too late. I half-waved and the guy (further enraged by my gesture) yelled, "Fuck you. You're fucking weird." In retrospect, what I heard as "fucking weird" was probably "fucking queer." Oh, men of Champaign-Urbana. You really know how to make a girl feel special.

Now, I've received my fair share of "hey, mister! You can't go in that washroom," which comes with the territory when you're six-foot-two, have shortish hair and live in a climate that often requires you to bundle yourself in warm clothing to the point where it's impossible to tell whether you're a male, a female, or the Michelin Man. These comments, however, are given in the spirit of misunderstanding and the commenter is usually way more embarrassed than I am, especially when I choose to smile politely and point out that I am the proud owner of a lady garden.

So yes, in the eyes of the frat-boy-gang-rapists-in-training crowd, I am a "fucking faggot/queer/weirdo." Which is kind of embarrassing on their part. Obviously, homeboy in the small-penis-mobile needs to go back to Hate-Based Stereotyping 101. There must be some sort of remedial class he could take to help him properly identify markers of otherness and respond with the correct slur for the situation.

Because, Lord knows I walk like a lot of things...Gary Busey on the season premiere of "Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew," Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, pretty much any Frankenstein/swamp creature/alien in a 1950s B movie, but I do not walk like a stereotypical gay man. I mean, haven't these assholes seen "Will and Grace?" Do I sashay? Do I flounce? Do I strut? No, no, and not without pulling a muscle.

So while the disability-studies buff in me is interested in this guy's conflation of disability and sexuality, all the rest of me thinks, holy shit people. Watch a fucking episode of "Glee." Like, what cultural markers is this guy picking up on? The fact that I am wearing women's jeans...because I happen to be a woman? The fact that I was wearing a toque with a pom pom on top? Because that's not the garb of a stereotypical gay man. That's the garb of a stereotypical lumberjack. I believe the term you're searching for, you homophobic motherf*cker, is "cripple" or "overachieving bitch who thinks she's so great." Discrimination: ur doin it wrong.

I would have happily mentioned this to my hate-mongering friend face-to-face, had he the cojones to speak to me directly. (Actually, it would have probably turned out to be cane-to-face or knee-to-groin). But, of course, men like that thrive on shouting things from car windows and speeding away. Which is why they rarely get a good look at the people they're hating on.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Backstory (Hip-story?)

When I started "Young and Hip" in August, my motivations for doing so went a little something like this: "Well, damn. I have been stuck in bed for six weeks and I'm bored as fuck and if I have to watch one more happy-people-buying-houses reality TV show I'm going to punch a hole through the wall, which would likely lead to a broken hand and render me even gimpier, so why don't I start a hip-replacement blog to keep my family and friends up to date about my progress (read: to complain to someone other than my mom) and possibly give some other young people having hip replacements a head's up that this shit is not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows? That should keep me occupied for a few weeks until my hip magically gets better."

Well, it's late March and my blog has been going strong for 7 months and is nearly 400 pages long when put in a word processor (concision: you're doing it wrong). Lately, I've been getting emails along the lines of, "Hey, love your blog. That part where you talk about your detached ass and compare your walking to a heroin-addicted Phantom of the Opera: LOLZ! But, uh, what exactly happened to you?" (In fairness, people who have known me for my whole life are asking the same question).

So, here, for those of you who are just tuning in, is the story of What Exactly Happened to Me:

When I was 11, thanks to a freak inner-tubing accident and probably some DNA-based wonkiness, I slipped the growth plate on my left hip. It was pinned back on, the pins caused avascular necrosis (which translates rather dramatically into "bone death"), the pins were taken out, my adolescence got an extra serving of awkwardness thanks to a bright-blue half-body cast that stuck my legs out at 45-degree angles and meant that anything I wore on my lower body had to have snaps up the side like a baby onesie. (You'd think such easy-access underwear would have made me a hit with all the gentlemen, but you'd be wrong). The ensuing years were filled with crutches, canes, wheelchairs, arm-crutches and me growing to over 6 feet tall, but long story short: after 15 years of avascular necrosis, my femoral head basically began to look like Mickey Rourke's face.

While all this was going on, I was busily playing wheelchair basketball (I was on the national team from 2001 to 2007 and won two World Championship golds and a Paralympic bronze), getting degrees in Creative Writing and History at the University of Victoria, writing and publishing a novel called "Post," then doing my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois so that I could play wheelchair basketball with the U of I varsity team. Oh, and I also make ridiculously intricate cakes.

In November 2007, a few days before my 25th birthday, my hip decided it was fed up with me subjecting it to hours of wheelchair basketball, ill-advised attempts at hiking (though, granted, "hiking" in the midwest is more like "strolling up small hills with grand names like The Eagle's Peak"), and generally running it into the ground. My hip tried to quit me by either popping out or hooking itself on my femoral head, (doctors never did figure out exactly what it was doing), and I basically re-enacted that scene from "The Exorcist" (puking! Shaking! Leg twisted at sickening angles impossible to recreate by people who are not in the circus!). Over the next 18 months, it became clear that my hip was Just Not That Into Me because it was straying more than Tiger Woods in Las Vegas. There was only one thing to do: become a cyborg.

On June 23rd, 2009, I headed into the O.R. to become to proud owner of a Freaky Cyborg Hip. I was so confident that my hip replacement would go well that I had booked a cake-making gig for a week after the surgery, since everyone had told me that "they get you up and walking the same day! My 95-year-old grandpa waltzed out of the hospital after only 3 days and has had a successful career as an extreme sky-diver ever since! It was the best decision I ever made!"

Yeah, not so much. I was awake during the surgery (I actually got to see my femoral head after it was taken out), but when the epidural wore off, it became clear that something had gone terribly awry. I couldn't move my leg. I couldn't walk without inching my toes along the floor. My doctor went on vacation, I was stuck in the hospital, and no one could figure out why my Freaky Cyborg Hip decided to take a long nap.

To make another long story short (you can see how this blog got to be 500 pages), my original surgeon sort of dumped me after they discovered that my gluteus medius was detached, which was causing part of my problem. My new surgeon found out that my left leg is two inches too short and that my socket is probably loose. It also turns out that I am like the medical equivalent of Stonehenge because no one can figure out exactly why I'm still having so much trouble (maybe I'm crazy! Maybe the screwed-up-ness of the rest of the hip is preventing even working muscles from operating! Maybe evil trolls have cast a spell on me! Maybe my Freaky Cyborg Hip is too busy plotting to take over Tokyo to bother with that whole "walking" thing!)

I'm going to be having surgery this summer, but for now I'm living in Urbana, Illinois (I have friends here and the rent is super cheap) until America breaks up with me and sends me back to my native Vancouver. When I'm not blogging about my hip replacement, I work as a Communications Consultant, enjoy creative writing and am mildly-to-moderately obsessed with Canadian indie rocker Dan Bejar.

And now you know.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Balancing On One Wounded Wing/ Circling the Edge of the Neverending

It's been nearly a week since I sustained my wrist injury and, yes ladies and gentlemen, I'm already pulling out melancholy New Pornographers' lyrics to capture my mood. If this keeps up, you're going to find me writing rhyming poetry about the state of my soul in my "Emily the Strange" notebook that I got on sale from Hot Topic (My heart is red/ my soul is black/ I walk like a zombie/ addicted to crack).

The bottom line is that my wrist still hurts and my wrist splint is starting to get that swampy cast smell and because I can't walk with my cane, I have to do the zombie-lurch around town, and twice today people have stared at me aghast and asked, "What happened to you?" When I responded that I'd injured my arm playing basketball, they looked at me with this expression that said, "No, I life." Of course, the zombie-walking has thrown off my back and my shoulders and I am basically one red-hot ball of cranky.

You'd think I'd be able to take this shit in stride (well, maybe "stride" is too graceful a word to describe what I do). I mean, last summer someone cut the ball of my hip off, replaced it with another one, but (whoops) forgot to reattach my ass. After that, you'd think a little wrist sprain would be par for the course: like, "lay it on me, life! A sprained wrist? That's all you've got? A few short months ago, I watched in an opium-induced haze as my surgeon showed me the detached ball of my femoral head." (That concision I was hoping I would learn from this wrist injury? Not so much).

Instead, however, one little sprain has earned me a first-class ticket on a fast train to Whiny-ville. Turns out, my right arm is a pretty useful appendage. In addition to that cane-carrying, it also helps me do the 8 hours a day of typing my job requires, as well all those life skills like dish washing and driving and being able to walk down the street without people thinking you were involved in some horrific car accident. Oh, right arm. I will never take you for granted again.

To make matters worse, for some reason this week I keep getting introduced to new people (and really awesome people at that) and let's just say that I am not exactly making a good impression. You want to know what doesn't exactly make all the gentlemen swoon? The whole "please to meet you, allow me to lurch forward in your general direction to shake your hand, then realize that I cannot shake your hand because my hand is in a splint and so stare nervously at the few inches of space between us" routine. When you add this to the fact that meeting new people is not exactly my strong suite and it tends to exacerbate my normal elaborate-hand-gesturing, train-of-thought-losing, over-caffeinated-ness....yeah, not the greatest of impressions.

So, if you met me this week, allow me to offer this message: "Please to meet you. I would like to clarify that I am not, in fact, a meth addict and that it is possible for me to speak actual words that make sense. I hope that you will find that when you get to know me, I'm not as ridiculous as I first present myself. Can we please find some way to blame this on my sore wrist/ damaged hip? Sincerely, Arley."

Now if only I could get that printed on a business card.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

At Least My Left Arm Still Works

Recently, I have been on a mission to find a new cane. Well, I am happy to report that the search is over. I no longer need a new cane....what I need now is a new wrist. Yes, today I took my gimpiness to new and unparalleled heights by fracturing/spraining my wrist. The same wrist I use to hold my cane. The same cane that prevents me from walking like the Phantom of the Opera. Translation: in the past 24 hours, my gimpiness has increased by roughly 200%. You know, because I really needed some special sauce on my disability sandwich.

The end result is that instead of being a six-foot-two chick walking in a slightly gimpy manner with a broken cane, I am now a six-foot-two chick walking in a highly gimpy, zombie-heroin-addict manner, minus the cane, with a broke-down wrist covered in a huge splint. (Unexpected bonus: because of typing difficulties, I might finally learn the noble art of concision). Someone really needs to give me my own category in the Darwin Awards...or at least a show on TLC. ("The Girl Whose Body Fell Off.")

And how did this happen? You can blame wheelchair basketball. Actually, you can blame me for returning to wheelchair basketball even though I was the proud owner of both a damaged hip made of ceramic and a partially detached ass muscle. You can further blame me for making a decision as I was being launched a few feet up in the air and was hurtling towards the ground to save the hip by sacrificing the wrist. I mean, I have been around the wheelchair-basketball block. I know that the first rule of falling is not to put your wrist out. I should also have realized that my hip is basically being replaced this summer and is therefore the prosthetic equivalent of a rental car. That shit is getting returned to the dealership around June. My wrist, however, is something I'm kind of stuck with. Bad read.

I have therefore abandoned my search for the perfect cane in search for the perfect way to not walk like you're about to eat someone's brainz. My immediate thought (because "House" is like crack to me) is that I could switch my cane to the opposite hand and walk like Dr. House. (House walks with his cane beside his injured leg, which is the opposite of what they teach you in cane-walking school). After some experimentation, however, it became clear that you must need to be a complex, twisted medical genius to rock that look. I don't have the coordination and wound up looking like someone's grandma who won't use a proper medical device because those are for "old people" and so drags herself around her apartment by using a broom handle as a "hiking stick."

The only solution is for me to go au naturale in the cane department. True, this will probably result in me frightening small children, but I've got places to go and things to do. Like hen-peck typing with my one good hand. Or explaining to the nice police officer that I'm not drunk, it's just that I had a hip replacement and my ass fell off and...

Hey, did I just get through an entire post without quoting Dan Bejar?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Quoth the Cane..Nevermore!

For the past few months, I've been in the market for a new cane. (Exciting times, I know. Just living the dream). The problem is that my current cane is broken and makes a tapping noise, the source of which I have not been able to locate, so I feel like I'm walking around in an Edgar Allen Poe short story, since I'm followed by a perpetual tapping, tapping on my chamber floor. (Quoth the cane, nevermore).

You'd think this would be easy. Go to a medical supply store, pick out a cane that does not scream "I carry wads of graying ten-year-old Kleenex and peppermints in the pockets of my cardigan," adjust that cane to my height: problem solved. Off to the races. All systems go. Ever onward to victory.

No. Wrong. Problem not solved. All systems not go. Victory Because, when I went to the medical supply store in Champaign, here are the cane choices I have to choose from:
  • A cane patterned with American flags and eagles.
  • A cane patterned with red hats.
  • A zebra-striped cane.
  • A Las Vegas cane, because what happens in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas. You can carry the bright lights of the Vegas strip around on your mobility aid. All the glitz, none of the having to pee in a Big Gulp cup because you can't drag yourself away from the slot machine.
  • a polka-dotted cane.
  • a cane with a kind of swirly, paisley design that managed to look both geriatric and acid-trippy all at once.
  • a cat cane. Because what I really need is to look a little more like a crazy cat lady.
Now, see....I like cats. And I like Las Vegas (or I did like it that one time I went there for a tournament and we got to take a free limo to all the games and basically rolled up in that joint like the pimps we are). And I even like red hats, though that whole red hat poem gives me horrible flashbacks of Grade 10 English and a kid who was so competitive with me that the teacher had to hide my assignments and give them to me after class because he would occasionally tear them up if I beat him. (True story). But do I want to carry any of them around on my cane? No.

The reason: I am six feet tall. I have the out-of-control hair of a young Bob Dylan or Dan Bejar (it's about the only similarity I have with Dan Bejar, alas). I walk like I inject heroin into my feet. I have a tendency to talk with my hands using elaborate gestures that routinely cause me to spill drinks and hit people in the face. The last thing I need is to draw more attention to myself.

I therefore require a cane that is both badass and inconspicuous: the kind of cane you could thrust proudly in the air at a Destroyer concert but also lay demurely under your chair at a meeting or, say, a garden party (I've never been to a garden party, but I once had this Garden Party Barbie, so I've always wanted to). I suspect that such a cane does not exist. I suspect that I will be walking around with my noisy cane forever....or at least until the surgery (fingers crossed).

Does anyone have any suggestions? Because right now that "snakes on a cane" option is looking pretty damn good.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Church of New Things (Or Laptops Acting Like New Things)

My beloved Dan Bejar once sang that "the truth is a thing to coax out of its shell." Well, a few days have passed since the "coffee on laptop = FML" incident and the truth has finally emerged from its shell...I better blog about this quickly before it goes back in. At the time, I blamed Dan Bejar for raising my hopes by singing (the moment I turned on my car) that "everything's going to be alright, it's going to be alright" when the douchy hipster at the Apple store had assured me that the laptop was royally fucked, that it would never turn on again, that I would have to buy a new one, and that everything most certainly would not be alright.

Yes, it's been a few days since CoffeeGate2010 and the fact that I'm not communicating with you via telepathy should alert you to the fact that my laptop still works! Hells yeah! Take that, Apple-hipster with your wrist cuff and your skinny jeans that are baggy in the ass because you consider cigarettes to be a cardio workout and your ipod bud in one ear where you are probably listening to Arcade Fire instead of listening to customers with their annoying problems and your hipsterly sneer. I should have known: I mean, who are you going to believe? Dan Bejar (the man, the myth, the poet-rocker legend) or some guy whose claim to fame is working at the Apple Store in Champaign-Urbana? Exactly.

Yes, I need to sacrifice some chickens (or, I don't know, maybe some heroin?) on the altar of the Church of Dan Bejar. My laptop seems to have emerged relatively unscathed, which is a sure sign that it is protected by an aura of pure awesomeness. Yeah, it smells of rancid coffee, and yes half of the lights on the keyboard have been extinguished, but it has taken a licking and it is still ticking (or whirring). (Granted, Apple-Store Boy has guaranteed me that my laptop won't last more than a few days...but I choose to live in the moment and in this moment my laptop is rocking at life).

So thank you to my beloved friends who soothed my laptop woes by either a) taking me to Arby's for some fortification b) lending me a mini laptop and some delicious red velvet cupcake to boot or c) giving me advice re: putting my laptop in a bag of rice, etc. etc. I am a lucky girl, and it's not just Dan Bejar who's smiling (smirking?) down upon me.