Sunday, May 23, 2010

I'm on a Boat!

In exactly a month, I'm going to be on a fast train to StruggleTown, which will make stops in Take-20-Minutes-To-Put-On-Your-Underwear-With-A-Grabber-Ville, I-Can't-Make-Friends-In-Vancouver-Because-Everyone-There-Is-Too-Cool-For-Me-Town, and Morphine-Makes-Me-Sick-And-Itchy-Opolis. All aboard!

For that reason, I am making the month until my surgery count. Beers will be consumed! 80s hipster rock will be air-guitar-ed to! Ice cream and whipped cream will be eaten inappropriately on campus grounds! (Don't judge. Whipped cream is nature's perfect food). My goal is to do a million different awesome things so that when I'm injecting bloodthinners into my stomach, I won't think, "Damn, my life sucks," but "Hey, remember that time when I rode a freaking jet ski? How cool was that?" Yesterday's offering: I went on a boat.

How I got on this boat, I'm not entirely sure (friend of a friend of a friend), but the bottom line is that I spent all yesterday on Clinton Lake (turns out that there actually are bodies of water in Illinois, which was news to me) in a little speed-boat-y number with Shelley, Bridie and Donnie. The Aussies are going back to Aussie-land soon, so it was a good opportunity to spend time with them before everyone gets deported. (Somewhere some Homeland Security computer program is picking up the word 'foreigner' and 'on a boat.' Just kidding, Homeland Security! My visa is too legit to quit...until July 15th).

Clinton Lake is a warm lake, which apparently is due to the fact that there's a power plant that churns hot water into it (why is my life like something out of the Simpson's?). It's like a bathtub made of energy waste! Come on, nuclear power. Let's see some of those mutations we've heard so much about. Mama needs a new gluteus medius.

Anyhow, you really can't go wrong when you combine a gorgeous day, awesome people, water and alcohol. (Well, I guess water and alcohol can go terribly wrong, but bear with me). The highlight of the day was when I rode a jet ski. A jet ski! Like I was on freaking Baywatch! Or one of those girls in the James Bond movies! This, actually, is progress. Before the hip replacement, I could not physically sit on jet skis/motorcycles/bicycles etc. and I was so excited about being able to do so, that I couldn't help but exclaim, "I can straddle things now!" Turns out that, yeah, sound carries pretty well over water, and I'm sure that the men of East-Central Illinois really appreciated the update. I'm a classy, classy girl. (At least I didn't pass around the cheat sheet of acceptable post-surgical sex positions).

Do I have bruises all over my legs? Yes. Did I wear all the skin off my tailbone from the bumping of the jet ski? Yes. Am I sunburned because even though I applied sunscreen three times throughout the day, I am too white to be allowed near the water and I still have an incredibly red face? Yes. Was it completely worth it? Yes, yes, yes. Not to brag or anything, but sometimes it's good to be me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Got My Mojo Workin' But it Just Don't Work on Shoes

In the year since my hip replacement, I have not exactly been bringing sexy back. In fact, between the lack of hip flexion, the post-surgical rashes (which happily have resolved themselves), the swamp-creature gait pattern, the incisions, and the semi-detached ass, sexy and I aren't even Facebook friends. For a long time, most fashionable clothing pressed painfully against my hip or my detached gluteus medius, so I've gotten into a rut of jeans, sweatshirts and a five-year-old cami with a built-in bra that has holes in it, but I won't throw it away because American Eagle doesn't make them any more and long camis with built-in bras are rarer than hen's teeth.

In my defense, when it takes you about 8.5 hours to bend down to pick something up, you don't want to throw the "trying not to expose yourself on account of your short skirt" factor into the equation. (No good can come of it. No good at all). And when you're spending months at a time lying on your back (and not even in a sexy way!), your main fashion concern tends to be "do I have instant noodles stuck to my chest?" A few days ago, however, I said to myself, "Arley, do you ever wonder why the only cat calls you get are people mistaking you for a gay man and shouting homophobic slurs at you? Do you think that's a sign that maybe you should break out the party dress? Or at least put on some lip gloss?"

Point. Taken. After all, I am decidedly less gimpy than I was before and in about a month, I am going to have surgery all over again and will once again be getting dressed using a specially designed grabber with a hook on it. It was time to get my mojo working before my mojo got surgically removed. When Erin McQ and I went shopping and I found an expensive Calvin Klein sweater dress on sale for less than $20, it was like the heavens had parted and a sign had been handed down to me. That sign read: Arley, thou shalt wear thine sexy-ass sweater dress to thy sports banquet thou art attending for work in Ottawa in a few days hence.

Now, don't get me wrong. My goal with the sweater dress was not to score/hook up/get a little somethin'-somethin'. I have very little interest in dating at the moment because a) I'm moving halfway across the country in a matter of weeks and b) you know what's not great to do in the first few weeks of a relationship? Have major surgery that requires you to use a walker for extended periods of time. Plus, I'm pretty sure that "work function" + "skanking it up" is a recipe for "unemployment." But sometimes you need to give your self-confidence a boost by putting on a tight (but professionally acceptable!) dress, looking in the mirror and saying, "You know what? I am wearing the f*ck out of this dress. I am wearing this dress so hard that when people look at me and say 'daaamn,' they will not mean it in the sense of 'daaamn, what happened to you?"

Well, that was the plan anyways. Here was the reality. I spent all evening issuing press releases, so that I had only 10 minutes to get ready for the banquet. I was sweaty, my hair looked like I had been involved in a vigorous headbanging session, and I'd forgotten a makeup brush so I'd applied eyeshadow with my fingertip and I'm pretty sure that I got at least some of it near my eyes. I threw on the dress and a pair of red shoes I'd brought and strutted out of there with the best strut I could muster.

Still, for a moment, I felt as if the plan had succeeded. I catwalked (somewhere, Miss J from Project Runway is giving me side-eye) down to the banquet all with my shoulders back and my head held high. I did not even get to the banquet hall, however, when I saw the folly of my plans. I had not worn my sexy red shoes since the surgery. The last time I wore the shoes, I did not walk like a stroke-addled zombie. Now, my sexy red shoes were a little redder, because they had worn all the skin off the back of my heels, which had started bleeding.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of how I spent the entire banquet in bare feet limping even more than usual with my shoes in my purse. And that is also why I have been wearing a pair of my mom's old flip-flops even though it's raining, because there is a huge chunk missing out of my right heel and putting on real shoes makes them bleed. And that is maybe why I felt the need to pull an all-nighter before I left at 5 a.m. for my flight home, which resulted in me showing up on A's doorstep to pick up Mika back firmly in my jeans and sweatshirt, with make-up raccoon-like under my eyes, limping and complaining of sleep deprivation. The only good side was that A. took one look at me and identified that I had a serious need for french toast, so we went to Le Peep and then I had a 3-hour nap. Le Peep french toast cures everything.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh for Cat's Sake!

During my first flight after the hip replacement, I was a portrait of patience and tolerance. Mostly, this was because my incredibly slowness meant that I was the one holding up all the lines and stopping traffic. Back then, my attitude was, "yeah, it sucks to have to wait in line, but it's better than getting your leg cut off then put back on again in the wrong configuration." I was the Buddha of the Bank Line. The Gandhi of the Grocery store. If you took 5 minutes to select the exactly perfect box of Tic Tacs while standing in line, I would merely smile beatifically, basking in my own newfound sense of perspective.

Right now: not so much. Over the past year, I've gotten faster and with every second I shave off my sprint to the boarding gate, my tolerance levels wear a little thinner. For example, this morning I was waiting in line in the Champaign airport to go through security and the young couple ahead of me with a baby were receiving a failing grade in the Putting Your Shit in the Little Trays and Walking Through the Metal Detector 101. Could not do it. Could not.

They stared at the baby buggy as if it might fold itself up and slide itself through the screening machine. They gestured helplessly. They expressed surprise at being asked to remove their shoes, despite the three signs posted informing people to do this. The woman walked through with her cell phone in her pocket, then walked through again with her keys in her pocket, and while I fully understand that this woman's brain is probably fried with sleep deprivation, I had a brief flash of wanting to inform her that if she doesn't know that her cell phone or her keys or the change in her pocket or Lord knows what else is made of metal, then she's too stupid to reproduce and she should probably give the baby to me. (Part of this could have been the coffee deprivation and the fact that it was 6:30 a.m.).

I have no idea why this is. You'd think that the fact that I spent a good three months taking 20 minutes to walk around the block would give me some empathy towards other people's struggles. Incorrect. Instead, I want to go around telling people, "Look. I'm gimping along on a semi-detached ass and a hip socket that clunks more than the dialogue in any of the Twilight movies, and I seem to be doing just fine in the 'taking care of my shit' department. Please explain to me why you, with two working legs and two working arms, are finding the act of taking off your shoes, putting them in a bin, and running them through the screening machine to be so insanely difficult."

Alas, my bitchery has earned me an ass-kicking in the traveling karma department. First, my flight was stranded on the tarmac because of storms in Detroit for 2 hours. Then, it finally landed in Detroit was was delayed for 3 hours. So now I'm sitting in the Metro Detroit airport trying not to stare at a skinhead who has a swastika tattooed on his scalp and skeleton arms tattooed over his actual arms. (If you're going to be a neo-nazi, wouldn't you pick a place other than Detroit to live?). An elderly woman is standing by the gate, clutching her ticket and saying loudly, "For cat's sake! It's going to be another hour? Oh, for cat's sake!" (Somewhere, Mika is approving of a person substituting the word 'cat' for the word 'God'). It's clear that I have some serious atoning to do to the Gods of Travel if I ever want to get to Ottawa (I'm heading here for the Canadian national wheelchair rugby championships). Maybe I should sacrifice a chicken.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Think Fast!

Lately, I've been dragging my ass. (Well, ok, I've been dragging the part that's still attached. The rest is less 'dragging' and more 'flapping in the breeze'). I've been tired and cranky and feeling perpetually hungover, which sucks because if you're going to wake up feeling hungover, you should at least have the pleasure of looking next to you and thinking, "Whose that guy? And why am I in Mexico?" (Ah, memories). In days of yore, I would have simply sucked it up, given my body a pep talk (by 'pep talk' I mean 'three Diet Cokes, a sugar-free latte and some Sour Patch Kids) and powered through. Now that I'm new-and-improved-with-a-side-order-of-responsibility-and-common-sense, however, I decided to take a different route to reset my awesome meter: a detox diet.

This would be my second detox diet. I went on the same detox plan (phase 1 of the Fat Smash Diet) nearly a year ago before the first surgery. You're only allowed to eat small portions of oatmeal, fruit, veggies, egg whites, tofu, lentils/chickpeas/beans, yogurt and brown rice. My idea was to get rid of all the gunk so that my body was functioning at "all systems go" and I could stroll out of the hospital with my new hip ready to take on the world. (We know how well that one turned out). There are very few things you can control about your surgery (like, say, your ass falling off and the fact that nearly a year after the operation you're still walking like a zombie grandfather with a mild case of palsy), but I figured I could control the state in which my body arrived on the operating table. (You hear that, Dr. ___? I held up my end of the bargain! I laid off coffee, alcohol, and chocolate for a week!) You know how warriors used to fast and pray for guidance before battle? Same deal, but without the hunger-induced hallucinations.

I lasted 4 days on the diet. I actually felt amazing and you can eat as many fruits and veggies as you want, so I wasn't even hungry.My energy levels were back to normal, I was rolling out of bed ready to face the day, and I didn't even miss my beloved coffee. The problem with any detox diet, however, is that it's impossible to be a social butterfly. You instantly turn into that chick who's pushing a salad around her plate on a first date complaining about the sugar in the vinagrette while the guy looks awkwardly at his steak and mashed potatoes. I was the Victoria Beckham of Champaign Urbana (minus, you know, the gorgeous husband and the accent). On day 4 of the diet, I therefore found myself sitting in a Mexican restaurant with my friend Shawna. She was tucking in to a steaming, cheesy plate of enchiladas. I was picking at a bowl of lettuce covered in salsa.

All of a sudden, I little voice inside my head said, "Arley, you have only about 30 days left in Champaign-Urbana. You can eat lettuce with salsa for the rest of your life.' And it's true. I mean, on June 25th, the day after my surgery when I'm puking neon green bile from the pain killers and injecting myself in the stomach with blood thinners, am I going to say, "Gee, I wish I'd eaten a few more egg whites" or "Gee, I wish I'd had a freaking margarita." I decided that my time in Champaign-Urbana was too short to be wishing for a week of it to be over so I could have a cup of coffee. I ended the diet and went out for brisket.

So now, I'm turning my leftover egg whites into white-chocolate-coconut macaroons, which is still kind of diet food because a) they're made with egg whites and b) I don't have a hand mixer, so the journey from 'liquid egg whites' to 'stiff peaks' was a cardio workout in itself. The recipe cheerfully instructed me to "switch to the paddle attachment on your stand mixer" and I was like "bitch, please. All I've got is a bowl, a fork, and a set of biceps." Anyhow, I briefly achieved a zen-like state by staring into a churning bowl of frothy eggs and in the end I made a batch of slightly deflated macaroons, which I ate while trying to remember how to play Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me To the End of Love" on my guitar, and everything was lovely. Life lesson learned.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blogging With My Mouth

Since August, this blog has been my only outlet to vent about my hip replacement. Recently, however, I've started trying to turn my semi-coherent ramblings and elaborate similes about my detached ass into a more publishable form. Since this week is again a super-busy one, I thought I would show you videos of me reading from one such essay. Blogging...creative non-fiction...reading of creative non-fiction aloud to a live audience...all that's missing is for someone to do an interpretive dance about my hip replacement. By the time this ordeal is over, my hip replacement will have been thoroughly and totally documented in a variety of genres. It will be the most famous hip replacement ever.

Anyhow, both videos are of the same essay, but the first one is from when I went to my lovely friend Karo's class to talk about "Post." (Which was a good experience on numerous fronts, probably the most important one being that I was forced to get over the huge mental block I have about "Post" and actually re-read it. There was a time when I couldn't even open the book without feeling a little ill. Anyhow, the experience of confronting the 22-year-old I was when I wrote "Post" was less cringe-worthy than expected. I think we can call this emotional growth!) The nice thing about reading this essay is that I got to shock undergraduates by saying the word "motherf*cker" in an academic environment.

The next video comes from a reading I did for the "Stories and Beer" reading series at the Iron Post in Urbana. It's the same essay, but people find me much more amusing because they are drunk.

Enjoy the spectacle of me trying to speak words to other people!