27 April 2009

Kitty Neuroses

My cat has SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

I kid you not. We've gone a little over three days without sunshine, and between that and the wet basement (sump pump running, fans blowing nonstop), she's been one little bundle of stress. So stressed, as a matter of fact, that her occasional fur-plucking has escalated into a full-blown Pluckfest.

Last night I discovered her obsessively licking at her flank. A closer inspection revealed that she'd torn out a huge (1.5" diameter) hunk of fur, leaving her skin raw and red.

She's done this one time before, several years ago - she tore out a huge hunk on one shoulder blade. The fur grew back, but it came in white (and she's a mostly-black Tortie).

There's not much to be done for her except hope the sun re-emerges soon.

Now I have yet another title for Her Highness, Princess Tortuga, dowager Queen of Chicken, Terror of the Deck...and now, Plucker of the Fur.


26 April 2009

Noah? Is that you?

Three days of constant rain.

Over two inches of rainfall.

One wet basement.


Why are we here, again?

25 April 2009

It's Broke, and We Can't Fix It

And by "it," I'm talking about the medical system in this country.

The doctors are in bed with the insurance companies, with big pharma making an unholy menage-a-trois.

We pay ungodly amounts of money to the insurance hucksters month after month in the deluded hope that when we need healthcare, it'll be paid for.


My bout with perimenopause racked up about $2,000 worth of lab work and doctor's bills. And the insurance company, predictably, isn't going to pay for most of it. Worse, they won't even tell me why. I'll bet they're sitting in their cubicles using Magic 8 balls to determine whether they'll pay or not. Mostly not.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is greed at its finest. It's not about taking care of people. It's not about doing the right thing. It's about the Almighty Dollar, about seven-figure executive bonuses, and us ordinary folks are screwed six ways from Sunday.

Pissed off? You bet I am. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do. The Medical/Insurance/Pharma complex knows this, and expect us to just bend over and take it.

It's just not fucking fair.

24 April 2009

Dreams - Stories You Tell Yourself

My subconscious told me a really neat, scary ghost story last night, for the first time in a long time; lately, my dreams have been a bunch of confusing images/vignettes with little logic or cohesion, but last night - wow!

In this dream, my husband and I were in Paris. While walking across a bridge over a large, rushing stream (it was only a stream, not the Seine), we looked down and realized that there was a house built in the middle of the water, partially hidden by/connected to the bridge. Intrigued, we went down onto the riverbank for a closer look - a discovered a "for sale" sign.

The real estate agent happened to be right there, and insisted on showing us around - never mind that 1) we weren't interested in buying a house, and 2) there's no way we could afford this stone-and-mullionned window pre-Rafaelite structure. The main entrance, strangely enough, was through a tunnel in the sewers. But when we got into the house, BAM! it did the TARDIS thing of being much larger inside than out. Elegant carved wood walls, beautiful veined marble floors, and furnishings that looked like they came from the turn of the last century.

Turns out this had been the house of a famous writer and his family - his wife had been a painter, and they had a 10-year-old son. My dream-self finds this terribly fascinating, and I can't wait to explore the rest of the house. We find the the cozy room at the waterline of the rushing river (whose leaded windows miraculously don't leak) that has his-and-hers divans, an easel, and a desk with a typewriter and papers still strewn over it. There's also several bedrooms, a palatial marble bath, a garage, and a kitchen - where the cook asks, in French, if we'd like some tea.

Things didn't get creepy until we reached the nursery wing. Again, everything's been perfectly preserved - not a speck of dust anywhere. When I ask why, the real estate agent nervously tells me that the writer stipulated it remain this way. More prodding on our part gets him to reveal that when the writer's son died, both the writer and his wife died soon thereafter under mysterious circumstances. We walk into what was once the boy's room, and immediately sense a presence that tells us to get out. We leave the room; the door slams shut behind us.

I won't bore you with the rest - it played out as the "ghost child looking for a mother" trope - but upon waking I was struck by the fantastic detail and cohesiveness of the plot.

Yow. If only I could write stories like my brain does! Anyone got a direct wetware connection from the subconscious to a computer?

23 April 2009

46 Chromosomes + 7 Alleles in Common = 1 Pain in the Ass

Woke up this morning with a "something's gonna hit the fan" feeling, and I think I know what it is.

Background: my oldest brother and I don't get along. I think he's a self-absorbed, entitled, bona fide narcissist. We haven't spoken since our last unpleasant encounter about four years ago, when my then-fiance and I were visiting my parents, and he and his wife showed up and proceeded to monopolize their attention and make everything All About Them. And no, I wasn't imagining things - my then-fiance (now husband) was just as gobsmacked as I was.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, my brother called me, then proceeded to natter on about his favorite topic - himself - like nothing was wrong. To make a long story short, I told him I wasn't interested in having a relationship with him, and he was shocked - shocked! - by my reaction. I told him why, and he couldn't for the life of him remember the visit that way. He then proceeded to give me a bunch of non-apologies: "I'm sorry if I did anything to offend you," and the classic "I'm sorry you feel that way." In a wounded tone, he then said that when I was ready, I could contact him.

I refrained from telling him not to hold his breath.

Anyway, this week my brother and his wife are visiting my parents, and I just know he's going to tattle about me to them - he's done it before. Now, mind you, the man's 59 years old. But he's also endowed with a serious case of sibling rivalry, and won't hesitate to play the victim in front of an audience.


Thus the feeling of impending doom. I just know I'm going to hear about this from my parents this weekend, and I'm preparing myself to handle it. And no, I'm not going to tell them that just because my brother and I have seven alleles in common doesn't mean I have to like him...even though it's true. I'm going to be gentle and tell my mother that I know what she wants, but I can't give it to her right now.

Maybe, if I'm really lucky, my sixth sense is wrong about this, and the topic will never come up.

If I'm lucky.

19 April 2009

Vegas Vignettes: Day 5 - Travel Hell

Our last day. *sigh* My husband was ready to go home; I hadn't yet reached my limit of people/crowds/noise, but I was close. We woke up and got ready at a leisurely pace, then wandered over to the Paris for another lovely, lovely breakfast.

Back at the hotel, we packed up, then headed downstairs to check out. To our dismay, we discovered that the lobby was just as crowded as it was on the day we checked in. *grumble* Fortunately, the hotel had some staffers making their way through the lines, doing express checkout. As we'd been in line for close to 20 minutes by that point, in front of some very loud, obnoxious, and obviously self-entitled people, we took the express option and ran.

Unfortunately, we still had a couple of hours to kill before our shuttle arrived to take us to the airport. We stored our bags with the bell captain, then hunkered down on a sofa in a quiet corner of the lobby to read and watch people go by.

A couple of hours later, now thoroughly tired of sitting, we gathered our luggage and waited by the curb. The shuttle was late - 10 minutes passed, then 15. I called the shuttle service; the driver, apparently, was stuck in traffic, but would be there soon. Another 10 minutes passed, and the shuttle finally arrived. The harried driver all but snatched our luggage from us, threw it in the back of the bus, then demanded payment. Alarmed, I told him we were on a prepaid package. He scowled and snapped that he'd need our booking number; I produced our travel documents, which he grabbed from my hands. When I protested, he muttered something about having to write things down and that he'd return it to me. Yeah. Right.

We boarded the shuttle. The driver tossed our travel docs onto the dashboard. Then we hung on for dear life with the rest of the passengers as the driver did his best NASCAR-driver impression through the crowded streets. When we got to the airport and stopped at our drop-off point, the driver bolted out of the bus, our paperwork forgotten. I snatched it up on my way out. Asshat.

We checked in at the airline, and my husband, tired of being smooshed into steerage, asked if they had any first class seats left. They did. Score! We then wended our way through the (mercifully short) security line, bought some bottled water and some BK for supper, then settled down at our gate to wait.

Everything else went fine until we were actually on the plane and waiting in line to take off. A passenger in the back of the plane started going into some physical distress, so we had to get out of line, go BACK to the gate, and wait for the Clark County EMTs to arrive. Once they get the guy off the plane, we had to wait to get refueled and fill out paperwork. When we get back in line to take off, we're now 10th in line, with another 20 minute wait. We're now a total of 90 minutes behind schedule.

We arrive in Milwaukee a little after 1 AM, tired, cranky, and fed up. If my husband hadn't had the foresight to purchase places for us up in the comfy seats, I would've had a meltdown by the time all was said and done. We got home and collapsed into bed by 2:30.

Vacations are great, but travel really SUCKS. It's good to be home.

14 April 2009

Vegas Vignettes: Day 4, Part 2 - The Bodies Strike Back

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband, being a hardcore medical professional, *really* wanted to see the Bodies exhibit. Prior to this, he had asked me several times if I wanted to accompany him. Silly me thought, "How bad could it be?" and went in with him.

The first couple of displays were very interesting, but the second room had a couple of complete cadavers on display. My husband is instantly engrossed, muttering, "Oh, so that's what that looks like!" I'm OK until the third room. Now, this is a very graphic display. The cadavers have been stripped of skin and plasticized to preserve them; every organ, every nerve, muscle and major blood vessel is exactly where it should be, only right there in front of us.

My husband is examining the third cadaver when I realize I'm not feeling well. In fact, I'm feeling lousy - nauseated, lightheaded, and feverish. I look at the floor; I feel better. I look at the cadaver - *bang!* - my symptoms return in force. Only this time, my vision is starting to dim. Holy shit, I'm about to faint.

So I grabbed my husband's arm, and said something along these lines: "Honey, I'm not feeling well, so I'm going to leave. I know you really want to see the rest of the exhibit, so I want you to take your time and see everything you want to see. But if I stay, I'm going to either throw up or pass out. So I'll meet you outside. I love you." And I took off. I walked through the rest of the rooms, head down, trying my best not to look at the rest of the displays (healthy vs. diseased lungs, etc.). Fortunately, there's a bypass to the fetal exhibit (thank the PTB!), and soon I'm outside, sitting my shaking, quivering, nauseated self on a bench and ignoring the looks from passersby.

Between 5-10 minutes later my husband emerges, takes one look at me, and promptly hauls me to the nearest Starbucks for some water and a fizzy soda. Smiling, he tells me the medical reason for what happened to me - and that he would have pointed it out on one of the bodies, but I was too busy trying not to faint. Rest assured, dear reader, that although I wanted to, I didn't backhand him. (grin)

Once I had recovered (and my husband was convinced of that fact), we took a taxi over to the Mirage, and visited Sigfried & Roy's Secret Garden. Dolphin and big cat paradise! Took lots of pictures, oohed over the 4-month-old baby leopard (who was enjoying his first day in public that day - yay for good timing!), and enjoyed being out in the sun.

That evening, back at the Bellagio, we celebrated my husband's birthday at Prime, the hotel's premiere steakhouse. More cocktails, a table right next to the windows (which gave us a ringside seat for the fountain show, as well as for the hordes of ducks and ducklings swimming by!), delicious filet mignon, and decadent chocolate for dessert. Fortunately, my flirtation with fainting earlier in the day hadn't affected my appetite.

As the coup de grace, we rented Madagascar 2 back in the hotel room, and laughed ourselves silly. Best movie of the entire trip!

We finally fell into an exhausted sleep around 10:00.

Next post: the horrors of modern travel, part deux....

11 April 2009

Vegas Vignettes: Day 4, Part 1

Have I mentioned that we really enjoyed our breakfasts at the Paris? This morning our waitress made us samples of their other champagne cocktail offerings: the kir royale (made with creme de cassis liqueur and champagne) and the chambourd cocktail (raspberry liqueur and champagne). Both totally yummy, both potent enough to make you want to sing happily through breakfast. Fortunately, I suppressed the urge. Heh.

After seeing it offered on the menu for the past three days, and unable to contain his curiosity, my husband finally ordered the bacon and chocolate waffle. I can see your foreheads crinkling in a WTF? expression from here. But trust me - the combination of sweet and salt, served with chocolate syrup and REAL whipped cream, was enough to have my husband moaning in an almost x-rated fashion. Then he shared a piece with me, and we moaned together. Oh. My. God. Unbelievably good. Didn't quite throw my quiche lorraine with its side of lovely greens into the shade, but almost.

Fortified by and still quasi-delirious from our breakfast, we started on the first leg of our "be a tourist" day. We took a cab to the Luxor, where we bought tickets to both the Titantic and Bodies exhibits. The Titanic exhibit was breathtaking. Everything, from their recreation of third class/steerage accomodations (complete with the sound and feel of the engines) to their recreation of the ship's grand staircase, was extremely well done. But what really took our breath away was the "Big Piece," a large piece of the Titanic's hull that has been recovered and preserved for posterity. Looking at that suspended chunk of metal, at the crushed glass still in the portholes, we were completely in awe of the force that tore it like a piece of paper from the rest of the hull.

Dodging the photo-sellers and the obligatory gift shop at the end (buy a real piece of coal salvaged from the Titanic!), we headed over to the Bodies exhibit next door. My husband, being a medical professional, wanted to see this most of all; it featured real cadavers, preserved by plasticization. Before we went in, he asked me over and over if I wanted to see this. Having sat through high school anatomy class, and having dissected icky things, I thought, "How hard can this be?"

I should have known better than to tempt karma....

Tune in next time for the unfortunate results of my hubris!

08 April 2009

Vegas Vignettes: Day 3

Another glorious day, another glorious breakfast at the Paris. Afterwards, my husband and I part ways so I can head back to the Bellagio salon to get my hair done.

I've worn my hair long (past shoulder length) for several years, and I was ready for a change. With the advice of my great colorist and very awesome stylist, I came away with an A-line cut (higher in the back than in the front) with long, shaped bangs. It looked *awesome*!

Sporting my kickin' new 'do, I then met up with my husband at the Baccarat bar, an open area just outside the baccarat room, and also a fabulous place to watch people. To my great amusement, my husband - a die-hard fan of Belgian ale - had discovered the lure of the chocolatini.

Yep, you read right - chocolatini. My buff, very manly husband was drinking (and enjoying very much) a "girly" drink. Considerably amused, I joined him for a similar libation, and we watched the world go by for another hour.

After we pried ourselves out of our seats, we went down to La Scarpa, a little shoe boutique that specializes in delicious designer shoes. A sign of the times - they were actually having a sale! Booya! Unlike the snobby sales clerks on the strip, who didn't deign to pay any attention to you unless you were obviously wealthy, the associate at La Scarpa was wonderful. My husband bought me a pair of L.A.M.B. sandals for my birthday, and I bought a pair of Luciano Padovan t-straps. Again, booya!

Following an early supper and a token stint at the slot machines (won $16 and promptly took my money and ran!), we went back to the room and watched Taken with Liam Neeson. Fun, if predictable and trite in places. Lots of shoot-em-up action, after which we collapsed gratefully into the pillow-topped king-size bed.

Watch this space for upcoming details on day 3, in which involves the Titanic, a baby leopard, and a near-fainting experience!

07 April 2009

Vegas Vignettes: Day 2, Part 2

After our lovely breakfast, my husband and I went next door to the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood to pick up tickets for a show we were to see that afternoon. After a while I had to leave to get back to the Bellagio salon, so hubby stayed to shop (gasp!).

Let me say this for the record: a good pedicure is like heaven on earth. I had the most wonderful manicurist, and she and I chatted away quite amiably while she pampered my feet, then my hands.

Polished and primped, I met up with my husband, and we went to see Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theater. Popovich, a fourth-generation Russian circus clown, has rescued dozens of pets (cats, dogs, ferrets, rats, and *geese*!) and trained them to perform in his act. Yes, even the cats! Very cute, very funny, and highly entertaining.

After the show, we ended up at P. F. Chang's for supper - more tasty adult beverages, plus potstickers!

Back at our room, as we were unwinding for the evening, we watched Quantum of Solace. Not bad, but not great. Weenie villain.

We finally collapsed around 9 p.m. local time (trying to readjust our body clocks), tired and happy. Viva Las Vegas!

03 April 2009

Vegas Vignettes: Day 2, Part 1

After a restful night's sleep, my husband and I got up and headed across the street to the Paris Hotel & Casino. We had learned during previous trips that the café in our own hotel was not so great for the first meal of the day, but the offerings at the Paris were very good, indeed. The sun was shining, and cool breezes played with our hair as we crossed the busy Strip in our quest for food.

In the past, we had gone to the Paris's generic little café, located in the heart of the hotel, but my sharp-eyed husband spotted people dining on the terrace at Mon Ami Gabi, a lovely little French bistro that until now had served only lunch and dinner. We found out that they were indeed open, and since we adored their food, we couldn't wait to see what they had in store for us for breakfast.

What we found: perfect scrambled eggs, generous portions of thick-cut bacon, mimosas, bellinis, crêpes as big as your head served with mountains of fresh fruit, pink grapefruit studded with blackberries and crystallized ginger, cafe-au-lait served French style (in a bowl)....

Yes, my husband and I are foodies, and this was absolute foodie heaven--and particularly welcome after our travel hell on the previous day. This meal alone was enough to make us practically weep with joy, and we vowed to come back every morning we were in Vegas to sample more of Mon Ami Gabi's culinary delights.

Thus fortified, we left the Paris to continue our day's adventures...which I will continue in another post. Seldom does a meal deserve its own spotlight, but this one did, and I didn't want its magnificence getting lost in the shuffle of the rest of the day.

Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures!

02 April 2009

Vegas Vignettes: Day 1 - Arrival

Yes, we got there. And that's about all the good I can say.

After waking up at the ungodly hour of 3 AM to catch our 6:30 flight, we drove to the a blizzard. Yes, Mother Nature had to go on the rag the day we left; the snow resembled wet concrete, roads not plowed, people meandering all over the three lanes. When we got inside the airport itself, we discovered that the airline queue is a gazillion miles long. It took us half an hour to get up to the counter, only to discovered that we'd been assigned separate seats for the second leg of our flight. Had to pay $30 a head to arrange to sit together. Then, they wanted $15 for each suitcase. Once we got on the plane, they told us we had to be de-iced. Unfortunately, they had only 1 de-icing truck. 1-1/2 very stuffy hours and two crying toddlers later, we finally departed.

We arrived at our stopover, hurried to our gate...and I realized I'd left my jacket back on the plane. I ran back to get it, cursing all the way and giving myself a blister in the process. Boarded the plane bound for Las Vegas - we're seated in an exit row - and I found myself crammed in the middle seat between my husband and an overflowingly humongous guy on the aisle. Great.

Three cramped hours later we arrived in Vegas - and we couldn't find the shuttle to transfer us to the hotel. We wandered around outside, dodging massive numbers of travelers (all of whom were towing massive amounts of luggage), fended off overeager barkers hawking limo services, and finally found out we had to go back inside the terminal, take the elevator to a *different* level, check in with the transfer service, and THEN get to our bus.

Once we got on the bus, our hotel is the first stop. Once inside the hotel, however, we discovered multiple lines of people checking in/out. We waited another half hour in line, being jostled at almost every step by numberous careless and arrogant Eurotrash, all to be checked in by a snippy receptionist. Keys in hand, we then dodged more Eurotrash, almost every one of them with dangling cigarettes in their hands, and head for the elevators. When we arrived at our floor, we discovered our room was at the far, far, far end.

By this point, both my husband and I were beyond cranky. All we wanted to do was unpack and get something to eat, both of which we did. I ate and drank waaaayyy too much (one of the hotel's signature cocktails is like liquid crack - I couldn't resist), but managed to stumble from the restaurant to the hotel's salon to make reservations to get pampered over the next couple of days.

Our evening consisted of slaloming through the still-growing crowds of tourists in the casino to reach the elevators, then a retreat into our room, where we crashed...HARD.

End of Day 1. Thankfully.

Stay tuned for Day 2!