Words to Live By

I subscribe to daily quotes from Inspiration Peak, because they always seem to send the right words at the right time. Considering the recent fires around here that have stolen homes from thousands of people, I thought today’s quote was perfect:

Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world. The forms may change, yet the essence remains the same. Every wonderful sight will vanish; every sweet word will fade, But do not be disheartened, The source they come from is eternal, growing, Branching out, giving new life and new joy. Why do you weep? The source is within you And this whole world is springing up from it. – Jelaluddin Rumi 13th Century Persian Poet

On a similar note, last week Tom and I were walking past our favorite restaurant, Jyoti Bihanga, and there was this note taped to the door:

It made us very sad, and not just because we wouldn’t be eating vegetarian meatloaf for a whole week. Sri Chinmoy seemed, well, like a super guy, full of love and compassion and great recipe ideas. His followers make really, really good food.

It is sad that he “passed behind the curtain of Eternity,” but the sari-clad servers at Jyoti Bihanga need not be disheartened – he merely went back to the “eternal, growing source from which the whole world springs.”

When everything seems lost, I will try to remember that.

Switchyard News

This blog was supposed to be an extension of Switchyard music news, but music has been so far off of my radar that I forgot. Well, rejoice, my three fans, because I have news.

The first item is an interview I did with Short End Magazine. Interviews make me almost as nervous as performing live. I did this one over the phone, while sitting in my car, and I babbled breathlessly for what seemed like eternity. I was happy that she was able to make me sound coherent. You can read it here.

The next item is that the video for Salt of the Sea will be featured as Paste Magazine’s video of the day. This is very exciting to me, because Paste Magazine is sold at my local Henry’s, and it’s cooler than Rolling Stone.

These are both thanks to Our Stage, a music site that lets people vote for their favorite music. Salt of the Sea won the jazz competition for the month of September, and I got $100 and a tshirt! Yay! They also hooked me up with all this other stuff. Lucky for me I am agoraphobic, which frees me up to do things like enter online contests. To hell with touring! The internet is All Powerful!


David Lynch meets Gucci?

I didn't know David Lynch made commercials. But apparently he does:

I don't get it. Am I missing something here? If silly and uninspired is the new dark and unsettling, then my hero has gone and done it again.

(found at notcot)

Back from the grave and ready to party!

It is 4am, and I am lying on the cool, marble floor of a hotel bathroom in Reno. I am clutching my stomach, thinking that now is the worst possible time to get sick. The pain, just under my ribs, is unbearable. I can’t figure out what’s causing it. If I was vomiting or had the shits, it would be easier. At least I’d know the end result of my stomachache. But this is a different kind of pain – a blunt, gripping stab that hovers right in the center of my body.

My best friend is asleep in the next room, unaware of my situation. My hand is claw-like at my belly. I start breathing hard, Lamaze-style, hoping that it will get me through this mystery contraction.

The pain lingers for about 20 minutes then fades away, and I’m exhausted. I crawl between the cool white hotel sheets and fall asleep.

An hour later I am awake again, my stomach wracked with painful spasms. I get up and go back to the bathroom, where I can make hyperventilating noises without waking up my friend. This totally sucks.

And if that isn’t bad enough, lately I have been suffering from a case of hives that makes poison ivy seem like fun. My flesh, as of late, is a hot, burning mass of itch that will not go away. My body has become a map of every place I’ve been touched in the last 10 minutes, because I have what is called “dermographism”. My doctor tests me for this by lightly dragging a pen in a crisscross pattern over the inside of my arm. A second later, giant, red welts appear where the pen has been.

“Your immune system is very angry right now,” my doctor said. Apparently, I was allergic to something. My immune system wasn’t just angry; it was murderous.

My skin was being invaded by a circus of traveling hives that relocated every 5 minutes to a different part of my body. First, it would be the back of my head. It began with a tingling heat that would explode into a blazing fire and an unrelenting itch that was impossible to ignore. I would scrape my nails over the area again and again, experiencing the illusion of relief, while it got worse with every scratch. Then, just when I thought the episode had passed, it would spread to my ears, and then inside my ears. Then it would migrate to my arms, my ass, the bottoms of my feet, the palms of my hands. And so on. This itch would haunt me all day until I took an antihistamine, which only made the hives calm down a bit.

So there I was, in a nice hotel in Reno, on the bathroom floor. I didn’t want to wake up Gina, who brought me there on a gambling adventure. It was my ambition to win a few extra dollars to get me through my many months of unemployment. Gina, the gambling professional, was to be my blackjack coach.

Despite having grown up in Las Vegas, I never once sat at a blackjack table. When I was a kid, being on the “floor” or anywhere near those half moon, green-felted tables, was strictly prohibited. So the feeling of the table being “forbidden” is permanently ingrained in my mind. When I sat down to play for the first time and picked up the cards, my hands visibly trembled.

Gina preferred to “work” during the small morning hours, and I wasn’t used to being awake at 2am. There I sat for two days, nervous, exhausted and itching, the pain in my stomach coming and going. At one point during this trip, Gina looked at me and said, “When did you get so fragile?” Yeah, when did I?

Despite all that, the trip was a success. With Gina’s help, I won enough money to buy groceries, pay bills and impress my boyfriend. When I finally got home, I took a few extra benadryls and crawled into bed.

Stomach pain. It woke me up like an evil alarm clock. The cramping was worse than ever, and the hives were still raging their hot, angry tour of my body. I sat up, the room warm and bright with the afternoon sun, and clutched my gut. It was at that moment that I made the correlation between my stomach pain and the benadryl. I had taken a lot of them.

Irony of ironies, I am allergic to allergy medicine.

Over the course of the next year, I saw three doctors and took a lot of pills. I sampled every variety of antihistamine until I found one that didn’t hurt my stomach. I spent a lot of days in bed, dopey with medication and scratching myself. The hives took up residence with me for almost a year and a half. That was two years ago.

I had many suspicions about what was causing them – wheat, sugar, my boyfriend – but their origin remained a mystery, until now.

About three weeks ago, I got a bladder infection – the result of dehydration and excessive sexual activity. I went to urgent care, where I was prescribed Macrobid, an antibiotic. A week after finishing my prescription, I had a familiar sensation. And then, oh, hello hives.

That first episode had also followed a prescription for a bladder infection. Newsflash - I am allergic to antibiotics. I don’t know why it took my body more than a year to recover, but there are worse things. Like the plague, or cancer.

For six blissful months I did not itch. The offending eruptions receded into obscurity and vanished, I thought, forever.

But now they are back.

When I was a teenager, I had a movie poster in my room for The Return of the Living Dead, featuring several green and mangled zombie punk rockers. The tagline warned, “They’re back from the grave and ready to party!”

Imagine that, only instead of zombies, picture my flesh – red and welted with a mob of reborn hives that are all too ecstatic to have found their host again.

It’s funny (but not ‘ha, ha’ funny) how you take your health for granted when you’ve known nothing but health. My father always says, when somebody complains about something, “At least you’ve got your health!” I thought this was just a catchy phrase that old people used to make you feel guilty about their arthritis. But now I understand, and I cherish the days when I feel good.

The allergic reaction was worse this time around, as was the accompanying drug-induced stomach spasms. This time, as a last resort, I was given steroids. First, an oral dose that made me ravenous. One dose made me so hungry that my stomach could not even register food. It sent a constant message to my brain that I was starving, and that I would die if not stuffed endlessly with starchy carbohydrates. I gained 5 pounds in two days and threw the rest of the pills out.

Finally, I was given a shot of cortisone. That was 5 days ago, and it has given me a lot of relief. I’m still itchy and dopey (famous as the two dwarfs who also suffered from allergies), but better.

One of the worst things to do when you have any ailment is to go online and read about your ailment. You are guaranteed to find a handful of horror stories from people who had your symptoms exactly, or took the same prescription drugs, and ended up gaining 600 pounds, or losing their hair, or growing another arm.

According to my research on “chronic urticaria” – better known as “itchy welts that won’t go away” – I could potentially be hive-ridden for many more years, possibly the rest of my life. There is no more frustrated group of individuals than the ones who share this condition with me, and I’m a little worried.

But I vowed to myself that this time I would not take it lying down. I will see a healer, get hypnotherapy, or consult a shaman. Yesterday I saw an acupuncturist.

I have two words to describe acupuncture: weird and boring. Weird, because, come on, they stick you with little pins. And boring because then they leave you lying on a table with these little pins for 30 minutes while you stare at the carpet and listen to a CD of birds chirping.

But let me tell you what, if my “urticaria” disappears within the next 24 hours, I will become a crusader for acupuncture.

In the meantime, I will slather myself in cortisone cream and visualize the hives/zombies returning to their graves, done with partying and ready to move on to the next world.


Cooper Listens to Jesus

In lieu of buying a fancy camera (a Nikon D70, to be precise) I am experimenting with Photoshop. I don’t know that Photoshop editing can replace having a really nice camera, but there is still plenty of cool stuff you can do to a regular old photo. Here is my first serious attempt at photo editing. I call it, “Cooper listens to Jesus.”

Mostly I just bumped up the colors and added subtle lighting effects. I was inspired by my favorite blogger, Dooce, who posts an amazing photo of her dog every day. While my dog can not balance a pumpkin on her nose, like Chuck can, she is still a fine looking animal, and you can expect to see more of her in the future. In the meantime, if anyone has any great Photoshop tricks, I'd love to hear about them.