6 Months in New York!

 

Baby’s First Blizzard 

 Six Months! It looks like we’ve survived our first winter, and even though this was a notably mild one, I’m still puzzled by the dire warnings we got from family and friends before we moved. And I have to admit I was pretty terrified going into this – mainly because I’ve never owned a real coat in my life and had no idea, like, how they work. But, seriously, everyone made it sound as if no one ever lived through a snow storm. Like at the first sign of “bitter” cold anyone in their right mind would go running back to Cali. And to that I have to say, WHY DIDN’T YOU PEOPLE WARN ME ABOUT SUMMER?! Winter is adorable and cozy and magical and wonderful, and summer is the veritable armpit-soaked trench of human existence. 

Blizzard Sunset, Maria Hernandez Park 1/24/16

Anyway, 6 months in, and I’m totally in love, which sounds like a cliche and doesn’t even come close to describing how deeply “at home” I feel. And of course it’s not just the city – it’s our friends, and my job, and our apartment and our neighborhood, and above all: it’s that we’re in this together, me and Autobono. One of these days I’ll get around to writing about the move itself, but for now I really needed to bang out a quick catch up post, just to break the ice, and remember what it feels like to transfer the words in my head to the page after such a long break (spoiler alert: it’s weird).

More soon, but in the meantime, pics!

Williamsburg Bridge at sunset 3/18/16

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ISIS Helped Me Quit Smoking

H. A. Eugene

From the Medium article “Why I Joined ISIS”, which quotes a Twitter DM from an ISIS fighter:

It took time for ISIS until they implemented the law, but after having lectures about it and so on, there is no objection — with exception to those who smoke. It’s a little hard for them to suddenly quit smoking. But ISIS have been very good at helping them quit. —Abu Bakr al-Janabi

Smoking is a very difficult habit to break. I should know. I tried to quit twice. The physical symptoms, the self-recrimination you’ll feel at the first sign that you may not be as resolute as you previously thought, the childlike helplessness, the weakness of will…wait a minute…weren’t we talking about ISIS? Violent extremists?

Eric Hoffer’s terrific 1951 book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements describes the extremist persona well. If memory serves (I read the book many years ago), this…

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Writers of Color: Your voice matters

My new hero!

Vanessa Martir's Blog

Dr. Miranda Bailey, a black, genius general surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy speaks in a loose language that sounds like home—“I can’t be…” and “gonna.” She’s fierce, will read you in a heartbeat and always has the best intentions. She’s hardcore and reminds me of me in many ways. She’s the chief resident, dubbed the chief surgeon’s “work husband,” she plays a prominent position in the hospital, and yes, I know this is a drama and not real life and just a show, but it’s important to have these models in pop culture. Why? Because such characters demonstrate that you can be your full self and succeed; you don’t have to adopt the voice and language of white America to make it.

Voice.

If you know me and have worked with me, you know that I stress that a writer work on finding his or her voice. Why? Voice is perhaps…

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Crohn’s “Cured” by Pot?

Crohn’s “Cured” by Pot?

This article claims that 5 of 11 test subjects were cured of intractable Crohn’s disease by smoking pot every day for 2 months. 

If I try this, will I have to change my name to The Dalai Lion? 😉

But seriously, I wonder if this was a large enough sample, and if there were other factors in these people’s recovery. It’s interesting though, to hear that people are actively trying to research alternative treatments for folks who don’t respond to the usual drugs. 

Also, did these people have to go to work and function or were they just sitting around smoking grass for 2 months? Big burning questions here.

I’m curious what other Crohn’s patients think!

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove

ImageI’m reading Karen Russell’s new collection of short stories and so far this one is hitting me right where I like it. “Reeling for the Empire”, a story about young women in Japan during the Meiji empire who are conscripted to spin silk in a factory and find themselves permanently altered by the commitment, stands out as a potent example of why I fell in love with this collection so quickly.

The story touches on all my sweet spots- magical fantasy, introspective and fascinating female protagonists, and my favorite pet fascination with Russell in particular – the female protagonist who believes herself to be the agent of her own undoing. Russell has written this type of character before in Swamplandia and in St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, a character who is struggling to understand the cause of her great transformative trauma, and to devise a way to transcend it. The meditation on regret in this iteration is especially captivating, and the narrator distills her understanding of it beautifully when she explains “Regret is a pilgrimage back to the place where I was free to choose.”  How lovely and apt to think of regret, or any internal processing of memory or imagination as a journey, and especially to view the kind that you must repeat and revisit as pilgrimages. For gems like this it’s been a joy to watch the author develop over time, and as with all my favorite authors I derive as much pleasure watching them negotiate and construct recurring themes over the course of their careers. In this way, Russell joins the likes of Elissa Schappell, Don Delillo, and Jonathan Lethem, contemporary authors whose new works will always have a spot reserved on my “To Read” shelf.

20 Best Rock Clubs in America

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Rolling Stone has posted a list of the 20 Best Rock Clubs in America.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked for 10 years (collectively) at the Troubadour & the Great American Musical Hall, and they’re both in the top 10! I personally think they’re some of the best rock clubs in the country, but it’s always a thrill to see them honored this way.

Check out the full list!

You Could Find Me In the (Autoimmune) Club, Bottle Full of Bud

I always sort of knew I might develop an autoimmune disease at some point. The women in my family are riddled with them, and they get them fast and hard. My mom died of lupus 3 weeks after her 52nd birthday. My grandmother developed rheumatoid arthritis in her mid thirties and was wheelchair bound for most of her life thereafter. All of my aunts and many of my cousins have some form of thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or some combination of them. So I had a good sense that something might come up for me eventually. I got tested every few years for lupus and R.A. and all my tests were good – my blood pressure is low, cholesterol too, my diet’s clean, I’m physically active, no joint pain and I could run three or four miles without passing out, so I thought I still had a long way to go before I developed problems. But, like I say, everything happens, especially change.

About a year ago I started having digestive problems. It came on slowly at first, just discomfort after eating, but more and more I started noticing that food, in general, was making me sick. As my symptoms got worse, I tried various elimination diets, trying to identify what was causing so much grief – gluten? dairy? alcohol? caffeine? sugar? But no matter what I took out or put into my diet, I kept getting sicker… and sicker. I got to a point where food wouldn’t stay in my body long enough to digest anything. I was bloated, and pale, and in so much pain that I basically trembled constantly, and I’d gotten so used to it that I didn’t even notice I was going through my life like a beat-down robot. Then my boyfriend and one of my best friends teamed up and made me finally go to the doctor. It took about 6 weeks of increasingly unpleasant tests for the doctor’s to identify what I have as Crohn’s disease and confirm that yes, in fact it was all food that was making me sick, or rather it was my immune system that was making me sick in such a way that no food could possibly feel good. Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease where your body sends too many white blood cells to parts of your digestive system causing inflammation, ulcers and erosion of various membranes, so that when you eat, it’s kinda like shoving food into an open wound. When I saw the scopes of my insides it looked like I’d been eating shards of glass and battery acid for days.

Then, just as my doctor was coming up with a treatment plan,, my immune system continued to get hopped up like a college girl on Cuervo and sugar-free GoGirl, and got all ratchet on the hardware in my (formerly broken) leg. After almost six months of steady healing, my leg started doing a historical reenactment of what it looked and felt like when it was first broken (swollen to twice its normal size, impossible to put any weight on it.) And it kept getting worse! Red, blotchy, firey hot, it looked like I had dunked my leg from the knee down in boiling water, I assumed I had reinjured it, but when I mentioned it to my trusty GI doctor, she identified it as an extension of the Crohn’s disease. So now we know that what’s going on is a more general inflammatory condition and whenever my body feels stress, it starts ramping up and goes off to fight The Great War somewhere in my body, and if there’s no war to fight, it damn sure starts one.At least now we have a diagnois(ish) and a plan.

Knowing that autoimmune disease is triggered and aggravated by stress, it made perfect sense that this had started when it did, 6 months after I was run over by a motorcycle, amid all the stress of balancing an intense physical therapy schedule, full-time work, a 10 mile commute on public transportation on crutches, fighting daily with hospital accountants and my insurance company, and learning that my boyfriend and I were on our own because the dirtbag who ran me over had no insurance. Stress-wise, I was fully primed for my immune system to overreact.The good news about that, from my perspective, is that because it responds so dramatically to stress, it’ll probably respond well to stress-reduction.

So while we convince my white blood cells to go home and sleep it off, I’m on steroids, anti-inflammatories and a super limited diet of basically white starchy food and meat. I’ll write more about the details of the diet and the creative solutions my boyfriend and I are coming up with to accommodate the new restrictions and challenges. If you have a similar situation, or a blog with recipes or tips, please feel free to share them! (and good luck with your healing!)