Isn’t It A Little Early For This?

I thought nothing of it, to be honest.

Sunday morning came, I had fallen asleep on the couch, and I awoke to a bug bite on my right arm.  It made my arm a little numb, but perhaps it was just the way I had slept.

Off to a full day of yard work, laundry, domestic animal husbandry (plus house sitting), and chores.  There was a little lingering numbness that came and went, but I mostly ignored it.  It would’ve been completely out of mind were it not for another new sensation – losing a little feeling in my face, numbness in my cheek.  Not enough to bother me, though.  When you’re doing yard work in summer heat, who has time to notice the little aches and pains?  There’s this grass standing between me and a cold drink, damnit.  This field must be felled, and so it was.

And yet it was still there.  Only just noticeable, but present.  Without anything else to distract me on the drive home, I began to wonder.  Three decades’ worth of minor (and sometimes major) injuries offered no help in figuring out my body.  This was new.  I fired up the laptop upon returning to my apartment.  Searching the internet was no help; WebMD’s symptom checker was in a perpetual state of loading.  No matter.  Sleep it off.  Go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, and then start over again.  It’s funny how you can drive yourself insane.  I smiled at the mirror.

Only half of my face smiled back.

It wasn’t that my face had slumped, mind you.  But the right corner of my mouth refused to join the left.  I tried again.  And again.  Then I didn’t feel like smiling.

Alright, let’s think this through.  Have I always had a crooked smile?  I hadn’t ever really thought to look.  Photos?  There aren’t many, but I still have the old wedding album.  There’s a six-years younger version of me, but there really aren’t any front-on pictures close enough for me to be sure.  Damnit.

I never look at my face; my friends own that misfortune.  Composing myself, and feeling horrible for causing an interruption during a vacation, I text Toff (sobriquet, of course).

“Are you awake?”
–“What’s up?”
“I know this is dumb, but do I have a crooked smile?”
–“No, I wouldn’t call your smile crooked.  Why?”

I had never so hoped to be told that I had an asymmetrical face.  The numbness flared, while I tried to stay as normal as possible in my reply.  Is it time to panic here?  No.  Ring up the doctor on call.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and the friend of the family will be on deck for tonight.  No such luck, it turns out, but a doctor is a doctor.

–“What can I help you with tonight?”
“I’m sorry to bother you on a Sunday.  I have this numbness on my right side, in my arm and in my face, my right cheek.  When I smile, the right side doesn’t smile like the left.”
–“OK, what do you want from me?”
“Do you think I should make an appointment at your office tomorrow, or should I see someone tonight?”
–“I’d get that checked tonight.”

My latent panic awoke.  For fuck’s sake, what’s wrong with me?  I drive to the ER in a haze, recount my story three times over, and wait for a doctor.  Between the waiting room and my little cubicle amongst the injured and sick, I notice that I’m the only one here alone.  Everyone else has someone.  Wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.  Someone.

It’s easy to lose time in a hospital.  I think the doctor came in about an hour and a half later.  Perhaps two.  Maybe more.  No matter, I muster my calmest voice and recount the symptoms for the fourth time.  The doctor is young, maybe younger than me, but he listens attentively and has a calming demeanor.  He nods, mouths a few “OKs,” and then leaves for a few minutes.

Upon his return, I’m summoned to get on the bed.  This is really necessary?  The physical examination starts.  “Push down with both feet, push out with both hands, now push in.  Follow my finger with your eyes; puff out both cheeks.”  And so on.  I’ve seen this done before, but on people of an older vintage.  31 years old, and I’m getting a stroke test.  Isn’t it a little early for this?

He leaves, this time longer.  This is unnerving.  Did I flunk?  My smile may be crooked, but I thought both cheeks puffed out upon request.  I’m almost sure of it, so I try again.  Seems to work.  He returns.

“Alright, I’m confident this isn’t a stroke.”

I exhale.  Much louder than I intended to.

“There are a few things this could be.  Bell’s palsy, a pinched nerve.  It could be something completely benign.  I am going to have blood drawn to test you for Lyme, though, because we don’t know what bit your arm.”

It probably took another hour to have my blood taken, and to get my release papers.  I resolve to take the next day off of work.

The lab still hasn’t called back (I was told no news is good news; non-positive tests are low priority).  It’s still there.  The numbness occasionally flares in my arm.  My cheek feels like it’s two or three pounds heavier on my right side.  For now, I’m just happy to know that my mind won’t be taken from me.

As an update, today I was told I need an MRI, just to rule out all possibilities.  Not exactly the news I had hoped for.

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The ladies of summer, now gone.

Oh blog, how I have ignored thee.

To rectify that cold shoulder, I suppose I should start by mentioning an idea that was in the back of my head when I first decided to make Evil@Large.  For the past few years, it seems like I’ve found myself enjoying the company of women in music much more than men (psychoanalyze away; I know I have).  This summer should have, therefore, been fantastic for me.

Norah Jones kicked off the season with “Little Broken Hearts.”  A little over a month later, Regina Spektor delivered “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats.”  And as a finale of chanteuse surdosage, Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel…” brought her back to the masses, as crazy as ever.  I was ready to devour it all.

So why, as the first leaves are dying off, am I so disappointed?

Unreasonable expectations, perhaps.  Of the three, Spektor delivered the best music for my money.  The rest of “Cheap Seats” may not have buried itself in my ears like its lead single (“All the Rowboats”) did, but it wasn’t far off.  I admired Jones’ album, but half of it wasn’t for me.  Although, it must be said…between half of “Little Broken Hearts” and half of her previous album, “The Fall,” she’s made one absolutely badass breakup record.  It’s just a shame it’s diluted.

And Fiona?  Dear, I love you so, but this is the first album you’ve made that I haven’t been able to aurally absorb to outright bliss.  “The Idler Wheel…” has its moments, mind you.  Once “Left Alone” kicks in, with a piano that’s as much boogie-woogie funk as it is avant garde jazz?

Yeah.  Damn straight.  And those types of moments certainly exist in the latest music from Spektor and Jones, too.  They’ve just spoiled me so much in the past that my musical appetite is too voracious to satiate.  These three albums are all wonderful in their own right, when taken on their own.

Alas, I still feel…unfulfilled.  And Nataly Dawn went and delayed her album (“How I Knew Her”) until early next year.  You want to know how much that sucks?  We have to wait for more of this.

Double damn.

At least there’s Of Monsters and Men (with the amazing Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir), who have made me want to yell “Nordic rock, FUCK  YEAH!” from my car window to casual passerby.

Oh, and St. Vincent and David Byrne?  You’re up.

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Evolving Toward Sanity

So, this matters.

I’m not one for the touchy-feely aspect of politics (which, along with religion and the Great Pumpkin, make for the most dangerous subjects to discuss in polite company).  But today I have to make an exception, even if it did take a long time for Obama to “evolve” to being on the right side of history.

Two of my best friends, two of the people who mean the most to me, are a gay couple.  Before I grew close to them, I was of the type who rejected the whole 2004-era “gay marriage could ruin society by lesbians kidnapping your daughters and making them watch reruns of Xena”-thing out of general principle.  But principle doesn’t quite rile the same way as personal attachment (which is to say, loathe as I am to use the word, love).

Now?  It burns me to, for instance, read about North Carolina passing Amendment One.  It kills me that so many people can choose to be on the wrong side of history.  Literally.  North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) said the following before votes were cast: “It’s a generational issue. If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.”

So…let’s make a small minority of people miserable for the next 20 years while our bigoted views are still somewhat acceptable in this part of the country?  Class act, Speaker Tillis.

The President of the United States going on television the very next day to affirm his own belief that same-sex couples ought to be able to marry?  That matters.  It will not, of course, change any laws in and of itself; the president doesn’t get to wave a wand that will make Congress act.  But it shows people who just got told that their love isn’t worth recognizing that they do have friends in high places.  And it changes the dynamic of where this is at in our society.  In 2004, a constitutional ban on gay marriage was a wedge issue.  8 years later, and it’s now clear that one of the major political parties will no longer be running candidates for the highest office in the land who believe in treating its gay citizens different than its straight ones.

Look across the pond, and you’ll see the conservative British Tories have already arrived at the same place as the POTUS.  This is a generational shift, but now one that has reached the highest levels of government.  There is no turning back.

All politicians are, in general, cowards.  Our current president isn’t an exception on many issues.  But on this particular one?  This one is different.  Good job, Obama.  For today.

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Beginning at the end…

I don’t know you.  And you don’t know me.  It’s probably better to keep it that way.  I’m not here to write for you, but you’re free to listen in.

A few weeks ago, I turned 30.  To tell the truth, it didn’t bother me at the time.  I had a nice dinner with two friends, watched Space Balls at their place (“…only one man would dare to give me the raspberry…”) and got a call from my mom.  Not once did the thought cross my mind, “I’m old now.”  Not because I’m preternaturally youthful, mind you.  It’s mostly because my temperament has skewed older for most of my adult life.  Youthful indiscretions never really interested me.

But today, I feel old.  Old, old, old.  It’s not a muscle ache, a bad ankle or a lapse in short-term memory.  You see, I’m a musician.  Not professionally (although I’ve done that, too, for supplemental income), but it’s part of my identity at this point.  If you’ve ever really loved playing an instrument, it never leaves you (this will be a recurring focus of this blog).  And now I’ve officially reached the age where my musical influences are starting to die off.  Not of drug overdoses, which can happen at any age, but of the wear and tear of time and genetics.

Adam Yauch died, and he took my youth with him.

To clarify, I was never the world’s biggest Beastie Boys fan.  But they influenced me.  I listened to 90’s rap growing up, and I respected the music of the Biggies and Pacs of the world, but I only grokked the Beasties.  Listening to Dre or Snoop was like peering through a window into a world that I knew existed, but that I wasn’t able to understand.  I was too coddled to ever understand the realities of rough neighborhoods and gang violence.  I’m not saying the Beasties had it easy growing up (NYC isn’t all Manhattan skyline), but they rapped like loquacious scoundrels.  It made sense to me.

And now MCA is gone.  At the age of 47.  He didn’t even make his 48th birthday in the August to come.  That means when Ill Communication was released, and when “Sabotage” was tearing up the charts 18 years ago in 1994, MCA was 29.

I’m one year older now than he was then, and I’ve nothing to show for it.

That isn’t hyperbole.  I’m 30 and divorced, working a menial job I despise.  I’m now old enough to watch the soundtrack of my youth decay from existence, most likely due to a cancerous salivary gland.

I’ll miss the Beasties.  But right now, I’m more missing the years.

Instead of reaching for a rope, it’s probably best to shake this apathy that I’ve made my own.  Maybe this blog will be a first step.

Miss you, MCA.

…wait, that’s far too maudlin, isn’t it?  Thought so.

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