Friday, June 30, 2006

On the Eve of Moving In With the Human Chimney.

My father smokes easily two packs of cigarettes a day. But its okay, because all the "smoking may be hazardous to your health" stuff is really just a conspiracy that started when Jimmy Carter, the peanut-farmer-turned-Governor-turned-President, wanted to get back at the tobacco farmers in Georgia. I presume that large packs of tobacco were roaming over the plains of Georgia, grazing willy-nilly and destroying the peanuts' natural habitat. So when he was elected governor in 1971, he bribed the Surgeon General of the United States to start that nasty "tobacco causes cancer" rumor, all in cahoots with that pinko-commie, Lyndon Johnson. In fact, Dad's fond of saying, cigarettes have 32 (or sometimes 24, or sometimes 28) different chemicals that are known to have medicinal attributes -- the argument there being, I suppose, that smoking is actually good for you.

This was actually one of the conspiracy theories he used to spout before I began openly mocking him with pesky, conspiracy-busting facts. These would include the fact that the first warning label, which read, "Caution: smoking may be hazardous to your health," appeared on the side of cigarette boxes as early as 1966, and that the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was signed on January 2, 1971, nearly three weeks before Jimmy Carter took his gubenatorial oath of office. And it was signed by Richard M. Nixon (a conservative Republican, if I'm not very much mistaken).

He hasn't told the Jimmy Carter story in a while. I suppose that, when confronted with facts and dates, the theory was just kind of holey and laughable. But he still clings fervently to the notion that his 2-pack a day habit (aside from costing him $100 a week) doesn't hurt his health, nor the health of anyone else around him. Secondhand smoke, my father, the non-doctor, will tell you, is absolutely harmless to anyone not actually doing the smoking.

Guess its time to start mocking again.

So, now... again... for the umpteenth time... the Surgeon General has once more proclaimed that secondhand smoke kills. Period. It's like global warming. We can check the records for the last two hundred years. We can measure the polar ice caps. We can demarcate the water table levels for the last few thousand years, based on geological evidence to same. There is no doubt among people who aren't in a coma. The world is getting warmer. What's causing it, and how to fix it might be arguable, but the condition itself is not. And Fox News reporting to the contrary will not change those facts.

Likewise secondhand smoke. There is no more dispute that it kills, except amongst the soulless idiots that operate as "spokesmen" for the tobacco industry and otherwise intelligent, decent smokers, deeply in denial, who can't face the fact that their habit is killing the people around them, too. Smoking is the only addiction that has built-in "collateral damage" -- if my father were shooting up heroin, that would be bad, but I could escape physically unscathed. But smoking affects not only the smoker but everyone in the immediate vicinity. Blood consistency, pulmonary response, blood pressure -- all of these have been measured and found to be changed in nonsmokers exposed to secondhand, sidestream smoke.

If you smoke, and you would like to quit, now is as good a time as any. If you smoke, and you don't want to quit, have the decency to consider those around you whom you claim to love that do not smoke -- especially your children. If you do not smoke, but live with or around a smoker, take heed that you expose yourself as little as possible to their smoke.

Statistically, secondhand smokers (for that is what we are) are nearly as at risk to develop long-term pulmonary damage as primary smokers. Our rates of cancer and heart disease are much higher than non-exposed nonsmokers. And emphysema, which is nearly exclusively a "smoker's disease" is much more likely to show up among secondhand smokers.

So, yesterday, in honor of my lungs and my life (and my vocal chords, being that I'm a singer), I ordered two Ionic Breeze Quadras, which were for sale for half-price. Let's hope its enough to preserve my health while I'm living there, caring for him.

Because, with all due respect to President Clinton, sooner or later, a person just has to inhale.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Love and Shpilkes in the Big City

I am at the very brink of hysteria, as I move in four days, and my apartment looks like a bomb went off in a Goodwill Thrift Shop. I've only just now started evolving some kind of system for this process. The system involves lots of frenzied packing, a substantial amount of throwing away (Lordie, I hope I don't need any of that stuff later!), and more than a little shpilkes.

For those of you who speak absolutely no Yiddish, shpilkes is a word you must take to heart and file away. There really isn't an equivalent single word in English. Often, Yiddish-English dictionaries (such as Ariga's online "Glossary of Yiddish Expressions") describe it as "pins and needles," but I'm told by most of my friends that actually speak some Yiddish (and, yes, I have more than one -- fewer than ten, but more than one), that's not exactly accurate. "Pins and needles" implies more of an exhilerating suspense. There's something almost... I don't know... perky about "pins and needles." Shpilkes has, by definition, more inate dread than that. There's no "perky" in "shpilkes." Or probably in Yiddish in general, for that matter.

So, back to packing... and shpilkes... and how the two interact with one another. Because free-floating shpilkes makes me want to eat. All the time. Bad things, too... we're not talking raw spinach and arugula here. We're talking Haagen-Dazs and Hershey's. And Starbucks. Lots and lots of Starbucks. Which is fine, as long as you only have one a day. But careening from graduation preparation (see photo) to father care to MFA residency on wicked little sleep required the regulated bounce from Starbucks to Starbucks, replenishing my bodily stores of espresso to keep me going.
I think its been determined that one latte with syrup and regular milk is around 300 and some-odd calories. So. There ya go.

So, packing causes shpilkes, shpilkes causes eating, eating causes fat butt, which only makes the shpilkes worse, and.... Well, it's a vicous cycle. What more can I say? I'm so looking forward to it all being over and done. I'm not sure exactly what I'll be able to fit into those rooms I'm moving into. But I can say that they are clean, and freshly painted (for the most part) and smell a lot better than before. And I'll have my cats. So that's good. The kid has moved out, but that was inevitable, wasn't it? They turn 18, and then they leave, like little swallows.

I have to go and pack now. Shpilkes demands it. I'll let you guys know how it all comes out. In fact, I'll take photos and post them. Won't that be fun? Wouldn't you love that? I knew you would.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

No Major Life Changes Here

1. Walking for my BA diploma

2. Beginning the second semester of my MFA program

3. Moving from my apartment of 10 years into...

4. My father's house, so that I can care for his ailing self.

5. Attending my daughter's high school graduation.

Let's bow our heads in a moment of silence, shall we, for the person who invented Wellbutrin.

I shall be blogging very little over the next few weeks, as I have to prepare the space I'm going to be moving into, pack the one I'm moving out of, read and critique in preparation of the MFA genre workshop, attend my MFA residency lectures and readings, and, worst of all... because God truly, truly hates me... go shopping for a dress to wear to my commencement.

See you on the other side.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Commencement Address

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post is one of my favorite, favorite columnist. He was invited to give the commencement address at the University of Maryland School of Journalism, and he excerpted the address in his column last Sunday.

My favorite part:

"Objectivity is a good thing to strive for in journalism, but not at the expense of failing to confront the obvious. My own newspaper, for example, has written extensively about Vice President Cheney without once pointing out the self-evident fact that he is -- and I offer this as a trained professional observer -- Satan."

My second favorite part:

"You know that guy, Anderson Cooper, the CNN correspondent with the elegant white hair and the really sincere attitude who manages not only to report the news but also to feel the news resonate deep in his soul? Can't we put him in jail?"

It just doesn't get much better.

Tee hee.