Inhuman Swill : November 2011

Rose bladder

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[Spoiler warning: Mildly squicky medical details within. The squeamish may not wish their appetites spoiled.]

I know you've all been waiting breathlessly to hear what's come of my possible kidney stone situation. I just saw my very booked-up urologist, and what he has to say boils down to: "We need to do more tests before we know what's going on."

He cautions me that there could be a myriad of reasons for hematuria (blood in the urine) and stinging urination. The blood (which, incidentally, I've only seen twice) could be coming from the kidneys, the bladder, the urethra, what have you. I need to start out by having an abdominal CT scan and a cystoscopy.

I've never had a CT scan, but I've had a cystoscopy one time before. It Is Not Fun. It involves having a camera shoved up your urethra and into your bladder. Yes, it's done with local anaesthesia, but you still feel it. The only good thing about it is, it couldn't be scheduled until January 18th.

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Yesterday I mentioned a pub in Brooklyn called Mooney's, which sadly no longer exists. It was on Flatbush Avenue near Park Place, right around the corner from the apartment where I lived from 1995 to 2001. My 30th birthday party there was a very memorable occasion, but thinking about Mooney's reminded me of another funny memory from that place.

It was June of either 1997 or 1998, I can't be sure which. I don't usually watch much sports, but I was still a relatively recent transplant from Utah and the Jazz were playing the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. I made a habit of slipping out to Mooney's to have a few beers and watch the games.

Mooney's was a great bar and always drew an eclectic clientele. I got to know a few of the other patrons over the course of the series, simply because they were curious about why I was cheering so loudly for Utah. I had been noticing one other patron in particular, who seemed to know a lot of other folks in the bar. He looked like an Orthodox Jew, with a white dress shirt, black pants, prayer fringe, skullcap, thick beard, and side curls. He always had a lit cigarette in one hand and a pint of beer in the other, and as he watched the games he was more vociferous and profane in his cheering than just about anyone else in the place. He looked to be about my age, and was the biggest bundle of contradictions I think I'd ever seen.

One night late in the series, I was sitting by myself at a high table opposite the bar when this fellow came weaving my way. "Hey," he said to me over the din, jabbing his cigarette at me. "I just heard from some people that you're a Mormon. From Utah."

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29

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So there's this meme going around on Facebook where you give someone an age and they write about their life that year. I was given 29.



29 ... 1996-1997. Probably one of my most transformative yet miserable years. It was my second year living in NYC, my second year out of the Mormon church, and everything about life in the city was exciting. I landed the job that year, at N2K Entertainment, that introduced me to some of the best friends of my life and set me on the path to success as a web developer. My desperate financial situation began to turn around. I was plowing like mad through books on Mormon history, gaining the foundation I needed to eventually write my memoir, and gaining as reputation as one of the angriest and most outspoken ex-Mormons on the web. But I was also living in Brooklyn with a sociopathic girlfriend who gave me none of the support I needed to get any writing done. That should have been the year I threw her out, but I was still insecure enough to think I wasn't going to be able to make it in New York on my own. The end of that year, my 30th birthday party at Mooney's Pub on Flatbush, was one of the best nights of my life that far, mostly because it showed me how many friends I'd made that year. You were there, and you, and you, and you. And you too!

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Laura: [waving across street] Hi, Russ!

Russ: [waving] Hi! How's Ella?

Laura: Great! Where's Marty?

Russ: With his other dad. Gay joint custody! Yay!

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My town, kinda, Chicago is

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Laura and I were in San Diego a coupla three weeks ago for the World Fantasy Convention. (Yes, it was awesome to see you there too!) When we arrived, she was immediately captivated by the natural beauty of the area, and by the weather. "Ooooh, do you think they have a good business community here?" she asked. "Maybe we can move here."

You have to understand that neither of us is entirely sold on Chicago, still, though it's hard to pin down a precise source of dissatisfaction. We moved here four years ago from New York City. Laura got a great job right off the bat, and recently she started an even better one. We have a great apartment. And, I host a monthly reading series at a nearby bar, which means I meet a lot of local writers.

True, we've been slow to make close friends here, and our close-friend roster is still weighted heavily with New Yorkers, but that's starting to come along. For a while it was the case that we would make a very close friend here and then they would move out of Chicago, very far away, but that trend seems to be reversing. Now people we know are moving to Chicago, which is an encouraging development. And Worldcon is here next year!

Nevertheless, there's some undefinable thing that still nags at us, so I said to Laura, "You should talk to [info]gregvaneekhout this weekend and see what he thinks of living in San Diego."

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Dead on wheels

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For a while there, AMC was a network that could do no wrong when it came to original scripted series. First there was Mad Men. (I don't watch it, but people I respect love it.) Then came Breaking Bad (which just closed out a stellar fourth season and is still my favorite show on television). And then there was Rubicon, a slow-building but hypnotic show about the lives of intelligence analysts that crescendoed into one of the most gripping shows of 2010. I was devastated when it wasn't renewed for a second season.

But AMC is losing me with its new crop of programs. The Walking Dead started out okay, but this second season is testing my patience. For a show that has the word "Walking" in its title, there sure doesn't seem to be any sense of forward momentum. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that I'm sick to death of everybody being stuck at the damn farmhouse. It's more like The Walking-in-Circles Dead. Yes, I'm sure we're building to something, but is it too much to ask that the characters exhibit some personality in the meantime, or that the pacing doesn't flag like a sailing ship in the doldrums? The show only comes alive anymore when there are dead people on the screen, and that doesn't happen nearly enough. Frank Darabont's episodes last year had their problems, but he is nonetheless sorely missed. The zombie apocalypse should be more exciting than this.

And AMC's newest show, Hell on Wheels, isn't exactly bowling me over yet. The characters on this please-call-us-gritty western at least have the advantage of being far more colorful than any on The Walking Dead, but I haven't yet gotten the sense of much humanity beneath the surface of any of them. There's something a bit remote about the acting. I feel a great distance between myself and most of the characters. Colm Meaney is the exception, but his railroad baron is so over-the-top that I really can't buy him, especially in the way that he cheerfully explains his evil plans to anyone who will listen. If you're going to have such a loquacious villain, it helps to fill his mouth with great dialog, like Ian McShane's on Deadwood. But no one on Hell on Wheels, cast or crew, is operating at that level. Not that that would matter if they didn't seem to be cribbing everything down to the seams and themes from David Milch. This show literally looks like a low-rent traveling production of Deadwood. But maybe they'll find their way. (I really hope they give Common something more interesting to do than just look angry.)

Anyway, AMC used to get the automatic benefit of the doubt from me, but those are days gone bye.

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Fat cat robber baron
I'm not usually home when our dogwalker comes to take Ella out at midday, but yesterday I was. Once a day, Ella gets a treat called an Oinkie, which is basically tube of a smoked pig skin wrapped around a sweet potato center. Because of how they look, Laura and I call them Ella's "cigars."

Anyway, I was working in the study yesterday afternoon when I heard Paul opening the back door. Ella heard him too, of course, and came trotting into my office with her cigar in her mouth. She stopped by my chair, looked up at me, and set the cigar carefully down on the floor. Then she looked up at me again and scooted out the door to greet Paul. The implication was clear: Will you please watch my treat while I'm gone?

Or, as Laura put it in a text message when I told her what had happened: You are the keeper of her most precious items!!!

It's eerie how clearly Ella sometimes manages to communicate her intentions. It's obvious what she wants when she brings a tennis ball to one of us and wags her tail, but some more complex messages are just as easy to parse. Early one morning a couple of weeks ago, Ella came to find me in the study once again. She stood looking up at me and wagging her tail until I took notice of her, then turned and trotted to the door. She looked back. Okay, she wanted me to follow her, so I did.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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