…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Friday, December 29, 2006

who paints your world?

In the Amy Correia song “Stranded” there’s a rhyming couplet that tends to reverberate in my head for hours after I’ve heard it:

“This town is on the rocks
Looks like a painting by Hieronymous Bosch”

It conjures such an arresting image—choose from any among Bosch’s many visions of hell—and I know exactly what she means, succinctly and elegantly, in the lines that immediately follow:

“All the souls are tied up in knots
Sometimes I think I’m gonna drown”

Whenever I hear that song I’m jealous that I didn’t write it, but I guess I’ll eventually get over it.

The song makes me think about which artists best express the world as I see it. Sometimes Bosch’s soulscapes are all too familiar, on those days when my psyche can’t see past the ugliness and cruelty of life. Maybe that mindset is better expressed by this charming 15th-century ditty, The Fall of the Damned, by Dieric Bouts the Elder.

It isn’t always so dark in there, though the beacon that is Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light® hasn’t yet found an exploitable breach in my grey matter.

I think the world I live in is best expressed by Edward Hopper: blunt, stark, realistic landscapes marked by melancholy. Behold Eleven a.m.

When I look at a Hopper painting I feel a psychic camaraderie, and even if the artist himself rose from the grave to deny it, I’d swear he was a fellow traveler: My ability to pick depressives out of a crowd is spot-on. Though when pressed I’d probably admit that I don’t much believe in reincarnation, it’s worth noting that Hopper died only a few months before I was born.

All of this reminds me of the “people’s art” created by Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, who in the mid 1990s set out to create America’s most wanted and least wanted paintings—based entirely on market research surveys. Respondents were asked dozens of questions concerning what they most liked and disliked in art. The resulting “most wanted” piece is a bit busy but not completely embarrassing, being a richly colored landscape with some deer, a family, and—of course—George Washington. Still, I don’t see anyone I know hanging it above their couch.

So I’m wondering, people I know, which artist or artists color your world? Or whom would you commission if you had your choice?

Friday, December 22, 2006

walk, goddammit!


Does anyone bother to check this site anymore for updates? Am I whistling in the dark? Oh, wait, I'm supposed to be writing for myself, so it matters not whether anyone reads it. (Total, complete bullshit. Attention is oxygen.)

Will you please excuse Scout's absence if she tells you she's been in traction? Only for 20 minutes per week, but still, you know, she's shameless—anything to win back your love.

When last we talked my right leg had gone all pouty on me, acting out in response to my rude presumption that it would interminably take up the slack of its slower companion. (It hates being taken for granted—who knew?) The pain was such that I had taken to sleeping in my zero-gravity chair to displace stress from the pressure points.

Nothing has changed, except that I've gained a physical therapist. Her name is Eriny.

Eriny has theories about the origin of said pain. Of sciatica, bursitis of the hip, and piriformis syndrome, which bundles sciatica and bursitis into one convenient package, she's pretty sure it's the latter—which she notes is often caused by gait disorders, the fancy term for my drunken-sailor walk. At any rate, she needed to treat it from a couple of different angles to be certain.

I couldn't have been more delighted that first day I saw her—the morning of my 39th birthday—to hear her say the words “deep-tissue massage.” Free spa treatment! Happy birthday, me!

I knew what a deep-tissue massage felt like; I had, after all, paid $135 for one at the Mandalay Bay spa, more properly called “Spa Mandalay Bay,” in Las Vegas. And to think I would be getting one now for only a $15 copay! Oh, sure, Kaiser Permanente's Occupational and Physical Therapy Unit, perhaps more properly called “Unit OPT Kaiser Permanente,” lacks some of the fancy trappings of Spa Mandalay Bay: the preliminary relaxation session in the eucalyptus steam room, the ploofy robe, your choice of stink-pretty essential oils, indirect lighting faded just-so, soft plinky-plonky music, the clog-shod massage therapist seductively whispering, “How's that pressure for you?” But listen, for the $120 difference, I'll accept Kaiser's sheet-draped exam table in a beige room under fluorescent assault. And if Eriny doesn't exactly whisper in my ear, neither does she shout at me.

As it turns out, Spa Mandalay Bay's “deep-tissue massage” was just so much bullshit. Though it featured a tap more pressure than the Swedish massage to which I had treated myself during a previous trip to Vegas, overall it was a perfectly pleasant experience—as I suppose any spa treatment ought to be. Eriny's $15 job, on the other hand, amounted to outright abuse. Ho yeah, there were tears. I only just managed to keep from leaping off the table and running limping away.

So I was feeling a little cringy when I went back to see her for my next appointment. But once we agreed that there had been only slight, not profound, improvement, she said she wanted to try pelvic traction. It sounded intriguing, as do many medieval tortures, but mostly I was just pleased to duck out of my scheduled “massage.”

Eriny led me to a treatment room outfitted with an execution gurney. She harnessed my midsection in an institutional corset before I got horizontal, and once I was on the gurney she pulled my arms through another harness and buckled it around my chest, then she went about cinching all the straps until I was immobilized to her satisfaction.

Are you turned on? No, I wasn't either. There are few venues less sexy than a medical treatment room, especially when your bondage top is wearing a medallion with a full-color rendering of an agonized Jesus bleeding under his crown of thorns. Not. Sexy.

After 20 minutes of having my spine pulled like taffy by a machine exerting between 30 and 70 pounds of pressure in alternating 30-second intervals, a surprisingly not unpleasant experience, I was released from my bonds and given these parting words: “This is a long-term treatment, so don't expect any miracles overnight.”

Friend S. was throwing herself a 40th-birthday party the following day and had rented a roller rink. I had told her that I was having physical therapy the day before in hopes of being able to skate. I was kidding, of course. Anyone who's witnessed my walk of late, a highly adaptive drunken lurch, my legs only grudgingly responding to my brain's commands, would laugh at a mental image of me skating. But the following morning I felt less calcified than I have in months, and I remained loose the whole day.

Readers, I skated.

I didn't skate well, mind you, but that was much more a result of 20 years having passed since I last set wheeled-foot in a rink than any physical limitations. And just as S. promised, I felt like a teenager again, albeit with less self-consciousness. It was kind of a miracle—both the skating and the not caring whether anyone was watching or laughing at me.

I stiffened up about 36 hours later, but it was great while it lasted, and I figured, hey, maybe I could count on 48 hours of happy body—which would be two days more per week than I could hope for before—every time I had my spine yanked. And Eriny said it would only get better with further treatment! It will come as no surprise that I priced in-home pelvic traction kits through online medical suppliers. Because, you know, if 20 minutes of traction results in 48 hours of mobility, imagine what an hour would do…or a whole day!

As it turns out, there is no magic bullet (except the kind they put in sex toys to make them vibrate—or so I've heard). I've had four more traction sessions since, with none having yielded the 48-hour miracle of the first. In fact, with the second treatment I felt significant pain at my immobilization points for several days afterward. And this morning, my fourth treatment, I walked in all zippity-do-dah and walked out stiff.

Still, I remain hopeful, and I have a little theory of my own. You see, Eriny hasn't worn her bleeding Jesus medallion since that first treatment, and Jesus was way into healing the lame—even if neither he nor his biographers much cottoned to people-first language. And even Peter, just about the coolest apostle ever, got into the miracle racket, pointing at a random beggar and commanding, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” And the man obediently leapt to his feet and danced like a sideshow freak at a Christian circus. The Bible notes that this particular convert had been lame since birth, working his alms racket at that same location for 35 years, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. And if the ungrateful bastard wants to complain about his lot, may he meet the Philistine who's walked about her whole life in terribly uncomfortable strappy heels from Payless.

My point is that Eriny could wear the goddamn medallion again. I'd make a handsome vessel for a modern Christian miracle, and the Good News would not be lost on me. Really.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Jesus, you studmuffin. You don't look a day over 33!

(God, I hope that didn't seem overly solicitous. I'm being totally sincere.)