Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Buddhist Blogs About Muslims on a Pagan Holiday.

Playing in the background: Game 3 of the Series. Go Philly!

The first Muslim I ever met was a young woman at a hotel where I was working in college. It was a horrible job--making beds, scrubbing floors, cleaning up after the BYU basketball team (don't ask) after a tournament, stuff like that. She was a Western woman, grew up somewhere in Wisconsin, married a Muslim and decided to convert - not because he asked her to, although he did, but because she decided it would be easier on the kids to just have one religion in the house. I kind of beg to differ on that point - I think kids do better if they're exposed to lots of different religions - but hey, it wasn't my house and they weren't my kids. Anyway, she was nice. Shockingly normal. The only time I remember her religion coming up was that one day she got a hole in the knee of her pants (which she wore under her cute little regulation maid's dress) and insisted on going home to change, unlike moi who would have just shrugged and kept working.

The second Muslim I ever met was the accountant in a library office where I worked. He was from India. He was Muslim but his wife's people were Hindu so he also practiced the Hindu traditions, about which he said some Muslims have a problem, but no Hindus did (this doesn't surprise me; Hindus have about 3 million gods, and I have no idea how they keep them all straight.) Once I heard him talking to his wife on the phone in one of the 3 million languages they speak in India (one per god?) and he suddenly switched to Arabic halfway through the conversation. I turned my head because the transition from round vowels and consonants to sharp pointy Arabic was obvious even to moi, a rather unschooled (at this point) child of the world. When he got off the phone I asked him what all that was about and he said that there were some things it was simply not appropriate to discuss in certain languages. Serious eyebrow raise over that. Once I asked him once which religion he preferred and he said, "All roads lead to downtown Phoenix." I still remember that fondly because I've always thought the idea of an eternal paradise is basically incompatible with human nature, and if we go to downtown Phoenix when we die, it would make a lot more sense to me. If you're good, you can go to the ballpark. If you're really bad, you have to go to the kids' science museum.

The third Muslim I ever met was at a job I took in 2005 to help out Katrina survivors. She was from I think Qatar (might have been Kuwait; I remember a hard sound at the beginning - I suck at memorizing countries of the world). She invited me to mosque and I was actually on the verge of accepting before I weaseled out. She got after me as to why and I sheepishly admitted that the Muslims would never take me. She found this concept shocking and asked why. I finally told her I was a lesbian. After a couple of long blinks, she said, "Oh, that's no problem. In my country, both of you just marry same husband. No problem." I was kind of surprised because I'd been given to understand that Muslims were pretty strict about homosexual behavior. She laughed and said, "Well, if you were boys, big problem! But two girls, no problem."

I dunno why I'm bringing this up except that I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I hang out at Afrah! a lot (best pita bread EVER) and I was just thinking the other day, "If I'd been born in a Muslim household, would I be a good Muslim?" I think the answer is probably, if my third friend was right and I didn't live in Saudi Arabia. Way too conservative for me there. But then, I grew up in a Christian household and somehow still ended up being a Buddhist so what does that prove? You can be a Buddhist and a Christian at the same time (don't tell some of the Christians that though; they might not like it) so I imagine you could also be a Buddhist and a Muslim at the same time (probably same issue as with the Christians) but the Buddhists would not care if you were gay, straight, Lebanese, Sikh, Hindu or anything else. We'll pretty much take anybody who wants to let go of greed, anger and ignorance and cultivate peace, love and understanding. That doesn't make us the going faith, though. Just one among many. I'm a pretty good Buddhist when I'm not a bad one.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm Sick and It's Baseball

Playing in the background: Angels vs. Yankees, game 6. Go Angels!

Has anybody but me and Joan and Neil Degrasse Tyson noticed that The Los Angeles Angels translates as The The Angels Angels? Well, I guess nobody minds. Unbelievably, the Angels have made it to game 6 of the league champeenships, and for the first time in recent memory I'm actually watching baseball. Watching baseball on TV is kind of like watching golf, only faster and most of the fans aren't as well dressed. Baseball is a quintessentially American/Japanese/Latino/Carribean experience that just can't properly be experienced on the other side of a television camera. But, frankly, this is such a good series that it's almost worth it. I mean, the Angels? Hello? That's just too weird. And against the Yankees, no less. Damn Yankees. Oh, wait, that's a musical. I hate musicals. Go go boys boys!

I'm also sick, which is the other reason I'm watching baseball. When all you feel like doing is lying on the couch, baseball makes a nice distraction. Honestly, I haven't been sick since - well, probably two years anyway. Which is kind of a record. I used to clock in with a sinus infection about every six months, owing to my peculiar facial geography (one set of sinii unformed, another set deformed - surgery in 1997 to correct but I still Have Issues.) Maybe the last cold snap blew in some kind of allergen that got caught up my schnoz. I dunno, but I'm sick and it's baseball and the only thing I have better to do is finish the book (I'm on about the last chapter, with maybe some fine-tuning to go). One should not, however, write while feverish. Or while out of it, because I'm not technically feverish. One can, however, watch baseball. Which means that I've come full circle on that one.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Big Bad Buddhist Bipolar Books o' the Decade

Meters swum today: 1400
Playing in the background: The ceiling fan

Probably most of us have wondered what we'd do if we were presented with the news that we had a serious illness. By "serious" most of us probably mean "fatal" but it doesn't need to be. Even if somebody hands you news that you have, say, diabetes or Parkinson's or some other massive systemwide malfunction, you will probably spend some time contemplating What This All Means and then decide what to do. Ie, if I found out I needed a septuple bypass and I was 82 years old, as recently happened to a family member of my shponsor, would I have the surgery or not? There's a number of factors to be taken into consideration. How comfortable am I now? If I drop dead, will it be sudden or lingering and painful? What's this surgery like? How's the recovery? What will my life be like afterward? In the case of the septuple bypass I might have Just Said No to the surgery. Ann's dad ended up having the surgery, though, and he's doing very well. Better than before, in fact. You never know how some of these things are going to turn out.

Which is kind of what happened when somebody handed me the news that I might have bipolar disorder, recently confirmed and now being medicated. So what did I do? I went skydivin', I went Rocky Mountain climbin', I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu...

Well, actually I went to a Buddhist meditation retreat, which was maybe the strangest choice ever. Try being on a manic tear and meditating sometime. I hopped into the church bound bound bound bound bound like one of those boings that we have out in the garden (see previous post), threw myself onto a cushion, apologized to everybody in advance for being obnoxious, and then attempted to sit still for the next roughly eight hours. Yeah. That was interesting. Must have been so for my fellow retreatants, too, saintly folks all.

I also did what anybody with a librarian in the household is bound to end up doing; read books. Lots and lots of books. Joan is my book pimp; anything I want, she can get it, from the latest NYT bestseller to an obscure text about the perfection of wisdom. Course, I sometimes have to wait a while, being as the library has wait lists for a lot of popular stuff (budget cuts, ya know.) But I've got four different books on bipolar disorder, and two of 'em have made my Books o'the Decade list already.

The first one is Bipolar Disorder for Dummies. You gotta love the title. If you're not medically inclined but you need to know how not to go completely insane, this is a great place to start. Any of the Dummies books are automatically fantastic (pretty sure I also have Container Gardening for Dummies, Lawn Care for Dummies and Buddhism for Dummies. No, I am not kidding about that last one.) This is also a great reference for family members or friends who have to live with you. Let's face it; bipolar disorder = not easy to live with. You never know which of your two or three roomies you're going to encounter on any given day. In fact, I'm sending a copy of this to my parents, also saintly folks, who are hosting me and Joan for four days in November.

The second one is New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder. (Sorry for lack of graphic but I seem to be having Issues this morning.) This one is a little more medically technical, but it's full of cool stuff about how the brain works, how it doesn't if you have this thing, and even has a couple of brain scans so you can actually see what's going on. Plus a lot of stuff about hope, optimism, the power of positive thinking and a whole long chapter about the different new kinds of psychotherapy, which is an essential part of treatment (and also one I haven't started yet) along with drug therapy. Almost all of the new schools of thought and even most of the old ones talk quite a bit about mindfulness. As in, don't worry about what's going to happen to your brain tomorrow; today everything's good, today you're taking your meds and they're working, today you can handle stressful things, etc. It's like Buddhism has infiltrated the psychology profession while nobody was looking. Well, that's okay. We could use a few Buddhist psychologists.

And have I figured out what else I'm gonna do with my life? No. What I'm mainly figuring out are my new and exciting limitations. Climbing to the Mount Everest base camp; probably out. Can't be that far away from modern medicine. Flying to Europe: Maybe still in, but the time difference will have to be very carefully managed. Guess what knocks my system all wonky; sleep disruption. And guess what I'm very good at from many sessions of wild hyperfertility. Yep, you guessed. I think flying to Australia might be out. That's a time difference of twelve hours and I'm just not sure how I could possibly do that in anything remotely resembling a vacation-size time period. Getting a book published: Still in. Or it better be, anyway. I have a new heater to pay for somehow. Staying up all night writing is definitely out, even on holiday weekends. Alas. And I was all set to jump into NaNoWriMo on November 1, too.

Well, guess what. I'm gonna do NaNo anyway and write the sequel to No Accounting For Reality. Right now I'm calling it No Accounting For __________, because I don't have a word to complete the title yet. Stability? Serenity? Sanity? I dunno. It's about statues coming to life all over Dallas. If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday Frights (on Sunday): Screams in Waxahatchie

Careful. She snaps.
Playing in the background: Joe Jenkins on Spa

Well, technically it's Sunday morning but for me it's still Saturday night. Still, by the time I get this thing done and posted it will be Sunday afternoon, if I am lucky. So okay, Sunday. (Yep, a little zippy today).

We interrupt Jen's freaking out about needing a new heater and her recent diagnosis to take in the report of the the intrepid Jen, Suzi and Charlie, who trekked to Waxahatchie last night to visit Screams. Screams is a temporary horror theme park so important to the local economy that they put a sign up on the freeway. No kidding, an actual permanent road sign. The park is about 40 minutes south of Dallas off the I-35E, and it assembles about five haunted houses of varying degrees of scary, a "Trail of Terror" for a few extra bucks, vendors hawking everything from Tarot card readings to wax models of your own hand (you can decorate the nails), live entertainment (scary guys leaping out at you from behind trees, a David Bowie tribute band, walking horror comedians) and even some rides. Pretty darn cool. If I'd been in high school I'd have been in Jen heaven. (Most people there were high school age.) But I still had a great time, even if it meant being up a little past my bedtime. Okay, a whole lot past my bedtime. Which may be why I'm a little manic today. Or it could just be the adrenaline. Much screaming happened. See name of park, above.

Owing to the crowd and the fact that they kicked everybody out at 1 am, we missed the Trail of Terror, but we did get to five haunted houses, which was why we went. I dig haunted houses, the kind where they have people leap out and startle you senseless and large displays of gruesomeness and cool special effects. As it happened, we ended up doing 'em in order of scary. All five of 'em were very well done, showing a lot of care and attention to detail, and ranked between an AWESOME and a WOW on Jen's famous five-star rating system. So for this post we're gonna rank these things in order of scary, too. One to five skulls, five being the scariest. And let us be off!

Ghoulish Graveyard
Star rating: AWESOME (four stars)
This is a kid-friendly rendition of a graveyard, with tombstones listing interesting personages, their dates and causes of death. Keith Richards is in there, just to give you an idea of the sense of humor factor. There are s-fx that jump out at you, and a lot of silly stuff - like the dead gangster who appears to fire a machine gun at you in the car buried nose-up. And, yeah, lots of guys that run out from behind stuff and go "Rhaaaahr!!" but that's just a standard of the genre.

Pirates of Peril Point in 3-D
Star rating: WOW (five stars)
When I said carefully done and with a lot of attention to detail, I was not kidding. This attraction was amazing. They're playing music outside from the "Pirates of the Carribean" movies, for one thing, alternating with the "Dead Men Tell No Tales" voiceovers from the Disney World ride. There's a mural drawn across the entire outside wall in fluorescent chalk, which, when you get your 3-D glasses, suddenly has additional layers of detail that you couldn't see before. The whole interior is like that, including one room where the crabs seem to stand out from the walls until you realize that two of them actually DO stand out from the walls, and those two are attached to the hands of a scary guy, and he comes at you and goes "Rhaaaahrrr!" but again, standard for the genre. Best of all, they made it actually feel like a sinking ship - you step on boards that shift underfoot, whole sections vibrate and rock from side to side, and somehow they got the interior very dank and, uh, salty-smelling. (Didn't hurt that it was raining, or misting anyway.) This attraction was the best example of the degree of care and attention that's obvious throughout the whole park. Minor quibble - impossible to keep the 3-D glasses on over regular glasses. And a bit intense for little kids. 10 and up and maybe younger kids into pirates would love it though.

Death Trap Maze
Star rating: AWESOME (four stars)
This one was based loosely on the Saw movies, which I personally can't get into - I like my humor supernatural in origin, thankewverymuch. It was an actual maze, complete with dead ends and twisting turns and gates that shut behind you. Oh, yeah, and scarily masked clowns prowl the hallways, startling the f*ck out of unwary travelers. Coulrophobiacs* beware.

Arcane Asylum
Star rating: WOW (five stars)
The lunatics have taken over, the nurses are wearing skintight Spandex nurse costumes and things are getting really weird around here. Plenty scary and plenty funny. Even those of us who were just diagnosed with a major mental illness (hello) could appreciate the humor. And we really appreciated the nurses. Automatic one extra star. Could have done without the guy with the chainsaw at the end, but what can ya do. Not for kids under, say, 14.

The Dark Castle
Star rating: AWESOME (four stars)
The Dark Castle is the premier attraction, a classic that Screams has been doing for years. By far the scariest of the haunted houses, it's way too intense for kids and probably even younger teenagers. There are sloping hallways, people opening holes and yelling out at you (my favorite: "That one on the end! She smells delicious! Keep going, dearie, the kitchen's just ahead!") This was the only one that really scared me, that got me out of courtesy-scream mode (scream once in a while and the scary guys who leap out of dark corners will leave you alone; it is, after all, what they're there for) and into full fledged Oh my F******g God screaming in terror type screaming. I also spent most of this one clinging to Suzy (who seemed pretty amused; apparently I scream like a little girl). Only reason I'm not giving it five stars is that some of the scary stuff is associated with torture. Yeah, I know, that's kinda standard in the industry, but they were demonstrating a Judas cradle (look it up, people, I ain't gonna tell you what one is) and as a past member of both Survivors of Torture International and Amnesty International, that kind of stuff FREAKS ME OUT. Sorry, but it's my rating system and I can be arbitrary if I want to.

Anyway, a grand time was had by all, I'm hoarse as hell this morning and I got about five hours of sleep. I'm too old to do this very often but once in a while is a lot of fun.

*"Fear of clowns," people. C'mon now, this is why we have Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hyperfertility Mystery Solved!!

Playing in the background: The ceiling fan. On second thought let's crank up Pandora, here. Okay, Sea and Silence by Deuter. Liking that.

My rabid fans are no doubt aware that for some time now I've been having these fits of hyperfertility. The most screamingly obvious was back in May, when I camped out in front of my laptop for a solid holiday weekend and wrote something like 80 pages of Soulmender. What is hyperfertility, you ask? Well, that's when I feel like working nonstop for days, hardly bothering with such niceties as food and sleep. Or having nonstop sex, but this being a religious establishment and all that, I don't talk about that part in public. In one of my more infamous episodes, I cranked out the end of Part the Second of the Almighty Trilogy in an eighteen-hour sprawl of wordplay that had me forget to get up and get a bottle of water and then wonder, two hours later, why I was thirsty. I call it hyperfertility because it seems to hit right around the time I'm most likely to get pregnant, and because I feel like if a male came within about 100 yards of me, he'd have an excellent chance of knocking me up. Luckily, the only male around is Caesar and he is neutered. (By the way, you can follow Caesar on Twitter: @carpefelem)

Well, after the Soulmender incident, I got to thinking that this maybe wasn't quite normal. I mean, writing is temporary insanity, but, you know, telling myself I'll sleep an extra hour so it's okay to stay up until 11:30 or midnight when I know full well I'm gonna get up at 5 anyway and go to the pool, and then do it again the next night, because the more sleep deprived I am, the longer the hyperfertility lasts, is, you know, probably not all that good for me. The copious amounts of caffeine and sugar that keep it going are also probably not the greatest.

So as one of the hyperfertile fits was winding down, I went to see my doc for my Annual Exam (TM). And she asked me how I was doing and, for some strange reason, I leveled with her. And she asked me how long I'd been having manic episodes. And I said, about a year now but probably longer than that and did you just call them manic episodes? (She had.) Manic as in manic depression? (Yep, only we call it bipolar disorder these days.) Are you serious? (She was.) Well, crap, what does that mean?

Well, it meant that she was gonna port me off to a psychiatrist. And again for some strange reason, I went along with this. What's more, I wrote up a brief history of the Jeniverse, including my previous experiences with psychiatry (which began when I was five) and odd behavior among my family members (most specifically my grandparents, all four of whom, though dearly beloved, were a piece of work.) Being the paralegal that I am, I even faxed it over to the psychiatrist before the appointment. I mean, just in case, you know? It didn't necessarily have to be bipolar disorder. It could just be, you know, genetically enhanced weirdness.

So the psychiatrist, who was very nice, greeted me as, "You're the one who sent the fax, right? Boy, I wish everyone would do that. It sure made my job a lot easier." She then asked me a whole bunch of questions, some of which were bizarre ("Name the last three Presidents." Crap. Okay, there was George W. and was there a world before then?) and some of which were just spooky. "Do you wake up a lot during the night?" "Do you have a history of alcohol abuse or heavy drinking?" "Did you have thoughts of suicide before you turned 13?" How does she know these things? Hmm, she must be psychic. Maybe she's a mindbender. Maybe she's related to Roland and I should get out of here right now because - oh, right. Reality break, Jen. Sorry about that.

Anyway, when the smoke cleared and the dust settled she told me not only did I Have It but that I'd probably Had It my whole life. They know a lot more than they did in the 1970s, when I began my couch trip and when the idea of a bipolar child was unheard of. Now they know that not only can children be bipolar but they're catching them at the ages of three and four. Back then kids were more likely to be diagnosed with ADD, or "hyperactivity" which was what it was called. (Hyperactivity. Hyperfertility. Hmm.) What's more, they know it's genetic for a fact. If you don't have the genetic marker, you can't get it. And since all four of my grandparents had Serious Issues, it's entirely possible I got a quadruple dose. Or at least I got it from both parents, by way of their parents. "If you had children, I'd be telling you to watch your kids like a hawk," she said. (Nope, no kids. Hyperfertility notwithstanding.)

Cliches aside, What Does All This Mean? Well, firstly it means I've been very lucky. Bipolar disorder usually gets worse, not better over time. I've already been doing a lot of the things they'd tell me to do; exercise frequently, meditate, hot baths (jacuzzi, natch), massage therapy. I've also been self-medicating for years (booze and food, in that order; I quit drinking four years ago and started going to OA two years ago and gee, the symptoms just turned up out of nowhere, didn't they?) Secondly, it means I'll be taking some med or another for a very long time, probably forever, and visiting the doc often to get Checked Up Uponst. I'll need to keep a journal, track my moods, stay away from situations that stress me out. "But really," she said, "it's not that different than monitoring diabetes."

So I've been thinking about that, and I think she's right. In diabetes, your pancreas produces abnormal chemistry. In bipolar, your brain produces abnormal chemistry. With diabetes, you monitor your blood sugar levels,take certain meds, exercise, eat certain meals at certain times, and avoid some foods, including alcohol and excess sugar. With bipolar, you do all of that (monitoring moods instead of blood sugar levels) plus hot baths, massage and plenty of sleep. No more late night writing binges. No more staying up till 11 to watch Surviving Disaster (Dammit!!) I've already got a diabetic in the house, so I'm following most of the rules as it is. And Joan likes massages, too.

Notwithstanding, I'm A LITTLE FREAKED OUT RIGHT NOW, THANKEWVERYMUCH. There's something about going from a diagnosis of major depression, which most people get (everyone feels down once in a while) to bipolar disorder, which most people don't get. I mean, depression's normal. Bipolar - well, that's crazy. Maybe not walking down the street muttering to no one in particular and every once in a while announcing I'm God crazy, but still, crazy. So I'm trying to get over that. And I'm reading lots of books and scanning the Internet and trying to Connect With My Peer Group, which, to be honest, I've always sucked at. And strange as this sounds, I'm kind of mourning my lost hyperfertility. As not-good-for-me as it certainly was, it was a lot of fun.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gay Marriage - In Texas? Now There's a Friday Fright...

Playing in the background: Bird twitters. It's cool enough to leave the door open.

Well, the latest thing to shake up the Metroplex is a judge's recent ruling granting a gay couple a divorce. Upon first glance it does seem pretty radical, but in the end, I'm thinking not so much. The judge did state, though, that she thought Texas's ban on gay marriage (which was approved by both voters and legislature by some ridiculous margin, like 75% in favor) violated the United States Constitution. What she cited was the Full Faith and Credit Clause, Article IV, Section 1, which states, in part, that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state."

I was waiting for somebody in the whole gay-marriage debate to finally get to that. According to the Full Faith & Credit Clause, if you're married in one state, you're married in all states - that's why you don't have to get re-married every time you move. The Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed under George W.'s reign of error, says that states can freely ignore the clause where gay marriage is concerned. This judge is saying, uh, not so much. I think she's right, but maybe not for the reasons she's stating.

Warning: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one at work, and I don't know jack about family law, except what I've picked up in passing. So don't take anything I'm about to tell you as gospel. Check it out yourself. Your local library is a great place to start.

See, a gay couple can get married in a handful of states (we got married in Cali in 2008, right before they banned it again) but in order to get divorced, you have to live in a place. It's called being "domiciled" and it's mainly to do with children, but it's what they base the whole case on. This is why you hear about people moving to Nevada to get divorced in a hurry, say. I think you only have to be domiciled for three weeks before you can file for divorce in Nevada.
Most states it's six months to a year.

Now, it goes without saying, if you got married in one state and move to another, you need to divorce in that second state because that's where you're now domiciled. But what if you're gay and the state you moved to doesn't recognize your marriage as valid? Can you then not get divorced? Do you have to move to a state that does recognize gay marriage in order to get divorced? Or can you just walk away, secure in the knowledge that your state doesn't recognize gay marriage so you're just free and clear? (Course, your partner could move back to the state where you were married, sue you for abandonment, and you could lose your shirt, but I digress.)

The judge was addressing this very problem when she granted the divorce. She was essentially saying, "It doesn't matter where this marriage was entered, or by whom. They live in Texas now and we need to divorce them if they want to divorce." So it's really not as radical as it sounds. I do find it interesting, though, that Gov. Perry wants to appeal the ruling. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have standing to do so. I think domestic-relations cases can only be appealed by the parties involved. But again, I know jack about family law, so I could be wrong.

Speaking of scary domestic relations, this week's Friday Fright is The Mist, based on the novella of the same name by "Big Steve" King. This is a truly terrifying movie, but not the way you might think. The story involves a bunch of people who are trapped in a supermarket when an eerie mist swallows the town and, who knows, maybe the entire Eastern seaboard. Outside in the mist are, well, monsters. They show up and do what monsters do--eat people, spit venom, hiss a lot, etc.--but the really scary creatures in this movie are the human beings in the store.

As the situation deteriorates, people behave badly, mobs are formed, fights break out and -- nah, I better not tell you anything else. Except that even after some of our intrepid few escape the store, their troubles are not over. This movie will haunt you for days. Half monster movie,half brooding meditation on the thin veneer of civilization, The Mist asks us what we really believe, if our values can be so easily tossed aside in a crisis. As a person, as a parent, as a community, when is the right time to give up hope? And if it turns out that you gave up hope too soon, what do you do then? Four stars (AWESOME). Arachnophobes, avoid this one. Everyone else, check it out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Holy Humongous Hooters, Batman...

Playing in the background: "Coral Gardens" by Deuter

In every mother's scrapbook you see the same stuff. Baby's first birthday. Baby's first steps. Baby's first shoes. Baby's first mammogram...

Uh, what? Yeah.

Apparently while I wasn't looking, they lowered the "first mammogram" age from fifty to forty. Guess who just turned forty. Yep, you guessed. So this morning I trekked over to Doctor's Hospital for My First Mammogram (TM). You'd think I'd get a little gold star or a button or something. But, no. I did, however, get free valet parking.

There is, of course, the initial paperwork. How old are you, what's your family history of breast cancer, when was your last period, what birth control are you on, is there any chance you could be pregnant. Since "I'm a ferGodsake lesbian" is not an option on the form, I always want to snarl something like, "The last time I had sex with a man, honey, was in 1996, and the only reason I remember it at all was that it happened during the Summer Olympics and I was watching Shannon Miller win the gold in vaulting on TV over his shoulder." Usually I behave myself, though. No, really.

I'm pleased to report that those comedian jokes about them dropping a pane of glass on your boob and then running over it with a truck are greatly exaggerated. Doctor's has a funky new machine with an arm on it that rotates around to the desired position. Here's a pic on the right. See the glassed-in thingy that sticks out? That's the arm. And if you look very carefully, you can see foot pedals at the bottom. That's to raise and lower the arm above the imaging shelf, which is the black thingy in the middle. The whole arm (and the shelf) also goes up and down, so if you're tall, or short, not a problem. Because the arm is hydraulic (three cheers for engineering!), it doesn't "fall" onto your breast; it's gently lowered. The compression degree is then done by hand with a little silver wheely thing that you probably can't -- well, you can sort of see it. Under the glass dome are two silver knobs. That's the deal. They'll adjust it for you or you can adjust it yourself, so that the compression level isn't intolerably ouchy.

They had a large-size hospital gown ready for me, which was totally nice. I only had to take off my blouse and bra, if I'd been wearing a bra, which I wasn't, because I thought I'd just have to take it off, which I did, so I wasn't wearing one. There was an observer from the company who makes these machines, and she said she wouldn't stay if it would make me uncomfortable. Ordinarily it wouldn't (my doc in San Diego worked for UCSD Hospital, a teaching hospital, and I had my sinus surgery with a World Famous Surgeon, so there were always students around; I used to charge 50 cents for a peek up my nose and always had enough money to stop at Starbucks after an appointment) but since it was My First Time I said no. So it was just me and the technician and this machine, which was a little taller than me.

The technician put these cute li'l flowered pasties over my nipples, which apparently have metal studs in them to give them a "point of reference" when reading the films. (Which, if you're me, is a good thing. You could get lost for days wandering around down there.) She then had me stand next to this machine, floop a breast over onto the shelf (it looks like a water balloon, or maybe a loose bag of rice, saggin' around up there) and then lean this way or that while she lowered the arm. She kept her hand on top of my breast until the very last second while lowering the arm, then adjusted the squeezing strength by hand. My breasts are remarkably free of sensation, so I told her to go ahead and do the adjusting herself. Frankly, I was in more discomfort from the various ways I had to lean, than anything that was going on points south.

Now here was the thing. My breasts are too large to fit completely on the imager. I'm a size H, after all, which stands for Huge. I'm not kidding; I went over and looked at the monitor while the images were coming up. Sure enough, there's about, oh, say, half of my breast. (It looked kind of like a quartz crystal on the imager - clear with little fault lines and of course a big bright spot over the pastie.) So she had to do the whole series of films twice through--once for what part of my breast would fit on the shelf, and the other time for the rest of it. In some of these images, half my breast is hanging off the shelf like, I dunno, a stalactite or something. You can see where it gets darker as the tissue dips down. And no matter what she did, she couldn't get the very inside part where the two breasts come together, so she had me do one more shot that was "a little unorthodox"; floop both my breasts onto the plate at once, have me kind of hold 'em together so they don't like roll back off, and then lower the arm so that she could get a single shot of just the middles. It looked like a pair of buns on the imager. Well, crystally buns with little fault lines running through 'em.

So, anyway, that's done. Good thing I was the first appointment because it took about twice as long as it should have. The technician told me to mention to the scheduler that I took a little longer than most. "Or you could just tell her that you have breast implants," she said, "and then they schedule you for two slots."

Breast implants. In my size H hooters. After I stopped laughing, I got dressed and went to work.