Thursday, November 28, 2002

Greetings from East Bumblef*ck. :) It's Thanksgiving, and I am back in the Burg.

This last week has been intense. I was busy at work, then busy catching up on all the things you do before you go out of town- drink up the milk, do laundry so you have clean clothes, hand the keys over to the petsitter. Well, maybe only I do that lastone. I did have fun, though talking to one of my neighbors, one of the Argentinian Dads (the fathers of the children who were my first friends in Miami, who stand outside at night and smoke cigars and teach me how to say things like, "I have a female dog" without swearing) who wanted to know why I have a petsitter as opposed to taking them to a kennel.

I was talking (in Spanish- we have agreed to help each other with the random phrases you occasionally need but never learned in the your second language) about how rabies is rampant in Miami kennels, etc. I did not know the word for rabies. I was trying to explain it by saying it's a deadly illness cats and dogs get and can give to people, but I did not know the words for "raccoon," "foam" or "garbage disposal," but that came up later in the conversation anyway and had nothing to do with rabies. It was pretty funny, though, trying to communicate "raccoon," we were pointing at the bushes and nodding uncertainly until I put my fingers into circles and did the "junior birdman" thing. That worked, actually. Note to self: junior birdman thing is international sign for "raccoon."

I miss the pets, though. I hope they haven't run off and joined the circus by the time I get back.

I flew into Philly yesterday. I got to spend a lot of quality time with Andrea and her husband Don, and I met Alissa's funny new office mate and Ginette, her very fun grad school friend I had a job interview at the Doylestown paper. It went quite well, as far as I can tell, except their computer nuked BOTH of my digital cameras microdrives. Thankfully, I have determined that they are still under warranty, but I can't shoot jack over this break, which is really disappointing. I may just bust out Ye Olde N6006, my first real camera, as I left my regular film camera bod back in Miami.

I saw the Harry Potter movie tonight, and I have to say I was really, really disappointed. I almost wanted my money back. I really didn't like it much at all. I haven't been so antsy since Titanic. I also got a good haircut which officially moved my hair out of the awkward growing out stage and into the "just let it get longer from here" phase, which means I can stop wearing a bandana or a scarf every single day. Seriously, I have only gone out into public with my hair uncovered three times since the disasterous "pretending to be British" haircut in July, and both times it took me a good two hours to coax the hair into a non-mullet, non-Princess Di in the 80s nightmare.

I miss Stephen so much it feels like a physical hurt. I am lonely and bewildered as I am surrounded by all the stuff that didn't make it to Miami, but my family and best friends from high school are coming into town and/or are all around me. I really wish my sister was here. (Gramatically, is it- "were here?" is that subjungshtive?) Being back here is an adjustment. I forgot what it felt like to open a drawer and encounter old school pictures from 1993 and/or Mat(t) Pavelcro's (misspelling intentional) senior picture in an old forgotten wallet. I have my class reunion on Friday, and so I think this weird nostalgia thing may get worse before it gets better. Sometimes, I really, really hate my overactive, meticulous memory. Although I do enjoy remembering all the good stuff, it's really difficult to remember the bad stuff in such clarity, and it can be lonely remembering stuff everyone else has forgotten. Blah.

Blogging at 4 a.m. is really not the best idea, I guess. :)

Friday, November 22, 2002

Guess who photographed Rev. Al Sharpton today? That would be me. There are all kinds of civil rights violations here, and he was here as part of a protest.

I don't know if I can tell you this without crying, and as much as I would like to go to bed tonight and not think about this, I think I have to get this out. This is scary, and it's all true, as far as I or anyone else at the Hiami Merald knows. I couldn't make this up; it's too horrible. Ya'll might want to skip this one and reread the NASCAR stories. (rueful smile)

A boat of Haitian refugees arrived here about a month ago. The immigration laws are really biased and bizarre here. Essentially, if you are Cuban, and you make it to shore without "help" from the Coast Guard, you receive a "Credible Fear" hearing within three days. If you can demonstrate that you have a "credible fear" of persecution in Cuba, you are released into the community with an 8-month window of opportunity in which you are assigned "alien status." In those 8 months, if you apply for a job and find housing, you have the opportunity to get a green card. If you get a green card, you study and work and become a U.S. citizen. If you are "helped" by the Coast Guard before you reach the shore, the Coast Guard will usuually just turn right back to Cuba and drop you off.

If you are Haitian, and the Coast Guard gets to you before you get to shore, they may return you to Haiti or they may arrest you and bring you into the States. IF they arrests them, in theory, the Haitian refugees are entitled to the same opportuities as Cuban and other Carribbean refugees. However, it has never happened that way.

FIRST, A QUICK BACK STORY- A year ago, a boat from Haiti was "helped" by the Coast Guard. The refugees were brought to the U.S. mainland. The men and women were taken to a high security prison. The children were separated from their parents and taken 12 hours away to Tallahassee. 90% of these refugees proved they had a credible fear. They were held for four months without being released. No one told them, the press, or human rights' groups why they were not released.

After four months, thirty women claimed they were beaten and raped. They were transferred to a maximum security prison. Only one guard was found guilty "by internal sources" and dismissed. The women were not allowed to see lawyers, and those who were were only given one hour- ONE HOUR- per week for 25 women to meet with one lawyer. Other lawyers were repeatedly denied access.

Remember that these people I am telling you about have not committed egregious crimes, murdered anyone or anything other than come here and try to apply for political asylum.

Neither the men nor the women had any way to call back to Haiti to tell their loved ones if they made it, where they were, or what happened, until local politicians procurred calling cards for them. The women were only allowed 1 hour of "recreation" every three days. If they had to go to the bathroom during "recreation," they were not allowed back into the recreation area. The phones in the waiting area did not work, so if they wanted to speak with any visitors, including their children and spouses, they had to lay on the floor and talk through the three inches of space against the floor. If they were on the floor, they could not make eye contact; however, visits were seldom permitted anyway. At first, the women were not allowed to contact their husbands still at the high security prison.

The priosners were supposed to be allowed private visits with their spouses once a week. They were supposed to be in a monitored, private room (no windowns, but sound proof with a guard outside but no security cameras). When advocates finally got the department of corrections to allow the women to visit their spouses, they were forced to have the visits in a public hallway. They were not allowed to contact their children, (still held 12 hours away). All prisoners, including convicted felons, in this maximum security prison are allowed two hours a week of time to meet with court-appointed clergy people. For six months, the women were denied this right, until advocates demanded it.

Naturally, politicians, advocates and celebrities got really, really angry. After the Haitian refugees had been held in these unexplained, unnecessary, really f*cked up conditions for 8 months, they were put on maximum suicide watch. The one time I was allowed to go with a group of press, politicians and advocates, it was... I have never been so frightened by any human being's eyes the way I was that day. They kept saying that they wished the boat had just capsized so they could have drowned with their loved ones [in shark-infested waters] and been spared this indignity.

Then Danny Glover got involved. The INS of Florida said the decisions to do all of this were coming down from the "very highest levels of government." Danny Glover said he would go to Washington the following Monday. That very night, all of the refugees were wakened and without warning of any kind, sent back to Haiti. The government will still not confirm or deny whether the children in Tallahassee were reunited with their families.

This all happened in September of this year.

A month ago, another boat of refugees arrived. They were from a town that's quite close to where the refugees whose story I just told you came from. They knew this story, but the situation in Haiti is so desperate that they decided to risk it anyway. Their boat ran ashore off the Rickenbacker Causeway, the main artery from a frighteningly wealthy island attached to Miami proper by suspension bridges. About 300 refugees saw the Coast Guard coming and tried to make a break for it.

Elderly people were throwing cans of food and clothing overboard. Parents were jumping in and having thier infants tossed to them. They ran onto the bridges. The Coast Guard closed the bridges for four hours in order to "catch" all of the Haitian refugees. The refugees were running up to taxicabs, begging drivers to let them in.

The refugees were nearly all caught, shackled and forced to line up on the side of the highway. The children were taken from their parents. They are in a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. Their parents are in the prison where the previous 30 women were raped less than a year ago. The children, some of them only 8-months-old, are being held in the hotel. They are not allowed to play outside. They have not seen or spoken to their parents since they saw them shackled by the side of the highway. The INS will not tell the press, or anyone else, who is caring for the children.

Human rights groups are trying to take educational toys, letters from the parents reassuring the children that they are okay, and familar foods to the children. The human rights groups are denied.

The human rights' groups are trying to send people who speak Creole in to talk to the children, because they can't be certain that whoever is caring for them even speaks creole. They are trying to send bilingual teachers into the children, so they can at least spend the time while they are detained learning the basics of English and math. They are denied.

The human rights' groups ask if the children, who went for four days without little to eat or drink on the way here and who do not own shoes, including when they ran ashore and up onto the highway- a highway with gravel and broken glass and all the things highways have- have had medical exams. No one will tell them, OR the press, for that matter anything.

So Al Sharpton is here. The Nation of Islam is here. Trans-Afrika (formed to end apartheid and free Nelson Mandela) is here. Every Human Rights watchdog group you can think of is here. Gov. Bush says that "we must guard our borders from invasion." He said that we must be careful because terrorists might use similar methods (coming from Haiti disguised as desperate refugees? Really? You think?) to get into the U.S.

Welcome to America, the "best nation in the world," says the governor's brother. Honestly, the screaming children being taken from their shackled parents, the refugees being filtered into two lines- to me, it's really remniscent of "Schindler's List."

I just don't know what to do, except go out and cover every protest, working every situation I shoot so hard, knowing that the stronger the images I shoot, the better play they will get in the newpspaper, hoping my four columns tomorrow will help educate someone, anyone who might be able to help in a tangible way, and show 400,00 readers that there are people protesting this, using their voices, shouting that they can't take anymore, that until there is justice, there will be no peace.

And I called H. I wanted to record the sounds of nonviolent protesters using their voices for justice onto her voice mail, as she has recorded sounds of musicians who inspire me performing in concerts onto my answering machine in the past, because I know she can pray, and I just can't.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

*spelling intentional

My home repair savvy, in fact, my computer repair and camera repair savvy also, essentially follows the same philosophy-
1.) turn it off and then back on again.
2.) If that doesn’t work, push a reset button if the thing- appliance, computer, light meter, et al- has one.
3.) If that doesn’t work, look closely at the expensive thing. Try to do whatever you think it needs: see #1 and #2. Do not force anything. Ever.
4.) If that fails- for Macintosh computers and Nikon camera equipment, (and dead car batteries, available in the Greater NY area only), call Luke. For PC computers, call Scott. For decomposing squirrels floating at the bottom of a narsty trash can that has been frozen solid and only recently thawed for the first time in three months, call Stephen.

My garbage disposal broke last Friday night, right when everyone who fixes such non-emergency things in my apartment complex has gone off duty for two days. Unfortunately, I had just spit the sour, inedible parts of a pomegranate down the drain. Sorry if that image grosses you out, I live alone, and eating meals standing by the sink just make sense sometimes.

So I flipped the switch a few times. Nope. I crawled until the sink, shoved the 300 or so plastic bags to one side (I swear, they’re reproducing on their own down there), hit my head on a pipe, but managed to locate the little red button that resets the garbage disposal. (In a stroke of pure genius, I discovered the presence of the magic red button on our garbage disposal in the apartment I shared with Jo and Jill for the 2nd half of our junior year.) That didn’t do it this time.

So I called the maintenance people to come fix it. However, I had this ... *concern* that the problem with the garbage disposal may have something to do with the teeny, tiny fact that I have been making mosaics lately, and um, measuring out powdered concrete grout over the sink and um, washing out the grouty buckets in that sink. Heh... hee hee... heh, ahem.

Anyway, Rolando the Maintenance Guy came when I was at therapy (thera-PIE!) this morning. I didn’t think they would get to me so soon, honestly, so I didn’t put Bella in her crate before I left. So When I came home, there was a note on my door that said, and this is verbatim, no typos: “Very big doog. Call office.”

Doog! DOOG! Ha ha ha ha ha ha. This kills me! :) I am not making fun of him in a mean way; I’m really not. Rolando is a very sweet man in his late 60s. His grandmother was named Angela, and he always greets me with an enthusiastic “Buenos dias, AHN-hay-la!”

But still, seeing the word “doog” made me think of the early 90s sitcom- Doogie Howser, M.D.- you know? Vinny Del Pino, (Max Casella), always called Neil Patrick Harris’s character “Doog” for short.

So, the note on my door, written on a work order to fix the garbage disposal, saying he didn’t want to go in without me there because there is a “very big Doog” in my apartment makes me imagine a Jolly Green Giant-sized Neil Patrick Harris sitting in my living room, hunched over clasping his knees with his head bent against the ceiling, preventing thieves and well-meaning garbage disposal fixers from entering my apartment.

(As it turns out, the garbage disposal just needed to have a screw tightened. The problem was strictly non-grout related. Yay! :)

Now, if only I could prevent the other funny, furry creature in my apartment from sitting on top of the fridge and pushing the glass bead magnets, loving crafted in anxiety induced “Oh my God, I’m a non-certified substitute teacher in training and the only person I know there is Creepy Shannon Edwards in a green blazer” bouts of insomnia. It would be one thing if he just left on them on the kitchen floor or kicked them under the fridge so I could pick them up or slide them out with a yardstick, but nooooo....

He has to carry them all over the apartment, setting them next to the keyboard as I type or putting them in his water dish (I don’t know, don’t ask.) So, dear readers, any thoughts on what to do about the caat? :)

Monday, November 18, 2002


Let me start off by saying that I have just spent two days covering the Winston Cup finals. For those of you who have lives in large, metropolitan cities, the Winston Cup is the Superbowl of NASCAR. As much as NASCAR’s public relations and marketing department would like to think they’re changing their image and expanding their fan base (which they sort of *are* achieving, actually) this means rednecks. Lots of ‘em, coming in their RVs from all over the Deep South. I kid you not, I did not meet anyone from any further North than North Carolina, and really, the “North” part of “North Carolina” is just a formality.

There are three very important things I have learned over this past weekend.

#1- I learned how to find a husband in 48 hours or less, as long as your standards aren’t terribly high. I was proposed to on four separate occasions by four different men (all with mullets) who noticed that my press credentials had the words “Garage Access” stamped on them, which needless to say, meant I could go into the pit with the crew as long as it wasn’t during the race, (and six inches behind it if the race was actually taking place) and into the garage where they were prepping the car as long as the driver didn’t mind.

So, ladies- No more “baruch ata adonai, I’m gonna die alone!” :) All you have to do is contact the press office of any NASCAR speedway, request garage access, show some sort of press ID from a news-gathering organization, (doesn’t have to be your own name, right?), and walk around “NASCAR Village” (flea market of overpriced souvenirs, alcohol and demo video game kiosks) with this credential displayed. After procuring oneself a husband, you may walk directly to the tunnel that leads to the infield (this ID enables that, too) and throw oneself directly in the path of a speeding racecar, as, in my opinion, death is preferable than spending the rest of one’s with someone named Jimmy Lee (pronounced “Jimmalee” in these here parts.)


#2- Never take inanimate objects for granted. There is a opening in the fence surrounding the wall of the actual racetrack. The opening is surrounded by a “cage” of chainlink fencing material. There is an NBC camera that is controlled from a remote location right on the edge of the wall, and just enough space for one enterprising photographer to squeeze in beside it. This is a Primo Spot, and you have to get their early to claim it.

So two hours before the race began, I got there, claimed the spot and sat in my White Trash Lawn chair for two hours waiting for the green flag. (Don’t knock it- my Dad always brought a lawn chair to places like Jason’s Woods, the intensely popular, stand in line for four hours Haunted Halloween Hayride, when I was like, 10. I was always immensely mortified by this as Manda and I each usually had a friend or two with us, but about 45 minutes into the wait we were all clamoring to sit in the chair.) With nothing else to do, I started jotting down notes for things I wanted to write here.

This is what I wrote: “As I write this, I’m staked out in front of a hole in the fence near the first turn of the race. Everyone wants this spot because you don’t have to shoot through this Big, Dumb Fence. Although, this fence I’m trying to maneuver around is the only thing between me and 185 mph of Deadly Home Depot ads rocketing past my head, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain. Or call it dumb.”

In the 159th lap of the race, a car caught on fire and went careening into the cement wall about 100 yards from the hole. As for me, I was long gone, up to the very top of the stadium to shoot down on the race. But an @P photographer was standing where the car hit the wall (NOT where I was, Mom, 100 yards away), and he sustained first degree burns on his hands, chest and face. However, right before that happened, he made an awesome (in focus) photo of the NASCAR fireball hurting toward him. To his credit, he was attended to by the ER crew at the race, got his second camera body (the first one melted, but luckily it flew out of his hands AND he was able to retrieve the digital card) and went back to work. I don’t know, dude. (I just said “dude.” Hi, Luke!) That’s pretty rough, in my opinion.

The thing is, Bad Old Boss was there, editing the work of 12 @P shooters- 10 of whom flew in from all over the country, plus two of my co-workers from the summer- and since he didn’t elect to go to the hospital... Whatever. More on that uncomfortable situation in a future entry, but please allow me to say that the Hiami Merald team of four outshot the 12 @P people both days. Whee! And you know? It’s not because we’re any more talented or motivated, (I caught something crucial on the first day, partly because I was on the ball, but mostly out of pure dumb luck), because that’s just not true. I wasn’t paying much attention to the situation with them, but it sounded like the stuff they missed- the requisite “kiss the trophy” shot, for example- wasn’t because they were slacking off or blew their exposure or something, but because they didn’t have clear communication or direction as to who was doing what. I’m just sayin.’


Finally, #3- There were a lot of famous people at the race, including World Record-holding, retired race car drivers, and well, Britney Spears. At one point, I saw a crowd of security guards hustling someone out of the stands through a throng of people, so I aimed my Very Telephoto lens down from the top of the stands and shot it. Because I didn’t know, maybe it was a crazed fan, or a security breach, or maybe Elvis *is* alive, this is NASCAR, afterall. It turns out she was in the stands, and people recognized her and started pestering her for autographs. People were jumping over railings and stuff, so they hustled her away into the Big Official Building. (At this point, I’m shooting from the observation deck- that’s not really what it’s called, but you know what I mean- on top of the Big Official Building)

About an hour later, being me, I really had to go to the bathroom. So I asked the security guy blocking us mortals from the VIP building where the nearest bathroom is, and he said I could go into the VIP building and use the one on the top floor if I left my gear with him and went right in and out again. No problem.

On my way in to the ladies’ room, I see a throng of PR types (they really stand out at NASCAR- cell phones, dressed in black, cute shoes, hair all one layer) a little way down the hall. They’re talking about “how we’re glad security got her out of there, it was getting rough.” Whatever, don’t care, gotta pee.

So I’m in the bathroom, which has two stalls. I go in, blah blah blah, and just I’m about to...... um, go? Yeah. I see that the person in the other stall is wearing extremely nice shoes. Okaaaaaay. So I’m about to burst, but what if it’s Britney Spears?


Too bad. Can’t wait. As I’m washing my hands, the woman in the other stall comes out, and she is absolutely NOT Britney Spears, but she has a VIP credential, so she was one most likely of the well-heeled members of her entourage, but not the Pop Princess herself.

So... Does this mean Britney Spears *publicist* heard me pee?!?!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

I keep telling my mom and dad that I'm not dead, despite their frantic assumptions that I've kicked the bucket if I don't check in every few days, and I keep telling them to check the weblog for proof. Guess I shouldn't go six days without blogging in that case. :)

Jason is here! Rah! We went out for drinks and live jazz the other night. V. Fun. I highly suggest that everyone come visit Hysterical White Girl's Apartment o' Tropical Fun this winter as I am not going anywhere any time soon.

The job in MN, which I found out I would have been offered, was eliminated in a last minute round of budget cutting at that particular paper. Boo. So, I'm not moving to the frozen tundra of the Midwest to become Hypothermic White Girl any time soon. Oh, crap.

Although I did FedEx two portfolios to New Mexico yesterday, one to a big, good paper in Albuquerque and one to a very small paper in Santa Fe, which I hear is an amazing, artistic city with lots of mountains and white water rafting and beautiful desert nearby, which would be cool for shooting and entertaining myself on my days off, provided I don’t get stuck between a raft and a hard place. Literally.

I’m not getting my hopes up, but one of my editors said one of the papers called to check my references already. Checking references within what had to be a few hours of receiving it as she told me this around 4 p.m. which means it was 2 p.m. there and I dropped it in the FedEx box with a pickup time of 6 p.m. last night in Coral Gables has to be good thing, right? They haven't called me, so... No kinna hurra, I’m just sayin’.

However, I did get an- um- "interesting" phone call yesterday from the production company who makes the seedy video "Gurls Gone Wyld." (No google links to me with the proper spelling of this video, thanks) I'm sure you've all seen the infomerical on any cable network after 10 p.m. The one with the women lifting up their shirts at Mardi Gras, Spring break and so on, you know? They are filming in clubs in Miami tomorrow night, and they wanted me to document the "Behind the Scenes" work of the film crew and photograph the CEO.

I didn’t catch the name of the production company at first, and so I was taking this guy through all the usual new client inquiry stuff- What are your needs? How long would you be needing me to shoot? Do you prefer film or digital? Do you plan to use this for commercial purposes or inhouse use for the company? Blah blah blah....

When I finally realized who they were and what they wanted- mostly because he finally admitted *which* publications” they were planning to send the photos to, including “Tongue” magazine. I do NOT want to know. I DO NOT- I was like, “Um, will there be... girls... (MUST. BE. POLITE.) going wild there?”

And he said, “(seedy laughy chortle) Heh, heh. You into that?”
Me: “Um, NO, actually, gosh, I really hate to turn down work, but I have to tell you that the whole idea behind Gurls Gone Wyld really... um (at this point, I’m trying to think of the most politic word I can think of, which eliminated “disgust,” “repulse,” “offend,” and “outrage”) SCARES me, actually.

So I politely bowed out, cheerfully ending the conversation with, “However, if you or any colleagues in film production ever need anyone to photograph anything in the Miami area where people are keeping their clothes on, please don’t hesitate inquire!”

YIKES. Am poor, but I still have values. :)

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Hi. How's it going?

My Idiosyncratic Life has gotten a little surreal lately, but things are good. Very good? Yes, maybe.

Right after I went to the Crackpot Dentist, I went to work. I shot a story about this South Beach designer named Belinda who had designed all of these amazing ball gowns for soemthing called the Bug Ball, a charity gala for the Biami Meach Gotantical Bardens (Hee! That's just funny.) She was commissioned to make gowns inspired by flowers, they were very corset-y and have huge satin wraps with wires, a la Cruella de Ville sort of, but stunning.

So I was shooting Belinda, her assistant Ishtar (sweet but chachi 18-year-old actress type who has grown up in a scary LA/Miami entertainment jet set family) and Annemarie, an actress from Finland who is naturally photogenic and nice, in Belinda's shop. They were fitting the models for their gowns as they were hired to circulate throughout the ball and be beautiful and chat up Belinda and the dress she donated for the auction. Of course, being around fun creative people always makes me happy, and so in the spirit of all the random friends I make while running around with my camera (Guido the S. African backpacker, Lorrie and Michael Wardell, etc) we bonded and I said corsets look painful, and they couldn't believe I've never worn one and the next thing I know Ishtar is tying me into a complex couture gown.

I'm amazed it fits, and of course, I can't resist putting on huge silk butterfly wings, and the very next thing I know, they make me promise to go to the ball the next night. I kept saying I can't afford this dress, but thank you, it's very beautiful, and Belinda explains that she "dresses" people all the time, meaning they wear her stuff and give it back the next day and it's what famous people do all the time and just come, it will be fun!

Eh... why the hell not? So I go, and it's fun, but I had NO. IDEA. that people were going to pay attention to me. I was sort of hanging around with Annemarie (the model) , because she was one of the only people I knew there, and we walked out of the dressing room at the same time because I couldn't do all the things that had to be done to wear this outfit (Wings, scarves, criss-crossed lace-up back), and it was Ishtar's job to get all the models fixed up so I just got dressed with them..... and.... and... oh, God, this is embarrassing, I ended up getting photographed for Spanish Vogue, Women's Wear Daily and the NY Post fashion page.


Me! Chunky Photojournalist Barbie. In a dress. With makeup. (I'm wearing my blue leather mask, though). I'm next to Annemarie in a few of them, and I really hope I'm not the Fashion Don't, next to the Fashion Do. Although, that *would* make for a freakin' hilarious story...

Belinda wants me to be in her wedding runway show in a few months. (I know, right? What the f*ck?) I don't know. When she brought it up, I thought she wanted me to shoot it, so I said yes. That's *not* what she meant. She really prides herself on making fantasy gowns for real women, and she said she liked my "energy." (She should talk to the Crackpot Dentist, and he could tell her it's really thrown my grace and harmony out of whack). I guess a lot of women who come into her shop don't expect to find things in their size (or don't come in) because not many designers in South Beach make clothers larger than a size 8, and so....

Feminist ethical issues put aside for a discussion on another day, I'm flattered, but I would much, much rather be shooting it, and I don't shoot fashion (beyond a feature piece about something like the Bug Ball) very often. And let's face it, I'm the girl who stumbled around the stage at the science fair award ceremony in 7th grade, unable to find the stairs to get down or off. God, that sucked.

But I am going to shoot, (alongside a fashion photographer from Chicago and just for fun, really) some people in Belinda's dresses in a tiger preserve in Ft. Lauderdale next week. I'm excited to just get to be near the big cats, if only for nature stuff for myself. (Oh, and Luke? She loved the portrait of me that you shot that appears on the back of my portfolio CD, you know? Of course, I told her you're amazing, so if you ever want to pick up some fashion work on your own in the future, she would probably look at your portfolio. Seriously.)

Yeah, so all of that is really surreal and sort of odd, but fun. The next day I spent the better portion of a day with Dave Barry and his family for this huge scavenger hunt puzzle thingie the Herald does every year. (I know.... cue theTwilight Zone theme music)

And today I got harrassed (sexually and otherwise) for three hours at a "victory party" for a local candidate while all of his cigar-smoking, balding, short, aggressive friends got drunk and followed me around. At one point, I actually had to get the (male) reporter I was with to intervene and "interview" the aggressors every time they got near me because I couldn't make a damn picture without one of them getting in my face and asking me to do unethical things (not sexual) or making inappropriate comments (some sexual), despite my repeated and increasingly angry requests for them to stop following me around. They wanted the photo of this candidate to carry the local section and I really couldn't leave until I had something good enough for main art because the results in all the minority districts, where this candidate was wildly popular, were inexplicably delayed for hours and hours (but only for local elections, hmmm.....)

Not. Fun.

Not to sound like stoner kid picking out a quote for the yearbook, but "what a long strange journey this has been..." And I'm just talkin' about this week! :)

Friday, November 01, 2002

Better get comfy, kids. This is a doctor rant, complete with monologue. Oh, and best make sure to have some alcohol or just something to drink now so you won't have to get up later. :)

Okay, I really, really don't want to develop a fear of doctors. Really. Going to the doctor is something I have never been afraid of. If something's wrong, or it hurts, or I need meds for it, I go. This has never been too much of a challenge for me, actually. I'm not saying I haven't been afraid of what's going to happen at the medical practitioners office- doing complex psychological work can be scary, getting my 6th grade shots definitely sucked, and my sigmoidoscopy was pretty d@mn dread-inducing. (If you don't know what that procedure is, get me drunk or at least just in a silly mood, the recap is hilarious. Oh, and try to avoid anything described as using a "long flexible tube" and the word "sigmoid." Just trust me.) But I've never actually dreaded going to a new doctor the way I'm beginning to...

This week I began to think that I had a cavity. I have never before had a cavity. (I made it to 23 and no cavities, AND that's without flossing, which is another story entirely.) I love my East Pete dentist. He's my dad's best friend, and he's been looking after my teeth since they first came in when I was about 8-months-old. When I was four, my infamous gag reflex kicked in when I was getting my teeth cleaned. I told them I didn't want orange, but it was the only flavor of that terrible gritty toothpaste that they put on the spinner that they had in stock that day. And I threw up all over him. It was bad. We lived directly across the street, and Dr. G lived above the office, so we all changed clothers and started over using Crest on the spinner. I couldn't tolerate the actual gritty bad stuff on the spinner until I was 12. Sad, but true.

Also, Dr. G and my dad would yell "Hoooooooooo!" across the street at each other ("Ho!" as in the "Who goes there?" kind, NOT the "Hey Sugar, you lookin' for date?" kind), and my dad and Dr. G would spend a good portion of my dentists' visits yelling "Hooooooooooo!" at each other and squirting each other with the water thingie. Good times.

But this past week, I noticed one of my teeth really, really hurt. It hurt more when I drank hot or cold or sweet stuff. There was an actual, bonafide black dot on my tooth. I figured it was a cavity, and it did really bug me, so I thought I should find a dentist.

Now, in light of the Smelly Russian Doctor incident, I have been much more careful about finding health care people. No more phone book. I interviewed a number of psychologists, all of whose names I got from the APA, before I started therapy with Susan (Shrink #6 for me personally). I really, really like her. She is the AntiFrances. So when I saw her Monday, I mentioned needing to find a dentist and asked who she would recommend. This seems like a good idea, right? Consult one trusted, excellent health care professional to recommend another one, right? She recommended this dentist she's seen for years, and she said, however, that he takes a holistic approach to dentistry, focusing a lot on nutrition and minerals and what have you. She said he has a unique personality, but that she thinks I'll really like him. Okay, great. I made myself an appointment.

It was today.

So I get there. There are a lot of big bottles of minerals for sale in the waiting room. I fill out a standard form about my medical history. The form had a place to list "the person who referred you to our practice so we can thank them." I jotted down Susan's name. Then I get taken into a normal smelling, non-paint peeling dentist-y room. Excellent. I don a bib and hop in the chair. I start out with Debbie the Dental Hygienist. I say my tooth hurts; I show her the little black spot. She pokes it with the little hook and says it's not a cavity. O-kaaaay. Now, it's early in the morning, and honestly, I'm starting to get a little nervous because there are books all around the office with titles like, "Treating schizophrenia with herbs" (I am so not making that up. That was the title.)

I'm always very thirsty in the morning and my mouth dries up when I'm nervous, which anyone who saw my thesis defense first thing in the morning can attest to, as my lips kept sticking to my teeth, like, a lot, until I just grabbed my professor's coffee cup and sucked it down. We have it on tape. I keep running my tongue over my teeth like the love child of Mrs. Doorman (10th grade English teacher) and Mr. Ed (TV star horse of the 50s). It's bad.

But I digress. Debbie the Dental Hygienist says I have dry mouth, and I say, yes, and she says it's because of all the meds I'm on. This is true. The drugs that keep bad things from happening when I laugh too hard absorb water from other parts of the body, too. She says that meds drain your bodies of minerals, and since it's not technically a cavity, the best way to treat it is to take some minerals. (If you haven't already guessed from all the foreshadowing, "minerals" are going to be mentioned a lot from here on out. Let's make this a drinking game. Any time you read the word "Mineral(s)," everybody drink, okay?)

She says my dry mouth is bad. I laugh and point to the little cup and the sink and ask for a cup of water. She says, "Oh, God, don't drink city water, I'll get you some mineral water." (Everyone ready? Drink!) So then the actual dentist comes in. He's nice, about 50, balding, short, clean, no noticeable funky lunch meat smell. I say, hi, I'm (My Name Here). He says, "I'm Doctor Steven Green." (This is his real name. I don't care. He gets all mean and judgmental and self-righteous in about two minutes. Google away, world!) Then, dead serious, he said, "You can call me Stevie." Ha ha ha.... um, NO. he noticed that Susan recommended me and mentioned that he's treated her family for year and gave her boys lots of minerals (drink!) as they grew up. Huh.

Here's the basic conversation:

Debbie the Dental Hygienist (DDH): She thinks she has a cavity, but I think the thing you will find most troubling is her severe dry mouth. (Christ, it's not like I have leprosy, woman; if it bugs you, gimme some more water, then, dammit.)
Mean Judgmental Dentist (MJD): (looking at my medical history form) Hmmm, well, let me tell you that I really believe in dealing with the whole body, the whole person, especially in regard to nutrition.
Me: (nodding)
MJD: I must say that I am extremely concerned.
Me: (nodding, eyes narrowing)
MJD: I can tell right away, from your skin, your obesity and your posture, you have grave, grave nutritional problems. Me: (Thinking: JIGGA, f*ckin' WHA??? Nice to meet you, too, baldy. And, for the record, I'm 18 lbs lighter than I was when I left PA, when most of you saw me last, and even then, it wasn't like I have to be lifted out of the house by a crane to go meet Richard Simmons. Also, I was just looking at my skin in the rear view mirror on the way over thinking it's cleared up a bit since the sun is lower in the sky and I'm not smearing sunscreen on every hour on the hour...) Oh. Well, yes, um, about the meds? See, I'm looking around at your books about holistic healing and herbalism here, and um, I went through a very serious, life threatening depression last year, and I really have stabilized on this medication, so... While I plan to eventually go off of them, I'm really not in a position to do that now.
MJD: I can tell from looking at you right away that you're not stable.
Me: (Clearing my throat) Look, I came here because I think I have a cavity. I would really like you to look at it and tell me what you think.
MJD: Look, one can look at dentists as carpentars, just go to them to fill in the holes, or one can see them as medical professionals, as doctors, whose opinions deserve respect.
Me: (Hotly, all mad and articulate, a la Thomas Paine) Look, I don't want you to feel that I'm being disrespectful here. I obviously respect your years of study or I wouldn't be here requesting your opinion. I feel kind of stupid here because I'm wearing this big blue bib, but I feel I should tell you that I am very sensitive about the things you mentioned, such as my weight and my skin, and I would really prefer not to discuss it with you.
MJD: Then you're not working on your issues!
Me: I am working on them with Susan S., thank you, not with you. My tooth hurts. Would you mind telling me what you think? (I lay back and open my mouth. I also start thinking about running away.)
MJD: Listen, (my name here), this is all about regaining a lost grace and seeking harmony.
Me: (and here I thought it was because I've recently developed an addiction to Grape Kool-Aid and hate flossing) Oh... I'm sorry.... (my voice starts getting shaky. I HATE that I'm a crier now.) Would you mind just looking at the cavity?
MJD: (reaching for dentist's mirror and- finally!- checking out the painful tooth with the little black dot on it) Sure. Then you can run away.
Me: Look, I'm just extremely uncomfortable. I wasn't planning on discussing my weight and stuff, and... it caught me off guard.
MJD: Okay. Let's just do this so you can run away from thinking intimately about your issues. (I am so NOT making this up.)
Me: Look, frankly, I met you five minutes ago. You don't know me at all. I'm very uncomfortable. (I am also flat on my back staring into a bright light wearing a bib)
MJD: I'm sorry, I just can't help being anything but honest.
Me: I guess.... (gulping, not gonna cry, I am NOT!) It doesn't strike me as honesty; it's really kind of insulting.
MJD: Well, this spot isn't really big enough to be a cavity. There's no active decay.
Me: Oh. But it hurts...

MJD gets a phone call. He and Debbie squabble over my head whether it's appropriate for him to take the call. He decides to. "It's *my* shrink on the phone," he says, smiling. the second he's out of the room the tears start falling. DDH hands me a tissue and tells me, "He doesn't mean to be insulting. He just cares so much." I regain my composure and take some deep breaths. She says "mineral- (there's the word! everybody drink!)- water will help."

I decline.

MJD bustles back in and says, "Now that we're old friends, I'm going to explore this pain in your tooth." He asks me all these nuanced questions about it, is it a throbbing pain, does it wake me up at night?
Me: Nope. Just feels like an ache.
MJD: Does it extend into your jaw, give you a headache or happen when you're unhappy?
Me: Nope, just an ache in my tooth. A toothache.

He has me do all these exercises, including one where I have to bite his thumb. I'm not biting hard enough, apparently, and as he pushes me to bite down harder. I consider biting it off. How very Shakespearean of me. Also, I keep hearing a line from an episode of Friends where the manager Terry (the dad from ALF) hired Natalie Merchant or someone to sing at Central Perk and Phoebe quits because she's not getting paid, you know? and she stands outside the coffee shop singing loud, angsty songs, including the line, "You're ALL invited to bite ME!"

He decides that despite his assessment that it's not a problem (How is a black spot on my tooth that wasn't there two weeks ago that hurts a lot NOT a problem, exactly? Not a huge problem, I suppose, not like having- I don't know- an imbalance of GRACE AND HARMONY, but let me remind you all that This. Is. a. Dentist's. Office.

Blah blah blah tired of this story now blah blah blah. He tries to sell me some minerals (drink!), and I decline. he fills the black spot so that there will be less of an "awareness" of pain. Whatever. Although while he's in there, he also sands off these two little stained spots off my left incisor that I've had for a while. I didn't think the spots were removable because there around this little cap I got from a chipped tooth, but I guess that's my little Dentist from Hell Bonus Prize or something.

Well, that and the pamphlet he gave me with his take on the interconnectedness of dentistry and harmony. I'll save it to show most of you at Thanksgiving. He writes in it that he has evidence that anti-depressants cause cancer. Damn. I hope finding an oncologist won't be this bizarre.....

Happy Halloween! I hope the Great Pumpkin was good to all of you. :)

When I was very little, younger than 5 because we still lived at the house on State Street, my mom and dad took Manda and me to Roots a fwe days before Halloween. We got some gourds (the kind that look like very small pumpkins), and when we got home, we "planted" them in our garden. (My dad had this awesome vegetable garden- he grew all kinds of stuff, and he also had four or five fruit trees and a grapevine. Knowing what I know now, as I am just now learning how to take care of houseplants, I'm amazed at the amount of effort that took) a few hours later, the "Great Pumpkin" had come and turned our little pumpkins into big, jack-o-lantern sized pumpkins which we then carved. We got to go out in our pjs with flashlights to see if he had come yet, which of course he had. This sounds lame now, but I was far more excited about that I ever was about the Easter Bunny.

I covered a Halloween party tonight for the Hiami Merald, although I am a little bummed that I didn't get to answer the door and wear my cool leather mask. As you know, my only friends in my apartment complex are 10, 11 and 12ish, so I was really looking forward to it. Not enough to turn down a shift, but still....

The party was held at the YMCA. It was fun, although I have to say it's strange to be somewhere where it's so freakin' hot for Halloween. I can not believe it's November. I never realized how much the changing of the seasons affects my sense of time until I moved to Miami. If you were to wake me up in the middle of the night or catch me off guard, I would probably say it's still the end of July if you asked me what month it is.

While I was at this party, I photographed a group of boys playing together. There were about 10 Spidermans all playing tag with a few ninjas, 2 Supermans and a Batman. At one point, a couple of Spidermans (approximately age 7) had a little spat with Batman. (Batman seemed to have a little bit of an attitude problem, frankly.) So I had to call Stephen and ask if, in comic book history, Batman has ever gotten into an argument with Spiderman. He, of course, knew exactly when and in what graphic novel and who drew it, and he told me that they finally made up when they had to join together to defeat the Joker for the good of humanity. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) one of the ninjas skinned a knee, and everyone turned their attention away from Batman, who I really think just missed his afterschool Ritalin.

By the way, if you are ever faced with ten 7-year-old Spidermans, and one of them pretends to shoot a web at you- DO NOT; I repeat, DO. NOT. fling yourself against the fence behind you and pretend to be stuck. They will think this is hilarious, yes, but then they will all shoot webs at you and be very cross when you eventually have to "unwind" yourself and go back to work.

It was pretty cute, though, when they pulled off their masks after they all got overheated from running around. Of the five (unmasked) 7-year-old Spidermans, every single one of them appeared to be of a different ethnicity. Hee! Spiderman, a superhero for all cultures.

Oh, and if the fact that the closest thing I got to wearing a costume involved tying my orange bandanna over the Horrible Haircut wasn't enough to make me feel old, the fact that I got called "Senora" twice- TWICE!- tonight really hit that point home. (Culturally, one stays "Senorita" for about 5 or more years after one could expect to be called "Miss.") And I thought being called "Ma'am" was bad....