April 8, 2007

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, No, It’s a Black Hairy Tongue

Ah, side effects. Every medication has a side effect, but do you ever really notice the side effects or care about them when you’re in the doctor’s office feeling like crap? And those beautiful drug commercials where the side effects are given at the end of the commercial in one of three ways: in fine print smaller than the human eye can see, told to us by some super sonic speed reader or gently flashed at the bottom of the screen while a woman in a bikini runs above to avert the commoners’ eyes.

But have you ever seen this side effect?
And no, this is NOT my tongue.

One which looks so gruesome it could be used in a midnight B movie on the Sci Fi Channel with some title like, Attack of the Killer Tongue or The Mutation Project.

On Saturday, I was prescribed penicillin for a cold and throat infection. After a few days, I finally decided to peruse the side effect sheet, you know the one that is on the medication bag and is consequently stapled shut from every angle. It stated, “Although uncommon, you may develop a black “hairy” tongue while taking this medication. This effect is harmless and usually goes away after treatment. Maintain good oral hygiene and brush your tongue with a soft toothbrush twice a day.”

“Stephane,” I yelled, “what the hell is a black hairy tongue? Quick, look at my tongue. I don’t want hair on my tongue!” I must say, I was not handling it well.

My husband grabbed the flash light and peered into my mouth. “I don’t see anything. What is it supposed to look like?”

“I don’t know,” I whined, “they call it a black hairy tongue so I guess it looks like a black hairy tongue.”

“I don’t know what a black hairy tongue is?”

“But do you see any hair on my tongue, any at all?”

“Well I don’t think so but I really don’t know what to compare it to?”

I run to the mirror in the bathroom and stick my tongue out as far as possible. After ten minutes, I concurred that I did not thankfully, have the dreaded black hairy tongue.

A week later, I am happy to report, I still do not have any kind of hair on my tongue. But it may be due to the fact that I have brushed my tongue more times than I can count - all to avoid looking like a space alien or monster from the deep. I did notice my husband hasn’t kissed me much this week. He says it’s because I have a horrible cold but I wonder?

I mean really, the sheet said it’s harmless. I shouldn’t worry - so you would think? But tell me, if your tongue turned out like the one in the picture, would you say to yourself, “Oh well, it’s completely harmless,” and then saunter off to work with your business suit and your black hairy tongue. I think not.

It may be physically harmless but nobody wants to be known as the Black Hairy Tongue Girl. Can you imagine how many of your friends would no longer let you taste any of their food because they can’t get that visual out of their mind? It's social suicide I tell you. On the other hand, it would make a great Halloween prop.

April 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Baby!

A child's first birthday. Either you host the birthday party or you are part of one at some point and they are always, always over the top. When we started to plan our daughter's first birthday party we thought it would be something small, no fancy decorations, just an easy homemade cake. Well, that's how it was supposed to be anyway.

The whole event started at The Party Store where there are rows and rows of childhood necessities to make the ultimate birthday party. You're roped in when you hear the saleswoman say, "Oh, I've seen people spend $400 on their child's first birthday party."

You look in your cart where you have one Happy Birthday Banner, the cheapest invitations you could find, and a package of balloons to blow-up.

By the time you leave, you have everything matching in a certain theme of course, whether it be Strawberry Shortcake, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo or the tons of other child themed cartoon characters that are out there. By the time we left, we had matching napkins, hats, invitations, thank you cards, two banners; one for the kitchen and the living room, tablecloths, cake candles with press on figures, first birthday bib, first birthday sippie cup, first birthday crown and the ever dreaded piƱata.

All for a small family affair, that is until your mother realizes you aren't inviting Aunt so and so, or the cousin who just moved back to town that you haven't seen since you were eight, or her friend from work who would love to attend because she says, "What a cute grandchild," every time your mother flashes your daughter's picture.

We decided to have dinner at the party which included a whole other set of issues. My sister-in-law doesn't eat certain types of meat and the meat she does eat, my only sister pretty much doesn't eat. And that pretty much leaves hamburger.

So I run down the list of what we could easily make since all of my family live three hours away in South Bend and all parties have to be there otherwise, I don't think anyone would attend.

Hamburgers would be okay, but it is too cold to grill outside, there's spaghetti which is pretty much the poor man's dinner (I mean really, you don't go to a special event and eat spaghetti with Prego sauce dumped on it), meatballs which personally I have no idea how to make, lasagna which takes a long time, so that left tacos. All of the high school/college kids that would be there like them, my nephew engulfs them and voila, it has hamburger! Not much in the way of gourmet food but I figure it'll pass.

The party was going to be held at 4:30 P.M. so the plan was to go and buy the balloons and then buy the groceries. The party/balloon store was very busy and when we finally arrived at the counter to buy balloons the cashiers were ready to get the order and get us out.

"We need some balloons," I told them.

And then the questions boomed out at me, "How many, what kind, how do you want them attached, did you want to order the twelve for this much or the four for this much, what kind of weight do you want them attached to, blah, blah, blah."

Since I have never bought balloons for anything before I started asking questions. This was where it started to go wrong. There wasn't room for questioning, not with a line of ten people behind me. After the balloons were added up, the cashier overheard me saying to my husband that we have to go to the grocery store now.

"You're not going to leave these balloons in the car are you?"

"Um," I said, "I was."

"Oh no, no, no. You can't do that, they'll pop."

I made a mental note to myself to check out a book called Ballooning 101 the next time I was at the library because obviously there is some science and preanalyzing that needs to be done before you step inside a balloon store.

I thought I would start the party with a few games. I happen to love party games, most of the adult population (and older relatives) do not like party games. Me asking the guests to write down on a piece of photo safe/acid free paper "Why is Olivia special?" for the scrapbook I was going to make was probably asking a bit much. By the time we got to how many M&M's are in the jar, I pretty much lost them.

After the games, we moved on to the taco dinner. Just saying "taco dinner" sounds like I had a trailor park birthday party. It's like those charity luncheons where you pay $50 dollars and expect chicken or steak and all they have is a table long sandwich from Subway. I guess that's why I wrote appetizers and dinner will be provided on the invitations instead of get ready for a taco dinner made from a Taco Bell kit.

After dinner, Olivia blew out her candle on her Care Bear cake. As you can see by the picture, she was not fond of having her hands covered in frosting. She first thought it was neat to stick her fingers in the cake, then looked at her fingers like, "How do you get this stinky junk off my hands?" and then it escalated to, "Someone get this stuff off my hands now!"

By the time we got to the presents, the party had been rather long. My brother was yawning and people were looking pretty bored. But the main thing is that we have pictures and when she grows up, she'll see that she was loved, even at the age of one little year.

April 1, 2007

The Beverly Hillbillies of Scrap Iron

One trash day a year, our city has a free-for-all day, where citizens of an otherwise modest community group together to throw away their trash: busted television sets, broken refrigerators, rusted bicycles, stained mattresses and outdated computers – absolutely free of charge. No one garbage can maximum, no expensive yard stickers to buy, it’s a pure unadulterated garbage fest and people come out sliding, pushing, and carrying anything and everything to the curb that is both attached and unattached to their house for the next morning’s pick-up.

But here’s the clincher: before any city worker, recycle center or garbage truck can pick the stuff up the next morning it’s gone, all gone, or if you want to be exact, mostly gone.

I had heard of these zen masters of the recycle world. These phantom garbage men who slowly venture into the night when everyone is asleep, to scour the streets for trash items which can be recycled for profit, reused, or are being kept for some world’s greatest garage sale that nobody knows about. And I was bound and determined that day to see what all the commotion was about. Why did they come out when nobody was around?

Today, I knew they would be at their best because it was the one day they would be able to collect to their heart's content. They were sure to be on a regular rotation schedule, wanting to get all of the unwanted goods before the next day. I thought for sure I would be able to hear them coming, the truck shifting into high gear or at least jerking to a halt to deal with the excess junk in their trunk. But these were the Gods of garbage hunting. They knew how to swiftly drive by and collect without anyone ever noticing.

The morning started out well. My husband and I decided to first clear out the excess from the attic and upstairs. Out went an old shower door, a painting of a woodland scene on particle board that the previous owners so graciously left us, tubes from a make-shift outdoor cat cage and one bag of trash. After two hours, we decided to go down to the corner restaurant to eat breakfast and when we arrived home, the shower door was gone, snatched up in broad day light without me ever getting the chance to see who were these wanderlust collectors of well, crap.

Although I was dismayed, I was also undaunted. I told Stephane we had to put out more collectible and recyclable trash. I went to look around the house for products of value for which Stephane reminded me it's supposed to be stuff we don't want, not something we actually still use.

We decided to head out to the garage. There was an old stationary exercise bicycle, a rusty Schwinn bicycle, a garbage bag of plastic flower containers, and a bird house that leaked. And of course, plenty of those someday items which everyone stores in the garage, you know the ones that are kept there just in case someday you are in a situation where you might need them: renegade screws, plant food for the garden you never planted, lose boards, a left-handed work glove in case the mate is ever found. Yes, we got rid of it all. I had a monolithic mountain by the curb, bigger than any of garbage heaps on on the block, and I knew the truck had to be coming by soon, figuring that by some unknown ESP or hunting sense, the truck would know some irresistible treasure would be lurking in the vicinity and they would use their radar to find it.

Alas, this second round of trash Olympics was not going to be mine to win. Somewhere between walking twenty feet from the curb back to the garage, the exercise bicycle had been snatched. I went back again to the garage to tell Stephane and when we went back to the curb, the rusted Schwinn bicycle had been snatched too. That truck must have been on some super mega rotation schedule.

These people were playing hard ball and now and I had another plan in mind. I yelled back to my husband who was in the driveway, “Stephane, we need some major aluminum bait!”
We looked through the garage and there it was in the corner, almost as if it had a shining aura of godliness cast upon it, the piece de resistance - the bent aluminum tire rim from my car.

I first must admit, that with every item we hauled out, I asked the typical question that at least one person in every couple asks, “Can we use that for anything? Can it be fixed? What if we need it one day?” For which the sane person of the couple immediately replies, "no, no and no” and runs to the curb with it before the other person can think of some reason to save it. But with my bent aluminum tire rim, I was sacrificing it for an important purpose, to catch the Garbage collectors.

As I put my found treasure on the curb, I thought of how quickly the truck knew when I had put something out. There surely had to be some resident spy staged on every street, somehow being paid to look out of their window. I could just see the elderly woman down the street, the one who didn't like that we had our Christmas lights out after the snow melted, using a walkie talkie to inform Pedro or Bud, "The goods are out, the goods are out! Run and get the wheel rim from the white house!"

So I immediately looked at peoples' windows (especially hers) and glanced down both sides to see if some truck was posted at the end of the street, conveniently concealed by the trees, ready to make a quick drive by. But there was nothing.

I ran back into our house, went inside and concealed myself behind the window curtain. I was going to see what or who it was that came by and I had my camera just in case it was some ghostly garbage ghoul which plunged out of trash hell just to grab the goods.

I took a moment to stop and reflect, “What the hell was I doing? This had to be the lamest way to seek entertainment.” But then I realized most of my amusement had to come from our toddler, so by rights, I had a reason for this insanity. And then it happened, from the beginning of the street, I heard it coming. I knew it was coming. The abominable truck. There was no mistaking it, for if you looked at the picture, there is never a truck like this one parked next to you at work. It was slowly inching itself towards my shiny aluminum tire rim.

I ran out the door to take a picture of the truck, maybe to prove to myself it really did exist. If the men wondered why the crazy woman on her front lawn was taking pictures of them picking up trash, they did not seem to care. They were on a mission. I would have loved to go on their adventure, interview them for some newspaper column, "What junk is valuable? Has their truck ever turned over from too much poundage? Have they ever ran into a homeowner running out the front door with a shot gun yelling, 'Get away from my yard.'" You know, the usual questions. Just as reporters like to go on beats with cops so too, would I like to see the peril and personage these people commit to once a year.

They ended up coming around about ten more times before I finally got bored and went to take a nap. I guess they were desperate to get the best goods from a day that was almost done. After I woke up, Stephane told me that he took out the broken dryer to the curb. The man stopped again and actually called for back up for our monolithic appliance that he could probably get top dollar for and didn’t want to leave behind. I went to drop off some library books and noticed everyone who had been hauling things outside had stopped for the day and most of the items had been taken except for the real trash. I guess you can’t get any money for banana peels, dirty diapers and old coffee grounds.

So in reflection, I take my hat off to you O Beverly Hillbillies of Scrap Iron: for being the purveyors of Al Gore’s initiative, for saving unwanted stuff from certain doom in the junk yard, and for taking the time to do the hard work so you can make the money to feed your families. And if you remember the long ago show, The Beverly Hillbillies, you will see that they ended up filling their truck with junk too, hoping for a better life. (Although the truck I saw contained junk and scrap iron and apparently, the Beverly Hillbillies truck contains junk and grocery bags of Kellogg's Cornflakes. A product placement if I ever saw one.)

And somewhere near or far, I believe my prized bent aluminum tire rim is being melted into something better and its life will again be of value. So when you go to a tire store or used car lot, be on the look out for a tire rim which has an aura of Godliness shining upon it, for it just may be my treasured bait, all shiny and new because someone valued it enough to save it.

So in honor of my day of free entertainment with the hillbillies of Scrap Iron, I say a fond farewell, with a verse from the Beverly Hillbillies song:

Well now its time to say good-bye to Jed and all his kin

And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin in

You're all invited back again to this locality

To have a heapin helpin of their hospitality

Hillbilly that is. Set a spell. Take your shoes off.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?