Monthly Archives: April 2006

I saw dead people.

Yesterday was the day. Hulk’s parents came down from Up North and we all went to see the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the natural history museum here in Denver.

I think the best word to describe the exhibit is “Wow.”

Just wow. I really didn’t know what to expect, other than to see the soccer player guy like they show in all the promotional advertisements, and hoo boy, were my expectations blown out of the water. It was simply amazing. And not only did we get to see the dead people, we got to see cross sections of brains, organs, and body cavities (the grossest one was a cross section of a woman with severe constipation. Ew!). One of the interesting things was that they showed organs and organ systems in various states of disease and dysfunction. We saw normal lungs, smokers lungs (ugh), and coal miners’ lungs (double ugh). We saw normal kidneys and a kidney with polycystic disease (ugh!). And we saw all kinds of cross sections with various kinds of tumors. I got a little sad when I saw the cross section of metastic melanoma (a friend died of metastic melanoma a couple of years ago, only a few weeks after being diagnosed).

The best parts were the bodies in various stages of dissection, most of which were named and put into interesting positions (soccer player, baseball player, ice skaters, ballet dancer, skateboarder, diver, gymnast). Each of these was in a different state of dissection, showing different muscles, nerves, organs, and other parts, depending on the position. Seeing the ballet dancer in an arabesque en pointe was just phenomenal. I don’t have to wonder what a ballet dancer looks like on the inside anymore, or what the muscles look like as they expand and contract to hold a dancer in position. The posed bodies in different ranges of motion weren’t just cool to look at. It was obvious someone had taken ages to position them just right – and they looked like works of art. They were beautiful and graceful and just amazing.

There were a couple of disturbing aspects as well. Most of the bodies had the belly buttons still attached, and the skin with eyebrows, and breasts with nipples and penises and testicles. It’s one thing to look at a body with no skin and no hair that’s separated somewhat into its component parts. It’s another to see the parts that make us look really HUMAN still attached. Each of these bodies, each of the cross sections, each of the disembodied organs, was once a person. A breathing, thinking, feeling person who lived and loved and laughed and felt pain and cried. My brain kept doing this thing where it would switch between seeing the bodies as muscles, sinews, ligaments, bones, organs – and seeing them as once-living people. I couldn’t do both at once.

The most disturbing thing to me showed a cross section of a very thin man (120 pounds at death) and an obese man (300 pounds at death, though they didn’t say how tall he had been) side by side. The fat layer on the obese man was just thoroughly disgusting, especially the second cross section that was just taken from his side, that showed belly fat, a tiny bit of hip bone, a tiny bit of leg muscle, and more fat. Fat, fat fat. Ugh. I wonder how many people walked by that display with an increased desire to exercise, eat well, and not end up like that man. Because I sure did.

There was a sectioned-off area with fetuses in various states of development (all, we were assured by the signs, having died of natural causes etc. (no aborted fetuses, no sir!)) and a woman who was 5 months pregnant at death. This was both interesting and weird, especially since the woman had “smokers lungs” and had died of lung cancer (willing her body to science before she died, knowing she would die before the fetus came to term). It was definitely cool to see the difference between an 8-week embryo and a 24-week fetus – and it was kind of scary to know that there are babies born extremely prematurely that are living now at 23 and 24 weeks. How can it even be possible? They are soooo tiny and look soooo underdeveloped.

Perhaps the most amazing body was called “Exploded man.” Every component part (except bones) of Exploded man was there, suspended from a wire, in the place it would be in the body – but separated from the other parts so one could see all the parts individually and how they related to the other parts. I know I’m not explaning this very well – but there were hundreds of parts, all suspended from wires, and the whole looked very much like an exploded man. There was also “drawer man” – who had various parts kind of cut and pulled out as though a drawer to allow you to see what was underneath/inside. The Hulk, his mom, and I all inspected the “orthopedic man” with all the different replacement parts – a pacemaker, artificial hip, artificial vertebrae, a metal jaw, metal pins in the legs and arms, and a titanium knee – because Hulk’s dad has a titanium knee. It was really cool to see what his knee looks like on the inside.

I was very pleased to see that everyone was respectful and interested in the exhibit. Kids of all ages were in attendance and could have made lots of crude jokes and been disrespectful – but none of them were. I saw teenagers taking keen interests in the diseased organs and admiring the grace and beauty of the variously posed bodies. It was obvious that there were people who were bothered by the exhibit, or at least some of it, because they were sitting along the sides of the room, away from all the bodies and organs and cross sections, patiently waiting for their people to finish so they could leave. I understood their feelings. In a way, it was deeply disturbing to be in a room full of people flayed open for inspection, as respectful as the exhibit was.

After we finished, we went to lunch and we all ate way more than we should. And then we went for ice cream, which I almost never eat – but somehow, I wanted to. And I wanted to stand and move and feel myself alive. Later on I thought about it and realized that my feelings were probably similar to those of people who leave a funeral and then have a lot of sex – to prove life. We are alive and we move and we have all of those component parts that we saw on all those people in Body Worlds 2 – but they are all working, functioning, and living bodies with skin and hair and moles and wrinkles and stretch marks are all still more beautiful than the dead people we saw yesterday. Because we’re alive, and are not in stasis for all time, kicking a soccer ball or balancing on a toe, with our bodies flayed for the world to see. The exhibit was amazingly cool, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested – but it left me with the feeling of wanting to move and live and eat and have sex and all those other things that those people whose bodies we so admired can never do again.

Advertisements

My Person

It was right around this time 5 years ago that the Hulk and I started IMing once in a while, after a thread on That Message Board about people’s messenger handles. I went to Toronto for a long weekend of debauchery and he didn’t even tell me until a week after we got back that he’d had a birthday while I was gone. He just didn’t think it was that big a deal.

I think birthdays are big deals, and I have lots of presents for him to open when I get home from work today. I will also make him a fabulous cake and do lots of other things that I won’t detail here to spare people’s sensibilities. Needless to say, I think he will have a fabulous birthday.

Happy birthday DGS. I love you very much.

*VAPT*

April in Colorado = Schizophrenia

Saturday was in the 70s and sunny.

Sunday morning was in the 70s and sunny. Sunday afternoon was a bit overcast. By 5:30 there was a 20-minute long hailstorm that had hail ranging from marble-size to gumball-size. It was the biggest hail I’ve ever seen. And loud! It was so loud, I thought the stray ones might break the windows.

Sunday night it rained and yesterday it rained. Then the rain turned to snow. It snowed for most of the afternoon and evening and there was still snow on the rooftops, grass, and new tree leaves when I woke up this morning. It was also cold as fuck.

It’s a good thing I waxed my legs Sunday afternoon, so I could wear skirts to work this week, and spent part of last week switching out all my winter stuff for summer stuff, isn’t it?

Batizado!

The first time I ever saw capoeira was on the street in Berkeley, I think maybe during the “How Berkeley Can You Be” parade/day/thingy. I remember how fluid, dynamic, and fun it looked, and thought that someday I should try it. I also saw a roda at Burning Man in 2001 in the center camp one day. The images of the people playing, with dread locks, in their underwear or less, sweaty and dusty, still stand out in my mind. Capoeira is a beautiful cross between a dance, a martial art, and acrobatics combined with a rhythmic music that just speaks to me.

One of our friends is a capoeirista (a practitioner, or player, of capoeira), and we found out that her school’s batizado was open to the public this weekend. To a capoerista, a batizado is a Really Big Deal. So on Saturday we headed down to the downtown YMCA (my gym), paid our $10, and spent four hours watching mestres (masters), profesores (teachers), and students play music (drums, tambourines, blocks, bells, and berimbaus), display artistry, acrobatics, cunning, skill, martial art, and dance in the roda, and totally kick ass.

The batizado (baptism) is the ceremony in which students progress from one corded belt to the next, and in which newer students get their first belt. This batizado included players from all over the US, all of whom are a part of the United Capoeira Association. Some highlights included special appearances by highly respected mestres, including the guy who basically brought capoeira to the US. The very first student to vie for her belt (after all the kickass demonstration stuff by the higher-ranking players) faced off against this guy. Here’s this 8 year old girl demonstrating her knowledge of capoeira moves being tested by this 50-something or 60-something guy who’s like the father of capoeira in the US. I don’t know if she understood how cool that was, but I bet she will when she’s older.

We saw about 30 students of all ages receive their first belts, and a varying number receive higher belts. The higher the belt, the more people tested you in the roda, and the harder it was to evade all the tricks that come with playing capoeira at higher levels. We saw some people that were really good receiving their first belt (green), and some that were still at a very basic level.

The cool thing about capoeira is that the terminology really makes sense – you play capoeira, and that’s really what we saw – people smiling, laughing, having a great time. It’s about discipline and control, of course, but there is also quite an emphasis on cooperation, fun, and sharing the experience with the other players – particularly the music, which involves the voice as well as instruments, and the students surrounding the roda sang along with those playing the instruments. It was also a chance for friends who live in different places to come together and get to play with one another. And it was a chance for us, the audience, to get to see some really amazing things.

One of the things that struck me at the batizado was how thin and in shape everyone was. It made me feel totally out of shape to see these thin, strong people do amazing things with their bodies. A woman (maybe late 20s?) sitting nearby me dressed to play was there with her husband, a profesore of a school in the area where I grew up in Northern California. She was nursing a 4-month old baby and looked like she’d never even been pregnant. I found out that it was her second kid; she also has a 3-year old. She told me that she had played capoeira up until a week before the 4-month-old was born and had gotten her current belt while pregnant. Now that’s dedication – and she wasn’t the only one there with a similar story. I saw two other players (one a teacher) who were nursing moms, and to look at them you would never have guessed that they’d even given birth. I guess it speaks to how dedicated you have to be to play capoeira, that you continue to play while pregnant and bounce right back after having your kid.

Capoeira has an interesting history and is beautiful and exciting to watch, particularly when the participants are highly skilled and moving at almost lightning speed intermixed with those typical slow, deliberate, almost impossible to do handstands and headstands and such. We both had a lot of fun watching the show. And when we have a car again I’m definitely looking into joining the same school where my friend plays capoeira.

Katee Sackhoff, you are teh hott

Can I just say how refreshing it is to see an actress on a kickass TV show who is built like ME and does not have toothpicks for limbs, no butt, and a boob job? Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica (aka Starbuck), you rock my world and you kick ass.

Seriously. If you watch the show and you see the parts where she doesn’t have a lot of clothes on? She LOOKS LIKE ME. Not in the face, but in the body, with the arm/back muscles and the same girly shape I am and everything. And she is drop dead hott.

Joey

My friend Joey and I have had a long and interesting friend-history. The story starts when I was 15 and went to the sweet 16 birthday party of a wealthyish classmate (The Other Emily). She’d invited everyone in the class, all her relatives around her age, and some of their friends. At the party I met this guy who was friends with Other Emily’s cousin. Since he was from another town, he only knew the cousin and only peripherally knew Other Emily. I think we started talking when he and the cousin were sucking helium from balloons and lauging like only 15 year old boys can.

The party was kind of like a dance, only with less parental supervision, and I totally danced slow with this guy. I thought he was really cute and gave him my number.

A month later he called me. I still have the piece of paper where my sister took the message with his name and phone number. He told me later that he liked both me and one of my classmates who was also at the party and it took him a month to decide which one he liked better. I think that was actually a lie, looking back on it, because he’s catholic and she’s mormon and she wouldn’t have ever gone out with him.

Anyhow, we started “dating,” if you can call hitching rides with parents to hang out and taking the bus to one another’s town on the weekends dating. We talked on the phone a lot and wrote letters and I really liked him a lot. But being 15 and in two different towns with no good transportation put a strain on the relationship, and we broke up a couple of months later.

Aside: Joey had a thing for my Oldest Friend, who went to junior high with him. I didn’t know that until a while after we became friends. Later, Oldest Friend went to Joey’s prom with him, and this other friend of ours took him to her prom, and I took him to my senior prom, all in the same spring. I have this picture frame with the little pictures from each of the proms and the fourth rectangle of the frame says “Joey’s prom dates.”

After we broke up, Joey and I became friends. And I don’t just mean high school hi how are ya friends, I mean really good, really close friends. We talked a lot, having long grown-up philosopical conversations about evolution and morality and I learned how to be friends with someone who had totally different ideas about the world than I did (religous! Catholic! Republican!) and he drove up and visited with me and my family in his silver 1960 crazyass van after he got his license, and we wrote letters back and forth every week or so, complete with scribbled pen drawings of a mouse named Hot Cheese. We made each other mix tapes. Joey saw me through several failed relationships and crushes, and I dealt with it when his first really serious girlfriend turned out to be a psycho hose beast and forbid him from talking with any of his female friends for like 6 months, of whom he had many. We all loved Joey; he was crazy, doing stunts on his bikes and roller blades and hotwiring a cherry picker with his friends and videotaping it. One time he told me about a napalm-making experiment. One time he told me how to ruin the paint job on a car of someone you don’t like (cut letter shapes out of bologna to spell whatever you want the car to say, and put the bologna on the car in the night. By morning, when the person finds the bologna and peels it off, it will have eaten the paint underneath, and the car says “Poo head” on it or whatever. Ha!) He’d tell me about his latest insane plan or exploit like maybe the time he put a shopping cart on the train tracks or the time he was shooting paint balls at passing cars and accidently hit his parents coming home early. I’d just shake my head and laugh, because it was Joey.

We’d all go to the beach, a big group of 8 or 10 of us, in his big silver van that was always breaking down. Or we’d run around Healdsburg in the middle of the night, making teenage mischief. He helped me make a video project for school my senior year and it was one of the most fun days of my life. I’d always bring him a birthday cake on his birthday, and one time his autistic little brother ate the whole thing when we were in his bedroom working on a video.

I took him to my senior prom as my best friend, and he was, and we totally made out that night and then the next week he got back together with the psycho hose beast. And then I went to college.

Joey did visit me at college my freshman year. He loved coming to Berkeley, and we’d always find something fun going on. When I came home for breaks he was always at my house visiting with me and my family and teasing my sisters. My sophomore year, I found out that Joey had started dating my middle sister, four years younger than he was, and it totally freaked me out. I mean, he was my best friend. And he was going out with my little sister! It was too weird. Our friendship got really strained after that, and it wasn’t until about a year after they broke up that we really became good friends again. I found out later that Joey was in love with Lissa but realized that he couldn’t make things work with her because they were in different life stages (he was 20, she was 16), and he was Catholic and conservative and she, like me, was not. I think he pined for her for years, just like he pined for Oldest Friend.

And then I broke up with my college boyfriend, and I was home visiting, and we went to the movies and smuggled in some rum and drank a gigantic movie coke full of rum and we got so wasted and we totally made out. And we might have done more, but we were both too tired and drunk.

The last few years, since I graduated college and moved to Denver, Joey’s been busy finishing school and now is working constantly to save money to go back to get another bachelor’s degree and teaching credential. I’ve seen him a couple of times in the last 3 or 4 years when I go home and he isn’t sick or working on his (still usually broken) van. The Hulk got to meet him last new year’s, the friend I have been talking about since Hulk and I got together.

Two weeks ago Joey called me to say happy belated birthday and to tell me he’s been putting all his old videos on DVD. Today, I got a package in the mail with the DVD of the movie we made together in high school set to the Rancid song I’d picked, plus a cd with the same songs on it as his favorite mix tape that I made him. The cover of the DVD had a drawing of Hot Cheese. It made me smile. I can’t wait to get home this evening to watch the movie and listen to the tape and think about my friend Joey, who I am glad to know.

Happy Birthday Monkey!

My dearest Monkey,

May you have the most fabulous of birthdays. Three cubed has been pretty good so far for me; I hope it is for you!

*does happy Monkey birthday dance, throws confetti*

Love and hugs,
mle