Scootin’ along

Last year, prior to my blogging hiatus, I wrote about renting a scooter. Subsequently I promised to share that experience here, so let’s get to it.

NAMM. The National Association of Music Merchants as it used to be known, now called the International Music Products Association. This is a convention held each January in Anaheim, CA and it is the Holy Grail for musicians. Anybody who is (or wants to be) anybody finagles a pass for this trade event in order to check out the latest and greatest in gear, catch up with old friends, network and be seen. (Back in the old days we’d make up badge names to give to our friends like Dwight Mansburden, Mike Oxlong, and of course the Stitz sisters, Gloria and Norma ~ think on it, you’ll get them. But I digress….)

So after my NY debacle, this is where I opted to make my scooter debut. I rented this cool red number that was delivered to the Marriott for me. When the bellman rode it in, he looked pretty happy and a tiny bit smug, and at that point I wasn’t sure why. Whatever dude, here’s a couple of bucks, thank you very much.

I stopped and started and jerked it up to my room. Music hipsters, generally with attitude, held the elevator doors, asked others to wait, gave me big smiles and aided me in guiding my way up to my floor. I was genuinely warmed by their helpfulness, and quite frankly, a little surprised. I’d run into a lot of these same folks in previous years later at night and they were not nearly so genteel.

In the morning, I gathered my briefcase, computer, purse, media kits, a sweater and loaded up the buggy. I banged into every surface of the hotel room maneuvering out into the hall and finally got sorted out and on my way. The same ilk of hipsters (slightly less effusive on the dawn, but still helpful) got me down to the lobby and I was on my way. Once I got outside to a clear sidewalk, I got the bellman’s smirk. This sucker was fast!!

There was just one tiny problem. In addition to being fast, it had a hair trigger going both forward and backward. My fingers have a tendency to be a little numb all the time, so I couldn’t always tell how much juice I was giving, or which direction (forward or backward) I was going. No matter, let’s get on with it!

I pulled into our booth where our marketing manager Kirby was suitably impressed (and I think a little jealous) when he saw my cool ride. Showing off a little, I gunned it, and proceeded to go through the wall of our booth right into the one behind us. Uh oh. I was laughing so hard I was crying. A nice, tiny, foreign woman came around the corner apologizing for her booth having been in the way and Kirby shooed me off while he took matters into his very capable hands. I felt I was off to an auspicious start. (In hindsight, I was laid off 2 months later, so perhaps it wasn’t so auspicious after all).

At any rate, I had a wonderful time motoring around as did my clients. This was my 29th NAMM show (as in yes, I attended my first show in 1981) so of course there was a lot of meeting with old friends, who all wanted to take a spin. My friends John and Dusty really took it for all it was worth and raced around the convention center sending attendees scattering. It was joyful to watch.

I was sorry on my final day to turn it back into the bellman (who was happy to see me, and now I knew why). Not only did I feel remarkably refreshed after a 5 day convention, but I had discovered a new side to the  humanity of NAMMsters.

I made myself a deal years ago that I wouldn’t go to NAMM for 30 years  (egad ~ an old rockster, the worst!) and thanks to the alignment of stars and endless management changes at my old company, I will not be attending this month. That is a relief, but I must admit, after finally taking the scooter plunge, I was kind of looking forward to again hurtling around on that bitchin’ red scooter, as I’m sure were Dusty and John.

A hop, a skip and and a hirple

I play a lot of online Scrabble on Facebook (called Lexulous) with my mom and I cheat. I use one of those word generator web sites that help you put your letters together into words most people have never heard of, let alone used in a sentence.

In order to make myself feel better, I always look the word up though (so if Mom questions me I can say, with confidence, “oh, what a childish jape they played on her!”). So imagine my utter delight in discovering the word hirple.

To hirple is to walk with a limp. It also has the distinguishable honor of being one of two words that rhyme with purple (the other being curple ~ you look that one up).

Naturally, I prefer hirple to limp. So does my Mom, who at 90, has just recently started using a walking device ~ we now prefer to go on hirples together, rather than plain old walks.

You won’t find it in every dictionary (although apparently it is in the OED, the grandaddy of all dictionaries). Lest you don’t  believe me, it can be found in the Urban Dictionary and MSN Encarta:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hirple

http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_561509841/hirple.html

Please add hirple to your daily vocabulary and let’s see if we can get it to rejoin all the English dictionaries out there. I would hate to see such a fantastic word disappear completely from our lexicon.

Roid Rage

I went for the usual visit to my neurologist in LA over Thanksgiving week: walk on tip toes, walk on tip toes backwards, walk heel to toe, walk heel to toe backwards, close eyes and touch nose, determine soft (a Q-tip) from sharp (a safety pin), jerk around from the little rubber mallet hitting knees and elbows. I always imagine this is what getting a drunk test must be like. It seems to me that a big disease with it’s own initials  (MS!) should have a more intricate and serious seeming examination to go along with it. Q-tips, safety pins and rubber mallets seems so amateur somehow…like we’re just playing doctor patient.

So, when Dr. S. suggests I go for a steroid infusion treatment (since I  didn’t do so well on the walking parts of the test), I’m happy to play along with the game. 3 hours a day for 5 days getting a slow drip of something called solu-medrol, sure!

The first day was cake. I snuggled into warmed blankets and watched I Love Lucy reruns while eating the proffered snacks from a little basket and drinking fresh hot cappuccino made on site for me by the nurse on duty. This place in Pasadena is a 5 star infusion center!

Day 2, again, not so bad. It being Thanksgiving Day, I was moved to a different part of the clinic without a nurse dedicated solely to my whims, but I was in the glow of actually having been able to stand on one leg without falling over last night. Victory!

Day three. My friend Kate came by and we got to catch up which was great. I regaled her with stories of how I had played Cranium with some friends the night before and was able to actually act out the “break dancing/belly dancing/line dancing” card! Geez, I can’t even remember the last time I was break dancing. All was going well.

Day 4, Anna came with me and we ordered in Thai food and played with embroidery thread (totally different story). I started getting pretty tired of being hooked up to this infusion bag and beginning to feel just a little bit grumpy.

Day 5. Enough already. Get this f$%*ing bag outta my arm. No thanks, I don’t want any of your stupid snacks. I already had coffee this morning, thanks. I ended up playing Angry Birds for 3 hours and then fled.

I spent the night over at Elizabeth’s house, and then got up early for the drive back to Arizona. I had a good book on tape and there wasn’t much traffic, so the drive home was uneventful. I got back around 4, had a shower and fell dead asleep around 6. Imagine my surprise when I awoke 14 hours later! I thought steroids caused insomnia!? Well good on me, they had the opposite effect.

Despite the long sleep, I woke up in one very bad mood. Apparently, major doses of steroids like I had just been through causes your body to stop producing them naturally (I know, I know….you’re thinking geez, Erika, you didn’t look into this before? No, I did not. We were just playing doctor I thought). This predicates the need to give one more artificial steroids in the form of Prednisone.

Prednisone is one nasty drug. I spent an entire week shut inside, unbathed, sneering and plotting ways to maim things ~ my friends, my cats, my car, my couch ~ anything. I just wanted to…well….maim something. I stopped answering the phone. I stopped showering. I stopped going outside. I stopped reading. I finally called Dr. S.’s office and explained that my former sunshiney self had abandoned me and that I had become nothing but an angry maiming plotter. He prescribed Ativan.

Oh boy. Now I was playing in the big leagues. Solu-medrol. Prednisone. Ativan. I don’t like taking any medicine beyond red wine. I do the daily injection of Copaxone and I figure that’s plenty. I opted to skip the Ativan, finish the weaning off the Prednisone, and go back to red wine.

Now a month later, here I am, still not walking all that steady, but back to my old happy self. I’ve realized that although MS has been roaming around my proverbial house for over 20 years, this last “treatment” gave it a prominent seat at the head of the table and quite frankly, it pissed me off. I will give  MS it’s due and respect that it’s here, but also firmly request that it stay off the center stage.

Fast forward to Arizona

I have been remiss. I last posted in November of 2009, and here it is December 2010. I claim life as my excuse ~ I’ve been through a few changes. In no particular order: I went to Nicaragua with Lisa, I bought a condo and moved to Southern Arizona, I lost my job, I did about 5 weddings with Anna and Little Edens (www.littledens.com), I slept and slept and slept, I went zip lining, I applied for disability, I got a real estate license, I got my first (and probably only) steroid infusion, I joined a book club,  and yes, I rented a scooter.

I will post about all these individual and fascinating events, as well as become a more faithful and steadfast blogger as one of my 2011 New Year’s resolution. Hang onto your seats! It’s good to be back.

LA Flower Mart

Anna and I started a floral design business last year called Little Edens (www.littleedens.com). My first idea was to do small space garden design business (many thanks to my dear friend Albert who said, oh, small gardens, you mean like little Edens?) but when Anna came home from a year overseas, she took it in a bit of a different direction. My girl is fascinated with weddings.

Our partnership has been so enjoyable, and one of the best things is that Anna sees things for the most part through the same glasses as me, so our sense of humor is pretty similar (actually, my whole family has pretty much the same humor).

Anna is 26, so she is in the thick of the young marriage crowd. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, there are so many potential brides in her circle. So, we booked our first wedding. It’s at a fancy wedding-esque venue up in chi chi Westlake Village, CA. Wonderful!

We were super excited ~ we got our business license, wholesale license, website and business cards. Then we found out we needed “candle insurance”. Candle insurance. Right. We got right on that (we did!). So once we were legit and insured, it was time to go to the LA wholesale flower mart and buy our flowers. We had a plan, we had a budget, we had some nerve.

As my friend Chris likes to say about Anna, she is easily distracted (as he says “oh look! Anna sees something shiny!”), and I am just a dingbat to begin with, so you put us two avid gardeners in the middle of one of the most amazing, colorful, vibrant, awe inspiring, stunning locations on the planet at 6:00 a.m. without coffee, and trouble is bound to ensue.

That first time we went to the flower mart, we spent about $75 dollars on 3 bunches of purple statice, 1 dozen pink roses, 1 dozen orange roses, 1 bunch yellow solidaster,  10 red Gerbera daisies, one bunch curly willow, 1 bunch of leather fern, 2 bunches of salal, 1 bunch sunflowers, some Queen Anne’s Lace, and…..if you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s like being a kid in a candy store and buying York peppermint patties, orange circus peanuts, cotton candy, malt balls, Butterfingers and wax lips and trying to make them into a cohesive dessert. It’s all good, no doubt, but kind of hard to bring together into a pleasing olio.

Fortunately, this was a trial run for us, so we made lots of small and fun arrangements (that required no insurance) and gave them to friends and family. After about a half a dozen weddings and numerous baby/shower/holiday arrangements we are now old pros and can actually walk into the flower mart and leave with exactly what we came for… and a few proverbial shiny and sweet things.

Bad knees

I came home from NY with one clear decision made. The next trade show I have to do is in Anaheim, CA for 5 days in January. It will be big, loud and exhausting. I’m going to rent a scooter. This probably seems like a relative no brainer, since I came home from NY unable to do anything but crawl from the couch to the kitchen to the bedroom. But let me reiterate. I am going to rent a scooter. This will mean I am disabled. Officially validated. Confirmed. Staggering around Manhattan like a drunken crab didn’t mean I was disabled…I was just tired… jet lagged… had a long day at the convention. Saving my energy however, by renting a scooter means I am a disabled person. Yikes. I called my sister Lisa to discuss. She was supposed to be headed to NYC next week to run a marathon; but filled me in that she had torn the meniscus in one of her knees. Ouch! So no running for her for a while. No weight on it really at all for a while. Wow! Does this mean my strong, vibrant, fit sister is disabled? She is pretty down about it. Her knees are kind of going bad on her, and she’s freaking out a little. All of a sudden renting a scooter didn’t seem so daunting. If my amazing, athletic sister might need a walking device, then maybe it’s ok if I do too. I’m giving up walking like a gimp, but she’s giving up running 26.2 miles. I’m never going to run that race, but hopefully, she will be back out there inspiring me to always go that one extra mile.

October 25, 2009

La Crescenta, CA

Back in the saddle, sort of…

I spent 5 days in NYC couple of weeks back. I was working a convention and had this genius idea that it might be good to get out of Javits and enjoy some fresh, crisp, October air by walking back the 6 blocks to the hotel. Six Avenue blocks. Six l-o-n-g, hot, avenue blocks. Six Oh My Stars what kind of fresh, crisp, hell have I just conscripted myself to blocks.

By the time I staggered into the hotel lobby like a piece of flabby meat jewelery on my boss’ arm, I was almost in tears. Mark, my boss, bless his heart suggested we sit and have a glass of wine and a quick bite to eat before starting on the evening line up of 2 client hosted parties. After a half hour and a nice cool glass of wine, a big glass of water and some bruschetta, I felt almost as good as new. Almost.

Cab downtown. No problem. Listen to some nice, mellow music through a world class microphone. No problem. Hydrate with lots of water. No problem. Get a cab back uptown. No problem. Stop at the corner of 59th street. Problem.

The cabbie says “Get out! Is only one block!”. Mark says to the driver, “No. My friend can’t walk. Take us where we need to go!” We are summarily cursed out in Sanskrit or something like it, as the driver throws the car in reverse, steps on the gas, and runs into a bicyclist. This being Manhattan, everyone from the pedestrians, the cyclist himself, and people at a bus stop are all screaming “Can’t you drive you fuckin’ idiot!?”” Watch where you’re going!” “Wassthematterwithyou!?” until the cyclists wobbles off after a few more choice words and some good smacks to the roof of the cab.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t put our driver in any better mood and he reiterates “Is only one block!”. Our resolve is strong though, so he mumbles further under his breath and puts on his blinker. Now remember, we are in Manhattan. Corner of 59th and 8th. What did he do? What anyone would do ~ try to pull a U-TURN across 4 lanes of traffic at a stopped intersection. And guess what!? Shocker ~ we were t-boned by another cab. Well, this other cabbie who hit us was not nearly as calm or pleasant as the guy on the bike. More cussing and name calling (in Swahili now I think) until our driver turns to us and says “IS ONLY ONE BLOCK!”.

At this point, I decide I might be able to walk the one block after all. After Mark asks him for a receipt (I kid you not ~ our company is tight about these things!) we make it to the next event. By now, it is almost 9:00 pm, close to the end of the party. I grab a nice big glass of wine (because by now I’m ready for a drink), and start snacking on cold crab cakes, soggy asparagus wrapped around prosciutto, and mushroom caps stuffed with substance (unidentified). That bruschetta seems a long time ago.

So here’s the set up: I’m really tired from being on my feet all day. I can’t really stand because I had to enjoy that crisp, fresh, October air and walk until I was crippled. I’ve had a big glass of wine. I’m kinda rattled from the cab accident. I’ve been eating nothing but appetizer dregs. So when the last man standing at the party suggests we smoke some weed, I think it’s an excellent idea. Pot is supposed to be good for people like me with MS, and I smoked some like 7 years ago, so figure I’m due. Yes. This definitely seems like just the ticket.

Fast forward 15 minutes. It’s time to head back to the hotel, since there is no one left but the catering staff, me, one other guy and the pot man. I think I gracefully twirl into the room from the patio, then think I do a perfect pirouette, and then know I land on my ass. I’m laughing so hard I’m crying, and who should I look up to see lending me a hand, but my client.

This is when I love the business I’m in. My gentle client has a laugh with me, sends me home in a cab and then tells me the next day to pretend it never happened. Much as I’d like to, I kind of think it’s better that I do remember it. I must remember that the 6 block walk killed me for almost a week. Maybe I should smoke some pot….?

October 19, 2009

La Crescenta, CA

SWF ISO LTR PS W/MS

I’ve been on many dates over the past few years ~ blind dates, internet dates, dating services, I’ve tried lots of things. One thing though, continues to elude me. When do you pop the old “Oh, did I forget to mention on my profile that I have Multiple Sclerosis? Oops! Ha ha!”

At what point are you 1) being deceptive 2) giving out too much information 3) Letting MS define you 4) ad infinitum

SWF; 52 years young; love all outdoor activities including sitting, looking, smiling, viewing. Recently gave up hiking, skiing, walking, running, surfing and long walks on the beach.

I used to look great in heels and a gown, but can only be comfortable now in jeans and a t-shirt!

I always like the a part about the long walk and then snuggling in front of of a fire. Right. Here’s the MS version of that activity:

You and your date park at the beach, far away from the sand. You take 2 chairs, a cooler, a blanket, a book and some sunscreen. You struggle across the sand dunes while the items you are designated to carry slip through your fingers which are numb due to neuropathy. Every few feet you stop for a quick rest and reconnaissance of the items you’ve dropped. “Coming sweetums!” you sing out.

You reach a quiet spot to settle down. Your legs are burning, your head is swimming, you’re so hot your limbs feel like they’re connected by silly putty. Your eyes might do that little flicker thing that mine do that make me think that is what a lizards eye must see. “Isn’t this fun?!” Oh yes!

As you settle in, your date suggests taking off your shorts and tank top and sitting in your suit. Hmm…how to explain the body riddled with dents from your injection sites? “Oh these!? Nothing. I was in a tiny fender bender 365 days last year”. You mumble something about sensitive skin and move on.

You make it through the day, and now it’s time for the long walk, then the snuggle. All day in the sun, you’re now walking like the love child of Frankenstein and Gumby. “Golly, the sun has made me tired, can we just head up to the house?”. Bullet dodged.

Fast forward to the couch. You’re beat from sitting in the sun all day. You’re exhausted from walking in the sand. Let’s start the fire! Let’s have some wine! Great. A glass of wine is SO what you need, but not combined with more heat and the need to be effervescent and charming. Drat!

This might be the time to spill the news. Or, come to think of it, if you haven’t had the urge to confess yet, then chances are this guy isn’t worth.  Go home, pour a big drink, snuggle up, and drop into a long, reinvigorating sleep.

October 26, 2009

La Crescenta, CA

Yoga

I’ve always been a pretty active person, and I still work out at the gym as much as I can. I’ve worked out with a trainer, taken classes, lifted weights, done Pilates, circuit training, aerobics, Jazzercise (remember that!?), step classes, jogging, hiking, pretty much everything but skiing. Two things I don’t do: ski, and clean house, but that’s another story.

Prior to my MS diagnosis, I knew that there was some pretty wacky and random stuff going on with my body. The suggestion came from friends that I should try yoga to help put my body back in balance. Sure! Let’s do that!

Generally, I am not the kind of person who does much research once I get a bug in my bonnet. I leap faithfully out of the plane and say “oh! Was I supposed to have a parachute? Who knew!” Yoga was no different. I went down to my local Yoga and You, A New Way of Life, or whatever it was called, unrolled my new pink yoga mat and prepared to become balanced.

Balance is a key word here, as those of us with MS know. I can only look at the stars from flat on my back, fall into giggling fits every time I try to walk with my eyes closed, and can walk a straight line and end up across the street. And, as anyone with MS can attest to, heat is not our friend, particularly when it comes to balance.

Now, if I’d done any research at all, I’d have realized that Bikram was not the name of the instructor, or the owner of the yoga studio. Instead, I began to stretch and bend along with about 10 other very stretchy and bendable people. I feel a little bit awkward, but ok. The room is nice and toasty which I find sort of soothing, initially. Then the instructor has us stand on one foot with the other bent up to our knee. This did not go well for me, but I keep trying. The room starts to get even warmer. I must really be working myself out! Even though it doesn’t seem that tough, I’m sweating like a pig!

She instructs us to stand on one foot and lean forward with the other leg extended behind. Ok, maybe not so much for me. Then, switch that pose with a little leap. Ha ha! I don’t think so! Now downward dog and lift another leg! By now, she’s figured out I must be new, so she guides me to the wall and tells me to lean against that – many newbies have a problem with these advanced class poses. Advanced class!? How did I manage to get into an advanced class and why IS IT SO HOT!?

By the time things wind down and we’re just standing there with our hands in front us doing a namaste thing, I can’t even stand on two feet. I’m sagging against the wall, sweat pouring off of me, unable to walk.  I feel like a noodle that’s been sucked out of a soggy bowl of soup. The last thing I feel is balanced.

I slither along the wall towards the door. The instructor sings out to me in her calm, serene, oh-so- invigorated voice “See you next week! It gets easier with practice!” I wouldn’t know. Hell will freeze over before I go see Mr. Bikram again, and bad as I might be, I’m not going there. It’s too hot.

November 5, 2009

La Crescenta, CA

Camping

One of my all time favorite activities is hiking. I love the treasure hunt feel of the trail…the path goes up around the bend, under a tree canopy, over a rise – you never quite know what you’re going to stumble upon next (ok, bad metaphor in my case, maybe).

Back when I was younger, the girl’s dad, Ken, and I used to go backpacking. I have the most wonderful memories of fly fishing, and setting up the tent in the wind. We once hiked through a bog up at Army Pass in the Sierra. At the time, we were MISERABLE but it remains one of our favorite stories to recount together.

When the girls were in their teens, their senior girl scout troop did a camp out called Tambu up at Tejon Pass. The girl scouts seldom do things that don’t have a catchy Indian sounding moniker and some companion songs that sound more like dirges than Kumbaya.

Anyway, girl scouts are also big on competition, and this particular annual camp out was a biggie. The troops got points if ALL the members of each troop backpacked the one mile in to camp. Well, now we’re talking my language. Piece of cake.

I hadn’t worn a pack in years ~ I’d been raising children!  I took my ancient pack out of the old cabinet in the garage, aired it out, threw away some vintage moleskin, an old band aid, some Top Ramen and some freeze dried tomato beef stew; and grinned like an old tar. I was ready to hit the high seas of hiking again.

This was a short hike, only one mile, down hill, on a well graded road. I had taken on Monarch Pass, what was this? Phhhttt.  The years had taken it’s toll on my packing abilities (not a suitcase, that I could teach a class on), but hey, how hard could it be? So I rolled up my hairbrush into a t-shirt, smashed a pair of jeans and a some underwear in, and hooked on a water bottle. Strap on my down bag, and I’m good to go.

We get to the marshaling area and count off. It’s kind of cold; there are tired little patches of ice in bleak drifts by the side of the road and some lame puddles. We head off as a group down the hill. I haven’t worn my hiking boots since the last time I used my pack, so they’re feeling a little stiff. I also did not adjust my pack to my body frame, I mean come on, how much could I have changed over 18 years? I’m still within 10 lbs of my 25 year old self.

By the time we get about 1/4 of a mile into it, I’m not singing the ‘ol scout songs with quite as much gusto. By 1/2 a mile I’m starting to mumble and curse my previous vigor under my breath. By the time we hit 3/4 of a mile I’m glowering at the girls, the trees, the mud, my boots, anything that is glower worthy. By the time we hit camp I am flat out grumpy and wondering if anyone brought the fixings for martinis and separately considering why I ever thought this backpacking thing was so damn great.

We set up tents, whip up some hobo packs, sing some songs, clean up, hit the hay. I’m sharing a small tent with another leader. As I zip into my mummy bag I’m contemplating that this thing is rated to -10 degrees. Does down lose warming ability as it sits stuffed into an airless bag for a year? There is no way it’s going to be -10…I’ll be fine.

I’m trying to warm up and sleep, but man-o-man does my body feel weird. My feet feel like they are attached to my legs at a wrong angle and my hips feel like they are connected at a different cant. My back hurts and I’m COLD. The weather is definitely chilling up here in the mountains.

When I awaken at dawn, I’m buried in a down sleeping bag, wearing two girl scout sweatshirts, two pairs of socks, sweat pants and wrapped in a Hefty garbage bag. A vague memory of clawing through my pack to find anything that will warm me emerges. I start to cry. I feel like such a sorry ass and useless back packer, let alone any kind of example for my girls.

They are still sleeping as I cajole myself with the miserable humor of all this. I wipe my now frozen tears, get a cup of coffee, pack up to go home (no way am I spending the whole weekend here!), donate my Hefty bag to the other leader and swear off camping forever.

In retrospect, there was one component I hadn’t factored in because I didn’t know it was coming along with me, let alone everywhere I was going from then on. My MS companion was still a secret to me then. I will tell you one thing, that weekend sure hammered home the upside to a 5 star hotel!

November 7, 2009

La Crescenta, CA