American Healthcare & A Few Useless Book Reviews

Happy Saturday, from me and my bed.

Last night I was riding up Ribera de Curtidores on a Mad Bici (not sponsored), feeling on top of the world. I was zooming past the Friday night drunks and just about ready to ride that bike to the top of my five flights of stairs, except that the bike weighs 200 kilos, and is not mine, so I left it at the station.

And then I checked my phone.

I had a new message from my mother, saying something along the lines of…

“Hello dear, I’m sorry to say that a bill for 900 dollars arrived to the house for you.”

To which I responded: “I REFUSE. I WILL NEVER COME BACK TO AMERICA AGAIN.”

900 dollars for a medical test that took all of 2 seconds and involved inserting a common q-tip into my vag.

Now that I’ve got your attention, I’d like to inform y’all that I’ve been on a big reading kick recently. Here’s what I’ve been getting into for the past 21 days:

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
    by Mark Haddon
    Read on a Sunday afternoon, after a 5K. Heartwarming, eye-opening, easy-to-follow, and so on, and so forth.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    by Truman Capote
    This short, seminal classic had me hooked and is perfect for morning metro rides. The word seminal sounds like it has something to do with semen and, after flipping through the dictionary, I realize that it can and does. Seminal (adj.): pertaining to, containing, or consisting of semen. Awesome! That’s a great segway into my next book….
  • The Gene: An Intimate History
    by Siddharta Mukherjee
    Did you know that, for a time, the prevailing theory of genetics was called preformism? Scientists believed that semen contained tiny pre-formed humans that, once deposited into the uterus, would simply begin inflating into their mature form, a la Magic Grow Toys:
    mdi-grow-your-own-boyfriend.jpg
    I happen to love scientific history and this book has me considering going back to school. 10/10!

Keep reading, keep biking.

Love,

Seo

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Easing Into The Asscrack of Dawn: A Lesson in Absurdity

As recourse to life crises and generalized discontent, I  like to pull journals at random. Nine times out of ten I find a younger version of myself who, much to my surprise, has something insightful to share. More often than not her lesson is this one: you have been better and you have also been worse.  Additionally: Nudity, in its many diverse forms, may save you.


Philadelphia
August 2013

In my temporary job as a nanny, I care for two boys aged 4 and 7. This means that come 9:00 am I have usually acted in upwards of fifteen death scenes. Given the work hours and my suburban exile, it also means that I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to prepare for and make the commute downtown. Most people would call this “hell on earth.” Sometimes when I am sipping cold coffee at noon and running on 3 hours of sleep, I use that phrase, too. Commutes, on the other hand, have always calmed me.

To get to my dual-screened corporate hell of a cubicle job in Green Tree last summer, I ran through summer mornings on a 1 hour, 2-bus commute. I would catch the bus in Oakland, walk a few blocks in dahntahn Pittsburgh, then hit the highway on the 38 and pop off at my office building:  a big brown concrete monster next to a K-Mart where I’d often eat lunch alone in a windowless Little Caesars. After spending eight hours with a phone glued to my head, I’d make the trek back, usually stopping to sit in Station Square or by the Allegheny River before going home.

AlleghenyRiverWalkway
Walkway to David Lawrence Convention Center. Pittsburgh, PA 2012

One evening, however, I didn’t stop. I got right back on the bus to Oakland. Somewhere along Fifth Avenue, we got stuck in traffic. Horns blared, passengers sighed, heat waves danced along the highway. I heard chuckles and craned my head to see what was going on at the front of the bus. There she was: a woman, teetering on the edge of sanity, feet planted firmly on the asphalt in front of the bus, in the midst of rush hour traffic. Then, to the surprise, horror, and confused delight of the daily grind office workers, she removed her dress and triumphantly spun it above her head—no panties, no bra, 200 pounds of pure, unadulterated absurdity. She proceeded to flip the bus driver off and make her way back to the sidewalk, dress covering her most intimate lady bits and giant breasts still swinging along.

Nothing has rivaled that sighting since, but I still enjoy my commutes.  When I arrive in Center City Philadelphia, it’s still too early for the Market East morning Saxophonist and all of us–temporary and permanent members of the Dawn Club–file up the first escalator and onto the street. I walk among the blue-scrubbed, the corporate climbers, and the construction workers. By the time I get to Lombard Street, I’m mostly alone. It’s a quiet hour and I get why you might want to do yoga in it, if yoga was something you did.

By the time I head back home at 5 o’clock, surrounded by drooping lids and skewed ties, I understand why there are so few revolutions and I think about tearing off my clothes.

America, Part 6, Day 2

New York City’s immensity is never more apparent than when navigating the thousand-lane road from JFK to Philadelphia, PA on a Saturday afternoon. Twenty-eight years of knowing the Northeast and I’m still shocked to find out that this airport is not, in fact, just across the road from Newark.

“Shit is entrenched,” says Scott.

Once passed the Holland tunnel and ten minutes of marveling at man’s ambition, the road is ours.

newyork1

It’s good to be back.

At Heathrow, the Brits were on their best behavior, gifting smiles and biscuits.

At JFK, the line-master instructed:

“If ya customs form ain’t finished, get outta the line. Ya wasting peoples time.”

Any other welcome would have been a lie.

PSA and a Mantra for Malcontents

Last week the dentist refused to take the teeth out of my head.

“I could paralyze your face. Permanently.”

“Oh. That’s not great.”

The longer you put off wisdom tooth removal, as  it turns out, the more complicated the procedure will be. I’ve got roots dancing with nerves at the back of my mouth so for now, it seems, I’ma have to stay wise. Take note, teenagers of the world.

Anyway, in six years of life in Spain, I have never experienced a June that did not make me want to peel my own skin off. At the same time, June tends to be a time for reflection; I usually do that naked, spooning with a bag of ice, while marveling at the many places from which sweat can spring. This one is different. I’ve still got a comforter on my bed and I don’t feel like I’m burning. I can’t say I’m angry about the weather, but I’m worried about the earth–and myself.

What am I doing? What’s next? Where do I go? How do I find a patron to support the art of my life?

Last year I became obsessed with the idea of “running through the pain.”

I read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and remembered nothing but this mantra: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

I began saying it to myself, sometimes while running but more often as I prepared dinner or walked home from a night out. The sweaty strangers of the disco scene often sent me on a downward spiral, though hindsight highlights the role of gin.

After a long, frenetic, gorgeous, and totally mental winter, this mantra just isn’t doing it for me anymore. Here’s what I think: suffering is not optional,  l0sers. The longer you refuse to acknowledge anguish, vulnerability, and sadness, the deeper their roots will grow. Next thing you know, you’ll find them bursting out of you in public health clinics, at cafés, and on unsuspecting waitresses.

What comes before gratitude is a lot of snot, tears, and unabashed drama.

As for mantras, I’ve been using this one:

I ain’t fuckin’ sorry.

Love,

Seo

“Nowadays, all these girls are singing about their encounters and their dresses.”

When my mother says “encounters” she is referring, of course, to sex. When she says “dresses” she is likely thinking about that Selena Gomez song that wouldn’t stop playing some two or three summers ago.

“People have always sung about that, though…”

“Yeah but today it’s stupid: ‘he’s so tall and handsome as hell,’” she gestures at the radio, “what the hell is that shit?”

She’s complaining about Taylor Swift now, whose song “Wildest Dreams” is playing in the car.

Whether I think Taylor’s art is revolutionary or enriching is irrelevant because creating music that underwhelms me—creating anything, really—is still way more than most people do. I’m not proud to admit it but I once sobbed in a Bed Bath & Beyond parking lot when the song “You Belong with Me” came on the radio. Then, dry heaves and all, I leaned on my steering wheel and started laughing (because first “heartbreaks” are fucking hilarious). It was a time when listening to anything other than pop trash probably would have made me roll off my roof.

Even so, you won’t find me arguing for the lyrical ingenuity or emotional depth of lines like “I can feel my heart, it’s beating in my chest.”

I skip the explanation and agree with my mother: “RIGHT? Like, what happened to Etta James? Let’s talk about ‘Damn Your Eyes.’ I mean, DAAAAAMMMMMNN!”

 

Now there’s an angry, lusty love that I can understand.

Be careful with ya eyes,

Seo