Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Laughing So Hard It Hurts

As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't like going to doctors or taking medications for my injuries and ailments.  I tend to side with the school of "suck it up."   I only go see doctors or take medication if I know that waiting cannot cure me as well as medical intervention.  Of course, this is not the wisest course in all or even most circumstances, and I'm lucky that I have yet to lose any appendage to gangrene.

I caught a cough over the holidays.  During the first few days, I would cough on occasion and needed only to clear my throat to resolve it.  By the third week, I was coughing in such deep-chested, uncontrollable fits that I'd have to stop walking and place my hand against the wall to brace myself.

It wasn't long before I coughed so hard that I actually hurt myself.   One coughing fit had been so violent, that I thought my spastic lungs might have actually cracked my ribs.  I felt a sudden and sharp pain at the broadest point on the right side of my rib cage, and I had trouble standing upright.  I poked my ribs with my finger and nearly doubled over.  To make things worse, I sneezed a few days later and -- though I know this is impossible -- thought I heard the sound of my ribs ripping apart.  It certainly felt that way.

Since then, I have difficulty taking deep breaths and raising my arm past a 45 degree angle.   Lying down is also problematic so going to bed now requires a slow approach, a heating pad, and whimpering.  The worst problem, however, is that I cannot laugh without causing myself pain.  Whenever someone makes a remotely funny joke, I reflexively grab my right side in an effort to physically restrain my ribs from laughing.  Instead of my usual guffaws, I have to hiss out a pathetic "hee hee."

Next time, I swear I'll take some cough syrup.  Or, I'll at least consider it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Celebrity Gaffes

I used to live near the west-side of Los Angeles, not far from Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills.  In that part of town, celebrities were as common as those cheesy shops hocking fake oscars awards for "Coolest Mom" or "Best Hooters."  After a few months in the city, you only notice celebrities in order to avoid them or point them out to tourists.

My parents, though, loooooooove celebrities -- my dad especially.  We once ran into Jackie Mason outside a restaurant in Chicago, and my dad jumped up and down with delight, pointed over to the man, and said:  "You know who that is? That's Jackie Mason! What do you think he'd say if I went over there and did my impression of him?" My father then proceeded to practice his impression (which was pretty bad, even disregarding the heavy Taiwanese accent).  Mr. Mason looked over at us with a tired beleagured expression, and I begged my dad to stop.  Though he was not with a bodyguard per se, Mr. Mason was accompanied by a large fellow who gave the impression that he wore a pinky ring and spoke with a thick New Jersey accent.*

All this to say, whenever my parents visited me in Los Angeles, I made it a point take them to celebrity watering holes so that they could joyfully gawk and go back home with a good story.  On one visit, I took my parents out for dinner at the Malibu restaurant called Nobu.  The place was packed with celebrities, as usual, but this evening it was mostly B-list.  Just after we sat down, I pointed out the man sitting behind my mother.  "Do you know who that is?"  The man was eating quietly with people I presume were his wife and son.  "That's Vidal Sasson! He's that famous hairstylist.  I would recognize him anywhere.  He's in a lot of TV commercials."  My parents nodded.  Yes, they heard of the famous Vidal Sassoon and agreed that Vidal was a great man.  I was so proud of myself that repeated my declaration. "Yes. Vidal Sasson, it's got to be him."  I even said it loudly enough so that Vidal could appreciate that he was recognized and appreciated.

Of course the man wasn't Vidal Sassoon.  I didn't realize my mistake until I was watching television one day and happened to see a commercial featuring the man I saw at the restaurant.  Like Vidal Sassoon, he is a famous hair stylist and creator of his own popular line of hair products.  Except he's Paul Mitchell and at least twenty years younger than Vidal Sassoon.

Paul Mitchell appears at the end of the commercial (about 23 seconds into the video).

*If you're wondering who Jackie Mason is, I don't blame you.  Suffice it to say, he is not the sort of celebrity that would should get anyone under the age of 80 (with the one exception of my father) all that excited.  For many of us, the most relevant reference point may be that he was voice of the Aardvark in the Pink Panther cartoons.  If you'd like to learn more about Jackie Mason, visit his website or watch this YouTube video.

**For the record,  Paul Mitchell was luckily not our only celebrity sighting.  To my parents' unending delight, Matthew McConaughey came in half through dinner and sat at the table next to us.   So, at least for them, it was a good night.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The First Moron Tax of the New Year

It is well known among my friends that I am addicted to the Internet and digital gadgets.  I waste a shocking amount of my free time surfing blogs and searching irrelevant bits of arcane knowledge (e.g. the main ingredients of Necco candies).  I frequently pause conversations so that I can consult or fact-check a point of contention with Wikipedia or IMDB using the browser on my cell phone.  I even go so far as to send a text message to my boyfriend, sitting across the dining room table from me.

As a holiday gift, my manager at work generously gave me and my boyfriend a puzzle broken up into 1000 pieces.  The attached note gently reminded me to spend time with my boyfriend without the aid of digital gizmos.

Well, the puzzle worked like a charm -- or, more accurately, a voodoo curse.  Over the holidays, my boyfriend and I spent nearly 20 hours laboring over it.  For three days in a row we sat hunched over my dining room table until 3am, until our vision became too blurry and our backs became too sore to continue.  We spoke almost exclusively about the puzzle and developed a vocabulary for the pieces: "Did you see a quasi-moto with pink tips and green feet?" "No, but I think that running man with red shoulders could go in there."

After all that effort, this is what we produced: 

But this would not be a story about moron tax if something didn't go wrong.  Did you see the problem?  If not, take a closer look:

Somehow, we ended with one piece missing.  We've looked for it, and we've concluded to our utter frustration that it's gone.

It is exasperating to put so much time and effort into a project that now could never reach completion.  But what really vexed us was our second discovery.  Did you notice it?

We had one leftover piece that doesn't fit anywhere.  A missing piece alone could be our fault, but a leftover piece suggested a deliberate act of cruelty on the part of the puzzle maker.  We could not help but imagine a prankster at the puzzle factory swapping one piece of one puzzle with a single piece in another puzzle.  We could see him giggling to himself as he set about his work, daydreaming about his victims tearing apart their house, upturning the couch, rummaging through vacuum bags, searching for a solution that was never made available to them.