I am falling apart

I fucked up my shoulder the other day

I wish I had a good story behind it, like landing on it while leaping from the third-story window of a burning building with a baby under each arm, or while plowing into a purse snatcher who has just ripped off a bag containing the life savings of a generous 80-year-old widow, or while blasting through the two-hole past the left tackle, shaking off a linebacker and leaping into the end zone during a Chicago Bears open try-out for over-35 high school football has-beens and never-wases.

Even better would be some sort of tale of sexual gymnastics: ‘Well, there I was, hanging from the trapeze. We’d just gotten the llama into position and the vat of chocolate pudding had reached exactly 82 degrees when she was startled by the mariachi band and BAM! I hit the floor and busted my shoulder. Boy was I embarrassed!”

Yeah, I WISH I had a good story, but I don’t. No, I fucked up my shoulder while lying in bed. Watching television.

Go ahead and laugh and call me a pathetic loser. I would, too, if it wasn’t me I was talking about. I mean, dislocating a shoulder lying in bed? What kind of brittle-boned, out-of-shape, Krispy Kreme-scarfing, freak show edition fat bastard dislocates his shoulder just lying in bed?

Me, I guess. OK, clarification: I am not a fat, donut-eating Jerry Springer watching lazy bum, nor am I a calcium-deficient milquetoast who gets nose bleeds from playing Stratego too hard. I work out three days a week, lifts weights, can run a 5K, am faster than a speeding bullet, more power than a…, etc., etc., etc. Which makes this all the more confusing and embarrassing.

I was simply lying in bed, watching some stupid comedian on television. Actually she was fucking hilarious, which is why it happened in the first place. I was lying there, resting my head on my hand and propping myself up on my elbow, when she said something particularly funny. I can’t remember exactly what it was, either her line about “… Once you go (Puerto) Rican, your parents start freakin’” or “To get a black man to eat out a woman, you have to stick a chicken leg down there…” (To be fair, she made fun of EVERYBODY in the audience: white suburban soccer moms, black women, old white men, gays). Whatever line it was, it made me laugh out loud, and in the process, I jerked myself backward, twisting my shoulder and pulling it right out of the socket. I stopped laughing immediately and instinctively A) tried to work it back into place and B) felt extremely stupid for hurting myself in a less-than-impressive manner.

I jumped up immediately and sort of shook the arm back into place then checked it to make sure it was fully functioning I did a couple of slow windmill motions, waggled it around like an excited chicken. It hurt a little and made some crunching, grinding noises. But as long as I could move it I was relieved.

But it still kinda freaked me out a bit when it happened because it was so unexpected and so disorienting. Like, one minute you’re there with all of your joints intact and working, a fully functioning human being, with your kick-ass opposable thumb and your walking upright and all that shit. The next minute, a piece of you is out of place, your arm freakishly dislodged like a busted G.I. Joe after your sister plays “G.I. Joe and Barbie Fight Over The Barbie Dream Car and Barbie Kicks G.I. Joe’s Ass.”

Being wary of doctors and hospitals and modern medicine in general, I have relied on the tried and true “homeopathic” method of recovery, i.e. leaving it alone and hoping it will fix itself. I’ve enlisted a very specific and scientific regimen. I’ve cut down on the amount of weight I’m lifting, applied various creams and ointments and tried not to sleep on it funny. And I’ve looked up stuff on the web, which is just as good as going to a real doctor… right? My shoulder has gotten slightly better over time. I can lift my arm over my head again and actually lift things. You don’t know how much you miss lifting things until you, well, can’t lift them.

I still haven’t figured out what the fuck happened. I’ve had problems with my left shoulder since knocking it out of whack during high school football practice. Could bum shoulders be hereditary? Sickle Shoulder Anemia?

Anyway, I expect to break a hip while simply sitting in a chair any day now.


Insane Germophobic Woman

I saw Insane Germophobic Woman on the bus again today.

I’ve been trying to avoid her recently by taking a later bus. Seriously. Not because she and I have some personal battle going on. It’s just that I can’t stand seeing her go through her bus cleaning ritual every morning on the 136 Sheridan bus, which was driving me insane. Like her!

Regular riders of this particular bus run will know who this is. A lot of them purposely avoid sitting anywhere near her. Not that she would easily let them. In addition to being insanely germophobic, she’s viciously territorial when it comes to someone sitting beside her (which doesn’t play too well on a morning rush-hour bus) and she’s extremely egotistical with regards to her comfort vs. someone else’s (if SHE feels cold on a bus, she will close the window near YOU, even if it’s all the way in the back of the bus). Like I said, she’s insane.

Insane Germophobic Woman (IGW) doesn’t really look insane. Just looks like a regular, thinnish black woman, says “hi” to the bus driver and a few other regular riders. She always gets on with her special bag (this morning it was a plastic version of those little brown bags with the words “little brown bag” written on the side). Inside are an unusual assortment of cleaning supplies, unusual for someone riding a bus to work: a couple of spray bottles, Handiwipes, a batch of napkins/paper towels, hand gel and who-knows-what other ozone-destroying chemicals.

I get on the bus a few stops before her, but by now I’ve learned her routine and, in particular, which seat she prefers to use. I know her first choice (the second set of seats facing forward on the left side of the bus), her second choice (the single seats on the right side of the bus) and, if the bus is unusually crowded by the time she gets on, her third choice (the sideways facing seats in the rear). I know this is obsessive on my part, but that’s different. Because of this knowledge, I pick my bus seats carefully now, counting heads and trying to pre-determine where she’s going to sit and trying to sit as far away from her. But sometimes I forget. That’s a bad thing.

When she gets on the bus, she’ll stand there in the aisle making her choice, ignoring the twelve-car pile-up of people waiting to get by her to get a seat. After she picks her seat, she begins her cleaning ritual, spraying some unknown liquid from an unmarked misting bottle. It smells like some homemade concoction, not like any well-known Proctor And Gamble product. And if you’re sitting in the seat behind her, you’ll probably get a spritz or two in the process, a wafting of the mystery liquid as it floats over the seat and onto your hands, clothes, face. Then IGW will begin scrubbing the seat to rid it of any dirt that the highly-paid official transit authority cleaning crew missed, ground-in footprints of little kids, leftover vomit or some residual bum juices. With that done, she places a large napkin thing on the seat as if it was a toilet in a bus station, hoping to create an impenetrable two-ply paper barrier between her ass and any microbes that were lucky enough to survive.

To make sure her now-sanitized section stays that way, IGW snarls at anyone who tries to sit next to her. OK, maybe snarls is a bad choice of words, but she’s not at all happy. She tries to put her bag on the seat next to her as a deterrent, but on a crowded rush hour bus, most people are like, “fuck that.” They’re polite when they ask her is it’s alright if they sit there. When they do, she gives them a stern look, sometimes a heavy sigh as if someone with 20 items just moved into eight-items-or-less lane and then, finally and with visible reluctance, moving the bag and shifting

Insane Germophobic Woman is obviously, well, germophobic, which immediately begs the question: If she is so concerned with germs and cleanliness, then why, pray tell, is she riding a CTA bus? Of all the transportation choices she could make, why pick the one that’s like a stool sample with wheels? Bums make their home on there, babies demonstrate their lack of bowel control on there. It occasionally has the unique combination of urine and French fries. It’s a disgusting mess and no amount of spritzing and scrubbing will fix that.

I know things between her and some other rider are going to come to a head one day and maybe soon. And it won’t be pretty. She’s already caused several people to change seats or choose to stand while they try to figure out what the fuck her problem is.

Today, with the bus crowded as usual, some guy walked back and asked if it was alright to sit there. She tried to discourage him by saying there was dirt on the seat, but it’s a fucking CTA bus; there’s dirt on every seat. When he shrugged it off as if to say that’s OK, she reluctantly moved her special germ-killing paper towel from THAT seat. He had a newspaper in one of those rain-protecting plastic sleeves and dropped it on the seat to sit on it in case she was telling the truth. I guess the plastic was a little too close to her or something, because she flicked it away and sent his newspaper to the bus floor. She said “sorry” but you know she didn’t mean it. The guy picked the paper off the floor and slammed it onto the seat with an audible “thwack”, opened up a second paper and began flipping through the pages, making each one rattle in that “I’m pissed but I am going to read this paper!” kinda way.

I saw Insane Germophobic Woman on the bus home today too. I wonder if she has a husband…


Daniel Boone Can Rest Easy...

The power went out in my building tonight.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal for me. I grew up in the city, but I like to think of myself as frontier stock. Like I could, if I had to, figure out some way to start a fire, or cook a rattlesnake to make it edible, or build a respectable shelter for me and the missus (If I had a missus) and fend off rustlers, etc., etc., etc. I mean, when it’s cold outside I can stand on the bus stop for at least 30 minutes without complaining.

But not today. No, the last fucking thing in the world that I needed on the hottest day of the year is for the fucking power to be out in my fucking building when I fucking get home. We here in Chicago recently got our share of the big Al Gore-sponsored heatwave that ‘s been sweeping the country. The recorded temperature was in the 90s, but with the humidity and all that it’s, like, 250 I think. Either way, it’s hotter than a fuck. Everybody on the street is sticky and wilted. The bums smell more bummier and the urine-soaked alleys smell more urine-y.

I had already had the Mother of All Bus Rides Home, a herky-jerky affair where the bus driver is hitting the brakes every nine feet until you start to think they’re just doing it to be an asshole. Normally, the ride takes about an hour and I can tolerate that even though I HATE riding the fucking bus.

NOTE: The power went out again as I was writing that last sentence! It went out at 8:30 Monday night. It is now 8:12 Tuesday morning. I thought I fucking lost this post (not that the world would miss it, but damn…). Thank God for the wonders of recovered documents.

So anyway, I finally complete my TWO HOUR ride home on a bus, which, ironically, is freezing cold inside because the driver feels he has to compensate for the heat outside. This huge difference in temperature hits me when I step off the bus, and of course, it immediately feels like someone is gagging me with Saran Wrap. But before I go home I have to stop at the store and get something for dinner.

I’m walking along the sidewalk I notice more people that usual hanging out on the street. Most of the time it’s the same guys standing on the same corners holding the same cups asking for the same change. But for some reason there are more people just hanging out on the street, people who look like they have better things to do.

I pass by the restaurant on the corner and it’s completely dark inside. The dry cleaners across the street is dark as well. More people milling about the street. I get to the store and it’s closed. What the fuck?… It’s not nine yet. I say fuck it and walk to my apartment building, figure I can dig up something from the plastic containers that have been in there since Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.”

There are people standing around outside my building and I figure they’re loitering. I detest loitering. I always feel that people who loiter MUST have something better to do. Read a fucking book. Rearrange your sock drawer. SOMEthing… I force my way past them and into the building. That’s when I notice that even though it’s still daylight outside, the building is strangely dark. The lobby’s dim. I’m not a complete idiot but I have all the parts to build one: I figure out that the power’s out in the neighborhood. Which explains all the standing around outside. It’s then I notice the sound of ambulance sirens rushing to the high rise condos to rescue all of the old people trapped in their apartments who have fallen and can’t get up, or pulling up to one of the many rehab/mentally handicapped residential buildings (we have more per capita in my neighborhood than anywhere else in the city!). I realize there were more police cars than usual out there.

This makes me even more depressed after the long bus ride, so much so that I don’t even think about the 11 floors I have to climb to get to my expectedly dark apartment. Did I mention I live on the 11th floor? Most of the stairwell is lit by those emergency beacon things, but a few of the floors are pitch dark because the lights aren’t working. So every few flights I can’t see where I’m going. I’m sweating like a pig in the dark. Occasionally there’s someone coming downstairs and I can’t see who it is, just hear them. So I just move to one side and let them figure it out. I make a foot-shuffling noise (fake) or heavy breathing (not fake) to let them know somebody’s there.

I finally make it upstairs and realize I can’t stay in. It’s feels like a pizza oven inside the apartment and it’s dark and getting darker. I’ve gotta go somewhere cool so I head over to one of my usual bars and thank God it’s air conditioned. I decided to wait it out with a beer and the White Sox (Sox won, so that was a plus) for a couple of hours and then head back and see if civilization has returned to my apartment.

As I approach, I see there are lights on in the building… the fourth floor… the ninth floor. Cool. The elevator goes up and I barely think about the power it takes to make it move. The lights on my hallway floor are on and I don’t give it a second thought. I grab the remote and punch on the TV and only think about the miraculous scientific process that has made that possible for only a second or two. I fire up the computer and begin writing this post… and about 45 minutes later, the power goes out again. Fuck! I want electricity. I NEED electricity. I lied, I’m NOT a mountain man or a pioneer. I’m not self-sufficient. I’m a modern man who lives on electricity and gas and eats microwave popcorn and needs to finish Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I’ve got dirty clothes and no rock or stream handy! No, sir, I’d rather NOT be alone with my thoughts. Candle, yeah, I’ve got one, but those are for romantic dinners or summoning the dead, not a primary source of light.

It’s getting dimmer in the apartment as the sun heads out of sight. I’m deciding between heading back out the bar because I’m not ready to go to bed yet (and have to walk back up 11 flights of stairs AGAIN), or just calling it a night at 8:30 p.m. No TV to wrap up the night, no radio to lull me to sleep. Just cars and the sound of my own breath. Yuk. I decide to stay in.

I decided to use the fading light one last time to take a whiz in the bathroom. Absentmindedly, I flick the light switch and the room is filled with glorious incandescence. Fuck yeah! Light. I try the living room switches again. Nothing. What gives? I try the bedroom switch. Working. Bedroom TV comes alive. OK, in the same apartment, the living room lights are out but the bathroom and bedroom lights work. I don’t bother to ask questions, just thank God and ComEd.

I go to sleep and feel, for a second like some tiny animal holed up in a tree just waiting for daylight again.