Wednesday, November 19, 2014

planes trains automobiles

a brief meditation on transit

it's important to know that i can't drive. not just won't, but can't -- i've never taken any driving courses and i don't have any level of license. i've never been behind the wheel of a car before, and i doubt i ever will. the idea of driving just leaves me cold, and i don't know why. i've never much liked cars.

but i love being a passenger.

it's not laziness, i swear. i'm just one of those people who get hypnotized by passing scenery, especially if i have music on so i can feel like i'm in a soundtracked movie. i don't take being on transit for granted, either -- i walk so much in this city because the toronto transit system generally sucks balls, and i refuse to pay good money for a garbage service. but when i do get to take the subway or bus somewhere, it's almost like a treat. (when the streetcar isn't short-turning or when the bus isn't overpacked or when the subway is perpetually late, that is.)

when i lived in vancouver, i used to more or less purposely get lost on the transit system. i'd get it in my head that i'd need a specific thing from a specific store that was like, on the other side of downtown or out near burnaby or whatever, so i'd hop on the metro or the bus and attempt to navigate my way there. i got lost pretty much every time. but it was such a cool experience to me -- staring out the window at parts of the city that i'd never seen before and maybe never would again, realizing that there's so much more out there than what i see every day. it was like constantly discovering a new city right where i already lived.

even now, i consider it a small form of urban exploration. not to say that i purposely take the bus out to unknown parts of toronto just for whatever - because with my luck, i'd end up at jane & finch or something - but if i need to go shop for something, i might source out a location that's as far away from me as possible, then map out how to get there. to me, that is a weirdly enjoyable afternoon. and no matter how much i may intentionally enjoy getting lost, i'm a very good navigator. i rarely get accidentally lost in places that i've been to at least once. sometimes it feels like i have a compass in my head, but nowadays i also have google maps, which are even better for getting one's bearings.

i guess this is all just to remind myself that i never really go exploring much anymore. back in the day - both when i was single, and not - i used to consider it a successful weekend if i got away from my comfortable little circle of well-known locations and roamed around some part of toronto that i'd never been before, or had been to only once or twice. but the longer i've been here, the fewer places remain unvisited to me. (though i think i've only been to yonge & eg, like, once.) i mean, not counting mississauga/etobicoke/north york/scarborough, because who even wants to go there, but toronto proper. and that's kind of sad. not that it's enough to make me really want a change of scenery or anything, but hey, at least i have plenty of time to go exploring these days. (not in weather with a -17C windchill though, as it is today. no.)

also, i miss chicago. and i was planning on a day trip to buffalo soon, but then this happened, and well.

i think i'll wait.

anyway. lesson for today: go get lost on public transit. it's fun! and you probably won't die. also, if anyone wants to volunteer to drive me places: yes please.

p.s. went to the doc's yesterday. he seems to think it's a sinus problem, which makes sense given how weird my nose has been lately as well. this was corroborated by my father, who's had bad sinus issues his entire life (i have fond memories of him sitting courtside at my high school basketball games, snorting multiple bottles of otrivin). came away with two prescriptions for medication that i'm not sure i can pay for, as well as advice to come back in 10 days if it gets worse. so at least it's good to know that i'm not dying horrifically of an inoperable brain tumour. whee!

[ music | the ettes, "you were there" ]

Saturday, November 15, 2014

the damage done

i hate feeling as though my bodily health's gone to shit since i've crossed over into the third decade of my life, but there you have it.

as my boyfriend noted the other day, as we've gotten into our thirties (he's the same age as me), things that you used to bounce back from quickly have required longer recovery time than expected. it's the truth, and it annoys me, because i want to find some sort of life hack that allows my physical health to be exactly as resilient as it was in my early twenties. but no, not these days -- i've had a lot of time to spare lately, and solo time is the worst thing possible for a hypochondriac; it's so much free time spent on obsessing over every little ache and pain, which usually leads to more phantom aches and pains, which leads to morbidly imagining what one's funeral will look like. because everything will kill you. when you're a hypochondriac, you feel like a walking time bomb of ill health. (for example, i talked myself into a colonoscopy a few years ago. so unnecessary.)

here's a list of the things, phantom or not, that have been wrong with me over the last little while:

- busted right knee from when i fell a few weeks back (it's only just stopped being stiff when i lift it)
- sprained left foot (or something that's causing it to feel like someone's grinding a heel into the little bones on the top of my foot)
- pulled muscle in left calf (done during sleep)
- garbage shoulders/back/neck (an ongoing problems for years, due to my penchant for shouldering heavy bags and sleeping on non-supportive materials)
- constant low-grade headache that's lasted for over a week (?!?!)
- slight nausea (possibly related to the above)
- mild fatigue (constant, though maybe due to me cutting back on my typically massive amounts of caffeine)
- weird sinuses (might be a weather thing)

eta: i'm most certainly not pregnant, by the way.

the headache's the one that has me the most worried, as i've never been a headache-prone person, with the exception of fatigue headaches that i can always sleep off. this one's lingered for days, painkillers do very little, and i've scheduled a doctor's appointment for tuesday to see what tests i can take. i'm half-expecting it to be due to either bad eyestrain (since the headache is generally located right behind my eyes, and rolling my eyeballs around feels weird) or pressure changes (which would explain my sinuses feeling heavy and blocked lately as well), but it's been concerning me, and for a hypochondriac "concerned" means "nonstop worrying that i'm on my deathbed". which is silly. but, eh. my doc will likely just ask me some questions, make some suggestions, refer me to an optometrist or an eeg lab to get some scans, and hopefully everything will come back gravy. i know you can go through life thinking, "well, [insert bad health problem] won't happen to me" but it has to happen to someone, doesn't it?

and yes, i'm staying away from dr. google. aside from a few symptom checkups on the mayo clinic's website, that is. (not particularly helpful; i basically just want it to tell me that headaches do not mean "incurable brain tumour," but headaches are apparently a symptom of everything)

the other bitch of the thing is that because i'm freelancing now, i don't have health coverage, which means if i do need fancy drugs or a new glasses prescription, i most likely can't afford it and will have to do without. if it's severe and/or vital, i will probably have to ask my parents for the money, and i know it won't be a problem, but ugh. just something i'd rather not have to deal with right now. poor timing, as always.

i do already have glasses, though i never wear them. they make my eyes feel funny more than they help.

(also according to that pic, i have massive pores, which is true, i do)

as for the other physical stuff, there's not much i can do about my left foot, though i suppose i ought to stop being super-mobile and just rest it for a couple of days. it is feeling a lot better - especially considering i was actually limping last week - but i always have so many places to go and so much to do that staying off my feet isn't an option. i'm mostly just trying not to bend it at the toes or let any additional pressure come onto it. and no, i have no idea what i did to it. bah.

so, brief update as to where i've been lately: mostly just moping about on my couch, trying not to strain anything, cataloguing my ills and thinking about how hard it will be for my loved ones to carry on after i've passed away so young, so tragic. i am the worst.

please leave any miracle cures for me in the comments.

[ music | arctic monkeys, "baby i'm yours" ]

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

i'm good i'm gone

while pondering upon ways i need to fix my life and become optimum caitlin, i usually end up mulling the idea of moving to a different city and starting new. which is a pipe dream more than anything, but it's hard not to consider changing one's environment in order to get a new fix on things.

one of the things i regret about leaving public relations was that i had the possible option to transfer to one of the american offices (though i think probably only the washington d.c. office would have wanted me, and although i like d.c. i'm not sure if i'd want to live there). when it came down to it, though, not only did i not have the money for a work visa, but i just didn't want to leave toronto. i can't. it's fun to daydream about moving away (again) and starting fresh somewhere else (again), but as i well learned last time, that sort of thing only serves to make me realize how much i love this city and how much it's my home.

i happened to move to toronto just in time for the 2002 summer heatwave, which coincided nicely with that summer's garbage strike, so the whole city was a steamy mess of garbage funk and people sweat and heavy smog. i loved it. i loved fucking everything about toronto from the minute my parents finished moving me into my dorm and drove away back to kingston, leaving me behind in my new home. i remember the staggering heat and the stink of hot trash, but nothing - absolutely nothing - would crush my excitement at finally being a resident of the big city that i, growing up in a country village with a population of 49, had only ever seen on television. the day i discovered queen street west was like finding my religion. it was mecca for a wannabe big-city-cool-kid like me. toronto quickly became my everything and, aside from an ill-fated eight months in vancouver, it's now been my home for longer than i ever lived in kingston. it's always been a huge piece of my personal identity, even when i was living on the other side of the country (and trust me, they can tell if you're from toronto there).

so. here i am now, and i'm here for at least the next few years, since i still love toronto and i'm with a boy who loves toronto as much - if not more - than i do. also, i love my apartment (so much so that my usual nightmare is that i'm forced to move out for some reason):

...but i don't know. sometimes i dream about bigger things, and never here. when i was in university working towards what i thought would be my career as a music journalist, i had this idea that i'd build up my portfolio over those four years, then head to new york city once i graduated and pitch for a job at any of the major music magazines that would have me. but, as i've written about before, journalism isn't exactly something steady to hang your hat on. everything music-wise migrated online, and anything that didn't became obsolete. my lester bangs dream disappeared..

anyway, for some reason - probably because of that above fantasy - i've always seen myself working in america, typically in some giant downtown metropolis like nyc or chicago. and there's people, and there's live music all the time, and there's deadlines, and there's excitement. and something in the back of my mind twinges, telling me that that's where i'm meant to be. but there's no road map to life, right? i feel like that might not be my ultimate destiny after all, but instead some leftover remnant of a dream i had when i was an idealistic twentysomething. maybe i'm forever trying to outrun adulthood, and that's what it represents. maybe i need to grow up.

maybe i need another coffee.

[ music | m83, "we own the sky" ]

Friday, October 31, 2014

the spiderman comes

my friends and i were exchanging scary stories a while ago and, while i didn't have anything otherworldly to include (aside from the fact that i grew up in a haunted house, but it wasn't bad scary, but i guess that's all a story for another time), i did pipe up with the time that i thought i'd gotten bit by a poisonous spider and had to spend the night in west vancouver emerg, waiting for my hand to necrotize. then i realized it's a good story to tell because 1) it's entertaining and 2) it makes me look like an idiot, and who am i to refuse you all that amusement? thus.

(in lieu of a photo of spiders because i understand some people have a paralyzing fear of them, here is a picture of vancouver's lower mainland that i took from the seabus ferry over at north van)

first off, i am a mild hypochondriac. nothing debilitating, but i can't go near dr. google or i might lose my mind over every bump and scratch. i haven't talked myself into ebola yet, but i did call telehealth in 2003 convinced i had sars, and i once went to the walk-in clinic with a weird mark that i was certain was skin cancer, which the doctor witheringly diagnosed as a bruise. i also once thought i had brain cancer because i found a lump on my skull, but it turned out to be an ingrown hair. anyway, that's how it goes.

so i was living alone in vancouver in early 2008, and one night i opened a kitchen cabinet to grab a tea towel. after i did so, i caught sight of a large, ugly spider skittering away from my hand. i made a choking noise and slammed the cabinet shut immediately. (i'm not scared of bugs unless they're surprise bugs. also this spider was goddamn huge and like nothing i'd seen growing up in ontario) after some trepidation, i went back into the cabinet armed with a handful of paper towel, grabbed the nasty bug, tossed it in the bathroom toilet and flushed it away. there! job done.

then i noticed the rapidly swelling welt on my hand.

i gaped at it for a second, my brain immediately going to oh fuck, did i get bitten? then whafuck kind of spider was that? a poisonous one? an ill-advised search online told me that basically every spider in vancouver was poisonous and i should probably get to the hospital asap, before my limbs started falling off. i was a little wary about this, because it was like 9 PM at this point and i had to be up early to open the cafe the next morning, but i didn't want to die from a potential spider bite, so i called a cab and headed off to west vancouver hospital, trying not to freak out. (let's not mention the fact that i forgot my wallet and we had to turn around and go back to my apartment to get it.)

have you ever been to a vancouver hospital emergency room late at night? it's an experience. there were crackheads, creepy homeless dudes, and even one guy getting wheeled in after being shot. then me, a young girl by herself with all the colour drained out of her face in anxiety and fear, and nothing to occupy her (this was 2008, remember, before the miraculous time of iphones). i think i mostly tried to burrow into my coat and read medical pamphlets to pass the time (because if you're in late-night emerg, short of having a fresh bullet wound, you will have a lot of time to waste).

after about two hours, my name was called, and i was led in to see the doctor (though it was probably a nursing assistant) on staff. i explained the scenario - surprise spider, weird hand welt, coincidence?? - and tried not to sound like as much of a moron as i felt. the doctornurse was polite and reassured me that i did the right thing by taking the necessary precaution to have it checked out -- and then she had to consult a giant, ancient tome of medical cases to see if there was any precedent for a bite by this assumed type of spider. between her and three other doctornurses, they couldn't come up with exact advice for me, so one of them simply advised that i "hang out" for about another hour to see if anything bad was happening to my hand. (the rationale being, i think, that spider venom usually starts to kill off cells within a few hours)

i think i made it half an hour before i started to feel pretty silly and bolted. (letting the receptionist know i was leaving first, of course)

sure enough, i got home around midnight, went to bed, got up in the morning and all was fine. my hand was still there in one piece. the suspect welt had all but disappeared.

likely hypothesis? the welt was from scraping my hand on the cabinet drawer as i pulled my hand away from the sudden spider discovery. i didn't really recall doing this, but i sure as hell hadn't been bitten either - it had been too swollen for anyone to discern if there were puncture marks the previous night - and everything seemed to be okay. aside from me and a dire lack of sleep, that is.

if i remember right, i'm pretty sure it was a hobo spider which, if you'll note the research at the end of that link, has been declared "not as venomous to humans as once thought" thanks to research in 2011. 2011! thanks a lot, future.

anyway! there is my hilarrible story of nearly dying from a cabinet scratch. happy halloween, and watch out for any errant spiders or cabinets. i'm off to go see this, finally (just opened today!):

[ music | sylvan essos, "coffee" ]