Friday, May 22, 2009

Surgery and Purple Rain

When I was 17, the summer after my junior year in high school and before my freshman year at community college (I skipped senior year of high school, went to community college for 2 years then transferred to a university) I had surgery on my mouth. As scared as I was about having surgery and being in the hospital, I was more than ready for an end to the daily struggle that my mouth was causing.

My upper jaw had begun growing a bit crooked, and while you really couldn't tell any difference by just looking at me, my teeth didn't meet at all on one side of my mouth, or in the front. The top and bottom teeth in the very back of the right side of my mouth met, but there was about a 3/4 inch space between my top and bottom teeth in the front, and more than an inch in the very back of the left side of my mouth. So I couldn't really eat normally, and every now and then I sounded weird when trying to pronounce certain words. Biting into anything like a hotdog or an apple was pretty close to impossible, and eating most food was difficult.

The actual surgery to basically break my jaw and wire it back together was way more intense and scary than the doctor had led us to believe, but I made it through fine. I had instructed my parents very carefully that an extremely important thing was happening the day of my surgery -- Prince was releasing his next album after my beloved 1999 -- and I HAD TO HAVE IT. They probably pointed out that I couldn't listen to an album in the hospital, but it didn't matter, I wanted to SEE it. So there I was after surgery, in intensive care with beeping machines and my mouth wired completely shut with a mouthful of medieval looking metal, clutching my Purple Rain album.

The poster that came folded up inside the Purple Rain album. See how tall Prince is? :)

Once I was released from the hospital I endured six weeks of having my mouth wired shut. I had regular braces, plus they had big thick wires going vertically from my top teeth to my bottom teeth, and my top teeth were sitting in a little molded plastic tray. In the true spirit of torture, they also gave me a tiny pair of sharp scissors on a cord to wear around my neck, to have handy to cut the wires loose so I wouldn't choke to death if I ever got sick and threw up. Isn't that a pleasant thought! Good times.

For six weeks I drank Coke with no ice (too cold on my teeth) and strained clam chowder. I didn't lose any weight at all, and seeing food was the most torturous thing ever; I would hide when my Mom and Dad would eat dinner and leave the room when restaurant commercials came on.

Funnily enough, I didn't mind much about not being able to speak. I could write a note if I really wanted to communicate something. And other than my once-a-week checkups, I didn't really go out too much. One of the reasons I had the surgery in the summer was so I could just stay home the whole time and not really see anyone. Once a week, though, I had to drive to Salem, VA, which was about an hour away, and get x-rayed to make sure the bones were healing correctly. Every week, after my appointment, I would drive to nearby Roanoke, VA, to see the movie Purple Rain.

I would walk up to the booth and hold up my piece of paper that said PURPLE RAIN, and they'd sell me a ticket. I'd go to the concession counter inside and hold up my little paper that said "COKE - NO ICE, PLEASE". I wonder what the people who worked there thought about the really short chick with dark brown hair long enough to sit on, punky jackets full of D-rings and Adam and the Antz buttons, black lace wristbands and a mouthful of chainlink fence, and who clearly could not speak.

So I ended up seeing Purple Rain about 7 or 8 times that summer. It was a nice little routine. Plus, I really don't think I could ever get tired of watching Prince perform. Or, for that matter, watching Prince lean up against a wall... he is so SEXY.

This would always be on a weekday afternoon, so often the theatre was practially empty. Once I was in the audience with a big group of middle-aged black ladies. I think they may have been an official group on some sort of Church of Prince outing, they were all extremely enthusiastic about every little detail in the movie. Shriekingly enthusiastic.
"Oh my God, those boots!"
"Look at that -- he eats Doritos!!"
"Woo, that boy can DANCE!"
"And in those heels!!"
They were great. They glanced back at the silent girl sitting behind them a few times, but they didn't speak to me -- and I obviously didn't speak to them.

Eventually I got my jaw unwired and I could eat normally again. It was literally more than a decade before I could stand to look at clam chowder, but apparently my love of Coke knows no bounds.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Heart Photography

The first camera I ever got was a Christmas gift when I was around 10. This was the mid-70's, and it used those little rotating square flash bulbs that you would attach to the top, and they'd burn out after you used each side once. I loved my little camera, and wished I could take more pictures. It was expensive to buy the film, and the disposable flash cubes, and then have the pictures developed. I would get so excited when it was finally time to go pick up the pictures at the drugstore (it took a week or longer).

Since then I have always had a camera. I got my first SLR camera when I was in college and taking a photography course where I learned how to develop my own film in the darkroom. Once I got the hang of transferring the film from the teeny film canister to the lightproof developer thingie (which was tricky) it got fun, and I loved swishing the paper around in the stinky chemicals and seeing the image show up magically on the paper.

Even better than that was the invention of the digital camera, largely because I could see the image immediately (and just delete it if it was obviously bad) and because I could take hundreds of pictures at a time. I got my first digital camera about 6 years ago, and two years ago I got a digital SLR camera.

Oh, the unparalleled joy of being able to go to a party and come home with 250 snapshots of my family and/or friends. Oh, the unprecedented satisfaction of being able to set up a pretty flower in a lightbox and take 50 nearly identical photographs until I finally got the one that was PERFECT.


For Christmas my husband got me an external hard drive to keep all my pictures in. I use iPhoto to keep and organize my snapshots, and Aperture for my fine art photography. Total, I had around 40 gigs of pictures, which is a ridiculous lot, but I loved them all.

Did I back them up somewhere else also? No. Did I burn them to cds or dvds? No. Did I have stupid, poorly-thought-out fantasies about how quick and easy it would be to just grab the little drive and run if the house were on fire or we were evacuating due to a hurricane? Yes.

Did I ever once think about what would happen if our cable line got hit by lightning? Nope.

Did I weep piteous, bitter, self-loathing tears when our cable line got hit by lightning and my precious external hard drive was irreparably fried? Oh, you BETCHA.

The good news is that I had uploaded a lot of the really meaningful pictures online somewhere or other; to this blog, to my Facebook or MySpace pages, or to Walgreen's website to have them printed out. So some of the pictures of my Dad's last birthday celebration and my sister-in-law's wedding and other important events are not completely gone (though I usually didn't upload the full size versions). The bad news is that literally thousands of pictures are gone forever.

For the past few days, since we got the news back from the data retrieval place that our data was NOT retrievable, I keep thinking of specific pictures I'll never see again.

Mostly, the ones that really sting are sentimental. I had a few pictures of my kitty Zulie, who passed away three years ago. I had pictures of our house from before we moved into it, when the previous owner still lived here, and we were looking around trying to decide whether to make an offer.

Funnily enough, I also had one picture I had never shared with anyone; my friend knew of its existence and would be very glad to know it's gone. A big group of friends were at an outdoor concert downtown, and it was very late, and she was very drunk, and she decided it would be way too much time-consuming trouble to go stand in a long line at the bathroom, so she just squatted down and peed on the ground right there in the crowd. The thing that I found so hilarious (and the reason I was mean enough to take a picture of a moment I knew my friend would cringe over later) was the tiny, perfectly folded square of kleenex she held at the ready while peeing.

So, we have a new external hard drive and I am trying to think of this as a new start. I had been focusing so much on my silk painting lately I hadn't been taking as many pictures, so maybe this will inspire me...

No, this just SUCKS.

But I'll live. They are only pictures, I can live without them. And I'll take more, and I'll make sure this doesn't happen again.