Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yes, You Are Having A Stroke!

Leave it up to my husband to have a stroke to ruin my perfectly good mid-afternoon suicidal fantasy. I had already envisioned the white, beachy dress, maybe a bit sheer, that flowed to the knee; how I would walk along the Malibu shoreline in search of the perfect rock piling; how the waves would carry my lifeless body along some rip tide. 

Sure, morbid, but I entertain these imaginary events every few months and usually when I’m story thronged. Should I toss these eight chapters? Maybe I’ll kill the protagonist in a blood letting fashion.

I love to daydream but the romantic plots or professional scenarios don’t really hold much grit anymore, not to mention they get repetitive.  But death: endless set-ups, intriguing developments, countless situations and picturesque results.

In any case, I was lying about, coming up with a variety of ways to casual-toss my body off a huge, jagged cliff when my phone kept ringing. I normally never answer, but it was relentless.


“Hey, I don’t want to alarm you but I can’t read. Words. Talk. And thinking. “

“Who is this?”

“Seriously baby, I had to leave a meeting, I wasn’t making less sense.

Then he started to babble about vegetables, shoelaces and Jet Blue. His mind was malfunctioning. He started to sound insane.

“I can pick up some Kale and put it in my briefcase for you.”

Now he had my full attention. I hate Kale and everything Kale represents.

“Think I should I call the doctor? Might just be a thing.”

“What thing! Yes!  And Call 911.  Now!“ I was shriek shouting. He needed him to hear me inside his clustered brain.

But he hung up.  I started researching top neurologists in Los Angeles. I knew Mark would never call his doctor; forget 911.  

He’s the type that loses a finger in a door jam then sews it back on with a sterilized needle. Yes that happened.   

He doesn’t like to waste time, which is why he also doesn’t sleep. He might miss something, even if just a random thought. He has a wild mind, out of control, never stops churning. Visible electrical bolts shoot from his skull.

Now it exploded.

Crisis brings out my most efficient self.  I’m calling his doctors, lining up appointments, researching his symptoms, glancing through stroke chat rooms.  His brain cells were dying by the second.  Timing is critical. I had three hours to get him clot-busting drugs—after that brain tissue dies and body parts that they control die as well, potential long-term disability.  An hour had passed since he noticed.

Then I hear his car. He drove home in traffic. Of course. Why not?

“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at Cedars.”

He was still babbling, but in a cheery mood, because he’s always in a cheery mood.

“Oh my god. I thought right was left and left was right and red was green. I can’t believe I made it.”  He let out a victory cheer.  “My doc told me to take some baby aspirin.”


Our daughters were home, and I didn’t want them to see Mark.

“Hey girls, want to play badminton? Or that mallet game?”

Was he regressing to his childhood? What the fuck was happening?

“Why is dad home?”

He started calling them the wrong names; Maple or Margaret and he couldn’t find the most obvious words “That’s such a pashionable sweatsuit Even!”

I pulled him outside and parked his ass on a bench beneath the Pepper tree.
“Don’t move. An ambulance is on its way.”

“What’s wrong with dad?”

I told the girls dad was having “male issues” because whenever a woman doesn’t want to discuss what’s going on, she says “female stuff.”

“What? What happened? Did his junk blow up?”
“Where did you hear that word?”
“Mom, come on, were 12.”
“It’s complicated but he’ll be fine.”

“It’s complicated” is a phrase I use a lot when I don’t feel like talking. My daughters do the exact same thing. If I ask Girl X why she is choking on tears,  “Oh, you wouldn’t understand. It’s just so complicated.”   This happens every single day.

 "We're good, it's too complicated to discuss."  ^ ^ ^ ^ 

I heard the sirens, then Mark was talking to the paramedics, I thought he was going to invite them in for lemonade. They were all laughing and carrying on. I run outside.

“So, where’s the patient.” The paramedics asked me, confused.
“I’m the patient. I’m having a stroke,” Mark blurted. Like he was proud.

I explained to the dozen very handsome men (why so many and why are they always handsome?) that he was having a stroke.

“He is?”

"Okay, let's get him on a gurney."  ^ ^ ^ ^ 

They whisked him away.  But not to Cedars; instead to some ghastly hellhole.  A place SO horrifying there are over 50,000 awful reviews on YELP.

Like:   “Yeah, go here if you want to DIE!”

I was trying to track him down at this place of no mercy, but apparently they don’t even have phones. Or doctors. The next morning I get a call.

“Hey it’s me, what a cesspool! Not one person helped me. My brain is probably twice fried now!

“Calm down. That will only make it worse. Where are you exactly?”

I’m walking home.


He had ripped out the heart monitoring business Jason Stratham style and was storming down Vermont Avenue, taped venipuncture apparatus on the back of his hands, shirt unevenly button but his fly was closed so that’s good.

I picked up him and drove him straight to Cedars where a team was waiting; they immediately put him in intensive care.

By the end of the next day, we learn he basically blew out his a piece of his mind.  The technical diagnosis is an embolic stroke of undetermined sources. But his brilliant neurologist explained it so I could understand: a part of his computer crashed, gone forever, but given the plethora of back up it won’t really have much impact in his life. 

Because the baby aspirin stabilized him, then again by the paramedics, he was very, very lucky. By lowering his blood pressure, the entire episode halted or he could’ve died, or worse, become a vegetable. 

Dr. Neurologist also thinks Mark is an anomaly; he had never seen a stroke such as this. Quarantined to a section of the brain that didn’t affect anything else: the wordy party; the sentence structure neutrons, and only temporarily.  

A team of neurologists wants to study his brain, to learn from it.

I’m already knee-deep into my grievance letters against the other hospital.  Had Mark not left, he would never have received the care he needed. They don’t even have a neurologist on staff.  Yelling into the phone, pounding out accusatory letters, making a paper trail.  Meanwhile, Mark was laid up in the stroke ward, working, chatting up the cute nurses.

He was home and back to normal in two days.  But out goes the diet coke, coffee, tea, weekly cigar, red bulls, energy drinks, junk food and anything else that helped start to melt his brain.

It’s a huge adjustment for someone who never stops, he’s a bullet train that has been now told he has to go 25 mph, change all of his habits, eat better, exercise and actually sleep. 

None of us are used to this. Mark sleeping is just plain weird.  His nightly routine of working in his man cave until 4am, then catching up on movies, then going grocery shopping, maybe a quick trip to Home Depot, then being there when the girls wake up… no more.

After two weeks of Mark living a “normal” life, my daughter was so frustrated because he kept yawning during an intense game of Apples to Apples, she blurted: 

“Dad snap out of it! That stroke was two weeks ago! Stop using it as an excuse to be lazy.”

We’ve had to come together as a family and accept that Mark is more like us. We have work schedules, we hang around, procrastinate, lounge, daydream, eat well, exercise for fun, but now he does a bit of that too. 

Not that I don’t understand the A type personality, I used to be one. Billy Joel’s Vienna was written about me this much is true. Something changed after I crashed too many spinning plates with work, travel, kids, a house to run, a social life, running marathons, on and on. Something like, “Forget this, I’m tired. I’m going to Vienna to chill out now. Bye.”

A month has passed, but he is already cheating. That is, staying up a little late to finish work documents, making night runs to Cactus, but he is not chugging red bull or returning to bad health habits.  He’s paying attention to how far he can push it, which is the normal for everyone else.

So it really was a stroke of good luck, the clich├ęd wake up call for him to change his life style. I may have to pick up some slack, but I don’t want to think about that just yet.

I was out with friends at a movie and he texted to bring home rice dream. It was past 11 pm and just no way.  I failed the Mark test. See, there isn’t a chance in hell he wouldn’t do that. But I’m selfish, and my sleep trumps freaking rice dream.

Since he is now more aware of everything around him, my behavior is getting called out.  Including this morning.

“How long does your a.m. cranky bitch routine last anyway? You’ve been up for hours.”

“Sometimes all day, sometimes until I go back to bed. Since when did this ever bother you anyway?”

“Since I’m here now in the morning. You act like there’s no one in the house.”
“Exactly. I can’t just be someone else. Check back at noon.”

So here we both are making compromises.  He’s going to slow down; I’m going to maybe speed up. The girls are happy to see us working it out.

On a serious note, strokes can be very deceptive.  What may seem like vertigo or a mind lapse could in fact be a stroke. Because time is essential, I found this visual guide quite helpful.  http://www.webmd.com/stroke/ss/slideshow-stroke-overview

I know there is much on the Internet, most widely seen being F.A.S.T.   

No mention of sounding like a weirdo. ^ ^ ^ ^ ^  

The problem with this is it can be misleading, particularly regarding the speech. I talk nonsensical all the time, but I’m not having a stroke, I’m just strange.  Mark is also strange, but he is highly verbal, it’s his profession. He carefully chooses words, thoughts, edits a document a hundred times before sending out. So, it’s about the actual victim. That was his only symptom.

Further, strokes, particular of the speech mix up variety, are most common among young people, like 25-45 years old. No one seems to have answers yet, hence the study. But doctors are seeing this more and more…. And given how this "under age 45 having strokes" is becoming increasingly common, this has become a new concern in the medical community. Just putting it out there.

Rhonda Talbot on strokes, family, surprises, lifestyles, not your grandpa's stroke, the speed of life. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On The California Drought Crisis, Flashback, Marin County, Jerry Brown, Sam Shepard and Me

"The California I knew is gone, doesn't exist... little pockets, farm country....fresh produce stands with avocados and date palms. An artichoke for a buck. All wiped out now."

This post is not in any way to make light of our California drought situation. But it's impossible for me to not do the deja vu stumble.  I'm a product of the 1977 Marin County "Emergency" drought, where drastic measures had to be taken or the state would simply burn to the ground.

Jerry Brown was a younger, hipper Governor then. I was living with my mother in Tiburon, she was somehow an interior decorator and I was a kid plotting my move to anywhere else but Marin. For example, every morning, because my mother didn't believe in curtains I was forced to wake by sunlight at approximately 6:00am.

As a pre-teen, I thought this was bullshit. I needed that extra hour before school. Get curtains!

Mom: We are not shutting out the majestic glory we get to momentarily be part of.

She was already drinking coffee and drawing blueprints for some boutique. She never went to design or architectural colleges, so her money-earning ambitions remained a mystery.

Mom:  Honey, get up. The sun is out. Splendor awaits. Take a one minute shower, dash out, leave it running and I'll pop in.

During this time, the new water rules were: basically you couldn't use water. Which meant, you were not suppose to flush the toilet until five uses, one quick shower a week, there was the same 25% cut in water supply... or,

"The Family That Showers Together, Doesn't Go To Jail!"

The slogan might have been, "The Family That Showers Together Stays Together."  That is so perverse, even by the low moral standards of the Mariners, the locals quickly changed it.

Jerry Brown, 77, mandating the 25% ^ ^ ^ among other restrictions. ^ ^ ^ If you abused your water usage, not only were you fined, but potentially looking at 30 days in the slammer.  My mother took this all very seriously and would sometimes throw a nerf ball at my head if I showered too long. She also had a thing for Brown and a probable hook-up. Back then he was like Ryan Gosling. But in the power seat.

His water ration for the week.
People were concerned about the water, but not that much. Many would wash up in a San Rafael city fountain then go listen to Bonnie Raitt at Sweetwater in Mill Valley.  The older folks just went to bed.

The street signs kept going up, some were rather inappropriate using images from that book The Joy of Sex. Some trying to be clever.

I don't think Jerry Brown sanctioned these signs, but people posted them everywhere, all over Main Street and into other cities.

It appears he's using a similar handbook for our current crisis.  This is not a horrible thing, everyone needs to conserve and shut their fountains down. Over 80% of CA water goes to agriculture, but I suppose every drop helps. Other efforts, however, are mandatory. There needs to be a better long-term solution than short term regulations. Listen up engineers. Be a hero. Everyone get involved. There needs to be more talk about desalination.  Go here. 

Okay, back to 1977, Main Street sort of looks the same, ^ ^ ^ minus the fancy stores. Incidentally Mom created the interiors of nearly all those shops. Again, a mystery. She went on to become an unlicensed therapist with a decent book of clients.

Mom: It's amazing what people will tell their designers. Now I'm in a position to help them proper and get paid.

Of course no one was going to shower with their family, or not flush their toilets. But to do their part, everyone did carry around flasks of whiskey and sit in hot tubs. We all wanted a hot tub.

The restaurants did not put water on the table, unless you were Sam Shepard, because he's god. And was also a regular at Sam's, the local, well, watering hole.  He was an great guy, and I talked to him often because my mom would drag me there so she didn't have to drink alone.

Sam often saw me in a corner doing homework while he was writing Pulitzer winning plays. I didn't know who he was, just another sweet guy at Sam's. I was working on my college essay, yes early, but I was anxious to move on.

Sam told me I was off to a good start. He told me to figure out what I find curious, then mention in my letter both the subject of curiosity and the professor who would be teaching this to the Freshman. I would eventually do that and not on a napkin.

I would later find out that a very young Sam had a romance with Patti Smith (connection one) and he also has a musician son, Walker, whose band The Down Hill Strugglers, play "down home folk." There is a great scene in The Notebook with Sam Shepard, everyone is dancing to banjo/fiddle music, (connection two.) These connections are the majestic fabric of my life.

As a "teeny-bopper" I was curious why there was a water shortage at all given we were surrounded by so much.

My walkway to the bus every morning. ^ ^ ^

My mother explained the difference between salt and tap then offered she preferred wine, so she wasn't part of the problem anyway. All of our ferns had long died from neglect. We were winning.

Year later, here I am all grown up, explaining to my kids why we are installing drought resistant grass, but the kids seem to be armed with knowledge because I get yelled at the most.

"Turn off the faucet, Mom!"

When I tell my kids why there are no decent oranges or lemons, I sound exactly like my mother back in Tiburon. There have been subsequent droughts but I didn't have kids then. Somehow the impact isn't felt as much. Because well, pasta, laundry, long-haired twin girls.

If it gets to that point, of "The Family That Showers Together Doesn't Go to Jail!" just get yourself a hot tub.  Like these fellas.

Maybe stick to coconut water.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Mystery of Einstein

When I was eight years old, my mother handed me a slip of paper with an Einstein quote: “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”

Why she gave this to me and not her other five children remains unclear. Perhaps she saw my disillusionment with the rat-a-tat, airless echo of school, the Catholic Church, the Sunday roast dinners and our predictable life. I had been punished a number of times for staring out the school window day-dreaming about who knows what, maybe stink bugs. Then came the thwack of the ruler, held by a tight-fisted, chalky nun who sent me off to kneel on the concrete hallway floor for two hours. I would later go home and draw pictures of nuns being kidnapped, held in dark closets, being starved, begging for mercy. I hid the stories under my bed, accompanying the other stacks, all concerning some level of inequality.

During this time, music and freedom called my mother to another place, a more hopeful existence where she wouldn’t be a “wife.” She was a hippy to my father’s buttoned-up businessman. My mother did not have many heroes, as they were fleeting and then dead: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedys. But there was something about Einstein that settled into her very core, then mine.

A new life began and I took Albert along as a companion

In the early 70's, she had had enough. She confided in me: “We are leaving. Tell no one; your sisters won’t understand. Your father will return to an empty house, to complement his empty existence.”
Then: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Don’t forget that. Ever.”

Thus began my own obsession with Einstein. I tucked these quotes into my grandmother’s jewelry box, which she had given me just prior to her death.

Legions of people remain enamored by this brilliant man, not just for what he discovered, accomplished and how he radically changed the world, but because of his childlike innocence, his unlimited curiosity, great humility, a legacy of words that continue to endure. When you ask a complete stranger who defines genius, they might reply, “Oh, Einstein.”

And he was a rascal, with wild eyes, the mop of hair, his crumpled clothes. This made him real for the rest of us. I began to collect quotes and read about him in libraries. His humor brought me great comfort. He wasn’t some impervious man one couldn’t access. He didn’t believe in separating himself from others, and in fact loved sharing his ideas, while helping others expand on their own. He was approachable, both alive and dead.

Born with a kind of eternal intelligence, his curiosity about all things began to emerge at age four. While examining his father’s pocket compass, Einstein was baffled. What was causing the needle to move? The empty space made no sense to him. He began to build models and mechanical devices for fun. He wanted answers. Age 10, he met Max Talmey, a poor, Jewish medical student from Poland, who introduced him to science, math, philosophy, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Euclid’s Elements, which Einstein dubbed “the holy little geometry book.”

He was brilliant in his own way

As a boy, his father knew little Albert was gifted, and perhaps because the elder Einstein (an engineer) had failed at so many businesses, he insisted his son stay in school. He enrolled him in a school in Munich to pursue engineering, but Albert was frustrated with the educational system. He clashed repeatedly with the authorities, resented their teaching style and wrote about how schools were essentially killing the creative spirit and curiosity of its students. He was 15.

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” When I read this in junior high school, I could finally relax. The simple statement brought along a universe of vindication because I simply could not understand the entire educational process of rote learning. It was too boxed in, too impersonal. I realized I would have to find my own way intellectually alongside the traditional, through books and lectures by Rollo May, Erich Fromm, B.F. Skinner, Timothy Leary and Marshall McLuhan.

I was no genius, simply curious and bored with school. Given the number of times my gypsy mother moved us, staying on track in class made me weary. Another school, another teacher, another set of young people I would have to navigate somehow.

Why has Einstein resonated so deeply with me and so many others? Among the world’s most brilliant minds, he continues to inspire. What of da Vinci, Tesla, Newton, Hawking, Aristotle, Edison, Cervantes? The list goes on. They too share not just powerful minds, but an endless pursuit through curiosity and instinct. They knew knowledge was important, had to be learned, but could only get them so far. The rest is mystery.

Einstein embodies the mystery. So many of his ideas, beyond his incredible discoveries in the world itself, which ultimately turned the world on its head, contain room, empty space, air to breathe. His equation, E = mc2, may be the most famous equation in physics, eventually setting the stage for the development of the atomic bomb and nuclear power plants. But had he known where this was going, he said, he should have become a watchmaker.

To this day, his theories inspire advances in science, astronomy and physics, as well as from philosophers. I keep a tip sheet of quotes tacked up near my computer and read one every day. It really doesn’t matter which one, as they all carry great meaning. With each read I come away with yet another interpretation.

Einstein would go on to fail countless exams when applying to higher learning institutions. Yet, he continued exploring, reading and taking great interest in other’s concepts and ideas. He did eventually get accepted into the Polytechnic in Zurich. He wanted more knowledge and continued developing his own theories and expanding others.

His instincts propelled him yet further
He never lost his ability to stay curious, intuitive and of course, humorous. Despite his apparent genius, upon graduation he could not get a job and landed at the patent office, only to be overlooked for a promotion because he had not managed to grasp machine technology. But it was there that the 26-year-old developed further radical notions in his spare time by analyzing various patents. And he never stopped writing about his findings.

Finally, with some recognition, he left the patent office, and by 1908 was considered as one of the world’s leading scientists. He went on to become a professor in Prague and Berlin, and ultimately became famous a few years later when his theory of relativity at last made a permanent impression on the world. Ten years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

For many years after, he traveled the globe, lecturing. “Of all the people I have met, I like the Japanese the most, as they are modest, intelligent, considerate, and have a feel for art,” he wrote to one of his sons. This is the statement that captures the man himself. He maintained his own humility until the day he died. He was a genius, but also a gentleman, a humorist, altruist, artist and a great believer in love. “How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”

The entire universe was Einstein’s canvas, and he made this world relatable to all of us. He said so many things and has been attributed for many as well.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey

Of all the great brains, his would be the one cut into 240 pieces, kept in jars, cardboard boxes, often hidden, studied under microscopes. Bits of his grey matter still remain at Princeton University. All those years of cutting, probing and analyzing amounted to little new knowledge of the human mind.

The contradiction rattles the very jars into a pulpy mess, if only because it contradicts what Einstein tried to impress. Stay curious and questioning; love the mystery. Conventional knowledge, though essential, is finite. Imagination is not. This is what Einstein embraced. Perhaps the lore of his brain in a jar helps prolong the iconic myth. In his words: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and strand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Recently, while driving my own ten-year-old girls to school, I said, “Remember, imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Through the rear view mirror, I watched them both roll their eyes in that “Please mom, just drive,” kind of way, as they said in unison, “OK, Einstein.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On Birdman, Illusions, Hope and I'm NOT 65!

There is always hope...

I’ve written more than once my reluctance to engage with convenience store cashiers, particularly at Rite-Aid. I don’t know if part of their job requirement is to engage but I don't like it This particular encounter was about MY need to engage. With a kid. Tides are changing.

Last night I was feeling friendly, open, had just seen Birdman with a close friend and we were all over the map in multiple conversations about life, ourselves, movies, kids, work, the world,  the meaning of life, technology, kosher gummy bears, the dangers of pork fat, preservatives and toxic friends. 

This is how we talk, lots of subjects overlapping but after 20 years we have rhythms and circles and understand exactly the other. If we hit on a particular subject of interest, we’ll stay there for a while, exhaust it, then move on. We were stuck on the kosher gummy thing.

KOSHER ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 

Riley is my only friend I have this relationship with, that is, we both think so fast and are somehow on the same wave, our entire universe can be jammed into 30 minutes at Rite Aid.

Meanwhile, here I was at the checkout by myself with a young girl, perhaps 17. Riley had run off to grab another item, which I had predicted. The “I’m only running in for one thing!” girl.

Me: Oh, she always forgets something. But she has a mind like a steel trap. So smart, always thinking ahead.  Such a smart girl.

The checkout girl was grappling with the 20 pages of coupons Riley gave her.

Me: Can you believe this? I don’t know how she does it. Somehow finds, saves, then compartmentalizes coupons for the proper store on items that are already inexpensive. Where does she find the time?? What, with a huge job, runs her own company!  She’s raising an amazing son, travels the world, helps others, oversees the construction on her home, is kind, lovely and adorable and yet organizes coupons. See, this is why she has money and I don’t.

I toss my sponges and a Hershey’s bar onto the counter.

Checkout girl: Wow, you really raised her well. You must be so proud. 

Me: Excuse me?

Checkout girl: Your daughter. You raised her so well.
Me: You think I’m her mother?

She looked at me as though to confirm.

Checkout girl: Well, yeah. My mom brags about me too.

Of course I had to dig deeper because I love self-abuse.

Me: How old do you think I am?

Now, we all know this is basically a trick question and you get what you deserve, but I thought she might say 49… at the high end. She was already delusional.

Checkout girl:  Um… 65?

Me:  65? Are you serious? I look 65? Do you keep a gun under the counter?

Blank stare. This is what I think 65 looks like. ^^^^

This is what 65 looks like being fabulous.  Still, I feel I look at least 20 years younger than Susan. Seriously! This girl should get fired.

This is me on a sloppy day. I was in heels and pearls for cripes sake! I've gotten to where I'm okay with aging. I'm doing it gracefully. I take pride in that.

Riley comes rushing up, her long hair flowing all over the place, gorgeous face, all legs, then shoving tons of items she “forget” onto the counter.

She even looks like this girl ^^^ In fact it might be her.

Riley: Sorry, I couldn't find the toxic free paper towels. We need to stop at Trader Joes.
Me: Okay, get this. The cashier thinks I’m your mother.
Riley:  What?
Me: Because I raised you so well miss coupon collector.

You’d think the check out girl would show a little humiliation, maybe slight embarrassment, but no. Not even, “I’m not good with ages.”

Like I give any shits.   ^^^

I grabbed my sponges and chocolate.

“Just get me home so I can scrub the house and shame eat. Can you help me to the car, honey.”

We were laughing too hard to strip it all down but Riley, who truly does look 20, needed to try and shore me up.

Riley: It’s the hair. She didn’t even see my face.  We’re the same age!

Me: Who cares? She saw mine. 65? My mother doesn’t look 65 god rest her soul.

By now we are hysterical with laughter throwing perfume free toilet paper into the car. I gasped.

Me: What the hell is that?

I didn’t realize our windows were open.

Riley: Oh Jesus.

Basically Sasquatch was pacing in front of the car, wearing only tight underpants, his giant balls spilling out on either side.

Riley: Is that a girl?
Me: No, Riley. It has a dick. I need to get a picture and Instagram him.
Riley:  Hurry! 

I’m scrambling for my camera, then realized he was staring at us, our windows were down. Was I really just going to take a picture of a nearly naked mentally ill man? What was wrong with me?  We had just seen Birdman.  We were about to become the very people the film illuminates, forget reality, forget human emotion, but get the picture and make it go viral. 

Me:  Let’s go, this is crazy.
She was staring at her phone.
Riley:  Look at this, he's still in line!
Me: It’s a big deal, great actually. People wait for hours.
She had been keeping track of her son who was waiting for the over-the-top scary Hayride in Griffith Park.

As parents our children are now little red dots on our smartphones, we know where they are at all times. Soon we will be able to hear their conversations.

I had stopped counting birthdays after I turned 40, so oddly if you ask me my age; I just grab a number from the air.

Me: Why 65? Why not say, 80!
Riley: You know kids, They think everyone is old.
Me: That is true. My girls (11) think my son (25) is an old man.  I wonder if she thought I looked GOOD for 65.
Riley: You look amazing. Stop it.
Me: We’re so much more than our faces. Yet, wouldn’t it be great if there really was a fountain of youth? I’d be bathing in that business.

Riley: There’s one in Rome. I found them all.
Me: Unicorns. Ever notice how they are all water based? We are water? Theoretically we could just take a bath. I’d rather get a blood transfusion. I should drink more coconut water.
Riley: Do you think he died or flew?
Me: That’s the entire point of the movie, our interpretation.  He already flew into the sun. One of the recurring themes. He’s free. Finally. He says fuck you to the Birdman monster then controls his own fate. To me he integrated and ended it himself.
Riley: I want to believe he flew away to maybe a tropical island. I mean his daughter smiles and looks up.
Me: For me, they finally bonded; she was smiling because he was at peace. Why look at a crumpled, bloody body when she knows his spirit is soaring?

Riley: Yes but I want to believe he is off at some topical island, free that way.

Me: He'd drown himself. Anyway, this expands the point, that is if he flew away to someplace real, we as a society are being taken over by a viral reality, so soon there be no such thing as reality. May as well enjoy this one.  

Of course we are now both checking our cell phones.
Since age seven, I too have a  Birdman voice that enjoys reminding me I’m a loser, no talent, worthless, fat, ugly cow that has nothing to offer so really, why try.  

But you do.

One of the things I love about Riley is her honesty, and how she doesn’t give up. We are similar this way.  The self-doubt, the anxiety over our kids, and the impossibility of it all, then we end up laughing. The conclusion is we are humans in an insane world looking for good.  And if someone tells me I look 65, and I see a hairy fat man in his stained underpants smiling at me with a toothless grin, while contemplating the 25 layers of brilliance that is Birdman, I will call that a good day.

I finally arrive home, and settle into my comfy bed, channel flipped until Prisoners, a movie I love so much I can recite all the dialogue. I fall asleep eating my chocolate bar, so I’m guessing today I probably look 67.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on brilliant Birdman, Michael Keaton, self-doubt, aging, life, humor, parenting, friendship, laughter, mirages and hope.