Hunka-Hunka Burning Lyric

I try to be fairly positive on this blog and not directly disparage any individuals (except for maybe 5th Harmony…. I’ve definitely called them out), but sometimes that lady time of the month comes around and I want to take a flame thrower to the world.  But society and the police say I can’t do that so I will instead torch a lyric.

As a writer, I notice the words when a song comes on the radio and I get a special kind of annoyed when they’re not up to snuff.  It’s always the songs that get played over and over too, or maybe they only get played when I’m in my car.  Either way, it’s the kind of thing that fuels my hormone-sparked fire.  Today, I will be dissecting one of these lyrics.  Delicately.  With a battle axe.

Now quick disclaimers: this is meant to be entertaining, not a serious analysis of a lyric.  I’m not one of those snobs that expects every lyric to have an earth-shaking, life-changing message; I appreciate a completely vapid party song every once in a while.  I am one of those snobs that expects even vapid lyrics to be at least as well constructed as your first grade essay on what you did over summer break.  When critiquing something, one will often be in turn critiqued with the incredibly childish question, “Can you write something better?”  Well, I’m no Carol King or Kristofferson, but yes, I could do better than the lyric I’m about to eviscerate.  And even if I couldn’t, I don’t have to be a five star chef to know that something tastes like ass.  Your argument is irrelevant.  Moving on.

Today I’m going to destroy this sentimental ditty by Fifth Harmony (because you already know I’m not a fan), “Worth It,” a song that I called out in a previous post and that I think deserves some one-on-one attention.

I initially liked the beat and the weird klezmer thing happening in the track.  Plus the whole “I’m worth it” line initially sounds pretty empowering.  Then I listened closer.  Below are my thoughts, line by line.

“Worth It”
(feat. Kid Ink)

[Camila:]
Give it to me, I’m worth it
Ok, we’ve got some girl power going on here.
Baby, I’m worth it
I’m bobbing my head to this.
Uh huh I’m worth it
I like this, we haven’t said much yet, but I feel pumped about the absolute nothing we’re discussing here.
Gimme gimme I’m worth it
Gimme gimme?  Are we five, ladies?
Give it to me, I’m worth it
I’ve heard this before but now I can sing along.
Baby, I’m worth it
Is this the entire song?  I’d kind of be ok with that.
Uh huh I’m worth it
“Uh huh.”  Alright, if we have to write grunting into the lyric we might be off to a rough start.
Gimme gimme I’m worth it

Use your grown-up words.

[Kid Ink:]
OK, I tell her bring it back like she left some-

Some what?  What are we bringing back?  To where?
Bring it bring it back like she left some-
Obviously Kid Ink is a cyborg that runs on old DVD-R discs because he’s skipping pretty badly.  We might need to rub some toothpaste on that.
In the club with the lights off
Why are the lights off?  Every club I’ve been to there’ve been some lights on somewhere in the room.  I think the power might be out.  You should precede to a fire exit.  Just saying.
Whatchu acting shy for?
She’s not.  She said “Gimme gimme, I’m worth it.”  She’s begging for whatever this mysterious “it” is and she fees entitled to it.  Unless your definition of shy is “not forcibly taking what you want,” I’d say she’s pretty confident.
Come and show me that you’re with it with it with it with it with it
What is “it’!?  What are we supposed to be with?  Also we’re having some issues with skipping again.
Stop playing, now you know that I’m with it with it with it with it with it with it
Am I supposed to be imagining another side to this conversation?  What did we do that’s “playing?”  I’m just listening to your halfhearted rap.  By the way, this incessant repetition is exactly why you should always put your CDs back in their cases.  
Whatchu acting shy for?

Really?  Couldn’t write one new line?  You’ve only used, like, ten unique words in this chorus.  I think we can safely add a couple more without overloading your CPU.  If my Dell loaded up with Windows 98 could run Civ IV, you can run the English language.

[Dinah:]
Just gimme you, just gimme you

Oooooohhhh…  “It” is his penis.  I get it now.
Just gimme you, that’s all I wanna do
Apparently the CD you’re all lip syncing to is damaged because that’s the 7th time you’ve said “gimme” and we’re just starting the first verse.  And this is definitely not a girl power song.  I think casual sex is great and you are no less valuable of a person for engaging in it, but do we have to beg for it?  “All I want to do is your dick.”  No.  No.  Make him work for it.  You’re not worth anything right now; you’re free.  You make Walmart look expensive.
And if what they say is true
Who is saying what?
If it’s true, I might give me to you
Maybe instead of hiring session vocalists to sing your parts you cheaped out and bought a couple parrots.  That would at least explain why you have to say everything twice.  And how, if you’re having sex with him, are you not also giving yourself to him?  Were you just begging to please him with no expectation of reciprocity?  It sounds like you just met and that this is just casual sex.  Did you just beg to give him a blow job?  This line feels like a failed attempt make you sound empowered written by someone who thinks empowered means “not currently making me a sandwich.”
I may talk a lot of stuff
You just begged for the D, “shit” is too bad a word for you?  And even if you are going to maintain some weird sense of morality, you can’t find a better word than “stuff?”  No one says “I may talk a lot of stuff.”  No one says this.
I think I’m a call you bluff
Oh so “stuff” was just there to rhyme with this little cliche.  What a bastion of creative thought we are.  This line was definitely worth sacrificing the line above it.  Yeah, NO ONE’s ever said THIS before.
Hurry up, I’m waitin’ out front

You waste NO time.  He hasn’t even said “yes” yet and you’re heading to the car. 

[Normani:]

Holy shit, I had no idea there were different women singing these verses.  I seriously can’t hear a difference in their voices.  They must all be rendered by the same computer.
Uh huh, you see me in the spotlight
What did you do that the lighting guy is pointing you out?  Are the bouncers trying to find you?  Is this actually a high school prom in a bad 80’s movie?
“Ooh I love your style”
I appreciate someone’s style and I probably do form judgements about them before I even realize it based on their clothes, but it’s not a deciding factor in who I have sex with.  I’m not like, “Are those Italian leather loafers?  Get IN me!”
Uh huh show me what you got
More grunting.  Not a great start to this line.  Also, are we still at the club or are you back at someone’s apartment now?  You were waiting out front at the end of the last verse.  Wait, do you have a spotlight in your bedroom?  New theory: this song might be about someone who makes their own sex tapes.
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste my time
You’ve known this guy for like a verse and half and you’re worried about wasting time?  Do you turn into a pumpkin at midnight or something?  What’s the rush?
Uh huh see me in the spotlight
Ok, this line again…
“Ooh I love your style”
Listen, you really need to base this sexual encounter you’re about to engage in on something more than what clothes you’re wearing; especially since you’re presumably about to take them off.  Like are you going to take off your dress and he’s just gonna be like, “Nah, never mind; I was just in it for the French Connection.”?
Uh huh show me what you got now
That’s called indecent exposure and it’ll land you on a list.  I hope this is happening in your weird sex-tape studio bedroom and not the club; otherwise you’re about to have to introduce yourself to all your neighbors.
Come and make it worth my while

As excited as I am that you’ve actually bothered to write a new line instead of just repeating the prechorus in its entirety, this whole “make it worth my while thing” is a little late in the game.  Like 7 lines ago you were begging him for sex and now your like “I don’t know, is your dick really that great?”  Which is totally your prerogative – you have every right to change your mind, even in the middle of sex – but it seems like a subject better handled in a different song.

[Camila:]
Give it to me, I’m worth it

I’m so much less enthused about this chorus now that I understand its context.
Baby, I’m worth it
Seriously, there’s not enough content in this chorus for me to even keep commenting.  I’ll see you at the next verse.
Uh huh I’m worth it
Gimme gimme I’m worth it
Give it to me, I’m worth it
Baby, I’m worth it
Uh huh I’m worth it
Gimme gimme I’m worth it

 

[Camila:]
It’s all on you, it’s all on you

Ok, putting the ball in his court.  Let him chase.  This is good.  At least we’re not throwing ourselves at him any more.
It’s all on you, so what you wanna do?
We’re two lines in and you’ve repeated the same phrase three times already.  And the new phrase you’re introducing basically says the same thing as the last three lines.   So what I’m saying is, we’re a quarter of the way through your verse and you’ve said nothing so far.
And if you don’t have a clue
“I met you a minute and a half ago.  What do want to do to me?!  Decide NOW!”
Not a clue, I’ll tell you what to do
We’ve repeated another line.  Do we have a quota of words we can’t exceed or something?  Also, I recognize that when I’m like “babe, what do you want to do?” and I already have a game plan for what I want if he doesn’t have an idea, I should just tell him what I want to do, because otherwise I’m going to be disappointed.  You’re setting yourself up for a bad night here, Camila.
Come harder just because
I’m over thinking this line.  I’m assuming your asking for, like, rougher sex.  Just not sure that I’ve ever heard anyone ask for it this way.  It kinda sounds like you’re commanding him to orgasm more aggressively which… like… can anyone even consciously do that?
I don’t like it, like it too soft
We figured as much since you’re demanding that he “come harder” but thanks for stuttering through a clarification for us.
I like it a little rough
Again, gathered that.  We’ve got a lot of context clues to work with.
Not too much, but maybe just enough

This is my least favorite line of the entire song.  You could have farted into the microphone and it would have contained more information than this line.  You’ve managed to completely strip all meaning from the English language and reduce it to a series of empty grunts and chirps.  Frankly, it’s almost impressive.  I didn’t think it was possible to say so little with so much.

[Ally:]
Uh huh, you see me in the spotlight

We’re back to this again.
“Ooh I love your style”
We’re this far into the song and he’s still stuck on your outfit?  He is NOT into you.  He’s not even commenting on YOUR attractiveness.  He’s just like “you’re clothes are nice.”  Why do you want to have sex with him?
Uh huh show me what you got
Maybe “what they say” is that he has a magic penis or something.  Is that it?  Why are you so anxious to jump this guy whose only interest in you is your wardrobe?
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste my time
Again, really seems like you’re rushing, if anything.  You could stand to slow things down.
Uh huh see me in the spotlight
I swear, I’m going to start counting how many unique words are in this song.
“Ooh I love your style”
Kids, this is not why you engage with someone sexually.  Don’t do this.
Uh huh, show me what you got now
This song might be the least specific lyric in history.  It’s not poetic either.  It’s not metaphor or beautiful, abstract imagery.  “I’m On A Boat” had more information about what was happening than this.  At least I knew where the hell we were supposed to be in that song (we were on a boat, in case you didn’t know).
Come and make it worth my while

You were already having sex during the last verse.  This entire prechorus is no longer relevant.  GET IT TOGETHER FIFTH HARMONY.

[Camila:]
Give it to me, I’m worth it

Are you?  Really?
Baby, I’m worth it
I’m not sure I believe you any more.
Uh huh I’m worth it
What about your SELF-worth?  Where is that?
Gimme gimme I’m worth it
You know, I just realized why this line bothers me.  Sexual baby talk kinda grosses me out; just a personal pet peeve.
Give it to me, I’m worth it (know what I mean?)
What do you mean?  And what are we risking here by taking your free sex that you’re throwing at us?  Are you saying we’re going to get herpes but it’s going to be fun catching it?
Baby, I’m worth it (give me everything)
“My vagina is a portal to Hell!  Satan dwells within it’s black depths!  Enter and give the dark lord your everything, your life-force, your SOUL!”
Uh huh I’m worth it
Considering how sad this exercise is making me for the future of art and humanity, I would say that you are not – in fact – worth it.
Gimme gimme I’m worth it

No.  Say please at the very least.  It’ll still be a no, but I’ll like you better.

[Kid Ink:]
OKI tell her bring it back like she left some-                                                                             You couldn’t even write another crappy rap for the last part of the song?  It’s not like the first one was your opus or anything.
Bring it bring it back like she left some-                                                                                                “I want this girl to dance on me like she forgot her keys!”
In the club with the lights off                                                                                                                          At this point in the song, I’m going to assume that everyone involved has severe head trauma and Kid Ink’s assessment that the lights are off in the club is actually just temporary blindness resulting from a recent catastrophic brain injury.
Whatchu acting shy for?                                                                                                                                             You really should have rewritten this rap, man.  According to that second verse, you all have at least graphically discussed sex if not actually had it.  And she told you to “come harder.”  Ain’t nothing shy about that.
Come and show me that you’re with it with it with it with it with it                                             I feel it’s safe to say that neither your nor she have the mental capacity to consent to sex at this moment.  She (by the way, which one of the 4 or 5 supposed singers on this song are you singing to?) shouldn’t show you anything.  
Stop playing, now you know that I’m with it with it with it with it with it                               Ah, the familiar, sad repetition that defines this song.  It’s almost comforting now.
Whatchu acting shy for?                                                                                                                           I’m going to vote this line as the second lowest low-point in this song, right after “not too much, but maybe just enough.” 

[Ally:]
Uh huh, you see me in the spotlight                                                                                                         I don’t feel that there’s enough content at this point so I’m going to start giving you some handy numerical stats.
“Ooh I love your style”                                                                                                                               There are eight discreet words in the entire chorus.
Uh huh show me what you got                                                                                                                     There are 603 words in the song but only 101 on them (17%) are unique.
‘Cause I don’t wanna waste my time                                                                                                       There are only four words in the entire song with three or more syllables in them.
Uh huh see me in the spotlight                                                                                                                   The four most used words are: worth (36 times),                                                                                                       
“Ooh I love your style”                                                                                                                                   me (26 times),
Uh huh, show me what you got now                                                                                                           uh (20 times),
Come and make it worth my while                                                                                                           and huh (20 times).

[Camila:]
Give it to me, I’m worth it                                                                                                                              Looking back at those top four words, two of them aren’t even actually words; they’re just grunting.  I also think the word counter I used excluded “it,” otherwise I would have thought it would be the most common word.  Trust me, I tried counting this myself and just… failed at it.
Baby, I’m worth it                                                                                                                                                    By the way, the fifth most used word was my favorite, “gimme.”
Uh huh I’m worth it                                                                                                                                        According to the same word counter (wordcounttools.com, if you’re curious; it’s pretty fun),  this song receives a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level rating of 1.2.  So it’s as though the writer was a month into second grade when they composed this.
Gimme gimme I’m worth it                                                                                                                       Also interesting, the average word length is 3.5 letters long.  This means that the majority of the vocabulary in this song doesn’t even make it to four letters.  And four letter words are often accused of being the lowest form of expression. 
Give it to me, I’m worth it (know what I mean?)                                                                                        The exercise in madness that has been analyzing this song has led me to a few conclusions:
Baby, I’m worth it (give me everything)                                                                                                1) There is definitely such a thing as too much vocal production because all of the women sound the same to me,
Uh huh I’m worth it                                                                                                                                        2) They clearly didn’t pay Kid Ink enough for his rap chorus,
Gimme gimme I’m worth it                                                                                                                     3) Someone got paid to write this.  And it’s been all over the radio.  Our society is obviously collapsing.

Give it to me, I’m worth it                                                                                                                                No.  I can confidently say, you’re not.

The State of the Union: I’m On A Plane and Other Tales

Hey, World!  It has been a long while since I’ve posted anything at all.  Today I want to give you a rundown of what has happened and what will be happening.  I’ve started a couple posts and not managed to finish them – sometimes because the spark wasn’t there, sometimes because my computer died.

I didn't know this screen was even an option.

I didn’t know this screen was even an option.

That’s right, my laptop died a slow and agonizing death.  Luckily the violent convulsions gave me plenty of heads up that all was not well and I backed up my computer.  Unluckily, my new computer has some fancy FireWire Thunderbolt ports that aren’t compatible with the hard drive all of my data is stored on.  So half my life is still locked in a hard drive until I purchase an adapter, but at least I have a functioning laptop again.

Things have improved greatly since my last incredibly dramatic soliloquy.  I am 100% healthy again – liver and all.  I’m still not sure what was wrong with me, but we pretty much threw antibiotics and steroids at it until it went away.  Three rounds of drugs and a month-and-a-half after the whole ordeal began I finally got the OK from my doctor to go have a beer.

As when I started the blog, I am still unemployed – except now I intern 45 hours a week.  Which is awesome because the companies I’m with are truly incredible, but it’s also exhausting and a little demoralizing.  It’s startling the judgement/pity/disapproval you get when people find out you’re working unpaid – and not an undergrad anymore.  Look, I’m frustrated enough with the situation myself; there’s enough regret, embarrassment, and cheap tequila floating around without someone else joining in on the pity party.  We won’t go into my feelings on unpaid internships, because at the end of the day I signed up for this craziness, but I’ve been completely pooped every evening and completing a post has seemed out of the question.

I’ve also been terribly distracted by the boon of attractive young men here in Nashville.

Attractive young man.

Attractive young man.

After a long day at work, when I should probably be writing a blog post or being a fun exciting 20-something and going out to drink money I don’t have or playing music with the energy I didn’t just spend during my 10 hour work day, I’d rather spend time with the above featured attractive young man.  We have had some awesome adventures – Attractive Young Man took me up in a very tiny plane which resulted in this selfie and much distress from the parentals:

I'm On A Plane

I’m On A Plane

The tiny plane was slightly smaller than my car, but very awesome none-the-less.  And for some reason, I find technical sounding jargon being spoken into a bad-A headset very attractive (though not as attractive as the guitar playing or the explanation of the altitude dependent efficiency of jet versus internal combustion engines based on the oxygen content of the air  – I’m starting to think maybe I just find him attractive).

But despite the distraction of being wooed by Attractive Young Man, I have gotten a bunch of songwriting done and I want to share it with everyone SO BADLY.  I no longer have ProTools on my computer and I live right next to a train track so recording at home is out of the question anyway, but I am starting to work on a little series I want to call “Bare Bones.”  Expect some awesome, simple guitar/vocal(/bodhran?) recordings and videos coming up, each accompanied by a blog about the writing and recording process.

Working 45 hours a week in various offices has made me realize that, although I have a mind for business, what I’m really passionate about (aside from attractive young men) is making music.  I need to write.  I need to play.  It has to happen.  A very, very wise teacher once asked me if music was a hobby when I was debating what to pursue in college.  It’s not, and never has been.  It’s not even something I do for fun – it’s a bodily function, like breathing.  It is so much a part of who I am – as powerful an identifier as gender or handedness – that I cannot imagine not doing it, and not having the time or energy to do it has left me moody and irritable.

I thought, up until a few weeks ago, that I had to choose to make music as a career.  I’m realizing now that it’s not an option or a choice.  I am compelled to make music.  I am driven to make sound the way a bird is driven to take wing.  I itch without it.  There have been tears shed over the thought that I am 1,200 miles away from the part of the country where my heart lives and I’m not following my passion.  I’m channeling this angst into a renewed drive to really, truly pursue a career in music.  No more halfway, no more excuses, no more self-defeating.

For you all, it means a lot of new, exciting music coming your way, some fresh blog posts, and hopefully some more exciting adventures.

Look forward to more in the future.

A Beginners Guide To Putting Your Life On Hold

Step 1: Find out that even though you feel better, your liver is getting progressively worse.

Step 2: Buy chocolate and cheese doodles.  Commence pity eating.

Step 3: Feel depressed.  Feel dejected.  Feel like you had the rug ripped out from under you.  You did.  You thought you were moving forward.  It’s like you were taking the stairs to the 11th floor, only to find out you’ve been in the wrong building the whole damn time.  Feel your forward momentum grind to a halt with one five minute phone call from a nurse.  Feel sorry for yourself.

Step 4: Get mad that you can’t drink and thus can’t have that craft beer that’s been making eyes at you from the bottom shelf of your fridge for two weeks now.  Get really angry about it, because you’re not sure what to be angry about or who to be angry at it for.  Pick this thing.  This thing is obvious and simple and the only one whose feelings are hurt is that pretentious little craft beer.

Step 5: Realize Step 4 makes you sound like you have a drinking problem.  Decide to grow up a little.

Step 6: Try and maintain some semblance of having a normal life.  Keep going to work, keep your meetings, try jogging (all the while wondering is that a stitch in your side or YOUR LIVER IMPLODING [Can it do that?  You went to music school; all of your medical knowledge comes from House marathons.]), but at the same time keep dates flexible and your mornings open for doctors appointments.  And don’t over book yourself; you’re energy is low from the dejection and probably a bit from being sick, too.

Step 7: Make social commitments with the caveat that they may be broken at any time.  You have biopsies to schedule, follow-up tests to take, probably more meetings with doctors.

Step 8: Learn to fear the quiet moments.  Keep your mind busy or risk falling into the sucking, deadly spiral of wondering what’s wrong with you.  Learn to imagine future events, things that will happen with the certainty of the sunrise, and dreams for months and years down the road, but not the next few weeks.  The next few weeks are hidden from you.  It’s frightening to suddenly feel you have so little control over your life.  Knit yarn and weave stories and spin melodies to keep your mind away from this thought.

Step 9: Lay in bed at night and remember looking down at the IV port in your arm, waiting by yourself in an empty hallway for a CAT scan.  Remember with as much cold detachment as you can muster – the understanding coming over you like a revelation as you sat in that metal chair – that there is no order to the universe, to life; there is no “cause and effect.”  Things don’t happen for a reason.  Remember seeing for a moment the naked chaos of the world.  Try and stare into it for as long as you can, as though you’re challenging yourself to hold your palm over a candle flame.  Revel in the discomfort.  Find some small power in it.

Step 10: Interrogate past lovers about their health.  Try and find a reason for what’s happening for you.  Fret over one night stands and bad decisions.  Wonder if harmless fun will ruin your life.  Hope it’s just your inner Ex-Catholic getting the best of you.

Step 11: Get cramps and realize that it is way worse to not be able to take Tylenol than to not have beer.  Try and sneak your heating pad into the all-male office.  Spend the evening wondering if you’ve succeeded or if they’re all just too polite to comment on it.

Step 12: Realize you may never find out what’s wrong with you.  Find out that your up-coming biopsy won’t tell you what’s making you sick; it can only tell you if you have cancer or not – maybe.  Realize you will likely be juggled from antibiotic to antibiotic for the next few weeks, maybe the next month or two.  You will have countless blood tests to monitor you, probably another scan – or two even. Realize that thinking you would figure out what was going on in the next two weeks was one of your more naive and foolish ideas.  Realize this is not going to be over as soon as you want it to be.

Step 13: Try and put things in perspective.  You feel pretty good, considering.  There are people who are bedridden.  Feel a little guilty about being so upset.  But remember the body you use to form your perspective – the fingers that feel the world, the tongue that tastes it, the eyes that see it, the ears that exalt in its sounds – that body is struggling and you can’t help but feel your spirit is being crushed a little by it.  Your vessel feels more like a cage.

Step 14: Catch a close cousin of Strep Throat in addition to what you already have.  Realize your immune system is down for the count.  Develop an increased appreciation for hand sanitizer.

Step 15: Pause your life.  Minimize it.  Litter it with open hours to be filled the day of, in case you need to.  Just don’t stop your life.  You have wonderful friends.  Go out to see them.  Enjoy their company.  Listen to good music.  Make good music.  Enjoy good food.  Enjoy good people.  Let them help you keep busy, knowing one day you will whole-heartedly return the favor.

Step 16: Develop a taste for iced tea and soft drinks, cause that’s the only thing you’ll be ordering from the bar for a while.

Step 17: Hope the people you’ve accidentally slighted or blown off or misidentified or been really weird around in the past few weeks don’t hold it against you.  You’ve barely got your shit pulled together, but you’re trying to put on a good face, and sometimes the act is convincing enough that people get jarred when you’re not really all there.  Trust they’ll understand.  (Hope they read your blog.)

Step 18:  This is the most crucial.  Learn to laugh at the things that scare you.  Learn to step up to the face of terror, look into the eyes of uncertainty, throw your head back, and cackle like a witch under the full moon.  Humor is the only thing that will save you.  Medicine will help, but it’s going to take a while and it’s only good for your body.  Laughter will save your soul.

I Shopped At Walmart And Now I Feel Dirty

I swore I wouldn’t do it.  I promised myself I would shop anywhere else before stooping so low.  But I couldn’t help myself.  Yesterday, I bought my groceries at Walmart and now I feel cheap and dirty.  And yet, also bizarrely satisfied with the deal I got.

I want to be a good citizen and part of that, in my opinion, is shopping local as much as possible.  Walmart is notorious for destroying local chains and I don’t like their handling of music distribution – often requiring artists censor their work in order to sell through what was the largest retailer of physical CDs in the US two years ago.  When I dropped that first tupperware of pre-cut melon into my cart I knew that I may as well have walked up to my local grocer and kicked him in the shins.  I’m not usually one for shin kicking, so this made me very uncomfortable.

At the same time, I realized, I’m broke.  I’d have to sell a kidney and possibly my first-born child in order to buy the same amount of groceries I got at my local store.  No offense to the Turnip Truck.  I love their prepared food and they have awesome healthy, organic options; but Walmart sells brand-name vegan chick’n nuggets for $2 a box!  That’s three meals, for two bucks. You know what I got for two bucks at the Turnip Truck?  An power bar.  An ORGANIC power bar, though, loaded with “super foods” that I’m sure in six months the same hippies who are now hawking them will be swearing cause cancer.  So, you know, it’s totally worth an arm and a leg.  For health.  Well, not medically supported or scientifically backed health, but health, you know?

I’m sorry.  I’m lashing out to deal with my own feelings of self-loathing.  This is just sort of a low point for me.  It’s stepping away from my own morals and high standards and feeding the giant corporate machine that I’m not so sweet on.  I’d like to think that I have some kind of honor, but I’d rather eat $0.88 egg noodles than shell out $3 more for the same brand at Whole Foods, even if that $3 is to assure that they’re not loaded with lead and made with slave labor.

Even Trader Joe’s…  For a long while, I considered them the cheapest grocery in Nashville, and they are pretty damn cheap while still providing really quality food.  But when I went the other week to buy herbs and seasoning I found they only sold like six spices.  Yet they had a whole section, floor-to-top of shelving, devoted to hawking six spices.  Pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, basil.  Over and over again.  It felt like I had accidentally stumbled into a movie set.  This wasn’t a real grocery store, it was just supposed to look like a grocery store.  There were scenes like that all over the place, in every aisle.  The same two cases of beer alternating for four shelving units.  Maybe it was designed by aliens to study human behavior.  It was bizarre.  Not only did Walmart have more than six spices, they had brands I recognized for a ridiculously low price in comparison to Kroger or Publix.

There, I’m justifying again.  I feel dirty, though.  And yet also sort of… naughty?  It was scintillating, at that self-check out.  When I rang up that store brand pepperoni a little thrill ran down my spine.  $0.97 for all those mini pepperonis.  It almost felt like shoplifting.  I couldn’t help but feel excited at the prospect of delicious but economical pizza muffins.

As I was leaving, I tried to promise myself I wouldn’t go back.  I swore in my car it was a one-time thing.  But I know that’s a lie.  Trader Joe’s is so far!  And I eat a lot of fruit.  And it’s only just out on Gallatin Road.  It’s time to be honest with myself; I’m going dark side.  I shopped at Walmart, I felt dirty, and I liked it.

5 Things I Learned Getting Really Sick In A Place I Really Don’t Know (And A Cancer Scare)

If you read my last post, you know I was sick. Since that post, I have had an ER trip (the featured pick ain’t a stock photo), a CAT scan, and some serious thinking about my life. The short explanation is “I’m fine.” The longer version is scattered through the list below. As weird and hippy-dippy as this sounds, the last two weeks has been a major learning experience for me. Maybe y’all can gain some wisdom without the lumps, bruises, and IV.

  1. A Physician’s Assistant is NOT a Physician

The “doctor” I saw at CareSpot was friendly and concerned, and he took me immediately. Unfortunately he was also completely wrong about what was making me sick. See, what I didn’t understand was that a physician’s assistant (PA) is not an actual doctor. They have not been through the decade of medical school that someone with the initials “Dr.” in front of their name has had to endure and, as the doctor I finally saw explained, they’re not trained in the out of the box thinking that is required to get an accurate diagnosis. When my neck hurt but it wasn’t a sprained muscle his answer was “tonsillitis.” It wasn’t tonsillitis; there was nothing wrong with my tonsils. But the PA just wasn’t equipped to come up with any diagnosis other than “strep” or “tonsillitis” for a painful neck region. I don’t want to trash CareSpot; they gave the best service they could give me. But I needed a doctor.

  1. Dehydration Can Happen SO Much Quicker Than You Think (And Sometimes Diarrhea Is The Better Option)

The antibiotics that I so boldly declared would solve all my problems actually caused a lot of them. Ironically, what landed me in the ER were the drugs that were supposed to help me. Saturday evening I started feeling nauseous, and the wave finally broke around 12:30 at night when my stomach couldn’t handle anymore and I lost it to a bottle of Pepto (the irony of the whole situation wasn’t lost on me). I eventually got my stomach to calm down enough to sleep, but I kept waking up in the night, sweating like a pig and desperately thirsty. All told, I drank close to 32oz of water that night. In the morning I woke with a headache so bad I couldn’t keep my eyes open (turns out my gland was crushing the nerve that runs up my face). I called my mother to kvetch, took two sips of ginger ale, and then had to hang up on her to puke. All the water I had drunk the night before came back up, and I couldn’t get anymore down. In less than 12 hours from the first time I threw up – and only having thrown up twice – I decided I needed to go to a hospital. When I got there, I was so dehydrated the nurses struggled to find a vein. When they decided to put an IV in me, my veins had become so delicate, they ruptured as soon as they put the catheter in. It took two nurses three tries to get a line in me. Once they finally got the fluids running, I noticed for the first time that I had completely run out of spit. Not like “man, my throat’s kind of dry” but literally didn’t have any spit, or enough wits left to recognize this until I had already turned a corner for the better. Even after taking an entire bag of fluids, I was thirsty and asking for ice water. Since childhood, I’d had the impression that it takes days wandering in the desert to become dangerously dehydrated, but it is so much faster than that, especially if you’re sweating. When you’re sick you worry that your throat hurts or that your stomach’s upset or (if you’re me) that your face looks super puffy and everyone’s going to think you look fat. What you don’t ask is: How much did I just sweat? What color is my pee and is there enough of it? Are my lips chapped and, if so, why? Taking a second to ask yourself this next time you’re sick could save you an ER trip and whole lot of bruising (because ruptured veins are UGLY).

I don't do drugs, I just also don't do antibiotics very well either.  #penicillinallergy4lyfe

I don’t do drugs, I just also don’t do antibiotics very well either. #penicillinallergy4lyfe

As far as the diarrhea comment: yes, the runs stink (literally, HA), but at least you can still be drinking water and fluids while they’re happening. For future reference, Universe, next time I get violently ill I’d rather be sitting on the can than hunched over it.

  1. You Will Hopefully Never Feel As Alone As You Do Waiting By Yourself For A CAT Scan In A Place Where No One Has Your Accent

When I finally saw a non-ER doctor on Tuesday morning, the first thing she did – after listening carefully to my symptoms – was actually feel my lymph nodes, which shockingly freaking NOT ONE of the medical professionals I had seen had done. Maybe they felt like they could see them fine from across the room. Maybe they were worried about cooties. I don’t know. But she ran her fingers up and down my neck, throat, shoulders, and chest and found every single gland she possibly could, all of which were enlarged. She looked over the blood tests I had from the ER and asked some more questions about symptoms and explained calmly and matter-of-factly what she believed might be happening. She didn’t buy the tick-bite explanation the ER had theorized and she definitely didn’t believe it was tonsillitis. She also, she explained, didn’t think it was cancer, but she was going to call my insurance company and get a CAT scan set up for me.

“Like this week?” I asked.

“Today,” she said. “You need to call your office and tell them you’re not coming in.”

If it was an infection, she explained, even if there was an abscess, they could take their time treating it. If this was lymphoma, they needed to know yesterday. So she wrote me a little green slip, explained that I would need an IV just one more time for contrast solution, and told me I could go. I asked her what would happen if I had an abscess, because I couldn’t bring myself to ask what would happen if I had cancer.

And anyway, there was such a slim chance.

But it doesn’t matter.

Once that C word is out there it is out and screaming at you. It sits on your shoulder like a vulture and you wonder what will happen if your life ends next week and your dreams and your music get buried with you in a little wooden box. Who will remember you tomorrow? Next month? Next decade? Will anyone remember you when the people you loved in this life are gone as well? All those songs – all those things I was going to do – would die locked inside my skull, like a child in the womb.

I went down to the Medical Imagining Department and was checked-in in a small room by a nice man who reminded me of a banker or insurance broker. He asked who to list as next-of-kin and who should be informed “in case.” In case what? I demanded. If I die? Well, yes, but also if I need someone to come get me, or something. Then he snapped a plastic hospital band to my wrist and walked me to the actual waiting room where I sat reading an ancient Good Housekeeping. It was at this moment that I started to get the sensation that I was a stranger in a strange land. I don’t belong here. What is chair etiquette in Nashville? I know what it is in Boston, but not the South. What if it’s different? What if I’m sick and I’m offending all these old Southern ladies with their favorite cardigans pulled tight around them?

When they finally called me back and started to get the IV ready, I noticed that everyone had a drawl. The same accent I had found so charming now only served to remind me that I was very ill and 1,200 miles away from home. Just before they started the scan – as the machine was starting to whir – they pulled me out, disconnected my IV and asked me to sit in the hallway for a few moments because there was a stroke patient coming in. I gathered my belongings and sat alone in a chair and listened to the accents and tried to ignore the catheter hanging out of my arm. I watched them wheel the unresponsive stroke patient down the hall, talking to him all the way. My life wasn’t so bad. I walked in. I drove myself, even though I probably shouldn’t have. I was able to stand up off the scanner and walk to a chair and sit just fine, all under my own power. My brain was healthy. I felt so bad for the man I stopped worrying about myself for a moment but then I’d look at my arm and see the IV port and remember that all was not so rosy on the home front. I don’t believe it was self-pity. I think it was the biggest dose of adult reality I have had in my life thus far. The catheter demanded I look at the reality and plan accordingly, plan realistically, and figure out a contingency other than the romantic, beautiful dreams I moved down here with.

When the scan finally happened it was easy. Painless. I wasn’t a fan of the contrast-solution. They wrapped the spring-like IV line around my thumb to keep it from pulling on the vein and I could feel it firm up when they started the solution. It has the bizarre side effect of making you feel like you’ve peed yourself, even when you haven’t. It feels so real that I actually went and checked in the lady’s room when I was done.

I went home and slept for while then tried to go out like everything was normal. But that night in the shower, I thought about my day and felt so faint I had to sit for a few moments (several times). I knew what should happen the next day, but it felt like there were no promises. The sun might rise, but it might never come up again.

When my doctor called the next morning, I missed the call and the nurse left a message asking me to call her back which scared the ever loving daylights out of me because I had agreed that they could leave detailed voicemails on my cell. Of course, everything was fine. No tumors, no cysts, no abscess. Just every single lymph node in my chest and neck was larger than it should be. But no cancer. She told me to stay on the new antibiotic and they’d see how I was feeling. If I improved, awesome; if I didn’t, we’d talk about a biopsy. So far, I’ve felt much better, but I’m also kind of high on having a full life to look forward to, as ridiculous as it was for me to freak out about the whole thing in the first place. The C-word, man…

  1. I Have Incredible People In My Life
How awesome are my friends?  Butternut-squash-bisque-awesome!

How awesome are my friends? Butternut-squash-bisque-awesome!

For the past two weeks my friends have come out of the woodwork to ask what’s wrong, check in on my health, and even bring me groceries (thanks, Julia!). My roommate even canceled a rehearsal to get me to the ER. Some of these people I have known for years, some I have known for days, but they have all shown me just how fortunate I am to be surrounded by the folks who make up my ever evolving network. I have rarely felt so alone, but I have also rarely felt so completely loved and taken care of as I have these past few weeks. This has been bad. As much as I have taken every opportunity to bitch, this has actually been worse than I’ve tried to let on. And so many friends rushed to my aid. You are the most wonderful human beings. I can never thank you or repay you, but I hope I can pay it forward in some way some day (although hopefully not because you get sick like this).

[Also, I’m fully aware I’m riding the italics like I’m breaking a horse – this is emotional, people, ok?!]

  1. Despite Everything I’m Incredibly Lucky (But Not Everyone Is)

I drove myself home from the CAT scan (albeit, irresponsibly). Yesterday, I went back to my amazing internship and hung around amazing people all day. On my way to work today I stopped at my favorite coffee shop and grabbed a soy chai latte. I watched Netflix on my couch and ate potato-leek soup, and my biggest worry was if my internet connection was strong enough to stream a whole episode of Desperate Housewives. I am broke. I still feel like crap. But I am so, SO lucky. I am so lucky because yesterday when the doctor called it wasn’t to tell me I needed to come back in immediately. I am so lucky because up until this point no one has ever worried even the slightest bit that I may just possibly have cancer. I am so lucky that that was one of the scariest moments of my life. Because there are so many people who get the call that they need to come back in. There are so many people who are worried about how they’re going to handle the next round of chemo. There are so many people who have been given an expiration date – not just the imagined one I gave myself in the shower. I cannot fathom being told that I have a shelf life. I cannot comprehend being told that I probably won’t be here in a year. I cannot even scratch the surface of how hearing that all my plans are nothing, that I’m not at the beginning of my life but rather the end, how hearing that would make me feel. And no one should have to. I want to ask you to look up the American Cancer Society and consider participating in a Relay event, but I’m going to demand that you go to Brook Hester’s website (http://www.brookefightsback.org/index.html) and read about this incredible little girl. I’ve been lucky to meet her twice at the Ronald McDonald House in NYC, and even having only been in the same room as her for a grand total of six hours I can confidently say she is the most amazing, inspiring, stunningly beautiful human being I have ever and probably will ever meet in my life. She is seven, she has neuroblastoma – which currently has no cure – and she keeps a braver face everyday after years of treatment than I managed to keep for 24-hours of uncertainty. Even with her own struggles, she gives back to other little girls fighting the same battle she wages every day. I strongly encourage you to give to her charity or say a prayer for her or get up and make a difference in the world because if a seven-year-old with cancer can have the impact this young lady has, what kind of change can healthy adults make?

I know this has been a long one guys, but thanks for reading. And thanks for clicking on to Brooke’s site. Be happy and healthy!

My first trip to Ronald McDonald House.  Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Music and Arts Center.

My first trip to Ronald McDonald House. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Music and Arts Center.

Maybe It’s A Tumor! (It’s Not A Tumor!)

Guys, I want to post about my new house with furniture and everything.  I have one all written up (though I haven’t taken photos yet).  But things have been a little overwhelming this past week or so.  Instead, I’d like to regale you with the story of my current health crisis.  [Commence long-form kvetching.]

I call it a crisis because it would be a crappy situation even if I wasn’t starting a new internship at an awesome company at the same time.  And it probably wouldn’t have even gotten to this point if it hadn’t been for my previous living situation.

See, I slept on an air mattress for about two weeks, and that’ll do a number on your back.  So when my neck hurt, I didn’t think twice about it.  It wasn’t until I was driving to church last Sunday, sitting in traffic and absently scratching at my neck, that I noticed two of my lymph nodes were literally bulging out under my skin.  Needless to say, I wore my hair down for the service and picnic after.

The next day, things were still pretty painful.  It hurt to wear a seatbelt, it hurt to wear a backpack, it hurt to brush my hair, it hurt to turn my damn neck.  My sass was diminished by at least a factor of 3 due to my inability to effectively bob my head.  So after the first day of my internship was finished, I headed to my nearest CareSpot urgent care clinic to get a quick diagnosis of acute tonsillitis and handy prescription for ibuprofen (the pharmacy stuff makes Motrin look like crap).

CareSpot was great; very easy, affordable, and friendly.  However, they did give me my first official heart blessing.  When the nurse asked how I hadn’t felt anything until my nodes had reached the point they were at, I told her about my air mattress adventures and explained that I had expected my neck to hurt, for which I received a chuckle, a strep test, and a “Bless your heart.”  Now, if you’re from the North East, you may not know this phrase.  It’s rarely used with genuine concern.  I’d like to believe she really meant this, but according to my roommate’s boyfriend who’s from Georgia and knows about this kind of stuff, it’s never intended sincerely.  Thus far – even including last summer – I had not done something foolish enough to earn this level of pity.  Until now.

Fast forward to last night.  I wasn’t feeling better, my neck still looked like ski slope from the winter X-Games, and the number of nodes that just weren’t having any of it had jumped from two to five.  Then the shivers started.  I don’t really get fevers.  In fact, I haven’t gotten one for about five years, even though I’ve had strep a couple times, but I couldn’t get warm no matter what I did.  I even made my roommate turn the heat on.  I was shaking so badly I could hardly function.  I also kept getting this weird sensation like someone was smashing my funny bone, except my funny bone was in my neck. This morning I slept through my alarm by two hours and awoke so drenched in sweat I wondered if I had taken a shower in my sleep.

So I decided it might be time to go back to the doctor and have him take another look.  They’ve given me an antibiotic, but because of my severe penicillin allergy I have to take other drugs, which are often very harsh on your stomach.  When the doctor told me they would probably make me ill I made a joke about not partying this weekend.  And he got very concerned and was like, but seriously don’t party for like the next 10 days.  And then he was like:

“I don’t want to make you nervous but-” Oh yeah, that’s really gonna relax me “-if this one gets much bigger it could start to block your airway.  So if you start to have difficulty breathing or swallowing, you should go to the emergency room.”

But he had this really nice southern drawl so it sounded super non-threatening for someone warning me that my throat might start to close.

It also turns out that my shivers and funny-bone-feeling are because my lymph node is getting all up in some big nerve’s grill.  So if you see me in the next few days and I look like a tweaker or suddenly sit down and start moaning, that’s why.  Every once in a while it’ll just go nuts and the whole left side of my body twitches like a 15-year-old who heard the name Justin Bieber come up in a nearby conversation.

When I went to CVS to pick up my prescription for the antibiotics the pharmacist immediately asked if I had ever taken this kind before and when I told him I wasn’t sure, he didn’t bother to add any relaxed Southern grace to his voice.

“You might not get sick, but you’re probably gonna be miserable.  You need to take these four times a day.  And make sure there’s something in your stomach; food and probiotics if you can manage it.”

“For how long?” I asked.

“Ten days.”

“Shit!” I exclaimed.

“You probably will,” said the pharmacist.

“Shi-” I started to say, but changed it to “Shoot” because the word “shit” suddenly held a lot of significance.

“Good luck!” he shouted as I sulked back to my car.

So far, so good.  But I’m only two doses in.  I’m still twitchy – I had a Justin-Bieber-twitch/shiver attack earlier in the evening – but I believe that if this stuff is going to make puke (or crap) my guts out, it’s gonna keep me out of the freaking emergency room or I’m gonna have something to say about it, dammit.

So let’s let this blog post be an apology for my absence from social events, my sudden development of what appears to be a nervous twitch, and my possibly vomiting on your shoes.  It’s nothing personal, it’s just the (prescription) drugs.

I Am A Big Naked Monkey (And So Are You!)

This morning I was watching a D News video on Youtube where they discussed how taking photographs affect our memory (http://youtu.be/D4xU-_oHa2M) and one of presenters commented that we “aren’t just big naked monkeys” and I’m here to disagree.

I am a big naked monkey.  You are a big naked monkey.  And that is just OK.

Took a selfie guys.  Photo courtesy of eofdreams.com

Took a selfie guys. Photo courtesy of eofdreams.com

I’m terrified of monkeys (as anyone who’s ever seen me cry during “The Wizard of Oz” will know) and I’m still saying it’s ok.  Here’s why: when I was younger – which admittedly sounds ridiculous coming from me seeing as I’m twenty-two, but roll with me, people – I was obsessed with the concept that we were these grand intellectual beings.  I thought that with knowledge and understanding we could grow beyond our animal origins, mostly because all I had going for me at the time was a big brain and a bigger attitude – I was pretty much an extra from “Revenge of the Nerds.”  Our decisions could be rational.  We could rise above impulses and emotions.  I tried to meet this ideal and assumed that when other people did or said things, it was because there was some reasoning involved.  And when there wasn’t I got angry and frustrated. 

Now, dear reader, if you are also – as I suspect – human, you’ll know that I probably spent a lot of time angry and frustrated because nobody makes reasonable or rational decisions.  It took a while, but I realized that I don’t either.  And that’s alright.

I had my moment of clarity when I read this great book about traffic.  It’s called “Traffic.”  Seriously, it’s a great read and it totally changed the way I drive.  One of the ideas in the book was that we get road rage because our brains aren’t made to process interactions with machines.  We want to see body language and the normal human signals that help us understand why someone is doing something.  So when another driver cuts us off and the car doesn’t shrug its shoulders or smile apologetically (because, to the best of my knowledge, cars can’t do these things) our little monkey brains freak like it’s the Mesozoic up in this b****.  Someone has entered our personal space/territory and we don’t know why and there’s this awful, impulsive little part of our brains that, like, literally can’t even.  

But you know what?  That’s ok.  I’m not saying that the commentator I mentioned at the start of this rant is totally wrong.  We are creatures of symbolism and meaning.  But we’re like that because our brains are designed to recognize patterns to better aid in our survival.  If we couldn’t put together that all the cavemen who died frothing at the mouth also ate the weird purple berries on the other side of the hill, our species probably wouldn’t have progressed enough for me to be philosophizing at you from a MacBook.  Our actions aren’t that much more purposeful, important, or impact-ful in the grand universal scheme of things than a chimpanzee building his nest for the night, or a fox digging her den, or a bird singing in the tree.  But they are no less beautiful or moving.  And, frankly, since I started looking at the weird little things we humans do as just the rhythmic, patterned behaviors all animals display, every action holds more wonder and significance for me.  Rather than my life and actions feeling meaningless, I feel more connected to the world around me than ever before.

Also I’ve chilled out.  A lot.  Instead of becoming stressed and confrontational when a situation arises with another person, I try to look at why both of us are behaving and feeling the way we do.  This doesn’t mean i don’t get pissed for no reason or lash out when I’m stressed, but I can recognize when it’s happening, I can recognize when other people are doing it, and I can let it go rather than beating myself up about it or holding a grudge.

One of my theories on why I’m so terrified of monkeys is that I didn’t want to acknowledge that I am one.  This truth was a little too big and overwhelming.  The other theory is that it’s a repressed memory of howler monkeys smashing through the glass doors of the hotel my family was at when I was a toddler.  But who can tell.

Listen, I know I’m 22 and not exactly brimming with life experience, but adding this understanding to my list of mottos to live by (including such time honored standards as “never be the weirdest person in a public park,” “you can’t fix stupid,” and “don’t spit into the wind”) has really revolutionized the way I interact with the world.  I am monkey and so can you!