Friday, August 28, 2009

Books, Self-Diagnoses, and WebMD

My parents' house is loaded with books. I think they have more than some branches of the Louisville Free Public Library. This was a great resource for me, as an only child whose neighbor friends mostly liked to play with G.I. Joes. My parents had all kinds of books: classic great novels, every Dick Francis mystery ever, a World Book Encyclopedia from 1952 (great for school reports), multiple dictionaries, all kinds of Civil War tomes, and loads of other non-fiction.

My favorite book of them all was: The American Medical Association Family Guide I read that thing cover-to-cover probably ten times, and another fifty times in the choose-your-own-adventure style of chapter reading.

My favorite part was the flow chart self-diagnosis section. When I was a mere seven years old, I diagnosed myself with both meningitis (irritable, drowsy, with a headache) and typhoid fever (abdominal pain. chills, thirst). By age nine, I had all the symptoms of throat cancer (unxplainable persistent sore throat). Somehow I still managed to only ever go to the doctor once a year for my check-up, and he never found any consumption. Really, as long as I was armed with information from the medical book, I felt I had all my diseases under control. No need for the doctor. (Though, as it turns out, I was just a healthy child with an over-active imagination. Funny how the flow charts never diagnose "imagination.")

Last night, my elbow hurt. I've been doing loads of manual labor, and I thought I had a spider bite. Oh how I longed for that AMA Guide at 2am as I was trying to sleep with my arm elevated to avoid having the venom spread through my bloodstream. Thankfully, nowadays, everyone has a virtual hypochondriac's guidebook available to them: Google!

I didn't think it was Black Widow or a Brown Recluse because it didn't look like the pictures. (Don't click on that link if you are queasy.) But it was red, swollen, numb, and shaped like a big circle right around my elbow.

This morning it hurt a lot, but my insurance being horrible I didn't want to go to the Immediate Care Center. So I posted on Facebook, asking for holistic advice. Mom saw my Facebook status about spider bites and insisted I go with her to her already-scheduled doctor's appointment. I obliged. The doctor answered all mom's questions, and then mom asked her if my elbow bite required immediate attention.

The doctor looked at my elbow, said, "Oh my," and immediately wrote me a prescription. Not a spider bite, but a bad elbow infection. "You'd better pray that it doesn't spread."

An elbow infection?! Who gets an elbow infection? According to Google, the drummer from Jane's Addiction does, so maybe it's a rock star thing. Anyway, it hurts, and I am useless. Typing one-handed is giving me a headache too, so I'm out of here.

Hmpf, and here I thought it was my over-active imagination. Google is making freak out about possible amputation... maybe there's something about it in the 1952 World Book.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The MegaCavern

What's your opinion on the MegaCavern? I really want to go. Not because of the billboards, but because I think it's cool that there is a crazy underground cave that was used for all kinds of things. I hear they once filmed a George Romero zombie movie in a similar Megacavern. I also like doing tourist stuff, especially in my own hometown. (I think it's insane how many New Yorkers I know who have never been to the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty.)

Anyway, I was talking about the Megacavern to Kris and Friend-with-a-Truck last week as they were fixing my house. They both laughed at me. Kris said he thinks the tour is just a Jeep Wrangler that tows people around and shows them piles of underground stored file cabinets. He said he'd find his own Jeep Wrangler and blindfold me and then tow me around somewhere and give me a tour. Then we'd all go to the MegaCavern later that day and see which tour I liked better. I think that sounds like a good idea. But I just hope his tour is full of all sorts of interesting facts and stories about the Cold War and Zombies.

Anyone been? Should we all organize a group field trip?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A syllogism and a haiku.

The syllogism:

Major Premise: Perfectionists do not like to be bad at things.
Minor Premise: I am a perfectionist.
Ergo: I do not like to bad at things.

Haiku to a stupid stubborn batch of flooring pieces that I am trying to fit back together.


Why do you hate me?
You won't fit back together
We are breaking up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I am so handy. Not.

I spent the weekend doing manual labor at the house, fixing a bunch of stuff that I didn't have any idea how to fix. Really, it's how I was raised. My parents just took me to the library or piano lessons rather than taking me to those weekend classes at Home Depot. It's sort of frustrating to see that the door doesn't close at the right spot, or that the floor sags a little, or that the closet light comes on when you turn on the dining room ceiling fan, and have NO IDEA how to do anything about it. But ask me what key "Moonlight Sonata" is in, or to transcribe a Chick Corea solo note-for-note and I'll tell you that's easy.

I was frustrated this weekend, as my job was restricted to painting walls and changing locks (this involved a screwdriver ... i was way impressed with myself) and some standard yardwork. I was feeling very stupid, as I pruned the rosebushes and painted, while the boys ripped up the sub-flooring and talked about things like "joists" and "particle board" and "reciprocating saws."

Then my friend Eric came over to help me do some yardwork, and I felt a little better. He's got a PhD in Physics, but he, too, was completely blown away by the handyman skills of Friend-with-a-Truck and our other friend Kris, who were knee-deep in floor joists and hangers and circular saws. It was nice to have someone with me who was as amazed as I was. We put weeds in bags while staring in awe at FWAT and Kris who were removing a sliding glass door in order to level the floor. Eric was also shocked to learn that those long pieces of wood are not ALL called "two-by-fours." Some of them can be "two-by-sixes" and still others are called "two-by-eights." We giggled with delight when, after the fifth attempt, we properly used the term "shim."

My favorite moment of the afternoon was when FWAT and Kris sent me and Eric to the hardware store for caulk and nails. Obviously, they sent us with an empty box of nails and an empty tube so we could just ask the guy at the store to make sure we got the right stuff.

(Scene: Local hardware store in the Highlands. Eric and Brigid walk in, amazed by the tools, and approach guy who works there.)

Eric: We need two of these and one of these.
Brigid: Yeah, what he said.

Hardware Store Guy: (Silence. He stares at us for about thirty seconds.)

Brigid: (Fidgeting) Um, yeah.

Hardware Store Guy: (Silence for thirty more seconds while he stares at us, amused.) Two questions first. Michael Jackson. He had a pet chimpanzee. What was the chimpanzee's name?

Eric: Bubbles.

Hardware Store Guy: Good, good. That's right. Okay, he also had a fully-grown pet Bengal tiger, right?

Brigid: Right. (High fives Eric)

Hardware Store Guy: What was the tiger's name?

Brigid: Oh, no ... I know this one, I swear.

Eric: Yeah, me too .. what was that tiger's name? It was something obvious.

Hardware Store Guy: Thriller.

Brigid and Eric: (groan)

Hardware Store Guy: Okay, bonus question. The question is a joke though. I'm going to tell you a joke. (He tells joke about a cat and a mouse going to heaven.)

Brigid and Eric: (laugh) Okay, two of these and one of those.

Hardware Store Guy: Right. Here are two caulks for you. Now ... we don't sell nails in a box like that. We sell them by the pound.

Brigid: (Confused. Panic. What to do, what to do??)

Eric: Okay. Can we have as many nails as will fit in this box?

Hardware Store Guy: Yes.

Brigid: I am in awe of your genius, Eric. The boys will be so proud.

We returned with our quest fulfilled, and the boys are not as amused by our story as we are. But they have somehow managed to put in an entire sub-floor while we were gone.

I was so envious of their tool-using ability that I then used my 20" Stanley Saw (yes, my smallest musical saw) to destroy an evil mulberry tree.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adult Diving Team Updates

I know, I know ... i haven't posted the video. If y'all want to come help me paint a few rooms, replace a few floor joists, and rip out some rotten sub-flooring and re-tile, then I can edit diving videos while you do that. In the mean time ... let's just write about diving.

Sunday was The Biggest Splash Competition. It was an excellent day for a splash-off, with hundreds of people lounging on rafts, watching the competition unfold. After much scientific research, I've concluded the best way to create a huge splash is by doing a "Can Opener." "Cannonballs," on the other hand, are much more fun to watch, but the splash yields width, not height. And on Sunday, the judges were looking for water displacement, waves, and height.

Friend-with-a-Truck and I arrived early to get a few practice jumps in before the competition began. I was not a contestant, as my goal with diving has always been to create as LITTLE splash as possible. You know, like the Olympics. I've never been one for a Can Opener, and I didn't feel like a day as important as Competition Day was the day to begin. Friend-with-a-Truck, however, had been practicing for weeks, and he immediately approached the high dive like the focused champion that he is.
A major factor in any competition is intimidation. Friend-with-a-Truck has mastered intimidation. The trick, I gathered from watching him in action, is to remain friendly -- almost too friendly -- and act calm, then blow their minds by doing a huge Can Opener off the High Dive. He blew the minds of those 11-year-olds who were also practicing their moves.

The competition was divided into age groups -- 6 and under, 7-10, 11-14, 14-17, 18-44, and 45+.

This was a relief because an older gentleman showed up and blew OUR minds while FWAT was rehearsing (or "We call it PRACTICE in sports, you know," as he says). This guy climbed up that board with the most intense focus, and did double gainers off the high board, still managing a tidal wave of a splash by the time he entered the water. There was no contest, and if it weren't for the age division, we might have gone home at that moment.

FWAT was the first guy to score a perfect "10" for his splash. But then, tension mounted as the next contestant also rated a perfect "10." There was a splash-off, and FWAT became the runner-up.

That's okay, though, because if the reigning Splash Champion cannot fulfill his duties, then FWAT, as first-runner up, will step up to the challenge.

Other highlights:
-There was a 10-year-old girl who destroyed everyone in her age division, including the boys. She could have held her own with FWAT and the other older champs as well.
- The 45+ Women's division champ won with a one-and-a-half turned into upside-down-can-opener.
- My drummer showed up and ended up placing a close 2nd in the 45+ men's division. He had to go right after the double gainer guy though, so he didn't stand a chance.
- It turns out there were no women in the 18-44 division, so I could have won with a simple toes-pointed back dive. Hmpf.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amsterdam Part Two

First, I must say how impressed I am by the spontaneity of my readers. I've heard so many stories of people heading out of town on the last minute or doing something in town they've never done before. I just love hearing about them... which reminds me that I haven't yet finished the Amsterdam story.

On the previous episode: On a Wednesday back in June, Brigid and Friend-with-a-Truck had bad days. They decided to go to Paris for the weekend, and called Friend-who-works-for-Delta. Paris was booked, so they hopped on the next flight to Amsterdam instead. They arrived Friday morning at Schipol Airport, hopped the train to Amsterdam Centraal, and were immediately surrounded by old buildings, bicycles, and Amsterdamians.

Part Deux:

Friend-with-a-Truck had actually been to Amsterdam once before, so he was put in charge of navigation. This was a little odd for me, as I am used to being the one with a sense of direction or more importantly, the one who doesn't fear the City. It was nice to relinquish all responsibility and trust that FWAT would not get us lost.

We meandered through old and narrow city streets, and I stared up and down at the consistent five-story buildings that lined every street. It was incredibly quiet for such a major city, the reason being that everyone rode bicycles. When a car approached, we heard the engine for minutes and were annoyed by the nerve of its loud engine and unnecessary speed.

FWAT did well with the navigation, sans map, and we only got turned around once. We passed by the Anne Frank House (Ann FrankHuis) at least five times that morning, but luckily it was a nice point of reference. The budget hotels we'd seen in a guidebook were near the Anne Frank Huis, so we eventually found one of them. They had rooms for us, and we paid up before heading out in search of lunch.

My favorite part of every vacation is usually the food. Being a vegetarian in Europe is not the easiest, but as long as I'm willing to eat dairy, it's not too difficult. Amsterdam is particularly charming for lunch because of all the canal-lined streets. Even the smallest pub puts out chairs along the canal and allows visitors to dine al fresco. With perfect 72 degree days and a light breeze, the afternoon was perfect for a brie and tomato pesto panini and a glass of local beer, like Amstel or Heineken. I could have sat by the canal for hours, just taking in the sights and the country-quiet of the city.

The best way to see the whole of Amsterdam is by canal boat, so we hopped on one of the tours. I usually hang on every word of those guided tours, but this time I just relaxed and watched the city drift by, all the while giggling to myself that we'd come to Amsterdam ... for the weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Last weekend, Friend-with-a-Truck and I decided to spend some quality time at the pool. It's not an ordinary pool. It's Lakeside Swim Club (click on the "history" part for some cool old photos), a former rock quarry that was drained of its fish and now operates as a Board-of-Health approved, 3-acre swimming pool, complete with twelve+ Oympic-size lanes, a floating island, copious amounts of frolicking room, and most importantly: diving boards. A low-dive (a little over 1 meter) and a high-dive (a little over 3 meters).

Friend-with-a-Truck and I like to spend most of our Lakeside time on the diving boards. Unfortunately, last weekend, we also had Friend-who-cooks-Pancakes with us. He's a BFF, and we like hanging out with him, but remember: he is what we lifeguard types call a "non-swimmer." I've been giving him lessons occasionally this summer, but he thinks too much, or is too aware of his own mortality or something, so he's not much fun in deep water. He had a really great lesson that night, however, and he jumped into the deep water from the pier and made his way back to the side without my help.

We were all impressed with this newly acquired skill, but when it was Diving Board Time, we left Friend-who-cooks-Pancakes to watch our graceful moves from the side of the pier.

The Diving Well was empty that night. It was just me, Friend-with-a-Truck, a 10-year-old I'd taught to swim years ago, and her mom, Kirby. We had the diving boards to ourselves, and we were determined to try some new moves. Or rather, new, OLD moves -- the dives we could do before we became aware of how stupid it really is to try flips and twists.

"I'll try an aerial-twisty-flip if you try a front flip," Friend-with-a-Truck dared.

"Okay," I told him. So I stood at the end of the board, trying to remember that one summer I was on the diving team, and just decided to throw my arms around my knees. And I flipped.

This disappointed him slightly, as he realized he had to try the aerial-twisty-flip.
So he ran off the board, jumped really high, and threw himself forward, twisting awkwardly, and landed both feet and forehead first, if you can imagine that. If you cannot imagine that, you are in luck because I always carry a video camera everywhere I go. Videos to follow. Maybe tomorrow.

High fives abounded, and we giggled and hollered, while Friend-who-cooks-pancakes sat on the sidelines sadly.

Even Kirby got in on the fun, trying to coax her 10-year-old into a back dive. She did some gorgeous swan dives and the 10-year-old did some gorgeous cannonballs. I think Kirby definitely brought the pointed-toes and grace to the diving team we decided to form that night.

Meanwhile on the side ... we decided that Friend-who-Cooks-Pancakes needs to jump off the diving board. He wanted to get in on the fun and was feeling brave. I got in the water to catch him. No sooner had I swum out underneath the board, did FWCP climb up, stare at me, and just walk right off the board with a look of determination I've never seen. Then he paddled to the ladder and climbed out. I didn't even touch him. We were all completely amazed, including the lifeguard, who had seemed reluctant to even let him go off the boards.

Obviously, I got out and insisted he try a dive. This is where his engineering background came in handy. Doing a dive is easy, IF you follow three simple steps. FWCP is fantastic when given explicit instructions, and he did the most beautiful dive off the pier.

He then immediately went to the diving board and dove -- yes, DOVE!!!! -- into the water.

Meanwhile, Kirby, FWAT, and I did better flips, back dives, even back flips, and decided that we should form an Adult Diving Team (again, videos to follow). FWAT is definitely the headliner, as his flips and aerials are quite possibly the funniest things I have ever seen.

The next thing we knew, FWCP's is asking how to do a back dive. At this point, we kind of stop the encouragement. It takes people years to do a back dive, and FWCP can barely tread water. "You haven't developed The Fear yet," FWAT told him.

"The what?"

"The Fear. The Diving Board Fear. You haven't wiped out. You don't know what that feels like to smack your shins or your belly or your face against he water."

But nevertheless, FWCP walks to the end of the board, puts his hands over his head, looks up, and falls back, and does a PERFECT back dive. At this point, even the lifeguard is cheering.

His next question was, "How do I get air between me and the board? I want to do one of those jump-up-and-dive front dives." I'm not sure what FWAT told him, but the final great moment of the evening was when FWCP walked to the end of the board, jumped up off the board, and ....... did a total belly flop, landing belly and face first.

Luckily, I caught that on video. The moment he acquired The Fear.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Piano parts for hire...

I forgot that one of my absolute favorite things to do is session work -- i.e. playing in other people's bands, specifically putting piano or accordion parts on someone else's record. Once I was eliminated from the Nashville Star finals back in 2007, I quickly discovered that Nashville bands had much more use for me as a MUSICIAN than as a tight-jean-wearing, twangy, lead singer. I even played piano for the N-Star House Band after their grand finale. It was awesome seeing the folks who had beaten me in the competition wondering why I was on-stage playing with the band. I definitely fit in a lot more with the Nashville musicians than with the starry-eyed reality show hopefuls. They were plenty talented, of course, but I get my kicks out of playing in the band, not just singing with the band.

Anyway, it's been a while since I've worked in Nashville, and that is entirely my fault. I've had good reason to stay in Louisville, what with all the adventures I'm having here. Gas is too pricey for that 174-mile commute down I-65 once a week.

But I had a great session this morning and put piano tracks on a whole slew of tunes for a friend's record. It was a studio I'd never been in, and there was a gorgeous Yamaha piano. Easy, quick, and it sounded good. I also love that I got to play stride piano, honky tonk, and ballads.

I should do that more often.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dogsitting, Opossums, and the First Amendment.

It's been a dramatic few weeks in the Kaelin family. There was The Great Flood of '09. There's my new first-name-basis relationship with the Critter Control Guys. (I now know how to sex an opossum: the lady opossums have pouches.) I'm also moving back into my house after about two and a half years of not really living there (many a roommate and lots sleeping on futons, very bohemian, and not very glamorous). And now I'm dogsitting for two dogs whose weight totals 270 pounds. One of them is drooling on my shoulders as I type. He is that tall.

I've also been thinking a lot about my blog. It's public, and apparently I am somewhat of a "public figure." I remember discussing 1st Amendment rights and responsibilities of the "public figure" back in my pre-law days at NYU. I honestly never thought I'd be dealing with them myself. Especially because, really, I am not that well-known.

It's particularly interesting to have a widely-read public blog, when I am completely independent. I don't have a boss, so there is no one to censor or edit my comments but myself. This isn't a complaint. I love being self-employed, but I forget that others do not have the luxury that I do -- of being able to spout any and all opinions and thoughts. Often I wonder if I should say more or less.

Anyway, thanks for all the encouraging messages. My shoulder is now completely covered in drool, and I need to go check the opossum trap. Isn't my independent, public life glamorous?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Okay, Okay, I'll blog again...

Thanks for all your messages this week. Sorry I didn't blog. I actually did write a blog on Monday, but my host site was down or something. If y'all are reading on Facebook (as it seems the majority of opinionated commenters are), then remember you can also subscribe to the RSS feed at

Anyway, you're right, I haven't blogged. And no, as many of you asked, I wasn't "silenced by the man," but it's very funny to think that "the man" would give a crap about my blog. I just haven't felt like writing. Rather, I haven't felt like blogging. I've been writing music this week, and playing the piano, and getting caught up on yardwork, and dealing with a bunch of big grown-up things.

Last week, I went to pick up Friend-with-a-Truck from the airport. I was waiting by the Jim Beam historical display (it's a display case full of corn and grains and bottles of booze) for FWAT to appear, when, as usual, I ran into someone else I knew who was on the same flight: Lauren Titus. She was coming back from her adventures in Prague, and Friend-with-a-Truck and I ended up giving her a ride home. Of course, hearing about her European adventures reminded me that I haven't yet finished my own blogs about Amsterdam. I think I'll do that soon.

Where last we left off, Friend-with-a-Truck and I had just made it to Amsterdam Centraal and had been practicing our fake Dutch. So stay tuned for more stories of our completely spontaneous Weekend in Amsterdam. I want to plan many more spontaneous weekends, but that kind of defeats the purpose.

In the mean time, catch up on Lauren's Adventures in Prague at her own blog. She writes for Velocity, and her blogs always make me laugh, even when I think they are supposed to make me feel sad for her. Maybe it's just because she's kind of like a kid sister to me, and I know she'll be okay in the end.