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Monday, March 31, 2008


"They should not compare them to ordinary household objects!"

(Sympathetic quote from the receptionist/writer at the office.)

My mother recently learned that, among other things, she has a large tumor on one of her ovaries. This knowledge was the result of my mother demanding tests after years of peculiar pains and discomfort, none of which was taken very seriously by any of her previous doctors despite abundant evidence that menopause was not taking a reasonably acceptable course.

We are all terribly concerned. It has been especially tough that the doctor discovered the tumor, floated the possibility of cancer, and then left town for about a week. It was a week of helplessness and limited information.

She said the tumor is the size of a tangerine.

I am a foodie and I work in the juice industry. I go to farmers markets frequently. I see a lot of fruit. Now, when I look at lemons, I see lemons; when I look at navel oranges, I see navel oranges; but when I see tangerines of any variety, I see them as models for tumors. Sometimes I imagine the word "tumor" stamped on them in black.

Something like this was described to me before: when my father suffered his big stroke, his doctor said he'd lost part of his brain the size of an egg. That was alarming - a grade A (or AA) chicken egg is huge - but I don't buy or handle eggs, so the idea was just scary for the idea of losing brain only. Scary, but not something that would haunt me in the green grocer's.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, March 30, 2008



The Richmond May Wah, my favorite Chinese supermarket, stocks an awesome selection of small bottles of saké. I now have a much better method of taste testing many brands! My research continues.

Nigori saké is the main focus of my current testing. Nigori is cloudy and slightly thick: you need to shake the bottle before drinking it chilled. I first tried this unfiltered saké at Citrus Club , whose cocktails I have always loved. A chilled martini glass full of cold nigorisaké goes perfectly with a steaming, swimming pool sized bowl of their heavenly tom kha. (I get sentimental just thinking about it...)

I currently have two large bottles of nigori saké at home. 'Nigori Genshu' saké from Momokawa Brewing (Japan, which uses an accent over the e, and thus influenced the formatting of this entry) has a good texture and light taste, with a slightly dark (fermented and slightly bitter) aftertaste after the first few sips, which subsequently fades. I will report on the other bottle when I've had a chance to drink more of it.

I've also tried 'Tanrei Junmai' saké by Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co., Ltd. (Kobe, Japan) a normal filtered type of saké, mostly because I loved the shape of the little bottle it came in. It is very clean tasting, and especially pleasant warm.

More on this subject as my research progresses.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Happy Easter!

white Japonica camelliaMay the old pagan goddess Easter bring you only your favorite candy, and the really good chocolate bunnies. [Don't think of the lyrics from Quasi's Chocolate Rabbit: "You never know until you've bitten off their head, that they're hollow and the chocolate is bad." Such optimism!]


It feels like spring here, and I'm not just saying that because of the allergy attacks striking down the members of my peer group. It's kind of nice outside! The cherries are starting to bloom! (The plums, both purple and green-leafed, are already leafing out.) Our baby peach tree is throwing off its improbably colored, orange-pink blossoms; the wisteria is blooming up a storm of violet flowers; the azaleas are open; our white camellia is covered in flowers; and there are daffodils in our neighbors' front yards. And I have a sense of wanderlust so serious I may need formal treatment. In a place far from here. Where I need to spend at least a week...

It's time to plant more things!


I have the luscious Seeds of Change catalog before me, and am waiting for all of the other Easter shoppers to log off so my order will go through. As you may suspect, many of the seeds I'm waiting to buy produce edible or fragrant plants.

We've lived in this house for many seasons now, and so we're getting a good feel for what grows here and what does not. San Francisco is a city of many micro climates, and we are on the edge of a valley that the fog blows through. Some mornings, it is foggy out the front window, and sunny out the back. There are things in our neighborhood which will grow on the east-west streets, but not the north-south streets. (Dahlias, for example.) There are plants which will grow in windy front yards, but not in sheltered rear yards. We are putting the micro in micro climates.

As in much of San Francisco, we cannot grow basil. We could grow it in greenhouses, or in cloches (and I have done this), but in general it fails to thrive. It's too damp here, and there is too little air movement. The same with long beans: they will grow, they will fruit, the beans will be tasty, but you won't get many beans. Eggplant hates the cold. Chili peppers will flip you off when your back is turned, even in a sunny and sheltered spot. We can grow a wide range of cherry tomatoes, but only in breezy/sunny spots and greenhouses. Arugula contemplated taking over the world, beginning with my garden; borage is currently conspiring with the bees to take over the entire sunny half of my lot. Nearly any sort of tender green can grow here, and plants like chard (especially golden chard) thrive in the sandy soil, but then again so do slugs. (You should always thoroughly wash your greens in VERY cold water, immersing them for a minute or more if possible, because slugs HATE that, and will let go of their hiding places and fall off. Yes, it's worth it. No, rinsing them under running water isn't as annoying to the slugs. Yes, many of them are surprisingly small.)

We have more than 100 different plants growing in our garden, which was so filled with ivy when we moved here that I didn't know we had a shed! Over the years, we have planted more than 200 varieties of plants (including annuals), one of the subtle signs that I needed to push Steven toward a career in gardening.

Nearly everything edible we grow was chosen by me. (Surprise!) Edible plants that I've grown or tried to grow here include:

-Apples. We have two apple trees, which were here when we moved in. They were very ill, having suffered for years under a thick quilt of ivy. We thought they were dead, especially the larger one, but after clearing the ivy and removing a lot of the dead branches, the larger, fruiting tree seems to make a comeback each year. It's not an ungainly tree, and most people would have pulled it out as soon as they cut it free of the ivy, but it produces small, delicious, gravenstein-like fruit: green with red stripes, which are always very sweet. (The little tree is just there for pollination purposes.)

-Arugula. I could not possibly use all the arugula that my garden could support. I wound up introducing it through a seed packet of 'spring mix' gourmet salad greens, and arugula out competed every other plant in the package. I wound up with four parts arugula to one part anything else. For amusement, I let it go to seed in fall: I had arugula growing as weeds in the cracks in the patio, and in a huge area of the garden. It took about two years to eliminate it. I think I still have several ounces of seeds I harvest from the first generation planting.

-Basil, many varieties (cinnamon, Genovese, Greek, lemon, lettuce-leaf Thai): despite a whole lot of optimism on my part, a big fat NO. (Since then I have heard workers at local garden centers talk many people out of trying this.) I can start them, but they fail to thrive. The best I did was to grow lettuce leaf in cloches: I cut the bottoms off two-liter plastic bottles, left the bottle caps off, buried the cut bottoms in a few inches of garden soil over the seeds, and grew lettuce-leaf basil within the containers. With each plant in its own private greenhouse, it could survive. But the shelter of the cloche made each plant kind of spindly, and it didn't produce as many leaves as I would need to make the pestos I love. And all the bottles looked kind of silly.

-Borage: this is more medicinal than anything else, though instead of taking the flowers for tea, I let the bees enjoy them. And oh, how the bees enjoy them. And the plant does well in my garden: I wound up with several 4 foot high plants last year, and thanks to some aggressive re-seeding, I have at least a dozen of them now. And they're already blooming!

-Chard. Golden chard is so lovely, it's difficult to harvest it to eat. But not impossible. Because of our micro climate, the chard tends to grow to a good size, but the leaves are thin-leaved and strong rather than soft and tender, so they require more cooking than chard from the store.

-Cilantro: yes, and very abundantly the first year. Ever since, something in the garden figured out that the tender growth tastes good, and they get chomped before I can enjoy them. (Last year, the borage blotted out the sky over these.) Even the flowers smell delicious. And just-cut cilantro does taste different from cilantro in the store.

-Cucumbers: no. No no no. It's too damp: the leaves grow mold and the stems break off. Even when I buy live plants.

-Eggplant. Hah! Did I mention I live at the edge of a fog belt?

-Green onions, chives, regular onions: yes, these thrive. And you can just trim a bit of the greens off the top whenever you need them.

-Lavender: yes, yes yes.

-Lemon. Yes! Perhaps 3 or 4 years ago, my friend G's sister gave us a little cutting: now we have a large shrub covered with ripening lemons. They have thick peels, smell wonderful, and are very juicy, with good flavor.

-Lemon verbena: for tea. It grows, and grows tall, but never spreads.

-Lettuce: these do amazingly well. I always over plant and thin, and still wind up letting a few go to seed, just so I can see what their flowers and seeds look like. I usually grow loose-leaf lettuces: this year I will also try a butterhead. Which thankfully does not taste like butter.

-Marjoram: yes. We bought a live plant, trim it a bit every year, and it's lovely. Compact. Sweet-smelling. It more than meets my annual marjoram needs.

-Mint: out-competed by other plants. But I want to try again.

-Oregano: yes yes yes yes yes. It thrives. Which is good, because it takes a lot of fresh oregano to really strongly flavor dishes the way I like.

-Parsley: yes! I'll be planting more this year. I think my current plants are from starts I was given as a gift.

-Peppers: please. I received some purple peppers as gifts and put them into the little greenhouse, and they lived... but they didn't grow, and they didn't produce more fruit than what they'd arrived with.

-Potatoes: much to my surprise, yes. I had quite a few potatoes that had been sprouting in their bag, and wasn't sure what else to do with them, so I asked Steven to plant them near the end of the path. And they grew! The foliage was pretty, and we harvested something like 6 pounds of potatoes. They tasted earthier than most potatoes I've bought (not like dirt, but... "mineral-ly?"), and some of them were very wet all through.

-Rosemary: I have so much of this, I have to use the trimmings to make bath products. It smells heavenly, and the plants are indestructible. Steven has started to cut these back HARD each year, and took at least one of my three plants out, because it was just too much.

-Rue: I tried these from seed for the first time last year. I love the shape of the foliage, and was interested in its medicinal properties. Nearly all of my seedlings were out-competed by other plants: I think I have just one in a pot.

-Squash: I am a massive consumer of squash, and so it would be terribly convenient if I could grow these, and then have the luxury of complaining about how many pounds of zucchini I have to eat each week, or of how massive my butternuts are. But no. They grow mold and rot.

-Thyme: we grow several varieties, both crawling ornamental types and culinary types. Our culinary types (lemon and English) became too woody, so we're pulling them up and starting again from seed this year.

-Tomatoes: surprisingly, yes. But only certain kinds. Steven asked me to stop growing ornamental red currant tomatoes, because they would spread abundantly and block the garden paths. (They are lovely, and make lovely patterns on their vines, but are too tart to really eat.) Yellow pear cherries do just okay: the plants thrive, but produce relatively little fruit for the size of the plant. Our biggest successes have come in our phone-booth-sized greenhouse, where green-striped tigerella tomatoes produced plentiful, sweet 2-inch fruit. (Yes, I initially had "20 inch fruit" written here. That was an error. Don't freak. The plants overgrew the greenhouse: it was quite a struggle to get within reach of fruit.) If our greenhouse weren't currently shaded by a princess flower (tree), I would be growing these now.

If I lived in a sunnier place, on a larger piece of land, I would have a ridiculously large herb and vegetable garden, plus additional fruit trees (avocado! plum!), and a large area devoted exclusively to winter squash. But I'm a City girl, so at the moment, this is not to be.

I'll ramble on about the inedible parts of the garden (and share photos) another time.


posted by Arlene (Beth)3:01 PM

Friday, March 21, 2008


Yes, I did win UnScene San Francisco!

I am thrilled, surprised, and very sleepy.

Special thanks to the people who came to the party to cheer me on: Marcelle, Deborah, Tony, Andy, Yuriko, Richard, Peter, Charles, Reggie, Athena, Josefina, Tom, Eva, Margot, Ollie, Michael, Ingrid, Cullen, Steve, Steven (who stayed up late the night before and made me those lovely business cards), Mom, Dad, Maria, Jennifer, Mark, Mark (2), David, Bill, Candyce, Gillian... And anyone I am forgetting because my allergies are acting up tonight. THANK YOU so much! It was great to have fans.

Thanks also to Julie, who organized everything and was very patient (and saved the day when my prints began to rain down while I was away at dinner), and all of the sponsors who made the evening so posh. Links to the sponsors can be found at here and at here.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:45 PM

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

  If you're having trouble RSVPing for my art show, it's because I gave you the wrong address. it's really RSVP WSF Events and then at and then WHotels dot com. I had dropped the SF part. I don't know how. I suspect lack of sleep.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:32 PM


All the glamour of paralegal life

This is a true story from a friend.
Last Friday another paralegal and I were called up to one of the partnerís offices. There were two partners there. One sitting in a chair looking distressed.

Partner in the Chair (other partner pacing the floor): We called you two up here because last night at midnight I woke from a dead sleep and realized that there was something that I was supposed to do today, or that was due today, or that we needed to do for next week. I thought to myself: ďOh, this is too important and I wonít forget it.Ē But then around noon today I realized I donít remember what it was. I canít remember what case it was for. I want one of you to go through all the scheduling orders in all our [] cases and figure out what is due today or next week.
No, they don't tell you about these sorts of things in paralegal school.

Yes, I used to dream about missed deadlines, but those were generally just dreams. And I didn't have the sort of minions that I would abuse by making them do background research on my dream deadlines.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:20 PM

Monday, March 17, 2008


It all depends on how you say it.

The following are observations by a middle-aged woman about a young man's skateboard, said at high volume on BART, in such a way that I had to look up to see if the conversation was intended to be clean.

"It's big."

"It's long."

"It's longer than normal."

"Look at those! You've got *big* wheels."


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, March 10, 2008


Recent, randomly experienced dreams.

My hair had exactly the same texture that it does now, but it was a really cold white with a hint of blue. (Sort of like a cellophane, if you know what that is. It shines blue, but doesn't necessarily look blue straight on.)


I was hanging out in a punk rock club (if there is such a thing - it sounds so, institutional, somehow) with a friend. We had a cool stencil and some spray paint. We had on Chuck Taylors. We had time on our hands, and an irrational desire to improve some inane posters for some inane punk band with our stencils and spray paint.

We acted. We created no unhealthy fumes, but instead created art. And then, it turned out that the band whose posters we had improved was actually in the club, and noticed what we were doing. We fled.


I was supposed to play with their family dog, which I was told was as large as a pony. But, as I stood there on the open hillside, and the dog ran toward me through a cattle chute, I learned it wasn't just as large as a pony: it WAS a pony. A pony with... suspiciously dog-like behaviors. It could even lie on its side and pant with its tail wagging. I wondered: what have they DONE to this poor pony to make it act this way?


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:12 PM


As of 5:30 this evening, I can hear symmetrically through both ears.

This is a totally terrifying preview of old age. I mean, getting excited about hearing? Yikes.

Anyway, that ear still has fluid in it, and so things like walking and breathing are still internally noisy. But it's the closest to "normal" I've been since February 28th. Physically, I mean.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:06 PM

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Un-Scene San Francisco Photography Tour

That show that I mentioned that I will be in? Here are the details.
WHAT: Join W San Francisco, the UnScene Tour and 944 Magazine and feast your lens on never before seen images of the City by the Bay, taken by local emerging artists at the UnScene San Francisco photography exhibit. Mix and Mingle with art lovers and take home a fav photo or two. One lucky photographer will also win the chance to be "seen" at the Jack Fischer Gallery in downtown SF. Zoom in on who will be the lucky winner!

WHEN: Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 7 - 9 PM

WHERE: W San Francisco - Great Room I, 3rd Floor
181 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
415 777 5300

RSVP: "RSVP WSF EVENTS AT WHOTELS DOT COM" (remove the spaces and quotation marks to decode)
(If you're e-mailing in an RSVP, please copy me. For those of you who don't want to give out your e-mail address to the hotel, let me know at my work address and I'll do one big group RSVP from the office.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:57 PM

Saturday, March 08, 2008



I signed up on Facebook this week under my full name, Arlene Elizabeth Graves. I'm collecting friends, so if you're not one of my former scary stalkers, feel free to look me up and send me a friend request.

Facebook isn't as a great venue for posting content, though it's a great venue for squandering lots of time while 'throwing Paula Abdul' at your friends. Or joining a cartoon gang. Or... Other frivolous stuff.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Friday, March 07, 2008


I can smell and taste again! Yippee!

I also nearly look human. My health is heading in the correct, desirable direction.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM



A: You suck!
B: That's not very nice.
A: I meant that in a very nice way.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Things That I Still Cannot Taste: Day 6

So, I am still bitterly, outrageously, seriously ill. I hadn't expected this. When I gave up on my foolish plan to work in the office on Monday and went to the hospital to see a doctor, I expected something akin to instant relief, to the extent that relief can be instant when you don't seek it until the fourth day of something. I am having conversations with my mother on the phone that go something like this:
Phone: Ring! Ring! Ring!

Me: [cough cough cough] Ma?

Mom: [cough] Beth? I can hear you coughing. [cough cough] I was just [cough] calling to see how you are [cough] doing. Everyone [cough] out here has this. The guy next door said his wife is sick, his kids are sick, his [cough cough]...
Since my mother finished her course of antibiotics more than a week ago, this does not give me hope. However, my "Most Likely to Have Tried Every Medication Known To Man" friend advises me that my antibiotic, azithromycin (which she knew off the top of her head by it's original, non-generic name), has a somewhat delayed reaction in comparison to many drugs: it will kick the *ss of any bacteria, but only after 48 hours. Her toddler had pneumonia, and she was so concerned on the second night that she planned to take him to the hospital again the next morning, but it finally kicked in. Her wife, a veterinarian, confirmed this pattern. I am now in hour 50 or so, and there have been a few qualitative improvements, though I don't pass for "living" yet. We'll see.


What all of this means is that I still cannot smell or taste. I started to lose the ability to taste last Friday. Here are some of my food experiences since then:

-pumpkin simmered in coconut milk with Thai red curry paste and a stalk of fresh lemongrass, served over Japonica rice: this has a strange texture. The coconut milk is very smooth; the pumpkin is soft, but you can still detect its fibers; the rice is just firm enough to have a good texture and individual grains. It doesn't taste like anything.

-kiwi fruit: kiwi fruit has a nice texture, a lovely color, very interesting seed patterns, and an acidic edge. But it doesn't taste like anything.

-White chocolate with coconut flakes: this feels a lot like white chocolate ordinarily would, but with the added roughness of the shredded coconut fiber. It doesn't taste like anything.

-Green olives with red pimentos: these have a nice texture. There is the implication of salt.

-Tater Tots (aka dinner tonight as prepared by Steven): had I not known what these were before putting them in my mouth, I might only be able to guess that at some point they had been fried in something. Without being able to taste them, there is an implication that they are not food. This may also be true if one can taste them: at this point, I wouldn't know.

-Vietnamese mushroom flavored rahmen with diced white onion and broccoli: this has the unmistakable texture of rahmen with fresh vegetables. Also, it produces a vaguely oily-looking steam. Salt is subtly implied, which I think means my taste sense is even more absent than earlier.

-Cranberry juice: this sure looks red, doesn't it? With ice, it also feels cold.

-Soy milk: this feels smooth. And cold.

-White tea with persimmon flavor; peppermint tea: despite what you might think, tea has a completely different mouthfeel than water. It's not just the heat: you can tell that there is something else there. That something else has absolutely no flavor, of course, but it is tangible. I could detect tea or non-tea in an instant. The contemplation of the existence of tea and non-tea seem like part of a Zen exercise I didn't ask to have assigned to me.

-Chewable berry-flavored vitamin C, with natural bioflavinoids: this is much less vile than I recall it is with flavor. I really should have bought the orange flavor, which I enjoy. Not that I can tell the difference right now.

-Trader Joe's pouch version of saag paneer over Japonica rice: this has the texture of saag paneer. Definitely. I recognize it immediately. For what that is worth.

-Granola with dried blueberries in soy milk: crunchy.

-A microwave dinner of mixed veggies, a teriyaki like sauce, and brown rice: this was very easy to heat up. It has several textures, some of which are associated with the brown sauce. It doesn't taste like anything. I think I could pick out the broccoli and carrot, but that was by texture.

-Refried beans on flour tortillas with a blended salsa fresca of fire-roasted canned tomatoes, fresh onion, and fresh jalapeño peppers: Raw onions have a sort of edge to them that is detectable. Nothing else stands out.

-Apples: apple-ness is so innate to the texture of apples that briefly, I forgot that I could not taste this. Then I remembered, and I felt let down.

-Pomegranate: these sure are a lot of work, aren't they? Yet somehow, it was still fun to engage in the ritual of eating this. The little arils seemed to be full of goodness. Tasteless, tiny, shiny, red goodness.

-Harira soup (lentils, chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, and a dozen spices; served with lemon wedges): for something that has no flavor, this certainly has a wonderful range of textures. I enjoyed eating this, if only to sort out with each mouthful what I was getting. The lemons seemed to hint at piquancy. Or something like piquancy that exists when you cannot taste anything.

-Sugar wafer cookies: these really all do feel the same, don't they?

-Hot honey lemonade: I really should be able to detect the sourness of the lemons, shouldn't I? Shouldn't I? Or the sweetness of the honey? This is one of my favorite things when I'm sick! I feel so ripped off!

I am so very, very discouraged.


posted by Arlene (Beth)7:58 PM


Conversations are more complex when your mind is not clean.

I will participate in a one-night gallery show and party on March 19th. I will post the details when I have them.

I was discussing the show with Steven, and he began suggesting people to invite.
S: You should make [musician] come. Because we went to his show last week. [Frown. Pause.] Wait. That doesn't sound right.

Me: [Laughter][Uncertain tone]: He might like to receive that kind of offer...

S: Make him come to your show.

Me: And [photographer friend]. I should make him come.

I don't think most people feel compelled to make these sorts of clarifications.


posted by Arlene (Beth)5:56 PM

Monday, March 03, 2008

  Pomegranate White Tea. Trader Joe's sells many flavored white teas under their own label. One of them involves pomegranates, hibiscus flowers, and lemongrass.

If I could taste things today, which I cannot, I would enjoy a cup of this fruity red tea. It is ideal for hibiscus lovers: it is red, floral, and the white tea flavor is subsumed in the hibiscus-y goodness.

As with most TJ products, it is over-packaged: each tea bag is wrapped in a clear plastic outer wrapper, put in a cardboard box, and that is also wrapped in plastic. So they lose a point for one excess plastic layer.

I will buy this tea again, and perhaps again after that. When I can taste and smell things like tea. Which makes experiences such as tea drinking worthwhile.

I'll go back to wallowing in self-pity quietly now.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:33 PM


O Infirmity! The hot new musical that's taking my peer group by storm!

I learned today that there IS such a thing as being too ill even to photoblog. Yes. It is true. Holding up a tiny phone camera can be too much of a distraction from trying to breathe. How gloriously pathetic. (Pathetique? Would that look cooler?)

Wednesday and Thursday I began to have a few allergy symptoms. Even though I figured out a few years back that I do periodically suffer seasonal allergies, I haven't entirely mastered the concept of it. If my most allergic friend begins to complain of his suffering, this sometimes inspires to find a bottle of my inexpensive, immeasurably mild homeopathic allergy remedy and get in the habit of taking it, so that its preventative affect gradually makes me forget that I have allergies of any kind, and then I become foolish and unprepared.

It's a great plan. It works!

This year, the symptoms came on so abruptly, I mused aloud that I was having an allergic reaction to the pizza I was eating. (This seemed dimly possible, since I had been off dairy for many days, but not very likely.) My office colleagues expressed sympathy for my red nose and constant use of tissue. But then I e-mailed my most allergic friend to ask if his allergies had started, and he promptly replied that he was already medicated, but that everyone else he knew was miserable. ('Miserable' also sounds cooler if you pretend you are French while pronouncing it.) My most allergic friend is using a drug called "Zyrtec," which works for him in 20 minutes. Since my benign homeopathic stuff takes two or three days to really level me out, I figured that, in the interests of being able to complete sentences in public without a handkerchief covering my face, I would buy some of this second-generation antihistamine and take it immediately.

You remember my tale of what happened when I took Claritin, right? Claritin is one of those great second-generation antihistamines. It makes me think I am going to die. My lungs fill up, my body evacuates all substances that are not integrally connected through multiple routes, I get a headache that drives me mad... Zyrtec is a completely different drug. But it's also new and fancy. So I had a moment's pause, and nearly called my mother to see if any of my relatives had experienced anything undesirable with the medication. But I was impatient to drop the hanky. I took one 24-hour capsule at 7 p.m. on Thursday night.

Within two hours, my head felt as if it had been filled with liquid rubber under pressure; every passage felt filled, sealed, and swollen. I developed a painful, unproductive cough. A headache was born.

I called my retired nurse mother, and she did some research for me. My side effects weren't on the official list, but it turned out that my uncle (who experiences Claritin as I do) had tried this out and had an adverse reaction. The drug had found to be specifically compatible with Sudafed, and so I was permitted to take some of that to balance out my new found sinus solidity.

It only helped a little. I had to stay home from work the next day. And dammit, it really is a 24-hour time release drug, because I didn't recover until 7 p.m. Friday night.

That was great: I really, really, really wanted to see a colleague's band perform that night, and was bound and determined to paint myself up to look human and go. And that plan went well - I had a great time, and only had to re-Spackle my nose once during the four hour outing.

What wasn't great: all that time my head was filled with rubber, it was hosting new and alien life. By Saturday, I had a sinus infection, an ear infection, and bronchitis. By Sunday evening, watching DVDs on the couch, I couldn't hear what was going on without cranking the volume. And all weekend, I could neither smell nor taste anything I ate.

I foolishly tried to go to work today, but wound up spending the afternoon at UCSF. I am now on an antibiotic (which does not sound cooler in faux French, in my opinion; though the antibiotic name itself, Azithromycin, would be a good name for a Swedish metal band), a powerful anti-coughing pill, a pain killer (for the earaches), and an albuterol inhaler, like the little ones asthmatics carry around. Yes, when my health tanks, it tanks gloriously.


My mother had a rough December, health-wise, just as I did. As she lay in misery day after day, she wondered, 'Is this what old age is like? Constant sickness and fatigue? Is this what I have to look forward to more of?"

Steven independently asked the same questions last night, while fending off his own, whooping-style cough.

Such unhappy questions! I don't know why my health has been so resoundingly crappy this winter, but I'm hoping it is just a year of macho germs, and not a sign of a long, continuous decline that will haunt my remaining years on earth. The fact that I am bleeding from the nose as I type this, and have been for several days, is an anomaly. I do not intend to make this a habit. I swear.


Aside: My view of food changes dramatically in the absence of any perceptible flavor. I can detect sweetness or acidity, perhaps an edge of heat, but... barely. All food is texture for me at the moment. I have never experienced this before, and now I'm in my fourth day of it...


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:48 PM

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