I have always wanted to be a smart person. Or, at least, to feel like I was a smart person.
I have also been suffering lately from the certainty that I am not getting any smarter. In fact, there is evidence to suggest I may be regressing and losing my faculties altogether.
In other words, I am getting dumber.
How do I know this? I tried recently to be clever and failed.
I attempted to write a post. I wanted to be witty and erudite, to create a mathematical equation quantifying the values of parenting–like something you might see on a white board on The Big Bang Theory set. I wrote for hours. I struggled. I waffled. I flailed in my efforts to write what my brain kept telling me what should be a funny post.
At the same time, I have been trying to research what kind of cell phone or carrier to switch before my iPhone dies for good. The more I read on the topic, the less sure I am that I am capable of making a rational, informed decision.
To stave off complete digital death, I switched off as many features of my ‘smart’ phone so as to conserve the battery life past a nano-second. I turned off so many functions, my phone stopped receiving voicemails and texts. As a result, my ‘smart’ phone is now a dumb phone which is holding my information hostage until I turn my data back on.
Didn’t phones used to just work before ‘data’ was invented?*
Why is a phone designed to use data to send a message anyway?**
*shouts into the abyss*
In my efforts to keep my phone running while not plugged into a recharger, I even deleted Facebook from my apps.
The entire next day I learned exactly how often I have been checking Facebook. Like, every fricking time I had a break…or had to wait in line…or stopped at a red light for more than two seconds. I wish I were kidding.
So, I’ve learned two things this week: I am not getting smarter and my phone is possibly making me dumber.
In my research for ‘smart’ terminology, I found a physics term that I feel describes my mental state:
a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
Apparently I am suffering from a terminal case of entropy.***
Let’s just hope it’s not stupidly fatal.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*C’mon conspiracy theory junkies, give me your best explanation for why phones cost ten times as much to do half as well for less years than you’d like. And then tell me why we fall for it?
**GROUP BREAK-OUT SESSION: What exactly is DATA and why is it the new gold standard for the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots? Discuss.
***Additional proof of my stupidification is denoted by the fact that I have to use the second definition of Entropy to understand the meaning of the word.
The Image Stolen for this header comes from a site that did a much better job of actually explaining entropy–in case any of you are smarter and want to read up on it.
Her blond, twisted curls were fixed and her little pink-and-white gingham dress was stiff and yellowed with age. By the time she finally became mine, she was twenty-seven years old. Pretty ancient for a doll. And, by ten, I was old enough to know she wasn’t to be played with.
So, until I reached my first decade, I enacted my primal childhood dramas on my Barbie and baby dolls instead.*
There was one other doll who bore the brunt of little girl adventures in our extended family: Grandma Laura’s walking doll.
This doll was an antique, but, she was never treated like one. Built with a stiff cardboard body with wooden limbs, she was meant to be played with.
If she ever had a name, I never knew it. She was just called ‘the walking doll’ because she had creaky hinges at her knees which caused the leg to swing back and then forward as you walked behind her.
She sat in a chair in my grandparents’ living room, waiting for one of the grandchildren to come play with her. She was much loved and it showed.
The walking doll’s hands were worn to indistinct nubs and the plastic along her arms was cracked or missing. At one point, someone loved all the hair off of her.
My grandmother must have cut down a wig to cover her bald head. The walking doll’s new style was choppy, black speckled with grey, and in no way resembled a typical baby doll. I never knew she had any other hair color.
Until I took her to the doll hospital that is.
It was always my intention to take good care of my bequests, but time, family expansion and inattention takes a toll on the mechanics of people and toys.
Many years ago, Amy’s rubber band broke, leaving her looking much like an extra special victim from a crime drama.**
I found Patricia Buckert after a quick search online and contacted her to see if she could recover my long-time companions from the benign neglect of thirty-some years in storage.
A professional with certification through the Doll Artisan Guild, Patricia studied at Seeley’s in Canada and traveled to West Virginia to learn advanced secrets of doll restoration. Patti Ann’s Teddy Bears and Dollies provides a rare service—not just doll repair—it’s more like finding doll nirvana.
When she talks about the dolls she’s made—with kiln baked porcelain crafted and painted by hand—you know you’ve found a kindred spirit.
Her doll hospital is located in Oshtemo, MI along Stadium Drive in a small, green house.
Even with the big white sign out front, you might miss it. But once you’ve entered, you’d never forget it.
The front room is overflowing with dolls, prams, strollers, a crib filled with wide-eyed babydolls, and shelves where lady-like figures pose, en deshabille, with porcelain-dipped lace to trace their décolletage. Nearby, a wire carousel houses miniature accessories: shoes, socks, and delicate unmentionables with froths of lace enough to choke a Clydesdale.
This dolly sanctum sanctorum is a veritable paradise for your inner child.
When I show her Amy, Patricia immediately recognizes her as one of the series of Little Women dolls created by Madame Alexander. But she’s entirely surprised by her second patient.
“I’ve never seen a doll quite like this before.” Patricia says, as I place the doll on her counter.
“She’s been in the family for a long time. She first belonged to my grandmother.” I explain.
As I remove the doll’s outer garments, her poor condition is revealed. A spring falls off her leg as I remove her bloomers.***
We also learn that originally, she was a redhead, similar to my grandmother’s brunette shade…that she kept in a bottle under her bathroom vanity.
“I’ll see if I can find anything in my records to help identify her.” Patricia promises.
“Look what I found! As I was going over your doll I found the Babs marking. This helped me identify it.”
According to the site linked, the Babs Walking Doll was made between 1917 and 1921 by the Babs Manufacturing Corp. Since my grandmother was born in 1909, she was between eight and ten years of age when she was given her. Knowing my doll is over a hundred years old, makes me treasurer her even more. But, she was in pretty sad shape.
I asked Patricia to do what she could to recover her lost charms. This no doubt destroyed whatever value the doll might have possessed, but, I would never sell her and I felt that she deserved her own personal make-over.
It took a lot longer than I would have imagined. But I suspect you don’t undo a century of aging in a day.
Amy came home first.
You can’t see it in this photo, but she now has two satin shoes covering her feet. The mar on her cheek is gone and, with restringing and repairs to the dress, she looks as good as new.
I asked my mom if each of her sisters had their own doll from the series.
She seemed surprised to learn there were other dolls.
Mary, age 8 or 9, in her Beer Barrel Polka outfit.
“Oh, yes. She is one of the daughters from the March family, from the book Little Women?” I tell her. “Did you read it?”
“Oh, well, I’ve seen the movie.” Mom says. “But no, I was the only one who got a doll like this.”
“I thought, because you were one of four sisters and the book is about four sisters, maybe you each got one to represent your relationships.” I say. “But you were the oldest, and that would make you the ‘Meg’ doll instead of ‘Amy’ who is the youngest of the March sisters.”
“I really don’t remember that much about the story.” Mom admits. “But I had blond hair like this as a girl.”
It is always a shock to find someone doesn’t cherish the same books you do. I love Little Women. But if I were to pick a March sister, I would be Jo. Brave, adventurous Jo who writes and dramatizes her life. That, and the fact she has brown hair, just like me.
I finally got to pick up Grandma Laura’s walking doll this fall. I then learned that PattiAnn’s is closing; after so many years spent learning the art of doll craft, Patricia is retiring.
“Is this because people aren’t buying dolls as much?” I ask.
“Yes, partly. Children just don’t play with dolls the way they used to, not with the invention of iPads and electronic games.” Patricia sighs.
I look around and have to ask, “What will happen to all of this?”
“I’ll be selling it off as I close-up. You can check my Facebook website for details of the upcoming sales.”
I have my camera with me and I ask her if I might take a picture of her with a doll, “Which is your favorite?”
“Oh, all my real favorites are back at home, packed up for the move.”She looks around for a bit and then picks up a laughing babydoll. “But, I made this one for my mother before she passed away. So, I’ll be keeping her.”
We keep what matters to us. I don’t know if I would have a doll collection if it had not been for the one’s given to me. I have quite a few. My first years of independence during my tour in the Army were incongruously spent collecting dolls while stationed overseas. But those tales will have to wait for another day.
For now, I will be grateful I got my dolls repaired by someone qualified in a craft that is dying out.
And for those of you who are interested in the results, here is my walking doll, in her new dress cut down from a dress my mother made me:
I think you will agree, you wouldn’t recognize her from her former self!
Do you appreciate the rare? The exotic? The exceedingly slow burn to coition?
Do you savor the anticipation an eighteen-year wait brings?
Then you may be ready for the giant phallus. The amorphophallus titanum to be precise.
If you happened to wander into Meijer Gardens this week, you may have stumbled across the shy and retiring Titan Arum–a bloom colloquially referred to as a Corpse Flower.*
I’ve been a long-time fan of the gardens, but even I was caught by surprise about the arrival of the local beauty–nicknamed Putricia for her odiferous nature. On impulse, I dashed to the gardens on Tuesday to get this shot of her before she made her full-blown debut. The garden staff estimated that she wouldn’t fully bloom until Friday…but they were to be caught off guard.
Wednesday night, the spathe–or giant solitary petal that goes around the spadix (the stabby, sword-like center spike) was still tightly closed.**
For a better description, you can go to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s website for a great breakdown of the particulars. The site was extremely helpful in providing the follow image to steal:
Rumors abound around this hard-to-get coquette. According to this chart, it may bloom every four to five years. I’ve read elsewhere, it can take much longer because it relies on perfect conditions being met in order to propagate. The flower is in danger of becoming extinct in nature because of habitat loss and other causes.
At the Meijer Gardens, Putricia took eighteen years before she was ready to blossom. But she is finally strutting her stuff. And perhaps because she was so slow in arriving, she hurried up her appearance in time for me to dash over to meet her on Thursday. And, I have to say, she put on quite a stately show.
I couldn’t say how many people came, but the lines curled throughout the building when I was there. If you are brave, you might get to see her yourself–at least, for the next 24 hours anyway.
If you want to save your feet (and nose) the effort, a link to video of the flower’s expansion, you can find it in this article located in the Detroit News.
Here’s the picture I snapped with my cell phone:
Personally, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the stench by the time I got to her. She’d already lost some of her bloom. (Probably being visited by thousands of people takes a toll on a girl.)
Whether standing in line for over two hours for a minute in the limelight with this sultry Sumatran Stinker is your idea of fun, only you can decide.
As for me, I am happy that I went and hope we can look forward to a bright future ahead.
And now, I have camping to get packed for. My son is totally puzzled as to why I would bother to stop and chat with you for this long anyway. For this reason, I’m attributing any typos to his impatience.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Strangely enough, no one requests a corpse flower for their bridal bouquet. Probably due to having to wait decades to ensure you’ll have one in time for the nuptials.
**Look, I’m not a botanist. There’s plenty of sites you can go to for actual plant terminology and description. But we both know you aren’t going there, are you?!
Please join me for the continuing saga of last week’s story (A Royal Pain – Part I) a kind of a mashup of Dentist the Menace and the Molar Crown Affair.
Warning, some images may be disturbing to the dentally or aesthetically sensitive…
I invite you to follow along on my magical, anesthesia-induced adventure.
With a Bippity…
Boo Hoo Hoo!
There is a hole in my life.
I just don’t understand it fully until the dentist says he has a plan to fill the emptiness I’ve been feeling.
He probes the moist recesses of my gaping maw, as he talks.*
“We could do a core build-up for about $270, maybe.” He suggests, with great reluctance. “Or we could do this…”
With a motion reminiscent of floor models revealing the latest, greatest innovation, the television screen, which previously showed highlights of a kitchen remodel, now glows with the recommended option to increase my dental family by one.
The dentist gushes, “…you could have this beautiful baby installed.”*
If there is a Ferrari of teeth it has to be the Onlay-Porcelain/Ceramic Crown he unveils with unsettling prestidigitation. Then he adds,
“All it will cost you is your soul.”
Or at least, that’s what I heard.
“Beg pardon? How much did you say?”
“Approximately eleven hundred dollars, plus X-rays.” Dr. Smith says…as if he isn’t joking at all. “My lovely assistant will prepare you. I’ll be right back.”
In a puff of smoke, the white-coated magician disappears behind the curtain, where he bangs pots and pans together to create the illusion of great works or something.
The lovely assistant plonks an array of deadly-looking implements before me.
Yeah, that doesn’t look scary at all. I think.
I ask the dental assistant, as she belts me in for the ride,
“Can’t we do the cheaper option?” Me, hopeful.
“I don’t know. I’ll ask the doctor…” She says, doubtful.
Then she gives me some happy-happy gas and I am feeling a heck of a lot less anxious about anything.
As she places the funky nose trough on, the assistance tells me, “The gas will work faster the less you talk.” She laughs as she says this, so I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mean it the way it sounds…I think.
(You’ll note, my ability to take selfies is seriously diminished, along with my cognitive reasoning, as the shots and nitrous oxide take effect.)***
The dentist returns and with little fuss or muss, he drills down until he finds un-decayed pay dirt.
Dentist: “Let’s see what the damage is underneath the repair job you did.”
You know you’re in a bad place when you hear the doctor making the following sounds over the drill:
Me: “Ah ah.. hunh ah?” (What is it? What’s wrong?)
Dentist: “Oh. Well this goes a lot deeper than I expected…”
Dental assistant probably wipes dentist’s damp, furrowed brow in an encouraging manner.
Drilling noises resume…accompanied with what sounds like boulders being crushed in my mouth. Then sounds stops.
The dentist turns and comes back with a weird wand of some sort and a ring tone like an alien landing throbs as he probes my open orifice (and not in a sexy way).
NOTE: The drugs have really kicked in at this point…the next bits might be total hallucinations on my part:
DA (Dental Assistant): “Doctor…is that…TOOTH DECAY??”
Dentist: “I’m afraid so. We’d better keep going…”
DA: “But, is it safe to continue, doctor?”
Dentist: “Safe or not, I’m going in…”
UNHOLY SHRIEKING COMMENCES.
A CHOIR BEGINS CHANTING A GREGORIAN DESCANT…IN LATIN!
Dentist: “Oh, dear god, what is that thing?”
DA: “Aaahhhhh. Hit. Hit it with mallet. Kill it. Kill it dead!”
Something heavy slithers away. Crashing dental implements hit the floor. The room is filled with weeping and the gnashing of teeth—not necessarily human.
Dentist: “What have we done? What nightmare have we unleashed? Oh the humanity…”
—INTERMISSION FOR A BRIEF REALITY CHECK—
What actually happened:
Dentist: “I had to take a bit more than expected. This is what’s left of your tooth.”
Me: “So, that’s not going to be the cheap option is it?”
Dentist: “I think we’d better go with the crown. I couldn’t guarantee the work would last otherwise.”
AD: “If you want, you can follow me; you can watch me make your tooth.”
So, I got to see the birth of my new tooth. It’s a step above watching a B-grade horror film and I recorded it for posterity. If you squint, you can hear me slurring questions about the process.
WARNING, this video is a lot more interesting under the influence of dental anesthesia.
The dental assistant chats very nicely as the two tiny drills carve away at the cube of purple stuff that looks like so much plastic explosive to me.
You put this purple thingy here…
Then drills come spinning like blades of death whirling in a scene from Indiana Jones…
T-minus ten minutes and counting…
DA: “It only takes about ten minutes to make the tooth.”
Me: *clicks photo of screen* “Cool…”
And it is. Despite the hassle of it all, watching the Star Trek-level technology carve a new tooth out of ceramic is pretty fascinating. Again, I am still kinda drugged…though the gas is starting to wear off when it comes time to actually install the new tooth.
F.Y.I—This is NOT the fun part.
DA: “It starts off purple, but then we heat it in the kiln and it strengthens the new ceramic piece and the color turns to a more natural shade to match your existing teeth.”
They test the tiny wedge of ceramic to make sure it fits the space before firing it. You can see the before image left of the after one above.
The dentist returns and, with grim determination, fits the formerly-purple, puzzle piece into my mouth.
First, he rinses the existing tooth with an acid wash. (And I thought I hated the 80’s jeans by that name.) If I had to describe the taste—think rancid nuclear waste mixed with tinfoil.
Then he sands the new tooth to make sure my bite is good—with me chomping colored paper between takes.
Dentist: “How’s that feel?”
Me: “It’s kind of high in the back.”
Dentist: “We’ll keep grinding until it fits. Don’t worry.”
I swear this part takes the longest…or maybe it is because all the nitrous has worn off and I’m starting to feel things again. Like panic over the impending bill.
The dentist shows me the final work. And it’s pretty impressive.
He positions this R2D2 type cart with a rollerball joystick to spin through the pictures he took of my mouth.
While I might whinge about the expense, I can’t deny, the work looks good.
“Now the rest of my teeth look terrible.” I cry with no little dismay as a thought occurs to me. “Are they all going to fall apart like this one did?”
“We don’t know. We look for signs of stress.” Dr. Smith rolls the ball and a new image appears. “Like here, where you can see a crack going right through the tooth.”
“Ack. Are those my teeth?” I say. (Showing signs of stress.)
“No, no! I’m just showing you these as an example. All in all, your teeth are in pretty good condition.” Before I can relax, he adds, “We just can’t tell from an x-ray what might be happening underneath the fillings.”
“Good to know.” I say. Then another alarming thought occurs to me. “What if this pops out and I swallow it?”
“It won’t.” Dr. Smith assures me.
“They never come out?” I say, pushing for some reassurances.
“If it does, we’ll make you a new one.” He says, probably tired of me but hiding it politely.
“For an additional $1100?” I say with a squeak.
“For nothing.” He says, moving to leave. “I guarantee my work!”
And that’s all one can really hope for. I thank him and pay up and skedaddle out of there.
So, like a disturbingly dark fairytale or an old-fashioned monster movie, you leave the experience relieved that it’s over…but not entirely certain you’ve left the horror behind for good.
Only the teeth know for sure…and they’re not talking.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Any resemblance to the start of a raunchy, seventies-style porno is totally unintentional, I assure you.
**He did not say this. I exaggerate for effect. I do that a lot while under anesthesia.
***I had to wait several days before writing this just so I could piece together everything that happened. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any pixies involved in the procedure…at least none that showed up in the photos I took.
This is a humor blog. I embellish. I stretch the truth. I invent. This was a very routine dental procedure done by a competent professional with courteous and friendly staff. It is no way an endorsement of getting one procedure done over another. Though, I would recommend D.D.S. Joshua Smith of Northway Family Dentistry in Grandville, MI, if you can afford the work. If you can’t, you’d better be diligent about flossing, because plaque waits for no man. Let’s also hope the doctor has a sense of humor about the above portrayal.
I will say this much about gardening. It gives you an appreciation for how hard it would be to dig a grave. I believe that, were I so inclined, my preference would be to carve the corpse into easy-to-dispose-of pieces and strew the parts in various dump sites. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, of course…
I suspect I am too faint of heart to make a convincing serial killer anyway. In fact, after making this tiny, gruesome discovery, I spent the remainder of the dig wondering when I’d recover the rest of the little fella.*
Squeamishness, aside, I will happily conjecture about fictional ways of making a body vanish. The top three picks from various cinematic heart-wrenchers (not literal) I’ve ‘enjoyed’ would have to be:
Take a trick from one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes, and go the cannibalism route. Not me eating the remains, of course, but feeding the evidence to an unsuspecting crowd of people…sure!** That, and it would make an interesting ‘Iron Chef’ episode, if it weren’t, you know, illegal.
Then there’s the oh-so-historically-fascinating mummification process. A true horror buff wouldn’t wait for the body to be dead yet. They’d use that curved hook to scoop out the living brain first and then pull the organs for canopic pickling. The most fascinating thing is, to the Egyptians, the brains weren’t considered an important enough organ to preserve. I’m not sure what was done with them–perhaps used to tan the skin of the recently deceased? Will have to Google that one later along with whichever film I dredged this memory from. Some things your brain can never unsee.
And then there is the tried and true dissolve-the-body-in-lye fallback. A popular shtick of every cop/crime/mystery show I’ve ever watched. Each one had their own take on Jeffery Dahmer’s preferred mode of hocus pocus body disposus. I can’t say I’d enjoy the smell very much, but it certainly would make the neighbors hesitate to borrow a cup of sugar if de-comp mixed with caustic chemicals was wafting from the windows.
Anyway, this is what I’m thinking while I am whacking weeds and planting flowers in the back garden. Next time you see an old lady with a twisted grin and cackling her head off as she digs into the dirt behind her house…I hope you think of me.***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*The Mystery of the Headless Squirrel continues.
**Let’s see who’s willing to come over to my house for dinner ever again!
***Happy Mother’s Day to every body…buried, or otherwise.
Aging ain’t pretty and, sometimes, it gets downright ugly. You are forced to evaluate yourself for flaws and failures. Blogs are no different from people in that respect.
Facebook’s insistence that everyone in the world wish you a Happy Birthday resulted in people I haven’t spoken with in years contacting me last week when I became a quinquagenarian.*
In one exchange, an old friend asks me how I’ve been doing and I oh-so-subtly direct him to the wonders of my blog. His response?
“…Blogs are so passé…”**
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I put my heart and soul into what I write. This off-hand dismissal of my craft resulted in the following poetic interlude—performed in the key of é.
Critique Not-so Enchanté
My writing is passé,
Or so you say!
Perhaps you are no devoteé?
Or maybe you are just a protégé without caché?
I may sometimes, How do you say?, write a hit out of the park!
Sometimes it’s a swing-and-a-miss—or manqué.***
My writing may even skirt the edge of cliché!
But always, I churn the brain frappé
To scoop out a little grey cell pâté.
A luscious, literary canapé!
No hard-boiled reporter am I, producing the latest exposé!
But I do not deserve to be roasted a lá flambé!
Mayhap you will reconsider your communiqué?
But as for me, I am très désolé.
So there you have it. A damning condemnation that not only am I unoriginal, practically staring down the barrel of obsolescence, but so is my writing medium. (Not well done!)
Turning half-a-decade makes a person stop and think! Where exactly am I headed? Have I missed my chance to reinvent myself when I haven’t even invented myself yet in the first place?
Have I’ve officially reached a plateau that says: “Nothing new, innovative, or fresh expected. Move along!!?”
Perhaps it is fatalism of creativity? Maybe I suffer ennui? But I will steal from a kindred spirit—a voice who calls from the realm of the dead. I will lick the pen of a poet and echo Stéphane Mallarme :
Je me mire et me vois ange! et je meurs, et j’aime —Que la vitre soit l’art, soit la mysticité— A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème, Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté.
I can see my reflection like that of an angel! And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium Of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn, Wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land Where beauty flourishes.)
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*L is the new XL (I’m talking Roman numerals, people, not size!)
**My immediate response? “Oh yeah? Well…your face is passé!”
***I noticed the odd appearance of accented ‘é’ words and cleverly sensed a theme. When I saw Manqué on a list of words ending in é, I had to use it. And then, there is the neato twist: where the definition for manqué conveniently defines how it feels to turn 50!
Man·qué (mäNGˈkā/) adjective:
having failed to become what one might have been; unfulfilled.