Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why I'm itchy, and no I did not forget a letter, although I suppose it could work that way too

This post is for Talia, who calls to complain when I haven't posted for four days. Here! I am posting! There is nothing to post about but I will post anyway! VoilĂ .

Anyway, I haven't been doing so well lately in the realm of what I can only call "non-life threatening yet painful and inconvenient bodily infirmities." It all started with the fleas, or what I can only assume were fleas. Whatever it was, it attacked me while I was calmly sitting at my computer and in the span of one hour turned my lower body into this:

Unclean! Unclean!!!!!

I was just starting to recover from days of constant itching and unsightly welts when I decided to go for a bike ride. In nature. Oh yes, back in the good old days when I was still hanging out on Herve's tiny Parisian sofa, I had grand plans for this summer. "Well, I'm not going to have a lot to do at my parents' house," I told him. "So maybe I'll go biking on the C&O Canal. Maybe I'll go every day! Or at least, you know, sometimes." As you can probably guess, five weeks into my "staycation" here and I had fallen into a comfortable little rut of sleeping until eleven and sitting on my ass all day. Ok, fine, fine! I told myself. Tomorrow I will set my alarm for 8:00 and I will make a sandwich to bring with me and I will do this damn thing. And then... Hmm, why don't I just take the dog for a walk instead? I reasoned. (She seemed pleased.) I tried again the next day, determined to do it this time. The problem being that in order to get there I would have to drive my dad's manual transmission truck. I wrote about my victory over the stick last summer, but alas, victory is fleeting, and I seem to have left my confidence somewhere on the wide and flat roads of Raleigh, North Carolina. Not to mention the fact that in my limited stick shift-driving experience, I have never actually driven alone. It's amazing what a difference a little moral support in the front seat can make, is what I'm saying.

"Are you sure you don't want to come with me?" I asked my dad nervously.

"No, I have some work to do here. But go ahead, you could use the practice," he said, throwing me his keys. "It has 200,000 miles on it," he said when I voiced my concerns. "You're not going to hurt it."

"It wasn't actually the truck I was worried about hurting," I said nervously. I envision myself attempting to pull out on a busy road, cars whizzing by at 50, 60 mph. I stall out in the middle of the intersection, frantically trying to re-start the ignition when I am decimated by oncoming traffic, and I perish in a firey, hot car crash.

"Yeah, I hadn't thought of that," he said. "Well, good luck. If anything happens I won't have a car to come get you."

Great, so I would be alone and unrescuable. I waved goodbye, eased nervously out of the driveway and made it to the end of the street without incident. Then, as I reached the first four-way stop, the ball on top of the gear-shift came off in my hand. You have got to be kidding me, I thought in disbelief. But did I give up? No! I popped that sucker right back on and kept driving. I navigated my way slowly and carefully on country roads, anticipating every stop sign and turn between me and my destination. And here it was, the intersection from my firey hot daydreams. I would have to make a left hand turn, and while the road wasn't extremely busy, the cars that were there were going by at a pretty good clip. And there was someone behind me, impatiently riding my bumper for the last ten minutes. The worst of all worlds. I took a deep breath, pressed down on the gas, eased off the clutch and... stalled, right there in the middle of the intersection. I took a few hyperventilating breaths and turned the key to start the car, only to hear that particularly awful sound that happens when you turn the key and the car is already running. So of course, I turned it again. Ok, the car was definitely already started. Practically dead from humiliation, I threw my arm out the window, motioning the car behind me to go around. The last thing I needed was a witness to my ineptitude. She eagerly skirted around me and sped off, leaving me praying for a few more seconds of respite from oncoming traffic, until I finally managed to jolt and lurch myself onto the main road and once again tooled merrily on my way. Everything was going well until I turned onto the tiny road leading to my destination. A car with a kayak tied to the top crested the hill, and like a polite fellow human being, I pulled over and waited, giving him the right of way as the road was too narrow for the both of us. He waved and continued on by, and it was then that I realized the predicament I was in. I was stopped. I was on a hill. I was stopped on a hill. Ok, no big deal, I thought, pressing down on the clutch and removing my foot from the brake. And then, before I could even get my foot on the gas I started rolling backward at a fairly alarming rate. I slammed on the brake. I took a breath. I started over. My procedure for the next few minutes went something like: clutch, roll, slam on brake. Clutch, roll, slam on brake. Clutch, roll... you get the picture. My options at that point were to roll backwards all the way to the bottom of the (quite large) hill, or figure this damn thing out, and quick, before some unsuspecting person drives up behind me and I either a) die of humiliation or b) roll directly into their front grill or c) (and what seemed most likely) both. Once I figured out the brake/clutch/gas timing I did manage to extract myself only somewhat ungracefully from the situation, and finally pulled into the parking lot at Violette's Locke. I didn't even want to think about the fact that after all this I still had to drive back, and so I hoped to bike myself into a state of such exhaustion that I would practically float home on a cloud of rainbows and endorphins. That was the plan, anyway. And for a little while I did manage to forget my anxiety, as I biked over the gravel path and looked for turtles sunning themselves on rocks and submersed tree branches, and at one point found myself nearly face to face with a blue heron. Except for one or two people I passed on the way, I had the trail nearly to myself. In my backpack I had some water, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a book, and I let my worries dissolve away in the hopes of passing a peaceful summer afternoon outside. And then I got stung on the neck.

That's right. Something large and buzzy flew into me and then rudely injected its poison into my neck, which I thought was a bit of a low blow, to be honest. I frantically slapped at myself only to realize that instead of fading away, the pain was growing steadily more persistent. I pulled up under a bridge and hopped off my bike, trying to assess the damage. Was I swelling? I was miles from my car at this point, a thought which prompted me to immediately flip the worst case scenario switch, as this imaginary dialogue went through my head:

Oh my god, if I was allergic to bees I would probably die out here before anyone found me!

But you're not allergic to bees.

But my dad is allergic to bees. It's probably hereditary. Maybe I'm allergic to bees and I don't know it! What if I go into anaphylactic shock right now?

You have never gone into anaphylactic shock before. Why would you start now?

Oh, I don't know, only because I'm in the middle of flipping nowhere and my only way home is a truck that I can barely drive even under the best of circumstances! Because my dad doesn't even have a car to come rescue me! Because right now would be the absolute worst time to start being allergic to bees so of course it would make sense that it would happen now! Oh my god, is my throat swelling shut???

After some more quiet hand wringing and deep breathing I determined that I was fine, of course, albeit in a good amount of persistent throbbing pain, and so I got back on my bike for the long ride back to the truck (of potential firey death). And of course I made it home just fine, although not without getting yelled at at a stop sign by the dude behind me who was perhaps not so pleased with my cautious old lady driving style. And I'm sorry guy, but the 4-cylinder truck with 200,000 miles on it just doesn't go much more than 35 mph up hills, so you see it is not entirely my fault. But thanks for the shouts of encouragement.

Anyway, after about 24 hours the pain faded into several days' worth of constant and infernal itching, my god the itching! So, fleas, bee (wasp?) sting, and of course now the nagging and persistent cold sore on the inside of my lower lip that makes ingesting anything remotely salty or acidic an exercise akin to walking barefoot over a hot bed of coals. Mind over matter, mind over m- gah! ack! holy mrghh#$%^! Which led to an awkward moment at my friend Alan's house when he made me a lovely dinner and then opened us a deliciously chilled bottle of white. Don't wince, just don't wince, I thought as I steeled myself for that first, biting sip. I approached the glass hesitantly, trying to casually turn away so as not to draw attention to myself as I swallowed with a slight grimace. (In the few other instances in life that I have made this face I am grateful that the lights have been off. Ahem.) I realized my effort to act casual had failed when I saw Alan watching me strangely. "Well I guess it's probably not what you're used to drinking in France," he said.

"No no!" I said. "It's good! I like it! It's just this cold sore... No, really, the wine's good, it just hurts like hell..." And I mean, honestly. I have not been kissing anyone or sharing drinks and it's summer and I get like ten hours of sleep a night. There is really no excuse for this, do you hear me failing immune system? So between the bites and the stings and the mouth sore and not to mention the problems I've been having with knives lately, and I am something of a hot mess at the moment, all band-aids and ointments and woe.

In other news, Alan and I were watching t.v. when a commercial came on for the Julie&Julia movie. I have mixed feelings about this film, because on the one hand, I love French cooking, love Julia Child, read the book, etc., but on the other hand, I mean, I have a blog. Where's my book deal? Where's my movie? I'm all for the rags to riches, unknown-blogger-makes-big real life fairy tale, but also, why did I not think of this first? So basically, yeah, I'm jealous. "You could do 365 days of Rachael Ray," Alan offered helpfully.

"Oh my god! I could call it the Rachel/Rachael Project!" I shouted. "It's brilliant! I mean, I think it is." And granted, it probably wouldn't make for as good a movie, but would you read it?


  1. If you wrote it, I'd read it!

    As for the itchies, I'm one big mosquito bite. I know it doesn't compare, but I'm commiserating as best as I can.

  2. I'm really allergic to insect bites, so that picture of your leg is all too familiar. The only thing that works for me is this cream I got in a Mexican airport pharmacy. It'll probably kill me, but so would the itchiness.

  3. I've been driving a stick shift for nearly 3 years now and I still freak out a bit if I am stopped on a hill. Since I live in San Francisco, land of hills so steep you can't even see the crest of them as you're driving up, this is rather inconvenient. However, I have learned a good trick -- using the parking brake to keep me from rolling backwards on particularly steep hills. Basically, shift the car into gear, but keep your foot on the clutch and brake. Then, engage the parking brake and keep your hand on it so you can release it quickly as you start to ease off the clutch / hit the gas. Release the parking brake as soon as you feel the acceleration catch, and voila, no roll. It takes a bit of practice to get the timing down, but it's been a serious stress-reducer for me :-)

  4. I'd read anything you wrote! Back of milk cartons, washing directions for clothes, manuals-of-whatever-kind...EVERY-THING. You rock!!!!!!! And so does your writing! I stumbled across your blog like forever ago, when I was, ahem, intrigued by a french exchange student and desperately needed advice - I haven't been able to stop reading it since! (French guy back in France and all, sigh - and yes, I'm quite ashamed of the fact that I basically googled "french+guy+dating+how"!)

    Oh, and I'm a fan of Talia for calling you and making you post! :D

  5. HOLY GOD ARE FLEA BITES ITCHY. it is so unnecessary how itchy they are. and they last forever. Not to make you feel worse - but i still have a few discolouration marks on my legs from flea bites.

    Ahem...Meryl Streep is just awesome - I'd watch her watch paint dry.

    I'd total read about Rachel/Rachael Project.

  6. Wow, you guys are the best with the advice and the love and support and all.

    And Gigi, your comment made me laugh. I've always wondered how people find my blog. Now I know! (Although sadly I have to think that I probably wasn't much help in the matter. If there is a secret to how to successfully date French guys, I wish someone would let me in on it.) :)

  7. if you did the rachel/rachel thing we could read you everyday!! everyday!!!
    i love these regular day posts. it makes me remember all the funny weird things that happen everyday!! more please!