Dienstag, 26. Januar 2016


As I sat on the 3rd floor of a four story tattoo parlour in Zürich, the tattoo artist chuckled while scrolling through google images, called up with the term "Doppelpunkt." I'd just told him that I wanted a "Doppelpunkttattoowierung" because in English, that punctuation mark shares it's name with an organ that I've been missing for nearly 20 years. And there on the screen was a drawing of a colon (or Dickdarm.)
There is already a post on this blog about the regret I have for the tattoo on my back, which I got in 1999. I still very much love the tattoo on my shoulder, which I got in 2010. I learned from the first that I should have and like the idea of a tattoo for a good long while before putting ink to skin. I first got the notion of this tattoo nearly a year ago and it made me chuckle. Then I started seriously thinking about it in earnest in the spring. I would have waited the full year of considering it, but I've got a rather largish surgery coming up early next year. When I mentioned the tattoo idea to my gastroenterologist, he chuckled and then told me that I should get it in time to be healed up for the surgery or well after the surgical wound has healed. I went for before.

Donnerstag, 21. Januar 2016

Still talking about language

When we met the surgeon who will be caring for me at the Unispital next month, we got the obligatory question about our last name. Yes it's Dutch and yes Ivo is Swiss. There we were, talking about my surgical history and then the two of them started asking about accents. The doctor assumed that I was Dutch, and I told him that I was American. Then a bit more chat about the risks of the surgery and what to expect of healing and then Ivo had to ask him about his dialect. He was born and raised in Zürich but both his parents are German and so he understands the difficulty of speaking in dialect, etc, etc.
This year is my 10th living in Switzerland and the fact that I am an American speaking Swiss German no longer elicits the surprise it once did. Instead, when people ask how long I've been here, the response to my answer is a nod of acknowledging that that makes sense. So it was nice of this new surgeon to act as if my language acquisition was anything but ordinary.
We made it through the appointment, the heavy chat and the light accent talk and then we said goodbye to him and his assistant, who'd been silent the whole time but bid us adieu with the strongest French accent in the world and had Ivo and I chuckling on the way out of an emotionally exhausting consultation.

Dienstag, 19. Januar 2016

Ode to my abdomen

It's January and I'm aware of how succeptable I've been to New Year weight loss advertising in the past. This year, all I want is to enjoy my strong body before surgery.
When I was 16, I had 2 temp ostomies in 9 months. The first was an ileostomy (where the end of the small intestine was outside my body for 6 months.) the second was after my ileum had been reconnected to my rectum and a loop of small intestine was outside of my body to let the new connection heal. 
When I woke up from my second surgery, my bellybutton was gone. I was cross with my surgeon and he (a former mechanic from the Bronx) said "I didn't do it. Someone else closed. It might still be there but got staples in. But if you did lose it, it's the ultimate rebellion. You'll never need a tattoo or piercing."
It was just stapled in. I was relieved as only a self-conscious 16 year old can be. 
I've lamented my abdomen for nearly 20 years. I try to have scar pride, but can't help to notice the buttock effect of a scar through a middle whenI look down at it.
But now that my middle will be changed dramatically and permanently, I'm feeling a lot of love for it and wish that I'd given it more respect in the past.

Dienstag, 12. Januar 2016

Bowie Bandwagon

Last night, we ate dinner in front of the record player and played each other our favorite David Bowie songs - pausing for the BBC special and to watch the episode of the Extras, when Bowie sings to Ricky Gervais.
My husband and I went on our third date to a Bowie concert in Boston. I began to have my doubts about him when he started calling the Fleet center xenophobic for not accepting his swiss passport to buy beer, but reconsidered when I discovered they wouldn't accept my RI license either. Then there was that point when I saw his face when Bowie was singing Ashes to Ashes and I was so moved.
I'm a child of the 80s and so 80s Bowie was my first Bowie. But the time that I began to appreciate Bowie as an adult was at a weird basement bar in downtown Providence. I started going there with my boyfriend when I learned that they would serve an underaged me. (I'd order scotch neat so that they wouldn't know that I was a secret 19 year old.)
There we attended the weekly open mic night, mostly in support of my boyfriend's co-worker. He was a slight man with an astonishing voice. But each time, a middle aged man with messy hair, a paunch and a bit of a grimace on his face would sing Space Oddity, using different props each time and making exploding sounds at the end of it. At first I disliked this guy. His voice was ok, but he seemed so uncool (and I was 19, so it was my job to organize things into "cool" and "uncool" categories.) But over time, I came to love the way that this guy was expressing him. It was clear that this song was important to him and he was singing it with his whole self. It became beautiful to me and I can't hear it without thinking about this fella's enthusiasm and love of Bowie or Kubrick or space or whatever it was that was moving him.
When Kristin Wig sang it in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I cried. As I've mentioned in past posts, I'm a crybaby. But I was also thinking of that open mic guy. My mom and I talked about that film before she died. She expressed an interest in seeing it. I think she'd read the book. And what I remembered most was this scene (my husband most remembers the long boarding ahead of the volcano.)
My husband is not a cry baby, but when the BBC went from the different places where Bowie had lived and showed the mourners collected, he got a bit weepy. It sometimes feels weird to be so sad about the death of an artist, but seeing all of those many people who were so touched all over the western world was really moving.