Since our last Rant Issue--our yearly dose of collective therapy for the greater Tucson area--lots of stuff has happened that's gotten on our nerves. Locally, traffic continues to worsen, with all sorts of construction projects gumming up the works. With some projects, things have gotten so bad that the sight of one orange traffic cone has been rumored to cause drivers to have multiple seizures. Nationally, our executive branch has been busily engaged in lovely activities such as unauthorized domestic spying and shooting the occasional campaign contributor. And internationally, there have been wars, terrorist attacks and, um, sacrilegious cartoons.
And these are just the BIG things. What about all the LITTLE things that drive us closer and closer to the brink?
Well, folks, it's time for us to vent a little bit and release the pressure by sharing our feelings.
Welcome to the fourth annual Rant Issue.
I can still recall the taste of the thick wood tongue depressor in my mouth. It wasn't put in gently or with patience, but was forced in. And then I would gag. Way to go, doc! He was my first Doctor Doom.
Doctor Doom's successors have reared their ugly heads throughout the years with bad techniques and/or the lack of a good bedside manner. When I was 35 and visited a male gynecologist for my annual exam, he warned me that I'd better start trying NOW if I wanted to have kids. It was a stern warning with lots of concerned looks. OK, doc, just call me "barren loser woman," why don't you? The kicker is that I didn't say I wanted kids. He just felt the need to "advise" me about this.
Another gynecologist--this one a woman--lectured me about the hazards of bikini-line hair removal, looking down at me as if I was some freak. Maybe you want to look like the Werewolf of London, but I don't. Keep your antiquated opinions to yourself, please!
More recently, I've visited two neurologists for nerve pain and discomfort in my leg and foot. At one neurologist's office, I had nerve-conduction studies done, where they basically stimulate the nerves with a mild electrical shock. It's not horrible, but not pleasant, either.
Right after a technician performed this test, the doctor entered the room. I began talking, explaining my condition. He looked at me with a puzzled look and asked if I had muscle problems in my face. Apparently, I wasn't moving my mouth enough when I spoke. He said, "I thought you were a ventriloquist." What?! Am I supposed to be all smiles after having my nerves (literally) jumbled? Next time, I'll have to bring my joke book to entertain the doctor.
Doctor Doom can also transform into Nurse Doom. When my sister was hospitalized for a bad case of valley fever, she was given Benadryl to control the rash and itching. It was her first time receiving a large quantity of the drug, and she had a severe reaction to it. From her hospital bed, she began hallucinating and calling out to people she knew. The nurse came by and scolded her. "Be quiet," she warned. "You are scaring the patients!" And then she left the room.
After the crack medical staff finally realized that my sister was reacting negatively to the drug, they changed treatment methods. But there was never any apology for treating her like she was a misbehaving child. She was having a severe reaction to medication--and was reprimanded for it!
Perhaps the best (or worst) line came from an ophthalmologist my friend was seeing. She'd had surgery on her eye, but was still having various problems and had to use drops each day to alleviate discomfort. As she relayed the information to the doctor, he said, "Well, maybe I'll just have to sew that eye shut."
There's a better solution, doctor: Shut down your practice!
And speaking of shutting: Doctors and nurses, if you can't say something in an appropriate manner, keep your mouths closed!
And here's where I differ with the conservatives-in-name-only who have now infiltrated every branch of my government with their Pinko ideas: fetuses. Have you ever known a fetus to have a job? Do they raise and support families? Did you know that the vast majority of fetuses in this country do not even speak English? And we're expected to support them? For nine months? While they what, "find themselves"? Sorry, the '70s are over. Get a job, or get out.
Famed anti-parasite philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson has a good analogy for the whole fetus problem: Suppose you wake up one morning to find that there are tubes running from your heart and lungs and kidneys to the body of some sick guy whose own organs are failing. A team of doctors tells you that you have to provide life support for this freeloader, and if you unhook yourself anytime in the next nine months, he'll die. Seriously, how many microseconds would it take for you to rip out the tubes and say, "Sorry, it's for your own good?" I mean, that's why we had welfare reform in the '90s: not to hurt people, but to help them through tough love. If you don't kick them out of the nest, they'll never fly.
Yet we coddle our fetuses! And these fetuses not only want you to feed and house them; they want you to respire for them. To respire! It's so deeply unAmerican that I'm surprised we haven't passed a law outlawing fetus marriage. And I want to point out that I'm not an anti-fetusite, but all this stuff about how you're born a fetus is B.S. By definition, you cannot be born a fetus!
But whether or not fetusality is "genetic," it's not the inner state of fetusness that I'm talking about: What I object to is the fetus lifestyle. You know: Sit in your womb all day high on endorphins while everyone else has to provide basic life support for you. So yeah, brand me a bigot and march around me with signs, but I think if you look at the ethical foundations of Western culture, you'll find that fetuses stand for everything we oppose. So if you're a fetus, consider this your notice: Get a job, or get out! Barring that, our honest, hard-working American abortionists are more than ready to take care of the problem for you. God bless America.
The commercial is for AZ Blue, and AZ Blue is the Web site for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.
Perhaps I should consider myself fortunate that I'm not one of the 46 million Americans who don't have health insurance. Because of my age, my self-employed status and the fact that I "have" a pre-existing condition that never existed (but seems stuck on my health record), I pay $181 a month for the privilege of a $5,000 deductible and a prescription plan that chips in a mere $10 for generic drugs, or $30 for brand names. Unfortunately, this is the only insurance I could get; I'm not old enough for Medicare, which seems at this stage to be an illusive tarnished brass ring within no one's reach.
When I moved here from California, I had to provide and sign more paperwork to apply for health insurance than I did when I applied for a home mortgage. And this may be the problem: My high premiums seem to have less to do with health care than the administration of the plan. Go into a doctor's office--any doctor's office--and observe how many staffers are processing paperwork. We might have a nursing shortage, but there's no paper shortage.
About six months ago, I found myself in the emergency room. It felt like there was an elephant standing on my chest. The diagnosis was bronchial pneumonia. I can't fault the hard work of the medical personnel who hovered over me for 10 hours (except for the four failed attempts to put a needle in a vein). But I can fault the volume of mail that arrived after my recovery--three statements declaring "do not pay/this is a not a bill," and then, finally, all of the bills. Including the prescriptions and a useless visit to urgent care, the total was a little more than $800. And just recently, another bill arrived for $144, written in cryptic code--LEV 4, DET HIST. EXAM, MOD.
Every year, my health insurance costs have gone up ($41 in two years), just like yours probably have, while services and benefits have decreased. I only use my insurance in case of an emergency, and in the 5 1/2 years that I've lived in Tucson, I still don't have a primary-care doctor. I guess I should look on the bright side--men in my age bracket pay $12 more per month, and for people who live outside Pima County, women pay $22, and men $36, more per month.
The most recent Blue Cross literature says "our strength is in our value." When General Motors pays more for health insurance (not AZ Blue, though) than steel, what's the value? The literature also states, "93 percent of individual customers are satisfied."
Damn. No one asked me.
We don't know who came up with this so-called game, but we hate it. We hate the calls of "Marco." We hate the calls of "Polo." We hate the call of "fish out of water!" And we really hate the endless repetition of those phrases while the kids splash around.
There are plenty of ways to keep kids entertained around the pool that don't drive everyone else nuts. They can play freeze tag, or try to recover coins from the bottom of the pool, or just see who can stay underwater the longest. They don't have to shout the same damn thing over and over and over again. Marco! Polo! Marco! Polo! See how frackin' annoying that is?
The Marco Polo game is so widely despised that "No Marco Polo" is actually a rule that's spelled out on signs that apartments and hotels hang up. (It's our second-favorite pool rule, right next to the one we once saw in Rocky Point: "Don't throw trash in the pool.")
Hey, kids: Cool down in the pool. Get some exercise. Have fun! But shut the hell up, will you?
Since then, the snobbery has gotten worse--much worse. Every time I drive up to the Phoenix area--that sprawling cancer in the desert--I encounter people who talk about my hometown like it's a horrible, unfortunate place to live. It's implied that if Tucson were to disappear, the entire world wouldn't care. They act as if it's common knowledge that Tucson is a hellhole that doesn't have running water or paved roads.
"If you weren't going to school in Tucson, would you want to live there?" asked a Tempean in the comments section of an acquaintance's MySpace profile. "It just seems so ... gross."
"There's nothing to do in Tucson!" a guy nonchalantly informed me at a friend's apartment, near downtown Phoenix, during a visit last year. Obviously, like many Phoenicians, he had never considered that the fault might lie with his boring ass and not with the city itself. I had just gotten back from a rowdy night of celebratory drinking, and I wasn't having it. The guy had a surprised expression when I shot back that I disagreed, which told me he assumed that I would agree his neck of the woods is vastly superior to mine. Our conversation became so heated that a friend and fellow Tucsonan gave me the "You're making a scene" look.
It's just that some of our neighbors to the north act like their city is simply the most fascinating and unique place in the entire state, and I don't understand it. Phoenix is basically Tucson, enlarged by about four times, with most of the personality sucked out and a smattering of elitists mixed in.
The first time I went to Phoenix, I thought it was a bastardized Los Angeles: new, plastic and corporate. There were some nice amenities, but there was also something bland and soulless about it. I didn't understand the attraction.
I've been back many times since then, and I've come to like a lot of things about Phoenix. There are things I like about every city I visit, though; it's the dismissive, uninformed Phoenician attitude that gets to me. You ask many of them why Tucson sucks, and their arguments often boil down to there not being anything to do. In my opinion, they should do a little old-fashioned exploration of Tucson, instead of whining about everything not being instantaneously accessible.
I happen to like my hometown, and I'm not going to smile and nod when Phoenicians thoughtlessly bag on it. Don't be surprised if my claws come out when Tucson is treated with such disrespect.
I am going to or from the eastside, for whatever reason. (Heading to Takamatsu for all-you-can-eat sushi? Going to Saguaro National Park East to hug a saguaro and cry? An urgent desire to look at the soft porn at the Park Place Abercrombie and Fitch?) I get to the intersection of Swan Road and Broadway Boulevard, and all of a sudden, there's a really bright flash of light that scares the freakin' bejeezus out of me.
GOOD GOLLY GRIEF! THE COPS ARE PULLING ME OVER! OR SOMETHING EXPLODED! A METEOR HIT!? WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!
I start frantically looking around for the cause of the bright flash, panicking, coming a little closer than I probably should to wetting myself. And what do I find? Nothing. Nothing! NOTHING!!!
Except for that stupid, goddamn, cretinous Lucky Wishbone sign.
You know which one I am talking about--chances are, it's freaked you out a little at some point. It's this idiot sign with a series of concentric circle-star things (kind of like what the POW! BAM! illustrations were in on that old, alarmingly homoerotic Batman TV series), and in the center is this bright, white light that flashes--with the approximate intensity of a friggin' supernova--every 15 seconds or so.
Why? Why!? WHY!!!???
One would THINK that some authority type would step in and ban this sign. The Dark Sky folks can't like it; if we need to avoid streetlights, thereby keeping some of our streets dangerously dark and leading to all sorts of muggings and gropings and whatnot, then why can the Lucky Wishbone folks use this light in an attempt to sell fried shrimp? The Tucson Police Department can't like it; it's possible this light could scare someone so bad that it could cause a crash, meaning that TPD would have to divert officers from crucial tasks--such as busting underage drinkers and blatantly ignoring property crimes--to respond to the accident. And I sure as hell know that we, the innocent, soft-porn-and-sushi-loving public, HATE it. Yet Bob Walkup and Alex Rodriguez and John McCain and Jeff Latas and whatever former TV news personality who's taking office this week DO NOTHING. NOTHING! NOTHING!!!
It's a travesty. A farce! And I will not rest until something is done about it!
But first, I am going to go get something to eat. For some unknown reason, I am just CRAVING some greasy fried food. Yummy!
You know who you are. Like religious zealots seeking the rapture, you're the ones who've given your lives to technology.
Wearing a headset, you grocery shop while loudly babbling nonstop into space. As you maneuver down a crowded aisle, you share with everyone around the most intimate details of your love life or your personal problems. Frankly, nobody gives a damn.
While doing research or looking up records, you've concluded if it isn't on Google, it doesn't exist. After all, having to actually find something in the original source material is just so old-fashioned.
Fiddling with a fancy piece of new electronic equipment, you take five minutes to figure out how to "calendar" something. The option of simply jotting it down on a piece of paper would have taken five seconds, but you never considered that possibility.
Your thoughtlessness extends to constantly forgetting to turn off your cell phone at concerts and recitals. Then, in the middle of a quiet movement, you'll show everyone just how patriotic you are as your phone blares out "God Bless America."
Cells phones have provided you with great convenience to talk, take photographs and do lots of other things any time you want. But they have also reduced the quality of phone reception to a point where dropped calls and heavy static are considered normal.
Your opiate is being in constant contact with everyone, always. Time alone is time wasted. So you blog in a quest for fame, and you video message so people can see how hip you are. But nobody really gives a rat's ass about you or your opinions.
Many levels of government have gone to the extreme of only providing public information on the Internet. God forbid if the millions of Americans who have never even used a computer should want some materials mailed to them. That could cause a congressional investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security might have to be contacted.
Once upon a time, scientists and engineers were mocked for wearing slide rules or calculators on their belts. The current fashion accessories of cell phones and other tiny devices makes those nerds of old look positively tres chic.
Under the watch of techno toadies, personal letters have gone the way of dinosaurs. At the same time, e-mail has reduced grammar and spelling to an afterthought.
Exchanging Christmas cards was once a traditional way of showing friendship and caring. But since you're so extremely busy, you've denigrated the custom and made it totally meaningless by sending e-mail holiday greetings. They certainly make the receiver feel so very special.
Instead of watching a sporting event as it happens, you TiVo it, then insist no one tell you the outcome. You wouldn't want to have your anticipation spoiled, would you?
To all of you who are slaves to the latest in technological advancement, this aging Luddite simply says: Instead of buying even more electronic gadgets, get a life!
(Note: Dave Devine accepted a Weekly e-mail address only under extreme protest.)
Sure, there's that one song They Might Be Giants played about encountering an angel at a dog show. It featured some lovely, heady, tingle-inducing tuba that playfully went beyond the typical New Orleans-inspired, rambling-down-the-French-Quarter bass line. Former Austin, Texas, tubist Brian Wolff has been doing the whole Drums and Tuba thing live from New York City with his bandmates Tony Nozero and Neal McKeeby since the late '90s. And, yeah, Telly Monster from Sesame Street and bad-boy soulster James Brown know how to get down on it with funky-fresh tuba.
But, alas, I'm still left to ask, "Where's the love of tuba?"
And it's not like I have a vested interest in promoting tuba. I don't play the tuba. I don't date a tubist. I'm not related to anyone who digs the instrument. I have no tuba fetish.
But now, in my late 20s, I'm pining for tuba and all the latent dorkiness that comes with it, because when I listen to tuba music, I'm reminded of what is missing on commercial radio. I'm missing creative risks. I'm missing classical whimsy thrown into blended influences that aren't overproduced works of goo that could never be replicated on a live stage. I'm missing the oompah-pah, low-pitch pulse of tuba. I'm missing sonic diversity in the stale rehash of the usual instruments.
And I'm convinced that what holds the tuba back from its renaissance is that it's not a sexy instrument. iPods and low-riders don't play it. Cheerleaders don't bounce to it. Advertisers don't sell crap with it. Few get their freak on to it, barring perhaps Leon Redbone's "Seduced." For the most part, tuba music defies commercialization, because it's a hefty coil of sound that sweaty high school marching-band geeks, polka performers, ragtime players, big bands, the United States Army Band, Dixieland musicians and jazz/blues musicians made famous. It's hard to run around with a tuba while wearing a tube top or tight, black leather pants. It's even harder for tuba players to play back-to-back like Keith and Mick, jamming out with their cheeks distended.
I know tuba isn't exactly the instrument to play to garner groupies or multi-million-dollar record contracts, but I think the rich, authoritative brass has a place in pop culture. More tubas in the Top 40 could remind us that there are different instruments out there, and different ways to play them. Different sounds even. But in this fairly homogenized pop-music glut, I'm afraid I'll have to turn my tuba up a little louder and listen by myself.