June 29, 2004
Coincidence vs. Fate

The most random thing happened last night when I was playing online poker...

My profile lists my location as "America's Finest City", so a guy asked me which city that was. I was coy about it for a while, then gave him obvious clues that led him to guessing San Diego.

"Hey, I know a gal in San Diego. Is that you, Mary Ann*?" he joked. (*not really her name. Not that it matters).

"No," I replied, "But I do know a Mary Ann. Is your friend a redhead?"

"Yes. Did your friend move out there about 10 years ago from Cape Cod?"

"Well, she's more of a friend of a friend, but I think she did move here a while ago from somewhere back East."

"Wow... How old?"

"Early 40's, I guess."

"Interesting. The Mary Ann I know is a little ditzy, but nice."

That's when the bells really began to ring. The woman in question is, in fact, very nice and smart, but the way she talks is uniquely spacey - like a cross between the blond chick on "3's Company" and Phoebe from "Friends".

"That definitely sounds like her! The one I know has a boyfriend named Ed*."

"Yeah, that's right. Do you know her last name?"

"I don't, but my friend K does. I'll call her." So I did, and K. confirmed that Mary Ann had moved here from the Cape about 10 years ago. She gave me her last name, and I made the guy spell out the first couple of letters before I gave the rest to him. Now we were 100% sure it was the same person. I felt kinda weird giving out someone's info to someone else, but he didn't sound at all creepy about it, just amazed. They'd been platonic roommates in Cape Cod about 15 years earlier, and the guy had just moved back to the US from Cozumel and was living in the Bronx. He'd meant to try getting back in touch with her but hadn't gotten around to it yet. He did have her number - he told me the last 4 digits, and Kim verified it - so I told him she'd be expecting a call once K. had a chance to tell her. Today Mary Ann confirmed that she knew him (and that he wasn't some stalker that she'd been hiding from or anything... whew).

So, I ask you, what are the odds of that? Some random guy in an online gaming room starts chatting me up, not even knowing where I live at first, then jokes about me being a long-lost friend from 15 years ago with a pretty common first name... and, in a city of over 2 million people, she just happens to turn out to be the next-door neighbor of one of my best friends?

K. is convinced that it's fate and that the two of them are supposed to get back in touch for some reason, and that she and I are just the messengers... I'm not quite as convinced; but it's pretty damned amazing, none the less. There is, also, the fact that I met my most excellent hubby through a similar quirk of fate that put us in the same AOL chat room on an otherwise boring October weeknight in 1994, and now I'm so unable to imagine going through life without knowing him that I can't help but believe that meeting him was somehow meant to be, too.

So - fate, or coincidence? Is the Internet a conduit for Destiny to weave its mysterious patterns, or are things like this just dumb fuckin' luck?

Posted by tess at 04:02 PM
June 28, 2004
San Diego Book Drive

Pamela Ribonfrom pamie.com is, for the second year in a row, holding a book drive - last year her readers donated over 650 books to libraries in the Oakland area. This year the lucky city is none other than San Diego... Please take a moment if you would and visit her site, and consider donating books to a good cause.

If you prefer to donate to one closer to your home instead, you can go to amazon.com and do a wish list search - just put in "library" for the name, and the city and/or state (example: library + "oregon" will get you a whole list of Oregon-based libraries that have created wish lists).

Posted by tess at 01:04 PM
June 15, 2004
Shake, Rattle and Roll

Well, that was fun!

We had an earthquake here about an hour ago... 5.2 magnitude, centered about 45 miles off the coast from San Diego. I was in my second-story office building, when I noticed my cubicle walls begin to shimmy a little; then there was a sharp, back-and-forth tugging motion, like someone had grabbed the base of our building and yanked it back and forth once, quickly. By the time I thought, "Buh... why, that was an earthquake!" and stood up, it was over.

I'm sure Bill will post his own entry, but he was in a 5-story concrete building at UCSD right on the coast - he said his building swayed a couple of inches - enough for him not to want to be in it any more today. I think that's probably all we'll be getting, but it was enough... I've always wanted to really feel one, so now that's taken care of, I'm good. No really, that was plenty. I feel like a true Californian now. Thanks!

Posted by tess at 04:26 PM
A Bloody Shame

Ever since I turned 17 and went to my first blood drive in high school, I have been a regular blood donor. I have 0+ blood, the "universal donor" type, so I'm an equal opportunity hemorrhager. I often get comments from the staff about how deep red my blood is with ferric goodness. Nurses throw the goat when they see the fast and furious crimson tide splurting from my arm. Oh yes, I'm a rock star among donors.

So last week, I went to our company's annual Red Cross drive. I'd eaten a good protein-rich breakfast, drank lots of fluids, and was ready to bleed for a good cause. I completed my questionaire, joking with C. that I was glad I could at least check "yes" on a couple of the questions, because I'd feel so boring if I answered all "no"s... I was waiting for a table when one of the nurses came up to me with a concerned look on her face. She verified my SSN, and then informed me that I was "still banned from donating".

"Um, what? Why would I be banned? Was it something on my form?"

She looked embarrassed. "No... We sent you a letter a while back, didn't you get it?"

"No," I said, getting a little flutter in my stomach. "I never got a letter. What did it say?"

She blushed. "I can't discuss that with you. I'll need for you to call our main office to get that information." She handed me a pamphlet with the local branch's phone number on it.

Holy shit! "Um, OK..." I got up and walked out, embarrassed, my heart thudding in my chest. I wondered if my coworkers had noticed that I'd been turned away and were speculating as to why. I had to walk three blocks back up to my office, and with each step I was becoming increasingly freaked out. What could possibly be the problem? I'd been with one guy for the past 10 years, and I'd donated a dozen times in the past decade with no indication of problems. I'd never had a blood transfusion, travelled in a third world country, been bitten by a transvestite hooker, etc... So anything I could have, I'd have had 10 years earlier, and surely it would've been caught by one of their screening tests before now.

Still, I wondered to myself - was this the beginning of a bad chapter in my life? Would I look back on this warm late-spring walk as a last fragile moment before I found out I have some horrible malady? Visions of Lifetime channel movie ads, salted with phrases like "brave" and "heart-breaking", began dancing through my head. Hospital gowns. Head scarves. Weird scabs. IV's. Gah!!!

I finally got to my desk and, breathless, placed my call. The lady on the other end took a painfully long time finding my chart before she got back on the phone. "OK, we sent you a letter about this in June 2002 - didn't you receive it?"

"No..." (Goddammit, just get to the point.)

"I want you to listen to everything I have to say, not just the first part..." she started. Shit, this must be bad. "When we tested your donation in June 2002, we did a series of tests on it. One of these tests is a very sensitive test for Hepatitis C, and it came up positive."

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!

"...now, before you say anything, let me tell you that we did a second, more accurate test to verify the results, and that test came up negative. The first test was a false positive - you don't have Hepatitis C."

"For sure I don't have it? Should I go get tested by my doctor to make sure I don't have it?"

"No, that's not necessary; our tests confirm that you're negative.

"However," she continued, "Our policies have gotten very strict in recent years. Our current policy is not to use blood from anybody who's ever gotten a positive result for Hep C, even if the second test comes back negative."

"So even if you verify that I don't have it, you won't take my blood? Like, ever?"

"Unfortunately, until our policies change, you cannot donate."

"What if I do get a test done by my doctor and provide it to the Red Cross?"

"We can only use results from our own test houses."

"So that's it? I can never donate again? Even though it was a false positive?"

"I'm sorry, but that is the case. The good news, though, is that you can still donate for yourself if you have a surgery coming up!"

Yeah, great. Thanks for that little silver lining. It's comforting to know that my blood isn't so dicey that even I can't use it.

So there it is. One fucked-up test and a half-hours' worth of panic later, and I find that I am persona non grata with the Red Cross. I read on the Web that up to 30% of positives that the initial screening test finds are actually false positives, and false-positives tend to happen to people in the lowest risk categories. The Red Cross, then, must be turning away thousands of perfectly eligible donors every year because of this flawed test. And they wonder why they have chronic critical supply shortages?

My friend Kim forwarded me an email from some where she works who had also been turned away for an answer he gave on the initial questionaire. His comment: "IMHO, the San Diego Blood Bank has excluded just about anyone in San Diego County from donating by placing overly restrictive requirements on donors (if donors are honest and/or think long/carefully about their history). It's no wonder they have a shortage of blood."

I understand the concerns about keeping our blood supply safe, and I agree that erring on the side of caution is a good thing when you're talking about diseases that could sicken or kill someone if transmitted. Still, I think the Red Cross has become overly-paranoid and restrictive to an unreasonable degree. I realize that the tests they do cost money; it's obviously easier to just cull the high-risk folks from the herd rather than incur extra expense and effort to prove them safe. But when they get to the point of turning away low-risk people on very tenuous grounds, then complain about critical shortages, I'd say it's time to re-evaluate their policy and come up with a plan that doesn't keep so many eligible, willing people from giving to the cause.

Bah. My blood's too good for them, anyway.

Posted by tess at 10:19 AM
June 14, 2004
Bedtime for Bonzo

OK, I'll admit it - after spending the week half-amused, half-annoyed by all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Gipper's demise, the funeral services in Simi Valley just grabbed hold of the sentimental part of me and shook it like a bunny caught by a hungry pitbull.

The whole ceremony was picture-perfect - as it should've been, considering Reagan apparently began planning it as early as 1981 and given that Nancy had 10 years to perfect the details once Ronnie started his dive into oblivion. The service was touching, the eulogies by his kids were heartfelt and funny and well-delivered; the sunset couldn't have been more perfect if they'd placed a premium order with Heaven for it. The whole thing was just a grand sendoff for a guy who knew the importance of setting a scene, especially a final scene.

When I saw Nancy receive the flag and linger at the coffin, weeping for her lost love, surrounded by her kids, I just lost my shit. She'd maintained a sense of dignity and quiet strength through a really grueling fucking week, hauling ass from coast to coast behind that flag-draped box o' dead guy. At that moment, though, it seemed her grief finally broke through all the barriers of decorum (and Valium, and/or whatever else her doctors were pumping into her to help preserve that legendary composure); right at that point I didn't see politics or pretense - I saw a woman who'd been devoted to her husband for over 50 years, and stood by him through some really tough moments and years, and was finding it hard to say goodbye for the last time. Who knows, maybe she orchestrated the timing of her tears as well; but they still touched me, and I related to her as any person who loves their partner can relate.

So rock on, Nancy; and sleep well, Mr. President.

Posted by tess at 10:44 AM
What's in a Name?

You know, I'm very glad to hear that Courteney had her baby OK, but... Coco? She waited all that time to have a kid, and she names her Coco?

I'm all for unique names, but some names pretty much only work for the person that made them famous. You don't see too many people naming their kids Arsenio or Zsa Zsa or Cher... Sting and Trudy Styler named one of their kids Coco as well; but she lives in England, where I don't believe she suffers the indignity of sharing her name with a popular breakfast cereal. Young Miss Arquette, however, can surely look forward to a childhood filled with people telling her she's cuckoo. (Given who her father is, of course, they may well be right. But still.)

Ah well. After all the news of death topping the charts lately, it's still good to hear about a safe and happy birth.

Posted by tess at 08:17 AM
June 10, 2004
Ray-membrance

I got a tear in my tiny eye today as I was driving back from lunch and heard that Ray Charles had passed away.

First Reagan, now Ray Charles... They say these things happen in threes. Hope Ray Bradbury's taking good care of himself.

(My coworker, C., just confided to me that the guy she's been seeing is one of Ray Charles' sons. Was it bad of me to suggest that it'd be cool if he asked her to be his date for the funeral? Come on - would that not rock? Just think of who all might be there...)

Posted by tess at 02:56 PM
June 08, 2004
Doppelgangers

Apparently, I'm not the only one who noticed that John Kerry looks like Andrew Jackson.

I'm also apparently not the first person to observe that Bush looks like a monkey (I was thinking "Monchichi", but why quibble? Given the URL here, I guess that should endear me to the man...

Anyway. I'm just saying.

Had a nice birthday last week. Wee and I got our culture on and went to see a Moliere play, "Don Juan", at the Old Globe theatre in Balboa Park. Written in 1665, this was the first staging of the play as originally written (the original version was censored almost right after it premiered, for being too raunchy and derisive of the aristocracy; a copy was found in Holland, I think, a few years ago, and was translated from the French by the same guy who directed the play). We were surprised at the timeliness of a speech Don Juan made toward the end of the play, when he thinks he's struck upon a way to mend his terrible reputation as a gadabout by becoming born again and practicing his perversions more discreetly instead of being up-front about them. He rails, half-scornfully, half-admiringly, about the hypocrisy of people in power who preach piety (now there's some alliteration for you) and condemn sin, yet behind the scenes do things that are as bad or worse than the people they condemn, but get away with it out of a sense of mutually-assured destruction among the others of their ilk who may know about the sins but are equally guilty themselves. (DJ, sadly, ends up pissing God off for the final time with his comeback plan, and descends into the pits of Hell.) There were a lot of wry chuckles during the speech, and I heard more than one person walk out commenting, "Sounded just like he was describing Bush and Cheney!" I guess a lot of liberals bought tickets that night. Anyway, all through the play I was thinking of how odd it was that a play written over 300 years ago could say things that are still so relevant to today's society. (Insert clichéd remark about the timelessness of human nature here.)

In other birthday news, Wee showered me with lovely presents (as always - he's so amazing at picking out presents for me that I love but would never have expected to get) - a perfect Seiko Presage watch with a titanium band, and a super-cool set of 13-gram poker chips and acetate playing cards in their own aluminum carrying case. I've been lusting for a set for a while now, but thought they were too extravagant. They're terribly nice, though. I've been trying to teach myself to do fancy chip tricks, but my poor fingers aren't nearly as nimble as they need to be. Anyway, Wee rocks.

Another excellent and totally surprising birthday gift came from Wyoming and Todd, who gave me a pair of fire-bellied toads. They are terribly cool. I've named them Hogarth and Henry. So far, they seem to mostly want to hang out underneath the big hollow grapevine log in their aquarium, but sometimes they sing... It's a funny little squeaky sound, like a barking puppy. So, this brings the frog count in the house to four total. Not to mention the Betta fish, and the lovely Indy. Between the menagerie inside and the garden outside, I've suddenly become Mother Farkin' Nature...

Posted by tess at 09:33 AM