Rockin’ a Migraine

ImageFeeling a bit like a zombie today thanks to a setback with the worst migraine I’ve had in two months. It’s the first time since the beginning of February that I’ve had to take a full dose of my zombie-fying medication. But I’ve refused to let the pain or the drugs stop me from accomplishing the many, many things I’ve had to do today.

I’m blaming the wine from last night’s dinner at Fondue Fred. (The fondue craze did not end in the 1970s; at least not in Berkeley.) Excellent food, but I think I should’ve substituted beer for the wine. Alcohol is a prime trigger for many migraine sufferers, but beer has never bothered me. I’ve had difficulty in the past with both white and red (white wine is the worst), but have been fine drinking a rose. Not any more. So remind me in the future: pass up the wine. Drink the beer. (No, I don’t have a hangover. I know what those feel like from my college days.)

It’s a good time to be a beer drinker with all the micro-breweries and the increasing popularity of home-brewing. I’d consider taking up the hobby myself, but I don’t have the space for it…nor the time due to my interests in writing, photography, and cross-stitch. Fortunately I have both a younger brother and a good friend who are home-brewers. (My favorite of their ales: a saison brewed by my brother, and my friend’s Angry Planet Imperial Red Ale, brewed in honor of Curiosity’s landing on Mars on August 6, 2012.) Unfortunately, I don’t live that close to either one of them.

So in the meantime I’ll have to make do with visiting a couple of my favorite local spots: Beer Revolution and The Trappist – both part of Oakland’s burgeoning brew pub scene. And another favorite: The Speakeasy over in San Francisco.

I wonder: do zombies like a good ale? Next time I hear about one of those zombie pub crawls, I’ll have to find out.

A Bad Day Gone Good

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What happens when your day takes a sharp turn to the left? Your plans shot to hell? Do you just roll with it? Or do you flip out and throw a tantrum? I’ve done both. But last Monday, it wasn’t me letting off steam, it was my car. 

There’s not much one can do in the middle of the eighteen lane toll plaza of the Bay Bridge when steam starts billowing from under your car’s hood. There’s no place to turn around and not many places to pull over – if you can even maneuver across all the lanes  before you hit the toll booths. Told to keep going by the toll taker, the only thing I could do was continue on to the bridge, wondering if I could make it the eight miles across to the other side. 

Fortunately the new eastern span of the bridge has breakdown lanes, so after some debate on whether I wanted to risk the engine seizing up in the middle of traffic and getting into an accident, I pulled over. I made the requisite phone calls and waited. I also wondered why I wasn’t mad or upset. 

Yeah, my day was ruined but….. it was a beautiful day. The sky was blue. And my viewpoint was exceptional:  the architectural glamour of the new span; fast moving blurs of color and noise of the other vehicles whizzing past me on the right; small figures – workers – dismantling the gray hulking skeleton of the old span to my left; the lush green hills of Yerba Buena/Treasure Island in the distance.

Then there was Tony, the terrific and generous CalTrans tow truck driver. While I did have to wait awhile for Tony to arrive, he not only pushed me to Treasure Island, where he turned my car around, he even towed me all the way to my mechanic in Berkeley. That may not sound like a big deal, but it is. CalTrans is interested in only keeping the bridge clear. They’re supposed to take you in the direction you were headed and dump you off at the end of the bridge where you’re left to your own devices. But Tony said he wasn’t busy, so he did me a favor, and we had a nice chat about family and summer plans. 

Then there was Gallegos, the Mexican restaurant my mechanic at Oceanworks, Angus, recommended for lunch while I waited for my car to be repaired. Best darn refried beans I’ve had in years. ImageGreat food. I’d never been there, never even heard of it before. If not for my car’s thermostat getting stuck closed, causing the coolant to boil over and the engine to overheat, I might not have ever gone there. And I wouldn’t have had the time for a nice post-lunch walk during which I chatted on the phone with a couple friends I hadn’t had the time to catch up with lately. 

Yes, I’m $230 poorer now, but I know I did the right thing. With no coolant left, I would have seriously damaged the engine had I continued much further, and it would have cost me a lot more money. I wouldn’t have encountered new people or new places. I wouldn’t have had the time to be outside enjoying the gorgeous weather when I ordinarily would have been stuck inside, surrounded by my cubicle.  

And for you – the asshole riding in the passenger seat of the vehicle which passed me by just before I pulled over – you’ll get yours someday. Did you think it was funny, as your driver slowed down, to lean out your car window and scream “oh my god!” while staring at me? Really? You looked disappointed I didn’t freak out like you expected. Did you like the hateful glare I gave you instead? Jackass. Next zombie story I write, I’m going to zombiefy you. 

Pin the Tail on the Migraine

ImageA few weeks ago I wrote about my experiences as a chronic migraine sufferer, and how I decided to turn to alternative medicine – acupuncture – for relief. Fellow migraine sufferers will understand when I say I simply couldn’t live that way anymore, alternately beat down by pain or zombified by pain killers. December and January, for me, were pretty much a blur. I accomplished few, if any, of my goals as a writer or a photographer.  Change had to be made.

I’m happy to report that my acupuncture treatments are making quite a difference in my life. Thanks to Dr. W. Jumbe Allen of the Acupuncture and Health Center I am feeling more like myself again. I feel like I have a brain! (One that isn’t betraying me.) The ratio of days filled with the all too familiar pain, and those without, has reversed.

No, I’m not quite yet the old me. The imaginative side of my mind hasn’t fully returned. Those little sparks of ideas which should be growing into short stories or scripts still smolder, but won’t yet ignite the creative action I need in order to regain the writerly momentum I had a year ago.

But I’m not complaining. I feel so much better, both mentally and physically. I’m exercising again. I’m more productive at my day job. I can concentrate. And my mood has certainly improved. If I do need to take my prescription medication, I only need one pill, not the full dose of four (which left me pretty much useless the next day). I no longer curl up in front of the t.v. at the end of the day, defeated by my inability to get a real night’s sleep. For several weeks, I’d been unable to fall asleep in my own bed and instead slept in a chair. No more.

So I look forward to more acupuncture sessions…well, not necessarily those first seconds when the needles are being inserted. Yes, that hurts. But you get used to it, and to the new sensations running through your head every time. Like last week, when it felt as if the pain had turned into rain (a dry rain) running down the right side of my face. ImageOr, during a previous session, when I could feel the pain worming its way along my right eyebrow and down the side of my nose, seeking a refuge from the needles chasing it away. Or the strange swirling pressure around my right ear which reminded me somehow of the maelstrom scene near the end of Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End. I wonder if Dr. Allen could hear me humming the theme music?

Friends don’t let friends write….

Actually we do. In fact, we encourage it! We let our friends bounce ideas off of us. We help each other set and track goals. We give each other feedback. We offer words of understanding and sympathy when things don’t go well and those rejections roll in. And we promote each other.

So if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre and would like to try some new authors, please check out these terrific offerings from my good friends Xina and Cheryl!

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And if you’re a writer, keep writing. Get together with your friends. Create your own writers workshop group. Don’t let your friends give up. And don’t you give up either.

After the Rain

It’s refreshing to spend an evening in downtown San Francisco after the rain has ended. The air is clean and the people seem renewed. Voices are hushed. And the sound of “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes floats through Union Square.

ImagePerhaps there is hope that our severe drought will soon end, that this isn’t the last of the rain. And perhaps there is hope that the drought in my mind, the drought of creativity, of focus and ambition, will soon be replaced with new ideas and new stories.

Yes, there is. As I depart the city via the new gorgeous eastern span of the Bay Bridge, it’s not the bridge’s gleaming architecture which draws my attention. It’s the hulking, darkened shadow of the old span to the right. Due to the lack of light, it seems as if the bridge ends in mid-air at certain curves. But not yet (dismantling is already six months behind schedule). But still, the sight of the steel skeleton, pieces missing here and there, spark an idea. I can’t quite voice that idea yet. I’m not sure where it’s leading. But I will follow.