Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Written and Grooved


I live not far from a Subway station in Toronto. I don't use it often- it's more convenient for me to take a streetcar (which is even closer), but the overall walk time from my front door to the subway is 15 minutes. I can even shave a few minutes off that time if I take sidestreets (the main, most direct route is actually misleading, since it curves), so let's call it 12 minutes.

My previous apartment was a 10 minute walk from the subway. My new walk isn't far chronologically, but as precentages go...perhaps my brain has said that I can't be expected to walk 50% extra without some kind of price being exacted. Or perhaps I'm simply patterned. My brain isn't used to the route or the area, therefore it is impassable. Walk along two sidestreets and over a bridge past the German deli and the bulk food store to the subway? That's crazy talk. You can get to the streetcar in, what, 10 minutes, and that takes you right to your office's front door.


Patterns. My brain is used to method A- 5 years of walking from point A to point B at St. Clair and Yonge (an area I loved, and was familiar with). So when I move to a walk that takes no more than 5 minutes extra in the upper beaches, it must be longer, impassible, not in the programming. Patterns.


My friend Hembeck has lost a toe in the last year. There's no punch line. He stubbed his toe, and watched it turn black, and had a walk-in clinic physician tell him "Go to the hospital. Don't go home first- GO TO THE HOSPITAL." He was admitted, blood was taken, and a few minutes later somebody said "You're not treating your diabetes properly." Hembeck, bless him, said "What diabetes?" and learned something new about himself that day- he learned he'd deeloped adult onset diabetes to be precise.

Circulation issues. The doctor drew lines around his toe with a magic marker, saying "If the gangrene (and correct me if the term is wrong) goes past this line, you lose the toe. Past this line, the foot. This line, the leg." I was perhaps the 14th person to tell him that he was lucky he didn't wake up blind (learned from Alnilam, rather than my years at the Mayo clinic), and was the 14th person to hear that his new nickname, 9-toed-Hembeck, was here to stay.


The interesting part of this is...he's feeling phantom pain in the now missing toe. Again, not unusual. Anyone who's lost an appendage or a limb will 'feel' it in those all important quotes because the brain has never had a chance to be without it. The weird part in Hembeck's case is that he has trouble feeling his very present feet - again, circulation issues - but can feel his missing toe. A phantom floating on a visit of fog. Result of patterns.


Your brain doesn't always know what's real. I've met celebrities, ususally passing them in a hallway or leaving a screening, and from time to time, your brain just says "Wow, that looks like..." or "It's AMAZING how much she looks like..." and overloads, since your brain has seen X on a screen or on TV and X doesn't belong in this world. I saw Catherine O'Hara at a kitchen store, and must have been staring, thinking "that can't be..." until (possibly being used to this kind of thing) she finally blinked and said "Yes, it's me," rather pleasantly and I apologized and said she was great in Beetlejuice and did the best Meryl Streep impersonation known to man before beating a hasty retreat. And no, it's not my picture or autograph, it just looks like she did that day.

You probably become immune to this if you travel in those circles, but there must be exceptions. I saw Dan Ackroyd in the presence of a film-critic friend and watched him become jaw-dropping, dumbstruck, starstruck for a second (but just a second). He later said "I'd never met a Ghostbuster." I thanked Ackroyd for 'Dragnet', and he said "Ah. You must be the one who saw it" before inviting us to see his blues band that evening.

Patterns. I'm about to become a father, so all existing patterns are probably going to get blown out of the water, except for the one I'm dreading, and maybe it's the one that will transform itself. The child will come back to our new place, and various family will enter and I'll wait for my father. My mother will arrive, with my sister, and otherwise alone, and I'll have a faint, primal idea that the townhouse is painted, why haven't I shown my father? Then the memory. Then my mother, holding the baby, and where's my father. I can imagine the smile, the looks in his face as he holds a grandson. It won't happen, as such.


If this transforms itself, it will be that his absence is not conspicious, that holding and facial expresssions notwithstanding, his presence is still accepted, welcomed, known.


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