Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stephen Colbert? Let's Negotiate!

"Stephen Colbert: Let's Negotiate!" 
By Andrea Miklasz
Rhythms from the Offbeat Drummer
Originally published 1/15/15
I don't care if you you republish it, just don't claim my words are yours.

There are fewer "degrees of separation" between myself and Stephen Colbert than he has honorary doctorates from various colleges and universities in the United States. Why yes, I did enroll my 4-year old in an improv workshop at Second City. Talk about progressive parenting! (Ok, it was a disaster and he only went 2 weeks.)

Psychology. All that whining to listen to again. Pull yourselves together, people. I'm a graduate student here in Chicago (born and raised, yes) in Clinical/Community Counseling. I''m 44 and I don't know what I want to do when I grow up. Perhaps too late in the game for some, but all I've ever wanted to was write funny stuff.

If I may take a moment to pause my horn-tooting since you've moved to CBS, I listen to the content of the show very carefully. It as been more than three occasions where the writing staff has prompted you to belittle the mentally ill. Why tell you I have bipolar disorder? Because I am not shamed. But come on. I think the first one was a slight against Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett's schizophrenia.

Writing is my real passion. I tried to be a "serious" writer just as Colbert tried to be a "serious" actor. Poetry was my concentration in college, which, while not a financially pragmatic path, gave me satisfaction and made me feel like an Artist. (Note the capital "A.") Most of the time, I was just playing with words. I'd take the thesaurus (in paper!) and randomly pick out words, and craft them into logopoeia, or language poetry. I'd draft and draft them until they made a semblance of sense to read. Trial and error. For every goofy, deep-fried word combo platter which worked, there were 100 that didn't, much the same as jokes.What was particularly interesting was that 15 people read the same poem, but each individual envisioned something different. That was the plan all along!

I've written exactly one poem since I graduated 21 years ago. It was all in the name of love, and the noodlehead muse didn't understand it, when it wasn't just word play. Sure, it had metaphors and inner meanings if one were to read it logically and was really quite beautiful, but it failed to woo. Having typed out my writing for so long, it was created by handwriting, sitting outside in the sun one atypically warm March Chicago afternoon. Reminiscent of my early work, it was penciled out in scribbles and verses, with arrows reversing everything, scratching out fluffy words for fluffier words, or fluffier words exchanged for words the noodlehead might actually understand. (I had to explain to him what a "muse" was in the first place, so, since my feelings were hurt, I told him he was basically just a bowl of fruit I was trying to paint.)

Willing to relocate? Holy Lord, yes. Luke, my 16-year old, in addition to Northwestern, is checking out NYU film school. And New York really is just a much bigger Chicago with more rats.

Suggested salary requirement? Such an awkward question. I need to thrive and survive, but what happens if I need an Emmy gown?

While I've been writing this blog since 2008, there have been horrible entries, bitchy entries, moderately humorous entries, hysterically funny entries, and ones only I find funny and spend an hour just screeling to myself.

Having said that, I present a list of reasons to you, Stephen Colbert, as to why you should meet me and give 5 minutes of consideration as to letting me collaborate with you (after you give me a big hug):

 I'm a graduate of Knox College. My major was English-Writing. I only graduated rite, by a hair, but got A's in all of my writing classes, except fiction. That's doubly embarrassing, given my professor is now emeritus and has become a nationally successful novelist. But give it up, Stephen. You, yourself, (er, your character) said Knox students were "geniuses" because we (I mean that collectively as a student body) gave you an indestructible honorary diploma and I take personal offense at you mocking my alma mater, but I forgive you because if I could find my diploma, certainly there have been times I've wanted to burn it.

We both know Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips. What a pair! They really like you, and Steven's an excellent judge of character. You autographed the back of his guitar. He was starstruck.

My birthday is on May 9th with yours on the 13th/
We're both Tauruses with birthdays four days apart. We can be bullish and get into a huge intellectual argument, if only for the sake of the fact that my best friend is convinced I can match wits with you, which is no small undertaking. I've picked a topic.

GO! And you can't steal the joke I probably stole, which is, "Rectum? I damn near killed him!"

I did a senior high school Literature of Chicago project on Second City which I copied from my brother 4 years before, pictures and all!(OMG, thy wren't even pctures--they were slides!) Academic integrity is my #1 priority. And lest we forget, good artists copy. Great artists steal. I won an award for God's sake!

Sometimes, when I'm particularly full of ideas, people will say, "You're on fire!" Half of the time, I take them literally, stop, drop and roll.

Speaking of Chicago, you graduated from Northwestern. That's in Evanston. I'd be extremely surprised if you have never heard of or have been to the nearby suburb where I live. I'm sure you know your way around downtown, probably better than I do. (Wouldn't you agree that taking the L is really scuzzy?)

We both have more than one pair of eyeglasses. I wrecked my bifocals (excuse me, "progressive lenses") falling over things and injuring myself too many times and they're too scratched up out of which to see. Going to school Sunday in the early morn, I walked into what I thought was the entrance to Starbucks but waa actually just a giant pane of glass.

Those Emmy Awards you won? I used to work for R.S. Owens & Co, their manufacturer. They also make the Oscars. Had I still been employed there the years you were victorious, I might have stupidly made the mistake of curiously seeing just how hot the award statuettes were when the base metal came out of the oven, as I did with one Oscar in particular in 1998. (Turns out, they're somewhere between 500-700 degrees.) While the awards are dipped after baking with layers of shiny, precious metal, some fortunate Oscar award winner owns a trophy bearing my severely singed thumbprint underneath all that golden glory.

A local radio station is having a contest. My guess is that neither of us would mind sitting on a sandy beach on a free trip to Mexico, but would cringe at the grand prize being a private concert performed by Starship.

Barring contributions to your show via my primary craft, I can reasonably play the drums in your house band.*Sorry Joe Saylor for tagging you in all of my drumming videos.

I'm almost deaf in my right ear. You're deaf in your right ear. That would make it really awkward to try and stand side-by-side to talk, but maybe we could invent a yoga pose to make it simpler. Or just yell.

We've both met Al Franken. While you know him more personally, he told my son, who was very young at the time, and arrived at Franken's book signing wearing Spider-Man pajamas, to "grow up" in the wry way only Al Franken can away with.

I am also taller than Jon Stewart.

I declared myself a Democrat in 1992 with no prior knowledge of or interest in politics or world events. I was at Knox at the time, and my chief reason for siding with the Clinton/Gore ticket was that I thought Bill Clinton was hot. (Which hurts, given you ripped his foam likeness apart with your degree, you ingrate!) It took me a while to embrace the "liberal" of the liberal arts college. As I've matured, I've become well-educated and interested in the world around me and the future of America. That has drastically changed teh older I get. I am heavy into politics.

I idolize your pal, Neil deGrasse Tyson. I think you being a Sunday school teacher is very sweet, but if you're passing off the Earth as being 6,000 years old, um....wait! I can rattle off the books of the Bible in about 20 seconds. Your Bible has more books than mine. Please don't hold it against me that I'm Lutheran and not Catholic, though my late father was. My denomination is way more conservative than I am, hair-ripping-outly so, but my contribution to church is to play my drums in their contemporary praise band, even though the songs all sound the same and grate on my nerves. Because Jesus.

While never having read any "Lord of the Rings" books, so eloquently penned by Pope Pius XI, I did get through Keith Richards' "Life," however. I'm thinking of writing a literary critical article comparing the histories and similarities between "Life" and Betty White's last book. Their lives...astoundingly paralleled.

NOW HERE IS THE NIT/GRIT: If you fronted a Rolling Stones cover band when you were younger, ESPECIALLY A SHITTY ONE, and you were the lead...while I cannot boast a similar singing voice as Mick Jagger, the moves in the "Start Me Up," for whatever reason, I taught myself when I was a kid ("Tattoo You came out in what...1981? I was 9.) I personally challenge you to a Mick Jagger-off impression of the "Start Me Up" video, which I still sometimes perform during the 45 seconds I'm going through a car wash. WHY DON'T WE LET YOUR AUDIENCE DECIDE IF I AM FUNNY AND COMPETENT ENOUGH TO ADD TO YOUR WRITING TEAM? APPLAUSE METER? SHOW OF HANDS? THIS MAY BE MY TOTAL SHOT IN THE DARK....BUT SORRY, COLBERT...BROWN SUGAR IS HARD TO SING, I WILL GIVE YOU THAT....THE EXACT JAGGER DANCE MOVES IN "START ME UP" ARE TERRIBLY UNIQUE. SHIT...WE NEED 2 PAIRS OF WHITE SWEATPANTS. CAN YOU GUYS ARRANGE THAT? SHAZAM! 

One of my hobbies is making up neologisms. My personal favorite is "shenaniganathon." (Definition: A series of shenanigans which go on for a lengthy period of time.) I missed making up "truthiness" by an inch.

The pronunciation of my first AND last name were both a) Chicagoized and b) Americanized.

 I have questionable taste, morals, tact, standards and methods, delusions of grandeur, and  I have a habit of not giving up on things until I get what I want.

Have you ever watched the YouTube video of the theme to the "Price is Right" sped up 800 times? Jesus. You have to.

Let's confab. That sounds like  being con-fabbing, so let's just Facetime or something and yes, most definitely, send me the "comedy writing packet" which evidently is Step 2 to get a foot in the door.

Thank you for your time and consideration, though you probably stopped 3 sentences in, your assistant did.


Free Raif.

Saudi Arabia are set to resume the flogging of Raif Badawi this Friday. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

And Then They Uncovered Them, And This Happened, etc.

Off the antipsychotic, I've found that I'm happier. I'm less out-of-it. My son says I'm more sharply witty. But piss me off? I'm a violent yeller with Tourette's Syndrome. It's kind of like this:

Such was the case when I got to band practice last night, uncovered my extremely expensive drum kit and found it had been TAKEN APART somehow, fiddled about, cymbals turned backwards, snare picked up and put back on the stand backwards (and that's a HUGE no-no) and my hi-hat coming apart. A tom-tom was unscrewed and falling off its base and the entire tom set up could be lifted off of the bass drum. I was FUMING. That is NOT the church's equipment to fuck around with. I found out later that the church custodian polished the floors before Christmas, me having missed the last service and leaving my drums covered. Dude. Go around them or for Christ's sake, take a fucking picture with your phone as to how they're supposed to go when you're done polishing the floor and screw them back together properly and put them where they belong, you dickwad! The vintage, original hardware is difficult to tighten and line up. The hi-hat is tricky, but not as tricky as the Dynasonic snare which has to be at a certain angle in its stand so I'm not hitting the rim constantly and can hit the skins. I didn't care one shit that I was in the house of God. I was almost screaming obscenities as I kept finding more things wrong. 

I'm kind of like this, like Ringo, only less polite: 

On the plus side, however, it was perhaps the first gig where I actually felt honestly talented. Our douchebag band leader included 2 brand new songs into the set list (we've bargained with him to limit it to one, but he's gone back to 2), Neither I nor 2 of the singers had ever heard these songs, so it was a huge act of improvisation on our parts with only 2 run-throughs on each song. But I nailed it. Right away. I came in once I heard the initial beat at practice and just pounded away. That almost never happens unless I'm on the djembe. I had asked the band leader 4 days ago for chord sheets to follow along with and a YouTube link in order to hear how the songs went, but he claimed he never received the email (when I copied the WHOLE band, and they all got it). YouTube searching would be fruitless, because with CCM (Crappy Christian Music), there are dozens of covers with different arrangements and God, literally, only knows what is in the leader's mind. 

On the double-plus-side, I had another EKG this week, which showed that this pesky Long QT Syndrome has since resolved itself coming off of the antipsychotic. The psychiatrist agreed with the Uber-Specialist Heart Lady. But it still came out abnormal, which Uber said is up to my cardiologist to figure out. I had the echocardiogram, which he still has to call me about with the results, and set up a stress test. There's a bet whether or not he'll see me or pass me off to another doctor. I saw him through a door at the hospital in Cardiology, and he knew I was there from the chitter-chatter while I was checking in, but he didn't appear in person in front of me. I fear he ran darting in the other direction, clutching his wedding ring and shouting Hail Marys.

If the psychiatrist wants to wait and see if I have a psychotic break before putting me on a different drug, I'm not sure I want to tell her about last night's violent outburst. We're giving it a month. If I Hulk out more than, let's say 5 times, I'll call for a new medication. Or maybe I just need to learn to control my temper. Nah. How bland would that be?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This. Honestly. Yes.

Expanded post to come.

For now, this is SO SO SO true.

And it made me feel less crummy about myself.

So that's a good thing. Because this is true.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Arrhythmias From the Offbeat Drummer

Things I shouldn't have to answer, explain or justify to a medical assistant:

1) What are your hobbies? (I'm a dominatrix. What? Don't look at me like that.)
2) What CHRISTIAN denomination are you? (Whichever is the least Christianesque at the moment. What if I wasn't a Christian to begin with?)
3) How many cigarettes are in a pack? (Oh boy! Are we going to guess how many jelly beans are in the jar? I get a keychain?)
4) You're STILL divorced? (Ok, this conversation is over.)

The appointment with the Uber-Specialist electrophysiologist, whose job it is to decipher and treat conditions like arrhythmias and like my other heart thingy, POTS, was EXTREMELY confusing. Right call on, uh, my cardiologist's part to refer me to her for the Long QT Syndrome, but as happens so frequently in the medical Wimbledon, I (the bouncy yellow ball which frequently goes out-of-bounds) have been volleyed over the net (score: Advantage Uber Specialist) for an ace against the cardiologist. Long story shortened, she'd already started a note to him, and whacked me (the helpless ball) back to the cardiologist to read tomorrow's echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart), take a look at my swelling, and figure out why, on the third line of the EKG, there's so little activity, it looks like I've flatlined. That said, we all die a little bit more every day, don't we? She also wants him to order a stress test, since I haven't had one in 5 years. He'll be THRILLED, unless (and if you've read this blog, you know who he is) he denies me the mercy of treatment and sends me on a long, drawn-out hunt over the course of the next few months trying to find another cardiologist in our hospital who'll accept my insurance. Be a nice Guy.

Let's pretend, for a moment, that I know anything about cardiology. Let's also factor in that I DO know a lot about psychiatry and the side effects of those medications. Comparing the EKG from December, which the Uber-Specialist looked at with me, yes, the QT intervals have improved from 469 down to 409. I was a little tachy today, pulse over 100. This doctor thinks those QT numbers are "normal." My psychiatrist is still going to flip out against that when she takes into account that result and what it means in the grand scheme of what Geodon, the antipsychotic, has done to damage my heart.

Once again, as is my modus operandi, I have managed to baffle beyond comprehension the very well-trained specialists I've seen. I wonder to whom I'll be bounced next. Probably back to the psychiatrist, because obviously, I've lost my mind (again).

But I'm not hearing things when Uber says, "I can't tell if you've had a heart attack or not!" or "I honestly have no idea why that line is so flat." When she asked me if I had any questions, I bit my tongue and said no, when in actuality, I wanted to ask her if she had a better way of explaining the EKG other than, "See these little mountains and valleys? There aren't any here."

School tomorrow for Luke was canceled because we'll have like -30 wind chills. I still have to go out to the hospital for the ECG and (for more reasons not understood), an ultrasound of my upper right abdominal quadrant.

I suppose if the cardiologist can't look into my heart, at least he look at my heart.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It Was What It Was: 2014

Can we just pretend 2014 didn't happen?

Help me, 2015! You're my only hope!

Long story short: 2014 sucked. Apart from my son's Confirmation (which, since, he's become an agnostic) and his elementary school graduation and turning into the most popular schmuck in his artsy crowd in high school with his own radio show and Peter Framptonesque long tendrils, and being Student of the Month in his photography class, the year was wrought with disaster after disaster, which sucked, Luke being the gleaming north star at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Luke saved my life from a paralyzing panic attack late this summer, that I'll credit him. I got stuck in the mud, literally, needed a Valium (which I had on hand), he bummed a fresh bottle of water off another fella, and pulled me out. Later that evening, we got to visit with a dear friend I haven't seen in a couple of years for a good, long while. (Yes, THAT friend.) He adores Luke, who wouldn't? He loves me, who wouldn't? The mud trap sucked but, uh, that friend most certainly brightened my life in spades. After many suicidal considerations and plans and means to carry it out, I kept peeking in at my boy, we'd talk or get laughing and the impulse would pass. It's nice that I have a teenager who doesn't hate me, who doesn't think I'm a bitch and still hugs me goodnight every night.

I had to switch grad schools, which turned out to be a big old mess because I have to repeat 2 courses due to absences for health-related problems. My current school has these ridiculous in-residence intensive weekends, for 3 days, and if you miss ANY of that class time, you automatically fail the course. That's when I got a serious infection in one of my right fingers after a doctor and 4 nurses had to cut one of my rings--my thickest ring--off of my hand because it was getting infected underneath and wouldn't come off, because I was so water-weighted down with edema. The infection caused me to miss 2 days of this particular residency weekend, so booted was I. It just sucked.

In the other class, I simply couldn't keep up with the workload because I was in and out of doctors' offices on an almost daily basis while my medical team tried to figure out the swelling. The diuretics finally worked and in a matter of a little over a month in November and December, I lost 35 pounds, which helped my back pain and knee pain. (I still have to go to physical therapy for the pain in my knees.)  So I now have skinny legs again but I'm top and neck heavy. Most disproportionate, which is embarrassing and aggravating. I'm a little woman trapped in a heavy body, which has done a number on my self-esteem. My asthma is also slowly improving the more weight I lose. Most of that still sucks.

Never mind with the school, I can produce dozens of medical visit reports, doctors' notes, etc. to corroborate my absence and lack of completion of work. It just sucked.

I had a battery of tests and long visits with an ear doctor because I was getting piercing earaches in my right ear when I was lying on it, which would wake me up from sound sleep. Several doctors looked at my ear, and it wasn't infected. It, as with most of my medical problems, was a mystery. Had an ear MRI (leaving all my piercings in, thank God) and the ear doctor was baffled. I went for a hearing test, and apart from markedly poor hearing in my right ear (huh?), I'm just using numbing drops when I get an earache. That sucks and doesn't suck. Ok, well, yeah, it sucks.

This Long QT Syndrome issue is still of prevalence. Getting in to see the electrocardiologist won't be happening until the middle of this month. I've tapered off the antipsychotic which was to blame, and my liver function issue should also be improving. (Geodon malfunctions the liver, the heart, I swear--every rare but life-threatening side effect has befallen me after having taken the drug since 2009.) Next week, I'm having an EKG, an echocardiogram and an abdominal ultrasound, then seeing my psychiatrist on Thursday. She wants to see an EKG to see if the Long QT has improved or escalated. Did I tell you that my psychiatrist was really intrigued with a long-term study that came out which blamed Geodon for multiple cases of pancreatitis? Well, if that don't beat all. Let's rewind to 2010-2011, when I had it 4 or 5 times and was in the hospital or operating room.

'Twill be a busy week with tests. I don't start school again until the 15th, and I'm lucky I don't have to be on campus that day. Uber has become my best friend. Parking downtown for school costs twice as much. That just sucks.

Sad to have said goodbye to "The Colbert Report" right before the holidays, as it was one of my favorite shows. I have not only deep respect and find Stephen Colbert a comedic genius, but he just seems like a really sweet guy out of character as well. That, and he did receive an honorary doctorate from my alma mater, Knox College, in 2006, which he tried to burn on his show at some point, but it wouldn't start on fire. Between "The Office" reruns, "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," I don't watch much on the boob tube. Colbert's finale was a star-studded spectacular, and I'll have to start DVR'ing the "Late Night" show when he replaces Letterman. But then I found this picture on Pinterest, and it's just too much oof for me to handle. What can I say?

Christmas wasn't necessarily stress-free but it was enjoyable after all. My nephew and his boyfriend (who was also part of the festivities) got me "Cards Against Humanity" as a gift, which, if you haven't heard of it, has the tagline: "A card game for horrible people." It's filthy and insulting. And who played it with us until 1am on Christmas Eve? My mother! Oh, Mylanta! Christmas Day was just my mother and I, so we ate a fancy dinner she whipped up and watched "Silver Linings Playbook," which was most excellent. (I wonder if Guy ever got the "Lego Movie" I tried to anonymously send to him after he kicked my ass to the curb.) That all didn't suck too badly. Nobody killed anyone. Always a good thing.

New Year's Eve could've been more boring, but the TCM channel was showing "Elvis on Tour," "A Hard Day's Night," "Gimme Shelter," and "Tommy." I was pretty much set, with my laptop in the dining room, spending time with my mom. Luke was out at a house party until 1:45 in the morning (yes, the parents were home).  Toasts with sparkling grape juice that I wish was champagne, some good snacks, so that didn't suck as badly as it could have.

I missed a lot of band this year because of illness, injury and school, which bummed me out. I even missed the contemporary Christmas carols service because my knee was too swollen to play my drums and I was in too much pain. All of that alternating heat and ice. Heat and ice. Heat and ice. THAT sucked.

I'm not writing as much as I could be, given all the free time I'm seemingly allotted. I just haven't felt creative spunk lately. It's bad enough I'm blogging now, relaying all of my woes of the year and believe me, my friends, family and acquaintances all concur that 2014 was just a plain shitty year. It was all over Facebook--friends bidding adieu to the year which has thankfully passed. In all seriousness, I haven't seen THAT many people proclaim unhappiness in synopses over a few days as I have since around the 30th of December. Those poor people! The year sucked across the board! It wasn't just me!

Other friends have had serious problems too, both physical and emotional. I've tried to be the rock that holds everyone together, but like a globally warming glacier, I'm disappearing. I can't remember the last time I was truly manic, though right now I feel a little hypomanic (probably because I was looking at pictures of Stephen Colbert on Pinterest) and not yet sleepy. (He really should hire me as a writer. I am hella witty and sharp when I want to be, when I'm not constantly bitching.) Mostly it's been bipolar depression. I would love to exercise, but I'm not cleared to yet, and even if I tried something relaxing and healthy like swimming, I could go into cardiac arrest. That would suck.

The burgeoning year, 2015, you know, things can only get better. They have to, because too many of us have seen and been to the depths of hell and back in the last 365-ish days.

Heading off to make my Sleepytime tea (which I'll no doubt spill on myself in bed trying to use the laptop and drink at the same time, and one more smoke (down to half a pack a day with the e-cigarette!) outside in the rainy sleety mixture that's supposed to turn into 4-7" of snow by the end of tomorrow. Super. I can't shovel, which I actually enjoy. It's an OCD thing with me.

My wish is that you all fare well, have happiness and not suckiness in your new year. Don't make resolutions you can't keep, or promises which are empty to the people about whom you care. Don't break anyone's heart if you can help it. Smile a lot and make up jokes. Be free. Don't cast the first stone. Eat, drink and be merry. Do your best to tell the people you love that you love them, but if you don't really love them, don't say it at all. Support gay marriage and marijuana legalization, and the women's right to choose what happens to her body. Don't watch Fox News unless it's for amusement purposes only. Eat less cheese and drink more water. Those are the best pieces of advice I can muster at this late hour.

Most of all, don't suck and don't let the year suck you down.

Happy New Year, 4 days late, from The Offbeat Drummer! Wish me luck!