Positively Kick Ass

Calling Kelley Coyne Campoli!

I've been way belated getting back to you, but you're much on my mind. Very early this morning I was awake when I shouldn't have been, paging through some old links that have made me happy in the past, and this one still makes me laugh like a bad bear or a seductive chicken. Like a seductive chicken once made me laugh, I mean. No one has told me (yet) that I laugh like a seductive chicken. But a girl can dream.

For you, my friend, and for anyone else in need of a dose of silliness:

http://ghettohikes.tumblr.com

Ack! Can't seem to make that a link with my mobile app, so I'm adding a bonus to compensate, one amazing result of a "seductive chicken" image search. The NY Times got in trouble with PETA for this one. "Too sexy!" cried the animal lovers, and they were right.

image.jpg

Forza!
Gretchen

Making the most of smallish vices

Like vanity.

Back in April, I tried and failed to hook up with Oregon Humanities' "Conversation Project" with a proposal to talk wolves with the good (and fractious) people of our adopted state. The folks (sorry, contagious Obama-speak) who eventually rejected my application were almost certainly wise not to entrust such a hot potato to these less-than-steady hands, though I do think I might have managed it if I were at full health and strength.

Anyhoo, as someone who hasn't always responded well to frustration and rejection, I was proud even in the moment that I laid disappointment and self-doubt aside to dance a new step in the tough guy tango choreographed by Samuel Beckett: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." I sent in a short piece for consideration for their magazine, for a summer issue with the theme "Start."

I forgot to let you all know that they published it, and I have their permission to put it up here. Hope you like it.

 From  Edmund Dulac's  illustrations of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid."

From Edmund Dulac's illustrations of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid."

Non-negotiable

Fantasies of transformation flock to the New Year like overwintering birds. We may be thirteen or seventy, and still we home in the dead cold to a bright dream. We may no longer believe in Santa Claus, but our search for fairy godmothers intensifies as the old year wanes. We scour the self-help shelves and page through catalogs fat with promises: New Year. New Look. New You. This time, we think. At midnight the exhausted husk of outworn artifice will finally split, and we will emerge in all the tenderness of truth: our destined selves.

But we should be careful what we wish for. Metamorphosis always exacts a price.

Never in my life have I had as much confidence as I did this year that I would be transformed. On a day in late December when I waited in line at Safeway to buy gauze and rubbing alcohol, I laughed to read the headlines on Marie Claire: “Lose Four Pounds and Six Inches Overnight.” It can be done, I thought. Ask me how.

I didn’t have a fairy godmother, but I did have a diagnosis, insurance, and a handsome young surgeon. He’d drawn my breasts in rough diagram on the paper carapace of the examining table and shown me the angle of the cuts he’d make. Though I’d given up dreaming of radiant re-emergence when I’d discovered the depth of my desire simply to stay alive, my sudden passion for the staus quo would radically alter me.

The catalogs try to sell you a sun-kissed life for the price of a fine slipper or sandal, but Hans Christian Andersen had a better grasp on the true costs of transformation. The witch who offers legs to the little mermaid tells her: “The best you possess is my price for the precious drink. I shall have to put my own blood into it, to make the drink as sharp as a two-edged sword… Put out your little tongue; then I’ll cut it off in payment, and you shall have your magic drink!”

Midway through this newest year, I’m much changed by my encounters with knives and double-edged drinks. My breasts and hair are gone, but they weren’t the best I possess. As long as I keep a tongue in my mouth, I’ll count my bargain a good one.

Forza!
Gretchen

 

Made it

and doing ridiculously well in the circumstances, thanks to everyone here and all of you out there. More when I or Pete can manage it.

So happy and grateful still to be here.  And still to have a tan.

 

 Totally missed my calling as a game show host. Are you ready for the Showcase Showdown??

Totally missed my calling as a game show host. Are you ready for the Showcase Showdown??

Before.

 

image.jpg

After. (Really, Pete?)

Forza! 

Gretchen

Please don't tell my grandmother

I flirted for a long time before my cancer diagnosis with the idea of getting a tattoo. If you haven't yet taken the plunge, deliberating what you'd get and where you'd get it has some of the same fun and frisson that trying out baby names does for the never-been-pregnant. Fortunately for tattoo flirts like me, Portland is a walking gallery of skin art. I've been adding for years to a mental inventory of images I like for their beauty, wit, or personal import, but I only got serious about getting inked last December.

Facing a double-mastectomy and the question of how I might be forced to revise my ideals of "natural" and "whole," I first assumed (as many do, including many surgeons and physicians) that the answer would include silicone. But Pete and I both found "reconstruction" a depressing prospect. In the best case scenario, I would undergo months' worth of additional surgeries and potentially a lifetime (however long that might be) of discomfort, all for the privilege of carrying around a couple of memorial domes: Here lay my breasts, RIP.

AliceCarrierPoppies.jpg

As soon as we gave up looking at San Onofre-style racks and started looking at tattoos, our spirits lifted. I decided I'd take full advantage of the flat canvas that would be left to me and reached out to a local artist, Alice Carrier, whose gorgeous work is primarily inspired by old botanical drawings. She's in extremely high demand and opens her schedule to new bookings only a couple of times a year. Furthermore, she let me know that she likes clients to wait at least a year after major surgery to ensure that the scars and surrounding skin have fully recovered and settled. So I'll need to wait awhile, but some gray morning next spring, I'll be one of those in line outside the doors of Wonderland Tattoo Studio, hoping for a date with Alice.

You might think that a needle-phobic gal like me would have been happy to take as long a break as possible from injections of every kind; you might think it would be nuts for someone who's been getting poisoned for months to run out and welcome a brand-new variety of foreign weirdness into her body. And maybe it was nuts, but the day after my final chemo treatment found me at Scapegoat Tattoo, scheduling a consultation with John M. Wilson. I liked his portfolio, liked him even better when we met. On Friday he showed me the original design he'd created from photos and other bits of inspiration I'd sent, then inscribed it on my skin.

JohnWilsonWhaleTail.jpg

It's still healing and shedding, and I'll be going back to get some darker shading on the tail, but it already feels at home to me. The quotation, which wraps around to my inner bicep (that was the most sensitive and twangy bit for me), comes from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself." (Astonishingly, we were able to use a font that someone has created to mimic Whitman's script!) The surrounding stanzas read thus:

Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes, 
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore, 
 Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.

Forza!
Gretchen

First and last day as a pinup

 Posing on the edge.

Posing on the edge.

I had to laugh the other day when I caught sight of a copy of Woman's World while waiting in the check-out line at Safeway. A headline read: "Lose 4 pounds and 6 inches overnight!"

It can be done, I thought. Ask me how.

In about twelve hours, I'll be thrown back to the boyishness of my early youth. If I could get my good knees back in return for what I'll be losing, I'd consider it a good trade. As it is, I do hope to have more spring in my step. (I'll certainly have less bounce.)

Pete and I returned this morning from a brief but restful stay in the "Little Apple," Manzanita. We lucked into a spell of spectacular weather, clear enough that, when we hiked yesterday through a fir forest and deep muck out to Cape Falcon, we could see the breath of migrating gray whales rise in bright plumes near the horizon.

 Sweet man on a sweet beach.

Sweet man on a sweet beach.

We got back (by design) in time to see the Chargers dance with their glass slippers right past the Bengals. This could be their year, it really could.

Surgery is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. tomorrow and could take four hours or more. Please keep me in your thoughts. Pete or I will try to post here tomorrow night to let you know how things go.

Forza!
Gretchen