Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Over Your Dead Body

Shawn and I went to Body Worlds last night. The body shown here was at one time a real human person who decided to give his/her flesh and bones to Dr. Gunther van Hagens. Dr. Hagens developed and perfected the art of plastination which, according to the Web site "makes it possible to preserve individual tissues and organs that have been removed from the body of the deceased as well as the entire body itself." The process stops the body from decomposing and you can stand inches away from it looking at the red lines of the musculature or gaze at an entire family of bodies shaped only out of bundles of tiny red capillaries.

This might be a friend of yours, who knows. They had glass cases and cases of preserved organs and bones too, both healthy and unhealthy--the message was, Don't smoke (blackened lungs) and don't get too fat (they had a sliced up body of a 540 pound person to illustrate the strain subcutaneous fat puts on the internal organs). The most amazing thing was how close you could get to the body--right next to it--they weren't protected by cases for the most part. I blew on one and the exposed nerve muscles shifted. We also saw quite a few pensises and balls, just sort of hanging down, you know, like they do. My favorite but one of the harder ones to look at was a man standing up and sliced into 5 separate pieces. So, the first thing you see is the slice of the entire front of his naked white body and then the last thing you see is the slice of the back of his naked body and in between are three pieces cut to show internal organs. He has all his skin and hair though (including white pubic hair and a short, white military style hair cut on his head) including portions of the tattoos on both his forearms and shoulders. Very strange to look at this man and then see the faint outline of a blue winking mermaid on his arm. Even more ghoulish was the reclining pregnant woman with the 8 month old fetus curled up in her womb which had been peeled away so you could see the child. The placard outside of the exhibit explained that in life, the pregnant woman had been diagnosed with a terminal disease and knew she might not survive the pregnancy and so agreed to be part of the exhibit. Obviously, she did not make it and neither did the baby and now they are forever destined to be gawked at by 6th grade boys on field trips who will be forever scarred by the sight of her cut out and protruding nipples. Another man was completely skinned and holding the skin of his body (with hair on it) in one of his hands as if it were an overcoat he just shook off. I did like the man on the horse though. horses are so overwhelming huge and beautiful, even when you can seek their skulls.

I'm not saying you shouldn't go or that the exhibit is exploitive but it seemed like I should've FELT something more about and I didn't; other than morbid fascination and a vague unease. And of course, a deep curiosity about what they were like in life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I was wrong. The root canal was worse.

I love lying backward in a chair with a dental dam and six sharp instruments stuck in my mouth along with a suction cup that's vacuuming off my cheek and two guys hovering above me holding bright lights. Let's do that for about an hour. The dentist had me wear those huge grandma cataract sunglasses but the gunk still splattered in my eyes. I kept thinking, What if something goes horribly awry and I die like this? I don't know what the cause could be--an allergic reaction to a chemical or maybe suffocation from the rubber sheet they stretched over my face (for real. One thing that did happen was the dentist almost cut my lip off with the scissors as he was trimmming the sheet so I could breath out of my nose). Anyway, I decided I would be a sad case if I died because I was trying to be so cheerful ahead of time, joking about how I had pureed turkey for Thanksgiving just to be sure I didn't damage my tooth any further, ha haha hahahahha. He showed me a video of what would be happening in my mouth, but it in no way prepared me for the actual removal of the nerves in my tooth. At one point, he fished something out and said, Do you have a bad stomach? I said, Errr. He showed me the nerve he had pulled out of my head--it looked like a miniature version of the piece of meat you find in the smaller part of the crab claw. He said, Isn't that something? I wanted to say, Let's make it into a necklace, but couldn't speak still because of the instruments and the blood and all. We're not done either. I have to go back about 2 more times so he can replace the screws with silly putty and then add a crown.

At least he gave me vicodin. I told my mom that and she said, Oh, no, don't take any. Think of Rush Limbaugh. As if. That's the only reason I agreed to have one in the first place. The dental assistant told me that one of their other patients had asked for Oxycotin after a routine filling. I said, Oh, do you think I could get some of that? He gave me a sad look.

Monday, November 28, 2005

My life could be worse

We heard a case today that shook me up. I can't give details because of privacy issues, but it involved the loss of a child in an accident that one of the parent's feels responsible for causing. I don't know how a person survives grief that complicated; the death of a child on top of believing it was your fault. How many times would you replay that moment over and over again in your head, rewriting it so that you don't make the same mistake? I do that now with stupid stuff I should or shouldn't have said or done but the consequences are minor. These are not easy meetings to attend every week--there's always a detail or two that haunts; a brother wanting to lay in the hospital bed next to his dead sibling, a father brushing his daughter's hair before she goes to the OR, someone who walked in the Emergency Room talking to the attendants but who won't walk out again.

So, yeah, I guess my root canal today at 5 isn't that big of a deal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Office would be so much more funny if it weren't based on my real life

"That would be great..." I could cut and paste about 20+ e-mails I've received with that phrase un-ironically used. I could list about 500 things from my job that would make you wonder if I was being satirical. I won't though. I can't. If you saw last night's episode of The Office you'll remember that the boss gets access to his employees e-mails. Guess what? I've experienced that actuality in my non-sitcom life. So, I'm a little skeptical about this whole "freedom of speech" thing. Not many people here today as it's Thanksgiving tomorrow. I wonder if, as will probably happen at Shawn's work, we'll all be told to go home a little early, enjoy ourselves, hey, maybe we should cut out early for a drink? Hmmm...I wonder...

In other news, we're going to Bushkill, PA for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Bushkill is a lovely name for a town. It's about 2 or more hours away and so we'll leave here about noon, eat, then turn around and drive back to Philadelphia. Last year at this time, we took ourselves to Block Island and rode some horses. Not this year. Those cute little dineros we spent in Mexico actually turned out to cost real money.

Here is what I'm thankful for this year (not necessarily in order of importance): my health even my teeth which are only partially falling out, my home with the warm heaters that hum in the night, my boyfriend who not only listens but actually applies what he hears, my friends who let me be flakey, my cats with their purring and shedding and growing old gracefully, the existence of dogs and the possibility that I may get one some day, Hope on 7th which consistently provides me with great thrift store bargains, coffee, and much, much more.

Here is what I'm not thankful for this year: the government.

Last year's dinner at Shawn's sister's house:

Monday, November 21, 2005

I Take No Responsibility for Killing You

That statement is for those of you who insist on riding their non-reflective bikes at night while wearing black hoodies and black pants. I'm very proud of you for conserving gasoline and remaining fit, but I CAN'T SEE YOU. Now that it's dark at like 3:30 each day, by the time I'm driving home from work, it's pitch black. There's been more than one time that I've jumped in surprise at bicyclers swerving out of nowhere and speeding off in the dark, visible only if you catch the whites of their eyes. I don't want to commit accidental vehicular manslaughter because some hipster insists on riding his midnight blue Schwinn home from an early happy hour at Sugar Mom's. While I'm on the subject, it will not be my fault if I hit you in my car because you're riding down the street against traffic. And if you insist on talking on your cell phone while doing this, you most certainly should be at least grazed by my bumper.

Other possible circumstances for which I will shoulder no responsibility in the event of your death:

1. If you amble across the street without looking up. You might be from California where cars screech to a halt at the suggestion of a bi-ped, but you are not in CA now and you should at least pause before walking out into the road.

I thought I would be able to come up with more, but I can't think of any others right at this very moment. Driving in Phildelphia in general remains a challenge every morning up 3rd street to work and every evening down 4th. Third street in the morning is an obstacle course of pot holes, illegally parked PPA ticket-writers, lane straddling garbage trucks and buses, unsteady bicyclists, and people for whom a stop sign means "gun it and run it." Fourth street later in the day is filled with out-of-towners inching along in search of street parking, aggressive SUV's trying to make the five second green lights from block to block, random, unending construction, and parking that alternates between the left and the right side of the street. Forget going down 6th because then you have to contend with people trying to get on and off 76 as well as the duck boats at Market St. and accompanying duck whistles.

P.S. It's Thanksgiving this week. I can't believe it. Radio stations are now playing Christmas music nonstop.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Root for Me

Yay! I went to the dentist yesterday and was told by Dr. Henry of the visible nostril hair that I need a root canal on the tooth whose filling I lost in Mexico. Dr. Henry was not pleased with the state of my gums either and gave me a serious dressing down for not seeing the dentist more regularly. I said, "But I didn't have insurance. I had to pay my rent first." He said, "You could've worked out a payment plan." I think he was forgetting that I hate dentists and would rather have my teeth rot out then go to one and pay for it out of pocket with money that could be better spent on student loans and red wine. I did like Dr. Henry on the whole. He gave me extra Novacaine on my request. It looks like my mouth will require about $10,000 worth of work before I'm able to smile freely again. Only you can stop gingivitis.

So, I liked the doctor okay, but I hate everything about being at the dentist. It's so primitive. I feel like any second he's going to secure a string to my molar with the other end tied to a door knob and then slam the door to extract the tooth. I hate how they jam what feels like large squares of cardboard into your mouth and then tell you to bite down and hold it for x-rays. He took about 20 pictures of my teeth from every possible angle. I still have cuts on the roof and bottom of my mouth. He informed me I have a low palate which makes it hard to get the pieces of cardboard in there. After all of this, he announced that the x-rays of my damaged tooth didn't come out clear enough and he'd have to scrape at the tooth to see if it was full of decay. He mentioned something about a nerve possibly being exposed. I asked if he would give me the highest amount of Novacaine even if it made me drool for the rest of the day. He obliged.

Here are just a few things I hate about the dentist: I hate the scraping noises of the dentist picking away at your teeth. I hate the way the instruments look--sharp and curled like fish hooks. I hate laying helplessly back in a chair with my mouth open for 30 minutes. I hate being afraid I'm going to choke or suffocate because I can't swallow properly with the fifteen instruments shoved in my mouth. I hate not knowing if he's suddenly going to hit a nerve. I hate the air stream thing--the way it sounds and how it hurts slightly when it hits your teeth. I hate not knowing if he's going to say, Well, you have 16 cavities. I hate thinking that if I make a sudden unexpected move to sneeze or cough, he could accidentally jab a hole in my cheek. I hate that he could hurt me and I might not be able to tell him to stop quickly enough. I hate wondering if the Novacaine might wear off in the middle of the treatment. I hate rinsing and spitting into that little round basin. I hate the bits that fly into the air as he's picking your teeth. I hate when it's all over and your face is numb and slack and you look like a stroke victim and can't eat for the next 5 hours. I hate that I have to go back there in 10 days and in the meantime, he cautioned me that my tooth might react badly to being picked at. I could develop an infection and severe pain. I should call him if this happens.

After he told me that my tooth is very decayed, we discussed the options. I voted for just pulling it out. He vetoed this idea. He said the root canal was the only way. He said it might take two separate appointments. The next appointment will take about an hour and a half. On the bright side, he will be prescribing me painkillers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

You are, like, so in shape!

I got into an imaginary fight with a girl at the gym yesterday, this twit on the stair machine talking on her cell phone. Did you know that Megan doesn't know that her boyfriend cheated on her? I know! I know! I can't believe it either. There are levels of cell phone rudeness. I'd say that talking on your phone in a public space is slightly rude (though I am guilty of the walk-n-talk). The next level would be talking on your cell phone in an enclosed public space such as restaurant or a subway where people can't easily get away from your conversation. The next step is talking on your cell phone in an enclosed public space LOUDLY. Like, Sorry, I have to shout but I can't hear you over the sound of the choir singing in here! She was yelling to her friend because she was surrounded by work out machines that make noise. I don't know, maybe the noise should be a sign that you shouldn't be talking on your fucking phone? Since you're also supposedly exercising? I gave her a couple of dirty looks but almost fell off the machine in the process and kept worrying that she'd be a tough girl and beat me up if I told her to shut it. I'm not good at that stuff. Even if I had said something, I probably would've felt bad about it. I was trying to practice positive energy but I hated her so much that I had to move to another machine.

Shawn finally purchased a cell phone this weekend from a guy on South St. who has Tourettes. He could speak to you normally, but when he stopped speaking, his left hand would jerk and curl and he'd twitch his head and go, Doh. Doh. Dddoh. He apologized and explained that he had Tourettes. We sat down to fill out the contract. He started flicking me off, over and over. He said, "Sorry. The tick's really bad today. I probably shouldn't go out on South St. or I'll get my ass kicked." I mean, maybe he didn't have Tourettes at all. Maybe he just didn't like our looks. Too bad he wasn't at the gym yesterday so he could've done the same to cell phone girl.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dental Phobia

It's a real phobia, people, don't laugh with your perfectly white and flossed teeth. Lots and lots of Web sites dedicate themselves to helping people overcome dental phobia, but the problem is that they are all implicitly trying to get you to VISIT the dentist.

I used to work at Northwestern University Dental School as a slave to 2 of the Deans there before they closed the school to spend money on something like football. The dental students were, on the whole, very nice and smart. For practice, they worked on indigent patients who had no health insurance and could not afford dental care on their own. Here is a horror story about a patient. If you suffer from dentaphobiaousness, do not read on.

Students did routine cleaning as well as more involved techniques like extractions and root canals. They were assigned certain stations to work in, sort of like cubicles with their own machines and equipment. One of the students forgot to clean the machine between appointments and when he tried to spray water into his patient's mouth, blood from the previous client flooded into the second patient's mouth. They had to do an AIDS test and everything. What would that be like to be lying backwards in a chair and feel something warm and coppery rush into your throat and realize it was blood and then worse, it wasn't yours?

But I've always feared dentists, in part because the tap water we used to drink when we lived in Illinois didn't have fluoride and my teeth were effected by it. I think I had like 6 cavities when I was eight years old. As an adult, I've only had one filling, a cheap one that fell out last year (still haven't been to the dentist to have it replaced), but I'm always afraid I"ll go and she or he will say, It's over. We're going to have to take them all out. They'll give me George Washington wooden dentures that clack together when I talk.

One of the first days we were in Mexico, I bit down on a piece of steak and a piece of my back tooth came off. Later in the trip, I ate a piece of toffee and the rest of the filling for that broken tooth also fell out. I'm lucky that it didn't expose a nerve. Now I just have a hole in my head. Every time I chew on that side, the food get stuck in there like paste. I can't stop touching the hole with the tip of my tongue. Okay, so I finally made an appointment for Thursday. Dr. Henry. I probably shouldn't tell him I have a cat with the same name. I did mention to him that I'm scared of dentists. He didn't seem to mind. As a profession, dentists have high suicide rates, but apparently not as high as vets as you can tell from
this recent BBC news article.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The ultimate outsider

C. Thomas Howell ("Ponyboy" in the film version of the SE Hinton classic, The Outsiders. I remember how profound I thought it was to write "Stay gold" in someone's middle school yearbook) made half of a cameo appearance in E.R. last night, playing a kidnapping pedophile whose three lines were, "Ergh!" "Where is she?" and "Let go!" What happened, C. Thomas Howell? Remember how much promise you had Soul Man, the overly racist (but totally typical of 80s) movie illustrating the backlash of affirmative action wherein your character wore blackface to be admitted into college? I always confuse him with Timothy Hutton, though I like TH much better and wanted to marry him after seeing Beautiful Girls. I just looked TH up on imdb and he's in pre and post production for about 5 movies, so that's a good sign. Anyway, E.R. has become this field of Where Are They Nows? Last night's episode alone featured John Stamos, John Leguizamo, that amazon lady from Third Rock from the Sun, the kid who used to be on Once and Again, and aforementioned C. Thomas Howell (whenever I write his name, I want to add "Thurston Howell, the Third").Before I forget, Philadelphia Weekly's lead article for this issue is "The Trouble with Hipsters and Why We Hate Them," which is hilarious in that they try so, so hard to be hip and most of their readership (you and I excluded, of course) are the Converse wearing, shaggy haircut sporting, dimly ironic, Urban Outfitter shopping, white 20-somethings covered in poorly rendered tattoos and unflattering facial piercings they proclaim to scorn and loathe. It's so uncool to pretend you're too cool to care about cool. You do. Just admit it. And you had six months in which you got it right, feeling like a poser the whole time until you heard some white- blond, Pat Benatar pre-Love is a Battlefield girl make fun of your shoes while you were waiting in line for the bathroom at Ray's Happy Birthday Bar.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Trading Spouses/Dysfunctions

I swear to you that I do not watch the show Trading Spouses on any kind of regular basis, but I happened upon it last night at a quarter to ten and it was either that or Veronica Mars, which I actually do like a lot. However, the short bit I saw of the show was so horrific that I was hooked in immediately. Reality shows are the car crashes of pop culture. This really, really, super fat woman with a gigantic gap in her teeth was crying to another woman about how she was worried about her family and all. Turns out the big woman, Marguerite, a devout Christian/Psychotic had switched with a family who believed in astrology and the summer solstice and liked stars and didn't read the Bible. In other words, they were the spawns of hell sent to destroy Marguerite and her family (except she never said "family;" it always came out as "fambly"). On the drive back to her home, M. was crying and sobbing, working herself up, saying things like, "I never knew I'd see what I saw there. NEVER! I never wanted to see what I saw there! Sweet Jesus!" I missed the whole first 45 minutes so it's possilbe the astrologists did do horrible things like light the other neighbor chirren on fire or defectate in a cemetery or offer up sacrifices to Satan in their back yard, but my guess is that maybe she saw a pack of Tarot cards under the phone book or noted a larger than ordinary collection of wind chimes. When she got back home, she flew into a rage and ripped up the letter the other woman had sent to the family where she designated $50, 000 however she saw fit. Maguerite was screeching and saying she was a warrior of God and all the cameramen who don't believe in Jesus should get thee out of the house. It suddenly occurs to me that maybe all of this was staged. I'd like to believe it because she appeared to be even crazier than Carrie's mom in the book of the same name (you know, the mom who calls breasts "dirty pillows" and ends up being crucifixed by silverware?). At the very end, they listed how the money had been given out and the last amount was $20,000 for M.'s gastric bypass surgery. Then the last line, "Marguerite has decided to accept the money." I'm not a huge fan of Fox network, but I love it that they portrayed the New Age-y peopls as rational and generous, and the Get Thee Behind Me as the irrational, ignorant, and hypocritical person of God.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Gear up for Christmas 2006!

I swear to God the second that the clock struck midnight on Halloween, holiday commercials started appearing on TV, department stores threw up holly and blinking lights, and the grocery store stocked the shelves with egg nog. Never too early to spend, spend, spend.

(Pic 1): Tabby as a Hugh Hefner bunny.

(Pic 2): My good friends Liz and Luke after our Halloween party when everyone had gone home.

Here are a two f-ed up things as of late:

(1). Our local newscast on Monday spent 15 minutes of a 30 minute broadcast feeding on the Terrell Owens dismissal. For those on you who aren't from Philadelphia or obsessed with dumb shit like pro football, TO was a receiver for the Eagles who was recently suspended and then asked to leave, I think b/c he insulted someone else . It's all over the news here while 25 seconds were given to a kid in Philly who was accidentally shot and killed by his friend's dad's handgun. Less than that amount of time was given to the riots in Argentina and Bush's inability to say more than "Me goostah bi-lar" in Spanish. Oh, or the recent news that we employed our own illegal weapons of mass destruction when bombing Fallujah by using phosphorous to melt the faces off citizens there. Since won't let you read their stuff without watching an ad beforehand, here's a cut and past version of the story:

Chemical weapons in Iraq? An old story, but new questions. Has the United States used chemical weapons in Iraq? That charge has been made repeatedly -- and carefully denied just as often -- over the past two years. There was an accusation that the United States used napalm in the first days of the war. The Pentagon denied it, but then admitted that U.S. troops had, in fact, used a "napalm-like" substance in Mark-77 bombs during their march to Baghdad. After the offensive in Fallujah a year ago, there were charges that U.S. troops had used white phosphorus shells against human targets there. The U.S. denied those charges too, admitting that it had used phosphorus shells "very sparingly in Fallujah" but only "for illumination purposes." And on Sept. 11 of this year, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed that U.S. troops had used chemical weapons during fighting in Tal Afar. The United States issued another denial, calling Zarqawi's claims a "standard disinformation technique."

The U.S. denials may all be correct, at least technically so. But a broadcast this week by the Italian state television network, RAI, is raising the question all over again. As the BBC and the Independent are reporting today, the RAI report alleges that the United States used both white phosphorus and the "napalm-like" Mark-77 bombs during the Fallujah assault in November 2004.

The RAI report relies on the words of a former U.S. soldier who said he fought at Fallujah and heard a warning that white phosphorus was about to be used there; the claims of a biologist in Fallujah, who says that a "rain of fire" fell on the city; and photographs, posted on RAI's Web site, that purport to show the burned bodies of Fallujah residents. RAI charges that the use of white phosphorus as a weapon rather than as an illuminating device would constitute the illegal use of a chemical weapon.

So far as we can tell, the mainstream press in the United States hasn't picked up on the story, but the international press certainly has. Al Jazeera has posted the BBC's story on its English-language Web site, complete with graphic photos from RAI.

There's no new response from the Pentagon yet. In the denial issued late last year, the Pentagon insisted that, in Fallujah, white phosphorus shells "were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."

We are such liars and bullies.

The second thing that boggles my mind is that we continue to celebrate white collar criminals like Martha Stewart. I know this is old news, but I saw a preview of her appearance on Jay Leno and she was saying, "Yes, I made apple soup for all the prisoners." And she has her own show. Like, what do rich white pop culture figures have to do to be cut out of the public eye or ostracized in some way? Well, I guess you could take a stance against the war. That's a sure way to lose cred.

Here, let's not talk about it. Let's look at two more pics from our Halloween party.

(Pic 3): I live with this man, this hip hop Jesus. That is not his real hair, by the way, though the beard is authentic and so are the stigmata.
(Pic 4): Our friend Jimmy wearing the wig I was going to use as Sylvia Plath.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Sickly head

Am home sick today (a double entendre. "Home sick" as in not feeling well and "home sick" as in missing Mexico). Should've known this would happen after the go-go-go vacation we had along with the long travel day on Sunday and waking up early and out of sorts yesterday. I hate coming back from vacation especially when I nkow that I won't have more time off for a long while. The cats and I are planning a fabulous day together of shedding, meowing at the ceiling for no apparent reason, and sitting in the houseplant. At some point, I need to eat something, but it will have to be something made out of sour cream & onion potato chips, wheat bread, pickles, and over-ripe tomatoes b/c we don't have anything else in the fridge.

What else about our trip? Neither one of us own a watch and so we never exactly knew what time it was. Didn't use my cell phone except maybe twice to check the time. Spoke to most people in Spanish, including the whitey-whites we encountered. Shawn gets offended when gringos speak English to him in a foreign country. He answers in Spanish. We did see a lot of Americans who made no effort to learn the language and would instead just speak louder in English or over-enunciate the please and thank-you words everyone knows. "Oh, hey, moochas grahcee-us." We found that most Mexicans would continue talking to us in Spanish even when we were struggling a little, which I thought was a nice show of faith on their part. (Aside: on a survey we handed out at work, one person answered "American" to the question "What languages do you speak?"). We kept a journal for most days and so I don't feel like I need to recount every detail here, and doing so makes me feel sad because it's over. I think you can fall in love with a place like it's a person though it takes time to really know it or to truly love it. So, I have a crush on Mexico. And I don't think he's going to be calling me any time soon.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Where's My Donkey?

We have returned from our ten day excursion to Mexico, not that much the worse for wear, a little tanner, a little more fluent in Spanish, a lot more respect for the country, its citizens, and the landscape itself is often breathtakingly beautiful. Two animal observations: (1). In the more rural areas, you will often stumble upon donkeys/burros standing alone on a long stretch of otherwise uncultivated land, munching grass and braying, seeming to belong to no one. Shawn wondered aloud if the donkeys are public property. Like, no one official owns them, but if you need one, you just hop on, kick, and go. I counter guessed that they do belong to individual family's, but that they're maybe not that easy to track. So, one title for our trip is, Where's my Donkey? (2). The competing title for our trip is "Dog Teats for Everyone," because every single female dog we saw in the wild had teats for their puppies (Don't worry about eating chickens or hogs or cattle from Mexico, by the way. The livestock run all over the place and can be found in kitchens, backyards, and hammocks). The dog teats phenomenon depressed me. There are already so many gnarly, starving dogs that it sucks to think that the girl dogs get pregnant every single time they can as there's not much in the way of nuetering going on. In fact, any time two dogs were together, it was only a matter of time before one was humping the other one. Mexico City, in particular, had tons of free range mongrels, including poodles, German Shepherds, a golden retriever pup and one very skinny Cocker Spaniel. I knew this aspect of the trip would bother me and it did, though admittedly, the dogs were pretty friendly and not all of them looked to be dying, even as they limped, toothless across the Palazzo to nose at the garbage scattered on the tiles.

What else did we learn on our journey? Well, Lonely Planet only goes so far. For instance, very few of the LP entries include dire warnings of where not to eat, sleep, or drive as we discovered when we (and by "we" I clearly mean "Shawn") decided to rent a car and drive from Mexico City to Taxco to Zihuentenjo. Not a huge problem to get from MC to Taxco, except what you may not know about this little colonial silver town is that the streets are 4 feet wide, filled with people with baskets on their heads and young children, and the cobbled roads all go straight up a very steep hill at about a 180 degree incline which makes for awesome driving when you have a Nissan automatic rented from the aeropuerto. Shawn did the best screech around the main fountain...The kind of lurch and scream of the car that makes fighting teenagers stop punching each other to look at you dumb white americans as your car jerks across the pavement in stops and starts that make you hit your head on the dashboard. He did so so so so well, for real, until the very last turn into our hotel when the car rolled quickly backward instead of forward and hit the wall behind us making a small dent and peeling off car paint. Okay, but that's fine. We just parked the mother for the rest of our stay and chugged up the streets ourselves, unaware that the very worst was yet to come.

This would be Tuesday on the drive from Taxco to Zihuantenjo down 95. On the map, 95 looks like a normal road. It doesn't disappear occassionally into the trees or turn into a dotted line or get crossed by a river or anything. Until you get on it. 95 S. runs up and down several mountains. It seemed as though I, as the passenger, was always on the side that was nearest a huge plunge down the mountain without a guardrail. We saw this sign about 1,590 times: It lost its pertinence after the 100th time. Okay,we get it. The roads are very, very curvy. Every 20-40 minutes, we would crash through a rural town that had its own set of dangers, namely, the burros mentioned above, or the dogs, or the speed bumps, or the children who don't mind meandering across the road. Worse, there were no other signs to tell us how far we'd come or how far we had to go to get to the next town. There was also nowhere to turn off if we did decide to stop. And the sun was setting. And then we hit road construction; pot holes that were ten inches deep and just as wide. Luckily, no one else was on the road (because the road was almost undrivable). We thought it might be bad for a few kms or so. It was bad for the next four hours. At one point in our journey, we found ourselves inching down the road next to a herd of horned cattle, with the cattleherd guy running alongside to shoo the cows off to the left so we could get through. And the light was fading. Just before that, we had to pull off to have our car searched by the Federales with their automatic weapons. I tried to use my cleavage to distract the Captain. I don't know if it worked, but they didn't find anything of note. The Captain warned us not to push on but to find a hotel in this small town he circled on the map. He said the roads were very bad and it would be dark soon. An hour later, we reached the town. The sun was just above the treetops and fading fast. Shawn said, I want to press on. We passed yet another "peligroso!" road sign with rusty bullet holes in it. I said, For the record, I think this is a bad idea. I imagined my phrase would echo in our ears when we were hijacked by the Zapitistas and I would be right though also dead. But still right though. It got dark. Shawn swears he saw a tarantula cross the road. We cut across a small river. Finally, finally, finally, we saw the lights of the Pemex gas station. We had made it. It was already becoming mythology, the story we would tell about the trip. I was telling the story even in the middle of it, even as we entered a short section of the mountains that numerous signs and the Captain had warned about, both sign and man repeating, Nieblas, nieblas, while we nodded, oh, okay, the pebbles are bad there? Actually, nieblas are big white foglike clouds that distort and cover your vision. Still, I knew if we made it, that part of the vacation would be the main story we would tell, at least I had to keep reminding myself we would get to repeat the tale so that I wouldn't think about flying off the cliff into the nieblas and tumbling down the side of the beautiful, beautiful mountain.