Monday, November 29, 2010

Dr. Who?

As one of my all time favorite T.V. doctors, Leonard H. McCoy aka Bones of Star Trek, once stated, "The only constant in the universe is the bureaucratic mentality." And it is bureaucracy, and nothing more, that has prevented me from registering for my MFA spring semester classes. Apparently I have one of those annoying 'holds' on my account for never having presented a record of my vaccinations. An issue which would appear to be easily remedied, save for the fact that my doctor passed away a few years ago and I now live in England. Of course, the vaccinations themselves aren't really required. What is REALLY required is a doctor's signature on a pre-formatted piece of paper, something that no doctor in the States will give me. This leaves me with one option, getting something called a titer blood test, which will then prove that I have received the appropriate vaccinations. So it is off to my local GP to see if he/she can sort out this mess.

The inside of the St. John's Wood Hospital is more or less what one would expect of a medical facility, replete with icy cold receptionists and long stretches of sterile white walls that give one the impression they are walking in place. When I finally hit the reception desk for my 3:40 appointment it is 3:42 and I'm told to wait in an area that vaguely resembles Alistair Cook's Masterpiece Theater. Despite the gold studded, high-back leather chairs, this reception/study area is seriously wanting for reading material. Unlike the customary unstable piles of magazines that teeter precariously along the edges of doctor office coffee tables all across America, the St. John's Wood's reception area is a Zen Buddhist shrine, with nothing to distract oneself accept for a few pamphlets on Breast Cancer (and one on Chlamydia). The focal point of the room is a large LCD panel, which gives one the sense they are waiting for an oil change rather than a check-up (although I suppose some males over 50 may be waiting for something that could be described as an 'oil change'). The displays function is to notify patients of their turn with a singular beep. Given, however, the symphony of chirps and chimes originating from other parts of the hospital, eager patients can often be found rhythmically snapping their necks upwards in unison, the waiting room version of a "flash mob ."

Moments after having just read about the possible ramifications of having "altered skin texture and drawing in of the nipple" the LCD board beeps. Up next: Barbara Walters... and I'm being serious. Unfortunately, this Barbara, while short and old, doesn't appear to be the one who spends her days tut-tutting Whoopi and Joy's comments. Regardless, this is a promising start to my first visit for sure.

Forty minutes and a discrete self-breast-exam later the LCD board finally flashes my name and it is off to "Room One" to meet Dr. T. Sharma. When I open the door I am surprised to find the mousy doctor already inside waiting for me. Slight and nerdy looking, Dr. Sharma sits stooped over her desk, feverishly clicking her mouse, half-looking as if she were expecting her Dungeon and Dragons opponent rather than a patient.
"And you are Mr. Mazzenga?" Her Serenity inquires.
Socialized health care really is the way to go, I think, you get a medical and an existentialist examination all at once!
After confirming my identity I take a seat in the first of a long row of blue chairs positioned adjacent to Dr. Sharma's desk, the office feng shui decidedly more 'job interview' than 'doctor's office.'
"How may I help you?" Dr. Sharma says folding her hands across her flat chest.
To the point, I succinctly explain my graduate school vaccination dilemma and what test I require to resolve it.
"You sure that is all you need?" The existentialist portion of my exam apparently not over.
"Yes, I'm sure." I confidently replied.
Dr. Sharma then proceeds to tell me that such an exam may not be possible unless I have private insurance, as it hardly seemed fair for the taxpaying British citizens to have to pay for an exam that is required in the United States. I look down at my slightly olive skin and wonder if I'm in Arizona.

"OOOOOOOOOOKkkkkkkkk...." is all I can really verbalize.

After a mentally regrouping, I intimate that the EXAM isn't necessarily required, so much as her signature... a suggestion that would never fly in the US.
"You just need a letter from me?" Sharma's voice quizzically rising. The subtext being, "Why didn't you just say that in the first place?" Turning her attention to the blue glow of her monitor, she quickly types out a letter for me (although she used the hunt and peck method to type... horrible). A final forceful keystroke later, and without any examination or inquiry at all, I have my letter. Dr. Sharma, abandoning her keyboard for a moment, picks up a pen and casually ticks a spartan white pad in front of her. I can't help but wonder if she is the most indifferent doctor I have ever met or a true slayer of bureaucratic bullshit.
"And you said something about a cough?" the Doctor says, returning her attention to me.
I had. While this visit was largely about the vaccinations, I figured I might as well mention a lingering cough I have had for the better part of 2 years. I tell her how I had been to several doctors in the past but had yet to find a sufficient treatment for my ever present and constantly annoying cough.
"You say you've been to doctors in the past and that nothing has worked?" Sharma inquires without so much as flinching.
"Yes." I replied.
"Hmmm... well I don't see what I can do for you?"
Was she kidding? Weren't doctors supposed to help their patients? Wouldn't she revel in the medical mystery that was and unfortunately, still IS, my cough?
Dr. House T. Sharma is not.
"Oh OK," was all I could muster, as Dr. Sharma's pen "ticked" a piece of paper again.
And without so much as saying "AHHH" I was on my way home, feeling somewhat empty despite having received what I came for. I can't put a finger on it but something.... something was missing. Was it attention I desired? Have I come to enjoy the customary doctor/patient song and dance? The thrill of false promises and regiment of endless testing?
While frustrating, Dr. Sharma's approach to medicine is certainly honest if not brutally direct. What else should I expect? Afterall... She is a doctor, not a politician...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Royal Relationships

Personally, the idea of hiking through Kenya hasn't the least bit of romantic appeal for me. It must for some though, as just the other day Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Whales proposed to his girlfriend of 8 years, Kate Middleton, sending all of England abuzz. The impending royal wedding has been quite the story and will most assuredly hold my Blighty brothers' attention over the next year. Interestingly enough, the English are not the only ones affected by the recent news. Jessica, my better half and Star Trek watching partner, is also completely smitten by the announcement. A quick check of recent Google searches on my computer might reveal the following words: Prince William, Ring, Royal, Wedding, Kate Middleton, When, Will, It, Be, Me...(maybe not exactly those words).
When questioned Jessica can't really explain what about the engagement makes her all "atwitter." In fact, I find the entire nation's infatuation with the Prince's relationship to be a bit confusing. I get that William was once the delight of squealing pre-teen and teen girls all over the world, Jessica herself having confessed to once having harbored a serious "tween crush." Handsome, rich, and with a title, William's appeal is understandable but C'MON... that had to have passed by now, right? Especially given that the Prince's once boyish good looks have faded considerably. His signature shiny blonde mop of hair, now looking unhealthy and thin, his "crown" now well-exposed. His face, once dainty like his mother's, is now long and horsey, more akin to his charmed-in-life but not-in-looks father, Charles. Even the very reality of royal weddings has grown old and tiresome over the past 30 years, with 3 of Queen Elizabeth's 4 children now divorced a fact highlighted by Princess Di's death. So why the crazed fascination?

In an attempt to understand my adopted country mates (and Jess), I will endeavor to analyze the relationships of several high profile "Royals":

1) Larry King
Relationship history: King has been married 8 times to 7 women.
Current relationship: Married...well kind of... more like "Hanging on."
Relationship fun facts: King has married not one but TWO Playboy Bunnies. He was also recently accused of having an affair with his WIFE'S SISTER.
"Sexiest" quote: "There is a reason I needed double hip replacement..." [1]
Analysis: Larry King's marriages make no sense to me. It isn't as though I don't understand why they fail, given the second fun fact that part should be pretty clear. It's more that I don't understand WHY THEY HAPPEN! Who in their right mind finds Larry King attractive? Larry King is essentially a human 'Turduken.' Recipe: take one old guy, stuff him with Burgess Meredith, then stuff him with Keith Richards, leave them out in the baking hot sun of the Sahara desert for 10 years and VOILA-- Larry King.
Fortunately, given King's wish to have his body cryogenically frozen, we'll have more time to study this phenomenon.

2) Prince
Relationship history: Prince has been married and divorced twice... TO WOMEN.
Current relationship: dating Bria Valente
Relationship fun facts: Prince is STRAIGHT (I know... blows the mind), Prince has also been romantically involved with Kim Basinger, Madonna, and Carmen Electra.
"Sexiest" quote: "I guess I must be dumb cause you got a pocket full of horses, Trojan and some of them used..."
Analysis: Given all of the hurdles Prince has had to overcome: a predilection for ass-less chaps, an outdated pampadour and tiny mustache combo, and his recent conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses which he described as being, "like Morpheus and Neo in the Matrix," and it is astonishing that Prince has been able to hold down a relationship for any amount of time. Although, if he ever sang Raspberry Beret to me...

3) Rex Grossman
Relationship history: Rex has had many a public affair with Ms. Fumble and Ms. Interception along with a not-so-public relationship with Peyton Manning, whom he gifted Super Bowl XLIV to.
Current relationship: Married to Alison Miska for 5 years.
Relationship fun facts: It was Miska, not the media, who actually coined the terms "Good Rex" "Bad Rex" in regards to his ummm... performance.
"Sexiest" quote: "I'm not going to force anything."
Analysis: For those of you who may not know, Rex Grossman is an NFL quarterback, having played for the Bears, Texans, and now Washington Redskins. Rex, given that he is the world's worst quarterback, has either actually found true love or is married to a sadist. Recently (and inexplicably) Grossman was called into a game to replace the healthy future Hall of Famer, Donovan McNabb. On his FIRST play from scrimmage, with his team down by only one score with two minutes to play, "Wrecks" Grossman fumbles the ball which is then picked up and run back for a touchdown.... but I digress.

4) Queen
Relationship history: Have been together in some form or another since 1971
Current relationship: Broke up with Bad Company's frontman Paul Rodgers in 2009.
Relationship fun facts: Hairy chests, mustaches, and spandex jumpers were once cool and sexy, especially when combined... Seriously.
"Sexiest" Quote: "Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin' world go round."
Analysis: Queen had what one might call an 'open' marriage, sharing their rock anthems with hordes of admiring fans-- truly a match made in heaven.

In summation, here is what I've learned in regards to "Royal" relationships:1) Marry a Playboy Bunny once shame on you; marry another, and get invited to the Nickelodeon Awards. 2) If you are into door to door conversions and ass-less chaps you may just land a hottie or two. 3) There is still room in this world for the lovable, chin up Prince Harry. 4) The best royal relationships are those that involve 4 men.

[1] No one has ever overheard Larry say this but I'm SURE he has.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Giving Thanks

Outside of the feeble toilets and the cluttered tables at Starbucks, the transition from the US to the UK hasn't been too difficult. Being November, however, I am reminded that for the first time in my life I will have to make a serious adjustment and do without my all-time favorite holiday-- Thanksgiving. I do plan on putting together something of a Mocksgiving for posterity's sake, but there may be a chicken instead of a turkey, and the only football I'll be watching will not be of the American kind. That being said, I will endeavor to stay true to the spirit of the holiday by giving thanks for that which I have been graced with.

Things I am grateful for in 2010:

1) Children with British accents- If your "adult" British accent amplifies the impression of intelligence than a child with a British accent nearly doubles, NAY, TRIPLES the cuteness factor. Take the following conversation I overheard a young girl have with her mother on the bus this afternoon and imagine it with a cute little English accent:

"Mum? Mummy! Did you know that you can eat snow? I tried it once... on a bench. It was VERY cold and VERY white."


2) Liberty- No, not the kind of Liberty that hangs out with "Life" and "The Pursuit of Happiness"; rather I'm referring to the Liberty department store in London. Unlike the gaudy interior of its rival Harrod's, one will most assuredly NOT find a bronze sculpture of Princess Di and her Lover releasing a dove, nor will one find any "Egyptian" escalators. Liberty is a class act. Housed in a beautiful Tudor style building Liberty is what commercialism should be-- charming and subtle. If you only have a few days in London and need to scratch your shopping itch (I won't ask where that most likely occurs) check it out.

3) Harry Potter- Admittedly I've never read one word of JK Rowling's tales of the misguided little wizard BUT... I have seen the movies. And given that the movie is set to debut in one week I've officially caught the Harry Potter fever. It isn't so much the story, the acting, or the special effects that intrigue me, rather it is the enjoyment of what I call "Nerd culture." As a life long Star Trek fan, I've taken a lot of shit for wholeheartedly throwing myself into the fictional world of James T. Kirk and co. (my therapist suggests I use the term "fictional world"... just kidding... or am I?). So I love the fact that in another 7 days I can go to a movie theater and see a long queue of fellow nerds (although they are more closeted about their nerdom) rocking everything from Gryffindor scarves and wands, to lightening bolt scars. And if I ever need a reminder that Nerd culture is alive and well in London, I can just pop down to King's Cross station and actually see platform 9 and 3/4.

4) No Thanksgiving- Did you read that right? Did I just say I was THANKFUL for the lack of a Thanksgiving, my aforementioned "favorite holiday" of the year? Let me explain... While I will, in some ways, mourn the loss of a year without Thanksgiving, it also can be viewed as a tremendous blessing. For one thing, seeing as though the English have no concept of our holiday, November 1st signals the ALL OUT START of Xmas replete with white lights, ribbons, trees, wreaths etc. I figure if I can't celebrate Turkey Day, then I may as well squeeze another few weeks out of the Xmas season. Also, seeing as though my Thanksgiving won't actually be occupied by the holiday itself, I now have more time for exploring this beautiful world of ours. Which leads me too #5...

5) Half-Naked Women Who Fall In Love With White Bulls-- If you are unfamiliar with the story, legend has it that Zeus, being the horny little king of the gods he was, fell in love with a beautiful mortal named Europa. Zeus then disguised himself as a handsome white bull to attract Europa and eventually carried her off for a wild love making session (Which makes me wonder if Europa coined the mid-sex tradition of moaning "Oh god! Oh god!"). Anyway, Europa's progeny went on to spread all over the continent which we now call, you guessed it, Europe. So if not for that saucy little lady, I may not be able to enjoy my Thanksgiving in Madrid, where I shall surely think of her every morning as I dine on a breakfast of churros and hot chocolate.

As for my peeps in the States... Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the bird (and I don't mean that in the "Leda and the Swan" kind of way).