Monday, May 2, 2011

Do I Know You?

     Readers of certain age will remember a whole series of tv commercials 
where a guy comes on the screen and says, “Do you know me?” Then he  

proceeds to tell you what he's famous for, and you still haven't a clue as to  

who he is. Then at the very end, you see his American Express card with his

name on it, and you think, “D'oh! Of course!”

That pretty much explains my whole life.

     In order for this entry to make any sense, I have to explain something. I am faceblind. The official medical term for this is prosopagnosia.  Scientists think it is due to a malfunction in the fusiform gyrus, a part of the brain. Basically, it means I can't remember faces. I see them, but I have a lot of trouble remembering them. I just don't recognize people very well. The more time I spend with someone, the better I get at recognizing him, but it's always a struggle. Mostly, I rely on voice, posture, mannerisms, and dress. I can recognize a lot of people from the back as they walk away from me!

What you see.
Ed from accounting.

What I see.
Ed's mouth and clothes.

The Cheshire Cat.
     For some reason, I remember teeth very well. I couldn't tell you if the cashier at the Safeway wears glasses, but I can damn well remember that space between her front teeth. Hair is helpful, too. I think this big fad for shaving your head is just awful. It makes all men under the age of 30 look alike to me. Bald or very short hair, long “shorts”, sneakers, and a baseball cap. In my world, they are interchangeable drones.

     To be more accurate, it's not so much that I don't recognize people, as I can't tell them apart.  For me, there are about 12 original people in the world. Everyone else is a clone of one of those 12. So actually, I tend to over recognize. It's embarrassing. I tend to greet people I don't know. Or I don't greet people I do know because I'm not sure if it's really them.

     I can get pretty good at recognizing known people if they stay where they're supposed to be. An example would be Joe the baker. If he stays in his bakery, I can be pretty sure it's him. But if he leaves the bakery and walks down the street, well, then he is out of context, and all bets are off.

me: “Isn't that Joe the baker?”
bf: “Oh fer chrissakes, you can't seriously think that's Joe the baker!”
me: “Well, yeah, I mean...he looks like Joe the baker. To me. Doesn't he?”
bf: “NO! He doesn't look ANYTHING like Joe the baker. You're outta yer mind!”

The bf is not known for being over sympathetic. I think he doesn't really believe me.

     When I was young, I once walked right past my mother on Greenpoint Ave. She got mad. Another time, I was in Macy's. I turned a corner and almost walked into a girl about my age. My first thought was, “Gee, that poor girl is ugly.” Then I realized I was looking in a mirror. Cross my heart, that's God's honest truth. Didn't do much for my ego. I still hate mirrors.

     I met a woman at a dog show. We talked for over an hour. The next day, she came up to me and said hello. She acted very friendly, like she knew me. I had no idea who she was. She had changed her clothes and didn't have her dog with her.     
     Movies can be really difficult. The worst ones are from the early 1940's. Black & white, so I can't see skin tones. Everyone speaks in that same, faux-cultured, studio-taught accent. The men are all clean shaven and wear hats and suits. It's prosopagnosia hell. I get all the male actors confused.

me: “Is that the father or the brother?”
bf: “You just asked me that.”
me: “Oh. Sorry. Well, which one is it?”
bf: “Can't you tell? What's wrong with you?”
me: “I have a brain disorder called prosopagnosia. I was born that way. It's a disability. It makes my social life hell.”
bf: “Yeah, you've got a brain disorder, all right.”
me: “Sorry. Yes, actually, I can tell them apart just fine, but I really enjoy annoying you.”
bf: “That's what I thought.”

I mean, honestly---look at these pictures and tell me that each set isn't the same guy!

Aren't I adorable?

     I didn't even know I had a problem until a few years ago. I thought everyone had similar people recognizing abilities, and that I was just a little worse at it than most. I had no idea of the extent of my handicap. When I learned about it, a lot of lights went on in my head. So many things became clear to me. It was a real revelation.
  • Oh, so that's why people always said I was stuck up! I must have walked past them and not said hello.
  • No wonder why I was terrified of getting lost when I was a little child. How could I ever find my mother if we got separated?
  • Of course school was a horror! I went to Catholic school. Everyone wore uniforms. There were nuns. In habits.

     Finding out about it was a good thing. It's helped me to hone what skills I do have, and develop some new ones. It also made me feel better about myself. I used to think I was lazy, that I wasn't trying hard enough to memorize people's faces. Now I understand that normal people don't have to memorize faces. It's just something they do without even thinking about it. I am in awe of this ability.
     I really like people with facial scars or other distinguishing features, like a big nose. It helps.

Two famous people with prosopagnosia:
Oliver Sachs

Jane Goodall

Now, these two I have no trouble telling apart.

Here's a really good page with info: Faceblind

The End.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Haiku for Otto

     Some friends on Facebook inspired me to write a Haiku for Otto.  So here it is:

Black and white jester
scampering along the surf
laughter follows him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Living in a Tiny Space

     The boyfriend and I, along with 4 dogs, 2 turtles and various fish, live in a really tiny apartment of about 465 square feet. That includes closet space and toilet. The bedroom is really small, and just barely fits a double bed and a dresser. We can't afford to move because it's rent controlled, and going rates for apartments in San Francisco are outrageous. Things wouldn't be so bad, except the boyfriend is an accumulator, er, ahem... I mean collector. This creates problems.
     It would be OK if he only collected one thing, but he has many interests, and apparently all of them come complete with collectibles. He has a closet full of Disney figurines.  A whole wall of books just about Disney.  And comic books, of course. 
     He has a Master's degree in film history, so he has a huge collection of DVDs, mostly horror. Oh, there's also a ton of old TV shows, like Adam 12, Get Smart, I Love Lucy, Bewitched, Mr. Bean, Black Adder, Fawlty Towers: that's just a few.
     He's also a musician, so he has another wall full of CDs, and many, many, books about music. I'd say at least half of them are about the Beatles. He has about 14 guitars, and several amps, which are really big and take up a lot of room. He has no room for clothes in his closet (which is bigger than mine), so they tend to spread all around the house. 
Actual photographic evidence that I am not making this up.

The fact that he's a major slob doesn't help anything, either.
     He always seems to have multiples of everything. 14 guitars, 5 amps, 4 DVD players, etc. And nothing gets thrown out. Ever.  He still has a laserdisc player! In fact, I think he may have two. The garage is full of empty boxes from all the electronic equipment he's bought over the years. He says this is because:
  1. We may move, so he needs the boxes to pack the stuff up in (we've been living in this same apartment for 27 years), or
  2. He may want to sell it one day, and it's worth more with the box.
     One bad outcome of clutter and lack of space is that there really is no room to do anything. It's hard to move around without bumping into things. Sometimes I feel like one of those toys that you turn on and it rolls around until it bumps into something, then it reverses until it bumps into something else, until it's batteries run down. Or, in my case, until I either go mad or die of my bruises.
     We get into fights, the bf & I, like rats in an overcrowded cage. One HUGE bone of contention is his guitar practice. When he's practicing, neither the dogs nor I am allowed to move, breathe, or distract him in any way. He could go in the bedroom and shut the door, but he seems determined to practice in the living room.
     There are only two places to sit in the living room: the chair and the couch. I call the couch my “office”, because I keep all my everyday stuff near by. Laptop, knitting, checkbook, sketch book, and anything I happen to be reading at the time. OK, I admit it, I do spend most of my day on the couch. But that's because there really isn't any other place to be. I hate the bedroom. It's too small and claustrophobic, and my back hurts if I lie on the bed too much. Or is it “lay” on the couch? I'm never sure about that one. I just asked the bf, and he said,

     There's no room for a chair in there. So I camp out on the couch most of the day, writing my blog, surfing the net, and being a generally useful citizen, out of the way and bothering no one.

     For some odd reason I have never been able to fathom, he takes exception to this. He's jealous. He wants to sit on the couch. He wants to play his guitar on the couch. And he wants me to go away while he's doing it.   We had a big fight over it tonight. Well, he had a fight. I just sat there (on the couch). He was pissed at me because I sat on the couch while he was practicing.  I didn't speak to him or make eye contact.

I just sat in the corner and squished myself up real small.  

I wanted to use my laptop.  
He blew a fit.

Then he went in the bedroom and slammed the door. 

     Several times. 

     He yelled at the poor dog, who came running out like her ass was on fire. 

(She's so gassy it's a distinct possibility.)

I want one of these:

I think I'd have more room than I do now.

The End.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Man Who Thought He Could Drink

     My boyfriend thinks he can drink. He goes out with friends to bars, where he always imbibes too much. Is he drinking to forget his troubles? No. The reason he drinks too much is because he has many obsessive rules involving multiple aspects of his life, and one of those rules governs alcohol consumption. Here it is:

I must buy drinks for each friend I go out with, and then each friend must reciprocate.

     Let me try to explain (although it is complicated and I may not get it right). It seems that when a person goes to a bar with friends, each friend must pay for a round. A round is one drink for each friend, plus one for yourself. Let's say there are four people involved: Joe, Jack, Fred and Sam. The person who invited the other three (we'll make it Sam) buys the first round, meaning one drink for each friend plus himself. That's four drinks total. Stay with me, there's more.
     When all the drinks of the first round are consumed, the next friend must repeat the process, buying one drink for each friend and one for himself. This is repeated two more times, resulting in each friend buying and consuming four drinks. The more friends, the more drinks. Since the bf is only paying for one drink for himself, theoretically he is getting three “free” drinks. In practice, however, he is actually buying four drinks. This ends up costing him more than if each friend had bought his own drinks, because the bf probably wouldn't have had four drinks without the pressure of the rounds system (hereafter referred to as “trs”). You see, trs forces the bf to keep up so that,
  1. he gets his fair share, and:
  2. he doesn't lose face and undo all the male bonding that has occurred.
     Unfortunately, trs doesn't always work the way the bf thinks it should. (This happens with a lot of his rules). He seems to have a substantial number of friends who are both cheap and light drinkers.  Since the bf almost always pays for the first round,

these friends suck up the free beer, and never offer to buy an additional round. There always seems to be at least one friend like this. This is the guy that stays for three rounds, and then leaves just before his “turn”. Or, he may nurse that one free beer all night.  This drives the bf absolutely apeshit. He comes home drunk, complaining about how cheap and socially retarded his friends are. Then he passes out fully dressed and I have to take the dogs out late at night.  In the morning, he insists that he didn't pass out because he made it to the bed. This, according to him, shows that he went to bed, rather then passed out 

     Sometimes, he over-drinks and overeats. This usually occurs at parties. Then he comes home, throws up (with many dramatic, loud, sound effects), and becomes absolutely convinced that he got food poisoning from the snacks. The drinking, of course, had nothing to do with it.  He moans:

"I've been poisoned!  Call 911!"
He's not kidding.

Pathetic? Yes.
Kidding? No.

The End.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Althea has a Secret

     Althea Johnson had a small cottage, a bulldog of sorts, greying hair, and a secret. The cottage was so old, no one was sure who had built it or when it had been built. It was made of logs and stone and various bits of this and that. The roof was covered with moss, and the whole house rambled along, looking like a cross between the house of the 7 Dwarves and Shrek's tree house. It had a lot of carving, both inside and out: faces, animals, flowers. Althea's cottage was located deep inside a spinney of larch trees, not far from a small creek.

     The bulldog (of sorts) was named Otto. He was black & white, with a stubby tail and a mostly white face and a black spot right between his ears. He looked like a long-nosed Boston Terrier on steroids. A lot of ignorant people thought he was a pitbull, but he only weighed 27 pounds, and he wasn't really a pitbull at all.
     The greying hair bothered Althea at first. She tried to cover it up with brown hair dye. The dye would look good for a few weeks, then it would fade and she would end up with brown roots, grey streaks, and reddish blond ends. She felt this looked even worse than the grey streaks. She also noticed that the last few times time she'd used the dye, she'd been itchy all over for several days. So Althea made the decision to stop dyeing her hair. The odd thing was that when it started growing out, the grey streaks turned almost white, and the rest of her hair started turning blond, at least on top. The underneath was still dark. So now she wasn't itchy anymore, but she still had tricolored hair. She took to wearing hats.
     One day, while walking along the creek with Otto, a large salmon poked its head out of the water and said,
Hey you. Yeah, you with the hat.”
Althea was somewhat taken aback at this, as she had never met a talking salmon, or indeed, a talking fish of any kind, before. She cautiously took a few steps closer to the water, and asked what the salmon wanted. The salmon, whose name happened to be Robert, told Althea that he really wasn't a salmon at all, but a man with a bewitchment upon him. He proceeded to recount his sad tale:
     “I used to be a man. Don't look at me like that...I really was. I was handsome and athletic and a successful lawyer, and quite popular with the ladies. I had so many girlfriends, I had my secretary make up a flow chart to keep track of them all. I also had a wife.  I was doing OK with this for quite a while. Then I started getting careless. One thing led to another, and the wife found out about the girlfriends, who found out about each other. All hell broke loose. They all got together and cast a spell on me, and changed me into a salmon. They said I could spawn all I wanted, but then I would die.”
     Althea thought this over, and asked Robert what he wanted from her. He told her that he had heard some snails talking, and found out that the only way to reverse the spell was to find a woman who would take pity on him and take him home. Then, if she would love him with all her heart for one year, he would turn back into a man.
     Althea agreed to this, and Robert jumped out of the water and into the basket she was carrying to collect berries. She ran home and put Robert in the sink. Then she built up a nice fire in the stove, threw some spuds in the oven and some butter in a pan. She took Robert out of the sink, hit him over the head with a mallet, cleaned him out, and fried him in the butter. She called her friend Sharon up and invited her over for dinner. As they were eating, Sharon said, “Althea, when are you going to give me this recipe? It's so delicious.” To which Althea replied, “Oh Sharon, you know it's a family secret!”

The End.