Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Ikea Cometh

Mother of God.

We knew that heading out to the brand spakin' new IKEA three days after it opened would be a fairly popular idea, but HOLY SWEDISH MEATBALLS.

About three exits early on the Interstate large flashing signs indicated what lanes IKEA traffic should be in. I sort of thought this was amusing as traffic was zipping along at a regular jackass pace, but then we reached the actual exit and I realized it was no joke. The entirety of the Centennial police force was out, hating their lives and using orange cone glow sticks to bat away their dignity.

Like, seriously; every five feet or so there was another cop decked out in a fetching hot yellow vest with sweat pouring down their face. Or tears. Because really? This is what they joined the force for?

One of the things I've realized in Denver is that when a place is popular or receives a good review in one of the local magazines, it still remains accessible. Snooze notwithstanding.

When I lived in Manhattan should your favorite local sushi place get written up in Time Out or worse, the Times? Forget about it. There's no point in trying. Or, good God, when JCPenney's opened in Herald Square? Oy. That was even worse because it wasn't even just the curious literate faction mobbing the place, it was anyone with eyes.

So, I was a little surprised when we were ushered through a series of traffic cone gauntlets only to watch the behemoth store pass on our right even though all the signs suggested parking was that way. As in, the direction where there is no blue and gold warehouse blotting out the horizon.

We ended up getting spit out back on the main road. Confused, Irreverand Husband and I thought that we'd just been had. Were all the parking lots full?

As we passed cars w/ Missouri and Montana license plates, making me wonder if people had really trekked that far just to visit IKEA, we momentarily thought this was more than we bargained for and we should just head home... but the promise of cheap furniture whose assembly will no doubt test the strength of our marriage was too strong.

We finally found a spot in an office building lot that was whoring itself out for the weekend. Score.

I've seen a lot of mobs in my life; that time I was accidentally in Times Square when Puerto Rico declared it's independence... or wait, that can't be right... I don't know, something happened that was monumental and there were gobs and gobs of humans just spilling out into the streets wearing flags like capes, or when I was at Cedar Point the day the Millennium Force first opened, or when Justin Timberlake was allegedly spotted at Hershey Park the day it was teeming with *NSYNC fans waiting for the concert.

That was all nothing, mere handfuls of interested parties gathering, compared to all the greater Denver-ites who've been poised for this, ready to pounce for over a year, victims of the clever advertising barrage promising an amalgamation of affordable housewares.

In the warehouse's shadow there's a (now) small furniture store, with an inventory consuming merely half the strip mall, ironically called "WOW!"

Poor thing.

People streamed past it as the blue and yellow steel testament to human consumerism loomed large. Pilgrims in the quest of promised salvation from the bitter worlds of Pottery Barn and Pier One.

And... we were no different. We recently bought a town house (oh yeah, update! I'm a homeowner!)(I have a mother fucking mortgage!)(Yes, as in MORTGAGE) and have left all 24 boxes of books we moved unopened with the sole intent of waiting for the local vernacular to hum with silly Swedish consonants.

It is now three weeks after the fact and as I sit here listening to my husband and father-in-law's curses and damnations punctuating eerily dentist-like drill noises I still believe it was all really worth it.

I'm getting closer to my dream of having a Beauty and The Beast library...

one Billy bookcase at a time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Macrophage: Honey Badger of the Immune System

I've been trying to reacquaint myself with how the immune system works in the hopes I'll understand what the hell is going on next month when I do Oncology.

Besides the fact that wow, how did I get through med school? I've learned that absurd metaphors help me retain what I've read/doodling makes it seem like you're studying for much longer than you actually are.

For your reference: The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger

"The honey badger has been referred to by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most fearless animal in the animal kingdom. It really doesn't give a shit."

Similarly, the macrophage doesn't give a shit. As a white blood cell that hangs out in your tissues, it'll eat anything. In fact, when it's just hanging, living its life, it functions much as a garbage collector does.

Though my garbage people don't typically eat whatever they find laying around.

The toothless sanitation workers from college who probably masqueraded in white gowns and hoods on the weekends excepted. "Honey badger don't care, it just takes what it wants."

"There he goes running in slow-mo again."

I imagine the macrophage also just poking along, taking in the scenery, UNTIL... it receives a signal from a helper T cell that something that's not supposed to be there (e.g. enemy saliva leeching through a skin punctured by a fang) is now there.

He's wearing an apron because Helper! And though it's not as widely recognized to us, interferon gamma is basically the bat signal for the phagocytic (cells that eat things) world.

"The honey badger is really pretty bad ass. They have no regard for any other animal whatsoever... Ooh look it's chasing things! And eating them!"

Thus activated, the macrophage goes to the area that's emitting the bat signal and starts chowing down on invaders. It spews out pieces of invaders. This excrement serves as a welcome mat for MORE phagocytic and warrior cells to come to the scene and eat bad guys.

The macrophage does keep some of the invader bits to adorn its membrane with. Like trophies.

Other white blood cells see these trophies as challenges and are like, OH YEAH BABY, I'M GONNA FIND ME SOME OF THAT TOO and rush to join.

"But look! The honey badger doesn't care it's getting stung like a thousand times; it doesn't give a shit, it's hungry."

And oh, if a bacterium emits something sayyy, a lipopolysaccharide, a calling card of sorts, and it hits the macrophage head on? No T-cell intermediary? Oh the macrophage is one crazy fuck. It becomes HYPERACTIVATED (real term) and "honey badger don't care, honey badger smacks the shit out of it."

It's so tormented it starts sweating off tumor necrosis factor alpha. Smelling that sweat is an aphrodisiac to the rest of the white blood cells. They come a runnin'.

I don't know that honey badgers carry around little sacks of poison (the lysosomes pictured), but I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rage Against the Vehicular Machine

I tend to take it very personally when I’m honked at. Even when I’m stopped at an intersection and hear a honk from several cars away I take it personally though there’s no way it could be directed at me.

Yesterday I was en route to work in the midst of rush hour and there was this dude behind me who was riding my ass, but you know, what else is new in traffic decorum. It’s the road equivalent of some sleeze-o in a club finding justification in again, riding your ass, just because it’s there.

When we reached a stoplight he abruptly zipped around me, lingered next to me, laid on his horn and gesticulated wildly.

He first gave me the international, “WTF” arms and sneer, which I promptly reciprocated, but then he started bringing his thumb and index finger about an inch a part as if to say, “this close; this close.”

Pretty sure that’s the wrong finger maneuver you’re looking for in this instance, buddy.

Unless you’re trying to show me the size of your wanker.

He had an Obama sticker on his car so I tried to be less angry. Maybe he saw my Ohio plates and was saying the election in ’08 was this close and it’s probably my conservative fault mother fucker.

Which, you know, fine. Not true, but fine. I could see the misunderstanding.

But instead of taking comfort in the fact that he’s an idiot and I didn’t intentionally or ostensibly do anything wrong, I welled up and wondered why he’s being so mean.

It was almost as bad as the time I started crying while walking the dog because I thought she was mad at me for not moving fast enough.

Yes. I have issues.

These issues tend to come to the fore when I’m stressed, tired, hungry, PMS-ing, sad, feeling defensive... basically whenever I’m existing. There’s a whole post/dissertation I could write on the ins and outs of my mental fragility, but that’s not my point today.

My point is… why are people so quick to get angry?

A few months ago I was driving down a two lane road, that yes, was pretty generous in the amount of space allotted to the curbside lane, but yet still, TWO LANES, and there was this man in a humongous SUV whose nose hairs I could make out in my rearview mirror.

Clearly me going 45 in a 40 was not cutting it.

I was in the right lane. The right lane is the SLOW lane (and also in this instance, the Correct and Just lane). Also? Speed limit. I was already breaking it.

I mean, not with reckless abandon, but still; not going 10 miles under either. At any rate, after honking, flashing his lights and just generally being a bimbo by swerving in and out behind me, he takes it upon himself to pass me.

In my own lane.

Again, it’s a generous lane so it’s not like we were going to bumper car it out, but WHO DOES THAT?

So he swerves next to me and I lay on my horn. An appropriate use of the horn I feel.

He cuts in front of me.

I’m still honking.

He then slams on his brakes and stops his car in the middle of the road. Stops. As in, no more forward inertia. On a 40mph 4 lane road.

He then leans out his window and purses his lips as he tilts his head back in some kind of thug movement and flashes his hands around. A gang symbol? Attempting to take flight? Some kind of Ross Gellar-esque gesture he uses to avoid having to actually give the finger?

Who knows.

The point? What the hell did I do? I laid on my horn. But he was being a jerk. I see nothing amiss in this scenario.

I mean, I don’t know what I thought. That laying on my horn would summon the fuzz? That he would recognize the error of his ways and use his headlights to Morse code out an apology? I guess. But I wasn’t just going to sit there and let him be a freaking asshole.

But, again. Why so mean? Even though he was clearly, CLEARLY, the one in the wrong, I found myself getting riled up and felt my lower lip start to swell.

I tried to tell myself that maybe his dog got run over this morning and that it wasn’t personal, but still, I wanted to cry.

Why are people so mean when driving?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One Chapter's End

I can’t believe Borders is going under.

I’m a cheerleader for The Shop Around the Corner et. al., sure, but Borders was somehow so special to me growing up it’s sad to see it go.

I haven’t been in its aisles in a good oh, 5 years, which speaks to exactly why it’s bankrupt (not because I spent THAT much money, but because I’m sure there are others like me, seduced by kindles or libraries), but I feel as though my favorite merry-go-round is getting demolished to make way for a drive-thru liquor store.

It’s perverse.

I remember in the early 90s when they first started to come on the scene. A part of me at that time recognized that having such an expansive inventory and attention to comfort was revolutionary as far as book stores went, mostly because my mother would constantly say in italics, they have couches there.

Couches! In a store! It’s as though they’re asking you to browse instead of chasing waylaid shoppers out with a broom.

My first Borders was one shopping plaza away from where I took dance lessons. Often in an effort to have me actually engage in physical activity and attend said lessons my mom would offer a post-ballet trip to the book store. The book store that has two floors. Boom. Nerd-dom was born.

Climbing the stairs to the childrens’s section and sitting on bean bags paging through the latest Babysitter’s Little Sister book was my slide down the birth canal and prompt nesting in the afterbirth.

Yeah… that was a weird metaphor.

Beyond demonstrating the finer aspects of bribery, my mom’s offers to take me to the bookstore were one of the few bonding experiences that didn’t end in tears, whining and door slamming. And then whatever I would do.

We would part ways, browse to our hearts content, pick a few titles and ultimately meet each other at a couch in front of a fireplace. A fireplace in a bookstore.

The only other bookstore I’d seen a fireplace in was the conservative Christian “Loaves and Fishes” branch that would in future years use the feature to make Harry Potter conflagrations.

Borders wouldn’t do that.

This was also one of the only venues that I could bring myself to ask for something. Most kids want all kinds of crap that’s presented at their eye level and is bright, shiny and clearly going to change their lives forever.

I really wasn’t like that. I had this sort of guilt thing with consumerism and spending money and worrying that the My Little Pony I fought for was going to render us homeless. (It totally wasn’t. We’ve been upper middle class my whole life.)(I was just weird.)

I rarely asked for things. And I nearly never outright asked for things.

But at Borders, when I’d sigh and say, “I wish books were free…” and slyly look out the corner of my eye, my mom unfailingly asked “Why, were you wanting something? Go ahead. It’s a book.”

She never said no to a book.

I have since adopted this philosophy. And as such have a ton of books that I haven’t yet read, but that I needed to have at some moment in time.

I try not to ever pay full price for a book and never buy a hard cover, the only exceptions being new Jennifer Weiner novels and the occasional YA book that peaks my interest. I mostly go to used book stores, the library or a great new place in Denver called 2 Buck Books. Which yes, is technically a used book store, but you don’t understand. It's so much more.

I am also one of those people who will go to Borders/Barnes&Noble, what have you, find titles that are interesting, and ultimately go home and order them from Amazon or put them on hold at the library. So. In many ways, my generation's habits are at fault for kicking this conglomerate while it was down.

Well. Goodbye, Borders. I’m sorry I grew up to be so cheap.