Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Surprisingly Pleasant Little MRI

I got an MRI yesterday for the best possible reason: to rule out epilepsy that I'm 99.9% positive I don't have. (I asked for ADD meds, then discovered I'd been referred to a neurologist who doesn't hold much stock in ADD.)

As many of you know, I'm something of a hypochondriac, though I've been getting better. Hypochondria is, I understand, fairly common among people who leave fundamentalism: you spend your whole life a.) ignoring your body, and b.) telling and re-telling stories about how the entire world can be destroyed because of one relatively small mistake (Adam and Eve, Ananias and Sapphira, Uzzah and the Ark of the Covenant [I Sam 6:2-7]), and when you leave it all you start noticing that your body aches, and your instincts immediately fly to catastrophe. (My nose feels funny. Ack! Cancer!) I've discovered that I can cause full-blown numbness and tingling just by worrying about it. Perhaps I should stop watching "House, M.D."

Anyway, since the neurologist said, "Get an MRI just to rule out epilepsy," I thought, "Hey! Free MRI!" This is a good thing. Since my greatest fears have always tended to manifest themselves around hard-to-pin-down, systemic-collapse diseases like diabetes, MS and fibromyalgia, it would be nice to have an MRI in my file so doctors could look at it and say, "You're crazy. Now go have a shot. And take some baby aspirin; it prevents strokes."

I left an hour early for my appointment, and this was a good thing. As if the universe was preparing me to spend time stuck helplessly in a box, I got trapped in my building's elevator for a few minutes. Fortunately, by poking an envelope through the not-quite-closed doors and wig-wagging it, a colleague was alerted and called for help. Then the door opened, I pressed the button, and the same elevator came right back to me. I got on and it worked fine. So I was also being taught another valuable MRI lesson: blind faith in technology you don't understand.

They strapped me to a table, put my head in a little plastic lattice so it wouldn't move (they never show that on TV; I bet it limits human expression), shoved a pillow under my knees, and slid me into this very tiny tube. Fortunately, I lived once in a teeny apartment with a loft bed so badly designed that the ceiling was only a few inches from my eyes. This wasn't much different. But the weird thing was the sliding: I told the attending, "I feel like a piece of luggage," and he nodded and ignored me. MRI people, in my experience, are the toughest audience in the hospital. I'd been cracking jokes all the way from intake ("That's my insurance card; I wanted the one with the puppies, but it's not a covered expense") to where-do-I-go ("Is this how you test for disorientation?"), and the second I came to the MRI department, no one wanted to chat. I'm sure they make nice money, but I'm never marrying an MRI tech.

I was a little afraid going in, because I don't like sitting still at the best of times (ADD, remember? Or maybe it's Nervous Leg Syndrome...) But once the slide was over and the test started, it was actually suprisingly easy. If you watch medical shows, the MRI almost always announces its presence by a series of loud electric thumps. Not so here! The thumps came eventually, but most of the thirty minutes was spent listening to what sounded like an experiemental electronic music symphony: Very rhythmic, interestingly varied, and with a surprisingly tonal quality.

Back in Tallahassee, when I had a car, I discovered that if I ever felt really ready to bust (this was before I discovered the soothing power of exercise), I could just hop in my car and drive straight down I-10 for miles and miles with the radio on maximum, tuned to, um, static. It was very soothing. And so was this. I just closed my eyes and held the little emergency squeeze ball and waited till the concert was over. Not bad at all.

On the way out, I noticed that the machine was a Maestro model Symphony brand Magnetom. Was it possibly designed to make more interesting noises than the ones on , say, CSI? If so, good designing! Now if I could just get the tune out of my head...



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