Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weekend Update

This was an eventful weekend.

1. Saturday morning we had a First Holy Communion party for a cousin's daughter.  It was a pleasant time, with many kids in attendance.  I was able to distract one in desperate need of distraction with my "magic camera" (setting my camera on the table to take pictures using the timer) and my ability to make the water goblets sing (something that is much easier with wine glasses, and doesn't work at all with orange juice.)

Partway through the party the skies opened up, dumping punishing amounts of rain on us.  We got out during a slight abatement.  I then hopped in my car and headed for...

2. Free Comic Book Day.  Held annually on the first Saturday in May.  The weather got nice again by the time I got there.  Unfortunately, I found very little of interest at the store.  When I got back into comics two years ago it was during Marvel's "Dark Reign" event, in which the normal order of things was upended: good guys were on the run, bad guys were in charge, and the new President had been duped into officially sanctioning this. Like most "events," this one came to an end a year later; the bad guys were put in prison (and for the most part, promptly escaped), and the good guys went back to being heroes and dealing with...well, comic-bookish situations.  The great social commentary of "Dark Reign" has ended, and I find myself focusing primarily on two comics ("Secret Warriors" and "S.H.I.E.L.D.", both written by Jonathan Hickman) that have retained the good-guys-on-the-ropes sense of heroic desperation.  After this visit I got back in my car and headed to...

3. Franco Kossa's funeral.  I approached the funeral at a dead march, never exceeding the speed limit all the way down Route 11 and all the way up Route 309.  I watched the minutes slip by:  2:00 became 2:15 and headed towards 2:30.  I made the turn off 309 onto the street that would take me to a street that would take me to the parking lot.  And as I parked, I  realized that the sky had opened up again.  The rain was coming down so hard that I could not imagine striding across the parking lot and into the funeral home without becoming a drenched mess.  So I sat in my car with a stack of free comic books and read about the further adventures of Adam West until the rain had slowed down a bit.

I entered the funeral home and was directed to the sign-in area.  I wrote my name in the register and turned to see the knot of sideshow folk in the back:  Michael Kattner (a.k.a. Professor Fountain) and James Taylor, and James Mundie, and Tyler Fyre and Thrill Kill Jill.  I don't think I had ever spoken directly to Tyler or Jill before, but I soon remedied that situation.  I made my way past the casket - Franco in a felt bowler and tie-dyed shirt over a t-shirt promoting one of his shows, and a knot of lanyards at his feet, all-access passes to previous Gatherings - paid my respects, and then expressed my regrets to Kim, Franco's widow. I then returned to the sideshow folk, who graciously allowed me - a non-performer, non-historian, essentially a "normal" - to associate with them.  Several veterans were there, including Al Stencell and a bearded man whose name I do not know, but they sat in chairs, chatting with each other.  The rest of the room was filled with people I did not know, people from other aspects of Franco's life: people who knew him through his tattoo shops, or his game shops, or through any other moments in his life.  Soon we were joined by local magician and Sideshow Gathering regular Pat Ward, and then Chris Longo, the "Mayor of Tattooville" arrived, resplendent in a powder-blue suit and mayoral key.  Later, while I was reading over some of the memorial collages assembled to celebrate Franco's life, I saw that John Spitzer (a.k.a. Professor Sprocket) and his traveling companion had arrived.  I wandered around the room, noting the many lovely floral arrangements, including one from The Olde City Sideshow.

At 4:00 the funeral service began.  It was a lovely service, and after the Reverend had performed the Christian formalities he invited members of the assembly to speak about Franco's life.  First up was Chris Longo, whose tribute to Franco choked himself up - as well as the assembled crowd.  Then a man I did not recognize spoke, and he identified himself as Franco's father, and the resemblance was immediately obvious.  I was briefly confused because one of the obituaries was worded in such a way that I believed both of Franco's parents were deceased.  Franco's father, also named Frank Kossa, spoke briefly of his love for his son.  Next Tyler spoke, with all the eloquence of a professional talker, a touching statement about Franco's place in the afterlife in this world, measured by the shadow in which all that come after him will walk.  Finally, one of the kids who spent much of their time at Franco's game store playing Magic: The Gathering spoke,explaining how Franco was like a second father to many of those kids - or a first, in some cases.

Tattoos, family, sideshow, and gaming: four aspects of Franco's life represented.  It was beautifully balanced, wonderfully structured.

And then it was the end.  The minister made some parting remarks, and then the crowd prepared to file past to pay their final respects - to the tune of the Grateful Dead's "Ripple." It was also appropriate, a cheerful song accompanying a somber procession.

We gathered afterwards in the back of the funeral home, again in individual knots - sideshow folk, tattoo folk, gamers, family. We noted that the miserable weather had turned beautiful, and made our way outside to take in the cool air and bright sunshine.  The Snowdon Funeral Home is separated from Route 309 by a small creek, and we stood on the shore of that creek and laughed and told stories.  Then some of the gathered crowd headed across Route 309 to a small repast at an Asian grill in a nearby group of stores - but I had somewhere else to be, though I could not remember where.  I made my farewells, expressed hope that I would see everyone in November at the Gathering, and made my way back down 309.

I was going somewhere, but I couldn't remember where.

4. Oh, yeah, the annual informal gathering of bloggers at Mark's Pub for the Kentucky Derby.  I was almost on 81 when I remembered this, and immediately got lost trying to get there.  It wasn't the first time I had been lost that day, as I had gotten lost going to the Communion party. But I realized that I had completely lost my sense of where Mark's Pub was.  My first exit was completely wrong, putting me in Kingston, though my second attempt was also wrong, landing me near General Hospital.  Finally I fought my way to the exit that put me in the right place, and found Mark's very easily.  Gort was there, and Mrs. Gort, and several of Gort's friends, and a blogger whose existence I had only recently discovered, Cheri Sundra.  We caroused a bit, and watched Animal Kingdom easily beat the frontrunner, the favorites, and the rest of the race leaders to take the trophy or the roses or whatever. Cheri had to excuse herself after the race, and I decided to wash down my two beers with a dozen hot wings.  As I ate them I realized that the vague pain that had been building in my right jaw joint for several days was getting markedly worse.  Chewing and biting became a chore, and against my Catholic upbringing I may have allowed some pieces of chicken to cling to the bones that were discarded.

5. After that I stopped by my cousin's mother's house, where I joined my cousin and several other people in watching and deconstructing the end of "The Bourne Ultimatum" and the beginning of "Body of Lies" - Leonardo DiCaprio's makeup job reminded me of nothing so much as the "actor" from "Team America: World Police."

6.  I slept in a bit and headed out to church Sunday morning, vaguely aware of my increasingly painful jaw.  Afterwards I returned home and presented my mother with what meager Mother's Day presents I could afford, and realized that my jaw really, really hurt.  My sister suggested that it might be an inflammation due to TMJ, and recommended cold compresses and Ibuprofen. So I spent the rest of the day popping Advil and pressing cold packs against my jaw, and trying to get nutrition through foods that didn't need to be chewed.  I also made a delicious turkey soup out of the frozen leftover bones from a turkey breast that we had a few weeks ago.  By Monday the pain had abated somewhat, and by today I can say that the pain is effectively gone.

So.  How was your weekend?


hedera said...

Sorry to hear you're having TMJ problems; I've had them myself. Here's a trick I learned from Kaiser's TMJ management class which seems to help.

Your biggest jaw muscle is the masseter. Its job is to close the jaw. Often, part of TMJ is the fact that the masseter is in spasm. A way to get it to relax is to put your finger under the point of your chin and press upward as you try to open your jaw against the pressure. Since the muscles involved now are the ones that open the jaw, the masseter has to relax. Do this for a few seconds at a time, maybe 5 or 10 times in a row when you think of it. It seems to help.

Massage also helps. Massage that little area behind where your jawbone turns up - that's not a nerve (I thought it was because it was so sore to touch!), it's a muscle, and pressing on it as in deep-tissue massage makes it relax. I added 3 notes to my upper singing register doing that (and also just massaging the masseter by deep pressure - you have to press on it pretty firmly, it's very strong). Inability to sing high notes is often a jaw tension issue.

Anonymous said...

I rated a shout-out---along with free comic books, a funeral, church and TMJ. Thanks….I think! ;-)

I’m happy I stayed to watch the race….