Prom-Face Palsy

Today was the start and end of my career as a model.

You’re a model?, you ask your laptop/iPhone.

Fuck, no. Here’s what happened…

I arrived in Calgary in July, 2011, determined to break into the big city acting biz. I got new headshots. I got an agent. I went to one audition (which I found on my own) and one (resultant) call-back. And that, my friends, is the extent of my acting career in Calgary, thus far.

I find solace in writing dis ‘ere blog. Helps me circulate the ol’ creative juices. But I do miss acting.

Anyway, this weekend I had a missed call from the agency. I was pumped. This was the first time they called me!

[Sadness.]

My agent’s assistant was calling to tell me, in a sweet British accent, that they wanted me to go to a screening (I guess) for a photo shoot. It was to take place Tuesday (today). They’d shoot me and, if I get a call back, I’d attend the official shoot this coming weekend.

“There will be twenty others. Show up with minimal make-up. Bring nothing but your lovely self.”.

Now, there is no part of me that wants to, or has ever wanted to, be a model. If I’ve done the occasional photo shoot I’ve done so because I thought it would spruce up the acting resume. That and I was probably broke.

[Check this out:  http://www.junglejims.ca/. I want in on that birthday cake action like it’s nobody’s business. Note: being used to acting and, perhaps, over-emoting, the photographer had to actually stop the shoot at one point to tell me – in not so many words – to tone down my face, because it’s making me look like a crazy person. Believe it or not, this shot was taken after that advice.]

I only wish overzealous, crazy face was all that stood between me and the title of Canada’s Next Top (Newfie, Half-French-Native, Half-Up-Da-Coast) Model. But it’s not that. Just as it’s not the fact that I’m 5’5, one-hundred-and--cough-cough-choke-cough-gasp-cough-cough-…where am I?-pounds. Or the fact that I have dad’s delicately puckered yet strong and meaty thighs. Or the fact that I’ve had baked beans for three meals in a row and am, in the sagacious words of my father, “blowed up just like da harbour tomcod”.

It’s not any of those things. It’s a (self-diagnosed) condition that I have had since my early teen years. See, I can smile effortlessly in day to day life. I love smiling. And if someone wants to take my picture? I can usually pull it off. But if I have to smile for a camera in front of onlookers? Boom. Prom-Face Palsy.

I only wish I had the pictures to back up what I’m talking about. Before the actual “grand march” ceremony at my high school graduation, my parents took tons of pictures in which I look like a perfectly normal teenager in Barbie make-up and, what appears to be, a sea-shell bra. Then, mere hours later, in the same shiny, butter-yellow cake-dress, amongst an audience of hundreds, my face takes a drastic plunge.

That was the start of it. And it has never left me in settings like that. I have no problem getting on stage. Acting. Hell, I’ve done it in my underwear! Piece of cake! I have no problem in front of a camera. Acting. I have no problem doing a photoshoot, in character, for an acting role. But as soon as I have to be myself in front of a camera and there’s an audience? Prom-Face Palsy.

I know you’re probably confused right now, so I’ve taken reenactment photos so ya dig:

Figure 1. My Normal Smile

Here ya go. The genuine selfy. What a peach she is.

Figure 2: Anxiety-Evoked, Prom-Face Palsy

As you can see, despite great efforts  by my front teeth, the corners of my mouth have been pulled heavily into a downturn. If this were a video, you would also see my mouth quivering as I try to fight it.

[I only wish I was making this up.]

In an attempt to outsmart the condition, I think, Ah ha! Everybody knows the most important thing is smiling with your eyes!

Figure 3: Prom-Face Palsy Compensation Fail due to Hyper-Enthusiastic Smiling Eyes

…Not so much, when ya got the the prom-face.

Who knows? Maybe the eyes didn’t smile quite so vigorously. But everything else is the brutal truth.

The “models” who went before me were each in front of the camera for a solid three minutes. I was there maybe eighteen seconds. And I seriously want to send a thank-you card to that photographer for wrapping it with such haste. My mouth quivered and slithered so much that, by the end of it, there was not an upturn in sight. Just, raw, uncensored PFP.

[If I were an onlooker, I would have been frantically reviewing CPR skills in my head.]

I could not have gotten out of there fast enough. I drove home in a lightning storm (literally – in case that just sounded like an out-of-place metaphor. The weather’s been crazy here.). And as I seductively lip-synced Moves Like Jagger to myself in the rearview mirror, there was the smile we (mom) know(s) and love (tolerates on most occasions).

From now on, acting auditions only. Preferably for angry roles.

Shell-Shocked Motha Lova

I’ve got this sudden desire to cook and to host and to feed people. I thought Mother’s Day would be a great time to win brownie points with the pseudo-ma-in-law by making a brunch feast featuring all the home-cooked favorites of my absentee ma.

[Love you, Mud. I sent your card on Friday so you should be getting it any week now. Hopefully by Father’s Day.]

Ze menu (ugh-huh-huh): Crustless quiche. Bacon. Sausages. Baked beans. Roasted rosemary potatoes. Apple rhubarb crisp with frozen yogurt. An exotic fruit tray with homemade fruit dip. And champagne n’ OJ – because any excuse to drink before noon on a Sunday!

I actually spent four hours at the Superstore on Saturday. I mean it when I say this sudden urge to serve is new. I had to buy dishes, serving trays, a glass pitcher, champagne flutes, candles (so the condo didn’t smell like itself), in addition to all the ingredients. It was gonna be perfect. I was stoked. And my mother, embracing my newfound culinary zeal, was on the phone with me all day Saturday making sure I had the timing of everything perfected.

  • Make everything Saturday so the atmosphere is nice and clean and stress-free when you wake up Sunday.
  • Chop the fruit right before bed.
  • Throw everything in the fridge.
  • Wake up nice and early. [If possible, wake up and stretch attractively with a big toothy smile; your hair and makeup magically done; Katrina and the Waves heralding the perfect new day. Perfect.]
  • Toss those dishes in the oven to warm.
  • Throw on the coffee and toast.
  • Pour yourself a drink.
  • Be fabulous.

What could go wrong?

I was invited out for supper Saturday evening. And although I hadn’t yet touched the quiche, the potatoes or the fruit platter, I had been working my ass off…

[Chopping apples is hard!]

…I deserved a little break.

So after a barbecue, I-lost-count-of-how-many Long Island iced teas and red wine in a hot tub, I was home my midnight. Ish.

I’m proud to say I made the quiche that night. But that was it. The potato roasting and fruit chopping could wait till the morning. No biggie. His mom wouldn’t be here till noon. I’d set my phone alarm for 10 am.

T’ousdands o’ time, I thought.

Except that I wasn’t thinking. Had my Long Island brain been operating at full capacity, I would have recognized that my phone had about 8% battery life remaining.

I woke up – shot up – at 11:20 am. Phone dead.

I fully embraced a new persona of order-barking, domestic demon (who won’t be invited back).

THERE’S NO TIME TO “WAKE UP”! WE GOTTA MOVE!

J’s job was to clean the condo which had been completely bungled by the previous day’s over-zealous, prematurely abandoned cooking bonanza. My job was to chop the fruit…

[Not to make it simply edible – that’s way too straight-forward – but to make it look like sexy, food art!]

…marinate and roast the potatoes, make the toast and coffee, heat the stuff I made yesterday. It doesn’t sound like much but, again, I’m a fetus in the life cycle of a cook/host.

And she would be here in fifteen minutes.

I felt the ping! of three to six cranial arteries.

My memory of the next minute and a half takes place in a silent, slow motion picture:

J casually starts vacuuming, happily grooving to his own anti-cerebrovascular-accident rhythm, not a care in the world. I am part cleaning the counters, part throwing fruit into a pile, part rinsing and chopping. I dump all the mini-potatoes into two pots full of water to boil before roasting. I slam the pots on the back burners which I crank on max heat. I yank the giant glass dish of quiche from the fridge and place it on the front burners. Just to have it out and visible. Maybe to comfort myself.

At least I’d done something right. Thank God I didn’t listen to J who suggested I go to bed and get a good night’s sleep and make the quiche in the morning. Imagine how much worse this would be if I still had to make this!

In a gorgeous display of passive aggression, I actually took the mid-panic time to say, “I’m glad I didn’t wait until this morning to make the quiche”.

Touché, asshole.

11:50.

Chop. Whir (vacuum). Chop chop. Whirrrrrrr. Chop.

KABLAAAAAAMMO!!!

[That’s the sound a breakfast-glass explosion makes.]

Now, I’ll admit I’m a drama queen who’s a sucker for a drop o’ hyperbole. But I shit you not, I made air. I literally was propelled in the air by the blast of glass and heat.

[Either that or I dove away like a pussy. I’m pretty sure I was propelled, though.]

It wasn’t until I saw the column of smoke from the front burner, stumbled into the glass shards and saw the blood that reality struck me.

I’d turned on the wrong burners.

I swear to you the next few moments are a blur. But J tells me he asked, “What happened?”

I just stared blankly. “It exploded. It’s ruined.”

Silence…

And then the panic piqued with a vengeance.

She’s going to be here in less than ten minutes!

I didn’t have my contacts in. I was wearing a nightdress…

[Aside: When I told my patient – young dude – this story, his sole response was, “You wear a nightdress? Sooo, when is your 86th birthday?”]

…I looked like death. My car was still in another neighbourhood where I’d left it the night before. Bleeding into a pair of sneakers, I ran to J’s large truck which I should not be allowed to drive, even when I can see. I somehow turned the windshield wipers on immediately – beautiful sunny day – and any attempt to turn them off just seemed to accelerate their taunting squeals of friction. Even squinting and with my chin on the steering wheel like – well played, dude patient – an 86-year-old, I was blind and hoping for the best.

I made it to the Superstore just in time for high noon of Mother’s Day madness. Despite a full-on limp I ran non-stop, filling my basket with new dishes and all new ingredients.

I even swung by the liquor store to grab the biggest Bailey’s I could find. I had, regretfully, asked J’s mom to come “extra hungry, ‘cause it’s gonna be a feast!”. If nothing else, I felt obligated to get her drunk.

Since the mere typing of this story is giving me the stress sweats, I’ll wrap it up quickly:

The kitchen was a mess. She didn’t seem to care. Coffee and Bailey’s? Nailed it. Shower/make-up/getting dressed? Fuck, no! Planned eating time? 12:15. Actual eating time? 2:45. Unexpected (but always welcome) two extra guests? Ain’t no thang! Just a little extra sweat and feigned coolness. Once the quiche was in the oven, I even fooled myself.

It all came together. I like to think the second quiche was better than the annihilated original. We’re still eating leftovers. And my foot is still attached.

Most expensive brunch ever. But worth the story.

The Time the Doctor Found my Sack

I haven’t mentioned this before, but in early February I had an epic nap. And I’m not saying “epic” as a hip alternative to “great”. I say “epic” because this nap would, ultimately, change the course of my life…

[Ok, I got lost there for a moment and thought I was narrating the made-for-tv-movie of my life. And by “I”, I of course mean William Shatner.]

It was a Thursday. I’d just come home from my morning job and had three solid hours to be productive before my next gig. So after a bag of Pop Chips and three episodes of Community on Netflix, I dozed off.

[I feel the collective cringe of the grammar police out there. Relax. I am one of you. But for the sake of this pretty off-the-cuff blog, let me have “dozed off”. I’m a Newfoundlander. And in Newfoundland, we don’t doze. We doze off.]

I was lying on my right side with my head on the very tall arm of the sofa. My head was essentially tilted 90 degrees to the left. And in that position I remained for an hour and a half.

For three weeks, I could neither tilt nor turn my head to the left.

[All those times I internally rolled my eyes and groaned when a patient made dramatic pain faces as I assessed his/her neck range of motion… Was this karma?]

I don’t remember when my neck immobility and the tennis-ball sized knots under my shoulder blades turned into the sensation of lightning bolts shooting from my thumb and index and middle fingers (by the power of Grayskull). But that happened. And continued happening whenever I looked down. Writing? Zing! Treating patients? Zing! Right now as I type this? Sip. Zing! Sip.

It happened, too, whenever I lay on my right side. It was like my neck telling me (in an Irish accent), “I think you’ve napped quite enough on your right side, wouldn’t you agree?”

Between the jigs and the reels, I had to have an MRI. That happened two nights ago, 10 pm. I was hoping to have a great tale of claustrophobia to tell, but all I ended up chronicling was:

8:44 pm – eating my anxiety: cold left-over spaghetti sauce. I hope they don’t cut my nose ring out.

[You aren’t supposed to wear jewelry.]

For the record, an MRI sounds less like “a basketball being dribbled” (as I was forewarned) and more like the intro beats of Martin Solveig’s, “Hello” looped one-hundred and eighty-seven times. Also, if you need to get an MRI, keep your eyes closed the entire time. It doesn’t matter how curious you get 15 minutes in. Keep them closed. Open them only when you hear the voice over the speaker telling you you’re done and you feel your gurney (it’s likely not called a gurney) start to move. Also, if you’ve got someone driving you, I’d recommend 2.5-3 glasses of red wine before the procedure. To relax.

They didn’t take my nose ring out but warned me that metal tends to heat during an MRI so if my nose starts searing while I’m deep inside the cold, unforgiving cocoon (I’m probably paraphrasing), I can squeeze the panic squeezer and they’ll have me out in the quickest of jiffies.

This totally helped me not panic.

As a Physiotherapist, I was able to have my MRI report sent from the hospital to the clinic on Thursday morning. Probably not wise. I don’t know how to put this, but…

They found my sack.

[Sorry. I am a child and really wanted to say “they found my sack”.]

For real, they found the disc herniations and nerve root impingement in my neck that I’d predicted (based on my numb fingers). But they also found a mysterious “syrinx” (I wish it was as cool as it sounds) – a fluid-filled sack – in my spinal cord.

Now, I may be a Physio, but I don’t claim to be any kind of expert. Far from it. But I’m preeeeetty sure you shouldn’t have a big ol’ 3.5 cm (yes, centi-, not milli-) diameter sack in your spinal cord.

Anyway, operating at Defcon 1, the Radiology department has already booked me for a follow-up MRI, with a featured close-up of my sac-o-business. They also want me to see a Neurosurgeon. My doctor wants me in ASAP to discuss my first MRI, not knowing that I’ve already read it and, in fact, named the sack.

[Funny story: my friend Dee was lying in bed thinking about me – who isn’t, am I right? – and pondering that maybe the sack is just something that’s always been there and poses no threat. She thought, maybe she’s born with it. Then, chuckling to herself, thought (to the tune of the Maybelline cosmetics jingle), Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s a-3.5cm-sac-of-fluid-in-her-spinal-cord. Precious. But to make it easier to sing about my sack throughout the day, we’ve just named it Maybelline. Miss Maybel if you’re nasty.]

While I was working on patients yesterday, my coworkers and I were discussing different types of cysts and how some can actually grow hair or teeth or eyeballs. Dee said, “wouldn’t it be hilarious if, when they take the MRI, Maybel is winking at them and smiling while braiding her hair?”

That’s what friends are for. And yes, it would be hilarious.

Google suggests only the worst so I’m opting to boycott that. A patient suggested, “That’s easy, they can just get in there and pop that sack!”.

[Pop that Sack sounds like a Salt-n-Pepa song…]

And my fellow Physio colleagues think it’s probably just an anomaly. And agree that the word “sack” is funny.

Either way, we shall know soon. Nothin’ like a big ol’ sack to make you all-the-more aware of your mortality. I’ve been putting in double-time at the gym to get as strong as possible. And I find myself worrying less about the silly things.

[Yes, my ass looks big in this and yes, I’m gonna wear it.]

In all likelihood, it’s benign nothingness (the power of positive thought). But it sure is making me stop and count my blessings. Maybe Maybel is just there to remind me of all that I have to be grateful for…

I really hope it doesn’t have teeth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYQBptoNvp0