Sunday, March 27, 2011

My (Bright) Eyes, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote what I realize now was a terribly inept and poor excuse of an introduction to Bright Eyes. I say this because in the weeks since seeing them live at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, I've been completely consumed, obsessed with hearing every bit of music Conor Oberst has ever put out there. How fitting is it that I titled that post "Here It Come, That Heavy Love" (lyrics from "Shell Games)? Because ohhh the heavy love is here. I haven't felt this way about music since I first discovered Ryan Adams. I feel like I'm cheating, really. Why didn't I jump on these trains 10 years ago, when it was much more appropriate to publicly emote like this about music and musicians? Oh, right. Because I have more teen angst now than I ever did as an actual teen.

Regardless, I'm in awe of his songwriting. From the angsty bleeding-heart beginning stuff to the much more mature, "interpret it how you want," tracks in his latest album. I love the country twang and the bizarro clips. I get it, as much as you can really get these things. And it makes me happy. Even when it's making me sad. "Now sorrow is pleasure when you want it instead." The show in Atlanta was incredible, and I certainly wasn't expecting to be overwhelmed. I hadn't yet taken to Conor's trembling voice or really gotten my hands on that much of his back catalog. But I was just blown away by what a solid live performance the whole band gave. And grateful to my friends who had made some personal and proverbial greatest hits lists for me... There are rumors that this is the band's last tour, and given the setlists I'm seeing with songs rarely played and especially those old favorites, it felt a bit like a departure tour.

But it made for one hell of a good time. And when I realized they were playing Nashville at the Ryman on March 17th, the night before my LASIK surgery, I decided that it would be a great way to go out if something went terribly wrong and I lost my eyesight the next morning. Great music and sweet visuals, and I'm not just talking about the not-so-hard-on-the-eyes frontman. Yeah, that'll do.

So for the first time ever, I went to a show by myself. Got a seat in the second row of the balcony, and had a good ole tentative last hurrah with the eyeballs. Here are a couple of videos I took, plus some more of my favorites other folks recorded at the Tabernacle. Crazy to hear all the crowd singing along. I bet THEY were on the Conor train a long time ago, as I was surprised that most of the people there were not, in fact, teenagers.

Hope you enjoy. I know I did.

Four Winds (Conor says he puts on his metaphorical cowboy boots for this one... indeed)

We Are Nowhere And It's Now
(which, on most days, is my favorite Bright Eyes song)

How could you forget your yellow bird?

Beginner's Mind (Phone messed up, and I missed the very end of it, but there's some good chit-chat at the beginning.)

Poison Oak, from the Tabernacle show (none of these are my videos)

Old Soul Song, at the Tabernacle

Lua, at the Tabernacle

If you're still with me, I thank you.

My (Bright) Eyes, Part 1

Disclaimer: Sorry if this is a bit long, but there were tons of people who asked me for all the details after I had LASIK surgery last week, and I didn't want to leave out any details. 

I am writing this with new eyes. Well, technically I have the same actual eyeballs in my head as I've had for the past 28 years, but thanks to a fancy laser and a sizeable chunk of cash (which I'll happily be paying off on a nice Care Credit 0% interest plan), I have tossed the librarian look to the side and am seeing clearly now. With 20/15 vision. Yes, you read that correctly. Better. Than. Perfect. 

A lot of folks have asked for my review of the LASIK procedure, and at about a weeks out, I'm ready to give mine. Having spent the better part of the last week with eyes so sensitive to light that I've literally been in my office, lights off, monitors dimmed, wearing sunglasses, and still uncomfortable... it's time.

First of all, I'll say I didn't have terrible vision. This isn't something I desperately needed, but have wanted for about 10 years. My prescription was something like -1.5/-1.75. I needed no aid in seeing up close for reading, computing, having face-to-face conversations, or seeing anything else up to about 2 feet away. But the problem is that my eyes won't tolerate contacts, forcing me to wear glasses at all times, something inconvenient (and expensive) for a clumsy, accident-prone person always on the go. I can't tell you how many pairs I've gone through, either because I lost them, dropped them, dropped and stepped on them, threw them away, had them land in someone's lap at a table I was waiting on... seriously. 

So when I discovered my vision insurance here at work took care of half the cost, I went straight in for a consultation. And I was shocked when the doc gave me the ok, as this was not my first consultation rodeo. In fact, I first inquired about the surgery when I was 18, and Grandma desperately wanted to buy it for me for my high school graduation gift. So for 10 years, docs have told me to wait it out... my prescription had to be steady... revisit it as you get closer to 30... So cheers to there being something exciting about finally reaching the "closer to 30" mark. Yeah.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the procedure was simple. 

Basically it went all went down like this: 
  1. Wake up early and have friend drive me to the Vision Center place for 8:20 appointment. (I went with LodenVision here in Nashvillle.)
  2. Get there and immediately down the Valium I'm given. 
  3. Pretty nervous. Valium, please kick in quicker, thanks. 
  4. Yayyyyyyy so happy right now. Oh wait, a laser is about to cut my eye and what if it goes wrong and ohhh... yayyyy happpyyyyy.
  5. Get prepped. Numbing drops on eyes then doc takes a Sharpie to write on them for laser alignment purposes. I'm giggly and nervous (the doc is also kind of cute, which makes this worse), and I end up with Sharpie mark across my forehead. 
  6. Get called in, lay down on dentist-like chair.
  7. First procedure: they attach a suction cup thingy to my eyeballs, one at a time, which causes you to lose all vision in that eye for the moment. Very freaky. Quickly you're under the machine that (using a cold laser, apparently) cuts a flap in your eye. Doc is guiding it. Can't blink. Extremely uncomfortable, but no pain. Nerves. NERVES. 
  8. So glad they weren't lying to me that the vision loss was temporary. I probably asked 8 times. 
  9. Swiveled over for second procedure, in which you actually see as the doc pulls the flap over from your eye (again, one at a time), and sticks you under the laser. It's super freaky to see him use a tool right there on your eye and observe how with the layer moving, you lose any sort of focused vision.
  10. I'M IN A SPACESHIP!!!!!
  11. Wait, no. I'm not. It's a laser. Trying to focus on blinking orange light, despite the fact that I can't really focus. Doc is saying "Lauren, focus. FOCUS." He's very soothing. I'm freaking out and feeling biggest idiot ever for not being able to just focus my eyes (find out later when chatting with other patients that this was pretty common).
  12. Same for other eye. Then... it's over! I get up and walk back into the waiting room and am told to sit back and rest. Keep eyes closed. No problem doing that, seeing as I feel like I have 3-year-old contacts in my eyes, or maybe some sandpaper. It's a bit like that feeling when you've just gotten some soap in your eyes and you feel like you need to keep blinking t hem, but it's painful to do so, so you just squeeze them shut and test it out every few seconds. But I'm able to sneak a peek at the TVs and realize I can, in fact, see them pretty clearly. Fabulous goggles and sunglasses are on.
  13. Yes, doc, I get it. Won't rub my eyes for a month. No makeup for a week. No water in eyes. Keep drops going. Right, right. 
  14. Dear God, I just want to be home where I can pass out. They tell me this will be much better when I wake up. 
  15. 30 minutes later, they check me out, painfully shine one of those evil ophthalmologist lights into my new eyes, give me the ok, and send me on my way. My friend James, bless his sweet heart, was waiting on me and took me to get my meds, which included two drops, some Lortab, and Lunesta. It was 10:30am or so at this point. 
  16. Got home. Tried to sleep. Completely could not. Damn you, valium, for failing me! Finally gave in and popped a Lortab (I'm not a fan of pain meds), and slept until about 5. Got up a few times in between and marveled at my sight, painfully sent out a few text messages to let my boss and close friends and parents know I was doing ok and going to be sleeping (but was not blinded!).
  17. Once I got up and ate something, I was feeling pretty good. Not looking so hot. Eyes were swollen and very red, and I realized then I had little blood pools from where the suction cups had been (they're still there now, but not as noticeable). Yuck. 
  18. And that was that. A week later I'm finally wearing makeup again. Have had a bit more sensitivity and irritation than some, but I'm not surprised, since it was my oh-so-extra-sensitive eyes were the reason I couldn't wear contacts in the first place. But it hasn't been bad. I spent a couple of mornings driving into work scared for my life and those around me since I was driving with one arm shielding my face. I've slept in the goggles for a week and worn them whenever I was around people smoking or outside with all the pollen around on dryer days. We're trying to figure out how they will best be made into a Halloween costume.
  19. And now, on day 10, I'm pretty much good to go. Seeing perfectly. Sensitivity is gone. I notice my eyes get more tired than before, so that by latenight when I'm reading or playing on my phone, focusing up close takes some effort. But I am not really one to rest much, especially my eyes.  
  20. I hated the fact that I couldn't wear any eye makeup for a week. It's a vanity thing. I just don't think I look as good without it. Plus almost every day someone asked me if I was upset, having allergy problems, or was stoned out of my mind. Awesome. 
Right after the procedure.
Self-portrait later that day. Not feeling so hot. Or pretty.

Day 2. MUCH better. Also wearing first pair of non-Rx shades in about 5 years.
This is what I looked like at work most of the week. Lights off (except lamp) and shades on. Had to convince the folks who didn't know about my surgery that I was not, in fact, nursing a 5-day hangover. 

So overall, it's awesome to see and not wear glasses. And to have this hi-def vision. The docs say it will get better and better. It's not perfect... focusing up close takes a bit more effort right now, and I see halos around lights at night (something that may not go away, but is definitely worth the trade). But so far it's awesome. AWESOME. If you're thinking about doing it at all, I say... do it yesterday. You won't regret it.

Next is Part 2, which is how I spent the night before my surgery, which could have very well been, should things have gone horribly awry, my last night with sight.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Erin Go Bragh!

I have never known what that meant until I looked it up a second ago. ("Ireland Forever," roughly.)

I do love St. Patrick's Day. Any day with an excuse to be silly and dress up and act the fool appeals to me. Here's a pic from one of my favorite St. Patty's Days, spent in Savannah 5 years ago with some of my favorite friends. It's also the weekend my best friend Lizzie (bottom left) met Kerry (top, 2nd from left). They're getting married in a few months.

Anyway, St. Patty's Day reminds me there are so many musicians hailing from Ireland who I love dearly. Here's a weee little sample for ya.

The Cranberries

Glen Hansard

Damien Rice

Van Morrison

Dropkick Murphys (who are my favorite Irish/Celtic influenced artists, though they're from Massachusetts)

Flogging Molly (lead singer is from Dublin)

Who can forget Sinead O'Connor?

And U2

Got stuck in a moment on U2 for a while and couldn't pick which one I wanted to post.

Happy St. Patty's to you! I'm seeing Bright Eyes again tonight at the Ryman, and then having LASIK surgery bright and early in the a.m. No green beer for me!