My date with death

I got the email on a Wednesday. There were open spots for a Friday morning tour of the medical examiner’s office — a tour that would include viewing an autopsy. I don’t know what compelled me to raise my hand.

Most of the people attending were attorneys who represent defendants in murder trials. They have a good reason to understand autopsies. I was going along mostly as a gawker. Maybe it is my training as a news reporter that makes me feel that, whenever I find a window into a world that is usually blocked off, I should look through it.

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Scenes of summer

SummerThe sunscreen wars

Just the thought of that greasy, gluey, stinking, probably-giving-us-cancer “lotion” makes me want to lie down on the couch and give up. But the pool is only open for a precious few weeks of the year, so I give myself a pep talk. Just do it! Just getitoverwith! I try to sound cheerful yet stern as I call to Amelia, “It’s sunscreen time.” Her inevitable groaning and delaying mixes with my inner ennui to make something entirely new: sunscreen-spiked rage. She is 8, and she wants to do it herself. But the thought of waiting for her to do it herself, one small drop at a time, asking me to help her with the lid again and again, makes me want to scream. She can’t reach her own back, but she will never, ever admit that. So I plot sunscreen sneak attacks. Armed with a giant white glob, I come from behind, trying to rub it into her shoulders as she shouts in protest and wiggles away. All the while, I am remembering that article I read years ago about the awful chemicals in mass-market sunscreens, feeling guilty that, yet again, I have bought the Banana Boat that was on sale instead of the exorbitantly expensive hippie sunscreen. Finally, she is coated, the screaming has subsided … and the job of coating myself still lies ahead. Let’s not even talk about reapplication.

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