I was only 10 years old the first time food poisoning ruined my fun. Kathy was spending the night. I’m pretty sure my parent’s planned the sleep-over to distract me from the fact that they were taking our sweet Border Collie, Bonnie, to a sheep farm. (For real guys, I visited her a couple of times after that. It wasn’t that euphemistic “farm upstate”.)
Me & Bonnie trying to herd snow.
Kathy loved my Mom’s canned sweet pickles, so we snuck into the basement, cracked open a jar and ate the entire thing before my Mom got home. When Mom did get home, she realized that there was a gigantic brown lump inside the lid of the empty pickles. Somehow, the lid had been punctured and that brown lump was mold. We had eaten a jar of moldy pickles.
Doctor ordered that we both take Syrup of Ipecac, then we spent the night hugging separate toilets, tossing up everything from the toenails forward. Between vomits, I hugged Bonnie and told her goodbye, before my Dad took her to live amongst the sheep.
This began a pattern I didn’t realize until just last weekend. Whenever something cool is about to happen (or has just happened) I get food poisoned. Which might make you say, “Well, you do have anxiety, so maybe it’s just a physical manifestation of that.”
Maybe sometimes, but sometimes it happens when cool stuff that is a complete surprise to me. Like my first adult experience with food poisoning.
Chicago, mid-1990’s, my cd playlist consisted of County Crows, Rage Against the Machine and Lilith Fair ladies. I was in the middle of Stage Managing a run of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial at The Red Orchid Theatre. There was myself and a cast of, I wanna say 12, men. Tracy Letts was the star, Wilson Milam directed and Michael Shannon ran front of house. There is a reason I’m name dropping, even though at the time I had no idea how successful any of those guys were going to be. (I mean, Tracy had already had success with Bug and Killer Joe, but we were just theatre people in Chicago, putting on a show and having a good time.)
It was a teeny production in a small space. Because of that I was more than just Stage Manager, I was also prop person, lighting and sound operator. Basically, I was the entire crew.
We had a great show on Friday, Wilson bought us all Boston Market for dinner beforehand. I went home, after a few beers at our local dive bar, and then my stomach turned on me.
The entire next day, Saturday, I spent in the bathroom, sleeping on the shower rug between bouts of painful herking. BUT I knew the show had to go on that night.
I managed to wash my face, brush my teeth, but didn’t quite have the energy to brush my hair or put in contacts. Ancient, coke-bottle-bottom-thick eyeglasses, one earpiece held on with black electrical tape just shoved onto my face. My boyfriend’s sweatpants and sweatshirt were much comfier than my normal backstage black dress with tights and Doc Martens.
The hurling had subsided, now I was just weak and groggy. I brought blankets and pillows, tucked them under the light board, which was in the booth that sat in a little room, with a glassless window, about 4 feet off stage left, just behind the audience. I could have tapped the shoulder of the guy sitting right in front of me. I may have mentioned, it was a small house.
Why does that Stage Manager look like death?
That was the night a young Rachel Weisz decided to visit her old friend Wilson, who had directed her in some play back in England at some point. I was kind of fever-y I don’t remember all the details. She brought the guy who was staring in a movie they were shooting in Chicago. That guy was Keanu Reeves.
So, I shook her hand, in the lobby, when Wilson introduced us. She looked at me like I was insane, and stinky (which, now that I’m revisiting it, I probably was). Keanu was gracious and smiled and shook my hand.
I fumbled back to the lighting/sound booth, flashed the lights, faded the intro music and started the show, then crawled into my makeshift pillow fort below the board and tried not to focus on the fact that Keanu Reeves just met the worst possible version of me.
That was the first instance. After that I got poisoned at a friend’s wedding, which was a destination wedding. That one was so bad I went to the hospital, after the ants overtook the hotel bathroom, where I was trying to sleep between releasing toxins from every orifice.
Here is something you don’t need to know: I can tell when I’m really getting super sick because I can’t have anything touching me, not Seen, not fabric, nothin’. So I was on the bathroom floor, moaning in pain, not a stitch on to protect me, and the ants started crawling in. Very dramatic, but not something that lives in the Fond Memory drawer in my brain.
Loaded up on meds to see The Wall
After that, the highlights of my journey through digestive roller-coasting include: food poisoning 2 days before Thanksgiving with friends, a case the day before Valentine’s Day, which I actually think was Norovirus because it sent me to the ER yet again and I didn’t eat properly for a month, another quick little stint with my active belly the day before we had tickets to go see The Wall LIVE with Roger Waters.
Sensing a pattern?
I realized it last weekend. Saturday was Pride Day here, and my plans including going to the event and meeting up with Buck, a friend I hadn’t seen in over a decade.
Buck was an actor I went to classes with, back when I did acting and producing and other such things. We used to hang out, go to movies, or dinner, he ran the house a few times for the couple of plays I produced in Hollywood. He has a special place in my heart for writing a note to me that said “If you could see yourself the way we (the class) see you, you would have so much confidence!”
Confidence has always been the biggest hurdle for me, so that struck a chord.
I’m being helpful!
But Friday night, we got home from dinner and my stomach rebelled again. I knew it was serious when I overheated and had to get that pesky fabric away from my skin.
Saturday was spent mostly on the couch, groaning and hoping I’d feel better by afternoon. I did, but just a little, not enough to go enjoy the event.
Food poisoning had struck again.
My choices for the future are:
- Not eat for a few days if we have something planned
- Find a food that is impossible to poison and just eat that exclusively…forever.
- Track down Keanu and see if he is the source.
- Or, ya know, just deal with it.
I’ll probably go with the last option. (Though #3 might make an interesting story.)