My mother said once that I "have a tendency to overshare", and today I'm going to embrace that tendency without apology because this is my space to write about things I regard as significant to my life. You have been warned. Turn back now or forever hold your peace.
Ah, I knew that would just make you more curious, you weirdo.
I have a swollen prostate.
Prostates are one of those things that I probably should have been taught about at some point but wasn't. I learned about their existence from professional smart aleck Carla Ulbrich. "[My dad's] first name is Carl," she said on her live album Professional Smart Aleck, "so we're only one letter away, so when I go to the pharmacy in my hometown they're always gettin' our files mixed up. Try to sell me prostate medicine." The audience laughed. "I guess it's never too early to prevent." The audience laughed again. I deduced that the joke was funny because [cisgender] women don't have prostates, and further deduced from that deduction what a prostate must be. Obviously it's the gland that makes most [cisgender] men think American football is exciting even though there's nothing exciting whatsoever about stopping the action every five seconds.
What I couldn't have deduced with so little information, however, is that, in yet another refutation of the "The human body is too perfect to have evolved by random chance" argument, the prostate is wrapped around the urethra. Consequently, if it gets too big, which, in yet another refutation of the "The human body is too perfect to have evolved by random chance" argument, happens naturally as men age, it squeezes the urethra and makes peeing more of an ordeal than ideal.
I figured out a while ago that something was wrong. Years ago, in fact. But the transition from peeing like a normal person to peeing ridiculously small amounts at ridiculously frequent intervals and waking up in the middle of the night virtually every night to do it again and often having mild discomfort afterward like there's more pee even though there isn't happened gradually. Only in the last few weeks has it made my life hell. It's always worse at night. Sometimes the intervals are literally two minutes. Sometimes I can count the drops on one hand, but those single-digit drops will keep nagging at me and prevent me from sleeping until I let them go. Sometimes it takes three hours to get to sleep.
I still assumed it was a prostate thing, but it got so bad that I investigated other possibilities, Googling things like "Can you get gonorrhea without having sex?" (yes) and "Can men get yeast infections?" (also yes). Actually, I didn't include the question marks when I typed in the questions, but I instinctively put them in as I wrote them here just now because this is a more professional venue. I also looked for home remedies and ways to manage the symptoms. "But Christopher, you idiot," you may be saying, "why didn't you see a doctor? Surely even the United States' medieval healthcare system would be preferable to your futile attempts at managing this chronic problem on your own." Ah, see, that was my last resort because another thing I learned from the internet is that doctors check a prostate's status by actually physically touching it while its owner, which in this case would be me, is fully conscious. If you don't understand how, think about it for a minute and you can probably guess.
The doctor said not to empty my bladder before I came in to the student health center Monday morning, not understanding the depth of the problem as such that if I emptied my bladder right before I left home there was a >90% chance it would have something in it when I arrived. And after I dropped one of my urine sample cups in the toilet, he gave me a cup of water so I could fill it again later, not understanding the depth of the problem as such that this gesture was entirely superfluous.
He checked me out in front first, for lumps, because apparently cancer was also an option. And he actually said I could pull my pants back up before he remembered, oh yeah, he needed to check my prostate. D'oh. He seems to have (correctly) assumed I already knew how that process would work. He didn't explain it or warn me about it at all. He just told me to position myself a certain way and take quick breaths. I complied without protest, because unlike half of Utah's population I subscribe to the radical leftist belief that people with medical degrees know more about medicine than people without medical degrees, though I wondered, Can't you just take an X-ray? I don't care if it makes me infertile.
As I waited in position and took quick breaths while the doctor slathered lubricant over his gloved hands, I wondered, What makes a person say "I want to become a doctor even though nothing on God's green Earth is more disgusting than other people's bodies?" Is it the money? It must be the money. Or maybe they just want to be doctors from childhood and get too far along that path before they realize what it entails. I'm quite certain Doc McStuffins has never performed this procedure, which is kind of ironic for someone named McStuffins.
It was as much fun as I thought it would be. It didn't hurt a bit, might have even been pleasurable if I'd relaxed and allowed myself to consider that possibility, but it just felt profoundly wrong and unnatural and violating and I couldn't stop fixating on it in a neurotic way for a few days afterward. Not the worst experience in the world by a long shot, but one I would have just as soon avoided all the same. So the doctor asked, "How old are you?" And that's not what you want the doctor to ask while he's prodding your prostate, but I already had figured out that mine was rather large for a 28-year-old, which is what he told me after I told him I was 28 years old, so it wasn't too much of a shock but I wanted to finish that conversation real quick so he would get out of me. I wondered, How did you learn what a 28-year-old's prostate is supposed to feel like? Did you practice on volunteers?
Without waiting for the results of the urine tests or the blood test - which, to my knowledge, since he said he would let me know about them, still have not arrived as of this writing, and based on my last experience at Logan Regional Hospital (where the testing was to take place), which instilled me with profound contempt for each and every staff member I had the misfortune of meeting and being immediately dismissed and dehumanized by on what was already the worst day of my life thanks to the abusive ----wit from the Logan Police Department who made me go in for the suicidal ideation that he caused by abusing me, I wouldn't be surprised if someone there just put my samples in a broom closet and forgot about them - he prescribed me some antibiotics to take morning and night for a month. He said they would weaken my muscles so I wouldn't be able to do strenuous exercise like running or lifting weights. I think I can live with that. Having taken a dozen pills thus far, however, I have not noticed any changes of any kind, good or bad. Fingers crossed.
If only I had heeded Carla Ulbrich's cryptic warning: "I guess it's never too early to prevent."
At a dollar apiece, unfamiliar CDs found at Deseret Industries are worth taking a chance on, and I did exactly that in the days when I was obsessed with building my own musical collection, before most of it was lost to hard drive failure and I became obsessed instead with building Spotify playlists. Spotify has none of the following albums. YouTube does, thanks to me. They aren't earth-shaking masterpieces or anything, but having music that most people don't know exists makes me feel cool. Some entire blogs are dedicated to obscure music you didn't know existed because lots of people are into that sort of thing. This isn't one of those blogs because I'm not that cool.
Cecilia J. Benson - A Time and a Season (1995)
This is clearly an amateur production, but Cecilia J. Benson does have a lovely voice. Based on the content of the songs, it's pretty obvious she was a stay-at-home mom. (I assume she's an empty-nester by now, wherever she is.) Other voices present seem to be those of her husband, children, and maybe mother? She probably just made a few copies of this CD and distributed them to her friends. It would have been forgotten forever by the human race had I not come into possession of a copy and uploaded its contents to YouTube, where admittedly it has continued to attract very little attention for five and a half years but at least it's available to future historians who want to know what life was like before viruses and Trump worshipers (but I repeat myself) destroyed civilization. In "You Don't Have to Can to Get to Heaven", she reassures other stay-at-home moms who feel guilty for not doing a hundred things perfectly all the time.
Going through the list again, I just found this comment on my video for "Walk With Christ and Feast Upon His Words", which I missed eleven months ago. It reads: "This song brings me such great memories. A good friend of mine gave me a cassette that included the music only as well as the words and music long time ago when I was not able to understand English properly, but for a reason, it got my heart. Since the cassette is already worn out, I tried to find this song in internet for years. What a blessing it is having the opportunity to enjoy it again. Thank you for posting it." D'awwww, that makes it all worthwhile.
Mormon Youth Orchestra & Chorus - Nauvoo Brass Bands (1997)
The only album on this list produced by professionals, performing "the music that thrilled and inspired Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the early Saints." I must say it would be nice if we as a people had kept the early Saints' fascination with brass bands instead of deciding that God only approves of pianos, organs, and occasionally violins. There's some standard nineteenth-century stuff here and it's all well and good, but the track that really stands out, and the impetus for me uploading the album, is "A Song of 1857". The lyrics were available online, and one site had a MIDI of the melody, but I could find no recording of an actual performance, and that was a travesty that couldn't stand. It's a satirical song that mocks the US Army's spectacular failure to march to Utah and crush a nonexistent Mormon rebellion. It's funny and it plays into our beloved cultural narratives of persecution and triumph. It demonstrates our pioneer predecessors' ability to laugh at adversity instead of just feeling sorry for themselves. Why, then, has it fallen into such obscurity? Maybe because it references polygamy?
ONE - Worlds without end (1998)
Though entirely in English, this album was produced in Germany by the duo of Andreas Behr and Jochen Knapek with lots of friends helping on instruments and backup vocals. The singing style and unique sound may not appeal to everyone, but just think of it as hipster music. The back of the album includes a request to "support ONE - spread worlds without end". By uploading it to YouTube, I did exactly that, in a way that the artists probably didn't anticipate. YouTube launched in 2005 and streaming videos wasn't the norm in 1998. Typically you would download them as QuickTime or Windows Media files and play them on your own computer. Wanting to make Andreas Behr and Jochen Knapek aware of what I'd done, I asked around for them in a Facebook group of German Latter-day Saints, and they weren't in it but Brother Knapek's wife and a guy that Brother Behr baptized on his mission were. The Church in Europe is a very small world. I didn't pursue my inquiries further because I only knew like twenty German words back then.
It's hard to pick a favorite between the title track and the dreamlike instrumental "Still to come" that closes out the album.
Cindy Anderson - The Fields are White (2005?)
I can't be bothered to try to find where this album resides in my stash, but I read the liner notes once upon a time and I wanna say maybe Cindy Anderson is from Oklahoma. Maybe. I don't remember why I thought but wasn't sure that the album is from 2005. In any case, I don't think she's a Latter-day Saint because there's no indication of that in the songs she sings - the lyrical content lacks anything distinctively LDS, and her performance is much too upbeat. Almost like she thinks the gospel is good news or something. The opening track is as good as any to showcase.
Ventana Student Housing in Orem, Utah learned the hard way last year that evicting a student for vocalizing suicidal tendencies - yes, in case you missed it, that's literally exactly what they did, no exaggeration - is not okay. They experienced a tsunami of thoroughly deserved backlash in which I was proud to play some small part. They responded to this backlash by refusing to answer the phone, deleting comments from their Facebook page, and generally removing any question as to whether they had a legitimate side of the story that would make them look less evil. Now it brings me great joy to know that the student, Austyn Sorenson, and the Disability Law Center of Utah are suing them for this blatant violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. If she hadn't chosen to sue them, nobody else could have done so, and they would escape the legal consequences that they deserve on top of the suffering they've already faced. Unfortunately the law doesn't provide for the management to be imprisoned for life and have their company confiscated and given to actual humans, but at least I can be satisfied that they're not having a fun time right now.
In a Salt Lake Tribune editorial, Robert Gehrke summed it up pretty well: "Unless you’re vying for the title of 'Utah’s Worst Person,' it’s hard to comprehend that your reaction when someone comes to you and tells you a young person is considering suicide would be to evict that person from his or her apartment." Indeed. I read another editorial months ago about the ignorance around mental health, which is a legitimate problem, but not relevant to this case. Evicting someone for vocalizing suicidal tendencies isn't ignorance, it's sociopathy. I also appreciate that Gehrke mocked the author of the eviction notice for writing "undo" instead of "undue", one of three spelling errors that I noted in my previous evisceration of that damnable document. Since then my English graduate instructor training has taught me not to criticize people's spelling and grammar, but I'm still going to make an exception for this person and I hope Beth can forgive me for that. I only criticized people's spelling and grammar mistakes when they were being jerks anyway. And people like this person, and everyone else at Ventana Student Housing who either signed off on it or did nothing to stop it, are the reason hell exists.
Yesterday I went to the park to read The Merlin Effect, one of the scores of books I've acquired over the years and never read because I was too busy wasting time on social media. It's part fantasy, part sci-fi, so I could kind of justify reading it for my thesis even though it wasn't on my list. It's very creative, tying together a bunch of ideas and plot hooks into a strange and satisfying whole, and I really enjoyed it even while silently critiquing its shortcomings, such as entire chapters of expository dialogue. (I have to notice those things for my own improvement as a writer.) I just breezed through it and didn't count down the pages until I could be done like I did with some of the books on my list.
A group from Gospel Peace Church had set up a pavilion in the park with free Popsicles, face painting, and cornhole. I got invited over there twice. It's an evangelical church that's just been planted in Logan a few weeks ago as a spinoff of a church with a similar name in Salt Lake City. (Proactive church planting is often a far more effective method for growth than my own church's preferred method of waiting until congregations reach a certain size, which may or may not ever happen, and then splitting them.) Leadership had come from as far away as Michigan, so I can only assume that this church was planted specifically as an outreach to Mormons, whom many if not most evangelicals assume are all going to the same place as the management of Ventana Student Housing. Of course they asked about my religious background and I told them, and they were chill about it and didn't criticize. They said their LDS neighbors are all really nice and the temple grounds are beautiful.
I hope they stay that way. I hope they aren't like those guys who used to set up on USU campus and seemed far less interested in promoting their own beliefs than in tearing down other people's beliefs. There's a big difference. By all means, promote your beliefs, explain why you find them credible and compelling and whatnot, and let people decide for themselves whether they then find your beliefs more credible than their current beliefs or lack thereof. I have no objection to that. I have no objection to everyone enjoying the same right to proselyte as my own church's missionaries - but my own church's missionaries aren't trained to go around poking holes in other churches' theology or history. Taking that approach is far less likely to persuade someone than to make them think (correctly) that you're a dick. Atheists who go around social media comments trying to deconvert people from belief in general, offering literally nothing in exchange, are even more obnoxious.
I also welcome any increase in Utah's religious diversity. Even believing, as I do, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the "most true" religion, I don't want it to monopolize any area because that results in too many of its members becoming arrogant narrow-minded jerks (as is human nature with any lack of diversity) - and since it explicitly teaches that people who don't join it in mortality can still do so in the next life, there's no downside. (That's often the elephant in the room with religious diversity. "I love you and legitimately respect your differences in belief, but according to my beliefs you're still going to burn in hell forever." My church's workaround for this problem is one of my favorite things about it.) And if they do end up pulling their future membership from my church's current membership, oh well - my church has plenty of people that I would be happy to give away.
Today I've lived in Utah for ten years. On the one hand I can't believe it's been that long, and on the other hand I can't believe it's only been that long. Time is weird. I feel twenty-eight going on eighty. Now is the time to wax all poetic about this milestone, but I realized I said everything I need to say on this day last year, so I will redirect any inquiries to that post. I commemorated the date, though, by attempting to recreate in Spotify playlist form a CD-R labeled "Alternative" that I found on the kitchen table after my roommate moved out. This would have been in late August 2011, but as I don't remember the date I still associate it nostalgically with my Utah debut. I still have the CD somewhere, all scratched up, and someday I'll check what order the tracks are actually in and adjust the playlist to match, but what really matters is creating the playlist today so that the date next to all the tracks when viewed in the desktop app will be July 11 even though, as previously noted, July 11 is not the date I found the CD. It was on shuffle the first time I listened to it anyway, so the incorrect order here doesn't drive me crazy in the meantime. "Sad Sad City" was first.
Now I will continue to record some of the thrilling events of my life. The night of Independence Day, I set out to walk to the Temple Boulevard to watch the fireworks and subsequent fires, and it almost immediately started to rain. I was so happy. I didn't care how wet I got. Utah desperately needs rain. I watched fireworks in the rain for a bit and then suddenly I was starving, and then I saw, as tends to only happen when I stop checking my phone every ten minutes, that I had missed a message from some girl in the ward inviting everyone to get s'mores, and I was so hungry that I decided to try my luck even though I was an hour late by the time I found her house. No answer at the front door, but I saw the kitchen light was on so I went around and tried the back. She was in her backyard alone watching the fire die. We put on some more wood, I had five s'mores, and we talked from 11 to 12:45, and I suffered for that for a couple days. It continued to drizzle and it was wonderful.
The next day I went up to Idaho with some people to float down the Oneida River. As we got close, the sky became so grey that I planned to say "Do you think it will rain?" but never got a convenient pause in the conversation to do so, and then the question became moot because it rained. It rained hard. It rained buckets. It continued to rain as we arrived, got out of the trucks and got our tubes ready. It felt miserable, but again, I was so happy. Idaho desperately needs rain. I'm happy for others to be blessed as I am blessed.
As it happens, the weather was perfect during most of the actual floating, with a lot of sunshine and just a bit of drizzle as the clouds remained menacingly in the background. The river flowed faster than usual. This only became an issue when I got separated from the others as the current took me off the main route to a dead end, and I got out and walked my tube along the shore back to where the current went the right way, but when I got there it was too fast and pulled me right into itself, clinging vertically to the tube and unable to pull myself up, feet hitting against the rocks. An overhanging tree branch promised salvation, then stubbornly squeezed through my fingers. I swore a bit. My experience walking barefoot on asphalt and gravel just because I can paid off, though - I had cuts on the sides and tops of my feet, but none on the bottoms. So with the exception of those five minutes, it was a good time.
Technically I have a lot more time to write on this blog than I did while in graduate school, but I find week after week that I just don't feel like it. I'm relaxing, dang it. I've been reading books in preparation for my thesis, watching The Bad Batch and The Simpsons and The Chosen and Nostalgia Critic and The Legend of Zelda fan films, and studying German a little bit. While I'm hardly being the most productive person ever, I find day after day that I run out of time to do everything I wanted to do, which is a good problem to have compared to being painfully bored and lonely and having to think of busywork just to make the time go by. Anyway, that's why this post is crap. (Insert your own quip about all my posts being crap here.) What I need to do now is really set out in earnest on writing my thesis, but I've procrastinated on that just a bit. It's intimidating to start with nothing toward the end goal of a novella. I've always worked better under pressure. Summer still feels like it will never end, though with this drought and heat wave, I sure hope it will.
Happy birthday, of course, to a country that I love in the same manner I would love a child who grew up to disappoint me in every possible way. I was pleasantly surprised that nobody at church today bore their testimony about how this country is, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, the greatest in the world and the most favored by God. Only one out of eleven people even talked about it, and then only to say that despite its recent ups and downs he's grateful for it and the freedoms he has. I have no objection to that. I'm grateful too. I have to live somewhere, and this is where I live for the time being, and though I hope to do better when I get a chance, I could certainly do worse. In the meantime it's my patriotic duty to improve things by complaining about them.
On Thursday, some kids asked me to get their Frisbee out of the road. I was very happy to do so. In that moment, I felt like I mattered. With the exception of a few guys in Africa who need money sometimes, people don't often ask me for help or admit that they need it if I broach the subject. They ask their actual friends or they just withdraw into themselves. These kids just straight-up asked me and it was great. They gave me the opportunity to performed a service that enrich their lives and, in so doing, enriched mine as well.
On Friday, I saw some kids selling popsicles, but I had no cash on me. I continued on my way and later picked up some cash and returned, but they were gone, the bare table on the sidewalk the only evidence that they'd ever been. I felt guilty about it for hours. What if nobody had bought any popsicles? What if they cried themselves to sleep that night because nobody wanted what they had to offer? They would have to be exposed to the cruelty and apathy and disappointment of life eventually, of course, but not so soon, not so young. I had failed them and negated my earlier good deed.
On Saturday, I went to a potluck that I saw advertised via some flyers on campus. When I RSVP'd via the QR code the night before, I noticed that the hostess was the only one listed on the spreadsheet as bringing anything, and that nearly a month ago, and when I showed up and she asked "Are you Christopher?" I all but confirmed that nobody else was coming. Indeed, nobody else came. I stayed the whole three hours because I felt so bad for her. At one point her roommate emerged from the house, and at another point her neighbor came home, and she offered them food and they thanked her and didn't take any food or join her for even a moment. A while later they both got into the neighbor's car and went somewhere together, and I silently prayed for them to crash and die horrible fiery deaths.
I felt guilty for hours again. My presence had surely not been enough to assuage the pain of such a disappointing turnout after all the work and preparation she put into what was supposed to be a good time. I should have talked more, asked her more questions about herself even though it was so awkward for me to be alone with someone I just met for three hours. I should have tried to get her contact information so our friendship could continue and I would have further opportunities to enrich her life and retroactively make meeting me worth it. But I can't do that anymore. So I felt that my effort wasn't nearly enough and I hated myself for that, but hey, at least I can pick up a Frisbee.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.