Tour Journal: What Happens When You Use a Q-tip For the First Time on Tour

Cactus Tractor - Pyragraph
Photo by Kate Burn Photography.

Originally published at, where the band chronicled their US Tour in the Shape of Yemen. Here David (alias Sebastian) offers Christy a Q-tip.

My Wet Pile of Horrible Everything

August 3, 2012

Swimming in Lake Michigan, or “the Ocean,” as I’ve become accustomed to calling it, has been wonderful. However the Ocean was also indirectly responsible for a harrowing series of events and a string of sleepless nights: starting with the first moment that my head went under water.

I came back from the beach with slightly waterlogged ears (a minor annoyance at tops) which Sebastian/David solved by handing me a few cue tips. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by mentioning that I had never used a cue tip, so I watched David clean his ears, and started in on mine. In a matter of moments I had tucked all of the earwax (in both of my ears) tightly up against my eardrums.

So, I spent the first part of the morning sharing a cigarette with both of my ears.

“I can’t hear!” I garbled blindly, and watched as David and Paul Wilhelm mouths moved mutely in the sea of silence in which I’d been engulfed. I could barely make out snippets of their conversation “Has she ever uuuuut cuetips!?” “She needs to snooooodll and then smuurrrrr.” Paul Wilhelm lay down on his back and rolled from side to side flapping his hands by his ears.

In the manner of someone speaking to a very old foreigner David assured me that we’d figure something out first thing in the morning. I slept fitfully waking up frequently to the overwhelming and pressing sound of nothing.

In the course of the night I remembered that I’d had a plugged ear in Mexico and my host mom had laughed and said “Oh! Necesitamos un cigarrillo!” I had laughed and said “otra vez?” thinking I’d misunderstood her. She then lit a cigarette, took a few long drags, puffed out some smoke and stuck it, filter end down, into my ear. Nothing had happened then, but as I fought with the horrible foamy silence I figured it might be worth another go.

So, I spent the first part of the morning sharing a cigarette with both of my ears. I felt like we were three truant middle-schoolers, smoking secretly out the bathroom window. When that didn’t work (what!? Really!?) I tried ear drops, a rubber water squirting bulb, some ear oil and an ear candle.

I almost told the nurse I loved her.

I’d used an ear candle once before (and still have burn marks on some of my clothes) to no avail, but again, I figured it might be worth another go. David monitored the “slow vacuum” while reading up on them online. We learned that ear candles are somewhat notoriously known for adding wax to an already plugged ear which explained why the instructions on the box were so ambiguous—nowhere mentioning an ear and generally avoiding a lawsuit.

Over the course of 48 hours I regained hearing and then regained not-hearing repeatedly, David kept talking to me like an old person, I was perpetually yawning to try and clear my ears and I was generally feeling like a wet pile of horrible everything (a phrase I also use to describe my swimsuit and towel pile). At about 5am this morning I found myself considering sharing another fag with my ear and decided it was time to go to a doctor.

Early this morning Glenna (Wisconsin’s best—not a cheese but a person!) dropped me off at the Urgent Care facility in downtown Milwaukee where a nurse expertly sprayed a stream of water into my ears from a bottle labeled something like “Elephant Ear Wax Removal Spray Gun.” (Why Elephant?) In a matter of minutes I had regained all of my hearing. I almost told the nurse I loved her, but then noticed the insane clumps of wax which had fallen out of my ears. Instead, I asked her if I could take a picture before she threw the wax water out. She told me I was the first person she’d met who’d wanted to do that, and I told her it was for my band’s blog. This seemed to be a good enough reason for her.

Cactus Tractor - Pyragraph
This photo doesn’t express how awesomely gross the stuff that came out of me ear was—but that’s what this is a picture of.
Cactus Tractor - Pyragraph
Ear Magnifying Glasses
Cactus Tractor - Pyragraph
These attach to the ear magnifiers—I think.
Christy Cook - Pyragraph
This is the ear that I can only hear through from the inside of my head.
Christy Cook - Pyragraph
Cactus Tractor - Pyragraph
The operating table at Urgent Care!
Cactus Tractor - Pyragraph
Glenna! (Biopod 4evah xxxooo!)

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