24 March 2009

Saints & Camels

Last year when my friend Dr. Nic had a scare in the bosom, she gathered us around a Suppah Club table and told us -- in no uncertain terms – that if she had cancer she would not (repeat NOT) become one of those positive, inspirationally-gooey people who goes around calling her disease a gift and praising God as if he hadn’t been there all along. She'd be on her knees, shaking her fists at fate: “Bloody hell. Why ME? Why the fuck did it have to be ME?”

We nearly passed out laughing and thankfully, she was fine. Still, I knew where she was coming from. She wasn't talking about having a negative attitude. She was talking about the human tendency to go all evangelical and claim to live on a deeper plane than everyone else when faced with a health crisis. She thinks that's horse shit and so do I. Like former smokers who proselytize and wag their fingers in your face, it's a form of self preservation through sanctimony. Your life doesn't have any more meaning than it did before, it just becomes much more evident that you should be paying attention.

Whatever gets you through the night. Prayer is awesome, and so is red wine.

Positively Horrified
My worst nightmare is to become maudlin, but I was shocked when I was recently asked: "How can you be so positive?" What? I'm certainly not in the bell jar 24/7 but I'm not some shitfaced cheerleader in denial, am I? There isn't a day I don't wake up and think: "Oh SHIT, I could die." But then, so could anyone. Look at poor Natasha Richardson.

I guess it's not the notion of "being positive" that irked me so much as the way the question was posed: "How can you be so positive" -- accusatory --- like I was the man who got arrested for sticking a cucumber in his ass at Shaw's.

Don't get me wrong, I want this blog to have a positive vibe, just not a "Chicken Soup for the Soul-y" vibe. I'm striving for a "Dirty (Filthy!) Martinis for the Soul" vibe (or in my case, "Liquid Perc on the Rocks for the Soul.")

Back from the Wasteland (where I was negative)
Everyone has bad days -- even bad months. T.S Eliot said April is the cruelest month. For me, February is the cruelest and March the most sadistic. A couple of bad days this past week/weekend bloomed into a full-on episode -- and I don't believe it was cancer-related, certainly not entirely. I could feel my serotonin levels plummeting, my mood not far behind.

I've had episodes like this before, always around this time of year: A crop of cartoonish thunderclouds move in right over your head and you can't dispel them. Then, the inner hag, sensing your vulnerability, takes up residence in your soul and turns you into a recluse. For several days, you want to jump out of your skin. You have no energy. You find pleasure in nothing. You can't read or respond to emails. You can't listen to music or write. You can't even make a playlist and go for a five mile walk (an oft-proven remedy for such bouts). You can't stand being awake. All you want to do is go to sleep and wake up when the thunderclouds have passed.

Aside: BTW, I'm completely aware this reads like a bad TV ad for Wellbutrin. I probably have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but that's a blog for another day.

This time around, my physical appearance added to my angst. My baldness. Craving nothing, inside or out. I felt completely inhuman. I was talking to James about how the Nazis dehumanized their concentration camp prisoners by shaving the heads and how effective that probably was for everyone involved.

Aside II: James is thrilled that I’ve now managed to involve the Nazis in this week’s existential crisis.

Thankfully my wee brown ones were wrapped up in school and activities and fun with my sainted sister-in-laws who took them out for many an hour. The kids definitely sensed my bad energy. Caroline even said, "Mommy, your face looks funny." I looked in the mirror and sure enough, my face was contorted. I resembled a sour girl from high school who overplucked her eyebrows to the point of nonrecognition. (Just an FYI: Mine have thinned out from the chemo, I have not pruned them into oblivion. My eyelashes have thinned too, hence the clumpy mascara).

Still, my poor kids:

KIDS: Mommy, can you watch me draw a picture? Can you play this game with me?

ME: Mommy just needs to spend a few more minutes under the sink with these inhalants.

Saints in the Inbox
Over the past nine weeks (it's only been nine weeks!!!), I've met and spoken to so many people who are going through breast cancer or have been there. The majority have been unbelievably helpful and I'm thankful to count them as friends. There's Julie who I broke bread and drank wine with at Rustic Kitchen. She speaks of her BC as "a blip on the radar" nine years ago. I love the sound of that. When she entered the land of NED, she renewed her vows and threw a huge bash. I love the sound of that even more. She turns 50 next month and takes her good times seriously. Fuck cancer, it has nothing to do with it!

There's my friend Doreen who I've mentioned many times here.

There are people I've met through the PU and through friends of friends.

I talked to Kelly Tuthill, whose fight with BC I closely followed three years ago. We have identical diagnoses and she's doing awesome these days. She's also a philanthropist with her time. During our conversation, she mentioned that so many people out there are "counting on her to stay healthy." And I thought that is such a blessing and a curse. It's probably hard enough dealing with grabby, newly-diagnosed people like me who are trying to clamor out of the cluelessness, but she said she enjoys talking to people who are going through the war. It's a sentiment I want to pay forward once I reach the land of NED, but you really have to be self-possessed and have a sense of boundaries so you don't become consumed. I'm wondering if I have them.

Camel Crossing!
Because, based on my interaction with a handful of people, I can see how easy it would be to become consumed. (Let's just say I will never attend another support group). I'll mention three examples: The first woman was a stage 1 and recovering from surgery with an excellent prognosis. The second has been cancer free for almost two years and the third one should, at the very least, be out interviewing bands for her NED celebration. Each of them was dour and negative, seemingly hanging around on hooks waiting for their cancer to advance, recur and take them out once and for all. Together, however, they were a united front: "How can you be so positive?" I felt obligated to try to talk these people off the ledge. Mistake. I should've recognized these types a mile away.

My friend Dave would call these people “camels.”

Camel (n.): One who makes misery for the sake of making misery. Name inspired by the melancholic facial expression of the common camel.

ME: Dave, don't be so judgmental, maybe he/she is just having a bad day.

DAVE: Maybe people he/she is just being a camel. Being a camel because they can be.

Dave's banal, often stereotypical labels for people used to get on my nerves, but man, he was right on with this one. Because, every single time, the "camel" in question was not just having a bad day. It was always something. It was a lifestyle choice.

Example of a common camel: If it's someone's birthday, a holiday party, a wedding, a bridal shower, any reason to celebrate outside the house, the camel will manufacture a crisis. They will either get sick beforehand or find a reason to be offended and leave once they've arrived. Your 40th birthday will coincidentally turn out to be the 14th anniversary of of the camel's grandmother's death. The night of your holiday party, the camel will come down with a crushing migraine and throw up in the hotel lobby (or tell you they did).


So went the conversations with current and former cancer patients: Graphic bowel issues. Leg pain. It's only a matter of time. Always looking over your shoulder. How can you be so positive?

MF camels. If it wasn't cancer, it'd be something else. It's always something.

Ten years from now, these same women will be attending support groups, hell bent on spooking other "positive" assholes like me.

Ask T.S. Eliot
I was looking for a quote from one of his poems because I was thinking about an essay my niece Sarah wrote about her mother, my sister-in-law Paula, who has ovarian cancer. She wrote about "the seasons" and how during the winter months, her mother was sick and bald and was in and out of treatment. Then, springtime came and her mother's hair was growing back. She knew she was getting better when she saw Paula on her hands and knees digging out flower beds and planting annuals. Her essay conveyed a genuine love of life and an appreciation for the turn of the seasons -- something I've always felt deeply connected to as well, particularly this year.

"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?"

This past week, Paula and Sarah flew off to Florida with family and friends to celebrate Jon's cancer-free scans (Yahoo!) Because that's what they do: they celebrate the present. They also know that 38 degrees in March is complete bullshit and unworthy of their presence.

"We should be on Ellen!"
- Paula, on the amount of family members currently undergoing treatment at DF.

Their attitudes strike such a sharp contrast to those of the camels' who -- as camels tend to -- have an inherent distaste for life.

But I give thanks to the camels because they pissed me off! In anger there is adrenaline! And adrenaline is a natural serotonin booster. I'm back on my game.

The "readers guide" for that T.S. poem said "living a life devoid of meaning is death.” That's pretty bad, but it's even worse, I think, to manufacture misery or aspire to have a shitty day.
Don't be a camel.

That said, the thunderclouds have lifted and I’m pre-ordering a case of champagne to be uncorked upon my arrival in the land of NED.

Seven Songs of the Day -- 3/23/2009

Here I Come - Luscious Jackson
In the Journey - Martin Sexton
Stronger - Kanye West
Support System - Liz Phair
Dreams - The Cranberries
You Are the Best Thing - Ray LaMontagne
I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty

Courtesy of Michelle X. Curran (aka Singuloso)

(p.s. Congratulations on your new baby boy, Michelle!)

17 March 2009

The Last Drip (on the really crap stuff)

At the Southie parade yesterday, I stood under the sun at the corner of A & Broadway, sweating and itching in my wig for a couple of hours. But I didn't care: I was drinking red wine out of a giant red keg cup, the mood was far too celebratory and the weather far too beautiful to let a little sweating and itching get in the way. My brother kept yelling out, at random, "Itching powder in the sleeping bags!" Mikey Carter careened down Broadway as part of the Chinese Dragon again -- all business, swirling his piece of the dragon into colorful, dancing loops.

Mar. 16, Home, 7:30 a.m.
I'm thinking about what a great day we had yesterday as I ready my wig to head into the DF. I usually wear a wig or skull cap into treatment and then suddenly realize how silly this is. There is no need to itch and sweat beneath a wig at the Dana Farber Cancer Center. Clearly, I'm one of their people. It's no secret. I've seen plenty of baldies coming and going.

So, I decide I will go to my last AC treatment bald. But then I look in the mirror at my tiny bald alien head -- and I just can't do it. Probably for the same reason I haven’t posted a bald photo of myself on the blog. It's mostly vanity, but I also tend to forget all about the temporary tattoos the kids have posted all over my glossy dome – Shamrocks, Easter eggs, hearts, the Backyardigans, a couple of Spidermans, etc.

Aside: I’m also afraid to post a bald photo on this blog because somewhere down the road, someone may search my name for or a job interview or something more important, hit on the Google image and think I’m some kind of violent anarchist (Backyardigans tatoos notwithstanding).

Maybe when I make peace with the baldness, I'll post a pic. I'm not ready yet.

Aside II: I don't know why I even bother hiding under the wigs. Whenever we're out and about , Caroline loves to announce to anyone within earshot: “See my mom?! She’s wearing a wig! And she has tattoos on her head!!!" Both kids also refer to me as "baldy."

So, I compromise. Instead of the wig or skull cap, I opt for a silk scarf. My friend CK recently suggested I get a Hermes scarf and really turn this MF out. I don’t have a Hermes scarf, but I do have one that aspires to be - we'll call it my “Fermes” scarf. I wrap it around my head, tie a couple of funky knots in the back and let it hang over my left shoulder (just grazing the top of Lefty). I kind of look like a fortune teller but I like it; it looks and feels more feminine and celebratory than a skull cap.

Aside III: I’ve always wanted to wear my "Fuck Cancer" skull cap into the DF, but did not want to offend any patients who may not appreciate the word "fuck" quite as much as I do.

DF 9, 8:40 a.m.

Our appointment is at 8:45 and everything seems to be running very quickly this morning. I’m trying to wolf down a green apple but keep getting called in for prep work. "Kathryn!" Come and get your vitals.

Back to the waiting room. Two more bites of apple. "Kathryn!" Come and get your Blood work.

Back to waiting room. Not even one more bite. "Kathryn!" Come and get your IV.

For whatever reason, my veins are not cooperating today. After three tries, the nurse sends me back into the waiting room until another nurse can give it a go.

Back to the waiting room. Green apple is turning brown so I ditch it. My right arms looks like that of a heroin addict (in perfect keeping with the degenerate fantasy of last week).

Finally, I get called back again and this nurse gets the IV on her second try, this time on my left arm. She said "It's like your veins are running away from us today."

I'm thinking, "Of course they are, they probably know the red death awaits them. I'd run too."

James and I head off down the corridor to meet with our doctors Ann & Katie.

ANN: So, another patient of mine told me that I have a patient named Kate with this great blog I have to check out. She kept saying 'Kate' and I couldn't place you, but then I got the link and saw your picture and instantly knew: Kathryn Jackson. How could we not been calling you "Kate Jackson" this whole time.

We realized it's because we've been all business, all about the tumor and treatment. "Call me Kate" never even crossed my mind.

ANN: Anyway, my other patient said she’s hooked on your blog and that you’re a great writer. I can’t wait to read some more of this.

Now it's only a matter of time before Ann refers to me as KJ. At least I hope so.

[POINTY NOTE: To this “other patient of Ann':" Thank you very much for your kind words. For a few moments there, I was so flattered that I forgot I was sitting topless in a hospital johnny. Feel free to email me anytime. Thank you, again!]

Ann tells me she’ll definitely check out the PU, but now it’s time to check out Lefty.

Katie tells Ann my tumor feels much softer and smaller, almost like it was detaching from the chest wall. This sounds just GREAT to James and me as we remember the first words used to describe the tumor were: “Hard and massive.” “Undifferentiated.” “Can’t tell where tumor ends and normal tissue begins.”

ANN: (feeling me up). If I didn’t know you had a cancer in here, I wouldn’t even be able to tell by feeling it. Of course, you have really dense breasts, but still, I wouldn't be able to pinpoint it. And that's just after two months of AC. That's great.

Aside IV: “Dense breasts” – Now there are two words placed side-by- side that make me shudder a bit. Kind of like LPD’s reaction to the words: moist pork stain.

This whole appointment puts me in a good mood as we fly off to our final AC infusion. My scarf tails are flying out being me like I have a kite on my head.

DF 10, 9:45 a.m.
The chemo nurse is an enigma but we’re up for the challenge.

Not North Shore.
Not Metro West
Not the City, but maybe at some point in her life.

She lies the IV bags on my arm rest. Some nauseu meds, some hydration, the Cytoxan (the “C” in the “AC”) and the three red vials of Adriamycin (the “A” in the “AC”…or shall I say the “ASS”).

"This is your last AC," she says. "You must be happy."

No hint of a Boston accent, still James and I are focused on South of Boston. Still, we can tell she's going to be a challenge because she's not much for the small talk and shit-shat (while this is a quality I would probably revere in a chemo nurse, it doesn't bode well for our silly little "guess where the nurse is from" game.)

The nurse hooks up the hydration and nauseau meds, puts on her hazmat gear and places the three vials of red death on the arm rest. Suddenly, I have to use the loo. "I'll be right back."

I glide over to the restrooms with my IV caddy and find there is a line for one of the two bathrooms (the other is being cleaned). Another young woman with an IV caddy glides up behind me. She's looks a little younger than me and has some cute peach fuzz growing back on her head.

YOUNG WOMAN: Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a line here.

ME: Me neither, just one stall open. I think I'm avoiding my treatment.

YW: Have to get in before the drugs kick in! I love your scarf. How did you tie it in the back here?

ME: I don’t know. I couldn’t see what I was doing. Are you sure it doesn’t make me look like a fortune teller?

YW: (shakes her head). No no.

ME: I am too self conscious to go completely bald.

YW. I was too, but now I have some hair back so it's not as bad. You're just happy to have some hair.

Just then, the bathroom door opens and some guy with a goatee, a full head of hair and no IV caddy emerges from the restroom with a Boston Herald tucked under his arm. A foul cloud of stink emerges right behind him.

Me: (under my breath) Oh no.

GOATEE: Oh! Sorry ladies. I didn’t know there was a line. Woops!

YW: You're sorry!?

We both laugh and simultaneously agree : The stench is NOT good for the tumor! We decide to hold it and glide back to our respective chemo stalls.

James is staring at the nurse, his mind working over time.

ME: “I’m back.”

JAMES (mouthing)' "Scituate? Braintree?"

I nod in agreement and mouth “Marshfield?”


But then our brother-in-law Jon stops by (he also had an appointment at the DF today). He mentions how he's heading off to "slumlord his property in Weymouth" and the nurse doesn’t bite. Damnit. Again, she's not talkative so maybe she wouldn't have been so easily-lured to the typical South Shore small talk.

The nurse starts administering the red death and that familiar feeling of ill-being invades. It’s the Anti-Roxicet. But unlike the Roxicet, this invasion is crappy and hangs around for an entire week.

But, just knowing this is the last time makes it so much more palatable.

Again, my veins aren’t cooperating.

NURSE: (twisting tubes, rooting around with my IV) Your veins are really making me work for it today. It’s like they’ve had enough of this stuff.

ME: (watching the red death trying to weasle its way into my veins) They sure have.

The Replacements take over:

“Hurry up! Hurry up! Ain’t you had enough of this stuff!

Now I’m focused less on where our nurse is from and more on what makes this Adriamycin – RED! I can’t believe I hadn’t asked (or Googled it) before.

ME: “So, what makes this stuff red anyway.?

[I can tell nurse either doesn’t really know or doesn’t really want me to know.]

NURSE: Hmm..Maybe some kind of dye?

The Replacements take over again, replacing "Red, Red Wine on Sundays, always feels so good" with:

“Red Red Dye on Mondays, always feels like ass."

The nurse finally gets the stew flowing and finishes the first, second and finally the third and final vial of the red death. James and I give each other a little ceremonial dap as the nurse starts hooking up the bag of Cytoxan to my IV. Now it’s just one more hour sitting on the drip.

I’m about to Google “What makes Adriamycin red” when another nurse passes by with a ginormous – we’re talking really huge -- gift basket of treats.

JAMES: (joking) “Oh, I see my basket has arrived. They must be delivering it to the wrong stall.”

But seconds later, the nurse backtracks, “Are you Kate?”

ME: Yes?

I look at James incredulously who is looking at the nurse the same way.

NURSE: Well, This beautiful basket here is for you? Is it your birthday?

ME; (tearing up) NO, no. It’s just my last day of treatment, well of the AC at least.

NURSE: That's definitely reason to celebrate! Enjoy!

It’s from my old college friends Mary, Gail and Julie, whom I’ve reconnected with, thanks to the upside of Facebook. They always have the most uplifting wall posts but this unbelievable. Just an amazing booty of treats!

[To Mary, Gail, Julie: Thanks so much, guys. I don’t even know what to say. People are walking up and down the corridor just to get a peek.]

The last of the Cytoxan drips into my arm and we're out of here. We head for the elevators with many big basket gawkers in our wake. We pick up my prescriptions and roll out the front doors of the DF, free for the next two weeks.

The next phase, starting March 30 and continuing every Monday for three months, is supposed to be far less taxing with fewer side effects and manageable fatique. The "TH" phase contains only one chemo drug called Taxol and a magical antibody called Herceptin that's been known to kick the living shit out of HER2+ tumors.

As we wait for the valet to bring our car around, the drugs are starting to make me feel tired and I lean into James a bit. But over his shoulder, I see what has become an all too familiar site at the DF the past few weeks.

A young child, a girl, in an umbrella stroller, not more than 18 months, bald and smiling.

When you see this, it really puts everything into perspective. (We think of Aoife’s and John’s Naimh, as we often do.)

And we think: Breast cancer, we can do. We could NEVER do that. I don’t know how those who are forced to, do.

P.S. The nurse was from EASTON. Technically, south of Boston, but we could've done much better!

Seven Songs of the Day --- 3/17/09

Some Irish songs for St. Paddy's Day! Courtesy of Susan Sullivan.

1. The Unicorn (The Irish Rovers)
2. Wild Rover (The Jolly Beggerman)
3. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Bing Crosby)
4. Molly Malone (The Clancy Brothers)
5. Fields of Athenry (Dropkick Murphys)
6. Irish Rover (The Pouges)
7. Auld Lang Syne (Mairi Campbell)

And..some Irish artists

1. Tuesday Morning -- Pogues
2. Precious Little -- Eleanor McEvoy
3. My Wild Irish Rose -- The Pushstars (ok, not Irish, but Boston Irish)
4. Ridiculous Thoughts -- Cranberries
5. So Young -- Corrs
6. Isn't it Amazing -- Hothouse Flowers
7. Moment of Surrender -- U2

-- KJ

13 March 2009

Bragging Rights

(Eating down the fridge)

My friend Nancy has been chronicling her culinary adventures Down Under on her blog The Roving Lemon since last fall. But this week, she's bringing it back to the States. The Washington Post asked Nancy to guest blog for their popular food site, "A Mighty Appetite," this week (alongside other food writers of gastronomic proportions). Right where she should be. Check it out here, but not before checking the produce drawer of your fridge for a bag of rotting carrots. Way to go, N! I can't wait to try your new creation.

11 March 2009

Damn, It Feels Good to be a

"An emergency prescription for Roxicet" -- music to my ears after my doctor told me my sore throat was likely being caused by lesions on my esophagus. Nasty! But I have to admit it made me feel like less of a wimp for letting a sore throat bring me down so hard and fast. Lesions, man!

Roxicet, which is as fun as it sounds, is basically liquid percocet -- and it's like butter. A half a teaspoon of this stuff and it's all rainbows and unicorns and Turtles' songs. It's an overwhelming sense of well being. It's Happy Time. I sat slack jawed on the couch, staring at the TV with my tongue hanging out for about 20 minutes before I realized I was stoned out of my mind. Why the hell am I watching Walker, Texas Ranger? I turned off the TV, put on the new U2, and passed out on my yoga mat next to Vito after a brief stare down contest. I woke up a few minutes later and played Star Wars sound effects on my iPhone, cracking up -- every single time -- at C-3P0's voice: "We're doomed!" Usually, it's Chewie who cracks me up. While on drugs, it's C-3P0 apparently.

It's a good thing that I have roots because I could so easily become a drug addict or a transient. I had an epiphany similar to Cameo's from the 1990s about the path of least resistance. One morning, Cam spotted a pretty rancid guy on the Red Line on her way into work. It was not yet 8 a.m. and the man was clearly wasted. He was talking to an equally rancid friend, his partner in crime (or in this case, his partner in stanking up the train.) The man smiled at his friend, patted his filthy front jacket pocket that contained a bottle of Captain Morgan's, and in a gravelly voice said: "El Captain! El Captain!"

"He just seemed so carefree," Cameo thought, sitting there stressed out in her nylons, heels and business suit, wanting to be dropped off anywhere but her corporate job. "Lead us not into South Station." This guy is onto something, she thought. The early morning grooming is exhausting enough, not to mention the workplace anxiety under 'the man.' It would be so much easier to just be dirty and drunk on the T all day without a care in the world.

On my "off" weeks, I already feel like Nick Nolte's mug shot (except bald.) I thought about Scary Mary, another AM drunk who used to hang out at the Wood Island T station. Whenever you walked by her, she may or may not have swung her plastic bag of dishtowels and limes at you and tell you to go fuck yourself. You just never knew if it was going to be you or the guy behind you. So I thought about putting some Roxicet in my front jacket pocket and heading down to the West Hingham Commuter Rail station -- and whatever happens happens. But then I sobered up. It's time to get off the junk.

Seven Songs of the Day -- 3/10/09

1. “The Underdog” Spoon (Love this song. It’s a good “fuck you” to any entity that thinks its indestructible)

2. “Hospital Food” David Gray

3. “Missed the Boat” Modest Mouse

4. “The Painter” Neil Young

5. “All for One” from High School Musical Cast (Olivia suggested this one)

6. “Take Me Out” Franz Ferdinand

--Courtesy of M. Draper

10 March 2009

The Inevitable Beat Down

It’s official. Just when I thought we were getting away with it, the AC chemo is rearing its MF “cumulative” effects. Even though we never jinxed it by saying it out loud, the sentiment was there and that was enough.

The sneaky little fucker has slowly but surely started robbing me of days on my “on” week. Right now, it’s beating me down in the form of a narcotic-worthy sore throat. It’s been two days of Nyquil comas and strange dreams with 1970s imagery (which I’m sure are Lost-related, but nevertheless strange.) In one, I was bald with sideburns. In another, James was wearing a denim vest and we lived in a tent in Sacramento.

The sore throat is ungodly. I don’t think I have felt this level of pain since the failed epidurals of 2003. But now -- just like then -- I am no hero. When the OTC drugs fail to get the job done, it’s time to call in the big guns and go on a wee pharmaceutical vacation.

In the meantime, the side effects are making me angry and antsy. But I am forcing myself to acknowledge how unbelievably fortunate I have been to make it this far into the Red Death treatment with more "on" days than "off" ones. I'm lucky that I only have one of these treatments left and can move on to the second, less aggressive phase. The "off" days are numbered.

I'm lucky to have plans on the calendar this week to look forward to. I’ve been preparing my wig for a Thursday night Suppah Club at Jess’s and a Friday night dinner at Ivy. (The last time this particular crowd got together, the night ended with me falling into a planter outside the Warren Tavern.) I can't wait to see everyone and refuse to be sidelined. I'll be there. I may be on drugs, but I'll be there.


Seven Songs of the Day -- 3/10/09

On the TimTams

1. It's a Beautiful Morning - The Rascals

2. Barefootin' - Robert Parker

3. California Soul - Marlena Shaw

4. Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing - Stevie Wonder

5. Do You Know the Way to San Jose? - Dionne Warwick

6. Wouldn't It Be Nice - The Beach Boys

7. I Can See Clearly Now - Johnny Nash

- Courtesy of The Roving Lemon

04 March 2009

"Celebrating the Moments" with Chrissy D.

Last week, I received a card in the mail. On the cover was an obese man in a thong, mid golf swing, on a beach. I laughed out loud, as anticipated by the return address, but was flabbergasted to find a full page letter inside.

It was from my friend and college roommate, Chrissy D. H. (henceforth, CDH) She loathes writing as much as I loathe the phone. She not only dislikes letters, but emails, IMs and Facebooks too. So, it's really no surprise we've been in and out (mostly out) of touch over the last 17 years or so.

Aside: She was, however, featured on this blog a few years ago after she passed along some camera pics of her approaching Snoop Dog in Vegas. He actually said to her, "What's crack-a-lackin', baby?"

Needless to say, her letter was a gem, chock full of updates and tid bits of nostalgia:

Remember when we'd be hungover and panting outside of Papa Gino's at 10:30 a.m. begging for them to open?

Yes! Yes! Of course I remember! I've been digging through a lot of old journals lately too, working my way back. CDH is in a lot of them so I have to tell some of the stories.

She and I couldn't have been two more different creatures, but for some reason it worked. We just clicked, not only as roommates but as friends as well.

1990, Lammers Hall, WSC

On one side of the dorm room: Ceiling-to-floor Top Gun and Doug Flutie posters. On the other: U2, the Beatles, REM. On CDH's nightstand: novels, a hummel, a massive jug of white zinfandel and Marlboro Lights. On mine: A broken alarm clock, door knocker earrings, a three-year old lipgloss, and a ragged journal. And Marlboro Lights and a broken lighter. On our radio/cassette player: Barry Manilow and the Replacements were constantly going head-to-head.

Over our front door, CDH hung her Xeroxed statement on the status quo: "If assholes could fly, this place would be an airport" -- which was true at least 40 percent of the time. During the holidays, she hung up a red pillow, only the first in the trio, that said "Ho." Which was also true at least 40 percent of the time.

Still, for someone so opinionated and bold, she was also the most easily-embarrassed person I'd ever met.

1989, Freshman Year, Dining Commons (before we were roommates)
CDH, our friend Amy and I headed to the caf for dinner. We were all making enormous salads that night. When CDH reached for some pita bread, she somehow dropped her entire tray on the floor. The whole incident took less than 8 seconds and the caf was so loud and crowded that few people even saw it happen. As we went to help her clean it up, we noticed CDH was already gone. We spotted her outside of the caf windows walking briskly back toward the dorm, head hung in shame.

The following night, Amy and I went to get CDH for dinner and found her huddled over, stirring some Oodles of Noodles in a hot pot.

ME: What's going on, Yoda?
CDH: Oh, I am never ever going back in there again after what happened. Can you just smuggle me out some bagels?

We could tell by her eyes that it was futile to convince her otherwise, so we just lined our pockets with sesame bagels and low-fat cream cheese for a few weeks until she relented.

Aside II: Once, when she was in high school, she was completely mortified when her mother fell down at the grocery store. After whispering frantically to no avail -- "Get up. Get UP -- she walked away, not realizing that her mother had actually broken both her arms.

1991, Lammers Hall, The Avoidance Factor of Love

(Amy, me and CDH and the massive jug of White Z, 1991)

Those campus romantic dramas -- some instigated, some unavoidable, all inevitable when you're all squished together in a world smaller than a city block. While I was embroiled in a particularly heinous one, CDH left me a card on my bed. On the cover was a brick wall. Inside she wrote, "The next time you think it's a good idea to talk to boys -- any boys -- bang your head against this brick wall until the feeling goes away." I still have the card.

When she was similarly afflicted, we would sit in the common area and play Boggle (or cards, I can't remember). She'd have the mammoth jug of white z and I'd have Keystone Light or some other cheap swill on hand. The whole idea was to screen incoming calls on the common phone. When it inevitably rang, I would rush to pick it up before anyone else: "No, Chrissy's not here. I think she went to El Italia."

Aside III: Perhaps a strange foreshadowing of the "I think she's at the Egg & I" incident circa mid-90s on Cape Cod?

Later, we'd chain smoke and "Celebrate the Moments of our Lives" with some General Foods International coffees -- toasting to "the avoidance factor of love."

Well-Pressed & Coiffed, Curled Bangs
Most moved among campus in baggy sweats and baseball hats. This was unheard of for CDH. First, showering was not optional. Regardless of a prior late night, she'd barrel down the hallway, shower caddy in one hand, middle finger up on the other should anyone dare to address her in the AM. Second, she always had perfectly pressed slacks and blouses with matching belts, purses and shoes. Make up was always on, her hair perfectly coiffed into cascading mushroom curls with bangs curled under with a curling brush.

Aside IV: One of the first times she actually wore jeans, we all went out to Kelleher's. The night quickly devolved and we ended up back in our apartment dancing to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Then, for whatever reason (alcohol), five of us (CDH not included of course) decided to strip down and crack each other up by posing like underwear models in a Bradlees circular. Hearing the commotion, some of the boys from next door walked in, which sent several of us diving into the corner, turning our Pier One Papasan chair into an instant bunker.

So, the stories could go on and on.

Since CDH shocked the hell out of me by writing a letter, I shocked her right back by picking up the phone and calling her at work: "I can't believe you called!" "I can't believe you wrote!"

(Goy, Amy, CDH, Cherelle and me @ Amy's bachelorette, 1996)

So, we've made plans to get together for an overnight. CDH, Amy, Goy and I. She still doesn't drive long distances (she's out of state)..some things never change..and for some if it I'm grateful. If we have to put her on a Peter Pan bus or yellow moped, we'll meet her somewhere in the middle.


So, today, in lieu of a playlist, I'd like to dedicate the entire "About Last Night Soundtrack" to CDH. Rock on with your bad self!

02 March 2009

Get on your (MF) Boots (again)

Live, On the Drip, DF 10
I'm here mainlining my poison, curtain drawn, no window seat. A new chemo nurse proving to be our biggest challenge yet just blew our game by offering up, unsolicited: "Westwood cancelled school last night at 8 p.m." *Westwood.* Damnit. We would've gotten there. My first impression was JP but my intuition said go west. Now we'll never know.

James is off on a mission to find some top secret (not anymore) list that DF patients can put their names on for free Sox tickets. In the meantime, I thought I'd post a quick playlist. I Shazam-ed a couple of these songs from WERS on the drive in as we dodged caravans of snowplows.

7 Songs of the Day -- 3/2/2009
1) Get on Your Boots -- U2
2) Sawdust Man -- Ben Kweller
3) Inni Mer Syng...Vitleysingur (Inside me a lunatic sings) -- Sigur Ros
4) Linger -- Jonatha Brooke
5) Troubled Mind -- Everything but the Girl
6) Overkill (acoustic) -- Colin Hay/Men at Work
7) Shake your Body Down to the Ground -- Michael Jackson

Red death: 3 down, 1 to go