28 April 2009

It's a Go-Go

4 p.m., Apr. 27, DF Caf
We're nibbling on some veggies and dip waiting for the DF 10 pager to go off and call us up to the Infusion floor. I'm reading an awesome New Yorker article on Muzak that my friend N. passed along.

We're on an upside down schedule today, here much later than usual, waiting for the lab to determine whether my blood counts are Taxol-worthy. Even if they're not, I'll still be getting the Herceptin, the antibody that supposedly shrivels up the bitch that is HER2. So, here we wait.

Caroline: Mama, what's a swine?
Me: A pig.
Caroline: Why isn't it just called "pig flu."

Looking around, I'm starting to believe that Code Red was right about the MJ mask being "trendy" amid all the pig flu hoopla. While I've been coming to the DF since the end of January, I've never seen SO many masked patients wandering the corridors. And this is a place where you'd expect to see masked people, pig flu notwithstanding. Is everyone just in from Mexico?

Muzak Riveted
Anyway, I'm really into this Muzak piece. Did you know why it was dubbed "elevator music?" Me neither. Apparently, when skycrapers first came on the scene (bringing multi-floor elevators along with them), people were anxious about riding up 50 floors in these little boxes suspended on wires in narrow vertical corridors. The music supposedly lessened the anxiety while their ears popped. It's the same reason why dentist offices adopted Muzak -- to take the edge off the horrifying reality that someone is about to drill into your skull via your maw.

I get that, I just don't get how string instrumentals of Elvis Presley tunes could possibly have a calming effect. I clearly remember being at the Finast supermarket with my mother -- I was probably 7 or 8 years old. A trumpeted Muzaked version of Him by Rupert Holmes came on and made me furious. "They're ruining it," I thought.

Anyway, Muzak is no longer in the elevator/dental office business, they are no longer maiming songs with harpsichords and tubas -- unless you're in Japan where business owners routinely request "contemporary instrumentals of popular songs" for some reason. Whenever you hear playlists of songs in their original formats -- at supermarkets, retail stores, restaurants -- there is a good chance it's Muzak. I always assumed it was satellite radio.

Muzak is also rampant at the loathsome mall. Which is no suprise. The mall is to me what the elevator was to those skyscraper newbies. I feel suffocated, barked at, like the floor could fall out from beneath me at any time. Still, sometimes it's unavoidable.

Marketing to Mall Rats with Muzak 101, and a little Falco.

Hollister or Abercrombie: Homogenous techno beats pump out at you from behind beveled room dividers and fake ficuses. The design, as well as the crappy techno, are meant to convey exclusivity, like that of a NYC nightclub or in this case, a keg party in the really, really good part of the woods with hardly any animal droppings. It's also useful in repelling 39-year-olds and others of my ilk: "You are way too old to come in here, lady. You'll just get confused." ** Not to worry, though, nieces and nephews, gift cards will always be purchased when requested, they'll just be purchased online.**

Ann Taylor: According to Muzak, AT's clientele is conservative women who don't want to take any fashion risks, just look polished. They just want everything "bright, positive, optimistic, and uplifting." So, Muzak tends to pipe in Sting and Celine Dion (huh? CD, uplifting? Don't most people want to see her crossing the street against the light?)

Gap or Old Navy: Since customers range from infants to adults, Muzak often throws covers of old songs into the mix. Think: Counting Crows doing Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi."

Now I'm wondering what the Muzak soundtrack for Tello's in the 1980s would have been. What songs would have enhanced the experience of strolling those racks of impeccable cheese, searching for Jordache bags, neon socks and purple rayon with a stolen grape Fanta from Liberty Market in your hand. One song I always remember blaring in there was "Lover Girl" by Teena Marie, the employees dancing and mouthing the words as they organized thongs and beaded barrettes behind the counter.

Still, I'm thinking: How is this Muzak any different from satellite radio? My question is answered just a few paragraphs later. Whereas satellite radio does genres, Muzak does customization to the base right down to the song segue. Being a slave to (and never disappointed by) my Party Shuffle on iTunes, I totally get this. Many people have simliar mindsets, but not everyone dresses the same. In other words, sometimes a little well-placed Falco goes a long way.

I also get this because I went through a phase where I would only listen to satellite radio but my craving for musical variety along with my being too lazy to channel surf won out and lured me back to the college radio airwaves where I can hear Bob Dylan one second and Cat Power the next. In fact, my entire musical M.O. these days involves Shazaming songs from WERS and downloading them to my iPod.


Having new music on the Pod is actually creating an incentive to exercise and right now, I am in need of an epic, cobweb-shedding walk.

Aside: There's a 90-year-old man that lives next door to us that takes his daily walk (shuffle) past our house. Every day, he walks about 100 yards down the street to a little sidewalk bridge that goes overs a brook. He rests there on a wrought iron bench for a few moments before turning back. Vito, who remains staunch in his belief that nobody else has a right to exist let alone walk by our house, barks at the man every day, menacing him back and forth from behind his invisible fence barrier. The man, depending up on his mood, greets him with: "Hello, big fella!" or "Up yours, fatso!" James said he was going to ask our elderly neighbor if he needed a walking partner since a 100-yard shuffle is about my speed these days. All I need is some tube socks, etc. Very funny. I refused to give in to the way-too-close-to-home humor of his suggestion. I told him that when I walk, I must walk alone.

5 p.m. It's a Go! BTW, were you just released from a concentration camp?
James is reading aloud a story from ESPN the Mag about a service called Cha Cha where you can text any question -- anything -- to 242242 and receive an answer within three minutes. (I'd never heard of this, but in under 24 hours, I've seen it everywhere. There is also a similar service called KGB.)

I'm in mid-celery stick, trying to think of a question to ask when our pager goes off and we're heading up to the DF 10 Infusion.

My fellow/doctor Katie meets us there to let us know that my white counts are back up -- way up -- higher than is even necessary. So not only is treatment a go for today, we're also going to scale back on the Neupogen shot this week, only twice instead of thrice. This is all music to my ears. It's going to be a MUCH better week.

Without a doubt, the past week was the toughest one since treatment started on Feb 2. I hit the wall for sure (but not the floor, not yet). I knew being hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world for 7 days was going to suck but at the same time, I looked forward to some enforced downtime: I would finally catch up on emails and FB, maybe do some writing. When the sun finally came out, I would read my book on my back deck or sit by the brook with Vito and let the kids run around. Regroup, restore and rest. Aside from reading with Roxicet, none of this went down. James ended up having to take the entire week off because I saw white dots just going up and down the stairs. Then there were the Neupogen side effects: Headache, bone pain and spine pain (what!??), all of which were in full effect and rendered me completely horizontal or stooped over with an icy eyemask and a heating pad for the entire week. Then the antibiotic I was taking gave me some kind of stomach flu and melted away about 7 pounds, so I am not only bald but skeletal -- concentration-camp chic. Katie notes my birdlike physique and prescribes donuts for the week to bulk up. If I weren't at the DF, I'm sure I could be mistaken for a recently released prisoner.

7 p.m. Guess the Nurse Part IV
Today, we have a different chemo nurse because we had to come much later in the day. The sun is starting to set outside. The other patients who were sitting across from us have all cleared out. My veins, after three MF IVs, have finally started cooperating and opened up a pathway for those antibodies and poisons. It's clear we are going to be here awhile. I'm on my 12th Jolly Rancher. James, of course, discovers some fresh sandwiches in the fridge. We wolf those down in seconds.

We're really in need of a chemo buddy. Because of the uncertainty of this week's schedule, I couldn't line up anyone. James is awesome, my constant, but he's living inside of this too; he welcomes the healing distractions of an outsider or a not-so-outsider. Doreen came last time, bringing her positive energy, laughs and the hilarious story of purchasing an authentic $1,500 Gucci purse for under $300 -- while at Jeveli's in Eastie. As a BC survivor, she also brought consolation, saying that BC has got to be better than that anal cancer that poor Farah Fawcett has. She would've been great at our guess-where-the-nurse-is-from game, but we had our faithful Judy from Norwood that week.

James, having read his mag cover to cover, now turns his focus to the new nurse and from where she hails. The dark haired woman, early 30ish, is not feeling him. She won't even glance in his general direction when he starts peppering her with questions. I've never seen this before. Granted, the nurse is very busy this evening, one of the few nurses still on the infusion floor past 7 p.m. She's very talkative with me, but mostly she because is intent on making sure the drugs are seeping into my vein and not the surrounding tissues. I have too much Benadryl in my bloodstream and am too loopy to ask the right small talky questions even if I could get away with them, which I can't. Not the way James typically can. "She won't give me anything, not a thing!" he says, frustrated.

Right now, he's floundering in his usual stellar attempts at idle chit chat: "Are we your last patients of the day," he asks her. She smiles at him and it looks like she's about to throw him a bone, but only says,"Oh no, I'm here until 8:30." When she walks away, James, with the most minimal info to date, confidently states: "North of Boston: Wilmington, Woburn, Winchester, one of those." I shake my head in agreement. North of Boston. Sound guesses, for sure, but not ones I would've blurted out so soon.

I googled the nurse this morning. She is from Woburn! What can I say..it's a gift!

The Network, Walking & Go Go Dancing
This past week, I was emailing/FBing with friends/fam, Paula, Julie, Lisa Daria, Evanne and Heather, all of whom have gone through different cancer treatments. Every single one suffered almost identical setbacks, healing crises of sorts, right around the same time as I did. It usually hit around the fourth week of Taxol or a couple of months into their treatments. Some even ended up in the ER for a few days. But it sounds like things do turn around once you've hit this new low in WBCs.

Julie said what ends up happening is that you're over-the-top happy on the days you actually feel good. Feeling good is a higher high.

This is how I feel today. It's beautiful outside, it's a feel-good day and I'm elated. Cued up: "I think I'll go for a walk outside now, the summer sun's calling my name (I hear ya now). I just can't stay inside all day, I gotta get out get me some of those rays.."

I AM going to take a walk right now because quoting Brady Bunch songs on the PU kind of makes me want to punch myself in the back of the head, just a little.

When I return, I might install go-go dancing platforms all around my house.


Seven Songs of the Day -- 4/29/2009

Today's playlist (with those explanations that I love) comes courtesy of Chris Seremetis. Thanks, Tif!

1. God Am - Alice In Chains, just cause it's fun to say 7 times fast
2. Pass the Mic - Beasties Boys, cause the line: "be true to yourself and you will never fall" is awesome
3. I'll Stick Around - Foo Fighters, cause they rock
4. Rusty Cage - Johnny Cash, cause he's the only who could sing it better than Cornell
5. Stardog Champion - Mother Love Bone, grunge!
6. Do What You Want - OK Go, cause we should all do so
7. Be Free - The Cult, "to be free, like the birds and the bees" cause Billy Duffy just rocks the angry chords

21 April 2009

Hermetically Sealed, Hermit-Like

(It was only a matter of time)

I thought I'd finally adjusted to the undercurrent of dull energy that shuffles me through each day. For whatever reason, just knowing this is a temporary state helped me resume a normal, albeit slo-mo clip, throughout this past week.  We had some friends over.  Took the kids to the beach. Celebrated James' birthday a bit.  Caroline and I went to fashion show fundraiser with everyone on Sunday.  Some said I looked kind of pale -- but like being eyelashless, it was nothing a ridiculous amount of make-up couldn't fix.  I may walk around looking like Norma Desmond in a suburban-blonde wig, but again -- it's temporary. Dealable. All we need is a little sunshine. But then, I couldn't get my treatment yesterday. The docs sent me home from the DF with dangerously low white blood counts, some preemptive antibiotics, Neupogen syringes, and a Michael Jackson mask.  They basically said no public places, no visitors, no nuthin' until the WBCs climb out of the red, or the white hot as the case may be.  Because if get so much as a wee fever, I'll have to be admitted to the hospital. Funtime.  They said the Neupogen shots should turn this thing around by the end of the week.  So, until then, I'll be in some form of drug-induced repose. 

14 April 2009

Call the Waaambulance: The Not-So-Merry Recluse

Pointy Note: Today and the next few days will be a compilation of many posts from the past week. I've been out of commission, down but certainly not out!

On Easter Sunday, I threw my winter clogs into the brook behind my house. We pulled into the driveway, returning home from dinner at my parents. I took off my shoes, strode through the soggy, bloated yard and chucked each shoe as hard as I could into the water. The windswept rain from the past week had turned our peaceful bubbling brook into the River Wild; the clogs got swept up in the current and flew downstream like two harbor seals in swift retreat. James looked on in stunned silence as I slogged back up the driveway in my muddy socks. Caroline and Paulie laughed and began to remove their shoes but we got them to cease and desist.

To me, those clogs represented the mental and physical rut I've been in for weeks. Better to take out my frustration on a pair of Steve Maddens then on the people I love, I say.

"Hang up your chairs to better sweep, clear the floor of the dance, throw the walls into the fireplace." - REM

It was time to clear some cobwebs. I'd been sporting those MF clodhoppers since November. In the beginning, they were a somewhat stylish alternative to the woolly suburban footwear I spy around these parts that tend to be too flat for me -- at 5'3" -- to wear with jeans or a loathsome sweatsedo (and I absolutely refuse to have yoga pants hemmed). The clogs were safer than high-heeled boots that sink into the grass, trip you up and muddy your arse. I wore those clogs to all of my doctors appointments as I spiraled toward my diagnosis. To all of my chemo infusions thus far. I wore them throughout this seemingly endless April cold snap. But most of all, I wore the clogs because my unforgiving Chemobrain precludes shoe shopping because I don't even know what I like anymore.

On our home computer, we have a scrolling slideshow of all the pictures on our hard drive and I barely recognize my old self. Suppah Clubs and Nantucket trips, gardening with the kids last summer, kitchen hanging with James on a random weeknight. I can't reconcile the person in the photos with the bald, lashless, hollow-cheeked hag in a do-rag I see today. I belong on the Sci Fi Channel.

Second Phase of Ass
I'm not delusional. I wasn't expecting round two of chemo to be a joyride on the ding dong cart. I did not expect to start punctuating my sentences with woo hoos or for my energy levels to be restored to 2008 proportions. I was just expecting to bounce back a little. Granted, this second phase is not NEARLY as soul sucking as the first. But since the treatment is every Monday instead of every other Monday, I am subsisting on a steady stream of low (low!) energy with zero in-between days. I'm a naturally high-energy person so this can be frustrating at times.

For instance, last week the sun shone for a few hours and temps edged toward the high 50s. I put on my wig and a Sox cap. I grabbed the iPod and headed out for a walk, volume cranked as a forcefield. I barely made it around the loop without sucking wind. Vito would've put me to shame.

It's not just the energy. I can't do errands, attend the kids' soccer games, or go out to dinner with James or friends without feeling completely self conscious. And, call the waaambulance, I'm tired of having to reach for my wig whenever the doorbell rings (that is, if I even answer the door). I'm becoming a total recluse.

Hermit Flashback, Summer 1986
This feeling isn't completely foreign to me. I started remembering another time when I felt freakish and hermetic. When I was 16, I had a back operation to straighten my lower spine that was dangerously curving toward my left lung (the original Lefty, I suppose). I was in the hospital for two weeks and then had to wear a back brace for six months that was basically a large plastic girdle. Though you really couldn't see the brace under my clothes, it made me appear excessively hippy and flat chested. NOT good for an achingly self-conscious 16 year old. The only thing my friends and I ever did was go to the beach. Since bathing suits were out of the question, I stayed in the house the rest of the summer eating potato chips and watching the Peoples Court. When school started, I wore baggy, XL sweaters as camouflage (which were luckily the style in 1986). But soon, I became paranoid that people (boys) would physically bump into me in the halls and think I was some kind of bionic-plastic freak. So before school, I started taking the girdle off in the Dunkin' Donuts bathroom in Kenmore Square and stuffing it into by book bag. After school, I'd return to the same DD's and put it back on. One day, however, I decided to swing into Planet Records on my way home and my worst fears were realized. Three boys from my school (a few grades ahead of me) were skulking around and one accidentally brushed by me. He raised an eyebrow, then knocked on my back three times. Cardiac arrest. His other two friends walked behind me and did the same. I was so mortified I ran out of the store still clutching an empty record sleeve. I ran all the way down Comm, Ave with a 20-pound bag of books, praying I'd be hit by a bus. So, this bald 39 year-old in a do-rag is not so different inside from that 16 year old hiding out in Dunkin' Donuts bathrooms.

The Not-so-Merry-Recluse

Caroline Knapp often wrote about the difference between solitude and isolation. In her essay "The Merry Recluse," she wrote that social muscles, like actual ones, must be flexed often so they don't become atrophied. Man, when she was right, she was right. I love my solitude, but I've been inching toward isolation these past couple of weeks -- and not just from the outside world. I've become delinquent among all my social mores: Email, Texting, Facebook, Twitter -- the lifelines of a lifelong phone-hater.

It was clear I needed to get out immediately! So, after four or five cancellations, we were finally able to nail down dinner plans with old Big Dig pals. (A dinner plan that had become so complicated to arrange that my friend Kathy likened it to "assembling the Pentagon")

Thurs., Apr 9, Batten down the wig! Off to Mistral!

My fierce wig was filthy so I decided to go with my long red one from Dorothy's Boutique. It doesn't fit as well but I figured it'd work fine in the dark corners of Mistral. But when I pulled into the parking lot and caught sight of myself in my rear view mirror, I immediately regretted leaving my safety zone. My wig had ridden up very high on my forehead and had shifted to the left. I knew it wouldn't stay put all night long so I gathered my drag queen hair into a side ponytail and sprayed it to stone with some archaic hairspray I found in the glovey. Of course, the ever present high winds prevailed and I held onto my wig for dear life as I walked upwind on Columbus Ave. As I passed Club Cafe, two men who I'm sure could spot a Dorothy's wig a mile away turned to look at me. I imagined them whispering, "What's up with girlfriend in Red Hot #7." I'm pretty sure the doormen and hostess at Mistral looked at me sideways too. I felt like everyone was on to me.

At the bar, it was hugs all around. I became more at ease after a dirty, filthy martini. But all was not well with me. Besides expressing mild horrification at learning that some of the men at our old office used to refer us as "The Spice Girls," I couldn't remember how to participate in a normal conversation. There was a heated exchange about Tom, Gisele and Bridget and some recent Vanity Fair article. My eloquent contribution to this was something like: "They're dicks. All three of them. Dicks."

I was definitely a merry spectator all evening, however, tucking into my beef tenderloin pizza with white truffle oil.

Aside: I was chewing slowly and deliberately on one side because of some leftover mouth sores from AC chemo that simply won't heal. I was able to coherently reassure my friends that I was NOT having a stroke at the dinner table.

Return of the Sunday Night Creepies
When I threw my shoes into the brook the other night, I think it may have been in defiance of a new brand of Sunday night creepies. Knowing that you have chemo every Monday colors Sunday nights with a dread similar to that of knowing you have to get up and go to a job you hate the next day. Years ago, when James and I hated our jobs, we would listen to "Blues on Sunday" on 92.9 FM and wallow in the creepies. It's a similar feeling now. Although I'm pretty sure I prefer chemo to the PR firm where I used to work.

My former co-worker and good friend Brad (or "Sugar Brad" going forward for the Hermes scarf he sent to cover my bald head when temps get too balmy for wigs.) used to make nooses out of paperclips during interminable, pointless meetings. The meetings were bad enough but lunchtime in that suburban office park was pure, unadulterated hell. Every day in the lunchroom, a keg-shaped account manager would hold court with her little Igors on such scintillating topics as: *I like sweet pickles * So and So's husband wants to buy a camper * How many Weight Watchers points are in this mini Charleston Chew * On Fridays, they'd all ply themselves with generic salsa, shitty margarita mix and manufactured outrage.

Yes, I'm certain I prefer the DF on Mondays over that place.

When I get into a rut, the guilt piles up quickly. I feel like a crappy, inattentive mother who can't even muster the energy for a game of iPhone checkers let alone go on a bike ride. Some days, I feel like the roles are reversed. Caroline recently asked if she could read ME a bedtime story. Paulie patted my do-rag and asked if I needed a juice box and a snack.

...then Laughter

Caroline busts out her karaoke mic and sings the National Anthem before Bruins games. Paulie follows it with the Renee Rancourt pointing and fist pumping.

James got Paul a giant T map of all the rail lines for his room and he almost fainted.

PAULIE: (walking into his room earlier today) Mom, I keep forgetting about my train map. Every time I walk into my room, I get excited about it all over again. C'mon, look at my map with me. I want to show you where Haymarket is.

At the playground a few weeks ago, Caroline ran to the top of a structure where a group of boys were playing around a large captain's wheel.

CAROLINE: (commandeering the wheel). This is a ship! I am the captain! All of the boys, get into the water! (They all did)

She'd make an awesome Somali pirate.

Things that are Better than a Giant Plastic Bag of Happy Pills from my Doctor

Retro WWII dishtowels, TimTams, fragrant soaps, CDs, New Yorker articles and other magical mystery care packages from the Roving Lemon (not Rovingle Mon) Down Under.

Molly Kristant Brown

A good kitchen chinwag in SoBo with Nic & Di

Nic sporting the Snuggie

People I don't have to put on wigs for when they ring the doorbell: LPD and her Vertical Watermelon belly bumrushing the house with all kinds of good cheer.

James photographing, then fishing my clogs out of the brook, hosing them down and dropping them off at the Swap Shop at the dump. Sayonara, sad footwear.

So, the curmudgeonly ruts are a reality but they are fleeting.

Now I have to go cut about an inch off my yoga pants so I can wear my sneakers with them.

Seven Songs of the Day -- 4/14/09

Today's playlist courtesy of Dawn Flanagan-Haley

"I tried to think of songs that reminded me of spring, but I’m not even really sure why these do" - DFH

  1. House of Love – I Don’t Know Why I Love You
  2. Throwing Muses – Not Too Soon
  3. Belinda Carlisle – Circle in the Sand
  4. The Cowsills – The rain, the park and other things
  5. The Cardigans – Carnival
  6. Elvis Costello – Veronica
  7. The Beautiful South – We Are Each Other

06 April 2009

Chemo Brain in Full Effect: The Chemosabes' Daily Fight Againt Idiot Slippage

"Chemobrain," an affliction that turns otherwise coherent individuals into full-on space shots and glassy-eyed fools during and after chemotherapy, is no longer considered a myth thanks to people like Ellen Clegg, an editor at the Globe, who wrote THE book on it this year, "Chemobrain: How Cancer Therapies Can Affect your Mind." Ellen also had a fantastic piece in the Globe Magazine yesterday entitled "The Cloud over Chemotherapy" that I'm re-reading here today at DF on the TH drip (where I just overheard the nurses saying they've already canceled Opening Day because of the MF rain. Boo.)

The book, which I read cover-to-cover the day it arrived in the mail, talks about what happens after your hair and energy return. About how that spaced out feeling often lingers, leading to impaired memory and an inability to concentrate or multitask. Many doctors, including many here at DF, are starting to take these mental curve balls seriously, offering ways to combat one's slippage into slack-jawed idiocy. (And we idiots appreciate it).

Ellen blogs about the topic daily on her blog Chemo Brain Boston and offers great advice to those on or off the toxic stew. She also gave the PU a much- appreciated shout out here.

All of the information is fantastic not only for us Chemosabes, but also for anyone forgetful or spacey by nature. You can learn how to open up those neural pathways by exercising your body and brain, clearing your mind of distractions, and controlling your environment to your benefit.

I am a self-anointed guinea pig in this area and have hereby offered my Chemobrain stories to Ellen Clegg for any second editions.

Here are some of my symptoms below (some of which could also indicate an onset of Tourettes Sydrome)

"I've never been too good with names, but I remember faces." Not anymore. Now I'm horrible with both. I completely blanked on the name of our mailman of almost four years -- Stu. How do forget a name like Stu? It's the all-time best mailman name that ever existed. (Caroline and Paul reminded me as they bumrushed the mailbox upon his arrival. "STU!!!!!! MAIL!!!!") In the past two weeks alone, I've called my neighbor Alan, "Earl" and another neighbor Rich, "Ken." I completely forgot the names and faces of some parents with whom I've had full conversations at Paulie's school. This weekend, I did the same at Caroline's soccer game, but I think I was just preoccupied. There were some very high winds blowing and I was mentally preparing myself in case my wig flew off and rolled down the field like a renegade tumbleweed.

Typist Idiotus: At one time, I could type a ridiculous amount of error-free words per minute. I was a typing savant; my skills were sought after by many a temp agency in the early 1990s and garnered me several "Temp of the Month accolades" that involved my Polaroid hanging by the elevator banks and a couple of $25 gift certificates to Souper Salad. Now, everything I write is littered with typos and grammatical errors (the sneaky kinds that elude spell check) And whenever I type the word "this," it comes out as "shit." My unconscious mind must have a sense of humor.

Driving with Geggy Tah: I've always been a terrible driver but now I've become a scary one. Recently, I was meeting a friend in Braintree for lunch and forget which Exit I was supposed to get off of. "Get a grip, Kathy!" When I tried to bring up the address on my phone, I started lane swerving like a daytime DUI. Luckily, the moment passed and I was able to recall the exit number, but not before becoming a justifiable target of Route 3 road ragers. Thankfully, some motorists (I love the word "motorist.") were more patient with me and let me switch lanes at the last second so I didn't miss my Exit or sideswipe the guardrail. To these patient drivers, I mentally dedicated the impossibly addictive tune "Whoever You Are" by Geggy Tah: "All I want to do is to thank you, even though I don't know who you are. You let me change lanes, when I was driving in my car." It's still stuck in my XS head, however.

Aside: Looking back, it was not so much my memory coming back at it was Gail Sheena's voice entering my head. She was always the reassuring voice of reason from my backseat: "Um, I think you're OVERSHOOTING it a little," as she used to say -- quite calmly -- just before I blew past the parking lot at whatever bar or restaurant we were trying to find.

Things accidentally put in the fridge: Vito's leash, an Anthropologie catalogue, Caroline's detangling spray.

MF Dishwasher: I've emptied more than three dishwashers full of dirty dishes. James usually walks into the kitchen just as I've placed the final coffee mug onto its shelf. "I think those were dirty." *Stream of kitchen profanity* "Mom, please stop staying naughty bathroom words. I'll call the Easter Bunny" - Caroline

Cafe Rodgriguez, Anyone?: I've long chided poor James for his mispronouncements of restaurants, i.e., "Cafe Rodriguez" for Casa Romero, "The Groratoria" for Circes Grotto, or "Astros" for "Cosmos." This weekend, I doggedly insisted that the name of the tapas place we wanted to try in Marshfield was "Ole." Then why couldn't any of us find it on Google or 411? Because I insisted it was "Ole, in Liberty Plaza RIGHT ON 139." In reality it was "Hola, in Library Plaza in RIGHT OFF 139." Hello? We finally found it after driving up and down Ocean Avenue with a GPS that led us to a nice cul-de-sac off Liberty Street before locating the restaurant in a strip mall next to Kokopelli's tanning salon.

Misplaced: Every day, my shoes. But I think this is less Chemobrain than it is James' gaslighting me. Sure he grumbles about "land mines" and how I'm trying to kill him by leaving my shoes strewn in his path, but we all know he's facilitating my devolution into dementia at age 39.

Sidenote to Ellen: I'm sure you already do, but please ignore the crazy ass troglodytes who post on the Globe's message boards. (any message boards, actually) At least 85 percent of them are angry old coots, spewing crumbs on their keyboards as they type (with plenty of spelling errors) their bitter tirades. They are camels, one and all.

Seven Songs of the Day 4/6/2009

Today's Seven Songs come courtesy of Tom Haley, complete with explanation. Thanks T-Bag!

1. April Skies – Jesus & Mary Chain (I figured, Fuck March)
2. Story Of My Life – Social Distortion
3. Dog Gone – Frank Black
4. Nevertheless – Brian Jonestown Massacre
5. Elvis Presley & America – U2 (I had to put down at least one U2 song, and there aren’t many underplayed ones left)
6. On The Road To Find Out – Cat Stevens
7. Good Feeling – Violent Femmes (la laa, la laa la-la-la-laa…)

01 April 2009

Meeting Halfway, then Backsliding, in Newburyport

Sat. March 28
With Chrissy and Amy coming from New Hampshire and Goy and I from the South Shore, it was really more like 3/4 of the way but Newburyport was the perfect place for our long overdue night out. Chrissy had to be close enough to be dropped off because, even though she's traveled as far and wide as China, she still can't bring herself to drive on the highway. Amy, who is the mother of four kids, took comfort in the fact that she only lived 20 minutes way.

("No crumpets, no crumpets")

True to form, Chrissy showed up for a 24-hour outing with a suitcase the size of a small office building and a curling iron wrapped in a floral, curling-iron cozy. Amy brought in a huge tray of organic cookies and muffins and teas -- and a sleeping bag, which she promptly set up on top of her bed at the Essex Street Inn as we looked on, bewildered.

"You guys, I spend my Friday nights watching 20/20, ok, " she said, covering her pillow with another piece of fabric brought from home. She told us about an expose that 20/20 recently ran on the nastiness that lurks within the microscopic fibers of hotel bedding. She also shared her firsthand experience of staying in a Foxboro motel with Mike (her husband) after a Patriots' game where a chain-smoking chamber maid discovered a cookie on the floor next to their bed the next morning. "And, it wasn't our cookie, guys, ok? That's all I'm saying," Amy said, her disgust palpable. She was not taking any chances and Goy and I thought she may be onto something once we walked across the hall and took a whiff of our own room.

Over some lunch and cocktails, we brought each other up to date. And over some crotchety old photo albums, we brought each other down to size with a lot of high-waisted pants and trouser socks. Our plan was to walk around Newburyport, go back to the Inn for a disco nap and then head out to dinner at one of the local establishments, maybe Agave for Mexican or the Mission Oak Grill, where the Inn had given us a $50 gift card.

My friend Dave (the one who coined the "camel" phrase) lives in Newburyport and planned to meet us out for drinks that night, but he contacted us at 3 p.m. with what he called "a better idea." With some "surprise guests" in tow, he suggested we bag our "nice dinner" and just meet them at the the Port Tavern around the corner right now for some appetizers and drinks.

We weren't ready to completely let go of our plan, but we decided to forgo the nap and went down to meet Dave, et al, around 5 p.m.

And soon we were backsliding into the mid-1990s.

Dave had brought along our old friends Clarky, Con and Crev, whom we haven't seen in probably 10-15 years. We used to spend many weekends together in the city: Red Sox games, snow days at the Green Briar, numerous Great Woods tailgates. It was officially impossible not to backslide. Dinner was off. We stayed put.

Chrissy, an empty Seabreeze in front of her, was hell bent on getting girl-drink drunk amid all this backsliding. As she sucked down the remnants of a Sex on the Beach, she pointed disapprovingly at my and Goy's full martinis. "Hey, c'mon, drink up!" She was working her way toward a Sombrero.

I cupped my bowl of loud mouth soup with one hand and pointed a cocktail sword full of vodka-soaked olives at her with the other: "Listen to me, woman. This is straight vodka."

"Corrupt Chrissy" and "Fucking Dave"
Dave has a long memory and is just nostalgic enough to be dangerous. He is the last person you'd want to have witnessed any bad behavior in your youth because he's incapable of holding a conversation in the present tense that doesn't involve something embarrassing you did in the past tense. With one or two words, he can heave ho a random skeleton out your closet.

He started referring to Chrissy as "Corrupt Chrissy" in 1994 when he learned, after a series of weekends in Brighton, that she was not as buttoned up as she carried herself to be. He picked up where he left off 15 years ago. After sparring with Dave for more than 30 minutes over a plate of congealed buffalo wings, Chrissy'd had enough, "Somebody please get fucking Dave away from me."

It took all of 30 minutes for Dave to become "Fucking Dave" all over again.

From his house of cards, where he lives as the guy he used to make fun of 15 years ago, he unleashed his reign of terror (his memory) on everyone at the table.

Clarky pondered: "Seriously, what's wrong with him?"

That's a question for the ages. The dichotomy of Dave. For instance, one minute, he's a dear friend who's got your back: "I'd do anything for you, pal." The next thing you know, he's sending abusive text messages to a mutual friend from YOUR phone.

Which I have yet to explain. Fucking Dave.

We left the Port Tavern and rambled over to the Mission Oak Grill, which used to be a church, to blow our $50 GC on a final round of drinks before heading back.

Goy being Goy, brought a fifth guest into our rooms at the Essex. She abducted a creepy-looking china doll (dubbed Veronica) from the Inn's lobby and took numerous pictures of it in and around the rooms. Chrissy opened a box of Kashi crackers. I almost fell asleep in my wig.

Amy zipped herself into her sleeping bag.

And we called it a night.

Hopefully the first annual!

Seven Songs of the Day -- 4/1/2009

An Ode to the Mid-90s

1. Mr. Wendell - Arrested Development
2. Any Little Town - Push Stars
3. Shy - Push Stars
4. She's Electric - Oasis
5. Not An Addict - K's Choice
6. Nearly Lost You - Screaming Trees
7. Ridiculous Thoughts - Cranberries