Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Secular Santa

Ask most Christian kids what the best part of Christmas is, and they’ll probably tell you it is Santa Claus bringing them a boat load of presents. Ask a Hindu kid the same question and the response you’ll receive will probably have something to do with not eating cows and bathing in a cholera infested river. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The idea of Santa Claus has nothing to do with Christianity. The fact that he doles on Christmas Eve is a crazy coincidence resulting from, among other factors, marital stoicism.

If you believe the story told in the made for television special Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, by Rankin/Bass (and why wouldn’t you believe it – they wouldn’t put it on television if it wasn’t true), Santa’s decision to strafe the youth population of the world with gifts was not based on responsibilities or contracts he had with any religion. Also, nowhere was it disclosed that only Christian kids would benefit from their beliefs and his generosity.

Santa began his deliveries as a way to reduce the inventory of toys produced by the Kringle elves, who were neurotic toy makers incapable of curbing their toy-making compulsion. Let’s all thank our lucky britches they didn’t have the same compulsion with M. Night Shyamalan movies. All Santa wanted to do was clear out some of the toys to make room for a pool table. By the time he got back from Sombertown each night, those bastard elves filled up the den with yo-yo’s and sawdust dolls again. Plus, he was tired of sleeping in a bed full of wooden ducks, jack-in-the-boxes and toy soldiers. The miniature elf bed they gave him was hard enough to get comfortable in as it was. And the Winter Warlock was no help ever since he kicked his Angel Dust addiction. Kind of like how Sid Vicious ruined the Sex Pistols when he stopped shooting heroin. And stopped breathing.

Santa’s popularity grew, and more kids, of all creeds, looked for a handout. These demands caused him to reduce the frequency of his treks to once per year. He chose Christmas Eve, but it wasn’t because he felt he owed anything to the Christian faith, in which he may or may not have believed.

As divulged in the TV special, Christmas Eve was also Santa’s wedding anniversary. It was expressed on the program as the “most holiest of nights” . I happen to believe February 29th is the most holiest of nights, but that’s my bag. It was also a night that Mrs. Claus expected to be wined and dined and romanced. In addition, she expected some sort of diamond concoction each year. Santa was sensitive to Mrs. Claus’s anniversary needs for the first few hundred years of their marriage. After a while, his hankering waned, and accommodating his wife became more of a chore than anything else. So much of a chore that he chose to spend that particular night delivering gifts to every damn kid in the world rather than spending it swooning his honey.

This is the real reason Santa picked Christmas Eve to oblige the masses. It had nothing to do with celebrating the birth of little baby Jesus. It had everything to do with Santa being sick of his wife. Can you blame him? You saw Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Did you see what Mrs. Claus looked like by the end of the show? She must have been spending most of her time taste testing the Christmas candy. As far as animated figurines go, she looked pretty good in her younger, school marm days. Once she snagged her man, she let herself go big time. Huge time. There was no reason for her to try anymore. Not that Santa is any prize, either, but he didn’t place any unreasonable demands on her, like the want of diamonds and being paid attention to. He understood why she didn’t grope him anymore. With his size, it would take her weeks to grope him. Santa knew she did not have that much free time (because she was busy taste testing , of course). This explains why he gets delayed each year in Pattaya, Thailand, causing the Australian kids to get their presents a little late (and slightly soiled).

Since this evidence shows Santa’s generosity is not limited to those children who have been brainwashed with a Christian slant, every kid should expect something on Christmas morning. You don’t even have to call it Christmas. It can be referred to the Fat Guy Gift Day: “Hey, Fat Guy Gift Day falls on a Thursday this year. At least it won’t screw up the weekend.” Most of you get that day off from work, you may as well have something to call it.

Now that the moose is out of the rucksack, all of you non-Christian parents out there better start up a Christmas account (do banks offer Fat Guy Gift Day accounts?). Santa gives to children of all faiths. You’ve been getting off easy for too long. As for you Jewish people, you are really screwed. You’ve convinced the kinderlech that Chanukah is better than Christmas by bribing them with eight days of goodies. Now you’ll be flippin’ the bill for both occasion.

For the record, and beside the point (assuming I actually had one), I’m not Jewish but I celebrate Chanukah, because I really hate Antiochus of Syria.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Word of the Moment 1

I used to draw a comic called Comicabulary. Its purpose was to improve the quality of the world’s (and my own) English vocabulary by providing the definition of a word with an accompanying comic using that word to provide contextual reinforcement. Initially, I did not plan to draw a comic panel. My original intention was to present a silly paragraph or two using the word in outlandish contexts in order to develop a unique and memorable impression of the word. My hope was to create an environment that would promote the memory of the meaning of each word. Writing paragraphs proved to be too difficult for me, so I decided to draw instead. Hence, Comicabulary.

I created a set of these comics and sent them to a friend of a friend who happened to work at a comic syndication company. She told me that the comics were good and delightful, but their company wasn’t looking to promote educational tools and it was not the right kind of comic for them at that time. What she really meant was they sucked. Here’s proof:

I was never very happy with them, since they didn’t have enough of a humorous edge for my tastes. However, I hoped they might appeal to the Reader’s Digest crowd. So, why didn’t I send them to Reader’s Digest? Because, I gave up, of course. I’m not very tenacious – more Teflonacious. Ultimately, I was too enraptured with other aspects of life, like watching TV and thinking about keeping the world safe from alien invasion. Who knows, maybe someday I will exhume the comic. In the meantime, I’m going to give my original idea a go, manifested in a recurring Leper Pop feature: Word of the Moment. I don’t want to call it Word of the Day because, I believe, that title is already being used, and I don’t want to get sued. Besides, there is no way in hell I would be able to do this every day. Wisdom comes from knowing your limitations, or, at least, relying on them.

So, stand back, here it goes.

quoin (kwoin) noun – an exterior angle of a wall or other piece of masonry; cornerstone; keystone. verb – to secure or raise with a quoin.

Nobody cares about the quoins in the world. More often than not, we try to avoid running into the quoins while barreling around corners. Everybody loves barreling around corners. Only the sadistic love to barrel into quoins.

Sure, some quoins are bolstered with thicker bricks than the rest of the wall. Even decorative stone, sometimes. But the intentions of those efforts do not have the quoins’ best interests in mind. Those intentions nourish the structural fortitude of the buildings for which the quoins support. These quoin constructors are more interested in ensuring their buildings do not fall down than they are in praising the quoins.

Let us examine the quoin’s counterpart and archrival – the inside corner. The inside corner lives a nurtured life. The inside corner is basted with attention. The inside corner’s greatest offense is a little dusty build-up that can be wooshed easily away by The Swifter. The inside corners in rooms are always considered when determining the d├ęcor.

Woman: Honey, what are we going to put in that corner of the room?
Man: A beer keg refrigerator.
Woman: Don’t be silly. I think I’ll pile my stuffed animals there.
Man: Where do you want the TV?
Woman: Oh, put it in that corner over there, and make sure you don’t hit the exterior angle of the wall of the closet when you move the TV.
Man: You mean the quoin?
Woman: What’s a quoin?
Man: How the hell should I know? Can I put the TV down now?
Woman: Not until I decide what to put in the rest of the corners of the room.
Man: I wish we didn’t decide to buy a house with an octagonal family room.

I’m as guilty as anybody in this matter. In the corners of my family room are my amp, a file cabinet of art/craft supplies, a book case, two pool cues, a door way and a pile of leaves. And of the quoins? Nothing, except my son’s guitar is leaning against one of them, and I will have to beat his ass for that. That’s all I need is for his grandma to come barreling her way from the kitchen and smash the hell out of the guitar with her Gene Simmons commemorative boots we bought her for Christmas last year.

In theory, the quoins are all supposed to be left free of debris so we do not trip on anything when barreling our way through the house. It’s a proven fact that humans love to barrel. We were bred to barrel. The social evolutionary consequences of this aspect of human development has led to unadorned quoins worldwide, except for some third world cultures where barreling around quoins is against their religion.

Barreling is a modern sociological human trait. It is one we share with dogs. Dogs love to barrel around quoins, too. They don’t care what is in their way, especially when there is someone at the door. In fact, they prefer to knock things over when barreling. This is why they wag their tails maniacally, so they can destroy our stuff even if they miss it with their barreling. They don’t care. It’s not like they paid for the stuff or will have to clean up the mess. It seems as if they don’t care about anything except for eating, getting pet and going outside. And barreling. And seeing if somebody is here. Can somebody remind me why we let dogs live with us? They certainly don’t care about quoins. And, neither do we. Maybe that’s the bond that keeps us together. Quoins. Quoins will keep us together. Think of my dog whenever, Some sweet standing quoin comes along while we barrel along, Don’t go around, You gotta be strong, Don’t Stop, ‘cause the quoin really loves you, Stop, the quoin is thinking of you, Look in my heart and let quoins keep us together. Whatever.

I think it’s time to change our view of the quoin. However, before we start enhancing our quoins with plants, and totem poles, and piles of candy that we are supposed to consider as art, and lawn furniture, and urns of ashed loved ones, and giant cardboard cut-outs of Charles Barkley, we will need to become more agile barrelers in order to avoid the items with which we celebrate our quoins. We need to start teaching precision barreling techniques in our schools, write a magazine called Better Barreling and create a home improvement show on TLC called This Old Barreler.

Above all that, we should get to know our quoins. I propose an annual world-wide Hug A Quoin Day. It will be held on the first Thursday of every August, and will require one day of post-hugging recuperation, so we can all enjoy a 4 day weekend in the summer (it is true - I don't care about people in the Southern Hemisphere), when we can actually enjoy ourselves outside, unlike the silly Thanksgiving “holiday” they throw at us in November when it’s usually crummy outside and we are forced to sit inside and eat and get drunk. I guess that’s not so bad, either, but the quoins deserve summer hugs so they can get a sense of our sweat and feel a little bit human, if only for a moment. I implore you all to write a letter to your most sensitive and malleable public official and demand that the quoins have a voice in our government in the form of a summer four day weekend, so we can get drunk outside and maybe even have sex in the woods. The quoins want us to cherish them in this manner. Just be careful to look out for barreling grandmas when you are hugging your quoin or when you having sex in the woods.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ride Along With Sid

I've been spending a lot of time on public transportation lately. I'm illiterate and haven't figured out how to work my new iPod, so instead of reading or listening to tunes I've just been enjoying watching my fellow humans. Here are a few of them.

She looked like an elementary or high school art teacher, not the type you would expect to see standing at the station waiting for the next train to the high rise offices downtown. Out of boredom or just fidgetiness, she pulled a Nordstrom’s sales catalog from her bag and began to peruse the glossy pages. Then after just a few page turns she quickly shut it and disposed of it in the nearby trash can, as if she were embarrassed to have almost been sucked into the crass consumerism it represented to her.

iPod theme song: Beth Hart – By Her

She got a poet's spirit
She bums among the clouds
She never stops believing
She only dreams out loud

On the train, a gentleman across the aisle, maybe early 50’s, grayish hair and beard, looks kind of like your math professor, reading. Has some papers and a book inside a manila folder. Very intensely reading the book. So much so that the fails to notice that the folder has drooped away from the book inside, exposing the cover. I wonder what book has captured his interest this morning and see that it’s called The Mistress Manual. I snicker silently to myself and wonder if it’s a mistress on the side kind of deal, or a mistress as in “lick my boots, professor.” When I get to work I check out Amazon and find that it’s the latter – a book teaching women how to be an effective “mistress.” Perhaps he was just wondering what to expect at his first appointment.

iPod theme song on the iPod: Devo – Whip It.

Now whip it
Into shape
Shape it up
Get straight

Woman across the aisle, early 30’s maybe, attractive, unmarried according to her left hand, reading Learn to Sail in a Weekend. I searched the train car for a movie camera, having thought I might have stumbled into a romantic comedy starring the young woman. She accepts a date from her hot and upwardly mobile colleague assuring him that, of course, she has sailed before. Then after a frantic phone call to her snide and unconventional girlfriend, we see her roaming the bookstore looking for the said book, studying intently on her commute to the big city in prep for her date this weekend. Finally the day of the big date arrives. Hijinks ensue.

iPod theme song on iPod: Herman’s Hermits – Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good.

Woke up this morning, feeling fine
There's something special on my mind
Last night I met a new girl in the neighborhood
Whoa yeah
Something tells me I'm into something good
(Something tells me I'm into something good)

I need to get to The University of Chicago for a doctor’s appointment since I want the best geeks taking care of me, but don’t feel like fighting rush hour traffic. However, I note there is an express bus from downtown and I walk to the bus stop, But instead of seeing the usual random mass of people one would expect at a bus stop there is an orderly single file line. I ask if it’s the line for the 192 and get a positive response. Was there ever any doubt?

iPod theme song: Toto – Hold The Line

Hold the line, love isnt always on time, oh oh oh
Hold the line, love isnt always on time, oh oh oh

(Neither is the bus.)

I join the line for the 192 which wraps around a fall display in the plaza of a nearby high rise. The fall display consists of several bales of straw and some scarecrow type things - the kind of generic display that would otherwise be unnoticed by busy commuters lost in their own world scurrying to and from work each day. But today, a homeless looking gentleman carrying a guitar bag stopped at the display. I’m not sure what was in the guitar bag, but it wasn’t a guitar as the neck of the bag hung flaccidly. But I digress. He stepped up on one bale, pulled several pieces of straw from another bale closer to the center and stepped down. I expected him to stick some in his mouth, perhaps going for the Huck Finn motif; instead he took the plastic cap off his paper coffee cup, placed the straw inside, replaced the cap, and wandered off to our amusement.

iPod theme song: Gnarls Barkley – Crazy

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control

Well, I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
I think you're crazy
Just like me

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sid's After-School Special Post

So, remember that cyst they took out of my neck? Yeah, that one. Well, they didn’t let me take it home like I wanted, which is good because after the novelty wore off I’d probably have thrown it in a drawer and forgotten about it. But they’re a little more formal at the hospital and send it to pathology so they can test it, because, well, “what the hell is that thing?” Which was good in this case since it turned out to be cancerous.

But chill out. It’s very treatable and I expect to fully recover. Really. So chill. I f’ing mean it. I’ve spent the last four weeks being scanned and scoped and prodded and poked (at least it’s not prostate cancer), but I found an excellent team of head and neck cancer specialists at The University of Chicago that have determined it metastasized from a small tumor at the base of my tongue. It’s nothing they haven’t seen before, and they assure me that their regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments has a high probability of success, even more so with someone in my otherwise good health and relatively young age. Yeah, I kind of laughed at that one, too, until I looked around the waiting room.

So here’s the deal. There aren’t any guarantees but in the end it should be all cool, and that’s what I’m trying to stay focused upon. So you do the same or else I’ll have to start kicking ass.

I’ll keep you updated as best I can and don’t mind talking about it. In fact, I’ve been writing about my experience over the last month. I’ve found not everyone is quite as ready as I am to joke about it, but if you’re up to the challenge you can read the details of my exploits below. It’s a little long since it covers a month, so pace yourself. If you aren’t up for it, then go read a cookbook. It’s not as funny, but at least you’ll have something to eat when you're done.

Inside Sid

Sorry I’ve been remiss in updating the blog lately, but I’ve been a little distracted. No, Crystal Bernard has not moved in across the street and is not doing pilates with her blinds open. No, Beth Hart has not asked me to collaborate on her next CD. No, Brooke Burke has not hired me as a lactation consultant. However, you might recall that I did have my neck sliced open so my doc could take out a lump he called a branchial cleft cyst. Realizing that I don’t need to go to med school for 4 years to know what the hell he was talking about, I simply typed that into The Google as Storm Large would suggest and got the lowdown. Apparently we all evolved from fish, which is why you see those fish things on Christian’s cars. Once we crawled out of the water and didn’t have to swim everywhere, our gills started going away during embryonic development. That’s what Darwin’s The Origin of Species is all about. But sometimes your body doesn’t figure out it’s not a fish soon enough, and you’re born with some gill left inside your neck. Then randomly, one day, usually if you’re thinking about fish too much, or eating too much fish, or wishing you were a fish, or even just really enjoy those dumbass fishing shows on TV when they should be showing hockey games, your gills start to expand and form a little lump in your neck. You then have to go have it removed so you don’t turn into Patrick Duffy.

My gills got removed without any problem and the doc stuck a drain tube in my neck. This is a nifty silly straw type device that allows your wound drain into a turkey baster bulb instead of collecting in your neck and forcing your head to explode. Little did he know I was such a badass that my wounds don’t drain so he asked me to come in the next day to get the silly straw and turkey baster thing taken out and casually mention that his buddy in pathology called to let him know that it wasn’t a bunch of gills he scooped out of my neck, but instead something called a squamous cell carcinoma. I’m no crossword puzzle expert, but carcinoma sounded like a nine letter word for cancer. I kind of liked the gill explanation better, but there was no going back.

Doc also said I had some good looking lymph nodes and I thought he was just trying to make me feel better, but he was really trying to explain it didn’t look like it had spread in my neck. I performed my happy dance for him, but I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly and forgot to consider the option that it might have spread from somewhere else. Son of a bitch. Fortunately, my doc learned something during his nine years of medical training and didn’t let him overlook the same possibility; I was scheduled for a PET scan a few days later.

If you don’t know what a PET scan is, it’s pretty cool. Except the two-day low-carb diet and one-day fast. If that doesn’t kill you, then you use your remaining energy to chase down the mobile PET scan unit in Elgin, Illinois, and they inject you with some radioactive solution. Then you sit in a room and sing, “got to concentrate, don't be distractive, turn me on tonight, cause I'm radioactive” by The Firm until the techs get annoyed enough to stick you in the tube and start the test. The guy in the dorm room next to me freshman year was a nuclear something or another major, so let me explain how it works. See, the radioactive isotopes are like magic and bond to cancer cells and then they turn pink so they show up on the scanner thing like a thunderstorm on Then you go home and wonder if your semen will glow. It doesn’t, but it was fun checking.

Doc also wanted to stick his finger and some camera equipment down my throat but that tends to make me gag and/or bite, so I was also scheduled for another surgery so he could take some pretty pictures of my insides while I dreamed about Phoebe Cates. I started my third fast in three weeks and dropped into the surgery center to accommodate him. Before starting, he told me he got my vacation pictures from Elgin and there was apparently a thunderstorm warning in the vicinity of my hypopharynx. In case you forgot 8th grade health class, that’s your throat. Just past your tongue. With that, they knocked me out with a sledgehammer to my head, had my pharynx pose for some pics, and decided to cut out some tissue samples. I’m guessing that was so they could find a match for a donor throat. When I woke up, it felt as if I had just finished a delicious meal of barbed wire with battery acid sauce and was presented with a dessert tray consisting of assorted ice chips and some Tylenol. I got sent home later than morning with a complimentary cup of ice and the names of two oncologists and a dentist.

I spent the next day making appointments to meet all my new friends. It was like myspace except all these guys were interested in cancer instead of The Lovehammers. I also started doing a little research and it scared the shit out of me. I was convinced I would be dead by dinnertime, which wouldn’t be all that bad since I hadn’t passed the barbed wire from my throat yet. They really should restrict internet access from all patients at all times. It was like that time Peter Brady decided he was going to be a doctor and Jan was going to be his nurse and they started reading those books of diseases and Peter was convinced that he was going to die until Mr. Brady cleared everything up by discovering that two pages of the book were merely stuck together and the only thing Peter was suffering from was bad acting. But I digress. Just in case I didn’t have a couple pages stuck together I did some additional research and found that the Chicago area has two National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers – The University of Chicago and Northwestern. UC had a nice website and I found a couple of bad asses there that live for this shit and have done a bunch of research about blowing this crap out of people. That sounded cool, so I sent them a carcinoma friend request and they accepted me for an appointment as well. Next I set about getting a copy of all my requested records and test results and photo shoots. UC even wanted those Glamour Shots I did back in 1991. Pervs. I found that getting a complete set of records was more difficult than getting accurate intelligence information out of Iraq. It took a box of jelly donuts for bribes and all the Sid charm I could muster, but I eventually got what I needed. I was a regular Erin Brockovich with carbs instead of cleavage. However, I did have to enlist the help of Mrs. F’er when I ran into some of those Atkins and South Beach jokers.

But my first appointment was with an oncologist at my local hospital. I was a little perturbed that he didn’t have all my records, but I was impressed with his enthusiasm. Even though the previous biopsy on my hypopharynx was negative, with little more than a referral and my own account of my case he was ready to fire up the radiation gun and get started. Fortunately his nurse was a little more tempered in her enthusiasm and realized I first needed to get clearance from the dentist and her half hour lecture on the side effects. She basically said that my skin will likely catch on fire, my mouth will dry out like an old catcher’s mitt, and I will lose the desire to eat Brownie Earthquakes from Dairy Queen. She also added that it was nothing that they can pretend would be taken care of with a little aloe, some Chapstick, and some Slimfast shakes. She also said that my semen wouldn’t glow, but I planned to check anyway. Oh, and as an aside on the way out, she gave me the name of a doctor that would install a feeding tube just in case I lose the ability to swallow freakin’ protein shakes. Thanks, Carol. They also wished me luck on my appointment next week with the chemo guy, whom I was assured had his own evil little plan for me.

Right after that I went to my new dentist. I found it ironic that they stuck a lead shield over me during the x-rays since the purpose of my visit was to make sure my teeth don’t fall out during radiation treatment. But it made the uber-cute hygienist happy so I obliged. Finally, the dentist man made his way over, shook his head at my x-rays, poked around my mouth, and informed me that I would need to tap my reserves of gold bouillon to make sure my mouth would not implode during treatment. I’ve grown rather fond of my mouth despite knowing where it’s been, so I agreed to his demands and scheduled the first of two entire afternoons with him while he called the local Mercedes dealer and made arrangements to upgrade his lease.

The following day I hopped a train downtown and then took another one to Hyde Park to visit the nerds at The University of Chicago and see what they would make of my envelope of scans and pathology reports. The first doc was well versed in origami and made a wonderful dragon looking thing. The rest of the morning was spent trying to undo his handiwork. Eventually they got it all unraveled and the real doctor came in to visit. Well, not the real doctor yet, but a fellow. Essentially a badass in training. He had the pleasure of doing my history and physical and hearing all the great stories of my drunken accidents and diseases. It was like a live Call Me Kitty reading. Then the real doctor came in with his own take. He said the PET scan was done too soon after surgery so it was worthless and I shouldn’t freak about the thunderstorm in my pharynx. I liked that and was about to get up and perform my happy dance for him... then he said even though the biopsy was negative he thought there was indeed something cancerous somewhere and my other doc just didn’t look well enough. He wanted to biopsy me real hard. Unfortunately he was merely an oncologist, but he had an ENT buddy downstairs whose interests include biopsying people real hard and finding cancer. In fact, he enjoys it so much he agreed to see me with 30 minutes notice. Just like the delivery guy at Domino’s. This guy was also very important so he sent his chief resident in to do my history and physical and sort though the paperwork. I guess the resident was bored, since he also decided to do a scope of my pharynx. This wasn’t nearly as fun as a PET scan. This nifty procedure employs something called a nasopharyngoscope, which has a camera attached to the end of small flexible cable thingy. Here’s the fun part – it goes up your nose, back into the throat and down to the vocal cords, stopping along the way to enjoy the view while you squirm uncomfortably in the captain’s chair. It’s like eating licorice through your nose. Good times. He also burned the journey to CD so that I could relive the experience. No nodes on these vocal cords, baby. I guess there is still hope for my rock n’ roll singer career. Next the stud ENT doc came in, said hello, looked over the work of his loyal resident, busted open some popcorn for the pharynx video, and then shared his theory that it was indeed a bunch of gills that just went cancerous. However, not one to waste his mastery of the scalpel, he agreed that a real hard biopsy would be beneficial before getting trigger-happy with the ray gun. In the meantime I would also get more CT scans of my head, neck and chest, and schedule an appointment to meet their radiation oncologist. I was becoming very popular. They even wanted the tissue samples from the previous biopsies. Probably so they could try to clone me like a Scottish sheep.

That Friday afternoon I took the bus back to UC for the CT scans. They were running way behind schedule so I sat about an hour and a half with a bunch of octogenarians who seemed to be there to be tested for any signs of life whatsoever. Finally, my man Anthony came out to get me. He seemed like quite a competent radiology tech, but wasn’t the best IV dude I’ve run across. He eventually got the IV started, but left me looking like a heroin addict. I then got my three shots of contrast dye and wondered if it would make my semen look like a rainbow and made a note to check later. Each contrast shot was followed by a corresponding shot through the CT tube. I normally like making train noises while going through the tube, but the sexy automated female CT voice kept telling me what to do – hold your breath, don’t swallow, stop making train noises…. I was finally dismissed from CT and found that I missed the last express bus back downtown. I could take a cab or walk to the train station. UC isn’t in the best neighborhood and a cab would be prudent, but I was pissed enough about being late that I didn’t think anybody would fuck with me. So I walked down to the "L" platform at 63rd Street. My uncle used to be a Chicago cop and had told me just to look people in the eye. They’ll probably think you’re a cop and leave you alone. And if threatened, just look and act crazy and it might help. I think everyone between the 63rd and 31st Street was so shocked to see a white boy that they must have assumed I was indeed a cop or crazy, and I made it back to the friendly confines of downtown for the train back out to the nurturing mothership in the ‘burbs.

Halloween was my meeting with the new and improved radiation oncologist at UC. I don’t think anyone should make doctor appointments on Halloween, because how do you know if you’re really seeing a doctor or just someone dressed up as one? I had to drive in rush hour to this appointment and it took about 90 minutes. By the time I got there and they took my vitals, I set personal best on the blood pressure. However, they reminded me that the higher numbers are not what we’re going for on that one. I then gave my history to the nurse, which by this time I had converted to an mp3 file so that they can just listen on their iPod while I sit back and play with the anatomical models. Next was the consultation with the fake doctor – this time a medical student - to take my history again and do the physical. She was a slight girl and during the exam she had me squeeze her fingers, so I went gentle on her. She told me to do it again as hard as I could and I ended up cracking at least three of her knuckles. I was glad this wasn’t prostate cancer so she wouldn’t have a chance to get even. She then went to track down the real doctor to give him the executive summary and introduce me. I shook his hand, but didn’t crack any knuckles since the guy owns a ray gun. After reviewing the file, he did his own exam that included feeling around my mouth, including my tonsils and the base of my tongue. It also tested my gag reflex and I made a sound that I’ve only heard before when, uh, never mind. He said he found a hard spot on the base of my tongue and then proceeded to pull out his licorice scope. I sprung out of my chair and jumped to the ceiling, my fingers and toes dug deeply into the ceiling tiles keeping me out of harm’s way. He got his med student to coax me down with some Halloween candy, while I asked if he could just get the CD from the last doc. He insisted that he prefers glossy photos and proceeded to photograph my tongue. He was a cocky son of a bitch, but in a good way that exuded confidence rather than arrogance, and he was the first that wasn’t afraid to commit and tell me what he thought. He believed the primary tumor was at the base of the tongue and that the tests will just confirm he’s right. He said they would likely propose a round of chemo, followed by radiation and chemo concurrently. He told me that when he starts radiation, the side effects would be miserable but that it will likely be successful. There are other treatment options that he presented, but said if I don’t follow his proposal he’ll call me stupid since they know their shit and it works. Hard to explain how I didn’t perceive that as arrogant, but I think it was because it reinforced all the research I did and my decision to pursue treatment there. Finally I signed a consent form that listing a plethora of possible side effects, including death, after which he promised he wouldn’t kill me. On the way out, he also said I had time to take care of any teeth that need to be fixed or extracted.

One hour later I was back in the dentist’s chair and gave him the update. This prompted him to change the treatment plan on the fly and stated, “Well, if that’s the case, I think I’ll take out those two wisdom teeth.” To which I replied with that same gagging noise I made earlier that morning. He began numbing me up as I rephrased questions over and over to assure myself that I wasn’t going to end up clawed in on his ceiling. I might have cried, but I was trying to be strong in front of uber-cute dental assistant who was looking especially uber-cute in her glasses that day. It wasn’t long before he was prying those motherfuckers out of my jaw while I took strength from the reassuring touch of uber-cute dental assistant’s knee on my mid-thigh. The extractions weren’t nearly as bad as I had expected. I left a small sack of South African krugerrands and assorted baubles on the reception desk, and within an hour I was walking out of there with a mouth full of gauze and a look on my face like a dog that had just been neutered. And a card with the times for my next three appointments. I was sore and cranky and didn’t even care what color my semen might be. To make matter worse, I didn’t feel like eating and had to start my next fast at midnight for the next day’s surgery. I spent the evening walking around the neighborhood looking for dogs to kick. To any humorless PETA members, that was a joke so take your boycotts elsewhere and leave Leper Pop alone.

Next day, Mama F’er picked me up at 6:00 a.m. for the trek back to UC for my second scope. My nurse botched the first attempt at the IV resulting in something called a blown vein, which should not be confused with anything you might see in your favorite porn movie. I made the mistake of peeking when she mentioned that my vein looked like a beached whale on my hand, and I broke into a cold sweat, went rather pale, and might have hurled had I eaten anything in the last 24 hours. She did rectify the situation quite to my satisfaction, I calmed myself down by singing Morning Train by Sheena Easton, and then was visited by a string of curious students and residents that would be working with my doctors. It was like a receiving line at the School of Medicine. Eventually my real doctor found his scope and we got started. They must have tired of my singing and before I knew it I was out cold. I woke up with a sore tongue and a terrible hangover and stated as much. And then it was suddenly worth it. The nurse busted out the Demerol. Liquid gold. I watched carefully as it entered the IV and felt a wave off goodness flood my body. I asked my mom to get my wallet so I could tip the lass. I professed my readiness to go home so that I could watch Univision and fingerpaint the walls of my apartment and tell nonsensical jokes to them. She agreed as long as I was able to dress myself. I carefully pulled on the sweats and laced up the Chucks and floated to the elevators. I rode my flying carpet to the car, and attempted to give my mom directions back home. The GPS in my brain was somehow still firing and I got us back to the ‘burbs. I requested a stop to get a milkshake from Culver’s and ordered their seasonal Pumpkin Spice. I laughed to myself as I thought they should also offer Baby Spice and Scary Spice shakes. But not Posh. I wouldn’t drink those. I made it back home, and decided to answer some work emails while drinking my shake. I haven’t gone back and looked, but I think I still have a job. Then I passed out on my bed while thinking about what the world would be like if people had to dress in clown suits instead of business suits for work. I woke up when the Mrs. got home from school, and she seemed amused as I repeatedly tried to say anesthesiologist without wildly slurring or losing my place in the middle of the word. She rewarded my efforts with a bowl of requested oatmeal and some more T3 (Tylenol #3, the stuff with codeine) to keep my buzz going. Which was important, as any movement of my tongue from its position on the floor of my mouth caused the same sensation you might have upon accidentally chomping on your tongue with your molars. Later that night, I had a protein shake, popped some more T3’s, and dreamt of jello wrestling with Phoebe Cates and Crystal Bernard.

I’ve spent the last week drinking protein shakes and eating oatmeal, soup, ice cream and Tylenol. I got the stitches out of my mouth where my wisdom teeth used to be and celebrated with a donut from the Krispy Kreme drive-thru. But even more important than my visit to the uber-cute dental assistant, the ENT nurse called today to let me know that the biopsy on the base of my tongue was positive. She delivered the news in her standard grave tone, but I informed her that this was really good news. They’ve positively identified the source of this mess and can focus their treatments now without turning my whole upper body into Chernobyl. I was also informed that I was on the agenda tonight for their weekly tumor board meeting (Hi, Patrice!) so that they can discuss my case. I felt pretty important and asked if I should send a plate of banana nut muffins or something. The nurse assured me it wasn’t necessary and that after a spirited game of Rock, Paper, Scissors someone would call me later in the week with specifics of what I can expect next.

So there you have it. I’m not sure how I feel about posting more updates here. I don’t mind sharing, but don’t want to turn the velvety goodness of Leper Pop into a medical blog. But I'll figure out a way to keep you updated. In the meantime, rock on. And chill, dammit!