Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Does Frisbee Golf Have to do with Cancer?

This morning I joined FOX 5 DC's Good Day DC set to talk about one of my favorite organizations, First Descents. I know what you're thinking: only a goofball [insert other descriptors here if you wish] would mention frisbee golf in an interview about cancer and adventure trips for survivors. But hey, I'm 30 years old which means I have a license to be a _______.

You can see my interview by clicking the image below. You can also read stories I previously wrote about my experience with First Descents on its blog and The Huffington Post.

Cancer survivor Benjamin Rubenstein interviews on FOX 5 DC's "Good Day DC" about First Descents

Leia Mais…

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why it’s Possible to Spend 80 Hours Planning a Trip

The various methods of vacationing fall on the following spectrum:

the spectrum that shows the level of planning for different kinds of trips

Next week I travel both to Europe and by myself for the first times. When I decided to pull the trigger on this trip, I’d have pulled a different trigger had I known planning it would require this much time. Here is why it is actually possible to spend 80 hours planning for your solo international travel.

You want to experience all kinds of shelter and social interaction so you book a hotel, hostel, Airbnb and couch. Couchsurfing requires you to create a brand new social network profile, but nobody wants a strange dude on his couch so you face unending rejection. This is the online dating of finding shelter.

You are frugal so every day you search for cheap airfare, until your world-expert-at-traveling cousin books your flight for you using his award miles. You then buy tons of gift cards using specific credit cards so you can reimburse him the award miles. Learning about credit card “churning” requires a separate 80 hours in itself.

Pickpocketing is rampant (according to Fox News). You search for the perfect bag that has different features like a sling strap, zipper locks and slash-proof material. You consider how much will actually fit inside the small bag and your carry-on suitcase. Two changes of clothes and a passport for two weeks of travel sound about right.

Using the trains is cheaper with an Oyster card, but is it worth buying a weekly pass, and should you get a visitor Oyster card? There are four hop-on hop-off bus tour providers and which one is best and closest to where you will be staying? Oh wait, you haven’t booked where you’re staying yet. There’s a hostel app for that. But will your hostel app work with your Galaxy phone in Europe? It will if you find free Wi-Fi using the Wi-Fi-finder app, but how can you use the app without mobile service in the first place? Get an international SIM card, but only if your U.S. mobile carrier works with it. Or maybe pay for some international data…but only if your U.S. mobile carrier works with it. Pray the slash-proof material isn’t just marketing to make you feel better about yourself when your bag is slashed and your phone is pickpocketed.

Inform your credit card companies you’re traveling, and remember the PIN to your credit card’s fancy chip. You’ll need that to buy stuff, like train tickets. Which fucking Oyster card do you buy again?

Don’t forget to print all your documents, and scan and email them to your family in the States and a friend in Europe. Should you scan the front and back of your credit cards? Who knows, just do it!

Document your travels in your blog (I’ll try), but don’t bring an expensive computer or tablet because it will probably get stolen. Bring your backup computer that doesn’t work unless it is plugged into an outlet. You need a plug adaptor. Which one? Who knows, buy them all! Assume that TSA will trash your computer when you return back to the States since it is so old that it won’t power up on its own. This is ok because now you have room to bring exactly two souvenirs back with you, as long as they are small- or medium-size t-shirts.

Buy travel guides. Don’t ask anyone whether you should get Lonely Planet, Time Out, Frommer’s, Eyewitness Travel or Rick Steves. You’d receive five different answers.

You better research the best currency exchange app, whether water is safe to drink, the best checklist to print so you don’t forget stuff, what to do when you forget and lose stuff, and the must-visit pubs and landmarks.

Give your doctor enough time to prescribe Xanax so you can sleep on the plane and give your bank enough time to exchange for British Pounds. If you even succeed at one of the two then that’s a win.

See you over the pond.

Leia Mais…

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Teenage Boy and His Parents Walk Into a Sperm Bank

As published on The Huffington Post

I have become desensitized to the annual ritual where my dad hands me an envelope he's received in the mail addressed to me and that has no return address. After 14 years, we are both nearly positive of the envelope's origin. I open one side and remove the bill just enough to see Fairfax Cryobank across the top, and then hand it back to him. "I think this is for you."

My mom and I visited Fairfax Cryobank for the first time on September 25, 2000. The doctor explained my risk of sterility and the sperm banking process, and then asked my mom for written permission for me to use pornography.

"If he needs it," she said.

The previous night my dad had asked if I "know how to get it out" or if I "need help." I kept my eyes fixed on the same textbook sentence I had already read 30 times without realizing and said, "I know how; no thanks, Dad," thrilled that the dull lamp in my bedroom hid my features, hot and red as a mature habanero. At 16, I could only laugh with friends at my dad's inquiry, unable to understand his courage.

I did need help from the magazines, however. With my mom one room over, chemotherapy to treat my aggressive bone cancer beginning three days later, and the sterile cup and alcohol swab on the counter next to me, I wondered if anything other than live action would do the job.

I returned to the cryobank once more before starting chemo, this time less nervous and with both parents present in the waiting room. "Are you done already?" my dad asked after I emerged from the room with the brown couch that so many with cancer before me had been forced to execute on. Keep reading, here.

Leia Mais…

Friday, July 25, 2014

My First Blind Date

Malcolm Gladwell writes in The Tipping Point about individuals known as Connectors who know lots of people and enjoy introducing them. Connectors are unique in that they have both a rare social talent and the energy to use it. My Connector-friend is Uhhcya, and he connected me months ago with Cuz1. Uhhcya clarified the connection: “No one is getting ‘set up.’ That happens on its own.”

Meeting at wine bar for blind dateI initiated conversation with Cuz1 through text messaging. I wrote that Uhhcya meets lots of interesting people. She wrote that he collects people. I asked if she has any hobbies as unique as collecting people. 110 text exchanges later, I met her at a wine bar.

I arrived on time and found two darker-skinned girls sitting on a bench. “Hi, I’m Ben. Are you Cuz1?” I asked.

“Yes, hi!” the shorter girl responded. “This is my cousin, Cuz2.”

Cuz2, whose level of cousin they didn’t even know, was visiting from Lebanon and the two girls were inseparable when visiting one another. Uhhwhat’shappeningrightnow?

Lebanese people must have different concepts of set ups because I knew I had thrown my best stuff at Cuz1 with the lines about collecting people. We ordered three individual glasses of wine and later a bottle and sat at a table together.

Most of the time Cuz2 talked, Cuz1 rolled her eyes and I asked questions. Cuz2 shared that her boyfriend had cheated on her and now she needed to whip him into shape. Cuz2 was looking for a rich hubby and wanted to spend her life shopping. She insulted disabled people which made me laugh out loud for two reasons: I walk with a limp and Cuz1 was using crutches for a hip injury. I found myself disappointed that these girls, both who grew up in Lebanon, couldn’t offer a unique perspective on anything except for the role of cousins at set ups.

We were about ready to leave. My risk analysis went something like this: If you pay for Cuz2 then you’re down $20. If you pay for Cuz2 then Cuz1 may get confused about who you’re courting. Nah, don’t be an idiot—you just don’t want to spend $20 for nothing. True. True. If you don’t pay for Cuz2 then Cuz2 will influence Cuz1 with negativity and the game is over. G-dammit.

I paid the full tab and said goodbye. Many wonder why I even cared since I didn’t particularly like Cuz1. I point out the rules that I live by that lead me to play everything out, or as my friend Hamburgers put it, “You are always all in until they opt out.”

Cuz1 opted out. Uhhcya has connected me again and my set up will also take place at a wine bar. If she brings her cousin then, by rule, I’ll have to pay the full tab. G-dammit.

Leia Mais…

Monday, July 7, 2014

Recovering from my superman complex

As published on reimagine

You have a tumor,” my mother told me. I was 16 years old. I didn’t cry that day, but I did force tears the day after. I was alone in a small basement room, yet the sobbing humiliated me. I vowed to never cry again. I decided I would become superhuman.

I received treatment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. I would often compare myself to other patients on the pediatric floor. Besides our identical hairless appearance and disease, we had nothing in common. Some of them would call the poison “cheemy” to make it seem less frightening and grumble about needle pricks. I learned not to wince. They are sick, I would tell myself. I am not. Cancer will forever change them; I won’t let cancer affect me. And in this way my delusion flourished.

I soon learned how to turn off my emotions as if they were connected to a digital switch. I did this by feeling shame when experiencing certain feelings like sadness, and sinful when exhibiting them. When my nurse told me that she’d never seen a patient recover from vincristine, Adriamycin and Cytoxan (also known as VAC) chemo cycles as quickly as I did, my delusion grew to the extent that it took on a life of its own.

But being superhuman required more sacrifices and restrictions on my humanity. Keep reading, here.

Leia Mais…