Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Griffey the Kid

Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey, Jr.I was six years old and already knew what I would do when I grew-up: I was going to be a professional baseball player. In fact, I couldn’t fathom why anybody wouldn’t want to play baseball for a living. During the summer, my dad, brother and I would play catch in the backyard each afternoon. But we didn’t just throw the ball around – my dad would simulate plays from the field to give us practice for our future profession. Ground balls were always my specialty.

Around that same time I began collecting baseball cards with my brother, JD. Our allowance was $1 a week, which we took straight to the baseball card shop. If I was smart then I would have kept the cards in their packages, where they would’ve stayed in mint condition and increased in value over the years. But I couldn’t do that – I had to look at them, play with them, memorize them, categorize them. I don’t have an exact count, but I probably own several thousand baseball cards.

I knew I was supposed to root for the hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles, and I did in the sense that they were my second favorite team. And it wasn’t so much a team I had to root for over the O’s; it was a player. He was slightly arrogant, yet extremely enthusiastic, almost to the point of being childlike. He also happened to have the sweetest swing in history, which I used to emulate when JD and I played Nerf baseball in the basement. He was my hero, my idol, my Ken Griffey, Jr.

One year I went trick-or-treating as Griffey. I had a Seattle Mariners jacket and convinced my parents to buy me his Nike shoes, the Griffey Air Max. My baseball glove had his replica signature on it, and I even wore my hat backwards just like him.

I don’t need to prove Griffey’s awesomeness – his achievements speak for themselves:

  • 12-time All Star
  • 1992 All-Star game MVP
  • 3-time Home Run Derby champion
  • 1997 AL MVP
  • 10-time AL Gold Glove Winner
  • 1998 ESPY Male Athlete of the Year (tied with Tiger Woods)
  • named to 1999 All-Century Team
  • 2005 NL Comeback Player of the Year
In 1997 Griffey led the American League with 56 homeruns and hit that same amount the following year. At the time he was the fastest player to reach 450 homeruns (he’s since been passed by Alex Rodriguez), and was well on his way to setting the record for career homeruns.

And then he got injured. And then he got injured again. Actually, he’s had four season-ending injuries, which will likely prevent him from ever coming near Hank Aaron’s coveted homerun record. It’s really sad when you consider how he got injured: once while diving for a ball, once trying to catch the ball at the wall, and once playing with his kids just this past off-season.

By the time I reached high school I realized I would never play professional baseball. All those days practicing in the backyard weren’t enough. Although I had one stellar season in Little League, I just wasn’t that good. But that didn’t stop me from rooting for my hero. When he got traded to Cincinnati my dad purchased the baseball package on DirecTV and I watched their games just to see Griffey play.

“The Kid” got traded a few years before my bone marrow transplant, which makes me wonder what the outcome would be if he were still in Seattle. You see, the University of Washington Medical Center just happens to be one of the best transplant centers in the country. If Griffey had still been playing in Seattle I probably would’ve gotten my transplant there so I could see him play. Coincidence?

I don’t want to jinx anything, but Griffey has been healthy this season and playing great, second in the National League with 21 homeruns and a lock to start in this year's All-Star Game.

Griffey still plays as hard as he did when he was a 19-year-old rookie. I worry that he’ll get injured one final time and then retire. No matter what, when it’s all said and done, The Kid will end-up a Hall-of-Famer who, if not for injuries, could have been one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

And he’ll still be my hero.

Keep reading:
The Kid Grows Up

Leia Mais…

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Legend of DJ Willy

Crazy cartoon mushroomThe following story comes from the firsthand account of my friend, BulletToothTony. It takes place during his first year of college in North Carolina. Although this story sounds unbelievable, there’s no way we could make it up – we’re not that imaginative.

The story unfolds during move-in day. Judging from our previous phone conversations, it seemed as if I’d have a normal roommate for once. While at lacrosse camp, my last roommate used to jack off when he thought I was asleep – and he was a fucking sicko, but that’s another story. Enter culprit: tall, lanky, blonde, surfer-looking dude shows up at 4 PM. Just as I had suspected, he seemed normal enough. But in a very short period of time I realized he was far from it.

He drank…normal.
His grades diminished…normal.
He smoked weed…somewhat normal.
He smoked weed at precisely 1 PM each afternoon…somewhat abnormal.
He duct-taped his alarm clock to the wall directly above his head, just so he wouldn’t sleep through his afternoon “appointment”…downright weird.

As the first semester proceeded, his BAC and THC levels rose as fast as his GPA fell. Don’t get me wrong; my roommate was a great guy, but he was just different. Here, let me show you what I mean…

Late in the second semester it was not-so-discreetly brought to my attention that my roommate was binging on mushrooms of the hallucinogenic variety. And by not-so-discreetly, I mean he was practically licking shnozberries off his desk during our political science class. After a few weeks of continuous consumption, he began acting very strangely. For example, but not limited to:

  1. Our hall became an art gallery, filled with colorful Magic Eye patterns.
  2. He began forcing himself through our tiny window at 5 AM instead of simply walking into our first-floor dorm room.
  3. He started sleeping on the floor of our suite. The alarm clock and duct tape went with him.
  4. And in perhaps the most stunning development of all, my roommate became convinced that he was a freestyle rapper on the rise to stardom.

It was in our political science class one day when he became aware of his destiny. Professor L was an old-fashioned prick, and he hated nonsense and interruptions that made class last longer than his Metamucil. I noticed that my roommate was writing, which was really strange because normally he didn’t take notes. Halfway through class he kept trying to get my attention. “Psst, BulletTooth…check this out.”

I ignored him because if Professor L sensed any monkey business, that would be the end of us.
“Yo, check out my political science rhyme,” he persisted.
“Hey Cheech, can it!”

My roommate wouldn’t rest until somebody heard his rhyme, so he raised his hand and asked Professor L if he could deliver it to the class for extra credit. Of course, Professor L crankily refused. My roommate didn’t care, so he stood up in front of our packed class and served the greatest verse of his life: “Yo, Professor L when are you gonna end this class; my car is illegally parked in the grass.”

And DJ Willy was born.

My roommate continued to ingest inspiration and gush gobbledygook. His first record contract came from our hall janitor, who had a “recording studio,” aka sound editing program on his Dell. Illy Willy ripped a 3-track CD of himself freestyling, which unfortunately was even worse than his toadstool breath. But nobody wanted to tell him since he was organizing a party for the dorm-wide release of his CD.

The day of the party, DJ Willy showed up in the dorms with an unbelievable amount of merchandise. He had maxed out his credit card at Target, buying random things such as hoses, air filters, and digital cameras. He gathered everybody on our hall and told us we could take what we wanted. After all, DJ Willy was going to be famous and we’d been such good friends.

That night, DJ Willy had his release party. Nobody showed up because nobody wanted to buy his shitty CD. DJ Willy didn’t take this too lightly, and when I woke up the next morning he was gone. As the hours went by some of us began to worry. Finally at about 5 PM I got a call.

“Yes, um, are you the roommate of a….DJ Willy?” a male voice asked.

“Maybe, who the hell are you?” I replied.

“This is the Duplin County Sheriff, son. Do you know the whereabouts of your roommate?”

“Oh, good evening sir, um, no.”

The sheriff explained that my roommate, who was still on the loose, had littered heaps of hoses, air filters, a set of golf clubs (I’ll never forgive you for that, DJ Willy), and a terrible piece of literature all over some man’s yard. It didn’t take Inspector Gadget to solve this crime – DJ Willy had written his political science rhyme on the back of a quiz, which had his name on it.

Now everybody knew there was a problem. DJ Willy had really gone off the deep end, and there was no telling where he was or what he was doing. I didn’t hear from him for three days, and again began to worry. And then I saw him; he was walking to the dorms in shackles with a police escort. I thought this would be a good scene to capture for his album cover, but I hadn’t taken one of his digital cameras from Target. Damn. Instead, I asked him what happened and where he’d been. This is what DJ Willy had been doing the previous few days…

Stunned by the no-show of his friends at the release party, DJ Willy savagely gorged himself on more shrooms and hopped in his car. Hours later, Illy Willy senselessly dumped his possessions in somebody’s yard. He donated his surfboard to a homeless black guy whom he thought was Andre 3000 from Outkast. The DJ went door-by-door attempting to promote his CD. Ever seen that Aerosmith music video where the tractor writes “Crazy” in the tilled cornfield? Yeah, well my roommate tried to write “DJ Willy” in a cornfield with his Ford Explorer, the only difference being there was still corn in the field.

Maybe his vision was obstructed by the corn stalks, maybe it was the four ounces of mushrooms he scarfed down, I don’t know. No matter the reason, DJ Willy crashed his car into an irrigation ditch while trying to carve out a fancy “W” in the field. The fact that his car was nearly totaled didn’t register to the trippy DJ - to him the car was simply out of gas. So DJ Willy walked to the nearest gas station, blatantly stole a can of gas and some munchies. The baffled attendant called the police, who arrived at the scene to find a strung-out kid eating Cheetos on the curb and smoking a cigarette right next to a gas-filled canister. Except to DJ Willy, that wasn’t the police – it was an underground freestyle rap group called the Dungeon Family who was jealous of his flow and trying to kidnap him. So, doing what anyone would do when they suspect they’re about to be kidnapped, DJ Willy fought the Dungeon Family.

After getting his ass kicked by the police, DJ Willy’s celebrity status landed him free room and board at the county jail that night. While there, DJ Willy envisioned hot and steamy encounters with Britney Spears and freestyle battles with heavyweights such as Snoop Dog and 50 Cent.

The next day, after I saw him arrive at the dorms in shackles, he was relegated to that small building behind the hospital with locked doors and 24/7 surveillance. DJ Willy remained there for several months, completing detox and endless mental evaluations. He did get a comfortable white robe out of it, lucky bastard.

Willy’s parents were devastated by their son’s rapping rampage, and gave me permission to visit him because they assumed I was upset, too. Obviously this was a mistake, because my security clearance provided me several weeks of laughter. We’d sit down on the concrete couches in the visitation room to chat. My roommate was normal up until something completely off-the-wall threw him into a rant. “Yeah, I know that I made a mistake and a lot of people were really worried about me. But my parents are just going to have to deal with the fucking fact that I’m famous now. If they don’t start calling me DJ Willy, I swear.”

“Oh…ok Will, I mean, DJ Willy. So, what’s all this hype I hear about your next album? A collaboration with Eminem?”

“Yeah. We talked earlier today. See, the cool thing about the TVs in here is that they’re two-way. So Eminem was on the TV earlier today, and we talked about our upcoming album. He’s really excited to be featured in my work.”

As the year came to a close and we all moved out for the summer, the legend of DJ Willy propagated throughout North Carolina. As it turned out, I once again had a strange roommate.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wheeler and Cancer Card Dealer

When I was 12 I went on a trip to Long Island with my dad. During the 10 hour drive I counted how many people he passed: a grand total of 2. They were either blind, pushing 100 years old, or both. When he’s driving on one of our local one-lane roads and being tailgated, he’ll slow down to as little as half the speed limit until the car backs off. When I was 15 and had my learner’s permit, my dad wouldn’t let me drive any faster than 5 under the limit. “And no radio or waving,” he instructed. “If I see you wave at anyone then we go home.” My neighborhood friends thought I was an asshole when I wouldn’t wave back.

I quickly made up for this slow start during my first few years with a driver’s license – in three years I was passed by six cars, at most. It wasn’t uncommon for me to roar past other drivers going 30-40 miles per hour faster. On average I drove 20+ over the limit, or what the police call “reckless driving.” I never tailgated or cut anyone off, but I did drive by my own theory of constant acceleration: as long as there was open road in front of me, I was going to go faster.

Why so fast? I don’t know. Maybe it was the excitement and adrenaline rush. Maybe I liked being the only one of my friends that had the balls to do it. Or, maybe I liked doing something illegal for the first time in my life.

It would be natural for you to assume my behavior changed when I got cancer. What moron would fight for his life against cancer, and then immediately risk his life on the road? But I didn’t see it that way, perhaps because I was just 16 years old. I didn’t see cancer as a fight for my life. I saw it as a collection of mutated cells growing in my hip that had to be killed and removed through a complex regimen of drugs, needles, blood transfusions and checkups. I also didn’t see driving fast as risky. In fact, my dad was an excellent driving instructor and prepared me to be an instinctive defensive driver. If I considered the situation dangerous then I immediately slowed down. I also have catlike reflexes.

But, one thing did change when I got cancer – now I had an excuse for going crazy fast if I got caught by the police.

First, let me say that I limited my use of the cancer card. I never used it as a way to complain, bring other people down with me, or generate pity. FUCK THAT. But on some occasions, mostly just when it got me out of trouble or paying money, I pulled it.

I spent considerable time crafting the perfect excuse in case I got pulled over. I didn’t need to prove that I had cancer because it was completely obvious – I didn’t have a single hair on my body, I was white as a ghost, I had a bulge protruding out of my chest (my central line, or port), and for part of the year I had crutches in the back and a huge brace on my leg. My excuse only lacked something an officer could relate to and understand.

My first plan was to pretend I needed to take my Zofran for nausea: “I’m about to blow and my medicine is at home. And I’m not talking about normal puke – I mean one of those fire hydrant vomits.” I decided this wasn’t clever enough. I needed something more genius if I was going to tangle with the law.

My next plan involved a needle and a $200 vile of medicine: “I need to get my Neupogen shot in order to stimulate my bone marrow. You know, to boost my white blood cells? The little things that fight infection?” Too bad any officer would have zoned out at the first mention of spiffy cancer terms.

My third excuse, however, was just right: “I’m in between cycles of chemotherapy. All of my blood cells have been wiped out from the chemo, leaving my immune system virtually nonexistent. That’s not so bad, but now I’m starting to get a fever. Without an immune system my body has no way to fight infection and really bad things can happen. I have to call my doctor immediately and rush over to the hospital before…it’s too late.

I never had the chance to try it out, but I really think that plan would’ve worked. That was an excuse for the ages and needs to be passed on to other cancer people. My duty is now complete.


Postscript: If you have a problem with the message conveyed here – namely, me using cancer to my benefit – my only justification is that I was having a little fun. Life is better that way.

What if my gift to the world was tricks cancer people can use to gain an advantage? I’m strangely okay with that.

Leia Mais…

Monday, June 11, 2007

Super Cancerman

Blue and black Superman shieldIt’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…Super Cancerman!

The city’s most lovable hero is back at it again after his fifth heart transplant. “Searching these streets for scumbags is what I do best,” Super Cancerman said in his most recent interview. “As long as my heart is still ticking I’ll continue protecting Tumourre City from the rapists, murderers and thieves. And if I find them, they better watch out ‘cause I’ll irradiate their asses.”

While genuinely liked by the citizens of Tumourre City, Super Cancerman’s methods haven’t been proven to reduce crime. Although harsh, the waves of radiation he emits don’t exactly cause immediate effects – criminals can expect diarrhea and anal irritation a few days later, and a 20% increased risk for cancer 20 years later.

If Super Cancerman gets really angry he’ll launch his patented “Just Sprinkle Some Chemo On It!chemo sprinkles at the criminals. Unfortunately for the citizens of Tumourre City, most of the sprinkles find their way into the groundwater, and even more shockingly, local dog food. The doggy morgue has had to expand as of late because of Super Cancerman’s recent anger problem.

Why has Super Cancerman become so bitter? To answer that, we must go back to his early years. It’s safe to say Super Cancerman was predisposed to cancer. He was born to an impoverished, chain-smoking mother and a paranoid-schizophrenic father who thought that fiber was the world’s worst enemy. “If I catch you eating a vegetable I’ll feed you laxatives until your colon bursts,” his father used to threaten.

When he was six, Super Cancerman’s curiosity got the best of him. His father caught him eating a spear of broccoli. What happened next was so repulsive I can barely type the words – his father forced him to drink three bottles of Fleet Phospho-Soda. You know, the stuff you need to drink before a colonoscopy. After two days of torture Super Cancerman decided he never wanted to eat another vegetable again.

Equally tragic was that Super Cancerman grew up before anybody knew the dangers of cigarettes, and his mother used to reward him for good grades with them. By the age of 11 he was consuming four packs of cigarettes a day – two by smoking and two by digesting. Needless to say, he excelled as a student.

At the tender age of 16 his eating habits and lifestyle caught up to him when he was found to have no less than five cancers, all at the same time. When considering what kind of treatment plan he would have, his doctors were stumped. Finally his head doctor, Dr. Flounder, decided the best treatment would be to lock him in a nuclear reactor for an unknown period of time. I use the word “unknown” because, quite frankly, everybody forgot he was in there.

“I was doing a lot of drugs back in those days,” Dr. Flounder said. “I got high, what do you want me to say.”

When Dr. Flounder finally remembered, she opened the reactor to retrieve Super Cancerman, but he was gone. Vanished. “We thought he vaporized.”

But Super Cancerman was far from vaporized. The radiation and multiple cancers exploded in the form of a mutation never before seen, thus transforming the young boy into the superhero he is today. Super Cancerman became a Super Cancer. He could squirt chemotherapy out of his veins, dick and ass, and he could breath and fart radiation.

Super Cancerman quickly realized he could use his new powers for good, so he sewed a blue cape and took to the streets to serve his own form of justice. His first task was to infiltrate the local gang and then systematically give all the members cancer treatment.

“They were screwed,” Super Cancerman chuckled while reminiscing about his gang days. “Some of those guys wouldn’t live past their 40’s or 50’s. I knew I did my job, so I moved on to more bad guys.”

And that he did. For the next several decades Super Cancerman caused an estimated 400,000 cancer deaths and twice as many cancer survivors. These figures are not lost on Tumourre City’s financial department, which paid for the construction of a $100 billion cancer hospital.

This brings us back to his recent heart transplant. You see, his powers are not infinite – in order to produce radiation and chemotherapy he must continually replenish his body with new cancers through the consumption of cigarettes, pesticides and other cancer-causing toxins, along with his no-fiber diet.

“Every so often I need a new organ,” Super Cancerman said. “It goes with the superhero territory, which you would know nothing about.”

Many Tumourre City citizens are becoming increasingly fearful of Super Cancerman. “My dog had cancer from bad dog food, and yesterday I found him dead in a pile of his own guts. Somebody carved him up and ate his cancer. I think it was Super Cancerman.”

This anonymous citizen is not the only person to suspect that Super Cancerman has been eating dogs. Other citizens even believe that he has purposefully increased the use of his chemo sprinkles in order to cause more cancers, just so he could eat them. Researchers believe that by eating cancer directly he has increased his own powers.

“That’s all he wants – power,” one researcher explained. “The more cancer he consumes the more powerful he gets. He’s always pissed off nowadays because he can’t consume cancers fast enough. He wants more and more and more. Pretty soon all of Tumourre City will realize that he’s creating cancer, only to consume cancer for his own benefit. He truly is a Super Cancer.”

Even through all of this, the town still loves him. “He may be a Super Cancer, but he’s our own Super Cancer,” one town resident exclaimed. “You’ll always be in my heart, Super Cancerman!”

Leia Mais…

Saturday, June 9, 2007

My Hip X-ray: Part II

Cat left this comment on My Hip X-ray:

...I'm assuming you have quite the limp...
No, Cat. I think of it more as a pimped-out strut than a limp.

Keep reading:
My Hip CT Scan

Leia Mais…

Friday, June 8, 2007

My Hip X-ray

People sometimes ask how much of my left hip was surgically removed. When I tell them, they don't seem to understand. Instead of explaining it, I might as well show it. And thanks to my mom's new kickass scanner, I can.

This is an X-ray of a normal hip.Normal hip x-ray
Here is an X-ray of my hip, taken in June 2001 — half a year after my surgery. Sorry to disappoint, ladies, but I cut out the goods, so no sneak peaks today.
Keep reading:
My Hip X-ray: Part II
My Hip CT Scan

Leia Mais…

Monday, June 4, 2007

12 Double Cheeseburgers

McDonald's double cheeseburgerOne day after school during my junior year of high school I saw my friend Iceman in the parking lot, ready to go home. I was headed to McDonald’s for a midday snack and asked if he wanted to join me.

"What, do you go like every day or something?” Iceman asked.

"Yeah, pretty much.”

“Alright, let’s go.”

Iceman once told me he could eat 12 McDonald’s double cheeseburgers in an hour. I didn’t believe him and offered to make a bet. “I’ll buy your double cheeseburgers and give you $10 if you win, but if you lose you have to pay me back for the burgers.”

“What else do you get if I lose?”

“Nothing. Watching you suffer through 12 double cheeseburgers will be entertaining enough.”

At McDonald’s that late afternoon something extremely rare happened—something even rarer than the anticipated rapid-fire consumption of two dozen hamburger patties: I actually talked about cancer in a non-joking, “real” way. I told Iceman what it was like being in and out of school. I told him about my treatment progress. And most of all we talked about my upcoming surgery, which was only a month away.

Iceman knew where I was coming from, not because he himself had cancer, but because his dad did. His dad’s cancer was much tougher to treat because it had spread, and his treatment plan involved insane amounts of radiation that ravaged the skin and muscles. I never met the guy, but I know for certain he was a badass motherfucker; he rarely missed work even through those ridiculous treatments.

After my surgery I had new visitors all the time. One day my teacher, Mr. Spunkmeyer, paid me a visit. He brought get well cards that he made all his students write for me. My favorite was from Iceman.

Sup lil’ Benjy. It’s Iceman. I miss seeing ya around school all the time. I’m so happy that everything worked out good for ya. I hear you got a tight ass entertainment center. I’m a steal it. Remember when you and me went to McDonald’s after school, and you told me all about what’s happening with you, and I told you about my dad? Well, I never told you, but my dad’s surgery went perfect. I was so happy after that, and I’m just as happy now. I’m glad that you’re OK, and I hope to see you soon. I love ya buddy.

Two years later, and just two days before leaving Northern Virginia for my bone marrow transplant, I again hung out with Iceman. He and another friend came from college for the day just to see me. While out to lunch, Iceman gave me an update on his dad. His cancer had come back in a catastrophic manner. It had grown to massive sizes and was found in several of his organs, even wrapping itself around one. I got the sense that Iceman and his family knew what the end result would be.

And his dad still went to work.

In December that year I called Iceman to see if he wanted to catch a flick. But not this time—he was at the hospital because his dad was going to die any day.

He died on my birthday, December 30, 2003. My immune system was fucked up so I couldn’t even go to his funeral.

I don’t see Iceman much anymore. I only hope that one day we can settle that bet.

Leia Mais…