Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

When I was six, give or take, I told my friend Zeke the truth about Santa Claus: his name was Mr. and Mrs. Zeke, he rode in a motor vehicle instead of a sleigh, and he didn’t have enough money to buy gifts for the other five billion people on the planet. Zeke didn’t take it very well, and replied with, “Oh yeah, well I don’t believe in Hanukah!”

As the story goes, Zeke’s mom later called my mom to complain that I shouldn’t be telling her son such blasphemy. Was it wrong of me to share my innate knowledge with my friend? Perhaps. Is it wrong to force little Jewish boys to lie about flying caribou and an old man who trespasses and steals cookies? Absolutely.

That said, I’d like to wish you all a belated Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Forefathers Day, Happy New Year, Happy early Birthday to Sandy Koufax, Tiger Woods, LeBron James and me (all December 30), and a Happy Boxing Day.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How Dare You, Mom and Dad

The parents of graduating seniors in my high school were able to publish a message to their child in the yearbook. Pictures could be added along with the message. My parents chose to use two pictures: one taken recently, and one from when I was a youngster.

When I picked up my yearbook at the end of the year, I flipped to the back to see what kind of embarrassment I should brace myself for. Luckily, there was nothing awkward or humiliating. However, there was something that made me angry – my parents submitted a toddler picture of my older brother, JD.

“I can’t believe my own parents don’t remember what I looked like,” I complained to my friends. “Everybody knows I was a better looking two-year-old.”

When I got home I called my mom into the kitchen and opened the yearbook to my segment in the back. “Notice anything wrong with this?” I asked, pointing to young JD.
Benjamin Rubenstein as a toddler“No, it looks great. You and JD were both such good-looking kids.”

“That’s just it…you sent in a picture of JD!”

There was a long pause as my mom looked hard at the page.

“…No, I didn’t!” she yelled. “That’s you!”

Bullshit, like I wouldn’t recognize myself.

I then began to argue with my mom that the picture was NOT me, and even made her prove it, which she gladly did.

Apparently, I don’t even know what I looked like. And as to who was a better looking kid, I have no idea because I can’t tell who is who.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Phat Jam Car Slam

When I was 16 I nearly got in collisions on a daily basis. Zeke was often in the car with me during these frightening experiences and would give subtle warnings such as “pole,” “car,” or in one case, “big black guy.”

I was giving Zeke and Big Easy a ride home after school one afternoon. We met in the lobby where I told them I had "phat jams" we could listen to – I got the new CDs of Jay-Z, Eminem and Dr. Dre. We couldn’t have been more stoked to cruise through the mean streets of Northern Virginia with the windows down and the stock stereo system rocking.

Dr. Dre's The Chronic 2001 album coverShortly after exiting the school parking lot, I turned left onto Liberia Avenue and accelerated to 50 mph as sounds of Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 filled the warm air. Once my car climbed over the hill and began its descent, I saw that the light up ahead was red and there was a long line of cars. I was given no warning and there really wasn’t much room to stop. I was also going 15 over the limit. I slammed on my brakes as hard as I possibly could and came to a complete stop no more than 2 centimeters behind the Honda Accord in front of me.

Two seconds later we heard a loud screeching sound. I looked at my rear-view mirror and saw the car behind me rocking from side to side, and the driver horrified. “Oh man, that’s RightStuff!” Big Easy exclaimed.

Our friend, RightStuff, had just turned 16 and was driving by herself for one of the first times. She made a soft stop the correct distance behind me and then got slammed by the car behind her. Then, a Ford Ranger collided into the second car, creating a three car fender bender. As the light turned green I asked Zeke and Big Easy, “Should I go?” Before anyone responded I gunned the accelerator and left the scene of the accident.

The three of us blamed the crash on me and my incredibly hard stop. We also found weeks worth of humor in RightStuff’s facial expression after getting hit, as well as the fact that she got in an accident on one of her first days driving and through no fault of her own.

The following school year I wrote a story about the incident in my Honors English class. The story’s focus was on the priceless entertainment Zeke, Big Easy and I gained at the expense of RightStuff. The day we had peer editing I happened to be absent for cancer tests, and RightStuff happened to edit my story. I wish I was there to see the look on her face.

A few months after the collision, an electronic sign was installed on the hill on Liberia Avenue which warns drivers when the upcoming light is red. I can’t describe the pride I feel, knowing that I was part of the incident which led to what was surely a costly project. You’re welcome, Virginia Department of Transportation.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Crazy Drinking Story

During the spring semester of 2004 I was living in a house with three friends, including Duckman and Mr. Mountain Dew. The Thursday night before spring break began, two of our more rowdy friends came to visit (Colossus and Vodka/Benadryl), bringing two of their rowdy friends (Strict and EMP).

We were chilling in the living room when Mr. Mountain Dew got a call about a party. At the time my immune system was still recovering from a bone marrow transplant, so I wasn’t supposed to be around large groups of people. But this was meant to be a relatively small birthday party for our friend, RightStuff, at her boyfriend’s house.

Duckman opted out, so the other six of us packed into my car and drove down the street to RightStuff’s party. When we got there we all split up and I quickly found myself talking to a hot little number we’ll call Shawty. As the night went on I seemed to be making progress with Shawty, as my friends pounded Long Island Iced Teas and got absolutely hammered.

Around midnight Colossus became belligerent and started yelling at everyone at the party, including the residents of the house. “Alright,” one of the guys said, “I think you should leave.”

“Fuck you, I ain’t leavin’.” Colossus walked over to the living room, found a metal pipe on the floor and threw it. “You wanna kick me out? Let’s fuckin’ fight!”

Realizing that Colossus was about to get his ass kicked, I rushed outside to find Mr. Mountain Dew and Vodka/Benadryl. “Hey guys, I think Colossus is about to get in a fight.”

“Dammit!” Mr. Mountain Dew sighed as if this had happened several times before. He walked into the house to talk things over, or fight if necessary. Vodka/Benadryl stumbled behind him. Should he really be fighting that drunk?

The next thing I saw was Mr. Mountain Dew pushing a cursing Colossus away from the house. Vodka/Benadryl once again stumbled behind him. “Colossus, you’re a drunken idiot. Let’s go,” Mr. Mountain Dew said.

“FUCK THEM! Let’s beat d’ shit out’m!” Colossus screamed.

“We need to find Strict and EMP and get out of here,” I said.

Everybody was pissed at Colossus, especially EMP who was getting some action in the corner when we pulled him away and told him we were leaving. “Fuck you Colossus, you drunk-ass bastard. Did you see that girl I was with? Damn!”

As we approached my car, Shawty walked over to me. “You sure have your hands full, huh?”

“Yeah, these guys are way too drunk,” I replied.

“Let me help you out. I’m usually good at this stuff.”

I got to my car and unlocked the doors expecting people to pile in, when Colossus grabbed my keys and crawled into the driver’s seat. “Colossus, get out!” I yelled. “Get the fuck out!”

Colossus slowly put the key in the ignition. Shawty was attempting to sweet talk him out of doing anything stupid, while the rest of us were screaming until our veins were popping out. But none of it seemed to bother him. He turned the key forward. I heard the engine start. He looked over at me with a mischievous smile and started his usual demonic laughter.

“That’s it!” Strict yelled. “It’s time for you to get out of the car.”

Strict grabbed Colossus by the neck and yanked him onto the cold concrete. I immediately reached in, turned the car off and ripped the key out of the ignition.

EMP entered the car through the passenger door. “Alright,” he began, “Colossus stopped me from getting play tonight, so let’s leave NOW.” Fine, I’ll take one home at a time.

There was so much commotion around me I couldn’t even think straight. Colossus and Strict were wrestling on the moist ground directly in front of my car. Mr. Mountain Dew was beside the car laughing at them. EMP was in the backseat shouting, “Get me out of here!” Shawty was in the passenger seat, and I couldn’t find Vodka/Benadryl, who was insanely intoxicated. Without hesitation, I put the car in reverse and very lightly pressed the accelerator when Mr. Mountain Dew screamed, “BEN STOP!”

I slammed on the brakes. “What is it?”

“Vodka/Benadryl is lying on the ground right behind your car. Your tire is seriously an inch away from his head. You almost ran him over.”

“Holy shit, is he okay?”

“Yeah, he’s fine.”

“Sorry Vodka/Benadryl,” I said. “I didn’t mean to run you over. You want to go back to our place?”

Vodka/Benadryl mumbled something along the lines of “it’s alright” as he crawled into the back of my two-door coupe.

After thoroughly beating the shit out of Colossus, Strict also found his way into the backseat. Colossus was still lying on the ground, so Mr. Mountain Dew agreed to wait with him until I returned.

I drove back to my house as the three assholes screamed obscenities at every pedestrian we passed. “I’m really glad you came with me,” I said to Shawty.

“Oh, it’s nothing.”

When I got to the house I put the car in park and let the guys out. “Duckman is in there; he’ll let you in.”

After dropping them off, Shawty and I went back to the party to gather the rest of the troops. When I got there Mr. Mountain Dew was standing in the street. “Where’s Colossus?” I asked.

“Man, he just started running. I have no clue where he is.”

“Will he find his way back?”

“Who cares?”

“Shawty, do you want me to give you a ride home?”

“Yeah, that would be great.”

When I reached her apartment complex she asked if we wanted to come inside. “My roommates and I will be getting drunk and would love for you to join us.”

Mr. Mountain Dew and I painfully glanced at each other. “We’d love to, but I think we better go check and make sure our house isn’t burning down. Sorry.” Fucking Colossus.
Right after arriving at the house I saw someone run down the street and turn the corner into our driveway. Sure enough, Colossus managed to find his way back. He had dirt on his face, his shirt was ripped and his pants were muddy. “What the hell happened to you?” I asked. “Better yet, how’d you find your way back here?”

“I on’ know, jus started runnin’”

“Did you get in a fight?”


Colossus went into the house and collapsed on the floor in the middle of our living room, right next to EMP and Vodka/Benadryl.

“Are we just going to let him sleep?” Mr. Mountain Dew asked.

“Screw that,” Strict said, as he reared back and punched Colossus in the leg as hard as he could.

Colossus made a groaning sound and lifted his head up, then went back to sleep.

“I need to get in on this,” Mr. Mountain Dew said. He clobbered Colossus on his left hamstring. Once again, Colossus screamed in pain, mumbled some random letter combinations, and then went back to sleep. “I think the whole house just shook,” Duckman said as he came out of his room.

Mr. Mountain Dew and Strict traded off punches several more times. Eventually, Strict had enough and let Colossus be.

“No way man, I want one more,” Mr. Mountain Dew said. He walked to the end of the hallway and ran toward Colossus. He wound his arm back and swung it around, clobbering Colossus right on the thigh. Colossus let out a bloodcurdling scream before passing out for good.

“Wow – that was seriously the hardest I’ve ever seen someone get hit,” Duckman remarked.

“He’ll definitely be feeling that in the morning,” Mr. Mountain Dew chuckled.

I went to sleep happy that nobody died. For all of spring break Mr. Mountain Dew had a sore hand and Colossus walked with a limp because his leg was so bruised.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bombs Over September (Part II of II)

Read this first: Bombs Over September (Part I of II)

I itched with senioritis. On the morning of May 3, 2002, Big Easy and I planned our elaborate escape from school and past the security guard for the first showing of Spider-Man. When second period ended we left our respective classes for the front door. I saw Big Easy 20 feet ahead. Please don’t look back and make us look suspicious. We escaped unharmed and saw Spider-Man in a packed theater. “I wish I was bitten by a super spider,” Big Easy said when it ended.

My calculus homework packet was due that afternoon. I left it with a friend to turn in for me, along with a note for my teacher that read: “I had to go see Spider-Man. Please don’t punish me. Actually, today is my last day of physical therapy. After 15 ½ months I’m finally done.” I finished the note with a smiley.

Rehabilitation helped bring my life closer to its pre-cancer equivalent, namely the ability to walk again without assistance from a crutch or cane. Aside from my hip strength, other things came back following treatment. My bowels and radiated skin normalized. My intelligence returned to pre-cancer levels, which my friends may joke weren’t very high to begin with. I even gave Colossus rides to school just like during my sophomore year. And he always made us late, just like two years before.

Some things never returned to normal. Some friends, including TerribleAtHoops from my neighborhood whom I’d known my entire life, unintentionally drifted when I had cancer. I was rarely around and there comes a point when you miss so many experiences that you just can’t entirely catch up. It felt like my high school moved on and left me behind, evident in my junior yearbook which didn’t have a single picture or mention of me. I was such a ghost that a friend asked, “Where’ve you been, I haven’t seen you in forever?” He either didn’t know I was back to school or didn’t know I had cancer to begin with.

I like to think I came back with a bang my senior year. I didn’t miss a day of school except the week I was forced out because of the shingles. Though, my senioritis led me to dip out early for golf, Star Wars and Spider-Man.

I surely made my mark in the senior yearbook. I was in the photo for clubs I almost never participated in. I was voted Parliamentarian of the Chess Club without knowing what that meant, but since so many non-members flooded the Chess Club photo, the yearbook gave no mention of my crucial position. Zeke, a non-member, claimed to be “Director of Pieces.” I would’ve been upset if they printed that and not Parliamentarian.

With pride, I was the reason my class got booted from the senior lounge during the final weeks of school. An epic food fight started when I threw a balled up aluminum foil at BornWithFullBeard. He returned fire with tater tots. Soon after, some girls ran screaming into the cafeteria and others hid behind tables.

At the end of the year, my teacher and former blood and platelet donor, Mr. Spunkmeyer, emceed a ceremony honoring our graduating class. He read which college each of us would attend, as well as scholarships earned. One of my scholarships was from the American Caner Society. Not wanting to embarrass me, Mr. Spunkmeyer hesitated before reading that one, unsure whether he should say it aloud.

That was the approach most people took, based on my lead—to move on as if cancer was a tiny roadblock from my past, not even deserving of mention. That’s what I wanted to believe and what I wanted others to perceive. I was Superman and didn’t need to acknowledge that I was any less normal or healthy than anyone else.

Just as my supreme ability to fight cancer fueled my Superman complex, my Superman complex further fueled my belief that I was invincible in every way. Looking back, I don’t think it’s possible to leave cancer behind the way I attempted to. Those experiences and memories, both positive and negative, will always be with me. They helped shape the person I’ve become.

Continue reading "My Cancer Story": Again (Part I of III)

Leia Mais…