Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Conversation With My Bone Marrow on Her 10th Birthday

"I suck at being an adult," I said to my bone marrow while we ate our breakfast today: oatmeal prepared on the stove top with ground cinnamon and sliced banana.

"Don't be so hard on yourself," my bone marrow replied. "You're a good host, except when you refuse to buy me push-up bras to impress the boy bone marrows."

Ten years ago today, on April 24, 2003, I received my umbilical cord stem cell transplant to treat myelodysplasia, my second cancer. My bone marrow donor was an anonymous girl, so my blood has two of the same sex chromosome, XX, instead of XY.

I have reared my bone marrow as my child, and my only complaint is that she's a brat. She is also a prodigy, teaching herself advanced calculus when she was four. Usually we bicker, but sometimes we have real conversations. It's complicated.

Her birthday today led to self-reflection. "I try so hard to do what adults are supposed to," I said to her. "Succeed at my job and hobbies, contribute to my 401(k), look out for my friends and family, reach out to people who seek my strength and guidance, and stay healthy. But when I scroll Facebook and all I see are pictures of weddings and dogs and babies..."

"Don't talk about Facebook," Bone Marrow interrupted. "Mark Zuckerberg didn't even respond to my letters asking to allow bone marrow profiles. I'm so pissed about that."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to stir things up. It just seems that is really what adulthood is about, and I know nothing of it. And here I am feeling all mature for buying my first car last week. I'm getting so far behind it is scary." Keep reading, here.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ten Years Cancer-Free in Three Days

Katie Couric at the Rotunda for a University of Virginia speach
Sarah Palin has weighed in on my umbilical cord stem cell transplant, which I received on April 24, 2003, meaning this Wednesday my bone marrow turns 10. When my fellow UVA graduate, Katie Couric, asked Palin whether I should have accepted the stem cells, Palin said, “The only difference between humans and animals is the willingness to sacrifice oneself in the face of sin. Does that answer your question? Wahoowa, Couric.”

When Couric informed Palin that an umbilical cord transplant is different than stem cell research and does not involve fetuses, Palin said, “Like I’m going to fall for another one of your tricky questioning tactics.”

On Wednesday, my special annual cancer-free anniversary story will publish on The Huffington Post. And on Friday, I’m headed to New York to celebrate with friends. I will fight Teddy for the couch in Sonny’s studio Brooklyn apartment, and Dirty-D will try to retain his sanity on his seven-hour Greyhound trip from Richmond.

Brooklyn Boulders, a rock-climbing gym founded by my friend, Lance Pinn, is hosting us Saturday for climbing celebration. I expect rock-climbing, which I fell in love with last year, will be a part of all great future celebrations including my wedding and my son’s bris.

To Lance and my other awesome friends and literary agent who will join me in climbing celebration, my fingers are crossed for only minor belaying accidents void of any concussions. To everyone, tune in Wednesday for my 10-year cancer-free anniversary story. And to Palin, unfortunately my bone marrow does not forgive you. But don’t take it personally, she’s just kind of bitchy for a 10-year-old.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Sonic Hedgehog

My dad loves a good deal. When he saw that an Alexandria Chevrolet dealership was offering $4,000 for any trade-in—four times the value of my 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier—he lit up and emailed me the offer. “Cash for clunkers is back!” I said.

I gave my dad the green light to work his negotiating magic on my behalf for a new 2013 Sonic LTZ turbo. Apparently he is a wizard:

  • Trade-in: $4,000
  • Random rebates: $1,000
  • Taxes, tags, fees and destination charge: $0
  • My parents letting me use their GM MasterCard rewards: $2,500

Estimated drive-away price without discounts: $22,500; my drive-away price: $15,000.

I thought back to the August night my parents bought me the Cavalier when I was 15. Afraid to drive it off the lot which was next to busy Route 1, I switched seats with my mom at an Exxon closer to home. I rolled down the window, turned on mutually acceptable music and lightly touched the accelerator. Despite basic features, cheap interior plastic and it technically not being mine, it was my most prized possession. I would be less excited now if I were to regrow a left ilium. Ownership, or even having the sense of it, is special. Developing nations should consider this when creating property rights laws.

In the Cavalier’s final days, driving it was like taking a quad shot of espresso. Running over potholes felt like an explosion, so I stayed hyper-alert to avoid them. The gas gauge stopped working so I filled up after 250 miles, or pushed it to 330 if I was feeling insane. I loved the total value the Cavalier had provided me, and I still loved it, though parting ways was less difficult after signing for the title to my Sonic.

I carefully pushed all the Sonic’s buttons to learn how to use my new treasure. I connected my phone via Bluetooth and laughed, thinking back to how I used to play music in the Cavalier. My parents called to talk to me through the Sonic’s speakers on my drive home. My dad beamed with appreciation of the vehicle and his wizardry, and my mom wished it was hers.

Before two weeks ago I relished driving a “valueless” car and not paying for it. I even considered becoming a true city boy and going carless. Now I have to deal with crazy DC car and parking laws, and a costly and depreciating asset. But those concerns are trumped by my excitement to take it on its first short road trip to Richmond on Saturday to speak at VCU’s Relay for Life. My car serves more than its basic function, a lesson I had to learn on my own.

Do you want to see it? Here you go, in typical ruBENstein fashion:

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Know Everything about Pope Francis

Weeks ago I visited PepperoniNip and La Mole in Florida for a brief vacation that included Baltimore Orioles spring training, fried gator tail and elderly people. My ageism diminished significantly after making friends with an 80-something at the ballpark. 89 is the new 75.

My return flight to Washington departed on-time at 4 p.m. A hailstorm in Atlanta, where my short layover would be, shut down Atlanta Airport and my plane diverted to tiny Savannah Airport. The captain kept us on the tarmac in hopes that we could be one of the first planes back out to Atlanta when the storm cleared.

Now infused with anti-ageism, I chatted with the two nice, extremely old sisters next to me. They were long retired from Norfolk Southern railroad, lived in Roanoke and traveled across North America cat-sitting for friends. “I’m house-sitting my aunt’s house, and they don’t even have pets leaving me with limited responsibilities!” I exclaimed, excited by our shared free riding behavior.

“We just looooooove cats,” one sister said in her southern drawl.

Our plane was not the first off the tarmac because the few fuel trucks servicing dozens of planes didn’t get to ours. After three stationary hours, the plane parked at a gate and I went into the terminal. I had eaten too much crap over the weekend and planned to have strictly almonds the rest of the day. With no end in sight, this would require lots of nuts.

Fortunately I didn’t have to fight temptation since Savannah Airport basically ran out of food with so many stranded passengers. I moseyed between charging my phone, looking for fun passengers to hang with, and watching the Celtics blow a huge lead to the then-streaking Heat at the bar. A hungry group at the bar was scheming to order pizza with TSA acting as the middleman so they didn’t breach security.

My new temptation was to sit down and drink beers. But I had already popped a Benadryl to aid in sleeping and considered that a subpar idea.

Knitted hats are stylish and warmI returned to the plane to retrieve the beautiful hat La Mole sewed for me. The stewardesses were serving free drinks to those who remained on-board. On second thought regarding those beers. The old sisters lacked my hesitation. Drunk and excited to see me, one of them said, “Come sit with us, we don’ mond if this plane stays here alllll night! Connie’ll pour you whatever you waaaant! We’ been gettin’ cranberry vodkas. Connie!” she shouted to the stewardess, “Get Benjamin a cranberry vodka.” I retract my second thought.

“That sounds enticing, but I actually just came for my hat. It’s cold in the terminal.”

“This hat?” One of the sisters put my hat on her head. “It looks cuter on you, though! Come sit with us, it’s waaaarm here!”

I looked around for guidance on dealing with frisky old women and only found a middle-aged woman giggling at me. I sat down right as everyone was boarding the plane to finally depart for Atlanta. Pretending not to hear the old sisters or feel them groping the hat now back on my head, I drifted into a Benadryl slumber.

Once we touched down in Atlanta at midnight, I wished the ladies luck on their next cat-sitting adventure. Inside, I stood in the two-hour line for a new ticket back to Washington since my plane had departed hours ago. People in front of me couldn’t get a return flight back to Cincinnati for a day and a half, and Delta would not provide hotel vouchers. I was prepared to return to any of Washington’s three airports, maybe even Richmond, but thankfully got on standby for a 7:30 a.m. flight back to Reagan, my most convenient one.

The Delta attendant liked my hat. “I saw that cute thing creeping up the line the last hour!” She gave me a $10 food voucher. I’m going to wear La Mole’s hat everywhere. Except at assisted living homes.

I checked gate after gate for a group of deserted seats to sleep on, but stranded passengers covered everything. I finally found three vacant seats without armrests, so I laid down clutching my suitcase and crutches bag next to me.

I jumped up upon noticing the speaker blasting CNN directly above my head. Pope Francis’ inauguration mass was later that day. Or is today tomorrow? I need sleep.

I rested my head and closed my eyes. The airport was very cold so I pulled my hat tight and crossed my arms. Over the next two hours a group of airline employees sat across from me to chat and eat. The alarm blared repeatedly something about everyone needing to evacuate due to an emergency. And I absorbed Pope Francis’ life story. I now dream of Francis cloaked in a velvet, Argentinian flagged-Snuggie summoning me to a poker game with him, Jesus, and a fuschia rabbit named Tedward Wong.

I stirred at 5 a.m. to stretch my hip. I took the tram to my gate to eat and ensure I was available for standby. I’d later learn that standby is not on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's greasy breakfast
I was determined to utilize my full $10 voucher. I hadn’t considered that my normally iron stomach may not enjoy airport grease after minimal sleep on an airport bench.

I boarded the plane and fired up my work computer, ordered Gogo internet and cranked out some edits, functioning only off of coffee, my rumbling stomach and probably my hat.

Back in Washington, I booked it home, showered, booked it to work, didn’t fall asleep at work, got 2,500 SkyMiles from Delta, and daydreamed that Pope Francis and Tedward Wong stole my hat.

Leia Mais…