Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Laughing Matter?

"I was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. Lymphoma. I lost a testicle... my HMO had a really crappy co-pay." -- Robert Schimmel

When I first heard that line -- spoken during a radio interview Schimmel did on the "Bob and Tom" show -- as I was driving down to Las Cruces almost three weeks ago, I very nearly drove the 6 off I-25, I was laughing so hard.

I'd like to say I've grown, and become ever-so-slightly more relaxed and comfortable with my ailment in the 20 months since I was diagnosed with TC. To an extent, I think, I have. But I can't claim a newfound ability to laugh at TC... because I've actually cracked jokes about it for awhile now.

The first one I remember was a little over one month after the surgery, during one of my first trips back to The Old Crow in Dallas (sidenote: I MISS THE CROW!!!!!) with a few of my former coworkers. One of them -- who I've never especially liked -- sneered something along the lines of "so, you're down to one, huh?"

"Yeah, but that's OK," I replied. "Your wife has both of yours." It was reflex, a knee-jerk response, and it was one of the most singularly brilliant things I've ever said (current and past AG'ers know who I'm talking about, and know why it was such a good line.)

In the months that followed, I became a little more comfortable with joking about being, well, "down to one." I told another friend I had developed a case of "nut rot," only to have to settle her down and reassure her that, actually, testicular cancer wasn't as bad as that.

When on a skateboarding mission with Monk in Denton last year (one year ago Monday, in fact) I had to stand on an electrical transformer box to catch the shot just right. "It's not so much that you keep biffing the trick," I told him. "It's the amount of electromagnetic energy irradiating my ballsack right now that most frustrates me."

I've commented to others I'll always be a Republican, because I still have the right one. And I'm still waiting on my call for a date from Sheryl Crow, who apparently isn't put off by the Uniball* concept (then again, I don't have seven consecutive Tour de France titles under my belt, either. Sigh.)

Last week, when I called and left a message for my friend Lee, I mentioned on voicemail I had my first New Mexico doctor's appointment the next day. "This won't be a big deal, just an appointment to get the ball rolling again." A pause. "That could be a pun, I guess, though it wasn't meant to be."

The loss of 50% of that which makes you a man isn't funny... except for the fact that, yeah, I admit, it kinda is. In the months that followed the surgery, as I became comfortable enough to sing in the car once again... I questioned whether my voice had suddenly gotten higher. (It hadn't.) I would also sometimes wonder if my... pectorals... weren't getting bigger (it's because I'm overweight and out-of-shape, not because I'm not producing enough testosterone.)

I've dreamed The Other One has fallen off. Twice. Ya gotta admit, that's hilarious. (If you don't see it, imagine the frantic -- then relieved -- self-grope upon waking.)

Fact of the matter is... I think I've laughed about this more than I've cried. I'm chuckling to myself now as I write this.

And on this, the one year anniversary of the "there's a spot on your lung," that's what I'm choosing to focus on. Oh, and also the fact my new doctor, an affable British chap, described observation checkups for TC as "well-baby" visits during my appointment last week. "Just to reassure everybody that everything's fine," he explained.

I think I'm going to like my doctor. I also think the day you can laugh at cancer, is the day a corner is turned.

*I'll never look at a certain brand of pens the same way again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The 'New Mexi-fication' Continues

Well, now comes the reality part of the New Mexico move. On Wednesday, I'll have my first cancer check-up that won't be with Dr. Bhogaraju. I do have to say that so far, I've been very impressed by UNM's Cancer Center, though... they scheduled me with their 'specialist' for TC, which is reassuring to hear. I only hope I won't be requiring the services of a "specialist."

In happier news... I continue to settle back into life in NM... a process I've started calling my "New Mexi-fication" (I'm still waiting for my license plate. And no, I haven't yet paid my $200 speeding ticket, although I know I'll have to do that soon.)

I'm really loving having a balcony again, instead of a first-floor patio. I've taken to sitting outside in the morning, waiting for the sun to come up over the Sandias... and again in the evenings, during sunset. In addition to providing the opportunity for some neat pictures (see top photo) it also puts me outside when the hummingbirds are most active.

I gotta say, I've become very attached to the three hummers who have laid claim to my feeder... the closest things to pets I have (except for Abby of course.) It looks like I have a male and female adult pair (I think all three are black-chinned hummingbirds) and a baby who's grown considerably in the past two months... in fact, all of them are quite a bit fatter now.

The "baby" is the most adventurous of the three. While all of them have buzzed me (hummingbirds are very curious) the baby regularly hovers over my laptop computer when I'm working outside. Always a comfortable distance away, of course, but closer than the others. 

And yesterday morning, when one of the adults tried to chase it away from the feeder (hummingbirds are also aggressive little buggers) the baby "hid" behind me as I stood at the railing! The adult hovering in front of me didn't know what to think.

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to drive down to the Sunport, and watch planes for hours. Took some photos, including a shot of an Osprey tiltrotor hover-taxiing along runway 3. I also grabbed pics of good 'ol Skyhawk 62507, the first plane I ever flew completely by myself.

And lastly... as I mentioned, last weekend I drove down to Las Cruces to spend the weekend with a friend of mine named Ana, who I've known going back to my days at DMC. She left the company around the same time I moved to Dallas, and today she works for Tricore as, of all things, a phlebotomist -- someone who draws blood for medical testing, an area I've become quite familiar with in the past 18 months.

Ana is... special. She's one of the sweetest and most genuine people I've ever known. We talked about pursuing a romantic relationship back in 2005, but the timing wasn't right. Now, two years later... well, we're checking the timing again, very cautiously. She has her emotional baggage, I have mine, and we're each aware of that.

The highest compliment I can give her... is that I can't think of a single person who I call friend, or family, who wouldn't like her. I admit, I'm smitten, and she is, too. So, we'll see where it goes (if I have finally learned only one thing in this area throughout my life, it's to NOT RUSH THESE THINGS.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

You Bastards!

It had been a good day. I'm finally starting to feel recovered from the OSH experience, and it looks like we have a candidate for the Weekend Editor position at ANN who I think will be a great asset.

Combined with sunny skies... and one especially brave hummingbird, that has taken to flying right up to me when I'm outside working; one of these days, I think the ballsy little bird is going to try to land on the laptop screen... it had been a pretty good Friday. A necessary trip back to the DMV looked to only temper that slightly.

I shoulda waited until I got back to check my mail... but alas, I didn't. There was but one letter in the mailbox...

...From the Albuquerque Police Department...

...Photo STOP Division.

Knowing full well I haven't run any red lights, I opened the envelope... and was greeted with photographic evidence that my car was at the intersection of Montgomery and San Mateo on July 31st. The ticket -- for $200! -- states I was doing 45 in a 35 mph zone.

I'm not necessarily disputing that I may have been speeding; I would like to know whether the other four cars in one of the photos -- one of which I believe I recall was passing me -- were also ticketed, or did APD instead focus on the lone Texas plate in the bunch. Most gratingly of all... I had no idea the damn cameras -- also used in Dallas -- could give speeding tickets, too.

And I really wonder if that's right or not. The "officer's signature" on the ticket is an illegible scribble, that looks a little like binary code, shrunken to the height of a micron.

Today's the day I became a Libertarian. Wait, I was one already... nuts. Anyway, as I contemplate whether to fight this injustice or not -- no points are taken off your license whether you dispute it or pay, which means this is nothing but a pure money-grab by the city, nothing more -- I'm planning to visit my friend Ana in Las Cruces this weekend.

And I'm tempted to drive at 35 mph for the whole 220-mile trip.

Monday, August 6, 2007

What A Nice Day For A... Zzzzz...

Damn my 31-year-old, out-of-shape body anyway. I had big plans for this weekend. Great, relaxing, touristy-appreciation-of-New-Mexico, as-much-fun-as-you-can-have-without-an-airplane plans. See, ever since I got my car, I've wanted to see what it could do along a certain stretch of highway in New Mexico.

Highway 4, to be exact. The back road up to Los Alamos, through the Jemez Mountains.

Nothing too challenging, mind you... but more than a few switchbacks, horseshoe curves and cliff-hugging straightaways to see what 212-horsepower, a six-speed manumatic, ABS brakes and a decent suspension can do, in the proper setting. Zoom-zoom, and all that. All without breaking any road rules.

Well, not too many, anyway.

That was the plan for Saturday morning: get up at six, make some coffee and a breakfast burrito (that has become a weekend tradition of mine since returning to NM... with extra-hot green chile, of course) and head out for the 2.5-hour drive at around 8:30. That way, it'd still be cool enough to have the window down, and I'd get into Los Alamos -- my favorite NM town -- around 11 or so. Even taking the rest of the trip at a more relaxed pace, I'd still be back in Albuquerque by 3, at the latest.

That was the plan.

It went to hell at around 8:00, when I fell asleep on my couch. And again on Sunday morning, when I inadvertently slept in until 10 am.

And even today, I harbored a faint ambition to take the drive EARLY, so I could be back home, and back to work, by noon. I fulfilled one of those goals: I turned on my computer at 12:07 pm, after being woken up by my boss calling me, asking "um, you there?"

It's been one week since I returned from Oshkosh. I've slept for a good part of it -- getting at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night, and more often than not a nap in the afternoon. And I'm STILL beat. It probably has something to do with starting July with a 650-mile move, ending it with the biggest air show of the year, with a trip to Seattle tossed in between for good measure.

Maybe I should be surprised I'm not falling asleep on my keyboard.

I HAVE managed to get a few things done away from home. I got my New Mexico driver's license last week... and would have gotten my license plate as well, but for New Mexico having to obtain a copy of the car title from the lien holder. So, I have about another week or so to drive a Texas-plated car. I'm cherishing those days; having a New Mexico license plate will be the final affirmation I'm back in Albuquerque, an admission I'm still not 100 percent comfortable with.

To that end, I still haven't taken my TollTag off the windshield... and ya know what? I may never take it off.

Also went to see "The Simpsons Movie" Saturday night with Jen. Good movie, lotsa laughs, but not worth a $10 ticket. No, I didn't fall asleep in the theater. Had coffee at Double Rainbow -- wait, now it's Flying Star -- afterward.

OK, so being back here isn't ALL bad. I'm still enjoying watching "hummingbird wars," and sitting on the balcony in the evening, watching the sunset against the Sandias (or, lately, the rain over the city,) typing ANN stories to post at midnight on the laptop (as shown above; beer is optional). It's a nice routine... and it ALMOST beats hearing the roar of jets overhead, on approach to land at Addison.

But God, I do still miss Dallas.