My Life was Worth $75,121.33

Gee, thanks. Those "explanations" really cleared things up!
Gee, thanks. Those “explanations” really cleared things up!

I often tell people I had Cancer Lite. Gun to your head and forced to contract any form of cancer out there, you’d probably go with something similar to what I had. It’s not that I make light of my experience, as certain aspects of it were hell, but all things considered it was a very treatable form with a very high chance of cure / treatment / remission / whatever the hell I’m in now.

I had my old Kindle stolen last October during a particularly drunken escapade in Manhattan. What angered me most wasn’t the $150 cost to replace it but all the articles I was going to lose. There’s a service called Readability that’s downright amazing. You find an article online from a magazine, newspaper, or blog and with a click of a button it strips all the excess crap away from the screen and either lets you read it immediately or sends it to your Kindle for later consumption.

Two weeks ago Steven Brill was a guest on The Daily Show. He’s a journalist who recently wrote a cover story for Time magazine shedding light on the absurd health care costs in our country. My Kindle pegs most articles I read at 15-20 minutes long. This one? Over 90 minutes.

Seriously, you need to read it. The opening paragraphs details Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old man with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who was charged $83,900 for procedures that only cost around $15,000. He paid $1.50 for a single generic Tylenol. It cost him $283 for chest x-rays that Medicare patients get done for $20.44. The list goes on and on (and on and on and on and on.)

The article got me thinking about my own foray into the health care industry. To be completely fair, I had health insurance that didn’t try to screw me, by which I mean they upheld the agreement we made when I read the fine print and signed on the dotted line in 2009. Maybe I lucked out and got one of the good ones, maybe my insanely high yearly deductible was enough to satisfy them, or maybe it’s because they were happy to have an excuse to jack my premiums every year since (which they have.)

In 2010 I discovered the lump, had outpatient surgery to remove it, and there were a few doctor visits before and after both events. In 2011 I had monthly checkups, each taking around 15 minutes of “doctor time,” in addition to standard monthly blood tests, quarterly chest x-rays, and a few CT scans. Those led to discovering the tumors, which led to thirteen weeks of chemotherapy. Although if I recall correctly, I was only in the hospital for a total of 22 sessions, ranging from four to six hours each. In 2012 I was back to periodic exams and basic tests. The cost? Just over $75,000. And it’s not over yet.

Remember, this is “cancer lite” we’re talking about here. It wasn’t non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or even stage III testicular cancer. Had I not had health insurance, I might not be bankrupt, but I’d be seriously fucked financially.

The quality of health care in this country is outstanding. I’m a living testament to it and not many people are trying to argue otherwise. But the health care industry? It’s fucked. It’s beyond fucked. There’s a reason every other industrialized nation in the world, and even half of the third world countries like Cuba, look at what we’ve set up here in the states and shake their heads.

Now how about we do something about it?

We need a federal agent at every…

Aaaaaand that’s a burn.

The Love Competition

Here’s a surprisingly compelling mini-documentary. Seven strangers each have five minutes in an fMRI machine to “love someone as hard as they can.” The winner is the one who can generate the greatest level of activity in the regions of the brain associated with love.

[via Radiolab]

Let Me Sing You The Song Of My People

The Song of my People

Despite my affection for quotes, there are some that annoy the hell out of me. “Only boring people get bored.” Really? Is that so? Then I’m one hell of a boring guy.

Whenever I find myself bored and allow that quote to sneak into my head, I almost get angry. Partly at whoever first said it, partly at whoever keeps propagating it, but mainly at myself for allowing it to sneak into my head. And that’s when I invent games.

I know I’m not the only one to Gamify their lives. Heck, I distinctly remember putting a huge section of games I made up as a kid on the first rendition of Shyzer. SWAT, Milk Jug Volleyball, King of the Raft, and Skill Ball were the shit!

I found myself dangerously close to boredom the other day and it’s hard to play your sibling childhood games when you live alone. I had been writing all day and had word games on my mind. I don’t really know how, but I ended up picking a random number, shuffling my iTunes library, and plucking the 48th word from the first 30 songs to play.

All way the like I
Given moment that open monkey
Queens your matter car they’re
Pieces step oh Berlin ripe
Forever do the final washed
Her the lonely I’m summer

Hmmm. Not sure what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it. I figured what the hell and why not use only those words to write something that at least made sense.

Oh, I like the given moment
Do your way
They’re all that matter
Berlin, ripe, forever summer
Her final lonely step
I’m the washed open pieces
The queens monkey car

Hahaha, that final sentence was quite the leftover.

I probably did that for at least two hours before deciding to let the songs themselves do the work for me. I picked a low number, because actually counting 48 words into a song was fucking tedious, and pulled the 8th line from 30 shuffled songs.

The sun don’t seem to shine, on that ol’ County Road
And cut them in two
And it cried to see your face
I am cured, when I’m by your side
I haven’t got fucking anything

New born son
To love you, love you, love you
Make a decision
Put the butterfly in the bill jar
Who’s ever felt this way?

I’m gonna get on that riverboat
Face away and pretend I’m not
Tight against her hollows, her unholy child
Life in slow motion somehow it don’t feel real
In my best clothes

Of yesterdays hurting child
Somebody who I’m really not
Make me somewhere I can call a home
Tell them to stop
I wanna be a self-made man

Everyone keeps on talking
And I really want to see you tonight
I wish you woulda put yourself in my suitcase
Behind a cigarette
Flipping through a thrift store magazine

And we’ll leave the rest
As I whisper the joy of this pain
Go!
We keep all our promises, be us against the world
And I knew the odds were I’d never win

Well, that didn’t really make any more sense, but we’re at least getting somewhere. Problem is a good chunck of the songs it played were pretty shitty. At the very least, it’s not stuff I listen to anymore. So I decided to pluck the 6th line from anything I’ve played in the last 6 months.

You could say anything
I’m reaching you my hand
Dreaming of way back when
There will be a next time
And that’s you’re big mistake

I wanna feel the cold raising hair
I just came to say hello
You want to be European
So I shake off defeat and I start again
I got pretty music in my ear

Every time I look at you
I will be chasing a starlight
And you don’t know which you need the most
Burning off alone
But when all is said and done

You can take a picture of something you see
Calling out
But now we’ve found it
To judge but when they spoke, said “Not at all”
Can someone send a runner

Damn, that sounds close enough to an actual song for me. My work here is done.

So what games do you play?

Chemotherapy And You!

Originally drafted on July 16, 2011. This is part of a new series where I clean out my Drafts folder.

Smile. Big and often. It’s your best defense around the swirl of death and depression. Remind yourself that you’re young, relatively fit, and survived dozens of idiotic activities as a kid that should have killed you many times over.

Find something to do. Reading sounds fun, but it’s hard to follow the words. Same with movies. Never underestimate sleep. But the real treats are in comedy albums. The laughter helps. Music is great as well. Shuffling through albums you haven’t listened to in years is always enjoyable. Try to find something new though. An anthem makes all the difference in the world and it’ll be yours forever.

Learn the nurses names. Learn which know how to put in a needle and which are receptive to your charm. Realize how lacking you truly are in the charms department.

Don’t eat your favorite foods. Don’t even think about them. The last thing you want to do is pick up a peanut butter & jelly sandwich 10 years later and put it down because it still reminds you of throwing up. Don’t try to eat healthy either. You’re already going through hell, why exacerbate it with vegetables? Eat whatever calories you can shove down and move on.

On a personal note, Kale can go fuck itself. It holds a special place in Hell along with Quiche now.

Don’t be a bitch. Accept help when needed and don’t be afraid to ask, but find goals to accomplish for yourself. It’s amazing how empowering it can feel to do your own laundry or drive yourself to and from chemo every day. You can’t do everything alone though. Lean on your friends and family. If you don’t have any, get in touch.

Keep your head up. You got this shit.

I’ve Been Inked For Years

Originally drafted on April 16, 2011. This is part of a new series where I clean out my Drafts folder.

There’s an old proverb that says “the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.” At least I think that’s how it goes. I should probably write it down.

I was constantly terrified of writer’s block when I started Shyzer. I soon discovered the real threat was thinking of a great idea while sitting on the bus and then completely blanking once I finally got my ass to a computer. I spent dozens of hours trying to recreate moments in the off chance that it would help me remember whatever it was I thought I was forgetting. “Okay, so I was sitting on the couch like this, watching Price is Right and eating half a box of Froot Loops. Wait, no, maybe it was half a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch…”

I finally went out and bought one of these little spiral notepads when I was living in Australia. The fact that I was keeping great company was a mere bonus on top of never forgetting anything. They were the perfect dimension for riding in your back pocket, but the spiral inevitably destroyed itself. I blamed it on the lax Indonesian construction standards, but it probably had something to do with all the falling down that mysteriously coincided with my discovery of beer.

After some searching, I was able to find Field Notes. And yeah, that’s clearly a stock image. There’s no way my handwriting is that fancy.

This was a vastly superior option. I liked the grid layout and the pad itself held together with an unusually strong spine. However, the reason I had to use a stock image above was because every freaking pad I bought ended up looking like this.

I don’t know why in the world the cover is so flimsy, but it is. It came off on every pad I owned within weeks. It didn’t really bother me at first, but eventually the ink on exposed pages began to fade and blur, so once again I was in the market for a new pad.

Enter Moleskine. I’d used their larger notepads for journals, sketch & joke ideas, etc. But it was only recently that I tried out their softcover pocket pad. Tough as nail spine, lined pages, bookmark string, back pocket for scrap paper, and elastic band to keep it closed. You can’t beat it.

Oh, and don’t bother with any other pen than Uni-ball’s Jetstream. They’re like writing with magical Unicorn blood.

The Happiest Place On Earth

I have a giant world map hanging above my bed. You remember it, right?

It’s littered with primarily red stickers, all signifying places I’d like to visit one day. Lisbon, Dar es Salaam, Mongolia. Every so often there’s a red sticker with a black sharpie mark in the middle to represent somewhere I’d once wanted to visit and eventually did. Australia, Buenos Aires, Rome. However off to the center right, in the midst of quite a few red dots, is a bright yellow dot smack dab in the middle of Bhutan. I don’t know why, but I want to go there more than anywhere else.

I have for a while. I know I’ve built it up far too much in my head. It’ll most likely be a real world example of the old “never meet your heros” adage. And yet I don’t care. It’s become my personal Zihuatanejo over the years. It can do no wrong.

So This Is A Thing

Cookie Car
Credit to rawlings27 from Reddit.

While back in my hometown last month, I encountered what might have been the coolest car I’d ever seen. It was similar to the one pictured above except it was dedicated to the far superior Skittles. I scrambled for my phone, but the light quickly changed and it drove away as I stared wide eyed, mouth agape, and utterly perplexed. I euphorically spun around to see if any of my fellow passengers caught sight of the same magnificent beast only to be greeted with six eyes looking at me as if I’d lost my mind.

Goob: Wha…guys…did you not see that car?!
Martha: Yeah, what about it?
Goob: …
Tommy: They’re all over the place. I think one guy in our neighborhood has a Mr. Goodbar one.
Goob: … …
Tommy: ?
Goob: !!!

Thank goodness I’m not the only person tickled by this phenomenon. I love it. How have I never heard of nor seen this before?!

Every day I’m reminded of how much I know nothing about.