Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For Jackie

This is a day that changed the lives of many.

Yes, it's tax day. But more importantly to me, it's the day Jackie Robinson changed society. Today in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first man of color to play baseball in the Major Leagues. And while he was a great athlete, the way he handled himself and what he stood for was even greater. He was soft spoken, yet powerful. He actually did more during and after his playing career ended in 1956.

He was Director of Community Activities for WNBC and WNBT. He starred in a movie about his life in 1950. And after his playing days with the Dodgers, he became the first African-American executive of a major corporation, Chock Full O' Nuts. He served on the Board of Directors of the NAACP. He built houses for low income families through the Jackie Robinson Construction Company. So what is this, a history lesson? A biography report? What does Jackie Robinson have to do with cancer?

Have you ever been the object of different treatment? Been the only one of your race (or gender) at a party, concert or in a classroom? It's a strange and uneasy feeling. I would get those feelings after I was diagnosed with cancer. People didn't know what to say to me. Some people didn't talk to me anymore. Others would tell me about their friend or relative who had cancer and tell me they know how I feel. Really?

I will never know what it is to be a black man. I will never know what it's like to be a woman. I do know that everything I thought I knew about cancer before I had it, was totally wrong. You cannot truly understand what having cancer is like unless you've survived it or are living with it now. In many ways, it's indescribable. You're body goes through so many changes. The chemo––Erbitux, in my case––gave me blisters all over my face and scrambled my brain. The radiation burned my skin and zapped my energy. My emotions came to the surface. My emotions were buried. My soul ached. Does this even compare to Jackie went through? Does this compare to what people who are different from others have to go through every day? Probably not. But if Jackie Robinson, a player from my favorite team––the Dodgers––could face a lifetime of hate, ignorance and prejudice with class, grace and dignity then I could endure the pain of cancer for however long it will be. A baseball player having that kind of effect on me?

No. A man like Jackie can. And does.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Get Off The Phone

The cell, mobile or wireless phone is the greatest invention of the last 100 years. 

In fact, in 1908, a patent was issued for a wireless telephone to some guy in Kentucky. (You can look it up here: cell phone.) Little did he know that over 100 years later, some joker with a blog––that would be me––would be writing to praise him and express lines and lines of bitter disgust. Because I continue to be amazed at how little regard people have for each other when they are on the phone. And I was so pissed-off at what just happened to me, that I had to get it out or I would explode. Or at least call somebody and vent about it. On my cell.

I was in need of some cash to pay for parking at then end of the day. Usually, I wait until the end of the work day to trudge down the street and pull some cash out of the ATM. But today, I was in an unusually planning type of mood, so what the hell, let's go to the cash machine. And there it happened. Right in front of me. A woman, who was at the ATM, telling someone how she wasn't feeling like drinking tonight. She was tired. She didn't have any energy lately. She didn't know why, but she wasn't motivated to do anything. She didn't want to be at work. She didn't want to go to the gym, although her membership to FitnessFirst didn't expire until May 1, so she could workout if she wanted to––she just didn't have the energy, you know what I'm saying? How did I know all this? Because little miss "I'm-the-only-person-in-the-world-who-matters-right-now-and-the-rest-of-you-unfortunate-bastards-have-to-wait-until-I'm-done" was on THE PHONE AT THE ATM MACHINE.

I heard every word. I waited while she took her sweet ass time getting her $20. (Yeah, I wanted to see how much Miss Thing was getting, since she was so important). Then, she almost forgot her card, which I was going to remind her until she turned around and gave a dirty look like I was in her space or invading her world. She grabbed her card, looking over her shoulder at me––still on the phone––and almost ran over some dude walking into the building. I laughed. Not because she almost dropped her phone. Because that's what I do now, as opposed to what I would have done before cancer.

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer and have beaten it twice, I have learned to let the small things go. I used to sweat the small things––still do, sometimes––and always handle the big stuff. The little things used to drive me crazy. Oblivion used to make me nuts. Inconsiderate people used to make my blood boil. I had to catch myself on this one. I have learned that life is too short. That I'm letting others dictate my mood. That there are assholes on every corner, in every part of the world, in every profession and in every family. How I deal with them, is up to me. I can let them get under my skin or I can laugh it off and feel sorry for them. Or write about them on my blog. Hey, I have an even better idea. I'll call Larry on my cell tonight while driving home. Of course I'll be paying attention to those around me. 

Or get off the phone and wait until I get home.