Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Singing, and sitting, in the rain

Front row seats at the Delacorte Theater
There was good news and bad news when it came to our annual mother-daughter traditional trip to Shakespeare in the Park on Saturday.

For the good news, the four-hour wait for free tickets went as quickly as it always has, and was as entertaining as usual, with dogs and people on parade. The seats, randomly assigned, were in the front row, the best we ever had. The musical production of Twelfth Night,  featuring professional actors and members of community groups from all five boroughs, was FANTASTIC. As in, fall off your seat incredible.

I could have written slide off your seat, because promptly at 8, when the show began, it started to rain. The huge cast performed valiantly, in the rain, for 50 minutes.

The bad news is that despite a rain delay when hopes were high that the show could continue,
they had to call it when it turned into a downpour. There were about 40 minutes to go. Cast and crew, and even Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, were out there squeegeeing. Having a front row sea during this portion was pretty amazing also, but it would of course have been better if they were able to continue. Some theatergoers in the know were smart to bring ponchos to keep them dry. We had only rain jackets, which only go so far to keep you dry.

We had a rain delay one other year, but the rain subsided and the show continued. I was soaking wet and not very comfortable, but it made for a fun memory.

We had learned that a pre-show would start at 7:30. Knowing it might rain, we got there on time for what turned out to be an onstage carnival in which audience members could wander around. In a tweet, Shaina Taub, who wrote the music and lyrics and plays the role of Feste, called it "a boost of communal joy."

It truly was.

The collaboration was originally performed in 2016 through Public Works, which brings together professional artists and community members from all five New York City boroughs.

Performances will continue through August 19. Weather permitting, we want to go back and see it through to the end. This would mean waiting on line again, but it would be worth it...though maybe not so much fun if it rains again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tennis in the heat, weird dreams in bed

At my happy place, Holyoke Canoe Club
I dreamt I was in Atlantic Beach (Long Island) site of idyllic summer days. My father was gone. My mother didn’t own the house anymore but had an agreement with the woman who did own it that we could use it on weekends. We went for a weekend. I planned to run on the boardwalk and take a walk with my mother. 

We heard that the woman was coming earlier than expected, with her kids. I have seen this woman before in my dreams. She isn’t nice. She wants to rearrange the furniture. We have to “butter her up” so she lets us continue to use it. I say to one of her daughters, “I grew up playing kickball in these streets. I need to keep coming back.” 

She says she will take care of it. But they want us to leave early. There will be no time for the run or the walk. I ask my mother if we can stay an extra couple of hours and maybe hang out with our neighbors, the Lublins. It doesn’t seem likely.

In another part of the dream, I am down at the ocean. It is supposed to be calm. But the waves are rough. A tidal wave approaches. I dive into it, then come up for air. I run to dry land, into a room, but the water seeps through. Then I am standing under an overhang. The wave crashes over it. Tiny droplets fall onto my head. Tidal wave dreams seem to be about surging emotions. I have a lot of variations. I think I did OK in this one.

I also dreamt that I walked into my mother’s jewelry store and stood back in shock when I saw my aunt Cinny behind the counter. I thought, “But you’re dead!” When I walked closer, I saw that it was a woman with red hair, with a strong resemblance to my aunt. 

Out of the blue, a voice said, “You believe in Jesus!”

I said, “I do not believe he is the son of God, but I do believe he was a good man.”


My friend and editor Mimi thinks I should stop already, but I don’t know how to tell my subconscious to get out of there.

In the dream, I went into the newspaper office and talked to some reporters who were there. I asked if (managing editor) Wayne would let me write three reviews a week. I said I really missed being in the office and would even do it for free. A reporter said they were letting go, not hiring. I decided to go to the library to look for other newspapers that might accept a review. Then I remembered that I was a freelancer and could pitch anywhere I wanted.

In real life, I have been playing a lot of pretty good tennis. It is a little crazy to do this in the heat. It is of course not good for my skin. But I don’t see how you play tennis this summer without getting sun. I finally found a relatively comfortable sun protection shirt, made in Australia. I wear sun protection gloves. I use sunscreen. It is my therapy and so I continue to do it.

I have skipped a couple of George’s Wednesday clinics at the Canoe Club in favor of yoga with Meghan at the Hampshire Y. The clinics are like summer camp for adults, and a lot of fun, but it is also so much sun despite starting out on George’s “air conditioned” court near the river. He makes it really difficult if you say you need to leave early. (I know, I’m a big girl, but if you know George, you’ll know what I mean about how hard it is to do the opposite of what he says. Note to self: Next time just do it, to save your skin.) Also: Do not neglect the yoga. It provides an important balance.

I had to play singles in a summer league match. I haven’t played singles in a long time. I have a claim to fame in winning at the Districts in singles. A long long time ago.

When I was practicing on the Mount Holyoke courts, I chatted with the coach running the summer tennis camp. I told him I was a little nervous about playing singles. He said, “I always tell people, 'You’re a tennis player, not a singles or doubles player.'" That made an impression.

Out on the court, I said “bounce, hit,” a method I learned from reading The Inner Game of Tennis. It helps quiet mental chattering and calm nerves. I reminded myself that I was strong. I fixed my strings (not really because there is nothing to fix; it is just another technique that improves focus.) I bounced around on my toes, despite getting tired. It helped me keep energized.

We played the whole two hours. I have to admit that by the end, my back was stiffening up. 

I won in two sets, in a “timed match,” meaning we ran our of time when I was ahead by two games at 5-3. I think I won the first set 7-5, but it is mushing in my memory with last night’s winning match in the heat, this time doubles, with my summer team, the Paper Dolls, with a fun partner. I had already played in the morning with a regular Monday group. When we stopped, the sweat was dripping into my eyes to the point where I couldn’t see.

I mentioned to my partner that at Dana-Farber, my home-away-from-home, they wouldn't be happy about all the sun on my skin. I can't remember who knows what.

She asked if I was in treatment. I have a good nutshell summary that consists of past leukemia and current side effects including problems with my skin. If there is time and it seems appropriate, I throw in four bone marrow transplants. She said you would never know it.

When we were done, I walked very slowly out of  Forest Park . You could say I trudged. I headed straight to Friendly's for a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.  By the time I got it, that ice cream tasted pretty great.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

In Wellfleet, a first trip to the ocean

It was a long drive to and from, but another trip to Wellfleet was well worth it. This time it was with all three kids – yay – and guest of honor Nell at Diane and David's "treehouse" in the woods.

It was Nell's first trip to the "big ocean," as compared to the Long Island Sound, her neighborhood beach.

I remembered how, the first time Joe saw the ocean, he said, "Water too big."

Nell had the advantage of going at low tide and walking right into a tidal pool, a "mini ocean," where other kids were playing. (Thanks David for the heads-up).

I can't find the right word for how it feels to see my baby with his baby. Strange (because wasn't he just that age) and wonderful (because I had said, "I'm never going to see my grandchildren, and now I have two of them.)

There was a lot for her to do. Such as, go to a playground near the beach, eat ice cream and more ice cream, and take a ride in Diane's canoe in the shallow part of Gull Pond, through the reeds.

She wanted me to have a ride also, so I clambered in also after Ben and Diane paddled her around. At first it seemed like I wasn't going to be able to get out from my seated position in the middle. Katie tried to pull, to no avail. So I turned around and stood up like I usually do. Did I feel a little like an old lady? Yes, at that point, but not when I got up at the crack of dawn (my father's words) and drove into town for a coffee and a three-and-a-half-mile run.

We ate a lot of great food, from the dock – Mac's Shack – to the dining room table. The bluefish, probably right off the boat, was so fresh and delicious that even those who don't eat much fish asked for it for a second night. After dinner, we went out on the deck and looked at fireflies.

The idea of getting everyone together was born last summer when Katie and I were leaving Wellfleet. She asked where Ben and Joe were. We knew where they were, but I knew what she meant. It had been a while since the last family vacation. I began to put out feelers.

Being able to look a whole year ahead with as much confidence as the next person, as opposed to having leukemia and being afraid to plan for anything, gave me an idea for a post on the blood cancer platform of Health Union, for which I have been writing.

It would be about how my view of the future changed incrementally. At first and after each relapse, I  would plan for the short term. Getting out of the hospital for Mother's Day, getting out for Ben's high school graduation. When I got to those events, I garnered the courage to plan for other things. Sometimes I planned and it didn't work out. Such as the time I got pneumonia right before I was scheduled to go to California for my cousin Nancy's 60th birthday party. But the world didn't end. I got to see the photos. 

I just thought of something that I don't want to get caught up in.

I planned a trip to Cape May and I relapsed.

I got better and planned a trip to California. And relapsed again.

Joe said to never plan a vacation to any place other than Cape Cod.

So we went to Cape Cod again and all was well.

Does that mean that I can never break the curse?

Of course not!


Monday, July 2, 2018

Stupid statement, sad state of affairs (in news biz)

Stupid question of the year: "When was it that you didn't feel OK?"

Person who asked: nurse manager at internist's office, after I told her for the second time that I did not need a monthly check-in call because a lot of people were already following me, but she had someone from her office call me anyway.

My answer to when I didn't feel OK, after a Pinteresque pause: "In 2003, when Dr. B diagnosed me with leukemia, and after I had four bone marrow transplants."

(He didn't diagnose me personally, but rather sent me to the hematologist who performed the definitive bone marrow biopsy.)

To back up, at my last checkup, the nurse manager (or maybe practice manager) said she wanted to talk to me afterwards. My doctor said it had to do with Medicare rules for following high-risk patients. He said it would have made more sense when I was sick, as opposed to now, when I am (mostly) well.

When we met, she asked if I needed anything, and would it be helpful for her to call me once a month. I said I had so many people following me, and so many appointments to juggle, that it would be detrimental to add one more thing.

She said she understood.

Then I got the call anyway. I don't know why I find this so annoying, except that the tone and approach was patronizing, as though I don't know what's good for me.

It occurred to me that I could join the ranks of People Who Do Not Call Back. But I called back in case there was a problem with my insurance or something like that.

No, it was just that check-in call. I said it was odd that nobody called the whole time I was sick, hence her question about when it was that I didn't feel well.


No, I didn't really say that.

What I DO have to do is get my ECP, the light therapy, changed. It is scheduled for Wednesday, July 4th, when the only sunburning will be to the outside of peoples' skin (not mine) as opposed to internally, which is what happens in ECP.

I said I would go in Tuesday, tomorrow, then realized it was crazy and called to change it but didn't get a response so I'll have to email. I'll either add an extra week to keep on the same schedule without missing too much, or just skip to my next appointment.

I've been finding a little joy in pinching my thigh and feeling a little loose skin. This could be a sign of progress, a further loosening of my skin, which for a while, hasn't had any "give."

Like many who started their journalism careers at small papers, I have been thinking a lot about the
shooting at the Capital Gazette. Memorial services began today for the five victims, who were hardworking journalists, like many I have known, just doing their job.

I was driving when I heard the news. It took a minute for Baltimore to register. Then I thought, that's where my friend Greg is a copy editor now. I pulled over and made a call and found out that he is at the sister paper, the Baltimore Sun. He worked with those who were killed. He wrote eloquently on Facebook about the loss.

I came out of a similar place – The Transcript-Telegram, or T-T – where dedicated reporters and editors put out a good little paper, and, as far as I know, would never have expected a gunman to burst in and commit a horrific crime. I can still picture the newsroom layout – open and accessible to anyone who walked in – and can still hear the clack clack clack of actual typewriters, the ringing of the alarm on the wire machine when an important story came over, the crumpling of paper when a reporter was unhappy with a story and ripped the typewriter paper out. And of course I'll never forget the trip down to the K-Mart Plaza after work to a hole-in-the-wall bar where we had a few (or more than a few) beers and talked into all hours of the night about the old-time newspaper characters.

Not too long ago, when I ran into a public official who I hadn't seen for a while, and he asked, "Are you still an enemy of the people?"

It was a joke, of course, but Donald Trump's "enemy of the people" description of the press has led to such a toxic atmosphere for journalists that, although you can't prove it, you could imagine being fuel to the fire of the Gazette shooter's rage over some stories that it ran about him.

This rhetoric has led to journalists being shoved, mocked, and threatened. Jeremy Peters, the New York Times Washington correspondent, said on Morning Joe today that some Trump supporters walk up to him and say that his stories are "fake news." Not as shocking as a shooting but it is seriously dismaying.

It's important to step back, with memorial services having started today, and honor those who died and those determined, heroically, to put out the paper.

Greg and I had such a serious conversation about all this that I felt like ending with a funny remembrance on the theme of getting the paper out.

I was a an arts and lifestyle reporter at The Republican at the time of a huge snowstorm. The plow was taking forever to come. The managing editor wanted me to get into work. I said I couldn't get out. (As I told Greg the story, I said Matt instead of Wayne, transposing T-T and Republican editors, then corrected myself.) Mimi passed along the message that Wayne was serious about me getting into work. I got in the car, put it in gear, and tried to plow through the snow. The car got stuck. I tried unsuccessfully to dig out. Wayne thought maybe I could take a cab. There were no cabs.

Finally, late in the afternoon, the plow came. I went into work, got there around 5, touched base, and went back home a couple of hours later. I didn't accomplish anything, but I did show up.