Moderation

I’ve been drinking too much. Or too often. Either way, this hangover is telling me I need to cool it. This hangover is also suggesting a Bloody Mary.

Starting with a weekend jaunt to New York and culminating with last night’s police assistance to find my iPhone right where I left it (in the Uber), I’ve been ping ponging to events that include maybe one too many drinks in formalwear. Bernie and I have also been doing this low carb thing, so although we look fabulous, we have all of the tolerance of a sophomore at a field party.

It’s Gala Season, y’all. And when your dearest friend has been planning an event for, like, a year… and then 800 people attend and donate nearly $200K to champion homeless children, that’s cause for some school night celebratory drinking! So that’s what we did. And with a renewed devotion to the Home for Little Wanderers and vows to be better, more generous humans we toasted and clinked and gibber gabbered until my best babysitter was texting, “um… ETA?”

Tom was kind enough not to make me do babysitter math in my wine-infused, iPhone-less stupor. And really, not even the vat of Chardonnay I drank last night left me feeling as adrift as losing my phone. Thankfully, the Uber driver answered my 27th call this morning and just returned it to me—with the blank check, ID, and credit cards untouched. I gave him $100, five stars for his Uber rating, and a hug (which might have boosted mine).

When we were newly marrieds, Bernie lost his money clip… twice. Each time, it was right before the holidays and canceling the credit cards meant an unpredictable batch of online Christmas purchases was, too. His absent-mindedness had less to do with wine, and everything to do busyness. Both times, losing his money clip was a little nudge from The Universe telling us that we were trying to do too much all at once, forcing us to sit down, retrace steps, and spend umpteen on hold hours with customer service to protect our checking account from criminals. To this day, whenever I misplace something important, I take an inventory of the calendar items that seem so necessary, but aren’t.

So, I hear you, Universe. “No more mid-week drinking!” might be a hollow promise for a Thursday afternoon, especially after you returned my phone and valuables. And I should have learned this lesson with Ran so many summers ago when I realized I didn’t actually have the stamina to celebrate with gallons of Prosecco every time I greeted an old friend with my new hair. Even Dad and I made a hungover vow nearly twenty years ago that No Wine Shall Be Uncorked After 3am. Of course the corollary rule is that Uncorked Wine Must Be Finished, and the Stocktons are better known for that one.

Because Graduation Cere-mania follows closely on the heels of Gala-palooza, I’m thinking Moderation needs to be a bigger part of my party persona. Or I’m going to need one of you to whip up some Bloody Marys. Extra horseradish.

Basil-Haydens-Bloody-Mary

My Twitter Followers Love Cheese… by @steviesaf and @mewhinney

We haven’t done a back and forth in quite a while. Steve tells me Twitter is having a birthday, so we got all data nerdy about it.

Twitter turns 10 this week, and I’ve been on it for eight of those years @steviesaf. Twitter Analytics shows you lots of data about your audience, and I’ve find out some very interesting facts. Like how big I am among people who buy cheese.

I have about 1,200 followers and Tweet 2-3 times a day. My “engagement rate,” that is to say “people who vaguely care about what I tweeted” runs between 1-3%. This sounds awful, but is actually not bad and probably is as interesting as people find me in real life. I get about 2 “likes” a day.

That’s some good raw data. But Twitter Analytics is a real gift. You can find out a lot more about your followers. For example: 30% of mine claim an income of $250,000+ a year. Still another 30% claim $175K+ a year. And 20% of my audience admits a net worth of more than one million dollars.

So, as we can see, I have an audience of total liars.

Not surprising for a tech and news guy, around 80% of my followers like tech, business, politics and general news. But two-thirds like comedy! So I have a pretty good lock on the funny tech guys. And if you’ve ever met an engineer, you know finding 800 of them who think you’re funny is pretty good. (Or a lot of movie quotes, ed. note)

59% of my followers are guys. No surprise there. Pants humor skews male. I’m biggest in Massachusetts, New York and California (what’s up Silicon Valley!), but I rate in Texas, Florida and Illinois. Political campaigns should consider courting my endorsement.

Best of all, Twitter Analytics knows a frightening amount about what you buy. My followers’ biggest purchase is cheese (65%) and I love them for it. 87% of my audience, my top category, is into buying “premium brands.” So, my biggest takeaway is that @steviesaf is synonymous with “overspending on crap.”

Let’s see Britt (@mewhinney) top that.

 

Given it’s my blog, and I have ultimate editorial power and last word privileges, you’d think I could totally top that. But I can’t. Twitter Analytics did the loser-cough thing when I opened the program. I’ve only lured 527 followers to @mewhinney since I first logged on in 2009. Admittedly, I’ve only been active since I found @OhNoSheTwitnt and developed a GoT-themed girl crush that hasn’t subsided. People who stop by really don’t “like” me very much at all. Though I’ve had silly Facebook threads run over 100 comments long, I’ll only earn a “heart” or two a day on this harder-to-crack site. My meager 2.6% engagement rate is probably inflated by other weirdoes with insomnia (e.g., @steviesaf).

72% of my followers love comedy, writing, and music, and their income is equally stratified among levels quite south of the 1%-ers. And though a very small percentage of them own fancy homes, most of them wouldn’t scoff at a Chanel bag. Only 9% are vegetarian, which may have something to do with me constantly bashing liquefied salad diets and yoga.

Twitter Analytics can help you combine all of your demographic data into an amalgam of your typical follower. Mine is a California apartment-dwelling, dairy-loving comic with great taste. @13spencer should be hanging on my every word.

Every once in a while a huge account, like @CulturedRuffian, will post a dollar value that correlates with the worth of his Twitter-ing. Mine amounted to little less than one Jimmy Choo. And not even a boot, to boot. I’d love to know how someone with thousands and thousands of followers is surprised, delighted, disheartened, or aided by this demographic data. I’d also love to know who is buying all of this cheese on line.

cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy Vacuum

Every photo picks at the wound. Every memory aches. Every time I think of you, gone, I stop breathing. But then I smile. And then I cry. And then I go back to Facebook to find your community—your ministry of fun and kindness—to pick at the scab some more. This is where we are today, Joe. Scab picking.

You’d want me to write about it. That I know. You told me some of your best writing flowed through tears. Where you are now is beyond the effects of flattery and clever words conceding your awesomeness. But here on our little island home, we still need them. I want to fill this huge hole, this joy vacuum, with thousands of words that say, “Me, too! I loved him, too! He was the best, most human of humans.”

You were one of Dad’s best friends. The two of you, so different except for the irreverent joy you brought to every room. The two of you, so smart and loyal and hilarious. The two of you, holding court, poking fun, quick to hug, slow to end the party. Booming voices, huge laughter, enormous personalities… the Heroes of my Youth.

It’s so quiet, Joe. Jay and Heather told us about your perfect day. The best haircut, the promise of Spring, and the choice to walk home. (You’re Home now.) That helps us. So does your manifesto from July, presciently outlining this exact moment. There was no “glide path” for you. Neither fear nor anger at Nature’s timetable, you planned the ultimate road trip. I’m happy I was on one of the stops. Reading one of your essays feels like a visit with you, but actually pressing Burke flesh is food.

We’re a little bit more like you today. We’re making plans to be with each other and do the things we say we want to do… or at least figure out if we really want to do those things. We’re reaching out to everyone in your joy orbit to grieve together and marvel at the girth of your Spirit, the enormity of your Love. I think you’d like that.

Before I was born, you promised Dad to help paint my nursery. There was so much discussion about the wall paint, Chris thought that was my name. I’ve been WallPaint since birth. Except when I was Mewhinney. Or Blondie. Or whatever popped into that clever, fun-loving noggin of yours… and usually stuck. We could fill pages with the silly monikers you gave us. We’ll probably do that. We’ll do lots of things to make you feel closer. Anything to make the joy vacuum suck less.

I miss you viscerally, Joe. Though you had made peace with moving on, I wasn’t ready. But we’ll get there. Just a few more scabs, Joe. And then we promise to get to the hugs and giggles and some sort of serenity. Benny is going to help. Look at this kid so obviously infused with Joe-ness.

Benny

Me too! I loved him, too! He was the best, most human of humans!

I love you in that forever kind of way… your admirer, your friend, your Mewhinney, your WallPaint.

 

 

Grief, the sixth sense.

Stabbing Myself in the Back… by Steve Safran

I lied.

I said I wasn’t going to write about cancer anymore, but the after-effects have become overwhelming and it’s time to share a little more.

So here it is. My back catches on fire.

Ok, I mean that figuratively, because this “burning back” feeling has a name: neuropathy Neuropathy is common in chemo patients– about one in three get it. Think of it as pins and needles, only the pins are sticking you from the inside and the needles are hot enough to push through steel.

It comes in attacks, and there’s generally no way to know when. I have a few indicators: I’m more prone to neuropathy when I’m hot. Even having hot soup can bring on an attack. I get more attacks when I’m tired. I get it if I’ve been walking. So as long as I don’t move or go to sleep, I’m fine.

Now, I’ve had all sorts of side- and after-effects from chemotherapy and I’m happy to make the trade in exchange for the not-having-cancer bit. However, I’m finding the nerve damage to make for a terrible Catch-22.

Some background: During treatment, cancer docs want you to keep eating. This is to keep the nausea at bay. Also, nearly every local loved one is delivering casseroles, soups, baked goods, and lasagnas. Unfortunately, eating is the last thing you want to do during and after chemo. But they recommend 2,000 – 3,000 daily calories and avoiding an empty stomach. You know that lightheaded, skipped lunch, nauseous feeling when you’ve slogged through a busy day on coffee alone? Imagine that times chemo.

But they say you need to eat. And you can eat anything. Really? 3,000 calories of Ben and Jerry’s? OK, you’re the doctor. So I ate. I ate without joy. I ate in bed. Not good.

Truth: I’m heavy. I’m 5’7” and weigh 230 lbs. Not quite Homer Simpson, but more than the standard, doughy “Dad Bod.” My ideal weight is 150-175 lbs. When I found out I had cancer, I weighed 226 lbs. When I was finally declared cured, I weighed… 227 lbs.

I put on weight while I had cancer.

If I can’t lose weight on cancer, what chance does Weight Watchers have?

So now, with “remission” and NED (no evidence of disease) notations in my medical chart, it’s time to get back into shape. Only– the neuropathy. My energy is low. The cure? Exercise. The bad cholesterol is too high, the good one is too low. The way to reverse that? Exercise. My blood sugar needs to come down. The remedy? You get it.

Except as soon as I start moving, my back, legs, and shoulders start a conflagration suitable for a Fourth of July bonfire. Get your marshmallows on your sticks, kids. Stevie’s on the treadmill.

Oh– did I mention what else helps neuropathy? Exercise.

I’m taking a fibromyalgia medicine they give those poor folks who are in a constant, unrelenting nerve pain that I cannot imagine. I get bouts of the fire needle attacks, but they go away. To feel like this all the time? Insane. I’d rather vote Trump.

I’m going to try swimming: cooler water, less pressure on the joints, less overheating. Maybe it will do some good. My Body Mass Index indicates I’m certainly buoyant enough.

The list of things that happen after cancer is getting long and, unfortunately, interesting. It may be time for a book. Working title: “Cancer: So, You Think The Disease Was Bad…”

funny-fitness-cartoon-1

MY 2016 MIXTAPE FOR YOU… by Steve Safran

It’s time for an annual tradition: the Valentine’s Day mixtape. Last year’s was well-received, so now it’s an annual thing. This ancient rite dates back to the 1980s, when it was the height of romance to give a mixtape to that special someone. Also, it was free. (Minus, of course, the price of a good tape. Maxell was my choice.)  Here, then, is my 2016 Mixtape for You. Although I have linked the songs here to their YouTube versions, seek out these songs and listen on a good stereo or some great headphones.

SIDE ONE

  1. Happy Days” (Squeeze) A fantastic return to form for the band that will always make my mixtapes. This is off their new album, “Cradle to the Grave,” which came out this year – Squeeze’s first album of original songs this century. “Happy Days” is a simple ode to packing the car and having a great weekend trip. I read a great piece this past year on how the band’s ‘80s greatest hits collection “Singles, 45s and Under” is possibly the world’s most addictive album. Damn right. This would fit in perfectly.
  1. For Once In My Life” (Stevie Wonder) It’s Valentine’s Day, after all, and this is Stevie at his Wondermost. A little guitar riff at the top and then right into it. Try not to smile when you think he’s singing this right to you. How this isn’t a top wedding song, I’ll never know.
  1. Two of Us” (Aimee Mann and Michael Penn cover The Beatles): This is such a perfect, compact treat. Rarely do covers of Beatles songs match or exceed the source material. But I like that spouses Aimee Mann and Michael Penn duet on this – having real life sweethearts sing this one makes it, I dare say, better than the original. Plus, come on, Aimee Mann and Michael Penn. Top that.
  1. Life On Mars?” (Played as an elegy to David Bowie) Bowie’s dead, and that sucks. It led to one of the greatest spontaneous tributes I’ve ever heard. After Bowie’s death The organist at St Alban’s Cathedral outside London played Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” likely unaware it was being recorded. It is a perfect elegy. Try not to tear up.
  1. Two Hearts” (Phil Collins) OK, it’s Phil, and don’t give me crap about it. Phil announced he’s going to make a comeback album, and the Internet exploded with hate. Revisionist nonsense. Phil Collins is great. He’s a fantastic songwriter and legendary drummer. Phil wrote it with Lamont Dozier, part of the legendary Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. It’s peppy, very Motown and it avoids Phil’s tendency toward cloying writing in love songs. Listen, dance, repeat. Side one is over.

 

SIDE TWO

  1. Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)” (The Tufts Beelzebubs cover Bob Dylan) The bad breakup. The bitter end. The desire to lash out. The sarcasm. All of that is in Dylan’s original song. But the ‘Bubs take it somewhere else. In this slow, deliberate, harmonious cover, they turn it into a song of regret and longing. I love when artists take a song and turn it on its head. The a cappella is wondrous. How did they arrange this? Valentine’s Day can suck. Let Dylan and the ‘Bubs help you through it.
  1. Smile” (Nat King Cole) This has just terrible, awful advice. “Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking… You’ll see that life is still worthwhile if you just smile.” Are you kidding me? “Just smile?” And yet, what a song. Did you know Charlie Chaplin wrote it? So what if it is the least empathetic advice you could give to someone. It’s still touching and damn if you won’t tear up.
  1. The Boys Are Back in Town” (Thin Lizzy) Huh? What’s this doing here? OK, mixtape maker’s privilege here. I had a mix to listen to when I was getting chemo. This led it. It was my “get psyched – here come the poisons for your body” song. Coping mechanisms are weird things. You have your treadmill mix, I had my chemo mix.
  1. Layla” (Derek and the Dominos) Eric Clapton wrote this to steal George Harrison’s wife. There’s no way around it. It worked. Patti Boyd divorced Harrison and married Clapton. But, this being the ‘60s (and early ‘70s) things were cool. Harrison and Clapton remained friends, and Harrison even went to the wedding. Patti Boyd must have been something. She inspired at least 11 songs including “Something,” “Wonderful Tonight” and “I Need You.” But “Layla” is the best and most scandalous of the bunch.
  1. Moonlight Serenade”  (Glenn Miller Orchestra) As I noted last year, this has to be the last song. Nothing comes after “Moonlight Serenade.” Back from the war, you’re boozy and tired, your last Lucky Strike about to burn your lips. What was her name?  Do eyes really come in amethyst? She was, what, a nurse? You shared a dance with her, anyway. “Hattie,” was it? Maybe she was USO. Her phone number… MAyfair6-31… Oh, Hell. Someone has poured you into a cab, and your last recollection of the evening is that the band, oh, what a band, played “Moonlight Serenade” as you danced with… Christ… “Maddy?”
Maxell

Happy Valentine’s Day friends!

Lees on the Road

We’ve been gone for 10 days. Two consecutive plastic surgery meetings required four flights and long hours wasted in airport security lines. In Phoenix, the retractable barriers separating switchback lines of shuffling travelers boasted “The Friendliest Airport in America!” which was contradicted by exasperated staff barking at us to empty our pockets and remove clothing that might beep. As we padded through the fucking garbage hateful scanner, I fumed at the futility of this pre-boarding nonsense. “Not one of us is a terrorist!” I didn’t scream, because then everyone would think I was a terrorist. I blushed at uniformed strangers getting a glimpse at my implants in the name of national security. “Hey, these contain MORE than four ounces!” I didn’t joke because the security line doesn’t like jokesters. Finally aboard the plane—fondled, humiliated, and bathed in the breath of strangers—it was two to four hours of restless, foodless discomfort. Hats off to those of you who travel frequently and don’t offer a constant stream of more-annoyed-than-thou tweets about the experience.

I might be a grumpy traveler, but I’m a darling meeting attendee. Honestly, I’m so darned impressed with anyone who stands up in front of a huge audience of peers to talk about what they do. Especially when what they do is restore women to pre-cancerous normalcy, even beauty. Also, there are always new people to meet and I love love love new people to meet. Isn’t everyone amazing and smart and delightful? I think so– especially when meeting them happens during cocktail hour.

I also “met” a broader tweeting community, as Bernie and I launched the Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery into the social media sphere. I’ve been playing with Twitter for years: following the funny people, writing little nothings, and getting to know @JustinGuarini all over again. (He’s delightful. Go see.) With a handful of new plastic surgeons following, my feed is full of facelift facts and why you might want your implants to be textured. This community has only a small toehold in the virtual world of opinion-shouters, but it’s growing thanks to charmers like @OlivierBranford and @danielzliu. And now that I have two more #SoMe sites to monitor, I’m more attached to my phone than an Instagrammer with an Etsy, new kitten, and a kitchen remodel project.

Monitoring social media is more of a time suck than deciding what to watch on Netflix, and I have stuff to do. Or, maybe I don’t. Between these two meetings I was asked 163 times if I’m ever going to be a surgeon again. Some are genuinely wondering if that is a thwarted dream on temporary hold. Other inquiries gently imply that my days are spent waiting for repairmen and searching for delicious crockpot recipes. Which is ridiculous. I hardly use the slow cooker at all during the summer.

Once again, I found myself defending my days, recounting hours spent on “pathological volunteerism” and reminding them that submissions to the Journal are read and vetted by me first. So there, you little misspellers and Oxford comma omitters… I’m judging you!

At long last the meetings had ended and it was time to race back through airport security to attempt a standby flight to see our little boys even one hour sooner. I wanted to be home instantly. Ten days is forever. I was sure they were taller and better at math. There were missing teeth to appreciate, stories to hear, snuggles to give. We were miraculously awarded the last two seats on the plane. Squished into middles… in separate aisles… bathed in the breath of strangers. Couldn’t have been happier.

It’s nice to be home. HVAC guy should be here any minute.

Leesontheroad

Bow tied Bernie and me. Lees on tour, now happily home.

 

 

 

Food

Last night I made a completely mediocre dinner. Everything was organic and gorgeous and roasted and sautéed in approved oils and should have been delicious. But it wasn’t. Also, those Whole Food-vegan-pig sausages are too reminiscent of phalli to be consumed by the 11 year old without protestations and sniggering. So in lieu of yummy noises (which is the norm at the dinner table), there were lots of giggles (because of the penis dinner), and everyone was going to be hungry again in an hour.

This week, Tom and Gisele’s cook was interviewed in the Boston Globe. Their gifted chef would never serve mediocre food. Or maybe he could. According to my interpretation of the interview, Tom and Gisele don’t really like food. Their kids eat vegetarian sushi with brown rice. For lunch. Every day. “Comfort food” is wilted kale over quinoa. Sugar is so verboten Tom will hardly tolerate a banana, or understandably, the homemade fruit roll ups the chef makes with pond scum. Yes, America’s healthiest beautiful people eat pond scum. After spending $1200 and umpteen on-line hours learning about nutrition from noted specialists, this Chef to the Loveliest touted Spirulina (a blue green alga) a “super fruit” and mixes it in to all sorts of dishes to keep America’s sweethearts heart-healthy.

Now, I might be a bit more schooled in the subject of phycology than Allen Campbell. After all, I’m published in Aquatic Botany. But most multicellular sentient beings recognize that algae aren’t fruit. And though you could make a reasonable salad with kelp stems and spring Ulva, why would you bother when we have stores containing shelves upon shelves of… food?

Immediately and irrepressibly I was poking fun at Chef Campbell for admitting he doesn’t begin any work day until 11am, and for his zeal for sober, raw, gluten-free, mostly meatless (possibly joyless), decaffeinated meals that MUST BE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY. With my medical degree and usual smugness, I wondered if sprinkling an Advil over a bowl of fettuccine could have the same effect. But Allen Campbell, with his impressive log of one (1) on-line course in nutrition, informs Globe readers that tomatoes, eggplants, flour, sugar, mushrooms, milk, and fruit will be the death of you. Also, scrap your shaker of Morton’s. The beautiful people only salt with the Himalayan pink crystals (which are, in fact, 98% good old NaCl).

Maybe he’s right. I mean look at Gisele and Tom– so genetically gifted they are perched on the high dive of the gene pool, hardly dipping a toe in the deep with the rest of the sugar-eaters. But if the secret to youth, beauty, vibrancy, likability, wealth, success, and Super Bowl victories hides in their mostly empty kitchen cabinets, it’s worth attempting one Brady-Bundchen meal à la Campbell. So I did. And it wasn’t gross, it was just… meh. Maybe Spirulina was the secret ingredient missing from my bowls of savory, organic stew. More likely it was the shit ton of garlic and delectable saucy flavors only a talented chef could invent to mask the fact that super healthy food is often super blah.

Allen Campbell isn’t the first celebrity chef to affect medical wisdom when he has none, but his lack of self-effacing perspective really made the interview dry heave-y. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these people could giggle a bit about food? The carefully curated diet, hired specialist, and ever-growing list of Must Never Eat foods is so so so so so boring to me. It’s Kardashian level boring. Certainly nutrition is essential, but it would be nearly impossible for most mortals to plan affordable and entirely organic and vegetarian pond scum flecked meals that taste wonderful. I would have eaten up an article by Campbell confessing how fucking hard it is to whip all of these plants into something as satisfying as a burrito from Anna’s Taqueria. Or how little Benny and Vivi snigger at and refuse to eat a penis-shaped or otherwise repellent-because-so-healthy meal. So sometimes he sneaks them cereal an hour later. Just like the Lees.

Algae

Kids! Dinner’s ready!

 

 

2015 Was a Year… by Steve Safran

 

Steve writes the only year-end summary you will need.

2015 was, without a doubt, a year. It lasted a remarkable 365 1/4 days, during which the sun rose and set an average of once a day. For me, personally, each day had 24 hours. Many people felt the same, and others did not.

With every day, there seemed to be news. Much of that news occurred. Some of it was unexpected, and pundits called it “unpredictable.” Other events happened that people saw coming. Still other things happened that some people foresaw but others did not.

Controversial things happened in 2015. Less controversial things were reported on the local news. There was a variety of weather.

Also, in 2015 there were sporting events. A scrappy, underdog team overcame tremendous odds to win. An overwhelming favorite made its fans cheer with great excitement as they, too won. There was tremendous heartbreak as some teams lost. Most people agree that 2015 had sports. There are those who do not.

It was a year during which there were events that were beyond our control. People had differences of opinion. It seemed, at times, we’d never agree. Yet, we came together on some matters. Many of those matters involved ribbons.

In 2015 many famous people died. Others died as well, but they weren’t famous.

Popular culture made us laugh, cheer and dance. There were new movies, music, plays and forms of rhythmic movement involving the posterior. Adults were shocked by many of these things and took to social media to express their outrage. There were public apologies by many people and companies. Other people and companies did not apologize.

We found, at the end of 2015, a full year had passed since the end of 2014. There are experts who believe the same will happen in 2016, but there is controversy on the topic. “Year-Truthers” believe the 365 1/4 number is a lie forced on us by the government. News networks devote equal time to both sides.

As 2015 passes into history, we can look back and see that there were four seasons. And that, in this reporter’s opinion, happened.

2016

Lisa’s Birthday

December 16th is Lisa’s birthday. Lisa is my forever friend from age 14. We talked every single day from 1986 when I moved to her school until our graduation day in 1989… and many after that. An early winter birthday meant Lisa was a full half-year older, which was huge in the teenage timeline. When we met on my first day at the new school, I knew she had the skinny on all sorts of things from bangs to boys– possibly even banging boys. Lisa knew stuff.

No no no, don’t sit next to those guys… come over here, she waved with a smile and a laugh, and absolutely no concern for “those guys.”

And I knew we’d be close right from the get go. We had both erased “Yaz” into our canvas-covered binders and matched our Mia ballet flats to our sweaters. Her expertly applied Maybelline played up her clear blue eyes that complemented her perfectly permed and scrunched brown locks. Lisa was sexy. (Still is.) Every teenage girl should have a Lisa, unless she is a Lisa, in which case she might need a Britt. Lisa pulled me out of my middle child good girl persona to experiment with rules, limits, beer (blech), boys, and hair products.

One boring day in high school, Lisa convinced Scott (a senior!) to lend us his Jeep and me (with a study hall and easy-to-evade science teacher) to skip. The fact that Scott let two unlicensed girls drive his very cool Jeep off campus during a school day is testament to what boys will risk for the slimmest possibility of nookie. After spritzing ourselves with perfume at the mall and pretending to be college kids at the McDriveThru, I started wondering if we should head back to school. Lisa reminded me that I was a straight A student, would never get caught, that I’d never get into trouble anyway because I was so blonde and smart and good, and then drove directly to the curb at my house and started honking the horn.

See? Your mom isn’t even going to come out of the house. And even if she did, she’d never think it was you in the car. Because you are AT SCHOOL. Can’t be you. Relax.

And so I did. Pulling myself out from under the dashboard and pulling away from my driveway, we opened all of the windows and let out primal screams of joy and youth and freedom. And then we returned Scott’s Jeep, took our respective buses home, and immediately called each other on the phone to relive the day and discuss how Scott was cute but, like, eww, not like that. Poor Scott.

As I watch my dearest friends’ daughters grow tall and gorgeous, I wonder if they’re a Britt or a Lisa or one of “those guys.” Can I even hope that they have the confidence of Lisa as a high school freshman? Never giving a shit about “those guys” and always completely certain she could sweet talk a boy out of his car (or anything else)? This is how I want these girls to sashay through the halls of high school. But who knows this at such a young age? How do we infuse our daughters with an unshakable sense of their worth and power?

Maybe we should share our Lisa stories—the ones that reveal we didn’t always make the best choices, but that the memories endure with great fondness because those choices were our own. The scariest and most fragile moments of youth can happen at the whim of thoughtless others when girls do not realize they have superpowers. Friends like Lisa would never let them doubt or forget their smarts and beauty and youth and abilities. Friends like Lisa make sure our co-conspirators for any bit of afternoon naughtiness are the ones who know us best and love us most.

Today is also the dreaded Cancer-versary, but this year I remembered it was Lisa’s Birthday first. It’s a Lisa-versary! Instead of succumbing to the seasonal blues associated with this calendar date, I’m taking a moment to remember how Lisa has always made me feel pretty, powerful, and fun. Years later she also showed me that breast cancer couldn’t take that away, either. Through her own treatment, recovery, and aftermath Lisa still approached life with a joyful passion like few others. With one in eight of us in the Shittiest Sorority, the odds weren’t entirely unlikely that we’d grow up to be cancer-ed in exactly the same way. Fitting somehow that my older, wiser buddy would get the skinny on it first. I was the physician, but Lisa knew stuff. She sent me a box of hats, socks, chocolates, and notes that were a perfect balm to the terror of the time.

Happy Birthday to my kind, crazy, sexy, wise, and hilarious friend. May all of your daughters be blessed with a Lisa—unless she is a Lisa—in which case… lucky you.

Lisa and Britt

Lisa and me… with all of our original parts… prom 1989

 

 

 

My (Mostly) Final Word on Cancer… By Steve Safran

I don’t want to be known for the rest of my life as “The Cancer Survivor.” I don’t even want to be known by that label for the rest of the year. So this is my final post– more or less– on the topic. It’s not that I’m going to ignore cancer. It’s just that it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled programming in this space.

Cancer can make you that person on social media. You know that person:

“The One with Four Thousand Pet Pictures”

“The One with ALL the Opinions about Obama/Trump/Vaccines/Guns”

“The One Who Posts Photo Memes” (so many photo memes)

“The One Who Should be Flogged with a Selfie Stick”

Admittedly, since I was diagnosed in May, my essays have been narrowly focused on reacting to that. But moving on, I don’t want to be “The One Who Only Posts About Cancer (but Didn’t He Used to Have a Sense of Humor)?”

For someone who didn’t immediately disclose his diagnosis on line, I guess I’ve come full circle wanting to give my timelines a break from cancer. For someone who has been paid to advise people to tweet and share and like and network, I wasn’t sure this felt right back in May. So I asked a friend, whose wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, how they decided to update everyone via social media.

I can boil down his advice as follows: People are going to find out anyway, so they may as well hear it from you. And once you decide to share, you owe it to your friends to update them on your progress. In the absence of information, they’ll assume things are getting worse. And vague updates are a really quick way to anger, worry, and annoy your “followers” even when you don’t have cancer.

So, I wrote. I shared the stories about the diagnosis, the weird hospital experiences, the humiliation and, yes, the very dark humor there is to be found in cancer treatment. My friends, supportive blog readers, and my growing circle of cancer survivor allies kept responding positively, so I kept writing. It was the only aspect of The Cancer I had any control over.

This past month, I’ve been raising money through a very silly cancer fundraiser called The Movember Foundation. I’ve grown a mustache, and friends have donated money—many have ignored their razors in hairy solidarity, too. The generosity has been remarkable: My friends have donated $3,200 to charities that concern themselves with testicular and prostate cancer, as well as other men’s health issues. I am honored, humbled, and grateful.

I’m cured now. “Movember” ends tomorrow. It’s time to get back to life without chemo and end the run of cancer-centric posting. I need to write about the new experiences, humiliations, and dark humor that 2016 will bring. I need to find a job. I need to post stupid jokes, mock Britt’s gardening obsession, poke fun at Debby’s height and Jason’s bald head (now that my hair’s back) and, possibly, be a little nicer too.

I want to be known as a lot of things: a friend, a dad, a colleague, a wiseass, a writer, an off-key singer, and a Sox fan. I’d like people to know I’m one of the world’s most average ukulele players. I want to be known as trustworthy, sincere but a little too sarcastic, open to new ideas and yet still set in my ways. I even like being known as “The One Hit by the Bat at Fenway.”

As for now, I’m finished being “The One Who Had Cancer.”

Steve Movember

‘Stash-tastic Stevie