Thanks, George

Let’s hope 2017 is better

Clocks in a New York City flea market

As a break from my usual tales of woe, lemme tell you some stories.

In sixth grade, the girl I had a crush on wore a shirt that said GO GO. Had no idea what it was about but, of course, I had to find out. No internet meant asking the popular kids, who just rolled their eyes because I never heard about WHAM!

Got my hands on a tape of them and I thought that they were ok. They were no Beatles but not altogether terrible.

Found out later that, as a child, George Michael was a fat and lonely son of immigrants that wore glasses and couldn’t get a girl to talk to him.

And here’s why it matters to me that he just died: It was honestly, the first time I really thought that the trajectory of my life might be different than it was. That even though I was a fat and lonely son of immigrants that wore glasses and couldn’t get a girl to talk to me, that it didn’t always have to be that way.

So I kept listening to him, impressed that he wrote and produced almost all of what he sang.

Enough that, when I had scraped together enough scratch from busing tables at the local Italian joint, the first two CDs I ever bought were Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun and Wham’s Music from the Edge of Heaven.

That girl that I had a crush on and I grew up together so that, when Faith came out, we were pretty good friends. By then, I’d decided that George was the coolest guy in the world. I bought shiny aviator glasses like he wore in the video. Because that’s what kids do.

The crush girl told me I looked like a bug. Told her that if it was good enough for George, it was good enough for me. He was old news, she said – but not to me.

Listened to I Knew You Were Waiting by George Michael and Aretha Franklin as I wrote my college essay. It was one of the few songs he didn’t write but that didn’t matter that much to me.

When I got to college, the two albums of my freshman year were Naughty by Nature and George’s Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Dude never released Volume 2. I woulda bought it.

Discussing music, my first freshman writing teacher said George wasn’t that great. He was no Beatle and, to her, somewhat terrible. I said she should give it a chance. She gave me a B+ instead.

It was always Waiting for that Day from that’s meant the most to me. Don’t think he ever even released a video for it but there’s a part that goes:

I just sit here on this mountain thinking to myself
You’re a fool boy
Why don’t you go down
Find somebody
Find somebody else
My memory serves me far too well

It dovetails nicely with a Chinese story I told you once about a man who sat on a mountain waiting sixty years for a flower to bloom as penance for betraying the woman he loved.

Suppose we’re all waiting for someone and someday. I heard that the man George loved the most in his life died just six months after he met him, which I always thought was terribly sad. His mom passed from cancer when he was just 34.

That’s the thing with tragedy, it gives you depth, but at such a price.

Maybe that’s why the songs I loved from him the most were about waiting and longing, two things I knew well growing up and, unfortunately, even now.

As it turns out, the person that I was waiting for in my mountain of brick and mortar was Alison. I wait for her still.

But I digress. Rumor has it that he died overweight and alone. That really bothers me. Perhaps it’s because that’s how I imagined I’d be now when I was a kid.

I could go on for a while. Just lemme say: George, you were the soundtrack to my childhood and you gave me hope that my life might be different for the better. And it was. In some ways, it still is, and others, far worse than I could have imagined.

Thanks for the hope, man. As for me, I hope you find the love the next life that eluded you in this one.

Me: I think my very favorite song from him is I Knew You Were Waiting for Me.
Her: I don’t like that song.
Me: How are we married?!


Crap, Debbie Reynolds died also. It’s like all the little bits of my childhood are determined to go before the year’s out.

This song sums up my thoughts as to her:

Here’s to 2017; let’s hope its better for everyone.

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Location: lying on the floor, listening to George, trying to get some relief for my @#$@#$ back
Mood: nostalgic
Music: Seems to me the peace I search to find ain’t going to be mine
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It’s been a year; here’s what happened that night

Searching for NED

Alison pregnant

As I write this, Alison sits outside talking to the baby.

A year ago around this time, she and I excitedly hopped a cab to the hospital a few blocks away to have our first child. This was after years of disappointments. That’s a picture of her above just before the big day.

Didn’t tell you all about her being pregnant because we’d been disappointed, oh, so many times.

Words can’t really describe how it felt during that time. To say that we were excited and happy doesn’t really doesn’t do justice to amount of joy we had.

Nate’s birth was, thankfully, quiet and uneventful. But Alison was…off.

She was clumsy, which has always been my role in the relationship. She was never clumsy. But we all just attributed it to her being a first time mother.

Five short days later, she said simply, “Something’s wrong” and collapsed, shaking into a terrifying full seizure.

The ambulance came and took her away to the exact same hospital that we were just at to give birth to Nate. I went with her. After several anxious hours in the ER, the doctor said that her blood looked “great.” We breathed a sign of relief.

But, there’s something on your CAT scan.

To this day, dunno why he didn’t lead with that.

A few anxiety and tear filled days later, another young doctor pulled me into his room and he pulled up her MRIs.

Even as a lay person, I immediately knew something was wrong. The cancer looked as it were half her brain.

Me: Is she dying?
Doctor: (coughing) Well…we’re all dying, aren’t we?

I wanted to punch him in his cowardly face. We weren’t getting the most emotionally intelligent doctors here. It didn’t matter anyway. I knew the moment I saw the picture. We only had a few months.

Got up and walked over and somehow told her what it was. She didn’t believe me at first. It must be some mistake, she said. But it wasn’t.

Words can’t really describe how it felt during that time. To say that we were anxious and terrified really doesn’t do justice to the amount of heartbreak we had.

Unbelievably, I had to repeat the process several gut-wrenching times over the next few months.

Dunno how much time I spent with her. Could have been an hour. Could have been thirty.

Then I told her that I had to go to the bathroom. Walked out the door and asked a nurse where the nearest one was.

Out the door to the right, and then another right. It’ll be on your left.

Thanked her, made a right, another right, and stepped into the bathroom on the left. Walked into the stall, and sat there by myself and said, “What the f___?”

Dunno how much time I spent there. Could have been a minute. Could have been thirty.

Afterward, got up, walked over to the sink, and told myself that I could do this. That she could do this. Splashed cold water on myself to make sure it wasn’t all a bad dream and I needed to wake up. It wasn’t. Repeated it just in case.

Nope, still in this goddamn hospital. So I went out, made a right, then a left, and then sat with her for another week in that goddamn hospital.

Alison cried every hour after that. I cried every night. At the time, it was the worst period of my life. Didn’t realize that there could be – and was – far worse to come. Said it before, there’s always more room for down (and the link before this comment is to an entry where we lost yet another baby).

Yet things have somehow improved, slightly. At least to the point where Alison is stable, for now. For some, this would be enough but it’s not for me. Like Bligh, I want us to go home.

Wish we could go back into time before she was brittle, or to the future, to see how she and the boy are.

Brain cancer is something so deadly that, unlike other cancers, there’s no such thing as remission. Instead, the best you can hope for is something they call NED: No Evidence of Disease.

We’re not there. There’re two small pieces of tumor still in her head. Like bullet fragments inching towards her soul. I’ll never sleep soundly again until they’re gone. Until we see NED. Even then, I’ll always be uneasy.

But the doctors didn’t think that she was going to last more than a few months. So we’re slightly hopeful.

And, as I’ve done throughout my life, I’ll struggle with whether or not the hope is a good or bad thing. And we wait for NED.

Her: (a year ago today, crying) Will I die?
Me: I won’t lie to you; it’s not good. But I won’t let you. Be strong, ok? We got a kid now. He needs you.
Her: (through tears) It’s not fair. I only had a few days with him.
Me: You’re right, it’s not fair. But you’ll get more days. I promise. I’ll do whatever it takes for you to get more days.

Nate just a few seconds old

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Location: home, waiting for more tests
Mood: pensive
Music: build time machines to go and get us back, back before we were brittle
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Stay, Gold

Stay Gold

Gold Statue
My dad told me a story once of a man who had a block of gold. He buried it in his yard and would dig it up periodically to admire it before burying it again.

One day, someone stole it and the man was inconsolable. But his friends told him to paint a rock gold and look at that. Because he didn’t use the gold, there really wasn’t a difference between a piece of gold and rock painted gold.

The moral of the story was that money has value only when it’s used properly. But I always thought it a weird story – the man knew what was real gold and what was paint.

Ended up bringing my wife to the emergency room again this past week. Was hoping to avoid it but we didn’t have a choice.

I’ll simply say that this time, I didn’t collapse to my knees but it was still pretty horrible. Waiting to find out more information and the waiting is excruciating.

I’m a lawyer, amongst other things. Not a doctor nor a nurse. I’m not qualified to do much of what I’m actively doing now. But I’m also an auto-didactic.

And the thing I need to figure out is how to save my family. Amazingly, Alison is not the only person in my life with a life-threatening aggressive cancer. In fact, there are three people I love in my life with life-threatening illnesses.

All of which seem to be reaching their nadir at once.

I think I’m of above-average intelligence. Figure most people think the same about themselves.

Yet, what’s the point of all the intelligence in the world if I cannot use to save my family? It’s like that guy with the piece of gold – all my intelligence is useless if I can’t use for the only thing that I care about in this rotten world.

Ever read The Outsiders? There was a kid there named Ponyboy that read a poem called Nothing Gold Can Stay.

So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

His friend Johnny implored him to “stay gold” in a world that’ll hollow out anything of value in you.

In my tin life, my family is only thing of any real value and they are all suffering. The only thing I want is for them to somehow stay.

I have to figure out a way to make that happen.

 

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Location: heading to the east side
Mood: weak
Music: I want it real. Run away with me now
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Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili

It’s been pretty cold here

Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.Photo credit: leitesculinaria.com

I’m writing this as I wait for a plumber to come and look at a pipe in my building. It’s so cold here that there’s a chunk of ice in an insulated pipe here in my apartment.

Supposed to be at a meeting at 11AM but instead, I’m sitting here as the temperature in the house slowly drops.

Tried to stay indoors as much as possible this past week or so but I had to head out for a number of things. During one of those things yesterday, I smashed my cell phone.

Again.

This time, though, there’s not gonna be a replacement. So irritated with myself.

Things just keep on breaking around me. Don’t think that electronics and I were meant to get along.

In any case, do you know just how cold is it here? It’s so cold that I’ve run through all the chili that was supposed to last me until March.

There’s a myth that gunfighter Kit Carson’s last words were: Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili. They weren’t, it was actually, Goodbye, friends. Adios, compadres.

But regardless, I can appreciate the sentiment.

While walking around in sub-zero temperatures yesterday, all I could think was, I’d rather be home with the wife and a hot bowl of red.

And if this plumber doesn’t show up soon, those may be my last thoughts as well.

Brrrrrrrrrrr!

Location: in my apartment, waiting
Mood: turning into an icicle
Music: Cold is the color of crystal the snow light
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A long and strange day

Doctors appointments, holiday parties, and violence

Scrubs at the doc's

Saw three doctors yesterday.

My day started at 5:30AM with a colonoscopy scheduled for 9AM. This meant a night of disgustingness the night before and then more of the same that morning.

Once I arrived, got right to work.

Doctor: I’m going to give you some anesthesia. It’ll feel like you had some wine. Do you want red or white?
Me: White. I’m more of a rum runner though.
Him: Rum we don’t have. See you in a little bit, Mr. Lo.

Woke up feeling pretty groggy. Got a Starburst afterward so there was that.

After I got home, got dressed and headed over to a completely different doctor’s office for an MRI for my shoulder. Turns out I have a torn infraspinatus in my left shoulder.

Doctor: Do you have any other questions?
Me: About life?
Her: (laughing) I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer all questions on life.

There was another doctor I saw but that’s a different matter. Then it was off to my office for our holiday party.

Having not eaten much in the last few days, devoured my weight in kosher sushi and pasta – an odd mix but perfect for a guy like me.

Co-Worker: You’re here? After seeing the doctor?
Me: THREE doctors. But I never miss a workday when there’s food involved.

Finally, headed out to teach my fencing class. Didn’t make it to bed until about midnight.

All-in-all a long and weird day that I’m glad is over.

Hope you have a much quieter, less eventful, and doctor-free next few days, folks.

Welcome to Greenwich Village NYC 2014

Location: home, resting
Mood: hungry
Music: Could we have kippers for breakfast?
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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Going down memory lane

William Street Subway Station NYC

Because I have all these deadlines, been all over the city the past few weeks again.

Similarly, my brother, who’s in town, has been driving around a few miles north of the city for a bit.

He actually managed to stop by where we grew up and took a buncha photos while he was up there, all of which took my breath away. Haven’t seen these places in 30+ years.

One picture stands out in my mind though, this one here. It’s panoramic so you can see what my street was like.

Here’s why it sticks out; that building is new but I still recognize the street and the entrance towards it. And I remember it clearly because my parents – who had no money for anything – would bring us there for our recreation.

To me, it was the the most exciting place on the planet for a six year old. I think I would go nuts at the prospect of going.

We would sit and read for hours. I suspect my mom left us there for a while because she figured no one would wanna kidnap two Chinese nerds.

But that was fine by me.

I wonder how much those years influenced my life. The sitting by my lonesome and just reading. My brother is the same way.

I’m looking forward to finishing up this spate of work for a number reasons – like to spend time with my wife and friends.

But I also want to sit by my lonesome and finish up a book I’ve been reading for a while now.

The more things change, yeah?

Location: my desk for now
Mood: nostalgic
Music: I may find myself delayed on the road to New Orleans
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The story of Tyre, Alexander, and the Elvis Barbershop

The Siege of Tyre and things that matter

Screen Shot of the Elvis Barbershop
Somewhere across the world, there’s a barbershop in Lebanon called the Elvis Barbershop. It’s located at the red marker you see above.

There’s nothing particularly interesting about the Elvis Barbershop except that I like its name – who names a barbershop “Elvis?”

It’s located in the city of Tyre, which is a peninsula off of the mainland.

Siege of Tyre.
Siege of Tyre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it wasn’t always a peninsula. It was an island for probably millions of years when Alexander the Great came by in 332 BC.

Alexander (Al, to his friends) had taken over much of the area and this was the last bit to be conquered. But the inhabitants of Tyre refused to surrender because they were an island fort with 200 ft (60 meter) walls.

And they were so arrogant that they tossed Alexander’s ambassadors over the walls to their deaths.

So Al filled in the land between the mainland and the island, pulled his weapons over, and laid siege to the island – now peninsula – for 70  days.

Afterward, he conquered the city-fortress and destroyed everything.

Fast-forward 2,400 years and there’s a fella in the world – presumably named Elvis – that has a barbershop on the ground that Alexander laid. An act only ancillary to Al’s main goal still affects the world to this day.

I’ve mentioned Alexander the Great in this blog and buncha times, mainly because he had such a profound effect on the world and how I look it.

Thought about all this because someone contacted me and said that something I wrote affected his life.

I think we all hope that the things we do have some lasting good effect far beyond ourselves.

The hope that somewhere in our wicked, wicked childhoods, we must have done something good that means something to someone.

Location: off to wrassle
Mood: thrilled
Music: nothing comes from nothing
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Playing Hooky

A cancelled appointment means ducking into a theatre

Under Manhattan Bridge

Was downtown the other day on a nice spring day. Ended up walking under the Manhattan Bridge.

It was pretty deserted where I was so I had some time to my thoughts.

Ended up walking past a model shoot and thought that they must be burning up as the midday sun hit high noon.

66th Street AMC Theatre

A client cancelled a meeting on me the other day so I was trying to figure out what I should put in its place: Another meeting? Catch up on some reading? Organize some files?

But then I thought, I’d not seen a movie as a matinee in ages so I decided to play hooky and catch a flick. Hoofed it over a local theatre and caught X-Men: Days of Future Past.

It was glorious.

AMC Theatre

There were only three other people in the entire theatre, the air conditioning was no joke, and the film was pretty good.

As I thought when I was downtown, there’s something luxurious about solitude in the big city. It’s hard finding room to be left alone.

Afterward, went home feeling like a billionaire. That is, until I got the chime that told me to get back to work.

Him: Where were you?
Me: Important meeting. Couldn’t wait. So, I reviewed your papers…

AMC Theatre

Location: Midtown, shortly
Mood: relaxed
Music: Finding new ways to be awed each minute
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The one with the barber brainteaser and Nighthawks

And I’m selling my Edward Hopper: Nighthawks


There this old joke/brainteaster I heard once where a stranger arrives at a small town and needs a haircut. There are only two barbers in town so he visits both of them.

The first one he goes to has a terrible haircut and looks like a mess. The second one has a perfect head of hair. The man immediately turns around and goes back to the first barber who had the terrible haircut – why?

While you’re thinking about that, I’ve been sick and have been fighting a lot of insomnia. I got up the other day to bake some cookies.

Was awake enough so that it was me and not Sleepy Logan.

Back to the brainteaser – it’s not that hard; if there are only two barbers there, the first barber must have gotten his hair cut at the second barber and vice versa. So the first barber’s terrible haircut is because of the skill of the second barber.

There are tons of logical issues with that but if you have a kid, it’s a good one to ask.

Which brings me to the picture above. The wife and I decided a while ago to buy each other one ornament a year for Christmas. That’s what she bought me.

She tends to buy me fun, homey-type ornaments while I buy her elegant classy ones. And the reason is the same – I tend to think of her as very classic and proper while I’m a lot more casual.

She bought it from Carolyn’s Christmas at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. Their ornaments are made in the Andes Mountains “using age-old methods of sculpting bread dough.” So it’s an ornament made of food, which I find kinda appropriate for me.

Apparently, they were super nice and spent a good amount of time getting the wording (“The Lo’s!”) just right so I thought they deserved a little mention here.

On a different matter entirely, I’m selling my Nighthawks painting by Edward Hopper; it’s a framed poster print in a dark brown hardwood frame. It measures 44″ x 32″ and I paid $300 for it a few years ago (and it’s in perfect condition since it just hung there) but can sell it for half that.

Here’s an entry on it that I wrote back in the day; I still love the painting but it’s a little dark for our living room now.

If anyone in NYC’s interested, lemme know.

OK, off to drink some more hot liquids and have a cookie.

Location: desk, wrapping up for the deal
Mood: sick
Music: Lately I’m obsessed and I need the rest. I hope that you’re impressed
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Remembering the Northeast Blackout of 2003

10 years since the East Coast Blackout

Me: Today’s the 10 year anniversary of the 2003 East Coast Blackout.
Her: Really? Wow. 10 years. Time goes by so fast.

I remember what I was doing that day/night well since it happened just under a year since the 9/11 attacks.

Was actually in a real estate closing when I realized that I was missing a check. So I made a mad dash to my office to get it.

On the train ride back to the meeting, the train got stuck in the tunnel. Was already panicked as this was only my third real estate closing so I remember that when the AC shut off in the subway car, I was already a sweaty mess. I also remember the subway car windows steaming up because of the humidity.

Hours later, the car doors opened in the middle of the tunnel and we worked our way in the dark to the station – we used our mobile phones for light. When I finally got out, I was a mile or so from the closing so I ran there with the check.

Was so absorbed in getting to the meeting that I barely noticed that there were no lights.

Arriving, I banged the door repeatedly when the building manager finally came and opened the door. “I’m…here…for the closing. Checks.” I said, breathlessly.

People walking in New York City during the bla...
People walking in New York City during the blackout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Closing?” he said, “There’s a ___ing blackout. There’s no closing.” And the slammed the door in my face. Only then did I look up and think, Well, that’s weird.

Eventually, I made it over to Rain’s apartment where we ended up BBQing on his roof since his fridge was stocked. I remember sitting on his roof ledge in a rumpled suit, dirty from my tunnel run.

Hours later in the dark, finally managed to grab a $80 cab ride back to my pad. We went at like three miles an hour up to the Upper West Side because of all the pedestrians and lack of light.

When I got home, found my sister waiting for me since she couldn’t make it to her home. Back then I had a car so I lent it to a buddy to go check up on his mom in Philly. End up eating everything out of my fridge for a late dinner.

Two things happened that day:

  1. I have a checklist for closings now so I never forget another check.
  2. Got this here story to tell people now.

All education’s expensive. Some, though, come with worthwhile memories.

Location: enjoying the strangely cool August weather at my desk
Mood: nostalgic
Music: It’s been a long night in New York City
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