Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sitting in the Stands at an A's game...

An old(er) man and his wife (probably both in mid-70's) sat down in front of me today at the A's game. Field level seats, on the aisle, allll the way up the stairs behind home plate, well under the overhang (and since it rained today, that was okay).

It took him 3 tries to hook his cane on the seat. He almost got me, but I kept ducking. As I'm sitting there, pre-game, eating my Oriental chicken salad, a small wooden object hit me lightly in the shoulder and bounced off my jacket. I found a tiny red sharpened pencil on the cement floor and tried to hand it back to the old man, but he kept ignoring me. Finally his wife took it from me, thanked me, and handed it to him. I said to him, "You must've thrown it over your shoulder." He wondered why he couldn't find it, took it, and started making marks on his scorecard without acknowledging my existence.

I'm going to be like that when I get older, I thought. Except I'll have a better hat, an A's cap. But I'll have the cane, and I, too, will be sitting close to the exit so that I don't have to climb the stairs.

His scorecard was as old as he was. But since he hadn't gotten through all the sheets, he must not go to that many games a year. But when he does, by golly, he whips out his old scorecard book and keeps score.

He barely talked to his wife all game, intent on getting the plays down on paper. It didn't help either one of us that the scoreboard was obscured from view by the overhanging concrete. He kept leaning forward to see a sliver of the bottom part of the scoreboard, occasionally lifting the binoculars to his eyes so that he could pick up the details.

A woman in an official-looking A's outfit came to our section and started handing out surveys on how well the fans liked the stadium experience. She spoke to him but he didn't hear her. She spoke again, trying to hand him the survey, but he ignored her. Finally his wife reached across him and took the survey and pen. He leaned toward the young woman to see what she wanted. When she said, "We just want to find out how we're doing," he shouted, barely above a whisper, "Here's how you're doing!" and shoved the scorecard in her face. She laughed.

His wife seemed so patient. She watched the game as silently as he did. When they stood up for the 7th-inning stretch song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," she had difficulty becoming fully erect. He helped her in the last millisecond, a good two-thirds the way through the song. I didn't think it was required of us to stand during this break in our pasttime, but apparently it is.

Yup, I'm going to be just like him. Tottering out to the ballgames. Using binoculars to aid my tired eyes. Keeping track of the players and the action in front of me and ignoring (and not hearing) the rest. If being put out to pasture means going to the ballfield, I'm halfway in the barn right now. Except I've got a better hat.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


My nephew Rick and I attended the Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis over the four-day weekend. What a disaster, both organizationally and weather-wise! We ended up scaling back our expectations, and still managed to have a good time. Here are the highlights and lowlights.

WORST PART: The organization, sure. But that lack manifested itself into horrible lines for everything, including an average of two hours just to get into the building (and we're talking about the special "fan member" line here). Once you got into the building, it took another two hours to get into any presentation (except George Lucas', which took all night or cheating or being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time) or an average of seven hours to get into the Celebration III store.

MOST UNPREDICTABLE: The Weather. I did forecasts every day for a month leading up. The last forecast, which was Tuesday for our Wednesday flight, showed rain only on our travel day, and mid-sixties for the rest of our stay. I didn't bring a jacket. When we got there on Wednesday there was no rain, and it was balmy. It rained the rest of the weekend, and even snowed on Sunday. The wind, which came in on Saturday, brought the weather down to the 20's.

SECOND MOST UNPREDICTABLE: Which line will they let in? When will they let them in? If we stand in the non-fan line will we get in any faster? If we stand in the SkyWay (leading to the hotels and mall), will we get in at a decent rate and be warm and dry? The staff did not communicate, and we had no clue from day to day as to what the rules are. The FAST PATH system, publicized so that you did not have to wait on line to get into the Celebration III Store, had an empty booth all weekend; they never employed it.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TO MOST FANS: The inability to purchase Celebration III exclusive merchandise. I predict that only about half the attendees, if that, made it into the store. The lines averaged 7 hours. We waited for the last day, Sunday, as we knew a lot of people would be going home; however, they were out of most things by that time (except the Darth Vader figures).

BEST THING ABOUT THE WHOLE CONVENTION: The fans....most of them wore costumes!! And we're not talking sacks on their bodies. Most of the costumes were outstanding! We couldn't walk 10 feet without wanting to take a photo of these walking advertisements for their favorite film(s)!

2ND BEST THING ABOUT THE WHOLE CONVENTION: The fans...we could talk to them and find out what they knew, compare notes, etc. We met one guy and his nephew right behind the woman and her nephew (us). We found several very short and young Darth Vaders out there. Lots of inventors standing very proudly next to their own constructed R2D2's. The guy who drove in from Tennessee for one day who wanted to know if anyone could get into the store for him (no).

THE BEST PRESENTATION: This is a tough one. We only made it to about 20% of the presentations, because we didn't have two hours to spare in line for each one. But I would have to say that the whole Behind-the-Scenes crew were incredible: The Art Department (all 7), the Visual Effects Supervisor (John Knoll), the martial arts expert who taught Hayden Christensen and Ray Park how to fight. The best was Executive Producer Rick McCallum, who brought an incredible visual opera with him to show us the new footage from Revenge of the Sith. Wow!

BEST COSTUME: Almost impossible to say. There was one woman with her blue tube-like structures falling off her head. Some very tall, very imposing Darth Vaders. A Chewbacca that made your hair stand up on your neck (and his as well). And a Slave Girl Princess Leia that made all the young men file behind her as she walked, bottomless, through the convention area.

BEST PLACE TO RELAX: The Touchdown Lounge, home of the season ticket holders of the Indianapolis Colts. The Lounge was an informal place for fan club members (yeah, right) to relax, eat a hot dog, and enjoy the crew members and actors who came by to review your portfolio or to have pictures taken with you, respectively.

BEST STANDSTILL EXHIBITION: The Exhibit of actual Star Wars props, which included the original landspeeder model from Episode 4, an array of light sabers from Episode 6, and several models of the Milennium Falcon.

SECOND BEST STANDSTILL EXHIBITION: The R2 fan room, a very small enclave with fan-constructed robot units. One very popular addition was the carbonite-enclosed Jar Jar Binks. But everybody loves R2D2 and the exhibit boasted one of the originals being in his own special spot, surrounded by about 30 fan-made R2's.

WORST FIASCO: Oooh, there were so many. But most would say the inability to get into the Celebration III store. No one really thought of eBay until you couldn't get any Darth Vader talking figures; once that happened, everybody who did wait the obligatory day to get in would sell their other three (you were allowed to buy four) on auction.

MOST HYPED EVENT: The Celebration Opening Ceremonies. It took three hours of waiting in line to get towards the front (we were off to the side in about the 6th row) only to be greeted by a salsa band that was too loud, and Steve Sansweet introducing a bunch of lesser stars. Not one major star came to the event. We hear, though, that the Celebration Party on Saturday night may have been worse...

I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO COLD while waiting in snow flurries on Sunday morning. Wind chill factor brought the temps down to 20 degrees. I bought hot tea and/or chocolate, not to drink but to keep my hands warm.

The force was not with this convention (or at least the organizers), but we still had a memorable time.

Friday, April 15, 2005


I was right, at least on the one score: they did call me back for a second mammogram. However, this time, the people at the x-ray and mammogram center explained to me what was going on. She even showed me the result on the screen. She told me, "There's something there -- you can see it right here. They want to do an ultrasound on you to see what's going on." So I followed her down the hall at this early hour on a Thursday, and lay there while the new technician squirted cold goop on my right breast and expertly wielded the wand over the area. She stopped when she found it. She said, "I'm going to take a picture of this," and "I'll be right back."

While she was gone, I took a peek at the screen. It was a large screen and I know I was looking at a small area enlarged, but there in the middle of the striations was a mass that looked the size of Jupiter's spot, although all in black and white. It sat there, imperiously. While I stared at it, I thought about what was going to happen next. Actually I couldn't stop that train of thought the entire time she was gone from the room -- it couldn't have been more than 5 minutes, but the train kept moving down the track and eventually off the cliff.

I would next undergo a biopsy, I thought. Then, if it's positive, they'll call me in for treatment. Probably some heavy-duty chemo pills. Maybe some radiation. Intense stuff. I could stand my hair falling out, I thought nonchalantly. That wouldn't bother me. When they do the radical mastectomy, I don't think I'd mind that either. However, it's the lopsided-ness, the fact that....could I ask them to do the other one, too? But just then my ghoulish thoughts were interrupted when the tech re-entered with Dr. Bain.

Dr. Bain chewed me out royally when I told him that Kaiser had found a problem about a decade ago, and kept sending me form letters to appear again and again. He moved on, though, to "We want to do a biopsy right away. We'll let your doctor know. But why don't we set that up today." I was very appreciative of a quick decision. I have always preferred to DO something rather than just sit there. When I made the appointment for Tuesday, I was only regretful that I had to wait the weekend.

And wait is right. It didn't sit well with me. I was really good, I thought, at being in denial during the colonectomy, during the time they found cancer in my colon and cut the damn thing out. I went in thinking it would be minor surgery and that I'd recover completely. It wasn't but I did. But now I was beginning to worry. The 2nd time with my history: doesn't bode well. Still, I'll deal with it.

How I dealt with is, I went straight to Trader Joe's and bought a bucket of chocolate. Chocolate-covered nuts plus three candy bars, all sugar-free but all chocolate. An hour later, I was rather sick. And I knew why.

Maybe I'm getting better at recognizing my fears and feelings. Maybe that's why I ended up telling, oh, six or seven friends. (Actually it wasn't that many, but Pam spread the news and then asked afterwards if that was okay. It was. I wanted a little sympathy, not a lot, and maybe even a few prayers floating my way.)

I took the early appointment again on Tuesday, and was there ahead of time with my newspaper. But they didn't waste any time and I didn't get half into how the A's lost their home opener miserably when Dr. Bain appeared and explained the procedure to me. I love it when they explain things to me. She had had me mark the correct breast with a sharpie (boy, that stuff doesn't erase easily), just so, she explained, they don't explore the wrong breast. Since I was awake the entire time, I doubt that could happen. Actually, I couldn't even watch the doctor do his exploration, aided by the ultrasound, which was guided by the technician, as my right arm had to be placed over my head. That was the worst pain I felt during the entire procedure, forcing this seldom-used arm over my head for a period of about 45 minutes.

Dr. Bain told me that the item/mass/structure (he never really called it anything, but I have to pick a noun) was small but deep. I liked "small" even if I didn't like "deep." His plunger picked out 4 samples, and I was done. What a professional job. Now my own job was to wait two days for the results to come in.

At 1:08 pm on Thursday I called the doctor's office, knowing I would never get through to Dr. Schweitzer. But her nurse talked with me, said there was nothing in my chart, but would call the mammography center to check things out and call me back. She did within 5 minutes. "The report was on the doctor's desk," she sighed, and told me the results: "It was benign."

Hey!! What good news!! I thanked her, then hurriedly got on email and told everybody the news. I regretted a bit that I had told these people. Nephew Ricky wrote me back instantly that the news was wonderful and that "I can stop worrying now." That broke my heart. I wrote him back that I never wanted him to worry. "But I realize I didn't do a good job of telling you about the colon surgery last time. I think I was in denial." I promised to do better next time.

Will there be a next time? Two-and-a-half years out of colon cancer. A blip in my right breast. Perhaps. Maybe even probably. I'm going to pay better attention in the future. This denial stuff can get me into real trouble.

I called my friend Rick, who was back in Savannah for his mother's funeral. "I'm so happy about your autopsy results!" he exclaimed happily. "It was a biopsy, not an autopsy. I'm not dead yet," I laughed.

If you're reading this and wondering if you should (1) have a mammogram, and (2) have a colonoscopy, the answer lies in discussions with your doctor. If you're at all at risk -- have a history of cancer in your family, or are over 40 -- the answer is definitely "yes." Please consider having a simple procedure that will put your mind at ease.

Resist denial. It's futile.