Condiments, Madras, Songwriting and 12th Floor Matchmaking

April 11, 2002|

Condiments, Madras, Songwriting and 12th Floor Matchmaking

Week number two here in 1228. Slowly, I am starting to feel more like myself again. That whole flu thing (coupled with that transplant thing) really knocked me on my keister. I have had the flu since January according to tests and only this week do I feel like I have shaken it.

So anyway this floor hasn’t been nearly as fun as the Peds floor, but there have been some moments. In previous weeks, I have had horrific nausea causing me to just not eat. I dropped 15 in a three weeks. (NOTE:I don’t recommend that form of dieting. It is no fun.) This past week I have started to really eat again and let me tell you, I have greatly missed the joy of the condiment. Mustard (esp. spicy brown ballpark), mayonnaise and ketchup- the thrill is back! I don’t abuse’em, like my brother Frank would as a little kid. Frank would eat everything with ketchup, vegetables included. Ever see peas floating in a sea of ketchup? Not a pretty sight. Rather, I utilize the condiments sparsely but with just enough flare to make a party for my mouth. At least that’s what my taste buds are telling me.

Yesterday morning my main nurse chic Lauren bolted in and exclaimed, “Madrasboy!’ “Huh?” I retorted. “You are making Madras! Cranberry juice and orange juice! Can you make me a Seabreeze next babe?’ Lauren is a fireball. Ah, I realized. For breakfast, I always order cranberry juice and orange juice and mix them together. It’s a delightful concoction in the morning. Anyway, add vodka to the mixture and you have a Madras. (NOTE: That would probably be even more delightful during certain mornings I have had.) Regardless, it all hit me, dating back to my days as a part-time bartender/waiter at Bent Creek Country Club in Lancaster, PA. Seabreezes (Cranberry juice, Grapefruit juice and Vodka), Baybreezes (Cranberry juice, Pineapple juice and Vodka) and Cape Cods (Cranberry juice and Vodka)- your standard Vodka combinations. Now when I order my breakfast I keep my juice-Vodka combinations in mind. Hmm…what’s a prune juice and Vodka?

Lauren also celebrated her birthday yesterday. In order for me to get a working TV/VCR and exercise bike for my room, I had to in exchange write a birthday song for her. I guess word got around the hospital after my Dr. Boolad song went public that I write songs when I am bored in captivity. So I wrote her a song. Unfortunately as my friends all pointed out, all of my songs sound the same. What can I do? I only know three chords and one strum pattern. Who do they think I am here, Van Morrison?

“There’s a girl down the hall with a Penn blanket on her bed? Didn’t you go to Penn, Madrasboy?’ My ears perked up. Another person on my floor, the Lymphoma-Leukemia floor, from Penn. I sent Lauren back to get details. Another girl, on my floor, getting chemotherapy, went to Penn, graduated my year, in SDT…what?!? “Why don’t you go visit her?’ Lauren exclaimed with gleam in her eye. I was getting set-up on the Lymphoma-Leukemia floor of Memorial Sloan Kettering! Is that allowed? Is that right? Is that ethical? Lauren was loving it. It was a total chic moment. Women love this kind of stuff- playing the matchmaker. Who cares WHERE, let’s make a match!

I had my lines ready (“Uh…nice hospital gown…so, uh, do you come here often?’) Lauren returns. “The docs say you can’t go. You are supposed to be in isolation with the flu, she has 0 counts. They said call her on the phone.’ Now that wouldn’t be a little awkward, would it? (“Uh, yeah, uh is Jessica* there? Yeah, this is Art, um, I’m the guy from Penn down the hall. Room 1228? Do you know it? Uh…so do you like non-alcoholic Madras? I make a mean one…’) I balked. As I write this, actually, my night nurse, Laura just heard the Jessica* story and is totally stoked. She’s got my website business card and my extension written on the back. As soon as Jessica* wakes up to receive her 11:30pm medications..boy, do I need Madras right about now.

Wild at Heart

As you probably can infer, I must have been really sick the past few weeks. I’ll also add that I was in a terrible mood. No one should be told on a Friday night they have to immediately enter the hospital for an indefinite period of time. That just plain sucks. It took me a few days to accept. I really feel sorry and must apologize to my parents for reacting so badly. They were probably questioning their reasoning for staying in New York City with me. To them I owe much gratitude.

What did help me get over the hump into acceptanceland was a book thata friend gave me. Essentially, “Wild at Heart” ( is about “discovering the secret of a man’s soul.’ The author, John Eldredge, hypothesizes that every man has a desire in his heart to have three things: a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to rescue. For women, he believes that they yearn to be fought for, want an adventure to share in (but not be the adventure) and want to have their beauty unveiled. Much of the problem with our American culture, he further writes, centers around the emasculation of today’s male, who is taught to be nice and sweet, but not daring and adventuresome.

I think his points are correct. Eagerly I feasted on how that applied to others and myself. One thing that was noticeably absent was something that I had read and posted on earlier.

“And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you are fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to know.”

– Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; JRR Tolkien, page 378

It’s encouraging and strengthening to look back on adventures and battles, but hardly ever is it at the time.

I know I will look back at this period of life fondly, but right now, with all of its uncertainty, cruelty and difficulty, it’s not especially fun or pleasant to be a part of.

The other extension that hit me was that when you are in a battle and/or adventure most of the time you are severely weakened. Typically, from the adventure and/or battle, you are wounded, hurt and tired. But, it is in that weakness that strength is born. In concurrence, I have been reading the accounts of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, John Donne, Feodor Dostoevsky and others in Phillip Yancey’s book “Soul Survivor.’ All of those great figures, their ideas, their stands, their impact were born when they were at their weakest point. Jail, torture, disease, they experienced hardships that made them stronger for future adventures and battles. How I long to be at full strength to tackle the world! But oh how I need to be strengthened first in order to do so. As much as I think being isolated in a hospital room is a waste of my precious time, it is only the foundational support that will allow me to do and build much more later in life.

“Life is a gift. Life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of happiness. Love every leaf, every ray of light, love the animals, love the plants, love each separate thing. Loving all, you will perceive the mystery of God in all,’ Dostoevsky wrote after his imprisonment. I hope to write the same after mine.

Day 50

I don’t know how much longer I will be in here. At least for another week, probably more. The CMV isn’t responding to conventional treatment so the docs have brought in the big gun drugs. I feel very good though. My energy has returned somewhat, my nausea has been tempered and my rash is history. Now let’s work on this CMV thing…

Today is Day 50. Halfway to hot dogs and Ruth Chris steaks. I can imagine the taste now…mmm…

My e-mail program has not been working properly. I apologize for not responding to e-mails. It’s not me this time, it’s the computer’s fault : ) If I did not respond to an e-mail you sent lately, try again. I am in the process of getting it fixed as I write. Thanks for understanding.

Battles, Adventures, Romance and Grace to all.

*names have been changed in order to protect the innocent

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