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A Season In Hell: My Medical Nightmare – Part 5

December 19, 2011 3 comments

By Don Millard

Homeward bound.
 
 
I was ready to get out of Florida just as fast as my car would take me–which wasn’t all that fast–even though it was a 1986 Toyota MR2. I say this

My version of Munch's The Kiss

because my vehicle was only slightly more roadworthy than the one John Candy was driving near the end of ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles.’ The hood was held down by a coat hanger, and the windshield was smashed, but hey, the radio worked great. It was just the kind of a vehicle you’d want for a 1300 mile journey.

 
   Only a few months before I’d let the comic Frankie Bastille (who I knew didn’t have a driver’s license) drive my car to get some cigarettes. On the way back, the hood had flown up into the windshield. Luckily, Frankie was almost back to the comedy condo and managed to drive the rest of the way back by sticking his head out the window as he drove. The only insurance I had on the car at the time was collision, but that didn’t cover a collision of my hood to my own windshield. It’s always something.
 
   I was a smoker now and trip was fueled by Marlboro Mediums and a deep desire to put Florida in my rear view mirror, even if that meant risking my hood flying back up into the windshield again and killing me.
 
   I stayed in the right hand lane on the highway, of course. Still, every time a big truck passed me, I’d get even further toward the side of the road to escape the wind draft of the rigs that caused my hood to flop up and down even more than usual. Even so, I made pretty good time and my mood improved with every miles that brought me closer to my hometown.
 
   I remember that it was when I hit Virginia that I really started to smile. This is because Virginia was the first state that looked like home, what with its real trees of maple and oak. Those trees were just about the most beautiful things I ever saw and I wondered why I or anyone would leave this gorgeous sprawl for palm and pine trees, not to mention Palmetto bugs, (turbo sized roaches) and fire ants. Oh yeah, WINTER. Even so, Florida is basically just a swamp with buildings. Ugh.
 
   I drove straight through, stopping only for gas or going to the bathroom, and had a sandwich in Virginia. I left my father’s driveway in Cape Coral, Florida around 6:00 pm and pulled into Pete’s driveway in Clinton, Connecticut around 9:00 pm the next night. I was HOME.
 
   Pete had just made some barbecue chicken and I dug in, eating my first real meal in 27 hours.This isn’t going to be so bad, I thought. I got a roof over my head and food to eat… This chicken dinner, however, would be about the last decent meal we had until Thanksgiving. Pete was making pretty good money as a lab manager for Lenscrafters, but his funds had taken a serious hit due to his recent legal bills and talking over the monthly household bills now that his parents and brother had moved to Cape Coral.
 
   Still, it was great to touch the green, green grass of home. Despite my health nightmare, there was a comfort in just being home. I was in a better frame of mind and it was great to see some of my old friends again; some of whom had no idea what had really happened to me in Florida. I’d also forgotten just how beautiful Connecticut is in the summer.
 
   Now that I was home, there was one person in particular that I wanted to see. But in order to visit her, I had to go to St. Mary’s Cemetery. I couldn’t help but cry as I stood at my mother’s grave and told her how much I missed her. I told her all about what happened to me and how I wished I was in the ground, too, rather than having to live with some horrible mystery disease.
 
 
   There was one person in particular who wanted to see me now that I was back home, and that was my old girlfriend whom I’d left to move to Florida. Her name was Jennifer, and she was already a very talented artist. We’d met just a few months before it was time to go to Florida. We had kept in touch sporadically in the last two years and she knew I was coming back to Connecticut for a bit. I called her when I got in to let her know I was back in town. She wanted to see me and it was only a few days later that she was at my door.
 
   Jennifer was a very pretty girl who kind of looked like a young Diane Canon. The last time I talked with her, however, she’d told me she had not only gotten her nose pierced, but she’d also got a nose ring. All I could think of was National Geographic. I hadn’t told her anything about what had physically happened to me, and I wondered if she would notice. As we exchanged greetings and I let her in the door, the first thing she said to me was: “Your face looks different.”
 
   Guess she was in a delusion, too, huh?
 
   But she looked different, too. She had cut her beautiful, long curly hair shockingly short and was now sporting the very nose ring she’d told me about more than a year ago. It was like she’d negated her whole femininity. But who was I to talk? I had shrunk to death. During her visit, it was all I could do not to look at her nose ring. It was like that Cheech & Chong movie where Chong says to Tom Skerrit, “No, man, I wasn’t looking at your neck.”
 
   Pretty soon after this, Pete officially lost his driver’s license and I took over the driving full time, which included taking to and from work nearly every day. The commute was outrageous, as the Lenscrafters he now worked at was nearly an hour away. My poor, smashed up car was on the road and highway all the time. How we never got pulled over was truly a miracle. One day Pete told me that as I was dropping him off for work, his supervisor saw my car and said, “It looks like somebody died in that car.” I’m sure he had no idea of just how apt that description was.
 
   One day, I was dropping Pete off to work, I ventured inside the mall and into a bookstore. While I was browsing, I noticed a book on Vincent Van Gogh in the bargain bin. The book was large, but rather thin, but it had a nice selection of color plates of many of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. I’d always admired Vincent’s paintings and of course knew about his tortured life. I had stood transfixed at the Yale University Art Gallery a few years before when I first saw his incredible painting ‘The Night Cafe.’ This still is the greatest painting I’ve ever seen in person and it even towers above all the other amazing paintings in that gallery. I had similar feelings when I first saw Vincent’s painting of his chair at the National Gallery in London in 1985. It looked like he’d used actual straw in the painting because of the thickness of the paint on canvas. I never imagined a simple chair could be so mesmerizing! Pure genius. And now, perhaps because of what had happened to me, these paintings spoke to me even more.
 
   I bought the book, never imagining it would change my life.
 
   I’d done artwork off and on since I was a child, mind you, but I hadn’t drawn or painted since my health nightmare struck. It was the last thing in the world I felt like doing and didn’t even know if I still could, anyway. In a way, I was afraid to find out. But being home, being around some of my old friends again seemed to make life a little less mean and brutish. Then one evening as I was by myself, I decided to try and do a quick pencil sketch of a Van Gogh self-portrait. I remember I just had an ordinary pencil and didn’t have an eraser, so whatever marks I made I’d be stuck with. To my surprise and joy, the

First Van Gogh drawing: Self-Portrait

drawing turned out pretty well. I now knew that this evil disease hadn’t also taken my artistic talent from me! I can’t express what a victory that was to me. Also, and just as important, the act of drawing had freed me from my body for a few glorious hours and I felt like I was me again. Thank you, Vincent.

 
 Before I knew it, I was buying some real drawing pencils, erasers and a sketch pad. I suddenly found myself doing my own versions of my favorite Van Gogh paintings and now using colored pencils to try and duplicate Vincent’s amazing use of color. For the first time since September of 1989, it felt like a little bit of color had come back into my life.
 
   I threw myself into my art as late summer turned to fall. By the end of the year, I would complete about 8 colored pencil drawings of Van Gogh paintings. I also picked up a few hours at the local supermarket I’d worked at years before. I would work a few hours at the store in between picking Pete up from work or on days he was off.
 
   But there certainly wasn’t much color in our life in the shoebox trailer. We were nearly always broke and almost always hungry. Our refrigerator mainly consisted of mustard and the light bulb. I remember one day especially. I’d just gotten back from taking Pete to work and was starving. I looked in the cupboard and the only thing in there was a can of beets that had probably been out of date since before the ‘Challenger’ blew up. I also seem to remember one evening Pete and I shared a meal of bread and vodka. Everything was breaking, too. At one point even the kitchen sink clogged and we started putting our dirty pots and pans in the bathtub.
 
   Despite these trails and tribulations, this was still a million times better than being sick and all alone in my roomy apartment in Florida. I remember writing “Cape Coral Sucks” on my refrigerator in red body paint that some girl I’d met at the club had brought over one evening and tried to paint me with. My realtor loved that one.
 
   Somehow, Pete and I survived it all and still got along. As bad as it got, we could always laugh. I guess that’s why we’ve been best friends since 4th grade.
 
   By now it was nearly Christmas and time for Pete and I to drive my car all the way back to Florida again to spend the holidays with our families. For Pete that meant his parents and older brother; for me that meant my Dad and his horrible new wife whom everyone hated.
 
   It took us nearly a day and a half to maneuver the MR2 back to Florida. At least my hood was a little more secure this time around. A few months before, we had just gotten on the highway when suddenly that heroic little coat hanger gave out, and the hood flew up into the windshield again, obscuring our visibility just a tad. Luckily, we were right near the highway McDonalds, so we were able to pull off the highway. Once in the parking lot, we found a guy who had some sturdy moving rope and he tied the hood down with that. From then on, we were good to go. Believe it or not, about 4 years later, Pete would own an MR2 and his hood would fly into his windshield. There’s a defect in the hood latch, and this has happened to others who had this car as well.
 
   It was good to be back in Florida this time because I was visiting, not going back to live there. The past 6 months in the trailer had been a rough, crazy adventure, but I felt like I had something to show for it all. I was an artist again and even brought some of the Van Gogh drawings with me to show my Dad. The balmy, warm weather we were now enjoying was kind of like a reward for surviving it all. It was good to take a break from the first New England winter I’d been exposed to since 1988.
 
   Hell, this Christmas was already light years better than the previous one. That year my Dad spent the holidays up in Tampa with his new wife and her son’s family. I spent that Christmas alone in my father’s house watching Christmas movies and crying. I wasn’t crying because I was alone on Christmas Eve; I was crying because I knew the reason I was all alone was because I was sick. Ho Ho Ho. If there’s a deeper hurt than that, I don’t know of it. That night, I cried out to my Mother and begged her to have a with that Jesus of hers and tell him to please him to please release me from this Judas body.
 
   The only Christmas miracle for me that year was that I didn’t drank DRANO. Maybe an angel gets its wings every time I don’t ingest cleaning fluid.
 
   But this Christmas time I was sitting at a bar with my best friend and his brother, listening to rock ‘n roll, drinking beer, and staring out at the Gulf of Mexico. We were all enjoying the beer and the sun, as we laughed about the last time we’d tried to go jogging in Connecticut.
 
   Before I’d moved to Florida, Pete and I had become pretty serious joggers for a summer or two. We got to where we could jog for miles without getting winded. As we were now cramped in the trailer with zero cash, we decided to try to get back into jogging, if we could. We even had fantasies about entering the New York City Marathon that year. We had gone out a few times and were trying to get back into shape, or at least approach that state in some fashion. On this particular fateful night, we decided to try out a new area. It was in the fall, so it got dark early and we headed to a secluded road a good ways away from home, but still in town. As we  parked and got out of the car, I crushed out my cigarette, and we began to do some stretching exercises before starting our run. As we were doing this, Pete winced in pain and starting getting hit with terrible gas pains. He figured it would pass, so were standing around when Pete suddenly groaned again. The next thing I knew, he was running over behind a tree in some guy’s front yard and I soon heard something hitting the ground with great force. He reappeared a few minutes later, saying, “Let’s get out of here, Don!” We jumped back into the car and got out of there. On the way back home, Pete told me he had taken a shit on the somebodies front lawn and then wiped his ass with the guy’s Sunday paper. Shit happens.
 
   As we were laughing about our crazy adventures, Pete got up and approached two girls who were sitting nearby. He gave them his camera and asked them if they would take our picture. After snapping off a few pictures of us in the usual obnoxious beer drinking poses, we invited the two girls to join us. They did so. The two girls, Darla & Helena, it turns out, were from Canada. We had a good time with them, making the kind of goofy small talk you make when you’re in a pack. We told them maybe we’d all run into each other again. We did run into them again a day or two later on the beach and then agreed to meet a club later that evening.
 
   At the club I noticed that Helena, the blond, was kind of cute. Darla, the one with black hair, on the other hand, was kind of annoying, I’m sure the fact that Darla was chunky and not that attractive had absolutely NOTHING to do with why we thought she was annoying.
 
   Although Pete had drove down to Florida with me, he would be driving his brother’s car back to Connecticut the day after New Year’s. Pete’s folks and older brother, after only one year, had come to the conclusion that Cape Coral sucked, too. I don’t think they wrote it on their refrigerator, but they had had enough and were selling their beautiful new home with a pool and situated on a lake to move back into the shoebox trailer. That’s how much THEY hated Florida now. Thus my days of having a place to live in my hometown were numbered. They planned to be back by the end of January.
 
   After New Year’s Day, it so happened that Helena and I would be the only ones still in Florida on vacation. We had exchanged numbers and planned to get together sometime before we both headed North. Just for something to do.
 
   This was my frame of mind when I met Helena again at the little outside bar by the sea where we’d all first run into each other. As we drank and ate, we began to talk and talk and talk. It was like a revelation. I realized that before me was an interesting, funny, and intelligent creature who bore no resemblance to my first impression of her. Now, instead of being cute, I noticed that she was pretty and that it wasn’t the beer. Her slight British accent didn’t hurt, either. Although she was from Canada, Helena was actually Dutch. Compared to most American girls, she was a breast of fresh air.
 
   As we parted that afternoon, I invited her out to the movies the next evening. I picked her up the next evening at the trailer court she was staying at near the beach. She was visiting her parents, who spent the winters there. Her folks were a charming old world couple and her Dad made his own wine, which he had me sample before we left. I’m not a big wine drinker, but it was quite good.
 
   Since Helena was from another country, I thought I’d expose her to a specifically American film, so naturally I took her to see Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK.’ After all, what’s more American than a good ol’ conspiracy theory?
 
   Though I knew much of the film was conjecture presented as history, it was still very compelling and brilliantly put together. As we sat there watching, I could relate to Kevin Costner’s character’s epic, lonely battle to get people to believe him. About halfway through the movie I reached for and held Helena’s hand. I didn’t know how she’d react, but I did it, anyway. She squeezed my hand and now we were holding hands. Can I pick the perfect date movie or what? Eat your heart out, George Clooney.
 
   We held hands for the rest of the movie, and as you know if you’ve ever seen ‘JFK’, it’s a LONG movie.
 
   When the movie was over, we went back to my little car and talked about the film and how we felt about it.
After about twenty minutes of deep conversation, the voice in my head said, “Kiss her, you fool.” So I did. And she kissed back. You could have smoked an entire cigarette before we broke our first kiss. Soon we were in a very passionate embrace. I started the car and soon pulled into a small parking lot behind the one millionth strip mall in Florida and we picked up where we’d left off… If you’re going to have sex in a car, let’s just say a Toyota MR2 is not the ideal choice. Still, we were doing our best under the circumstances and were just about to become one when a search light from a police car passed over us and the back parking lot.
 
   “Oh, shit!” Helena exclaimed, pulling up her pants while I tried to crawl back into the driver’s seat. I started the car again and we get out of there. We both couldn’t help but laugh about it as I drove her back to her parents’ trailer court. We kissed goodnight, and as I was driving home, I cursed the size of my car.
 
   I picked Helena up the next day brought her over to my Dad’s house for lunch and a swim. I showed her some of the Van Gogh drawings I’d done and she liked them very much. After getting out of the pool, I put a towel and my arms around Helena.
 
   “I have somebody back home…” she said, her voice trailing off.
 
   “I know,” I said.
 
   Neither one of us said another word as I took her by the hand, led her back into the house, and into my old bedroom. Since we weren’t in an MR2 this time, we soon became one over and over again. When we both finished, I didn’t feel empty inside this time. This had meant something and that made all the difference.
 
   We spent our remaining days together, seeing the sights and making love when we could. The night before she was to leave for Canada, we held hands and took a long walk. Even though she lived in Canada, she lived near Toronto, and that wasn’t a million miles away from Connecticut. She told me she had a lot of thinking to do when she got back home and would write soon. I may have been a hopeless romantic, but I knew something very real and very special had happened between us. I was determined to follow my heart and not let my medical issues dictate my choices. I was trying to accept my illness and still live my life, anyway. I was trying to learn to live in the moment again.
 
   My heart told me I’d see Helena again.
Categories: Uncategorized

A Season In Hell: My Medical Nightmare – Part 4

December 15, 2011 6 comments

By Don Millard

There is no prosthesis for a broken heart.

As the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay observed, “A heart once broken is a heart no more.”  T.E. Kalem noted that “the heart is the only broken instrument

My version of Munch's Self Portrait in Hell.

that works.” I now wished with all my heart that my heart had stopped beating in the emergency room in September 1989. At least I would’ve died with my love at my side. There would’ve been no tearful, heartbreaking goodbye in the driveway almost a year later. It would have been better for everyone involved, especially me.

Amy didn’t break my heart. Life did. My heart had been broken by the very thing that had broken my body. It was a twofer. That’s what made it so hard to even try to pick up the pieces and go on. After all, what had come between Amy and me would also doom any future relationship with a girl. How do you move on from that? How could I expect any other girl to put up with this medical nightmare when Amy couldn’t? This disease had changed the whole trajectory of my life. Maybe Amy and I would’ve married and been very happy, or maybe we would’ve killed each other over meatloaf. Who knows? The point is we never got the chance to find out.

That’s what broke my heart.

When all you’re doing is suffering, how is that living, anyway? I simply didn’t have a clue how to proceed in the next few months that followed and couldn’t really find any reasons why I should. I especially enjoyed getting helpful advice from healthy people on how to deal with a chronic illness that had robbed me of my life. The same people uttering these platitudes, telling me to keep my chin up had absolutely no idea of the extent of my suffering and this just made it worse. But, fortunately, life had come up with a sly way of making me forget about my own mortality: my father was diagnosed with throat cancer. This disease was definitely from tobacco. He had been a heavy smoker all his life. Growing up, we always had to go to the Drive-In if we wanted to see a movie so my Dad could smoke. Trying to watch the double feature through our nicotine windshield was always a challenge.

As I’ve said, my father had quit smoking in 1984, but started up again the day before my Mom died in 1986. When we moved to Florida in late 1988, he vowed to quit once and for all. But by the fall of 1990 he was still smoking and chewing nicotine gum.

As we awaited the results of his biopsy, my Dad said, “It’s probably cancer. I’ve lived about as long as I want to, anyway.”

It was cancer, of course. Luckily, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Institute, one of the top cancer centers in America, was only two and a half hours away in Tampa. It was here that my father underwent surgery, as a total laryngectomy was required to remove the tumor. After the lengthy operation, when he was awake and in the recovery room, I was allowed to see him. He was pale and had obviously been through hell. As I walked over to him, he was writing something on a yellow legal pad. The words read: “I Love You.”

My Dad would stay in the hospital for 10 days and they gave him a prosthesis that allowed him to speak again. He was very brave. Still is.

I was still keeping in touch with Amy’s mom, as she’d become like a second mother to me despite the nightmare and all that had happened. When I told her of my Dad’s cancer and operation, she said: “Why didn’t you tell us? We would’ve went up there with you.”

It was nearly Christmas when I heard about an amateur comedy contest that was to be held at the top comedy club in town. This was the very same club that I dreamed of working in when I first moved to Florida. It was one of the main reasons I had come to Florida. I had told my friends up North that I was going to work in that club one day. This club was an “A” club that booked some of the biggest names in stand-up comedy and they had never before opened their club up to amateurs. I had dropped off a cassette tape of my comedy to the owner a month or two before I got sick, but he had never gotten back to me about it. Me doing comedy in this club was the dream Amy and I shared. After I got sick, this was just another dream that got shattered.

I hadn’t done any stand-up comedy since my frantic trip to the emergency room, but I decided to try it again and see what happened. I had nothing to lose, since I had lost everything already. There were about 20 contestants. When it was my turn to go up, I did the best I could. My delivery was off and my mind was foggy, but I did get some laughs and even applause at the end. When the winners were announced, I came in second place. First place was the only prize in that the winning amateur got to be the opening comedian for a week. But afterward, however, the owner of the club, who had also been one of the judges, came up tome and said he thought I should have won. He then offered me the job of being the house MC for the club on the spot. The working week would be every night except Monday, when the club was closed. Monday was the day the comics usually arrived and were put up a local condo near the club.

So there it was… The dream I’d shared with Amy was now just handed to me like that. The dream job that I couldn’t enjoy now or half do properly was all mine. Life always seems to take away something from you before allowing something good to happen. It’s a very bad exchange rate if you ask me.

But I decided to take the job anyway and try to make the best of it. I began right before the new year and got to meet and work with comics such as Paula Poundstone, Rita Rudner, Steve Harvey, Billy Gardell, Ben Creed, Tim Allen, and the greatest comedian you may have never heard of: Frankie Bastille. Sick and all, it was still inspiring to meet and hang out with creative people. My kind of people. It was also a good way to meet girls, and I even had a few flings that just made me lonelier. It was here that I learned that if I treated a girl like crap, I couldn’t get rid of her. As Bill Hicks sang, chicks dig jerks. I even had some fun as well as some crazy adventures, including leaving a then unknown Jon Stewart stranded at the airport after Tim Allen told me I shouldn’t have to pick up the comics since I was part of the show. Rather than picking Stewart up at the airport, I partied with my friend at ‘Fridays.’ The next day, right before the show, Jon Stewart came up to me and said, “Hey, where were you yesterday? I was at the airport for an hour before I took a cab to the condo.” I remember being at ‘Perkins’ with Tim Allen and him telling us all about the new show he was going to have and how he was going to have a next door neighbor but you would never see his face.

On Valentine’s Day, of all days, Amy’s mom came to see me and the show, bringing with her a whole table of nurses. When she first saw me, she said “Amy says hi.” Amy had moved to Tampa a few months before I became the MC at the club. I was glad that she had come, but I wished she would’ve picked a different day. Any other day.

During each show, we always had a shot special that I had to promote before bringing up the headlining comedian. Since it was Valentine’s Day, I proposed a toast as I got back on stage:

“To the ladies: May they live as long as we do.”

This got a good laugh, and it was the funniest thing I’d said in more than a year.

After the show, I could see and hear Amy’s mom talking with the opening comedian, Billy Gardell (now Mike in CBS’ “Mike & Molly”). “Isn’t he a nice young man?” she was saying. “Him and my daughter used to date.”

“Yeah, I know,” replied Gardell. “I could hear the heartbreak in his voice.”

It was now 1991 and I had stumbled onto a book about a mysterious new illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.This is one of the most poorly named diseases of all time, as it just makes people think that you just suffer from being tired. It’s also usually followed by someone who isn’t stricken with it to exclaim, “I’m tired all the time, too!” I’d first became aware of this malady about two years ago. Amy had called me one morning about a month into my illness and told me to write down the name of this disease because this is what she thought I had. This was, of course, before the shrinking and the strange skin sensations began. Still, as I discovered in this book, there were a number of other striking similarities between this malady and what had attacked me.

So, armed with this book, I went back to my family doctor and told of him of the similarities between my illness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He did a blood test for the Epstein-Barr virus and it came back positive.This is the same virus that causes mono. At the time, this was thought to be the diagnostic test for CFS, but this is no longer the case. There is no one test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My doctor informed me that I did in fact have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He told me not to run to the health food store and buy a bunch of herbs, but to just take a multi-vitamin once a day.

“Sorry we took so long,” he told me.

Sorry we took so long? That’s all you have to say? Sorry we took so long? This coming from the same guy who told me and everyone around me how I was delusional about my health and body?

Fuck You.

I felt like punching him in the mouth and still wish I had. Maybe next time don’t be so quick to disbelieve someone when they say they’re sick, asshole. I hope that someday some thing’s wrong with him and no one believes him.

I knew that this diagnosis wasn’t really the answer by any means, but it was enough to show that this wasn’t a delusion. It was enough for me to hang onto and to go about clearing my name.

A few days after my diagnosis, I stopped in to see Amy’s mom and told her the news. While I was talking to her, I noticed that she still had a picture of me in a frame among the photographs in her living room.

“God, you were right, sweetheart,” she said. “You should be a doctor.”

This took away a little bit of the emotional trauma of not being believed about being sick. I felt like I’d been falsely accused of a crime for nearly 3 years and had finally been proven innocent. But I still knew that I was dealing with something much more horrific and apparently unprecedented in the annals of medicine. I also still worried that I had caused it, somehow. God, how this thought still haunted me.

I had now been working at the club for nearly eight months and it had been a great experience, despite my health situation. My foggy brain kept me from really developing any new material and that was very frustrating to say the least. There were also some strange doings afoot in the club itself. These strange circumstances corresponded seemed to begin when the owner of the club took on a new business partner, the Greek guy who owned a restaurant in the same plaza. He was a gruff, nasty little man whose gold chains around his neck weighed more than he did. He viewed this once great club as a restaurant rather than a comedy club and treated the comics like dirt. He was the only dirt there that I saw. Some of the checks to the comics were bouncing and it seemed like they were purposely trying to go out of business.

It was right about at this time that a totally unexpected and welcome offer came my way out of the blue. My best friend in Connecticut, Pete, called me one night to tell me he had gotten a DUI and was going to lose his driver’s license for 90 days. Believe it or not, just a few months before, his parents and older brother had bought a house and moved to the very same town in Florida that we had moved to. My friend didn’t want his parents to know that he had got busted and was about to lose his license (I would later learn I didn’t have a license, either, but that’s another story). He also knew how much I had come to detest Florida. Florida is an old Spanish word that means tee shirt shop. Pete wanted to know if I’d be interested in coming back to Connecticut to drive him back and forth to work. In return, I could live rent free with him in the shoebox mobile home him and his folks and older brother had grown up in. Would I be interested in doing something like that? Why, YES! Sounded good to me!

I was going home, at least for a while.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Season In Hell: My Medical Nightmare – Part 3

December 10, 2011 10 comments

By Don Millard

It was also during this dark hour that I began to worry that maybe I was somehow to blame for this health nightmare.

Dead Roses

I say this even though I was a pretty clean cut guy. I hadn’t ever done any real drugs. Hell, I hardly even drank until I went off to college where I learned to do that pretty well. I never worked with any hazardous chemicals, and I didn’t live near a nuclear reactor.

But I did have one bad habit and that was chewing tobacco. My friends and I in the neighborhood had picked up the habit as a way to emulate major league baseball players while we played Wiffle Ball. Or maybe it was just because we were boys and boys like to spit. This was also a time when smokeless tobacco was a being marketed as a safe alternative to cigarettes. Although cigarette advertising had been banned from television since 1970, ads for snuff were all over the airwaves. I remember there was Walt Garrison extolling the virtues of ‘Skoal’ while Carlton Fisk sang the praises of ‘Copenhagen.’ US Tobacco, the company that made these lethal products, was even an official sponsor of the 1980 Winter Olympics! Their ads ran incessantly during the games.

Out of all of the kids in the neighborhood, however, I’m pretty sure I was the only one stupid enough to carry this addiction into adulthood. What Jack London wrote about alcohol in ‘John Barleycorn’ could just as easily apply to tobacco: “The palate never ceases to rebel, and the palate can be trusted to know what is good for the body. But men do not knowingly drink for the effect alcohol produces on the body. What they drink for is the brain-effect; and if it must come through the body, so much worse for the body.”

It is only through repeated use that smoking or chewing tobacco becomes pleasurable and tastes good. As anyone who’s ever been addicted to tobacco knows, nicotine seems like your best friend when in reality it’s your worst enemy. I had quit this foul habit more than a few times after I became addicted. I thought I had it beat once and for all, but started up again when we moved to Florida in November of 1988. The town we moved to was kind of a retirement community and the average age was dead. My Dad, meanwhile, had amazingly quit his 2 to 3 pack a day smoking habit in 1984, but started back up again the day before my Mom died from cancer in June of 1986. He would be diagnosed with throat cancer in 1990 and have to have his voice box removed.

Anyhow, I began to fear that perhaps my tobacco use had in some way poisoned my system or my skin and had caused my body to undergo some type of meltdown. I started to think this way because I couldn’t believe that life could be this rotten to someone my age without it having to be some kind of self-inflicted wound. Then again, I didn’t see how my habit could have done this to my entire body. After all, if it really was from this, why hadn’t it happened to anybody else? I don’t remember the warning label saying “Too much of this stuff will cause your body to shrink and doctors won’t believe you when it happens.” Still, this thought haunted me deeply and weighed heavily on my mind.

When I told Amy about my fear that it was from chewing tobacco, she said that if it was somehow from that, there was no way I could have known that such a thing would happen to me. When I told the doctors about my tobacco use, they scoffed and dismissed this outright as well. This wasn’t very reassuring, however, because these were the same geniuses who were telling me nothing had even happened to my body.

These were also the same crack doctors who were now telling me that what I really needed to do was see a psychiatrist. I cannot express how infuriating this was. At first I had foolishly thought that the doctors would all want to have a crack at me in order to unravel this medical enigma. Nope, they all just told me I was delusional instead. They were now treating me like some drooling idiot who couldn’t even tie his own shoes because their paint-by-numbers blood tests now came back normal. They were telling me I was delusional about my body and health, as well as extremely depressed.

What in the world did I possibly have to gain by telling this tale to the doctors? Nothing. What did I have to lose? Everything. I knew very well that by saying my body had shrunk I’d be leaving myself wide open to be dismissed and labeled a crackpot by the medical community. But I was simply telling the bone truth. This was how the malady had manifested itself.

I had gone to the library and researched every known disease there was, but couldn’t find anything even close to matching what had stricken me. How could I have something that never happened to a person before? WTF? This made me feel like the lonliest person on Earth. I felt estranged from the whole human race and that I had become a Thing.  Also, since I had been adopted, my medical history was a blank as well.

But the only thing more horrifying than my illness was not being believed. This was especially true when it came to my girlfriend’s family and my father.

“He thinks he knows more than the doctors,” was my father’s refrain.

Well, I DID know more than the doctors in this case because I was the only one living in my body and knew it better than anyone else. Before the doctors shuffled me off to psychiatrists, I begged them to do a test on my skin, but they acted like such a test didn’t exist. How I wished my doubting doctors could inhabit my body for just 24 hours and then tell me this was all in my fucking head! I would’ve loved to hear their advice then on how to put up with this agony. But this was real life, not ‘Annie Hall.’

The first psychiatrist I was sent to wasted no time in telling me I was a hypochondriac. I just stared at him in disbelief as he read the definition from a textbook as if I didn’t know what a hypochondriac was, even though I supposedly was one now. I asked him what kind of a hypochondriac made a lifestyle out of chewing tobacco or hitchiked around Britain and Ireland with a tiny napsack. I just sat there and listened to his psycho-babble and thought this had to be some kind of practical joke. At any moment, I half-expected Allen Funt from ‘Candid Camera’ to jump out from behind the couch and say, “Boy, Don, we really had you going, pretending that this was all in your head, huh?” But Allen Funt never showed up, either; instead, the psychiatrist prescribed medicine that he said I should take every day unless my liver quit or I started growing a third arm in the middle of my back.

To say that my mood was low at this point would be like saying that the universe is kind of a big place. I’m reminded of something Lincoln said, that if his unhappiness could be evenly distrubuted among the world, there wouldn’t be a single happy person on Earth. But this was due to the way I felt physically. I would be the first person to admit that I had some bouts with depression, especially when my Mom died when I was 21. But at no time during these phases did I complain of being sick or of strange things happening to my body.

Now the doctors as well as the people around me were suggesting that I seek treatment in the local mental health facility. I was stunned at how quickly they had come to the conclusion that I had suddenly gone off the deep end. I had graduated high school with honors as well as with an award in History and English. I had already written a short novel, two screenplays, and had collaborated on a parody of a bad romance novel. I had recently studied acting in New York City with William Hickey. This hurt me beyond words. My girlfriend was the only one who said I didn’t belong in such a place. “If there’s anyone who can figure this out, it’s you,” my girlfriend said. Then Amy told me she wanted to show me something. “This is something I’ve kept with me since I met you.” She reached into her wallet and pulled out a little folded piece of paper, on which this was written:

cute

laid back

funny, but very intelligent

good ****

In desperation, I signed myself into this mental health facility to prove once and for all that my illness was physical, not mental. My Kafkaesque nightmare from which there was no waking was taking on a new dimension.

I wasn’t prepared for how drab and shabby this mental health place was. It was run by the county, so it was like the ‘Big Lots’ of mental health facilities. I also wasn’t prepared for the parade of unfortunate souls in this place being tortured by their own brains and body chemistry. I hadn’t been there 10 minutes when the staff had to tackle some guy, wrestle him to the ground, and restrain him while he screamed at them. Most of the other patients, however, were moving a lot slower, shuffling along like zombies. One poor girl in particular caught my attention. She was sticking out her tongue, which was blue and swollen, and moaning. I remember thinking, jeez, don’t give me whatever the fuck you gave her… This is treatment?  Just a few months ago I was sharing a stage with ‘Carrot Top’ and now I was in The Snake Pit. Just a few months ago I had let my girlfriend read the two screenplays I’d written before moving to Florida. After reading them, she took me out to dinner to tell me how good she thought they were and said to me: “I’m proud to be your girlfriend.” Now everyone was telling her that her boyfriend was nuts just thought he was physically ill. Could life be any worse?

I didn’t come across any other patient in this menagerie who was claiming to be physically ill. I feared for my own safety and tried to separate myself from the crowd by talking to the counselors about anything, the weather, the news, etc. They were the only ones there I could have a conversation with. As I talked to one of the counselors, I glanced down at his clipboard and noticed that he was looking at my name on his chart. Beside my name, this directive was written: “Do not acknowledge shrinking statements.”

This all can’t be real, I thought. What have I done to deserve this? All my life I  thought that one of the worst things in the world would be to be falsely accused of something. It was kind of a phobia of mine that I had become acutely aware of as I became a fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies. I had told the truth about what physically happened to me and I was being treated like I was psychotic. If that isn’t torture, I don’t know what is.

I was told that the psychiatrist wouldn’t be in until the next day, which meant that I’d have to spend the night in this little shop of horrors. I spent the worst night of my life in this jail tossing and turning, trying to sleep with one eye open, praying for the dawn. Just get me out of this place, I thought. When morning finally came, things looked a little better and I was relieved when it was my time to see the psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist looked like he was about 90 years old. I told him I was physically sick, not mentally ill. He said that my medical tests showed that there was nothing physically wrong with me. We argued and argued and I told him that since I had signed myself in, I was signing myself out. I wasn’t going to sit there and have my intelligence insulted. I signed myself out and left that Snake Pit with Amy waiting for me.

So began my battle with psychiatrists about my illness. The more I held my ground, the more delusional they said I was. I tried all their different medicines in the hope that it might help my mood, but all those pills ever did was make me feel physically worse. I was having to turn into Perry Mason in order to prove that I was physically ill. I had become the most miserable soul on the planet. Who has to prove they’re sick?

So many times I felt like just giving up, but I couldn’t because of a promise I had made to my dying mother. Just a day or two before she died, she told everyone in her hospital room that she wanted to talk to me alone. When we were alone, she turned to me and said: “You have to promise me that you’re a survivor. You have to promise me that you’ll survive this. Will you promise me that?”

“Yes,” I told her, never knowing how hard it was going to be to keep that promise just 3 short years later.

I knew that if my mother had been still alive, she would’ve NEVER questioned me being sick. Just knowing this made her loss that much more heartbreaking in my time of crisis. When my mother died, I lost a kindred spirit, a best friend, and a loving mother all at the same time. So many people who knew my mother told me that she was the greatest person they ever knew. I’ve said the same thing.

Needless to say, I was no longer doing stand-up comedy. Any semblence of my former life was now gone. All I could do was suffer and be disbelieved. It was hard to be funny when what had happened to me was the most unfunny thing in the world. I qualified for disability as I was in no shape to work, although I’m sure my disability was considered a mental one now that all the doctors were convinced I was in a grand delusion. I never bothered to find out why I qualified for disability because I knew it would’ve just infuriated me and made being misdiagnosed that much more insulting and infuriating. Once again, the joke was on me. It seemed as though someone up there didn’t like me.

What would have been the best Christmas of my adult life was now turned into the worst Christmas of my entire life. I thought of my first Christmas in Florida just the year before; of how my Dad had gotten mad when I brought home a tree to try to make it at least a little bit festive at our house. Ever since my Mom died, he’d said, “I don’t have any more Christmases.” We had just moved to Florida and didn’t really know anyone in the area, but I was healthy. Now, a year later, I was with a girl I loved and I couldn’t even enjoy it because I was sick. Life seemed very cruel indeed. And, I was still haunted by the possibility that I was somehow to blame for it all. I began telling Amy that she needed to be with someone who was healthy; someone who wasn’t trapped in a mysterious medical nightmare from which there seemed to be not only no answer, but no escape and no end as well.

And so winter (2 degrees cooler than summer) turned into spring and 1989 turned into 1990. The 80s were gone and so was my health, without the least bit of an explanation. Amy hung in there as long as she could, but came to my door in tears one May afternoon to tell me we were through. I couldn’t handle what had happened to me, so how could I expect anyone else to be able to deal with it? Still, it hurt so bad because I knew that she still loved me, but couldn’t deal with my situation any longer. I was a ghost of my former self and now trapped in a living death. Another piece of me died that day as I watched her walk back to her car, sobbing. She would later tell me that I was the only guy she ever cried over. Thankfully, although I didn’t know it at the time, this would not be the last time I saw or spoke with Amy.

It was 1990, I was 25, and this disease had claimed another victim: my relationship with Amy. I still couldn’t fathom how an illness that could utterly devastate my body and rob me of my life didn’t at least have the decency to kill me.

 

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A Season In Hell: My Medical Nightmare – Part 2

December 7, 2011 2 comments

By Don Millard

So, now the doctors were telling me I was just fine, completely ignoring that this crisis all began with a dramatic trip to the ER and multiple test

James Dean Portrait: The Last Visit Home

abnormalities that had nothing to do with my mind. Despite my now normal blood test results, I still felt sick and knew something was terribly wrong. But nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for what life had whipped up for me next in this medical nightmare. If it hadn’t happened to me personally, I probably wouldn’t have believed it, either. For me, what happened next was the ultimate example of truth being stranger than fiction.

As I was trying to describe how sick I felt to the doctor, he asked my girlfriend:

“What have you noticed?”

“His color is just awful. It’s not the same as when I first met him.”

“Hmm…” replied the doctor.

It was around this same time that my medical doctors started telling me I should maybe see a psychiatrist. WTF? I was 24, with a girlfriend and a budding career. A psychiatrist? Did my thoughts cause me to have blood in my stool? A low-grade fever? A high white blood cell count? The last thing in the world I wanted to do was go to a damn doctor. Yes, doc, instead of making love to my girlfriend or doing comedy, I’d much rather drag her here with me to go to see doctors who tell me I’m not even sick! Isn’t that every 24 year old guy’s idea of a good time?

The doctors were telling me I seemed depressed. Ya think? What other mood should I have been in? How would YOU react if you knew you were sick and you were being told it was all in your head? Would you dance a jig? Raise the roof? Have a block party?

The doctors didn’t know me before I was sick. They didn’t know my personality–all they knew about me was me in my present sick and miserable form.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend’s Mom, the nurse, told me that if I really was sick, my illness would reveal itself sooner or later.

She was right.

Are you sitting down?

And then it happened… To my absolute horror and disbelief, my entire body started SHRINKING. Yes, SHRINKING. I couldn’t believe it, either. I would’ve never,  never believed that such a thing could happen to a person, much less that it would happen to me! But, as far-fetched as this sounds, if YOUR body started shrinking, wouldn’t YOU notice? We are all experts on our own body because we’re the only ones living in it. You don’t have to have an advanced degree in medicine or be a Mensa member to notice this.

Now I was sure I was dying.

Every day, for about a week, my body, both bone and tissue, shrank. To say this was terrifying is the understatement of the century. During this horrible time, my girlfriend said: “Your face is getting thinner and your butt’s going away.” Was this all in her head, too?

Other than myself, Amy knew my body better than anyone else–including the damn doctors who’d never known me before this catastrophe.

Panicked, I tried to eat even more than usual, thinking that maybe this would stave off the shrinking. It didn’t.

As horrifying as this was, the true torture was what was happening to my skin. It was as if I was losing all normal sensation and feeling in my skin–not numbness, but a major change, especially in my face. It was like my skin was dying, leaving my soul or spirit trapped inside a dead body. There are really no words to describe how terrifying this was. I felt like I was just a pair of eyes and that I was suspended between life and death; too sick to have a life but not sick enough to die. It was like my own private Purgatory.

It was also around this time that I had the most vivid dream of my life. In my dream I was in St. Mary’s Church in Clinton, Connecticut, the church my Mom and I had attended, or rather, the church my Mom dragged me to. My Mother had died of cancer in 1986 at the age of 56. But in this dream she was very much alive and was walking in the aisle away from the altar with her hand outstretched. I was walking down the aisle toward her with my hand outstretched as well. It all seemed to be in slow motion as we came closer and closer to one another, and, just as our hands were about to touch, I woke up. This didn’t have the feel of an ordinary dream to put it mildly. I took some comfort from the dream, even though I’m agnostic.

“What is happening to me?” I screamed, as Amy tried to comfort me.

And then, after about a week, the shrinking stopped just as suddenly and mysteriously as it had begun, leaving me a shell of my former self in more ways than one and effectively killing me at the age of 24. Twenty four. The same age as James Dean when he died. Dean died in September and my illness had struck me in September.

I couldn’t believe that this sickness could ravage my body so completely and yet leave what was left of me to suffer on and in mourning for the body and life I’d now lost. I knew right then and there that I’d never have another normal day in my life.

It had been only roughly a month since my frantic ride to the ER and now it was all this.

The only good thing–if you can call it that–was that I now knew with absolute certainty that my illness was a physical one and not the product of a fevered brain or a figment of my imagination. No, it was all too horrible and all too real.

To demonstrate to my girlfriend what had happened to me, I put on a pair of pants she had got for me before I was sick. They had fit perfectly when I first wore them a few months before. Now when I put them on, they were noticeably too long and came down over my feet. So, either I had shrunk or my pants grew. I’ll let you decide.

If my body had just shrunk and nothing else, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Bizarre and upsetting, yes, but I could have dealt with it. It was, however, the accompanying changes to my skin that made my condition so agonizing and intolerable. My skin has always been my number one complaint since my body shrank. It’s like being entombed within your own body.

Now I REALLY have something to tell the doctors about, I thought. But what happened next was, for me, just as unbelievable as what had just transpired within my body.

When I went back to the doctors and told them how my body had shrunk, they simply and categorically said that this could not occur. They looked at me like I was saying the Earth was being overrun by giant pink elephants. They all told me that such a thing was impossible and that I was just imagining it all! I knew that this would make me sound crazy, but I was simply reporting what had taken place within my body. It would’ve never occurred to me to say this happened to me unless it truly had. I was in a state of stunned disbelief myself. Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it CAN’T happen. Forty years ago AIDS couldn’t happen, either. I wanted to strangle these doctors. A scant two months before I was getting laughs and applause from an audience; now I was being treated like a basket case who didn’t know his own body; instead of cracking people up, I was being told I was cracking up. It was all like a dark cosmic joke–and the joke was on me.

If all of this was just in my head, I would’ve never been rushed to the ER to start with. In the beginning, there was no doubt that there was a physical disturbance going in my BODY. All my life people had told me how intelligent and perceptive I was. Now, suddenly, I was delusional in the eyes of my doctors; even my girlfriend’s family and my own father started to treat me like I didn’t know what I was talking about. It’s impossible to describe how much this hurt.

I even brought pictures with me; pictures of myself from just a year ago when I healthy and wasn’t complaining of being sick or strange things happening to my body. The doctors would take a very quick glance at the photos and then say, “It looks like you’ve lost some weight.”

When I told them that my weight was the same as it had been when I was healthy, they just stared at me and said nothing.

I felt like I had crossed over into The Twilight Zone and that there was no way in hell that this could be reality. But Rod Serling never showed up to explain it all to me.

No one wants to be sick. At 24, who says they’re sick unless they’re sick? Not only was I having to cope with being sick in a strange and terrifying way, I was also having to cope with not being believed. This is a hell I would not wish on my worst enemy. Except for maybe Glenn Beck.

This is awful to say, but I started to envy people in wheelchairs–not because I thought I had it worse than they did–but because no one was questioning their plight or the severity of their condition. No one was telling them to “snap out of it” or that it was all in their head. No one was questioning their character.

But the worst part about this whole nightmare was my girlfriend saying, “Don’t I make you happy?” This cut me to the core because even one tenth of what she was doing for me would’ve made me happy under normal circumstances. I would have to invent a new language to even remotely express how much this broke my heart.

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A Season In Hell: My Medical Nightmare – Part 1

December 4, 2011 3 comments

By Don Millard

It was 1989 when it all began and I was 24 years old.

My version of a portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson originally done by John Singer Sargent.

I had a great girlfriend and was pursuing my dream of doing stand-up comedy in Florida. It was a good time to be me and I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone in the world. Little did I know that very soon I’d learn first hand that there are fates worse than death.

Driving home late at night from a show, a strange and unsettling thought crept across my mind. As I looked at my reflection in the rear view mirror, I heard myself say “I’m gonna die in some mysterious way.”

Whoa. Where the hell did that come from? As one who’d always had great health, I was taken aback by this, but chalked it up to weird thoughts one can have on a lonely stretch of road late at night. Nothing in my wildest dreams or strangest nightmares could have prepared me for just how accurate this eerie roadside prediction would turn out to be. It would make a Stephen King novel look like ‘Pippy Longstocking’.

It couldn’t have been more than a month or two later that I started to feel severely fatigued and washed out. I remember the date as September 1 as the day I started to feel sick. After about two weeks of feeling bad, I was laying listlessly on the couch at the condo my girlfriend shared with her mom and sister. Suddenly I got up and walked over to my girlfriend’s mom, who was a nurse, and said to her:

“I really don’t feel well.”

The words had barely escaped my lips when out of the blue my heart began beating so fast I was sure I was going to drop dead right there. My girlfriend’s mom quickly listened to my heart and took my blood pressure. Throwing off her stethoscope, she said: “Get him in the car and take him to the emergency room, Amy. His blood pressure is higher than my blood pressure patients!”

As my girlfriend raced me to the hospital, I was sure I’d never live to see the inside of it. In between gasps for air, I told her that I loved her. We were already planning a life together. Had I known what was in store for me, I would’ve chosen death a thousand times over. Gladly.

“Just hold on,” she said, running a red light.

I was rushed into a room in the ER where a team of doctors started working on me, poking this, prodding that, drawing blood. As they were hooking me up to an EKG machine, my heart rate began to slow down a bit and slightly resemble a survivable rhythm.

“I knew there was something wrong,” my girlfriend said to her mom and sister, who had just arrived. “He’s never sick.”

As I lay there awaiting a verdict, I worried that maybe this was AIDS. I had confided this fear to my girlfriend a week or so earlier and she had said calmly “Then we’ll die together.”

One of my doctors came back into the room and said the results of my tests were starting to come in and there were some irregularities. He told me that I was running a low-grade fever, my white blood cell count was up, and that there was blood in my stool. Beyond that, they couldn’t pinpoint a diagnosis. The EKG had come out normal.

“What about AIDS?” I asked.

“No, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of that,” replied the doctor.

When I was being discharged, I was told to have these same blood tests done again in about a week with my family doctor. I didn’t have a family doctor as I was never sick and didn’t go to doctors for anything. But I knew now that there was something terribly wrong.

So, about a week later I had the same blood tests done and, incredibly, everything came back normal. I simply couldn’t believe it. I was feeling even worse and now my tests were normal? WTF. But worst of all, I was now being told that I wasn’t even sick!

At 24, I didn’t know there were worse things than dying. But life was about to school me and conduct a master class in this cruel truth.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Conversation With Joe Scarborough: Side 1

November 13, 2011 1 comment
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Of Dice And Men

October 29, 2011 8 comments

By Liberalchik

OTOOLEFAN has recently become obsessed with board games and we aren’t talking Monopoly or Life. No, we’re talking about games that can only be found by googling “games your girlfriend will never play with you”.  He finds it hard to believe I’m not burning with excitement about playing ‘Broadside’ a game loosely based on the War of 1812.

And he isn’t content to search the internet for games quietly.  No, he must show me every game accompanied by an oral dissertation on the complexities of each one.

It started out innocently enough with Chess. We now have 4 Chess sets. I don’t play Chess.

Then Scrabble. I beat him badly. We haven’t played that again.

Then after hearing him talk about this game called ‘1960 The Making Of The President’ for weeks, I ordered it from eBay.  It took a couple of weeks to get here, and even longer to learn how to play. It was a pretty good sized box, heavy, with a text book of instructions. The board, a US map, covered about ¾ of the dining table and once it was set up with all the markers, cubes, momentum thingys, etc, there was no moving it. It was so complex, that it took us almost 2 weeks to play it the first time. Oh yeah, I was Nixon. Blah.

He loved it, I liked it okay. But that’s what love is, right?

But now, revenge is mine for it is that magical time of year that I turn into the Christmas Tree Nazi. I know it’s only Halloween and not yet Thanksgiving, but one must prepare. Understand that I am already kind of a decorating Nazi, bit anal there, I am a Virgo after all. But at Christmas, I am fierce in my determination to create the perfectly decorated tree.

Complicating things, this year for the first time, I have abandoned the standard one big tree for three Alpine trees in different  sizes. And apparently, the only suitable style for Alpine trees is Primitive Country. I have nothing Primitive Country.

Last year I let him participate in the tree decorating and it gave me heart palpitations. He kept muttering something about my “penguins facing due North”. He says these trees will look like they’re decorated in Early Blair Witch.

So while he is scouring the internet for a game about Andrew Jackson and the Bank War, I am tearing up eBay looking for CHEAP primitive tree ornaments and raffia. He shows me a game, I show him a snowman. He tells me about The American Heritage Battleship Game and I explain to him that we will not be using tinsel this year.

This is communication, this is  understanding.

This is love between Game Boy and Christmas Tree Nazi Girl.

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Political World: A Conversation With Joe Santorsa

October 15, 2011 3 comments
Don  talks with Joe Santorsa (@marnus3 on twitter) about his life long involvement in politics, the Wall Street protests, and his life with “Lassie” on Eavesdropping With OTOOLEFAN on BlogTalkRadio.
 
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A Brave New World: A Conversation With UnseeingEyes

October 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Don talks with @UnseeingEyes about American Culture, Travel and Literature on BlogTalkRadio. 

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Vee Jay Day: A Conversation With Bobby Rivers

September 17, 2011 2 comments
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