Friday, September 12, 2008

Wherein I Shit on 20th Century Radioimaging

We got the news on my dad's PET scan late last night. The man is clean as a whistle, it has not metastisized outside of his neck. This is the happiest I've ever been about a loved one ONLY having his tongue, larynx, and upper lymphatic system ravaged by cancer.

I was reading up on how PET/CT scans work, and they are fucking rad! First they fill you up on radioactive sugar (the radioactive sugar has a half life of about 2 hours so timing is of the essence!) Then they slide you in this big whirring supercooled magnet for 40 minutes and scan your body a millimeter at a time, taking little slice photos. Each slice takes 2 different kinds of shots, one for measuring metabolic activity at a cellular level, and one for measuring density and size by POLARIZING EVERY ATOM in your body. Then they stitch every slice together, like lining up slices of bread, and have a perfectly detailed model of your body and everything inside.

How the fuck did they find cancer before this shit? Apparently they just guessed at whether or not some organ was swollen a little too weird and then cut you open to see.

But still, my dad's going into the hospital next Thursday for atleast the next 2 weeks. They're doing 2 surgeries, in the first one they have to cut through his jaw bone to open his neck and dig out the goop. After he gets home he'll be recovering for a month, then he starts radiation and chemo, and a prescription for Marinol!

I'm going to surprise him. This weekend is the last he'll be able to eat solid foods for the rest of his life, so I'm driving to St. Louis to eat $50 steaks. It'll probably be the last that he'll have a human voice, I'm going to record him telling the story of how he met my mom and when they fell in love.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Not My Imagination

I wrote this for Scott, but it's true, and possibly my favorite anecdote:

Age 18, I was riding with 2 other friends crammed up on the front couch seat in my first car: a 75 chevy malibu, dark grey. We are driving in the nether regions of Fenton MO, between downtown where the walmart and chop-suey joint is, and the other side with the QT and White Castle.

A cop pulls in behind us. They ride there for about 5 minutes while I'm reassuring everyone that it's fine, we've definitely not done anything to warrant a hassle.

The squad car hits the lights AND siren, along with the spotlight trained on the back of our heads. I pull over slowly and put the car in park.

The doors of the squad car open and over their built in PA a voice says: "BEN SMITH! STEP OUT OF THE VEHICLE WITH YOUR HANDS OUT!"

Every muscle in my face locks. I glance at my friends, they look like they've just seen a dog shot.

I reach over with both my hands and unlatch the driver's side door, push it open and step out, both hands in front of me. I make the quarter turn and see the driver's side cop standing behind his door with his gun squarely on me. I see his partner outside his car on the curb in the blind spot of my car with her gun pointed at the 2 people on my front seat.

I do it.
I start to step backward.

When I was 18 I almost always wore this blue jacket with cone spikes all over the shoulders and a giant CRASS circle logo on the back. At this moment, aside from imagining my torso getting yanked forward with bullets, I wondered how fucking sweet this must look, and what a great record cover a photo of this would make.

I reach the back of my car.
I do it.
Someone yanks both my arms back and cranks handcuffs around my wrists very tightly. Then grabs my left arm and spins me around. I can make out the rim of a stocky balding guy, the kind of balding guy who shaves his head to hide his hairline.

"Ben Smith?"
"Yes sir."
"How long have you been on this side of the river Ben?"
"Um, I don't know what you mean, the Meramec?"
"Alright smartfuckingass, how long have you been in St. Louis?"
"Since I was 1 sir, a baby"
He frowns and speaks quietly: "Watch yourfuckingmouth. You were in Illinois and now you're here and I'm going to take you in you damned child fucker."

"We are going to run your sick ass in to lock up, you're going to stay there as long as we like, and then turn you back over to the state of Illinois."
"Sir I don't think I'm who you think."
"You're Ben Smith. Grey Malibu. Brown hair and glasses. 6+ foot"

"Yes. I've never lived in Illinois. If you get out my wallet you can run my license. Please run my license sir."
He looks at me skeptically: "Do you have any knives, guns, or needles on you, anything that could stick me at all?"
I tell him no, he reaches behind me and pulls out my wallet. The officer hands it to his smaller partner and proceeds to pat me down, empty the rest of my pockets.

They walk me back to the rear of their car and open the back door. As they turn me to put me in I can see my friends in the car, each of them alternately giving the "aw shit!" head-bob, over and over.

I sit in the car, I overhear them running my ID. I am Benjamin A Smith, born Hopewell VA, November 1st. The driver looks at this partner, steps around the car and opens my door. He reaches for my shoulder. "Sorry about this one", giving me a tug out, "You match the description of another Ben Smith, driving a car like yours" saying this all to the handcuffs while he unclasps them. "He's a child molester. If you get pulled over any more you might want to tell the officers that you're not him."

I sincerely nod as if he's given me the sagest wisdom I've ever heard. He hands me my wallet and keys and tells me to have a safe night.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Father's gotta take sick and die some of these days

Fig 1. Like a damned Brain Handle shirt

I've been keepin my hat on this one for the past couple weeks but I just got the news: my dad has been diagnosed with stage 4 esophogeal cancer, which means deathgoop is in his lymph nodes. They gotta cut out a large chunk of his throat, start radiation. Next week they'll do the pump test to see if it's spread to other parts of his body, especially his lymphatic system. Then they'll see if he'll be chemo'd too. If he makes it through the next 6 months, he'll probably make it another 5 years, and then?

My mom and Tom got married a little more than 2 years ago (they've been together since I was 12, he's been a bigger dad). The man is a goddamn rock but for the first time in my life I can tell he's scared. Everyone is numb, terrified, but patient. I'll be back in St. Louis a bit more.

I'm actually kind of happy this is coming down at the end of my Summer-o-Hate. Got to figuring out how tough I are, and now I get to test it. Guarantees by the end of the year I'll be made of concrete and east-german razorwire, with a delicious warm gooey center.

I go to work and I keep thinking about world war 3.

Muddy Waters: You Gotta Take Sick and Die Some of These Days (MP3)