Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Survivor's Celebration

Last night the Golden State Warriors defeated LeBron James and the Cavs to win the NBA Championship. As you may know, it’s Golden State’s first championship since 1975, Oakland’s first championship since another duo of brothers—The Bash Brothers—helped lead the A’s to a World Series victory in 1989. In 1989 I was ten years old. In 1975 I didn’t even exist; I may have existed as an idea, a dream, una esperanza para mis papas.

After the game, I joined my homies, Kevin and Joanne and a few of their friends as we walked to the 14th and Broadway intersection, a stone’s throw from City Hall. A mass of rowdy revelers, donning yellow and blue, had united there to celebrate our team’s victory. Downtown was joyous bedlam—a never-ending stream of vehicles honking and hollering as they coasted down Broadway and its adjoining streets, the sidewalks teeming with fans shouting back in a give and forth with the celebratory honking, a helicopter hovering high above. It was a swirl of exaltation. It was thirty-nine years in the making.

I cheered and shouted with my friends and the crowd gathered in the middle of the street. The streets echoed with chants of “WAAAAAAAARRRRRRRIIIIIUUUUUURRRRSSSS!” “Fuck LeBron!” and “M-V-P!” when one man held a blown-up drawing of Stephen Curry’s face sneering like he did after sinking a three near the end of Game 5. I used my voice recorder to capture these chants, these roars, these moments. I also snapped some pictures and video-recorded our celebration. With camera in hand, as I did a pan of the crowd, I stepped back and remembered that this moment might not have happened for me. (This happens every once in a while, especially when I’m seeing something beautiful, almost never for something mundane like biting into, say, a Whopper Jr.) If I had not received treatment, I might have been another lymphoma statistic. My life may have culminated to becoming a few handfuls of ash scattered up into the sky—in a redwood forest, up along the Salkantay Trail, or perhaps at the foot of El Misti. I’m not sure what my parents would have done with my remains.

Being reminded of all this made the celebration even sweeter. And that’s the thing about being fortunate to be a cancer survivor—that well of gratitude never ends until we’re dead. It never ends as long as we remember to remember. I lived long enough to see my team, the city I love so much, win a championship.

It was a beautiful night. 


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memoir Outtake: Never Underestimate the Healing Power of a Super Soaker

Mariana and I sipped stiff cuba libres in our parents’ backyard. We stood beneath the patio roof as my brother-in-law, Rick, and my dad prepared the grill with lighter fluid and charcoal. The first drink I slurped down produced an immediate giddying effect. I’d slept for shit the night before which is why I thirsted for that caffeine-liquor kick. At some point, while we flashed the gab, Rick mentioned these Super Soakers he had in their car trunk. He bought them to shoot around with his four-year old nephew. He typically left the water guns in their garage but he figured I might want to have a showdown with him on a hot, summer afternoon in Fremont.

I said hell yeah.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Memoir Outtake: Beatling

Lafayette/Moraga Regional Trail
Here’s a transition I excised from a chapter titled “Made Me Nuclear.” This cut comes between a perilous nighttime bike ride I took on St. Mary’s Road without my front bike light and Charlie Lustman’s amazing musical, Made Me Nuclear, in San Pancho. This is the extended version with 302 words I later pared down to 180 words, which I ultimately cut (boohoohoo!):


Once I made it onto the flat part of the trail, whose fissures and bumps I was familiar with, I turned my iPod on. I rang my bicycle bell a couple of times and made a tooting sound while I scrolled through my songs. A righteous Beatles tune to sing along to was needed. I picked one of my all-time Lennon faves, “I Am the Walrus.” I had memorized the song since I was seventeen when I became enamored with John. (Lennon was one of my first heroes. For his songwriting genius; the fearlessness he demonstrated in playing from his heart no matter how vulnerable or dark his emotions were; his open-mindedness; his wit; his self-deprecating sarcasm; and his belief that celebrities should utilize their power for what he believed were righteous causes.) I sang aloud to the song. I went to these noise-making lengths because that part of the trail had deer. They hid amidst the thicket of bushes, behind the trees that lined the path. During the previous school year, I rode the trail one night and nearly hit a deer that darted in front of me. Since then, as a precautionary step that happened to be joyous for me (though assuredly abominable to hear if anyone were around), I often sung aloud while I cycled through those deer-populated areas. That way, they knew I was there and wouldn’t freak out and jump in front of me once they saw my shrouded figure and the curious white light on my steering handle as I hurtled down the path like a glowing phantasm. (This strategy seemed to work because I never had another deer-in-bicycle-headlight encounter.)

And so, I goo goo g’joobed and hello-goodbyed my way onto the residential streets of Lafayette, beatling away. I made it to the station on time.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Beings - My 25 Favorite Animals

Photo by rasputina2
From an early age I have always had deep affection and fascination for all the animals we share this world with. When I was in grade school my mom would take me and my sister to the Irvington Library to load up on books and video cassettes to nourish us. I used to gingerly walk out of the library with a stack of books and tapes tucked beneath my chin. Back then, I almost exclusively read books about dinosaurs, Ancient Egyptians, and animals—especially sharks and predatory animals like hawks and snakes. Over time—though my parents didn’t believe me—I read all the animal books from that tiny library that interested me. My earliest career aspirations included becoming a zoo veterinarian, marine biologist, or archaeologist.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Memoir Outtake: Cycling through the Shitstorm

Here's the first of my memoir outtakes I am going to post on this blog. Like deleted film scenes, I thought it’d be fun to show what didn’t make the cut. Hope you enjoy this outtake from a chapter now titled "The Freak Show":


During our therapy sessions, I used a lot of analogies to explain myself to Akhila, the attractive woman with curly brown hair whom I had chosen as my therapist. For example, one day I tore out of my home on Dolores Street to make it to our evening session on time. I had less than fifteen minutes to cycle to their office in Hayes Valley, which was almost two miles away. A few minutes into my ride, it began to hail. Bicyclists were pulling off of Valencia Street, ducking beneath awnings, huddling in doorways with other pedestrians who stared out to the street. The pavement was doting with pebbles of hail. They thunked off my helmet. A few of them hurt as they panged off my knuckles even though I was wearing cycling gloves. Shit, I said, waiting at a red light as I got pelted from the icy mini-meteor shower. Once the signal turned green, I squinted and lowered my head to protect my eyes. I pedaled on.

Cold and sweaty with pieces of hail lodged into my sweater, I stepped into Akhila’s private study. I closed the door behind me. With a smirk, I wiped the sweat on my forehead with a hand towel.

“Sorry I’m late. I got caught in that hailstorm,” I said, nodding toward the window.

I dropped my shoulder bag and helmet beside my chair. I took a seat opposite Akhila, then stared out the window at the dark gray sky. The hailstorm had passed. I couldn’t stop grinning. Akhila watched me with a curious grin. Perhaps she sensed all the energy bouncing inside me like billiard balls after a thundering break. I felt like I could run for miles.

I chortled.

“That’s how the past year of my life has been,” I said, placing the hand towel on my lap as I tried to reign myself in. I explained that it was my first ride in the hail, that other cyclists pulled off the road. I brought up chemotherapy. “If I wanted to live, I had no choice but to just lower my head and keep going and going through that shitstorm, just like the bike ride I had now.”

I held my head high like a boy who just completed his first multiplication table. I was pleased with myself—how simple yet perfect the analogy was. Akhila nodded as though she was saying “Right on.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Clown Without Pity’s 2014-2015 NBA Playoff Predictions!



Oh boy oh boy oh boy, here we go: the NBA Playoffs! The playoff bracket has finally been set, and I breathed a big sigh of relief this past Wednesday because the Spurs did not land the #4 or #5 spot, which would have meant an encounter in the second round with my beloved Warriors. Did you see what I did there? I’m already assuming that the Warriors and Spurs will advance past the opening round! Okay, okay—I’ve got to slow down. Getting ahead of myself here.

Before I go into my round by round predictions, here’s a couple of executive summary-like thoughts:


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Obtain Permission to Reprint Lyrics for a Work of Literature

Music has been an integral rhythm in my life so no wonder that was reflected in my memoir. Early complete drafts of my manuscript were littered with musical references, including beaucoup song lyrics. From the beginning my classmates at Saint Mary’s warned me that it was costly to procure permission to reprint song lyrics. I never doubted that, but I also received conflicting information as far as what lyrics I could use for free. Unless my memory is fuzzy—which is entirely possible—I assumed, for the longest time, that I could use up to three lines of song lyrics before I would have to shell out any money to reprint them. Although I was unable to substantiate this in Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off , or through Internet research, I continued to believe this.

Call it wishful thinking.

Now that my manuscript is being finalized—and after I found out how arduous it can be to attain reprint permission, and how expensive reprint fees can be—I decided it would be good to write an article discussing my experience. I also wanted to provide some tips that can help other writers interested in obtaining permission to reprint lyrics for their work. Also, I found several articles and message boards online that were useful but I didn’t find one article or page that housed all that information. I hope this post can provide that all-encompassing help.