Sunday, August 23, 2015

Memoir Outtake: When Did It Begin?

Photo by Frankicello

When did I know that my body had a Life-threatening Disease in Residence?

My Long and Winding Road to Diagnosis began in June 2008, ten months before I was given The Bad News. I was at home, chatting in the hallway with my roommate, Adam, after a day at the office. I wore a sky-blue button-down shirt and gray slacks. While we conversed, I touched the area by my left clavicle. There was a lump. It seemed peculiar, though I never made a habit of touching that part of my body. I reached over to my right clavicle to see if I had a symmetrical lump.

I didn’t.

I made an appointment to see my doctor the following week.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Shit to Do During a Summer Internship in the San Francisco Bay Area

My employer hired a number of fellows and interns to work for us this summer. I was involved in hiring our two undergraduate interns, including one also named Juan who came out from Texas for a ten-week internship. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area I felt a responsibility to make sure he squeezed all the juice out of his time here. This served as the inspiration for this post.

Like anyone, I have my own style. I roll in a particular way. Por ejemplo, when I’m traveling to an unfamiliar city or area I am far, far more likely to gravitate toward a seedy dive bar than some wine-tasting tour. Also, since I’m a restless human being (if I were a dog, my energy would likely match that of, say, an English Springer Spaniel) I like to keep on the move.

And so, here’s a list of activities to do in the San Francisco Bay Area—mostly centered around San Francisco and Oakland—that meets my personal stamp of approval.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thoughts on Work, the Forty-hour Workweek and Work-Life Balance

At my office we have a large dry-erase board in the kitchen. We use it to ask questions for staff members to anonymously respond to. Recent samplings include: “If California could have a state meal, what would you include?”, “What are your favorite water-saving tips?” and “What was your first memory?” For the past week the question has been, “What are your strategies for maintaining a healthy balance in life between work, family …?”

I was the first to respond.

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.