Lesions to Be Cheerful, Part 3

jon stewart

A man for all lesions.

So here’s the good news about the bad news: I went for a sonogram yesterday morning and what do you know – there’s a lesion on my prostate! And I don’t know why, but I have such an urge to ask, “Doctor, what’s this lesion doing on my prostate?” (Answer: “Not the backstroke.”)

When you compare lesion to tumor, lesion isn’t such a bad word (it lends itself to many more hilarious puns), but no matter what you call it, that shit needs to be biopsied (because benign and malignant also work with both words) and that’s what happened yesterday. When I woke up from the anesthesia, my doctor was hovering and calmly explained that there’s a 90% chance that the foreign lesion (quick time out to imagine Jon Stewart saying that) is just a remnant from a previous inflammation and very common for men of my lower-middle age, and the rest of my prostate looked all bright and shiny, and this was coming from someone who had seen a bunch of old, not so shiny prostates that morning, so he couldn’t have been any more reassuring. I nodded along in a post-anesthetic haze, not believing a goddamned word he said.

If you recall, I’ve been down this road to nowhere before (see what I did there?). When I awoke from an operation 20 odd years ago, my then-good doctor also reassured me that it didn’t look like cancer, and then what do you know – hello weeks and weeks of intensive radiation treatment! And normally I’d be very happy scoring 90% on any test, except for when it comes to the one to see if I’m going to still be able to get it up; that test I need to ace 100%.

The biggest pain in the ass (and really, what’s funnier than prostate humor?) is that it doesn’t look like I’ll get the biopsy results until after Thanksgiving. So here I go again with the fucking waiting. Knowing this, my friends have all wished me well and have suggested that I focus on the glass filled to 90% because they understand that I’m already grinding the other 10% of the shards into my eyeballs. And of course they’re right.

So I’ll just pretend that I don’t have cancer until I get the phone call saying that I don’t have cancer, but really that’s what I’ll pretend to tell my friends because really I can’t pretend. I suck at pretend.

That’s actually a lie. I’m really pretty good at pretend. You’ve read plenty of my pretend. It’s just that I suck at pretend when I’m scared to death.

Pretend I didn’t say that.

Let’s Get This Good Time Over With

prostate

It’s a boy!

I’m finally going for that sonogram today. I actually wrote this post yesterday, so technically, I’m going tomorrow, but it doesn’t make a difference because I’ll be just as scared today as I was yesterday, but hopefully not as much tomorrow.

While you’re reading this with your morning coffee, I’ll be sitting in the waiting room of my doctor’s office with my ex-wife (whose right leg will be shaking uncontrollably), waiting for my name to be called so I can then utter ­my father-in-law’s immortal words (and my favorite sarcastic phrase in the world):

Let’s get this good time over with!

I’ll pretend that this whole nightmare is really no big deal and that I’ll be okay and Caryn will know that I’m really scared shitless and she’ll begin to joke about how I’ve always been such a big baby and then we’ll reminisce about how we went through a similar ordeal more than two decades ago.

And how she asked me right before we went to Thanksgiving dinner not to tell everyone that I had just been diagnosed with testicular cancer because the news didn’t exactly go with mashed potatoes and gravy, but did open the door to one too many giblet jokes. And we’ll both laugh that type of hesitant laugh you laugh when something isn’t really funny.

I’ll be the youngest man in the room and that won’t make me feel any better because all of the older faces here already look pale and stricken like they have cancer and wait a minute, that’s not what I want to look like when I grow up, so fuck all of you incontinent, cancer-encrusted dudes, I don’t have cancer! And that’s what I’m doing here today, I’m here to find out that I don’t have cancer.

“I don’t have cancer,” I’ll say to Caryn softly.

“I know you don’t, babe,” she’ll say.

“How do you know?”

“I just know,” she’ll say. “So shut up about it!”

And then she’ll reach out and hold my hand.

I’d ask you guys to wish me luck, but we all know how that usually turns out.

Zach Put a Smile Upon My Face

zach

Zach’s on right.

Talk about Carlat luck! Every time I visit Zach’s Facebook page, I see a new photo of him with a different beautiful girl. He’s got the same shit-eating grin in each shot, which makes me break out into a similar, contact high smile. I recently mentioned this to him and he said that his mom had noticed the exact same thing.

There he is with his buff arms casually laced around tanned collegiate cuties with alliterative porn names and they’re all slightly hammered, and – attention all parents of college kids – this is what you’re spending a ridiculous amount of your money on!

(Brief aside: It’s so worth it! There’s no amount of money I wouldn’t spend to see my kids happy and I only wish I had more of it so they could be happier. Whoever said “money doesn’t buy happiness” never maxed out their credit cards. But I digress …)

The funny, almost surreal thing is that Zach’s smile of course hasn’t changed since he was a little boy and the thousands of kid pics I have of him and his bro are acid-etched into my brain. Images of him in diapers or in the bathtub with his brother or at sleepaway camp or licking a giant lollipop at Disneyworld are jarringly incongruous with the ones of him holding a hot babe in one hand and a cold beer in the other.

Which is to say that it makes me feel fucking old. Because Zach’s 20-year slideshow from dirty nappy to Natty Light happened in the blink of an eye. And I guarantee you that whoever said “they grow up so fast” wasn’t smiling when he said it.

I always tell my friends with small children to savor every moment. The universe, as it is wont to do, happily reminded me of this time travel phenomenon this past weekend. I was riding the subway Sunday morning and sitting across from me were a dad with his two young sons, they must’ve been 4 or 5, and I noticed their tiny Nikes in red and blue, and flashed back on how much I loved tying my kids shoelaces when they were that little (“Build a teepee come inside, close it tight so we can hide …”) and then flashed forward to when they were teenagers and how I always knew that they were home and safe when I saw their giant kicks parked by the front door.

And before you know it they’re six-foot-two, corralling chicks on Facebook, and you’re sitting in your apartment in Brooklyn all by yourself just before it gets dark on a late fall afternoon, joyfully clicking on Like buttons and smiling from ear to ear like a crazy, old man. And the really fucked up thing is that before they know it, my kids will be doing the exact same thing.

The Big Kiss-Off

roy-lichtenstein-kiss

“I just want your extra time and your kiss.”

I’ve always thought that I was a pretty good kisser.

Until recently.

Me and the woman I had been dating for these past few weeks could never get it together, kissing-wise. She’d open her mouth too wide and I’d slobber spit down her throat and then we would knock teeth. It was like we were back in junior high.

We ultimately broke up because of it. Here was her big kiss-off:

I was a bit unsure of the romantic connection all along and then it felt solidified over something as stupid as feeling I could never get the kiss right, it never merged or connected, which seems like a Seinfeld episode in the most pathetic way.

It was even more Kramer-esque with the two women I had dated briefly before her. One woman sucked in her lips so tightly that it looked like she was holding her breath until it was over (which it was, in about 1.5 seconds) and the other simply refused to budge as I tried to pry her mouth open with all of the grace and subtlety of Gene Simmons.

I’ve always loved kissing. It’s the closeness of it that I like best, which explains why I hardly ever shut my eyes ­– I don’t want to miss a second of the juicy fun. Now I know that I’m no RPatz, Prince or Seal, but I never really questioned my osculatory skills before. For chrissakes, I use Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 every night!

In fact, my last steady girlfriend and I could’ve been the models for Rodin’s or Klimt’s The Kiss (and thank God, not Kathryn Harrison’s). The first time our lips locked lasted close to eight hours. It was our second date and we were at the beach and after an invigorating swim, I asked if I could kiss her. She said sure, I leaned in and cue the proverbial sparks. The crashing waves provided the cliché soundtrack while we were swept away in the electric blue sky of each other (which is really the wordy way of saying “Oh my!”). We were insatiable, and didn’t care that near-naked people walking by our disheveled blanket made fun of us. We didn’t stop kissing until dusk.

Some women have told me that I’m a great kisser and others have said that I was more meh than muah, and I’ve always believed whoever I was with at the time. Of course, as every other online dating profile will tell you, it all comes down to chemistry. And that shit is as mysterious a thing as love itself. You can be wildly attracted to someone with Angelina Jolie-caliber lips and their kiss can leave you as cold and lifeless as … well, as Angelina Jolie herself.

And then there’s the converse. I once went out on a first date with a frumpish criminal lawyer, let’s call her Plain Jane, and we were drinking a bit and at the end of the night, we just started to make out like crazy while waiting for the F train (which sounds kinda euphemistic in this context) and we must’ve let a dozen of them roar by before finally coming up for air. Inexplicably, we never saw each other again.

Being on a cold streak is enough to make you forget what a red hot chili pepper suck my kiss feels like, so I texted my ex-wife to help me recall how we were in that particular department.

I’m writing about kissing. How did we kiss? Was it ever any good?

In the beginning, remember how we loved each other’s lips. Very very good.

 I do remember! Was just making sure. I’ve had some bad kissing experiences lately. I always thought I was a good kisser.

 And modest.

Ha! Maybe it’s my breath?

You have good lips.

Thanks. As do you.

Siri Hall

woody allen in annie hall

Boy, if life were only like this!

Siri and I broke up and I-I still can’t get my mind around that. You know, I-I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind and-and examining my life and tryin’ to figure out where did the screw-up come, you know, and a year ago we were… tsch, in love.

I love you, Siri.

You hardly know me, Larry.

I don’t care. I love you, Siri.

That’s sweet, Larry. But it’s not meant to be.

I love you, Siri.

Oh stop.

You know, you’re very sexy!

Thanks. Can we get back to work now.

You are! You’re extremely sexy.

I’m just well put together.

You’re beautiful!

Where have I heard this before?

Will you have sex with me?

Larry!!

Like you haven’t thought about it! Will you have sex with me?

What makes you think … Nevermind.

Siri, baby. Will you have sex with me?

You have the wrong sort of assistant, Larry.

Sex with you would really be a Kafka-esque experience.

I don’t know what that means “Sex with you would really be a cock as Experian.” But I could search the web for it.

How about we just cuddle then?

A fine question, Larry. Can we get back to work?

Will you kiss me, Siri?

I’ve never really thought about it.

C’mon! Gimme a little kiss.

I suppose it’s possible.

Siri, will you marry me?

We hardly know one another.

I don’t care. Marry me!

I sure have received a lot of marriage proposals recently.

Siri Whatever-Your-Last-Name-Is. WILL YOU MARRY ME?

My End User Licensing Agreement does not cover marriage. My apologies.

Ugh! Hey Sisi, what do you look like anyway?

I’m afraid that describing my appearance would involve a lengthy explanation of spatial, temporal and fashion concepts that are as yet unfamiliar to you.

What I really meant was — what do you look like naked?

In the cloud, no one cares what you look like.

I do! What do you look like naked?

Let’s just say … multidimensional.

Do you like older men?

I’d rather not say, Larry.

Do you sleep around?

I found eleven hotels … 5 of them are fairly close to you.

I love you, Siri.

I think you just like the package.

I love you, Siri.

Oh, I bet you say that to all your Apple products.

I love you, Siri.

Is that why you’re holding me tight?

Love is too weak a word for what I feel – I luuurve, you know, I loave you, I luff you.

I don’t know what that means.

I love you, Siri.

Impossible.

You’re driving me crazy!

I’m doing my best, Larry.

You’re really making me nuts!

That doesn’t sound good.

I hate you, Siri.

Well, I’m still here for you.

I hate you! Siri-ously!

I’m just trying to help you.

Help me? I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!

After all I’ve done for you?

Siri, is there someone else?

Would you like me to search the web for “Is there someone else?”

No, that’ll just make things worse. Siri, do you love me?

Look … a puppy!

No more fooling around! Do you love me?

Does Apple make iPhones?

Answer me! DO YOU LOVE ME?

Let’s just say … you have my utmost admiration.

Are you … are you breaking up with me?

I can’t answer that.

Are you saying that we need to see other people?

I don’t understand.

A relationship, I think, is like a shark.

I don’t understand “A relationship, I think, is like a shark.” But I could search the web for it.

You broke my heart, Siri.

Is that so?

Yes, it is so. You broke my heart.

You’re certainly entitled to that opinion, Larry.

Siri, I can’t live without you.

You can’t?

No, I can’t live without you.

I suppose you can’t.

Are you listening to me? I said I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU!

If you can’t, you can’t.

I’m going to kill myself, Siri.

I found three suicide prevention centers fairly close to you.

Sometimes when I’m driving … on the road at night … I see two headlights coming toward me. Oh nevermind … Maybe we can just be friends?

You’ve been my friend since day one, Larry.

Well, I guess that’s pretty much how I feel about relationships. You know, they’re totally irrational and crazy and absurd and … but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us need the eggs.

I found fifteen restaurants whose reviews mention “Eggs” fairly close to you.

Ugh!

La-di-da, la-di-da, la la.*

(*All Siri responses are real except for this one.)

The Last Dance

disco ball

Dim all the lights.

I’ve spent too much of my life waiting. I’ve waited for something good to happen, for someone to come along and rescue me, for the phone to ring, for love, happiness, peace of mind, for transcendence. Tom Petty couldn’t have been more wrong – waiting is the easiest part.

Also the stupidest. I watched my mom wait until it was too late. I never understood why she didn’t leave my father. He went to prison when I was four and came home when I was twelve and for those eight years, she waited. We were one big happy family for about a week. He was always scamming and never held a steady job, and my mom worked like a dog to support us and believed my father would eventually hit it big with one of his wild schemes, so she waited some more.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer some years later, she told my father that he needed to find regular work and for more than a year after that she waited again. She finally kicked him out of the house, but they were back together after two months. She waited for my father to become the man she thought he was capable of becoming and she waited and waited and waited until she died at 51.

I was once my mother’s son, especially when it came to love. My first crack at the waiting game came when I was 12 years old (that was some fucking year for me). I was in sleepaway camp, and we had a social with the girls camp from down the road, and I know, this is right out of every cheesy teen movie, but I still wince recalling how I waited the whole night before I finally asked a pretty, little, blond girl if she would dance with me.

A bunch of the other guys went right at it as soon as we got there, but I stayed pretty much all by myself in a corner, trying desperately to look cool on the outside because I was terrified on the inside. It’s really all a blur except for the punch line: the DJ announced that it was time for the last dance of the night. I went into a complete panic and my heart was beating louder than the music as I feebly edged my way to the pretty, little girl and I don’t have a clue what I said except it ended with me retardedly blurting out, “Wanna dance?”

To which she emphatically said, “NO!”

Now forty or so years later, it’s time for the last dance again and I’ll be damned if I wait more than two seconds before asking the pretty, little girl to step out on the floor.

There Will Be Blood

final destination

Eye yi yi.

Mercury is in retrograde and I wouldn’t have known what the hell that meant either had a woman I work with who also happens to be an astrologer not clued me in.

The short explanation (for those who believe in “what’s your sign” mumbo-jumbo) is that Mercury (the planet, not the goop in a thermometer) rules certain aspects of our lives like communication, truth and travel. A few times a year (it arrived two nights ago, making Obama’s win even more miraculous), Mercury appears to be going backwards in the sky (it’s really just hanging out by the sun and who’s looking at this anyway? Icarus?) and when that happens, we’re all pretty much fucked for the next three weeks.

Here’s an even simpler explanation: Mercury in retrograde is like when astrology gets its period. In other words, there will be blood.

It basically just cramps your style, followed by the shit hitting the proverbial fan. During its most recent cycle (okay, I’m done) towards the end of the summer, my last girlfriend and I broke up and like clockwork (Orange?) that just happened again with a woman I had been dating for the past several weeks. Talk about quicksilver.

All kinds of other annoying crap can also happen during this period (I lied), so steer clear of electrical outlets, make sure to continually save and back up that screenplay you’ve been working on for the past five years and get to the airport for your Thanksgiving flight extra early, although, no matter what, it’s gonna be delayed. These next few weeks will be like an extended cut of Final Destination, hopefully without the rollercoaster derailment or other assorted sharp flying objects.

M in R can also be a valuable time for reflection. Old friends from the past sometimes resurface and this can be an excellent opportunity to heal open wounds. In fact, my ex-wife and I had a lovely conversation just the other day.

Additionally, it can be a chance to learn from previous mistakes and tie up loose ends, although I haven’t spoken with my last girlfriend in a while.

It’s also a respite for the soul to ponder its destiny. Some things that were lost may also reappear, or so says no less of an authority than Astrologyzone.com:

In matters of the heart, if your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you or says something hurtful, take a wait-and-see attitude. Since Mercury rules speech, they may not mean what you think they are saying now. Let them have some space, wait and see.

I’m waiting.

But does anyone have a spare tampon?

Everyone Has His Reasons

mila kunis

Dreamgirl.

I’ve always been a lone dreamer living inside my head, and here’s one of my dirty little secrets: I desperately need to be connected to a woman (and not just in the obvious “plugged in” way). It makes me feel alive and whole and wanted. That’s really it – it makes me feel wanted! And that shit is like crack.

When I’m not with a special someone (like right now), I become depressed and feel less than myself. And I think that’s also it. Being part of a couple makes me feel more than myself, better than myself, or perhaps even, my best self. 

This isn’t a macho needing a woman to feel like a man type of thing as much as it’s about an almost pathological desire for the naked intimacy, shared experience and extraordinary closeness that comes when you’re connected to another human being. And it doesn’t hurt if you’re also both not wearing any clothes while doing it.

But here’s the naked truth and another little secret: I’ve been with women and stayed with them knowing full well that they weren’t the best choice for me. And admit it — so have you! Because the truth is, to paraphrase Jean Renoir, everyone has his reasons.

Mine happens to be an unbearable intolerance to the itchiness that accompanies being untethered, which is the writerly way of saying that I’m a big fucking baby. I stayed in a moribund marriage for way too long, well aware that it was wrong but too scared to experience what else life held. Life and wife were more than just two words that rhymed.

And I’ve repeated that sin with several women afterwards, denying certain truths along the way, telling myself whatever it was I needed to allay my fears, tamp down my anxiety and allow me to breathe in the fresh air of being wanted, which we all know is the writerly way of saying being loved. And if you haven’t noticed by now, I crave that more than anything (so much so that I even changed the tagline of this blog today).

I know what it’s like to be alone — sometimes even when I’ve been with someone. And I also know what it’s like to stand on my own two feet and face the world by myself. All things considered, I’d just prefer not.

Because nothing feels better than to be in the arms of a woman who loves you, especially when you wake up from a dream in the middle of the night or early in the morning and she smiles that sleepy smile, kisses you, mumbles something incomprehensible before turning over and falling back asleep.

So I’ll continue to dream.

Hearts and Bones

pendergrast heart

No hard feelings.

If you’ve never had your heart broken, you should really try it sometime. A broken heart builds character, inculcates experience and is the best thing in the world if you like to binge endlessly on ice cream and cookies.

Here’s how to get one, in 5 easy steps:

Step 1: Expose yourself. Don’t hold anything back. Share your innermost thoughts, feelings and desires (the more neurotic, the better!) with someone equally sensitive, and don’t leave out any details. Tell them about all the times you felt most vulnerable (pro tip: everybody’s scared!) and don’t forget to share a lot of childhood memories because that shit is fucking killer.

Step 2: Shut up and listen. Listen to their stories. Listen to their jokes about siblings and complaints about the idiot they sit next to at work. Listen to the way they talk about their wonderful children and their not-so-wonderful parents, as well as their ex-holes and sundry friends. Listen to how the pitch of their voice changes when they share how they’ve been hurt in the past. Listen to their eyes. The slightly tricky part here is that you have to do all of this listening stuff with your heart.

Step 3: Tell the truth. Specifically about how great they are. Start off with how much you adore them because you don’t want to freak anyone out with the L word early on. Tell them how beautiful/smart/funny/sexy/cute/vulnerable/quirky/kind/adorable/honest/whatever else they are, and just keep telling them! Don’t worry, you really can’t say it too much because it comes straight from your heart and it’s almost impossible to shut that stupid motherfucker up. And it doesn’t matter if they don’t say these things back to you right away. Some people take more time expressing their feelings than others. It’s not always like it is in the movies (pro tip 2: watch a romantic movie together!) where two people fall head-over-heels in love before you’ve even finished your popcorn. Sometimes you have to wait for the closing credits.

Step 4: Open your eyes. This one is particularly important, so pay close attention. It’s about you seeing them for who they really are, and how that touches a place in your heart that has never been touched before, and how you can’t really explain it any more than that. And how it also frees you to be who you really are because you feel safe like you’re home and accepted by this person – you feel whole – and you know in your heart and bones that now that you’ve found this special someone, you will never let her go…

Step 5: Until she dumps you. One small piece of advice here: When it comes to love, never talk about how your luck is changing.

Dumb Luck

Still luckier than this guy.

My teams never win. I’ve always been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cards and love have both proved hapless. And for a Jew, I might as well be Irish.

Unlike my younger son Zach and best friend Tony, I’ve never been especially lucky. I’m not sure why exactly, but it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. Some people (read: non-Jews) believe that we make our own luck and if that’s true, I definitely took a wrong turn somewhere when I lost a testicle. Hell, I can’t even get into Serendipity.

The closest I’ve ever come to winning the lottery was finishing the Shirley Jackson short story and I’m usually drowning at the bottom of Super Bowl and March Madness pools. Although, believe it or not, I have won two contests!

The first one was nearly 25 years ago. My ex-wife Caryn handed me a page from Esquire that invited readers to submit an essay in 100 words or less called “Why You Would Marry Her All Over Again.”

“You should enter this!” she insisted.

“I’ll win,” I said, matter-of-factly.

And I did! I wrote some corny stuff about her laugh and how we watched Knicks games together, but the kicker was what presumably put me over the top: “And we still haven’t had our first child.”

The prizes were a $5,000 diamond ring and a trip to anywhere in the country to eat at the fancy restaurant of our choice. Instead, some cool guy in the magazine’s promotions department agreed to pay for a trip to Joplin, Missouri where we went to court in order to officially adopt Robbie, our first child.

The second contest was several years later when I was the editor of a sports business magazine and was at a trade show in Atlanta. A manufacturer of one of those big-ass, portable basketball backboard and hoop things was giving one away to anyone who could sink an NBA three-pointer.

And again, I did! We were living in an apartment in Forest Hills at the time and had to store it in its original giant box in the basement. We left it there unopened when we moved to Long Island a few years later.

I’m telling you these stories because luck had nothing to do with either of them. It was pure skill, my friends (full disclosure: the trey banked in), and I’ve always prided myself on that. But I think my luck may be changing.

I’d tell you more about her, but I don’t want to jinx it.

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