My Birthday: Putting 31 in the Record Book

I turn 32 today. Four years ago, I wrote about the ubiquitous silliness of birthdays, but at 32, I feel differently. As Malin Akerman’s Billions character says, “If we don’t mark the milestones, we’re just passing with the times.” I have no interest in passing. So, for posterity’s sake, here are some things that happened while I was 31:

  • Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908
  • Donald Trump was elected President.
  • I was diagnosed with leukemia and KT and I had to postpone our wedding

  • The effort of friends caused both Bill Self and Roy Williams to write me get well letters (note KU game on iPhone in pic…true fan!)
  • We lost a James Bond and a Batman…and eventually the Tom Petty
  • KT and I had to put down Otis the dog, then we started chemo
  • There was that weird Oscars fiasco
  • KT’s grandpa, Bebop, passed away.
  • Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks were the No. 1 overall seed (unsurprisingly losing early)
  • KT and Roy Williams’ Tar Heels won the National Chamionship!
  • KT and I FINALLY got married (BEST DAY EVER!)

  • KT and I went on an amazing honeymoon (BEST WEEK EVER!)
  • KT turned an incredibly youthful 30 years old!
  • Little Brisket the dog came into our lives!
  • I finished chemo!
  • KT and I finished building and moved into our first house together!
  • I was declared cancer free!
  • I went back to work!

There’s a lot more stuff. Too much for a b-day blog post. In some respects, it’s easy to look back at 31 as a heartbreak of a year. But I don’t know if empty hearts can break. I’m lucky enough to have never been empty. I do know that a heart needs to be broken before it can heal, and healing—physically, emotionally, spiritually—is maybe the greatest miracle God gave us, right up there with life and love. You know, it’s also easy to see 31 as the very best year of my life.

Alright, that’s enough reflection for a birthday. The milestone is marked. Like Tom Petty sang:

It’s time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

KT and I love you all for all the support during 31. I greatly look forward to growing with you all during 32.

Love,
Dust

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Welcome back to the real world…

 

Image result for trump gun

 

What the heck have we been doing, America? Allow me a second to roam the past textual expanse of Writing Bareback….

Donald Trump should get a sex change? Hot take, July Dusty. I enjoyed the Filet ‘O’ Fish sandwich? Sure. Those seem to be the only things that were important enough for me to bloooog about.

“Dust, what matters to you so much that you actually need to publicly write about it?”

“Um, McDonald’s seafood offerings?”

Hmmm, disappointing. Let’s start over. I’m literally going to write one thousand words about the world because it’s more difficult than taking a picture. That’s what this entire preamble has been doing, filling a one hundred and thirty two word gap.

KT and I are cancer free. I talk about the disease as an “us” because I’m pretty sure leukemia affected her as much as it did me. So we are now entering month five of marriage, and everything will be normal. I’m talking about America’s normal. We will both go to work on Mondays through Fridays. We will both say things like, “Let’s try to have a healthy week this week.” We will both consider the idea of buying an expensive pair of sunglasses so that we value them enough to not lose them. Life will be extremely not cancerous.

Now that we’ve come up for air, I’m saddened by what we, as Americans, are caring about these days. Donald Trump must be talked about always and because. Football’s undeniable destruction of the human mind is as silly as any gladiatorial sport that we’ve all loved into profitability. Jay-Z is wearing a Kaepernick jersey, which would be far more satisfying if the quarterback was actually good at playing the sport I just said I’m embarrassed to enjoy. And then there are people going to a Jason Aldean concert, which would have been a joke before it became a tragedy. That is depressing. What is wrong with our healthy, American people? And why are we so set on destroying ourselves? Let me clarify. I am saddened not by the things we have chosen to care about. I’m saddened by the things we’ve been forced to care about in our everyday, normal lives.

I have told KT many times that I’m excited about taking the opportunity of cancer to rebuild myself. People—and I mean bosses and friends and whoever else puts expectations upon another human being—grant temporary leeway in times of personal chaos. Like my man Petyr Baelish says, “Chaos is a ladder.” Ten months is a lot of chaos and a lot of ladder, but now that I’m up here, I’m trying to see things differently. I’m wondering what happened to this vaunted free will we Americans are so proud of? Choice. The Vote. Democracy. Liberties. Fighting the tyranny of evil. If American life is not what we want it to be, why don’t we change it? Why don’t we rebuild this country?

My suspicion is that we do not want a different America than the one that we already have. My suspicion is that we are sheep, incapable of making a better choice.

I didn’t vote in the 2016 election. It’s so shameful. I could have and I didn’t. I said things like, “I don’t like either candidate, so why would I endorse them with my vote?” And then my normal life became not so normal. I got cancer. I guess we all did. The system that gave our country life turned on itself. Our free speech became so free that a person could tweet about making the country great again, and other people could hear him. A person who ostensibly wanted the right to bear arms did in fact bear them, just like others before him. When was the last time a gun did something besides shoot something? I think most people forget that America was started by law breakers who used force to take what they wanted. The thing is, once these criminals won, the laws they decided to make and enforce (with force) were in defense of people doing whatever people wanted to do. And we did. We even got smarter. We made a communication matrix that allowed us to do whatever we wanted more efficiently. Did you know that 30% of all data transferred over the internet is just porn?  That’s just an interesting factoid for you to roll into your ideas about the richness of human imagination and the endless possibilities of free will. We have unfettered access to the millennia of human intellect and discovery. Also, I wonder how many people’s Facebook accounts follow both Fox News and MSNBC? My suspicion is that I don’t care, and that’s the problem. I’d rather write about fast food and sex changes and the lothario artistry of NFL quarterbacks (my only regret is not being meaner to Blake Bortles. Who sucks. Probably as a human being, and definitely as a quarterback), and so I’m a normal American.

But [extremely Samuel L. Jackson voice in Pulp Fiction], I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.

I’m writing a novel, and I like the mechanics of it, creating a new story as whole cloth. It takes work. It’s probably more effort than the final story will ever be worth. But I tell myself that the effort is worth it. The effort is what matters. The effort signifies character. And I hope you will try too. Maybe we’ll both vote in the next election. Maybe people of color won’t face the biased oppression of law enforcement. Maybe Colin Kaepernick will get back on the field and never get a concussion. Maybe. Maybe there’s a cure. If we try really hard to suppress our own impulses, maybe we can make America great again. Or maybe not. That would be okay too. But we have to try, even if it’s difficult.

This post will be 1,000 words after the word “picture.” It would have been easier to take a picture.

Donald Trump Should Get A Sex Change

I don’t know crap about politics. I have very strong feelings about the roles of morality and religion in society, and I think I would be capable of applying those feelings to theories on nation building, but I don’t know crap about politics. After writing a chapter in my (shameless plug) book, Cheeto Dust…and other blood on millennial hands, I know that I don’t know crap about politics. Still, I know a few things. Let me list them.

  1. Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America.
  2. Donald Trump is a man.
  3. Donald Trump is wildly unpopular with almost everyone I know.
  4. Fox News mostly defends Donald Trump, so he must be what we call “conservative.”
  5. Donald Trump should get a sex change.

What’s more liberal than gender identification? The strict definition of liberal is this: open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values. When I was a kid, I thought having a penis meant you were a boy, and having a vagina meant you were a girl. Now, who am I to have an opinion about anything? Living in the great state of North Carolina, I’ve seen the emotive power of a “men’s” restroom. It’s a room that shames us for our small mindedness and exclusionary nature. “Man” is just another word for hate. That’s a reason why Donald Trump would work better as Donna Trump.

When I get the rare chance to air my political opinions, I say the following: Donald Trump is the first President to make me care about politics. I say it with the confidence of truth and of fact. In the past, it didn’t matter if it was philandering Bill or war-propped George, I always believed that our Presidents cared about America in their way. That was enough for me. The country, while impossibly hard to run, was still being run by men who cared about running it. But Donald, a man with a ridiculous first name, doesn’t care about the country. He cares about winning. That’s why Donald Trump should get a sex change. And while Donald Trump is practically senile, Donna Trump is someone else entirely.

That’s the result you get when, well, you’re not an idiot. You can see what I’ve done here. In the 30 For 30 Podcasts episode, “The Trials of Dan and Dave,” Caitlyn Jenner requested that she be referred to as “Bruce” for her time as an Olympian decathlete. She’s not the same person anymore, and you damn well better respect her choice. This is the blueprint for Donald’s salvation, or rather, Donna’s salvation. I mean, he’s already an SNL skit, so let’s just be absurdist and let her live.

Will it be cheap? Will it be something that both conservatives and liberals hate? Will Donna declare that she can use whatever bathroom she likes because she uses only the best bathrooms? The answer is a delightfully infuriating yes. The best part is that we don’t really give a crap about the legal aspect of a sex change.

If Donald can find a doctor that agrees he’s Donna on the inside, then we have a brand new female-with-a-penis President. Conservatives will be outraged. Liberals will say it’s a choice and a fact, and they will be outraged too. Nobody likes it, but we all have to accept it. It’s legal. It’s America. It’s our first female President. And who wants to be seen not supporting a female president? Take that, glass ceilings!

Only Donald could do it. He doesn’t care about us, so he can give us everything we want.

Dusticular Can—Dusticular FORTITUDE!!!, Wednesday Afternoon, April 26

Here’s a fact that everyone knows and is still weird: there is no cure for cancer. But, maybe, I’m going to be cancer free one day. Maybe I am right now.  Doctors will tell you that ATRA and arsenic are not a cure. It’s a classic observation from the other side, one million is a statistic, but one is a tragedy. Here’s my take on cancer numbers, if you care, but this is not that. This is an examination of the cure.

Zac Glover is a guy I went to college with. I’ve only seen him a couple times since we graduated, but there are some people you click with, a kind of inexplicable tether that you can feel but not know. I’ve told the story of him as a northern Montana local news anchor a hundred times to random people. Long story short, it was cold and cheap and hilarious. He sent me the shirt in the picture, and despite my pensive visage, I LOVED IT!

No one on the planet is capable of telling me how I got cancer. It just happened. I won’t defy the science behind my treatment because, well why would I? But I’m convinced, with every passing day and every passing gift, that getting well is in the thing that science hasn’t named yet. Why does a nurse smile when she sees a new sick person come in the door? Does a hug relieve headaches? Did that doctor research his thesis with compassion?

My favorite part of The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield (yeah, I had one) was this:

“Put it on. Put the mask on. It’ll make you strong.”

It’s not real, right? It’s an obfuscation, a trick. Maybe faith and friendship and prayer and family and everything that makes you think you’re so happy to be getting better is just a construct, a made up fix for a dire experience. But it seems to me that it’s better than anything science can tell me. And this t-shirt isn’t made up.  It’s real. And whatever made it is real too. Thanks, Zac. It’s Glovely.

Have a great Wednesday. I love you guys.
Dust

Worth a Visit? McDonald’s, specifically for the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.

 

I’d never tried the Filet-O-Fish. I just didn’t come from that school of dietary thought. But after positive reviews from my Facebook glide (flying high on Filet-O-Fish. Seriously, a bunch of flying fishes are called a glide), I knew I had to be one of the grouper. As is sometimes my duty, I will answer your burning questions about the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich. Most importantly, does it make McDonald’s, worth a visit?

are you into fish as a consumable?

Sure you are. And why not? There are lots of reasons to eat fish. It’s considered healthier than land meat. It’s full of Omega 3s, which are supposed to be good even if you don’t actually know that much about the dietary value of fish. Maybe you’ve given up “meat” for the liturgical practice of Lent to secure passage into the afterlife, which sounds bulletproof. Maybe you’re against the way the fast-food industrial complex treats animals but you’re still into convenience and a fish is more like an alien anyway. Maybe you just enjoy the the mouthfeel of a flaky Alaskan Pollock crumbling so gently that you can chew it with your tongue.

In any of the cases, YOU SHOULD VISIT McDonald’s for a Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.

But maybe you’re not into fish. I mean, pollution is a real problem and a lot of that ends up in the water, and I’m sure McDonald’s is getting a fresh catch from the open seas. Are Alaskan Pollock from the open seas? Look, you don’t know that much about fish, we’ve covered that, but they’re kind of icky, and you’re not into them as a consumable.

You WILL NOT VISIT FOR THE FILET-O-FISH SANDWICH. Get the McNuggets because they seem safer. 

Are you a millennial, a generation that, when surveyed, ranked mcdonald’s as their least favorite restaurant and probably (but not definitely) backed that ranking with an editorial stance on mcdonald’s that mostly trashes it as a gross slaughter house of unclean garbage food?

You are (likely).

Don’t compromise your beliefs. It is NOT WORTH VISITING.

Are you a millennial that, despite what you’ve said in surveys, are still part of a generation that visits mcdonald’s more than any other restaurant in america.

Duh. It’s America, so you’re never further than 107 miles from a McDonalds in the continental 48. It’s basically impossible to not go to McDonald’s.

Perception is reality. YOU’VE ALREADY VISITED, but you do it by yourself and don’t tell anyone.

Did you enjoy these sweet tidbits about millennials that were torn directly from this author’s “I swear one day it will be out and available for purchase” book Cheeto Dust….And other blood on millennial hands?

If so, keep an eye out. I’ll buy you a Filet-O-Fish Sandwich at McDonalds while watching you read and react to every detail, waiting patiently until you’re in between bites and have dabbed the pickled relish mayo from your lips so you can answer questions I have like, “Did you read the footnote too?”

C’mon. A free Filet-O-Fish with a potential author of something you might possibly enjoy maybe? YOU HAVE TO VISIT!

did I say pickled relish mayo? that sounds like an interesting topping that might be worth visiting for.

I did say that, because that’s what I thought it was, but it’s actually a custom tartar sauce. Blend mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons relish, capers, 1 tablespoon chopped onion, parsley, and sugar in a blender until smooth. Stir remaining relish and onion into the blended mixture.

You still want to try that, but you’re not exactly rushing to the nearest McDonald’s, no matter how conveniently they’ve placed it near your home, work, gym, and directly next door to your favorite boozery (or dispensery in certain more understanding states). Now that you’re thinking about it, you could really just tack a Filet-O-Fish onto an order anytime you stop by McDonald’s, because no matter what diet of the month your doing, you’ll stop by there eventually. Even if you tell yourself you’re just getting that $1 large Coca-Cola because it’s better there than anywhere else, you’ll probably be a little hungry too, and it’s not like anyone’s going to know you ordered yourself a frankly overpriced fish sandwich for $3.79. $3.79!? That is pretty steep considering it only comes with a half slice of cheese, a Filet-O-Fish tradition that somehow honors the original recipe invented by Lou Groen in 1962 because his Cincinnati, OH franchise served a large Roman Catholic consumer base that didn’t eat meat on Fridays. You really wish you didn’t know that bit about Cincinnati because you never considered that the town to take seafood tips from. Is fish really not meat? Catholics do have a pretty great history of over-indulgence though, and isn’t overpaying for something, just because you want to and can, a little bit what American individualism is all about? You don’t need to be reminded that $3.79 could feed a kid in a third world country for a week. You already knew that. Besides, after the sales tax, you’ll drop the extra three pennies in that little Ronald McDonald donation bin they put beneath all the drive-thru windows. Unless you pay with a card, in which case, hey, you did your best. McDonald’s gave $34 million to charity in 2011, and even if that is only 0.08 percent of their $5.5 billion net revenue and way less than similar companies like Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s still not nothing. You have to figure they don’t waste the other half of that slice of cheese either. YOU’RE STILL GOING TO VISIT. It’s a free country. 

is the filet-o-fish sandwich from mcdonald’s actually worth a visit?

It was really tasty.

IT’S WORTH A VISIT.

Dusticular Cancer – April 7th, Friday Morning

A couple of people recently mentioned that they have trouble reading the CarePages posts. While I’m suspicious of their laziness and technical acumen (you know who you are), I’ll also copy them here from now on. I mean, I have the time. These posts are partially therapeutic for me, partially informative for you, and hopefully helpful for whoever cares to read them. If you’re into more cancer-related reading (WHO ISN’T!?), all prior posts can be found here.

Dust Bunny here,

KT joined me today for my infusion, which is a big win for the nursing staff. They’ve heard all my takes on marriage, home building, and most recently, the hypocrisy of amateur athletes in the Final Four. Having KT’s bright eyed sincerity is a plus in any situation, but if you’ve been on a steady diet of my company, she’s a palate cleanser.

What’s the most noble profession in America? Teachers have to be considered. Soldiers and first responders are probably the most brave. But after spending over a thousand hours in a cancer hospital, I’d give my vote to nurses. It takes a certain kind of courage to run into a flaming building, and it takes another kind to befriend and treat the sick and dying. I have friends who are nurses. I thought I understood their jobs, and maybe I did, from a technical standpoint. But now I believe that at least half of their job is emotional support. Their daily shift involves shining a light through someone’s nightmare. And for American professions, consider the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” She’s literally holding a light to guide the beaten. So yeah, nurses are amazing, and my nurse today is one of my favorites. Her thing is being super mean as a joke. She said she hated it when I got my port because sticking me with needles got her out of bed in the morning. She’s awesome.

If nurse is a noble profession, then volunteer is the most impressive hobby. An old man who only volunteers for Fridays was in today. I’ve mentioned him before. He volunteers ever since he lost his wife to AML, which is also leukemia. He heard we were getting married and started a conversation. He married his wife in 1964, and they lived in Raleigh for a few years. Most of you reading this know that KT and I are building a house, and while waiting for that to be happen, we’ve been spending time in an old apartment community that we affectionately (and spitefully) call The Poorhouse. This old volunteer is telling us about he and his wife’s first apartment in Raleigh, a hot new neighborhood off of Oberlin Road that everyone wanted to live in. He struggled for the name before it came to him, Country Club Homes, aka The Poorhouse. It’s definitely the most excited that KT and I have ever been to tell someone that we live there. You never know what volunteering your time can mean. Sometimes it’s the little things.

I’m feeling good and my numbers are strong. Thanks for the support and have a great weekend!

Love,
Dust

Dusticular Cancer – March 29th, Wednesday Afternoon

A couple of people recently mentioned that they have trouble reading the CarePages posts. While I’m suspicious of their laziness and technical acumen (you know who you are), I’ll also copy them here from now on. I mean, I have the time. These posts are partially therapeutic for me, partially informative for you, and hopefully helpful for whoever cares to read them. If you’re into more cancer-related reading (WHO ISN’T!?), all prior posts can be found here.

Dust Mite here,

We got some big news on something very small yesterday. My oncologist tested my PML/RARA. That’s the fusion gene caused by the mutual translocation of chromosomes 15 and 17, and it’s the cause of my leukemia. So, this genetic test came back negative, which means there’s a 99.x% chance that I’m cancer free!

[High fiving interrupted by phone call. Insurance company wondering if we can stop treatment. We cannot.]

I’ve been symptom free from the cancer since I left the hospital, and protocol is that I’ll still have to stay on my treatment through August. At that time, they’ll give me another bone marrow biopsy, which is the purest test they can perform. So this doesn’t change anything about my day or plans, but it is still huge news. My oncologist actually called her mentor to confirm that we even needed to do the bone marrow biopsy because the chances of the test on the marrow being any different than the test on my blood are so slim. My take: we’ve come this far, so just check the marrow.

And so we will.

In other news, KT and I are less than 40 days away from our wedding. Predicting with a high degree of certainty that we get it done this time. We’re also less than three months from our house.The degree of certainty here is less so, but there’s actual parts of house on the lot, so that counts for something….we’re actually the little foundation on the right.

Some good things happening today,
Dust