HAWKWATCH

25 Jul

Hello, friends. It’s been a while. Hope you don’t mind. But as you may see, I have been running around a little bit. Playing sports, being a good dad, working up a storm. It’s all good.

Speaking of work, my company recently hosted a short film festival, asking employees to show how they are inspired to be creative. I’ve made several films back in my day, from high school documentaries about apathy, to student comedy clip shows in college, to Super 8mm honeymoon films… (don’t ask!). So I jumped at the chance… to entertain, inform and educate. Those I feel are my three major roles in life. That, and make art.

So on May 26, 2014, I trekked to one of my favorite inspiring Westchester spots—Hawkwatch, in Butler Sanctuary, armed with just my small Canon camera, a thin Minolta tripod, my sketch book and a bag of markers.

I wasn’t quite sure what I would film on my way up the mountain. I just let me feet take me on a visual journey that I thought would be nice to watch back in my old age. Without further ado, please enjoy Hawkwatch, and after the film, I’ll tell you some more fun facts and answer some FAQs.

Make sure you watch this in full screen. It won’t cost any extra. Enjoy!

 

Thank you for watching. I hope you got a kick out of that.

Here are the answers to some of some of the questions:

Who did the camerawork?
I used a tripod—I set up the shot, then walked away, eventually came back, reviewed the video and sometimes had to do it again, if I didn’t go far enough. I probably walked the same hike four times that day. Of course, it was worth it.

mrsnappy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How long have you been drawing in that book?
I’ve been making what I call “Doodle Diaries” for about 15 years. I have about 20 books so far, all different shapes and sizes—bigger, smaller, spiral bound, perfect bound, blank, quad-ruled—and I’ve doodled on them all. I used drawing as a way to pass the time, alleviate stress, and also as a cheap way of therapy. I usually don’t know what kind of truths my markers will reveal to me. “One day”, I will showcase some of my favorite drawings, sketches and illustrations online, but there are so many to choose from, it’s a little daunting.

The book in Hawkwatch is technically called “Begin Again” as you see in the film, although i call it my Spirograph Book. I started this one shortly after my leg was amputated, and the colorful cover with big blank pages is in stark contrast to the previous two books, Dark Start and DS2, both of which have black covers, and graph paper-ruled off-white paper. I drew my disintegrating marriage in the first book, and  I sorted through the concept of cancer in the second one. Each of those books ended with big fancy “The End”s. I think one of them actually says “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

I used to draw a lot more, especially on the MetroNorth train, but now that I drive in to work daily, I don’t have the time, and the Highway Patrol frowns on DWD—Doodling While Driving. So when I do get to take the time to create, I enjoy it even moreso. I just had to make sure that on this day of filming, I was able to sketch something even half-way decent, while also making a half-way decent movie, and then maybe together, it would make one full decent.

Where is Hawkwatch?
It’s in Arthur Butler Sanctuary, just south of exit 4 off of 684 in Westchester. Even though it’s 45 minutes away from Manhattan, when you climb up to Hawkwatch, you can see Long Island from there. That’s my original home, so it’s why Hawkwatch is like a vortex to me.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 20.37.44

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you see any birds when you were up there?

Plenty of times, on other occasions, but just not during the filming of this movie. In fact, I went back two more times to try to capture footage of a soaring Turkey Vulture or any other flying thing, but it was always too warm for them to be flying around. The following weekend, I went back earlier in the day to get some pick-up shots, especially to get the birds, but it was still just too late. I went back a third time the following weekend, always wearing the same clothing, always having the same amount of two-day beard, and even hiked up the very steep incline to Hawkwatch. But still no birds. There is an internet meme called “The Cake Is A Lie”, so I just told myself that the birds were a lie as well. As a filmmaker, I wrestled with whether or not I needed birds at the end, to be soaring through the sky. Would it give extra meaning, as here I am, bound to the ground with my own one foot and robot foot. It might have made for a stronger third act, but hey, It could also have been sentamental and cloying. Bottom line is, my motto is “As Is”, and I was going for cinema verite, and there were no birds, so there are no birds. Oh well. I’ll have to go back. Maybe next time.

What was it like to walk in the woods?
I have always loved nature walks, and I have walked through Butler Sanctuary in all four seasons, sometimes taking the longest trails there are to see how far I can travel and get back without a map. Now, I would rather not get lost, because, while I get around very well, still every step on the prosthetic is a minor challenge. In the film, I did not show the steepest, most treacherous parts of the trail—up or down—because there was a little bit of a struggle, and it didn’t make for very inspiring video. “Don’t let em see you struggle” a good friend suggested. I am still pleased with the portion where I have to navigate past the fallen branches and up the rocky hill. It shows how creativity occurs not just behind the camera, or at the end of the marker. It also is how I move my legs on a regular basis.

Speaking of legs, who are you wearing?
Hey, I’m glad you asked. I am wearing an Ottobock C-Leg. It has a computer microchip which prevents me from stumbling. If I wore my first non-chip mechanical leg, there would ahve been no way that I could have made this hike.

But just as important if not more important than the leg is the socket. In fact, my physical therapist Grace said to me, “A Great Leg is Good, but a Good Fit is Great.” My socket fit was crafted by my one and only leg man, Nick, from Hanger Prosthetics, nearly a year ago, and I have had very few incidents with it. Once Nick sees this video, he will say I’m crazy, but hey, takes one to know one.

Thank you again for watching my video, and following my story. If you have any specific questions about Hawkwatch the film, or my amplified life as an amputee, feel free to ask. I’m an open book.

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One leg off, one year on

2 Dec

Happy Anniversary to me and my new life. It’s been one year since Dr. Morris and her amazing staff at Sloan-Kettering put me under and took the cancer away from my body and blood. I faced death head-on, and did what any normal, brave, amazing person would do: I shut my eyes and went to sleep.

The past month plus has been a series of anniversaries upon anniversaries of my personal journey, not only of the past year, but so many other complex lego pieces that have made me who I am today. There’s been the first anniversary of my cancer diagnosis on Halloween; the 31st of my bar mitzvah; the 16th of my mother’s passing, which is always commemorated twice, once the day after Thanksgiving, and also on November 29; my 44th birthday, the day I ultimately decided my leg’s fate; not to mention each and every time I went into hospital. What we discussed, who was there, what I was feeling after they told me what they told me. I remember everything, practically in real time. It’s a blessing and a curse… but more of a blessing.

Why do we even celebrate or commemorate anniversaries? The calendar is a man-made invention probably invented by the Hallmark Corporation to sell more greeting cards, or by the credit card companies so they know when they can tack on a late fee. We measure time by how long it takes for the earth to spin around once on its axis, or make it all the way around the sun in its orbit. But the solar system is moving, too, isn’t it? The earth isn’t where it was in the universe exactly one year ago today. It’s enough to make one dizzy. Ultimately, you can’t go home again. You can never go backward. You must keep moving forward, and you have to keep swimming.

A few weeks ago, a west coast friend at work noted one of my many cancer-related anniversaries, and asked me a real hot-button question: “When you think of how far you’ve come over the past year, aren’t you proud of yourself?” To be candid and honest, I had to shut my office door to be alone and think for a minute. I never considered looking back over my shoulder even for a moment. Maybe that’s because as I relearned how to walk with my prosthetic leg, I’ve had to keep my head straight, sometimes look down at my feet, but always keep focused on moving forward. If I were to turn my head, I could easily get distracted, disoriented, trip myself up.

As seasons change, and holidays remind us of past holidays, we take stock of our lives. What is better, what is worse, or to be more positive, “what could be better?” A big theme of my past year is change, and whether people are capable of it. Will next year’s holiday season look like this one’s, only a little older and more decayed? Or will it be even more profound and meaningful, with bounties of emotional gifts that I can’t even fathom? And what do I have to do differently in my life to make that so? Would that be considered change or growth?

Growth is inevitable, and growth is a form of change, so people must be able to change. But a cow doesn’t turn into a fish, and people don’t change so much that they become unrecognizable.

Ultimately, I don’t think that I have changed very much over this past year. At least not because of my cancer or amputation. That has all been a great and almost pleasant diversion; pushing other thoughts out of my head… stuff I hadn’t wanted to or needed to deal with yet. And now it will be time to get back to that back burner. But on this anniversary of my big life change, I will restate what I have been saying for the past year—my leg amputation is not a big deal. It may have opened doors for me, made countless of new friends, and even given me a voice to honestly and candidly talk about things that are foreign to others, but I’m still me. Always have been, and hopefully, always will be.

I did think that my one-year anniversary would be the end of something, and that I would be able to get on with my life. But no, that’s not the case. I know, of course, that I have been getting on with my life since before Day One. I never stopped being a dad, and in many ways I am a better one, because I can teach my children and their friends about overcoming adversity. It’s a lesson I could have told them about, but every single one of my writing classes have instilled on basic premise of good writing: Show, Don’t Tell. (Not to be confused with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or If You See Something, Say Something.)

We Jewish people see the one-year anniversary of a person’s death as the end of the period of mourning. The stone is unveiled, and this period of limbo comes to an end. But life goes on! …and I’ve got to go, because I’m running late!

A Hockey Video Hat Trick

17 Nov


Hello, sports fans.

Last weekend, leading up to Veteran’s Day 2012, I was lucky enough to be part of The 3rd Annual Sled Hockey Classic, presented by the NHL itself. Up near the Canadian border town of Buffalo, NY, 12 teams gathered from cities as far and wide as St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Colorado, not to mention the more local travelers from Pittsburgh, Philly, Boston, and us in New York.

The purpose of the event was twofold: to bring together NHL-supprted teams to battle in a highly competitive and intensive sled hockey event, and to bring awareness to the sporting public on the contributions of the NHL and USA Hokcey to grow disabled hockey as a sport. Both goals were reached quite easily. We played five games within 48 hours, and while we didn’t place as well as we would have liked to, we certainly saw where we as a team need to work, refine and grow to battle in our regular Northeast Season.

Here are three videos which really explain what went on this past weekend, because I would have to write too many superlatives to convey the feelings that these mighty ice warriors are able to say with their bodies and actions.

The first video was created by the Buffalo Sabres, and it mainly talks about the amazing stories of the U.S. veterans who use this adaptive sport to regain their lives.


CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO WATCH VIDEO
If you blinked around 2:38, you would have missed me. (I’m Rangers #88)

Second is a video from the local CW affiliate, WIVB, lamenting the NHL lockout, but celebrating the NSHL. The Rangers are heavily featured, especially Vic and Sara!

CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO WATCH VIDEO

And the third video is the most personal to me, because it’s about me personally. It was made by my nephew Billy, who goes to SUNY Buffalo, he made it for a media arts class. The assignment was to make a documentary using no direct interviews. I think he scored a goal here. Thanks, Neph! (Just edit out the first 21 seconds of black next time!)

Next up: The season! Starting early tomorrow in Connecticut.

My Favorite Robots and Cyborgs (and an Android)

29 Jul

Now that I have a robot leg with a microchip in it, I thought I would share with you my off-the-top-of-my head list of my favorite robots, cyborgs and an android or two.

CAN YOU NAME THEM ALL?ImageAND WHO DID I LEAVE OUT?

Answers and descriptions to come!

“Good News, Everybody!”

26 Jul

It’s been five long months since I last published my crazy one-legged adventures, and I hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed you. It was an easy yet tough decision to put my blog on hiatus, as it took a lot of effort and energy to write and edit my posts, but at the same time, it was invaluable to my recovery to report and share my stories. Plus, it actually took less time to mass communicate than it did to tell so many people I care about the same stories one at a time. But it was time to look forward only, and not back. I had too much to do.

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Once I was handed that analog Otto Bock prosthetic leg from The Hanger Clinic back in February, there was no stopping me. My Facebook friends know where I’ve been over the past five months. They could find me at Physical Therapy, climbing playground equipment with my kids, skating on center ice of Madison Square Garden in my hockey sled, traveling up and down the east coast in my left-gas-pedal Honda, hanging out 4,000 feet high in the air in a glider, running around with Kim Cattrall in Central Park, or the most fun of all… I’ve been back to work behind a desk and two computers for the past four months. Each of these feats could result in several blog posts. Like about the time I… Well, maybe one day I’ll tell you some of these tales. (Or: Maybe you’ll have to buy the book, especially for the chapter on dating.)

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So today in my office commissary, I saw this wonderful coworker whom I hadn’t seen for nearly a year. She mentioned that she followed my blog with great interest. I apologized that it’s been five months since I last wrote, and she replied, “That’s great! That means you’re living!” Sure enough! But to live is to share, and as I opened up with the “Good News Everybody!” quote, I should let you know what it is.

I have been telling myself for months that my next blog post would be my announcement that I finally have a C-Leg. It took a little longer than expected, and it’s nobody’s fault. Everything has been a process. Sometimes processes force you to take a fresh look at an old problem, or figure out a simpler solution. But I’m happy to report that everything worked out exactly as planned. I hope to be able to tell you this story in full in the future as well. It turned out to be a really nice and positive one. Suffice to say, A Huge Thank You to everyone who has made this a reality for me, as well as for anyone else who might ever need this technology. I couldn’t be more proud or happy to be a part of this community.

As my supervisor often comments as we discuss the latest amputee-in-the-news-story, “Look what you’ve started!” I mean, every week, there’s a fresh amputee update, whether it’s a mom who saved her kids from a tornado but lost her legs, a tragic college girl who got a flesh-eating bacteria after a zipline injury, or a cool Florida dude whose arm was mistaken for an alligator snack. There have been key characters in Battleship, Brave, The Amazing Spider-Man movies, as well as Dr. Pepper and Nike commercials, and of course, in the world of sports, too. In less than two weeks, “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius will make Olympic history and the world will be watching.

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As of today, my actual C-Leg is still at the clinic, because my new socket is a little too loose, and unlike my current pin-based socket, my next socket will be suction based, and it needs to be tiiiiiiiiiiight! You can see how much my residual limb has shrunk in the past few months due to general use and abuse. The socket on the left was made months ago. When I first started, I could barely fit in it. The one on the right is brand new, and it’s too big for me. Pay no attention to the height of it. That will be lessened. We’ll try again later this week. That’s why it’s called a fitting. We’ll be married soon.

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You can also see the fabric that I used to personalize my socket on the left. I was looking for a starfish skin-like design, and found this one instead. It reminds me of a wood grain, marble, muscles, or a lava flow. It has also been compared to a roasted turkey. My next fabric will be pretty spectacular. After looking at all kinds of Star Wars, Batman, Camouflage, Day of the Dead Skulls, and Harley Davidson flames, I wanted to keep it consistent with the brown Ottobock C-Leg casing, and find something spectacular that I would be happy to wear each day. I hope the metallic look will still shine through after it gets heat stamped onto the carbon fiber. Here is the design:
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People have asked me what the new C-Leg feels like. I still don’t know, because the socket was too loose to take any steps with it. But I was able to go from standing up to a seated position. That was pretty exciting, I have to say! The knee bent so slowly and so smoothly. It will take a little getting used to. I’ve gotten pretty good with my current one… but not so good that I haven’t fallen occasionally. I’ll admit, there were some stumbles and some tumbles. And there still may be in the future. But if you fall down eight times, you get up nine.

Well, I’d write more now, but I’ve got to get to bed to get to work in the morning. And I’d write more this weekend, but I’ll be busy Dadding, or I may be waterskiing (not wearing the C-Leg, of course… you can’t get it wet!). I’m sure we’ll catch up soon. You know we’ll have a good time then, yeah, you know we’ll have a good time then!

😀

Life With Leg* (*Metal)

28 Feb

I’m happy to report that I received my first metal leg!

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I kept imagining about how, when this day would finally arrive, it would be the finale of the long process, but I was only partially right… it is definately part of a process! Just like in a great adventure movie, I realized that I wasn’t at the end of any story at all. Yes, it is a new beginning, but I can’t discount all that I have just been through since October. I’ve gone through many physical, mental, psychological and even metaphysical changes, but there is so much more to come.

First, from Halloween on, I spent the month at my sisters house, in bed, waiting, knowing that I had a cancerous tumor in my right leg, and that the only way for it to come out was by knife. On December 2, I had my above-knee amputation, followed by a week in the hospital on a drug drip that put my new body in Lay-Lee-La-La-Lu Land. I spent a second month at my sister’s house, hopping slowly from guest bedroom to living room, nursing my non-existent toes that were keeping me up all night in pain.

Once I was healthy enough in mind and body to go home on my own, I spent the next two months reacquainting myself with my own apartment, figuring out how to adjust to this new chapter in my life. There were laughs, joys, triumphs, but also frustrations and tears. Gradually, I discovered a few tricks to doing laundry and moving hot food around the apartment, as I made my body stronger, more balanced and at peace. I actually became swift with the crutches, making wide, swinging steps as I ventured out for socialization, therapy and food shopping. I found great new hobbies that enriched my body and spirit, including sled hockey and art class. Life was pretty good, but I was still waiting for my residual limb to be ready to take on its next challenge, as my team of leg men worked to finalize my prosthetic socket.

So now, I realize that receiving this metal leg is not an ending… it is more like I am now entering Act Three of the First Part of My Leg Story. And with that milestone comes greater stakes, a ticking deadline (when am I getting back to “work”?), and soon, the separation of heroes, in the form of bootcamp rehab. But unlike my first two trials—the psychological pre-op prep and somewhat passive post-op recovery—this new challenge is far more active and even downright scary at times. Again, the stakes are higher, and I need to give it my 110%. I sense a video montage coming up… I’ll need a special iTunes playlist. (Feel free to comment with song titles, below… I’ll start: U2’s “Walk On”.)

First, some important information: this leg is not the leg we want me to have. It is really cool, don’t get me wrong. But this is a completely analog, dumb, mechanical, metal leg. It’s just a loaner leg, so that I can get the feel of the extra ten pounds attached to my residual limb, swinging with force as I crutch-step for safety. My immediate thought was that this leg is supposed to be freeing, yet I was now walking at a fraction the speed than before. And it was heavy, like a bowling ball dangling from my stump. Truth be told, I was happy I had it, but I didn’t like it at all. Still, I never doubted my choice to amputate over limb salvation. I just wasn’t too pleased with this new reality… but I also know that I will get used to it, and even one day take it for granted, like I did with my human leg.

The way this metal leg works is when I step down on the heel, the mechanical knee locks, and when I step down on the toe, the mechanical knee unlocks. A misstep, as if I were to lean on the toe when I wasn’t supposed to, would unlock the knee to total looseness, and send me down with the full force of gravity. I kept saying, “If I fall…”, but my leg men say “You’re not going to like this… it’s not a question of ‘if you fall’, it’s ‘when you fall’.” That’s one of the things I am going to learn in boot camp is how to fall so I don’t break anything that’s still good on my body, like my wrists, fingers, ribs, you name it.

Each day for the past week, I’ve put the metal leg on in the morning and it has been kind of freeing, especially being able to stand in line for a bagel on two feet. But after walking around all day with it attached to my residual limb, I look forward to plopping on the couch, disconnecting me from the hardware, and being 100% me and only me. And then, I am freed again. It is interesting to note—that which frees us sometimes also shackles us.

The leg that we all want me to get costs a little bit more, and will be an uphill battle with the insurance company, because they might think the internal computer chip is “too new,” even though the Otto Bock C-Leg has been around for fifteen years, and is now on its third incarnation. I have heard a lot about the C-Leg. I know I want the C-Leg. I know I need the C-Leg. Some of my sled hockey teammates have C-Legs and swear by them. And yesterday, for the first time, I was able to try one on, under the tutelage of Otto Bock representatives.

I was right… The C-Leg was and is amazing.

For starters, the Otto Bock-men attached a BlueTooth to the computer port and I was able to actually monitor on a computer screen every single smooth motion of the knee and every pressure point of the toe and the heel. The computer chip in the C-Leg is able to read this data 50 times each second to determine if I am in mid-step or mid-stumble, and react accordingly. That means, if I were to trip or step on the toe too much, and was going to come down, the hydraulics would kick in and create the resistance that does not exist in the analog mechanical leg, which, incidentally, is also manufactured by Otto Bock.

What a difference this computer chip makes. Within one hour, I was able to ditch the crutches and walk down the hallway (albeit wobbly), using only one cane. What a treat–and a tease–it was to be able to test-walk the C-Leg.

If all goes well, I will have my own C-Leg within a few months. First, I need to go to rehab with the analog leg so I can get started there. Then, they need to videotape me walking on the analog leg to send it to the insurance company before they will approve me getting the C-Leg. What I cannot understand is why they can’t just show a video of me on the C-Leg to show I need the C-Leg? I mean, really… while I am waiting several months for the approval to come through, one bad fall in the subway will do me in, and maybe put me out of commission for another long haul. But everyone on every leg team explains it to me that there is a process, that this is a process, and we just have to do it the way the process wants it to be done and then when I am a patient patient, I will get exactly what I need.

So after the test walk, I reattached the analog leg to my body, and got back on the crutches and I was able to walk a little bit better. I learned some tactics and strategies during this session, including “Lead with the good leg, and catch up with the metal leg.” This was a small hurdle for me, as I have been a righty my whole life and wanted to lead with my right. Also, I will have a prosthetic leg for the rest of my life, so I should turn it into a kind of fun hobby (I know… spare me that one!). But as I was leaving, I was told two more things: 1. “You did really really good today, Dave!” and 2. “You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself!”

Good advice to us all, no matter how many legs we’ve got.

Relaxing At Home

24 Feb

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Watching cartoons with Clever. First evening with metal leg. Finally able to cross legs and relax.

Nostalgia Trip

18 Feb

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What is up with all this nostalgia?

Now more than ever, we as a society examine the past with great fondness, because the future is comin’ at us at a much faster rate than ever before, and sooner or later, the future will overtake us all, and turn us inside out so our skeletons are on our outsides. It won’t be a pretty sight. X-rays, gamma rays, microwaves, G4 technology, DNA splicing, and ever more cameras and screens than we can even imagine are already everywhere. You are being watched right now as you read this. You should really smile more.

Speaking of smiling, next Sunday is the most important day of the year–the Oscars. I havent missed a telecast since the 42nd Annual when the X-rated Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture. My mother made sure that I’d revere The Academy, while it was my dad who showed me great films like the giant ant movie, Them!. (“I’d like to thank my mother and father, without whom I would not be here tonight…”)

So this year, I thought I would catch each of the nine best picture nominees, but with less than a week left, I still have a few more to go. My three favorites so far all have three things in common: they all take place in the past, they all feature something about Paris, and they all have to do with the better, more nostalgic, more simplified and dignified ways in which we communicate. I’m talking about Hugo, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris. In each of these films, characters long for the way things used to be. Change is inevitable, and it’s how the characters deal with the change that defines their character, and builds their story. In Hugo, the director thinks his best days are behind him, in The Artist, the actor thinks he can cling to yesterday’s ways, and in Midnight in Paris, the writer believes he was born too late to have a quality life in today’s world.

Isn’t it interesting to note that each of the other best picture nominees all have to do with nostalgia for different eras as well? The dawn of the baseball accountant, the birth of equal rights, WWI, 9/11, even nostalgia for The Big Bang is covered in The Tree of Life. And while The Decendents takes place “today”, we watch George Clooney’s character try to make heads and tails of the life he thought he had before he discovered his comatose wife had been cheating on him. Where is the future in all these pictures? Do we only learn about where we’re going by looking in the rear view mirror?

I have a theory about generational time trips, particularly in pop culture. In the 1970s, thanks to Grease and Happy Days, we were brought back one generation to the fifties. Everybody wants to go home to their childhood again, when they felt safe, and cared for, and the future was ahead of them. The people with their fingers on the typewriter keyboards were the ones who had the heart and memory to bring them back. In the 80s, people went back to tie-dies and Woodstock. In the nineties, we went back to that 70s era. But leading up to the year 2000, everyone got keyboards, and someone hit a fast-forward button somewhere. This started what I call “Millennium Madness”. That’s when everything sped up and melted into one pop culture soup. By 1999, we were nostalgic for 1997. On the other side of Y2K, you would think that the future was wide open, but no. That’s when our attention spans were completely severed, and we became nostalgic for yesterday. How else could anyone explain shows like “Best Week Ever”? Some of us are already nostalgic for the beginning of this very blog.

time is a train, makes the future the past,
you’re standing at the station, your face pressed up against the glass…

Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, or if I’m just vegging out on the couch watching a nice nostalgic show like Pan Am or Mad Men, I actually almost forget that I have only one leg. It’s definitely becoming the new normal for me, and as you know, I’ve embraced my new life, to the point of almost taking it for granted. The good news is that this Thursday, I will be finally getting a metal leg. It won’t be the requested and prescribed C-Leg yet, as there are hoops and such among all of the medical and insurance entities to ensure that all of the paperwork is filed properly, signed off on, and approved. But at least it will be a leg to stand on. I’m not trying to up-play or down-play this milestone. It is what it is, as they say. But then again, as Joe Biden might say, this is a big f’in deal. I’m not worried or afraid or anything like that, but I’m excited for this next phase of my recovery. This might take more energy, more resolve, more focus and more drive than any other part of my healing, and it is something that I’m looking forward to.

But at the same time, I am already in the future, and I’m thinking back on my next few weeks as if they have already happened. I’m thinking about how tough it seemed at first to re-learn how to stand, walk, bend, sit, pivot, turn and descend stairs on this new apparatus. I’m thinking about how the giant mountain actually turned into a small hill as I conquered it, one heavy step at a time. I’m my mind, I have already done it. This could make my rehab lessons a breeze, and I’ll be bowling sooner than I imagined, or it could become increasingly frustrating if I don’t adapt and learn as quickly as I had hoped.

Sometimes, I think of myself as if I’m already 60 or 70 years old. I doubt my leg will have grown back by then, but a guy can dream. When I’m older, I’ll think back to these first few months with the thought that, “these are the good old days.” On a regular day this month, I have sports therapy in sled hockey, art therapy at a local art studio, or emotional therapy at a local crystal and spiritual store. Maybe a jump into the pool, a dinner and movie with the kids, and trips to the A&P to zoom around on their little electrical cart. It has been so nice to heal here at home for the past few weeks. But soon, once I don my metal leg, and feel comfortable enough to bound out in the hustle and bustle of the NYC public with it, then I’ll be back at my work desk, trying to make ends meet, trying to better my mind regularly, trying to achieve new goals, and trying to steal an hour here or there to paint a picture or get back on the ice. In many ways I am nostalgic for my old life back on the ABC sales team, reinventing a presentation or invitation, but at least I know I will happily be there again soon. The commute is another story, but at least it will be my story. I may walk through Grand Central a little slower, but that just may mean that I’ll have more time to take it all in. Maybe I’ll notice more.

Oddly enough, I am not nostalgic for my days with two legs. It makes no sense to look backward and wish I still had what I no longer have. People keep reminding me that this has been a tough year for me, with the marriage separation even before my cancer. As my marriage was falling apart, I think I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and well, that can’t happen anymore. Still, I just have to laugh, because while I’ve lost wife and limb, I absolutely do not feel like the biblical Job. I still have so much more to be thankful for.

Before I found out about the cancer, I remember at that time, I was different. I spent my days bemoaning all that I’ve lost in my life. Thinking about choices that I made over the years that resulted in me being forced into a second bachelorhood, and seeing my kids a fraction of the time that I want to. These are the same factors that have gotten me to this very place, blogging alone at 2:30 in the morning. It could have been easier to not do this. I could be watching tv now instead… So why don’t I just follow my pleasure principle and say to heck with it?

Well, earlier today, I was lucky enough to run into a friend at Staples. It was one of those situations where we each had a feeling we would see each other, even though we hadn’t since October. She shared with me her story: the company she’s worked with on the cutting edge to technology just announced that they are disbanding, which puts her and 120 more people out of work. She had just heard the news last week, and the very next morning, by coincidence, I had reached out to her via email to let her know about my whole leg story. And my story put her at ease… it laid everything out in perspective for her. And she stopped beating herself up about her career. My story is inspiring to other people. Even though I am doing nothing but surviving, and looking forward to a healthy new life, but maybe that’s enough. Maybe it’s enough to look ahead with hope rather than behind with regret.

According to Don Draper in Mad Men‘s first season finale, “Nostalgia” is Greek for “old wound”. As long as I live, I’ll have this scar on my right residual limb, and every day, I’ll think about what life was like before I had that scar. And I will remember what Billy Joel sings as he keeps his faith:

“…the good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems…”

I Go Swimming…

16 Feb

One of the best things about my apartment complex is my indoor pool, so I could swim all year round with my two sons, who are part fish themselves.

The last time I jumped in the water with them was October, a week before my cancer diagnosis. My swollen knee prevented me from jumping into the water, so I used the steps, and it was tough to give the boys all the attention that they needed. I kept close to Rocky to keep him safe, but Clever didn’t have anyone to horse around, splash, and play with. Such is the life of a single dad with two kids (SD2K).

It’s been months now, and Clev and Rock have been asking me when we can all go swimming again. I just hadn’t felt ready until all of my band-aids fell off, and I started my hockey therapy. Once I felt like taking the dip, I decided to jump in with both… well… with my one foot. And to make it something of an event, on Valentine’s Day, and when, of course, my kids can be with me to be a part of my rehab. So here’s that first dive, as well as me finding out what my new body was capable of… and not capable of. Thanks to my good buddy John for recording it for me, and for being such a great swimming buddy to the kids!

The number one question that I have heard was “How did it feel?” and the answer is as complex as feelings themselves. It felt exhilarating; it felt strange. The way my submerged residual limb interacted with the water was completely unexpected. Imagine feeling the pressure of the water in each direction in ways that air and clothing just can’t create. I mean, I know that that’s what swimming always is, but the way I was able to spin underwater, turn so close to the wall, and the differences of my basic underwater moves… Strange isn’t strong enough a word. My boyancy is also off. I can’t get to the bottom of the pool very easily. I now can understand the joke: What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs floating in the water? “Bob.” I know… it’s terrible.

So when I started underwater kicking after my dive, I loved having the mobility that I don’t have on the ground without crutches, yet I still felt held back by having only 50% of my previous kick-power. I used to be able to travel under the water to the far end of the pool, but this time, I only made it half way. I felt like Nemo, with his little “lucky fin.” The whole situation reminds me of the “Jump Froggy Jump” joke, which I’ve been telling for the past 35 years. Beware… it’s another bad one.

Well, I thought it was funny.

Watching myself swimming on video was a great treat for me. I could see that my dive was a little belly-floppy, so I know I need to work on that. Also, my freestyle has been criticized for taking up more energy than necessary, and I’m glad to hear the constructive criticism. I need to learn how to breathe properly, too, and then I’ll see how many laps I could do.

But for now, I’m very happy to take these steps, one at a time, and soon, I’ll be back to “normal”… whatever that is!

Hockey, 2nd Period + Bowling

16 Feb

Getting out onto the ice and getting into sports therapy has triggered something in me that I really like.

Since I first tried sled hockey last Monday in a scrimmage match at the Rangers Practice Rink, I had another session of skating practice on Thursday. We did sprints, slaloms, figure 8s, relays, fall-downs and get-back-ups. It was terrific but as soon as the session was finished, the stomach bug that’s been attacking America hit me and laid me up for two days. But as soon as I was better, I found myself driving up to Saugerties to watch—and maybe participate in—real matches against real opposing teams.

The New York Rangers were playing two games—one against a team from New Jersey and another from Vermont. And the great news was that Mike was able to get me on the roster for both of the games, and find a Rangers uniform so I fit on the team. In game one, I played for two minutes, which came and went in a flash, but was pulse-pounding! But in game two, I was on the third line and got about twelve minutes of ice time! I played left wing, skated as fast as I could, passed the puck a few times, tried to position myself and realized how much I needed to learn about how to actually play hockey of any kind. But that’s ok, because I’ll learn from the best, especially Hat-Trick-Mike-Hudson!

But the greatest thrill of the day came when I hopped off the ice, and there was Rocket in the bleachers, running toward me. He was so excited! He told me three things: “Congratulations, Daddy!”, “The Rangers Won!”, and “You are a Superhero, Daddy!” Needless to say, I love my fans! 

THE DAY AIN’T OVER, YET…

When I got home, still on a rush, I swapped sons, delivering Rocket and grabbing Clever. We each had big days, so I wanted to take him out for dinner to see how his Grease audition went and tell him about my audition. As we drove down the road, trying to decide where to eat, I realized that there was a restaurant attached to the new bowling alley in town. I have been itching to bowl, and it’s taking so long to get my metal leg that I couldn’t wait any longer! So, I tried “Chair Bowling!”

Clever was amazing. He delivered each and every ball to me as my own personal caddy. And on top of that, he bowled his new high score of 110. As far as my own scores, they stank on ice, even with marking a few times, but I had just as many chair-leg-ricochet gutters. I still had a terrific time! And once I get my new leg, I’ll create a new approach, and maybe join a weekly league. If there are any other Westchester Cyborgs out there who want to roll, let me know! I’ve got one bowling trophy, and he’s kind of lonely.