If you're ever there, probably the best value and healthiest dish at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Courtyard Cafe is the beans and rice plate at Baja Fresh. It's funny to see how unhealthy (though not undelicious, I must say) most of the options in this hospital food court are- like when you see a doctor smoking. Anyway, it just comes with beans and rice, but it's a good portion, and they'll give you chips and salsa with it, if you want. It reminds me of the football days at UCLA- it was right at the beginning of the Fresh-Mex trend, so we had a bunch of places that served grilled chicken burritos and stuff like that, as opposed to the refried-beans and broiled-cheese type of plates- at places like La Fiesta in Mountain View, CA- that I was used to, and I loved, as a kid. But this was the end of the '90s, and low-fat was the thing.

Baja Fresh was the king, and there was one right in Westwood and one at Olympic and Sawtelle, close to our apartment. We would always get the burrito "Dos Manos,"which was about 14" long, and probably boasted 400 calories in tortilla alone. You make a Dos Manos (I know because I watched many times) by overlapping two giant tortillas like a Venn diagram, then filling and folding it like you're making a normal burrito out of a bedsheet. The thing was sliced diagonally after it was wrapped tight, but each half still had to be held with two hands.

Eventually I became loyal to La Salsa- not because it was better, but because Baja Fresh was always so crowded. Baja Fresh probably was a little bit better, which is probably why it was more crowded, but La Salsa was not far behind, had parking, and had an extremely generous punch-card program, through which I was clocking one free burrito a week, practically. The La Salsa equivalent of the burrito Dos Manos was called El Champion. I have not been to a real Baja Fresh in a long time. The only one that I know of here in Nashville shut down, but I seriously doubt they make the Dos Manos anymore. I don't know why- it's not like just because I stopped eating 2000 calorie burritos the whole world did- but for some reason it seems unlikely. Come to think of it, given the size of the burritos at industry-leader Chipotle, it seems outdated to out one's self as a glutton by ordering the Dos Manos at Baja when you could just get an equally obscene (but "normal") burrito at Chipotle and fit right it with the crowd. On second thought, maybe I have not stopped eating 2000 calorie burritos.

The point is this: if you only have 4 bucks or so and are feeling misty for the 90s, the beans and rice plate at Baja Fresh is a good deal, in terms of calories, taste, and nostalgia.

After that submarine of a Chipotle burrito torpedoed my PET scan plans on Monday, I rebooked for Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, when you tell a hospital you want to come in as early as possible, they take you seriously and tell you to be there at 6:45am. I was willing to take what I could get, since I was afraid to go to my Wednesday appointment with my oncologist scanless- the circumstances would have been embarrassing to explain. Plus, the early time practically guaranteed that, barring some middle-of-the-night somnambulatory trip to the kitchen to make a Dagwood, I would probably make it to the PET scan in a fasting state.

I had a brief moment of dread today as I woke up- not unusual for an infusion day- but it quickly passed, since I knew I would have my scan results to discuss with the doctor. I was fully expecting some great news today, so I made breakfast and dashed off to work at 8, hoping to get a few hours in before my appointments began.

At the lab, the woman who checked me in was nice and sweet, but it crossed over into a little obnoxious as she tried to convince me- and convince is really the most apt word here- that the "lucky" things I have experienced with regard to my illness (e.g. critical illness insurance, etc.) have been the work of an interested and benevolently interventionist god. She just wanted to toss me a little seed, she said, and toss she did- though I am afraid it may have landed on some salty soil. She said I was blessed, and every time I was like "I was very lucky" or "I was very fortunate" she had this look on her face that was all like "SAY IT! SAY IT! SAY YOU WERE BLESSED AND I'LL BE HAPPY!" And I was all like "I better get out of here now or I'm gonna need a thesaurus to help me with more secular synonyms for lucky." But she said I was handsome, so she was alright. I might not go back to her window, though, because she mentioned something about some movies I should watch, and I don't think I can sit through The Grace Card or anything with a title like that.

I got in to see Dr. Morgan, and he told me that my scans were negative- which is positive. Sometimes he seems like he's in a rush, but I asked him whether I could see the scans. I guess he wasn't in too much of a hurry, because he said ok and sat down to walk me through the scans. This is what we saw:

At right is my PET scan from November- the black parts are things (organs and tumors) that are consuming energy. Some, namely the heart and kidneys, are supposed to be there, eating up glucose. Most of that shit is not supposed to be there, as is illustrated in the scan at the left, which is me yesterday. Just heart and kidneys eating glucose, bladder taking a little nibble, but no neoplasmic interlopers.

Look at that: fucking beautiful. So squeaky clean, any moron could read it and determine that he'd rather be the guy on the left than the guy on the right. Right now, I am mentally Photoshopping a steak, fries, and a glass of red wine into that vast, grey region below the kidneys.

So what does this mean for my treatment? Nothing. It means that it's working, but I still have 7.1 treatments left to go. I say that because I am 90% through my fifth infusion, and, strangely, getting pumped full of poison has never felt so good.