Take a Bow

I think the mailman in our neighborhood was furloughed. I'm not sure- we're still getting a modest amount of mail, but the overall volume to our house, our neighborhood, and to all of Middle Tennessee is way down. It seems to have coincided with then end of my Hodgkins treatment. It's fine- he could use a break.

Thank you to everyone who sent anything, and that's a lot of you. Thank you for the cards, the gifts, the wine, the food, the books, the coffee, cds, anti-nausea paraphernalia (gum, bracelets, etc.), and the housecleanings. Thank you for the phone calls, too, and emails. I can't name everyone here, but thank you all. You know who you are.

Thank you to Diane for the cards. I know a lot of you sent cards and letters, so why does Diane get mentioned by name? Because she sent cards every day, more or less. Probably almost 100. Several cards on some days, with messages ranging from "Hi Pete!" to obscure hummingbird facts. Some days I would get three or four from her- it was so regular that at one point she turned it into a semi-scientific study of the USPS's delivery times ("text "Card # 3" to me when you get this!"). The conclusion was that they are inconsistent. Is that because they are hemorrhaging money, or are they hemorrhaging money because they are inconsistent? That must be it. I'm sure that if they were more reliable- and if the entire world forgot that email and texting existed- they'd be flush in no time.

They whole thing must have cost her over $100, to say nothing of the time it took. And it would have cost her more if she did not have a ready stamp supplier close by (thank you, Dad). Thanks, Diane. I love you.

Thank you to everyone who came out to visit and help. George and Kathy, Bo, Mom and Dad. Andy. Scott U. Thank you to everyone here in Nashville as well. All my neighbors, as well as Liane and Lee, Sam, and Joel.

Thank you to everyone who brought and sent me natural medicines. Names redacted.

Thank you to my work for working with me.

Thanks again, George and Kathy, for the use of the car. I did not think it was necessary at the time, but it made life much easier; it turns out that you did know better than me on that one. This does not mean, however, that you need to buy me a lawnmower.

Most of all, I want to thank my wonderful wife. Some things- referees, traffic signals- tend to go under-noticed when they are doing what they are supposed to do, and doing it well. And during this time, I always had what I needed, and I'm not just talking about rides to the pharmacy and Campbell's soup here. I'm talking about support: real, barely-flinching emotional support. I don't say unflinching, because I don't want to idealize this whole situation and imply that Caitlyn did not have her moments when she wanted to kill, gag, or divorce me- or do all three, in that order. She may have, but that's something for her group at Gilda's Club to hear about, not me.

"It may be just as difficult for your wife having to go through it with you. Be aware of this." This is a direct quote from an email from a friend who went through chemotherapy a few years before I was diagnosed. I read this right around Thanksgiving, and I took it to heart, though I realize now that I was paying it some kind of lip service . But how could I have known what we were in for?

Everyone asked me how I was doing. Everyone asked Caitlyn how I was doing. But we were in the same boat, navigating the same choppy waters. Yes, I was the one who felt shitty. But if I felt terrible, I knew it. If I felt good, I knew it. Caitlyn had to operate by emotional dead reckoning, trying to gauge my entire state just by the clues I gave. It was unsteady from day to day, and she kept as level and positive as anyone could. She was strong and sweet and stern, and it was what I needed. I said a lot at our wedding about how lucky I felt to have her, and I meant it- but back then I didn't even know the half of it.

So thank you, Caitlyn, for loving me and standing by me and not cracking up. I love you.

And thank you to Gilda's Club Nashville for supporting my wife as well as she has supported me.

Now let me tell you a little story. Just after the wedding last year, I received an anonymous package. It was a dvd of Plan 9 from Outer Space- Ed Wood's piece de resistance and the worst movie ever made. It was cool, and I called Kris Farris to thank him. But he didn't send it. I went down the list of suspects, and everyone I could think of who would know that I would want a Plan 9 dvd (it was like a three-person list) denied it. It was a mystery.

Not long after I was diagnosed, I got a message from Dave Liniak. He told me he had sent me something, and I would know it when I got it. I kept an eye on the mail, and in came a package. Anonymous again, but I figured it was from Dave. It was a kazoo. Now, I am all for lighthearted and whimsical gifts, but this one hit me all wrong. I was just diagnosed with cancer, and you send me a kazoo?! I knew that he meant well, but that gift did not lighten my mood at the time. I thought it was kind of shitty. I said nothing.

Anyway, a few days later, the new Mother Hips cd appeared in my mailbox. Now that was a gift with Dave written all over it. I thanked him. But who sent the kazoo? And who sent Plan 9?

I assumed they came from the same person, as those gifts seem to be in the same goofy genre. Occam's Razor dictated that the two funny gifts were from the same person, though Plan 9 came from Amazon and the kazoo did not. Caitlyn thought they came from different people, but come on- I mean, what were they chances that these two kitschy gifts were sent by two different people? My explanation made much more sense.

Until I got a call from my buddy Steve Archer in Independence, CA. We had a long conversation, and I explained my illness to him. I remember it well- I was finishing a walk with Lea as the chilly fall day got dark, and as I stepped up on our porch at the end of the walk, Steve and I started in on the pleasantries that wrap up a conversation. But before we hung up, he asked me, "Hey, did you ever get a dvd of Plan 9 from Outer Space?"

I said "Yes! That was you?!" Apparently I had mentioned the fact that Caitlyn had never seen Plan 9 when we were in Independence in 2012. Steve remembered this, and he thought it would make a good wedding gift. Man, you gotta love getting the plates and coffee grinders- all that stuff from the registry. But you really gotta love those who go rogue. Mystery solved- at least one half of it. Caitlyn was right: there was another anonymous gifter.

A couple more gifts showed up. And more, as my treatment went on: a miniature globe, hand-carved pencils, a glowing alien figurine, and an awesome book- R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz, and Country. Wooden spoons with drumsticks for handles and a treble-clef-shaped slot in one. Zebra-stripe playing cards, and a first-rate crazy straw (with "eyeglasses" attachment). A Beatles book. Moleskine notebooks. Colored sharpies. Oh, and colorful duct tape.
My haul.

As you can see, the gifts share a strain of whimsy. They are mood-lightening novelties, and they all came with my name and address computer-printed and affixed to a padded manila envelope. They came like clockwork, there was no return address, but they were all stamped from one of those automated machines in 37206- East Nashville.

We had little to go on. We racked our brains trying to figure out who was sending this stuff. We have a handful of friends in East Nashville, but they all denied involvement. We widened our net and considered all of our Nashville friends suspects; they could have driven across the river to cover their tracks. Yes, that would have been a very convoluted plan, but it was one that I refused to put past several of our friends- especially Sam Wooden, who could have easily dashed from downtown to Five Points every couple of weeks to fulfill his devious plot. I could even picture him doing it. But when I accused him, he responded with a bemused and (seemingly) sincere I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that look.

We figured the sender had to be someone who had been in our home long enough to notice the R. Crumb print that hangs above our living room mantle. The items don't seem to have been selected based on my personal tastes- I use Field Notes notebooks, not Moleskine- but the Crumb book seems too right-on to be a coincidence. Inside job, maybe? We have suspected (and accused, many times) Elaine. Ditto Liane and Lee, and Joel. Habib and Beth. I have suspected my own wife. We have suspected out of town friends and family- maybe they have friends in E. Nashville that could have mailed the gifts. But that would involve local friends of friends that we've never ever heard of- not likely. Plus, the more byzantine we make the plan the less likely it seems.

The gifts stopped coming right when chemo ended. They entertained us, they made us think, and although they (probably- we have no fucking clue!) were sent by one person, they were consistent reminders that we were on many peoples' minds.

We have done our level best to figure out who the Mystery Gift Giver is. I hope the MGG does not think us ingrates because we have not thanked him or her. We would if we knew who you were. We will when we do.

Your gifts and thoughtfulness have been appreciated for months now. Please, step forward and take a bow.