Sunday, September 30, 2007

Doing it His Way

I arrived home last night at 10pm.* I expected to start crying the moment I hit the driveway; instead, seeing my dad again has had the opposite effect. I have not been this calm and centered since, say, September, 2006. When I walked through the back door at 10pm, after a 4 hour drive, my dad got up and gave me a hug - and then went back to bed and advised me to do the same. He looked much better than he did the last time I saw him, which was two weeks ago. I slept like I have never, ever slept in my life. Dreamless, weightless, heavenly blankness.

I woke up this morning and looked out the window. I took this picture before I headed downstairs for coffee:

I put on my boots, poured myself a cup of coffee and met my dad down at the rock pile. We spent the day working on the wall together. As we worked, my dad explained his new "less than a month to live" plan. His plan is to do whatever he pleases.

This is what pleases him.

Manly work:

Stacking rocks:

Old school smokes:

tasty snacks:

good beer, sugary cola:

Regarding mortality, he seems unphased. He feels better than he did a month ago - which is when they told him he would been dead within a week. He is euphoric that he has had his last pic line, his last hit of cytarabine, his last hickman catheter, his last bone marrow biopsy, his last cbc. Often, the hospice nurse shows up to check out his condition, only to be told that he'll call if he decides he needs help. Most often when he sends this well-intentioned person away, he is gesturing with a shovel or a rock hammer.

That's my dad.

I get to spend another day with him.** We will be doing the same thing tomorrow: dry stacking walls and if we get to it, mixing mortar. I would give anything to be able to stay. I cannot - and should not, I know.

I have not yet figured out how to say goodbye, but I plan to say goodbye like always - that is - as if I will be back in two weeks. For one thing, it is very possible that I will be back in a few weeks. For another, neither my dad nor I need a "this is the last time I will ever see you" moment. He loves me. I know this. I love him. He knows this. Our books are balanced and our consciences clear. And in that sense, I am well aware that I've landed in a better place than others do when they are forced to let go of their fathers. I am heartbroken, but not bitter. And for today, and for what I might reasonably hope to get tomorrow, I am inexpressibly grateful.

* After I spent the entire day on Saturday in Newark Airport - most of it sobbing into the wrists of my sweater because I was bumped from no fewer than three flights - I finally arrived at my Dad's house. (The journey involved breaking down and renting a car - and oh yes, yes yes, I will be posting about that ORDEAL. Just not today).

** thank you thank you thank you thank you. Oh my god you have no idea. No. Idea.

Friday, September 28, 2007


I took this picture from my window ten minutes ago. In New York City, this more than passes for pretty.


For $6.50, you can have a whole box of this.

My sister in law, Leta, gave me my first box in April, and I am ashamed to say I have crunched through an entire box and am halfway through a second. Were it not for its crunchy goodness, I would probably have one of these installed in my apartment.

Hey wait, is that a box of Maldon nailed to a stick?

Reasonable in the forest... not so reasonable stuck to my face in New York City. And yes, I am still available.*

* if you like petulant, restless, angry women with unkempt blonde hair, with hands cut half to ribbons from climbing, and with zero taste in clothing or accessories. Accessories? Not since 10th grade. I am a disgrace, I tell you. A disgrace.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesdays and Thursdays

Have I mentioned that I am teaching only two days a week this semester? Tuesday and Thursday? Have I mentioned that my Tuesdays and Thursdays are wall the wall craziness? I like the schedule because it's efficient, but Tuesdays and Thursdays wear me down. It is for this reason that I have not posted an update: I am simply too tired to manage it. Summary: my dad called this morning and said the drama is resolved. No further comment. He says he still feels good, in fact, much better than he did a month ago when he was told he would not last a month.

That's ok with us. Very much ok.

At work on Tuesday night, a pair of clerical workers who had heard about my dad took me aside, told me they had added my dad to their Pentacostalist prayer circle and told me that "Man does not know what God has in store. Your daddy has faith to pray for a cure. Don't you be ungrateful and doubt the Lord. Your daddy will be with you as long as Jesus says so."

That's ok with me. Very much ok.

It has been nearly a week since I have taken a xanax, or had a beer for that matter, so it might reasonably be said that I am adjusting. I still cry like a faucet and I still hate it like crazy, but I also still get to hear my dad's voice every day. That helps a lot.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Things to be done

Finding myself with a total lack anything to post, I will post my list of things that must be done today.

1) grade 13 papers for the LA111 students
2) grade 5 papers for the LA080 students
3) scan and post reading assignment for LA101 students
4) grade in-class assignments for LA 101 students
5) set up rosters and gradebooks for all students (there are a lot of them this semester - could take a while)
6) finish putting away laundry
7) clean floors
8) finish writing letter to my dad and mail it

The items on the above list that really MUST be done: 1, 2, 3, and 8. The top three are somewhat overdue and that last one is nearly done. I simply have to hand write the letter so that what I have to say to my father does not look like a memo.

If I lived in fantasy land entirely I would also add:

9) go to the gym
10) get eyebrows threaded
11) find social security card and bring it to HR at Panic U
12) mail NC tax return (please don't ask... oh please don't)
13) sort through pile of detritus on the floor and soberly dispose of all items not required for future happiness (as if...)
14) call doctor and explain why I need more magical blue pills (as if...)
15) call other doctor and describe the disaster that is (men... close your eyes) my cycle in the last three months and hear one of two things: "you are getting older" or "you are under a lot of stress". Neither response will prove especially reassuring.

None of these are likely to be addressed until Wednesday - and even then, they barely even rate a maybe. It is more likely that I'll be working items 4-7 on Wednesday. Or doing something else entirely, like pulling my fingernails out with pliers. Or getting a pedicure. You just never know with me, these days.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Numb (thank you)

I have heard of this before - a state in which there is no room left to jam any more horror... and then all the horror is gone. Nothing has changed. However, sometime between this morning and this afternoon, my ability to care about any of this collapsed and will not reinflate. I have spent the morning in a haze and the haze has now turned to a big, blank, nothing.

I guess I will put the laundry away. Grade the papers. Take the trash out. Re-arrange the furniture. Arrange my bags for work tomorrow. There is nothing else to do but take my big, blank nothing, and be thankful.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Normal (sort of)

I had a long talk with elder brother Buzz today in which we talked about needing to get out of the astonishment/rage/heartbreak phase and start playing ball. I am not sure what that means. Well, I do. I think it might mean not living in a state of shrieking misery and attempt something like normalcy - if not for our own sake, for our dad's. It would not say much about how we were raised (right, in case you didn't know) if we didn't put on a decent show of bearing this loss with some dignity.

To that end, I folded my laundry today (that would be the laundry that I had left unwashed since before I left for Peru) and agreed to meet some girlfriends for a drink. For those of you who know me... I swear that in the case of this particular (supposed) one drink evening, one drink will really mean one, as in uno.

This weekend, more cleaning. Some paper grading. Some climbing. Remember when my blog was about climbing and New York City and silliness? Gosh, that seems a long time ago.

Will post before and after pics of my now filthy yet soon to be clean apartment tomorrow. Climbing pics likely too.

Thank you for reading, (And have a good weekend).


My dad left me a message yesterday morning while I was teaching at Panic Hire U. He left me another today, when I was sitting waiting for his call on the bench in front of my building. (My phone sometimes gets a call and never rings, but shuffles it straight through to voice mail). I have to find a way to get the messages off my phone and saved as mp3 files. If anyone knows how to do this, please let me know. If you think it's creepy that I want to save my dad's messages, I can understand why. I am ambivalent about it myself, but I would rather have them and never listen to them than not have the opportunity.

Interesting thing about Panic Hire U: when someone there needs something from me, he or she will sure as hell email and call me to death to get it. When I need something? I can expect to be unanimously ignored. Here is a list, in hard numbers, of all the unreturned phone calls and emails I have sent to the good people at Panic Hire U:

Department Head emails: 3
One regarding contracts
One regarding payroll
One regarding never hearing back from the Writing Coordinator

None of these emails have been returned.

Writing Coordinator emails: 4
One sent to a yahoo address regarding course materials
Two sent to his official college address (that would be the address he is obligated, supposedly, to check) regarding materials, again
One sent to a hotmail address listed on his old syllabus - and again, regarding materials

None of these emails have been returned.

Payroll Coordinator emails: 2
One regarding the fact that I am working without a contract
Another one regarding the fact that I am working without a contract

IT Department emails: 2
One regarding getting Blackboard set up for my students
One regarding getting Panic Hire U email access

Voice mails unreturned, to the above parties, total: 6.

Hand written notes taped to doors of offices of above parties: 1.

I have been wondering whether these people had forgotten my existence altogether, when, lo... a phone call from the Department Head.

She says, "Um, hey, I heard about a thing with your Dad. Sorry about that. Is he OK?"

Nina says, "No, he will not be alive in a month."

She says, "Oh."

Nina says, "Yeah, so he is not ok." (just to make sure that she understood that said outcome was not considered ok to either him - or me.

She says, "I see. Well I was really calling for another reason. One of our other adjuncts quit and we need someone to take over his class. He is teaching from the same materials.* Can you do it?"

Nina runs some numbers in her head - the ones about the amount of money she has spent on leukemia related plane tickets, hotels and rental cars in the past 11 months.

Nina says, "OK."

So it appears that I am now teaching two classes at Panic. If payroll ever gets back to me, I will discover when and if they plan to start paying me for my trouble. In case you did not infer from the above reference to numbers, Nina is pretty cash poor these days. Every time she turns around, another $2000 (or some other sum) flies out of her wallet on something she is never wanted in the first place. Plus, I have to admit (note: no longer referring to self in third person point of view), the class slides pretty painlessly into my schedule, so I can deal with it as long as I can deal with having a whole lot of papers to grade. History has proven that in such situations I either a) sloppily grade them or b) grade them never. Some day I will post about how it is very possible to evaluate student work without ever actually reading it.

It is similar to how a university can hire a person without ever actually reading his or her resume, without giving him or her a contract or setting him or her up with materials or setting him or her up for Blackboard or email. Similar - not precisely the same, mind you - but very like, nonetheless.

Thank you for reading.

* these would be the materials that I STILL DO NOT HAVE.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

With Lola and Merry

Tired. Slightly sick. So sad it's scary.

It's good to be with my girls.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Have I never talked here about Xanax? I have always been afraid of it. It is a potentially addictive drug, and its basic function is reduce anxiety. That means its basic function is to keep me from crying in the street. It looks like this:

and the very sight of it makes me quiver with relief. I know it is there and that if I take it, I will not cry in the street.

My only venture out of the apartment today was to walk up to 52nd and Lex so I could split my remaining supply with my brother.

Before I proceed, some numbers: on September 6th, I picked up 60 of these magical little pills. I have given my brother, over the course of the last 2 weeks, 32 of them. I now have 7 left. That's bad. Very bad. It means that if I can my doctor and ask for more, she will doubtless look at my chart and assume that I am abusing the drug.** The problem is that after seeing my brother and seeing that he had a new haircut and looked, astonishingly like my dad, I kind of fucking lost it. My poor darling brother had to deal with me sobbing in his office while he was under deadline for a serious pitch* - which is totally unfair.

You see, I was stupid today. I assumed that because I cried a whole lot last night while writing a letter to my dad, that I would be sort of ok today. Instead, I have been the opposite of ok. Any passing thought of anything that made me think of my dad made my face cave in and get all blotchy and red, (please note: I am not one of those women who looks beautiful with tears running down her face. I look, instead, as if I have been beaten). I actually assumed that I had gotten it ouf of my system for a short while and had a shot at avoiding uncontrollable crying in public today. Gosh, I am stupid.

After my brother mopped me up, I had to deal with my actual work life.

I went to make copies for my students - (at my own expense, once again ... thanks Panic Hire U) and I was sent to three different locations by incompetent people who could not understand that it is in fact possible to shrink a legal sized document down to fit on letter paper by pressing a few buttons. At the third location, I finally succeeded in locating a machine that would perform the minimization and allow me to make enough copies to be able to successfully conduct anything resembling a class. Except that the good people at this final location refused to make the copies because they would be in violation of copyright laws.

And this is when I started crying. The guy behind the counter? He and I had a moment of real understanding, I think. Because he took the book and made the copies and I tossed a $5 at him. He never said a word to me and I never said a word back.

I was so ashamed that I had behaved this way that I took a xanax, thinking it would prevent me from crying on a stranger in some other location. It worked, but I still felt (and feel) like the universe is starting to fray. My dad cannot die. It just cannot happen. Xanax makes it possible not to cry your face off in front of strangers, but it doesn't make you less sad, and it doesn't give meaning. You can take the pills, but the narrative still will not work.

* my brother is, depending on how you look at it, a big fucking deal. Last year he was nominated for a VMA for his graphics work, and while he didn't win, he is famous in the business. WHich, by the way, is slowly killing him. He lives on coffee, pizza, and beer. He rarely sleeps. He lives like a zombie. It's bad.

**If you, reader, are of that opinion, then do me a favor and please fuck off. My dad is dying and I need NOT to be crying uncontrollably while waiting for copies at the Fed-Ex Kinkos. Xanax is for the greater good, not just me.

The Wall

I might have mentioned before that my Dad started building a lower patio last summer, and that a big part of the job is building a retaining wall around it. The purpose of the wall is to - well- retain, but it is also meant to be pretty in an English formal garden sort of way. He was about half done building it when he was diagnosed last fall. He has not been able to work on it much in the last twelve months, obviously.

One of the good things that came out of our visit this weekend (it sucked, mostly... see below) was that my brother, sister and I managed to get it through to my dad, loud and clear, that we would sell our organs to ensure that the house does not have to be sold. Ever. You see, my dad designed the house and worked side by side with the general contractor and the construction crew to build it. He built the deck, which includes a leaf design that I can't properly describe, and he built the dock and the the pathways to it with his own hands. Hammer, nails, lumber, a level.

My dad built our house, and now he is building this:

I didn't get a chance to talk to my dad yesterday, mostly because my step-mother was not answering the phone. I got lucky today, and my dad answered when I called.


"Hi Nina. How are you today?"

"Fine, Dad. How are you?"

"Oh, I am feeling pretty good, honey. I can't talk long though. I have my hands in a bucket full of mortar."

"You have WHAT?"

"Mortar. I am working on the wall."


"Yeah, well. I am going to work on it because I still can."

"Yeah. So, listen Dad, about this weekend..."

"Nina, honey, can we talk about this later? This mortar is starting to harden. I'll call you this afternoon."


"OK, good. I love you, honey."

"I love you, too."

"Bye, honey."

"Bye, Dad."

I can't quite describe how I feel about this conversation. I feel better because he is having a good day and has not decided to sit in his deck chair and feel sorry himself. I feel worse because I just do. I can't imagine letting go of my dad.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I regret to inform you


that this blog is now temporarily re-dedicated to me complaining about my dad's cancer, his certain (and soon) death, and my RAGE at how my step-mother is behaving.

My brother and I bought tickets to SC. In the process of buying the tickets, we discovered that if we stayed over night Saturday (this would be after our 2-3 hour visitation with our father) we would actually save money, even with the hotel bill. Then we discovered that by staying over on Sunday night, the price dropped down to almost nothing. Making it, again, cheaper to stay another night.

Then, of course, we go to thinking. We thought: Well. We'll tell them we are staying in town because the flights are cheaper. Then we'll tell them we'll be around if they need help.

Then, of course, we realized that my step-mother would feel manipulated. She does not want us to come. And she DEFINITELY does not want us to show up on Sunday or Monday.

Then, of course, we thought again. We thought: Well. We'll just make it clear that we do not expect an invitation. We'll tell them we are going by the hospital to thank the ICU team who saved his life last October. We'll tell them not to sweat it if they would rather us not come back. It's not that big a deal, right????

So we book the tickets.

Then my dad calls my brother this afternoon just to chat and my brother, who is a pretty honest and forthright sort of guy, tells my dad we will be in town for a few days and that he can call if he needs anything. Dad likes this idea. He recommends a place for us to stay. We are greatly relieved because we believe our Dad is ok with this and is not in the least worried about us trying to shove our way into the house and upset his wife.

(I am sure I don't need to point out how profoundly fucked up it is that we are no longer welcome in our father's home. What the FUCK?)

We are happy. There will be no weirdness and no subterfuge. It's all out on the table.

I spend three hours changing our hotel booking so that we are a bit closer to the house. It costs me about $400 to make the change.

Then I get a call from my Aunt, the wife of my Dad's twin brother. She tells me that she just had the oddest phone call ever from Dad. She says Dad called, and that his wife was on the line too. Dad told her that it was VERY important to him that me, my brother, and my sister arrive at the house by 12:45. He said that we should not be late. He said "they have a plane to catch later." He refused to tell my aunt why.

Now, the airport is one hour and twenty minutes from the house. There is no way in the world we are going to make it on time because our plane is due in at 11:45. My aunt tries to explain this to Dad, but Dad is adamant, and his wife remains silent. My aunt presses for an explanation, and none is given. Dad (nor his wife) will explain why we need to be that at that time.

Nina's hypothesis: Dad got off the phone with Buzz and told 'cita that we were going to be in town until Monday. She, feeling usurped BY US BEING IN THE SAME COUNTY told my dad that she doesn't want us here and that we are not to be allowed back on Sunday or Monday and that obviously, we were trying to manipulate her (and him). She then calls the family priest and hospice and arranges to have a meeting AT 12:45 in which we are told by hospice (and the family priest) that we, his children from his first marriage or SO YESTERDAY and that it is no longer about us, and that we will NOT be given another opportunity to see him, regardless of how long we camp out in a hotel 15 minutes away.

In fact, I can pretty much gaurantee you this is what is going to happen. What breaks my heart is that no one is even thinking about my dad. My dad is probably, though he says not, scared, worried, and nervous about dying. Does he need this? I don't think so... and yet here is my step mother, after he specifically said he wanted us there - to the point of giving us the phone number to the place he wanted us to stay - telling my dad to call and summon us to some top -secret bullshit meeting... in which we'll be told to leave. How's THAT for love? How's THAT compassion for my dad?

It makes me so sick I don't even know what to say.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In which I try to post something funny

Here is the dream I had after I woke up hung over this morning and went back to sleep.

I dreamed that I was drunk at the computer, (that actually happens in real life sometimes.... damn those mojtos... ) and decided it was time to stop being so shy already have a real blog with the real me right there on it for the whole world to see.

So what did drunken computer me do? I stripped down to the sluttiest lingerie I have (and believe me, I have some slutty undergarments, people... you can be a slut all you want under your clothes where no one can see... it's really fun...) and then set up a video camera and taped myself singing, very badly and dancing around in a cupless bra* with a feather boa.

I was drunk, half naked, and very proud of my new-found courage to, you know, put myself out there. I created a new blog under my real name, and put up my video. Then I decided that the prudent thing to do was go to sleep.

So I dreamed I was sleeping. (That was weird...)

Then I dreamed I woke up hung over and saw that Some Guy had posted a comment on my blog about my hotness. I remember feeling relieved that he didn't post a comment about me being fat and talentless. And then I realized that if I got a comment on that post, that I REALLY HAD UPLOADED A VIDEO OF MYSELF DANCING AND SINGING IN SLUTTY LINGERIE... FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD TO SEE.

Naturally, I was agitated. I pulled up my blog and watched my video, and discovered, to my horror, that somehow Paris Hilton was a back up dancer in the video, and that the backdrop was a bank of slot machines all hitting the jackpot. It was kind of cool, unless one was actually looking at the half-naked, talentless creature flailing around and singing some shit about her feelings.

I tried to delete the blog.

I discovered that it was impossible to do so because the video had been copyrighted by Time Warner Broadcasting. And that the video was hitting number one on YouTube.

Then I woke up. I remembered this dream and thought to myself: are there naked video bits of me on the internet? And the answer was no... and I was relieved.

It does not change the fact that my waking life is currently a nightmare, but hey, THAT nightmare wasn't real. And I suppose that's something to be grateful for.

*someday I will get around to posting about the freak of nature that is (are) my breasts. They are astonishing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


If you want funny, ridiculous, goofy self-deprecating me... come back tomorrow. Or perhaps the next day.

I said I would try not to post about my dad. It turns out I am incapable of posting about anything else. I am sorry. For now, this is how it must be.

Below, see the post I wrote for my father's blog. It is titled so and ends so because the word "thusly" - though probably not officially sanctioned by the OED - or any other authority on the English language - was a favorite of my dad's. He used it at every opportunity, and what it means, basically, is "this is how it's done."

I post this entry here there is a chance that my mother's family will see it - and because they have not really been reading my dad's blog because they are just a little too emotional to read all the my step-mother has to say. Oh, and if 30 year old photos of my parents blow my cover, so what. I am not a scavenger hunt, and I only have 9 readers anyway. And most of them live west of the Mississippi and don't care.


Dear Family and Friends,

I add to 'cita’s post a word of thanks to all of you who have offered support to my brother, sister and I during this past week. I wrote once on this blog that our family is an embarrassment of riches. I mean that now, more than ever.

Having said this much, I want to answer all of you who have asked how Buzz, Chiara, and I are doing.

In short, we are doing just fine.

By “fine”, I don’t mean fine with it, or fine and dandy, or fine, have it your way.

The sort of fine I mean is quite different: fine as in of rare or remarkable quality. Fine as in fine china.

How so?

It is what we are made of, not what we are, that I refer to. Through no effort or accomplishment of our own, we are indeed rare. Our father is an honorable man, one who supported us, gave us a home and family, -- and loved us. And this is all before he was a Boy Scout leader, a brave in Indian Princesses, a running coach, a sailing teacher, a career counselor, a financial planner (and too often, rescuer) and (bless his heart… what a pain I am… relationship advisor) and more than all of these, a friend. My whole life, my dad has been my most trusted and loyal and devoted friend. My siblings and I have been honored with our dad’s love, guidance, and friendship our whole lives. Being able to say so makes me rare indeed.

We are even more honored because he has opened his heart and home to Mamacita – and has offered the same unconditional love and support and friendship to two new sisters. I have never been so proud of my Dad as I was the day he chose to love again – and our family grew to include Mamacita, Kendra, and Jane. It is for this reason that I understand what he meant when he told us they had been short-changed. So many people I know never had a good father for one day of their lives – and Buzz, Chiara, and I have had one for the entirety of ours. Protracted self-pity, in a case such as ours, would be inexcusable.

Even so, our hearts break. Of course we shed tears. But we are governed by our faith that the injustice of so short a life will be assuaged, in part, by our belief that instead of seeing his grandson Liam two or three times in a year, Dad will see him every moment of every day – and appreciate even more the wonderful mom that Leta is from the moment she wakes until the moment she sleeps. Dad can be with Mamacita at any and every moment – and by her side when her loss is most difficult. If he wants to see me teaching grammar to electricians local union 3 – he’ll be able to – though I hope he has more interesting things to do – perhaps watching my brother design the next U2 video - or better yet, watching my brother be the kind of father my dad taught him by example.

The injustice will again be assuaged when he sees again his family and friends who have gone before him. Vince Barkis, a man we loved so well we called him Uncle – will be most eager to see Dad. Maw Maw and Paw Paw, who instilled much of Dad’s stellar character and sweetness of spirit, are watching and waiting to welcome their eldest son home. Mamacita’s parents, too, are I am sure most anxious to welcome him.

But most of all, our mother is waiting.

I am sure she will let him know that That Guy I dated in high school was not so dangerous as he supposed. I am sure she has as thing or two to say about how long it took him to build the lake house (too long!), but most of all, she will give him a proper scolding for taking so long to snap out of it and marry Mamacita... but I leave that happy chat to them. I am sure they will be heartily glad to see each other.

When I pulled out of the driveway on August 24th and said goodbye to my family, I cried – as I have done every time I have said goodbye to them before a separation of more than a week - since I was two years old. I did so partly because I inherited a streak of sublime sentimentality from my mom, but also because from the time we were children, I knew what I valued: my family. I knew it because my Dad taught us that nothing matters in life - not money, nor success, nor acclaim - so much as loving the people around us – and how precious our time together is.

It is for this reason that Buzz, Chiara and I will see him and speak to him in the weeks to come, even while his choice to forgo further treatment – and his wish to live out his days in his own home, with his darling 'cita - are honored. What visits we do make will be brief and full of joy – a celebration of his life and the unparalleled legacy of love he has built, day by day, hour by hour, just by being his astounding self. There will be no tears, only congratulations to him on a life well lived, and our promise to strive to be worthy of his example. We are forever in his debt.

As our Dad taught us how to live – full of love and compassion, he is now teaching us how to die. Dad is nothing if not forthright, honest, and true, and I know if I asked him to talk about what is happening, and how he wants to go about it, he would answer me. And this is what he'd say: “Nini, don't worry. I'll sit out on my deck, and look at my lake with my wife. Thusly.”

This is his way, and it's a fine one.


Not much to say today

I have to go teach a class at Panic Hire U in about two minutes. Panic in case you don't remember, is the place that hired me, sight unseen, and then promptly ignored me when I asked for materials for my class. I guess what I'll have to tell my darlings today is that we are going to be winging it. I guess I have to hope they don't mind.

I'll post again later and try not to a) complain or b) say horrible things about my step-mother. It'll be a challenge, but I'll do my best.

Now go back to sleep.

Monday, September 10, 2007

And now for something totally meaningless

Go ahead. Press play. It won't hurt you.

I perfectly understand the criticism The Entire World has leveled at Ms. Spears in the last twelve months. She has screwed up BIG TIME, pretty much every day of the last 365. Remember the panty-free, Paris days? Remember the umbrella-SUV incident? I believe it was just last week she was walking her naked toddler to the pool with a lit cigarette.

This morning, the NYT absolutely crucified her for her performance last night at the VMAs. Most of the comments at IDon'tLikeYouinThatWay.comcall her "fat" and "talentless". And that I am not sure that's fair. Whatever my waist:hip ratio, I will never look that good in hotpants. Ever.

So if this meaning-free post has a point, it is this: yes, Britney has looked better, danced better, sounded better, behaved better - all true. But there is something else worth noticing about this supposed come-back performance: she is visibly nervous, and just trying to get through it without falling on her ass. And who hasn't felt that way at least once in his or her life?

Sure, ok, she wasn't great last night, but she stood up in her hot pants and sparkley bra and did her best. For that, I gotta give the girl a break.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sin of the Week, 9/9/07

The worst thing I did this week (besides giving class 2 prescription drugs to people for whom they were not prescribed, calling my aunt and uncle upwards of nine times a day to voice literally hundreds of petty complaints against everyone in my family, threatening to sue my dad's doctor for malpractice) is scream* so loudly into my cell phone, right there on the corner of 42nd and 2nd, that my sister's ears are still ringing two days later. I won't say what made me do it because it would be just too embarrassing. Anybody have any class or self-control to spare? If so, send it my way. I am behaving like a complete asshole.

* this would be one of the seven deadly sins, by the way... for those of you who don't keep track of those: lust, gluttony, sloth, greed, rage, envy, and pride. Normally, I am all about pridefulness. This week, apparently.... rage.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Chez Nina: now with 400% more bacon!

For all of you who kindly asked how I am doing, I present the following evidence:

paper coffee cups: 5 (6 if you count the one from Dunkin' Donuts - it's pastic)
beer cans: 4
milk shake cups: 3
gummi-bear bags: 3
burger bags: 4
wine bottles: 4
dirty wine glasses: 6
soda bottles: 4
prescription bottles: 4
pounds of laundry: 50 (it's a conservative guess)
towers of unopened mail: 3
ungraded student papers: 58
exploding garbage bags: 2
number of clean garments: 0
slices of bacon on the floor: 4

While all of this inexecusable, the bacon, I think, requires more explanation than merely: my father is dying and has refused to see me * and and I am apparently no longer capable of basic self care.

Yesterday when I decided to eat breakfast (it seemed a really solid gesture towards something about boots straps and pulling them up or whatever) I told the guy behind the glass to make me an "egg and cheese on toast" and waited for an entire 7 minutes for it.** Then the guy behind the glass looked up, his eyes widened... and he whirled like a dervish to present me with a foil wrapped sandwich that seemed a bit on the heavy side. I said nothing. I paid $2 for it. I left.

I arrived home, unwrapped the foil and discovered that he had made me a TWO egg and cheese on a toasted EVERYTHING bagel (so far, forgiveable)... with BACON on it. FOUR STRIPS.

And YES, it is a BIG DEAL.

I ordered this:

I got this:

Significantly different breakfasts, don't you think? Even if they were not, I hate bacon. I understand that hating bacon makes me a bad American, not to say a bad person, but I HATE BACON.

So I burst into tears, flipped open the sandwich, and threw the bacon across the room as hard as I could. Then, as I ate my (still bacon greasy) sandwich, I watched the shimmering swine slices as they rolled down the wall onto the floor. In a few minutes, I am going to step over them on my way out to get a cup of coffee. I do not know (yet) whether I have what is takes to risk ordering another egg and cheese. I simply might not be that brave.

After I get some coffee, I am going to make the following gesture towards boot-strappery: I am going to take the trash out. I will post again tomorrow with, I hope, better numbers.

* this is actually a gross over-simplification of what is really going on at home. I would explain it, but I'd rather bitch about pork products and get into how my step-mother has NO IDEA who she is dealing with if she thinks she can keep my father's children from seeing him before he dies because he wants it that way.... I suppose it doesn't require explaining that NO ONE is buying that load of selfish "I want my man all to myself" bullshit.

** Note to non-New Yorkers: to wait more than 1.5 minutes for your egg and cheese at a corner deli is not only unheard of, but in most neighborhoods, grounds for assault.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My cup runneth over

Yesteday, just about the time my dad called (see entry below) I walked down to the corner for coffee. I was hyperventilating and acting like a total asshole, but I am well known in my nieghborhood and people are cool with me in whatever condition I happen to present to them. On my way back up the block my brother called and said, "get you ass to the 3:13 out of Penn... and get there on time." This presented a serious problem for me because I had absolutely no cash - and absolutely no way to get any. Why? Because I no longer remember my ATM card pin number. All I know is that it MIGHT have a 9 in it. Other than that, I have no idea.

How could that be, you ask? It is because if you select just the right combination of bullshit, stir it up, and stick it in my gob, my long term memory purges one or more pieces of critical data. Once, is was my phone number* and another time it was my social security number**. This week, it is the pin code to my ATM card. I have not been able to remember it since Friday.

Most places that take credit cards can just run a Visa-debit card through as if it is a credit card. It gets kind of embarrassing, however, when you are charging a cup of coffee for $1.35. But at 2:20pm, with a persistent hangover and a head full of horror and a mouth full of cotton, you just push the card across the counter - and though the Boricua kid who swipes your card mutters to his Dominican friend, "yo, she just ghetto" - you are grateful that you are not toothless and living under a bridge somewhere. After all, some people only wish they could be so ghetto as to have an ATM card in the first place. You know all too well that in a year or two, you could be one of them.

I was in this condition when I staggered up the block and received the mandate to be at Penn Station by 3:13pm. This presented two problems: 1) my aforementioned cashlessness and 2) that fact that I live in midtown EAST, as in six entire avenues*** from Penn Station. I concluded that the only way to make that train was to take a taxi - the only thing I could NOT do with no cash.

I was giggling (and also wetting my pants just a little ) when I looked down and saw this:

right there between the planter and the curb. I looked around. With no on sight, I had to assume that in a city of millions, this bill had been lying there unnoticed for less than half a nano-second. I picked it up and hailed a cab, which cost $10. I bought a round trip ticket to Nicetown, NJ, for $9.50. Problem solved.

Once I arrived at my brother's house, there was a bit more emotionalism than I will describe. By morning, I realized that it might be wise to request support for the next 30 days - in the form of pharmicuticals. So what did I do? I called my doctor**** who left a scrip for me at the front desk, which I picked up today. Problem was, though, that I left my bag at my brother's house, so when I went to get the magical drug, I had no money and no ATM card. Nothing, in fact. I was about to tear the universe a new ass hole. Seriousy. Then I looked down and saw this:

righ there on the FLOOR of the pharmacy, in front of the cash register. Folded in half, right there on the shmutzy tile.

I guess I don't need to tell you that the copay was. I am pretty sure you know.

* that would be when my mom was dying.

** that would be when I lost my job and wrecked my car and lost my wallet - all on the same day.

*** approximate travel time across town:

train: 40 minutes.
foot: 40 minutes.
helicopter: 45 minutes.
limo: 90 minutes.
taxi: 37 minutes.

**** if you ever want prescription drugs, call you doctor and tell her your dad has less than a month to live and that he doesn't want to see you EVER AGAIN. Then listen for the sound of her pen scratching out orders for controlled substances.

Regarding leukemia, let me be clear *revised*

Twenty percent of all leukemia cases are caused by cigarette smoke. A good percentage more are caused by previous chemotherapy treatments(due to.... surprise! smoking...*) In addition, smoking during a leukemia remission significantly worsens prognosis.

This is the last and final time I will ask my friends who smoke TO STOP, RIGHT NOW. Chew the fucking gum for the rest of your life for all I care. But please stop. I beg here on my knees: STOP. I am not the only person who loves you (Supa and Rich..and Pax) and hopes that you never hear your doctor tell you that you only have a month to live.

* for those of you who did not know, YES, my dad's leukemia was caused by cigarette smoke (and cigar smoke too). He smoked his first cigarette at 14 and was instantly addicted. Even during treatment, he was still fantasizing about smoking. And smoking hastened his relapse. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it... or.... you could do as I ask and please, please, please quit.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ring Ring.


"Hi Nina, it's Dad. Can you get somewhere we can talk?"

I swallow an entire mg of xanax and head for the door. In front of my building, I sit on the bench under the trees. I call him back.

"Hi Nina. We got a whole bunch of tests back, and the results are not good. My leukemia is back with such a vengeance that Dr. O does not think that there is any hope of achieving a remission."


"Well, yeah. So we are not going to do more chemo. We are going to get out of the hospital and drive up into the mountains for a vacation. Then we'll decide what to do next - and have a much fun as possible while there is still fun to be had."

"Have you and Dr. O discussed this from every possible angle?"

"Yes. And this is what we want. And by the way, don't come down here under any circumstances. I love you, but this is going to be hardest on Mamacita, and I need to spend my hours, minutes, and seconds with her."

A lot more discussion ensued, but the one question that I did not ask is how long he had to live. The answer, as my beloved google tells me, is a couple of months.

Here is my Dad with his only grandson, who calls him Pop. Liam will not remember him. When we said goodbye to our Dad in the driveway on August 24th, that was goodbye.

I will post about this again when he dies, but other than that, I'll try not to. I am sure you all would rather read about something, anything else.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Goodness happens, too

If you have been putting up with my sadness-anger cocktail the last few weeks, you will have noticed that in my last post, I begged for something, anything good to happen.

I have the following to report:

1) Merry is home from her summer travels, and we spent a few hours walking the park today. I can't tell you how much better I felt after laying out all the cards for Merry. I felt better, almost instantly. Whew!

2) I went to a staff meeting tonight for the other college I am working for this semester, a college we will call Awesome U. * Guess what? I will be teaching a night class populated entirely by local union workers... (that is good news, people) and better yet... my only mandate is to teach them to express themselves. I have taught classes of this kind before, and let me tell you, they are fun. I get to teach them to write not about academic blah - di - dah - but about whatever they want to say about themselves or about ANYTHING. Fun, fun, fun. I learned, therefore, the following about my recent teaching meltdown: It only applies to bullshit four year universities with all their snotty muckity muck. I can happily teach at vo-tech colleges, two years colleges, and adult education colleges, where there is a MINIMUM of academic snot-nosed posturing... because the lack of it usually means maximum focus on student needs and student welfare. And that is what I dig.

So, I begged for some goodness. I got it.

Thank you for reading.

* in case you are keeping track of all the colleges in (and out) of my life:

Awesome U: Night class this semester.

Panic-Hire U: Morning class this semester.

Sweet Little College: My distance education job, without which I would be done for.

Hoops U: excellent public college, mostly known for its basketball team. I got my MA there.

Prestigious U: The nutty place I worked before I landed at Awesome and Panic.

Merciful U: called so because I am enrolled in their PhD program, and they have not yet kicked me out... (I very much deserve to be kicked out, in case you were unaware).

Monday, September 3, 2007

Notice a theme, lately?

1) The person at Panic-Hire U who is supposed to give me materials for the class I am teaching has not returned my emails, phone calls, or even the note I left on his door in over a week now. I am going into the classroom tomorrow morning at 8:15, for the third day in a row, unprepared. I finally emailed his (and my) boss tonight, but I still don't have what I need - and I have no idea how I am going to explain that to my students in the morning. Perhaps we'll do MabLibs or draw pictures of what we did on our summer vacations!

2) I have not done laundry in over a month, and I am fast approaching the "zero-underwear" moment. I would have reached it a lot sooner had I not a serious over-interest in lingerie and therefore literally hundreds of bra-underwear combinations to choose from. However, since 40% of the floor in my apartment (it's only one room, people) is now covered by dirty clothes, it might be time for me to snap out of it. I could make it through the end of the week, but not more. If a person stops doing laundry and the clothing runs out, what happens? Does the person just stay home and molt in his or her sticky rags? Please pray that I do not have an answer to this question next week.

3) My air-conditioner is broken. That means that my apartment feels (and smells) like a sweaty jungle. I take upwards of three cold showers a day, just so I can avoid complete stickiness. Surely, the Sisters of Charity at St. Elizabeth Academy would approve - unless they also knew that I am forced to dry off with old t-shirts because my towels all smell like mold. Check out that Catholic Convent-School website and you'll readily see that I was NOT raised to behave this way. I am a disgrace to Catholic school girls everywhere.

4) I got an email from Larry telling me that (it's complicated) he wants to avoid seeing me (and expects me to avoid running into him). He writes "I don't know what the future holds, but this is what I need right now." Perhaps one of these days when I am home in the afternoon, clutching my head and screaming because all my underwear is dirty and I do not have the moral fortitude to get off my ass and cope with mountain of sweaty-jungle clothes, I'll write a post that explains why exactly it is that a man I never dated and never liked in that way could reasonably send me a break-up email - and why I would be sad about it. Summary: so much for NOT DATING so as to NOT have to deal with bullshit like this. Because all this time I didn't have a boyfriend, I might as well have had one if I had known someone would be uttering the words "what I need right now" in my direction. Is that irony? Or just stupidity? I forget. (And I really ought to find something else to do to teach English).

5) I called my Dad today and he told me that the next few months are going to be rough. Then he said: "When I am breathing my last, it would be nice to have all my kids around me, but until then, I don't think I can handle visitors." Needs no comment, I think.

Normally, I am mentally posing in front of my misery camera* about 35% of my waking hours. Lately, it is 100%. I work if I absolutely have to and I spend the rest of my time on pointless googling and eyebrow trimming, and mole checking and waist and hip measuring. Sometimes I stare out the window and sometimes I stare to the floor. And then... oh, internet!

I fear for my sanity unless SOMETHING, ANYTHING good happens. Anything at all will do. Please. Soon.

* in case you missed it (and how could you?) the theme is self-pity.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Sin of the Week, 9/2/07

I lied.


The lie I told was to myself, standing in front of the mirror.

"Self?" I said.

"Yes?" I answered.

"Do we look fat in this dress?" Gazing at the mirror.

"Why, no. We look voluptuous and alluring. We measure VERY appropriately."

"Why, thank-you! Can we go out for many many drinks with our very thin friends, now?"

"Get thee to a brewery!" *

"Whheeeeee! Let's go"

And off we went. (And yes, I measure appropriately. Every single day.)

* I actually spent most of the weekend at my brother's house, discussing recent medical developments re: our dad. We're fucked, basically, but his doctors did throw us a scrap of a bone: he might get as much as a year, and we got confirmation that the idea of doing a bone marrow transplant is not off the table entirely. IF we do that we might get more.

My dad

A few weeks ago, I got in my rental car and drove to Pop and Mamacita's house. What I didn't mention about the trip was that I stopped at the top of the street and cried for about fifteen minutes before proceeding down the road to my house.


Because I promised myself that I would not step into my father's house again unless he was in it. Because for a year, he wasn't. He was in St. Francis Hospital receiving three rounds of chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia.

So for me to be able to walk into our house and see my dad, sitting in his chair, reading a magazine, was a personal and familial triumph unlike anything I could ever describe. For me to get up the next day and get in the car and drive to the grocery store with my dad, and pick out, you know, stuff to put on the grill, was on par with, say, having tea with Jesus or winning the lottery. For me to wake up one day, look out our front window, and see this:

... was enough to make my heart crack. In fact, my heart was cracking all week. I could write all day and all night long, and you'd still have no idea how much I love my dad. No. Idea.

It is for this reason that I am fairly well near demenita because my dad has lost his remission and is back in the hospital. His diagnosos is recurrent acute myeloid leukemia. I'll save you the google search, people: barring some kind of UNHEARD OF, EVER BEFORE IN MEDICAL HISTORY miracle, it's over. We'll be lucky if he lives six months.

If you will excuse me, I am going to go smash my head against the wall until I pass out.

I'll write more on this subject when I get more news.