Wednesday, October 22, 2003

This morning I got the nicest card from Sara's folks. It sure is swell to have in-laws who like you. For whatever misguided reasons. Oh, if they ever see through me. :)

Camera advice has been numerous and simple. Basically, yeah, the S400 is a GREAT camera, can you wait 6 months? the price will drop, and you will be happier. Good advice.

Speaking of Photos, I updated my Yahoo Photos "CancerBoy" folder. It shows me with the hair iterations, as well as me sitting in the clinic in my pirate hat (thanks Rick) getting chemo. The bags on the trays are different stuff. Some is chemo, some is just fluid. But basically, in 8 hours, it all gotta drip into me. The last 3 pix are the hydration pump i had to sleep with, and the dang needle that was sticking out of me all weekend.

I know, some people are okay with tubes and stuff. not me. bleah. Just editing and posting the photo made me a little nauseaous. Good news? I ate two corn dogs last night! and one this morning! and some soup. and NONE of it came back up. Whew!

Okay, I was going to do this another way, but starting at the beginning is really easiest. So here is another story of my past life.

I worked for the prestigious political consulting firm of Emory, Young and Associates in Austin for a long time. We planned, managed, predicted, polled, advertised, and basically handled democratic candidates in statewide elections. I was the statistics guy and the computer guy. (associate) Without going into full details, there were two principal bosses. William "Bill" Emory, and William Robert "Peck" Young. These guys were amazing.

Bill was a college professor for a while, and was absolutely magic to watch interpret polling and people. His statistical abilities are unmatched. He dressed from the "heavy boys" section of the Land's End catalogue, and is very devoted to his wife Marilyn, who has fought MS as long as I have known them. Bill could shake a candidate's hand, earn his trust and pick his pocket all at the same time. He was also moody and tempramental, usually based on home life.

Peck got his nickname cause when he was born the doctor said "Well, there's another little peckerhead in the world" and it stuck. Peck wrote out memos longhand, then had his secretary type them up. After 2 years, I could almost decipher the chicken scratch. Peck had built deep relations with the Texas Democratic Party since he was in grade school I believe. He has a way of remembering names and numbers and events that astound me. He could tell you the voting history of every precinct in Grayson county for the past 30 years. Rattled the stuff off the way sports fans know baseball stats. He could also watch the polling results on election day and KNOW which precincts to push for more turnout.

But. He was also the kid who got picked on in school. And now he was smart, and he was gonna make those bastards PAY. Peck wore a Manny Gammage Texas Hatter's Custom "Half Breed" cowboy hat. Felt rim, Straw crown. Knee high Lucchese Ostrich Ropers, and a powder blue polyester suit that might have fit him 30 years and 150 pounds ago. Usually a red sweater/vest. And at the time carried the classic Motorola BRICK cell phone, and a fistfull of papers in the pockets of his suit coat.

Folks, this is in 102 degree 87% humidity Austin Summer. 320 lbs if any, and I am probably on the low side. Man doted on his wife and children. Doted.

In morning meetings, Peck would butter a slice of bread till it was yellow, then salt it till it was white. then push it down with 3 bearclaws, 5 strips of greasy bacon, a pitcher of OJ, and 3 or 4 sausages. Keep adding salt while eating. Favorite Lunches was the 12 oz T-Bone at the Hoffbrau.

So basically, these guys were my bosses, and mentors, and paying my rent.

Thrown into this mix are 3 associates. Me, Jim Ranes, and Fred Cantu, the associates. At one point, our only joy was going to lunch. We had a few favorite spots, and for an hour to hour and a half every day, we'd sit at some lovely austin restuarant, eat, chat, and be normal.

Then, this one day. 3 boys in the lobby, ready to go, and Peck asks "So, where you boy's goin' for lunch?"

You know that groan Homer Simpson makes, like, when Patty and Selma are coming over, "dooooooohhhhhaaaa" but really low? we made it.

"Um, the Mongolian barBeQue up the street sir"

"Great, I love BarBeQue, I'll join ya!"

In the middle of summer, we walked 5 blocks up San Jacinto Blvd. With Peck groaning, sweating, straining. I thought he would have a heart attack. Some sausage from breakfast would JAM in a ventricle of his heart and stop it for good. The hypertension from all the salt, .....nope. The man has the heart and stamina of a bull elephant. We made it to the restaurant fine.

"Boys, this don't look like no Kreuze's meat market to me. Looks like a gawd damn Salad bar!"

So Fred explained the concept of picking veggies and meat, putting them in a bowl with sauce, and the chef would stir fry it on an giant upside down wok.

we moved down the line, picking beans, broccoli, ginger, Peck shuttled ahead, and packed his bowl as much as he could. Beef and pork. No chicken thanks, and no damn shrimp.

When we finally caught up, he had 2 ingredients. Pork and Beef. The chef tried to explain that with no sauce, it could not cook, so he put a dash of soy on top.

We were seated. We come here all the time. The waitress KNOWS us! Iced Teas all around. And Mr. Young would also like a glass of ice water. Which he poured exactly 1/2 the sugar shaker into. the other 1/2 went into his iced tea.

The rice and flatbreads came, we ate, we drank, he told us war stories about campaigns long gone.

Finally, the food comes out. I am still mystified as to how they remember who gets what plate, but they get it right each time. And we dig in. Yum, Mine had the perfect ginger touches to accent the chicken and the baby corns.

Peck is scarfing down the meat. I mean in heaping forkfulls, and drinking and telling stories. But it is obvious he likes the meat. and the story.

then it happens. An event that will change my life forever.

a small gurgle. a hiccup in the story. then a pause. then a little 'grep' noise, and some food comes out of his mouth and trickled down his chin into his tea glass. then another grep, then a full blown BLARGH! and he refills his food bowl. The man just BARFED UP HIS LUNCH ONTO THE PLATE.

For a moment, time stood absolutely still. Nothing happened.

Then he got up, excused himself and headed to the bathroom.

I was sitting to his right. The Middle associate. The loudmouth. And I spoke first. "What the HELL just happened? I wanted to laugh, but he does sign my paycheck."

On his left, Jim, the youngest allowed "Oddly, I am still hungry, but I am afraid my food may have been tainted"

Across the table, the oldest, the wisest, the brightest among us, Senor Fred Cantu first said something in Spanish that we did not catch, then he said "I was right across from him! I wanted to run! But I was frozen, and strangely, MESMERIZED!"

a few moments later, Peck returned to the table, he went to the bathroom and washed up. there were little bits of paper towel clinging to his red sweater vest. and the whole front was wet. He started to continue the story, but I picked up the bill (by the dry corner) and said "well, let's get out of here"

He grabbed the bill and said "Yeah, I'll get this one"

He went up to pay, and we did not know what the heck to do. I think we collectively shovelled about $30 on the table for our waitress, hoping she would be okay with it.

We walked back to the office, as if nothing had happened.

NOW. Assuming you just barfed on your 3 associates at lunch. What would you do?

think about it.

I would go home, have a shower and a nap.

The Mighty Peck Young took a cab to the airport, hopped a plane to Houston, and met with a client.

The moment he left the office, all 3 of us rushed into Bill's office and blurted out "Say Bill, has Peck ever, well, at lunch has he,..."

"So he blew on ya did he? Hiatial hernia, catches him sometimes, just blows. It happens" Bill said.

"Does it ever happen on clients?" we ask

"Well, once on Sam from AIPAC, but they love us"

we were amazed, our lives had changed forever. We did not return to the BBQ joint for about 6 months, and then apologized to the waitress, who laughed, yeah, great tip, I had the bussers clean it up, happens more than you might think.

Today I drove to work, and met with Keith, my current boss/mentor. We talked about leadership, we talked about how I was doing. We talked about travel. And I had one of those moments where I realized, again, how damn lucky I am. You learn something from everyone you meet in your life.

At the moment, my mentor is not someone I worry about taking to a Mongolian BBQ.

I am very lucky to have the life I currently do. I will continue to fight this cancer. I will continue to be grateful for the blessings in my life.

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