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Friday, August 26, 2011

Annie Left and I Took a New Lover—Television

This blog has been a little heavy on the introspection as of late. While Deep Thoughts are to be expected from a Cancer Blog, lately the currents have been running a little more on the shallow side.
I'd wondered how I'd pass the time without Annie. I thought maybe I'd be forced to confront my inner demons, face boredom head on, and transform into a deeper, more evolved Self.
Instead, I gave myself over completely to Television.

There is one perspective from which this can be viewed as a positive transformation. 
I have written before about my inability to relax. How so much of my time in Visalia as a cancer patient has been spent avoiding a sick-bed. How, before and during cancer, any time I'd think about laying down and flipping on the Tube there was always that voice in my head saying read more, learn more, do more, cook more, yoga more, clean more, DON'T JUST SIT THERE!! Your brain will atrophy! (Yes, the voice sometimes does sound a lot like Dr.Dad, who hates television with every cell in his highly-toned, athlete's body).
So, if you look at it one way, honing my ability to lie in bed for hours in front of the TV and feel no restlessness, no judgement and no anxiety, just sheer bliss, can potentially be seen as Progress. It helps to have a cozy spot. (See photo)
My Television Nest
I can't take full credit for the first week. My last dose of chemo was stronger than all the ones prior, and I definitely felt more intense side effects. Mainly just incredible fatigue. And the mouth sores came back. Ouch.
So, every morning after Crossword & Coffee hour in the living room with the parents, I'd take a painkiller, crawl back into bed and just lay there, unable to even consider doing anything productive. Hour after hour, day after day passed me by, connected merely by one Food Network show after another. During the commercials, I'd close my eyes contentedly, happy to have a break from the heavy labor of keeping them open. 
This past week, fully recovered from the chemo, I discovered I liked my new routine. The temperature outside hovers consistently around 100 degrees. Why would I go out there when I have a comfy nest, air conditioning and premium cable? Plus, we'd just recently switched to a new cable provider that makes it possible to record whatever shows I might otherwise have missed! Which I can then view at my leisure, fast-forwarding through all the commercials! (Having recovered from the need to rest my eyes every ten minutes, commercials are once again the tedious interruption they always were).

Do you know what a luxury it is to have complete control over the remote at all times? 
Dr. Dad abhors television, but when he does deign to watch any he limits his viewing to documentaries about quantum physics and college lectures on the Berkeley Public Access channel (which, of course, our new cable provider doesn't carry. Boy, was he pissed when he found that out: "500 channels of TRASH and we don't even get the Berkeley Channel anymore?! What's the point of that!").
My mom's tastes, on the other hand, run more towards the Dr. Phil and Judge Judy type shows, which I cannot bear. She also has an affinity for Court TV—the Casey Anthony trial was a mainstay in our living room for months—and real-life crime-solving shows, which now have a whole channel devoted to them called Investigation Discovery
"Mary Simmons was just an ordinary suburban mom...until the day she was discovered in her kitchen facedown in a pool of her own blood. Was the killer her husband? Or was she living a double life?" 
I find these hour-long true-crime "documentaries" incredibly creepy and depressing, which I admit is an odd double standard, because I have been a huge fan of all the Law & Orders in the past. 
To be fair, she doesn't always watch TV shows I disdain. We do occasionally come together on the couch for episodes of Dog Whisperer, Millionaire Matchmaker and LA Ink.  
Most of the time, however, I prefer my own bed and the positive, light-hearted programming on the Food Network and HGTV, or any and every reality show that features creative competition.

Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Giada DiLaurentiis— they are Food Network's biggest stars and most beloved chefs, not to mention my new best friends. 
Then there's Iron Chef America and Chopped, both cooking-competition shows that feature chefs struggling to create fantastic dishes out of surprise ingredients, within a hideously short amount of time. 
Chopped is my absolute favorite. Each episode starts with four different chefs, all on a mission to prove that they are the Greatest! Chef! in Brooklyn! (or wherever they come from). One chef is "chopped" after each course—appetizer, entree and desert—leaving the final chef standing to claim the $10,000 prize and the bragging rights of having bested their competition. Each round features a mystery basket of surprise ingredients, one of which is usually a common processed food that's utterly incongruous to the surrounding meat and vegetables. 20 minutes to create an appetizer out of octopus, maple syrup and Rice Krispies! 30 minutes to make an entree using roasted turkey leg, broccoli rabe, Ginger Snaps and Kalamata olives! 30 minutes for a dessert that must consist of bacon, carrots and Canellini beans! The combinations are endless and the Chef's meltdowns always entertaining. I only wish there were more episodes. Good thing Chopped Champions—where all the past winners come back and compete—starts next week.

This formattalented creative people tackling crazy challenges within intense time constraintsis used in many, many reality shows, and I watch them all faithfully. The only difference is that, unlike Chopped, most of these shows start with ten or fifteen people and eliminate someone each week until only one is left standing. America's Next Best Restaurant. Food Network Star. Top Chef. Top Chef All-Stars. Top Chef Just Desserts. The Great Food Truck Race. Project Runway. Design Star. HGTV's Next All-American Handyman. (I'm not even joking about that one, I can't wait for the upcoming season). I intentionally left America's Next Top Model off this list, because I can't get into it. I think it's because posing for different photo shoots is not a wacky enough creative challenge. I need fashion designers sewing dresses out of lettuce, pastry chefs catering a tea party without any chocolate, or interior designers remodeling an entire B&B in two days, using only repurposed furniture. These are the things that fascinate me. This is what my life has become.

I'm assuming that once Annie and I return from our Wedding Trip, I'll back off the TV time. There will be daily runs to Jamba Juice to make, and hopefully it'll cool off enough to have Yard Time again. Plus I will begin preparations for the Stem Cell transplant, which will involve lots of two and three-day trips to Stanford for tests, catheter implantations and other exciting procedures. 
But the Big Question is, what will the TV situation in the hospital be like? And what about the rental apartment I have to stay in for two weeks as Bubble Boy? I bet in neither of those places is it possible to record Important Shows while one is otherwise occupied. Nor do I anticipate being able to fast forward the commercials. Sigh. It looks like I may have to start reading again. Or doing crossword puzzles. 
In the meantime, however, I have last night's episode of Project Runway waiting for me. And I can't wait for it any longer.


  1. Ah yes. I have Uverse and love that option of control. Complete control. Stay inside and enjoy the cool air. It's too danged hot out now.

  2. Ahhh HGTV and the Food channel acouple of my favs...i can mute commercials but not bypass them. I'm glad you're finding something intersting to watch cause hibernation is all you can do this time of year in visalia. Will be thinking of you and Annie on the 3rd. Love and Hugs!

  3. Well, at least you took a lover that will be EASY to give up when Annie and you are reunited!!! Emma, my daughter watches ALL of those shows and just happens to be visiting during Irene the (not-so)terrible and I get to watch all those shows. lucky me??!!! (i'm somewhere between your Mom and Dad. When i want to watch, I'm a doc and quantum kind of gal. I have a crush on Brian Cox and the wonders of the universe!!! When i want the box to put me to sleep I'm all about the Investigation Discovery!!!hahahahaha)

    Can't wait to see you when you get back here to the Happy Valley!!!!!!! Hope your travels go smoothly. And remember, Asians have been wearing masks and gloves in public whenever they need to since the bird flu epidemic, so keep yours on!!!!!!

    Love you mucho, honey.

  4. Enjoy the TV time for us both! Soon you will be in Greenfield, enjoying the most exciting episode of your favorite show, only to have Doug get home from work...take the remote...change the channel to the local news...and then proceed to the basement to fix a clock.

    Wait! It gets better... THEN he will come upstairs approximately every 15 minutes...ask, "who changed the channel?" (which he has paid absolutely no attention to) and repeat the steps above.

    On the plus side, all 186 clocks in the house are working...

    Welcome to the family :)


  5. Are you registering for cable with digital recording?