Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! #9
To order a copy of
Introduction by William P. Tandy
Roses Juke Box by Benn Ray
Untitled by John Mazur
Carry Out by William P. Tandy
Luke, Warm by Susan Beverly
Grandma Likey by Benn Ray and Julia Wertz
Cant Get It Up by Johnny Law
Mooncusser by William P. Tandy
Dominics Dead by Sommer Marsden
A Photographic Enigma,William P. Tandy Interviews Jennifer Bodine
Angels on the Architecture by Dan Reed
The Kings Arms by Susan Beverly
Stolen Car on the Day of Midterms by Greg Stoops
Everything Youve Ever Wanted by Davida Gypsy Breier
Praying for Psolitude by Lisa D. Singer
Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Benn Ray and Eamon Espey
Daylight Posts Bail by William P. Tandy
Somnia by J. Gavin Heck
Shift Change by William P. Tandy
About the Contributors
Its a gray and chilly morning a few days before Thanksgiving, and Im reading an article about Orson Welles in a recent issue of The New Yorker. I dont usually buy the magazine - too pricey for too many articles Ill never read, even with consideration for the ones I will. But I do tend to pick it up whenever Im in the waiting room. Beats the hell out of Redbook, and its less depressing than some of the other reading choices on hand.
The nurses face lights up as she walks in the door; its the first time shes seen me in nearly a month.
Hello there, young man! she exclaims, then - upon noticing the babyish down atop my head - adds, And look at that hair!
The doctor is surprised, too. You were bald last time I saw you, he chuckles. Now look at this!
I tell him how Ive been feeling lately. He, in turn, expresses mild but palpable concern over my platelet and white blood cell counts, which are lower than they were on my last visit.
Lower, it seems, than either one of us expected.
Have you had a flu shot? he asks, proceeding with what is by now the routine examination.
No, I havent, I admit as he checks my heart and lungs. Actually, Ive never had a flu shot.
Without hesitation he moves on to examining my neck, offering a flat reply. You never had lymphoma before, either
Its been a busy year, filled with learning experiences I could have done as well without.
It was January, in retrospect, when I first noticed the symptoms - persistent low-grade fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes - but the diagnosis didnt come until the end of March.
Stage II B non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
I began chemotherapy almost immediately - eight cycles in all, one every three weeks. From the get-go I decided to make the most of the experience, as it were. I started taking notes, keeping a journal, saving most of my correspondence with family and friends - some of it poignant, some morbidly funny. All of it heartfelt. Collected in a cardboard box, along with souvenirs like hospital bracelets and a small plastic bag containing hair that a few Guinness-fueled friends plucked from my scalp one night early in my treatment. One day in the coming year, I will sort it all out and publish something along the lines of Smile, Hon, Youve Got Cancer!
Its a life-altering experience, this cancer thing. Every bit as much as a birth or marriage or whatever. And just as it invades your body, so it affects your mind, your thought processes. The world is cast through its prism.
Some folks drown themselves with the question Why me? - and I cant say the thought never crossed my mind. You wonder, during semi-lucid moments, why this beast without known cause (at least in the case of lymphoma) was turned upon you, while some who smoke a ham a day go without assault. But to dwell on such things will only drive you mad, sapping your energy, thwarting any bid for recovery.
Instead, as I felt up to it, I opted to make the most of the time I did have, the things I could do. Something that had nothing to do with cancer. And so, whilst taking notes for the cancer issue, I plunged into compiling and publishing Criminally Yours, a special issue of Smile, Hon that focuses on firsthand crime encounters throughout the area.
Along the way, something funny happened.
Released in late June, the crime edition followed Show Me Yours, Show You Mine, a scar-themed edition published about a month before a neat little incision in my neck would yield the true nature of my illness. And, curiously, the publication of Criminally Yours in June coincided with a notable spike in the citys homicide rate.
I felt like the old man in The Monkeys Paw - two down, one to go, the undead beating down the door. With editorial psychokinesis that potent, I mused, Id better make the next one good. Perhaps something on a comprehensive mass transit system, or the proper pronunciation of the word amba-lance.
Such was the humor that, along with the busy work that goes into compiling any given issue of Smile, Hon, sustained my frame of mind over that dark period of showing up to a crowded, windowless room every three weeks to be pumped full of several-thousand-dollars worth of high-caliber poison.
To my amazement (and as an almost twisted counterpoint to my own physical debility), Criminally Yours thrived, garnering broad attention unprecedented for any single issue of Smile, Hon. It received favorable reviews in local outlets like City Paper, Baltimore Magazine and The Urbanite, as well as national media like Utne Reader. Lisa Morgan of WYPR-FMs arts program The Signal interviewed me during one of my good weeks. I was even invited to represent Eight-Stone Press at a swanky adult-literacy fundraiser at the Tremont Grand in downtown Baltimore.
The chemo wrapped in mid-September - around the time that press for the issue reached its zenith. Better yet, a PET/CT scan I had a few weeks later turned up clean.
"Now we just have to make sure it stays gone, said the doc.
Simple enough, I thought. Now, if they only knew what causes it in the first place
It toughens you, I suppose, in that Nietzschean kind of way. I just beat cancer, you tell the world, like Alan Alda putting things into perspective for Leonard DiCaprio in The Aviator. Who the hell are you?
Toughens you, indeed. But like a junkie with a full-blown habit, it takes all of your little fears and worries and rolls them up into one Big One.
The doc tells me that the low white cell and platelet counts arent necessarily anything to worry about, that he has seen patients whose blood counts do not return to the same baseline they had before their troubles began. To his credit, hes yet to steer me wrong. Indeed, Id never had lymphoma before. And with his help, I hope to never have it again.
Still, I havent felt this sort of unease, in whole or in part, since late last March. Perhaps Ill know more in two weeks, when I go back for my flu shot.
For now, though, I present the ninth installment of Smile, Hon, Youre in Baltimore! And enjoy yourself, as the song goes - its later than you think
William P. Tandy, November 2007
Gotta story to tell about Baltimore?
Eight-Stone Press is interested in your stories, everything that defines what it means to live - or simply be - in Charm City. Work, home, neighborhoods, pastimes, nostalgia, Saturday night, Sunday morning, and everything in between, good, bad, and ugly.