You’re a life saver!

I saw The Sandlot earlier this weekend and it was okay. I mean, it’s a cute film that’s fun for the whole family… unless your family is made up entirely of middle-aged guys, in which case it’s probably just okay. But there was one scene that was really cringe-worthy for me. Why? Because the movie was made in 1993, which is after I passed my lifeguard certification for the first time.

In that cringe-worthy scene, a young kid jumps into the deep end of a swimming pool without knowing how to swim. The lifeguard dives from her chair into the pool (she hit the water at a bit of a sideways angle, so I’d give it a 6.5), swims down to the bottom, drags the kid up, gets the help of another lifeguard to pull him out of the water, then lies him down next to the pool and immediately starts doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

My brain immediately began to hurt. Like, way worse than when I see someone on TV giving CPR and bending their elbows. It’s a necessity for TV, given that if you’re doing CPR properly with straight arms and your shoulders above their chest, there’s a distinct possibility that you’re going to break some ribs. Costars don’t like it when you break their ribs. Go figure.

But mouth-to-mouth immediately… the first thing you should do is put your ear over the person’s mouth and “look, listen and feel”: look at chest rising for breathing, listen for breathing, feel air against your ear for breathing. If it turns out the kid is already breathing, sit back and appreciate the fact that you didn’t completely botch your landing in the water. If you don’t sit back—if he’s holding his breath and you blow into his mouth—you just gave him a set of ruptured lungs. But at least you saved his life for a couple moments before you went and killed him yourself, right?

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Chicken, bacon and Swiss sandwich… right?

At the end of a shopping trip last year, Mom and I decided to stop for dinner at an Arby’s. I’m not going to say the result was a comedy of errors, but only one of them was really comedic. Forgetting to ask for my name so they’d know whose name to yell out when our food was ready wasn’t a big deal. Neglecting to give us silverware so Mom could eat her salad wasn’t a big deal. Not very comedic.

Then I opened up the wrapper on my chicken, bacon and Swiss sandwich. It looked kinda small, flat and smooshed down, which reminded me of those commercials when you see really large and appealing menu items, but what ends up on your plate at the restaurant is really sad and pathetic in comparison. Then I took the top of the bun off and discovered that I had been given a bacon and Swiss sandwich. No chicken patty. Oops.

There were only two other people in the restaurant at the time, one of whom was the server. I flagged her down and pointed out the distinct lack of a major ingredient in my food. I thought it was kinda funny; I just wanted to make sure I got the right sandwich. That’s when she went to talk to that second person who was sitting in the corner. He was the restaurant manager. We didn’t know that at the time, but after the server talked to him, he went back to the kitchen and we heard him say loudly and firmly (not quite yelling, but he sounded pissed): “This should never happen again!

In the end, they made me a new sandwich with all of the proper ingredients (as you would expect, the one with chicken in it looked a lot bigger), the manager apologized for the mistake and gave me a little card for a free combo meal. Like I said, I was really only interested in the first part, but I wasn’t going to turn down free food. After all, accepting it could mean going to Arby’s again, getting another messed-up order and repeating the process for a constant stream of free meals. The only problem might be that each time it happens, “This should never happen again!” and they’ll eventually run out of cooks to screw up my food.

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Share your stories

I went to a Thai restaurant last week and they gave us fortune cookies at the end of the meal. I opened mine up and was really disappointed: it was no good for the “in bed” game and seemed to imply that I’ll be developing Alzheimer’s Disease when I get older. It wasn’t until a couple days later during a long walk that I wished I had kept the fortune instead of leaving it on the table when we left. It said something along these lines:

Share your stories with others so they can remind you when you forget.

“Great, I’m going to forget everything when I’m old.”

But during that long walk is when it occurred to me how poignant that fortune actually was, given how much of my past I’ve already forgotten.

I know I’ve probably talked about this before and also probably mentioned that it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’m sharing nonetheless. This may be intriguing, it may be relatable, it may be nonsensical. I may be sharing it with you, I may be sharing it with others, I may be sharing it with “The Cloud”. (Given that the Internet is forever, that’ll help me remember just as well as telling other people.)

Anyway! The shortest and most likely explanation for the lack of memories is because of drugs. More specifically, medications to prevent epileptic seizures. And as a reminder, epileptic seizures are caused by excess brain activity, like neurons shooting sparks all over the place so that other neurons can’t fire properly.

As great as technology has become over the years, there are a lot of things we don’t know about brains and brain chemistry. Thus, when the doctors weren’t sure exactly what was causing my seizures (I’ve had CAT scans done on my head that show a very pleasant and non-damaged-looking brain), they tried a handful of different medications to see what would work.

I honestly don’t know how many we tried. I’d guess five, but that’s just a guess. One thing I do remember is that I was taking toxic doses of a medication at one time, but the doctor thought it’d be okay because I was “a big guy.” Turned out that wasn’t the winning combination for preventing seizures, so we moved on to a different kind from there.

Lots of different chemicals plus lots of brain cells, stir up the pot, see what kind of mixture we get and the result was a hack job on my long-term memory pre-2002. (I spent about a week and a half in the United Hospital epilepsy ward with a bunch of wires glued to my head and we were trying to induce seizures, figure out where the excess activity was originating. It worked well enough that we found two medications—lamictal and depakote—that have kept me seizure-free since April of 2002.)

As a side-note, if any of you has ever wondered why I don’t attend any of my high school (’95) or college (’99) reunions… there’s a reason.

Someone once tried to tell me that my problem wasn’t out of the ordinary, that a lot of people forget stuff from their high school and college years when they get older. I think an apt comparison to that conversation would be to tell someone with depression, “Hey, everyone gets sad once in a while.” Not at all offensive and trivializing, right?

I actually kept a journal for a while in high school. I found it in my desk one afternoon, opened it up and read what might as well have been someone else’s autobiography. Aside from my handwriting, there was nothing familiar about it.

When I was eating my lunch one day during law school, someone snuck up to my table and sat down. She was a sophomore at Blake (high school) when I was a senior and we were on the verge of being an item at one point. We talked for a couple minutes and at one point, she asked for my forgiveness. Apparently, she had done some really shitty things to me that year. As it turns out, it’s really easy to forgive someone for something when you have no idea what it was. (Conversely, it can make other people really pissed off when they ask for an explanation about something and you have no idea what they’re talking about.)

Will my memories ever come back? I doubt it, but like with any problem, you accept that it happened and move forward from there. Share the few stories I remember, share the new stories I’m experiencing… this could be like writing a new version of my autobiography. Except this time, I’ll be starting in the middle of Chapter 12.

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Consequences of working on my posture

“Pull your shoulders back like you’re trying to squeeze an orange between your shoulder blades.”
“I’ve got orange juice running down my butt crack.”

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Advice for 2016 and beyond

Whatever you do, have fun doing it. If you don’t, no one else is going to have fun for you.

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Yes, everything that happens in movies is real.

The first part of this story comes from Anne, a friend of mine who lives out in L.A. She was attending a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] early screening of The Martian and Matt Damon was there to be part of an audience Q & A after the movie was over. Anne enjoyed the movie, but the part afterward… not so much.

The first person to ask a question was decked out in a dress like she was on a first date and piled enough compliments and adulation on Damon before she asked him anything that the upcoming question might as well have been, “Are you single?” Anne said it was actually a decent question, but the 2 1/2 minute Matt Damon lovefest before and afterward kinda tarnished the result.

The second question gave Anne a pretty good idea of how calm and relaxed some actors can be for the sake of their fans. Not only can they handle people who sound like they want to run up onto the stage during the Q & A session and do all sorts of unmentionable things to them in front of the audience, they handle questions after The Martian like, “Did that really happen?”


I mean, no, the events in the movie didn’t happen, but the question did. Anne’s heart sank in her chest and she immediately became saddened for the Screen Actors Guild: there are people who present that kind of public image and have the SAG title attached to their names.

Again, he delivered a calm and relaxed response, which in this case was that it wasn’t a true story, but scientists are doing a lot of research about how to produce food, water, oxygen and whatnot so they could potentially send people out to Mars for a few months, etc. Uhhh… in case you didn’t know The Martian is about someone being on Mars, I guess I should have added a spoiler alert before this paragraph.

Suffice it to say that actors have to deal with a lot of dumb questions, but it inspired a group of us to come up with one for the next Q & A session that would include Matt Damon. For those of you who don’t know, he’s currently working on a fifth Jason Bourne movie that’s supposed to be released in 2016.

The question we came up with wasn’t, “Did the stuff in that movie really happen?” That question should be saved for a silly person who wants to indulge in another lovefest. Nope, we decided she should get the microphone and ask Matt Damon, “How many people have you killed with your bare hands?” Mic drop, walk away. Q & A session complete.

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