So I hold on to friends for a long time. In fact, all people who have made it to “good friend” status are pretty much all still active in my life to some degree. Some of them I haven’t seen in years, but none have failed to offer me greeting cards, cookies, letters/texts/emails/Facebook messages of support, prayers, etc. since I went public with my diagnosis. Not to be completely arrogant and toot my friendship horn, but the “good friends” who have left my life did it of their own accord and pretty much ignored all my efforts to stay in touch. What can ya do? All those people I pretty much defriended from Facebook around the time I figured out I probably had cancer because I really didn’t want any of those people who actively ignored me returning to my life because of that nugget of info. Cancer brought out my dramatic side, what can I say?
So to give you a little bit of back story to this post, I still am amazing friends with Allison or “Allie”. On the first day of Kindergarten my teacher, Ms. Prejean, fortuitously placed my nap mat next to a girl named Allison. For whatever reason, I was called to asked Allison, “Will you be my best friend?” Her response, “Okay.” And the rest is pretty much history. We went to the same school Kindergarten through 5th grade, played string instrument together briefly, went to camp together three summers in a row, eventually went to high school together. She was pretty much the first person I would called after every major breakup and she never failed to offer me ice cream and chick flicks. She also called me from a camp for Native American kids hosted by the University of Oklahoma at Norman, put on the summer after our senior year to tell me her father had pancreatic cancer. He died shortly after Hurricane Katrina about three months later, quickly followed by Hurricane Rita and his mother’s death as well. So the next few years were pretty rough and I’ve always been amazed at how well she persevered. Even at times when she didn’t feel like persevering, she managed to fail forward, grow and move on to great things. I’m really proud to call her my oldest and dearest friend, and am constantly looking forward to witnessing the great things she is doing and will do with her life.
In the weeks leading up to and since my diagnosis I’ve managed to go through all of Downton Abbey, John Adams, got fully caught up with Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Sister Wives, How I Met Your Mother, The Borgias, Game of Thrones, and rewatched some True Blood and Boardwalk Empire to get ready for the new seasons, threw in some Ally McBeal and Alias to the mix, just to name a few (I seriously recomend getting a Roku, best investment ever.) Someone also loaned me Dawson’s Creek (I missed out on a lot of 90s teen drama) so that’s on my list as well. So basically I’ve been watching a ton of TV when I haven’t been feeling well. So with that in mind and also with the 20 year back story, it’s no surprise that I received this email from Allison a few days after my diagnosis:
So ever since you broke your unfortunate news, Grace and I just keep saying to each other, “I wanna DO something,” but all we ever end up doing is reminding each other that there’s really nothing we can do. Especially from my distance. Blurgh.
So, I’m doing something.
First, I made some cds that are going in the real mail tomorrow. They’re pretty self-explanatory: one’s happy, one’s sad. Use them as needed. One word of warning, though: keep the sad one in your back pocket until you absolutely hit the point where you NEED to just get it all out of you. This cd will work for that, it’s potent. And what I really mean is that there might come a day when you’re like, “Hmm. Something feels kind of off. I don’t totally feel right. It’s possible that I’m sad. Maybe I should listen to that sad cd from Allie.” Put it off longer. And there might be another day, later, when you’re stressed or aching or lonely or frustrated or too hot in the middle of July or all of them at once and you might think to yourself, “is this when I’m supposed to use that sad songs cd?” And the answer is: no, it’s not. Put it off longer. And then at some point you might not even be thinking anything other than the fact that your life is hard and why is your body betraying you and that is when I want you to remember that you have this cd and listen to it. I hope you don’t get there, because being maudlin and self-pitying is not your hobby (Ey-o!), but you probably will and I want you to be prepared.
So, now I’m gonna do something else.
I can’t tell you about cancer because I don’t know anything about it other than what my dad told me which is that it sucks. I wanted to tell you about a significant tangent to cancer treatment on which I am quite the expert and which I suspect is your sworn natural enemy: down time. This is not free time where you’re in your pajamas on the couch at 2 PM for want of anything else that sounds better. Down time is thrust upon you, if we get Shakespearean. It’s a lot of nothing that you must fill.
For the doctor-imposed down time in waiting rooms and exam rooms, there are paperbacks and magazines. The waiting rooms will usually come stocked with a year’s backlog of trashy tabloids and golf publications. Here’s a pro-tip: e-reader? Here’s another: Vanity Fair subscription.
Now, for the at-home down time, there’s really only one effective answer: moving image features. You are the superior movie connoisseur, but let me tell you about television, which burns much more time. Here is a guide to some wonderful options that you may or may not have experienced before.
I don’t remember how many WB teen dramas you watched in the late 90s, early 2000s, so we’re gonna start there with:
FELICITY (1998-2002;): If you can get through the first half of the first season (really, til “Docuventary”) you’re gonna love this. If you’ve seen it previously, re-watch it. Just stop after the season 4 graduation episode. It is the most perfect series finale I’ve ever seen, ruined only by the fact that there are 5 episodes after it. DON’T WATCH THOSE EPISODES. PRETEND THEY DON’T EXIST. JJ Abrams did too much meth when he was writing them or something. Once you’ve decided, let me know if you’re Team Noel or Team Ben. Seasons 1 through 4 streaming on Netflix.
From here, I recommend moving on to:
EVERWOOD (2002-2006): This show’s theme song is meant to be epic and inspiring, but it always reminds me of the quiet redneck mountain town song from the South Park movie because I am weird. Again, this one might feel like it’s trying too hard at first, but SEASON THREE IS AMAZING and will give you so many FEEEELINGS. Plus, Chris Pratt before he was kinda fat AND you’ll slowly become oddly attracted to Dr. Andy Brown in that older-man, daddy issues kind of way. (This guide may already be revealing too much about me and we haven’t even gotten to the ABC family repertoire!) Seasons 1-3 available on DVD from Netflix. I’ve been waiting a year for season 4 to stop being “unavailable” so I bought it during finals week stress shopping and can mail it should you so desire.
From the Quiet Mountain Town, I might recommend coming back into the current with REVENGE (2011-present): Stars Emily VanCamp from Everwood. This show is objectively terrible, but has Josh Bowman and that gay kid from Gossip Girl trying to do a northeastern accent. Also, the celluloid form of Madeleine Stowe will warn you off botox and corseting forever. It also can sometimes be halfway suspenseful. Some episodes available on hulu and airing Wednesdays at 9 on ABC.
Speaking of Josh Bowman, let’s go right into MAKE IT OR BREAK IT (2009-2012, may it rest in peace as of yesterday): I have secretly been more-than-healthily obsessed with this overwrought teen drama for the past few years. It’s got gymnasts and virginity-losing and a severe but totally hot British coach! There are a few truly cringe-worthy moments in seasons 1 and 2, mostly due to the woman-who-used-to-be-DJ-Tanner’s insertion of God into EVERY ACTING JOB SHE’S GOING TO TAKE FROM NOW UNTIL SHE DIES, but the storylines are solid and escapist. Except for season 3, which just wrapped and was wretch-inducing-ly awful. Sloppy writing, out-of-character behavior, no observance of continuity. So disappointing. Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix and the whole series is available free on hulu, but don’t watch past worlds.
From here, you have a few options:
nt A) If you want more of the hot British coach (and no one will fault you for wanting more of the hot British coach) – it’s the 2010 BBC update of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS (2010-2012) for you! This is Downton Abbey’s bastard cousin, no one pretends it’s not. The good news is that it will go quickly because it’s been canceled after 2 seasons. And the first season is only 3 episodes. Season One is available on DVD from Netflix or I bought it on amazon instant video and I can give you my account log in so you can watch it there. Season 2 just aired in the UK so IDK when it’ll be available stateside but will probably be on PBS/ masterpiece website sometime soon-ish.
B- B) If it’s June 28th when you finish, you can watch the actual Olympic gymnastics trials real-time on NBC and get super pumped for London. Failing that, you may scratch a gymnastics itch by youtube-ing “2011 Visa Championships Prelims Part 1,” “2011 world gymnastics championships team final part 1,” or just “Jordyn Wieber.” Make sure you see McKayla Maroney’s worlds vault final http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjPgaDkhjEU.
C- C) If you want more earnest teen drama about talented tots, it’s off to Australia for DANCE ACADEMY (2010-present): Most of the first season is pulled directly from the Center Stage repertoire, but Season Two goes there. It’s wayyyyy predictable, but there is lots of pretty ballet to distract from approaching this with any kind of discernment. Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix.
AAAnd if we’re going to crack the foreign market, I have to point you to THE IT CROWD(2006-present): Uproariously funny. Featuring the male lead from Bridesmaids. Go watch this immediately. Seasons 1-4 streaming on Netflix.
And since we’ve come to comedy series about crappy jobs, I will leave off with the wonderful and cameo-studded PARTY DOWN (2009-2010). It’s cater waiters in LA who are all dreaming of doing something larger with their lives and is also quite funny. It used to be streaming, but is now only available from Netflix on DVD.
I think this should hold you over for a while. Once you’ve finished these, we can switch to reality Teevee. But I should also add that sometimes Down Time can be combatted with mute, neutral apathy where you’ll stare into space and refuse to think about anything. It’s kind of hard to sustain, though, so I’d go with TV. Or naps. Naps are fucking awesome when you can get them.
I’ve been thinking of you lots every day. About how much I wish I wasn’t in Pennsylvania right now. You and me, we’re not obvious friends are we? We’re not opposite enough to be true foils of each other, nor are we nearly-identically matched. I was telling platonic friend Andrew a few nights ago, before I called you back, that the great thing about our friendship (to me) is the comfort of knowing that we have a 20 year history together. We’ve shared, we are sharing our lives, lady. The thing that has kept us close is that we know and accept each other as we are, as we’ve always been.
So take it from one who knows, you have always been intrepid. I have always wanted to stay too long at the party, to refuse screwing up my courage and doing something new. You were the driving force behind my own maturity milestones: conquering sleepover homesickness, sleeping assisted by a nightlight, a brief fear of dogs. You’ve always leapt over challenges like you used to hop over those baby gates in your dining room. This one will be hard, it will suck monumentally, but you’re gonna do the same thing. And you don’t have to do it alone because you’ll have your parents, your sisters, your husband, and you’ve always got me.
I love you, Lisette. (Lisette was my French class nickname in high school, I used it as part of my AIM in high school and college, and it kind of stuck around. )
That email was quickly follow by another:
Um, so I wrote this and wasn’t sure I was going to send it and then Gmail did it for me. Enjoy?!?!?!?!
So I obviously cracked up laughing throughout most of the email and thoroughly enjoyed having a plethora of additional TV options. I was legitimately concerned that I was running out of interesting series.
A few days later I got the CDs in the mail and the playlists were as follows:
1. “Crazy in Love” – Beyonce’
2. “Domino” – Jessie J
3. “You Make Loving Fun” – Fleetwood Mac
4. “Tonight is the Night” – Outasight
5. “Wet Hot American Summer” – Cobra Starship
6. “Marry the Night” – Lady Gaga
7. “You’ve Got the Love” – Florence and the Machine
8. “I Am Not a Robot” – Marina and the Diamonds
9.”Countdown”- Beyonce’ (again)
10. “Paris (ooh La La)”- Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
11. “Part of Me”- Katy Perry
12. “Let My love Open the Door”- Sondre Lerche
1. “I Was here”- Beyonce’ (I mean, it’s an awesome Album. Give me a break.)
2. “Your Song” – Ellie Goulding
3. “Songbird” – Fleetwood Mac
4. “My Sundown” – Jimmy Eat World
5. “Out of Reach” – The Get Up Kids
6. “White Blank Page” – Mumford & Sons
7. “Marching Bans of Manhattan” – Deathcab for Cutie
8. “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most”- Dashboard Confessional
9. “Comfort” – Deb Talan
10. “Innocent”- Taylor Swift
11. “At Full Speed” – Jack’s Mannequin
12. “World Spins Madley On” – The Weepies
13. “The Sun and the Moon” – MAE
14. “Lullaby” – Sia
I have to say that Happy Days has made for a great car soundtrack. For those of you that don’t know, I’m always looking for song/audio book infusions because I commute 45-60 minutes each way for work, I often drive 45 minutes to Temple for appointments, 45 minutes to Fort Hood to see friends, etc. When I’m not cancer-y I also frequently visit people in Dallas, College Station, Louisiana and Kansas. So I’m in the car a lot. It’s so nice to have people in my life that know me so well and know just what to do/say to make me feeling better.
If anyone is interested in some more Allie humor, she blogs at Fleur de Livre but wants me to preface that the “scope is entirely different” from my blog, and she uses it as a venue to air her “neuroses.” She’s getting a masters in Library and Information Science, watching Supernatural and is “way too invested in Olympic gymnastics at the moment.” I, get a kick out of it and you might as well. Please enjoy.