Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Under Pressure is Now Not Just a Queen Song

Ah, pressure. It can come in many forms. The pressure of a campaign. The pressure of a baseball collapse. The pressure of putting on a great show. Or the pressure of change. 2008 for yours truly meant change having to do with pressure, extremely high blood pressure. It's amazing how much your life will change when you go to the hospital because you think you're having a heart attack, but its only that your blood pressure is at dangerously high levels. Now I actually exercise, watch my sodium and trans fat intake and take 13 pills a day to make sure I make it to 2009—and hopefully 2039.

Simply put, this year sucked. And obviously not just for me. I only had to figure out how shitty my medical plan was, change certain ways I approached my life and mourn the fact that the makers of Bubble Yum stopped producing their Sugarless Peppermint brand. (Oh, and worry that my job will be gone with a couple weeks of the list being published.) I didn't have a spouse or a father or a mother or a grandparent die. I didn't discover I have MS. I didn't have a long-term marriage or relationship end. I didn't find out I have cancer. I didn't undergo risky surgery. I didn't have someone tell me I was clinically depressed. I didn’t lose my job. I didn't have the business I worked on so hard for many years take its last gasp. None of those things happened to me. But they happened to people I know. And in this trying year I have no words of comfort that would help. I can only say my ability to empathize has grown tenfold. It's funny how having your life sort of flash in front of your eyes on the way to a hospital will do that.

Mortality is not fun when it comes up and grabs you by the balls—so to speak. My friend Jonah has battled lymphatic melanoma since April. He's written eloquently (and sometime drug-oquently) about his ups and downs at his blog Groinstrong.com. He and I sat in his hospital room one night after his second surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes talking about what he would do if his disease became terminal. It was the first honest conversation about mortality I've ever had, and I thought to myself, “This dude isn't even 30 and we're having this heavy of a conversation. This is the worst year ever. And I wonder if I can sneak another piece of chocolate from that box of candy someone gave him.”

I met Jonah while he was bartending at Magnetic Field, which closed up for good on March 31st of this year. That week fate showed its sense of humor by putting Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed” in my ears five times. It's pretty amazing that an eight year-old song could turn up that much, yet at the same time very appropriate. One of the biggest changes of my life was the closing of Magnetic Field. Now before you say, “c’mon, it’s only a bar, you can drink elsewhere cheaply,” it wasn't about the beer. It was about the camaraderie and friendships that I got through that place. On that tiny stage with Bunnie England and the New Originals I first got to live out my rock star fantasies, which then led to me rediscovering the fun I had entertaining people with a microphone in front of me. It pains me to think that I won't be able to sing “Surrender,” spin Soul Asylum’s “Sometime to Return” for a totally psyched crowd, make funny comments about someone stumbling over some lyrics, edit both of my fanzines at the bar, help friends talk through their problems, make bizarre ’70s references with April and Scott, sing sad songs with Joe or act silly in the photo booth there ever again. I can honestly say that except for the one night when some idiots from Brooklyn Law came in at the end of Live Band Karaoke, all of my memories are good.

So let's review before we move on to the rest of the list: this year sucked, lots of bad things happened and Steve needs a new place to socialize. Yeah, that's about right. Um, Obama, any chance you can make next year a tiny bit better? Please?

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