Call the Super

Saturday (am), June 11, 2016.  I turn 39 in January.  In my nearly 38.5 years, I do not remember putting anything together.  Nothing.  Most of the time I don’t even take things out of the box.  I think, subconsciously, that is why I moved to NYC; in NYC, every building has a “super” who can be called on a moment’s notice to put things together [and if the super was not available, I would just wait for Helene to come to town].  If you have not lived in NYC, the super is a person that lives in the building and is effectively there to make things better.  Clogged toilet?  Call the super.  Heat not working?  Call the super.  Someone gives your kid a train track or mini basketball set that needs to be assembled?  Call the super.  You start a fire in your bathtub lighting old bills on fire (true story)?  Call the super.  The Sussberg’s called the super for everything.  And when we moved to Scarsdale, we worked our way through a few different handypeople (I am being politically correct here, but they have always been men), ultimately landing on one who does everything for us.  From the “pop-a-shot” and train set in the basement to house painting, Igor is your man.  That was until Friday.

In the midst of enjoying my new found relationship with Amazon earlier in the week, I ordered the Franklin Sports MLB 2-in-1 Pitch Target Trainer Set for the boys.  Jake really likes to pitch.  But like his old man, he has a good arm and no control.  [This is him last Saturday.  Truth be told, after one of my trusted co-coaches, Gary N., told me to move away from behind the fence, Jake struck out the side.  I thought, like his old man, he would like the camera.  Jake is pitching again at 1 pm today.  It gives me a stomach ache knowing I won’t be able to be there to both watch and coach, but having my Dad there (still one of the most consistent players to grace the Beachwood men’ softball league) — in the team jersey — is the next best thing.]

I don’t know what came over me, but when I got home from the hospital on Thursday and Jake asked — while we were all having dinner — if I could put the pitching target together, I said of course.  So there we were, Allan and Josh Sussberg, putting together the Franklin pitching target in my kitchen.  It comes with idiot proof instructions.  It does not, however, say how long it should take.  [We aren’t completely done (nearly 48 later), but we are really close — just need to hang the MLB target on top of it.]  In any event, I got to say it felt good putting this thing together.  Maybe it was because I was doing it with my Dad (who is about as handy as me), or maybe because it was the fact that I had never put something together for the kids and I think Jake was pumped that I was doing it.  It just felt good.  Yes, there were moments of frustration.  And the jury is still out as to whether we put this thing together correctly (we may have to call Igor after all).  But we did it and, for me at least, it was an accomplishment.  Calling the super or Igor was always an excuse for not having the time because I was too busy or not good at putting things together (both of which are true).   The reality, however, is I took a short cut and paid someone for something I could have done myself.  And for someone that prides himself on working hard and not taking short cuts, this is a pretty hypocritical.  Something to remember when I am back running 100 miles per hour……

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Another missed post yesterday.  Becoming a common theme this week.  I’m not an “every other day” kind of guy.  But this was one of those weeks.  Not complaining, just saying.  We have been dealing with low hemoglobin (red blood cells) [also just heard my white blood cell count is low too].  A direct result of chemotherapy.  And since I have given up on playing hero and trying to tough things out, I found myself back in the hospital yesterday night (same room that I had on Tuesday and Wednesday nights) getting yet another blood transfusion.

The transfusion started last night during the second quarter and ended at 1 am.  While my blood is getting tested as we speak, I am confident the transfusion was more successful than the Cavs offense in the fourth quarter.  I am hoping to get chemo this morning and be able to head home this afternoon.  Allan Sussberg, a champ of all champs, drove back and forth yesterday (in my re-tired and re-rimmed car that he picked up!) from Scarsdale to NYC not once but twice (I’m still a huge fan of Andrew Dice Clay).  Allan really was a champ.  He drove me in at 8 am.  After waiting several hours for chemo (because my blood was getting tested), he sat with me in the “Fast Track” room.  It was only an hour infusion so they had me in the room where 4 others were getting chemo too; obviously coined the “Fast Track” room because they get you in and out.  Allan called it: the fast track room felt like McDonald’s with everyone ordering different chemo treatments.  As soon as he said that, I couldn’t get that ridiculous McDonald’s menu song off my mind.  Do you remember it (click on the this You Tube link for a refresher)? I actually sang part of it to my Dad out loud.

Anyway, I probably should have stayed at the hospital to get more blood, but we left and had to come back after I answered the door bell (after getting out of bed early afternoon) and realized I felt the same way I did on Tuesday. [Lenny and Jen knew from the beginning.]    When Allan walked out of the hospital at 11 pm to drive his fourth leg of the day, I felt terrible that he was driving yet again.  But there is always a silver lining; he missed the fourth quarter, which was incredibly disappointing.  And I got to hang with my Dad and brother for a few hours last night, which is always a welcome distraction.  Long week made easier by the fact that Allan and Janet were in town.  Jen, of course, did what Jen always does (which is everything).  But having my parents in town was key.  Thank you guys.  I love and appreciate you both.

Specific Instructions

Thursday, June 9, 2016.  Didn’t get to post yesterday.  Fell asleep during the Cavs game believe it or not.  I guess I was comforted when they were up 20 after Kyrie hit a couple of deep 3’s in the first quarter (was dozing on and off throughout the 1st quarter).  I did get the report from Jake at the end of first quarter before he went to bed — Cavs up 17.  He was so pumped.  Then I fell back asleep.  I woke up at a few points (they were up 10 in the 2nd and then up big in the 4th), but each time I must have felt comfortable so I went back to sleep yet again.  Woke up at 3:15 am, checked my phone, responded to a few texts, and then slept until 53oish.  Not bad.  I’m still in the hospital by the way.  A second “precautionary” night.  Better to be safe than sorry. [Yes Jen, you were right.  Touché.]

I had my third blood transfusion yesterday afternoon (following chemo), but when I still had a headache they thought I should get an MRI (which I got at 8 pm last night; told them I needed to get back for the Cavs game at 9….should have realized the anti-anxiety medication was going to knock me out).   While not a big deal, and certainly not worth complaining about, MRI’s suck.  If you have had one, you know exactly what I mean.   I have no idea why the machine needs to make those ridiculous noises for 45 minutes to snap some pictures of your brain.  Between the clicking and the sirens, you are almost rooting for someone to start scratching the black board 30 minutes in.   Waiting for the results, but it sounds like all is OK.  So after chemo this morning, I should be heading home.

They take very good care of me here at New York-Presbyterian.  From the top to the bottom (doctors, nurses, support staff, janitorial services — everyone here is an A+).  Frankly makes it easier to stay an extra night if need be.  I am appreciative and was thinking of the best way to show that appreciation.  Going to take a page out of Professor Pausch’s book (read it, you will understand) and a lesson from Byron Wien.

For me personally, there have been a bunch of takeaways over the last 48 hours, including the need to ring the alarm bell if I am not feeling well (my hemoglobin level was really low and I tried to tough it out as I knew I was coming to the hospital yesterday for chemo).  But one takeaway that I know will stick with me both after this hospital stay and beyond, is the need to give specific instructions.  It sounds so simple.  Yet so many of us tell someone something and get frustrated when the response is not what we were hoping because the reality is we were less than clear in giving the mandate.  It happens all of the time.  And if we were a little more specific, just imagine how much time we would save for the more important things?   Let me explain my moment of clarity.

Yesterday morning I ordered an omelette (yes, you can order an omelette at this hospital!).  Jen usually makes me an omelette with one regular egg and four egg whites.  I scribbled in chicken scratch something along those lines on the piece of paper where you indicate what you want for breakfast.  When my omelette arrived and I opened up the silver plate cover, I was confused and actually thought someone played a joke on me (the picture will be posted when I get home later today).  On the plate was the smallest omelette I had ever seen.  It truly looked as if someone had taken a normal omelette and shrunk it.  I could not believe that spinach and onions could even fit inside.  [Remember the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids with Rick Moranis (1989).   My omelette and those kids shared a similar fate.  By the way, what happened to Rick Moranis?  After he won the Oscar for Spaceballs he disappeared.]  I suddenly realized that the omelette was made with one egg white.  Clearly my instructions were less than clear. [Note:  I don’t like using the word “clearly” in a brief.  Someone once told me if you have to use word the clearly, it is not all that clear.]  Got me thinking to to the countless times I have given instructions to associates (or even family members) about a project or a deal and led people down a winding road that did not need to be so winding.  [By the way, I do not pretend to offer advice or otherwise give lessons to anyone.  This is for me more than anything.]  Had I given better instructions, I would have had a bigger (and more enjoyable) omelette [The shrunken Wednesday omelette (with poor instructions) vs. the Thursday normal omelette (with proper instructions) are pictured below.].  And if I take the time to communicate better (with more specific/detailed instructions) when I get back to work, I will not waste other’s time and everyone will have more time to spend on the more important things — rather than having to re-do something because I failed to properly explain it at the outstart.


Byron Wien, according to his bio on the Blackstone website, is Vice Chairman in the Multi-Asset Investment group where he acts as a senior adviser to Blackstone and its clients in analyzing economic, social and political trends to assess the direction of financial markets, thereby helping guide investment and strategic decisions  .

Those in the finance/investment community are familiar with Mr. Wien and get copies of his “Market Commentary” pieces that are widely disseminated via e-email and included on Blackstone’s website .

I have to admit, I often times delete his e-mails without reviewing the content.  Silly because Mr. Wien knows his stuff and he does not post these commentaries all that often.  I even deleted the piece below and needed my friend’s father to send it around on a mass e-mail to get my attention.  But it certainly got my attention.  And while it is easy for someone successful like Mr. Wien (or Jim Boeheim, whose book (Bleeding Orange) I am now reading) to spew out the keys in life to being successful after having reached the pinnacle in their respective worlds, if you read the list below and think about it a bit, it will get your mind racing.  In my own personal view, some of these points should not be read literally.  For example, not everyone (like the Sussberg family) has the time or an unlimited budget to travel “extensively” like Mr. Wien suggests (see #7 below).  My sense, however, is Mr. Wien is making a bigger point about being cultured.  And you don’t need to go very far to get culture.  The Sussberg family can drive 17 miles into NYC, yet we rarely do.  Food for thought (one of my favorite sayings)….

Having reviewed this list a few times, I have already found myself referencing some of these points, including during a conversation I had with my brother-in-law Justin the night before last in the hospital.  So while I first reviewed this list about a week ago, it seemed apropos to include it in a post from the hospital after being able to reference it while I was here……

Blackstone’s Byron Wien Discusses Lessons Learned in His First 80 Years

“I was scheduled to speak about the world outlook at an investment conference recently and shortly before my time slot the conference organizer said the audience was more interested in what I had learned over the course of my career than what I had to say about the market. I jotted a few notes down and later expanded and edited what I said that day. I have since been encouraged to share my thoughts with a broader audience.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned in my first 80 years. I hope to continue to practice them in the next 80.

1. Concentrate on finding a big idea that will make an impact on the people you want to influence. The Ten Surprises, which I started doing in 1986, has been a defining product. People all over the world are aware of it and identify me with it. What they seem to like about it is that I put myself at risk by going on record with these events which I believe are probable and hold myself accountable at year-end. If you want to be successful and live a long, stimulating life, keep yourself at risk intellectually all the time.

2. Network intensely. Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible. Nurture your network by sending articles, books and emails to people to show you’re thinking about them. Write op-eds and thought pieces for major publications. Organize discussion groups to bring your thoughtful friends together.

3. When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend. Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start. Occasionally you will be disappointed, but your network will broaden rapidly if you follow this path.

4. Read all the time. Don’t just do it because you’re curious about something, read actively. Have a point of view before you start a book or article and see if what you think is confirmed or refuted by the author. If you do that, you will read faster and comprehend more.

5. Get enough sleep. Seven hours will do until you’re sixty, eight from sixty to seventy, nine thereafter, which might include eight hours at night and a one-hour afternoon nap.

6. Evolve. Try to think of your life in phases so you can avoid a burn-out. Do the numbers crunching in the early phase of your career. Try developing concepts later on. Stay at risk throughout the process.

7. Travel extensively. Try to get everywhere before you wear out. Attempt to meet local interesting people where you travel and keep in contact with them throughout your life. See them when you return to a place.

8. When meeting someone new, try to find out what formative experience occurred in their lives before they were seventeen. It is my belief that some important event in everyone’s youth has an influence on everything that occurs afterwards.

9. On philanthropy my approach is to try to relieve pain rather than spread joy. Music, theatre and art museums have many affluent supporters, give the best parties and can add to your social luster in a community. They don’t need you. Social service, hospitals and educational institutions can make the world a better place and help the disadvantaged make their way toward the American dream.

10. Younger people are naturally insecure and tend to overplay their accomplishments. Most people don’t become comfortable with who they are until they’re in their 40’s. By that time they can underplay their achievements and become a nicer, more likeable person. Try to get to that point as soon as you can.

11. Take the time to give those who work for you a pat on the back when they do good work. Most people are so focused on the next challenge that they fail to thank the people who support them. It is important to do this. It motivates and inspires people and encourages them to perform at a higher level.

12. When someone extends a kindness to you write them a handwritten note, not an e-mail. Handwritten notes make an impact and are not quickly forgotten.

13. At the beginning of every year think of ways you can do your job better than you have ever done it before. Write them down and look at what you have set out for yourself when the year is over.

14. The hard way is always the right way. Never take shortcuts, except when driving home from the Hamptons. Short-cuts can be construed as sloppiness, a career killer.

15. Don’t try to be better than your competitors, try to be different. There is always going to be someone smarter than you, but there may not be someone who is more imaginative.

16. When seeking a career as you come out of school or making a job change, always take the job that looks like it will be the most enjoyable. If it pays the most, you’re lucky. If it doesn’t, take it anyway, I took a severe pay cut to take each of the two best jobs I’ve ever had, and they both turned out to be exceptionally rewarding financially.

17. There is a perfect job out there for everyone. Most people never find it. Keep looking. The goal of life is to be a happy person and the right job is essential to that.

18. When your children are grown or if you have no children, always find someone younger to mentor. It is very satisfying to help someone steer through life’s obstacles, and you’ll be surprised at how much you will learn in the process.

19. Every year try doing something you have never done before that is totally out of your comfort zone. It could be running a marathon, attending a conference that interests you on an off-beat subject that will be populated by people very different from your usual circle of associates and friends or traveling to an obscure destination alone. This will add to the essential process of self-discovery.

20. Never retire. If you work forever, you can live forever. I know there is an abundance of biological evidence against this theory, but I’m going with it anyway.

The views expressed in this commentary are the personal views of Byron Wien of Blackstone Advisory Partners L.P. (together with its affiliates, “Blackstone”) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Blackstone itself. The views expressed reflect the current views of Mr. Wien as of the date hereof and neither Mr. Wien nor Blackstone undertakes to advise you of any changes in the views expressed herein.

This commentary does not constitute an offer to sell any securities or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any securities. Such offer may only be made by means of an Offering Memorandum, which would contain, among other things, a description of the applicable risks.

Blackstone and others associated with it may have positions in and effect transactions in securities of companies mentioned or indirectly referenced in this commentary and may also perform or seek to perform investment banking services for those companies. Blackstone and/or its employees have or may have a long or short position or holding in the securities, options on securities, or other related investments of those companies.

Investment concepts mentioned in this commentary may be unsuitable for investors depending on their specific investment objectives and financial position. Where a referenced investment is denominated in a currency other than the investor’s currency, changes in rates of exchange may have an adverse effect on the value, price of or income derived from the investment.

Tax considerations, margin requirements, commissions and other transaction costs may significantly affect the economic consequences of any transaction concepts referenced in this commentary and should be reviewed carefully with one’s investment and tax advisors. Certain assumptions may have been made in this commentary as a basis for any indicated returns. No representation is made that any indicated returns will be achieved. Differing facts from the assumptions may have a material impact on any indicated returns. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance. The price or value of investments to which this commentary relates, directly or indirectly, may rise or fall. This commentary does not constitute an offer to sell any security or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security.

To recipients in the United Kingdom: this commentary has been issued by Blackstone Advisory Partners L.P. and approved by The Blackstone Group International Partners LLP, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. The Blackstone Group International Partners LLP and/or its affiliates may be providing or may have provided significant advice or investment services, including investment banking services, for any company mentioned or indirectly referenced in this commentary. The investment concepts referenced in this commentary may be unsuitable for investors depending on their specific investment objectives and financial position.

This commentary is disseminated in Japan by The Blackstone Group Japan KK and in Hong Kong by The Blackstone Group (HK) Limited.

Wedding Party

Tuesday, June 7, 2016.  This morning, while lying flat in bed for the third straight day, I finally had a chance to watch the entire video of Jackie’s and Brett’s May 21st wedding.  [This was not the actual wedding “video,” but instead a collection of pictures from the beginning of the day to the end of the night set to great music.]  As sad I was to miss the wedding, I was as happy to see the collection of pictures and the overall state of euphoria dripping from every smile in each picture.   There really is nothing like a wedding.  Granted some are better than others, and sometimes we go to weddings and have a gut feeling that the couple is not going to last, but when it is right there is no better event.  And that goes for the couple and their guests.  I hear people say weddings are a big waste of money and we should not spend so much for one moment in time.  To hell with that.  Anytime you can throw a party, get your favorite people in a room and get everyone dressed up and dancing (with a few cocktails in between), you should do it.  Especially if you are agreeing to spend the rest of your life with someone….

Watching Jackie’s and Brett’s video inspired me;  I wanted to watch our wedding video.  I even called Jen this morning (as soon as the video was over and I had emailed Uncle Mike, Aunt Sue, Jackie and Brett with my observations/questions) and told her we needed to watch our wedding video tonight.  She of course said yes (although I am sure deep down she was thinking she was going to watch Bachelorette).  [Turns out that we did not get to watch the wedding video tonight.  I am writing this post from the hospital where I was checked in this afternoon for a blood transfusion (that is still ongoing), which became necessary because my hemoglobin count — causing dizziness and an inability to stand/walk — was extremely low.  More on that in a bit.  And although we added our wedding video to the schedule for tomorrow, the Cavs are on at 9 and I feel like watching them turn the series around.  So maybe later in the week.]

All of this got me thinking.  Our wedding album appeared on the chest in our living room a few weeks ago (I am sure it was found when Jen was “spring cleaning” in my office for my arrival home from the hospital) and I looked at it with a few friends on Saturday night.   Someone asked me how many people in my “wedding party” I was in touch with.  The answer: all of them.  And each of them within the last week or so! [In fact, I have seen almost all of them because they are local or have been in town.]  This was not the case for me just seven weeks ago, where there were a few people I lost touch with for one reason or another.  And while cancer was the impetus for getting back together, these friendships (and so many others that I have been able to rekindle), represent strong bonds that have stood the test of time.  Missed time has not mattered for many relationships that have been reignited (and for which I am so grateful).  There are of course people that should have been in my wedding party that were not (you guys know who you are), friends that could not make it to the wedding for very good reasons (overseas serving our country or a brother’s wedding), as well as people that should have been invited and were not because I am a moron.  But I am proud to say that each of the guys in my wedding party is a true friend, in good times and bad, and I am lucky to have them.

As my mother drove me to the ER at Weil Cornell today, I was thinking about my wedding party and those friendships more generally.   [And yes, for all of you that know her, Janet actually drove from Scarsdale to NYC.  She of course wanted (and deserved) a pat on the back, notwithstanding that she drove me nuts asking for directions, while I was laying flat, even though she knew that Waze would spit out exactly where she needed to go….Mom I love you!)]  I realized that my mother and father have taught me some very important lessons on friendship and family.  How many people do you know still talk, on a regular basis, to their best friends from high school?  My mother and father both do.  Weekly.  And they did not need a “wake up call” to get back in touch.  They have always been in touch.  I think more than 50 years and counting.  Impressive to say the least.  From my vantage point, it tells you something about the type of people they are and the people they surround themselves with (all of whom happen to be phenomenal people).  It also would not surprise you that my mother and father stay in touch with people from college and Cleveland and everywhere else in between, not mention the wonderful network of friends they have in Boca.  The funny thing is all of these people are such good people whom I have known throughout my life that I am in touch with many of them directly!  I don’t think there is a secret sauce here or some set of directions to maintain relationships.  It just happens.  I sure hope I can follow in their footsteps and capitalize on this opportunity I have had to get back in touch with so many important people over the years.

——————-

I owe Jen a huge apology (for a change).  I should not have let myself get to the point where I could not get down the steps of our house earlier today.  I should have come to the hospital yesterday.  I knew something was wrong.  And it is killing me that she was hysterical after putting me in the car with my Mom.  Jen, I am sorry.  No qualifications.  I have no idea what I would do without you.  When the doctors and nurses asked questions today about my mediations or anything else, it was both pathetic and unbelievable that we had to call you as I know nothing.  You do everything.  Superwoman.

I am doing much better after the blood transfusions, which ended about 20 minutes ago.  I was able to stand up and brush my teeth without dizziness or feeling like I was going to fall.  [I say all this not to complain, because it can always be worse, but instead to remember.]  And as I sit here on the 14th floor only a few rooms away from where we checked in 7 weeks ago tomorrow, having seen some of the nurses and staff that we met at the start (and getting a warm welcome (which is always nice)), I definitely feel like I am a different person than the one who checked into this hospital.  While I have yet to write about my 16-day hospital stay (I have good notes, both written and in my brain), I do know that my perspective continues to evolve and my focus is sharper as this journey continues.  In a strange way, it is good to be here to see (at least mentally) how far we have come.  But I really miss Jen and the kids so one night is plenty.

Add to Your “To Do List”

Monday, June 6, 2016.  I finished a phenomenal book yesterday.   The Last Lecture, written by Randy Pausch with Jeff Zaslow.  At first I was marking every page/lesson that I wanted to mention or otherwise remember.  At page 87 (the book is just over 200 pages), I stopped and realized that I was going to mark nearly every page.  Read the book.  Not for me, for yourself.  It is awesome.  Here is a link to buy a copy .  And here is a link to Professor Pausch’s actual last lecture (which I have not yet watched).

Special thanks to Matt K. for the suggestion.  Matt is a former associate, fraternity brother of my brother-in-law Brad’s and a friend of mine.  Matt, I know I busted your chops for five years.   Yet you always busted your ass for me — and I appreciated it every time and still do now.  I know we will stay in touch.  Thanks not only for the recommendation, but for following up to make sure I had read this book (which I had not)!  [By the way, I am not giving Matt’s full last name because I was recently reminded (and am suddenly cognizant of) how very public this all is and how many people prefer privacy for a whole host of good reasons.  Apologies to anyone I have offended to date.]

I decided that I am NOT going to really discuss the book or otherwise reference any specific teachings/lessons (because frankly each lesson/teaching is important).  But I will say that Professor Pausch’s last lecture only amplifies that things can always be worse.  Always.  Thinking about his story (and the stories of so many others) only makes me feel guilty when I complain because so many people are dealing with much worse things, like sudden death and terminal illness.  [Shout out to the greatest of all time, Muhammed Ali.  He fought Parkinson’s for three decades.  He once said “[i]mpossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.  Impossible is not a fact.  It’s just an opinion.  Impossible is not a declaration.  It’s a dare.  Impossible is potential.  Impossible is temporary.  Impossible is nothing.”  Read a great article today authored, in part, by Michael J. Fox, honoring Muhammed Ali.  ]   The Last Lecture is the definition of a book that helps puts things in perspective.  5 million copies  of the book have been sold and it has received worldwide attention for a reason.  I was frankly surprised I had not heard about it.

The book is so engrained in my brain that I noticed, when I was reading the Sunday Styles at points yesterday and this morning (because I had not finished yesterday), the weddings of Kathryn Farley/Richard Lipton, Andrea Hawksley/Andy Lutomirski, and Juliana Shulman/Stephen Laniel [as an aside, I don’t typically include commas before an “and,” but that was the only way to get a link to the NY Times wedding announcement (so whatever….).]  With the exception of the Hawksley/Lutomirski announcement, which I still would have noticed because Andrea’s mother works at a former Kirkland restructuring client, I would not have noticed these weddings before reading The Last Lecture.  And I am not going to tell you why.  You will just have to read the book to figure it out.

 

Over Easy (Moron)

Monday, June 6, 2016.  My first post since Friday.   This requires an explanation as I had intended to post every day (or at least until I didn’t have something to say).  So when I didn’t post, I got a bunch of notes asking if all was OK.  Which I appreciate very much.  Both because people are reading this, but more so because so many people continue to remind me how much they care.  And, of course, stroking the ego is always a good thing, especially when you are literally lying in bed!

There is a famous saying that “payback’s a bitch.”  I have even heard someone say that “karma is a bitch.”  Fancy way of saying that something bad is going to happen as a result of something else.  So on the day after that I wrote about my favorite word donkey, would it not make sense for me to be the biggest donkey of them all?  King Donkey.  Sir-donk-a-lot.  Moron even works.

As I ate my over easy organic eggs this morning with a piece of grainy bread (from Whole Foods) and sautéed spinach, all prepared by my mother — who thank g-d came to Scarsdale yesterday at the perfect time — I realized I have one person and one person only to blame for having to lay flat for the last 36 hours because of a splitting headache, nausea and dizziness.  Me, myself and I (I love the song by G-Eazy and Bebe (this is the title for those unfamilar)).

This past Wednesday, on my first of four consecutive days of treatment, I had a Lumbar Puncture.  This was my third “LP.”  [They start using acronyms once you become a veteran.]  A lumbar puncture is a fancy way of saying a spinal tap.  It is a procedure in which a small amount of fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord is removed and examined.  At the same time the fluid is removed, sometimes medicine is also placed into the spinal fluid.  Each time that I have had an LP, in addition to testing the spinal fluid for cancer (which fortunately for me they have not found), I also get an injection of chemo.  The type of cancer I have has a way of getting into the spinal fluid so they need to make sure to cover those bases, treat me even if it is not there, and test my spinal fluid for the rest of my life.  But it is the extraction of fluid that leads to nasty headaches.  They tell you to drink caffeine before and after, and you must lie flat for at least 1 hour post-LP.  I read the information they provided to me at the very beginning of my treatment and did not see any directives about the days that follow.  One would have to believe, however, that taking it easy for the few days after the LP, and probably laying flat and resting, would make logical sense.  There is also a huge disclaimer at the end of the Lumbar Puncture document they give you that says, among other things, “[t]his information is brief and general.  It should not be the only source of your information on this health care topic.”  How could I really believe that if I lay flat for 60 minutes (and not a second more), I am out of the woods?

After my first LP, I did not experience side effects until 2 plus days later.  Didn’t know what it was from, but I had a terrible headache and threw up (it was my second Saturday morning in the hospital and Brad had come over for breakfast — he brought me pancakes).  I don’t remember getting a nasty headache after the second LP.  [I will say that I get agida before each and every LP.  Probably explains why Jen conveniently did not tell me I was getting the LP this past Wednesday.  I should have paid closer attention to the calendar and I would have seen it myself.  When we walked into our designated treatment room (all of which I will discuss under separate cover), Jen asked the nurse about getting some anti-anxiety medication.  I was totally confused as I was felt decent and was ready for chemo.  It all made sense in a few minutes when I heard that in addition to 4 different chemo treatments, I would be getting the LP too!]

I did not exactly take it easy after my LP on Wednesday.  There was a walk in Central Walk with Ev on Thursday, a 4 plus mile walk on the treadmill Friday (with an incline) while watching The Revenant followed by biceps, triceps and rear delts in my basement (I am still a little sore).  There was also Jake’s baseball game in the hot sun on Saturday, and I couldn’t exactly stay seated for the three full innings I attended.  I even tried to take Jen to dinner on Saturday night at one of our favorite restaurants (Andrea’s 25 in Mamaroneck on Boston Post Road).  Although I had a headache brewing Saturday afternoon, I did not really feel badly until we were in the car on the way to the restaurant.  Jen, of course, suggested we turn around, but I really really wanted some alone time with Jen and thought sitting at a table in a restaurant we both loved would be perfect.  Turns out there was no table available, but we sat at the upstairs bar (may have been the first time ever I sat at a bar and did not order a real beverage).  I didn’t tell Jen I was so incredibly nauseous I thought I was going to throw up at the bar; instead, before the entrees came I told her it probably made sense to get things wrapped up and head home, which she of course had been suggesting the entire time.  I even remember telling her I had a terrible head ache and we looked up on my phone whether or not headaches could be a side effect of chemo.  We both specifically discussed and agreed that we were well past the LP and that the headache could not be related.  We were wrong.

[We go to Andrea’s 25 a lot.  We go with friends.  We have been with the kids.  It is just a great place to have a good meal and a good time.  And all the people there are genuinely good people.  They take the kids back in the kitchen and let them prepare their own desert.  The kids love that.  And I don’t think we have been there on Saturday night and not had a great time.  So when Jen pushed Carmine, whom we know well, for a table and said it was important because I was sick, Carmine started asking what was wrong.  Was it the heat?  Flu?  While I have played the cancer card, I am not looking to play it for a handout.  But when I didn’t shake Carmine’s hand or give him a hug (as I always do), I figured I should just tell him what was going on and that this was just a speed bump- I would be back in a few months sitting upstairs with all our friends and making noise.  His genuine concern was much appreciated.  His paying for our dinner, however, was totally unnecessary.  I definitely was not telling him that I had cancer so that I could get a free meal.  I was telling him because I actually like him and was I uncharacteristically “non-friendly” when I didn’t give him a hug upon entry; he deserved an explanation.  But I do very much appreciate the gesture and I guess that is why we like the place so much.  The people there are really just good people and it makes you want to go back.  Donna — apologies again that I had no cash in my wallet.  Jen is bringing an envelope today and we will leave it at the front.  And sorry we didn’t get there yesterday as promised.  [Time and time again that happens to me — no cash in my wallet. (Randy Pausch (I know you’re out there somewhere) you were spot on in your book, which I finished yesterday.)]

As soon as Jen pulled into our driveway, with the entrees sitting at my feet, I knew I was going to be sick.  Barely made it out of the car.  I threw-up a ton (sorry to the Miller’s who brought over appetizers; lots of celery and humus in our driveway on Saturday night).  Even after I threw up, I had a nasty headache.  So bad that I after speaking to my in-laws and watching my father in law try to wash away the barf with water from the flower pot, I had to lay down.  I woke up around 11:30 pm and ate my chicken scarpiello in 30 seconds.  I thought that was why I felt like I was going to throw up again.  That sensation did not go away for hours.  Nor did the headache.  So we (Jen joined me) laid down again in the study and Jen rented the movie How To Be Single.  I didn’t fight her on it as it secretly looked decent.  She passed out within minutes and I sent her upstairs to bed around 12:30 am.  I wanted to turn off the movie and go sit at my computer to write a post that night.  But I couldn’t.  I liked the movie too much.  Undoubtedly a “chick flick,” I really liked this one.  Come to think of it, and I can admit this, I like most all “chick flicks.”  There is something to be said for a romantic comedy that isn’t trying to win an Oscar.  You have no expectations.  In fact, you expect it to suck.  But they never really do.  They entertain you.  Which is exactly what this type of movie is supposed to do.

When the movie was over at 2 am, and since I had slept a few hours earlier, I tried to do my post for the day.  It was not going to be a long post because of the time and how I was feeling, but I only made it through two paragraphs.  The headache was too much.  I could not finish and had to lie back down.  [A draft was saved and I am going to finish it today.  I also plan to include a separate post I was thinking about from yesterday but just could not type out.]   I woke up at 4 and got myself into bed.  It was not easy making it up the steps and I woke Jen to let her know.  She of course did not sleep the rest of the night and I quickly passed out.  But the headache was still bad the next morning.  After missing Jake’s basketball game (the third one in a row), and having trouble getting out of bed, I finally called the clinic at Jen’s insistence.  I also eventually emailed my doctor.  She called me within minutes and explained this was all related to the LP (again, I have the best doctor and she is the best for lots of reasons, including her responsiveness (something I have always strived to achieve 24 hours a day).  She also said that because of the way I have been reacting to the LP’s, we may need to figure out a different way to get chemo into my spinal fluid (she mentioned a brain port, which she briefly explained and said sounded much worse than it is!).  In the meantime, I needed to lay completely flat and hydrate myself.  I also would need an MRI to see if anything was wrong (you can look up whether it is grammatically correct to say “a MRI” or “an MRI.”  I am correct).  When I told Dr. Roboz that my next day of treatment was Wednesday, she said I might need to come in sooner if the headache is not better.  And after an email exchange yesterday, she said suggested if the headache was really bad I should get admitted to the hospital, get an IV and start running some tests.  But I had a sense that I would be better this morning and needed a good night’s sleep.

Last night was one of the better night’s sleep that I have had.  While I had a pretty bad headache when I went to sleep last night (holding Jen’s hand), I woke up and felt much better today.  And then it hit me.  I thought I was in the clear from the LP after laying flat on Wednesday for 60 minutes.  When I asked my mom to make me two eggs “over easy” this morning, I was chuckling to myself as I hadn’t taken it so easy after the LP and thought it would be poetic to eat eggs over easy (which I really do like).  I certainly did not take it easy after the LP.  I am pushing myself, like I do with everything, and trying to keep things as normal as possible, especially for the kids.  Yet I am recognizing that the harder I push the less I am going to be able to do.  It was much more important to go Jake’s soccer game on Sunday afternoon (which I missed because I had to lie flat all day) than walk several miles and lift weights on Friday.  Kind of like eggs over easy.  And there is no right way to eat eggs over easy; everyone’s preference is different (some like the eggs cooked through, others like the eggs runny).  While I am somewhere in between, I’m thinking to myself I may be best served now and in the future letting the eggs cook a little longer — thinking about the little things more (like I would with any major decision) and not rushing everything.

Donkey

Friday, June 3, 2016.  This could be my single most favorite word.  Many of you reading this know that.  For those of you that don’t, I will explain.  But I have a confession to make.  As much as I use this use word and have effectively trademarked it for use in every day life (you can use donkey as a noun, verb and everything in between), I am not the originator or creator of the “use of donkey” as a table wine.  The credit is owed to Ryan Philp, whom I shared an office with when we were summer associates at Weil Gotshal in 2002 (after our second year of law school). Ryan sent me an email on May 17th.  No title.  The text:  “[h]ow you feeling donkey?”

[A great lawyer and an even better person, Ryan and I have stayed in touch over the last 14 years.  We didn’t even join the same practice groups, but we had a connection right away and have been close ever since.  I still remember going to his house in Toms River that summer and hanging with his parents, brother and cousins (all great people).  We went to each other’s weddings (and I am sure his family still talks about that Sussberg guy dancing like a donkey the entire night). [An awesome wedding — Jen and I had a blast.]  We got together  6 months ago for dinner and a night out.  He came to see me in the hospital.  He has called to check in and make sure I am doing OK (like so many of my friends and colleagues, for which I am incredibly appreciative).  And wouldn’t know, of all times to call, he called me tonight well after I had started writing this post and determined I would finally give credit where credit is due.   Who doesn’t believe in karma now??]

I was actually inspired to write this post yesterday when my brother sent me the picture below of my adorable nieces, Mia and Violet.

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Beautiful right?  My response to the picture (through text) said “[s]o pretty.  By the way, I know those donkeys.  We used to have one!!!”   Truth be told, and as beautiful as these two little girls are, the sick individual I am first noticed the donkeys.  We definitely had one of those.  Partly because of my infatuation with the word donkey; partly because the kids love sitting on them.  I have a pretty good memory.  I pay attention to details.  And wouldn’t you know, when Drew was over today, look what Jen found for him in our basement…

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The fact that it was the same color as the ones Mia and Violet were riding was something I did not remember.  But we have had that donkey for a good 7 plus years.  It hurt when Drew took it home today.  That said, I am happy they will have it and I can promise you one thing:  Drew and Alexis (and hopefully my nieces at some point) will ALWYAS think of me when they look at that donkey.  [The reality is the only reason I got comfortable with Drew taking the donkey today is because I know I am going to get it back.]

According to Wikopedia (which at this point you should know is one of my go-to sources):

“The donkey or ass (Equus africanus a sinus) is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, Eafricanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5,000 years.  There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals.  Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels.  Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries.

A male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female a jenny or jennet, a young donkey is a foal.  Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules – the biological “reciprocal” of a mule, from a stallion and jenny as it parents instead is a called a hinny.”

See http: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/Wiki/Donkey (internal citations omitted).

Did not know until tonight that a female donkey is called a “jenny.”  I feel an even deeper connection.

A donkey, however, is so much more than a domesticated member of the horse family.   You can call almost anyone a donkey.  Someone you dislike, someone you love, someone that is acting like a jack ass.  And it is a much better word to use because it is not a swear word and people may not know that you are using it in an angry vs. loving context.  For example, I think I used donkey to describe a half dozen people today.  The person I spoke to at car insurance agency about coverage for my tires and rims (I was only calling to inquire about my deductible.  But it turned into so much more, including a report of the accident that will raise my insurance whether or not I pay for the damage out of pocket).  She was a donkey.  And I was a donkey too, as I made this very same phone call when I pulled into our beloved housekeeper’s parked car in the street in front of our house.  [I also pulled into our baby-sitter’s car when it was parked in our drive way, but I paid for the damage (to both cars) out of pocket without making this donkey-like phone call).  Steph was donkey (and I told her so) when she took the train to our house tonight, but did not realize that she got on an express train to Harrison that did not stop in Mamaroneck or Larchmont.  And I told Carrie that I would be happy to pick up her kids and shuttle them around to sports tomorrow (post chemo) since her donkey of a husband is playing golf from 7 am – 8 pm in a tournament for third day in a row.  You see, donkey can describe so many different people in so many different ways.  Basta even called me a “little donkey” (when referring to me as a summer associate) in the video that everyone from Kirkland put together for me (which I absolutely love).

Sometimes you can use donkey to describe how you feel (just add an “ish” at the end — “I feel donkeyish today,” like I did for three plus months before that fateful Sunday April 23, 2016).  There are songs about donkeys (you know you know it — 69 Boyz, Let Me Ride That Donkey     ).   You can even have a donkey chair (with two stuffed Eeyore’s care of Marcus).  Below is my chair from the hospital and my new reclining chair in my office at home.  Are you not yet convinced that the donkey is my favorite animal?

 

Try using donkey in your everyday life.  I promise you will be able to describe any number of people, both positively and negatively, and use the word in happy and angry moments to always lighten the mood.  And then we can all properly thank my good buddy Ryan Philp, who finally is getting the credit that he deserves (that I have robbed him of for years).

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Lots of people are wondering how I am doing this week.   I have purposely not written about the week of chemo until the fourth day in a row is over (tomorrow).  Let’s call it the need for a clean sweep (like the Cavs in rounds 1 and 2, but clearly not the Finals).  I did feel pretty good today.  Almost as good as I felt in my yet unwritten “Chapter 2.5 — the 10th Floor” (which is coming soon).  Walked 4 miles (slowly, while watching The Revenant) and did some light weights in the basement.  Treadmill shot below. [In case you are wondering, I am superstitious and always stop on either 18 or 44 seconds.]

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I am looking forward to the weekend; it officially starts tomorrow at about 11:30 am…….

Tire Insurance

Thursday, June 2, 2016.   Almost two years ago (it was June 16, 2014 to be exact), I went to Mamaroneck BMW and traded in my car for a car I always I wanted.  [I know we should not define ourselves by material possessions.  But I have realized, now more than ever, that we truly only get one chance to live this life and there is no reason not to enjoy it.  To that end, I am in the market for a used Wrangler.  Have wanted one since high school.  Fortuitously saw one with for a sale sign on Griffen Road today and called the owner.  We will see if I can negotiate a deal first with the owner, then with Jen….]

I still remember the name of the sales rep (Craig), who I used to run into at the gym down the street from the dealership.  He also called me several times after I leased the car because he had my second set of keys.  It took me a year to pick up that set of keys (the dealership is less than 2 miles from my house).  Craig was insistent that I get tire insurance.  He told me that while the car had “run flat” tires, the tires go flat all of the time and that the insurance coverage, which would be spread over the life of the lease, would without question pay for itself.  All I needed to do was have four flat tires over the 36 month lease.  That sounded like a lot of flat tires to me.

If I had one complaint about the car, it would be the tires.  The “low tire pressure” sign is constantly on and I often find myself driving over to the station at the Four Corners (at the most inconvenient time) only to find out that there is a nail in the tire or I hit a pot hole and it requires a new tire immediately (the roads in NY after the winter are beat-up and I am a moron that likes to drive into the city on days that I am not traveling).  Turns out that “run flat” is a stupid name for these tires.  They should be called run flat for 20 minutes and get a new tire.  But I didn’t know this at the time.   So I hemmed and hawed — and debated with myself — whether I really needed the tire insurance or was just watching a guy up sell the shit out of me.  After texting a few friends, all of whom said the insurance was a must, I gave in and got the tire insurance (come to think, I think he had to redo all the paper work because I changed my mind halfway through the documentation process).  I did not, however, get the added-on rim insurance (which covers the rim if there is rim damage only; if the tire is damaged and it causes rim damage, you are covered).  I had to draw the line somewhere.  Jen thought the tire insurance was unnecessary but I think I scored some points when I told her I did not get the rim insurance (which I used to try to deflect the fact that I also got the sport package). [As to the rim insurance, man was I pissed that first week I had the car and screwed up one of the passenger side rims on the side of my drive way (spacing out as I pulled in).  Or when I did the same thing parallel parking at Brother Jimmy’s with Tauber or the same thing (yet again) parallel parking two weeks ago at a Monday night baseball game for Jake.]

Well, Craig was right.  I have had at least four flat tires over the nearly two years.  And I effectively made it six when I was distracted on May 21 (with Jake and my brother-in-law Justin in the car) and ran into the curb on Heathcote Road destroying both passenger side wheels and rims.  [I can admit I am not a particularly good driver.  Just ask my father.  I had multiple accidents in high school.  As well as a couple fender benders in college (Slavin, I still remember first night of senior year like it was yesterday).  I also got a ticket the very first day I got my license (was leaving Alan Minter’s house, taking a left on Jog to get home, and the light was red for what seemed like an eternity.  It was late and no one was around (except for the cop).  I really thought something was wrong with the light).  But the May 21 incident, I am chalking that one up to cancer.]

I called BMW early last week, explained I needed two new tires and rims, and made arrangements for them to pick up my car and leave with me a loaner (the whole home exchange arrangement is a great service by the way).  The “exchange” happened mid last week.  I just assumed everything was getting fixed and I actually thought to myself earlier this week that I should call and check on the status.  Yesterday, post chemo (4:16 p.m. to be exact), I got a message from my office that “Matthew of IAS called re: your claim at BMW Greenwich — needed to verify some info…”  I read the email fast and must have missed the IAS reference (not that I would have known what that meant anyway).  I just assumed he was from the dealership.  I was feeling like garbage yesterday afternoon but I called him right back soon after I got the message.  He said he was calling to verify what happened with the car and how it was damaged.  I told him.  He seemed confused and asked if the road was damaged or it was me that had hit the curb.  I paused and realized I was talking to an insurance adjuster.  He was giving me a chance to modify my story.  But I didn’t.  I told him it was my fault, 100%.  He asked me to hold.  He came back in less than 60 seconds to tell me my claim was denied.  I said I did not understand since I had tire insurance for this very reason.  He explained that there was an express exclusion for damage caused by the driver hitting a curb. Obviously.  He had been calling because the dealership reported that the damage was caused by a pothole.  I said that was not the case and explained to Matthew it simply was not worth telling him a lie as I was dealing with bigger things, including a recent cancer diagnosis.  I could tell Matthew felt terrible.  I as not looking to make him feel, was just being candid.  And I have always felt — even before I needed some luck on my side — that these little lies catch up with at some point.  It just wasn’t worth creating a story to save $1,200 (which actually turned out to be $2,587.91 after I spoke to the dealership today; I gave Jeff at BMW some crap this afternoon because I wanted to understand why it was more than double the price for the dealership to fix it as opposed to the insurance adjuster.  He then sent me an itemized invoice and I get it.  Jeff, as I said to you at the end of the conversation, I did not mean to come across as a d*ik.).  Matthew felt so bad he started coaching me on appealing the denial if I paid this out of pocket.  He then asked me to hold again.  This time he came back even faster and told me not even to bother appealing, it would be denied!

I am not a spiritual person but I have always believed in karma.  [I also subscribe to the school of thought that you have to go out of your way not to say hello to someone you know when you run into them on the street or in a store etc.  Isn’t it just easier to say hi?]  According to Wikopedia, karma means “action, work or deed.  It also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect).  Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.”

I could have easily told Matthew that I hit a pot hole.  I probably would have needed to extend the lie and not mention the street I was on as they could easily have gone and seen there was no pothole on Heathcote Road.  Then again, it is a long road.   But it just wasn’t the right thing to do.  Cancer has nothing to do with it.  I’m not looking for a pat on the back, and I have definitely made my share of mistakes over the 38 plus years I have been around.  I do, however, have a conscious that would literally be eating at me had I made something up to save $1,200.  Don’t get me wrong:  it is real money and every dollar counts, but if there really is an exclusion in the tire insurance policy that Craig forced to buy, it would have been fraud to tell Matthew I hit a pot hole.  I think about that stuff.  And whether it is karma or something else, I have always had a sense that this stuff catches up with you at some point in some way.  So I will pay the dealership to fix the car, I may or may not buy that Wrangler, and I will definitely get the tire insurance the next time around.  Oh, and I could use some good karma.