Sunday, February 24, 2008

Roller Paradise

Give me a new pair of rollers on my feet, MY music blaring in my ears, a sunny warm day outside and the streets of Paris and I am in paradise!!!

The happiest moments of my life are when I'm on rollers. Now even more so than before. I get the speed, danger and power all at once. I've always felt, somehow, that rollers (skates or inlines) were an extension of my feet and my body and that I am completely in control. In comparison I've always felt less in control with skateboards, bicycles and cars as there's always some other piece of equipment "outside" of me. Either way it is always a wonderful feeling for me to be on rollers and feel completely in control of myself and my body and just plain having fun.

After this summer I realised that I was going to have to get new rollers. My old ones were about 4 years old, had done literally hundreds of kilometres and they were starting to give me a rash above my ankles each time I wore them. Today is really one of the first days when I knew it was going to be nice out all day. I therefore headed out to Nomades to buy some new rollers and then try out the Sunday Roller Randonnée. Nomades normally has one of the largest selections of rollers in the Paris area. I was actually disappointed that all of the new "top of the range" rollers are made for 90 mm wheels. The larger wheels are great for speed and make going uphill easier. But the wheels stick out of the front and back of the skate. This makes slaloms and most tricks impossible. I like both speed and tricks. Those skates will not do. I therefore hit the mid-range skates with 80 mm to 84 mm wheels. I've always been a big fan of Salomon rollers as were all of the salesmen at Nomades. Unfortunately I just learned that Salomon no longer makes rollers. They are concentrating their business only on skis. I therefore had to look elsewhere. The Rollerblade rollers looked good and they had a very modern system of lacing up (mechanical pull laces made out of metal). But they were quite uncomfortable, difficult to get in and out of and my feet moved around in them too much. After trying 3 pairs I finally opted for a pair of K2 "Moto" rollers with 2 straps across the top for extra support.

Oh, while I was rushing off to catch up with the randonnée, which had left 5 minutes before, I briefly encountered David the roller instructor from Club Med Vittel. He was heading back in to the Nomades shop, where apparently he now works, and we had a lightening quick conversation. He left Club Med a year ago, is working full time at the shop, has some projects he's trying to "mount"... I will try and have lunch with him sometime in the near future to catch up.

Normally once you've done the Friday night roller randonnée you can't possibly go back to the Sunday Afternoon one. The lack of speed, the constant and very long breaks, the vast quantity and omnipresence of beginners makes all for a very frustrating experience. However it's been a long time since I've done the Friday night roller, I've gained a lot of weight, I'm not in great shape and I'm going to be wearing brand new rollers. I therefore reckoned this would be a good place to start. Were the constant and very long breaks frustrating? Damn straight! However they were also embarrassingly quite necessary. I needed to get my breath back as I would push myself pretty hard in between breaks, dancing and boogieing down the streets with my music in my ears. I was an absolute ball of sweat by the time we had the half-way break at Montparnasse. I have to admit that I am not ready to try the Friday night rando yet. I have desperately got to roller more and more often. I barely made it to the end. This wasn't because of exhaustion although that did make it difficult. I have come stupidly ill-prepared. I was wearing old thin socks. This was idiotic when buying new rollers. They were rubbing like crazy on the inside of my feet and, within about 45 minutes, I ended up with one huge blister, just underneath the inside ankle, on each foot which made movement quite painful. To top it off I had not quite gotten used to the lacing up methods and tightening methods on these new rollers. My feet were swelling up something awful and the balls of my feet were getting painful as well. I was sooo glad to take my rollers off at the break. At the end of the run, at Place Bastille, I took my rollers off, slide my sneakers back on (painfully) and tottered off to the métro to head home. I was literally having difficulty walking what with the combination of blisters and swollen soles. I made it home, rested with my feet up for a bit, had a shower and started dinner. Although exhausted and in relative pain in my feet I haven't felt this great in months!!!

Monday, February 04, 2008

I shouldn't forget... I am lucky...

Every now and then when I update my blog I click on to some of the other throat cancer or tonsil cancer links I have on the blog to see what's changed.

I found a very interesting article on Raph's Tonsil Cancer blog which I read through. If you have a chance please look at the article...

The Raph Stipic they refer to on page 61 is the creator of the blog described above. Raph's blog was the only one I found when I was diagnosed and he was an inspiration for me. Being able to read about his treatment, his pulling through, his trials and tribulations and most importantly the fact that he had made it back to a relatively normal life gave me a goal. I knew that if someone else out there could do it I could damn well make it myself. I only hope that my blog can be that helpful or inspirational for others some day.

The statistics on page 60 are particularly interesting. That's the first time I've ever noticed France as being the country with the largest population of oral and pharyngeal cancer victims.

The cisplatin they mention for chemotherapy is the same chemical I had for my injections. But instead of Erbitux I had 5-Fluorouracil in overnight pumps. I am learning more and more about the long-term effects of the chemo mixed with the radiation therapy and most of it ain't that positive.

But the main feeling I came away with after reading the article is the basic fact that I am lucky. Sure I've got a big scar on my neck. But that is literally nothing in comparison to many of the scars people diagnosed with the same type of cancer as mine have had to live with. Sure I have difficulty swallowing, tasting, screaming, singing and such. But that is a minor discomfort in comparison to many other similar cancer victims' handicaps. It is so easy to focus on what is not as it should boe or what is annoying. But the fact is all of it is relative and minor... I am a healthy, obsessive workaholic, healthy, relatively happy, healthy middle-aged man and very lucky to be here writing about it.

Super Bowl Monday

Slowly but surely recuperating from Super Bowl Sunday otherwise known as our annual Guys' Night Out. For more info as to what that entails check out last year's blog Entry or the year before's blog entry.

This year I was actually really rooting for a team as New York had made it to the Super Bowl. The New York Giants were clearly the underdogs facing the undefeated (18 wins and no losses in the entire season!) New England Patriots and I was actively rooting for New York...

We had a great time, and that's without the game, but we're starting to think of changing it up a bit for next year and doing things differently...

We arrived at American Dream at about 21:00 and the guys were all on time (again) this year. We first had to pay to go upstairs for dinner and the strippers. There are 3 fixed-price dinner/show menus (39 € for 2 courses (appetizer and main or main and dessert), 49 € for 3 course (appetizer, main and dessert) and 69 € for 3 courses plus an apéritif --- the choices of dishes are different for each menu as well). We were upset again as to how expensive this all was for what we knew was going to be worse than mediocre food and even less of a choice. We used to have a choice of the full American Dream menu and most of what we like isn't on these "show" menus. I miss my Philly Steak or Pastrami sandwich for example. We got upstairs, started with our first overpriced beers (7 € for 25 cl of beer is just plain silly... especially when you're going to be drinking for 7 hours!), and realised we were practically alone. One of the female strippers was up on the bar working her stuff in front of about 4 guys and the rest of the place was empty. She was wiping the poles and cleaning up more than anything else. We had our first 2 courses at the table and tried to cheer on the strippers who were pretty far away from us and up on the bar. Being the only ones cheering in the place made it strange for us and probably really boring and depressing for the strippers themselves. We can only imagine how the guy stripper must have felt each time he had to come out. Eventually we had dessert up at the bar to be closer to the "action" and it became more enjoyable as a few more guys came in towards the end. Both female strippers were completely "blown up" from their breasts to their lips to God only knows what else and known of my crowd of guy friends is attracted to that sort of thing. We all like our fantasies natural...

We were already, all 4 of us, talking about what we could do differently as of next year. Maybe have dinner beforehand, maybe go to a proper strip joint with a bit of excitement and class like Stringfellows, Hustler Club or Pink Paradise. Basically it's time to move up or move on or just plain change...

My best friend in the whole wide world, Robbie, actually left before the game. It was already great that he was able to tear himself away from home to come out and see us guys for a while. Robbie actually found a woman who finds him more than bearable {vbg}. He was therefore much more interested in getting home to his newfound female company than hanging out with the bunch of us middle-aged guys he sees every year...

After a relatively calm "show" we headed down to the basement to watch the match. The only places left were on the mezzanine, as usual for the past couple of years, and that meant having a horizontal bar from the fence pole directly in front of us throughout. It gets quite annoying after a while... Then in the 3rd quarter they shut down the basement and we all had to scramble upstairs to the ground floor and try and grab seats in front of the screen there. I was able to get a really good seat myself, albeit all on its own and I had to hold on to a vertical pole to look around, but the rest of the guys were spread around elsewhere which certainly took a lot away from the comraderie of the experience.

The game itself was an incredibly sharp contrast. The first half was one of the most boring Super Bowls in quite some time. The teams are very closely matched and it was more a defensive game than anything else. The very low score at the end of the first half was a good indicator: 3 points for New York and 7 points for New England. Half time was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers which was a bit of a letdown. I would have preferred the pre-game show entertainer: Alicia Keys. But then came the second half. The third quarter definitely started getting interesting and we were particularly upset in having to move locations in the middle of the quarter which was certainly starting to heat up. The 4th quarter, and end of the game, was one of the most thrilling, suspenseful and exciting football game endings ever... let alone the fact that it was the Super Bowl! The last 3 minutes of play are going to become legendary... less than 3 minutes left to play and New York can now only win by getting a touchdown... they've been trying all night and have only gotten one in the whole game up till then... with less than a minute left to play New York scores an amazing touchdown!!! The bar/crowd goes wild!!! New England now have about 35 seconds to score a field goal to tie. New York turns up the heat with their defense and the game plays right down to 1 second left and New York holds their own and become Super Bowl champs!

I was jumping up and down and screaming to the best of my ability during that last touchdown along with just about every play leading up to it and following it. This was probably my first moment of frustration of the evening... I just can't scream any more... and when I try it sounds like a high-pitched wheezy smoker rather than the low-pitched rather masculine roar that I used to have. I miss my scream. But I still love trying!!! Everyone was excited at the bar and we were all talking about how amazing a game it was as we all poured out of the bar at 04:30 in the morning to head home.

Jean-Philippe was kind enough, yet again, to give me a lift home and we were talking in the car about other possibilities. Robbie had proposed that we watch the game next year at his house. This would obviously be more comfortable than the setup we've been through the past few years with American Dream.... But... above and beyonds our worries that we may keep Robbie's neighbours awake I have to admit that the ambiance and the energy of a bunch of us fans screaming together and excited together is an even more important and vital part of the game than the images on the screen(s) themselves. I'm not sure I'm willing to give up the audience-energy for the comforts of a home screening...

Right now my goal is to just make it through the day, which didn't start until after noon, and back to sleep to be recuperated, recharged and ready to work again tomorrow.

Until next year... Thank you New York Giants... Super Bowl Champions 2008!!!