Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Bay Area Getaway - A Long Story

So last week was a busy one, since finding out just how badly I was doing on this current chemo. But it was also a great week, since I had a secret plan (which can now be made public) that was in the works a few weeks before. So the emotional processing was put on hold in favor of what my therapist calls "those events to look forward to".

I got the crappy news last Tuesday and on Wednesday afternoon, after work, I boarded a plane to Oakland, CA for a three (full) day holiday with the 25th Anniversary of Passport as the starring event. Brenda picked me up late at night and we talked until after midnight which was *really* late for me by my current crash by 9:30 standards.

You have to understand that anything Brenda lends her hand to is going to be highly organized, and put on an Excel spreadsheet. So it was, that from the moment of my arrival Wednesday night until my departure on a red-eye on Saturday, my every move was registered, noted with timeframe parameters and my transportation provided (by Brenda!!). It was above and beyond. Which is why she is so damn good at her (real) job as a consultant!

So back to the fun. Thursday started out with a lovely breakfast with Lisa H to catch up on life and such.

The the girly preparations for Passport began. On to Cuticles, a new place near Brenda's for the deluxe mani/pedi experience, complete with lightly scented scrubs for the legs and hot stone massage for arms and legs. Heavenly, I was almost sad when the experience ended.

After a little break we were off to make up, on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Our makeup artist was a transgender woman who did a great job. Ah, how lovely to be back in the Bay Area. A little overly enthusiastic on the eyebrows, but that was easily notched down a bit. This experience is not one that would not happen in Durham, I don't think. After ensuring that neither of us were overly made up as street ho's, we dutifully purchased an item or two and left to transform ourselves into Passport guests.

Back at Brenda's we began the transformation into party clothes. My outfit was kind of a default, after worrying about it for a few weeks. Black evening pants, a hot pink floaty top and voila, done! Those pants have been worth whatever I paid for them about seven years ago. They have been to their share of events. B was stunning in her wrap around black dress with plunging neckline. After we were done, she convinced me to go outside to do some photos.

And there it was, a black stretch limosine!!! What a terrific surprise, and not at all expected, that is for sure. Claudio was at the wheel and gallantly came to open the doors. It is not easy being graceful when entering a limo, no wonder Brittney flashed herself and the world getting out! Thanks to B and to Peter Balon for conspiring to do this and making the arrangements.

We drank a glass of Italian champagne while we drove into SF. We stopped again, near Moscone, and surprise, picked up Pat Dunn. Another unexpected delight.

And we were off in style to Passport.

The pre-show festive buffet in the Wells Fargo lounge was great, we staked out a small table and Brenda went into action again, bringing people to visit with me at the table, so I would not tire out. I felt like the Queen Bee. I got to visit with Tim Wu and Jim Hormel, with the wonderful and gracious Assemblyman Mark Leno and so many others who had no idea I would be there at all. I truly miss folks in the Bay Area and this was so wonderful, just having party visiting time.

And then on to the show. We had tickets for row H, but somehow found ourselves sitting in the first row of chairs right by the stage by the time the show started. Don't ask. It was a terrific perspective, especially of Dita von Teese, the closing act, who was last seen coating herself with bubbles in a champagne class.

The show had the usual Passport energy and vision, and the inclusion of the Children of Uganda (all kids from 8-18 who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS) was wonderful. I especially loved the part where they danced with the kid models in the children/teen segment. Very hip hop meets tribal. Pure energy.

Brenda and I attempted the after party, but I have to say, I was getting tired and all the folks on the dance floor appeared to be of a different demographic than mine, by about 20-30 years. I felt very old. So we said our good-byes and took our limo back across the bridge to home. Another night of midnight bedtime, but well worth it.

The next day, we had a leisurely start, with a visit from Nancy Frank for coffee and then we went into town for some shopping at, you guessed it, Macy's. We mostly just looked and did not buy, then headed to the new food court, by Bloomies (something new since I left) for a delicious lunch at Out the Door, the new place opened by the Slanted Door folks. Oh my, what I have been missing.

And after this, I was taken to Al Baum's home for tea. His new place, on Jackson, which I had not seen with his wonderful changes. I had been there when it belonged to another couple (went to a cocktail party there years back). It was transformed, into lightness and open space.

Al and I have known each other for years, in a donor/fundraiser relationship. I cannot even remember now, in what context we met. I have asked him for money over the years and he has been most generous. And most gracious when turning me down. But these days, I relish the fact that we meet as friends, with no fundaising agenda. And at this visit, I asked him to wear his social worker/therapist hat a bit with me. We talked a lot about the struggle I am having to figure out what is the best thing for our little challenged family, Sofie, Jamie and I. We had just been "this close" to buying a house, then I got cold feet, scared to take on too much new debt, wondering what is the best choice, moving or not at this juncture, and put the kabash on it.

We just talked, gently. And he reminded me I can call him anytime. And I know I will. I value his perspective.

Al drove me (in a car, for all those readers who only know him from his now retired scooter), to Eileen and Pat's for the cumulation of this wonderful day. The "girl posse", well, most of it, was having another litter get together at their lovely home. The girl posse this time included our hosts, Eileen and Pat, Brenda, Pam, Carrie, Ellen and our guest girl, Dave. Unfortunately, Alan, Kerry and Lisa were unable to attend, but this little group was just great. We ate delicious food (which I thought had been lovingly prepared by them, but was take out from some extraordinary place, one of the reasons the bay area is such a foodie place). We talked, we caught up and then they just asked me to talk about stuff. It is such an emotional thing, to be surrounded by people who love and care for you, even from far away. It makes my life feel so rich.

I know I hadn't yet emotionally processed the newest news, the fact that the numbers aren't going down the way they are supposed to. And that my time on this earth is likely shorter than I had hoped. These friends get me. And they give me strength, hope and solace during the hard times. I am so grateful for them.

Dinner finally came to an end and we went back over the bridge to Oakland.

Saturday was my last full day of this mini trip and it began on a drizzly morning with a trip to Burlingame to meet my mom and sister at Stacks, a terrific breakfast place in Burlingame. We kind of figured this was a halfway point to drive from Oakland and from Palo Alto. We talked some and I was very direct with them about what was going on (and had blogged it before, so it wasn't shocking news). But as soon as I got up to go to the bathroom, they asked Brenda "what is really going on?". How much more honest and direct do I need to be? I am not making stuff up or trying to sugarcoat anything. Believe me, I am long past the need to do that in any situation. Cancer is best served up with integrity and direct communication. Life is short, mine is shorter than yours might be and I don't have time for games.

After the breakfast, hugs all around, and a drive back to SF, we went to visit my friend Kay who had recently come home with her newly adopted daughter Eva from Russia. I was sort of the impetus for this adoption (too long a story to tell here) and so I feel highly invested! Eva was a delight to meet, although she mostly speaks Russian. But Kay has gotten her a cell phone (she is ten) and boy did she figure that out quickly! They are bonding, in that way that children will test and retest the parent's commitment, but I think in six months Eva will find herself not only bonded, but adjusting and becoming part of her new world. And in a year or two, as American a girl as any other pre-teen. It is quite a big thing to adopt an older child. The issues I had adopting Sofie as a non verbal toddler are one thing, I could kind of tote her around, bring her to various therapies without protest, and eventually "mold" her a bit, but Eva is a 10 year person in her own right, in a new place, with issues of language, different activities than perhaps she ever had before (riding a bike, for example) and has to go to school through all this! I think they are a good match and that Eva is the child Kay was always supposed to have.

We just kind of hung out for a few hours, then Brenda, my tireless guide and driver, picked me up and we headed back over the bridge. I packed (not hard to do for the return trip) and headed out for our last scheduled event before my red-eye flight: dinner to break the fast (for those fasting for Yom Kippur) at Kerry and Wendy's. This was the first time I had a medical reason not to fast!! My friend Leigh also joined us, so we had a lovely little party of five. The food, not cooked by Chef Kerry, but prepared by Wendy, was delicious. Really wonderful to eat Jewish food, with good friends (Jewish and not) and just be so comfortable in their home. Kerry and Wendy are one of those couples that make me believe in forever love. I was there when they met, I was part of their wedding and I have stayed in touch over the years to see them both grow as individuals while sustaining a loving and rich relationship with each other, and welcoming friends like me into their lives with joy. I feel so loved there.

Finally, it was time to get to the airport for my 11:10 PM flight. I was in comfy clothes, ready to sleep on my flight. Thanks to the wonders of Mark H who donated the miles, I was in one of the "extended" seats, not business class, but more leg room (for my short legs!) and quite comfy. Nobody in the middle seat, either, all the way to Dulles in DC. So it was nearly like a direct flight. I slept about 3. 5 hours and was pretty rested (for a plane ride) when we arrived.

I arrived in the early AM, filled my to go cup with Starbucks and waited for my little plane to RDU. I got there and home quickly and then simply went to bed to sleep off the weekend, and get ready for another dose of "real life" coming up.

This trip was magical for me, in so many ways. I appreciate Brenda, Mark and everyone who made each step happen on the way. Photos will be posted soon. Promise!

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