Kevin's Dead Cat

After surgery sliced off an entire tumor and 1/3 of my tongue, plus six weeks of radiation therapy, I've been re-learning how to eat, drink, and talk with my newly re-constructed tongue and coping with side effects. But the cancer came back and I don't know what's going to happen next.

My Photo
Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I don't want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.

Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 in Review

Progress from August to December
That first photo still cracks me up.

What a rollercoaster year! I attended three memorial services, lost my sense of taste, sat through Baz Luhrmann's "La Boheme", the family dog passed away, three of my friends are getting divorced, and (last but not least) was diagnosed with cancer three days before my birthday!

But I also had the best meal of my life at Noé, lost over 1/3 of my body weight, made a lot of new friends, grew closer to old ones, gained two beautiful newborn cousins (one born on my birthday), and moved back Downtown into a great space.

Getting sick was terrible, there's no denying that. But everyone and everything that wouldn't have happened were it not for the cancer, I wouldn't give back or change for anything.

Most days, I can honestly say that I would rather be me with cancer than anyone else without cancer. I mean, Donald Trump may have a hit TV show, billions of dollars, and a hot fiancé. But he doesn't have James, Marycruz, Ali, Allan, Adam, Big Eric, Little Eric, John, Tim, Mike, René, the Hawks, Silvia, Agnieszka, Sol, Evelyn, Lane, Leannah, Tom, Rose, Allegra, Paul, Noah, Dr. McNicoll, Dr. Blackwell, Maria, Paula, my family, and new friends who've e-mailed me through Kevin's Dead Cat this past year.

I guess that's the epiphany I've been waiting for: my family and my friends are the best, and I can face anything, even cancer, as long as they're around.

And a big Thank You to those who've helped me get through the year, though we've never met: Philip K. Dick, Haruki Murakami, Hayden Carruth, Henry Miller, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Lacan, Umberto Eco, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Stewart, Eddie Izzard, Chris Rock, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, John Coltrane, Johnny Hartman, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Lou Reed, Al Green, Ravi Shankar, Johnny Cash, Chet Baker, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Steve Jones, Natalie Merchant, Glenn Gould, Cocteau Twins, Ina Garten, Rachel Ray, Todd English, Robert Gadsby, Anthony Bourdain, Meng Tzu, Wong Kar Wai, Anh Hung Tran, Jørgen Leth, Peter Jackson, John Luri, Edward Norton & Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp & Benicio del Toro, Matt Damon, and Maggie Cheung.

Here's to the end of 2004, and making damn sure that 2005 is the best year ever.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Non-stop foodfest

All week long, I've been holing-up at my place with a refrigerator and pantry full of provisions to outlast storms and seiges. The lightning storm Tuesday night was outstanding, especially with my tall windows and no drapes. I'm really just posting for the photo I took of the sunrise the next morning (using the crappy camera I got free from Earthlink DSL).

So I've been cooking and eating pizzas, spaghetti and meatballs, biscotti, frittati, oatmeal, tofu soup, pancakes, and drinking wine and beer. Yet I still managed to lose 2 lbs. this week. I know it's because I'm still working out. But I can't not workout. It keeps my morale up.

I'll try more beer and pastries this week. My parents' Myer lemon tree is bearing fruit, so I'll make some lemon bars, lemon-lime curd, and limoncello. If that doesn't work, I'll live on foccacia all next week.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Asia Quake and Tsunami Victims

Just a quick link to Senator Barbara Boxer's Aid Information page to send donations to victims. There's also a phone number if you're trying to locate American citizens in the area:

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Scored the electric sander, now all I need are safety goggles

Between chicken enchiladas and champagne with my neighbors, and the annual Filipino Foodfest with my immediate and extended family, I pretty much ate and drank my way right through Jesus' Birthday.

I made almond biscotti but could only taste the almonds. It made the apartment smell very festive, though. My cousin Rolly made away with a whole Tupperware-full since I forgot to bring them out when I first arrived. I also made some blackberry scones for breakfast this morning. I could taste only a little bit of the berries, but definitely the dough.

I can taste champagne! Leslie had bottles of the stuff, and since I live right across the hall, I took advantage. But I'm also grossing people out with the "freedom" of not being hampered by a sense of taste. Combinations like brownies & beer. After a slice of flan I couldn't taste, I ate stew out of the same bowl and detected residual caramel sauce after a few spoons. Wierd.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah. Like me, I hope you were all able to spend the holidays with the people you love.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Coffee and Oatmeal

On the way to the office, I dropped by Banquette, a new cafe and wine bar at the Santa Fe Building downtown. I bought a coffee-to-go thinking that by the time I walked into the office it would be cooled-down enough to drink. Until today I've only been able to smell coffee through my mouth, but not really taste it. Surprise! I took a sip and sensed what I remember as Almond Roca. I know there are some coffees out there that have a chocolatey taste to them. But I still can't taste the caramel-filled Hershey's Kisses I've been eating compulsively (which really has to stop). On my way home, I should find out what blend they served this morning.

Around lunchtime I found an old packet of Quaker Blueberries & Cream Oatmeal in my desk drawer. The cafeteria crew went on vacation a day early and I was too lazy to go out for food, so I emptied the packet in a mug of hot water. I didn't taste the blueberries or sugar, but I could very slightly taste the oatmeal.

So things are looking up. Chicken is coming back slowly, so I'm going to make some stir-fry tonight with tofu. I have to stop snacking on chocolate croissants and Kisses. So I bought a pack of dried apricots and raisins; the last thing I need is to acquire a new medical condition.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I really should avoid the cold, hard facts

I stumbled on a news story on MSNBC on oral cancer today. The statistics in the news story and on Yahoo's Health section still wierd me out:

- About 30,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, and more than 8,000 people will die from it.
- The death rate—about 50 percent over five years—hasn't changed much in the past few decades, in part because the cancer often isn't detected until it's visible to the naked eye.
- New data shows more Americans under 40—including many who are not regular drinkers or smokers—are developing the disease.

When I dwell too long on the fact that the tumor was diagnosed after a routine teeth cleaning appointment, I physically feel like I'm floating backward into a tunnel that gets narrower and narrower, and I have to snap myself out of it.

The Japanese market near my place sells fresh watercress, which is good for getting rid of carcinogens in the mouth. I've been eating plenty of it the past two weeks, along with flax seed oil, and sources of vitamin A, like I'm told I should. I'm exercising at least four days a week, and making sure I get enough sleep and avoiding stressful situations (my divorcing friends being the exception).

Despite the occasional coughing fit, I feel the healthiest I've ever been. I'm constantly being told that I look great. But it feels like I'm hearing it from the end of a very long, dark tunnel.

I don't know how I would feel if the cancer did come back despite everything I'm doing to stay healthy. We all want to believe that we're the exception to the rule. But sometimes, we're not.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Neck update

Here's probably the last photo of the year. This is the neck almost a month after the end of radiation treatments. The swelling is going down (verry slowly but surely), the redness has been replaced with a very dark mocha color, and there are splotches of normal skin color closer to my ears.

I discovered that I have to keep avoiding citrus for a while longer. I sampled some fruitcake yesterday and a dried orange peel dipped in chocolate today. The citrus was just too much for my throat and I spent nearly 30 minutes trying not to cough up a lung.

I was in a really wierd mood today. I think it's emotional exhaustion from the weekend. Between the excitement of tasting beer and getting a new dining set on one extreme, to listening to divorce drama from three of my friends on the other extreme, maybe I should spend some time in one of those sensory depravation tanks for a couple of hours.

Is it the holidays? Because recently, everybody has been asking my advice on problems they're having with their significant other. I know it's not the case, but it's starting to feel like there aren't ANY happy couples out there. And when the hell did I become an expert on relationships?

Sunday, December 19, 2004


I think I mentioned before that I had a sip of red wine at the pizza party, but couldn't taste it. Well, at last night's Christmas Party at Cole's, I had a Spaten Light and I could taste it!

It may have something to do with being able to taste bread and grains. So, I had two big beers and a wonderful time. Unfortunately, it was the last Pleasant Something show since the band is breaking up.

That's another thing about this past year: break-ups. At press time, there were three pending divorces, a six-year-plus relationship went bust mid-year, and one band break-up.

On the upside, I met two of my friends' girlfriends at the party. They're lovely girls, but the "don't give girlfriends Laura's cell phone number rule" is still in effect. Because everytime something goes wrong, and it always does, I'm the one the future ex-girlfriends/wives keep calling to ask "why, why, why?"

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Pizza Night

Dinner last night was great. We polished off four pizzas and three bottles of wine. Celia, John, Katherine, Chuck and Andrew showed up, and with homemade oatmeal raisin cookies! By the end of the evening, the hallway smelled like a pizzeria.

We sat around on Moroccan bean bags and I served the food on my big wooden coffee table. It was very chill. Katherine, Andrew, and Chuck came up with a plan to build a loft in the northwest corner of my space. It would be about 8 feet off the floor so you can see the view out the high windows. But that depends a lot on how much money I have after the holidays and whether I'm willing to deal with more contractors. They didn't talk too much about the vault itself, but that's alright. It was great just having friends over for food again.

I'm thinking of having either a tamale making party (complete with a very sturdy blender for margaritas) or paella night for next time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I'm Back in the Asian Club

I can taste rice again!

For lunch today, I scored a chicken curry bowl at the food court across from the Federal Courthouse, thinking that I can at least get some vegetables and smell the curry through my mouth. But even though I couldn't taste the curry I definitely tasted the rice. Finally!

I'm a little concerned that breads and grains are the only things I can taste so far, only because of the temptation to go with a strictly carb diet. I'm still going strong with tofu most every night. Tonight I had a tomato and watercress salad. Watercress is supposed to be good for clearing the body of carcinogens, and tomatoes just plain rock.

I also made pizza dough for tomorrow's get-together. I was afraid that my loft would be too cold for the dough to rise, but I set the dough near the space heater for the first rising and it ballooned like a trooper. I may spend the weekend making bread. I want to try stuffed foccacia, or maybe even challah.

Started exercising again today. It's been a few weeks because of the fatigue that hit me near the end of r-therapy. Did a half-hour of yoga in the morning, then Pilates while the dough was rising. I took it easy, but it felt good. Tomorrow morning I'll try the free-weights.

Sunday, December 12, 2004


My friend Allegra came by the loft today. She hadn't seen me since she moved to New York. It kinda floored her how much weight I had lost since. It got me thinking of my New Year's Resolution last year: lose weight.

I had actually started the diet/exercise thing before the diagnosis because my GP said that if I wanted to keep drinking whiskey AND my liver, I would have to lose weight. So this being the first year that weight loss isn't a resolution I am left with only one directive: Be very careful what I wish for.

The radiation burns on my face are fading in some places and getting darker in others. I'm still using the Biafin the doctor prescribed, but in combination with this wierd creme my mother brought back from China. It contains sheep placenta, which is supposed to be good for cell regeneration. God, I hope so.

No news on the taste-buds. I'm increasing the variety of foods I'm eating, but nothing new has been registering. It's been only two weeks since r-therapy ended. I should be more patient. They did say it would take up to eight months for my sense of taste to recover.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Macaroni and Cheese

I had dinner at Cole's after work tonight. I need to bulk-up since my plan to maintain my current weight during December doesn't seem to be working so far. But how many chocolate croissants can a person eat a week?

I had the special with macaroni and cheese on the side. Here's the wierd thing of the week: I couldn't taste the cheese, but I could taste the macaroni. So unfair since I loooove cheese, and when I make the dish I use three different kinds of the gooey stuff.

I ran into Chuck and Andrew, the USC architecture guys who want to transform the vault. They're in the middle of finals, but sometime next week they're going to come over for a pizza/planning party. I'll have to make the dough ahead of time because of the limited counter space. I'm unpacking the kitchen tonight, so I'll have an idea of how big of an island I should get.

How exciting, my first dinner party at the loft!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Back in the hood

It's my first night in the loft, and it's COLD! But I'm very happy. My shower still doesn't have a door, so I have to mop up afterwards. I ordered a space heater and it should be delivered on Saturday along with my stove. The plumbers left a wooden platform that I'm going to confiscate and turn into a coffee table. It may be time to buy one of those electric sanding machines. For Christmas this year, all I want are gift certificates to Home Depot or Lowe's.

Went to Cole's tonight and hung out with my boss, Tom B., who's in town for the week, and becoming a semi-regular. He stops in everytime he's down from Northern CA. He's even taken in an I See Hawks show. Hung out with Leslie, Big Eric, Allan, Ali, and John. There was no band tonight, so it was pretty quiet.

I'm really going to love being back.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Girl, who did that to your neck!

That's what one of the crackheads in the neighborhood said to me the other day. I just said, "You should see the other guy." A group of them hang out nearly every day by the gate where I cross to my parking garage. That's how they recognize me, and they nod sometimes when I walk by. So on the positive side, you could say that Cancer has given me street cred.

Bought an electric stove tonight. Nothing sexy, just a white, self-cleaning, GE model. Since the building owner is deducting the cost from my rent, it's not really going to be mine anyway. If it were, I would've gotten the $700 stainless steel model to match my refrigerator.

They're supposed to finish up the shower tomorrow afternoon, and if all goes well, I'll be spending the night tomorrow. I'm still going back and forth on window treatments vs. trees. It's just that I would need custom drapes made because the windows are so BIG (74x144").

Unpacked my jazz CDs last night before the party. Spent an hour lying on my new bed blasting Johnny Hartman and Chet Baker. It sounded so great in that big ol' space. Ahh yes, the sweet smell of solitude is getting stronger and stronger.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Bread's back on the menu

I attended my friend Adam's open house tonight. He has the penthouse in the building my loft is in, and what he did to the space was just amazing. There was even a 20 bazillion foot Christmas tree that he stole from a lot on Wilshire (well done)! Three other friends live in the building, which is right around the corner from Cole's. It's like living in the dorms, only with better liquor and no classes!

The buffet set-up was great; three kinds of soup, a mashed potato bar, pressed sandwiches, LOTS of pretty bottles of alcohol, and a wonderful view of Downtown L.A. At first, I stuck to the soup and mashed potatoes, but I was a little bit encouraged when I could taste the curry in the butternut squash soup. Plus my tongue wasn't stinging from the club soda.

So I grabbed one of the pressed sandwiches, a ham and cheese on rosemary foccacia. My head exploded when I could actually taste the bread, AND it didn't hurt my tongue! So I went to town on the cream puff tower. I must've had at least 20 of those little suckers. I still can't taste anything sweet, but the puff pastry registered.

Since it was a party, I also put on some make-up for the first time in months. I put the stuff on well in advance in case it irritated the radiated area. But no problem. In fact, most of the redness is already fading. Not completely, but not so much that you can tell. I may look normal by New Years Eve.

All in all, it was a great night. Very cold, but great.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Which circle of hell are contractors in?

Picture a Persian Christopher Lloyd in "Back to the Future", except he ended up at "Saturday Night Fever's" wardrobe trailer and never looked back. Wednesday morning, I was shivering under three layers, when Isaac the plumbing contractor struts out of his car in a leather jacket and polyester slacks, his shirt collar exposing his hairy chest, and I'm waiting for someone to cue the Bee Gees music.

I'm usually a good sport when guys I don't know very well step over the line. If I was in a bad mood that day I would've been insulted by his very tactile brand of flirting. But I could tell he didn't mean any harm, so I let it slide. But mostly, his entire over-the-top personae just left me too stupified to do anything but laugh nervously.

I called Isaac just as he was picking out the shower at Home Depot. He said that because the space was small, he was going to get a 32x32 shower. I said, "I don't know what that means... look can two people fit inside?" Realize, I was just trying to get a frame of reference. He thought I was being literal. He laughed and said, "Oh, Laura, I love you. You bet I'm gonna find a good one for you!"

I stopped by the loft the next morning, and sure enough, it was a shower big enough for two, a 36x36.