The Marmite

Back when I was living in the Villa in San Francisco, I had two British flatmates who drank English tea every morning. I very much enjoyed it when they’d offer me a “spot-o-tea” as my Irish grandmother brewed tea daily as well. Along with their tea they often ate toast. But they didn’t put butter on their toast, they put on it a brown paste that came from a jar called “Marmite”.

Curious, one morning I tried some on my toast. It looked like Nutella and I was expecting a sweet chocolate or peanut buttery taste…. however… well, I think Amanda Fucking Palmer puts it best (Vegemite is even more evil than Marmite)

Post-Transplant thoughts #mycousindave

My cousin Dave and I email frequently. Usually sending each other random Seinfeld trivia questions, discussing recent movies or television shows, or music. He was the first one to really introduce me to the Beatles when I was about 10. He put late-1970’s giant headphones on me and put on “Revolution 9” from the White Album and he and his brother went in the corner and giggled as my 10-year-old brain was exposed to an onslaught of the trippiest weirdest Beatles song ever recorded.

Dave hit me, rather out of the blue, with a somewhat serious question about my recent experience of getting a liver transplant and the months leading up to it. Here’s my response (please feel free to listen to Revolution 9 while you read…it’s a fairly good audio accompaniment to how I felt during the crazy of the last year.

Cousin Dave: “In all your dealings with the Liver situation John, What period was THE MOST painful of the entire ordeal so far?”

Physically painful?  Definitely the first time trying to stand up out of bed post surgery. They made me do that on day 2. It took two nurses plus my sister Cara to get me on my feet. It HURT. My entire core, many of the muscles in my abdomen had been severed. After standing for a minute, I was spent. The post-surgery pain was significant and I was on pain medications for a couple weeks post-surgery.

Getting pumped with lots of stuff!

Pre-surgery the worst physical pain were the paracentesis/thoracentesis procedures, where they poked a needle into my abdomen or my upper back and sucked out extra fluid that had built up. Those were not fun and had many gallons of excess fluid drained over the course of many months.

In the ICU after my first episode of hepatic encephalopathy

But more than the physical pain, I’d say the metal pain was much more difficult. Dealing with the daily roller coaster of emotions of my mortality, dealing with the ups and downs of my health…one day I could be fine and then a few hours later be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The frustration of feeling helpless and hopeless, that I couldn’t trust my own brain to tell me when I was not thinking clearly (I feel like I can empathize with people suffering with Alzheimer’s much more now) but mostly the burden of the fear and pain I knew my family and friends were going through. All of that weighed heavily and still does.

Cousin Dave: And also, What period was THE Most Joyful of the whole thing?

How how so many people reached out, even people I barely knew who would tell me how I had made an impression on them. Like one girl I was facebook friends with (who I honestly don’t remember meeting), told me that she met me in a bar and we started chatting and I mentioned I played piano. And she said she had always wanted to play but never learned and she regretted that. I told her that it’s never too late to learn. And apparently she got home and started taking lessons and thanked me. You never know how little things you do and say can affect other people’s lives.

Or another girl name Gabriella, again a Facebook acquaintance, who had read when I posted that I was afraid I was going to miss a show. I had tickets to see Patton Oswalt at the Hard Rock live but I was still in the hospital the morning of the show. Thanks to the hustle of a very caring and resourceful nurse, she wrangled all my doctors on the phone on a Saturday and was able to get me discharged, but I didn’t have a chance to post until after the show that I made it just in time. After I got home I had a message from Patton Oswalt himself in my inbox because Gabriella had messaged him a told him I was sick.

There were so many moments like that, like the Patton Oswalt video, friends sending me funny messages or videos, everyone coming to a dinner at my favorite restaurant…like the week before the Covid lockdown began…the many friends who visited me, brought me groceries or tasty home cooked meals.

And I cherish how much closer I have gotten with my family who were all there the whole time. I had really come to grips that this might be the end and so I began to cherish every moment and opportunity that I had with every friend and loved one I could. I made amends with many former friends, forged new ones, I found a newly optimistic outlook on life. I really feel like I almost got to
experience my own funeral in many ways, and now I get a whole second chance at life.

Cousin Dave: Was that photo actually you at Doc’s\Transplant Place today?

Yes, that is a selfie I took in the waiting room of my transplant clinic this morning. Received all thumbs up from my doctor. Reduced more of my meds and it was my last visit with my transplant surgeon. Next visit I go back to my pre-transplant doctor.

Orange County #Florida ICU Bed Data 7/20/2020 #covid19 #orlando #orangecountyfl

ICU Bed Capacity across Orange County has increased since 7/8, but so have the number of occupied beds.

Orange County FL Adult ICU Hospital Data 7/8 – 7/20
Orange County FL Pediatric ICU Hospital Data 7/8 – 7/20

Data Source: Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration Hospital Bed Census Data

Living in Fear of COVID-19

Am I afraid? Yes.

I’ll admit it…I do live in fear. But I don’t think it’s the same kind fear as what the anti-mask crowd is calling “living in fear.”

I am afraid that if anyone I love or care about falls ill because of COVID-19 (or any highly communicable disease for that manner), that I won’t be able to be with them when they need comfort the most.

Having spent more time than I imagined in a hospital from March-May while waiting for a life-saving liver transplant, I know all too well how much having visitors helped keep my spirits up. Social media certainly helps, but there is nothing like being able to hold someone’s hand or hug them or just simply watch a movie together. To have someone bring me a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake or a Smoothie, drop off some comic books, some Twizzlers, Dinner from Maxines’s, play some guitar for me…anything from the outside world… helped.

The sterile environment of a hospital room can be a very lonely place.

And it’s a very scary place, especially because you’re there because you’re sick and not because you want to be. And despite having the best care and the most wonderful doctors and nurses, they can’t replace your friends and family.

When I first went to the hospital there were no limitations to who could visit me or even when. If someone didn’t get off work until 2am they could come see me in the middle of the night. I could have 4 people visit at the same time…the only limit was how many people could fit in the room and how many I had the energy for in any given day.

But as Covid-19 appeared, restrictions started happening. Visiting hours became limited as did the number of visitors. At one point it came down to one approved visitor per day and so I literally had to choose. But at least I still had a choice.

COVID patients don’t even have that luxury. They are prevented from having ANY visitors. Their interactions are limited to FaceTime or Zoom meetings or maybe a live visit through a glass window. They are at possibly the most vulnerable, helpless time of their life…possibly the end…and yet can not even find a tiny bit of comfort from the presence of the people they love.

That’s my fear. And any time I hear someone who mocks that fear by saying that we are acting out of “media-induced fear-mongering” or that “Covid is a hoax” or anything like that it just makes me sad. Because I know that they must not have ever experienced true loss or felt love. Theirs is a much more deep-rooted fear that I don’t and will never fully understand. Wear a damn mask!

The 30-Rock Reunion Show and Launch of Peacock

Watched the 30-Rock last reunion special on NBC/Universal’s new streaming platform, Peacock. I was a huge fan of the original 30 Rock show, but the final season certainly wasn’t the best. The characters increasingly became a caricature of themselves which ultimately allowed for lazy writing because they all just had to act as we, the audience, expected and it was, well, just fine.

This tends to happen with all sitcoms and why they eventually fall out of favor… actors age, grow weary of playing the same role, writers struggle to come up with new wacky situations, and eventually (and hopefully) the show comes to a natural and graceful conclusion sometime between seasons 5 and 10.

It makes sense that Peacock would launch the free version of their streaming service with a 30-Rock reunion show as the show is perfectly set in a quasi-reality universe of NBC television. It is a sitcom about a variety show which airs on NBC but has fictional NBC executives, some real actors and some actors playing roles as actors on the show. Confused? It can be confusing but generally you just have to roll with it.

The reunion is essentially one big Peacock promotion, and is self-aware that it is exactly that. Fictional Head of NBC is now Kenneth Parcel, a role he assumed in the final season of the show. TGS has been off the air for years and the story involves Jack and Liz roping the TGS cast and crew back together to pitch a TGS reboot.

Filmed in the age of COVID-19, she show was entirely shot “at home” with each actor utilizing their own homes and household members as crew. While it’s quite obvious that no one is ever in the same room together (except for Lutz and Sue, who are married in the default world), they obscure this with the fact that most of the show is telephone and video calls. I can’t even imagine the Herculean effort the editing team must have put forward to piece this thing together.

So how is it? It’s fine. It’s not tremendously funny but it is satisfying in a the way that you feel after eating a delicious meal with old friends. These are the same characters you have known an loved for many years and it’s a fitting reunion and hits all the checkboxes you want.

In the mix of the show, you see a lot of marketing for other shows in the Peacock Lineup, some look interesting, A new series based on Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World looks interesting. And there are new comedies starring David Schwimmer and Ted Danson which look promising.

23andMe Data Suggests Blood Type a Factor for COVID-19

The DNA testing company 23 and Me has been using their massive data sets to assist scientists with analysis in how COVID-19 spreads and if genetic factors play a role in determining how likely someone is to get infected and how severe the infection will be.

While not definitive, some of their early data seems to confirm that blood type may be a factor in transmission and immunity.

“In percentages, in the entire population, individuals with blood group O were 9-18% less likely to test positive when compared to other groups. “Exposed” individuals with blood group O were 13-26% less likely to test positive.”

Read more: Large Study Suggests Blood Type O May Be a Protective Factor Against COVID-19

Orange County #Florida ICU Bed Data 7/8/2020 #covid19 #orlando

Here are the latest numbers for ICU Hospital Beds in Orange County, Florida as of 7/8/2020.

Orange County Hospital Data 7/8/2020Adult ICU CensusAvailable Adult ICUAvailable Adult ICU%Total Adult ICU CapacityPediatric ICU CensusAvailable Pediatric ICUAvailable Pediatric ICU%Total Pediatric ICU Capacity
ADVENTHEALTH ORLANDO1464523.56%191262650.00%52
ORLANDO HEALTH – ORMC6500.00%65000
Image of Data

Here’s to one year of Sobriety!

Remember that year when you quit drinking, went to Burning Man, was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, spent months in and out of the hospital, saw Australia burn, the President get impeached, watched a global pandemic kill more than 400,000 people, giant locus swarms in Africa, survived a liver transplant operation, Saharan dust clouds, protests, civil unrest, riots and violence in cities around the globe, and Kanye West announced he was running for President with support from the guy who both designed your car and helped return America to manned Spaceflight? Here’s to one year of sobriety!

The Bobka Story #MyCousinDave #Seinfeld

One thing I share with my Cousin Dave is a common love of Seinfeld. So we email each other random Seinfeld trivia questions just for fun. One of my recent trivia questions I posed to him was: “What does Jerry think should be on every table next to the salt and pepper shakers?”

He correctly answered “cinnamon”. The line was from season 5, episode 13 “The Dinner Party”. Jerry and Elaine go to a bakery to buy some chocolate bobka to bring to the party. They are out of chocolate bobka and only have cinnamon bobka. Elaine calls the cinnamon bobka “lesser bobka” but Jerry defends the cinnamon bobka saying that cinnamon is the secret ingredient in everything. Which reminded me of my own related bobka story.

My most recent girlfriend (we broke up about a year and a half ago) was named Amber. Amber had the hots for me but initially I didn’t reciprocate. I was firmly comfortable with my single status and wasn’t looking for a long term relationship… something I could tell she really wanted so I kept myself at (what I thought was) a safe distance.

Anyway.. before we started dating she was going to visit friends in New York. Knowing she was going to NYC and that she would do anything to get on my good side, I gave her $20 and put her on a mission to go to a specific bakery in NYC that was rumored to be where they based the famous bobka episode from and buy me a chocolate bobka.

I was emphatic “Don’t get the cinnamon bobka! It’s lesser bobka!”

Chocolate Bobka

Mind you, Amber was not a big Seinfeld fan and only knew I wanted some strange chocolate bread. My buddy Dave (not cousin Dave) was there and snickering the whole time.

Amber comes back from New York without bobka. Completely and utterly Bobkaless. I don’t remember exactly what happened but she ended up not being able to find the place or something. I feigned being really upset and disappointed and pissed with buddy Dave laughing all the way along. “Wow,” I said, “you couldn’t do this one thing? It’s all I asked you to do! I was really counting on that bobka! It’s all I wanted for my birthday!” (I laid it on extra thick)

So this girl, Amber, goes and buys all the ingredients and spends an entire day learning how to properly roll and twist dough to bake the perfect chocolate bobka! It was amazing and delicious.

It was only then I started thinking…maybe I SHOULD date this girl? Initially it was a silly joke, but her bobka won me over. It’s true…the way to a mans heart is through his bobka…or Seinfeld obsession… one of the two.

Anyway, I tell Cousin Dave the story…his response:

“Hahahaha. That’s Great. True life, often funnier than made up. You should marry that girl.”

Too late, Dave. Too late 🙂