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.

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 🙂

My Cousin Dave’s Guide to Why Your Stupid Smart TV Sounds Damn Crappy #mycousindave

My Cousin Dave recently sent me an email:

Cousin Dave

Why does the sound on everything stink today? TV’s, Tablets, computers, cells.
(Corporate greed! Oh, buy this special sound component.) My Stupid Samsung Smart TV, brand new, on 100, the highest it goes,
is just audible on some channels.
And my hearing is perfectly normal.

Well, Dave, there are several factors. But it basically boils down to two: audio compression and format.

Almost all recorded audio today is compressed. CD-quality was established as an audio standard when CDs were first released. The quality is crystal clear and typically mixed to be presented as stereo sound with 2 channels (Left and Right). The problem is that the data files are really big and you can only fit about 80 minutes of music or 700mb. That’s about 35mb for a 3 minute song.

Then the Internet became a thing and people very quickly realized that downloading a song took FOREVER. So one guy said, hey, since humans can’t really hear EVERY frequency why don’t we remove some of that “extra data”? And so he set to chopping out the bits (compressing) HE deemed weren’t important. So now we have a whole generation of kids that only grew up hearing compressed audio (MP3’s) and don’t know any better.

This same compressed audio is used in streaming movies and television today because of the same logic. Some stations and streaming platforms compress the fuck out of the audio and/or picture. The only way to get really really good quality picture and sound is to buy the Blu-Ray versions and play them on a really good home theater system.

That’s the first thing: compression. The second thing is audio format.

Unless you have your smart TV connected to a fancy home theater audio system, you’re likely hearing plain old (compressed) stereo sound. If the source of that audio was originally mixed for stereo, it probably sounds fine. But if it was mixed for more than 2 speakers… such as Dolby 5.1 Surround, you are likely not hearing some of the mix.

5.1 refers to the number of speakers that an audio track is mixed to. In a typical 5.1 set up you would have Front L and R, Front Center, Side L and R, and a subwoofer. The Front Center would typically have the majority of dialogue where the sides and subwoofer would have music/Sfx and so on. This is how they create that “surround sound”.

The problem is, if you don’t have that center speaker, you’re probably missing much of the dialog audio. Most smart TVs attempt to compensate for this with some audio trickery but it is inconsistent because there are so many different ways the original audio can be formatted. It’s like if someone were to listen to early Beatles with all the treble down and all the bass up…it would totally sound fucked up.

Your smart TV likely has a few different audio settings (check your manual or look at your remote). You may try switching to a different format that sounds better to you for whatever you are watching at the time. Or you can start investing in a home theater system and spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours learning the finer points of audio engineering.

Or just get some damn headphones ya deaf bastard!