Saturday, January 29, 2011

So I'm at the Bar and my Hook Falls Off

So we're at Proper Pub last night, honoring Captain Jack upon his retirement after 15 years as Padres Director of Military Marketing. He had bought me a beer, which I was sipping at a table as he was making a typically funny and awesome farewell speech. As I join in on the applause, I notice that my right hook is really turned inwards and the metal plate that serves as a wrist, connecting my hook to my arm, looks loose. Maybe a screw popped out and the wrist is just loose?

Minutes later, without me even lifting my arm, the wrist completely loosens, the plate pops off, and my hook is dangling off my arm. This has never, in my nearly 33 years of wearing prosthetics, happened to me. What do I do? I mean, after all, I still have a full glass of beer left. Plus you have all these Shanas and Alyssas here - I ain't about to leave this party!

I say a quick prayer, thanking God that this happened AFTER my work day, and then just asking for His help to get through this. Where I'm standing, no one can actually see my arm because it's tucked underneath the table, so I decide to play it cool and not say anything. At my table is Edgar, KMad, AG, Joycey, and Kara and I figure either they'll see it eventually or I'll just choose a quiet moment and ask for help.

Joyce then asks about a Facebook status I posted a couple days ago in which I described slipping off a chair at a law firm, grabbing a cookie on my way down, and falling to the ground and kicking like a turtle stuck in his shell. While eating the cookie. True story.

"OMG, that was so funny!" Alison exclaims, startling Karen. "I'm surprised you didn't break your arm!"

"Uh, funny you should say that, AG," I replied. I then lift my right arm up above the table, hook dangling and all. "My arm literally just broke right now."

Bedlam. Pandemonium. Chaos. Shouts and gasps and laughter. Except for Edgar, he was like, Whoa.

KMad and AG shouted simultaneously, "Whaaaat happpennned?  Are you okaaaay?"

Before I could assure them, yes, I was fine, Karen busts out her camera. "Lift your arm, I need a picture."   She snaps a pic and then AG takes one with her phone, which I tell her to Mobile Upload. She doesn't, opting instead to send it to Slick Nick and Rossi, who are down the street eating sushi at The Dragon's Den.

By now everyone around us is noticing my calamity. Warren Miller takes a black cloth napkin and turns it into a tourniquet and Mikey Grace, my fellow Star Wars buddy, says in a British voice, "Just leave me!  Save yourselves!" a la C-3PO when he was dismembered in Empire Strikes Back. Shana looks shocked so I wink at her. Doug Botos, who's an engineer, points out that every screw in the wrist is gone, at which point the hook disconnects from the cable and falls onto a chair.

There I am, a man with one hook, a suddenly-lightweight right arm (it's hollow), half a glass of beer now, and in need of a good screw.

KMad takes more pictures and I order more beer. When tough moments come in life, you have two choices: cry about it or laugh about it. We laughed about it.

AG grabs my wayward hook and clasps it onto the back of my shirt collar, Edgar and I continue our tradition of posing for pics together while looking mean and gangsta, we pay our bill, and we leave Proper. Steve Carter has joined us so he walks with our crew to Dragon Den on 10th & K. As we enter that establishment, we see Wuller, Slick, Rossi, and three girls on the patio, sitting at a fire pit. They look at me expectantly, I lift my hook-less arm, and whirl around so they can see the hook attached to my neck. LOL'sand OMG's ensue.

I tell Shawny that this is proof I would give my right arm for the Padres organization. I tell Golden he's my right-hand man. I tell Wuller I'm on the 15-day DL with a dislocated wrist. Don't stop me, AG, I'm on a roll.

Not wanting the entire conversation to be about my wrist management - you see what I did there, Erika? - I ask Slick if he's going to donate a kidney to alleviate Wuller's recurring kidney stones. Wull accepts. Slick refuses.

That crew had pretty much wrapped up their sushi so they cashed out and we all trotted to Toast, an Italian restaurant up one street on 9th & J. We sat down for some food and a nightcap - Slick, Rossi, AG, KMad, Carter, and me. AG removed the hook from my neckline, placed it in one of my four shirt pockets (I was wearing a cream-colored guayavera), and helped me with everything from pulling my credit card out to cutting up the chicken I ordered. She was awesome.  P.S. - Yes, even at an Italian cucina, I order chicken.

I offer to use my free arm to stir KMad's wine but she declines. While laughing at our table's banter, I bang my arm against the table, as if to pound it, which I think embarassed Carter. We wave at people we see and know at the restaurant. Spotted: AJ Remen, dining with his parents, and also George Stieren, and Ann Pickard. Georgie and Ann pay a visit. I shake their hands with my left arm.

At the bar is Warren, enjoying a quick nightcap. He asks if I'm ok and I assure him I am and that KMad is driving me home, so my arm situation won't even be an ishoo. He then says, "Hey, thank youuu for the laughs, brother."  I tell him as long as you have faith and friends, you can deal with anything, bruther.

So here I sit, wearing my backup set of arms, and guess what? The right cable snaps, meaning the arm elbow is stuck. Oh well, it's nowhere as severe as having a hook fall off. I'll get by with a little help from my friends.   

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So Osgood, Strasburg, and I Walk into Viejas Arena

Last night I went to the Aztecs game and it's amazing how much of a happening their games have become. Every game, even Wednesday tilts against Air Force, are sellouts and there are SCALPERS lining Viejas Arena. My buddy Adam Kinowski has a cousin, Mike Fitzgerald, who plays for the Falcons so he got us tickets. The last time I saw Mike was in 2007 and he was doing the worm on the dance floor of Adam & Nikki's wedding at the Hotel Del. Now I walk into Viejas and skinny Mike is a chiseled sophomore giving fits to ballers D.J. Gay and Malcolm Thomas.

I'm laughing as I enter the arena because at Player Will-Call I see my perpetual celebrity shadow: Kassim Osgood. By now he must think I stalk him and I must think an NFL player can surely dress better than a white jumpsuit with a black Affliction hat. I'm tempted to say, "Hey, man, thanks for taking a picture with me, Rossi, K-Mo, KRB, and Robbo at Shore Club last week" but a.) I don't want to have to endure him looking at me like I'm crazy and b.) whoever was supposed to leave him tickets failed! They turned Kassim away. Sorry, playah.

AK is stuck in traffic so I enter the gates and grab some pre-game grub. I munch on a hot dog, some Gatorade, and a pretzel that's saltier than Dick Cheney. What the heck, SDSU, why do you drown your pretzels in so much salt that I'm choking in front of the co-eds?! My hooks tasted like the freakin' Salt Sea! It was terrible. But I hear the pre-game intros and this place is hyyyyped. I used to go when Steve Fischer's team had four wins and 2,000 in the building. Now it feels like an NBA playoff game.

Adam arrives and as we hand our tickets to the usher, he points out we mistakenly were given tickets in separate aisles. So instead of disrupting people hoping to secure side-by-side seats, we eschew the Player Family section for the top row. The crip row. Me and my wheelchair-ridin', crutch-usin' people. It made for some awkward high fives.

The Aztecs are not playing like the no. 6 team in the nation and close to halftime they trail by six. It is then that Aztec alum, and Nationals superstar, and patron saint of quick pictures, Stephen Strasburg emerges from a hospitality area. With him are three guys, presumably all named Turtle. They walk very slowly to some very good seats and I am afraid he is going to get mobbed. Lo and behold, Strassy sits and the Aztecs go on like a 10-2 run. The miracle of St. Ste-pheeen. I wonder if Kassim ever got in.

Two hours later, despite Mike Fitzgerald's best efforts to post up on Bryan Carwell - Carwell didn't move - the Air Force Academy succumbs to SDSU, 68-55. I see Jed Hoyer and he looks pleased. AK and I walk all the way to the floor to visit with Mike, who says Carwell was an immovable object but extremely nice to the opposing players, and then we head to the elevator. To get there, we go around the perimeter of the court, where the Aztecs players are showered and visiting with friends and family.

I see this guy I know from PETCO, a cameraman, and he always says, "Hey, I saw good ol' Brett yesterday!"  I have no idea who he's talking about and I feel bad. As I'm thinking about this, I look up and the Aztecs players are gawking at my hooks. I say wassup and wish my buddy Nina "Peanut" Tarantino were here. She's feisty and would walk right up to them, look at them three feet above her, and say, "What?  You never seen someone with hooks before??"

The players look away and AK and I enter a crowded elevator. There are girlfriends, friends of girlfriends, kids of girlfriends, and in the very back is Carwell and Deee Jaaaay Gaaaaay. Both Aztecs players are holding a pizza - not a slice, not a plate, but a box of Papa John's Pizza. The elevator operator is apologizing for some buttons he's mistakenly hit and the two athletes shrug, look at my arms, and proceed to eat their pizzas.

As the elevator door closes, I see a white jump suit leaving the locker-room area, its owner heading for the exits. It's Kassim. He got in. He doesn't look that happy, though.  I'm wondering if he ate a pretzel.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rolling Deep

In life you need friends and persistence to get you through. Last week we had further proof that we have a good group of friends in that 15 or so of us got together at East Village Tavern for the BCS Championship Game. At the end of the work week, Slick and co-worker Kara joined 3/4 of Team MADness - AG, K-Mad, and myself - as we dined at Old Spaghetti Factory in order to load up on carbs and good memories for the next day's Stephen Strasburg 5K. More on that race momentarily.

In between those outings I had two speaking gigs. The first was before a group of mostly young and female occupational and physical therapists. Main message: the lessons and persistence you instill in your patients will pay off and my life is an example. Interesting moment: in response to my spontaneous rant about hooks not being good for touchscreens, like the iPhone, a lady says, "I saw on TV where hot dogs can replicate the sensation of a finger."  My response: "Wow. 'Cause that wouldn't be awkward."   They all laughed.

The next night I spoke to the Carlsbad Rotary, which mainly has retired military leaders and current business leaders. Main message: this is the greatest country in the world and this is how you can achieve your dreams by believing so. Interesting moment: had a Rotary coin accidentally dropped into my beer - a rufie perhaps? - and met singer Jack Johnson's grandfather. It was an awesome group.

Saturday morning I completed my first-ever 5K. SDSU's campus, where it was held, was hillier than I expected and frankly I need to shed some pounds. But my friend KRB walked with me and her jokes and music (Pandora) got me through. Plus all my friends who ran waited at the finish line. Message I learned: rest when you need to, but keep pushing, and with the help of your friends, you will make it. Interesting moment: I met Strassy afterwards and when I asked him for a picture he replied, "Uh, yeah, but quickly, I don't want to get mobbed."    Dude, there's 50 people left.

That night The Crew celebrated at Miller's Fieldhouse and Shore Club. We went to Sandbar for a nightcap too, and some big Hawaiian guy wanted to fight me because I was "in his way" but I figured he was just drunk and dumb.  Security tossed him. I was exhausted from dancing so much.  The next day at the Waterfront, another random guy asked if "my hooks could handle a woman's (bleep)."    I replied: "Your mom wasn't unhappy."     He laughed and did not punch me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vincent Doesn't Take Pictures

Saturday night about 12 of us convened at Miller's Field House in Pacific Beach to watch the Jets-Colts playoff thriller. About a year ago at this locale, I spotted Kassim Osgood and was still bitter that he was leaving the Chargers in order to - in his hopes - catch more passes for the Jaguars. It was not one of my prouder days but I started yelling to him, "619! You're gonna miss it here! It's all about the 619!"

He looked confused as to why this robot smurf was yelling at him.

So naturally we see him again at Miller's, and I tell KRB I want to apologize to him, but he leaves before we can go talk to him. So K-Mo suggests, after the Jets win (grrrr), that we go to Shore Club and who do we see? Kassim. He was really cool and started chatting while KRB grabs some bottles that were left on the bar. (Awesome.) He then took pictures with her, Karla, Rossi, and me.

I like taking pictures with athletes. I never ask for an autograph. I sometimes buy them a drink - you're welcome, Scott Hairston, Steve Gregory, and Nate Kaeding. I laugh if they have multiple bodyguards (Jay Cutler - cough!). 99% of the professional athletes you meet are cool, or at least polite. Vincent Jackson was polite too. He was standing nearby. VJ, can we take a quick pic?

"Vincent doesn't take pictures."

I was turned down by a dude shorter than me, who apparently was his spokesperson and protector. Kinda had a funny little mustache too. I think I'll call him Turtle. Sorry, VJ, have a good night, man. Take care, Turtle.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Walk This Way

After doing the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon last year on a relay team, I committed to doing more 5K's (and the RnR) this year. Next Saturday is the Strasburg 5k. I've been walking pretty much every day since Jan. 1 and last night I did four laps around beautiful PETCO Park. That's three miles. My back gets stiff way too easily and my leg gets pretty sore. But I did it. And through determination and faith, will continue doing it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

God's Hand on My Arm

Sometimes God just really amazes me so I have to thank Him, especially when things occur for which I really don't have much control. Case in point: on New Year's Eve day, I woke up having apparently slept on my left limb. It was bruised and swollen and in great discomfort. When I put on my prosthetics and lifted my left arm even slightly, discomfort turned to pain as the tip of my limb was tender and rubbed against the inside of my prosthetic arm. It felt like someone was grabbing my arm, twisting it, turning it, and then punching it for good measure.

Unannounced, Frankie walked into my room and without me asking for his help, just started helping me. He had no idea I was in pain. I asked him why he was suddenly assisting me and he said, "I dunno."  I made it through the day and watched the Fighting Irish bowl win with friends in La Jolla, doing everything with my right hand and making sure to avoid my usual celebratory punch-punch-push.

I got home, put some medicated cream on it, and saw the swelling start to reduce by the next day. I continued this all weekend. I just thank God because really the timing for such a misfortune was perfect. It was a long weekend, I wasn't doing jack, and if it was during the workweek I would've missed time because I couldn't even write or lift my arm up.

Then today I walk into work late and I see my boss arriving at the same time, and I know the lateness won't be a problem 'cause it's rare, but I want to avoid nervous small-talk. Can be awkward.

But he stops me and asks, "There's someone I've been wanting you to meet. Ever heard of Jim Abbott?"

"Sure," I respond, "he was a great major league pitcher with one arm. He was my boyhood hero!"

"Oh yeah? Ohh. Huh-huh."  He tends to laugh and almost hum all at once.

"Well I know him well. I'll set up a lunch."  With that he walked away.

I was stoked. My arm is still getting better. But I hope to be half as tough and successful as Jimmy Abbott was with the Angels, Yankees, and White Sox. God just amazes me with the blessings He gives.

Gasp! I should totally arm-wrestle Abbott.