Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Finding Kansas Revisited: The Lost Chapter of "245 Boxes"

This chapter was cut from the book, but I've always looked fondly towards this chapter and I remember writing this all in one night. There are no major concepts here, and I may have repeated myself from previous stories, but if I'm going to revisit Finding Kansas I have to include this because it paints a picture of where I was. I do mention my trips, and the MRSA staph infection that also was a pivotal point in my writing career, but here it is, the original version of 245 boxes...

 

 

Two Hundred Forty-five Boxes



This piece is written for all the people I wish I could tell my story to.


                An interesting title is the first thing that caught your eye. What could 245 boxes mean? If you’re a warehouse worker, it may mean your worst nightmare. Then again, if it’s Christmas, it may be that you are really loved or come from a really big family. But in this case, it deals with the calendar. The time span this piece covers is 245 days, and as my journal is in box form via a calendar, that is how I came up with the name. What is one box (or one day) to a normal person is just another day gone by, but these past 245 have been memorable for many different reasons, and the word “normal” can’t be used to describe any of it, so here we go.

                I hope if you are reading this you have read all my prior writings; if not, that’s okay in this piece because there won’t be too many references to prior events, and if you have read my writings before, some things that happened in 2005 will be rehashed.

                We start with December 15, 2004. Besides the fact that my calendar mentions that Hanukkah ends on that date, it is the start of the 245. On that day, I had what you could call a date with a girl by the name of Rachel. I had met her on the Internet, and the day prior, I spent six hours talking to her via the Internet. On this Wednesday, I met her at my favorite pizza place and we talked, then I went bowling in my late league. This date was noteworthy because it was my first date in over a year and even more noteworthy because I actually initiated the contact.

                The story of Rachel only lasts five boxes, as she was a bit too out there for me. As she put it, “Beer has killed too many of my brain cells.” But the end of that story leads me to the start of the Winter Solstice and the start of my overseas travel.

                December 21 is the date that I will remember forever because one of my life’s dreams was fulfilled. I finally was going to travel beyond the borders of America. My fifteen minutes in the fifty-first state, ahem, I mean, Canada, doesn’t count (just kidding, Canada!). With my great memory I cannot recall what time we left, but I do know we flew from Lambert to O’Hare in Chicago. I wasn’t in the least apprehensive about any of the travels, but in O’Hare for a short time, I didn’t know the whereabouts of my dad. I quickly became panicked, as I did not have my cell phone on me, and my brain started to think of every bad scenario that may have taken place. It wasn’t long before I found him, but for some reason, he was a bit on edge, which, in turn, put me on edge, and then we disagreed on something, so at the start of this trip, there was a bit of tension.  Oh, I forgot to put where we were going. Not too many people are traveling out of the country for Christmas unless it’s family related, so I guess I should mention where we were going and why.

                My dad is a film producer/director/writer type of person, and he had a project to do in Lithuania. For those of you geographically challenged, Lithuania is east of England and was part of the former Soviet Union.

                The tension quickly died down, not because we resolved it, but just because there was so much to think about and to prepare for. For me everything was a new experience, and I wanted to take it all in. In fact, I can’t even remember what we disagreed about, but whatever the case may have been, after the four-hour layover, it was off to Frankfurt, Germany.

                The plane ride was a peaceful one, probably because of the destination than air currents. Traveling anywhere, when it leads to what one wants, always tends to be smoother.

                We arrived in Frankfurt as the sun was rising, and while looking out of the plane on approach and taxiing, there was only one thing on my mind, Which way is the Nurburgring? The Nurburgring is a famous track in Germany that the public can drive around at any speed for a certain price (I think about twenty dollars a lap). As much as I pondered that, it was time to get off the plane. I was shocked and almost afraid, as we had to exit the plane and get off on the tarmac and get into a bus that would take us to the terminal. It was a very eerie feeling exiting the plane and being so close to the massive turbine engines. I conquered that short fear and entered the bus, and we were headed toward a place that in my mind is one of the most compelling in the entire world, and that is an international terminal.

                Writer’s note: There are many different stories or pieces that could be written by themselves in this time period, but this will just be one long one with everything being covered that happened in that time period. I may write more about one topic or another and may provide more insight on something, but I will not be throwing anything out like a “game theory” or something of the sort.

                On that Wednesday, the twenty-first of December, I got my first taste of an international terminal. It was almost to the point of sensory overload for many reasons. There were shops that had products I had never seen before, there were at least a dozen dialects being spoken, and the sheer size of the terminal was almost breathtaking. But what really struck me was the sense of goodwill in the air. My experience was, that it is a place of peacefulness even through the chaos of hurried and weary-eyed travelers.

                After the layover there, it was time to fly to our final airport destination—Vilnuis. As we taxied toward the runway to take off and leave Germany, my thoughts were on that for the short while I was in the same country as a friend I used to know, Ashley. But as much as I dwelled on that, I had a book to get back to and it was a short flight (well, short if you consider the length of the flight from O’Hare).

                We got to our destination, and what first struck me while we were taxing toward the terminal was the coldness of the airport. What I mean is that at the end of the runway, it looked like a prison. The architecture of the surroundings had as much life as a cemetery. The wall between the airport and the road was a three and a half feet-thick concrete wall with enough barbed wire on top to kill an elephant. This was a definite sign that this country was once under Soviet rule.

                As we got off the plane, we met the pastor that would be our guide of sorts, and thankfully for me, he spoke English quite well and was more than eager during the stay to answer my questions about Lithuania.

                That first day we spent in the capitol city and my dad did a couple of interviews, one being the head bishop of the Lutheran church of Lithuania. The church that this bishop was at was in the middle of a very highly populated area, and the density was astounding. The roads are small and packed, and the last place you’d expect a church to be, there it was. What was even odder, there was a beauty salon connected to it and was essentially part of the basement.

                We didn’t stay there at that church too long, but long enough to hear the story of how the Soviets had trashed it during the Soviet era and how it was, and still is, being rebuilt to its former glory. I also tasted coffee for the first time, and I can tell you, I’m never trying it again. Even though my dad said it was a very strong brew, I’m still not going to try it again.

                From there, we drove around the city for a short while, and it was during this short while that all the day’s travels finally caught up with me. I started to fall like a brick from a high-flying plane. I was awake long enough to be scared to death a thousand times by psychotic European drivers (trust me on this, if you think Chicago is bad, you haven’t seen anything). So psychotic, in fact, that in a thirty-minute time span, we saw the aftermath of no less than five fender benders.

                From Vilnuis, we had to drive about five hours to the city where we would be staying. I don’t remember that ride because I was fast asleep once we left the city, but my dad said I didn’t miss much except a drunk driver that nearly killed us.

                After that drive, it was finally time to sleep in a bed. We were staying in the resort town of Palanga that’s nestled right off the Baltic Sea. We were dropped off, and as soon as I could, I was asleep in the bed, and it was a very comfortable bed as well.

                The next day we got up early, and we had a busy day ahead of us, but first we had to eat breakfast. We ate at the hotel restaurant, which would become the norm for us while we were there. I can tell you ordering food in a foreign land is quite interesting. If you order bacon and eggs, that’s exactly what you get: bacon and eggs as one. But besides the actual food topic, during this first day of breakfast, I heard a very familiar song. In the background, there was this song in a language I do not know, but I knew the song. It took me about fifteen seconds and then I realized that the song was in the game of “Project Gotham Racing2,” so now any time I hear that song I am instantly taken back into that hotel restaurant in Lithuania in the wintertime.

                Like I said before, we had a very busy day. It was the day before Christmas Eve, and we had many different places to see and do. One neat thing I did was walk over the Baltic Sea on this pier-like thing. While doing this, the waves were very choppy and the clouds coming ashore were quite ominous. A whale of a sleet storm backed up their ominous appearance. We quickly took shelter under the pier, but it quickly passed and we went back to the car. We visited with many different people on that day and saw much of the western part of the country.

                That night we went to our guide’s children’s Christmas party/play. It was an odd sensation to see a play and all the interactions but to not understand a word from anybody. It was neat to see that the interaction between parent and child is the same there as it is here. 

                After all the walking, we were very tired that night, so we went to bed expecting to sleep until morning. We were both wrong on that assumption because around 3:00 a.m., that wonderful thing called jetlag hit both of us. Somehow my dad knew I was up, and he asked me if I was and I replied that I was wide-awake. Instead of fighting it, we decided to stay up and read the books we had brought. To a tourist this experience may have been a bad one, but those two and a half hours were some of the most memorable of the entire trip. Maybe it was the sense of safety in that hotel, or maybe it was the fact that I finally realized I was halfway across the world, but whatever it may be, I will always remember those hours reading and being with my dad.

                We finally got back to sleep, and we got up and it was Christmas Eve. We ate breakfast again and the same lady waited on us. My dad asked her how long she worked because it seemed like, regardless the hour, she was there. The answer she gave was shocking. She stated that she worked from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. six days a week! In all the places I’ve been, it is the people stories like her that I wonder where they are as I write this. Is she still working sixty-hour weeks? How can someone do that and appear to be as content as she did? I could go on and on with those type of questions, but there’s more of this trip to talk about.

                Once again, it was Christmas Eve, and after eating breakfast, we went with our guide to this house where a birthday was being celebrated. But this wasn’t just any birthday. This was a birthday for a woman who was turning one hundred. That is just mindboggling for me, because she would have been alive for the pre-Soviet era, the Soviet era, and the current state it is now. Those eyes would have seen so much. And I better not forget they also saw WWII. At this party the people were quite friendly toward us American strangers. They asked us what it was like in America, and this one older woman was very intent on wanting to know why American movies were generally violent. All in all, it was a very memorable experience. Also, of personal note, that party was the first time I drank anything with alcohol in it. I had a glass of champagne. I didn’t willingly drink it, but when handed something and the person seems quite intent on giving it to you and you don’t speak their language, I thought it would have been quite rude not to accept. Only later did I know what it was.

                That night we went to our guide’s church service (by the way, our guide’s name was Darius) and I felt almost ashamed that I wasn’t paying attention in church, but I had to keep telling myself that even if I paid my fullest attention, I would be unable to understand a word anyone spoke. So after that I went to the side room and continued to read.

                After the service, I was in the back of the church just observing, and again I was shocked on how the interaction between people is almost identical to ours over here. Not that I was expecting a polar opposite or anything, but it was very weird to see a parent care for a child, but the words make no sense.

                After the church was locked up, we went to one of the elder’s houses and had Christmas dinner. The family was very nice to us and, for the most part, all spoke English. It was very intriguing to see Christmas customs of another country. The niceness of those people made me wonder why America isn’t as warm. The sincerity of the people is something I have never witnessed before. That warmness from people would be experienced on the next day as well.

                Christmas day was just like the day prior, except the hotel restaurant was closed, so that was a bummer. Thankfully, Pringles taste the same over there as they do here, so I munched on those, and the Cherry Coke’s taste is also quite close (don’t taste the Sprite though!). During the course of the day, which would be our penultimate day, we went to three different churches and saw the place where a very big church used to be, but it was destroyed in the war.

                It was indeed Christmas, but for me it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Christmas for me is all about routine and being with the same people, so while the calendar said it was Christmas, it didn’t feel like it. In fact, not even the temperature felt like it, as it was considerably warmer there than it was in my home in St. Louis.

                The next day would be our last full day in the country. Sadness started to creep in, as I am very much sentimental and every little thing I saw I knew it would probably be the last time I saw it in that place. For instance, that morning would be the last time I would have those bacon and eggs; that night would be the last night that I would walk into my room.

                That day would bring news of the terrible tsunami, but hearing the news reports in a different language kept us from knowing the full effect of the disaster.

                The last day we did some more touring and videotaping, and we also went to the Amber Museum. That museum was one of the weirdest I have ever visited; not so much because of what it is, but because of its surroundings. Its location is in the middle of this large park, and on this cold, snowy day, there were no people about, but in the middle of this park, there was a massive museum. Behind the very large and heavy doors were actually people who work there. It was just very odd, because it was about a half-mile walk to the place, and not a soul outside was to be found, but inside there were people. It was just a bit strange.

                That night we had our final dinner in Lithuania, and what a dinner it was. We ate at this pizza place that isn’t more than a quarter mile from the beach, and let me tell you, it was the best pizza I have ever tasted. If I ever have a lot of money, I may have a spur-of-the-moment urge to buy myself a plane ticket and fly over there just to have that pizza. It was so good, it should be outlawed! During that great meal, it was fitting that the sun was setting, because the sun was also setting on our journey. In less than eight hours, we would be headed back to Vilnuis to board a plane for home, but as that meal lasted, it was such a fine end to such a wonderful stay in a wonderful country.

                As I walked into my room for the final night, I silently got misty eyed, but my tiredness let me fall asleep fast enough before I broke out into full-blown sobs.

                After a short five-hour sleep, Darius was there to pick us up, and I said goodbye to my bed, and room, and hotel, and then to Palanga as the lights fell behind the horizon outside the rear window of the car. I slept the rest of the way to Vilnuis, and as the sun rose it was time to enter the airport and start the long trip home. Our first stint would have us fly to Warsaw; then from there we were back to Frankfurt.

                Our layover was to be just two hours long, and because we were going to be flying back on a 747, we barely had enough time to finish our McDonald’s meal. We got to the gate right as it was starting to board, and we were set to make our final voyage back to home…or so we thought.

                We boarded the plane normally and then we started to pull away normally, but then I noticed that a lot of little lights were flashing above all the steward stations. Then I noticed that all of them were on the phone, and I knew that this wasn’t a normal situation. I quickly thought worst-case scenario: Was it a bomb? Had we been hijacked? What was wrong? We started to creep back to the terminal, and I told my dad something was wrong, but he quickly dismissed my fears. They were found out to be somewhat grounded, as the captain came on the PA and said that there had been a small fire in the air-conditioning duct. The repair time was only an hour and a half, so after that we were back up in the air headed to Dulles.

                When we got back to American soil, we quickly had to get to our gate because of the prior delay, but thankfully we made it. But then, because nothing for me can ever be normal, our plane we were on for the last leg of the trip wouldn’t start. After another thirty-minute delay, we were finally taxiing toward the runway. That’s when the captain came on the PA and said some very unnerving words, “Okay, folks, as you noticed, we wouldn’t start and we were able to fire the right engine, but the left won’t fire. I’m hoping as we go full throttle the air will kick-start the left and everything will be fine. This is a normal procedure, but you may feel some tugging as we go down the runway. Like I said, this is a normal procedure. I haven’t done this before, but we should be in the air momentarily.” I know people like to tell it like it is, but did he have to say that he had never done this before? 

                As you can tell, we made it because I’m writing this, and after a long trip we were home, but my luggage was not. Somewhere it got lost in between Dulles and Lambert, and it would be three days before I would get it back. In my luggage were the mementos I had been given from Darius, so I was very nervous that they would be lost, but thankfully, I received them with my luggage. The mementos are in a white box that was taped at the Vilnuis airport, and I have yet to open the box because I fear it would be too painful, because the memories of when I received them were of such joy that I don’t know if I could handle the memories now.

                Jetlag hit me bad, and the next three days are somewhat blurred. I bowled in my bowling league on the twenty-ninth, and then for some reason I drove to Indianapolis to see my mom, who was visiting my brother. I had slept from noon until eight the day prior, so I was awake enough to drive, so at 1:00 a.m., I decided to go.

                It was a very foggy and nerve-racking trip. The fog was dense enough that from the right lane you would be unable to see the median, and all the while I was being passed by trucks and cars who were doing at least twenty miles per hour more than me and I was doing sixty, so I quickly picked my pace up because I would much rather do the hitting than be hit.

                I made it safely to my brother’s house at six in the morning, and my mom was up to meet me. Later that morning my mom and I ate at IHOP. We talked and I talked about my trip and all that had happened since the last time I had seen her. I really wanted to see the Brennons, but contact could not be reached so my hope that the prior Christmas could be relived was dashed (Okay, I made one reference to a prior piece).

                That evening, due to the jetlag, I went to sleep at 4:00 p.m., but because my brother’s place is rather noisy, I was awakened at 10:30 at night. I knew that I would be up for some while, and I didn’t want to sit and do nothing for the entire night, so just as spontaneous as my decision to drive to Indy, I made another one to drive back just twenty-one hours after I started my way there. My mom didn’t like this, as she wanted to be with me for New Year’s, but like I said, I didn’t want to do nothing all night, so I left and headed back home.

                Something happened on that drive home that was most unexpected. My former girlfriend, Emily, called me and we talked for a good forty minutes. As she started to go, she said she would call me back after she ate, but in true Emily form, she never did, and to this day I haven’t gotten that phone call back.


That brings us to the end of the turbulent 2004. Will 2005 be any better?

                As 2005 started, jetlag was dogging me much like a mosquito that keeps buzzing your ear. I just couldn’t shake it or get my hours back on a somewhat decent track. On January 4, I slept an astounding seventeen hours, and then I finally regained some control of normality on my sleep schedule.

                A week and a half later, my dad talked to the Linger Production Group. They are the ones who produce ABC’s telecasts of the Indy Racing League races and the Indy 500. He talked to them about getting me an internship of some sort, and on first talking with them, it seemed like something could be worked out. Five days later it was said that I would be working the St. Petersburg race.

                January 30 would mark the day that I would start to really take my writing seriously, and after that day I have been firing off pieces left and right.

                February 4 marked my twenty-second birthday, and in true typical Aaron fashion it was a rather depressing day. For me nothing is more depressing than a birthday. It’s one more year toward the end, the end of what I don’t know, pick something and that’s what’s closer to the end.

                Eight days later I would be watching Speed’s coverage of the ARCA race from Daytona. It was a crash-filled race with several red flags and one extended red flag because a car destroyed the catch fence and it needed to be repaired. Later in the race, on the next to last lap, the screen flashed quickly to a car upside down sliding down the backstretch. As it slid, it got back into the grass and started to tumble, then it was hit hard by another car, and immediately after that happened, the shot changed and the angle was now looking straight down the backstretch. As the angle changed again, more cars could be seen flipping, and one car flew as high as the top of the catch fencing. It was, to put it mildly, a horrific scene.

                Speed’s coverage of the aftermath was horrible. Not a mention of the crash in the post-race interviews, and they went to their NASCAR pre-race show as if nothing happened. This scared me, as in the racing world no news is bad news. Had a driver been killed? Or more, did a car off the screen fly into the lake or into the stands? What happened? The Internet sites were mum about it, and for the next hour and a half there wasn’t a single word about. I went absolutely crazy in fear that something horribly bad had happened. In the end, just one driver was moderately injured, but that time of anxiety was very, very great.

                Four days later, it was confirmed that I would be going to Kenya later in the year. This was great news, because I was getting very depressed because I wasn’t doing much of anything and there wasn’t really any progression of any sorts on any topic, so this was much-needed news.

                That weekend saw the running of the Daytona 500, and it was a very depressing time. It was the first time in over six years that I would be watching the race alone. Prior to 2005, I either saw it with my dad, or from 2001-2004 I watched it with Emily, but since she hated me, and my dad had a business obligation, I was relegated into watching it by myself.

                Two days later, though, all that would be forgotten, as my dad and I were headed to Indy to have a meeting with the Linger Group. My dad said that the meeting went well (I couldn’t tell if it was a good meeting or a bad one), but it was decided that my first work would be the Indy 500 and not the St. Pete race. This was decided because the Kenya trip would interfere with that race.

                Two days after that, on February 25, it was time to get my shots for Africa. Prior to this day, I had a streak of 386 days without a hospital visit, but this day would see that streak end, but not of my own doing.

                I don’t remember much about that day, and the first thing I remember is grimacing in pain as the yellow fever vaccine was injected into me; then suddenly everything went black. I don’t know how long I was out, but as I awoke temporarily, I thought I was getting out of my own bed to go get the shots, so it was quite the shock when I was dressed, sitting in a chair, and the lights were on. I simply asked, “Dad, where am I?” and before he could give an answer, I was out again. I have snippets of memories of that time and the time I came fully aware of my surroundings in the hospital. It wasn’t a pleasant experience at all, as it felt like I had been awake for a week with no sleep and no food. What had happened was the needle had hit a nerve and it triggered a very long medical term but, for space’s sake, it caused me to faint.

                Not much of note happened between that incident, and it was time to go to Kenya on the twenty-first of March.
                At this point in time, please refer back to “Kenya.”
                I probably saved myself three hours by doing that, but I’m sure if I had rewritten it, it probably would have been the same anyways…

                As hectic as December to March had been, the first three weeks of April were very dull in comparison. Bowling on Mondays and Wednesdays was about my only excitement, minus the weekends I flagged.

                The twentieth saw me to see a coworker I knew six years prior. Her name was Carol. It was very nice to hear how she was doing, but it was also saddening because I instantly remembered all the memories I had. And when I mention memories, I just not only remember the time working with her at the bowling alley, but I remember the entire time era that I knew her. So Linda was remembered, and the days I would go over to my dad’s apartment and play “Grand Prix Legends” and the afternoons where I would go to play golf at Forest Park. It’s amazing what one person can do to unlock so many memories.

                Two days after that meeting another incident would occur. I was flagging a practice session, and at the end of it the primary race director wanted to chat about where the next race’s starts would be, so he got this flatbed (not a pickup, imagine a golf cart, but without a top, longer, and with just one seat), and we were going to drive out to the finish line. As what I mentioned in the parentheses, it only had one seat, so I was seated on the flat part. Bad idea! As he drove toward the track and made the turn onto the track, the vehicle was traveling too fast to hold me, and I was flung off much like a rodeo rider is bucked off a bronco. I landed on the ground, thankfully feet first, and I was able to take about five steps before falling, and those five steps let me land on grass and not asphalt. But in the end, I had a sprained ankle, and another trip to the hospital would be necessitated.

                The prognosis was good, and it was only a mild sprain, but the hospital visit would prove to hold more boxes of my calendar than just April 23. The trooper that I am, I flagged the next day; granted, I was hobbling, but I did do it.

                May 2 would be a day that would shape the rest of the year so far. Before this date, I was still looking forward to working for the Linger Group and being at the Indy 500 as an intern. But on this morning, I would wake up with a phone call saying that ABC had taken over the dealings concerning interns, leaving me cold and in the dark. It was a very bitter day for me.  I had been told that it was going to happen, and as so many things have happened before they fall through.

                Three days later, I went to a baseball game with my stepbrother, Mike, and normally a game itself isn’t worth putting in something like this, but during this game, the other team had runners on first and second with no outs, and Mike said, “Boy, a triple play would be nice in this situation,” and no sooner than he finished the word of situation, a triple play had happened. Not too many people can say they have seen one of those.

                May 9 was the day I completed reading A Tale of Two Cities, and I’m not much of a reader, but that was a really good book. It was very depressing, as I saw myself in one or two of the characters (too bad for you, I won’t mention who), and it was a rather bleak book. The next day I would start to get very sick, a sickness I will never forget.

                May 10 I woke up with what I can only describe as a pimple on steroids on the back of my neck. On this day, I would think nothing of it except some mild discomfort, but the morning of the next day would prove to be very bad. I woke up with a fever that eclipsed the 104-degree mark, and I woke my dad and we went straight back to the hospital (this is why I mentioned prior that the hospital visit would be in more boxes).

                I was admitted to the ER, and the ER doctor lanced the bulging abscess and then put me on IV antibiotics, and for the first time in my life, I was admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay. I wasn’t feeling like myself at all, so I didn’t care where I was so long as I was getting those nice blue pills that were killing all the pain, but what I don’t understand is why they wake a person up, like myself, who has just fallen asleep to give them medicine to help them go to sleep. Also the constant bothering of checking my blood pressure and what not got to be very annoying, but I guess it’s their job to make sure the patient isn’t dying.

                The next day my fever was still persistent, and my primary care physician was actually going to discharge me, but my dad called the nurse, and since I wasn’t getting any better I was going to be kept another night.

                The second night into the third day was one of the most depressing times of my life. My dad was headed to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and I talked to him at 4:00 in the morning, but after that, I couldn’t sleep. I thought of how many people I used to know and how they would never know if I died there on that bed. At the time I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and even if I did, with all the pain and pain pills, I probably could not grasp whatever condition I had, but sadly I did realize how lonesome I was. I wondered if Kyle would ever know, or Emily, or Ashley, or anybody. When the mind has nothing to do but think upon itself, it isn’t a productive experience.

                On that morning I was scheduled to have my next dose of all-important painkillers at 6:30. The nurse shift change started at 6:15, and 6:30 came, then 7:00, then 7:30. Each quarter hour I buzzed and said that I really needed the medicine because the pain was so great that there were times that I wished that I were actually dead or in a coma. As bad as the pain was, either of the two would have been just fine. Eight o’clock became 8:15, and then finally, finally after hours of pain that no one should endure, I got the medicine. At the same time I was told that the reason I was so sick and had a big mass of something on the back of my neck was because of a staph infection. A doctor looked at me and then said she would do surgery in the next two hours, and sure enough, I had a surgery. While I remained awake for it, it was rather painless except for the pain-numbing shots that were injected. And some of those needles went in about an inch!

                They needed to go that deep because that’s how far she made the incision, and not only did she make an incision, but she took out the entire mass. The mass of infection was about the size of a U.S. quarter and the depth of approximately one inch.

                After the short surgery, I was back in my hospital room, and Mary, my stepmom, was on her way to pick me up. I had not seen what my neck looked like, and at the time I was not aware of the fact that part of my neck was gone. But as she arrived and as the nurse was telling her how to pack the wound, I knew it was bad, because when the nurse took off my bandage, she looked like she saw a ghost. When I got home and saw in a mirror what my neck looked like, I could not believe my eyes.

                The falling apart of the internship may have been a blessing in disguise because had I been up in Indy, I may not have said that I needed to got to the hospital for fear that I may not be able to work. So what does this mean?  I probably would have just dealt with the pain, and that could have had fatal consequences.

                Even though I still had a hole in my neck, we went up to Indy to attend the 500. It was a great race and a great time all around, as we went to two races the day prior to the race and also saw Star Wars Episode 3. So many good memories abound from the end of May.

                The entire month of June was mainly wasted away playing “Forza.” During this month, I was the number-one rated player in the world, so I had to maintain that status. I did apply for a job in this month, but I think I’m glad that they would just keep my application on file because the more I think about it, the more I believe that a normal job could kill me. Oh, the application was to the bank that I formally worked at.

                The start of July was more like what I’m used to with that being stuff outside the norm. July 2, my best friend, Kyle, got married, but I wasn’t invited to it, so I don’t really know what that means, if anything. But after that, not even a week after, a hurricane was brewing in the gulf. It was less than nine months removed that Hurricane Ivan ravaged Pensacola, and this new storm with the name of Dennis was on the same path. So what do we do? Well, since I guess we hadn’t had enough adventure in the previous nine months, we went down before the storm so we could be in the storm.

                Dennis, when it was 150 miles out, was a category-4 storm bordering on becoming the worst category of a five. We were somewhere near Mobile, Alabama, when it hit, but we were on the west side of the eye, so we didn’t get any severe weather, but we got winds that were still over fifty miles per hour and torrential downpours.

                Somehow I made it through without getting injured, and thankfully for the citizens of that area, the storm weakened and it wasn’t as bad, so on July 12 we got back to St. Louis.

                After that, once again, there was a lull in any noteworthy activity, until August 1.

                On August 1, I went to the baseball game and I was expecting a good game, but I wasn’t around to see the first pitch. Of course, something bizarre had to happen to me. I was walking back to my seat after getting a bottle of water and this vendor passed me and said, “Excuse me,” then as soon as he passed me, he cut in front of me stopped suddenly. I tried to avoid him by walking left, but I made contact with him, and as my luck would have it, I slipped on previously spilled Coke and ice and I went backwards into a wall with my head; in the end I suffered a concussion and whiplash. I can’t even go to a simple ballgame without an episode from bizzaro-world hitting me.

                I spent about six hours in the ER and was released around 2:00 in the morning, but I don’t remember too much about that. Since that time, my short-term memory has been a bit shaky, and the dizziness and headaches were brutal. They are slowly diminishing, and I hope that they will go away in full shortly.

                So what does the future hold? Today on box 285, I wrote that I heard from a friend I had not heard from in ages (Josh), and also that I have a meeting with a man who owns a sprint car. Will the boxes in the future hold good things? People live their lives looking so far ahead (I know I do), but sometimes one has to look within four lines to see a box and realize that there are days, and within each box a life-changing experience can happen.

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