Katie Michel (cont'd) (Day 81)

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette ran an article about my friend and her family. A link to the article - which features quotes from friends, family and customers, as well as gives information for where to make donations to - is here.


Katie Michel (Day 79)

It was a dark, snow covered night during the thanksgiving season when my then girlfriend and I had an argument regarding which bus stop to go to in order to catch the shuttle to the airport resulting in us being stuck in downtown Pittsburgh expecting to either be late for or miss our flight to Philadelphia. With stress levels as high as our suitcases were heavy, we crossed Liberty Avenue and ducked into a Dunkin' Donuts with our cell phones in our cold and desperate hands looking at each other wondering who we could call to help us in making our flight on time.

After a few minutes of my girlfriend trying to call some of her friends, a thought came to me - "I wonder if Katie Michel is around..." I searched my phone book quicker than I ever had before and pressed "send" when I arrived at her name. To my favor, Katie was at home, and agreed to come across town to chauffeur my girlfriend and I to the airport.

Twenty minutes later, Katie Michel came down Liberty Avenue in the snow, smiling behind the wheel of the four-door she had named Rutherford for a reason I either never knew or can't remember. As Katie pulled over over, my girlfriend and I jammed our luggage into the car where we could, and thanked her the entire way to the airport which was still a thousand times less than we should have. Promising something special for her when we returned from our holiday, Katie just smiled, and told us we didn't have to do anything for her and wished us a good and safe trip.

Not expecting anything in return for the kindness and generosity she gave to others is a quality that makes Katie Michel stand out in my mind. Never did it seem that Katie was doing me a favor, or that I was inconveniencing her in anyway - instead, if ever I needed anything from her, it always seemed as though she wasn't only willing or able to do it, but that she actually wanted to do it.

Living each day to it's fullest is a saying we hear a lot, but that's exactly how Katie lived her life. Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, and having been through a lung transplant by the time I had met her, Katie Michel made the most of every day she was given knowing that each day she had was a gift - another day she had beaten her odds.

It was in the spring following her holiday rescue of my girlfriend and I that I overheard Katie cough and knew her lungs were in rejection. As quick as I asked her about it, she told me not to worry, that she was switching medications and was hopeful that the symptoms would subside. A few months later though, she was admitted back to the hospital which is where she would stay until July 24th, 2007 when she passed away at the age of 24.

Two days before I left Pittsburgh, the last thing she ever said to me with the help of a nurse was "I love you." It took all the energy I had to hold back my tears until I made it out of the hospital and called my sister to tell her about the kind of friend I had, and how unfair it was that this was happening to her. As long as I knew her, though, Katie Michel was always a strong and hopeful person who kept a positive attitude through all her hard times. A great friend, and the best kind of human being you could hope to have in your life are what will keep her special to me.

I spoke with her brother earlier today, and her family is asking those who knew her to make donations to a scholarship fund. If any of you have been touched by her life, or perhaps even just this story, feel free to visit www.olsh.org, to donate.


On Driving (Days 62 hrough 64)

My friend Diane and her boyfriend John came to New York for a food show with the promise of a place to crash while here. While we had fun when we could (I've been working a lot lately), their means of transportation to this fair city of mine was Diane's car.

What I have to say on driving in this city is this: If you have any inkling that you are a bad driver, a driver who gets stressed out easily, or someone who in general doens't like crowds, loud noises, surprises or really, just other people - do not drive in this city.

I love Diane and John dearly, and wold not consider either of them a bad driver, even if Diane has some of her own reservations about it. However, the two times the three of us were ina car together we got lost - once in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the other time ending up in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Awkward laughter, road rage, and finally crying were all responses to the stress of driving in and around the city. it's not even that the city itself is that hard to drive in - the streets in manhattan are basicallya grid - it's that the driving here is so agressive that with so many two-ton death machines on the road, if you're not sure of where you're going, or wha you're doing, you'll get lost, or possibly even run over in teh shuffle.

The subway is cheaper than the tolls, gas, parking and pills you need to help de-stress, and to be honest, if you're coming for a visit to New York form any other major city, Southwest and jetBlue probably offer some kind of cheap airfare, with Amtrak or *shudder* Greyhound being acceptable options as well.

Knowing Diane will eventually read this, I hope she doesn't feel that I think odd of her for her, or resent her in any way for getting caught up in teh stress of motorized transportation her ein the city. To be honest, I'm looking forward to the next time her and her navigator come visit because after all was said and done, I'm pretty sure they decided flying was a better option.

If you're planning a visit to New York anytime soon, I suggest you do the same.

On Love, Cigarettes (Night 60)

Since my first Marlboro Red when I was standing at the bus stop at about age 15, I've gone back and forth between smoker and non-smoker. I've quit after being caught by parents, in order to keep a girlfriend, and most recently, after a throat abscess that landed me in the hospital twice about two years ago. i suppose that even through that, though, there are still things about it that are attractive to me.

For instance, I enjoy the smokers lifestyle. A typical night of mine as a smoker in college was spent at bars or coffee shops taking in more than necessary of what was served me, talking to made friends, and making new friends - whether fellow writers, cheating hostesses, or the owners of the establishment I was in.

Moreover, though, something I learned about myself not so long ago is that I have an odd - if not comfortable - relationship with pain. While not a "cutter" or anything like that, I do deal with pain, or painful experiences, by laughing through them in what is usually a self-deprecating manner. I would rather deal with the pain of hurting myself than with that of the actual "problem" afflicting me.

Something I linked this to earlier in the week is my opinion of love at the moment. For those of you meeting me through this blog, I'll just say that I've been hurt a lot in my relationships, and it sounds all so melodramatic but I'm of the mind right now that I can't continue to go through the pain of opening u to someone and then having them hurt me in return. in fact, shortly after my last relationship ended, it was to teh point where I was seriously considering hurting myself in order to not be able to be hurt by the "real problem" of the relationship ending, and so after picking up the habit again in teh not so recent past - this is why I smoke.

It's not because I believe my jokes of how "it looks cool", or that I even believe I'll be one of the lucky few who makes it to his 110's on nothing but a scotch, bacon and cigarette diet - it's because even though I know teh addiction only ends one way - at least I know it. There's no surprise end as in a relationship - no being cheated on, no engagement broken off, and no being told 'we're just not right for each other."

And so, as in any relationship, even in cigarettes there are consequences, and in New York City, it's not just consequences of health but of laws as well. Tis past friday night I was having a cigarette on an outdoor subway platform - a place with nary a "no smoking" sign in sight, when an officer of the law - one of new York's "finest", so to speak - came up to me asking for identification and fined me fifty dollars.

The citing officer told me the chances were good that if contested I'd get the fine reduced, if not thrown out completely, but that he had to issue the citation anyway. With that in mind, I'm panning ot plead "not guilty" and go before a majistrate to argue my case - I'm new to the area, there were no posted sings, and I wasn't hurting anyone but myself.


The Writer Returns (Day 60)

It's been 26 days since my last post, and I feel kind of terrible for it. Not only have I let things go on here, but personally, I'm sacrificing my need to write. It's therapy, in some way, I suppose - even if I'm not getting all that personal on here. The mental excercise, though, is what I believe helps rid myself of some of the everyday stressers and makes me "feel" better.

That being said, a lot has happened in 26 days...

1) I'm going to be an uncle again. In June my sister told me she's pregnant for the second time. Come December or so, my nephew will have a little brother or sister to play with..

2) I've moved. I know live ina sectio of New York known as Ridgewood that borders Brooklyn and Queens. My roommate is a 21 South African girl named Leann brought here by way of Colorado. Her boyfriend, James is around a lot as well.

3) I'm preparing for promotion. I briefly met another store manager here in New York who said he'd be looking for an Assistant manager in the fall. My current store manager told him (with me in the room) that I would fit in well with his store and hat I'd be ready by fall. I'm grateful to have the support, and am anxious and eager to take on more responsibility for the company, but I'm also a firm believer in Murphy's Law as well. I'm planning for the best right now, and focusing on being the best I can be in my position right now.

4) I got robbed. I drank a bit too much one nite a few weeks ago and ended up passing out in the Union Square subway station. When I came to, my sport coat, wallet and PDA were gone. The PDA is a loss, but luckily my bank card was turned off immediately and the money refunded, and through the kindness of a stranger, my State ID was returned to me. It's been a hassle, and replacing some things cost me some money, but in the end it's not as if I got punched in the face or anything.

5) I got punched in the face. Two days after being robbed I was coming around the corner towards my apartment when a large man bumped into me. I didn't think anything of it until he came back, spun me around and began saying something to me in beer soaked Polish. Finally asking me "Is there a fucking problem, motherfucker?" in English, I told him "No. Get the fuck off of me", and released his arms from their pinning of me to a fence. As his arms were flung up and outwards, he took one back, clenched a fist and took one swing at me, connecting with my jaw. A man yelled from the street and my assaulter took off. Luckily though bigger than me, he hits like a girl 9at least when drunk.)

6) I changed my phone number to a New York number. If you don't have hte new one, let me know and I'll send it to you.

7) I visited family and friends in Pennsylvania. I went to Lancaster for a visit from Saturday through Tuesday. I saw and talked to a lot more people their than I have in a long time. Amber's sister (Kate) had her baby with some complications but all is well now. Lisa (you know, the one who helps me "run" this site) is still a social butterfly and incredibly fun to talk to and shop with. Ashley was able to take the two hours I saw her for (the first time in five years) and make me realize why I miss having her in my life. And finally, while my youngest siblings weren't home this past weekend, I did see my sister (in town from Chicago) for a day, which is never enough time.

That's about where things stand right now. Diane (a friend form Pittsburgh) and her boyfriend are coming to visit me this coming Sunday through Tuesday, which is exciting, and sometime in teh near future I need to call Joe, Josh and Cait and see when I cna make plans to hang out with them.

I'll update soon.


"Look Before You Leap", being the moral of thsi story, I suppose (Day 34)

After trying to recover from teh hangover for half the day, Josh and I decided to head into Manhattan to buy CD's, DVD's and Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream Ice Cream. I boght my box sete of Ghostbusters I and II back (it had been stolen 2 years ago), and Josh bought an Elvis Costello record or two. Approaching 8th Ave., Josh spotted a place called "DVD Palace" nad persuaded me to check it out with him.

The first thing I noticed upon entering was the staircase leading downstairs with a neon "Adult Section" sign glowing in the midday sun coming through the door. The man working the door stopped Josh and I and asked if we had ever been there before and thsi is what happens...

Doorman: "You two ever been here before?"

Josh: "Uh, no. Is thsi stuff to rent or to buy?"

Doorman: "No, we don't rent anything man. It's all to buy."

Josh: "Oh, ok. Good. That's what we want."

Doorman: "Ok, well, let me tell you about the place. Up here are all our karate movies, and then here you've got all our adult movies which you can take into the booths right here and watch 'em, and If you decide you like 'em, you can buy 'em. Downstairs are all our new releases.

Josh: "Uh, ok. Thanks."

Realizing that this is not the kind of place we were hoping for, we hold out hope a moment longer to go check out the new releases which we come to discover are intermixed with condoms, jellies and dildos.

After we left the store we proceeded up 8th Ave. in search of the ice cream and find that every other storefront is advertising some form of adult entertainment.

Wild Night (Night 33)

9pm - It's 9pm and I can't get in touch with Joe, who I have plans to go out with. I look at Josh and ask, "Josh, do you want to go get drunk?" "Kind of," he replies. Cait tells us to go have a guys nite and Josh and I don't hesitate to oblige her.

10pm - After a train ride intot eh Village and a stop to get cash, Josh and I make it to Bar None - a bar which promises $2 drinks every nite from 11pm to midnite. We order a drink inside, where it seems to empty to be a bar in New York. Josh's Guinness is $6, my Whiskey and Coke is $5.

10:32pm - A shot girl comes up to us offering something orage with vodka or a Jagerbomb. I choose the Jagerbomb. Through the flirting she's required to go through with me, I find out that she's a Penn State, marketing student. She mentions something about an internship in the city, but I don't remember much of what she said about it. I can only guess selling overpriced shots to eager twenty-somethings is what she meant.

11:01pm - Josh orders a $2 Whiskey and Soda Water. I try to order 5 of my drinks and the bartender tells me they have to give them to me one at a time during the special.

11:04pm - I order my third drink.

11:08pm - My fourth drink and a call from Joe telling me he and his girlfriend are heading into Manhattan to meet up with us by around midnite. Along comes drink number five.

11:15pm - A girl named Jacqueline approaches Josh and I and tells us she's the event planner for the bar. She asks us how we like the place and we tell her we like it fine. I give her a fake name as Josh fills out the mailing list. Afterwards, Jacqueline buys Josh and I each a drink.

11:30pm - After six drinks and a shot, I'm starting to think I should slow down. I find the restroom, and after my go, man the table as Josh has his.

11:45pm - Jacqueline comes back and asks us where our drinks are. I tell her I've had seven already. She buys Josh and I another each.

12:02am - Joe arrives and the four of us decide to go to a place he describes as "a Johnny Cash bar."

12:25am - We enter Doc Holiday's (the Johnny Cash bar) and find seats at the bar. Joe tells me to order four PBR pounders and tells me I'll be surprised at how cheap it is. I order the beers and he's right, I am surprised - $16 is far too cheap for four PBR's.

12:32am - "Ring of Fire" comes on the jukebox, and the stocky, suicide girl of a bartender jumps on the bar laces a shot in her mouth and ignites it, causing a fireball to erupt. She then sprays the crowd down with seltzer water.

12:44am - Joe orders another round of beers.

1:15am - I order another round of beers.

1:35am - I make my way to the bathroom. After, I put a dollar in the jukebox which contains no records by what you would call "modern" artists, and what the juke does have hasn't been released since 1972 save the one Johnny Cash record from the oughts it has. I pick two songs, but somehow notice that I have ten more plays. I tell some douchebag ina polo shirt that I have plays left if he wants.

2am - Joe orders what will be our final round at the bar. He tells me about job offers he's gotten, and speaks highly of his girlfriend, who earlier inthe evening I asked ot teach me Russian. I don't remember her response.

2:30am - We depart the bar and suddenly my drunkenness kicks into overdrive. I start calling random girls, "baby" and tell some random guy on the street to "leave me the fuck alone." A few blocks later some girls on a balcony that I cna't see start shouting into the street, "I can see you!" I lie and shout back, "I can see you!" We go back and forth for a few minutes until I spot a bike on the street and try to steal it - turns out it's chained though.

2:40am - I see another bike and try to steal it until I notice a bottle of wine housed in it's basket. Upon finding out the bottle is empty, I smash it on the sidewalk.

2:50am - We arrive at 4th ave. and after goodbyes that seem to take ten minutes, begin to art ways. I see a guy at the corner, and ask, "where the fuck did you come from?" My friends apologize for me.

3am - I tell Josh I'm hungry and find an open food cart. I order up a chicken kebab and with food in mouth proclaim, "you are the man! seriously, you rule!" to the vendor.

3:04am - Josh and I head into the subway but it turns out my metrocard expired at midnite. We walk across the street to the station with an open card machine and buy myself a one trip ticket. The sensation of needing to relieve the biggest piss int eh world hits me as we get to our platform.

3:20am - While standing I stumble and Josh gets scared that I'll fall onto the train tracks. he tells me to lean against the subway map as a lonely saxophone begins to play. "This is awesome!" I say. I begin improvising words and singing along. I don't remember any of it, but Josh tells me, "well, the saxophone was good."

3:40am - The Q train arrives and Josh and I get on it. I have no recoolection of anything until we arrive at our stop half an hour later when, surprisingly, Josh is able to wake me up, and even more surprisingly, I haven't pissed myself.

4:20am - We get back tot eh apartment. In the midst of taking off my clothes, I launch a quarter from the inside pocket of my jeans across the room. It seems like the coolest thing ever at the time, but i pass out anyway.

10am - I wake up with the worst headache known to man to the sounds of pots and pans as I groan, "Ow!" from the couch. Cait tells me she's making blueberry pancakes and bacon and that their's Orange Juice in the fridge. Josh and Cait are the best people ever.