Friday, October 21, 2016

It'll never be the way it was before

Sunday night capped off a busy little stretch of ten days in which I went to four concerts in four different cities. Each of the four shows carried some special significance to me, so I'll write a bit about each one before reviewing the last and most special of the four: a very memorable Okkervil River concert that was very different from any I'd seen before.

On Friday, October 7 I got to see Madi Diaz down in Newark, Ohio at a new venue called Thirty One West. I've been a big fan of Madi's for almost five years but had never gotten a chance to see her live - in fact on my list of "favorite artists I haven't seen live" she'd have been very close to the top - so I was thrilled to finally attend one of her shows, and she did not disappoint. I was very surprised when I had seen that the L.A.-based singer-songwriter had booked a show in Newark of all places. It turns out she is friends with the guy who runs the venue and he had asked her to play a show for the opening week. Madi can flat out sing and has a real knack for crafting wonderful songs that just have a way of really sticking with you. In addition to a number of her own songs, a fantastic cover of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" was another highlight of the set. Before playing it she spoke of how she had suggested the song to her band and they had thought she was crazy but she decided to do it anyway. It's indeed a surprising choice but it really worked. After the show I told Madi of how I had been a fan for so long and never gotten to see her before. "Aww! Let me give you a hug," was her genuinely appreciative response.

The following night I was back home in Cleveland and (after dropping off at home the stray kitten I encountered that afternoon in Columbus and decided to adopt!) went to see Kishi Bashi at the Beachland Ballroom.

This was a show that I felt quite emotional about attending, because I had previously tried to get Cara to go see him with me, thinking she'd really enjoy his music, and she had not gone. But then she had later listened to him more and told me that she did want to see him the next time he came to town. And here was that next time. Kishi Bashi put on a great show as always.

Tuesday night brought a relatively short-distance out of town concert excursion as I headed down to Musica in Akron to see the Get Up Kids. Before the show I also enjoyed a great meal at my and Cara's favorite Mexican restaurant, Ranchero's Taqueria (and as a bonus, Tuesday is $3.99 margarita night!). So the significance of this show? The Get Up Kids are a band I'm really just a casual fan of and I don't think Cara listened to them; they've been around for over twenty years now but I had previously seen them just once - and it just so happened that that one previous show took place on March 24, 2015. I'm sure some of you will recognize the significance of that date. When I was at that show at the Grog Shop, having a great time with a really energetic crowd on the band's twentieth anniversary tour, I had absolutely no idea that exactly one month later would be the day my wife died. So it's a fond memory I have, going out to a fun show, and coming home to my beloved Cara, who asked me how the show was when I joined her in bed, and I told her about it. It's something that happened many times (for although Cara did enjoy going to numerous concerts with me, I attended far more than her). That was one of the last such times, and it was on my mind as I enjoyed another fun Get Up Kids show at Musica.

The fourth and most anticipated show in my busy week and a half came at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale, Pennsylvania, a small Pittsburgh suburb. It was my second visit to Mr. Smalls, both coming within the last three months, as I had previously attended an amazing Daughter show there in July. This time around I headed out to Pittsburgh to see my very favorite band in the world, Okkervil River. This would be my ninth time seeing them live.

I recall the first time I ever went to the Beachland Ballroom, to see Sufjan Stevens, and how when one of my friends said she had seen him four times I was amazed, and said, "Wow, you must really like him!" Having been to very few concerts myself, I didn't appreciate then how each concert was its own unique experience, and how you can see an artist you really love many, many times over the years without ever getting tired of their performances. I know much better now.

As it so happened, the very first time I (as well as Cara) saw Okkervil River was almost exactly ten years before Sunday night's show (ten years and five days, to be precise). I've blogged extensively about the significance of Okkervil River to my and Cara's relationship (here and here). I won't cover all that ground again now, but it is worth mentioning that it was after that first Okkervil River show that I finally decided (having already strongly suspected she had a crush on me) that yes, I would like to try being "more than friends" with Cara - and the next time we saw each other in person was when we became a couple.

One of the (many) great things about Okkervil River is that each new album is truly its own distinct entity, not at all a rehash of earlier material, and not only that, but Will Sheff and bandmates have managed to continue to put out great album after great album while always changing things up. This year's Away is the eighth Okkervil LP, and there's not a one of the eight that I don't love. Away is also arguably the biggest departure yet from previous Okkervil albums. It's a sprawling (58 minutes long with only nine tracks), lushly orchestrated work with a contemplative feel to it, basically lacking in the up tempo, high energy songs that would usually make up at least a few tracks on an Okkervil River album. Frontman and sole songwriter Will Sheff has said in interviews that when he wrote the album he wasn't sure whether it was going to be a solo album or an Okkervil River album. The title of the opening track "Okkervil River R.I.P." strongly suggests that this is something of a turning point in his musical career.

In light of this, I was very curious about how this show on the Away tour would compare to all my previous Okkervil River concert experiences.

It turned out to be far more different than I ever would have guessed. In more ways than one.

The band started off their set with gorgeous renditions of the first two tracks on Away. The third song was one I didn't recognize from the intro music, but when Will's vocals came in I realized it was a reworked version of "Plus Ones" from 2007's The Stage Names. I've seen bands do live versions of songs that are very different from the album versions in the past. It's always cool to see an artist reinterpret their past work in this way. Sunday night at Mr. Smalls was something entirely new, though. As the band continued through their setlist I came to realize that every single non-Away song in the main set was a very heavily reworked version of the original song. Somewhat curiously (but I'm not complaining because it's a great album) these included four Stage Names tracks - "Plus Ones," "A Girl in Port," "Unless It's Kicks," and "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe" - and just two other tracks, "For Real" from breakout 2005 album Black Sheep Boy and "Down Down the Deep River" from 2013's The Silver Gymnasium. I love all six of those songs. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I'd rate any of the reinterpretations as better than, or even as good as, the original versions. But all of those songs were just sublime in their original versions and it would be very hard to improve on them. Having listened to those original versions over and over, and seen them all performed live in the past, it was a very cool thing to experience these radically different versions in an intimate live setting. The new versions of "Our Life..." and "For Real" in particular were amazing.

As  the concert went on, this continuing stream of strangely familiar yet different music began to take on a sort of symbolism in my mind. All that music is so strongly tied to my memories of the last ten years of my life and my time with Cara. Those memories are very important to keep and hold on to. Yet as time goes by, memories inevitably become distorted, imperfect recreations of the events that happened in our past. We want to keep the happy times in the past with us just the same as they were when they originally happened. But that's impossible. And so the distorted yet still wonderful versions of those familiar songs began to represent for me the distorted yet still wonderful versions in my mind of the familiar past events of my life. (Events that include, of course, the previous times I saw those songs performed live.)

Two of the songs in particular evoked poignant memories. "A Girl in Port" reminded me of how, after Cara had gotten her Mediport surgically installed in June 2014, she wrote a blog post titled A Port in Girl. Obviously that was a reference to the Okkervil River song title, but she didn't mention this fact in her post, so there were undoubtedly very few (if any) people besides her and me who got the reference. But that wasn't important to Cara. God, I love her.

The second of the two songs was "Down Down the Deep River." After making The Silver Gymnasium, Will Sheff created a Kickstarter to make a film inspired by "Down Down the Deep River," the album's lead single and a really wonderful song. I backed the project on Kickstarter.

I just looked at the list of updates on Kickstarter to try to find the exact release date of the film and discovered something I don't remember ever being aware of previously. The very last update, titled "It's here!" and announcing that the project was completed, the Kickstarter rewards were about to be shipped out, and the movie was available for download to backers, was posted... on April 24, 2015. The exact same day that Cara died.


Well, that was rather startling. Especially in light of what I'm about to write next. I received my DVD of the "Down Down the Deep River" film some time in May 2015 but didn't get around to watching it until months later. A Saturday night, July 25, 2015. There I was, relaxing on my sofa in a darkened living room and watching the beautifully shot piece of nostalgic filmmaking, when my phone rang. I paused the movie and grabbed my phone. It was my mother-in-law Joyce, Cara's mother. I answered the phone.

She was calling to tell me that Cara's grandmother had just passed away. Cara's grandmother, the woman who helped Joyce raise Cara, who always called Cara her "favorite birthday present" because they were both born on September 22, and who was one of the most wonderful people I've ever known.

I'm still stunned by the newfound knowledge that that movie I first watched on the same day Cara's grandmother died was released on the same day Cara herself died. Another entry in my list of wild coincidences, I suppose!

Returning to the more recent past, when the band finished their main set on Sunday night I found myself looking at the time on my phone in disbelief, like, already? With the addition of the encore the show hit ninety minutes in length which is somewhat shorter than most Okkervil shows I'd previously attended, but not by a huge amount. In terms of number of songs this one came in a lot lower, though, due to the length of many of the new songs as well as some of the reimagined older ones.

The band returned to the stage for their encore to chants of "Westfall! Westfall!" from the crowd. "Westfall," from debut album Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See, is one of the band's most popular songs and a traditional show closer for them.

To my great surprise, Will went up to his microphone and said, "We're never playing that fucking song again."

He didn't sound angry about it. Exasperated, perhaps. I suppose it's understandable how he might have gotten tired of performing "Westfall" after doing it at almost every show for fifteen years. If he holds true to his word of never playing it again, I realized that the last time I saw "Westfall" performed was also the last time Cara saw it. Which would perhaps be fitting in a way.

"You can tell the Internet," Will added, about them not playing "Westfall." "If you're a woman disappointed about it, I apologize. If you're a man, I don't care," he amusingly concluded.

I briefly considered but rejected the idea of yelling, "War Criminal!" referring to "The War Criminal Rises and Speaks," probably my favorite song on probably my favorite ever album (by any band), Down the River of Golden Dreams. It's a song I've only seen performed live a single time, at that wonderful show ten years ago this month. Based on Will's reaction to the "Westfall" chants I gathered he wasn't feeling keen on audience requests.

I went to the Pittsburgh show after considering either it or a Detroit show the previous night. And now looking at the setlist from that Detroit show I see that they actually did play "War Criminal" there. Damn.

The encore concluded, after a stunning performance of Away's beautiful final track "Days Spent Floating (in the Halfbetween)," with Will saying that he would perform another (non-"Westfall") song that someone had requested, "Black" from Black Sheep Boy. So maybe if I had said "War Criminal"? Damn. Damn.

The final song was preceded by Will discovering that the sound on his guitar had totally stopped working, so he did the last song solo and acoustic, his voice and the guitar both picked up by microphones. An amusing moment came when Will began to sing the first verse and a number of audience members loudly (and badly) sang along, nearly drowning out his voice. Will laughed and stopped playing, stepping back from his microphone for a moment before starting the song over. After that the crowd singalong was much more subdued, except at certain appropriate vocal climaxes.

Although heavily stripped down, this rendition of "Black" was not such a drastic departure from the original as the previous old songs in the show. But near the end of the song, at one of those vocal climaxes, the lyrics seemed to reinforce my earlier thoughts about the symbolism of the reworked older songs: "It'll never be the way it was before."

Perhaps Okkervil River shows will never be the way they were before. Very certainly, my life will never be the way it was before. Before Cara got lung cancer and then died of it. But I will always carry that past with me. And the future? It can still be pretty great.

At the end of the show, I knew I had just seen a great show, but I felt a little odd. The experience had been so different from any other Okkervil River show. To be honest, if I were a long-time fan who had never seen the band live before, I would have considered this show disappointing. For me, having already seen them so many times, I could better appreciate getting to hear new versions of some of their classics. Still, I had to process what I had just experienced.

Fortunately, something happened then that ended up making the night just perfect.

I've realized that I really, really enjoy telling people about Cara. On a few occasions when I've been talking to someone about her, they've said, "It's okay if this is too hard to talk about." It's not, I reassure them. It's really good for me to talk about her. I guess that's pretty obvious if you've been following my blog. Something else I've realized is that it's often particularly meaningful for me to talk to musicians about Cara, when those musicians have made music that had special meaning to us or that we enjoyed seeing together.

Almost a month ago I went to another really great concert, by Nada Surf at the Beachland. They were another band that Cara and I really liked, but the most special part of this particular show for me? I'll just copy here what I posted on Facebook last month:
Nada Surf's normal bass player wasn't there, and filling in was none other than Daniel Brummel of Ozma, that is, the band that Cara and I took our first ever trip together to see in Washington D.C., and is probably the number one most important band in the development of our friendship and relationship and therefore in my life. I got to have a really great conversation with Daniel after the show, telling him about Cara and about the times we had seen Ozma and how important his music was to me. I even showed him some pictures of the storybook Cara made for me for Valentine's Day 2007 that contained lots of Ozma references. He seemed very moved to hear about Cara and about how his music had touched our lives. He also showed me a picture of his wife and the baby they had early this year, which he seemed very happy about, and I know Cara would have loved to see. The last time we saw Ozma, in 2007, we briefly talked to Daniel and afterwards a starstruck Cara said, "I can't believe I just talked to Daniel Brummel!" I know she would have been so thrilled to get to see him again, but as Daniel said, I know she was with me in spirit!

Ozma was the number one most important band to my and Cara's relationship, but Okkervil River, they were a close second. I actually think of Ozma as the "band of our friendship" and Okkervil River as the "band of our romance." (The reason Ozma still edges out Okkervil River in importance, then, is that we became the best of friends - Cara, in fact, was already the best friend I'd ever had - before we started dating.) After seeing it announced that Daniel would be performing with Nada Surf, I went to that show determined that I'd get to talk to him. At this Okkervil River show, on the other hand, I went into it thinking it would be cool if I got the chance to talk to Will Sheff, but really having no expectations of doing so. That was because at all the previous times I'd seen them, I can't recall ever having the opportunity to talk to him.

So I was surprised and thrilled when, minutes after the show ended and still hanging around on the venue's floor, I noticed Will emerge from the door next to the stage and walk over to the merch table.

At all eight of the previous Okkervil River shows I'd attended, I can't recall ever seeing Will go to the merch table to talk to fans. Now I can't say for certain that he never did, but I do know that I bought merch at several of those shows (including the first one and the two most recent before Sunday's), and that I had never talked to him.

And so I quickly walked to the merch table myself, stopped in front of the man who has been one of my most admired people for many, many years, and said, "Hey, great show." He thanked me and we shook hands, and I continued, "I've been a big fan for a long time. Actually I was just thinking about the first time I saw you, it was almost exactly ten years ago in Columbus. I was with the girl who would become my wife."

Will smiled at that, so of course I had to add, "She passed away from lung cancer last year."

Cara wrote this on her blog in June of 2014 (in fact, in the post that came just before "A Port in Girl"):
Telling someone that doesn't know you that you have cancer is an interesting experience. The evolution of their facial expressions can be completely awful. The words "I'm so sorry" usually follow. I'm so used to it now, to the apologies and even to having cancer that all I know how to do, is fight.
I could replace "that you have cancer" with "that your wife died" and those words would apply so well to me. And I am so used to it now.

It's worth mentioning that that paragraph on her blog was followed immediately by the two paragraphs that I printed on a collage that I have hanging in my apartment, and also gave as gifts to some close family members:
Today we saw the Neurosurgeon. While we waited, I glanced over at Jeff and noticed he looked worried, so I asked him if he was - and he nodded yes. All I could do is assure him that it's going to be okay, because I am convinced that it will be.
Everything in life is okay, until it isn't. A lot of times, that is all we can ever know. Today, I am not afraid of the future. I cry, but most times it's out of gratitude and awe. I am moved every single day by the kindness of friends, family and total strangers.
Those are my words to live by.

Getting back to my conversation with Will, I told him that his music was very significant to our relationship. I asked if he remembered how three years ago when they played in Cleveland, there was a woman directly in front of him sitting in a wheelchair. He said that he thought he did remember. I'm not sure if he actually did, and I certainly wouldn't hold it against him if he didn't, but I thought it was worth asking since seeing a person in a wheelchair in the front row of the audience undoubtedly doesn't happen often. That show happened about one month after Cara was diagnosed, and only about two weeks after she had major surgery to remove three liters of fluid from around her lungs and put in a pleural tube to drain additional fluid. She was, in fact, capable of walking at that point in time, but only to a limited extent, and would not have had nearly the stamina to stand for an entire concert. So we brought a wheelchair so that I could push her right up in front of the stage where she'd have a perfect view.

"That was her," I explained to Will. "Oh, and another time we saw you was the night before our wedding in Columbus. It was a total coincidence that you were playing there."

Will, like Daniel the previous month, seemed really appreciative and grateful to hear how his music had touched our lives. "Thank you so much for sharing that," he said more than once. We also talked briefly about all the new versions of old songs. "I'm trying to keep it real," he said. "I've been doing this for so long." I can certainly appreciate that perspective, and I have a lot of respect for it. I think it's sometimes easy to forget that the performers who entertain us are real people with the same sorts of feelings and concerns we all have. Having a conversation with someone who has really had an impact on your life, letting them know about it, and seeing their genuine gratitude is a wonderful thing. If you haven't done it, you should give it a try.

Cara just had a way of connecting with people. And she and I connected on a level probably deeper than a lot of people ever connect with anyone. It won't be easy to find that again, but since her death, I've found I really like making those sorts of real connections, even little ones, with the people I meet. And perhaps especially with musicians, because music is so important in my life.

I had thought it funny how Cara had said, "I can't believe I just talked to Daniel Brummel." Because for me, I was able to see Daniel Brummel as basically an ordinary guy who just happened to make music I really loved. Sunday night, though, walking away from Mr. Smalls, I think I felt a little like Cara had felt all those years ago. I can't believe I just talked to Will Sheff. Will Sheff to me had been an almost larger than life figure, and the concept of trying to have a conversation with him had seemed almost scary. Of course, it turned out there was no reason it had to be.

Will Sheff and Daniel Brummel, completely without either of them knowing it, had honestly been two of the most important people in my life, and in Cara's life, and most of all in the life we had together. I didn't know before I got to do it just how impactful talking to them about that would be. Both times there was just a wonderful sense of catharsis. I'm so grateful for those opportunities. Not to mention for the amazing concerts that accompanied them!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Our song

"Honey - they're playing our song!"

It's an instantly recognizable cliche. That one song that, above all others, has special meaning to a relationship. That for whatever reason, instantly makes someone recall why they fell in love with their partner. I'm curious, now that I think of it, about roughly what fraction of all couples actually have an "our song." Many undoubtedly do; some probably don't. If anyone reading this would like to comment about whether they have an "our song," and if so what it is and how it came to be as such, I'd love to hear it!

Music was an integral part of my relationship with Cara, so it's not surprising that there are a number of songs with meaning to our relationship. However, if asked to pick just one that I considered "our song," it would be an easy choice. (I suspect that Cara, if pressed, would have made the same choice as me, but honestly I can't be completely sure.)

If you're reading this somewhere you can listen to music, go ahead and hit play on this video:

I'll engage in a moment of pedantry and point out that this piece is technically not a song, because it does not contain any singing. However, I'm pretty sure that colloquially speaking, most people would refer to the tracks on Explosions in the Sky albums and other similar pieces of music as "songs."

Explosions in the Sky are an Austin-based band and one of the foremost examples of the post-rock genre, with their intricate guitar parts and sweeping crescendos coming together to create rarely matched aural beauty. I'd say that if you want anything you're doing to seem epic, just put on some Explosions in the Sky while doing it. Many people (I myself not being one of them) are familiar with the band's music from their Friday Night Lights soundtrack.

Of all their majestic compositions, "Your Hand in Mine," the final track on their 2003 album The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of sheer beauty. How was it, specifically, that "Your Hand in Mine" became "our song"?

Truthfully, it has a lot to do with the title, which is interesting to think about because a piece of music with no lyrics could theoretically be given any title. Yet somehow, the title "Your Hand in Mine" is a perfect match for this piece of music. It makes me wonder whether the band came up with the title after writing the music, or if they wrote music specifically to go with that title. In any case, Cara and I both already thought that Explosions in the Sky, and "Your Hand in Mine" in particular, were gorgeous music before we started dating. As it happened, the moment that we first held hands with each other was a very special moment for us. So special that we both mentioned that moment in our wedding vows, vows that we wrote separately from each other so that we would not know the content of each other's vows until we read them during the ceremony! So that's a big part of why "Your Hand in Mine" is so special. It's funny - if the track had any other name, I'd still consider it a superlatively beautiful piece of music, but it likely wouldn't have nearly the same meaning to me.

I've been writing a (to be concluded) series of posts about the unique way Cara and I communicated and flirted with each other using sentences in the online word game Psychobabble. In fact, that wasn't the only unusual method of communicating and flirting that the two of us developed. The other major one involved the website, a website that can be used to track all the music one listens to. A user's profile page includes both charts of their music history as well as a display of recently listened tracks. Cara and I would entertain each other by creating playlists of songs that the other could see being updated in real time on our profile pages. Some of our playlists contained songs following a specific theme, while others would spell out little stories or messages by putting a series of song titles in order. The day after that fateful day when we started dating, I made a short playlist for Cara's viewing pleasure, and "Your Hand in Mine" was included. Just like all my chat logs and Psychobabble screenshots, I also still have access to my entire listening history, now covering over 11 years, so I can still see this playlist. Read the song titles going from the bottom (the first song played in the list) to the top (the last song played).

For Valentine's Day three months later, Cara made me an amazing storybook and accompanying mixtape with one song going with each page of the storybook. I posted this on Facebook about two months ago. The song for the first page of the storybook was "Your Hand in Mine."

 So you can see why this song was so important to us. But there's also something I haven't mentioned yet. Later that night, on the same day we first held hands, we also kissed for the first time. And the music playing in my apartment when that happened? "Your Hand in Mine."

I guess now it should be pretty obvious why this was our song.

I love a lot of Explosions' music, so I would enjoy one of their shows regardless, but when I saw that they were playing a show in Columbus and I began to consider going, I thought, they had better play "Your Hand in Mine." Looking at setlists from recent shows informed me that I had nothing to worry about, as they basically always play it, not surprising considering it's the band's most popular track.

Having only seen the band live one time in the past, with Cara at the Beachland Ballroom way back in April 2008, I eagerly anticipated the Columbus show. That long-ago Beachland show was quite good, but I only have vague memories of it. I think this week's show at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus will stick with me more strongly.

It was a stunning display of musicianship, and with a stunning light show that went perfectly with the epic instrumentals.

The band played a good mix of both older and more recent selections from their catalog. This suited me well, as I quite like their latest album, but find The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place and its immediate predecessor, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever from 2001 (gotta love those post-rock titles) far superior. Several times during the show I was just in a state of awe and joy at the overwhelming beauty emanating from the stage. Definite highlights included "With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept" and set closer "The Only Moment We Were Alone." As is typical for post-rock shows, there was no encore. Unlike some other post-rock bands I've seen, there was also no extended loud feedback outro on the closer - instead the band hit their last heavy note all together and then suddenly went silent at the same time that the stage was abruptly plunged into darkness. Thunderous applause quickly filled the room, with many cries of "encore," but I knew that no encore would be coming - and none was needed after that experience.

Although every part of the show was great, the most emotional was, of course, "Your Hand in Mine." I knew it was coming. I knew it would bring up some strong feelings. I didn't know exactly how I'd react, though. I was looking forward to finding out.

My eyes did well up with tears as the song began, and I kind of just stood there in a semi-numb state, letting the music wash over me. And then a rather remarkable thing happened, as my mind's eye began to play a sort of slideshow of various scenes from my years with Cara. From the first time we met all the way to Cara on her deathbed (her hand in mine), and many moments in between. Not that they followed any particular order. That first time holding hands certainly featured heavily, and that first kiss, sitting on the floor of my dimly lit little apartment. Numerous other moments as well. Our wedding on a perfect June day. The beach in Costa Rica on our honeymoon. The moment when I proposed to Cara and she fell down in the snow, the white-blanketed landscape around us glittering in the sunlight. Cara determinedly pedaling to the finish line in the Eastern Ohio Time Trial (a cycling race that, two days before the Explosions show, I had gone to for the first time without Cara). The two of us lying next to each other in bed, gazing into each other's eyes.

Although I felt very emotional throughout the eight minutes of "Your Hand in Mine," it was only in the last minute or so that I rather abruptly went from watery eyes to downright sobbing. I'm not sure why this happened. Perhaps it was the sense of finality. It took a while into the next song before I really recovered.

Why, I can imagine some might wonder, would I actively seek out an experience that would make me feel so sad? For me, it's nothing to wonder about. Feeling sadness over loss is an important part of being human. It's good to have an outlet for such feelings. And it's also possible to simultaneously feel sadness over loss, and happiness at having gotten to experience all those wonderful moments in the first place.

(I find that I have, numerous times since last summer, asked people if they've seen the movie Inside Out. Perhaps I should write a post about that some time.)

So that's the story of my and Cara's song. Does anyone else have a story to share about their own "our song"?

And speaking of memories of Cara, there's one I wanted to share that I didn't think merited its own post, so I'll put it here. On April 18 of last year, I was driving Cara to the ER, having at the time not even the tiniest inkling that she had less than a week to live. We were driving down Carnegie and as we got to the ER I was about to make a left turn here:

Although Cara was in a bad state, she noticed and correctly pointed out what I had failed to notice, that the sign says AMBULANCE ONLY so I shouldn't turn there. I continued driving one more block on Carnegie to the correct turn-in spot. So actually, basically the last thing Cara ever did while not in the hospital was correct me on a driving mistake I was about to make. I walk by that spot every day of work, twice in fact, once in the morning going from my parking garage to the lab and then once more on the return trip. And so that memory is something I think of a lot. Kind of funny what causes certain memories to stay with you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Three years

It was three years ago today that everything changed.

This morning, I (as I so often do) looked at Facebook's "On This Day" feature. There were several items of interest for August 23. For one, in 2011 I posted, "Whoa, I've never felt an earthquake before just now!" (And yes, I was right here in Cleveland when that happened - anyone else remember that quake?)

Much more significantly, at 1:13 pm on August 23, 2013 I updated my Facebook profile picture to a photo of Cara and me on a sun-soaked beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica on the last day of our honeymoon.

Instantly I remembered what had happened three years ago today. I did not remember, though, the exact timeline of events on that day. Was there any particular significance to the time at which I had updated my profile picture, I wondered? And so I dove into my online chat history with Cara in order to answer that question.

One of the quirks of our relationship is that so much of our communication was done online. This was especially true in the period of time when we were "just friends," from March through the beginning of November in 2006. Our communication then was almost exclusively via online messaging - we chatted for hours on end most days, while we only got together in person a total of six times over those months and very rarely talked on the phone. After we became a couple, on November 4, 2006, we spent most weekends visiting each other, but continued to do a huge amount of chatting online. This decreased, of course, when Cara moved to Cleveland in September 2008, but we still messaged each other fairly often as we did not live together until June of 2009. When that happened, the frequency of our online messages dropped dramatically, but it picked back up two years later after Cara lost her job at Medical Mutual (where she had no ability to chat with me during the day) and later that summer found a new job at Case (where no such restriction existed).

The upshot of all this is that I have a very detailed textual history of almost our entire relationship, which is rather unusual, although undoubtedly becoming at least a little less unusual than it would have been in past eras. It's really wonderful to have that history. I suppose the equivalent, for more traditional forms of communication, would be if all your in-person and telephone conversations were audio recorded as they happened and then converted to text. That would seem like a really weird thing as it happened, but years later, wouldn't it be cool to have such a record? In the absence of such a recording system, most all of the face to face conversations I ever had with my beloved wife and best friend have become nothing more than vague memories. But all the online messaging communications are still there in the exact same words as when they first happened. Especially now that Cara is gone, that's an amazing thing to have.

Moving past that digression. The month of August 2013 was a very eventful month. Among the messages I have from Cara are some very brief ones during her great Pedal to the Point adventure (sample: "I miss my bed"). For years, Cara had been participating in the MS charity bike tour to Sandusky. On more than one occasion, she had planned to stay overnight in Sandusky and do the return ride on day two, but then had changed her mind after the first day's ride and had me pick her up in Sandusky. In 2013 she finally did the whole thing, covering 150 miles on her bicycle in two days. This was a huge deal. Throughout that summer, she had been experiencing increasingly worse respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath, which were incorrectly diagnosed as being due to asthma at an urgent care in May. Yet somehow, on that last Pedal to the Point ride, she said that she felt great.

Our chat history at that time includes messages about several different health issues of Cara's. One, her visits to a reproductive endocrinologist about our continued unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant. Cara had PCOS, resulting in very irregular cycles and making it very difficult to get pregnant. This was very frustrating for her. Another issue that popped up that month was the pain and swelling in Cara's leg. On August 7 she messaged me: "Um. There's some really bad swelling on my ankle. I just noticed, on the outside." She went to an urgent care, where they said she had a sprained ankle. She wasn't sure how this would have happened.

The foremost issue, though, was with Cara's breathing. Cara was becoming increasingly convinced that the source of the problems was mold in our apartment. This belief was strengthened when she felt remarkably good on her Pedal to the Point ride and then went back to feeling worse after returning home. It was a time of extreme frustration for Cara and a stressful time for both of us. One message she sent me about this was, "I hate to be a buzzkill but if we go to the ADKs and I don't have asthma issues I'm going to insist that we move." (The ADKs means the Adirondacks, where my family vacations every year in August.)

As it turned out, Cara's issues got even worse during that trip.

On August 15, the two of us hiked Cobble Hill, a relatively short and easy but very nice hike in the village of Lake Placid near the house where we stayed. Cara had to go very slowly on the uphill portion of the hike, but once we were at the top, she was very happy and we had fun posing for some pictures and making each other laugh.

One of the pictures was even described by Cara as her favorite picture of herself that was ever taken:

The following day, we went on a bike ride that we had done in the past. It was about the flattest route available in the area but still had some hills. There were a couple of long, gradual hills and I remember Cara was just going so slowly up them. I felt frustrated (undoubtedly nowhere near as frustrated as she herself felt) and also felt really bad for her. I thought back to the very first times we had gone for bike rides together, all the way back in 2007, and how slow she had been back then. She had improved her fitness so, so much in the ensuing years, and now it seemed like all that progress was being reversed.

With a few miles left in the ride, there was a steep uphill. Cara started up it, experienced a fit of hacking coughs, and stopped. She couldn't do it, she said. I had to ride the last few miles myself to retrieve our car and come pick her up. After that we enjoyed our traditional lunch at the Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley, an eatery known for its pies and one I had been going to with my family since I was a kid. Incidentally, my Facebook profile picture immediately before I changed it to that picture of us on the beach was taken at the diner that day, a funny picture of me wearing Cara's sunglasses:

Cara would describe what she had felt when she tried to ride up that steep hill as like one of her lungs was only partially filling up.

This was, in fact, exactly what was happening.

I recall lying in bed at night in that house in Lake Placid, next to Cara, listening to her just cough and wheeze and cough. It should have been clear then that something was seriously wrong. It wouldn't be much longer before we found out what.

The following week found us back in Cleveland (while my parents and brother remained in Lake Placid, having rented the house for two weeks). August 22 brings some heartbreaking messages in my chat history. That morning, Cara excitedly messaged me, "I got non-stop flights!" In October, she was going to be traveling to Baltimore for a training program related to her job as an exam proctor. She had never done something like this before and was very much looking forward to it. I told her, "It will be really weird to be home alone for a week!" She replied, "It definitely was weird any time you left," referring to times I had been out of town for conferences. I, on the other hand, had never stayed at home without Cara in all the time we had lived together, not even for a single night. (Edit: looking back at this, that statement is obviously untrue, because I was home alone for a night earlier that month when Cara did the two-day bike tour. But to my recollection, that was the only time this had happened.) Little did I know that I would be "home alone for a week" much, much sooner than October - in fact, beginning the very next day.

(Well, I spent much of that week in the hospital, of course, but I did go home every night.)

Also on August 22, she messaged me to ask if I could take her to the store when I got home. She said she was "awfully woozy/dizzy." I said that I could, and she thanked me and said she felt bad for "being so needy."

That was a Thursday. That night I was going to see local band Cloud Nothings perform at the Beachland Ballroom. Cara ended up not going to the store; I made a quick trip there by myself before going to the show, picking up some ramen soup and other things typical for someone with a bad cold. I had a really great time at that Cloud Nothings show, which some of my friends also attended. Looking back, that was the last time that my life was anything resembling normal.

The next morning, Friday, August 23, Cara had a doctor's appointment in Family Medicine at University Hospitals, right by Case campus where we both worked. She unfortunately had not had a primary care physician, and this appointment was to establish a relationship with one. Cara wanted to discuss, among other things, the breathing problems she was continuing to have.

At 10:24 am, she messaged me, "Fever is gone as of now" (she had had a fever the previous night). "That's good!" I replied.

At 11:02, Cara messaged me again. "She's actually kind of concerned about a blood clot. Possibly in my leg. Which could attribute to respiratory issues." As Cara would tell me later, after talking about her ongoing problems with "asthma," the doctor had asked Cara if anything else had been bothering her. Cara mentioned the pain she had been having in her leg. The doctor felt Cara's leg, noticed a warm spot in her calf, and was instantly concerned.

Cara, 11:59 am: "They found a clot. I'm waiting in vascular to see what they do. I might be admitted." 12:28 pm: "I'm in family medicine again... it's such a cluster fuck. I have no idea what's going on."

At 1:02 I messaged Cara to say that I had been away from the computer for a while and her boss had just called me. Cara filled me in on what was going on - she was going to be taken to the ER, where she would be admitted. And so it was that at 1:13 pm, full of concern for my wife, I changed my Facebook profile picture to that honeymoon photo of us, and then left to meet her at the ER, a short walk from the lab at Case where I worked. I spent the next hour or two with Cara in the ER, and listened to a doctor explain what was known at the time. Eventually I went home with plans to return later that day, because there were some things at home that Cara wanted. (Among those items, from a chat message she sent while I was at home, "Boco" - her name for the oldest and most beloved of her Chococat plushes - and "yb" - standing for "yellow blanket," her baby blanket that she continued to sleep with throughout her entire life.) Before I left the hospital, Cara asked me how I was feeling. I said I was feeling pretty at ease, because finally there was some explanation for what was going on with her. A problem had been identified and it could be treated, and then, I figured, Cara could get better. The thought that she might have cancer did not enter my mind.

After leaving the hospital, I called my parents, who were still on vacation. "My parents are on a hike but I got through to my dad. I'm at home now," I told Cara at 3:25.

Some time later, I received a phone call from Cara, who sounded upset and told me that I needed to return to the hospital as soon as I could. I asked what was going on. She gave the phone to the doctor, who said she couldn't explain to me over the phone what was going on, and I should just go to the hospital to hear it in person.

So, no longer feeling at ease, I returned to the hospital.

There I learned why Cara had sounded so upset. Cara had had a CT scan of her lungs. Her lungs were full of pulmonary embolisms (blood clots). Moreover, there was an unidentified mass obstructing one of her bronchial tubes.



At that point, it was still an unidentified mass. But an unidentified mass, that sure sounded like it might be a malignant tumor. Through all those months of Cara's increasing respiratory symptoms, all that wondering of what was going on with her, I don't think the notion that cancer was the cause ever occurred to me. And now there it was. In my mind for the first time. The idea that my wife, a vivacious, healthy, and active 34-year-old woman, might have cancer.

As I said at the beginning of this post: it was three years ago today that everything changed.

The next week is something of a blur. Certain specific events stand out, but the exact timeline is lost to my memory. Unlike August 23 and the days leading up to it, there's little chat history for me to look back on. I called my parents, of course, to update them. I remember telling them, trying to put it optimistically, that the doctors had to "rule out lymphoma or lung cancer" - which, of course, actually meant "Cara might have lymphoma or lung cancer." Or maybe I told them that in person, when they came to see us. As I said, it's something of a blur. (I recall at one point, some time in between Cara's admission to the hospital and her actual diagnosis, being told that lymphoma seemed more likely. I'm not sure why that was.)

My parents and brother were already going to be heading back from the Adirondacks that weekend, and rather than driving straight through to Columbus as they usually did, they made a stop in Cleveland to see us. Additionally, Cara's mother came up from Columbus to be with Cara in the hospital. It had been a long time since we had seen her.

One day the next week a bronchoscopy was performed on Cara. I remember sitting with my mom in the waiting area. The surgeon came out to see us. He said that everything went okay with the procedure, but that it looked like Cara had lung cancer. This was another gut punch, because as I said, for whatever reason I had been under the impression that lymphoma looked more likely. Not that a diagnosis of lymphoma is a good thing, but...

Naturally my immediate instinct was to look up lung cancer survival statistics. What I saw was not pretty. I remember being in a hospital bathroom soon after, washing my hands and looking in the mirror, and just breaking down in tears. How could this possibly be happening?

Once Cara was back to her room, it fell to me to tell her what the surgeon had told me - that it looked like she had lung cancer. Not long after, the doctor in charge of her care learned of this, and was very upset, because he said the surgeon should not have told us that, and Cara had not yet been definitively diagnosed. We did not know whether she actually had lung cancer. We would have to wait for the biopsy results.

I remember clearly the morning that we received those results. I made the same nine-tenths of a mile walk from home to the lab that I made every morning, but only stopped in briefly before making the much shorter walk across the street to the hospital's old Lakeside building. As I walked up the steps to the hospital's entrance, I was stopped in my tracks by a striking sight: a praying mantis was sitting there on the handrail, at the top of the steps, facing the doors through which I was about to walk. It was eerie. I'm generally not a superstitious person, but I imagined the mantis might be some sort of harbinger of death. Although this was a moment that will always stay with me, I did not, back then, look up the symbolic meaning of seeing a praying mantis. Perhaps I was being a little superstitious. Perhaps I was afraid of what I might find. (Looking it up now, I see that it's more often regarded as being a sign of good luck. Go figure.)

I took the elevator up to Cara's floor and walked down the hall to her room, where everyone else was already waiting.

The doctor confirmed that yes, Cara did, indeed, have lung cancer.

At these words, everyone in the room started crying. Cara later said that this was the absolute worst moment. She also said that it was the only time she had ever seen me cry (as in full-blown tears, not just welling up), and that she hoped to never see it again. Remarkably, she got her wish. Although I've cried many times since then, both before and after her death, this has mostly happened when I was alone and never when I was with Cara.

The doctors did not actually use the term "stage IV lung cancer" at that time, but did say that the cancer had spread to her liver and bone, meaning that it was stage IV.

During the previous few months, Cara had often been frustrated and at times even angry about all the issues she was having in her life, foremost being her respiratory issues followed by her infertility. This all changed when she was diagnosed. That anger was gone. Having a baby no longer seemed important when she had a life-threatening illness. And now that the horrible true cause of her respiratory issues was known, her attitude was, okay, it is what it is and we and the doctors are going to come up with and carry out a plan to treat it, and we're going to go on living and enjoying our lives the best we're able. She carried this amazing positive attitude and resilience with her for the rest of her life, and in this way, she carried me with her, and has continued to do so even after her death.

I'll finish with an anecdote about a wonderful thing Cara did for me not long after her diagnosis. Earlier that summer, the band Ohbijou, a band I loved and had never seen live, announced that they were calling it quits and playing a single farewell show in their hometown of Toronto on September 7. Seeing this, I immediately decided that I wanted to go, and I asked Cara if she would go with me. She said that she would, and I bought a pair of tickets.

As August turned to September, Cara was in no condition to make such a trip. I remember after she was released from the hospital, she and I were eating lunch with my parents at our favorite restaurant L'Albatros. I remarked that I wasn't sure whether I would still go to the show in Toronto. My mom got a horrified look on her face, like how could I even consider still going. I'm sure a lot of people would react the same way.

Cara, though... she knew how much seeing that show would mean to me. Of course, if she had said that she didn't want me to go, I absolutely would not have hesitated to stay with her and give up going. But instead, she told me that I should go without her. Her mom was staying at our apartment, so Cara would not be home alone. Still feeling uncertain about it, I did head out early that Saturday afternoon on the five-hour drive from Cleveland to Toronto. I told Cara that after the show, I would start driving back from Toronto and then stop to find a hotel when I got too tired. As it turned out, my eagerness to get back to Cara outweighed any feelings of tiredness, and I drove all through the night, getting back into Cleveland just as the sun was coming up (a very strange thing for me to experience). All told, I drove five hours to Toronto, spent five hours in Toronto, and immediately drove five more hours back home. And it was well worth all that driving; the show was an incredible and supremely emotional experience. There is something very, very special about farewell shows. I wrote a review of the show a few days later, but while I shared it on Twitter so that the band and other concertgoers would have the opportunity to see it, I did not share it on Facebook. This was because I figured that many people would have a hard time understanding how I could have gone to a show in Toronto by myself less than two weeks after my wife was diagnosed with lung cancer. And putting it that way, it does sound strange. But Cara understood. I'm forever grateful to her for letting me have the opportunity to experience that show. Just as I'm forever grateful to her for so, so many other things.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

She and Jeff will often come and go together, see?

This is a continuation of my previous post about Psychobabble, the online word game where Cara and I met. This post will be part two of three. It turned out that the number of sentences I considered worth sharing (even after paring down from the much larger pool of sentences I had marked as significant to my and Cara's friendship) was vastly larger than I initially imagined. Therefore, I decided it was best to do this in three parts. I will remind everyone again that she and I never collaborated on sentence making; every single time that we made sentences that went with each other it was a case of us being on the same mental wavelength by thinking of the same inside jokes or, in certain cases, by some bizarre coincidence. And now, picking up from where I left off, in May of 2006...

May 23

Cara and I both made sentences about Chuck, our nemesis from the bowling alley who had lectured us on the "etiquette of bowling."

My  earliest memory is of me and my best friend at the time, both three years old, arguing with each other over the correct pronunciation of our age - I was certain that we were "tree" years old; he was equally certain we were "free." (Eventually we went to my mom to settle the dispute.) I had told this story to Cara, and so when she saw the opportunity she made a sentence about it!

May 25
Continuing the theme that began in my last post, we became very, very fond of making sentences about calling each other. I'm not even posting nearly all such sentences. I guess the word "call" showed up a lot in the game.

May 26
Fellow player SAppyKitty correctly identifies the fact that my sentence was in praise of Cara. I then jokingly say that it's actually about Fluffalina (another female member of our group of regulars).

May 27
Cara recognizes my reference to the Ozma song "Gameover" (which contains the lines "I'm flying over, over, I'll fly right over you").

Gold stars were another inside joke for us. When one of us told the other about having done something good, the other would often say "Gold star!" in response.

My  sentence is a reference to the song "View of the Sea," a solo work of Ozma bassist/vocalist Daniel Brummel and a song Cara and I loved. Cara's sentence is about how so much of the music she listened to she had learned about from me.

Here I made a reference to the obscure Ozma song "If My Amp Had Wheels" from their out-of-print first album. I was thrilled that Cara got the reference!

We  both made sentences referencing the line "So sad, princess isn't here" from the Ozma song "Gameover" (which is itself, of course, a reference to "Thank you, Mario, but our princess is in another castle" from the original Super Mario Brothers Nintendo game).

May 28
Cara with another "Gameover" reference ("I bet you don't know where to find, our extra life times 99, I know you tried, but still we died," also a reference by Ozma to Super Mario Brothers).

My  sentence is about me being sad when Cara was "away" or not active on AOL Instant Messenger. Cara's sentences asks me about a Pearl Jam song ("Why Go") from the concert I had recently attended; I answer her query in the chat.

My  previous opinion that Cara was old reverses!

We  both made sentences foreshadowing our future practice of making mixtapes for each other.

May 29
In  marching band, the trombone section of which I was a part was "C Row." I think it's pretty impressive that Cara saw the word "crow," made the leap to that representing "C Row," and correctly predicted that I, seeing her sentence, would be able to make the same mental leap!

Jeff, as I've mentioned, was a tile that sometimes appeared in the game, but Cara, of course, was not. We usually looked down on the practice of trying to represent a single word by using two words that together could sound like it, but here I made an exception with "car" plus "a" and Cara loved it based on her reaction.

Cara making another reference to her Galaga woes at the bowling alley's arcade. I don't recall whether we ever actually played Galaga again. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe we did once at a turnpike service plaza? I'm not entirely sure...

May 30
We  both made references to the Ozma song "Last Dance."

Strikingly similar calling themed sentences.

June 1
Another sentence about us calling each other, here also referencing the Ozma song "The Ups and Downs" ("Don't call me up, I'm so sick and tired of being down").

More gold star sentences.

June 3
It's like we were obsessed with the concept of calling each other (which we sometimes did, but only rarely - almost all our communication was by chatting on AIM). Actually, these sentences are also about how Cara had recently been "totally out of minutes" on her phone. That's a blast from the past, huh?

Cara with another slam on my Yakov sentences (I didn't make one in this particular round!).

We  both made sentences referencing the song "Winterize" by A Northern Chorus. A little more than two years later, the two of us would travel to Hamilton, Ontario to see the band's farewell concert, and I still consider it the best show I've ever seen (if you're interested, I reviewed it here).

And here we both made sentences referencing Ozma's "You Know the Story," which at this point was not at all surprising when all four words from the song's title showed up in the same round.

June 5
I love how in this round when we got the opportunity for a Garden Fight sentence, we not only both used "garden fight" but also both made sentences correctly predicting that there would be exactly two such sentences.

In  the message board thread in which we organized games, someone (undoubtedly a newbie) said something about "Communista's joyless deathmarch of a game" because he felt that Cara was taking the fun out of it by criticizing other people's terrible sentences. And here, when the word "march" showed up, we both made sentences about this (appropriately, this was the first round of this particular game).

June 10
I was very impressed at Cara's sentence construction here, and let her know it!

June 12
Cara loved high school marching band and at this point in time was a member of a community band, so I had to tease her about it.

And here the two of us both played off the previous sentence.

I would, in fact, "drive to see" Cara that weekend! Actually, I went to Columbus in order to be with my family to travel to our family reunion in Utah, but before we went to the family reunion I went to a Columbus Clippers baseball game with Cara - the first time we ever did something together in person as just the two of us.

This is definitely one of the most bizarre instances of us being on the same mental wavelength when constructing sentences, and it freaked us both out a bit. It was always fun when we came up with similar sentences that referenced one of our inside jokes, but by this point, it was no longer very surprising when that happened. Here, however, the "same very weird thing" was not in any way an inside joke or reference to anything we had ever talked about. (Seven of Nine is the name of a Star Trek character, but there was not a "Seven of Nine" tile; the three words were all separate tiles, and I wasn't even a Star Trek fan, although Cara was. I should also say that we did not have any malicious intent toward Christianity in making these sentences; we were just being silly.)

A very cute sentence by Cara referencing the "Skinny" nickname bestowed on me by Chuck at the bowling alley, and the arcade games we played there.

"Your Name" is another Ozma song. This round sparked a funny and sweet exchange in our AIM chat. Cara said that she thought I lied because she didn't see the poem. I proceeded to make a "poem" of her name: "C, cool. A, awesome. R, rad. A, awesome." Cara complained that I used "awesome" twice and said that she bet I thought of "ancient." I vehemently denied that and then, with a winking face, suggested, "A, annoying?" Cara responded with a crying face and then said, "J: jerk E: egotistical F: far too tall F: frankly." I then replied with my actual new choice for the second "a" in her name: "A, a friend." Cara said, "AWWW, now I feel bad," and I replied "it worked! ;-)." Yeah, we were silly.

June 13
I believe that the primary meaning I had in mind for my sentence here was the we often came and went together in Psychobabble games because we both enjoyed playing more when the other was also present, but obviously the sentence works on multiple levels, and is very poignant when viewed in retrospect.

June 27
After I returned from the family reunion in Utah but before I returned to Cleveland, Cara and I got together again, seeing the Pixar movie Cars at the AMC Lennox Town Center, and after the movie we went for a walk together on the Olentangy Bike Trail, where Cara would go for many bike rides (some with me) in years to come. This outing led to many sentences.

OoOoOoOoOo. (Cars wasn't really that great, but we both very much enjoyed hanging out with each other.)

Cara was 5'2". When we were walking together, the height difference between us was very striking.

While Cara made a sentence about our walk, I made yet another Ozma "Gameover" sentence (in this case, the line in the song "where we go, we don't need roads" is a Back to the Future reference).

"I'm not young" - me, age 23. Ha.

June 28
Giraffes are tall, get it? This is freaking adorable, by the way. And after she made this sentence, she would sometimes call me "Jeff Giraffe."

Ouch, Cara. Ouch.

July 1
It  was always so fun when we stumbled into making sentences that responded to each other.

Like here, where my sentence describes Cara's sentence.

Okay, so this is one of those that could be "just a sentence," but I suspect it was also Cara expressing frustration at the fact that she had a huge crush on me and she wondered whether I felt the same way and if I did, would I ever tell her. It's also, I have to say, a very nicely constructed Psychobabble sentence.

In  truth, I was very uncertain about whether I wanted my relationship with Cara to turn toward romance, but I already knew that I enjoyed her company in a way that was different from any other friend I'd ever before had.

  We never got tired of making sentences about calling each other.

A sentence combining Garden Fight with our real life outing!

Cara made me a birthday card and sent it to me.

The card was very late. (Pretty harsh sentence here!)

Another Ozma "Last Dance" sentence.

Followed immediately after by two more. (I imagine me saying things like "She's so dreamy" in sentences added to Cara's internal torment over her crush on me.)

Pretty amazing example of us making the same sentence. MOB stands for makeoutbus, another player in our group. Cara and I made nearly identical sentences (differing only by the exclamation mark at the end of mine) about losing to MOB, and then proceeded to lose to MOB's oh so witty "Just try and dive in my butt!" with all three sentences receiving two votes each (Cara and I voted for each other) and MOB's just barely winning the sentence length tiebreaker.

Cara had told me that she had never, in her whole life, actually watched a sunset. (Don't worry, we remedied that eventually.)

Taking walks, like calling, became another common theme of our sentences. After the Cars and a walk outing, later that summer we also had a Superman Returns and a walk outing.

Combining a reference to our real life outings with a Yakov joke, gotta love it.

I'll leave off there for now. As you can see, as we became better and better friends, we made more and more sentences about things we did together. In fact, making sentences to entertain each other gradually became our primary motivation for playing Psychobabble. This would only become even more true over the next month - until the game abruptly went away. But that's a story for my next post.