Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wednesday, July 8th: Post #10 - The power of Geography

Remember "Hands Across America" O ye children of the 80's? I believe it to be an appropriate blast from the past given the recent celebrity expiration that you've been throttled over the head BY A CLUB by the media. For those Millenials out there who don't think anything ever happened before 1996 there was an idea hatched for the summer of 1986 that a bunch of people would stand in a line, hold hands, and POOF - all the hunger and poverty in America would disappear. A noble idea and cause, and aside for white flight from the cities & desegrated public schools, the collapse of the American Industrial base, and general disruption of the eco-system by suburbanization, I believe this was a dead-nuts idea to fix hunger, don't you agree?

But it really was interesting on many levels because people across the country got together to support one cause, despite the fact that the 'chain' couldn't cross the Western deserts due to lack of people. Because of my experience in running a fantasy football website (Midwest Collision League - Google it), I put a hidden electronic cookie on Cancer Can Suck It to track who is taking a gander at my ramblings. So far, in less than a month we're pushing 500 page visits, and folks from all across America are checking in. The following is a list of the communities where people have logged on and checked out the blog....

Apex, North Carolina

Attleboro, Massachusetts
Austin, Texas
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
Blacklick, Ohio

Bombay, Maharashtra, India
Bronx, New York
Cardington, Ohio
Cary, North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Chardon, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Clermont-ferrand, Auvergne, France
Cold Spring Harbor, New York
Columbus, Ohio
Commerce City, Colorado
Covington, Kentucky
Dayton, Ohio
Delphos, Ohio
Denver, Colorado
Du Bois, Pennsylvania
East Haven, Connecticut
Edmonton, Alberta
Evans, Colorado
Evansville, Indiana
Fairborn, Ohio
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Fredericktown, Ohio
Garner, North Carolina
Greensboro, North Carolina

Guatamala City, Guatamala
Hamilton, Ohio
Hilliard, Ohio
Indianapolis, Indiana
Jacksonville, Florida
Jiddah, Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Johnstown, Ohio
Kenthurst, New South Wales, Australia

Kinsman, Ohio
Lafayette, Colorado
Los Angeles, California
Louisville, Kentucky
Loveland, Ohio
Macomb, Michigan
Madison, Wisconsin
Mansfield, Ohio
Marengo, Ohio
Mason, Ohio
Merchantville, New Jersey
Michigan City, Indiana
Midland, Michigan
Milford, Ohio
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mishawaka, Indiana
Mountain View, California
New Haven, Connecticut
New York, New York
Newark, Ohio
Newburgh, Indiana
Oakland, California
Orlando, Florida
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Patna, Bihar, India
Peoria, Illinois
Pleasanton, California
Plymouth, Indiana
Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Riverhead, New York
San Diego, California
San Jose, California
San Leandro, California
San Mateo, California

Santiago, Region Metropolitana, Chile
Shelby, Ohio
Shelbyville, Indiana
South Bend, Indiana
Stein, Bayern, Germany

Streamwood, Illinois
Sunbury, Ohio

Tehran, Esfahan, Iran

Tel Aviv, Israel
Versailles, Ohio
Vilnius,Vilniaus Apskritis, Lithuania

Washington, District Of Columbia
West Chester, Ohio
West Orange, New Jersey
West Sacramento, California
Westland, Michigan
Windham, Maine
Winnipeg, Manitoba

While this may seem mundane and boring, it's pretty motivating to me. In a somewhat-but-not-related way to HAA, people all across the country (and Canada, France, and India) are at least devoting some brain energy to my specific life challenge. Those of you who know me well know that I hate to fail at anything I put my mind to, especially with public accountability. With all of you checking out my progress it makes me want to fight harder to beat this. The REALLY cool part of this is that many of these towns are associated with specific friends and family, and every time you log in it's as if you're giving me a personal greeting. So THANK YOU everyone..keep checking it out. My hope is that this blog can update you on my progress, but also that someone who is also processing a recent Cancer diagnosis can gain some hope and inspiration.

OK, enough for touchy-feely. There is a tie-back into Hands Across America, albeit a bit weak by literary terms. You see, my Aunt Judy, Uncle Mike, and cousins Mike & Matt lived on Lake Erie in northern Ohio, 1 block from the route of the 'line' of people who formed the HAA chain. It JUST SO HAPPENS, that on Memorial Day weekend 1986 we were driving to visit them, and were getting ready to turn left across traffic onto their street at the exact moment that the HAA chain was being formed for the big Michael Jackson moment. Their street was right off of Route 6 in Huron, Ohio - the path of HAA. There was some 'discussion' on what to do in the front seat of the car between my Dad and Mom....those of you who know the Baker dynamic can only imagine the content of that conversation - Mom was compassionate, Dad dropped a few choice words and hit the gas..

So, here is the true Baker family confession for the ages - at the exact "MJ" unity moment of Hands Across America, the Baker clan broke the chain and ruined the opportunity to end Hunger in the world.

Another tidbit about this story. My cousin Mike, 5 years my junior, was diagnosed at age 19 with the same cancer I have. His was much more advanced, and he beat it. Mike is now 32 and cancer free. Mikey, you're a Warrior, and an inspiration.

Carpe Diem.


P.S. I have an update of teams who are in my corner. Add the following to my earlier blog entry:

  • The Society of Friends (Team Quaker, not the cereal, the ones from PA)
  • Wesleyans (the Closet Methodists who are afraid to be called Methodists team)

If I've forgotten your team, please let me know. Seriously, I'm keeping track.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday, July 6th - Post #9 - My Favorite Italian Hoosier, bar none.

Many of you who knew me during my years at good ole' Testicle Tech (David Letterman's alma mater) knew that I tended to be a social fella, and enjoyed the fruits of being dropped into the midst of 20,000 strangers in a state I had only visited once previously in my life. Like many adventures before and after, I have always enjoyed the 'starting anew' and building a new life from nothingness, or possibly this is a bit of my Mother's Western Montana rooted restlessness that made its way through the DNA mixture.
So, as can be imagined, I had a good time - a REALLY good time at Ball State, and will always love my experiences I had, the friends I made, the illegal (but unspoken) activities that involved mountain climbing on unfinished large structures, turning over porta-potties, and the occasional (illeged) runs through the steam tunnels - all of which, you can guess, were fueled by earlier evening festivities at one RKE house on Ball Avenue (thanks Ries, Niel, Ski, and East). I embraced the love of my newly found vocation (Architecture), kissed a few girls, "borrowed' a university car for several weeks, ran a series of illegal social events under 'official' University jurisdiction, and generally had a heck of a good time.
But, the most important moment in my time at BSU happened one late night in studio during my 4th year, as I was working on some forgotten project where my desk was propped in front of the doors to the hallway. In the class ahead of us (a great group of folks), there was this great larger-than-life italian guy from South Bend, Tony Gianesi, and while we weren't close friends, we partied and hung out from time to time. Tony was boistrious, funny, and didn't take sh*t from anyone - not to be stereotypical, but a good Italian boy.

So the rumor buzz as of late around the College of Architecture & Planning (some 400 strong amongst 20k crazy Cardinals) was that I was dating the elusive Amanda Dawn Fritz, and that the word on the street was that she was being a bit elusive and frustrating for her pursuer (that's me). Tony walked up to my studio desk and asked how things were going with Amanda, and I remember saying "You know Tony, I'm going to Europe soon, graduating next year, and frankly I'm not in the mood for head games. I think I'm just gonna end this thing and move on to the future." To quote Tony "Bill, you two make a great couple, and I think it would be a mistake for you to stop chasing her. In the words of Jimmy Valvano, the coach of NC State 'DON'T GIVE UP, DON'T EVER GIVE UP."
Well folks, those of you who know what happened from that point on know that I didn't give up, and married the love of my life, Amanda Dawn Baker (Ha-she dropped the Fritz!). Tony wasn't able to make our wedding the following summer, but we did have a toast in his name to "never give up" all 250 strong of us in the basement of the Old Mill Restaurant in Evansville. As all of you here in Denver can see, Amanda has been my rock during this face-down with the big C, and I couldn't be here without her love and support.
So why the story about Tony Gianesi? We really haven't been in contact over these past 14 years except through the college -classmate grapevine. But I was touched last week to get a facebook friend invite from Tony, and accepted. He soon after sent me the following inbox message which I'd like to share with all of you:
The only thing that comes to mind after looking at your pictures is something I believe I said to you some 15 years ago. My memory may be blurred and my mind is certainly going with three daughters but I believe I quoted a rather famous basketball coach and said, "Don't give up, don't ever give up."Though that quote was not meant for your current struggle, 15 years later it appears to hold true more than ever.
My wife and I wish you only the best having faced our own struggles with cancer with our parents and her aunt. Please stay in touch and keep me in mind as you fight on as we will you and Amanda.
Tony and Kerry Gianesi"
Thanks Tony, and a MILLION THANK YOUS to all of you who send me kind words, notes, phone calls, cards, prayers, emails, and a simple 'how you feeling today' at the office. I am blessed beyond recognition.
2 1/2 weeks to Round #3. Team Baker on the attack.
Carpe Diem.