I got a letter this morning.
Do you have a family history, Charles? “Well, doesn’t everybody?”
I woke to the doctor in my face. She was asking me questions. Along the lines of, “Have you lost any weight recently?” I wanted to say, “As a matter fact I have. Thank you for noticing.” But just muttered a “Yeah, I guess . . .”
Why is she coming at me with all these questions? Where is this all going, I began to wonder. I was still foggy with the sedatives in my veins. I felt like they had the wrong guy.
“Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not Mr. Lebowski. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me . . .”
The good, the bad, and the ugly news came at me like an out-of-body experience: “We discovered a mass in your upper intestine.”
(I shared this news with a friend. And he said, “A mass in your upper intestine?” You should have told her, “Oh, that’s my head!” Maybe I would have, but I was a little off my game.)
* * *
I’ve been meaning to check in with my Substack homies. But I wasn’t sure how to approach this little interruption. I would much rather be writing to you about some cool music I’ve been soaking in or about Valley Wolf, this wicked young Cumbia band I caught in Modesto on my drive home from Tucson.
Not to mention the magical pupusas that I discovered from a taco truck in Buttonwillow, CA (game changer). Driving to L.A. will never be the same. (Driving back from L.A. will never be the same!) But diving right into the differences of Salvadoran versus Mexican influence in the culinary world (it’s the plantains, people!) might be a little awkward if I didn’t talk about what is really going on (there’s nothing to write in these parentheses).
Oh, and that Will Smith guy!
Am I right?
Here’s the deal: A couple weeks ago after cancelling a few shows, I posted this message to hopefully clear that up:
I’m sorry we had to cancel some gigs. But we wanted to give our “family crisis” immediate attention. I’ve been diagnosed with lymphoma. And yes, it’s a serious illness, but I’m getting great care with Kaiser Permanente and met with my oncologist today and the prognosis is good.
Later, it was followed up with this message:
Friends, I think I need to clarify a few things, before I concentrate on my health situation. What I have is treatable. Though I will need all of you to wish me luck. As I write this, I am playing gigs with the Mission Express in Texas and am out and about. But after the April 2 show in Livermore, CA, I will be off the road for an undetermined length of time, and we have decided to cancel all of the upcoming dates in the UK/EU. Will keep you posted. Thanks again for all the good thoughts and wishes. Peace, CP
It was all pretty routine stuff.
Then came a letter in the mail. They found something in a test they didn’t like and wanted to schedule a procedure. I scanned the letter. In so many words, it said: routine. Probably nothing. Five percent.
Confession: I have a kind of datebook phobia. If the calendar is empty I get depressed and if it’s jammed full I get another kind of depressed. Anxious, whatever. I was half tempted to brush it off. But Stephanie, she’s by the book. Get out that datebook she said. And so I did.
It was tight. We had an extensive European tour on the horizon. And like so many things it had been scheduled and rescheduled and duct taped back together so many times I’d lost count. I was looking forward to it. Like anybody, I was looking forward to being let out of my cage after all these months.
And as if there wasn’t enough going on, the next weekend we had a cluster of gigs in Texas and Arizona including Willie Nelson’s Luck festival and our annual three-show run at the Continental in Austin. Plus Houston and more.
Didn’t they know this was a bad time for me? Hell, by this time next week I could be sharing a joint with Willie Nelson. You know, if I partook in that kind of thing.
* * *
They rolled me into the procedure room.
Moments later, the drugs were doing their magic. And the world melted away.
“Goodnight, Mr. Bond.”
Like I was saying. When I was came to, half awake, the doctor was asking me annoying questions I didn’t exactly want to hear. I felt like I’d been there long enough. I was ready for that Bi Rite sandwich Stephie promised to grab on the way down to pick me up.
Probably not the coolest attitude to have about somebody trying to save your life.
She explained that they found “a mass” and they wanted to get it checked out.
Yes, right now.
And they rolled me out of there for more tests and then sent me on my way.
What did it all mean? No one was saying. I don't know if you know what it feels like to have fear driven into you like a stake. But that’s one way to describe the waiting part. Traumatizing is another way.
So, for now it was no flights. No gigs. I was staying put. Canceling shows one at a time waiting to get a diagnosis. If it’s treatable, it’s beatable. But was it treatable? Nobody was saying.
And the only thing that took my mind off it was wrenching on some songs.
But eventually after an agonizing ten days or so, we met with an oncologist. He laid out a plan. It’s treatable.
If it’s treatable, it’s beatable.
I asked if we can wait a few weeks to get started. I have some shows on the books. I looked at the calendar on my phone. I held it up and said, “How about after Sebastopol?” The doctor looked at the calendar, shook his head, and said, “I don’t think so . . .”
I pressed on. “How about after Livermore?” He said, “Well, it’s obviously been around for a while, three weeks won’t make too much difference.” So the next morning we got on a plane to Texas and played some shows.
Now this morning I start treatment. I don’t know if it’s going to be anything like going to the DMV. But I was told to “bring a book.”
Wish me luck.