A rare glimpse at Arcati Crisis in the wild, as Gina and I duet on our new cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star” at last night’s benefit for #blamedrewscancer.
By rights and logic I really ought to be asleep right now, but if I don’t recount the past week it’s going to sleep out of the memory banks and completely disappear into the ether. At least this way I can prove that it actually happened.
So. If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been since that last post and why I am not writing you wonderfully detailed bulletins about my life, here is the download.
A week ago right now I was up late on the couch, laptop on my chest, firing out #blamedrewscancer emails. (Yes, I know I owe you the last chapter in the skydiving story. All in good time.) Around the time I planned to go to sleep National Mechanics emailed me and Mike(y) to ask if we were planning to bring some live acoustic cover music with us to the #bdc event next Thursday (i.e., TODAY).
Um, no. We had talked about it and thought music might be overwhelming. Given the open invitation, suddenly I was firing emails to all of my Philly artist friends who carry a bevy of covers, trying to find a bill for the night.
I fell asleep mid-email in that same position – lying on the couch with the laptop on my chest. When I awoke just shy of ten on Thursday morning (don’t worry; I had the day off) I literally opened my laptop before I opened my eyes. I had originally allotted the day half to #bdc and half to myself, but it wound up being double #bdc, and then some. Project managing, writing emails, talking to Drew, rinse, repeat.
It kept churning into the night (interrupted only to spend three hours researching my own well-documented credit history because – to the best that I can discern – CHASE is a bunch of predatory frauds. Without getting into my personal finances, they sent me a letter changing my terms that was blatantly untrue. Like, each “reason” they listed was immediately and factually refutable. The letter I wrote to them in response, it’s a beautiful thing. Elise speculates that they’ve never encountered such a document before in their lives. I can’t wait to fax it.)
Then, Friday. After work I found myself in a telecommuting menage a trois with Drew and Britt. What I couldn’t tell you then and can now reveal thanks to TechCrunch breaking the story earlier tonight is that I was working on a sponsorship proposal for 23andMe.
I started occasionally following 23andMe shortly before they were a Wired cover story in November of 2007, to the point that I knew just who they were when Cecily K. recapped her experiences with their commercial testing kit a few months ago. The reductionist version is that you spit in a test tube for them, and they report back to you about your predisposition for health and disease, and on your family history.
Point being, 23andMe is a real, tangible brand to me – a brand providing a valuable and potentially life-altering service. And I was proposing that #bdc (and, by extension, me) should be their business partner in a sponsorship.
So, yeah, just a little stress on Friday. Luckily, Drew is a wonderful human being who can make me laugh and cry remotely via instant message, and between the two of us everything was fine and from Britt’s abstract we all created a really wonderful proposal.
Saturday E and I headed to the burbs to assist in moving some friends into their first house (YAY!), and then I had a two hour intermission before heading with Gina to West Philly to play a house party fundraiser for her FringeFest play, Fefu and Her Friends. I’ve never played a house party before in a formal sense, where I was billed as a feature and was expected to play for some certain amount of time. It was awesome, but it kicked my ass – even when I wasn’t on I was still ON, from six at night to four in the morning.
In that ten hours, I played three or four hours of music. I also met, mingled, sang, and danced with some of the most beautiful and talented people in Philadelphia, namely the cast of Fefu and their amazing friend Ed, who is half lounge-singer and half space alien come to earth to reclaim Prince as one of his people.
Also, I played an on-command version of Cher’s “Believe” totally off of the top of my head, and at some very late point (possibly as late as present?) Gina, Wes, and I sang an epic three-part harmony version of “With or Without You” with Gina and I clustered around a single mic in a vague sketch of Springsteen and Van Zandt.
Then I slept. Until, like, seven at night on Sunday? All I know is that any time I was halfway roused during the day I would restart The Matrix and be asleep before the scene with the pills.
Um, where are we? Monday? Three or four hours of rehearsal with Gina directly after work (as we are providing some covers support TONIGHT while we await the arrival of the proper musician who will grace us, one Chris Huff), including playing an entire set live for TwitCam, followed by further rehearsal on my own.
Tuesday one of my other cover-songs leads came through in the form of my good friend and former TrebleMaker Kate, who showed up at my house with a setlist of 20 songs to bash through with me – out of which we were to craft 45 minutes of rockin’ cover music for TONIGHT (which is rapidly approaching as I continue to write this post).
Another four hours of rehearsal later and we had our set, packed with lots of stuff I had never played before, like Katy Perry, Aerosmith, and Evanescence … plus some familiar favorites.
Then, tonight, I baked. You see, somewhere in the midst of the days/paragraphs above, team #bdc decided that the best possible component to add to a benefit night at a local bar packed with acoustic music was a bake sale, and I – inexplicably and against my nature and better judgment – volunteered. (My altruism may have had something to do with wanting to play with the Kitchen Aid standing mixer my groom’s party bought us as a wedding gift.)
A dozen dozen cookies, half-a-dozen lead sheets, and half a half-dozen loads of laundry later, and it’s 4am. Music starts at our event in a mere 16 hours. I still have not had a proper rehearsal for myself, and I just hours ago realized I don’t have another set of my preferred strings (a particular issue since I just broke one).
I’m not quite ready to be done with my story of jumping out of a plane to Blame Drew’s Cancer.
You see, I promised this girl I used to have a big crush on that I would write something “epic,” and now I have Drew on the edge of his seat.
It seems like a good time for an intermission.
From inside of the planning of Blame Drew’s Cancer events I can lose sight of why we’re planning. It isn’t for fun, even though we’re having fun. It isn’t for Drew, even though we’re all behind him. It is to get people talking about cancer out loud, to raise money to benefit LiveStrong, and to create a network of support for cancer battlers and survivors, and their families.
Every time I start to forget that, I am reminded of the changes Drew’s efforts are making in Philadelphia. People are blaming cancer everywhere I go, which means they’re talking about cancer. Not about cancer “victims” or “losing” the battle to cancer. No. They are blaming it. Making it a villain. Recognizing its impact while marginalizing its power.
They are beating it.
Here’s a partial list of the people who I’ve witnessed blaming Drew’s cancer in the last few weeks:
Yes, my mother. When I mentioned Drew to her she knew just who I meant, which was a wonderful seugeway for mentioning that I had jumped out of a plane. “You know, with Drew. To blame cancer.”
She was totally into it. Italian mother guilt averted! To quote:
If you do anything that involves raising money for charity you can count on support from me. Keep me posted, and give Drew a hug from your nurse/mom.
Drew, prepare for a really fierce Italian mom hug by-proxy tomorrow at LiveStrong night at Lucky Strike Lanes while you’re knocking down pins/cancer.
(ps: You should come too! Tomorrow, Thursday, July 30, at Lucky Strike Lanes, 13th & Chestnut. 20% of proceeds benefit LiveStrong all day if you mention LS or Blame Drew’s Cancer, plus $20 a strike and $10 a spare starting at 7pm courtesy of Level 3 Media.)
It is just past 2:30 on Saturday afternoon.
The bodies of Drew and his tandem partner are framed by stunning cerulean blue from the open hatch of the plane. Drew’s tiny, thickly-accented videographer has just tipped herself out of the plane.
Drew leans his head back against the shoulder of his partner.
I do not hear “one.” Their bodies arch out of the open side of the plane, dwindling quickly from view, as my tandem partner duck-waddles us closer to the hatch.
I jump next.
Drew accepted my pledge to get involved with Blame-a-Thon with zero hesitation, despite the fact that he didn’t know me from Adam. Actually, he had never met Britt in person before either, and hadn’t known Mikey for all that long. Only Chris, his co-host from Best Damn Tech Show, was a long-term friend.
His entire project team had been recruited via Twitter. A day later I found myself equipped with an official BlameDrewsCancer email address, pitching ideas and drafting documents.
So much for taking a break from event planning. That had lasted all of five weeks.
If the scope of Blame-a-Thon started big, then the ideas behind the scenes were gargantuan. We were reaching out to huge sponsors – businesses I’d never before dreamed of contacting as an individual. And, more and more events found their way onto the schedule – LiveStrong night at the Phillies, karaoke, bowling, sponsored evenings at National Mechanics and Buckhead Saloon, and maybe even a night at a local comedy club.
In any other organization I’d be wary of stretching too thin, but BlameDrewsCancer was the inverse. Every time we added another seemingly-insane item to our list, more resources and support emerged from the Twitter community. The pace of blaming and donations (all benefiting our partner LiveStrong) kept increasing.
Through our non-stop conversations I suddenly had a crew of best friends that I barely even knew. I even bought a new phone after a year of waffling just so I could stay in touch with all of their manic happenings.
My windfall of awesome new people is actually part of Drew’s end-game for the charity – he wants to use his experience with cancer to show people battling cancer (and their friends and families) that they can build their own dynamic systems of support through tools like Twitter, and then convert that system into the real world. In fact, Drew wants to help them do it.
Somewhere in there, we started to talk about skydiving. Chris and Mikey had done it before, and I mentioned wanting to tag along on their next trip. Britt said she was game. If Drew wanted to skydive, we could do it as a team, with our final member Amanda acting as ground control.
This is what impresses me the most about Drew, and about Blame Drews Cancer. Drew didn’t necessarily want to skydive. I at no point got the impression that it was something on his “bucket list” of things to do just in case cancer got the best of him. In fact, the idea of it occasionally seemed to send him into a panic attack.
Skydiving was an extreme, scary thing to do, and it seemed to me that Drew wanted to do it – fear and all – just to shove it in cancer’s face. He would pitch himself – cancer and all – out of a plane at an altitude of 15,000 feet to prove that Drew has cancer, but cancer doesn’t have Drew.
We picked a date. On Saturday, July 18 – a day after my six month wedding anniversary – I would leap out of a plane and hope to land all in one piece.
I don’t have it in me to articulate today’s adventures quite yet, but:
Whuffaoke is a country-spanning karaoke tour based out of one amazing winnebago. They are also some of the sweetest people I have ever met. Over the course of seven hours I sang “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Since U Been Gone,” “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Time Is Running Out,” “Don’t You Want Me,” and – amazingly, as I’ve never performed it before – “Here We Go Again” by Whitesnake.
In addition to not having it in me to articulate, I think I may have also lost the power of speech.
Whuffaoke continues on Monday at 13th and Sansom at 5pm sharp. Be there.
It is Saturday, at 2:30 in the afternoon. After a brief flight, our plane has reached its apex.
Now it is time to dive out of it.
Then, before I realize it is happening, the plexiglass door over the hatch is slid entirely open, and Chris and his partner are duckwalking to the very edge of the floor. They tip out, into the blue, quickly disappearing from sight.
Drew is sitting next to me. I look him in the eyes, but I don’t think it registers. He will be the next to jump.
I find that, unexpectedly, I am completely calm.
On Monday, June 29, I met Britt outside of our office, and we took off for New Jersey to meet with Drew.
I had read up on the BlameDrewsCancer phenomenon, but I couldn’t say I completely understood the point of it. All I knew was that Britt was in charge of this mysterious Blame-a-Thon event, and that I had volunteered to take notes for her so she could stay focused on her dialog with Drew.
Otherwise, I was in the dark. Blame Drew’s Cancer was just a meme to me. I had never even sent an @-reply to Drew.
We converged on Applebees for our meeting. Me being me, I had never been inside of one before, and wasn’t entirely sure what sort of food they sold. I advertised the fact to Drew, a stocky, tattooed, slightly-imposing man in a baseball jersey.
Great, I thought. Way to endear yourself to the intimidating guy with cancer by advertising your never-ending weirdness.
Britt: I brought charts!
Drew: I brought cancer!
This, I learned quickly, was par for the course with Drew – and a running theme of BlameDrewsCancer. Drew was sick of cancer being an unspoken “c-word.” He talked about his cancer loudly and without reservation, and welcomed questions.
Drew was fresh from chemotherapy, and Britt quizzed him on the details over salad. Yes, he had a permanent port in his body for the chemo, so the drugs wouldn’t burn his skin. No, it wasn’t too uncomfortable, but he wasn’t allowed to get any more tattoos while he was in treatment.
As we got into the thick of the meeting I took furious notes on the scope of the event. It would be huge. 24 hours of party, half of it at Philly’s venerable North Star Bar. We would need to coordinate live video streaming of the entire event. The band Stroke 9 was reportedly working on a Blame Drew’s Cancer theme song. Drew was now an official partner of LiveStrong, in a story set to break later that week on outlets like AOL and CNN – until then the news was embargoed.
In Drew’s words, we should “Think big.” When Mikey jokingly fired back, “Big like Tom Hanks,” Drew responded, “Sure, if you think you can get in touch with him.”
It was at that moment that I began to understand what Drew – and, by extension, BlameDrewsCancer – was actually about. It was about a no-holds-barred rebranding of cancer as something you could talk about, get support for, and live through. Really live.
Drew was only intimidating in that he had ideas with no boundaries, and he was looking for people to help realize them. By the time we headed back to our cars, I knew that I wanted to be one of those people; I had to be involved with Blame-a-Thon in a capacity more meaningful than just taking notes.
I did not suspect that “involved” would involve jumping out of a plane.