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Music of the 57 Freds come to save me fro0m the big C: excerpt from Today Cancer, Tomorrow The World

September 9, 2012

Another excerpt

While I was loading music from computer to iPod, I heard a political show on TV where Republicans and Democrats were barking at each other about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I turned it off. I had to leave the world of arguments. They no longer pertained to me. Here I was. Diagnosed with cancer. What did I have to save me? I’m not a victim and I don’t want to be a survivor. Survivors to truly live depend on being rescued. I’m not waiting to be rescued! I’m the only person who can rescue me. I have to take life to another level. I always wanted to be a superhero. There’s only one way to do that. My life is all I have to fight cancer. I’m 57. So who can I turn to? But wait, I’m not alone. There are 57 Freds inside of me! And in each of those Freds are music and dreams and friends and girls—ooh girls! I outnumber cancer. I have to Occupy Fred! So I closed my eyes and sent out a role-call signal to bring in all my Freds. They came to me.

“Okay, guys, I need your help,” I said taking in all the Freds around me. “There’s the 2-year-old Fred who snuck into the kitchen while Mom and Dad was asleep and poured flour on the floor. There’s the 7-year-old Fred in the Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris M&M Boys T-shirt. Haven’t seen you in awhile. There’s the 13-year-old Fred who got caught shoplifting—wait, it’s the Fred over there. There’s 22-year old Fred—hey, rethink the puca shells and blow-drying your hair with mouse—it didn’t look good then and it doesn’t look good now. Quiet down guys, you’ve been called here, I know you all don’t get along, but we have to stick together because I’ll need every one of you. I’ll even need new-born Fred with his tiny fingers. You all made me. I want you back! We’re at war. You! Yeah, the one who is sulking and moody who thinks no one understands him and believes the whole world is against him. Yeah, you are, 17-year-old Fred. You’re the one I need the most right now. You’re the one who was shaped by all the music from 1954 – 1972. You’re the Fred who has the most immaturity, attitude, irresponsibility. No one could tell you anything! You’re the raw untamed Fred. The real madness of me. The one who is a wise ass and kind of an asshole and made all the Freds that followed ahead of you in your wake—The Fred whose life was changed by reading Walden and registered as a conscientious objector for the draft during the Vietnam War, The Fred who streaked through the cafeteria at Ursinus College, The Fred who became an insult comedian, The Fred who was a journalist that got strangled by a Selectman candidate after he lost the election, The Fred who a surfed. The Fred who harvested and made wine, The Fred who was an insult comic and said, ‘I’m certain Jesus loves you, but in your case he’s seeing other people.’ But. I desire more than all the Freds in this room, bring everyone else that you knew there too—the friends, the neighbors, the relatives, your toys, your records, your movies, your books, but most important don’t forget the girls. And the women arrived, looking as young and beautiful as the first kiss they gave me. And the Freds are dancing with all the girls and we’re all falling in love with each other for the first time and can’t imagine how we’d ever get into an argument. I admire their smiles, the joy of abandoning their body and awaiting mine too. Oh how I need you now, how I need your love. And all the friends I had during every year of my life. And all my relatives. And all my neighbors where I grew up in Freehold, N.J. And most of all, Mom and Dad. You’re young and in their first year of marriage. And Mom was pregnant with me. You had such hopes for themselves and their future family. And I was alive and kicking—that’s where my life came from. Thank you for coming, we have to take on The Big C together, we have to keep our forevers.

I look at the 57 Fred’s gathered around me, they seem puzzled as to why I needed them. I hang my shaved head and sit with my arms on my knees and say, “Well you got me this far!”

What was the best way summon all of the Freds into me? Music! I loaded my iPod with all the music from every period of my life from the world of green plastic radio my parents kept atop the refrigerator. It started when I heard “The Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and “The Witch Doctor” by David Seville and “Mister Custer” by Larry Verne and “Mr. Bass Man” by Johnny Cymbal—when I was alone I would pantomime the songs and try to do Bobby “Boris” Pickett going, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist! And the warmth of all those top-4o oldies from the sixties—The Young Rascals, Turtles, Mammas and The Pappas, Four Seasons, Motown, The Monkees, Sly and The Family Stone, The Association—oh yeah, teenage Fred get in cancer’s face and sing, Lou Christie ‘Lightin Strikes’ and Petula Clark’s ‘My Love,’ Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit In The Sky,’ the Royal Guardsmen’s ‘Snoopy vs The Red Baron’ (“In the nick of time, a hero rose, a funny looking dog with black nose”), Johnny Rivers’ ‘Mountain of Love, and the Trogg’s ‘Wild Thing’ And The Guess Who, Mamas and The Papas, James Brown, Simon and Garfunkle, The Kinks,  The Beatles (And all their first solo albums. Ah, Ringo’s “Photograph” I forgot about that song!). When you go through high school that’s the time when I knew all the songs on the AM-FM radio, and every rock group, and all the cool albums. The Stones, …then the albums, Humble Pie’s Shine On, Led Zepplin Two, The Who Who’s Next, Chicago, CSNY’s Déjà vu and Four-Way Street, Credence’s Cosmos Factory, Black Sabbath, The Doors (Everything they did!), Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, Steppenwolf’s Monster. I left out Carole King’s Tapestry—I only bought it because girls liked it.) Songs I had heard hundreds of times like “American Pie’ by Don McClean and songs I outgrew and I hadn’t listened to in years. I needed to hear that music again. I had to catch up to the rest of me! And I brought in all kinds of music that drove my days and made me dance alone or with someone else! I strung necklace of songs to wear around me Prince’s “I Could Never Take The Place Of You” and Sleepy LaBeef singing ‘It Ain’t What you Eat It’s The Way That You Chew It’ and Tex Ritter doing ‘High Noon’ and NRBQ’s ‘Riding In My Car’ and Springsteen’s ‘Rosalita.’ Look what I had going for me! Bob Marley, Howling Wolf, Cat Stevens, Dino, Herb Alpert, Al Green, Miles Davis, Disco stuff, Abba, BeeGees, Neil Diamond, the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Duke Ellington, Doo-Wop, The Village People, bad seventies music, eighties pop. And even the schmaltz, crank up the schmaltz—Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love you,’ ‘What I did for Love’ from a Chorus Line, and ‘What A Feeling’ from Flashdance I was building a wall of sound and I needed every note.

There are people who are afraid to acknowledge their age, or hesitate to make a reference that shows they’re not current anymore. Why? Because it might reveal what’s bottled up inside them is dated.

I’m not dated. I’m a vintage! My contents are everything that comes before me.

Cancer cells don’t have ears and don’t have soul. They can’t hear the music that propells my 57 Freds. They’ll never see us coming!

I begin my counterattack. I put on my headphones and hear Randy and the Rainbows singing “Denise” and dance.

“You’re not going to0 take me,” I snap, tears rolling and fists clenched, like I’m grabbing the Big C by its collar.

Oh Denise, scooby-doo

I’m in love with you, Denise scooby-doo

The driving and upbeat song of love creates a tingling force rising inside me from the balls of my feet and hummed through my spine and it spread within my body and simmered around the sides of my skull and building and driving down to the tumor, an inanimate object without a nervous system that can only cause pain to others—well, I’m going to make it feel pain for the first time.

Denise, Denise, oh, with your eyes so blue

Denise, Denise, I’ve got a crush on you

And here come my 57 doo-woping Freds leading the charge! Punching and kicking the beat-less “large mass.” Here come the rest of the reinforcements! There’s my back-up singers, Laurie, Mom and Dad who returned from wherever they were and protect me once again. They are joined in this dance party of revenge by others I forgotten who I’ve touched somehow and my neighbors and friends and all the memories that rise forth from the notes in my human jukebox. They are rallying behind me and closing in and pushing this thing away from my healthy organs, an advancing wave of me driving back this retreating malignant and useless sponger.

Oh Denise, scooby-doo

I’m in love with you, Denise scooby-doo

The tumor squirms and shrinks like the coward it truly is, because it can only take life, it doesn’t have a life of its own and it shrinks and squeals as my organs ripen and strengthen with the power of dreams against the force of a numb nightmare that can never be allowed to wake up.

I lock and load another tune, armed with the music of me. Cancer, I will dance on your grave while you die inside me.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Laureen permalink
    September 9, 2012 5:42 pm


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