Archive for June, 2010

I watch a lot of movies.   I see so many films you might think I don’t have anything better to do with my time.   Umm, guilty as charged.   I do have a terminal illness that limits my mobility and all.

The plan I have for this post — and subsequent ones just like it — is to give you a one sentence review,  an accompanying letter grade,  and the name of the poor sap or saps I conned into spending upwards of two and a half  hours with me watching either the best film of all time or the worst .

Here’s the first batch:

Get Him to the Greek:  The songs were hysterical,  the laugh-out-loud scenes were predictably lewd and crude,  and the rest of it all was just sorta there.   The two nameless munhooses who accompanied me didn’t seem to mind as they made short work of two upsized popcorns.   Grade: B-

District 9:  It always takes a little convincing on my part to get Fehmeen to buy into a movie that is a skosh out of her typical comfort zone but one that I knew she would be riveted by despite her disdain of the science fiction genre and films that have a lot of dirt,  mud, blood and general yuckiness in them.   I am happy to report that she really really liked it.   Grade: A-

My Left Foot:  If I had seen this film for the first time when it was released or even prior to my diagnosis,  I don’t believe that it would have had the same effect on me.   DDL’s portrayal of Christy Brown was awe-inspiring and has provided some much needed fuel for my artistic inner fire.   Grade: B+

Fast Times at Ridgemont High:  I couldn’t believe that Ameer and Rose had not seen one of the most iconic and before-they-were-stars-laden  movies of all-time.  Rose enjoyed it and Ameer fell asleep half-way through.  Grade: A

Shutter Island:  Despite her pre-ordering on On Demand trepidations, Fehmeen was quite impressive in her sniffing out the twists and turns of this intriguing and entertaining film.  Plus she loved that last line.  Grade: B+

Star Trek:  Even though this was the fourth time I had seen this incredibly well-crafted franchise redefining reboot, it was nice to watch it with a real Trekkie like Janet.  And this time I didn’t pass out from an excessive consumption of outside food.   Grade: A-

Bart Got A Room:  I am a total sucker for quirky indie comedies just like this one.   It started off with plenty of promise but slowly faded down the stretch.   Grade: C

Passing Strange: The Netflix gods suggested that I would like this movie based on my 5-star rating of Dr Horrible.   While common in genre only,  I wholeheartedly recommend this filmed-on-stage revelation for anybody who has had the dream of being an artist in every sense of the word.   Needless to say,  I loved every second of it.   Grade: A-

500 Days of Summer:  Fehmeen and I saw this in the theater and we recently purchased it for home viewing as well.   I am a big fan of non-linear storytelling and who hasn’t felt like dancing to You Make My Dreams Come True the morning after.   Grade: B+

Pumpkin:  I really tried to like this movie but I struggled mightily to jibe with the film’s overall tone.   It just didn’t work for me.   Grade: C-


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The Toddling Gourmet

Dear Diary,

Tonight was the greatest night of my life.   Mommy and Daddy actually let me cook and it was so so so so so so so so COOL!

There I was sitting on the bench next to Daddy,  watching Mommy mix-up a batch of egg salad,  when I heard Daddy grunting.   He was looking at the eggs in the pot and saying Emma Emma Emma to Mommy when all of a sudden Mommy tells Daddy that that was a great idea.   The next thing I know is that Mommy is showing me how to take the shell off of an egg.   She also was talking about egg whites and yolks but I missed most of what she was saying because I was way too busy to pay attention.

Not only did they let me remove the shells from TWO EGGS all by myself,  I got to add in the mayonnaise and salt and pepper too! I tried to make it extra salty and extra peppery but Mommy put the kibosh on that plan.   She made up for it by letting me stir for awhile.   It was the best thing ever!  I also got to taste it.   To sorta quote the greatest band in the world (The Wiggles),  “Egg salad,  yummy yummy.”

Mommy and Daddy kept telling me how proud they were of me and I couldn’t stop smiling.   I even think I saw Daddy crying but I know it wasn’t because he was sad.


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Warning: Due to the graphic nature of this post,  reader discretion is advised.

The small reunion of friends and former teaching colleagues at the waterfront Chevys was by all accounts a fabulous time.   Throughout the course of the evening, spirits were swilled and entrees were consumed.  Even the Adventurous ALS Boy managed to make it through dinner without a single newsworthy choking incident.

Sitting on the pot at home later that night resulted in more of the same nothing from earlier that morning.  Two days without dropping a deuce had become a rarity of late since the introduction of my breakfast fiber gummies.  I abandoned the process of excavating my bowels in favor of the more leisurely activity of viewing the Wendy Williams Show.

My being tired was the most likely reason why the black CoQ10 refused to dislodge itself from my esophagus a few moments later.   Several attempts were made at plunging the nozzle of our suction machine down my throat in an all-out effort to gag me but it was all for naught.   I went to bed with the unpleasant taste of pills on my tongue.

Shortly after 2:30 in the morning I grunted Fehmeen awake because I could sense that something had run afoul during my slumber.  What could have caused the foul-smelling dampness on my shirt,  boxers and bedsheets?  Had I peed, pooed, barfed or worse?   What the H, E, double hockey sticks was going on?

Once the lights were illuminated and my wet t-shirt was peeled off of my sticky stomach,  it became patently obvious exactly what had transpired.   Or one could just take a hearty whiff of the air in my personal vicinity now that the covers had been removed.   The small plastic cap on my feeding tube had somehow come undone and for an indeterminate length of time the contents of what used to be in my stomach was now spreading its orange-yellow oozing bile nastiness as far as the sleepy eye could see.   Simply stated,  I threw up out of my tube.

With three people working in concert,  the cleanup effort was surprisingly quick and efficient.   And throughout all the hustle and bustle of our late night shenanigans,  there was one little person under our roof who slept through the whole ordeal:  Emma.

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I have wanted to participate in a flash mob since before they got popular.   Those elaborately choreographed song and dance productions are cool and all but when I conjure up a mental picture of a flash mob in my mind I see three or four dozen people suddenly converging on a park for a spontaneous game of Red Rover.  Call me old school in my preferences regarding group gatherings,  but I like what I like.

Now if I had the energy and wherewithal to organize one of these things myself, this is how it would go down:

Anyone and everyone who has a feeding tube on the Peninsula in the  Bay Area would be invited to meet at the Hillsdale Mall at a certain time on a certain day in a certain place for a mass feeding.

Umm.   You know,  this flash mob fantasy sounded about a thousand times cooler in my head as I was pre-writing this post.   Yeah,  sorry.

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“Where did my book go,  Mommy?”  asked Emma in the sweetest and most innocent manner conceivable.

“What do you mean,  Baba?” was Fehmeen’s response.

Those two questions floated around the crowded bathroom for about twenty seconds until the answer presented itself in the form of an ‘unopenable’ door.

Allow me to elaborate.

When the Picettis packed up the U-Hauls and moved to the City of Good Living (San Carlos) in the Fall of ’08, it became painfully obvious to all that I would not be able to utilize the bathroom facilities as they were originally configured for long.   So we bit the proverbial bullet and remodeled the bathroom making it the Taj Mahal of handicap accessible water-closets.  In addition to a garage-sized shower and a heated self-cleaning toilet,  we also chose to have a pair of sliding pocket doors installed as well.

At this point in the narrative I want to remind you of our initial question which was something along the lines of,  “Where did my book go,  Mommy?”  If the book — which is actually a graphic novel by the name of Invincible (trade paperback #5 for those of you wondering) — was not taking a shower nor was it swimming around the toilet bowl then where was it?   The correct response would be in between the pocket and the door,  of course.  Apparently Emma had slid the square-bound book in the tiny space no wider than a half an inch.  And even though I could personally live without that particular book missing from my fabled comic collection,  the fact that the door no longer completely closes necessitates its repair.

And try as we might for a decent part of the afternoon,  there is no way that we know of to coax that comic-book from its bunkered down hiding spot deep within the wall.

We are most certainly open for any suggestions that you may have to help us solve our little problem.

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Driving home from an appointment with Dr Ken a few months back,  my eyes were drawn to a most peculiar sight.   I had only ever heard about the existence of this item as a result of a particularly slow news cycle one day several decades ago.   If my recollection is accurate,  not only were these accoutrements banned in certain states, they most certainly haven’t gotten the slightest bit cooler looking since their heyday as a trendy vehicular accessory back in the nineties.

Yet there they were in all their glory,  dangling off of the silver tow hook on the back of the white Ford pickup.   The driver was a thirty to forty-ish balding white guy who looked to my suddenly judgmental eyes to have a piss-poor attitude.  Perhaps it was the fact that he was driving a Ford — a logical assumption considering my history as a Chevy man — I could just tell that this jabroni was a tool with a capital T.    I could see some dude having the stones to hang the pair that he had hanging on a VW Bug or a Mazda Miata but not an F-150.   C’mon man,  you gotta sack up and try harder.

Considering the color of the tickle test in question was a deep shade of blue,  I would opine that the source of his perceived bad attitude was years and years of frustration.

And before you ask what the heck a tickle test is just try saying those two words about five times in a row and seeing what that sounds like.


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Scratch That Itch

If I was asked to compile a list of the most frustrating aspects about having ALS,  you might think that not being able to walk or talk or eat by myself or even stand up when I pee would all be vying for the top spot.  You can bet your arse that each of those annoying can’t-do-any-mores all crack the top ten but they don’t quite win Worst in Show.   No,  my friends,  that honor is reserved for the current bane of my existence: The Unscratchable Itch.

It doesn’t really matter where that itch is,  they are all out of reach when your fingers and arms are just several inches  south of non-functional.   Even when happenstance lands the occasional itch within a fingernail’s width of scratching, the muscles in my hands lack the strength and fortitude to be truly effective.  More often than I would prefer to admit,  I am forced to put on my most pathetic face in order to beg my compassionate,  benevolent,  and extremely beautiful wife Fehmeen to help her poor husband out with a few seconds of scratching.

But that’s not the worst of it.

At least once a day,  I will receive a signal in my brain that I am about to get an unbelievably unshakable itch somewhere on my feet.   If relief in the form of vigorous scratching isn’t immediately administered,  that itch magically transforms into a brought on by a little silver-and-orange-test-your-reflexes-type-of-hammer twitches.   Seriously! The spasms and the kicking lasts until I am distracted by something else — usually a sugary snack or a change of channel on our LG flat screen.   But based on the lack of early warning coupled with the severity of the magnitude on my personal richter scale,  that is why The Itch is numero uno on my list.

Now I toss it to you,  my living with ALS siblings-in-arms, what is YOUR unscratchable itch?

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Missing My Friend Carla

The first time I ever heard of Carla was back when I had just started writing my blog in August 2008.   My friend — and frequent commenter — Traci told me about this other recently diagnosed ALS patient who had this amazing blog that she thought I would enjoy and relate to.  Well , Tra was correct on both accounts.  Carla’s posts were often hilarious,  usually quite thought-provoking,  and always well written.   Add to that the fact that she had the same crappy disease that  I did I knew that I wanted to get in touch with her.

Because of my lurker tendencies I was a bit apprehensive to put a comment on her blog so I acquired her e-mail from a friend who had studied acting under Carla.  I was very pleased to see that she had sent me a warm and engaging reply.   In fact she had even read my blog.   Her response prompted me to feel just a little less alone in this suddenly strange new world.

I kept up with her blog whenever a new post would appear but it wasn’t until I accepted an invitation to appear on KTVU’s Labor Day Telethon that I decided to contact Carla once again.   I had read that she had recently taped a segment for the same program and I wanted to find out which questions the interviewer had asked her.   Carla replied with a list of questions as well as with an offer to participate in an upcoming project that she was planning.

The two of us actually met chair to chair on Labor Day in KTVU’s green room prior to the broadcast.   We talked like old friends about anything and everything.   I got to meet her son Mac and she got to meet Emma as well as all of the members of my extended entourage.

I saw Carla a few months later in November when I went over to her home in Berkeley for a photo shoot.   This woman — who was battling the same disease that I was fighting — had managed to plan and organize this monumental philanthropic endeavor: The Always Looking Sexy Calendar.

The scene at her house that day will never escape my mind.   There was this undeniable buzz and energy surrounding all things Carla.   She was in complete control of the proceedings yet the spirit of cooperation and corroboration was quite evident.   The atmosphere and vibe felt incredibly supportive there that day and I could tell that it wasn’t a one day occurrence.

Carla and I were planning to make a Youtube video together showing us competing in a kind of ALS Olympic games such as eating and drinking and failing quite spectacularly and humorously.   It would have been freaking funny.   Sadly it was around that time that Carla started to not feel so well.   Our plan to go viral unfortunately will never happen but trust me when I tell you had it happened it would have been cool and spectacular .

But then again so was Carla.

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Arriving for the unveiling.

What is under the sheet?

Watching and waiting.

Still waiting, this time only closer.

The incredible Leopard Statue of La Entrada.

It took Ms Gregori and her art students two years to complete the statue.

Another look.

This time only closer.

The highlight of the day was listening to these former students say a few nice words about me.

Thank you to everyone involved, especially Ms Gregori, for giving me this amazing honor for which I will always be grateful.

typed by Lhito Paquiao

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“How you doin?”

If that phrase is unfamiliar to you — and I’m not talking with a Joey Tribiani from Friends accent — then perhaps you need to start watching The Wendy Williams Show on BET.   If you’ve seen it,  you already know what I am talking about.   If you are living in a Wendy-less universe,  let me try to explain just exactly what you are missing.

The Wendy Williams Show is the ultimate in train-wreck television.  She has these pink notecards that are a high-lighted hot mess.   She liberally reads off them during the show and the conclusions she comes to defy all rules of logic and reason.   Fehmeen and I regularly exchange confused glances at thirty second intervals.   And then comes the interviews.   To say that she has the slightest clue as to how to conduct one would be stretching the truth like so much taffy.   To call her style non-sequitor would be giving her too much credit.

Now before you set your DVR to Record Series I must strongly caution against that hasty an action.   I would advise should you enter this fascinating world — and I wholeheartedly endorse such an entrance — that you do so gradually.   We recommend no more than five minutes per viewing at first.   Once you begin to feel comfortable then bump up your time to an entire segment,  but no more than that.   Trust me on this.

If you are secure with your place in our society,  you owe it to the group as a whole to watch The Wendy Williams Show for no other reason but to keep it on the air for more to discover and for all to enjoy.

Another Me, Myself,  and Eye Production

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