The Day I Met Tom Cruise And NBC

Sometimes she will say, “I think I’m losing my mind, Brit. I don’t know up from down anymore.”

Then I’ll look at her, smile, and ask, “Which way is up?”  She points to the sky; I call her a liar and she laughs.

It’s the most appropriate human response I have to fact that she is, indeed, losing her mind. The other option is running away. The most tragic and heartbreaking part about Alzheimers is the moments when they realize their mind is going. As hard as it is for us, I cannot imagine what it’s like for them.

A couple of days ago, I took my grandma for a walk. It was hard for her to even move her legs considering she sits in a chair all day long. Since I couldn’t bare the thought of going back inside the sterile rehab facility where she is temporarily staying, we sat down on the bench to talk.

She still remembers who we are, but rarely knows where she is and always looks scared. My grandpa takes care of her; unfortunately, he was admitted to ICU last week and most likely won’t make it out. She constantly asks where he is.

Out of nowhere, in a moment of perfect clarity, she looked up at me and said, “My how the tables have turned.”

What do you mean?” I asked. “Well, I used to take care of you…and now you’re taking care of me,” she responded with a somber face.

It’s the kind of full circle you never want to happen. I quickly distracted myself by eavesdropping on the conversation between these two men:

I heard one of them saying he has been married for 65 years, but his wife hasn’t recognized him for the last two. I empathized with him and struck up a conversation immediately.

I asked them what their names were. The 60 yr-old African-American guy turned to me and said, “Tom Cruise, ‘cept I ain’t got his money.” I laughed and was trying to determine in my mind if he was joking or if he actually legitimately thought he was Tom Cruise. “That’s funny,” I said, simultaneously rolling my eyes.

“No, that’s really his name,” his friend said with all the authority of Dwight Schrute. “I eat with him and I’ve seen his ID card.”

“Well then, that’s easy to remember,” I remarked.

“And I’m NBC” he affirmatively added.

Ok. Yep, these guys are officially nuts.

“Niles Baldwin Claussen,” he continued.

“Like the pickle?” I asked.  “Yes, but you can call me NBC.”

I learned that he had beaten pancreatic cancer 17 years ago. “But that has a 99% fatality rate, right?” I asked.

“Correct. I’m Mr. 1%,” NBC replied. “Well, well, maybe someday I’ll see you on a Smuckers commercial when you turn 100,” I said.

He was currently at the rehab facility while he was undergoing chemo for bladder cancer, which my grandma also battled several years ago. He said the reason he didn’t have any friends to take care of him was because he had outlived them all.

Tom Cruise kept interjecting into the conversation with little comments. “My wife died last year,” he mumbled under his breath. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “I been married three times… But she was the best I ever had.”

Oh, that Tom Cruise. Such a character.

Although he was completely debilitated and confined to a wheelchair, he kept saying, “Blessed to be alive. Fortunate to have lived this long.”

On the way home, it occurred to me how rarely I remember that just being young is something to be thankful for. To have empty pages. Quality years ahead, where health problems are nothing more than just hypochondria. To be starting a life with someone, not anticipating the end. To have the opportunity to try things and fail.

To even have the ability to remember.

Wondering where I went? I have returned to blogging over at my whole foods blog Celery and the City, where we live so clean it’s like your insides took a bath.


Dear Matthew McConaughey,

Dear Matthew McConaughey,

Can you make a different movie already?  Wait.  What was that?  OH, you can’t.  It’s physically impossible?  Okay.  So I can just expect the same movie with the same plot and same actress, where you discover you were some sort of “bet,” and then you get fake mad, and then storm out, only to read an article that the girl wrote in her column about you saying that she really was in love, so you chase her down via boat or scooter at the end of the movie, in a outdoorsy scene set to a cheesy made-only-for-a-girly-movie song?

Well that just hurts my heart,


As you can see so aptly demonstrated in this picture, I have set lofty expectations for myself in 2009.  Obama isn’t the only one ushering in “CHANGE,”  kids.

One thing I’ve left off the list is working out.  I always thought there was no need to work out unless I was borderline obese.  Well, after sitting at home and being subjected daytime talkshows for the past 4 months, I’ve realized there might be reasons other than just the threat of morbid obesity why I shouldn’t sit in my chair for 12 hours straight everyday, eating assorted leftover holiday candy.  But is that gonna stop me?  The fact that you even ask that question makes me realize that we aren’t as tight as I thought.

So check it.  One of the few only downfalls of working for yourself, is that you have to shovel out money for health insurance.  And you better believe, I’m not doing that.  Nonetheless, my father feels otherwise. 

Dad: You’ve got to get insurance.  What if you have a big accident?

Me: I sit in my office 24/7 and I never leave the house.  What’s gonna happen?

Dad:  Diabetes from your sedentary lifestyle?

Me:  Okay. Fine… I’ll look into it.

Well, my dad knew there about as much of a chance that Angelina Jolie would stop adopting exotic children than there would be of me actually following through with that statement.  So about a week later, I get a text from my friend/insurance agent saying that my dad picked out a policy for me and I need to come sign it.  Oh. Seriously?

A couple weeks later, I begrudgingly go to sign the papers.  As I’m sitting there shooting the breeze and answering questions about my gastrointestinal family history, I notice a fax cover sheet on top of my file.  From my father.  And it reads:

To: Justin   From:  Denny

Subject:  Please call me if my daughter “forgets” to come in and sign the paperwork.

For a split second, I had to recover from the whiplash I experienced from my dad throwing me under the bus, until I realized that my dad was absolutely correct in assuming that I’d probably blow this off and then tell him I forgot.  Then, just when I thought I was in the clear – I got a call from the insurance company:

Insurance:  Hello, this is the insurance company, we’re trying to process your request for a policy.  Can you clarify some things?

Me:  Sure.

Insurance:  So, your records show you were admitted to the ER in 2006.  Can you explain that?

Me:  [honestly, not even remembering that happened….]  Um, I really don’t remember.

Insurance:  It says something about shortness of breath and hyperventilation?

Me:  Oh… oh.  Yea.  Anxiety attack.  Forgot about that, sorry.  Crazy boyfriend, don’t ask. 

Insurance:  Ok. Well has the problem been resolved?

Me:  Well, he’s across the ocean now, if that’s what you mean. 

Insurance:  Okaaaaay.  What about the x-rays you had on your leg in 2007?

Me:  Oh… yea.  Forgot about that, sorry.  My hip pops out of joint at random times and I can’t walk.  Hurts like a beotch.

Insurance:  Pops out of joint?

Me:  Yes.  They told me I need to exercise to strengthen the ligaments.

Insurance:  So has your exercising resolved the problem?

Me:  [I don’t recall saying that I actually took the advice?]  Uh, suure.  Why yes, it has.

Insurance:  Good.  And lastly, why did you go to an ear specialist?

Me:  Good question.  He didn’t fix crap.

Oh Yea, That Time I Got Dysentery In Mexico

I’m putting on the cloak of honesty right now.  It’s not even mine, I borrowed it permanently from a friend.  But still, you know what’s coming.

Please listen carefully:  All my Facebook amigos, I love you.  Really, I do.  Because of this ingenious billion dollar idea, [that again, I couldn’t seem to have thought of because I was too busy planning other people’s weddings or dating inappropriate men or getting dysentery in Mexico] I’ve gotten in touch with a lot of you who I probably would have never heard from again.  Ok, so maybe it wasn’t so genius.  That being said, you should know that the very moment you completed one of those ridiculous quizzes you were deleted from my status updates…

You have not and will not be given a second chance.  I apologize, I wish I were as kind as God.  I have so many tragic and exciting updates to scroll through, that I can’t take time to read about “What Your Favorite Color Says About You” or “What Breed Of Dog Are You Most Like.” Well guess the heck what?  That’s pretty fricken lame and you’re never gonna be a Jane Austin character OR a country.

So back when I was 19, I was in a wedding. Three weeks later I ended up in Xalapa, Veracruz with a girl who was also in the wedding.  Alright, well I guess that’s it.  Have a good day!  …So this girl had studied abroad in Mexico and wanted to go back.  For some ungodly reason, I cleared out my bank account and volunteered to go with her to a foreign country, known for human trafficking and drug smuggling.

hair-gel-mexicoI’m going to go ahead and say that this was one of the best times of my life. We had absolutely no agenda for our trip except eating enchiladas, getting tan, not throwing up, and salsa dancing every night.

I’d like to take a moment to point out some of the the highlights of my trip.  If you’ll notice in the picture, that is me standing atop one of the oldest and steepest Mayan Pyramids, which was a five mile hike from civilization, in 100% humidity and 110 degree weather.  Have I mentioned that I can’t usually walk to my kitchen without needing a puff from my inhaler?  You’ll also notice that I’m wearing platform sandals, which I wouldn’t recommend for such an ambitious feat.  You should also know that I’m scared of heights. You should also know that this is the exact moment when I started to get amoebic dysentery, or something akin to it, from accidentally using tap water to brush my teeth.

I had to be carried half of the way back.  Oh, did I mention there are no toilet seats in this part of Mexico? And did I mention that a mean lady rations you one square of toilet paper when you walk in the bathroom?

We stayed with some college guys.  They were possibly the nicest and most hilarious people I’ve ever met – I couldn’t understand a word they said.  Hold the phone…I may have just discovered the secret to marital bliss. They constantly played these ridiculous Cd’s of American top 100 love ballads – like the discontinued ones that they throw in the dollar bin along with Amy Grant cassettes. They tried to sing along.  It sounded absolutely ludicrous.  You better believe when I left, I gave them a Michael Bolton Greatest Hits CD.

I spent the majority of my days trying to get them to say the word Walmart, because they couldn’t pronounce the letter “w” and for some reason, I found it to be the best free entertainment I’d ever had.  Actually I think I might pull out those videos tonight, I could use a cheap laugh.

mangosOh yea, then there was that time that the boys took us to a random person’s mom’s house and she cooked us a Mexican feast.  I happened to mention that I liked mangoes and some guy spider monkeyed up a tree to hack some down with a machete. I have no idea what his name was.  He was forever memorialized as Tarzan mango guy.

I have so many more stories, it’s a shame.  Honestly though, I’ve never met kinder people in all my life.  It was a fabulous time.  I’ve never been so sick, yet so afraid to seek medical help.  I thought I was going to throw up my spleen.