This is a weird blog for me. Normally, I'm writing about my experiences with cancer. This blog will deal with experiences involving many cancer survivors -- some of whom may be reading this post. I debated using names, but if these lovable guys and gals are willing to "strip" for the Colondar photo shoot, what the heck would using their name in my tiny blog matter? Now that that's settled, away we go...
On Thursday morning I flew from DC to Albany, NY. I got a phone call while I was at baggage claim. It was one of the other models, David. As I tried to ask where he was, I was distracted by some arm-flailing by some dude 25 feet away. Yeah, I was slow...that was him. Next to arrive was Trish. As the three of us chatted while waiting for "some girl in a blue Dodge" to pick us up, David and Trish mentioned their children. Then Trish mentioned her grand kids. (What? Okay, wait for the Colondar and you tell me if she's grandma-ish!")
The blue Dodge pulled up and Krista greeted us with hugs. (Little did I know that she was just warming up her "touching skills" for the weekend.) The car ride to Lake George was about two hours from Albany. Along the way, we exchanged poop stories left and right. The one conversation that stuck out to me was David talking about "Helping Hits" http://www.helpinghits.org/ David had started a foundation for his friend, also named David, who passed away from colon cancer. (Davidsfight.org) "Helping Hits" is a fundraiser where one guy has volunteered to hit 5000 softballs within 24 hours. Now, he was talking my language! (Not that poop isn't my language -- I'm bilingual) That sounded so cool...I loved the idea.
There were two near accidents during the rest of the road trip. We were driving behind an 18-wheeler and it stopped suddenly. We had to stop quickly and Krista pulled onto the shoulder because another truck was right behind us, ready to sandwich us. That would be nice...we all survive cancer only to be in an accident at a celebration for cancer survival. (We would have been the *butt* of many jokes. "Rectum? Damn near killed him," comes to mind.) The second near "car accident" was when David said he needed to pee, but we never bothered to stop because we were busy chatting. (Hey, if he can tolerate chemo, he can tolerate a full bladder.) He was growing more and more uncomfortable by the second. Finally, he couldn't take it any more and we let him go into the woods. (Nothing like urinating in front of strangers to break the ice. I'm going to try it at my next singles' event.)
We arrived at the house and were greeted by some of the crew. Two of the founders of the Colondar, Molly and Hannah, were waiting with hugs. I was the last one to exit the minivan and the first thing I heard was "what the hell?" (And by "hell," I mean "f***".) "Odd greeting," I thought to myself...until I remembered I was wearing my neck brace during the car ride because of my surgery the previous week. Oops. "No, no...it's okay," I explained as I removed it to reveal a much smaller bandage on my neck. I didn't mean to scare anyone into thinking I'd look like a freak for photos. (I still might, but at least not for that reason.)
I was actually there -- at the Colondar shoot. It was a goal I set within weeks of going on chemo. (And as you know, I'm not happy unless I reach my goals.) I got a little choked up. (I swear that is the only time all weekend that will happen. Believe me?)
They showed us around the ranch...the chow hall...the photography studio...etc. I wasn't too hungry, so I went out to the photo studio (actually the garage) as they were shooting Lori. You know how the camera adds 10 lbs? Well, that is if you are looking through the camera. I found out that if you stand behind the photographer and look at the subject (in this case, Lori) with your own eyes, it adds about 6 inches. I could have sworn she looked 6 feet tall. Maybe it was my narcotics because she's not a big girl in any sense of the word. (No point to that little story, other than my brain wasn't working...both then and now, I guess). When Lori finished, I chatted a little. She is from Arkansas and (as she puts it) doesn't have an "ack-saint."
On the other side of the studio...errr...garage was where the magic happened. The computer and media drives were all hooked up. Troy and Simon were busy editing the photos from the first shoot earlier that day. Holy crap! I was both comfortable and uncomfortable seeing the photo of Jill. I was comfortable because I now realized I didn't have to take good photos of myself. No one will even see my photo. All the buyers of the Colondar will simply keep it on Jill's month all year long. I was uncomfortable because suddenly my pants were a little too tight. (Oops...I think Lori has rubbed off on me! :-P )
I was summoned by Molly to "wardrobe." They wanted me to put on my outfit for tomorrow's shoot to see how everything looked. I went upstairs to the makeup/hairstyling room. Someone was using the room next door to change, so I could wait or "just take your pants off here." "I do that as my part-time job," I replied. (I'm an actor, people. We change in the same room. What were you thinking I meant?) I put the clothes on and we went back to the studio to show the photographer, Mark. Mark's recommendations were to not iron my shirt (So just like normal for me.) and wear the same underwear tomorrow for the shoot (it's not disgusting...it's art!) He wanted the same underwear because the jeans were low-rise and the waistband of the underwear read "Luck of the Irish." It was appropriate...I felt very lucky to be there.
After changing back to my regular dress, I mingled with all the people who were there and the ones who were still arriving. The dining room had a long table that was constantly covered with every type of food imaginable by Todd and his wife, Tammy. The back deck was littered with coolers of drinks. Beer, wine and tequila was always readily available. (I stuck mostly to my Oxycontin pills instead.) Once everyone arrived, we found ourselves in the "family room" playing card games and Taboo. Even though most of us arrived that day, it sure didn't seem like we just met. The awkwardness of meeting new people was not in the atmosphere. There was just a connection to everyone that I can't explain and if someone could explain it to me, I'd love to hear it. I can't put it into words.