Thursday, December 24, 2009

What It's Like Without Pablo

Once in a while, I look back to the post from exactly one year ago. Today is one of those days. It's Christmas Eve, and I don't know what or how to feel. Well, I know that my insides feel like the pin has been pulled out of the grenade and nothing feels good. My brain is telling my emotions to get used to this. 'This' being Pablo's physical absence from our lives. That push and pull leaves me feeling...nothing. Guarded. Protected. Flat.

I just miss my son. Badly. Deeply.

A year ago today, our house was filled with hope and joy and gratitude. Most of all, it was filled with Pablo. And his five-year-old Xmas excitement. Today couldn't be more different.

Here's my post from last Christmas Eve. The brightness in Pablo's eyes might just be the perfect antidote to how low I'm feeling today.

We're flying to New Orleans tomorrow—our first family trip to Jo Ann's hometown in over two years. Another first. We'll be surrounded by family and friends. In fact, we're staying with Gretchen and Jon Drennan and their three kids. So we'll have no choice but to mix it up and keep our heads above water.

I'm wishing you a happy holiday season. Whatever you celebrate, we wish you all the best. Please hold Pablo in your heart tonight and tomorrow!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Slowing Down

It's raining in Los Angeles. There's something about rain here in LA that I love. It equalizes everything: the smoggy sky gets a scrubbing, the trees get a drink, and, in a perfect world, traffic slows down and chills out. I always feel that rain (and snow when I lived in Milwaukee) puts everyone on the same level, regardless of what's going on in their lives. For some reason, that comforts me. I like it when we're all together.

I am tired from a hard week at the office and from yesterday's 20K time trial on the bike. I am came in third place at the race. Gave it all I had, and then a bit more. And, boy, do I feel it today. Didn't feel this tweaked at any point during Pablove Across America. I think it has to do with the fact that, waking up this morning, I have no major goals in front of me for the rest of the year. What a f***ing relief.

My focus for the next three weeks is family—Jo Ann and Grady and our extended family and friends. But mainly Jo Ann and Grady. Everyone says that the holidays are the hardest part when you lose someone—a child—and I know this must be true. So far, every day has been what I'd characterize as 'hard.' A deep, dull sadness swells up inside me seeing Christmas-themed decorations and trees and Santa stuff all over town. I breathe in, I breathe out and I think of how happy Pablo was this time last year. I remember how happy Pablo was all the time. What else can I do?

As you can tell from the infrequency of my posts since returning from the road, my writing is slowing down. Riding across the United States for six weeks, and racing yesterday makes the words 'slowing' and 'down' seem very attractive. For the past 18 months, there's been something to say every day, so I've posted every day. Lately, when I get that writing feeling, I put it into my book proposal. That's now finished and out to publishers, and I'm still not compelled to write blog posts every day. I want a quieter life for now.
I will continue to post, but far less frequently.

Gratitude: I appreciate the time you've given to the Pablog, and how you've passed it on to friends and folks in your own blogospheres. You are our community, and the Pablog is our meeting ground. Thank you. I'll see you soon. Very soon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vote For The Pablove Foundation!

Please take a moment to vote for The Pablove Foundation. Chase Community Giving is doling out grants to charitable organizations based on a show of community support. All you have to do is click the button below....

Friday, November 27, 2009

ABC World News Person of the Week: Jeff Castelaz

Click here to watch the ABC News dedication to me and The Pablove Foundation. A tribute to us all in our focus on pediatric cancer.


Pablo and his plate at Thanksgiving dinner 2008

Good morning. It's been a long time. We turned the Pablog into a television station for the past seven weeks. It was fun to speak and not spell all my thoughts and feelings. Mostly because I knew the writing would recommence right about now. So, here I am, sitting in the living room, where I was a year ago on this day, with my laptop in my lap. A year ago, the early morning sounds of Pablo filled the air: his footsteps as he ran up the stairs to find me, his voice speaking to me, the escalating melody sound the television makes as it fires up, and, of course, the start of an episode of 'Sponge Bob' and the inevitable request from the TV room, 'Papa, I'm hunnnnnnnnngryyyyyyy!'

Today, is more than a year later. Today is the day when it's clear nothing will never be the same. I knew that when I went to sleep last night, and each night for the prior five months. This morning, I sit here and scroll through iPhoto and search for the photos of last year's Thanksgiving—the one with just the four of us and perhaps Polly. There are only a few pictures with people; Grady and Pablo commandeered the camera that day and snapped shots of food and other inanimate objects. I have come across those images a thousand times in the past 365 days. Today, when I want to find them, it seems impossible, so I let it go. I stop searching. Thanksgiving 2008 is there, I know it, and it will be there forever. Whatever forever means.

Last night after dinner, after being away from my beloved, ill-lit workshop for nearly two months, I was prepping my bike for today's ride. While I was away Jo Ann cleaned out the garage—a Herculean task for sure—so it was more than my long absence that had me feeling out of place in the workshop. After having my friend Chad Contreras, our mechanic on Pablove Across America, drive behind us for six weeks with a car full of fresh wheels and food and bottles, I was begrudgingly searching in the half-dark for the little bag that holds a spare inner tube, a couple CO2 cartridge and tire—the supplies needed to fix a flat. I miss Chad and everyone who worked with us on Pablove Across America. I miss Chad cracking jokes into the CB radio in my ear, and calling out each car or double semi truck that was approaching from the rear. And, of course, I miss Chad expertly replacing a punctured tire with an entirely new wheel as I stood there eating or wiping my nose. I got only five flats in over 3,400 miles, by the way. Mostly, I miss the drive and ambition of being on the road with a team of people, grinding down the miles each day in service of the Pablove purpose.

Finally, I found the little black bag and affixed it to the saddle on my bike. In the half-dark, I looked at the shelf above my fire engine red workbench. Something jumped out at me. It was a clear plastic package, the kind that is molded to whatever its contents are, and requires industrial scissors to open. I instantly knew what the package was and walked over to pick it up. The first thing I noticed was the receipt stuffed inside the package. The second thing that popped into my head was, 'Where has this thing been all this time?'

The receipt told me that I'd bought this item at 10:13 a.m. on Wednesday June 24 2009. It also told me that I had bought a clear plastic toy replica of a Colt handgun. Tears poured from my eyes. My gut seized up as it always does when I weep; air goes out but does not come back in. What I was holding in my hands was the package for the last gift I ever bought Pablo. I have no idea how it ended up on that shelf or why I saw it last night and not on any other night. I do know that I drove Grady to school for 8 a.m. on June 24. I do know that I rode my bike in the mountains for two hours immediately after. I do know I went to Sport Chalet with the express purpose of buying a toy gun for Pablo. And I do know that I cut the package open in the garage so I could hand him only the gun; the plastic BBs the gun was capable of shooting was not something we wanted to indoctrinate Pablo into. We were into Pablo shooting imaginary bullets, and so was he.

After hacking the package open in the garage, I shut the door and came in the house. The playful screams and hollers of two young boys filled the air. Pablo and his friend Mercer were tearing it up. I was happy as I walked in the door. Any time Pablo's play sounds filled our home was a good time. It meant he was feeling good. It meant his little boy-ness was winning. We loved that.

'Paaaaaabloooo!' I screamed, trying to get my voice into their mix. I called out for him a couple times. He ran over. 'I have a gift for you, sweetie.'

'OK, Papa,' he said. I remember this exchange as if it had just happened. 'What is it?'

From behind my back, I produced a clear plastic Colt gun. He grabbed it, pulled the trigger and turned toward Mercer. His face dropped. He pulled the trigger again. 'Papa, it doesn't make any noise.' He wanted the trigger to make a clicking sound, like his favorite six shooter that had broken the day before. I assured him the Colt was a cool gun as he and Mercer picked up the game they'd been playing. I knew he was disappointed. And I knew I'd get him a clicking gun the next day.

When I got home at 5 p.m. that day, Jo Ann told me Pablo was running a mild fever. I sat down next to him on the sofa. He showed me the promotional insert from the Play Mobil toy he'd just picked up on Larchmont. He pointed to the Sphinx image on the sheet. 'Papa, this is the one I want next.'

Within minutes we were rushing to CHLA. Within two hours, it would be clear to me that 'Papa, this is the one I want next' is the last thing Pablo would ever say to me.

We miss Pablo so much it makes the air go out of our lungs and the sound go out of our ears. We talk about him constantly. We search for meaning in everything as we reach toward acceptance. I learned acceptance from my son, and I will keep trudging toward acceptance for each day that I live. When I can no longer live, I suppose I will accept that too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

We wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

Jo Ann, Grady and I have a lot to be grateful for, and a lot to be sad about, on this day. Our work is to balance the two—to walk toward acceptance. Thanksgiving, and the holidays in general, are no longer days when we can simply coast. Today and the days that fill the coming weeks can bring us clarity and wonder and a new connection to Pablo, if we let them.

As I rode across America, I told anyone who asked about Pablo: what he was like, what he taught me, how he endured his cancer treatment with grace and smiles. I am grateful for the six years and six days Pablo shared with us. And for the memories of Pablo that flood my brain every second of every day.

Our gratitude for our families and our community—you—is unending. We have never felt alone because of you. We will never feel the chill of loneliness, because of you. Together, we are proving that life is not a dress rehearsal.

Pablove Across America Featured In Velo News Mag

Click here to read the story: Pablove Across America ride wraps up Saturday in Los Angeles - VeloNews

ABC World News Names Jeff Its Person Of The Week

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 36: Phoenix

Today's off day is dedicated to Victoria White. Today is the four year anniversary of her diagnosis with Wilms' Tumor. And today she is clean and clear. We were lucky enough to meet her last night at the hotel.

Jeff talks with mom Pam and daughter Victoria White.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day 35: San Carlos to Phoenix, Arizona

Our friend Justin Engel shot and cut this video montage from his two days with us in New Mexico.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Band Of Horses To Headline Pablove Foundation Benefit On November 21

We never miss a chance to celebrate Pablo and the Pablove Foundation mission, so we figured we ought to throw a big benefit concert the night Rick and I return to LA. I mean, we miss LA, so why not invite 1500 of our closest friends to the Avalon Theater on Vine Street? Nothing says 'home' like that. Dreamworks Studios and Dangerbird are presenting the show, and our friend Paola Palazzo from Nederlander Concerts is putting it all together.

Today, we're announcing that Band of Horses will headline the show. It's an incredible bill. Check out the graphic above for the full line up. Everyone will perform short acoustic sets. The show will be over by 10:30 p.m., so please bring your kids if you think they can stay up that late. Our friend Josh Rifkind from Songs For Kids Foundation will be roving around playing kids' songs, and, if you pull his leg he'll even bust out a jam by Outkast or Jay-Z, like he did for Pablo when he visited his room at CHLA.

. If you want to buy tickets, click here. If you want to buy VIP tickets, which will get you into the Avalon's opera boxes and backstage access, click here.

Day 31: Kingston to Silver City, New Mexico

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Larchmont bake sale for Pablove

This morning, starting at 10am, Mason Maxam & Lilly Roth-Shapiro will be hosting a lemonade/bakesale fundraiser in memory of their pre-school pal, Pablo. Join them on Larchmont Boulevard (across the street from Blockbuster — south of Beverly Boulevard) for some delicious lemonade and homemade baked treats! You can view the evite here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pablove sale at Noisette

Our friend Stephanie has a great boutique in Brooklyn...or online here:

To celebrate the anniversary of her store she is holding a 2 day sale. All merchandise is 20% off with a percentage of the proceeds coming to PABLOVE!

I just ordered the plaid tunic and a black belt! The merchandise is fabulous and prices are incredibly go check it out!

And please forward to your fashionista friends!

Coupon Code: pablove

- Jo Ann

Day 27: Fabens to El Paso, Texas

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 26: Van Horn to Fabens, Texas

We'll roll into the Mountain time zone this morning. With the extra hour we're gaining, Rick and I wanted to show our crew this hilarious cycling spoof video. Most of them hadn't seen it. Grady showed me this a couple months ago, saying, 'Papa, this is so you.'

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 22: Dooley Ranch to Del Rio, Texas + Livestrong HQ Interview

Our First Halloween Away From Pablo

A year ago today, our family was together at home in Los Angeles. Pablo's excitement for Trick or Treat had us all frothing at the mouth to head down the reservoir to Armstrong Street, our local candy lane. Pablo was a silver robot. A special button on his costume triggered a voice that said 'Take me to your leader.' I remember Pablo being scared to pull the costume over his head. He never liked things going over his head. The temporary flash of darkness was extremely scary for him. Since we don't have any new Halloween stories for you, you can read least year's report. We had a good time. Most important, Pablo had a good time.

Today, I am in Del Rel, Texas, Jo Ann's in New Orleans and Grady's at home in LA with Jimmy and Marissa and Pablo is in heaven, that place where all children whose physical journeys end too soon go to play with all their friends. An old friend told me the other day that a friend of hers—who has never met Pablo and knows nothing about our story—had a vision that Pablo's best friend up there is a blond girl. That made me feel good. Can't wait to spend another Halloween with Pablo. For today, I am still here in the physical realm, and I don't know when I'll be leaving. So, today, I will celebrate Pablo by wishing you all a great, spooky night. Just like Pablo would like. I can feel my son's presence everywhere I go. Jo Ann, Polly, Grady and I talk about it. Email one another about it. He's still here. He's still with us.

Here are some pics from last year:

Pablo marching robotically to the car
Grady trying on his old bear costume
Our boy, looking like he just wants to gooooo!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 21: Kerrville to Dooley Ranch, Texas

We may not have internet service this evening. So you may not see us until Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Austin Ride with Lance!

Day 20: Austin to Kerrville, TX

Pablo's Parents Smile

Greg Giesler took this photo of me and Jo Ann in Lance's foyer. When it popped into my IN box just now, I almost didn't recognize us. That's a good thing. It means we both smiled—at the same time—and let some sunshine in. We love Pablo. We love Grady. It felt good to spend two weeks together honoring both of them as we plow across America flying the Pablove flag.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 19: Austin

Morning dedication will be posted Thursday....

Pablove Hangs At Casa De Lance Armstrong

Pablove Across America auction winners Kelly Johnson and Greg Giesler with Lance. Yes, those are the actual, unwashed Tour de France jerseys hanging in the background.

My Pablove Across America riding partner and dear friend Rick Babington, Lance and me

Lance in his custom Pablove helmet. His support and friendship have been instrumental as we carry Pablo's legacy forward with The Pablove Foundation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 18: Austin

Pablove on the noon news in Austin at KXAN, Austin's NBC affiliate. Click here if you also want to see the written story on the station's site.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pablove Across America Day 13

Hello From The Road

It's hard to capture Pablove moving across America in a moving image. Now that we've been in video-land for over two weeks, I had to put up this still image. Look at the Pablove logo on our legs. That says it all! Thank you for your unending support. We take you all with us every inch of the way....

Day 11 + 12!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pablove Across America - Day Three!

Hey everyone!

Here are the video updates from Day Three! Three down, twenty-seven to go...

- Mike

ps. Jeff is taking over filming duties until Saturday - don't worry if the videos aren't posted as frequently... we never know how the internet's gonna be when we roll into each city.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pablove Across America - Day Two!

Greetings from Live Oaks, Florida! Here are the highlights from today!

- Mike

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Video Blogs!

Hey Everybody!

Greetings from Gainesville! We wanted to share with you the Video Blogs we've done up to this point (the last three days worth), presented here in chronological order. From here out, we'll upload each video as they go up, so it'll be one vlog per post.

- Mike

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pablove In St Augustine+Switching Over To Video Blogs Starting Saturday

A candle for Pablo and Scott

At the end of my two hour ride here in St Augustine, Florida, I walked into the Cathedral of St Augustine dripping with sweat, salt burning my eyes. Leaning my bike against the back wall of the church, I walked slowly toward the altar. The cleats on my cycling shoes clacked on tile floor. The cathedral in an incredible specimen of Spanish architecture. It felt as though I were in Spain—in the mid-1500s. Everything about the place is sacred, including how well preserved it is. The Spanish style of Catholic architecture and interior embellishment is quite different from Italian. Lots of gold accents painted on deep brown raw wood. Black wrought iron crucifixes. I'm not a religious person—I believe in a combination of the in-the-clouds, white-bearded God, and a more oblique Universe-oriented God—but I grew up going to a Catholic school, so when I'm in the presence of things that are meant to convey reverence, I get reverent. It works on me. As it should.

I was an altar boy, so when I'm in a Catholic church I always take a good look at the operations around the altar. Today, as I stood in front of the massive altar, I recalled one particular morning in seventh grade. I was the altar boy for school Mass at St Adalbert's. The entire school was there, plus the usual gang of old Polish women who attended every Mass. To them, our church was called Kościół Świętego Wojciecha. They spoke only in Polish. For instance, when the congregation was prompted to say, 'Praise be to You Lord Jesus Christ,' the elderly Polish women would say, 'Chwała Tobie Panie Jezu Chryste.' Me and my friends, we thought it was hilarious that long after our English business was finished, the old skoolers in the back pews were still chewing on syllables. It was torture being an altar boy at St Adalbert's. And not for the typical reasons they show in the movies. Thing is, when I would serve school mass, I'd hear the extra-long Polish response echoing from the back of our giant church. I'd hear my classmates quietly laughing. And I'd be biting my tongue, almost to the point of bleeding, as I held a giant gilded metal-covered Book of Psalms in front of Father John our priest. It was not cool to laugh in front of a priest, especially when holding the Bible. A great, and totally unexpected, memory.

As I clacked away, a sense of peace came over me. Something deep inside me fell into place. Or, looking at it from a different perspective—something unimportant fell away. Either way, I felt more at ease, more open. Simple and clear. I went to the bank of candles, dropped my two sweaty dollars in the slot and lit a candle. 'I love you Pablo,' I said aloud. 'I love you Scott.' It was powerful to say it out loud. I knelt and meditated. I opened my eyes and looked at the Virgin Mary. I stood up. Took a deep breath. And clacked to the back of the church.

As I stepped back out into the pulverizing humidity, I realized that one of my deep-seated fears—the one that tells me I won't be able to accomplish everything I've set out to do with Pablove Across America—had evaporated. This fear, like any good fear, had been poking me for some time. When that cloud of fear moved away, I felt alive and energized. Reconnecting with the memory of my time beside the altar at St Adalbert's reminded me how lucky I am. Back then, I couldn't have imagined I'd have a son as exuberant and happy as Pablo. And I couldn't have imagined I'd be doing something as serious as riding my bike across the United States in honor of him. Hell, I'd only ever been out of the state of Wisconsin twice in seventh grade. And I didn't know anyone from outside Milwaukee.

When I let go of the fear and let life happen, good things come onto my radar. Fear is reaaaaal good when a giant Ford-RIDA pickup truck is about to edge me off the highway. Fear is kind of, like, dumb, in most other instances. Especially when it hangs around too long in my head.

One last thing: Friday's Pablog post will be the final written entry for a while. We've decided to document Pablove Across America using video blogs—vlogs if you're nasssty—for the duration of PAA. Starting Saturday, I have to focus on the task at hand: riding 100 miles a day, eating and sleeping. And talking Pablove to people who visit us on the road at our ever-growing list of Pablove events at hospitals and in people's homes. The time and energy it takes to write will not be available while I'm carrying out the PAA mission. Good news is, the Pablove Across America vlogs will document all of this—plus two clips a day from the road—in a cool way. We want you to feel like you're out here with us.

Since PAA is a Pablove Foundation activity, vlogs will not be hosted here. You'll have to go to the Pablove Foundation site - If you haven't been there yet, check out the series of clips that are already posted. We've been loosely documenting the preparation for PAA over the past month.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Late Night With Dr. Drew

Jo Ann and I had the best time last night with Dr. Drew, the host of 'Loveline.' We've both admired him for years - to put it bluntly, Jo Ann has crushed on him gfor years - and meeting him only enhanced that. He spoke to us from several heart-centered places: the best talk show host around, as a father, as a talented therapist, and as a friend of a surprising number of our friends. He spoke to us - on and off the air - about the state of our relationship as we're grieving Pablo's death. He spoke very clearly to us, not pulling punches, as if we were on the couch in his office.

On a more superficial level, my favorite moment with Drew was when he told me off the air that he saw Van Halen play a dance in the early '70s at Grady's school, St Francis. Kills me. Why did I have to be born so late?

I was excited when Jo Ann said she'd come with me to the 'Loveline' studio. The show is on from 10 to midnight, which put it in the red zone for Jo Ann's schedule. We left the intimate Pablove Across America kick off party at Dangerbird HQ and headed to Culver City for dinner. At the studio, we chatted with Drew for half an hour before going on air. We told him how we'd met on a music video project for an artist that was on Grand Royal Records; their offices were directly across the street from Drew's studio. He got a kick out of the symmetry.

Brian Aubert from Silversun Pickups joined the show via phone from Hilton Head, SC. His ability to capture complex emotion in a single sentence blows me away. 'Loveline' has been on the air since 1983. Last night was the first time they'd dedicated a show to cancer. After the show, the producer, Ann, told us they weren't sure how their audience would receive the topic. Turns out the phones blew up the entire time the lines were open. The calls that got through proved that the cancer conversation is ready to happen - that people w a n t and. n e e d a place to open the dialogue. I was honored and proud to share this incredible experience of bringing with Brian.

I felt Jo Ann's love as she sat on the sofa behind me with headphones over her skull; every time I looked over at her for support and strength, her eyes shot both straight at me. Talking to young people about cancer was not easy. Listening to a mother - who was on break at her job - calling in to talk about losing her son to a brain tumor was not easy.

Being of service by giving feedback, that was easy. It's important to me to give away what I got. My experience is mine, sure. But it's useless if I keep it to myself.

Our friend Rob Goldklang, a radio promotion exec from Warner Bros Records, was also with us. He has dedicated himself to helping the Pablove Foundation in any way. He and Dangerbird GM Matt Solodky have been hammering the Pablove auction scene. Rob also set up the 'Loveline' appearance. His heart connection to Pablove was clear to Drew and Ann, and that got the job done.

It was a great night, and a unique experience to be behind the mic. It was also the single biggest media hit The Pablove Foundation has ever had. 'Loveline' is syndicated to 60 stations around North America, and has thousands of listeners online. In 60 minutes, the mission and message of the foundation hit hundreds of thousands of ears all across the U.S. And that was worth staying up late for.

Next stop: St Augustine, Florida.