BEGIN TRANSCRIPT (Edited for length)
Terry Gross (Host of NPR’s “Fresh Air”): My guest is Alexander Miller, blogger behind “Husband Amused” where he writes about surviving the resection of a brain tumor. He is a professional oboist with the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Cabrillo Music Festival Orchestra. He is also a composer of works such as “Remix in D,” premiered this year which applies hip-hop techniques to the Pachelbel Canon, “Fireworks,” performed in Carnegie Hall in 2005 and “Let Freedom Ring” for orchestra and narrator which has been performed by Danny Glover, James Earl Jones and President Bill Clinton. Welcome to Fresh Air.
Ale Miller: Thank you for inviting me on the program. It’s great to see my tax dollars at work.
TG: Eh —
AM: Kidding. I’m kidding.
TG: Okay. So you had a brain surgery earlier this year —
AM: — two —
TG: Two surgeries to remove a brain tumor. I’m curious, how did you first suspect you might have a brain tumor? How does that come about and when did you first think there was a problem?
AM: When I was writhing in pain. That was my first clue.
TG: So you —
AM: And my ears were ringing. I kept thinking it was dinnertime.
TG: Let’s hope it was someone good at the stove. So you went to the doctor. Your doctor ordered an MRI to rule out anything serious, but the MRI found a tumor. How did that hit you? That must have been hard to hear the news.
AM: It was. I mean, it’s one thing to hear about it, but it’s something else to SEE it, you know? There was this large mass right between my eyeballs. It was there plain as day on the screen. It was all, “HELLO! I’M A GOLF BALL STUCK IN THIS HERE BRAIN!” You know, like that. You didn’t need to go to medical school to spot that one.
TG: And you wrote in your blog this mass was—[sound of shuffling papers]— quote “squeezing apart your optic nerves like Zampano breaking the chain across his chest in ‘La Strada.’” That’s quite . . . is it getting hot in here? . . . [laughing] Why did you decide to begin blogging?
AM: It kind of evolved. At first, there was this website called Caring Bridge where my wife would write medical updates so loved ones could be notified simultaneously of changes to my condition while I was recovering in the hospital. “Alexander is not drooling as much today.” [Laughing.] You know. After a while, I began writing the blog myself as a way to pass the time. Then I registered my own domain name “Husband Amused” and it kind of went from there.
TG: You received feedback that encouraged you to keep writing.
AM: Yes. At first it was a few hundred friends and family egging me on. But then it went viral and now you are interviewing me. I must say, it's very surreal. After today’s program, I hope to increase my readership by at least five percent.
TG: Heh, I uh . . . [sound of coughing] why do you . . . you reveal some very personal things in your writing. You discuss personal failures as an adult, thoughts of suicide as an adolescent and childhood traumas such as the death of your nanny and seeing a dog shot to death when you were three years old. What made you take this approach as a writer?
AM: I mean, being totally honest it was the drugs. I wanted to hug everyone and share myself with everyone on the planet. Drugs are great for creativity, you know, just terrific. Especially the ones nurses inject in your IV.
TG: But surely you don’t want to send the message drugs are good?
AM: Oh no, of course not. Alcohol is equally important. “Just say yes!” I guess.
TG: [Inaudible.] Sorry, I was just summoning the intern whose idea it was to book you when the Tiger Woods people canceled at the last minute.
AM: Hey, it’s cool. I am who I am who I am. That’s me quoting some poetry there.
TG: Okay. You also write about your dog. Tell us about your dog Noah.
AM: Well, he’s a big black dog —
TG: — a Newfoundland, right? —
AM: Indeed. Wow, you did your homework. Did you actually read my blog before doing this interview or was that a lucky guess?
Of course (and before I go too much farther) none of the above actually happened. As I while away the long hours of my convalescence, my imagination runs wild all the time the way it did when I was a child. There is no other way to cope. In the last few months I have made inauguration speeches, accepted Pulitzer Prizes and thanked the Academy more times than I can count.
But my favorite fantasy is when I am interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Every time I turn on NPR on the drives up north I hear her intelligent voice, and all I want is to be on the receiving end of those interviews. By now, I know the formula. Here it is:
Terry Gross: My guest is Famous Celebrity. Hello, Famous Celebrity.
Famous Celebrity: Hello, I feel all cozy with you.
TG: Aww, snuggle snuggle.
FC: Snuggle back.
TG: I’m your mommy all of a sudden and I’m going to throw softball questions at you.
FC: I’m catching the softballs!
TG: Question about your childhood?
FC: Regular this, regular that. But inside I knew I was different.
TG: [Head tilted]: Really?
FC: You understand me!
TG: Now I’m going to pick at the scabs.
FC: Ooooh, that tickles!
TG: Thank you for being on the show.
FC: Is it time already?
As my convalescence nears an end, I must ask myself the same question I hear in my imaginary conversations:
Is it time already?
Is it time to return to normal life?
Just when we were starting to have fun?