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We need funny stories, warm blankets and magazines just to keep our minds from focusing on the waiting room, the gateway to chemo land. It must be different for other kinds of patients—nurses and doctors don’t necessarily remind them of death.
The first time, my mother and I walked toward the room in silence, holding hands. I’d collapsed without warning in a Miami shopping mall. Eight days before I’d had emergency 12-hour brain surgery to remove the softball-sized tumor wanting to kill me.
The hallways were cold and quiet. The green chemotherapy sign grew closer, and our hands grasped tighter. More people arrived: an older couple, a young girl in her twenties, a young boy with his mother. Others fell asleep or watched the TV at full blast.
Only a few people in front of us—maybe it will be quick.
They called my name. Not bad, only about 45 minutes.
A hippy-ish, peaceful-looking doctor with gray hair and blue eyes walked into the examining room. He laid out the chemo plans, like a syllabus for the semester.
“Not bad,” I said. My oncologist laughed and then gave me a funny look. He saw my lack of fear. And he introduced me to another patient, who was in remission.
I’m nowhere near remission. Most of my senses—sight, sound, taste, touch—are gone, buried beneath many painkillers and my mostly covered head.
But every other week, I’m back in this waiting room, on alert, as if on call, as doctors are every day.
I see familiar faces and new ones, the new ones looking just like mine did on my first day. I also see people throwing up, and bald, gray, tired people, loss of life in their eyes.
I meet a guy in a similar brain-tumor situation. We compare our surgery scars. We compare other things that occur to us. Attitude still has to keep on rising around life.
We’re all competing. Will I get my chemo quickly or have to wait for hours in a full waiting room? Do I have a fast nurse, or is she a bumbler? Is the IV needle nurse going to be good, or will she have no clue of how to find my vein and give me a bruise?
I can see as just a cross to carry—or to briefly battle. I think about all of this while I’m waiting. So I always hope the wait will be short.
Again, I find strength in myself. Each time chemo is finished and the waiting room waits, I feel I’m receiving an angel’s guidance.

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Waiting Room

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In the current vein of band names that are all-too-obvious misnomers, Monsters Are Waiting’s is much bigger than its bite. Singer Annalee Fery’s flowery vocals recall Harriet Wheeler’s of The Sundays and the ethereal yet distinctive songs on their effort Fascination bring to mind Mazzie Star. But just because they’re on the lighthearted side of the moody pop spectrum doesn’t mean the music blognascenti should write them off as having no substance, no matter what their name. 

“Our name just happened to be something I was blurting out of my mouth when we were writing the music [to the song “Monsters”]. We didn’t have a band name, so we decided to make it ours,” explains Fery. “People can take it to mean what they want it to mean. It can even mean something political, or something lurking around the corner that’s fucked up.”

It’s been said that southern Californians are laid-back, and this Los Angeles-based band embodies that notion to some extent. As Fery explains it, they didn’t even have to try to hard to find the members: It was as easy as opening their bedroom door. 

“The three other members were playing together already, and we had a little rehearsal space in the basement in the house we all lived in. One time I was at work [if you’re wondering why Fery looks like she belongs on a magazine cover, it’s because she also does hair and makeup for commercials], and they decided to try some of the songs I wrote. So they called me and said, ‘Let’s all play together and see what happens.’ We started playing together and just had fun,” Fery says.

However, not everything the band does embraces the LA lifestyle. For example, the bubbly Fery doesn’t have the requisite blonde hair, which seems to also have become standard for female-fronted rock acts of late. 

And she feels being raven-rooted sets her apart from the others out there. 

“I was in a bookstore, and I was looking at a picture of this band with a blond singer. The picture of her was on stage singing, and I thought, ‘Wow, that looks cool, but I don’t have that color hair, and that’s too bad.’ But then I sort of went in a different direction and thought, ‘I’m kind of glad I don’t have what everyone else has.’” Guess it doesn’t hurt that she’s coyly coiffed no matter what.

But being in LA hasn’t hurt: The song “Time” was featured in a WB teen drama this year, and with that sort of early exposure, Fery’s self-referential claim “I’m a nobody” (from the single “Nobody”) will just seem like a little extended-adolescent overindulgence.

Their last New York City exposure allowed the band to take advantage of things that they don’t otherwise on the left coast. “I liked walking around,” commented Fery. “I think that’s really awesome; I hate getting into cars. Riding the subway was cool. Seeing all the people on the street, meeting them; I liked all the crazy people. I loved the neighborhoody quality of Williamsburg and other areas of Brooklyn.”

But she sounds like she has some advice for some of the neighborhood’s regulars when she advises, “Just be yourself—even if it’s not cool. People need to stop trying to be so fucking cool.” 

July 19-20. Piano’s, Ludlow St. (at Stanton St.), 212-505-3733; 10, $8.