We’re The S**t!

PHOTOS BY SUSAN SARNOFF AND HER LITTLE MIJO, EMILIANO GARCIA-SARNOFF 

Your Faithful Correspondent was growing restless. The Colossal Colon ® was cool, if a little anti-climatic (40 feet is not really as long as you might imagine, all curled up). But then the nurses started handing out “Colonders” (glossy full-color calendars featuring survivor’s tales and scarred midriffs that make C-sections look like paper cuts) and parading around in “Captain Colon” costumes. All the “quirkiness” and ironic fun, designed to “raise awareness,” was a little too contrived to actually enjoy (though not for my 3-year-old son, who made the intestinal loop at least two dozen times, screaming “I’m the diarrhea!”).

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It was more of an advertising opportunity for Feather River Hospital than anything else. Without knowing what was happening, I was whisked into a timeshare-like tour of their latest linoleum wing. And they had a tie-in event: “Dinner with the Doctor,” wherein one can have a dinner of “grilled Polenta, pecan crusted garden steaks, mushroom risotto, roasted cumin carrots, and kale citrus salad” followed immediately by desert and a lecture on irritable bowel syndrome and anal cancer (Reservations required. (530) 876-7154. Thursday, March 27th at 6 pm. $12).

It was working though. I saw at least two other steno pad and SLR juggling journos on puff piece patrol. I wandered off to look for the trucker who’s been Driving Miss Colon.

“Yeah, there’s the typical jokes, ‘an asshole hauling an asshole,’ stuff like that,” Mark Gerdes tells me. We’re leaned up on his rig, which is emblazoned with “Colossal Colon” in huge carnival-esque typeface.

Gerdes is from Mason, Il. He’s got a little accent and a solid trucker-build, and wears a camo- colored anti-colon cancer T and a grey goatee— plus a trucker hat, obviously. Gerdes has just passed his 10-year anniversary as “Coco’s” (as the colon is “affectionately named”) exclusive chauffeur, driving her full time from March through October. He’s been all over with this thing. His life is forever intertwined with it. In Montreal, Gerdes had his colon x-rayed for contraband. Back in 2007, in Little Rock, AR, he supervised two battalions of firemen who carried her up the 180 steps to the Capital Building.

 

Though he’s the driver, not the owner, Gerdes and his wife keep Coco in their own home, in a special heated room. Each spring they “touch ‘er up, and give ‘er a cleaning.” Once, in Effingham, Il, Gerdes tells me, when it was too hot to sleep in the truck, he and his wife slept in the The Colossal Colon ®, at its two orifices, under the stars and the polyps.

I ask him if he’s ever made love in the colon, savoring the double entendre as I do. “If we were 30 years younger, we’d have probably thought about it,” Gerdes tells me. I can’t tell if the double meaning has double-penetrated him. “But we do love Coco, though,” he adds, for some reason.

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Then, growing wistful, Gerdes tells me, “It’s not like the old days.” It turns out that Coco is like an aging rock star. When she first came on the scene, she used to fetch $10,000 (!) an appearance. Everyone wanted to book her. There were gut-groupies and gigs at all the big festivals. But Coco isn’t the hot young intestine she once was. Other oversized colons have come on the scene (Coco’s owners had to send a cease and desist letter to a group that designed an inflatable walkthrough Colon. Apparently, they hold a trademark on humongous diseased colon replicas. Though how suing other colons out of existence helps “raise awareness” Gerdes was not really able to give a straight answer to). Now, Gerdes tells me, Coco is lucky to get $2,400. And she’s performing at backwoods locales, like Feather River Hospital, Paradise, CA. Sadly, “what, with the price of gas, ‘en all” Gerdes himself makes half what he once did, back in Coco’s heyday.

I picture, for a moment, Gerdes and Coco elegiacally smoking cigarettes and drinking whisky straight from the bottle in small casino parking lots. I ask him if he was worried God would send him an ironic death, and if he’d had a colonoscopy. Gerdes tells me he had just that fear. There were polyps, he tells me. But they were benign.

Your Faithful Correspondent goes back to the Colossal Colon ®, which is lying in the driveway like a giant, sleep-coiled caterpillar. Two pre-teen girls are eating cookies and taking selfies in the sphincter. The soundtrack is being provided, quite appropriately, I think, by “Mix 95.1,” which is playing “Today’s Lite Rock,” and broadcasting live from the event. In the context of the Colossal Colon ®, the Lite Rock lyrics take on new, more complex meanings. For instance Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose,” amplified through the colon as if it were a gigantic phonograph bell, brings these words: “And now that your rose is in bloom, a light hits the gloom on the grey,” before breaking into the famed refrain, “my pleasure, my power, my pain.”

With kids behind and in front, I crawl past the ulcerative colitis, which looks like uncooked hamburger meat. Then on hands and knees, past the dark grooves of diverticulosis, pulling myself along by polyps until I come to the pre- cancerous ones, which are more nodular, like salmon-colored apple fritters.

One of the kids in front of me rips one, providing a fourth sense-dimension of realism.

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At last I arrive at the full-blown colon cancer, which covers the walls on all sides. It’s the texture of lava rock and the color of hell fire. Finally the bright light at the end of the tunnel, framed by the pornographically- gaping rectum, lookin’ like I’m the shit for a photo op.

Cancer. Why, when life is so precious and so precarious, do I waste so much time concentrating on such silly shit (for examples, see above).

My dad died of colorectal cancer two years ago. It was a terrible way to go, with lots of pain, and surgery, and cruelly dashed hope, capped off by weeks with tubes and diapers and agony. It’s very likely I’ll go the same way. The thought terrifies me. I’m 35, and with the family history, it’s time for me to get a colonoscopy.

“It’s like pushing wet spaghetti up a tube,” Nurse Lyndia Logan tells me inside the hospital, as she shows me the light-tipped ass- scope. “And it just takes 30 to 45 minutes… depending on how many twists and turns your colon has.” I can really see why people die from putting this off, indefinitely.

 

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About Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff

View all posts by Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff
Former busboy, sauerkraut-mixer, and Japanese hair model, Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff is a writer and father of two, living in Chico. After quitting a job as an Erin Brockovich-like legal investigator, then hitting rock bottom in a scene that involved roommates, tears, nudity and police officers, the UC Berkeley graduate decided to go for broke (and he’s accomplished his goal!) in the exciting world of small town weekly newspaper writing.