Somewhere near the West Virginia-Kentucky border, the portable CD player ran out of juice. My friend John was in the driver's seat, so it was up to me to replace the batteries.
Now, I'm a klutz, and I know it. Anything that involves a sharp object — even buttering a bagel — is bound to end badly, so I'm smart enough to stay away from knives, except in case of emergency.
But we were whizzing down the interstate without music, and if that's not an emergency, I don't know what is. So John handed me his Swiss army knife, and I started sawing away at the plastic packaging that was all that separated us from the batteries.
Suddenly, my blood was everywhere. John managed to slip off his sock and improvise a bandage. Not easy at 80 mph, but it got the job done. I went through a box of Band-Aids that week, and washed the wound every day or so.
Two months later, I have a beautiful scar that curves around the knuckle of my right index finger. Everyone who sees it suggests that I should have gone to the hospital, but I'm sticking by my treatment regimen. A doctor would have given me some stitches and a bill. Instead, I have a story and a souvenir.
My point is: I do what I can to avoid doctors. What kind of people charge money to carve you open?
Christine Baze has a different perspective. The Boston-area family therapist was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2000, and since her recovery two years later, she's made it her mission to raise awareness of women's health issues.
You won't often find a doctor who makes house calls, let alone one who goes from city to city urging women to take charge of their own health. But as a part-time singer-songwriter, Baze has the perfect setup for spreading her message throughout the country.
For four years, she's organized the Yellow Umbrella Tour, which takes her inspirational story and sounds on the road. To celebrate two years of remission, Baze played to her doctors, nurses and fellow patients. That first benefit concert has turned into an annual road show that's featured Baze's old band, the Skills of Ortega, alongside such adult-pop purveyors as Duncan Sheik and K's Choice.
This year, the tour stars a solo Baze and guitar virtuosa Kaki King.
A worthy platform isn't enough to entice people to attend a show, though, so fortunately for Baze, her music stands on its own. She plays all kinds of keyboards — piano, synth, Rhodes and Hammond B3 — and she's got a mind for melody.
On her new CD, accurately titled "Something New," she steps out from the band to put her cheery voice front and center. Its eight songs are grounded in the singer-songwriter tradition, with just enough drums and electronic touches to tickle the ear. Fans of Sam Phillips and Dido should find something to like.
Baze is a subtle performer, and her lyrics are more allusive than confessional, but her feelings come through quite vividly. On songs like "Say Something" and "New Experience," Baze acknowledges her setbacks — including the depression that so often accompanies a sudden, fearful diagnosis — and moves forward with hope and grace.
"Pretty," with bassist Jesse Ciarmataro on ghostly backup vocals, deftly captures the balance of strength and vulnerability that it takes to get through a serious illness or an ill-fated attraction without too much lasting damage. The life-affirming "Red Roots and Blue Nails" ends the disc with nods to the Yellow Umbrella Tour and "Harold and Maude," the 1971 cult film that inspired Baze's post-cancer worldview.
She doesn't interrupt her set to lecture too much, and I won't either. After all, who am I to tell anyone to go to the doctor? But if you want to educate yourself, visit her nonprofit group, Pop
Smear, at: www.popsmear. org. It certainly couldn't hurt.