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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Monster Art Show

One of the Sesame Street episodes Molly regurgitates in her echolalia has to do with Elmo trying to get ready for the 'Monster Art Show.' Our usual Saturday routine of seeing a move put us on a collision course with the Plaza Art Fair, which is the same basic concept. The theater we go to usually is right there in the thick of it, so my first thought was to park and get on the MAX out of midtown and bus in to the Plaza, then walk through the fair to get to and from the movie.

But show times and whatnot, as we got closer to midtown, I realized the movie I was wanting to see, mother!, would start pretty soon and my second choice was over an hour later.

Whatever the director may say about telling the story of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel and God and all that, I see this as a perfect expression of the effects of fame and how easy it is for someone to chose the adoration of nameless masses over the genuine love of one person, no matter what consequences come.

So we got parked, level five instead of the usual two and got to the movie, and after I went walking through the fair with Molly. I can't tell, sometimes she seems to dig this stuff, sometimes she seems to think it's bullshit. When we got heading back the direction of the car she got hard to keep up with and usually I'm prompting her to come on, so I guess that's a thumbs-down review.

So we got to the parking garage, almost to the elevator, when Mo peeled off. I almost got a hold of her arm to steer her down to a seated position on the curb, instead she fell down and hit her head. Not hard, from what I could tell, shoulder first, and the head didn't go down fast like it would if the neck was limp at the time. But still.

It was a seizure. About a minute to ninety seconds I think, it's hard to tell, when someone you love and are supposed to be protecting seizes, time gets distorted, take my word for it. Seconds become weeks, it's true.

Thanks to the art fair, there were a lot of passers by to witness this, so while I'm holding her jerking head to keep it from hitting the pavement a few more times, I'm trying in vain to tell well-meaning bystanders that this isn't a 9-11 situation. The kid has had so many seizures and been transported after so many of them, it's not that I'd never go that way, but it would take more than this. As ridiculous as that sounds to the uninitiated. If I thought she'd hit her head hard enough to have concussion issues, if she'd say puked in the aftermath or acted otherwise out of the norm for postictal Molly, I wouldn't have hesitated to let the paramedics transport her but as it is I signed the waiver and went and got the car.

One of the EMT's was asking her, "what's your name?" And when he got nothing, was like, we have to transport when they can't even give us a name. I'm like, trust me, before the seizure you'd have have gotten the same not-answer. If you ask her "how are you" she'll say "happy" even through tears. I get that the feedback you're getting is outside the norm but for this kid, it's normal as grilled cheese sandwiches and wearing out Liz Phair videos on YouTube.

As they by default loaded her onto the gurney and into the ambulance even as I tried to tell them the ambulance was overkill, just give us a golf cart ride up to the fifth floor where I'm parked, I think I felt a little like Jennifer Lawrence's character in mother!, it's hard to not be listened to. Not be heard. I'm not taking concussion risks lightly, my wife has a TBI with profound consequences. A friend of mine almost lost a kid to a brain bleed after a skateboard incident and he was totally ready to sign off to not transport his kid who was just a couple of hours later in emergency surgery. I get it, but I saw the impact, it didn't look severe, and Molly wasn't acting differently than she does when she has one of these on a nice soft couch or something.

And she was fine. She soon after ate a couple of egg rolls and a bag of 'cheese chips' (her favorite snack of all time, Sour Cream & Cheddar Ruffles), guzzled some Diet Coke, came home and watched a little YouTube, unloaded the dishwasher and slept like a baby.

48 going on 79

When I started apheresis therapy a few years ago, after having a heart attack at 32 and requiring a double bypass a mere eleven years later, they scanned my carotid arteries. The doc told me I had the arteries of an 80 year old. I'm not going to claim to have led life as a health food nut or gym rat, but when genetics dealt the cards in the big Texas Hold'em game of longevity, my hole cards say 'just fold.'

So anyway, I've continued to let them filter my blood fortnightly, it takes half a day out of my life twice a month and even though I have what passes for good insurance in America these days, I have a team of lawyers faunching at the bit to burn my life to the ground over my medical bills. It's putting a serious crimp in my ability to ever, even theoretically, retire, but then if I don't live to be a senior citizen the question of retirement is moot. But that's not what I came here to talk to you about.

This past June, the doc at the apheresis clinic asked me casually who I saw about my diabetes. He'd just drawn labs, and I was like, I didn't know I was diabetic.

Your liver enzymes aren't fabulous either, how much alcohol do you drink? was his response.

So I've been trying to cut back on the booze but even more than that, I've been watching carbs, sugars, all that jazz. And taking the Metformin he wrote for. I lost about 25 pounds in a couple of months, then plateaued. And overall I feel better for the changes, though (and I would have thought this impossible) I've had some withdrawals that feel a lot like when I quit smoking around giving up those carbs. I love good beer, and what makes good beer good is, aside from hops, mostly carbs. I've tested my blood sugar before and after a variety of inputs, and good beer is a problem. So is the off-dry mead I made most recently. Dry red wines seem to be fine, and the hard stuff, Scotch, rum, tequila, that sort of thing, if anything that drops my blood sugar. My most recent mead, which finished slightly sweeter than I usually get, is a problem. It's only about 2% sugar according to the hydrometer, but a five ounce glass was enough to send my blood sugar out of range and I'm typically someone who drinks more like a liter of that stuff at a go.

And I had no idea how much I fucking love bread.

So my family got together the other day on account of my 48th birthday. A follow up scan showed some improvement on my arteries, but I figure being diabetic to boot erases that on the longevity game. But while the doc only wrote a script for Metformin and told me I didn't need to monitor my blood sugar numbers, I'm like fuck that, I am taking an active interest in this. I'm probably not willing to swear off beer judging and mead making but I'm also not willing to give up a foot over those things. So I've been checking a few times a day.

And while the birthday dinner was relatively friendly as far as low-glycemic foods: I had burnt ends from Jack's Stack (probably rubbed with a sugary rub and definitely sauced with a sugary sauce) and an enormous salad. And then pie. I've never been a big birthday cake fan, I think I was maybe nine when I thought to ask my Mom if I could have lemon meringue pie instead of Duncan Hines cake. I had a sliver of lemon meringue and a sliver of pecan for my 48th and a half hour later my blood glucose was 250, the highest number I've seen since I started testing.

But then, when I look at what I routinely ate before being diagnosed, I'm sure I tripped numbers like that almost daily before finding out about the problem.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bike MS Ozarks '17

This is my fall classic. I ride Bike MS Ozarks every year, this is my fourth in a row and I'm not stopping.

At the beginning, the emcee thanked us for 'giving up a weekend' for this worthy cause. The MS Society is a worthy cause, no doubt, I should fundraise more aggressively for it. But I was not giving up my weekend, this is one of the best weekends of my year every year.

It's a challenging ride, though four years ago it was more so, I think they shaved a few of the more challenging climbs off to cut down on the number of riders who SAG. I'm not sure that worked, I got passed by a lot of obviously full SAG vehicles on Sunday. The thing that ended up being challenging this year, they sent us back the way we came.

Which totally makes sense. You don't have to move porta-potties, marking the route is simpler, etc. But in years past they've sent us longer going out than home, and when I got to the sixth rest stop on Sunday, thinking that would be the last with about ten miles to go I learned we were about 25 miles out.

Which was fine, it was just a surprise. Better than the surprise I got Saturday night when I got to camp and learned it was a different venue than the last three years. It worked out in the end, they'd thought of the things, we just couldn't set up our 'indoor camping' as early as we'd have liked and as a consolation we were allowed to drink non-secret beer. The school we've overnighted at the past few years didn't allow alcohol, which didn't mean none was consumed, but this year it was a keg of Mother's brown ale and coolers of canned beer instead of brown paper bags and flasks.

The one criticism I had when I filled out my survey: they had an awesome spread of barbecue at the finish on Sunday, but lunch was, well, it was cold cut sandwiches with a lot more white bread than cold cuts, no toppings to speak of (except pickles, mustard and mayo, no veggies). I get that you're feeding 600 people and it's a fundraiser, but the awesome meal should be lunch, not the after party: by the time we're back in Republic we have options, you don't need to feed us at all. In some tiny town int he middle of nowhere, we're a captive audience, a captive audience that's exerting and can't just opt to buy an alternative (though they did run us by a Casey's this year, and on Sunday, realizing the lunch situation, I did opt to stop for pizza there).

Oh, I should admit to one other criticism: pickle juice. It's really popular with us riders, it really does seem to help with cramps. Some stops had it, some seemed astonishingly surprised at the demand for the stuff. God bless the volunteers on this, they make the whole thing possible, and their efforts are truly impressive. I get that a lot of them don't understand why so many of us riders are looking for pickle juice, but when your hamstrings make that sound from Down With the Sickness, you never look at electrolytes the same way again.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sixteen Years Later

It's been sixteen years since we entered the war that will never end. What happened on 9/11 was not okay, it was not something you should accept. But, and this is going to be hard for you to swallow if you're the sort of small mind that voted for Donald Trump: war will not prevent it from happening again. No matter how much war you bring.

As a friend of mine who's much more of a pacifist than I can be put it, if rockets and bombs were going to fix the problems of the Middle East, those problems would be fucking solved.

Ani's 'Self Evident' bit is my favorite piece about the whole affair. I don't think she gets it all right, for a start trains are not necessarily so much less carbon intensive than cars, they can actually be much more so. You're moving 100 tons of steel before you move a person, so while I'm not immune to the charms of the rails, you need significant density and ridership to make them ecologically better than an oil well fire.

It's become a sort of third rail thing in American politics. A football player sits out the National Anthem and he might not have a gig even if he's demonstrably better at his position than 20 or so of the alternatives. I am not anti-Murica, but why do we even have the national anthem at sporting events? We don't have it at concerts or movies or any other entertainment, and that's all the NFL is, goddamn entertainment. Why should I care if a black man refuses to stand for an annoying song written by a slave owner about how awesome America is? If America is great, and I generally thing it is, why does it need the approbation of an athlete?

What does it say for your great nation if it constantly needs to use the opening of sporting events to remind everyone who's turf they're on?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Bike for the Brain

What better way to spend a Labor Day than in the saddle? Just shy of 70 miles for me, I think I got off the route a little at one point. But my average speed was 10.1 mph, which is much faster than my usual in town speeds, usually I"m under 8. I might be old and fat, but at least I got the slow part nailed.

Monday, September 04, 2017


So this was like a class reunion except it was really about the band. Shawnee Mission North (mostly) band. Which I participated in as a member of the Jazz Band in the 1980s.

I remember a few teachers from back then. For you newcomers, let me set the stage: there were three channels on the television. Phones were bolted to walls, you had to go to a different neighborhood and pay money to find pornography. The plains might not have been black with buffalo but it was definitely a different time.

So the fact that I don't remember most of my teachers' names isn't really a bad reflection on them, but the few I do remember, I consider to be real paragons of pedagogy, really awesome teachers. Penny Snead is definitely in the top five of that category.

So this reunion of sorts, I think we would have overwhelmed the venue if she did Facebook. Yes, folks, there are still a few holdouts who have resisted the whole social media thing, and she's one of them. Still former students from me (I was a junior her first year at Shawnee Mission North) to the present came out of the woodwork to hoist a few in her honor. I didn't ask if she was thinking about retiring, I'm sure, given that I've been out of high school almost 30 years that she's eligible for a full pension, but when someone is as good at a job as she is, it's generally because they love what they're doing.

I kinda wish I'd gotten pictures of more of the people who turned out. For that matter, I spaced getting a picture of myself with her.

She seemed surprised so many of us turned out, I was surprised it wasn't an even bigger crowd.

The other ones I remember were great too. Frank Robertson (AP Honors English), Karen McGee (Orchestra), Margaret McClatchey (Drama), Ad Ely (Debate/Forensics), and from junior high, Raymond Scoville (Science) and Larry Nivens (Algebra—the only math teacher who ever got me to ace a final). I can remember (but won't name) a couple of teachers because they sucked, but most of the names that stuck with me are real hall of famers. I didn't pick where I grew up, I just got lucky.

Sunday, September 03, 2017


I processed a lot of food today. Started the first of a batch of four pounds of beef jerky in the dehydrator, started four pounds of cukes on the road to kosher dills, did a two quart batch of pickled peppers, a quart of pickled okra, and three trays of sunflower seeds roasting.

These were 'mammoth' sunflowers, they get fifteen to twenty feet tall, collapse under their own weight mostly. But boy do they put off seeds.