Sunday, August 25, 2019

Personal and indelicate

Testing. Testing. One, two three.

Just checking. I'd just come out of anesthesia and I wanted to make sure I'm the same person I was going into my colonoscopy as I was coming out. I guess I am, although the thought has occurred to me that while anesthetized, it would have been a really good time to insert a few more IQ points, perhaps intravenously. But I don't remember signing a waiver for something like that and Lord knows what that would have added to my final billing.

I need to take a few steps back right here to explain.

About a month ago, I did the Cologuard thing, where you send off a stool sample (Indelicate. I told you) for analysis and, based on your DNA, it can be determined whether your colon has any issues, like maybe cancer.

I chose to do Cologuard because it's a non-invasive procedure with something like a 93 percent (maybe higher) detection rate. You've probably seen the commercials on TV where an animated Cologuard box happily dances around the house to let you know this procedure is an option in your life. Hmmm, OK. My Cologuard box didn't dance. I simply wanted to avoid a colonoscopy. In fact, I did this procedure for the first time three years ago with no problem.

This time, I got a call from my doctor telling me my Cologuard analysis came back with a positive result, and the next step was a colonoscopy, the very thing I was trying to avoid in the first place.

What you need to know here is that, in my life, I've only been to the hospital twice: once, about nine years ago when I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib) and was kept overnight for observation; and the first time was 68 years ago when I was born.

So we scheduled a procedure. Now look, I know colonoscopies happen all the time, that it's a common outpatient procedure, and nearly everybody I know, including family members, has had it done. But I was a little apprehensive anyway.

The hospital even sent me an email with a three-part video primer attachment to prepare me for what was coming. I was OK until they got to the part about some risks (although rare) involved. "We don't want to scare you, but..." warned the video.

Well, that scared the poop out of me (indelicate). It could have served as part of the prep for the colonoscopy.

Further adding to my concern was my AFib. I take a blood thinner, Eliquis, to help prevent blood platelets from pooling in my heart and throwing a stroke. I had to come off the Eliquis for three days, just in case any internal bleeding occurred. Even after the procedure, I'm off the Eliquis until Monday. So, yep, I'm as calm as a summer breeze.

I could go on, but I'll cut to the chase.

I had the procedure done on Friday. When I came out of the anesthesia, Kim said one of the first things I said, apparently in a rather loud voice that could be heard in the hallway, was "I didn't feel a damn thing" and then, trying to be funny, "Let's do this again."

Careful what you wish for. Don't try to be funny when coming out of anesthesia.

Two polyps were found, one of which they snipped out and sent off for biopsy. The other polyp is larger, more than an inch in size, and lying flat on its side against the colon wall. I know, because I saw the pictures. In fact, I should have brought the pics home with me to help illustrate this blog. Sorry. I wasn't thinking.

Anyway, a second procedure is needed to remove the larger polyp. It could be anything from laparascopy (usually an outpatient event) to full-fledged surgery. All that still remains to be determined.

I'm not complaining. I know there are people out there dealing with issues that are far more serious than mine – perhaps even life threatening – that makes my little adventure look like a walk in the park. I know that.

It's just that this is my adventure and I have to negotiate it in my own way.

Maybe I'll sign that waiver about adding IQ points after all.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Woodstock: I wasn't there

I might be one of the few people left on the planet who will concede that he was not at Woodstock 50 years ago.

But I could have been.

I'd just graduated from high school, Class of 1969. I was 18 years old and had just gotten my first car, a 1965 Ford Falcon, as a graduation gift from my grandparents. I thought I was hot stuff. Freedom was in my car keys. I was going to need a car because I was about to become a commuter student at Kutztown State College, soon to be driving the 90-minute round trip every day for the next four years.

But trouble came quickly. My grandparents, Depression-era survivors always on the alert for a good deal, bought the car from someone whom I now assume to have been a disreputable auto dealer. There was sawdust in the automatic transmission.

Keep this in mind as I continue the tale.

One evening, as I was watching either Walter Cronkite or maybe Frank McGee on the evening news, they were telling us of a music festival that was happening just a couple of hours away from us in rural Bethel, New York.

We were living in Perkasie, PA, at the time, so it wouldn't have been a bad trip for me to make. I actually considered doing this.

My memory gets a little foggy at this point, which is what I think is happening to all those other people who tell you that they were, indeed, at Woodstock back in the day. Fog sets in.

What I do remember was that I was young, impetuous and bulletproof. I thought maybe I could go for a day, see what was going on at the festival, and then drive back home. I had no plans to stay overnight. I had no money, either.

What I also didn't have was a concept of 500,000 people milling around in a farmer's field (Max Yasgur's Farm is now an historic site in Sullivan County), with no immediate parking for sawdust filled Ford Falcons. Uh-oh.

The news coverage continued the next day on network TV, because something special was clearly happening. The half-million people were actually getting along rather well with each other. I'm not sure which day it rained, but kids were having fun with mud slides and walking around naked. I'm sure I would have lost my car keys and wallet with the $5 in it. Uh-oh. I also figured these must have been big city New York kids, because public nudity hadn't hit Perkasie yet. They certainly looked more worldly than me (I'm certain that I was grotesquely naive), although I'd started letting my hair grow to fit into the hippie culture that was being helped along by this festival.

So now I was torn. Time was running out. The concert was entering its fourth and final day, and I was missing it. But when I saw the news footage of kids parking their cars on the side of country roads and walking miles through the rain and humidity to the festival, I started to get discouraged. Hmm. Maybe not.

And, just to remember, only a week before Woodstock, Charles Manson and his Family had murdered Sharon Tate, which was a huge game changer for long-haired people on the road. Damn hippies. Manson dominated the news on one hand, with Woodstock on the other and Vietnam in the middle. A cultural Yin and Yang, of sorts, was going on here.

So I never went to Woodstock. I soon traded in my Falcon for a 1963 straight-drive VW Beetle, which turned out to be one of the best cars I ever owned. It got me through four years of college and a 10,000-mile, six-week cross-country camping trip in 1973. And it fit in with my casually cultivated hippie persona, although I still feel like I'm a love and peace guy 50 years later.

I never regretted not going to Woodstock, because I'm sure I would have been eaten alive. And I've really enjoyed telling you that I didn't go, even though I wonder if it's a better story than if I had, in fact, gone.

Love and peace, y'all.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Game time

This time, the weather forecast was for 10 percent chance of rain at game time.

And it found us.

Jim Buice, Neill Caldwell, Larry Lyon and Kevin Brafford.
Which was kind of interesting, because we were at BB&T Ballpark Friday night thanks to a rainout and subsequent power outage that postponed a game we had gathered to see back in May.

Jim, Neill, Larry and myself. Still smiling...
So somewhere around the third inning of the Dash's game with Potomac, a light, annoying rain began to fall. Not again. Apparently, we were being followed by a rain shadow.

But it didn't last long. So the five of us – Larry Lyon, Jim Buice, Kevin Brafford, Neill Caldwell and myself, all former sports writers for The Dispatch from back in the prehistoric days when you could actually hold a newspaper in your hands – reassembled ourselves to give this another try.

It worked. The rain lasted for about an inning (they never did bring out the tarp), and we did the stuff that you'd expect five former sports writers to do: talk about sports and journalism. One of us brought a copy of George Wills' baseball quiz and we spent some time guessing at the obscure answers.

At one point in the game, I took off on my own and walked the concourse around the stadium, taking in the different perspectives of the game. There's nothing like the view of a baseball field inside a stadium.

None of us did any heavy rooting, but we appreciated the talent on the field and wondered how long a 20-year-old minor leaguer stays in the game until he realizes that he has to get a real job some day, and probably sooner than later.

One of the Dash players, high draft choice Andrew Vaughn, signed a $7 million bonus, so I guess he'll be around for a while. Wonder how he gets along with potentially jealous teammates in the clubhouse?

But, to add perspective, everyone of those players was no doubt a star or standout on his high school or college team. The MLB winnowing process is an amazing thing.

There was one scary moment that none of us had ever seen in a baseball game before. While netting down both baselines protects the fans from sharply hit line drive foul balls, there is absolutely no protection for the players in the dugouts. And that's exactly what happened in this game.

A wild foul ball slammed into the Potomac dugout, and moments later, players were calling for the umpire to halt the game. Immediately, players gathered around the Nationals' bench, and play was halted for at least half a hour. An ambulance arrived and came on the field, and shortly, a gurney loaded a person into the van.

We stayed until the eighth inning was over and left, but not before Neill asked a police officer what he knew about the incident. Apparently, a bat boy was injured in the dugout and taken to the hospital. It was an unnerving moment and it begs the question why dugouts aren't more securely protected from foul balls. Players in a dugout are probably paying the least attention of anybody on the field.

Anyway, the rest of the night moved without incident. The Dash won 5-2 for their fourth straight victory.

But mostly, we all stole home after the game with the fires of longtime camaraderie still burning.

Maybe we can do this again next year,

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Blowing Rock getaway

The whole point of the weekend was to escape the heat wave.

Well, that and to recharge the batteries. I've been on a couple of Civil War jaunts this year, already having spent a three-day weekend in Chattanooga, followed by a three-day weekend in Gettysburg about a month later.

But while I was busy honing my knowledge index, Kim was busy working hard at the office. I think the time she has taken off this year can be counted in hours, not days. She needed some down time.

So we escaped to Blowing Rock. This is kind of an annual thing for us. We usually go late in the summer, when it's usually hottest, to take advantage of the higher elevation of the mountains to give us the illusion that we are cooler there than if we were still in Lexington.

We do some shopping, some fine dining, and perusing the crafts at Art in the Park. We usually reserve a room at the Boxwood Lodge, which is near the bottom of the hill on Main Street. We park the car when we arrive on Friday (after first reconnoitering the shops in Boone), and don't get in it again until we leave on Sunday. You can walk everywhere. It's a good time and we generally feel refreshed after those 72 hours.

But this trip was a little different. We couldn't quite escape the heat. Not this year.

When we approached Blowing Rock on Friday, we came by way of Lenoir. It was 91 degrees at noon that day. After driving up the mountain, the temperature had dropped to 83, but the humidity kept the heat index (or feel-like temperature) in the mid-90s. Ahh, yes. The mountains.

Blowing Rock is always changing, and usually, there are one or two new businesses that pop up and catch our attention each year. Development is nonstop.

The thing I noticed this year is that they changed the grade of the hills, and for some reason that's beyond me, they made them a little steeper. Sunset Drive is nearly impossible to walk now. I bet it's a 45 degree incline. Maybe even 60. And combined with the heat index, I found myself taking slower steps up the hill to get from our motel to Art in the Park.

I started thinking how nice it would be to get in the car and...

No. Not gonna do it. I didn't want to lose my parking space, because motel spaces are at a premium.

I'm guessing we climbed the hill – either from the Main Street slope or the Sunset Drive challenge – at least five times on Saturday alone.

But the weekend flew by fast. We left the heat index in Blowing Rock on Sunday and hardly even had to re-acclimate ourselves to the 93 degree heat of home.

But we had recharged the batteries. Isn't that why you go to the mountains in the summer?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Words fail

I went to bed last night with a heavy heart following the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, and then woke up this morning to another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.

The two events are separated by 1,600 miles and 13 hours, leaving a total of 29 dead and God knows how many families shattered.

It's the 250th mass shooting in the last 215 days.

For what?

What the hell is going on?

Ponder this list: I just can't write anymore today.