Sunday, February 23, 2020

Goose and the Monkey

Three, six, nine
The goose drank wine
The monkey chewed tobacco on the street car line
The line broke
The monkey got choked
And they all went to heaven in a little row boat

It never ceases to amaze me when small-town entrepreneurs bring their vision to the community. I can't imagine the gigantic risks they must be taking – financial, emotional, sweat equity and otherwise – to bring their plans to fruition.

Yet Brent Moore and his wife, Ashlee, seem to be standing on the cusp of something quite remarkable for Lexington. On Saturday night, after a couple years of ups and downs, of near misses and an historic fire in 2018, the Moores gave us a soft opening of their new business: Goose and the Monkey Brewhouse, located on 401 S. Railroad Street in the Depot District.

In the world I come from, soft openings are generally limited affairs, usually by invitation only to the guests and a chance to iron out any potential grand opening kinks (on Feb. 29) by the employees.

Guests mingle among the stainless steel storage and fermentation tanks.
 Last night, by contrast, was amazing. When Kim and I showed up shortly after the appointed hour, the place was packed shoulder to shoulder with invitees and their friends. I'm guessing several hundred people were milling around, exploring, tasting the craft beers that will be brewed and served there and simply enjoying themselves.

It was the hardest soft opening I've ever seen, and I mean that in a good way. Everything, it seemed, went smoothly. Wowser.

One of the conversations I heard last night, and repeated several times over, was how special this moment was. It wasn't that long ago when folks had to drive across the Yadkin River – and the county line – to purchase a six-pack. Now, Lexington has its own brew house, located almost catty-corner to the Bull City Ciderworks. And both places are within easy walking distance of the Breeden Amphitheater. Who could have thought that something like this was ever possible just a decade or so ago?

The building itself is a former warehouse for the Lexington Home Brands furniture plant that borders the right-of-way for the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The Moores, in their vision of re-purposing the place, put up a south-facing wall of windowed garage doors facing the tracks, which is a huge plus for all of us train geeks who like to see Diesel engines rolling by. It's a nice touch.

The Moores, actually, did a lot of the physical work themselves during the renovation and restoration of the building: grading, patching, moving stuff from here to there.

 Another nice touch are the sliding metal fire doors, now displayed on a wall inside, that helped save the building from the historically massive fire that consumed much of the defunct and vacant Lexington Home Brands plant. The warehouse was on the periphery of the fire as the blaze engorged upon itself, and the fire marshall closed the fire doors to try and protect the property while hosing down the building with uncounted thousands of gallons of water. It's little doubt why we have a Goose and Monkey today.

If the soft opening is any indication, there's clearly plenty of interest for a brew house in the gradually developing Depot District. So cheers to that.

But I am still a little curious about the name Goose and the Monkey. Ashlee has explained several times over that it comes from a hand-clapping nursery rhyme that she sang as a child. It's kind of obscure. I never heard of it prior to this, and it took me more than a little time to find the verse on Google and with which I led this story.

But maybe that's the point. Goose and the monkey. It's unusual. It's distinct. It kinda makes you want to see what it's all about.

Now if somebody can only explain the logo to me...

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Abdominal hell

For three straight nights this past week – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – I suddenly felt ill in my stomach.

Oh, please. Not another 24-hour virus. This time, it was about eight hours each night for three consecutive episodes.

I went to the doctor on Wednesday, where basically it was a heads up notification for everybody. Take Gas-X if it's a gas bubble, but if it continues, come back.

Well meaning friends also were telling me it could be acid reflux. Or gall bladder. Or diverticulitis. Or stomach ulcer. Take your pick. Ain't self diagnosis great?

As a precaution, they also did a blood panel on Wednesday, which eventually showed nothing except a slightly elevated white blood count, which I figured meant I was fighting off some kind of infection.

On Thursday, after an especially relentlessly painful Wednesday night, I went back to the doctor, where I was promptly sent to the hospital for a CT scan. Never had one of those before. They slide you into a machine that looks like a giant doughnut and fill you with a saline solution to collect the images.

And they found the culprit: Gall bladder. Bingo.

At first, I was somewhat relieved. Sure, it meant even more surgery for me just six months after my colon resection, but this time, it would be outpatient surgery – in and out, two hours max. I could handle that.

That, of course, only happens in my dreams. Easy is never peasy.

Because now it was back to Davidson Surgical Associates, those very nice people who did my colon resection back in September. It was there that I met my surgeon, Dr. Mark Smith, who filled me in on the details of the laparoscopic surgery that was scheduled for Saturday because I had to wait an extra day to get off my blood thinning Eliquis.

There seems to be this assumption that gall bladder surgery is relatively simple, and maybe by comparison to other abdominal surgeries, it is. As it turned out, the presumed one-hour surgery turned into a nearly three-hour event. Dr. Smith told me why: there was a marble-sized stone blocking the bile ducts, which was inflaming that particular end of the gall bladder. After removing the bladder, they stapled the intersection to the bile ducts shut to eliminate future problems,

What these guys can do inside the human body with a laparoscope is astounding to me. I think they must be something akin to a rocket scientist who is also an artist and who is incredibly blessed with the grace of God in his hands.

But wait. There's more. There was a lot of infection and some gangrene leakage also taking place, because gangrene is dying tissue. Literally.

"Could this have killed me?" I asked Dr. Smith. I personally never heard of anyone dying from gall bladder infection. What do I know? That's why I ask questions.

"Yes, it could have," he said.  My eyes watered. My lips quivered. He probably said a few other things, although I'm not sure because in that moment, I was somewhere else in my head. I think he said he thought God wanted me to hang around a little longer and he was glad to be a part of that.

My eyes watered. My lips quivered.

"Thank you," I whispered.

A little later, I called my brother, Scott, who is a teaching nurse in Oklahoma. I sometimes solicit free medical advice from him even though I once told him he was adopted back when we were kids. Hey, it was funny at the time. I told my brother what I asked Dr. Smith about the possibility of dying. So I asked Scott how much time would I have had if I left this untreated.

"That's difficult to say," said Scott. "It depends on the infection. It could have been a while. Or it could have been next week."

My eyes watered. My lips quivered. I could hardly talk to my brother.

OK, so by my count, I've pretty much dodged three pretty significant bullets in the last 10 years. I was diagnosed with AFib in 2011. To this day, if doctors didn't tell me I had it, I'd never know I had it. Never had symptoms. Untreated, I'd be rather susceptible to a stroke. But my meds have already bought me 10 years, and I hope they can buy me 10 more.

Last year, of course, I had the colon resection. A flat polyp the size of my thumb from tip to knuckle had imbedded itself in my colon wall. I'm told that flat polyps are the ones that most likely lead to colon cancer. There were no symptoms. We found it with a colonoscopy, and Dr. Steven Muscoreil, a colleague of Dr. Smith from the same practice, removed a foot of the colon. Luckily, it was benign.

And now the gall bladder.

Life changes when you get older. The bulletproof vest you wore in your 20s and 30s somehow loses some of its Kevlar as time passes. It makes you think.

And just in case I need another lesson, I still have my appendix.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Passport ready, so where to?

Kim and I just completed the final paperwork needed to declare that we are who we say we are, since our actual physical being on the planet doesn't seem to be enough anymore. I guess it never was.

We applied for passports on Saturday, taking advantage of passport day in the Clerk of Court's office at the Davidson County courthouse.

We just recently received our new Real IDs about a month or so ago, which required us to collect all kinds of personal identification, from birth certificates to social security numbers to utility bills (for proof of residency) to voter registration cards. Anyway, some of the identification stuff we needed for our Real IDs also helped with applying for our passports.

We've never had passports before. We never had occasion to leave the country. But recently, I learned that there might be an opportunity for me to go to Normandy, France, to visit the site of the D-Day invasion. As a history buff, this is a very real bucket list item for me, and I ain't getting any younger.

Kim isn't much of a traveler, but we once mulled over the idea of going to Ireland. She's a potato loving strawberry blonde who has both Martin and Combs blood in her, so there's that. And I like the occasional black and tan. Getting a passport will open that door.

Or it could be that we're getting passports for no reason at all. We may never travel; you never know. But we live in strange and paranoid times. Who'd ever think we'd need a Real ID to fly to Alaska? Who'd ever think that we'd build a wall? The time may come when passports are required to cross state lines, who knows? Aren't Real IDs really a precursor to that anyway?

I get antsy filling out applications. Even though I have a college education, applications can be so, so ...  vague. Am I filling in the right info? Do I go to jail if the information I give is incorrect? What do they mean when they ask if I go by any other name? What, what, what?

And the wheels of government can be daunting. I feared there'd be a sizable crowd Saturday morning, and when we arrived at the courthouse at the appointed hour, there were about 20-30 people ahead of us in line.

We sat in chairs waiting for our turn to be called. Meanwhile, Kim overheard a nearby conversation where some guy mentioned that he was on a vacation years ago and who thought he had been drugged because he swears there's a 48-hour blank in his head where he doesn't remember anything at all.

"Where'd you go?" Kim asked this total stranger.

"Puerto something or other," said the total stranger, naming an actual place that I never heard of but sounded as if it could have been south of the border wall.

"Well," said Kim, "we're certainly not going there."

As it turns out, we were in the courthouse for less than a half hour. The nice employee who did our processing – Ashley Potts, if her name tag is her real ID – carefully read and checked every line we filled out. We passed the application test. Whew.

"You should be getting your passports in four to six weeks," said Ashley.

That's good to know. It's good to know I am who I say I am. Now I have the papers to prove it.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Super Bowl; Kobe

I don't really have a dog in this year's Super Bowl fight.

If the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers or Charlotte Panthers aren't involved, the Super Bowl to me is just another football game with sometimes interesting commercials.

Oh, yeah. And the New England Patriots. I almost forgot. The Tom Brady-era Pats became my favorite team to root against.

So, on the one hand, it's a little difficult for me to get into San Francisco or Kansas City – the West Coast against Middle America, while I sit here on the Eastern Seaboard twiddling my thumbs, anticipating my chili and cheese dip.

On the other hand, there's this: the San Francisco 49ers have a nearly unstoppable quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, who just happened to be Brady's backup when he, too, was with the Patriots. Consequently, he has two Super Bowl rings to show what a talented second stringer he was.

So Garoppolo brings that New England connection with him to the game. OK. That's gives me a reason to pull against the 49ers, even though they come into the game as perhaps the best defensive unit in the league. And defense, as we all know, wins titles.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, can draw a Philadelphia connection behind head coach Andy Reid. It was Reid who coached the Eagles into the Super Bowl in 2005, where they lost to the Spygate Patriots (ugh) 24-21. Reid, 61, is nearly a Rocky-like legend in Philly and I'd like to see him get his elusive Super Bowl victory to complete an impressive résumé.

The Chiefs also have one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league in 24-year-old Patrick Mahomes, who almost singlehandedly rallied the Chiefs from big deficits against Houston and Tennessee to get into the Super Bowl.

My prediction? My heart says Kansas City, but my brain says San Francisco. So, having said that, I'm picking the Chiefs 35-28.

•  •  •

I was watching last week's Farmers' Insurance Open golf tournament when Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz interrupted themselves to announce there had been a helicopter crash and that former NBA star Kobe Bryant had been killed in the accident.

That news didn't quite register with me, so I backed up the video to hear it again. They said the same thing, word for word.

Now, I've never been a big Lakers fan, but this news sent a shiver through me. Bryant was only a few years retired from a 20-year NBA career – all with the Lakers – and he was only 41 years old with a wife and four daughters. One of his daughters, Gianna, died in the crash with him, along with seven other passengers.

Bryant, of course, came straight to the NBA fresh out of high school in Philadelphia and built a spectacular career that might rank him among the top five professionals of all time.

So I couldn't hold back the tears when I heard the news and explained to Kim what happened. It was so unfair.

We mostly revere our athletes – or love them, or hate them, or absolve them (a young Bryant was once charged with rape, but the defendant refused to testify and charges were dropped), or ignore them, or embrace them – mostly because of their skill sets, I guess. They do things with strength, quickness and coordination that most of us can't and wish we could.

What can we take from this? Hard to say. There are no lessons to be learned here. Just a reminder that life is short and fleeting and that you have the quintessential choice to make of it what you will.