Sunday, August 16, 2009


Yesterday was pet appreciation day at Casa du Nord.

Saffron, the poodle, threw up sometime in the middle of the night. The Wonder Dawg is getting increasingly incontinent and leaves little wet spots where she lies down. Cleaning up from those two took a fair amount of time between the immediate response team and the follow-up deep cleaning team. I thanked my stars that I bought a portable carpet and upholstery machine from the company where I worked for many years. It has paid for itself many times over cleaning up after vomiting kids, drunken wine spillers, and numerous pets during their infirmities.

Just when we thought we were done, we went out on the deck to examine the petunias and found that the cat had experience a moment of extreme diarrhea in one of the deck chair pads. It was off to grab the extractor one more time. You gotta love them or you would do them in.

I am still recovering from the Extreme Makeover experience. I can actually see my ankle bones now and the knee swelling has just about gone away. I am sleeping late whenever I can to make up for lost hours back then.

In other news, we are busily helping our young college student prepare for another year away. She is moving into an apartment this year and is raiding the kitchen for enough to start up her own cooking experience. Pots, pans, placemats, dishes, utensils, glasses, mugs, etc. This is mostly a good thing because between Marisa and I we have two and a half houses worth of stuff. What we can donate to Kate will be spared from the inevitable mondo garage sale that will come later.

On Tuesday, we will borrow my brother's van, pack the Duluth stuff up and head for the Twin Cities and our "other" house where a whole nother pile awaits us. If we can cram it into or on top of, the van, we will head to Madison early on Wednesday for another moving adventure. Wish us luck.

Other than that, we are enjoying the trailing end of summer. We sit on the deck when it's not raining. We buy and eat sweet corn on the cob. We water the flowers and admire our good luck at having them to look at. We spend time with those close to us who will soon travel on their own paths.

Then there is the State Fair which marks the official end of summer and beginning of fall for those of us who live in Minnesnowta. We hope to get down there for some not-to-be-missed people watching. The cuisine is an acquired taste in some cases, but everyone can find something that hits their taste buds in a good way. We might take in a show at the grandstand if we can get tickets. Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal would be our first choice.

We will let you know how it goes.

OK, for the obligatory medical update, my trip to the Mayo last week produced no surprises. My CT scan showed continuous improvement on the lymphoma level. Tumorous nodes continue to shrink where they can be seen at all. This is great news for me. There is still evidence of "artifacts" in my lungs, but the radiologist said they appeared to be old and inactive (whatever that means). I still cough stuff up, but there are no fevers associated with whatever this is. My biggest concern is that this could interrupt the Mayo study. Again, I will keep you abreast of things as we proceed.

OK, there you go. Hope your summer is going well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Reveal - Missed

So today was the big theatrical moment - Move That Bus.

I missed it.

Oh, I was there. I arrived about 10 AM to find a bunch of "not much" other than a couple of thousand spectators arriving and milling around. The work crew was mostly hanging back with a relaxed attitude.

The cleaning folks were working frantically, trying to clean around the camera crews filming the hanging of pictures and posing of toys, etc. I mostly was trying to find a place to sit down. As of today, not only my knees were swelling, but my ankles and feet too. What an embarrassment. I really like the way my legs look and now I'm half elephant.

Anyway, I was hanging out near the garage, sitting on a cooler of water bottles when the bus pulls up. Yes, THE bus. Problem is, the cleaning head honcho told me that there was no way the house would be ready at 2 PM - the official time for the MTB maneuver. In fact, she said that we would be lucky to make it by 3 PM.

I might have stayed if it were not for the camera Nazis. These are the guys (always guys) that start yelling at the crowd to do this, or move there, or get lost. Stuff like that.

So there I sat, in the sun, feeling hot and fat legged when some bastard from Texas or southern California started yelling (not at me, but at people like me) to move somewhere, and I said to myself, "Self, why are you going to put up with this?" And Self had no good answer. So, I got up. Walked to the construction trailer. Took off my radio and left.

After all, the challenge was "could we build it" and we did. Nuff said. Done. I didn't need any more Hollywood stuff (ignore what I said the other day). Besides, I needed to be in Rochester (or at least the Twin Cities) by this evening for my Mayo appointment tomorrow.

So I got in the car and had a leisurely, and beautiful drive down through northern Wisconsin to the Twin Cities and my "Other Home" where I mowed the lawn and dug out the mailbox from its burden of junk mail. I even had a couple of pomegranate martinis at a local watering hole where I learned that the "bus" didn't move until 6 PM.

Good thing I didn't wait.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Looming Deadline

It's Day 7 and in just under 2 hours, we are supposed to wrap up construction and landscaping and turn the keys over to the producers of Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Will we make it? Too close to call at this point.

The head electrician is missing 4 critical light fixtures, the landscaper is dealing with a literal sea of mud, the interior of the house is like a hornet's nest after the stick went through it. Craziness.

The first thing I did upon arriving is to get the Prius stuck in the mud trying to park. Luckily, one of the crew was leaving in his four-wheel drive pickup truck and he had a tow rope. He towed me out and to high ground. I thought maybe things had dried out a bit since yesterday. Silly me. It's worse. Volunteers are spreading bales of straw all over in an attempt to mitigate the foot deep mud.

The view above is of my work station in the Builders Commonwealth construction trailer. I'll post more photos when I can legally do so. It appears that this shoot will be the two-hour season premier for the show which is pretty cool.

Tomorrow is the "Move that bus" segment and I will have to leave directly from the site and hit the road to Rochester and the Mayo clinic. I put my original appointment off so I could work on this show. I will start the day off with an insanely early CT scan and then kill several hours while waiting for my next appointment. Hopefully, I will finish up early enough to make it all the way back to Duluth. Then I plan to collapse for several days.

This past 10 days has been so intense that I have not been able to even get to the mail. It sits in a growing pile on my desk. I gave my Blues Fest pass over to other family members to use and have not heard a note played. This afternoon there is a family reception for a couple of newlyweds that I will most likely miss as well. I apologize for all of my transgressions. What can I say? I am a Hollywood slut. Get me on that camera!!!!

All of this stuff has taken a bit of a toll on me as well. I have about a half liter of fluid in each knee for reasons that are not clear to me. I walk like I have a stick up my butt and I can't bend either knee more than about 30 degrees. My cough is still present which is something that makes me nervous. I don't want to have to stop taking this experimental chemo drug. We'll see what the scan shows on Tuesday.

Well, I had better get back to "work" and see if I can help them make the deadline. Tune in to see if we do it.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Just Like Woodstock

Day 6 on the site and it is a quagmire. This picture is two days old and does not show the effect of last nights rain that turned the dusty "roads" in the fields into greasy mud strips that are swallowing vehicles. The excavating teams are doing their best to dump gravel and other stuff down to make it easier for pedestrians and construction equipment to move around.

As far as I can tell, we are mostly on schedule which is amazing given the timing constraints and the hundreds of laborers that are working on top of each other around the clock. The pace and the pressure are taking a toll however. Those who have been here night and day are starting to drop. It is a constant fight for those people who have to make critical decisions.

Even for me, who is not one of the key decision makers and who goes home most every night (putting in only 12-14 hour days) feels the cumulative effect. My knees are stiff and swollen and my left ear (the one with the radio ear bud) is sore and achy. I received my first injury this morning due to fatigue and inattention. I leaned over the planning desk in the construction trailer and smacked my head into a strip of fly paper that I had hung up yesterday. The subsequent jerk left a hank of gray hair hanging up with the corpses of yesterday's flies.

We have just 26 hours to finish everything up and turn the keys over to the EM producers. It's going to be a nail biter right down to the end.

Oh yeah, we are supposed to receive another 12 hours of rain and thunderstorms starting this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Extreme Tension

It's almost 8:30 at night here on the set for Extreme Makeover Home Edition. The powerful stadium lights on towers have been set up for another night of fun and games and the natives are restless.

We have a crew of thirty to forty carpenters who have been standing around for a few hours now waiting for something to do. They have come from as far away as the Twin Cities - 150 miles and a couple or three hours of driving to volunteer their time for the cause. Some work for competing companies. There are union and non-union trades working (or at least standing) alongside one another. It's an impressive sight.

We are all waiting to fly the first wall section into place, which will begin an all-night working party that will see all of the walls go up and the roof on before the sun rises again (fingers crossed). Yours truly will be here for the duration.

We are running a little behind schedule because all work stops when Hollywood takes the stage and we couldn't build that into our plans because it is random both in frequency and length of stoppage. We just have to suffer and try to make up time where we can.

It looks to be a beautiful night with a few random clouds and a full moon which should be rising any minute now. The only potential drawback is that it will be chilly, but for those doing manual labor that's not a bad thing. We'll see how it goes.

I have been a denizen of this little tent city that has gone up in a large field surrounding the build site for three days now. So far it has been 12 hour days for me and I am one of the light ones. Some are putting in much longer stints. The danger there of course is that folks can get sloppy after so much sleep deprivation.

News alert: The porta-johns in the spectator area are full and out of toilet paper.

Well, we all have to suffer for our art (or for those hoping to view Ty's rippled abs).

I'll post the view date as soon as I know it.

Ah, I can see the full orange globe of the full moon rising over the trees across the fields. Time for me to go back to work.

That's all for now. TA TA

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Extreme Makeover - Home Edition

They are here and I am working on the project.

The same crew that did the work on my house (and only missed the original target date by a year) were selected as the builder by the EM producers and I HAD to sign on because these guys can't hit a timeline if their lives depended on it.

I also had to sign on because my girlfriend wants to dry hump Ty Pennington and I want to be there when the security guys haul her away.

That's my justification for not posting for so long. I have been spending a bunch of time sitting down with the four-day schedule and pondering how in the blue jeesus we are going to carry this thing off.

There has been a lot of advance work but the "door knock" is this coming Monday morning and then all hell breaks loose. I don't plan on sleeping from Thursday morning through late Friday.

There is no time for slippage in this schedule. None.

Then there is the weather. We are in a weather pattern that has been crazy. All ready today, we have had five or six rainy periods interspersed with wind and sun. Short of lightning, we will have to work through whatever mother nature throws our way. It's going to be nuts.

Sophie the Wonder Dawg is doing OK as far as I can tell. She hasn't lost a bit of her appetite. In fact we have a difficult time keeping her from eating the food of the other two furry occupants around here. I do need to take her in for a weight check though.

I think that I'm doing OK too. I know that I am not loosing weight. I'll be going down to the Mayo in two weeks when we'll do a CT scan to see what's cookin inside. Hopefully nothing.

That's it for now.

Oh, except that it is Blues Fest time around here and that means out of town family members are shacked up with us. We have three cousins in from steamy Portland, OR eating us out of house and home at the moment. More arriving soon.

When it gets crazy, it really gets crazy.