Friday, February 26, 2010

A Lost Week

This is day five now of the current malaise. It started last Sunday night with fevers and chills, swept across Monday and Tuesday as a semi-hallucinogenic fog that seldom saw me out of bed. I thought the corner had been turned on Wednesday, again on Thursday, but now on Friday I am going to cave and see the shaman's.

For the most part it has been a run of the mill fever/chills type flu (I think), but these were the conditions that preceded my near miss with the reaper last June. I don't need that again.

The worst part as far as I am concerned is the fatigue. I start to feel a little better, do some chores, take a shower, and then the bed turns into a giant black hole that pulls me inexorably down, down, down. It just kills my productivity rate (which was none too high before).

My son has some similar plague that has kept him home for the last four days. We are quite a pair. We both hibernate when feeling ill so we can go for quite some time without seeing one another. I have to struggle to remember to call the school to tell them he will be once again, absent.

Things could be a lot worse of course. I no longer need to worry about being fired for missing work. I have someone who looks after me attentively (thanks R). I get to hang out in pleasant surroundings while feeling horrible. Must remember the good stuff.

Tried to go out with friends to a Japanese restaurant last night, but it was all kind of dream like. Only part of me was there. I was wasted by the time we got home. Tried to stay up but was in bed shaking by 10. Woke up at 3 AM with a 102.8 deg fever. That's what lead me to call for a doctor appointment. With all of my baggage, anything over 101.5 is a warning sign.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Phadreous in Wonderland

I am sitting at a kitchen table in Plymouth, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities, drinking coffee and looking out of the window on a white fairy land of hoar frost coated trees, bushes, fences - all is white. There are some impressive icicles hanging down from the eave above the window, identifying this house as one likely built in the sixties with inadequate insulation and ineffective ventilation of the unheated portion of the roof substructure.

It's a most eclectic house with strange and beautiful objects placed in random abandonment throughout, or to use Regretsy language, whimsical fuckery. It's a hippy house in the middle of an otherwise very straight and uptight subdivision full of waspish folk who view anyone coming or going from this particular abode with dislike and suspicion.

In the living room is the lower half of a manikin propped up in a chair in front of the picture window. There is a ten foot frond of whale baleen hanging on the wall over the stairs. The house is full of chewed and ratty furniture that were once whole but have fallen now in social status due to a pack of feral dogs that never heard of a command - somewhat similar to the children who grew up here.

Don't get me wrong. This house has had a lot of love expressed - just a free living style. Like I said, hippies.

The other half of the manikin is hanging in a tree outside the kitchen window along with two old multi-paned window frames (with glass), a stained glass lamp, and a large, old styled bird cage. These trees have never seen trimming and spread in every direction. Next to the trees is a swimming pool identified only by a pale turquoise slide, a diving board, and the top of a tubular handrail poking up out of the snow. It's a pristine scene. In the summer, I understand the pool takes on a different appearance. It is a chemical free zone so the water is more like that of a pond, changing with the seasons. Like the house, cleaning is kind of a foreign concept.

The owners of this most interesting place are teachers, now in India. Of the children, now grown, there are three girls and one boy. One of the girls is in Europe, one in Texas, and one in residence here. The son is off in Japan - three years now. The daughter who is living here is Risa's half sister, hence our connection. We passed the night here after I drove up from Rochester and the Mayo clinic. We connected yesterday afternoon and then drove back down to the center of the city to listen to my son play in his orchestra string group at a musical celebration of the states finer musicians. Not that my son would qualify as one of the finer musicians. It's just that his school is so small, anyone who expresses interest is automatically a member of the ensemble. Fortunately the talent of the rest of the group compensates for his shortcomings and adequately shields him from unwanted examination in the back row.

It was a lovely concert in a huge, grand old church, built when Minneapolis was a much smaller community.

The sisters are out "shopping" at one of the malls that dot this part of the country. I am thinking of venturing out to find a paper and a spot of breakfast. Then it's back to Duluth and a bit of peace.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


So, today was one of those needle stick, total body radiation, toxic chemical days at the Mayo. Normally these guys are pros, but once in a while you get a nervous newbie who pokes and pokes without ever getting a bucket of oil. This was the case when I got to the stage where they start an IV prior to the CT scan. Granted, my arms have stuck more than the dart board down at the corner local, but still.

I knew I was in trouble when she kept poking her finger in my inner elbow while mumbling to herself. I finally rotated my arm to give her a peek at a visible vein on the backside which she attempted to tap but wound up cursing at the little bastard before pulling out and switching to the other arm. At that point I was praying that someone with more experience and competence would stroll by and offer a little assistance.

Sometimes the rulers of the universe hear those little pleas and I heard the magic words, "Hey, can you look at this and see if you can feel something?" The pro took over after saying "Well, there is a deep one here. Why don't you get the next one and I will take care of this." And with a determined look on his face, he successfully tapped a vein somewhere down deep and taped everything in place. My poor arms look like pin cushions.

After that, everything was fairly straight forward. I managed not to puke during the CT (the dye they shoot into the IV just before the scan tends to make me nauseous). I got to eat after that and pigged out at a Greek cafe with the special of the day - Greek omelet. I even got to go back to the motel for a brief moment in between appointments to check email.

The result of all of this is that there continues to be no sign of the lymphoma (yea), but the lungs look worse, which was no surprise to me because half way through last weeks ski camp my lungs protested the lack of oxygen and the overwork placed upon them by filling up with the body's equivalent of land fill. Plus my sinus's sprung a leak so that when I would lie down to sleep, my nasal passages would either swell shut or start leaking blood, or both alternately, while my lungs sounded like they were sloshing with each breath.

I told the doc not to worry about the scan - that it was the effect of over exertion at high altitudes and that I would probably get better. She bought it and I was set free. Well, kind of. I have to go to a "lipids clinic" tomorrow (hence the motel). See, my cholesterol has been a little high (like for the last forty years of my life) and the doc is concerned. So, to stay on her good side, I agreed to this appointment. So, tomorrow I will learn all of the good things I should be doing to lower the scourge of the blood system.

Actually, I think that a nice quick massive coronary wouldn't be a bad way to go. I actually did everything I could to bring one on while at ski camp. Not so intentionally, but going all out at 13,000 feet is one great heart stress test. The ticker kept up though. Who knew?

OK, have a good weekend out there wherever you are.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Cashew Chili Recipe

There were a few requests for the chili recipe mentioned in the previous post, so here it is. This comes from the Cabbagetown Cookbook.

1 1/2 cups uncooked pinto or kidney beans, sorted for stones and rinsed
6 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 T light vegetable oil
2 onions chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 T butter
2 T ground cumin
1 T ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 t dried or finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 t dried basil or 2 t finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 t dried dill weed or 1 T finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 t black pepper
2 t salt
1 quart canned tomatoes
1/2 cup cashews
2 t red wine vinegar

  1. Measure the beans, water, and bay leaves into a medium-size pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.
  2. In a soup pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the green peppers and celery, and cook until the veggies are tender but still crisp, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Melt in the butter, then add the spices, herbs, pepper, and salt. Saute for 1-2 minutes stirring frequently so nothing burns. (Cooking the spices takes the raw edge off their flavor.)
  4. Add the tomatoes and the tomato juice to the mixture, and crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat until the beans are ready.
  5. Toast the cashews in a 350ºF oven or toaster oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn them. Once cashews start to brown, they burn quickly.
  6. Add the cooked beans, liquid and all, to the veggie mixture. Add the toasted cashews and the vinegar. Simmer for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.
  7. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  8. Serve the chili hot.
OK, so that is the recipe out of the book. I will use canned beans if I am in a hurry. I use more garlic than the recipe calls for. I use diced, fire roasted tomatoes. I use red and orange (or yellow) bell peppers instead of green. If the chili looks too thick before the final simmer, I will sometimes pour in a bottle of beer, or some wine (which ever I am drinking at the stove). Makes a dynamite batch of chili. Serve with salad and bread.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Rocky Mountain Hi

Greetings from 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. I am attending "ski camp" for the first time in three years, having been detained in the past for reasons of health, death, house issues, and the general flotsam and jetsam of life. Ski camp was formed eleven years ago when my best friend and I went heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies and met a retired gentleman from Japan who had a passion for skiing. We became good friends and agreed to meet yearly at the Breckenridge condo of my friend for a week of skiing, single malt, and the pleasure of each other's company.

Over the years other camp members have been invited and I, as one of the originals have had a spotty attendance record, but the "camp" itself occurs at this time every year.

This year, I decided to drive out from Minnesota rather than fly. There were a couple of reasons for that, but the primary one was that I was not sure how my chronic lung condition would react to a sudden jump in altitude - going from roughly 400 ft above sea level to almost 10,000 feet above sea level. I thought if I made the trip over two days, gradually gaining altitude, then perhaps I would fair better.

The drive itself was pretty interesting. I was alone for the majority of it. I had a long audio book that saw me through most of the journey and there were plenty of small towns and little cafes to break the driving marathon.

The plains themselves are always interesting to me. Partly because I am so seldom there, but also for the infinite horizon lines and the different light. I saw amazingly large strings of geese over the fields of Nebraska during the early morning and late afternoon hours. They were so numerous that parts of the sky were darkened with snarky clouds that boiled and moved in different directions.

I arrived at the Denver airport right on time to pick up our Japanese friend who flew in from 10 days of skiing out of Salt Lake City. We loaded up the little Prius and headed into the mountains to double our altitude. I was curious to see how the tiny engine in the Prius would handle the long, steep climbs and I was pleasantly surprised when we were able to keep up with the traffic even though the little engine sounded like it was wound pretty tight. We actually were able to average 41 mpg from the airport to the condo in Breckenridge.

That was Sunday and today is Tuesday. Monday was a day for trying out creaky old legs, deflated lungs, anemic circulation systems, and muscles more attuned for movie watching from the couch than trying to shove two hundred pounds of meat, metal, and plastic from side to side whilst traveling at insane speeds down steep slopes.

My friend who owns the condo was gentle with us. He seldom lounges on a couch, lives at this altitude all winter, skis every day and can still wear the clothes he did when in high school. Our Japanese friend just came from ten days of powder skiing in Utah so has a jump start on me altitude wise. This is tempered by the fact that he has more than a decade on us two sexagenarian "athletes."

Then there is me. I am without a doubt in the worst physical condition of my life. I am 30 pounds too heavy. I haven't seen the inside of a gym or the seat of my bicycle in years. Two days before leaving, I had a gout flare up and then left the prescribed medication sitting on the dining room table as I headed out. It was with trepidation that I clamped my feet into my skis yesterday at the bottom of the hill.

I am happy to report that all three of us made it off the mountain without injury and while two went on to the hot tub, I stayed at the condo to prepare a huge pot of cashew chili for later consumption with wine and single malt.

Today has dawned clear and sunny. Another chance for physical mayhem lies before us. I'll let you know how it turns out.