Monday, October 25, 2010

Taking My Talents to South Beach

Here I sit, impatiently waiting for the hour-hand to make two more orbits.  Yep, just 24 hours from now, we'll be on the plane, likely making our initial approach to the airport down there in Florida.

No, we're not actually flying into Miami, but just up the road a bit to Ft. Lauderdale.  And once we arrive and the luggage is gathered up, then it's a quick taxi ride over to the cruise port to do the check-in shuffle, and before long we'll be onboard the ship, trying to avoid the photographers who treat every passenger like Brangelina.  Seriously, that's by far my least favorite part of cruising--the ship's paparazzi.  (Well, that, and the lifeboat drill).

But I'm not gonna worry about that at all.  I'm sooooo looking forward to this trip that this last day of preparation makes me feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.  I won't be able to sleep tonight, and oh yeah, I'll be up very early tomorrow morning.  (We have to be at the airport by like 6:30).  I'm not completely finished packing just yet, but that'll be taken care of later this afternoon.  Once I finish off this post, I've got to head back down to the clinic at Vanderbilt and get stabbed one last time, then it's back to the house to do my last load of laundry.  (I don't have but a small percentage of my wardrobe here at the house, the rest are either in storage or down at Cyndi's place, so I have to pack pretty much everything I have here in order to have eight day's worth of clean clothes).

I started packing last night--mostly the nicer stuff that needs to be hung up. The t-shirts, swim trunks, shorts, and skivvies will go in the suitcase later today.  Once that's done, I'll worry about my carry-on stuff and check to make sure I have my passport and ship's boarding pass at least two dozen times before we leave.

As far as sneaking the booze on board, I think I'm not even gonna bother.  They let you bring one bottle of wine on anyways, but then you've got to pay a $10 corkage fee in the dining room.  (Unless you uncork it yourself in your cabin first, I'm told.  But then I'd have to bring a corkscrew, and that's just jumping through too many damn hoops just to be cheap.  And I'm not like that).  I can't really drink the hard stuff right now, except in very small quantities, so trying to smuggle a couple of bottles of booze on board just isn't worth the effort to me.  I'd rather just pay for my rum (sodomy and the lash, however, is complementary, so I've heard).

I'll have a few fruity drinks each day, and some wine with dinner, but that's about it.  Besides, the prices for wine onboard really ain't that bad, especially if you're buying the good stuff.  Waaaay less markup than at restaurants, unless you're buying that god-awful Beringer white zin.  (I think it's like $6.99 at Kroger, but thirty bucks on the ship).  The more expensive wine, believe it or not, is a much better deal.  So I'll probably buy a bottle of white and a bottle of red for the dining room to have with dinner, so the damage will be minimal.  And the extra expense is fine with me to avoid the effort and hassle of trying to get around their alcohol policy, anyways.

I may have mentioned it before (too lazy to go look), but I think we have the perfect itinerary--two full sea days (my favorite), followed by three island days, and then two more sea days before returning home.  And this cruise is eight days, not just seven, and an extra day at sea is just fine with me! And we're chartering a private sailboat while we're in St. Martin, which I can't wait for--I haven't been sailing in far too long, so I plan on enjoying every minute of it. 

We've got a 40-foot catamaran reserved, and I think we have it for seven hours.  Our plan is to spend the day sailing and snorkeling at a couple of different secluded spots and then hit some small offshore island that has a tiki bar on the beach.  Oh, and as a bonus, our charter includes and open bar and lunch, and word around the campfire is that our charter captain is also a retired chef.  Everyone is looking forward to this excursion...

I don't have anything planned while we're in St. Kitts, maybe just a beach day.  In St. Lucia, Sherry, Steve, and I are getting single-day passes to the Sandals Grande resort.  Oh hell yeah--full run of their facilities, including all the water toys (plus all the food and booze you want).  I'd like to go see the Pitons or do some exploring, but everything worth seeing is an hour-and-a-half bus ride from where the ship is docked. F*ck that.  I'd rather just chill in a hammock all day at this place:

Ain't no way I'm gonna spend three hours of my day riding a bus with a bunch of tourists...

Anyhow, that's all I've got.  I'm just gonna do all my last-minute packing and stuff, then try to get some sleep before we pull the ripcord and make our escape first thing tomorrow morning.  I won't have my phone or computer with me, so there will be no updates, nor will I be able to moderate any comments after tomorrow morning.  This website will officially be in limbo for the next nine or ten days.

But when I get back--oh yeah, lots of pictures and stories.  Until then, y'all enjoy your cubes.  I'm heading to the islands!


Friday, October 22, 2010

It's The Final Countdown!

Yeah, I'm ready to get me some Caribbean vacation on!

No More Doctors!

At least for three months... 

Yep, I'm free of hospitals and doctor's offices for awhile.  My surgeon didn't feel the need to schedule a follow-up appointment when I met with him on Tuesday, and I met with my new primary-care doctor yesterday, and he was rather impressed with my recovery.

After giving me the look-over and checking all my particulars, he scheduled me for another lab test just to check my blood sugars and such.  He seems to think that the endocrinologists at Vanderbilt were a little too strident with the whole diabetes thing, and once he gets my lab work back, he said he'll likely cut that blood-sugar medicine dosage way back with an eye to eliminating it altogether.  I brought in my notebook where I've written down absolutely everything I've eaten and drunk since I got out of the hospital (which also includes tracking my weight loss), and he seems to think that I'm 'wiping out any risk' I had of diabetes with my new diet and regular exercise.  And two inches off of my waist in the last month helps, too.

Anyhow, the plan is that once he gets the results back, he'll mail me some instructions and then I don't have to go back and see him again until the end of January.  Woot!

Oh, I still have to go to the Coumadin clinic every week to make sure my blood doesn't get too thick or too thin, but that doesn't bother me at all--it's quick, easy, and almost painless (I'm fairly immune to needles at this point).  It' pretty well balanced out now, and I've been right where I should be these past couple of weeks.  And I've got my visits scheduled around the cruise, too.  I go in again on Monday, then I don't have to go back again until the Thursday after we get back.  On the other hand, I still have to take a ziplock bag full of drugs with me on vacation.  I imagine I'll muddle through, somehow...

Anyhow, it's another nice weight to have off of my shoulders as I head into this long-awaited vacation.  Can you believe it's been six long years since I went on a cruise?  That whole Vegas experience kept me from enjoying all of my weekends, holidays, and all family vacations.  I can't believe I put up with that shiat for so long.  What was I thinking?  I think that when all is said and done, I'm going to look back on that whole Vegas experience like I do when I think of my time in Alaska--I'm glad I did it, and it was a hell of a time, but I'll never do it again.

But that's behind me now.  Today I'm doing more vacation-prep, and right now I'm in laundry and packing mode.  Everything that gets hung up goes in the garment bag tonight.  I'll pack the foldables on Monday night.  But once my morning chores are done, I'm gonna motor over to the east side of town and meet Sherry for lunch, then we're going to get manicures and pedicures done.  Gotta look well-groomed if I'm going to be out wandering the deck with flip-flops on.  Plus, as I mentioned before, the ladies like it when your nails look good.  Don't know why, but it's a chick thing.

After all that, it's back to the house for a relaxing Friday night, maybe videos and Chinese take-out.  Tomorrow is the bon voyage party, and then I have no idea what else is going on until we head to the airport first thing on Tuesday morning.  I'll be leaving my laptop and phone here at the house, turned off and unplugged.  I'm going off the grid for eight wonderful days!  I'm sure all my iPhone addicted relatives will be bringing theirs because they can't function without them, but not me, the only phone call I want to get next week is the one waking me up telling me to get out of bed because we've just docked in St. Martin.  (Did I mention that we've charted a sailboat for the day there???)

Until next time...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just Another Day In Tennessee

I guess it's better than painting Free Candy! on the side...


Running Out of Things To Do

Howdy gang!  I've got a few minutes to enjoy this brisk fall morning with my coffee, so I thought I'd take a break from watching the puglets unsuccessfully chase the squirrels in the back yard and check in with all of you re-clickers.

Just in case you're wondering, I'm doing pretty well.  After my visit to the doc the other day, I've been in a damn fine mood, feeling almost normal again.  I've got another appointment in a couple of hours over at the ghettofabulous walk-in clinic, which I'm not really looking forward to, but hey, gotta do what I gotta do.

I've been spending my week trying to come up with stuff to do to prepare for this trip next week, and I think I've run out of ideas.  Back in the day when I was working right up until the day I left for the Caribbean, it felt like I didn't have enough time to get things done and I always left with that nagging feeling that I'd forgotten something.  No chance of that now--I've been preparing so much that I'm damn near to the point of making up stuff to do.

I made my last purchases at Wallyworld yesterday, the main thing being wire clothes hangers.  All I have are those big plastic hangers, but those just won't do in my garment bag.  I've got about eight shirts, four or five pairs of pants, and a sport jacket that I need to go on hangers, and I've gotta have wire hangers to get them all in the suitcase.  Other than that, I picked up a few random items like moist towelettes and a small spray bottle, and now I'm pretty sure that I'm all set.  All I have left to do is pick up the clothes from the dry cleaner tomorrow and pack my bags.  Oh, and tomorrow I'm going with Sherry to get a manicure and pedicure too.

After that, it's the weekend.  I know, weekends don't matter much to me, but everyone else will be around goofing off, too.  Reverend Dave is coming up on Saturday, and then that evening we're having a bonfire/Bon Voyage party here at Amy's house.  We've got a group of eleven people going--Sherry & Steve, Cyndi & Tim, Amy & Scottie, Gaines, Reverend Dave, and me, then Mamasan and her friend Mary.  The cool thing is that ten of us are all on the same flight out of Nashville (Reverend Dave is flying out of Huntsville since he has to work on Monday back down in Sweet Home).  That should be a good time...

Anyhow, the party is obviously Caribbean-themed, and everyone is supposed to bring a dish.  So far, all I know is that Amy is making coconut chicken, and Mamasan is bringing the black bean & pineapple dip.  Other than that, I have no idea what we're having besides pina coladas.  I just hope it's not too cold that night, although a big bonfire and some tiki torches will take the chill off.  Even if it is cold on Saturday, I don't care, because next week it'll be nothing but sunshine and sea breeze.  I may even come back with a tan!

So besides cruise prep, I've not had a whole lot of really interesting things going on.  Now that I can drive again, I feel like a guy just let out of jail--I can go do anything I want!  Of course, I don't really have much disposable income, and everyone I know works during the day, so there ain't much I can do.  However, I spent damn near all day yesterday running errands.

I left the house around 10:00 o'clock in the morning and drove up to Madison to hit the Casual Male store.  I needed to pick up some more underwear, and figured that maybe I'd get a new Hawaiian shirt or something, too.  Unfortunately, all they had was winter clothes.  So I got my underwear, and then picked up a bathrobe and some long flannel pajama bottoms (it's cold in this house in the morning!).  But the purpose of the robe was two-fold; 1) I don't have one, and need one anyways, and 2) I'm going to use it for my Halloween costume.

We'll be on the ship over Halloween, and of course there is a costume party that night.  We've been going around in circles for months trying to decide what to wear that night, and I've decided to go as Hef.  I got the robe and pj bottoms, and instead of a heavy set of slippers that I'll likely never wear again, I'll just wear flip-flops.  Plus I have a pipe, and today while I'm out I'm going over to Party City to pick up a gray comb-over wig.  I've also got some of those office-style nametags, the ones that say 'Hello, my name is...' and I'll just write HEF on one and stick it to my robe.  I may roll up a Playboy and shove it in one of the pockets, and as a brilliant stroke of genius, I'm also going to pick up a few pink bunny ears at the party store to carry with me.

I can guarantee that I'll have and entourage of gals following me around at the party--and no, I don't mean my sisters, either.  Yep, it's gonna be a good time.  I'll be sure to take lots of pictures, too, because I know how you people get...

After getting my clothes/costume, Scottie called and asked if I wanted to meet up with him and Amy for lunch, so I hauled myself down to West End, down by Centennial Park, and we ate at Bombay Palace.  I can't remember ever having Indian food before, and it was pretty good.  They set it up as a small buffet, and I think I had a small sample of everything except one dish that had goat as the main ingredient.  Anyhow, the naan bread and the spicy dishes were really good, but they had this tomato chutney stuff that was amazing.  I could've made a meal out of that and the naan bread all by itself.  Good stuff, although it felt like everything they offered was spicy.  I wish I could've remembered the names of stuff we ate, because some of it was really tasty.  Scottie has lunch there about once a week and said that the menu changes every day, so you don't get the same thing every time.  I'd gladly go back and try it again though--maybe I didn't have very high expectations, but it was surprisingly good food.  

After lunch, it was back over to this side of town to hit Wallyworld and get my prescriptions filled.  I did the last of my shopping while waiting, and then finally got home around 2:30 in the afternoon.  I sat down to relax for a bit, and of course dozed off in the chair for a half hour or so.

Once I got up from my 'nap', I got busy in the kitchen preparing for dinner.  We were having some friends over to grill burgers, and we did those marinated dry-ranch burgers that Amy and Scottie came up with.  So I mixed all that meat up and set it to marinating in the fridge, then went out and got the bbq grill set up and ready to go.  After an hour or so, I made all the patties and put them on waxed paper, and did all the other prep stuff I could think of to get dinner ready.

Our friends came over around 6:30, and dinner was a hit--we had our grilled cheeseburgers, some baked maple/bacon beans, and some casserole-style mac & cheese.  It was damn tasty.  Amy also made an apple 'dump cake' and yeah, I had a small piece of that for dessert.  Guess that means I'm gonna be doing some extra walking today.  I don't care--it was good, and the nutritionist said I can 'cheat' a little when I go on the cruise anyways, as long as I'm doing my exercises.  I just told myself that I was getting a head start on my vacation.  Heh.

After dinner, we spent an hour or so laughing our asses off watching videos.  Did you know that with Tivo you can watch YouTube on your television set?  I didn't!  Well, because of that, we sat in the den cracking up, looking up our favorite videos.  I discovered that there were still four people in this world that had never seen the 'Yatta' video, which somebody sent me long before the days of YouTube.  I still have the old movie file somewhere on a hard drive, but now, anyone can see it.  For those of you who've never seen it, well, prepare to be shocked.  Seriously, it's five minutes of total WTF????  Here ya go:

Oh dear god--just watching the reaction on people's faces who'd never seen it before was absolutely priceless. I had to take a pain pill afterward because I was laughing so hard that it was just killing my chest.

Anyhow, now that you've seen that, here's a little palate cleanser--my new favorite song from Train, called Save Me San Francisco.  It's a catchy tune that I heard for the first time yesterday while I was out driving around.  It's not really much of a video, but the song is the important part.  Enjoy! 

Have a great day, y'all!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Clean Bill of Health

Today has been a great day so far!

First of all, I drove myself down to Vanderbilt.  This is quite the milestone, as the last time I drove anywhere it was back from the Kroger where I damn near passed out the day before I went in the hospital back in early September.  Again--progress.

Anyhow, my follow-up appointment with the doctor who did my surgery was today, and it couldn't have gone better.  He was impressed with my recovery so far and told me I looked about a thousand percent better than the last time I saw him.  Truth is, I feel about a thousand percent better than the last time I saw him, too. 

The good news is that I'm pretty well down the road to recovery, and although not quite 100% just yet, I should be there soon.  I'm shooting for 'normal' status around the new year.  In the meantime, I've just got to work on getting my strength back and building some endurance.  And on the plus side, he cut out about half of my medications, and told me that I can start weaning myself off of painkillers now, too.  No more potassium supplements, either.  And I'll be especially thankful for not having to take that Lasix stuff anymore either.  Having to go pee every half hour or so is a real pain in the ass...

They poked and prodded at me for just a few minutes, examined my scar, asked me a few questions, gave me some prescription refills on the stuff I still have to take, and then told me that I was good to go.  No other appointment was made.  (Still not out of the woods just yet--got an appointment on Thursday with me new 'primary care' physician, but that won't be much of a hassle).  I still have to go to the Coumadin clinic every week and get my blood tested, and I'll be on that stuff for six months, but that's actually not too tough.  Now I know that the doctor wants me to go to cardiac rehab therapy, (basically supervised exercise where they monitor your vitals the whole time), but the one he referred me to is $186 per session, and the standard 'recovery package' is 36 sessions.  That ain't gonna happen...

In the meantime I'm just gonna keep on walking, and maybe invest in some lightweight dumbells to help build back up the strength.

Anyhow, just having the folks who put me back together telling me that I'm doing well, well, that just improved my outlook immeasurably.  Sitting around the house wondering if life will ever be normal again is a tough thing to chew on day after day. 

So once I escaped from Vanderbilt, I felt like a free man once again.  I could drive--I could go anywhere I wanted to!  So what did I do?  I came back to the house.  I rested a bit, then gathered up all the stuff that had to go to the cleaners, some outgoing mail, and off I went to run errands.  I also went to the grocery store, but didn't pick up but a few random things.

When all that was done, of course I was exhausted.  I came home and dozed in the easy chair for a bit, but then got up and fixed some lunch.  I think I'm done exerting myself for the rest of the day, but tomorrow I'm going to go on a real hike--I'm going to do one of the longer trails over at the park.  I still may go out and do a walk this evening, depending on how I feel.  And whenever Sherry's next day off is, I'm gonna drive over there and do another trail I saw that's near her house. (She said she'd walk with me).  Gotta get in shape for this cruise--that ship is over 900 feet long, and just getting off the dock is a hike.

I wish I had more to share, but that's all the news from here today.  But it's good enough for me.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Quietly Getting Back To Normal

Hey gang--hope everyone had a good weekend and a lovely Monday at work.  Me?  I had the good weekend...

I took off on Thursday to stay up at Mamasan's place, and we had a pretty nice visit.  It's always relaxing to hang out up there--We don't do much but play cards and such (I mean, I never watch tv or anything when I'm up there, I just chill), and it was a nice getaway.  On Friday, we took a nice long drive in the country, mostly just looking at all the brilliant fall colors.  Oh man, there are lots of beautiful trees in middle Tennessee, and we spent most of the day searching them out.  I tried to take a few pictures, but all those back roads have power lines which kept screwing up the photos, so I gave up.  Also, I didn't have hiking shoes on, either, so I didn't want to go traipsing around in the underbrush to get a better shot.  Still, it was pretty cool.

We stopped at a produce stand in Ridgetop, the town we lived in when I was just a pup, and got a few things.  Mamasan got some really nice potted flowers for her porch and her deck, and we also bought some fresh tomatoes and some of the best-looking green beans I'd ever seen.  Having eaten nasty overcooked canned green beans twice a day in the hospital, I'd given up on them, but these looked so good sitting there in the crate that we bought a couple of handfuls.  I think we also got a homemade coconut cake, and I picked up a Mason jar of home-made blueberry preserves, too (Had the preserves on toast for breakfast yesterday morning.  Oh hell yeah, they were damn good!).

After that, we drove by the old house waaaaay out in the woods, then made our way down the back roads to Goodlettsville, just like we used to do when I was about ten years old.  Eventually, we got on one of the back road Tennessee highways and found our way back to Mamasan's place.  I was absolutely worn out after that, so I took a nice long nap.

I woke up to a wonderful dinner, though.  Mamasan had made some of her famous pork chops, a salad chocked full of all kinds of good veggies, baked potatoes, and those farm-fresh green beans.  Man, they were great--I ate two large helpings of them, ruining me for life.  I won't be able to eat normal frozen or canned beans ever again...  Oh well.

On Saturday morning, she dropped me off down by Titans stadium where Sherry met me. We drove out east towards her place, but first we had a nice leisurely breakfast together at Cracker Barrel.  First pancake I've eaten in months, and it was pretty damn good.  I also went with turkey sausage, and it was surprisingly unsucky (they also tried to feed me turkey sausage EVERY morning in the hospital, and it was awful!--the Cracker Barrel version was much better).

After breakfast, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some picnic items, then we went back to Sherry's house for the rest of the day.  We spent the entire afternoon looking through photo albums of all of her past cruises (she's been on twelve of them now!) as we anticipated our upcoming trip.  We've got the fever, and this last week is gonna be tough--y'all think I had it bad waiting for a Vegas trip back in the day, well, I look forward to the cruises even more!

Anyhow, after looking through all the pictures and planning our sailing charter in St. Martin, her husband Steve came home and we got ready to head out for the evening.  Our plan was to go out and enjoy the offerings at Arrington Vineyards.  So we packed a picnic basket and some shopping bags, loaded up a folding table and some camp chairs in the back of Steve's truck, and headed down south.  Amy and Scottie were planning to meet us there later and make a party of it, too.

So I didn't know quite what to expect.  Hell, I had no idea that they made wine in Tennessee.  I thought all we had was Yazoo Beer and Jack Daniels.  But this place was amazing.  It's pretty far off the beaten path, up on a beautiful hill overlooking other beautiful hills, surrounded by forest and streams.  And when we got there, we were shocked to see about seven or eight hundred other people there already, and people directing traffic and such.

I guess it's not exactly a secret.

So we unloaded all of our gear from the truck, and then we were faced with a dilemma.  Sherry thought there was absolutely no way I'd be able to climb the hill up to the main part of the vineyard--believe me, it's a long and steep mutha.  I was willing to give it a try, but just then one of them shuttle-service stretched golf carts showed up, and we piled everything in it and they drove us up the hill.

All of the picnic tables were taken by then, but we found a relatively flat area and set up our camp.  They grow grapes all over the property, but the main tasting house and store are at the top of the hill, kind of like the headquarters of the place.  There is also a big covered patio for dining, a concrete area with a stage and several more tables off to the side, and then on the other side of the tasting house, there is a huge fire pit for bonfires. The rest of the property is expansive green space with random picnic tables and swings for people to just come out and enjoy.

And the people come out by the hundreds to enjoy it.  Yeah, there was a band over by the tasting house, but there was only room for about a hundred people over there, but there were families and small groups of friends scattered all over having picnics and just relaxing in the last bit of warmth from a sunny autumn day.  Seriously, the place looked just like you'd expect to see in a wine commercial.

Amy and Scottie showed up a bit later, and we stopped in the little store to get some of the wine.  We each bought a bottle, and while some of it was good, some of it was, well, Tennessee wine.  Not Napa or Bordeaux or anything like that.  I'd say two of the bottles were good, the other ones, not so much.  But the atmosphere was absolutely top notch.

So we sat at our picnic table enjoying cheese, crackers, fruit, summer sausage, fresh bread, etc., sipping on our wine and just marveling at how nice it was to be out there.  Oh, we're definitely gonna do it again.  Once the sun went down, it got pretty dark out and most of the crowds started heading home.  We never got to do a wine tasting--the waiting list was much too long--but we enjoyed the bonfire and the live music before calling it a night.

Sherry and Steve passed me off to Amy and Scottie, and we then made our way over to Cyndi's place in Spring Hill, which isn't too far away from where we were.  But Amy and Scottie had spent their Saturday buying a new pickup truck (they got used to using mine since I've been here, and decided they needed one since Scottie's Altima is about to got tits-up on him), and Cyndi and Tim spent their day buying a new, ahem, mini-van.  So we had to go over and compare the new rides.

By the time we got out of there, we were all dog-tired and had to make that long trek back up to Nashville, where we all went straight to bed once we got home.  It was a long day, and all that hiking around at the hilly vineyard just wore my ass completely out.

On Sunday morning, it was nice to just sleep in and be a slug for awhile.  But we couldn't relax at the house all day, there were chores to be done.  I went through all of my 'cruise clothes' and found the stuff that's going to the cleaners, then I went through everything else and found a bunch of stuff to take to the alteration shop, too.  But that chore didn't get quite completed--none of the local cleaners are open on Sundays.

Once the chores were done, Scottie and I met Cyndi and my niece Diana over at the Loveless Cafe.  Once we hooked up with them, we were waiting on Tim, Reverend Dave, and Diana's boyfriend Jeff.  They had all spent the night down at Dave's place in Alabama and were riding their motorcycles up the Natchez Trace.  Since the Loveless is right there on the Trace, we agreed to all meet up for lunch.

Of course we started with their famous biscuits, and some folks had breakfast.  But I went the lunch route and had the best damn grilled turkey and Swiss with onion sandwich that I've ever eaten.  Seriously, it was quite the nom-fest.  They have a big damn display window in the kitchen, and I think Scottie's head almost exploded when he saw the bin-o-bacon.  He got so excited that he couldn't sit still after that.  Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, or else you'd be seeing it here, too.

After our meal, Scottie picked up a jar of those famous blackberry preserves for Amy (who couldn't join us, as she had a prior commitment), and then we headed back to the house.  Reverend Dave came by to hang out for a bit before too much daylight (and warmth) burned away, but the rest of the afternoon was completely mellow.

I think on Sunday night, we had Chinese food and watched the first Harry Potter movie.  I've never read a single Harry Potter book nor seen any of the movies, but I think Amy is trying to convert me to being a fan.  But the movie wasn't too bad.  I'll probably give the book a chance.

My Monday was rather boring.  I caught up on my sleep, and spent most of the afternoon playing with the puglets.  Man, they are two little bundles of ready-made entertainment.  I swear, I laugh my ass off every day with them.  The highlight of the afternoon was getting them all wound up and playing on the polished hardwood floor in the living room, and then dropping a fleece blanket over the top of them.  I swear it was the highest of high comedy watching them negotiate that.  Holy hell, I almost peed myself laughing.

Once their 'parents' came home, we put the harnesses on them and took them over to the dog park and let them roam free.  Oh man, they love that.  I just went off by myself to walk the perimeter (it's a quarter mile around if you stick to the fence), but before long, I was the pied piper of puppies--they were all following me around.  One of my favorite dogs is down there all the time--he's a HUGE German Shepherd named Wyatt, and he's just downright beautiful.  And he looks like he's not something to be trifled with--very intimidating if you're not a dog person.  But I got to play with him for a bit, too, which is always nice.  I've always wanted to get a German Shepherd again (that's what we had as kids when we lived up in Ridgetop), but dogs like that need a big damn yard.  Hell, at this point, I don't even have a house anymore...

But we had fun, and the pugs always love to go to the dog park.

On the way home, Amy needed to stop at the store, so while she was doing her thing, Scottie and I wandered over to the hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean joint in the same strip mall and picked up some dinner.  I'm not at all familiar with the genre of food, so I just told the proprietor to load me up with lots of veggies and salad on a combo plate.  We got some warm pita bread and hummus to go, too.

We got home a few minutes later and ate dinner in front of the tv--I don't quite know what I had exactly, but damn it was good--and good for me, too.  I couldn't begin to even spell the stuff we ate, much less pronounce it, but I enjoyed every bit of it and will gladly be going back for lunch again soon.  While eating, we watched an interesting documentary about the road to fame that Tom Petty took.  All three of us are big fans, so it was a great way to spend the evening--good food, good music, good documentary.

But I've got to go to bed early, so I need to wrap this up.  I've got my follow-up appointment with my surgeon at 8:00 this morning, and I'm hoping he'll tell me that I'm cured.  I'm feeling much better nowadays, my chest only hurts first thing in the morning when I first get up, and I'm moving around pretty well.  I don't have all my strength back, but I can tell that I'm more flexible than I was before I got sick.

I hope that it goes well and that I'm finally able to come off some off these medications.  Once I get done with the doctor (and the blood lab--can't forget about that!), I'm going to run a couple of errands and then do a little grocery shopping.  Once I get home, I'm going to spend my afternoon on the internet, looking at pictures of the Caribbean.

We leave in a week.


Friday, October 15, 2010

I Think I Need A Vacation

All this rest and recuperation stuff has worn me out.  I need to get away.  Oh, did I mention where I'll be in ten days???  Well, not anywhere near the beach in that picture above.  That's actually like fifteen days away.  Heh.

To say that I'm ready to go is an understatement.

Actually I spent a a few hours of my Thursday in preparation for the cruise.  Since it has been six years since the last cruise I took, I figured things may have changed a bit.  So I spent a good portion of my morning browsing around all the nitty-gritty details and FAQs on the Carnival website.  Still gotta sneak booze aboard, except for 1 bottle of wine per person.  My sister Sherry is a booze-smuggler extraordinaire, and she's got the science of it down to an art.  But it's just too much damn work for me.  Besides, I'm not going to be drinking nearly as much on this trip as I've done on cruises past--my system just can't handle it, and I'm sure all those nice people at Vanderbilt who spent a week taking me apart and putting me back together would absolutely lose their shit if they found out that I went on a week-long bender.  No more $700 bar bills for this guy.  (Yep, on my first cruise ten years ago, my individual bar bill at the end of the week was over $700, almost twice what I'd paid for the cruise!)

This time around, I'll indulge in an umbrella drink by the pool during the day, a glass of wine with dinner, and maybe a late evening cocktail to go with my cigar out on the balcony before I go to bed.  No more buying a bucket of beers and wandering around making new friends, and no more free drinks in the casino at night.

Oh, I may bring an airline bottle or two of The Captain with me, cleverly disguised in my toiletry bag, but that'll be the extent of my subterfuge.  Sherry and Steve have that big-ass suite and balcony off the end of the boat, and well, it just wouldn't do to show up empty-handed at the Bon Voyage party.

So once I finished off my morning coffee and filled my head with all sorts of cruising information, it was time to get my day started.  I had to wash, fold, and pack a bunch of clothes first thing, because I'm staying up at Mamasan's place for a couple of nights.  I did that and tried to straighten up the house a bit, but man, everything still takes me about four times as long as normal.  Nothing is easy.

Mamasan showed up while I was in the shower, and she helped me finish packing my clothes and also gathering up everything else I needed (phone charger, laptop and cords, my 'good' cards, a few books, all my meds, etc.)  We finally got on the road about an hour later, heading back down to the clinic at Vanderbilt.  They poked another hole in me, and once that was done, I had them get me a new prescription for pain medication.  I'm all out of Percocet, so now I'm on Lortabs.  I'm feeling a little better nowadays, and the residual pain from the water bottle incident is pretty much gone and all I have to deal with is that whole chest-getting-cut-open thing.

But we made our escape from Vanderbilt and headed off to run errands.  The first order of business was for Mamasan to stop and get a haircut.  It wouldn't have been so bad, except that it took forty minutes.  And I'm still taking this Lasix stuff that makes me pee every thirty minutes.  Plus it's a long drive back up north.

I managed to make it all the way to her friend Mary's house, our next stop in our journey, but man, it was like the Teton Dam breaking once I finally got there.  I was pretty tired by then (everything makes me tired), so I made myself comfy on the sofa while they went out shopping for an hour or so.  After a bit, I started getting restless, so I decided to grab my camera and walking stick and take a hike.  Mary lives waaaay out in the woods, and the trees in her neighborhood are turning this week, and there are some great pictures waiting to be taken.  Unfortunately, by the time I got to the end of her long driveway, and out to the end of the property, I decided that it was a fruitless endeavor.  I couldn't keep my pants up.

Seriously, I've lost a bit of weight, and all of my shorts and pants are way too big for me now.  Not only that, but my belt has about two-and-a-half inches of play in it, so it really doesn't help at all.  So walking with one hand trying to keep my pants up, and the other one on the walking stick to help me keep my balance, well, it was just too much for me.  I turned around and went back in the house, where I promptly dozed on the couch until they got back home.  Once they did, we found a pointed rasp and a hammer in the toolbox, and I took my belt out to the back deck and punched a few more holes in it.

Progress, baby.  I'm makin' it!

Next on the agenda was to head over to WalMart and get my prescription.  I also wanted to pick up a bunch of travel-sized toiletries too.  Unfortunately, the pharmacy was closed when we got there, forcing us to wander around for a half an hour.  So no, I didn't get my hiking done in the great outdoors, recording the wonders of nature on my camera.  Instead, I got my exercise in Wally World, pushing around a damn shopping cart for a good chunk of the afternoon.  But at least my pants stayed up, and I got a bunch of travel goodies to fill up my new toiletry bag--and a few more items have been crossed off of the vacation to-do list.

One of the things I got were a couple of single-load packets of Tide gel.  Normally, I find a local laundry service on one of the islands to wash all my dirty underwear, socks, and t-shirts about five days into the trip (I hate traveling home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes--I'm always afraid it'll bust open in the middle of the airport, embarrassing me to no end), but no amount of internet searching has revealed such a service.  Too bad we're not going to Cozumel--there's a little shack at the end of the dock where you drop off your bag of dirty clothes and pay 'em like fifteen bucks, and three hours later it's all cleaned, pressed, folded, and bundled, wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string.  I love that.

Nothing like that exists on any of the islands we'll be visiting, as far as I can tell, and at least Carnival has onboard laundry rooms, so I can do it myself early in the morning on one of our last sea days.  Hell, Royal Caribbean doesn't offer self-service laundry rooms, so getting a duffel bag full of undies and socks washed ran me about about sixty bucks last time I was on one of their ships.  Ouch!

Anyhow, once I got my cruise goodies and prescriptions paid for, we finally got to come home.  A day of running around like that leaves me pretty tired.  We made some turkey sandwiches for lunch and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon.  I can't quite remember what I did, but the smart money is on 'dozed on the couch'.

It started to feel a little chilly in the evening, so we made a pot of coffee to warm up.  Our original plan was to make a nice dinner with salad and such, but that idea went out the window because nobody felt like chopping a bunch of vegetables.  So we had breakfast for dinner, instead.  Mamasan made some ham steak and eggs, and we had toast, coffee, and juice, too.  It was damn good!  And it was the first egg I'd eaten since I got cut open.  The nutritionist said I can have three eggs a week, but so far, I've just skipped 'em altogether, opting for cereal or fruit most mornings. So it was a nice treat.

After dinner we played cards for awhile, then refilled our coffee cups before moving back over to the living room, this time adding a contraband splash of Bailey's.  It was pretty damn good, but that was enough for me.  We stayed up for a couple of hours planning our Friday, talking about the upcoming cruise, and also playing the 'remember when' game from 30+ years ago, talking about people and events from waaaay back in the day.

That kept us occupied for awhile, and the caffeine worked it's magic, but eventually we called it a night.  Well, Mamasan did--she ambled off to her room to watch TV before going to sleep, and well, here I am at the keyboard.  But I think I'm ready to go to bed now, so I'll leave you Friday morning re-clickers with a little bit of pre-vacation eye candy.

There.  That should do it.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Late Night Posting

Well, I suppose I shouldn't have had two cups of coffee at 9:00 pm, but here it is a few minutes after midnight and I'm wide awake.  That's ok, I'll probably be watching the Chilean mine rescue for the next several hours, and it's not like I have anywhere I have to be in the morning, either.  I was much too young to remember Apollo XIII, but this has to be right up with it on the scale of human drama.

But once I turn off the tv and get some sleep, I'm gonna spend my hump day doing a few chores--it'll wear me out, I'm sure--and since I move at about half speed, it'll take a good chunk of my day once I get out of bed, anyways. 

Since I didn't get to go walking on Tuesday, I'm going to remedy that and hopefully go twice, maybe doing a shorter walk early on, and then a full-on mile-long hike before it gets dark. I'm also gonna try and do some laundry, but since I can't lift very much, I'll probably get enough exercise just walking back and forth from my bedroom to the washing machine.  Ah, the joys of being an invalid...

I'm also going to be patiently waiting for the UPS man to arrive, as there is a shipment of cruise goodies on it's way.  Some generous folks provided a little scratch in the tip jar a few days ago (again, thanks everyone!) with explicit instructions to "Use this for your cruise!", so I spent a bit of it on items I'm going to be needing for the trip.  I think in this shipment, I've got a couple of books that I'll take with me for those lazy sea days where I sit in a chaise lounge out on the balcony sipping an umbrella drink and watching the ocean roll by.  I've just got to be patient enough to leave them alone for the next two weeks and not read them before I go.  I've also got some oversize neon-colored luggage tags (and some TSA-approved luggage locks) coming so that I can pick out my suitcases from the sea of black luggage at the airport and cruise terminal.  Rounding out the shipment is a hanging toiletries/travel accessory kit bag so I don't have to bring my nasty old toothpaste-stained vinyl Walmart special.

Other than that stuff, I'm pretty much set as far as cruise prep goes.  This past weekend, I rounded up all my clothes I'm gonna need from the closet at Cyndi's house and the storage shed up at Mamasan's (when I got out of the hospital, I had a bare minimum of clothes with me here at Amy's).  I was thinking about renting a tux again, but that's an expense that I really can't afford--and I probably shouldn't be spending money on that, anyways.  So I found my blue blazer that I haven't worn in years, and gathered a few dress shirts, slacks, and ties, too.  Not to mention decent shoes and swim trunks.  Oh, I'll have to take some stuff to the cleaners and the alteration shop this weekend, but then my wardrobe be set.  After that, a quick trip to the drugstore for some travel-size toiletries, and I'll be ready to hit the high seas.  (And we're still working on Halloween costumes, but I'll discuss that in more detail later on).

We leave on a Tuesday, but the weekend before we go, we're going to get together and have our traditional pre-cruise party here at Amy's house, and participate in another tradition that I'm hesitant to share with the masses.  But what the hell, I don't care--Before we leave on our 'annual' cruises, we always go and have a 'spa day' together.  Yes, I go with my sisters and get a manicure and a pedicure done.  Don't hate--believe me, the ladies notice, and if I'm gonna be out in public with nothing but bare feet or flip flops for eight days, well, I can't have nasty feet.  And working all those years in a casino, I remember how many times I got compliments on my hands whenever I got a manicure.  So even if it ain't the most masculine thing in the world, I don't care.  At least I'm not getting a massage from a dude.

I'm also going to have to pack a small travel bag for the next couple of days.  On Thursday, after I head back down to Vanderbilt for another stickin', I'm gonna head up to Mamasan's place up north for two nights.  No particular reason other than a change of scenery.  I've been shuffling back and forth between my bed and the big easy chair in Amy and Scotties den for the last three weeks, most of that time all alone and unsupervised, so I'm gonna go spend some time up there.  It'll be more fun to play some cards or some board games during the day, and we also plan on going for a drive and exploring the woods and such, so I should have some good pictures to share, too.

In addition to my chores and cruise anticipation, I may also do some writing.  Since I got this new look on the blog, it's motivated me to put up fresh material.  So who knows what kind of silliness may spout from my medication-addled brain--you should pay close attention for the next few days because I may just surprise you.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Technical Difficulties -- UPDATED

Hey Gang--

Hope you all like the new look.  Unfortunately, with the new template, I had to re-install the commenting software.  I could go back to the old blogger commenting, but if I do, I lose *all* of the old comments.  I'd prefer to keep them, so I'm sticking with the current system until the end of the year, and then I'll re-evaluate at that point.

Anyhow, there was a glitch.  When you click on the comment link, it just scrolls you down and puts the comment link at the top of the page.  Then you have to click it again to make your comment.  That ain't supposed to happen.  I've tried to fix it, but can't figure it out, so I've got a help ticket in with Echo support.  Depending on when they get back to me, we'll have to put up with the extra weird step.

But go ahead and leave any comments--I always appreciate feedback.



Ok kiddies, I've got a temporary fix in.  Instead of my usual pop-up window, I've got it set so that when you click on the comment link it'll bring it up on the web page, not in a pop-up.  Of course, that also takes it to a 'post page', which is an individual page for each post, taking you away from the main page of the site.  So once you're done commenting, you'll have to click your bookmark or re-type the address in your browser window, basically doing again whatever you did to get here in the first place.  I know, it's a pain in the ass, kind of a cheap way to drive traffic (like Instapundit), but until I hear back from the tech support folks, this is the way it'll have to operate.  We now take you back to your regularly scheduled browsing...

Time to Change

See what happens when I have too much time on my hands? 

Yeah, I've been bored with the look of this site for some time now, and I also felt like there was too much wasted space.  What really bucked me were the artificially wide margins, so I started farting around with the software and stumbled onto some new and easy-to-use templates, and well, I like the look of this one.  So here we are.  I don't know how the archives look or how well it's gonna work, so I may just change it up again.  It's a work in progress, and who knows just how progressive I may end up feeling before all is said and done.

I think the source of today's boredom is the fact that it's been raining all day, and even though I'm pretty much confined to the house anyways, today was one of those days where it just feels like an indoor recess day.  Although it's hard to play Heads Up 7-Up or Duck Duck Goose all by myself...  So I slept in late, which has helped (I'm still hurting from the 'Case of Water Incident' this weekend'), and then I haven't done much but watch TV, read, and play on the computer. 

Last night, Scottie and I went out to a local restaurant, Caesars, for dinner.  Both Amy and he said that they had the best pizza in Nashville, so we had to try it out.  It's not really a pizza place, it's more of a mom-and-pop red sauce joint, kind of a poor cousin to Casa di Amore out in Vegas.  Same menu, although a few bucks cheaper here and there. 

The pizza was pretty good, but it didn't blow my skirt up too much (Grimaldi's has ruined me).  We had a large combo pizza with lots of veggies and a little bit o' meat, and shared a carafe of surprisingly good house Chianti.  I'm not normally a fan of Chianti, but this stuff was very tasty and enjoyable.  I'll definitely be going back--maybe not for pizza so much, but something off of the regular menu paired with some good house wine.

Once we got back home, we were both pretty tired.  I had a sip of Port and two squares of dark chocolate for 'dessert', and we tried to watch the football game, but gave up after just a few minutes and called it an early night.  Although I didn't get to see it live, watching the SportsCenter highlights this morning of Brett Pevre tossing a pick-six to ice the game made me especially happy.

But as far as today goes, I'm just hanging out here at the house being mellow.  It's raining much too hard to go out walking, and I don't have anything resembling proper rain gear anyways.  So unless it clears out fairly soon, my daily walk ain't gonna happen this time.  That's ok though, I think I need the rest.  

BTW, there's a little exciting chatter going on with my email box and Facebook messages today.  We leave for the cruise in just two short weeks, so the natives are getting restless.  I can't wait!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Day Hiatus

Hey Gang--

Again, I find myself apologizing for my lack of updates, but truly, I lead a fairly boring life as a reluctant invalid, so it's hard to come up with the proper mix of literary spice to make my scribbling somewhat palatable.

But I'm going to try.

So, what's new on this Monday morning?  Well, the good news, actually, the best news, is that I don't have to go down to the clinic at Vanderbilt today and have my blood tested.  I seem to have thinned out sufficiently enough and managed to maintain it long enough that I only have to go once a week now.  So I'm off the needle hook until Thursday.  Woot!  If you hadn't already guessed, that makes me very happy.

So what else is happening around here?  Well, Reverend Dave came up this past weekend, and it was nice to have him here at the hippie's place with me.  But Scottie wasn't here--he's in a band and they had a gig in North Carolina at the Mullet Festival.  We never got clarification as to whether they were celebrating the haircut or the species of fish, but nevertheless, they needed a classic rock band, so Scottie grabbed his gear went on the road for a couple of days.

On Friday, I didn't do too much.  Sherry came over to help me figure out what I'm doing wrong as far as testing my blood sugar.  I waited until after my first doctor's appointment to start testing myself, but then I could never get a reading.  I followed all of the instructions and such, but I kept getting error messages from the glucose meter thingy.  Sherry is a nurse and has lots of experience with this type of stuff so she came over to help me out.  Well, we must've gone through about a quarter of my supplies, and I've got five new holes in my fingers, but the bottom line is that the blood thinners have done their job so well that the testing strips can't register, no matter how much blood I squeeze out of my finger.  And I don't have a defective meter, either, as Sherry tested herself a few times and came up with consistent results. 

So I have no idea where my blood sugar is, although I'm guessing it's pretty damn low because I've basically gone cold turkey on sugar of any sort and cool turkey on most carbs and processed foods.  But I have my first follow-up with the surgeon and the cardio-pulmonary unit next week, so I'm hoping they can figure out how to test me.

After faltering with that little chore, we called up Carnival Cruise Lines to try and take care of some other business.  Sherry and Steve have booked one of those huge suites at the end of the boat that has a balcony that goes around the corner of the stern and costs a small fortune for the week, which in turn entitles them to some VIP treatment.  One of the perks is that they don't have to wait in the check-in line with the rest of us regular-fare peons.  They have a secret check-in area where they are given one-on-one attention and faster check-in, all in the comfort of a lounge with free drinks, comfy chairs, and fruit trays before they are whisked aboard ahead of the crowds. 

In the past, the VIP passengers where allowed to bring four friends with them upon check-in, which my sisters took advantage of last year.  Well, this year, due to my delicate condition, Sherry offered to bring me and Reverend Dave aboard with her and Steve.  Unfortunately, Carnival changed their rules this year--no more VIP check-in unless you're staying in a full-on luxury suite, no guests, no exceptions.  She played the 'invalid' card on my behalf, but we're waiting to hear back from Guest Services.  Bottom line, I may have to gimp it up a little and request a wheelchair to get the VIP check-in, so that issue is still up in the air.  But I can walk just fine--I just can't stand around for very long and I still can't carry my own luggage or even carry-on bags.

So that issue remains unsettled.  After that, Sherry tried to put $125 on my sail-n-sign account in advance for me, her gift to me from when I was in the hospital--she offered to pay for my first go-round of supplies and prescriptions, and that's what it cost me.  But I paid for it on my own when I got out, so she offered to give me the cash or put it on my room account on the cruise.  So I said to put it on my account.  Unfortunately, Carnival changed their rules on this too.  In the past, anyone could call up the 800-number and add money to anyone else's sail-n-sign account.  And I think all of us have done it at some point in the past.  But not any more.  Now you either have to buy gift certificates or wait until you're onboard and then go visit the purser's desk and they'll do it for you.

That's a pretty lame business decision if you ask me.  Not only does it inconvenience passengers and potential passengers, but why wouldn't they want the interest-free use of all that money?  So as much as we've enjoyed Carnival in the past, I think we've all come to the conclusion that we won't be going with them anymore if we can help it.  We all prefer Royal Caribbean or Princess instead, it's just that the combo of price/itinerary/departure port was too good to pass up this time.  Next year, I'm pretty sure we'll be on a Princess cruise.

So all of the stuff Sherry and I set out to do on Friday was a complete bust.  We didn't accomplish a damn thing, although we had a nice visit.  I'm home alone most of the time, so it's always good to see people.  I still can't drive anywhere, so unless people stop by, during the day it's just me and the pugs until Mamasan shows up and hauls me down to get my blood drained.  So it was nice that Sherry stuck around keeping me company as long as she could but then she had to head home--she lives on the other side of town and it was rush hour.     

That evening, Amy and I stayed home and one of her friends came over for a bit.  We didn't do anything but order pizza (thin crust with ham and onion for me) and hang out visiting and telling stories.  A few minutes after she rolled out, Reverend Dave rolled in from Alabama.  We stayed up goofing off for a few hours and talking about and making plans the upcoming cruise.  (Fifteen days till departure!)

On Saturday morning, we got up early and I made a pot of Vanilla Creme Brulee coffee, courtesy of Angy's care package and my new coffee grinder.  It was damn good, too.  After we finished our second cup, Amy suggested that we go do our walk before it got too hot.  So Dave and I got dressed and she got the puglets all harnessed up and ready to go.  We drove over to the local park, and instead of walking along the paved bike path out in the open field, we opted for the Warner Woods Trail, which is a loop of almost three miles, but I figured we'd do the first half mile or so out to the old rock quarry, walk that loop, and then come back.  Instead of open ground, it's a true deep-woods path (well, it looks like deep woods, although there is civilization all around). 

But it was a damn enjoyable hike--it follows the old Natchez Trace for a few hundred yards, then heads off into the woods and such.  We never found the rock quarry that was on the topo map, but just before the trail headed up into the too-strenuous-for-Mikey hills, another smaller trail branched off and led back to a road that led back to the far end of the bike path.  Using one of the magic GPS tracking apps on the iPhone, we learned that our route was .95 miles.  Not quite a full one, but close enough for me, especially when you factor in the bit where you walk to and from the truck to get to the trailhead.

Of course I forgot to take my camera with me, but it was an awesome hike.  I love love love the look and feel of being in the deep dark woods (even if I can hear a train in the distance), and the elevation changes were just right for me--not too steep, but still enough up and down to give me a good workout.  Yeah, I was sweating pretty good when we got back to the parking lot, but I felt good.  (I enjoyed that walk so much that I did it again last night, this time with Scottie, and while we were there, he took that picture at the top of the post--fall is coming to Tennessee!)

I hope to make that trek again a few times this week, and I'll make sure to take my camera with to share a few pics with y'all.  It's truly some stunning scenery. 

Once we got back, Amy had some errands to run and David and I had a lot to do, too.  On his way up to Nashville, he stopped in Columbia to pick up Amy and Scott's old camp trailer from behind their old house (the old house went to auction on Saturday, so the trailer had to go).  So anyhow, we had a two-fold mission on our hands.  We were taking the trailer up to Mamasan's place (she has a HUGE backyard, and more importantly, a double gate that you can get a truck and trailer through, so that's where the camper went.  And of course I had to go through the storage unit and get a few more things.

So while Dave was parking the camper and getting it leveled and situated for long-term storage, I was going through my storage totes and finding stuff I needed.  Mostly stuff for the cruise--dress shoes, a pair of topsiders, a couple of ties, a few more t-shirts, and then a few kitchen things like my wok and my Asian cookbooks.  Oh, and my hanging garment bag, too.  We also had lunch with Mamasan and visited for awhile before making that long 40-mile drive back to Amy's. 

Saturday night was bonfire night, and we had to help Amy get the place ready.  Cyndi and Tim were coming up, along with my niece Diana and her boyfriend, plus a couple of other friends.  Amy made BBQ chicken in the crockpot, while David and I headed off to Kroger to get a fruit tray and some shrimp cocktail.  Oh, and more beer, too.  I told myself I was going to have ONE beer that night, but I ended up not having any.  It was diet Dr. Pepper all night, until just before bed--then I had a glass of red wine (I swear that stuff is a miracle drug!).

But we had a great time sitting around the bonfire and goofing off with family and friends.  Of course, I was a wreck, because just before the party started, not even thinking, I accidentally tried to pick up a case of water out of habit, and it damn near killed me.  I'm not supposed to pick up anything over ten pounds, and after that little episode, I felt like absolute shiat for the next 24 hours.  My lungs and arteries may be healed, but my sternum and chest is still ultra-sensitive and I was miserable after that.  Bad Mikey--quit trying to pick stuff up!!!

Luckily, I have some Percocet on hand, and that helped a little.  But still, I felt like I set my recovery process back three days or more.  Ugh.  After that, Amy and David wouldn't let me lift a damn thing.  Even when they brought me a drink of water, it was only half full.  And when I went walking last night, it was much harder on me.  It felt like the route was shorter than the day before, but it was much tougher to walk it.  Lesson learned.

Cyndi and Tim also brought me a bunch of stuff up from their place, again, mostly stuff for the cruise--my blue blazer, some dress shirts, a few of my nicer casual shirts, and my humidor (Oh hell yeah I'm gonna smoke my pipe and cigars on the cruise!  Well, I'm gonna try to at least...)  They also brought me my mail that's been piling up since I was in the hospital.  Still no final paycheck from the Evil Empire, but I *did* get the bill from Vanderbilt.

Anyone want to guess what the total was for eight days and nights, plus two surgeries, Intensive Care, physical and respiratory therapy, and other such niceties at one of America's premiere medical facilities cost?

Anyone... anyone???

Yeah, it was over $135,000.  And that's not even including the bill from the surgeon, the radiologist, the anesthesiologist, or any of the other -ologists who got their mitts on me. 

Yep, 135K.  Ouchie. 

But it's not as bad as it seems.  First of all, due to the generosity and kindness of others, $65,000 of it has already been wiped away.  I'm down to owing just $67,000 and change.  And they're working with me on that, too.  Still a huge chunk, that I'll probably spend the next twenty years paying off, but it's a manageable amount, and as far as I'm concerned, worth every penny!  (Oh, and every time I go to the lab to get my blood tested, add another $32 to the running total!)

My guess was a cool quarter million when I got released, and once I get the bill from the surgeon and such, it might just get there after everything is said and done.  But I'll worry about that once I get better and get back to work.  In the meantime, if anyone has any couch change they feel like donating, by all means, the PayPal tin cup is open for business...

I guess in hindsight, I probably should've stayed in the pit and kept my benefits, huh?  Funny how life works out.  But that's probably a post for another time... 

Anyhow, even though I felt like crap that night, I still had a good time at the bonfire.  And even though Scottie wasn't around, Amy still had a house full of guests once the party wound down--several folks opted not to drive, so we had quite the slumber party.

Sunday was fairly mellow--once everyone took off and headed home, we just made some coffee and relaxed in front of the TV most of the day.  I was still feeling a little off-kilter, so I spent the afternoon in bed.  After my evening walk in the park, Amy had more BBQ chicken on hand, plus some side salads and such for dinner.  And since I'd never seen the movie 'UP', we watched that instead of the Sunday night football game.  Yeah, I enjoyed it, and no, it didn't make me cry.

But that's how I've spent my last few days--not too bad and uninteresting, I hope.  I've also been making a few drafts here and there with some of my old poker stories, but that's still a ways off before I have one worth sharing.  But at least I'm working on them.  I'm also to the point where I can hold up my arm long enough to play the guitar, so I'm going to start practicing with Scottie every day (and working on chords and such during the day when I'm home alone).  At least it's something to keep me busy.  I swear, I've come to the end of the internet and I've run out of sites to browse during the day. 

In the meantime, I'm just gonna go walking in the woods.  I seem to enjoy that.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I Go Out Walkin', After Mid-day

Man, I was about to cry and whine this morning when I woke up and saw that it was only 38 degrees outside.  That's just a little too brisk for me.  But not to worry--it got sunny and warmed up to the north side of 70, so I took advantage and went for a walk. 

It wasn't as productive as I'd hoped it would be--I had to keep stopping to pull up my pants.  I almost lost 'em a few times, so I guess that's tangible progress.  I've got my belt cinched up to the last hole, but it's still hangs down, useless except as decoration, with an extra inch or two of leather real estate that's not helping at all.

Also, remember last week when I was at the ghetto walk-in clinic and they told me that I'd lost 28 lbs?  Well, I kinda figured that was a generous number, because I was standing on a digital scale that had balancing handles on it.  So I knew it was giving me a number that was a little too optimistic.  Anyhow, I could tell that I'd lost a bit of weight, and I had to go with what they put in my medical records, but I didn't believe it.  So this past weekend I got an expensive digital heavy-duty scale that's guaranteed to be accurate within 1%, and it measures weight in tenths of a pound, too.  So it's much more accurate than the scale they put me on at the walk-in clinic. 

I've been weighing myself every morning, since I got it, and my actual weight loss was closer to 14 lbs., which makes sense because nobody except an amputee would lose 28 lbs in two weeks.  Of course I wish I were down 28 lbs, but at least now I can measure my progress more accurately. And I'm doing pretty good.  I'm hoping to be down an accurate 25 lbs by the time we go on the cruise in three weeks.  At least that's my goal.

I figure I need to step up and walk more often, and do longer distances, too.  One of my readers clued me in to a great tool,, which lets me measure exactly how far I walk each day.  I don't have a handheld GPS, nor do I have a smartphone with an app that would measure it for me, so this is the next best thing.  I've since found out that my neighborhood walk down to the far reaches of the dead-end street and back is only .63 miles.  And the easy park walk that we did this weekend is only .87 miles.  I thought both were longer.  Of course, they seem longer when you're not up to full strength.  (Although, today's neighborhood walk seemed easier than usual, and went by fairly quickly, so I'm doing better). 

My immediate goal is to start doing a full mile in the evenings, and then maybe next Saturday or Sunday I'll try the 2 1/2 mile Harpeth Woods Trail over at Edwin Warner Park.  And then once I'm officially 'healed' I'm going to tackle the 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Nashville.  At least that's the plan.

This afternoon, however, the plan is to take a nap for a couple of hours.  I feel like I could use one.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Natural Born Killers

Y'all know I'm staying with my sister Amy and her husband Scottie here in Nashville while I make my gradual recovery.  And those of you who have been paying attention know that they have a couple of the most adorable pugs ever--they're not even pets, they're more like their children.  Of course, I don't know many people who would name their kids Vader and Bertha, but that's not the point--the point is that the pugs are awesome to have around.  They're so cute and playful and they have hilarious personalities to boot, so everybody loves them.

But we found out that they have a dark side.  (Well, we figured that with a name like Vader, having a Dark Side was part of the deal, so we kinda knew what we were gettin' in to).  But instead of being cute and cuddly like Ewoks or something, they are pudgy little predators, too.  Check out the dead squirrel in the picture!

Amy and Scottie have a monstrous back yard (big enough that if it were in Vegas, there would be about eight or ten houses built in the same amount of space), and it's got some huge trees, too.  The huge trees attract lots of squirrels, and that just drives the dogs crazy, as you can imagine.  They are forever chasing them, but never, until now, managed to catch one.  Pugs are not known for their speed and agility, much less stealth. 

But while Amy and I were up at Mamasan's on Sunday, Scottie was on the back porch tending to the meat in the smoker, and Bertha walked up and deposited a dead squirrel at Scottie's feet.  Talk about a shocker!  I would be just as amazed if my four-year-old niece Brynn walked up and dropped a dead copperhead on the front porch.  Where the hell did that come from?!?!?

After shaking off the disbelief, Scottie pulled out the iPhone and snapped the picture.  Then he scooped up the dead squirrel and put it in the garbage can outside by the garage.  When Amy and I got home a few minutes later, we couldn't believe it either.  Since nobody saw the hit go down, Scottie believes that the squirrel died of natural causes and just fell out of the tree.  I believe that Vader actually hunted and killed it and then Bertha stole the carcass from him.  Amy is undecided.  Even so, I haven't seen a single squirrel in the back yard since Saturday, and before this happened, I'd see them constantly.  I think a message has been sent.

Either way, they're more than just the cute little dogs that snooze on the couch and mess up the pillows that we thought they were.  They're chubby little bug-eyed predators, and even though they can't run very fast, climb trees, or jump, every now and then they get lucky.  And all you varmits better recognize! 


Trying to Return to Normal

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  I know a lot of my good friends were out in Vegas this past weekend, and I was a little sad that I wasn't there to partake and share in the buffoonery, but it couldn't be helped.

On the other hand, for being wired together and running at about 1/3 of normal capacity, I had a rather enjoyable weekend here in Nashville.

On Saturday, I took a nice long walk down one of the easy paved trails at the local park, and it did me a lot of good, although it wore me out.  We walked just over a mile, kind of an out-and-back thing, but it was a good start for me before I tackle longer and hillier walks in the near future.  Amy & Scott went with me, and brought the pugs, so it was an entertaining walk watching them explore everything from the end of the leash.  There was a lot of stopping and starting, running and barking with them, but I kept up my plodding pace while the dogs did their thing.

I have to admit, I got a little cold while we were out there--the temperature dropped down into the fifties that day, and there was a slight breeze, so I was a little chilly for awhile, even though I broke a sweat.  And Amy reminded me that my already-thin desert blood is being chemically altered to be even thinner with all the medication I'm taking, so yeah, I'm probably gonna be a crybaby this winter.

Later that night, as a reward for my good behavior and exercise, Scottie put some nice thick ribeyes on the grill, and we opened a bottle of red wine with dinner.  I felt like I was committing a mortal sin by trimming all the fat from my steak before eating it, but it was still pretty damn good.  And before anyone jumps on me, my nutritionist told me that I can still have steak once in awhile and red wine is just fine in small doses.  Also, I found out that some of the higher-end specialty dark chocolate has fewer grams of sugar and carbs than my doctor-approved fruit bars, so after dinner, I had a couple of squares of that with the rest of my Cabernet (only one glass, of course).

And let me tell you--that night, I slept like a baby, no pain at all, and I woke up feeling absolutely great!  Seriously--a little red wine worked like magic.

We had leftover steak from the night before (no way I could eat the whole thing), so when we got up on Sunday morning, I made a pot of coffee and Scottie ran down to the Loveless Cafe and picked up some of their famous biscuits while Amy slept in.  When he got back, we made steak biscuits for breakfast, and they were damn good, especially when topped with a spoonful of those homemade blackberry preserves!

After that, Scottie went to work on the smoker, and I raided the spice cabinet and made a batch of dry rub.  We had a big pork shoulder and a couple of racks of baby back ribs, and Scottie is in his happy place when he can spend the day smoking meat.  While he did that, Amy and I took off and headed north up to Mamasan's place to hang out with her for a few hours.  We had a nice visit but didn't do too much.  I fell asleep on the couch for awhile while they talked, but we played some cards and Mamasan had made a crockpot full of really good homemade vegetable soup that we had for lunch.

Eventually, we made our way back down to civilization and prepared for a small dinner party.  Some friends came over, and besides all the smoked meat, we had some ridiculously good lobster bisque, baked beans, and corn on the cob.  My dinner was a little bit scaled back--I couldn't have any of the good microbrew on hand, and I only ate one rib and one small piece of pork, but it was all pretty damn good--no sauce needed at all, but we still had it available.  Scottie is a magician with the smoker, and everything he makes comes out tasting awesome.  Hell, when I was in the hospital, he even smuggled in a bag of smoked chicken for me one time so I could skip that horrible meatloaf they served almost every night for dinner.  Talk about making somebody feel better...

Anyhow, it was another great meal, and after dinner we hung out on the back patio enjoying the cool fall weather and had a nice visit with our friends.  It wore me out though, (as does everything) and I crashed early.

Lucky I did, because I had to get up fairly early on Monday morning to get down to the clinic at Vanderbilt and have them stab me with a needle again.  But once the results came back a few hours later, they told me that starting next week, I may be able to get tested just once a week instead of twice like I'm doing now.  Thank god--it's kind of a pain in the ass to have to have somebody drive me down there and do that all the time.  The fewer times I have to do it, the better (BTW for those of you that are interested, my INR level is holding steady at 2.4, so I'm right where I need to be).

But that little chore was done by 8:30 in the morning, and I spent the balance of my Monday morning dozing in front of the SportsCenter reruns.  The painkillers make me extremely drowsy, and eventually I just went back to bed for a three-hour nap.  It's amazing how much better I feel when I take a nap, but for some reason, I don't do it as often as I should.  It's not like I have anything else going on, but I feel like I should be up doing something, anything.  But like I said last week, I'm not gonna fight it any more.  My system needs bed rest, so that's what I'm gonna do.

Once I got up and moving again, I felt good enough to kick around the house a bit.  I made dinner for Scottie and Amy, but it didn't take a whole lot of effort on my part.  We had a bunch of leftover meatballs and sauce that I'd made for that get-together on Friday night, so I just boiled some whole-wheat pasta to make an entree out of it.  And we have some of these whole-grain sandwich rounds that I sometimes substitute for regular bread, and I made garlic toast out of that.  I took some dry-roasted garlic and ground it up in the mortar and pestle, then spread a little olive oil on the bread and sprinkled it with garlic.  I topped it off with some low-fat mozzarella cheese and parsley flakes, then popped it into the toaster oven for a few minutes.  It turned out pretty damn good!  We also opened up a nice bottle of Oregon Pinot, and with that, we had ourselves a great dinner.

Once I finished my meal, I still had a bit of wine left in my glass, so I indulged in a couple of squares of that 70% cocoa dark chocolate, and again, it was a wonderful substitute for dessert.  And I'm sure I'll sleep well once I finally crawl off to bed.

As far as Tuesday goes, I don't have a whole lot on my agenda.  I just have to call the folks at Bally's payroll office and make sure they finally sent my last paycheck (going on two months now!) and then talk to my local insurance guy about getting my policy changed over to Tennessee from Nevada--gonna save another ten bucks a month--Yay.  (I was hoping to save about fifty, but that ain't happenin').  Other than that, I think I'm just gonna take another long walk followed by another long nap.  In between all of that, I'll practice on the guitar, surf the internet, and just play with the pugs until they wear me out.  Ain't my life interesting?

Oh well, that's all I've got for now.  Y'all have a great day and try not to work too hard.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Finally, I'll Be Able to Enjoy Autumn Again

Have I mentioned how happy I am to be back in Tennessee?  I think I may have said something along those lines here in the recent past...

Anyhow, it's another beautiful day here in Nashville, and although the summer was so bad that this will probably be a less-than-memorable autumn, I am totally diggin' the weather these days.  It's beautiful and sunny, warm in the afternoons, but cool and almost downright chilly at night.  Perfect weather, if you ask me.  I don't miss Vegas at all, except for the fact that Angy and the gals are out there this week, and of course I wish I could be there hanging out with them instead of sitting here in my chair taking a dozen pills a day going back and forth from the hospital every few days.

At least I'll be able to do something fun today.  Later this afternoon, the plan is to hike one of the shorter trails over at Edwin Warner park, which is just down the road from the house.  Once I get some semblance of strength back, I'll be able to tackle the longer, hillier trails at Percy Warner.  But that's a long way off still--every day I'm reminded at least a half dozen times of all the things I still can't do.  For instance, last night I tried to be helpful and backed the truck up into the driveway from off the street, and that damn near put me over the edge.  It's amazing how many little muscles you use to turn the wheel and twist around trying to back up a vehicle.  Seriously, it's still beyond my capabilities.  Further evidence that you absolutely don't want what I had. 

I think I've kind of overdone myself this week, too.  I've always struggled with being impatient, and trying to get better is really testing me.  Whenever I think I'm feeling good, I try to do normal things, and then I get the painful smackdown a few minutes later.  My long walk a few days ago felt good at the time, but it might've been a bit much.  And then on Thursday I spend about 45 minutes pushing a grocery cart around at Kroger, and man, I was absolutely DONE once I got home--that really wore my ass out. 

Last night, I went over to Cyndi & Tim's place, and just trying to carry a camp chair from the garage to the backyard, or trying to climb the stairs, took all the wind out of my sails.  I felt like crap later when I got home.  Also, a long ride in the truck doesn't help, either--my ribcage is all wired together and not completely healed yet, and any bumps while riding are very painful.  And then, like a genius, I tried to sleep on my side for about an hour last night.  BIG mistake.  It hurt to breath, walk, laugh, talk, and basically do anything this morning. 

Part of it was also the fact that I ate some stuff that I shouldn't have, and my system is hyper-sensitive to anything with extra sugar or salt in it.  And last night was a pot-luck party, so lots of people brought all kinds of tasty goodies.  Most of the stuff people brought was stuff I should've skipped, but I'll be honest and admit that I sampled a few items that I didn't need to, and it affected me almost immediately.  I spent the last hour of my visit just sitting outside by the firepit sipping on bottled water and feeling like crapola.

But I'm doing much better today.  Once I got up this morning, took my medication, got a cup of coffee and a decent breakfast in me, I felt normal again.  Well, normal for me.  Amy and Scottie took my truck to go to Costco and also shop for a desk and some PA speakers, so I'm here babysitting the puglets on my own.  Once they get back, however, we're gonna try and get some quality time in the outdoors.  Other than that, I have no plans for the rest of the day except to watch the Oregon/Stanford game.

The recovery life is pretty dull, now that I think about it.  I guess that's why I haven't posted much lately--just nothing interesting to report lately.  Maybe I'll take the camera with me when I go for my walk and take some pics to share.

Until then, I'm outtie!