Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Museum of Natural History

We boarded a train in the early morning heat and humidity to rendez vous with the nephew and his dad. Into the steaming NYC we went, passing the smaller towns leading to larger suburbs until we entered a tunnel and came out in NYC, Penn station.
There is a point, in Queens, where you can start to see the sky scrapes from the scratched train windows. I thrill at the sight of the Chrysler Building and The Empire State Building.
The train station is crowded and bustling. In a city with so many people and so few cars, people tend to carry everything through the sub way system.
At Pennsylvania Station, I saw dogs panting and being so nonplussed at the chaos surrounding them as they walked in a good imitation of a heel on their masters left sides. People push or pulled luggage carts with produce, groceries, ironing boards, air conditioners, clothing, one man raced by in flip flops carrying a beach umbrella and a cooler with a beach chair over hsi shoulder on a strap. I love Penn Station.
Then to the sub way. It is so hot and close here. It smells of people and tar and oil and ozone. Trains rumble by with a predictable frequency as the platforms shake and the very loud CLICK CLACK CLICK CLACK of the rails on wheels and undercarriage supports.
We ride in a blissfully air conditioned car up to 82nd street? where we leave the train and walk right to the underground, subway level entrance to the Museum.
Very little english is spoken. We are in line with people from all over the world. I hear french and german and I think farsi or arabic, yiddish... I can't tell you, there was just too much.

The Museum is so busy with people pushing baby strollers, children running around and harried parents trying, somewhat ineffectively to herd them toward the exibits.
The first room is dark and cool. It is geology at its best. Depictions of ejecta from vocanos, layers of sediment and transformed rock that are polished on one side, to show the detail of the inside compositions, and rough hewn on the other sides. you can touch them all, feel the anciant stone in the modern air conditioning. I turn a corner and here is a picture of a familiar formation. It is basalt from the giant basalt flow that makes up eastern Washington State. I reach out and touch a piece of my home 3000 thousand miles from home. I am home sick.
A whirl up a spiral ramp depicting the big bang to the present in universal growth and development. Intelligent design my ass. God started it all billions of years ago and pushed where it needed pushing. But the universe. I fervently believe, is billions and billions of years old and we are just a passing gnat to it, so small, so insignificant, so trivial.
Then a room that defies my concepts of display. A long high wall with branches of the Kingdom Phylum Species Order of biology. A display of crustaceans and shell fish, clams, shrimps, lobsters, crabs. A line of mamals and at the top is my most treasured creature, hidden in a case next to an aardvark or armadillo. I see the first specimen of platypus, ornithorhynchus anatinus. God's spare parts animal and so humble, so far away but right in front of me.
It is now I discover my new camera has killed its battery. No pictures. I run to the gift shop and buy batteries abut they fail so fast. Maybe they are old, maybe my new camera has a short in it that kills batteries so fast. But I can't waste time on this now... soo much to see.
We enter a room so large, so vast that I have seen theaters smaller. Across the cieling is a life sized model of a blue whale. I am back to feeling small and insignificant again, humbled. We look at the sharks, the sea life in displays, listen to wave noises and whale song.
Lunch next in the cafeteria which was crowded noisy and surprisingly good.
Back into history. We are here for one thing, really. K wanted the blue whale, I need the dinosaurs. My ornithorhyncus anatinus was a sweet surprise, but I need to see my child hood love. Here a pteranadon, there an ancient tortoise or turtle so large as to be thought a fakery. A towering lumbering sauropod, used to be called a brontosaurus, now called a brachiosaurus, the menacing Tyrannosaur and the ancient cousin the allosaur. But then, the mammoth and the "irish deer" the largest deer species ever discovered looking like a love child of a moose and an elk.
I am so over loaded. SO much history, so many wonders that I am growing numb to each new discovery. How many times have I sworn under my breath at the seeming impossibility of the wonders I behold? How many times am I reduce to "oh wow" which is no honor or justice to the pageant before me.
A quick trip through a hall with pictures of birds, my favorite, on the walls. An osprey with two rainbow trout, one in each taloned foot, a double breasted cormorant, a coopers hawk with a kinglet in its feet, two bald eagle fighting for a scrap of food, a white tailed eagle being shadowed by a gull awaiting scraps from a kill. But the centerpiece is a majestic and haunting pair of yellow eyes looking straight ahead, at me, with long downward swept wings ending with the first primary wing feathers bent upward form the force of air displaced, an arctic snowy owl flies right at me. I stop and stare and become over full.
The Museum.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


A short time back, K and I drove up and spent some time in Bean Town.
I have read about Boston, who studying American history has not? But to stand in a city so pivotal and integral to America, freedom and liberty was wonderful.

We drove up through Connecticut and stayed near a casino where we ate at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We love his restaurants and this one was no disappointment.

Then to Boston. It is a big city, but it drizzled on us off and on for the time we spent there.
The first stop was Old Ironsides. She was one of the most complex models I built as a kid. Undefeated in naval battles with the British, cannon balls bounced off her hull giving her the name. She is the USS Constitution, the oldest still commissioned warship in the world. She was de-masted and undergoing deck repairs, but I realized yet another life long dream/goal by standing on her decks. All the personnel on board her were in period garb and told involved stories about what life was like in Colonial Times on a US warship.

CannonsThe Deck, covered during renovations

A ladder to bellow decks, watch your head!

Then we were going to go to the North Church, to see where the lantern were hung to signal Paul Revere to ride. But Boston is a confusing town. We got lost, my blood sugar tanked so I was useless as a navigator, the Tom Tom GPS was lost and I could not read the map. We left town and got food.
A great brew house pub with marinated staek tips that were wonderful.
Day two took us to the Aquarium and an Imax movie.

A walk to Faneuil Hall brought us to a wondrous mall with shops and vendors, restaurants and food food food.
We saw CHEERS, but opted not to go in.

We walked the Hall and the surrounding area looking for a place to eat. Karen wanted shepherds pie, I wanted a lobster. We settled on a place:

Durgin Park
340 Faneuil Hall Market Pl
Boston, MA 02109

It was not quite the atmosphere we wanted but oh my was the food good.

I ordered a 1 1/4 lb lobster whole. It came and I made quick work of the tail, legs and claws. When our darling waitress came back, I told her this was my first whole lobster. The incredulous look on her face was priceless. She could not believe I had never had a lobster before. I toldl her if she put a whole dungenesse crab in front of me I would know exactly what to do, but I was lobster lost. She had me crack the carapace and pointed out the edible and non edible. It was delicious.

We spent one more night and then headed home through Rhode Island, adding one more state to my inner Magellan's delight.

We stopped at Battleship Cove in Fall River MA, home to the USS Lionfish, a WWII submarine we got to walk through, the USS Massachusetts, a big beautiful Battle ship, two PT boats, the Joseph P Kennedy destroyer and a former East German ship. That was a grand day. The exibits and walk throughs were fantastic.

USS Massachusetts

USS Lionfish

Then home, with a ride on a ferry boat across the Long Island Sound.

It was fast and wonderous. We can't wait to go back.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Reason...

I started this blog with the intent of chronicling an amazing journey across the USA. When we arrived here in NY, I then used it to point out things that I noticed were different between the east coast and west coast way of life.
I have bitched and complained in a petulantly whiny way about what I do not like out here. I will continue to do that.
And I have posted pictures and tales of a few trips. I have yet to post about Boston, or the WWII submarine and the USS Massachusetts.
But what I have failed to do is post the reason, the real reason, we left God's own heaven and moved to the outskirts of hell...
I have asked permission from all parties, warning them that they will be on the interweb and that it is a big place to put pictures. Everyone of adult decision making age has agreed.

M, at age 5, is a rascal who gets very moody and melts down amazingly well if things are not to the script in his head. He is a real joy when all is right in his world. His vocabulary and conversation skills blow me away.
But then again, all my nephews and my niece have dazzled me with their language skills.

This is T. He is about 2.5 and he was slow to learn to talk. Just after we arrived here, he was diagnoses with normal pressure hydrocephalus. His head was too large for his age and the pressure inside his brain was normal but odd. He can identify every letter accurately, can count to 10 only missing the number 9. He is a love and has a smile that I crossed a continent for.

M and Grandma. Grandma is the energizer bunny. One brain surgery, one minor stroke, one new kidney. Her purse is the lost room at Area 51 I am sure.

Three generations.
Grampa, K and T. Grampa is twice retired and is a trove of trivia and lore. I enjoy this man. He is truly a curmudgeon and I know my friend Nicole would love him too.

The mom of these darlings hates having her picture taken so I did not and continue to keep her un-photo'd. I did not ask the Boys dad if I could post his pic so I am leaving that out for now as well.
And there is one more nephew, J who I did not ask for permission and I have no good picture of. He is 15 and a math brain, excellent student, soccer player and loves to kick my ass playing Halo 3.
We recently went to the latest Harry Potter film with J and his father, who is K's brother in law from her first marriage.
The boys are the reason we came. When it gets shitty, when I am so done with rude ignorant asleep lemming that I want to cry and go climb into The Cascade Foothills and not come out again, I remind myself that we are here for the nephews, and how much fun they can be.

There you go, the reason, or should I have titled this:
The Reasons

Be well.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


For the first time in many many moons, I went to a dentist.
When I was a kid, my dentist was an older man who had great teeth and was very kind and gentle. Outside his office window was a tree. It was, of course bare in the winter and leafed out beautifully in the summers.
In the Great Pacific Northwest, outside my dentist's office window was a great array of shrubs and a few smaller trees. I would watch the small birds flit around and sit in the trees.
This dentist had a tree outside the window as well. That dentist was also older than me, grey at the temples as well.
A common theme it would seem.
The venetian blinds were closed so I could not see any birds. But the leaves could be seen through gaps here and there.
But the thing that threw me off, it seems to happen more and more often now, the nice young dentist was younger than me.
There is a new gaggle of baby doctors (not pediatricians) has started at the Hospital and they are all way too young to be doctors.
But I stepped out of the dentist office to a hot ass muggy afternoon and was momentarily disoriented. I could have been stepping out of either of my last dentist offices in either city I grew up in.
There was a brief moment when I did not know where I was, when I was...
But as I came around to the oppressive muggy humid New York Long Island summer, I could smile and be happy.
No cavities.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Florida, again

I turned a zero year birthday this year.
I had a choice of going anywhere I chose.
Going to Belgium, to the land of my forebears was one option. But I thought long and hard about Europe in spring.
Simple equation, actually. Cold Europe in spring or cool Florida in Spring.

We flew down and set up in a nice hotel near a Fudpucker's restaurant. They have a gator pond where you can pet a baby gator of get your picture taken with one. It is the South, after all.

We met our first day with cool temps and winds that were annoying but not awful.
At 1000 am, the beach was fairly empty because it was COLD!
Maybe we made a mistake.
We left the beach and ate. More on food later, you all know we travel on our stomachs.
There is a great little aquarium, called The Gulfarium.
We might have mentioned it on the trip east. It is small, some sharks, seal lions, a seal, several dolphins, sharks, turtles, penguins... you get the idea.
Now when one turns a special age, you need to do more than the average birthday.
So I ponied up a few extra bucks and got to do a meet and greet with a beautiful bottlenosed dolphin named Princess.
There were these three little little girls and me at the rail. They stood on a tall box and I stood on a short step. It looked funny, three little girls and a big man wanting the fleetinf attention of a dolphin.
I got to take her through some behaviors, asked her to blow bubbles under water, raise up on her tail so I could shake her peck fins. The trainer asked Princess to roll over so we could rub her tummy and side, and later, her tail.

The trainer suggested that the best description of what she felt like under hand, she said a wet inner tube. Yes, but more than that.
I make a living because of muscles, their function and dysfunction. I got to feel her muscles under a slick taut skin that I know, have seen, create beautiful movement and amazing feats of physical prowess.
At the end of the session, the darling dolphin swam by us sideways. That tail can move a whole lot of water.
Day one of the birthday vacation had me realize a life long dream.
I touched a dolphin.

More soon.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


For many years, I would not let anyone call me "Sir".
For me it is really a sign of respect, a form or address for some one who is an elder, has accomplished something with their life, an adult.
Yesterday, leaving the Hospital, another worker I know by sight but not by name was approaching with a large linen cart. I stepped out of his way so he could pass me unhindered.
He looked me in the eye and said:
"Sorry Sir."
I did not let anyone call me that until I turned 25.
It is a very personal thing, to me at least.
Until I was about 25, I really did not feel I had accomplished anything.
I was in school to become what I am now, I was working in a fast food restaurant and felt I had made no real contributions to the world except giving people way more cholesterol than they needed.
Then on my 25th Birthday, I decided it was OK to be called Sir.
Now it is years later and I was called sir.
What have I done to merit the title of Sir?
One little word makes me pause and look at my life.
What have I done?
In an instant, when the young man wheeled clean or dirty, I don't know which, linens down the hall I assessed my life.
What have I done?
I am standing in a Rehabilitation Hospital with a great reputation, working with a great group of health care professionals. I have a great family with nephews and a niece that are doing alright. I am not an axe murderer, I keep my corner of the world clean, I halp when I can and try to leave a place better than when I got there.
I help people regain their independence, I help families be less afraid of thelife altering events they are in the midst of.
I stood up just a little taller and nodded to myself.
I can still be called "Sir".
It makes me no better, it grants me no more privilege or status, or money. But I stand a hair straighter and make a determined effort to be just a little better, to continue the right to be called Sir.

One little word creates such a pause for thought.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

It is all how you look at it

The other day I heard my least favorite comment from a patient.
"This wasn't a good session."
How the hell do you arrive at that?
You expected to live forever, or at least without major disruption, but if you are seeing me, you had a major disruption.
You think that it should be healed in a day or two, especially if it is something you can not see such as a stroke, a surgery to a part of your body you can't see, out of sight out of mind kind of injuries.
You forget that a simple kitchen cut (usually from a knife that is way too dull) and does not need stitches takes about 14 days to heal.
But when an educated mad man (a surgeon, we lock up people who cut people but you PAY this person to incise you and stitch you, they gotta be mad as a hatter!) cuts you open, cuts apart bones and either removes them or replaces them, and them staples you or sutures you closed, it is VERY different from the knife cut while preparing your mirepoix for chicken soup!
So then you look at me, after walking farther than you have since your surgery, without any (or minimal) assistance from me, you did not fall, lose your balance, have your knees buckle from a neurological problem or a strength/endurance issue, did not pass out from orthostatic hypotension from your bodies inability to regulate its own blood pressure, you did not have a cardiac arrest or pass out.
I frequently lecture my patients with the above litany and then ask them, again, if it was a good session.
They expect to be healed from a major surgery, stroke, long term illness creating debility, in a matter of days, not the weeks to months that it will really take.
But I prevail.
They admit that it was a good session.
No one is willing to take the time needed to heal correctly.
Healing is a full time job to do it right.
Listen to your Physical Therapist, your Occupational Therapist, your Speech and Language Pathologist, your Doctor and the nurses and you will get through it well.
And I will keep lecturing my people on patience and needing to accept small victories and advances in the healing process.
Heal thyself.
No, seriously, do that and let the rest take care of its self for a while.
Go ahead, I'll wait.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fire House

Driving home today, after a wonderful day at work where everything went well, the patients weren't too demanding and I was in a good space all day, I arrived at the intersection near the local fire house.
It sits at the top of the hill, a four way stop where you should not turn on red and visibility can be an issue.
I was first in my lane, headed east, but signaling to turn left, when a car on my left hand side started to run the red light they had. They shot across the intersection, I saw the passenger gesture violently to the driver not to turn right but to drive straight ahead.
That was weird enough. But...
The car screamed across the intersection and stopped in the parking lot of the fire house. the woman got out and hurried, not ran, over to the open fire truck bay door where someone met her. She gestured violently to the car she had just gotten out of.
My light had turned green and I was wanting to see the next part of this drama unfold, but the person behind me was riding my bumper.
I made my head check to the left and then right and then left again, no last minute red light runners to be seen. (believe me they run red lights around here like red is a suggestion, not a law)
I saw the driver of the car opening the rear passenger door and two very limp legs fell out, he grabbed the form of a body. I had turned the corner downhill so my rear view mirror had just a fleeting glimpse of wildly swinging legs as the limp body was carried to the fire house.
I felt my chest tighten and I felt a great wave of concern. I have been around enough to know unconscious body movement.
I hope all is well.
I am glad there were people at the fire house to take care of this emergency.
Thank god for volunteer fire fighters!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shaking My Head

I find myself shaking my head a great deal.
Why does one shake their head in a motion that connotates disapproval or negation?
For me, it is when someone has perpetrated an act that I consider stupid or blatantly in the face of common sense.
We could easily devolve into an argument of what common sense is, but we shant.
Today, I was driving home from work, in a good mood from a full and successful day, when a large truck, 4 door and bigger than necessary, turned out of a strip mall and landed in the two way turn lane. He accelerated but not up to speed to pass me or merge safely, but he started to enter my lane with the bumper of his truck even with my front tire. I took my foot off the gas and decelerated a bit so he could safely take over my lane of travel.
I shook my head and restrained myself from making a rude gesture or honking my horn, I just waved at the driver of the too big truck as if to say "Hey, I am here".
Maybe he did not see my red truck. Maybe he was thinking too far ahead of himself and was not aware of his now, his present.
I shake my head so often when I drive that I have relieved much of my whiplash injuries. I actually have a stronger neck because of it.
I look at these people so distracted, so not in the moment and focused here that it is truly a wonder more people are not injured or killed in automobile accidents.

Just do me a favor.
Pay attention.
Focus on the moment you are in right now, so I do not have to shake my head at you.