On CAT scans and overheard coffee shop revolution chatter

One week into my 45th year, I was privvy to a revolution plot and had my first CAT Scan.  Why did I put the scan off so long?  I realize these gizzmos have been around for awhile, but this was my first opportunity to slip into the donut.

Actually, the scan was a non-event except for the half gallon of iodine solution I had to down in the preceding hour.  I can see why the stuff isn’t available in vending machines.  My bladder didn’t fill until precisely the moment that the spacey bed whirred me into the heart of the donut.  A digital voice commanded me to hold my breath a few times, putting additional pressure on my bladder, while the machine took pictures of my abdomen, but I remeained continent.  They’re looking for evidence of what’s causing my chronic bloating.  I suspect they’ll find Sherry’s cell phone that she lost last month, a permission slip that Maia was supposed to return to school, and some paper clips.

“Does this bedsheet make me look bloated?” I asked Lori the technician.

Lori assured me I looked fine. She also said the pictures were very good, and that the doctor would have to show them to me.  I’m waiting by the phone.

On my way home, I killed some time at a downtown coffee shop between busses.  I sat at a table next to three “suits.”  Truthfully, only one was in a suit, the other two in sweaters, but they were in the set of business professionals that populate downtown Duluth, along with the local homeless population (it’s a nice mix).  I had no choice but to listen to their conversation about Obama’s press first conference last night.

“I’m so tired of this.”

“It’s just the same old bi-partisan stuff.”

“All I heard from Obama was ‘I…I…I…I.’  It’s all about him.”

“We just need to throw all of the bums out and start from scratch.”

Note:  We’d actually planned to watch the conference, but were thwarted by Wolfe Blitzer, who earlier had said it would be on CNN at eight.  Of course, we didn’t adjust for the time zone difference.  Morons!  Anyway, we watched some of the pundits analyze after, but fell asleep.

I found it comical that these suits, clearly bastians of the status quo, were advocating out and out revolution.  I briefly considered we board the #9 bus together, hijack the driver, head for DC, and get ‘er done!

Instead, I finished my bagel.

Posted in General Musings | 2 Comments

On Birthdays, Busses, Imposters, Healing Touch, and Digestive Health

I celebrated my 45th birthday earlier in the week with a morning trip to my local Digestive Health Center.

I was walking the four blocks to the nearest bus stop when it happened again.  My friend Kevin, on his way out the door, asked, “Are you headed to work?”

I decided on candor.  “No.  I’m catching a bus to visit a digestive health specialist,” I said, to which he responded with typical apologetic mortification that he could give me a ride, err, at least part way there.  It’s a Midwestern cultural phenomenon that I’ve experienced many times.  Riding the bus is seen as some kind of pathetic act which prompts people to fall all over themselves to offer assistance.

“Thanks,”  I said, “but the bus takes me right past the clinic, and it’ll be here in three minutes.”  All perfectly true.

“Well at least let me pray for you then, ” he said.

“Well sure,” I said.  He was wearing neon green gloves, and he laid one on my stomach as we bowed our heads in the street and he prayed eloquently that God bring healing to my digestive tissues.  I was a little disappointed that no one drove by, but I was more than happy to have some devine assistance with how my body is processing nutrients.


I had just enough time to walk the remaining block to the bus stop, and in short order the #9 was rumbling its way downtown.  At the clinic, I was given a pager in the waiting room, and when it did its thing, I headed through the designated double doors, where a confused looking nurse waited.

“Are you Steve?” she asked.


She looked over at the scale where a grizzled gentleman was being weighed by another nurse.  The two nurses exchanged puzzled glances and one of them said to the gentleman, “You’re not Steve?”   He grinned sheepishly and they traded files,

“He said his name was Steve,” the nurse whispered as the other nurse led a smirking Melvin away.  I’m not sure I want his digestive problem, but I liked his style.

In a few minutes, Deanna Bakken NP grilled me on my persistent stomach bloating that normal acid reflux treatment doesn’t seem to touch. 

“One possibility,” she said, “Is celiac sprue.”  I liked the sound of that.  I made her write it down for me so i could say it later with authority.

“We’ll probably have to do an upper GI scope, so our office will be calling you.”

Back at the bus stop below the clinic, I waited for the #13 in the -2 F shelter.  A young man – long black hair, safety pins in his ear, black Yakee’s cap half cocked, black hoodie, cigarette – stopped in to share it with me.

“Dude, it’s cold out here, but I had to get outta there for awhile,” he said.

“Are you visiting someone up in the hospital?”

“Yeah!  I had a baby!”

“Congratulations, man.  How’d it go?”  He told me all about it.  It was a happy story.  She’s named Madeline and is a big baby.

“I said I didn’t care what it looked like as long as it was healthy, and she is, man.  She’s just beautiful.”

“She was born on a good day,” I said as the #13 pulled up.  “It’s my birthday.”

“Happy Birthday, man!”

“Congratulations to you and your woman, man!”

That night I celebrated with some great homemade cards from Maia and Maritha, Kylie’s powerhouse poem arriving from Mexico via Skype, strawberry rhubarb pie, and a very personal, top secret card from Sherry.  A good time was had by all.

I got the call the next day, yesterday, that the digestive folks want to do an upper GI scope, a colonoscopy, and a CT scan.

Here’s to you, Madeline!


Posted in General Musings | 1 Comment

Warm feet at MLK march; enjoy the moment

It’s possible that I’m addicted to MLK marches.  Besides the obvious allure of marching for civil rights and marching to honor MLK, I think it’s the cold that’s the attraction.

My first march would have been in January of 1994 in Grand Forks, ND.  I think it was -10 degrees, and Kylie was almost two years old, bundled up in a powder blue snow suit.  I remember it because she got her picture in the Grand Forks Herald.  Not to be outdone, it was about that cold in 2003 when a parka clad marcher clomped down Superior Street onto the front page of The Budgeteer News.  You’ll have to take my word for it that it was me.  Media mavens.  I’ve still got the parka (zipper’s broken, but for cryin’ out loud, you can’t just throw it out like it was nothin’!).

Today Maritha, Sherry and I marched with several hundred down Lake Avenue and then Superior Street.  It was about 15 degrees, tropical almost, and it definitely had a party like feel to it.  There were lots of parents with tiny kids, like Kylie back in the day.  There were people we knew, and many more that we didn’t know, but there was a feeling that we were marching some place real.

That place was either a better world, or the DECC auditorium where there was a rally afterwards.  There was great music, and Dr. Curtis Austin of the U of Southern Miss was an interesting key note, but it was warm in the auditorium and my feet got hot.  A march without adversity is a great thing – easy and enjoyable.  I can imagine that any marching Dr. King did was considerably different.

Funny, but I miss the bitter cold; the forcast has more of it coming.  Said my meteorologist, that Obama fellow, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”  My feet are warm, so bring it on.

Posted in General Musings | 2 Comments

Big Two-Hearted River

David’s comment on my previous entry prompts me to remember that I’m way behind in my book reviews.  Last summer, among other things, I read all of The Nick Adams Stories,  including “Big Two-Hearted River.” which was by far the best of the book.

The collection gathers up all of Hemmingway’s Nick Adams material, much of which was never published, so there are lots interesting snippets.  Some of them go absolutely nowhere, and some are just crystalized Hemmingway, but they provide a disjointed, fascinating portrait of Adams, who most argue is really Hemmingway himself.

As I said, Big Two-Hearted is the best of the group, mostly because it’s straight fishing.  Sure, I could scratch it and it would bleed post-WWI Adams PTSD self recovery trip, or possibly even more, but I don’t think Hemmingway really cared about that, nor did I.

What I cared about was how he gathered up the grasshoppers, how he heated his can of beans by setting it in the fire, or how he set up his tent by streatching a tarp over a rope tied between two trees. 

Note:  On a recent winter camping trip (see previous), Scott and I used two tarps, ski poles and a log to set up our tent, and Scott cooked our spaghetti by setting the can in the fire.  I might even take to using my choppers as oven mits around the house.

I also cared about the fishing, and how when he loses the big one, it isn’t really a loss at all.  It’s knowing you’re alive, and it’s alive, and the  possibility of that connection through that innocent looking whisp of mono-filament line.  It’s a great read.  Thanks for the tip, David.  When you get off the Big Island, let’s go.

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Wolf Kill on Snowbank

Two a.m. Saturday morning I woke up from the hard ground, but I was still warm, and happy about it.  There were only six hours until sunrise, I could feel nine toes, and I was confident that Scott wasn’t going to have to pull me out on his sled, though I’d had my doubts earlier in the day.

This was my first winter camp experience, brief as it was in the BWCA, and we’d left the west end of Snowbank Lake mid-morning, the temp slightly above zero.  We skied across to the southeast end and trudged the portage to Disappointment before noon, and were about half way across Disappointment when I nearly became a pathetic caricature straight out of Jack London.

We’d hit slush for the umpteenth time, which iced up my sled and made it impossible to pull.  On Scott’s advice (unfailing wise sage of the Norr), I’d taken to unharnessing, and flipping the sled to pound the ice off of it.  I thought I’d stopped beyond the slush patch, but when I stepped off of my skis, I suddenly plunged through the snow crust and was ankle deep in 33 degree slush.


I scrambled on top of my sled, and by some miracle, my ankle high ski boots were just high enough.  Scott, at this point, was three or four hundred yards ahead of me, a dot in the expanse of white.  I managed to put on my snowshoes and pull the sled to a safer place to pound the ice off it, by which time Scott had backtracked to see whether his prized rookie was going to be come dead weight.

“Everything alright, rookie?”

“Yeah,”  I said.  “Damned slush.”

By the time we reached the east end of Disappointment, Scott (did I mention his wisdom) abandoned the original itinerary – snowshoeing another three hours through the beaver country to Muzzle Lake – and he suggested we set up camp right there.  Still counting the blessings and my dry toes, I concurred.

There, in the shadow of Disappointment Mountain, we stripped of our sweat soaked ski clothes and put on some layers of dry.  I put on about 5 layers, I think.  We spent the afternoon setting up camp, gathering firewood, and then dropping some lines into Disappointment with the expected result.  Dark by 4:30, we swapped stories around the fire, ate spaghetti and bratwurst (Scott’s menu that deserves some serious respect), howled at the moon, fondly remembered Governor Blagojevich and other notables, and took a brisk walk out onto the lake to get the blood flowing before we slipped into our sleeping bags, the real test.  It was here that I would either die, or live to tell the story.

The good news is that sometime in the night, clouds crept in and the temperature started to rise so that by morning, it was a balmy twelve degrees.  If it had crept below zero or if a wind had come up, I wouldn’t have felt any toes come morning.  I thank my father-in-law back in Grygla for praying for me all night long.

Not to Disappoint, the next morning Scott actually caught a fat Walleye (I hooked him first and lost him…yes, really!).  We broke camp about noon as the east wind kicked up and snow started to fall.  Compared to the brilliance of Friday’s sunshine, the near snow-blindness of skiing through the half light of a snowstorm was breathtaking.   Scott, a black speck in a vast, soft edged swirling whiteness, slowly lead me back westward.

The clincher was when Scott stopped and pointed to a dark spot off to the left.

“I think that’s a wolf kill.  How curious are you?”

It looked pretty far, and like a speck, but I said, “Pretty curious.”

We skied over, and sure enough, the deer carcass was bright red with gnawed flesh – nearly all of it gone – but Scott figured they’d be back again to clean it up.  Since we hadn’t seen it on the way out the day before, it must have happened that night under the waxing quarter moon, about two miles from where we’d slumbered.

I didn’t take any samples for the crime lab.  Nature’s justice was served, and my toes were intact for the next trip.

Of course winter camping is dangerous, but then again, so it taking a shower.  I arrived home that night to learn that my sister-in-law had fainted in her shower and broken her jaw when she hit the vanity.  She’s got her jaw wired shut for three weeks now.  Poor kid.  She’s got some tough sledding ahead of her.

I’d rather have a cold toe any day of the week.

Note:  I took no pictures because there’s enough futzing with gloves off as it is on a trip like this.  But maybe next time.

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Bucket: Now that’s dedication

He came to the final exam late, bucket in hand.  It was square, 3.3 gallon, just like this one only bright yellow.

“Nice bucket,” I said.  Wise guy.

He stuck it under his desk next to his knees, and got started.

About a half an hour later, he got up, bucket in hand, and bolted for the hallway.

I suddenly understood the bucket.  I peeked into the hallway, but decided to give him his space.  My only other choice would have been to offer to hold his forehead.  I passed.

About ten minutes later, when things calmed down out there, I slipped into the hall.

“Would you like to just go home and finish this another time?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  “I’m OK.”

He left the bucket in the hallway, spent another half hour on his exam, and headed out into the snow with the bucket.

“Drive carefully,” I called.

He raised his bucket.  Nuff said.

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Finally, an intruder enters our sacred space…

…and it turns out to be Kylie. 

She was scheduled to be home Dec. 13, but she snuck one past us, changed her flight, and gained entry to the house at 1:00 a.m. this morning.

Whitney Buck, her best friend from HS, went down to MSP to bring her back to Duluth.  She gained entry to the house in the usual way (hidden key), crept up to climb in bed with Maia, and then the two of them came down to climb in with Maritha.  Maritha was having none of it, and demanded repeatedly, “Who is this?”  She thought she was begin mugged. 

At this point, the slumbering rents finally heard some noise and grogily stumbed upon the intruder and her accomplices.  Maia was experiencing a little stomach flu and proceeded to treat us all to a stomach flu display as we all cuddled on the sofa together.

Twelve hours later, she’s still sleeping…and we’re going to cut a fresh Christmas Tree.

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Acid Reflux and Happy Holidays

So I went to the doctor a week before Thanksgiving and he told me I’m suffering from acid reflux symptoms.  For months, I’ve been noticing that as the day progresses, even if I eat very moderately, my stomach feels fuller and fuller.  By the end of the day, I’m usually uncomfortably full.  It’s not painful, just uncomfortable.  Then in the last month I started having the burning sensations.

I thought it was a tumor or a ball of twine.  Good news for the holidays.

Anyone wanna see my colon?

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Daughter in the Wide World

Oooo, baby, baby, it’s a wide world.  —Cat Stevens

OK, now he’s Yusuf Islam and has done a lot of things to make me scratch my head, but he captured a father’s thoughts about a daughter pretty well 40 years ago with this.

kylie and pebsKylie graduated from high school five months ago.  Since that time, she’s been home about six weeks.  She spent two weeks in Europe in July, and she’s been at the UDLA in Cholula, Mexico, since August 4.  Here she and her mom are in a meditation garden on the campus, not meditating at all, but enjoying being mom and daughter.  We were there two weeks ago.

It was good to see her there, thriving in a world where most people speak Spanish, where her parents aren’t looking over her shoulder, el vulcanwhere the din of a thousand high-school dramas has receded into white noise (thanks of Facebook, it’s still audible, but managable).

Who knew she was so adventurous?  As a little girl, during the climaxes of some children’s movies, she usually was behind the sofa, not daring to peek at the screen.  Now she’s climbed ancient mesoamerican pyramids, she’s taken the bus to Mexico City, Veracruz, and Oaxaca, she walks and uses public transportation to get around Cholula (life is possible w/o a car), she teaches English to fifth graders at a local elementary school, she can hold converstations completely in espanol…and those are just the things she’s told us about!  Imagine the things we’ll never know.  Err…on second thought, perhaps not (Jocelyn!).

I could go on, and I could get really sentimental, but I’m of Scandinavian decent, and neither she nor could handle to much of that.  Suffice it to say that Sherry and I are very pleased and proud of Kylie Dalager, a person of substance in this world.

Still, I guess it can’t be helped.

I’ll always remember you as a child, girl.

Note:  You can find a link to Kylie’s blog to the left under Blogroll.

Posted in General Musings, Personal History | 3 Comments

Mom and Pops Abroad: a brief tour of Cholula

We really had a great time with Kylie in Cholula last week, mostly because we hadn’t seen her for three months, a new experience for us, and mostly because she’s doing so well on her own in the wide world (more to come on that).  However, another big part of our enjoyment was that Cholula is not your typical Mexican vacation destination.  Beyond the UDLA, which boasts a sizable number of international students, it was rare that we saw other gringos like us, or other foreigners from anywhere.

For a city of close to 100,000, Cholula has a small town feel.  Below, for example, is el camino real, the main street, west of the UDLA campus.  We walked this street several times between our hotel and Kylie’s campus.

Below, you can even see a small Scandinavian influence on the main drag.  I’m a little disappointed now that we didn’t stop in for a hamburger.

A couple of kilometers (gotta use the local measurements) west of the UDLA is el zocalo, or the town square.  Here’s a view from our hotel window.

Kylie had arranged for us to stay at a couple of places near the zocalo, the first being a bed and breakfast called estrella de belem, or Star of Bethlehem.

This was a pretty cool place to stay.  It’s an old, colonial hacienda (house) with all of its rooms arranged around a courtyard.

Our room had about a 25 foot ceiling of old wooden timbers and we were told it had been the kitchen.  I didn’t smell any bacon.

Friday morning (we’d arrived in the dark Thursday night), I went up to the roof to see Popocatepetl, el vulcan de Cholula.

The church in the foreground was next to estrella de belem.  According to Kylie, Cholula has the highest density of churches in all of Mexico.

In the other direction, spitting distance away, was the Great Pyramid of Cholula.

It looks like a hill topped by a colonial church, but under that hill is the Great Pyramid, which was either destroyed by the Conquistadors or covered by the Cholutecas themselves to protect it, depending on who you talk to (more later on the pyramid).  Below is a shot of estrella de belem from on top of the pyramid.  The glass pyramid on top of the building was right above the common area next to our room.

Our last night in Cholula we stayed at hostel del zocalo right on the zocalo.  Being it was a Saturday night, it was a little crazy down below, but fun to be so close to the action.  We had the corner room on the upper level.

Here’s the side street down below.  Pizza delivery, anyone?

There’s a brief tour for you.  I plan to post more about Kylie, and also some cultural observations, in the coming days, so here’s to following through!

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