Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Screwed Up

I don't know whether anyone noticed a post I put up a couple weeks ago excoriating the Downtown Bend Business Association for the crappy flower pots they've got hanging around downtown.

I was well-pleased with my snide, sarcastic tone. I even bothered to go onto the Association's web site and research how much they spent last year (gorgeous displays of flowers) compared with this year's expenditure (a little less money for black plastic pots with some small flowers).

I sent a link to Chuck Arnold, of the DBBA, and he wrote back asking me why I hadn't checked with him before posting the article. The nice flower pots, it turns out, had been destroyed by that late spring hailstorm a couple months ago. The one that flooded the underpass on 3rd street.

The flower pots I was making fun of were the emergency replacements.

I'm here to tell you that I was a jerk for posting that article. I can't for the life of me figure out what I was thinking, to post that thing without checking with Chuck. Of course I yanked the post, and I apologized to him. And I've felt crappy about it since then.

There's no consolation knowing that maybe three people read this blog, it doesn't excuse me for being so thoughtless. And there's no way I can make it up to Chuck for putting a blemish on what might have been turning out to be a pretty nice Monday.

So all I can say is, yep -- I'm an asshole. I wish it was otherwise, but sometimes I just have to face up to it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Surgery

Robert and Beth, a couple that we've known for years flew to town on Tuesday to visit us. Or, they thought they were flying here to visit us. It wasn't until they were claiming their luggage that they discovered that "North Bend" isn't a suburb of Bend. So they rented a car and drove the rest of the way.

They called us as soon as they learned of their mistake. We were at my surgeon's office when they called, where we were learning that the day's x-ray of my ankle was showing that the yeast infection was eroding the bone around the screws. The good news was that we weren't late picking them up at RDM, the bad news was that I would be on the operating table on Wednesday for another surgery. General anesthesia, open the incisions, remove one of the two bolts, irrigate and clean and debride and generally hose things out.

Mrs Elliott spent the night in the room with me, last night, on a little recliner that had the frustrating tendency to pop back to the upright seated position with a "boing" sound every so often. But she managed to sleep through it all, though, including the bi-hourly visits from staff for vitals and meds.

Me, I tossed and turned -- or at least wished I could toss and turn, but with one of the fixing bolts been removed (I got them to save it for me), Dr Askew felt it best to put my lower leg into a cast to immobilize the joint so it can heal properly. The cast has three bags of ice on it, which seemingly weigh as much as sandbags, so there was no tossing and turning, just napping alternating with ceiling staring.

But the pain level is much, much better today, I hope I quickly return to the level of low pain and returning strength I was enjoying right before this surprise surgery.

I'm on IV antibiotics and will be on them for a couple of months - yeasts are slow and we want to make sure we get them all. I get something called a "picc" line which will let me plug myself into the IV drip w/o any messy amateur vein-sticking.

In the meantime, Robert and Beth are viewing houses for sale, like good little Californians.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Photo of front end
of my Fiat 850 after I did a head-on collision with a much larger car. 1980, Topanga Canyon. Wet rainy night, driving too fast. My fault entirely. Note location of steering wheel -- lucky it didn't spear me or my (then) wife. My parents took this photo a few days after the accident.

X-ray of ankle the day of surgery. I reckon those screws are about 3 to 3-1/2'' long.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dual Isotope Scans Completed

On Wednesday the good folk at St Charles sucked 60ml of blood out of me, separated the white blood cells, made them radioactive, then injected them back into me. Four hours later, I returned to have my leg and ankle scanned to find where the white blood cells had gone. White blood cells have a jones for infections so they will group at infected sites and the resulting "hot" spots in the scans will show where the battle between the yeast/staph bugs and my body's defensive mechanisms is occurring.

Yesterday, I went in for a second scan, this time using a different isotope that was simply injected, no blood required. After an hour they scanned me again. This particular isotope has an affinity for bone marrow.

"How does it know where the bone marrow is?" I asked.

"We don't know -- that's chemistry stuff," said the radiologist, giving me the look that people give to people who ask geeky questions.

But I got a cool sticker with the international symbol for radioactivity to wear because I was such a good patient.

The point of all this is to see whether any of the infected sites are where my bone marrow is.

Infected bone marrow bad.

I have to wait a few days for the results, I guess. Radiologists take the pictures, someone else interprets the pictures, then gives the information to the doctor who issued the order (Dr Lutz, in this case), who will presumably pass the information to the surgeon who re-built my ankle (Dr Askew), who will most likely give someone there the job of ringing me with the news.

In the meantime, the weather is great, my ankle isn't bothering me too much (although it did develop this totally gross giant pimple ick ick ick); Stage 7 of the Tour de France is waiting in the Moxi box for tonight's viewing pleasure; my son will be stopping by Pizza Mondo after work to select tonight's entrée; and we'll wrap up the evening with another DVD of his choice: House of a Thousand Corpses.

Mrs Elliott returns to Bend tomorrow evening. Sigh. My son's great, but I miss her.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zombie Movie Week

Next week is zombie movie week in our house. Mrs Elliott will be in San Diego for a conference, and so that I won't be staying here alone during my recovery, I asked Jim, my son, to spend his nights here during her absence. He's unmarried and lives with a roommate in NE Bend so staying here a few nights to keep an eye on his old man isn't much of a burden, and is a real nice favor.

The lad considers himself to be a zombie movie expert, so I proposed that he swing by Blockbuster on the way home from work every evening and pick up a representative example of the genre. He thought it was a fine idea.

A zombie movie a night.

To be followed by the short version of the day's stage of the Tour de France, of course. A man can't live by brains alone.

Mmmm -- brains.

Empty Space Orchestra -- My New Favorite Local Band

The Empty Space Orchestra was playing in Drake Park on 4th of July and while Mrs Elliott shopped for knick-knacks I got wheeled to the top of a grassy knoll overlooking the stage. I heard about a dozen songs and, frankly, the band is excellent. See them if you can -- their MySpace page is here.

I am especially taken by Lindsey Elias. Incredible drummer. Chicks don't 'posed to play that aggressively, complexly, and assertively.

She's my new hero.

She and bassist Patrick Pearsall sounded like they were locked. I can't be certain, because there was a fair distance between me and the stage, and his fingerstyle playing lacked enough crispness (from where I was seated, might have been just fine in front of the stage) for me to hear every note, but he and she sure seemed like they were a great rhythm section.

If I were asked (anyone? no?) ... well, anyway, if I were asked, I'd say that ESO's music could benefit from a little more empty space in the tunes: a few well-placed stops right where no one expects them. This is a band capable of starting and stopping on a dime, and they should take advantage of that rare ability.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pet Parade Disaster Narrowly Averted by Heroic Wife

4th of July, Bend, Oregon (UPI) -- Before attending a morning meeting, Mrs Elliott dropped me off in front of Thump Coffee where I scored a streetside table, a slice of veggie frittata (I am told these delicious omelette pies are made by Nancy P's, but you can't buy them there), a can of lemon soda, and a cortado, which is espresso cut with a little milk to reduce the acidity. In May we spent almost two weeks in the south of Spain, where the drink originated, and I can say that Thump's cortado is better than anything I had there.

Just as the parade started to pass by, Mrs Elliott returned and sat down next to me to watch the kids and their critters.

(PHOTO CREDIT: From "Pup," Disney-Pixar's upcoming sequel to the 2009 hit "Up" - click on picture for bigger version.)

The sun was shining directly on us and the morning was heating up quickly -- and that's not all that was heating up. About 15 minutes into the parade some poor animal suffering from some kind of ghastly intestinal disorder deposited the final results of last night's dinner right in the middle of the street. A fairly large animal, judging by the quantity of material.

This was no ordinary dog poop. This was an evil, malodorous, putty-like substance of an unhealthy color, and as it heated on the pavement, those of us downwind were quickly alerted to its presence.

However, the folk in the parade had little chance of avoiding the treacherous substance as they were mostly just following those in front of them.

After several near misses (a betting pool was starting to shape up on our side of the street), Mrs Elliott took it upon herself to prevent disaster by standing in front of the deadly traps and directing parade marchers to the right and left of her, so that she split the parade into two halves, leaving a little island in her wake whereon the steamers lay untrod.

She performed her civic duty for about 30 minutes. At the tail end of the parade a pooper scooper guy took care of the mess.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Kindness of Customers

Back in early May I was contacted by a fellow who asked if I could take on an important project. He needed me to work on an expensive piece of musical technology which had received some damage when being shipped to him. I agreed, and assured him that I'd be able to deliver the repaired device to him in a reasonable amount of time. But when my ankle failed, I was unable to personally attend to his job, and I didn't feel confident that my new technician, hired last year, could be reasonably expected to do the work on this complicated piece unattended, and I wanted to be able to personally inspect it before it shipped.

I wrote back to the customer and explained the situation with my leg, and told him I hoped to be able to finish up the project in just a few weeks. He said that he understood, and was willing to wait until I was recovered. I gave him the address to this blog so he could see how things were going with me.

Well, the few weeks have turned into about three months now, and this customer's project (as well as that of another customer in Japan) has been on hold the whole time -- and I've been worrying about them, knowing that sooner or later one or both of these fellows would run out of patience.

I was thinking that I would start feeling better before that happened.

And I have started feeling better: the antibiotic and anti-yeast meds seem to be getting the infection under control, and my pain level is dropping.

So last Friday morning, in a fit of optimism, I asked my staff to make the shop wheelchair-ready (read: move stuff around) and to get these two big projects set up for inspection.

The boss was making his first visit since the middle of May.

Just a couple hours later, the customer happened to email me. When I saw his email address I assumed that he was going to upbraid me for taking so long, that I'd have to convince him that I wasn't dragging my heels or being irresponsible.

I often expect the worst, and it's nice when I'm wrong. Here's what he wrote:
I’ve been following your blog and find your commentary interestingly quirky, and very readable. And you do have a penchant for making light of a serious situation. But man, am I empathizing with your predicament!

The yin and yang comments about your yeast infection and the beer brewing fermentation process were quite amusing. The ability to maintain a sense of humor while undergoing less than pleasant conditions, is quite a nice attribute.

Speaking of admirable attributes, although one’s take on Ronald Reagan as a President may be either negative or positive, his humor under adversity was admirable. After the assassination attempt, his quip to the emergency room docs about “hoping they were all Republicans” was memorable, as was his statement to Nancy about forgetting to duck.

To paraphrase Mr. Thoreau, the human condition is one of quiet desperation isn’t it, and as you and I have found, it’s helpful to maintain a sense of humor!

I’m assuming that mending and perhaps back-seat supervising the house overhaul is taking up most of your waking hours. And [your professional] work is either too tedious, fatiguing, or simply just too difficult to get to and move around etc. So, I won’t pester you about my [instrument].

I just wanted to say that the blog has provided much appreciated knowledge of your circumstances and has made my wait [...] more than understandable. I just hope the infectious critters are halted in their tracks and healing progresses as is expected. It sounds like you’re getting excellent treatment; but more importantly you realize that you’re in charge of making sure that is the case.

Before I end, I must let you know that I’m happy you weren’t physically capable of attempting to scrutinize my component's condition early on in your recovery. Your description of the “pain pump” and your meds made me realize that they must have been extraordinarily potent and by the same token, you must have been extraordinarily loopy [That's an understatement -- Jack]. Under that condition, poking around the guts of a piece like [my instrument] would have been more than contraindicated . So, I appreciate you not poking around until your both physically and mentally ready to do so. I know being older and ostensibly wiser, I now refrain from doing critical, precise, thinking or mechanical manipulations until I’m well rested and of a mind to do so. It’s comforting knowing that you seemingly do likewise.

Under the circumstances, I hope your July 4th. weekend is enjoyable, and you get better soon….
Cheers (and I hope you can say this with a mug of brew in your hands sooner rather than later).

It's pretty nice when you have customers as understanding as I do.

I completed the inspection of his instrument Friday morning, and authorized my employee to ready it for shipping. The UPS man came too early for it to make the big brown truck, but unless we have a crisis, it will ship on Monday, as will the other project going to Japan.

As usual, my fingers are crossed that the instruments make it to their destinations without incurring any shipping damage. Generally speaking, the more expensive the item or the farther it has to travel, the greater the chances that it will suffer some sort of indignity en route.

But as I said, I often expect the worst.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Leg Massage Leaves Me Shaken

As my reader knows, my old war-wound ankle blew out at the beginning of May and I had surgery on it at the beginning of June. The overall pain level is beginning to drop and I'm feeling more human these days, although it won't be before September that I'll be allowed to put even the slightest amount of weight on it.

It saddens me to know how long this recovery is going to be.

After so much trauma I felt that my poor leg and foot needed some TLC. For a couple of weeks now I've been running my fingers over my foot and ankle, and lightly pressing in, finding the most amazing knots and bumps and tender spots, ligaments stretched as thin and tight as piano strings, and other neglected or shocky areas. Quite spooky, actually.

So yesterday, while Mrs Elliott was shopping banks (her former bank, WaMu, with whom she has enjoyed a long and adequate banking relationship, was acquired by Chase and has turned to crap), I was dropped off at a local physical therapy shop to pay someone who knows their onions when it comes to legs and feet to give my right leg and foot a half hour of expert massage.

It was an unexpectedly difficult experience. Because of the intense pain caused by the slightest jar or bump, I've been protecting the area for two months. I've babied it and guarded it from the slightest insult. To let someone handle it felt very dangerous! I was nearly unable to relax, I kept tensing up, expecting pain.

For 30 minutes I had to let someone into the Don't Touch zone.

And there was a little pain, especially when she was working on muscle and ligament knots, but she was very careful and gentle with the surgery site itself. She worked only as hard as she felt my sore bits could tolerate.

When she was done I was shaken. I mean, physically shaking, sweat beaded on my forehead -- rattled is the word my father would have used.

I'm going back, though. I reckon that anything I can do to send "healing vibes" to my abused limb is going to make the overall recovery process more tolerable.

"Keep clenching your toes," the therapist said. "Because of the ankle fusion, your calf muscles have no work to do and they will atrophy. When those muscles work normally, they help pump blood through your leg and foot and keep them from swelling. Clenching your toes works some of the smaller muscles in your calf, and they will have to do the work."

Afterward, we had originally planned to go to the farmer's market at Drake park, but I was so drained that going home and eating some nice cool watermelon sounded more appealing.

In related homebound news, I wish we had a view from our house of Pilot Butte for this 4th. I loves the fireworks.

And, on the cookie front, I received a personal comment about my mention of Hydrox cookies in my last post from someone who I consider a friend and teacher. She, too, remembers Hydrox cookies fondly. Hydrox have been off the market for years and I've been trying to find a suitable replacement. I have tried Tuxedos and the supermarket's "O" (organics) brand, and have found them to be too sweet, the cookie parts too soft -- like Oreos, a cookie more suitable for children than for a grown man.

When I was a kid, my mother asked the family if anyone wanted milk and Oreos. My uncle (her brother) cattily responded, "Oreos? Oh, you mean the ones that are almost as good as Hydrox?"

An interesting article about the demise of the cookie that I, and others, consider to be superior to Oreos is here.
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