Always tweaking something!


Joyeux Noel


From my family to yours, Merry Christmas to one and all.

Found this in New Orleans 6 years ago, corner of Dumaine and Royal in the French Quarter.


We be trippin’

Day 4258 (since I quit smoking 8/22/04)

Yeah, the weather was this beautiful.

Yeah, the weather was this beautiful.

What a trip. We live maybe 2 miles from the local airport. Getting there is never a problem. Checked in, got our boarding passes, checked our bags, did the security dealie and made it to our gate probably 15 minutes before boarding.

Got on our plane, it was one of the smaller regional jets. All 44 seats were booked. Pilot came on the PA, said something about a weight restriction and asked if we could get two people to de-board for a $400 bribe. One guy took them up on the offer Got $400 and a ticket to his final destination that actually had him getting there sooner than he would have had he stayed on. Sweet deal for him. Because only one person got off, it looked like the ground crew off loaded some fuel. Then we pushed away from the gate and sat there. And sat there, then we sat there some more. Total of 30 minutes. Rather scary as we had only a 50 minute layover and had no idea of what our gate arrangement was at O’Hare. Best guess for the delay? Waiting for an open gate at our destination (O’Hare) so we could fly straight in and not circle Illinois for a half hour because we were now operating on limited fuel. Oh joy!
Made Chicago. Came in at Gate B24. Had to get to Gate B2 (of course). And? Our next flight was actually scheduled to be boarding as we were pulling up to the gate. The people nearest us on the plane were all very cool and let us get out ahead of them. Get to the concourse, get oriented and head off. It was about 863 miles from B24 to B2 and that terminal had none of those handy slidewalks. At a hair over 6 feet, I can move out when needed, but at a whopping 5’1”, the spousal unit hates it when I put it in gear. So we walked at her best speed which is a leisurely stroll for me. Didn’t dare even hit a restroom on the way because of the already boarding issue I mentioned.
Got to gate B2 in outer Mongolia just as the tail end of our boarding group was headed up the jetway. Non stop flying!! The rest of the trip to New Orleans? Boring and uneventful. The best kind of travel.

Wednesday evening we hit all our usual haunts – Pat O’Brien’s, The Bayou Club, strolled down to the far end of Bourbon St to get dinner. Such a relief to have made it in one piece.
Thursday morning we caught the 2nd Line parade that marked the start of the French Quarter Festival. Here’s a few requisite pics of the parade happenings:

This guy nearly speared the spousal unit with his trombone slide.  Ironically, the same way we met back in high school.

This guy nearly speared the spousal unit with his trombone slide. Ironically, the same way we met back in high school.

A fine front line of trombones - my personal favorite.

A fine front line of trombones – my personal favorite.

After the parade, we scooted down the side streets (helps to be familiar with the Quarter) and hit Jackson Square where the Preservation Hall Band was going to get the music part of the festival going. If you’ve never seen these guys and they come to your city – go see them. They play all the old jazz/Dixieland standards and the sousaphone player alone is worth the price of admission.

Most of the bands/music we wanted to hear were scheduled for 3 of the larger stages – 2 right on the river and the 3rd at the split of Decatur & North Peter St, right in front of the statues of Bienville and Iberville (Early settlers/founders of New Orleans) One stage was right next to where the riverboat Natchez docks. Here you can see the Natchez through the stage behind a band named “Bag of Donuts”. (Odd name, odder band, but if you were to have a party with 500 – 600 of your best friends and needed a band to play that evening, you’d want these guys. They play EVERYTHING and do it well.)

Bag of Donuts.  Would make a great party band.

Bag of Donuts. Would make a great party band.

Here’s another shot, same stage, different day. The Natchez is returning from it’s lunch cruise and is offering a nice backdrop for Kim Carson. If you like the older Loretta Lynn style country music, she’s right up your alley. Doesn’t do a thing for me (in spite of her cuteness), but the spousal unit likes that stuff, so I took a bullet on that one.

Kim Carson with a Natchez backdrop

Kim Carson with a Natchez backdrop

That was pretty much the routine for Thursday and Friday. Hop from one stage to the next, check out some stuff we never heard, catch other stuff we knew we liked. Never, ever caught a bad act. Probably saw a dozen groups the first two days. On the weekend there were 27 stages going all through the Quarter and a total of 255 groups performing. The spousal unit counted. Usually I’m the weird one doing that, but there was time to kill during a band changeover I guess. . . .

Oh! Can’t forget this. Every time we are in New Orleans, Doreen H. sets up her little band on Royal St. right in front of Rouses Market. This year was no different. Awesome clarinet player, she’s actually a professor of music at one of the universities in New Orleans. She just plays on the street to help sell her albums and make a bit of grocery money. Yeah – we have a couple of her albums.

So anyhow. Doreen’s making her clarinet sing and a couple of unicorns come strolling down Royal, cutting between Doreen and the small crowd we’re in on the sidewalk across the street. To say I was shocked at the couple would be an understatement. I was shocked enough that I didn’t get my phone out in time to record this couple walking down the street. But, remember I said I could move out when I needed to? This was one of those times. I got lucky, the unicorns stopped for a photo op and I got a shot of this as they were getting going again.

Coulda been bowling Thursday, but I would have missed this!

Coulda been bowling Thursday, but I would have missed this!

Yeah. She’s wearing a unicorn horn, weird fuzzy boots, a diaper, pasties and a whole lotta blue body paint. I also noticed as I walked up behind them that the diaper was barely hanging on, and they did a VERY thorough job with the body paint. 1pm, walking down Royal St. Whoda thunk it?
Of course later that day I missed a completely naked girl walking down Bourbon St during the early evening. Oh well. Naked women I’ve seen, but blue unicorns? That’s different.

Saturday morning, everything changed. 7am CDT my phone rings. One of my brothers is calling. Never good. I answer the phone, asking what’s up? My brother, never one to mince words just blurts out, “Mom’s in the ICU in Columbus”
Mom is 77 and just started a trip with her sisters. They were headed for Tennessee to see one of my other brothers and were stopping in a bunch of spots along the way to see cousins, various points of interest, etc. Didn’t have a lot of details at that point, but since I am Mom’s POA and Health Care Proxy, I had shit to do.

I talked to my aunt who was in Columbus with mom. Friday morning she had a scratchy throat, hurt to swallow. They found an urgent care clinic, the people there did an exam – throat swab, peeking down the throat, etc. Rapid strep test comes up negative, diagnosis is post nasal drip and mom leaves urgent care with a prescription for Nasacort or some such juice. They tour the Columbus Zoo. A bust – it’s cold enough all the animals stay inside. Late that night, mom woke her sisters, said she couldn’t even swallow water and was having a lot of trouble breathing.
Soooooo, they get her to the ER at Mount Carmel West in Columbus. ER doc takes a look and pretty much knocks mom out and gets her intubated. This is like 3am Columbus time. They get an airway established, start pumping oxygen. Based on what he saw while trying to get the tube in place, the ER doc figures mom has epiglottitis – inflammation of the epiglottis – that little flappy thing that steers air to the lungs and food to the belly.
That got them to the point where they started calling. Mom being a Jehovah (that’s a whole ‘nother set of entries – some already made, check for categories on religion) so her DNR is rather specific – and in my fire safe.
Our trip was done through Travelocity. Easy, painless, hides bunches of details that until then, I didn’t give a shit about. Air travel was through United. Called them about re-arranging our return tickets. Saturday morning I’m on the phone with them (after the worlds’ worst biscuits and gravy breakfast) trying to change my Monday return flight to something Saturday afternoon. Cindy (the spousal unit) would fly home, I’d go to Columbus. After being on hold with the brains of United’s customer care center in Calcutta three times., the best they could do was to get the two of us home to Rochester late Sunday to the tune of $1800 dollars above and beyond what we’d already paid. Honestly, the trip didn’t cost much more than that to begin with.
Luckily, I explored a bit while choking down that nasty biscuits & gravy. Checked stuff out on my phone and knew what I would pay at Southwest to do exactly what I wanted. Ended up at the hotel courtesy computers making reservations with Southwest to get Cindy home and me in Columbus by 11pm that night for $1000 less than United wanted. Made the reservations, asked the front desk to get us a cab (foregoing the return trip we already had set up for Monday) and went upstairs and packed. We had 2 hours to make the first flight.
Long story slightly shorter (I do NOT want to know how fast the cab driver was driving to the airport, but he got a really nice tip for his efforts) (I think he was driving almost as fast as I do – I just prefer to be holding the wheel when I’m going that fast) lets just say Cindy got home and I made it to Columbus. My brother D was there to pick me up. They got me the last room available at the hotel where they were staying (damn their good taste!) and we crashed for the night.
Got to the hospital Sunday morning. Mom was awake, somewhat alert, and already shaking her finger at us like we weren’t supposed to be there. Too bad. My aunts said she looked much better than she did Saturday morning. Made me wonder just how bad that was. By the end of the day she was able to communicate by writing. At one point they actually cut off the fentanyl because she had trouble with her veins blowing. Apparently Fentanyl can cause trouble with that. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because with the fentanyl clearing out her mind cleared up too. Through the day her communication got better and better. Getting off the fentanyl also turned out to be a blessing in regards to extubation – but more on that later.
Got to talk to doctors, found out what the plan of action was, what was done Saturday morning, and cleared up mom’s rather specific DNR needs with regards to the Jehovahs Witness crap and her own desires to avoid that ugly permanent vegetative state.
Monday was the big day. There were tests to do to determine whether or not the breathing tube could be removed. Mom passed every one with flying colors. Getting off the fentanyl early helped with all of that. Apparently mom tolerated the tube – oh, I don’t even want to go there. But it got her off the fentanyl. By Monday afternoon the tube was out and mom could talk. Sort of. She sounded like Donald Duck. Apparently the end of the air tube actually projects through the vocal cords (how long IS that thing? And do you understand my reluctance to go there?)

Tuesday mom busted out of ICU and got a room in the general population. We were also trying to do a changing of the guard. We tried for 3 days to get our aunts to go home, but they refused to budge. Tuesday morning, I put on the last of my clean clothes and I was out of my daily prescriptions (I packed 1 day extra in case we could take a bump on the way home – never planned for this!) Our youngest brother (K) was headed to Columbus from home. We had asked him to hold off – we knew there was no immediate danger of mom jumping ship and there wasn’t much he was going to add. But by Monday night D and I knew we couldn’t stay longer. Mom was safe-ish and we all had to get back to our real lives. So K arrived Tuesday early afternoon. We had lunch at a place called Katalina’s. Ex gas station, funky little place, but they had THE BEST tacos. Really good lunch and it was near the place where we got mom a wheelie walker with a seat. Win win. Good food & ran an errand.
D, his wife and I finally got home Tuesday night. Mom was discharged late Wednesday. The gang stayed that night in Columbus. They hit the road late Thursday morning and arrived home Thursday just before dinner.
In the end, mom is ok and can now really start to rehab. Her throat malady is cleared up and the teeny bit of aspiration pneumonia she acquired is all but gone. She’s seen her doctor here in town and he’s all up to date on her little excursion and is following up. The scariest part of this whole mess is that had mom been at home, alone Friday night when things started to go sideways she probably wouldn’t have survived. As it was, the ER doctor said she may have been within 30 minutes of not making it as it was.
Mom has asked how many days of vacation we lost. That I told her. It was only 2 days. She hasn’t asked what we paid to make our changes. Wouldn’t matter, I won’t tell her anyhow. Bottom line was she was sick, needed us and we were able to do what was necessary.
The side bonus was that for what may be the first time since Dad died (1993) we 4 brothers were all in the same room at the same time. (I didn’t mention J – the resident Jehovah’s witness and only brother who lives outside our home county. He just chose Tennessee instead of upstate NY) I have to get hold of his wife (also a Cindy) and get a copy of the pictures she took. Haven’t seen them on Facebook yet, but I know she has them.
Best part of it all? Our trip to the French Quarter Festival got so fucked up, we’re going to do it again. Just don’t tell my mom.

Little sign in the hotel bar.  Yes - those are mine.

Little sign in the hotel bar. Yes – those are mine.

It’s coming

There is really a new post in the works about our recent trip to New Orleans. It’s a bit of a bruiser size wise and it’s just taking a bit of time to get through. Here’s a little teaser:

Mandatory NOLA photo

Mandatory NOLA photo

Actually, I lied. We were farther into the square than I thought. Col. Jackson’s statue is actually right behind me. We’re closer to the center of the square.


Well. Got more snow than was originally called for. Thought they were calling for an inch of snow Sunday night into Monday. Ended up getting a couple inches Saturday night and another 4 or so Sunday evening into Monday morning. Driveway was warm enough that half of it melted and we don’t fret a couple of inches of snow in the driveway. Maybe now I can put the snow blower away for the season.

24 hours from now (1:53PM EDT 4/5/16) I fully expect to be in one of Boeing’s finest jets headed south out of Chicago, kinda sorta following the Mississippi River down to one of the most fun cities in the country. Going to need a cocktail or two tonight just to get me to sleep.

Everything there is to know about the festival is here: French Quarter Festival I do believe I heard that last year there were 750,000 visitors over the 4 days of the festival. So come on down – there’s plenty of room! I’ll be at the Zydeco stage.

Trying to get some culture up in here

Must be winter doldrums setting in. Just getting the urge to get out and do something. So last week we went and caught a performance of: Little Shop of Horrors

Which was preceded by a visit to the same theater to catch this years version of “A Christmas Carol” in mid-December. On the spousal units birthday. (Admittedly, only 2 days after my own, so no biggie there)

Then – I heard an ad on the radio yesterday (25 minute drive in to work turned into 45 minutes with all the people afraid of snow flakes around here – which is pathetic for a city in the snow belt) that the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was playing at another local auditorium (Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theater – guess were I’m from!) with the local philharmonic orchestra.

Got hold of the spousal unit for confirmation and scored us some 3rd row center balcony seats – on the aisle for 8pm Saturdy night. Valentines Day no less. Sure glad I didn’t opt for the chocolate tasting/hockey game the night before.

Considering our penchant for visiting New Orleans (4 trips!!), it’s odd that we’ve yet to visit Preservation Hall. I mean, it’s on the same street as one of the entrances to Pat O’Briens, and we’re n there 3 – 4 times each time we visit. Maybe they felt sad about that and are coming to visit us instead? Ya, suuurrre.

At any rate, it’s good to get the opportunity to go see the band.

Had another opportunity to get some culture a couple of weeks ago too. The band Rush is playing here this summer. The spousal unit and I have been a fan of theirs for years (too many to admit). The last time we saw them live was 1980-ish – so we were kinda due. Only problem? Concert was on a school night at an outdoor venue about an hours drive from home. What was even worse? It was on a Wednesday night. That’s golf night. So? I somehow missed the opportunity to get tickets. I’ll feel better if we have a rainy night at golf – then the concert would have been miserable. With up to 12,500 people there and only 3,000 or so seats under a roof, it could really suck in the rain. A rainy night golfing is better than a rainy night at an outdoor concert.

Anyhow, I’m assuaging my guilt with the Preservation Hall show. On Valentines Day. Breaking our decades long agreement to not do anything special for that fake, made-up holiday. Maybe I can leverage this into some Karma points for a little lee-way in the future – like an extra golf outing. Wait – does Karma work if you have to connive your way into it? Hmmmm . . .

Ciao my (not) friend!

Day 2983

Saw my Orthopedic surgeon today. I am very excited to share that he granted my most immediate and fondest wish.

This guy:

My arm brace, all done up in Mardi Gras colors just for our trip to Nawlins. No longer needed. Can I get a YAY!?!?!

is no longer necessary. I can also use my elbows full range of motion, or at least as much of it as I have. Which is actually quite a bit. It’s the supination/pronation movements (rotating palm up to palm down) that are causing the most discomfort. I have exercises for that though.

Barring any setbacks, I should be turned loose for full load work by Christmas. So now Ms. Kim, my PT gal, can start me working on strengthening the ol’ puddle of jello I used to call a bicep. Even bowling will be considered. Now, the boys all ready got me a full time sub for the season. I am certainly not going to get in the way of that, but I will make myself available to sub (on my own team!) after I throw a dozen or so games in open bowling. I am afraid that I may have lost a little velocity. I’ve been unofficially timed at around 25 – 26 mph average speed, but losing 5 or 6 mph might actually be a benefit. We’ll see come January when I crank it up again.

New Orleans was fun, again. Got treated for an inner ear infection the day before we left. Turns out the meds I was on were totally ineffective and I got re-treated the day after we got home. Essentially spent 5 days in Nola with an undertreated ear infection. That part sucked, but Nola was, as always, a blast.

I got to eat turtle soup, duck & chaurice hash, gator gumbo – all of which I’d never had before. Happy to report that I’d eat any one of them again without hesitation. Also got a cookbook with dozens of recipes for gumbos and soups from many of the finer restaurants in the area. Have already done a corn-tomato chowder with shrimp (awesome with fresh ingredients). Have plans to do a pulled pork & black eyed pea gumbo soon. I’m doing up 3 pork butts for little Miss Avery’s first birthday party next month and I’m saving a pound or two of smoked pork for the gumbo. Yes. I am already drooling. If you’re nice I’ll save you some. If you’re nicer, I’ll send you the recipe – just ask.

Number 6

Day 2966

Number 6 as in that’s how many ear infections I’ve had this year. Lets count them:

#1 – In Cancun in January, probably from snorkeling. Thank heavens for being able to get antibiotic ear drops over the counter there. Cleared up before the flight home. That was the right ear.

#2 – March-ish. Probably from slipping underwater in the hot tub. Used my Mexican ear drops again. Right ear, again.

#3 – April. Hot tub again. Went to see the doctor, got a script for American ear drops. Again, right ear.

#4 – September. Felt it start up the day of my arm surgery. Left ear this time. Ear drops again sufficed.

#5 – Last week. Right ear, just a quickie, ear drops wiped it out quick. Oddly enough it was a day or two after I got my left ear irrigated. It got plugged up with hair, ceruman and flaky shit left over from the previous weeks ear infection. I saw what the nurse washed out of my ear. Surprised there wasn’t a boot in there.

#6 – Now. Unlike the previous 5 that were “swimmers ear” this one morphed into full fledged “otitis media”. Doc looked inside my ear and started writing the prescription immediately. Left ear again. Maybe that previous infection never went away? We fly to New Orleans in the morning!! I have ethyl-methyl-deadly-shit antibiotics and a box of sudafeds. Going to do everything I can to dry up this ear before we fly. Right now it’s so plugged I can’t hear squat on that side. That really sucks when your going someplace known for the sheer volume & quality of music on hand.

Neat party trick – if I hold my nose tight and blow, I can send fluid up my left Eustacian tube and out my ear. I’ve drenched a couple kleenexes with this bit of fun.

In good news, my arm is moving along slightly ahead of schedule. The flexibility is coming back quicker than the PT gal expects. I’ve advanced to doing pronation/supination exercises with a soup ladle instead of empty handed, so we’re working in the rudimentary strength stuff. She also loaded me up with enough ortho sox to last through the trip.

Here’s immediately after stitches were pulled:

13-ish stitches out. I had anticipated only the cut along the creases of my inner elbow. The two running up & down my arm were for a fishing expedition. Had to go find the tattered remains of my tendon.

And here’s surgery + 22 (stitches out +12):

Some of Zorro’s early work. The crease of my elbow is just to the right (up my arm) of the cut that runs across the arm. Big freakin lump under that thing too.

I get to take my splint off at my desk, and I’ve been taking it off to eat (SO much easier!). Still wear it at night because you just never know what kind of stupid stunts your arm is going to pull when you’re not paying attention. I am still under strict orders to not straighten it out fully. So? HAve to put up with a little nuisance when sleeping. Beats the hell out of going through the surgery again.

Maybe I’ll drop in with a quickie post from NOLA – tease you with the good music & better food.