Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ten Books/Authors That Have Inspired Me

My world-wandering friend Alexandria Murray challenged me to list Ten Books that inspired me. Friends and family know books are an addiction of mine. Rarely does a night go by without at least a few pages of reading. Some nights, it is hours of reading. There's a strong chance that Your Humble Narrator suffered from undiagnosed depression when he was a Late Teen, and reading was the only thing that helped him get through those dark, dark days. So this challenge must be taken up!

Unfortunately, picking only ten is impossible. So my list is actually going to be:

Top Ten Books/Authors That Have Inspired Me
  1. Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser - McDonald's hasn't received a single dime from me in almost 10yrs because of this book. Not only does it expose the seedy practices of the fast food industry but it elaborates on the war that corporations wage against consumers, wherein our health is sacrificed for corporate profits and their biggest advantage is our ignorance of their profit-driven practices. This changed everything about nutrition and eating for me.
  2. A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn - Mind blowing. This one started me on my path to uncover other deceptions. So many of our beliefs are founded on myths and the truth is often strangers than fiction and usually difficult to swallow after being fooled so effectively for so many years.
  3. You Are Being Lied To - Russ Kick - A collection of world shattering essays that shed light on soooo many dark places. Dozens of articles and each a gift to curious minds. Where as Zinn discusses our past, Russ Kick deals with the modern world. And the Pandora's Box he opens has scarred me for life.
  4. Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl - This helped me understand the curse of materialism and the value of creating and maintaining happiness between each of us. 
  5. Getting Things Done - David Allen - Brought structure to my chaos and helped me understand the value of structured, orderly approaches to dealing with most situations.
  6. The Dreams in the Witch House - H.P. Lovecraft - As far as fiction goes, this was the first story from the first author that completely absorbed my attention. Have read every story from Lovecraft and his style of writing continues to have an effect on my own.
  7. *Anything by the "modern poets" - TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, ee cummings.* - These guys write the way my thoughts naturally unfurl. Reading them is akin to hearing my own voice. For 30 years their works have been behind most of my thoughts. And there's this wild idea haunting me of making a short, black & white movie based on Elliot's The Wasteland.
  8. *Anything by James Howard Kunstler* - Kunstler is an author / speaker  that never ceases to amaze me with his keen insight, equal-opportunity-acidity and ability to cut through the non-stop illusions being played for us by various corporate / political entities.If only this guy would run for POTUS...
  9. *Anything by Leo Babauta* - As close to traditional spiritually as it gets for me, Leo writes articles on dealing with modern issues in this modern dystopia we're navigating. Like Kunstler, Babauta is weekly reading for me and his writing helps reshape Your Humble Narrator on a regular basis.
  10. *Anything by William Gibson* - Back on the topic of actual fiction, Gibson is one of the few (if only) authors that are required in my opinion. His writing style lines up nicely with the Modern Poets and his subject matter (usually dealing with some form of technology) is near and dear to me. Not sure if Gibson ever tours, but meeting him and getting a personal autograph is on my To Do List.
And now to challenge some friends to list their favorites...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Biggest Draw

Back at the house. Instead of driving most of the day. Started by dropping the kids off. Meg at the old familiar Middle School. Liam at the High School. Then, despite being off, waded through recently accumulated work-email. (Feel guilty, otherwise.) 

After a bit of that, it was off to Long Beach,  Molly in tow. For the dog: a visit with her friends at Dad's house. For me: lunch with Mom,  G'Ma, and Aunt Susan. Chinese buffet: Chopsticks. Good to catch up with the ladies who raised me. Mom always upbeat. G'Ma stick physically active. Aunt Susan, the original red head, rapidly recovering from ankle surgery, marrying off her daughter (Dana,) and starting her son (Dakota) in college. All of us busy and happy and glad to have each other's company. Back at the house,  Dad gets a call about a new position at work: back to engineering!  So big changes and much happiness for him,  too! The biggest draw of Mississippi: my family.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

CPR Fest 2014

The rain stayed away long enough for me & Liam  to head to CPR Fest 2014. Short version: Muuuuuuch more fun and enjoyable than the Gulfport Music Festival. Smaller crowd. Better weather. Much more rock-oriented line up. Highlight of the summer!

For the morbidly curious that derive some value from my observations, here's a peek into some additional thoughts:

  • Dirty smugglers that we are, our folding chair bags also concealed a hidden Coke, for Liam. When we were getting into the park, past security, one of the guards was checking Liam's chair. The boy's eyes go wide but then Your Humble Narrator starts talking to the guard. Distracted him as he puts his hand less than an inch from the soda. Liam stopped breathing. Then the guard hands him the chair and we move through the line. Villains that we are. 
  • Event was sponsored by Rockstar. They had free samples. Liam tried his first one, and disliked it. Sampled the "peach," myself. Didn't like it. Not even for free. 
  • Buckcherry wasn't overly impressive. He talked as much as he sang. And most of his language was terribly profane. If that's your sort of thing, more power to you. Not mine, though. We sat in the shade and Liam cooled off. Took him a while to get used to the heat. Poor kid needs to get outside more often. 
  • Dinner was a Large Pizza for $15. Ugh! Liam ate like two pieces. Guess who ate the rest?
  • Skillet was amazing. Opened with solos from the violin and cello. Proceeded to kick muuuuuch buttocks. Great musicians. Appreciative of the crowd. Interactive and gracious. The string players were my favorite aspect. Not sure of their genders, though. And not 100% sure if they were playing live, or not. But it lessens the magic if you know how the magician does his tricks.
  • Seether surprised me with how phenomenonal they were.  Played all the songs that I wanted to here. Especially Broken. They did that one acoustic and the crowd sang most of it. Oddest thing, between songs they'd do weird music transitions. Usually with distortion and pedal effects. And they didn't talk much. Just jammed. Great, rocktastic jams. Another great band. 
  • Closed out with Godsmack. The headliner. Played some new stuff. Played a lot of old stuff. awwwwwesome drum battle. THEN old Sully, the lead singer and musical phenom, started talking. And wouldn't shut up. With his ultra thick Boston accent. Was fixated in throwing beers into the crowd. Spend a few minutes cursing and yapping, then throw another beer. And he had more than a dozen to throw. We got tired of hearing his accent, so we packed up and left. Heard almost everything we wanted to hear, anyway. 
  • All the bands raved about the heat. Even though it was a relatively mild night by South Mississippi measures. 
  • Aside from Buckcherry, we didn't sit down. Didn't need the chairs. But needed more water and could have hidden it in the chair cases. If we had only thought of it. 
  • Afterwards, a breakneck dash through Rooney's. One more Coke for Liam and the coldest, most delicious Johnny Appleseed for me. 
Another great trip with Kidd Maestro. Have to put more of those on our calendar. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Continued Recovery

Happy to report a continued recovery for Ye Ol' Knee. Still nursing a headache from Last Night's Dank, but headed to the gym for a pair of back-to-back spin classes with my old buddy Jim. Mostly speed work and very few (if any) hills. Forty four miles in less than two hours. 24MPH average. 1500 calories. Good times.

Recovered at the pool all too briefly. Wanted to sauna, but it wasn't warm. Wanted to get in the cold (therapy) dip, but it wasn't cold. Such is my karma.
Karma's a word. Like "love". A way of saying 'what I am here to do.' I do not resent my karma - I'm grateful for it. Grateful for my wonderful wife, for my beautiful daughter. They are gifts. And so I do what I must do to honor them.

Life in the Southern Fried Matrix. Never a dull moment. And feeling healthier every day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Katrina Made Landfall

Nine years ago today, Katrina made landfall. On her anniversary, few people bothered to mention her. No memorial events. No ceremonies. Barely a remembrance on the local news. Nothing on the national news. How easy it has been to decorate our wounds. We're all back to our normal, self-imposed disasters.

My kids likely won't remember the lack of power. Or frequently moving from house to house for six months. They won't remember the hunter / gather quests for food that their parents replayed each day. They won't remember the recovery efforts. The loss. The slow healing process. And with some small measure of luck, they will not get PTSD sweats or nausea that strike whenever the mistakes and sacrifices from the sleepy past make the unexpected leap to the all-too-real present.

My own private celebration took place at Rooney's. Accompanied by mi amigo mos loco: Roger. And several giant pints of icy Johnny Appleseed. We drank to Katrina, to paradise, to death, and to the lie of love. (Okay, that was borrowed from Bukowski, but it wasn't too far from the truth.) Two aging warriors remembering long lost battles while dreading the challenges ahead of us. Nothing we ever do will make any headlines. But at least we're never bored.

Across a long enough timeline, pain and rumors fade to smoke. Their effects are etched in water. The rest is just rust and stardust.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Love Note & The Knee

Another test for The Knee. Hopefully we're on the road to recovery. If not the tail end of it. 21 miles on the bike. Then a 3 mile run. Kept it easy. Did well. No aches or pains. Finished strong. Had PLENTY of fuel in the tank. Wanted to go further. Luke would have made me suffer if that happened. So stuck to the plan. Easier that way.

Changing in the locker room and spotted somebody's discarded love note. 
Have a great workout baby! I love you so much!!! (heart) Your Wife :)
He probably had a great workout. He probably loves her. But he leaves the note behind. On the floor.

How romantic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Liam's Lowers

Liam's Lower Bracers were applied yesterday. He's so sneaky and clever. The nurse turned around and he snuck a picture then sent it to me. Middle of work, it comes through, and makes me burst out in laughter. Very likely the highlight of my week was getting that unexpected surprise from my son.

Unfortunately things went down hill for Kid Maestro after the picture. In addition to the new lower braces, they added a "power bar" to the top set. So he had a double whammy of pain and discomfort. 

Then, shortly after getting home, one of the new braces actually pops off his teeth. And the maelstrom of calls and messages swirled up. Me & Liam & Dr Chris in a three-way IM chat. Me calling the orthodontist. Then Gigi. And finally making sure Cindy knew everything was cool. 

End result was multiple hours of torture for the poor kid. He toughed through it, though. Rapidly adopting my famous motto: this too shall pass.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Knee, Day Three

If progress continues at its current pace, there should be no more mention of problems with the knee. A third night of the anti-inflammatory patch did wonders. Woke with no pain of any kind. Not even a sore spot to be found by massaging the muscle/tendon. Very good sign.

Ended a grinding day at the office with a spin class. Didn't push it, though. Fairly good pace. Didn't slow. But didn't jack up the resistance too high. Eighteen miles in just under 56 minutes. 

Thought about walking a couple of miles. Didn't though. What difference would it actually make? None. Maybe add a long walk tomorrow, or Thursday. 

In the meanwhile, Luke & Jack come out of the darkness and ambush me about Ironman Louisville. October of 2015. Full distance. 140.6. Is Jon in, or is Jon out? Want to be. But is it realistic? Have to make it through Beach 2 Battle ship, first.

Still clearing through the depression and the anxiety. Oddly enough, in the middle of a long series of morose thoughts, my buddy KH unexpectedly messages me:

Happy is a state of mind. You can create happy in dire straits. I know this to e a fact. You can create happy when every single step is agony. Generally that takes more effort, and meds though. 

Which helped. Enormously And the process of making my own happy resumes.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Knee, Day Two

Another night with an anti-inflammation patch on the knee. Greatly improved. No pain at all. Sat in the back and rocked a yoga class without any impact on my range of motion. All the usual poses, plus a great demonstration of my core and balance skills by doing crow pose. Hopefully a good sign. Will know tomorrow, after an attempt on the cycle trainer. 

Need to keep focusing on the positive. Guessing a panic attack hit me late last night. Woke up from a dead sleep at 0130 with these racing thoughts of failure and a racing heart rate. Couldn't get the thoughts out of my head. Terrible crushing sense of sadness and over-whelming fear. Everything extremely grim and impossible to overcome. Couldn't get my heart right. Nearly woke Cindy. But what would she do? Send me to the ER? Yeah, that's going to happen. Not sure how long it lasted. Half an hour? An hour? Eventually drifted back off. But the damage was done. And it has been a day of self-doubt and dark depression. Just want to train and be happy. Is that too much to ask? Why is it my lot in life to suffer continual setbacks? To get so close to my goals and my happiness, only to have everything pulled away from me after only a taste of what's been missing for so long.

Yes, yes, first world problems. But that doesn't make them any easier to get through. They still hurt. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Knee, Day One

Fortunately there were some left over anti-inflammation patches from my last tango with knee. Taped it down, slept with it over night, and woke with greatly diminished pain. Less soreness. Walking continues to be fine. Running might be fine, but not risking THAT.  Mowed the grass, instead. Lots of sweat. Some sun on my skin. And one less thing to do.

After that, off to the pool for a mile of laps. Heat wasn't too bad. But nearly forty down and backs makes the mind wander. Gets boring long before you hit the mid point. Then it is a matter of pushing through. Good point is, my swim is fine and the next eight or nine weeks will only make it better.

Third adventure was a trip to the Gulf Coast Youth Orchestra tryouts. Liam was asked to audition and afterwards his instructor said he did very well. Liam said the sight reading was hard, and had sixteenth notes. He didn't think he did very well there. Told him he likely did better than the vast majority of people on Earth could do. He liked that answer.

(Any extracurricular he wants to do will be met with massive levels of support and encouragement. As a Freshman we have to start getting him ready for college applications, and things like volunteerism and highly organized groups like the orchestra will look good when he applies. And of course the grades! He's in ALL HONORS classes, already. Very proud of him and he's got our full support on all his endeavors.)

By the time Liam finished, the temperature was in record territory. We stopped by Sonic for some drinks (Coke Float for him & Strawberry Limeade for me.) While we sat there, the temperature was literally climbing by the minute. What started at 101 ended at 104. And that was in the damn shade!

My night ended with not-enough-drinks at Mugshots. Buddy Rog showed and we had some laughs and some serious conversations about life and moving through it. Ended well. Always does. But my brain got knocked off kilter and things got very sideways and very uncertain pretty quickly. Going to be haunted for a while, now.

We all have wounds. Some heal. Some leave scars. Some stay open. But we conceal them behind as many layers as possible. And they leave us privately in pain for years. Sometimes we can't fix them. Sometimes we don't want to fix them. Sometimes we don't know how.

Reminds me of a quote:
You are not allowed
in my Hell
You must stay in 
your own Hell 

-David Shirgley

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Ramble

Need to sleep more. She needs a goal, like a new house, a new baby, a new job, some kind of challenge, something to look forward to, or she's bored and she hates being bored. Pictionary is challenging. Need to keep stretching, it is working! How long before there's no such thing as a television line-up and everything we watch is literally "on demand?" The POTUS needs to give a speech and promise us Ebolacare. Is there anything artistic Meg can't do? Is there any instrument Liam can't play? Farming skills are far more valuable than computer skills.What about the future value of drone repair skills? Do you know what movie would be awesome? Goonies II, where the previous protagonists are grown up and THEIR KIDS have a new, modern quest. Old world puzzles and 21st century technology. If the average life expectancy in MS is 75, then 43 is past middle age. The world needs more puppeteers. Just stay positive. 95% happy. And blessed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

What Next?

Fitness endeavors have not gone well for Your Humble Narrator since Augusta 2013. Few races since. The Rock & Roll NOLA was pitiful. Barely managed to survive Seaside Half Marathon. Slower time for Tradition. Had to tap out of the Gulf Coast 70.3 No races since. But the knee has healed. Weight back down. Strength & conditioning up. Head is clearing. Mood much better. And life is good. So.

What next? Giving serious thought to a late-season 70.3. Potentially the Beach 2 Battleship event. Wrightsville Beach, NC. Many good reports about it. Especially the swim. Supposed to be flat. Supposed to be fun. Just the sort of thing Jon likes to hear.

Started a 12 week running program in anticipation of going. Plan would be to get a month or so of training on the knee to see how it responds. If it does't complain, sign up for B2B. Spend a couple of days in Atlanta. Visit friends. Taper. Then do the event. Reverse the journey. And go from there.

Have to see how it goes. But any progress is good progress.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Liam At 15

Despite having the party yesterday, Liam officially turned 15 today. 

I posted a picture from the party (Whistle Or Lose It!) and wrote:
     Fifteen years ago      I became a father.      Not sure who has     learned or grown more.      But it never stops.      And I hope it never does.      I'm blessed.
A friend said: You look so happy every time you're with your kids.

And I said: Meg is my spirit. Liam is my soul.

They are. Greatest things that ever happened to me. And the most challenging. Sometimes. But more often than not, I'll stick with my simple premise: I'm blessed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Positions

Wish the rest of my life were as pliable as yoga. All these new positions out there. Some easy. Some challenging. Let's just try one. If it works, stick with it. If it doesn't work, try it again later. Just breathe. Relax. Gets less difficult. It will happen. Eventually.

And something new happened today: bound side angle pose. Started in a high lunge. Right arm down by right leg. Left arm up. Then the bind! Right arm comes under the right leg. Left arm joins it behind the back And breathe. 

Yeah, that happened. First time. Enjoyed it.

Just keep moving forward, Jon. One new pose at a time. It will happen. Eventually.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Uppers

After multiple unintended delays, Liam finally has braces running along the top. The rest get installed next month. Give him some time to get used to the discomfort of alien steel taking up residence behind his lips. Proud of the kid. Said getting them installed was the easy part. The mold of his mouth was the worst.

Hopefully all downhill from here.

At least until the Tylenol wears off.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Where's Jon?

Rarely enough hours in my days. Hot weather outside. Stormy weather behind my eyes. Work? A ball peen hammer beating a snare drum rhythm against cranium. Kids? Armed with rocket launchers. And they're not afraid to use them. Training? Half-assed, usually. Heart not in it. Head even less committed.

Been doing yoga. Mon & Weds. Followed by new,sweaty adventures in the sauna and the cold dip. Experimenting with more Crossfit. The Jon-shaped sweaty outline provide evidence of the endeavors. Some weekend biking. Some weekend swimming.

Needed time off to clean my head. Probably not clear enough, yet. But time to get back out of this personal funk. Write more. Have more fun with the kids.Stretch more. Train more. See if the knee will cooperate. And shoot for a late-season 70.6. Looking like Beach 2 Battleship. May end up flying solo.

No guarantees. But only one way to find out.

More to come.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Surprises us

Shipping department either delivered the Arc of the Covenant or potentially the biggest server in the data canter. Box had to be nearly four feet high and just a long. Steel straps holding it together. So big it was mounted on its own skid pad. 

After cutting, popping, unwrapping, lifting, and unboxing, we discovered it was actually a modern blade chassis, with two blades. The box was a major illusion and they could have used something a quarter of the size.

Rare that technology surprises us. But when it does, we get caught up in the excitement and whimsy. The lust of revealing the unknown. And HELL YEAH, brand new technology. That sort of adventure never gets old.

Still Progress

Whomever crafted the Jon-shaped voodoo doll pulled out a few of the pins. Stomach improved marginally. Knee feels better than it has in months. Energy levels high. Mood good. Much happiness  Much.

Yoga feels better this week, too. Stronger. More confident. Breath coming more naturally. Remembering the old tips and tricks to help deepen the poses. Forgot how important yoga used to be to me. How it puts you more directly in touch with your own body. Have to make it a routine again. Integral part of overall training. Another piece of the puzzle.

Here's the thing about yoga: There's a constant battle between your body and your brain. Your body is perfectly capable of doing even the most advance moves. But since such things are not exactly EASY, your body sends false signals to trick your brain. And your brain WANTS to agree. If you can focus on your breathing, relax into the pose, and resist the false signals, you'll make progress. In my case the progress with my hamstrings is slow. But it is still progress.

Also added ANOTHER tool to my arsenal: sauna. High doses and repeated exposure is supposed to help muscular development and overall performance during high temperatures. The thinking is: get ready for the furnace of South MS summer by pushing my body through multiple 30min sessions in the sauna each week, post-workout. Going to try in over the next four weeks and see if it helps at Sunfish.

If nothing else, my hamstrings will be more flexible and eight pounds of sweat will be left behind.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Straight In The Gut

Strange things afoot at Chateau McDougal. Woke this morning and a small but angry fut began to punch me straight in the gut. Felt it mainly below the naval and off to the left.

Either strained something while working out last night (not likely) or it is a diverticulitis attack (ugh!) For the uninitiated, that is an infection due to a piece of SOMETHING getting lodged and infected somewhere in the colon. Had a major attack in 2003. Not looking for a repeat.

Couldn't stand the feeling while walking around the house and decided it was wisest to work from home rather than deal with it at the office. And nobody wants to hear me complaining about sharp abdominal pains.

By lunch time, a megadose of Ibuprofen had taken away most of the pain. With some luck it will be gone in the morning. Already caused me to miss a workout (biking) today. Supposed to run, tomorrow evening. Can't fall further behind schedule!

Inversely, it could get worse. If it does, there's a possibility of an MRI and/or a colonoscopy in my near future. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease let me be healthy again....

Monday, June 02, 2014

Making Progress

Hopefully my hamstrings are making progress. Even if only a little. Stretches every couple of hours. Staying hydrated, Super aggressive in yoga tonight. And my fourth successful week of working on the ab/hip challenge. Has to make a difference. Has to!

The Butt Rub has no bearing whatsoever on my knee or hamstrings. It is just there because it is cute. And after yoga, the house was BBQ scented. MMMmmmm. Tasty pork butt!

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Decluttering, Still

The good news: No knee issues today! The bad news: constant rain completely shutown my swim/bike training today.

Took the opportunity to continue getting rid of everything that is no longer (or has never been) used around here. Two huge boxes of "stuff" listed on Amazon. And three bags of trash thrown out. Discovered that my old technology magazines are very sell-able. Betting that my years of Heavy Metal are, too. Get that box of Magic the Gathering listed next. And eventually, 10 years of comic books.

Anything that isn't currently being used, currently being sold, or about to be donated, is going to be thrown away or given away. It is just stuff. With little exception, it is all replaceable. And it has to go. No more clutter taking up excess space in my home and in my head. Down size my wardrobe. Clean out the garage. Clean out the shed. Clean out the attic. Minimize my life. Get smaller. More mobile.

Fill my life with people.With experiences. Not stuff.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Out & About

After a successful trip to the grocery, with the kids, and an exciting adventure making baked Chicken Parmesan, Liam went to the movies with me.

Saw X-Men: Days of Future Past. Fairly good flick, for being based on a series of comic books. Some of the coolest effects, yet. A couple of minor quips could be made by a die-hard like myself. But mostly awesome. Liam loved it. And that goes a long way, in my book.

Afterwards, Kidd Maestro took up his favorite position, in front of Guitar Hero. Funny to watch other people try to play it, then watch Liam. Folks, like me, can barely do it on EASY mode. Liam picks HARD mode and  rocks them all. Talented little bugger. My brain barely registers the notes as they fall. He processes them instinctively without effort.

 When we get to the high scores, four out of ten say: LIAM. Nobody else has even two entries. Liam has four. FOUR! My rockstar. Super proud of him. He crushes whatever he does.

Finished the movie and the games and waited for a gap in the rain. But not the heat. Hit the road for a brief run First one in three weeks. Maybe four. Two miles, to test my knee. First mile was about 8:45. Much faster than my normal pace, and could hear Luke yelling at me, so throttled back. Second mile was about 9:15. Two miles in 17:58. Felt good. Had more in me. But didn't want to push my luck.

Great night. Hopefully the first of many to come.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Celebrated

Three days after The Injection. Odd issues at times. Hot flashes. Excessive trips to the restroom. And a lack of solid sleep. But a silver lining to this cloud of mine: no more pain! No more tender spot. No more stabbing when pulling the left foot up. Everything feels normal. For the first time since February.

Been stretching aggressively and staying hydrated. Planning on checking with a local PT that specializes in optimizing runners. And getting Brother Jason to do some massage work to lengthen my hamstrings. If all that can contribute to a better running experience, my triathlon season won't be a total bust after all!

Celebrated with a waaaay sloppy cheat meal during lunch. Big O's Sports Pub. Huge burger with sliced blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions. Plus fried onion strings. And (of all things!) lemonade. All courtesy of a vendor.

Great way to end a long week. Hopefully leading to a great weekend.

We shall see.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

We Can Breathe

A week to the day and he returns.
Xray clear.
CT clear.
Bone scan clear.
Not just good news, but GREAT! news.

Finally, we can breathe, again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Graduation - 2014

That time of year again. Another milestone for this wee family of mine. Double graduation at Bayou View Middle School. Reminding us that we blink and the babies we clutched to our chests and rocked to sleep just yesterday are growing up and getting ready to carve their own niches in the world. Maybe we are ready. Probably not. When you have spent a third of your life sacrificing everything for another's well being, it is hard to imagine anything else.

Anyway. First up: Wonder Girl. Meg graduated from sixth grade with Honors. Striding across the stage, tall and glorious. Her transformation this year has been beautiful. And magical. Always reading. Or drawing. And often cranks out tunes on her fiddle that surprise all of us. Interested in theater. Offering to do volunteer work towards NJHS.  My girl, Meg. She is the beating of my heart.
Next up: Kid Maestro. Liam graduated from eighth grade. Officially done with Middle School. And on his way to 9th. High School. A Freshman. He continues to accelerate into his own orbit. Incredible testing scores, almost perfect. An amazing ability to reason his way through problems. And a knack for music that borders on supernatural. Strong willed but huge hearted. We struggle with him at times. He likes to have things his way. Likes to have the last word. (Won't say who he inherited THAT from.) But he listens well and take care of business when he puts his mind to it. All honors classes next year. Two strings classes. And this summer, he'll be driving. Then the fun really begins.

Congrats, kids. We're all proud of you. You've excepted expectations. As always.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

One Verdict

Weeks of internal debate. Finally getting a second opinion on The Knee. Switched doctors. If he has to cut me, New Doc can do it where Cindy works. Much cheaper. Previous doctor doesn't use the same facility for surgery. So erring on the side of financial caution.

 The tale unfolds as per the new American norm. Long delay, despite arriving early, in an oddly mellow waiting room. CNN on the LCD trying to convince impatient patients that entertainment is actually news.

Staff member calls my name. Odd semi-private waiting room. Curtains instead of walls. Little boy in the next booth fractured his wrist. But Mom keeps him numb with Minecraft on her iPhone. New staff member appears. Go over what's written on my paperwork. Let's do an x-ray. Doesn't matter that soft tissue damage won't appear. Office policy, ya know? Stand still. Turn to this side. That side. All done. Back to your semi-private waiting space. More waiting.

Next staff member. New room. Actually has a door. And lots of charts of colorful diagrams of body parts. Doctor shows up. Listens to Your Humble Narrator's Tale Of Woe. Had to help him locate the sore spot on The Knee. Then tested my range of motion. Nothing painful, thankfully. But HEY ! HEY! Jon's hamstrings are crazy tight. Nearly to the point of being a palsy victim.

And so a theory develops. One verdict: inflammation of the fat pad under my knee cap. Why? Because my tight hamstrings pull up on my knee caps constantly during runs. Causing wear and tear. Which isn't normal. Then frequent repetition of abnormal stress on my knees leads to inflammation. Swelling. That leads us to the ortho.

And now what? Short term, a shot of monkey juice directly into The Knee! NP shows up with the standard kit. Hits me with liquid nitrogen, or something, and freezes the area. WHAMMO! Giant needle into soft tissue. Holding my breath. Over quickly. And that is that. Should be better within a couple of days.

Long term, lots and lots of stretching. Three to six times per day! Have to get the hamstrings much looser. Have to put less strain on the knees. Or no more running. And you're not much of a triathlete if you cannot run.

If the swelling goes down (and it should,) but running fires it back up, we'll have to move on to the next step: an MRI and maybe some scoping.

But for now, let's hope the monkey juice does the trick.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Kids had to go to school, on Memorial Day.
Us adults were off.
And had an adult conversation.
Plans. Truths. Pasts. Futures. Her ideas. Mine.
Headache.
Cindy & Meg end up @ Gigi's.
Liam & Jon end up getting pub grub @ Irish Coast.

We'll see what happens.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Robinwood Training - 05/25/14

Great crowd  at the lake today. Familiar faces. New ones. Everyone smiling and talking about their training and their races.

Good to be back in the water, again. Some cold spots. Some hot spots. Won't be long before the whole thing turns into a cauldron. Did about two thousand meters. Felt great and fairly easy. So much different from previous years. From the back of the pack to close to the front. My one strength.

Hit the bikes after. The main group was training for Grandman, next week. They kicked it into high gear and averaged nearly 20MPH. Wasn't on my plan. Just happy to be on the road and work off some calories. Not really much serious effort, but still averaged 18.10MPH. Which would have been a struggle just a couple of years ago.

Closed out the day with a trip to a snowcone shack. Strawberry. Topped with cream. Time consuming. But dirt cheap.

Cooling off with sugar and friends and comrades.

Life is good.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Memories

Kids were with me for the day. Cindy was off doing what Cindy goes off and does. Fortunately, we all had a good time. Kidd Maestro helped me with the yard. Wonder Girl helped with laundry and clothes. No fussing or drama and there's a rumor that we worked together pretty well as a team.

Afterwards, the kids got to pick where they wanted to eat. Thankfully, there was much agreement and we ended up around the corner, at Brooklyn Pizzeria.

Couple of slices of pepperoni for the son. Couple of slices of cheese for the daughter. Chicken Parmesan  for Your Humble Narrator. Kids enjoy it. Everything was peaceful and easy and relatively inexpensive. The three of us happy to be out of the house and doing something agreeable together.

Interesting historic reference. My first OFFICIAL date with Cindy was at Brooklyn Pizzeria. Not exactly where I would take a date NOW. But it was after a movie, we were young, and we were hungry. So we ate there and talked about whatever we talked about. Almost 20yrs ago, so those little details are lost to history.

Flash forward to the 21st and these days she's of the mindset that she made a mistake by going. She was in shape back then. She ate right. She never touched greasy pizza. Why, oh why, did she do it that night, she laments.

That's okay. The memories are still good, in my twisted mind.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Musicians Past

A typical scene at Chateau McDougal. Liam's plucking on the guitar and Molly's trying to figure out how to get some more attention. Interesting note here is that Liam's taking his sheet music for Game Of Thrones, which is for the double bass, and he's transmogrifying it in his head so he can play it on my old acoustic guitar.

Crazy talented kid. Doesn't even cross his mind that such things are almost impossible for NORMAL people, like Your Humble Narrator. Just comes natural to him. With almost every instrument he touches.

His Mom's side of the family, for certain. Etched into his chromosomes. The ghost of musicians past. Their music echoing across a generation. 

Enjoying it while it lasts.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Robotic Bastard

Back to the battle with technology. Second day of waging near-constant war against backups. Like playing digital Jenga with the smoldering soul of an unblinking, multi-million dollar corporation. Pull out the wrong puzzle piece and the whole delicately crafted construct falls down around your trembling ears. Summoned all the king's horses. Summoned all the king's men. And we finally put Digital Dumpty back together again.

First piece was a new backup-to-disk solution that didn't behave. Finally spanked it until it complied. Of course that means half a dozen of us on the phone with three different accents and an over-eagerness to control the mouse.

Second piece was the backup server. It didn't like the new storage. And of course IBM can't modernize to an actual Graphical User Interace (GUI) so my morning is spent on the phone with one of their lead nerds as he talks me through the specific, arcane syntax required to reconfigure their command line interface (CLI.) Tedious, painful stuff. One wrong keystroke could have wiped everything. But we managed to get it stripped down to the bare bones and rebuilt properly.

Final piece was the tape silo. Robotic bastard. Refusing to play nice. Lost count of the number of inits and reboots and replaced tapes it took to make the sun/moons/stars line up correctly. Week of no training. Headache for lunch. Not even a pat on the back, or a pack of cigarettes, for ol' Johnny. Par for the course, though. All a part of the gig. Still glad to be employed. While wrestling robots still pays well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Modern Bad News

Packets. They can carry anything. Even modern bad news. Sometimes so serious it takes me several awkward minutes to figure out just how much fit has hit the shan.
"You will feel some pressure." Captioned with the picture. 
Results day. Supposed to hear from his doctor. Forgot check on him, trapped in my narrow world. But he can't forget. Reaches out to let me know. And amid what must be the definition of horror, he is still joking with me. Strongest man in my life.

Ones and zeros.  A digital tipping point. End up trying not to cry at work. Thanks to packets. Bastards.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Playlisted

In my old age, things are simpler. Bacchanal happiness comes easy. One part near-freezing cider. One part tunage. And one part comradeship. Of course the cider must be plentiful. (Too many pints tonight, though.) The music has to be loud. (But we playlisted too long.) And the comrade must be trusted and honest and forthright. (Hard to find.)

Post-work adventures at my favoritest super dive, Rooney's. 90s jams on TouchTunes. Plates of smoked brisket from Murky Waters. And not a sign of seriousness or responsibility or obligations to be found. Just a couple of hours of catching up and decompressing.

Cheap. Easy. Simple.

Keeps a man 95% happy. And helps steel him for the remaining 5%.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lakeside

First swim in two weeks. Over at Robinwood. Old faithful. Did four easy laps (just about a mile) in 40 minutes. Familiar faces: Luke, Jack & Onnie, Bob, Kristen, Rachel K, and Brian S. Different distances. Paces. Skills. And comforts. But everyone enjoying the water while it is still cool and bearable. Won't be long because the lake turns into a bathtub and we go back to the indoor pool.

Cindy was taking care of her mother. So the kids & Molly tagged along with me. Dog's first time in open water. She lived. Meg & Liam had fun. Cindy & her Mom survived their sodium & potassium adventures. Everyone continued training. And summer bites a little deeper on us all. 

Afterward, shirtless and recovering, Molly sat in the backyard with me. Listening to Pandora (from the little speaker on the left side.) Enjoying the breeze. And the sun. And the solitude of a fresh cut yard.

Amazing how much better a quiet day makes you feel. If only they could all be like this...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Old & New

Caught up with an old classmate today. Malise M. swung through town with her husband, Chris. They've been in New Orleans this week. Indulging on good food, Southern music, and mild summer nights off Bourbon. We caught lunch at Harbor View. Met with Officer Mikey. Talked about fitness, old classmates' updates, Austin, Seattle, and their travels across the globe. Strange clicking so quickly after a twenty five year gap. They had great stories. We dug up old memories. And hopefully my tales didn't bore them.

Afterwards, caught a new movie with Liam & Bryce. (The truck next to us in the parking lot accidentally left a clean spot.) New Godzilla movie. Interesting spin on a classic. Enjoyed the clever opening credits. Thought the plot had some merit. But wanted some more giant monster combat and less unnecessary character development. The movie required a little too much suspension of disbelief towards the end. Couple of the critical pieces just too implausible for my tastes. But it was a monster movie afterall. And the kiddos loved it. If there's a sequel, we'll go see it!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Need Answers

After significant dragging of feet and far too much thought about options, here is the (new) plan for my leg.
  • Step One - Get another professional opinion. 
  • Step Two - Get the problem fixed. 
  • Step Three - Resume the awesomeness/
Best case scenario, the doctor sticks a large, painful needle deep into the tender meats of my knee, injects the magic sauce, and bingo bango... everything is fixed! Get back up to speed for the triathlon season. And aim for competing at Sunfish as my next event. Wouldn't that be swell?

Next best case scenario, the doctor suggests physical therapy and it takes weeks of training just to get rid of the pain and return to normal levels of function. Not sure of the timeline. Likely measured in months. Skip Sunfish. Potentially shoot for Ironman Austin in late October.

Worse case scenario, the doctor says soft tissue is damaged and needs to be mended with surgery. Week of recovery. Months of physical therapy. Maybe get back online with time to train for Ironman Austin in late October, but potentially miss the rest of the triathlon season. 

Appointment is Tuesday, May 27th. Need answers. Can't keep hoping for relief. Have to create a solution. It isn't going to create itself. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SERIES - True Detective

True Detective is a slow mellow groove. Best sampled in sips. Each of which can be considered and digested in small amounts. One at a time. 

The writing is smooth and extremely well polished. Acting that is nearly off the charts by most measure. Doubly so for a drama television series. Constantly challenging musical interludes. Gorgeous scenes with a touch of subtle effects. Excellent dialog. And a wonderfully slippery plot. But potentially the strongest characteristic is the minimalist, very purposeful and direct interaction between all of the characters. Nearly everyone is an anti-hero. And nobody escapes True Detective's gravity without a few scars. Inside or out. 

There are crimes to solve. Relationships to untangle. Villains to chase, or run from. Love. Violence. Sex. Pseudo supernatural elements. And more riddles asked than are ever answered. 

If you have the opportunity. Watch it. If you don't have the opportunity, make one. True Detective is that damn good. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Test Ride

Back to the gym. After ten days of downtime. Some time on the indoor cycle. Test ride of sorts. See how the leg/knee holds up. Then a dip in the waaaay cold pool. Twelve minutes and everything was numb. From the waist down. 

Spin went well. Lots of sweating and panting. Old bastard getting older. No problems otherwise. Problem only materializes when pulling my foot up, from striking. Only a twinge normally. But with any additional resistance against my leg, there's a sharp pain. Also an issue when my knee takes all my weight, during a run. Then there is a pinch. Both issues are only slight. Maybe a 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. But those issues could certainly get acerbated. Then require significant surgical repair. Rest alone isn't going to do it. Have to get it checked out. By a professional. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Gulfport Music Festival 2014 - Day Two

With the rains gone, we returned to the Gulfport Music Festival in time to catch the end tail of Ying Yang Twins. Must more pleasant weather but a far thicker crowd. Everyone in a good mood, though. No trouble at any point, as far I could tell. Love & peace in South Mississippi.

We brought collapsible chairs and bottled water. Significantly more comfortable. Sitting on wet, muddy grass for half a dozen hours held little appeal. Lots of cloud cover. Mildly warm. Nice breeze off the gulf.

Then Cypress Hill took the stage. Followed by a cloud of less-than-legal smoke. Wild to hear songs from the late 80s and early 90s that haven't been in my head in years but the words come back without any coaxing. Favorite part of their show was the DJ. Liam's generation is all about sound boards and samples. Rare treat for him to hear real scratching. And DJ Muggs was is excellent form today.

Ludacris followed. Very interactive with the crowd. Did a run down of all his previous hits. Made light of the fact that the majority of his fans today were Southern white folk. How's that feel for him? Uncomfortable? Redeeming? Or perfectly normal? And this will seem weird but imagine my surprise to find myself singing bunches of his songs without ever realizing before now that they were Ludacris songs. Never thought to attribute so many of my favorites to him.

Closed out the night with Kid Rock. All-live music. Four guitars. Saxaphone. Violin. DJ. Crazy afro-ed drummer girl. And three backup singers. Started off with a prayer. Played his newest stuff. Then broke into the old classics.

Great way to end a very long day. Enjoyed the time out. Especially with Liam.


Friday, May 09, 2014

Gulfport Music Festival 2014 - Day One

On the heels of (another) ten hour day. Dancing around the scars inflicted by my private demons: doubt and regret. Supposed to be in Panama City Beach, Resting. Trying to sleep. Before my second 70.3. But that ain't happening. Instead, my time gets voluntold for Gulfport Music Festival 2014. Not a place or band or time that appears on my wish list. Won't mention the associated price tag. Bitter taste for all of it. Somebody else's plans. And responsibilities. Thrust upon me. Without regard for what's going on behind my eyes. Yet another useless, one-sided argument piled atop the casket.

Still. Bonding time. With Kid Maestro. He's excited. So my thoughts stay semi-private. Helping me navigate the maze of cars and people. Walking to the venue. Could hear the show half a mile away from the entrance. Huge, two-story video walls glow in the fading sun. And the two of us snaking our way through the swarmed horde of Southern humanity. All makes and models. All ages. And manner of dress. And accents. Assembled to hear the same artists and music. Oh, the humanity.

Caught the tail end of Sir Mix A Lot. Then the beginning of The Pretty Reckless. Okay, sure, lead singer is a lovely lass. But apparently she'd rather be surrounded by mirrors than rednecks. Less narcissism, more talent  next time.
And then the rain. Between bands, we're huddled under blue ponchos when the DJ announces:  a 20 minute break until the weather clears. As if on command, things go from bad to shit storm. The crowd doesn't take kindly to it. And like some herd of ornery dingos, there is a mass exodus to safety. Loudly. And rapidly. Concert or no.

We're barely able to see through the curtains of near-horizontal rain as we make it to a semi-dry spot under a pavilion by the entrance. Temperature dropped. Wind picked up. The first tongue of lightning touches down less than one hundred feet from where we are sitting. Thunder erupts like a heavy metal kick drum sending screams from every mostly-sober woman around us. And half the men. Jumps into the nearby electrical grid and in mid-scream the lights fade to black.

There we stay. Nearly two hours. Surrounded by a soggy, motley crew. Drunks. Smokers. Stoner Fish. Rowdy Redneck splashing unhappy neighbors. Cute little tattooed girl, missing her left hand. And several hundred other unhappy concert-goers. All of us from across the Gulf South. Starting our weekend but ended Friday on a soggy note.

When Liam goes to find a better location, my weather app suggest we're barely mid-way through the thick of it. Which makes the decision for us: we are leaving.

Then the long walk to the car. Through puddles up to our ankles. Dodging traffic. Stumbling over half-seen curbs. We're totally soaked. Without towels. Past midnight. And, surprisingly happy to be done.

So ends Day One.