Monthly Archives: April 2017

Sit down, stand down, pipe down …

Ellen and Reid have met a few of my friends in person. So they know some of the ‘personalities’ I have to deal with. Those they don’t know, they hear about.

But it’s those sort of folks that make my life bearable – especially in the post-operative world. Thank God for their kindness (even if I have to endure the occasional zinger).

April 17, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Well, your old man is sitting around in loose, non-binding clothing this morning as this double hernia recovery begins in full. Knock-on-wood, but there have yet to be any setbacks and barring doing anything goofy or outright stupid, there won’t be. But already I’m going stir crazy. This sitting around stuff doesn’t do much for me. I’d better get used to it: there’s at least another 4 – 6 weeks (and maybe more depending on what the surgeon recommends) of nothingness ahead. I see him in about two weeks and hope to get more of a handle on when I can return to full activity. That’s in the context of getting in shape for Wyoming. I told Tom Bohr I’d be in ready and I damned well better be in relatively good condition.

The surgery in itself was remarkable. It was done robotically. The surgeon sits at a screen perhaps 10 feet away from the patient and manipulates two robotic arms as if he’s playing a high-stakes video game. Apparently, they bloat you with gas so the metal arms have room to roam unfettered around your innards. At least that’s what I think they do. He sews in a patch of plastic mesh that seals off the intestine from protruding any further. The upshot of the robotic surgery is, according to what I read, a faster recovery. We shall see. Before I went under I asked one of the nurses about the particulars of the robotic surgery and she said I didn’t want to know. So I looked at the video on YouTube and she was right. I didn’t want to know. There was strict hell to pay the first 24 hours in terms of sitting or rolling over in bed. I thought I’d torn the internal stitches at one point just trying to get out of bed. I’m moving much better now and am in no pain. If anything it’s mild discomfort. I put the 30 pill hydrocodone prescriptions through the shredder. No way would that stuff make it into the house, let alone my system.

This is when you know how your good friends step up. Sondra and Jody brought over a full Easter dinner yesterday. My mistake was thinking they’d stop at the grocery store for a roasted chicken and some deli food, but no, she would hear none of that. She told me to sit down, stand down and pipe down. There’s was no fighting that sort of directive. She commandeered the kitchen and had everything pre-cooked or she cooked it here.


It’s these sort of friends – plus many others not shown – that make life in the Carolinas livable. From left to right: Lynn, me, Luke, Jody and Sondra.

So much for the high-fiber diet that was supposed to be the norm for the first week or 10 days. We ate, and (d)rank wine, like there was no tomorrow. Our buddy Luke came over, too, and it was just a lot of fun. We decided what was said here table around the dining room table would stay here. The headache I awoke to this morning took my mind off the other sort of medicinal-related discomfort.

Reid, I finally made a reconnection with my mentor, Don. You two were babies when you met him, but he was a guiding light for me early on. I wish I’d of stayed in touch with Ferg through the years but I completely dropped the ball on that. Make sure you touch base with Tom and Gene. Those guys are ready and will to help. Both have business smarts and Gene has connections as you know full well.

Ellen, Easter must’ve been a blast at your new place. Georgia coming off her birthday, and Emma in high gear just because she’s Emma. If the physician gives me a green light to travel, I hope to snag a late, cheap fare to make it in time for your graduation and Emma’s fifth b-day. She’s five already? That doesn’t seem possible. It really doesn’t.

The post-op literature advises patients to get off their duffs and walk as much as possible. In that vein I’ll grab my coffee in my Emma-Georgia mug and mosey – slowly – toward the mailbox to see if there’s any mail of non-junk interest. Don’t be strangers.

Love, Dad


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The bonehead and another fishless trip …

What was it that Forrest Gump said? If memory serves me it was ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’

I can relate.

And don’t ask why I mention a recovery period twice and in two different manners. Letter writing must not be an exact science. But refer again to the Gump quote.

April 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Sometimes your dad is just a complete bonehead, and last night was one of those all-too-frequent times. Sondra and Jody invited me to watch the final round of the Masters with them, and when I was leaving and with a clear head after only a couple of glasses of wine, your knucklehead of a father inadvertently backed his car into a tree, giving his left rear bumper a good indentation even though the car was hardly moving. What an idiot, moron, klutz. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s just so irritating. Geez.

Well, knock on wood, but the Medicare thing has at long last moved through the pipeline. Finally, my Part B insurance is restored and the surgery is scheduled for this Friday morning at 9:00. That would give me ample time to heal completely (about six weeks to full activity) and still get in adequate shape for the Bridger Wilderness. Man, this whole process has taken a long time. The Social Security and Medicare systems are just big bureaus that move at their own pace. They’ve got tens of millions of ‘customers’ and it just takes a while to move through the snake. I’ll keep you posted on how Friday goes down.

Since the surgery appears to be set in stone, I’ll celebrate with a final short trip to Charleston to put the boat in the water and fish since it would be my final time on the water for quite a few weeks (4 – 6 according to the hernia literature). Miss Emma and I journeyed down last week and snagged a few nice black drum toward the end of the day so it wasn’t a total bust. There was kind of a different ending to the excursion, however. As is my custom, I gave one of the big drum to one of the black oystermen, and he in turn gave me 25 lbs. of what they call South Carolina oyster clusters.


Not even a picturesque and fully-rigged Miss Emma could bring her handler any good fish karma on a beautiful day outside Charleston. Skunked again.

Since the fish need to go on ice, my routine is to stop at a nearby gas station for a 10 lb. bag of ice. When I pulled in there was a guy parked near me with what appeared to be a full load of beer in the open hatch of his SUV. I made an offhand comment as I walked by that ‘I need one of those,’ referring to the numerous six packs and cases in plain view. As I got to the car, he said ‘what do you drink?’ I said ‘anything’ and he proceeded to walk over a six pack of IPA. After we shook hands and exchanged ‘thank yous,’ as he turned away I told him to hold on a minute: ‘Do you like oysters?’ and he replied ‘you bet.’ I opened Camry’s trunk and handed over the bag of fresh clusters, in what seemed like a pretty fair trade for both sides. In turn, he gave me even more beer since he worked for Stone Brewery. The two six packs and another separate large bottle of amber ale when into the trunk and off I went. It’s never dull down there in terms of the people one meets. That’s what’s so very fun about the whole down-and-back thing. I’ll miss it immensely during the rehab.

The idea of a book continues to gel. It’s gaining a critical mass. I dream about it, think about it and on occasion talk to myself about it. Some of that owes to the TED Talks inquiry. The specter of that made me put two and two together and begin to consider how this narrative might go down. Since there won’t be any heavy lifting or golf or walking or fishing or YMCA perhaps there will be ample time to built in at a coffee shop to sit comfortably in loose clothing and write, of which I make scarcely enough time for anyway. I write for you two and a few others and that’s about the extent of it. My mentor, a guy named Don whom both of you met when you were toddlers, is a very successful author of journalism books and he might be willing to lend an ear and grace me with his advice. He and I just reconnected and my intent is to ask him.

Okay, you two. Over and out. I’m off to the store and to contemplate bird feeders for the birthday girls. Two will be sent in short order.

Love, Dad


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Teens once, now Masters of all they survey …

It’s sometimes hard to believe this exercise in letter writing began when Ellen and Reid were in their teens and scarcely in college; now, they have both earned Masters degrees – leaving their mom and dad in the educational dust. 

It’s a testament to each of their stick-to-it-ive-ness that they plowed ahead with their education. I logged 24 hours toward a Masters in Journalism in the 1970s but to this day still marvel at the lack of brainpower to finish it out (a move to a new city had something to do with it). But such dereliction can’t be said for my two. They got it done.

April 4, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Wow, now we have two adults in the family with masters degrees. Kind of puts your mom and I between a rock and a hard place education-wise. We are the laggards but are so proud of the two of you. Your degrees will pay off in the near and long terms. It never really crossed my mind that either of you would ever pursue an advanced education but you’ve gone above and beyond – and then some. My idea of higher ed is just reading the newspaper. We’ve got to figure out how to celebrate things the right way (which probably means some sort of wine or premium beer). Pick your poison. You’ve earned it.

Reid, I like the idea that you are looking at environmental careers. That’s good. I hope you can comb through that list of Chicago area organizations and non-profits. There is something to be said, too, for volunteering as a way to meet/network with other professionals. It will also pay off in the near and long terms. It will. Now if we can keep our anti-environmental kook out of the way. He’s just such a nothing loser. I swear he’s composing his tweets on the shitter.

This isn’t said lightly but I’m becoming something of an expert on Medicare. Or at least not how to go about it. But the knowledge has come the hard way: through the school of hard knocks – and phone calls. It’s still farcical in that there is no significant progress. I’m not really closer now to a Part B (medical coverage) than I was five months ago. All the conversations I’ve had boil down to this advice: wait. But there was something of a breakthrough on the phone to Social Security this morning. The agent (he had 38 years of experience) said my reinstatement is indeed in the works. I have passed what he called ‘screening’ which is apparently the moment when they open my paperwork and decide to move forward. Now the new Part B card is in process and could be mailed within the next month. It doesn’t sound like much advancement but it is coming. I’ve learned little smidgens of info on each call and have kept really good notes. Honestly, with the exception of one dismissive person I personally met who couldn’t care less about me and never even glanced at my documentation, every Social Security person I’ve talked to has been ever so helpful. Moreso, I dare say, not so much with Medicare. My condition has not, knock on wood, gotten worse so I hope to stick it out. But man, it’s getting old. It has truly been all-consuming. It’s on my mind 24/7.

So if it is indeed the case that it is nearly case closed, I’ll celebrate by going fishing tomorrow. My neighbor Dan helped me load Miss Emma atop the car and I don’t seem the worse for lifting my share of the load. The putrid and abhorrently stinky bait is thawing in the garage. Maybe the reds and black drums will like it. It’s been a while since we’ve been on the road together and it will be good to hit the highway as early as I can muster the energy to get up and going, all the while bolstered by stiff black coffee.

Had a nice photo freelance gig on Sunday at a big Presbyterian church in Uptown. Here is what’s truly wild: the speaker, a Peabody Award winner and New York Times best selling author, Krista Tippett, knew Tom Kigin and Liz. That was so wild.


I hadn’t done a freelance photo gig in a long time … but this one was fun and when you do creative work, it keeps the juices flowing.

Here we were in a photo up in what was basically a green room before she spoke, and we’re talking about Minnesota. She lives in the Twin Cities. She was really good, and the job was fun. Reid, I have to upgrade my mid-range Nikon Coolpix to something beefier and better. Has to have a strong flash and both manual and auto focus. Any suggestions on that for me?

Okay guys, put those fancy, schmancy degrees to good use. As for my higher education, I’m content to pick up what I can while reading the paper.

Love, Dad

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An odd couple and keeping up with the Times …

What goes together better than diamonds and container gardens? Truly an odd couple but such disparate topics and more are all in play for the weekly letters.

As it is, the kids read all the news that’s fit to print (with apologies to the New York Times). Speaking of the Times, it is all it’s cracked up to be. I can hardly get through the weekend editions. In fact, I’m not. Sections yet to be perused are stacked up like cordwood next to the couch. I wish the kids would subscribe to the paper versions of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune. It would do them good. 

March 27, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Our collective karma didn’t seem to work too well for the Bulldogs last week. North Carolina rolled them and I thought Butler would be the one team that might be peaky enough to give them a go. But for a small school to reach that far says something about the basketball culture in Indianapolis. I watched the games yesterday on ESPN which had a link to the CBS broadcast. It’s really the one time of year I wish I had a TV. Otherwise, I’m good without it. In secret, I am a Carolina fan among all the teams down in these parts so here’s hoping the Tar Heels can go all the way.

The container garden is already going great guns. The romaine and arugula are already sprouted and growing nicely. The cilantro has yet to emerge. If the temps hold true (and warm) later this week the basil and maybe a small tomato plant will go in the ground. While golfing this weekend, there was a stand of bamboo adjacent to one of the tee boxes and I plucked a bunch of dried stalks and stuck them in next to my golf bag. Those will make good guides for the tomato.


A couple of years ago, the HOA ‘Garden Nazis’ called me out about the evil of veggie plants on the front porch. This year the container garden next to the back driveway got an upgrade.

It took me most of the day yesterday to wade through the New York Times. It really is one hell of a newspaper. The conservative side rags on it as a ‘liberal’ paper, but it’s not liberal, it’s just straight forward, honest reportage. I don’t see much of a reportage bias in it at all. The editorials thump Trump but that’s the role of the Times and other papers; play the devil’s advocate and be a counterweight to the BS that’s spewing out of this White House – or any White House for that matter. What people don’t associate with it is the arts coverage, the food, the culture and other national reporting. They had a great, great piece on Mt. Rushmore from a tangent I’d never seen before. Ellen, I should send you the book review section. It’s stellar.

It’s pretty early in the day right now, and the coffee is strong. I’ve been getting up a bit later, perhaps as my body clock adjusts to the retirement regimen. It doesn’t mean I’m sleeping solidly through the night but it is what it is.

There shall be no mention of the Continue reading

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