Woke up around 1:00 a.m. feeling like I was asphyxiating - couldn't breath, and as soon as I sat up I immediately went into a violent coughing jag that lasted about five straight minutes.
Managed to get back to sleep okay, but I was still pretty hacky-and-phlemmy when I got up this morning, and all day today I've felt like someone shoved a tube of two-chamber epoxy sealant up my nostrils and squeezed the entirety of both barrels into my sinus cavity.
Managed to get out of town for a couple of days over the long weekend - a bit of a head-clearing was in order after the rather tumultuous series of emotional rollercoastering of the past several weeks, and so I packed up the bus, and elected to head to the east side of the mountains for a bit of a respite.
Unfortunately, the bus seems to have sprung a considerable oil-leak (this after having taken it in for a significant amount of "routine maintenance" just a few weeks prior), and I ended up replenishing about 3 quarts of oil on the round-trip. That's roughly one quart for every 100 miles driven; not normal usage, even for a VW engine.
Still, the trip itself was pretty pleasant, except for the occasional clouds of burning oil whenever I stopped. I left town mid-day on Saturday and drove up to Snoqualmie Pass, where I stopped for a brief cool-down, then coasted down the back side to Ellensburg.
Hadn't been in town for probably 10 years, but things haven't changed all that much, except that there's been a lot of new construction on campus, including a humongous new Student Union Building that was just completed a couple of years ago.
I'm generally not big on nostalgia, but it was nice to wander around for a bit to check out a few locations where I spent a good part of my college days: the black box theatre, built during my sophmore & junior years has been renamed in honor of an ex-professor, and a couple of the dorm buildings I lived in briefly appear to be still standing, although I was rather saddened to notice that a huge willow tree that had stood in the middle of one of the lawns had apparently either died or been cut down some time ago.
Spent the evening camped out at a little site along the Yakima river just south of town that I still managed to find after not having been there for about a quarter century. Set up right along the bank of the river with a gorgeous view of the canyon wall on the other side. Made for a very pleasant evening, although the incessant rain late that night made sleeping next to impossible.
Still, I managed to get a few hours rest, and woke up around 8:00, broke camp, and headed east toward the Columbia, and from there it was about a 30 minute drive further up to where The Gorge concert site is located. I was planning to meet up with some friends who had come in the day before, as our good friends in "Awesome" were scheduled to open the mainstage at noon. Unfortunately, cell phone service dropped out just before I reached the site. However, in one of those rare moments of perfect synchronicity, my friends were just stepping off the shuttle bus from their campsite as I pulled into the parking lot right next to them, so we managed to meet-up right off the bat.
The weather was still a bit inclement by the time we got inside the sprawling venue site, but not bad enough to pull out either the polar fleece or the gortex (although both certainly came in handy after the sun went down), and we easily sidled up to the front of the stage for the set, which seemed to go over quite well with the still smallish crowd of early arrivers. After that, I pretty much spent the rest of the day wandering around the site, checking out some of the bands I hadn't heard of, but mostly hanging at our "basecamp" on the granite terraces above the main stage area, where a rather sizeable representation of Seattle theatre folk came-and-went throughout the course of the day. Although I can't say I was a big fan of much of the music on display, it was still a gorgeous setting (as can barely be made out in the photo below), particularly late in the afternoon, and it was fun to hang out with colleagues and friends in a completely different social context.
The mainstage show ran very late (The Cure, not a band which which have more than a passing familiarity), and I actually ended up taking a brief "nap" in the middle of their nearly three-hour set, finally calling it quits about half-way through their rather lengthy secone encore. I trekked back up to the bus, and drove a few miles down the road to Frenchman Coulee, another idyllic camping spot I hadn't visited in over 20 years, whereupon I pretty much immediately passed out from exhaustion at about 1:30 a.m.
Woke up to my alarm around 8:00 a.m. with the sun already streaming in through the curtains (yes, my bus has curtains). As you can see from the link, Frenchman is a pretty spectacular coulee formed during the end of the last Ice Age, when the massive Missoula flood flowed across what is today Eastern Washington and into the Columbia River basin. The massive basalt columns on the southern ridge have become a popular climbing spot since I was last here, but the campsite was rather sparsely staked out when I rolled out about 9:00 a.m., after a brief hike to get the kinks worked out of my legs in preparation for the drive home.
The return was rather uneventful, and, aside from a brief stop back in E-burg to gas up and check fluid levels, I drove back without stopping, mentally counting each drip from the oil pan along the way. Fortunately, the climb up to Snoqualmie Pass is much more gradual on the westbound approach, and by the time I got home about 1:30 p.m. I'd only lost about a half quart. Not good, but I'd stocked up with extra oil on Saturday, so aside from the leakage itself, the trip went pretty smoothly.
Got everything unpacked and tidied up, took a well-deserved shower to wash off the two-day old sunscreen and the trail dust, threw a load of laundry in, then proceeded to pass out for about two hours; if I hadn't set the alarm, I probably would have slept through a good portion of the evening, but alas, I had meetings to attend, so was up and about for the latter part of the day.
I did take a few photos, but unfortunately, both my camera and cell phone ran out of juice Sunday afternoon, so you'll just have to rely on some of the "stock shots" to give you an idea of the scenery.
I Wish You Out Of The Woods And Into The Picture With Me
Just got word that my friend Brynn is out of surgery, and the initial prognosis sounds very encouraging. We'll have to wait for confirmation from the lab, but all signs point to a clean removal of the tumor, no metastization in the surrounding tissue, and clear lymph nodes - all very good indeed.
Not quite time to break out the champaign and chocolate, but very close.
In typical Seattle fashion, I joined The Masses this weekend for our annual ritual of "Completely-Overdo-The-First-Nice-Day-Of-Exceptional-Spring-Weather-Until-You-Look-Like-An-Ad-For-A-'Red Lobster Restaurant' Day". Four hours of yardwork on Saturday, followed by a couple hours of afternoon somnolence on Sunday (when things were cooler than our record-smashing 88 degrees the previous day) made for only slighty crispy neck-and-shoulders - and yes, I did slather on some SPF 15 both days. Given all the recent discussions of "teh Cancers", I suppose I should have upped that that by another 15 points, but on the other hand, we're already reverting back to a more typical "cloudy, wet, temps in the upper 50's" weather pattern for the next several days, so it's not like I'm going to be the opportunity to over-indulge more than I have already.
Speaking of the dreaded "C-word", my friend Brynn goes in for surgery tomorrow morning. This means, she's gone from initial diagnosis to removal of the tumor in slightly more than two and a-half weeks; probably some sort of record in oncological circles, but you have to know Brynn. This is a woman for whom the word "organized" only barely scratches the surface. Give her a task or project and she'll research it until the cows come home, lay out several plans-of-action all based on different scenarios and plausible outcomes, and perform risk-benefit assessments and analyses like nobody's business.
In short, nobody who knows her is in the least bit surprised by this rapid sequence of events. And the best news is that the battery of tests, evaluations, scans, biopsies, et al, seem to indicate that she's got a good chance of smacking this down in fairly short-order, which is double-plus good, seeing as she's got a wedding coming up in about a month, then a move half-way across the country - and that's before she even starts with the obligatory chemo/radiation therapy to really put the kibosh on things.
Here Comes The Judge He's Gonna Help Me Pull Through
(View from the 12th floor "Jury Pool" in the Seattle Municipal Tower)
Yes, I'm on Jury Duty this week; and so far, it's pretty boring.
UPDATE I - Wednesday
Same as yesterday, not assigned to any trials, released at 3:00 p.m.
UPDATE II - Thursday
Annnnnnd - we're done. Released at 10:30 a.m.
My Civic Duty officially dispensed, I walked up the hill to where I'd parked my scooter - to find it had been knocked over, scratching it up in several places and breaking - yet again - one of my rear turn signals. On the plus side, the nice lady who backed into it apparently stood it up onto its kick-stand, and left a note with her phone number.
My friend Dawn's mother passed away early this morning, around 3:00 a.m. with her daughter by her side. It was a long death, although not especially painful, if one discounts the emotional toil it's taken on the survivors.
Pat was a wonderful woman, vibrant, active, articulate and curious about everything. The past several years, since she was diagnosed with Parkinson's were especially challenging for her, as her motor functions slowly decayed, and she lost the ability to do many of the things she loved; golf, swimming, travel, playing bridge, attending concerts and the theatre. A neurological operation two years ago failed to halt the progress of the disease, and she spent the past seven months living with the indignities that followed the degredation of her body, while her mind continued to be active and alert up until the last few days.
She had been a practicing nurse for over 30 years; she knew, on a level most of us never will, exactly what was happening to her body, and she grew to resent the increasing dependency on the drugs and devices designed to prolong a life that for her was rapidly slipping away. How maddening must it be to be fully conscious of the gradual decay of ones own body, to feel and experience with each passing moment the loss of control, the slow, inexorable separation of the flesh from the mind. She occasionally expressed her frustration in small moments of exhasperation, when the muscles refused to move as commanded, but mostly she maintained a determined stoicism; perhaps thinking she could keep from those around her the pain she herself must have felt on a daily basis.
In the end, it's hard to say how much she was able to perceive of her situation, although I'm sure mentally she must have prepared herself, as best as one can, for the inevitability. She was kept comfortable and warm, in familiar surroundings, and free from pain in her final days; when I was with her for the last time on Friday evening, I can't say for certain she knew me - I would like to think that, even through the morphine haze she recognized me, but that's just my own desire speaking. I'll never know for sure, which really isn't the point anyway.
I knew her, and that was enough.
My friend is in pain, grieving her loss, and there's nothing I, or anyone else can do to give her any ease from that. But I'm proud of her for the strength of will and resolution of spirit she's shown over these past weeks, as she has faced this nearly single-handed, and mostly alone. We do what we can, but in the end we have no choice but to accept our powerlessness over the situation; we can only stand on the sidelines and offer comfort and small aid, for whatever it's worth, and hope it's enough.
And of course, even death isn't a finality; there are still arrangements to be made, memorials to be planned, obituaries to be written, forms to be signed. Life doesn't stop, it just pauses for a moment to listen for the next breath.
It's late now on Mother's Day; how hard it must be to say goodbye to your mother on today, of all days.
If you've haven't already, call yours now, if you can; don't take her for granted. Someday, you might not have the chance.
Sometimes the frailty of the human body just gets me down.
Currently, I have several friends (all female) dealing with miscarriages, breast cancer, and late-stage Parkinson's; it's like Mother Nature has suddenly gone rabid, spewing flecks of hydrophobic foam every which way, and they just happened to be caught in the deluge. Meanwhile, I sit here completely healthy, growing increasingly frustrated by my inability to do anything of real significance to Make Things Better, like the soldier assigned to load boxes of requisition forms onto an endless line of supply trucks, when he'd rather be slugging it out on the front lines.
These women - brave, strong, resourceful - have great support systems, scores of people ready and willing to jump in at a moment's notice. They've got good doctors, good partners, good parents, siblings, and children to pick up the slack; good friends to make the excruciating reality of their situations just a little more bearable.
We all do our part to the best of our abilities, and we know the assistance is appreciated, but that doesn't do much to alleviate the sense of guilt, because really, what more CAN we do? Donating blood won't cure their cancer; giving up an organ won't prevent the shutdown of their GI tract. We're helpless, ultimately, to do more than stand on the sidelines and provide emotional and logistical support; necessary and important yes, but still small in comparison to the enormous challenges and obstacles they have to face - alone.
But, that's all we've got to give, so we give as much of it as we can.
Here's what I've been up to on my off-hours the past couple of weeks:
(Left-click the image above to see a larger - albeit slightly washed-out version)
Actually, I started this before Christmas, and completed the background in January. But, I've been sitting on it since then, working up the nerve to tackle the detail work, which, as it turns out wasn't nearly as daunting as I expected.
This is just the detail of a larger piece. It's a mural for the side of my bus, and if I decide it's done, which I'll probably do tomorrow, I'll seal it, size and trim it, and then install it over the weekend.
Here's the full-sized version:
Plus, now that it's basically done, I can move on to other projects.
Like Flansy In A Soda Can, It's Trooky-Trooky-Trooky
Not to worry, nothing is wrong with your eyes. It's just that I've been busy at work, and well - not so busy at home. Nothing much is going on, so therefore no bloggage, which, in a way, is sort of refreshing. Don't worry, I'm quite certain something will come along to change all that - any day now.