Saturday, October 20, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/19/18: Sibling Outing and Solo Time, The Readiness is All, Brew Crew Wins Without Home Runs

1. I managed to slip in a quick nap after breakfast with my buddies at Sam's this morning. Thankfully, I didn't sleep through Christy driving in front of the house to pick me up so that she and Carol and I could enjoy a Sibling Outing together. We went to CdA and had breakfast at Jimmy's Down the Street. I was pretty full after having eaten breakfast shortly after six, but I ordered a bowl of oatmeal and ate most of it.

Carol had a doctor's appointment and Christy and Carol wanted to shop at a nursery in Rathdrum and I decided to break off at this point and spend some time alone. I leapt out of Christy's rig near the corner of Northwest Blvd. and Government Way (apologies to my siblings for calling it Lincoln Way) and went into the Cd'A City Park, walked along the lake shore, walked along the Spokane River, strolled around the North Idaho College campus, and sauntered up and down streets in the Fort Grounds neighborhood with my Nikon in hand, snapping some pictures.

It's been forty-four years since I graduated from North Idaho College and today was the first time I walked around much of the campus. I visited the Student Union, read the plaques in the NIC Sports Hall of Fame, and generally marveled at how the campus has been transformed since I was a student there. I didn't photograph any buildings, but many of them were new to me or had been significantly remodeled. I hope the quality of education is still really good at NIC and matches the campus's gorgeous setting and attractive buildings.

I'll post pictures once I've processed them.

2. Back in Kellogg, I bowed out of Beer Club and didn't make my usual Friday trip to the Lounge because I wanted to focus on writing about my visit to Sacred Heart in my blog and in a letter to the Deke, Christy, and Carol. It looks like the four of us will get together soon, before the Deke takes off to her job in Eugene (which starts Oct. 29th), and discuss how we'll ready ourselves in case a kidney becomes available -- whether a live donor comes forward or the kidney of a deceased person becomes available.

If this surgery were one that could be planned for, I wouldn't be concerned. We could schedule the surgery according to when the Deke and my sisters would be available to provide the two to three weeks of supporting me a transplant requires. But, unless I were to receive a kidney from a living donor, making scheduling possible, the availability of a kidney is entirely unpredictable and plans need to be in place before the kidney is offered. I'm grateful that two friends have said they would help out and when I send in the paperwork regarding who will be available for support, I'll let the social worker know this.

By the way, I am fully aware that a transplant might never happen and I know that, if it does, it could be any number of years before it does happen. Or a kidney could pop up sooner than later. But, as Hamlet said, "If it be now, 'tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come -- the readiness is all."

3. I love watching runs scored in baseball without a home run being hit. Yes, home runs can be dramatic (I'm looking at you Carlton Fisk, Bucky Dent, and Kirk Gibson), but I love it when struck balls stay in the park, runners take risks to advance a couple of bases or to score, and outfielders and relay men have to make pinpoint throws. Tonight's National League playoff game got underway with Dodger leadoff hitter David Freese bombing a home run, but Milwaukee answered in the bottom of the first inning with a base on balls, two singles, and two doubles (not in that order) to manufacture four runs and establish a lead they never gave up on their way to a 7-2 win. It was a great night for the Brewers. Their bullpen dominated the Dodgers in relief of starter Wade Miley and they didn't use their premier reliever, Josh Hader. But, most of all, I enjoyed how the Brewers' batters didn't overreach but spanked hits to the opposite field, hit balls in the outfield gaps, and scored seven runs without a home run.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/18/18: Stiches Removed, Kidney Transplant Class, Post-op Support

1. I tore over the Fourth of July Pass and eased into the offices of Northwest Endodontics to visit Dr. Brittney Penberthy again. Today, she removed the stitches from the area where I had oral surgery a week ago and she reported that my biopsy was clear. It was a brief and comfortable visit and I'll return in three months. Dr. Penberthy will monitor this tooth and the surgery site every three months over the next year.

2. I hopped back in the Sube and made my way to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center to continue the process of becoming listed for a kidney transplant in Spokane. For ninety minutes, I attended a very informative class about kidney transplants, the fourth I've attended since 2015, and the best. Some of it was redundant, but much of it deepened my knowledge and my understanding of the transplant process, especially what's involved in matching a donated kidney to a recipient. For starters, I learned once again that the demand for kidneys far, far outnumbers the kidneys available and that thousands of people in need of a kidney don't receive them every year.

The first criterion for a match between the donated kidney and recipient's is blood type. Then there must be an antigen match. Lastly, the blood of the donor is cross-matched in a tube with the blood of the kidney recipient to see if the recipient will react to the donor's kidney. If there's no reaction, the transplant can continue. So, when a kidney becomes available, it's not only time accrued on the waiting list that comes into play, but so does the question of whether there is a match between the donor and the recipient. These criteria are the same whether the kidney comes from a cadaver or from a living person -- and, of course, having a kidney donated by living donor (age 18-60 [with some exceptions]) is the ideal situation.

I also learned that several people can be contacted when a kidney becomes available. For example, the center could decide to contact, let's say, five recipients to be at the ready because a kidney that is blood match for five people high on the list has become available. Then the tissue testing and cross-matching happens and, importantly, all of those contacted have the right to decline the kidney -- without penalty. The donated kidney could be local, regional, or, in some cases, come from somewhere in the nation outside the Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska region.

There are other calculations that come into play when deciding to whom the donated kidney will be given and maybe I'll lay those out another day.

At Sacred Heart, the wait times tend to average about 4-5 years. I have been listed since about April of 2015, so soon I'll hit the four year mark in about five months. I came away from this class taking the instruction to always be ready for the call more seriously than I ever have.

But, in order to be listed in Spokane, it has to be determined through blood work, chest x-ray, cardiology testing, kidney ultrasound, and other tests that I am healthy enough to endure the surgery. My medical history will also be taken into account. I go back to Sacred Heart on Oct. 23rd for a day of testing. Then I'll return to Spokane on the 30th of October to talk individually with each member of the transplant team, except one, the social worker.

3. I won't talk to the social worker on October 30th because I talked with her today. I thought the most important thing we talked about was the support I'll need if I go through transplant surgery. I need to return a form to the transplant program, signed by the person or persons who will provide the support I'll need. Not only will I need to be transported to the hospital, but I will need a lot of help after the surgery. Let's say the primary support person is the Deke. Among other things, she will have to go through instruction to help me with my medication schedule and other post-op responsibilities. I would be in the hospital for 2-3 days and then I have to stay within an hour of Sacred Heart for 2-3 weeks and be transported to the clinic at least three times a week for blood work and visits with the doctor. I'll need help taking my medications at precise times. Whether I could stay in Kellogg or would stay in a hotel in Spokane during this period will be determined.

It's possible I'll be difficult to deal with because I'll be taking heavy doses of Prednisone, a steroid which can bring about irritability and mood changes. The social worker was adamant about the difficulties support persons often experience with a post-transplant patient and repeatedly told me that the transplant center provides counseling support for those in the support role.

By the time I left the medical center, my head was spinning and, because I hadn't eaten a bite all day, I was hungry. I decided to drive to CdA before eating and I thoroughly enjoyed a plate of yellow curry over rice at Thai Bamboo.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/18: Filing Papers, Contemporary Managing, Fan Interference

1. The fact that I've had a small pile of paper records sitting around unfiled has been bugging me for about a week and today I finished putting each piece of paper in its proper folder.

2. I've decided that rather than have a negative knee jerk response to Craig Counsell's managerial approach to running the Brewers, I am going to be curious, let his methods play themselves out, and enjoy the intrigue. Counsell is not managing in traditional ways, most notably, in how he's handling his pitching staff. Traditionally, managers have run out a starting pitcher to begin the game with the hope that he would pitch well for, let's say, five to nine innings, although in today's game, managers keep a strict eye on how many pitches the pitcher throws and once a starting pitcher crosses a pre-determined threshold, he's out of the game.

Craig Counsell is breaking with the tradition of using a starting pitcher in some games and is opening selected games with a pitcher who will not pace himself over several innings, but will throw hard for a very few innings. Traditionally, such short term pitchers have been used late in games, but Counsell is one of several contemporary managers who are using these short term relief pitchers early on, even opening the game with one on occasion. Tonight, Counsell rolled out lefty Wade Miley, a traditional starter, to pitch to the Dodgers' leadoff  hitter, left-hand hitting Cory Bellinger, and pulled him after he pitched to this one batter.  He then brought in righty Brandon Woodruff, who is kind of a hybrid starter-reliever, to face the rest of the predominantly right hand hitting Dodger lineup. Woodruff pitched 5.1 innings before giving way to four other Brewer pitchers.

The Brewers lost the game 5-2. Did they lose because of how Craig Counsell managed his pitching staff? I don't know. I thought the Dodgers benefited from the fact that their hitters stopped swinging for the fences and eked out runs with timely singles and aggressive base running. All five of the Dodger runs were batted in by a hitter stroking a single and I thought the Dodger hitters were much more contained today than they were last night and it paid off.

3. The Red Sox/Astros game was thrilling. It ended when Boston's left fielder Andrew Benintendi made a spectacular diving catch of an Alex Bregman line drive with the bases loaded. Had he not made the catch, Bregman's hit would have cleared the bases and the Astros would have won the game.

It was an exciting game, but my excitement was dampened when Jose Altuve's apparent home run was ruled an out because the umpire decided that a fan interfered with Mookie Betts' attempt to rob Altuve of the home run.

I know I'm in the minority in my view, but I wish those fans in the front row of the right field bleachers would have let that fly ball play itself out before trying to catch the ball for a souvenir. Although the fan denies it, it looked like a fan reaching to catch the ball closed Mookie Betts' glove as Mookie reached over the fence to rob Altuve of his home run. I can't tell if Betts' glove is in front of the fence or if he reached beyond it -- if he reached beyond the fence into the stands, the hit should have been ruled a home run. But umpire Joe West ruled than the fan (or fans) interfered with Betts in the field of play and Altuve was called out. The officials also ruled that the video replay did not provide conclusive evidence to overrule Joe West's call.

To me, in a perfect world, a world we do not live in, I know, once the fans could see that Mookie Betts was making a play on that ball, they would have leaned away from the ball, done all they could to clear the way for Betts to make the catch or miss it. Had Betts made the catch, he might very well have tossed the ball to a fan and had he missed it, then they could scramble for the ball. Eventually, some one would have likely procured a souvenir.

I know I'm being unrealistic. But, I have to say, I don't give a rip about catching a souvenir baseball when I go to baseball games and usually cower when a ball is hit my way in the stands. I would be the guy the broadcasters laugh at when they replay the video of the old guy ducking and hiding as a ball comes toward him in the stands.

By the way, I'm not ready to argue about how I see this questions of baseballs coming into the stands near the field of play. I am, however, trying to honestly express how I think about it whenever these situations occur.

In short, I know I'm being unrealistic! I rock at being unrealistic. Moreover, I don't have a clue as to what might be done to remedy this problem -- if it is a problem.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/18: Clinic Visit, New Glasses, Marathon at the Lounge

1. After picking up our third of the beef order Christy, Carol and I went in on, I made a quick trip uptown to the clinic this morning and Tracy drew a sample of blood out of my arm to send to the transplant center in Baltimore. In preparation for my Oct. 23rd series of tests at Sacred Heart, each time I void my bladder, I need to recover it in a jug for twenty-four hours, starting the morning of the 22nd, and I was happy that Tracy had a jug in one of her cupboards and she affixed the very record keeping decal on the jug that I need.

2. I also stopped in at the Kellogg Vision Center and picked up my new glasses.

3. It was quite a baseball day. After I watched the Red Sox dispatch the Astros, 8-2, I went uptown to the Inland Lounge and joined Cas, Tracy, Seth, Angie, Aaron, and Amber and watched the Dodgers and the Brewers lock horns in game marked largely by futility. The teams combined to strike out 32 times. Combined, the two teams left 21 runners on base. Potential rally after potential rally fizzled. By the end of the 12th inning, I bade everyone good night, not wanting to leave Maggie and Charly home alone any longer. Finally, in the 13th inning, the Dodgers eked out a run, this marathon game came to an end after five hours and fifteen minutes, and I went to bed. I'm glad I took my own cans of seltzer water to the Lounge and didn't drink any alcohol. I'm up for marathon baseball games, but a marathon session of alcohol consumption would not have worked well for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/15/18: Appointments at Sacred Heart, All Signed Up, Baseball at the Dirty Dog Saloon

1. Things are moving forward as I work to have my kidney transplant listing moved from the University of Maryland to Sacred Heart in Spokane. I talked with a cheery and very helpful scheduler this morning and, before the end of October, I'll make three visits to the transplant center for a variety of appointments: an orientation class followed up with a visit with my social worker, a day of lab work, ultrasound, cardiology testing, and other tests, and a day of appointments with the transplant team -- surgeon, nephrologist, financial person, dietitian, and pharmacist. I'm not sure when these people will decide to accept or reject me as a candidate, but at the very least, I'll have done what I need to do by the end of the month.

2. I woke up this morning not knowing that Sacred Heart would call, but I had made a commitment within myself to finish up my Medicare business. Because I had already started drawing Social Security, I was automatically enrolled in Medicare and today I went down the street and signed up for supplemental and prescription insurance. Because I could have done all of this over a month ago, I was feeling like I was behind in this process, but, out of the blue, the agent I worked with told me I was really on the ball and she couldn't remember ever working with anyone who was this much ahead of things. All the same, I was happy to be done with all this enrolling.

3. Cas texted me and wondered if I wanted to join him and Seth to watch the Dodgers and Brewers play game #3 of the National League Championship Series at the former Dirty Ernie's, now the Dirty Dog Saloon. I thought that sounded fun and joined them at about the third inning and we watched the Brewers win 4-0. To enhance my enjoyment of the game, I didn't drink any alcohol and so, when I returned home, I was in great shape to fix myself a tofu, potato, and mushroom curry over rice. It hit the spot.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/14/18: Reunion with Grebe, Preparing Family Dinner, Solid Family Dinner

1. Some time in the summer of 1973, I wandered over to Teeter's Field and watched the Kellogg-Wallace American Legion baseball team play for a while. As a first year alumnus of the Legion team,I don't know why I didn't check them out more often, but I do know it's the last time I saw Steve Grebil who was a great baseball teammate in the summer and a tough basketball opponent from Wallace in the winter.

Well, today, I got to see Grebe, who was in the Valley on a visit from Boise, for the first time in forty-five years. He and his brother, Mike, who I see regularly at the Lounge, had a round of golf scheduled at around 12:30, so I drove up to the Shoshone Golf Club around noon and Steve and I sat in Mike's golf cart and talked about what were up to these days, reminisced about things from when we were young ballplayers, and Grebe told me a story or two about Dad.

Mike arrived, hit a few balls at the driving range, and soon it was time for the Grebes to hit the links and time for me to drive back to Kellogg after a great reunion with Steve.

2. Back home, I made a quick trip to Yoke's and spent much of the afternoon preparing beef stew for tonight's family dinner. I had thawed a small chuck roast and cut it into small pieces. I browned these pieces, seasoned them, and then let them stew for about an hour and a half in five cups of beef stock I've had bubbling in the crock pot since Friday or Saturday. Eventually, I added a variety of vegetables and let the stew cook very slowly until the vegetables were tender and, I hope, not mushy.

Later, I made a salad of Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, and feta cheese. I spent about fifteen minutes experimenting with a vinaigrette. I started with almond oil and added the juice of a lemon, a crushed garlic clove (or two?), and some salt and pepper. I wasn't quite pleased with how this combination tasted, so I added some vinegar, then a little more, tasted it, and decided it would taste better with some honey. I decided this mixture would work all right, so I dressed the salad. I rounded out the meal by slicing a loaf of ciabatta bread.

3. We had a different mixture of family members tonight at dinner. Carol and the Deke were both out of town. But, Cosette and Taylor, her boyfriend, were both in town, so they joined Christy, Everett, Paul, and me. Cosette and Taylor are running a painting business and Christy and Everett have hired them to do some work, so they looked at paint sample cards. Other lively conversation centered on different tv shows, changes the Deke and I made in Mom's house over the last year, and last night's fight night at Worley.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/13/18: Slow Morning, Trip to Worley, The Matches

1. I had a slow morning, keeping an eye on some golf tournaments on television, doing a little shopping at Yoke's, cleaning up the kitchen, and, by 1:00, watching the first few innings of the Brewers and the Dodgers.

2. At 3:00, I buzzed in the Sube out to Kingston and picked up Ed and we met Jake at Rose Lake Junction, hopped in his truck, and bolted to CdA to meet Stu in the Albertson's parking lot. Jake then chauffeured us to the CdA Casino in Worley where we had tickets for tonight's boxing matches in the House of Fury. We arrived early at the casino. I wasn't in the mood to play machines and I don't like to drink alcohol before watching a sporting event. So Stu and I plopped down in the Red Tail Bar and Grill and each ordered a Coke and watched the Dodgers preserve their come from behind 4-3 win over the Brewers. Soon Jake joined us and I ordered a tasty bowl of chili. Stu and I had hoped to watch the Astros and Red Sox, but this game wasn't telecast on any of the screens in the casino.

Stu and I knew Pete, Jerry, and Jake were over at the Nighthawk Lounge, so we joined them and before long Dave arrived and a bit later Ed took a seat at the table and spirited conversation about everything from Medicare to dental horror stories swirled around until it was time to head into the Event Center to watch the matches.

3. A number of local boxers were featured on tonight's House of Fury card.  The raucous crowd was primed to cheer on boxers from Spokane, Lewiston, and Butte and their enthusiasm climaxed in the final main event bout featuring 329 pound, thirty-five year old longtime local favorite Chauncy "The Hillyard Hammer" Welliver. Despite his visible fatigue, Welliver seemed to draw energy and inspiration from his fans' frequent chants of "Chauncy! Chauncy!" and endured the entire ten rounds and won a unanimous decision over the younger Eric Hempstead of Anaconda. The rest of the night was a mixture of evenly contested matches and a couple of quick fights featuring gross mismatches thanks to a couple of out of shape and unprepared contestants being hired to box. If you'd like to read a detailed account of the evening, just click here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/12/18: Easy Recovery, Back to Eggplant, Beer Club and the Lounge

1. I had a very easy day of recovery from Thursday's oral surgery. I would hardly know I even had the surgery. I am being diligent about taking my antibiotics and using the mouthwash Dr. Pboneenberthy prescribed.

2. I had a fun day cooking: I prepared tofu, eggplant, and mushrooms and I made a green curry sauce so I can enjoy it over rice. I also put two beef bones I bought at Yoke's in the slow cooker with onion, celery, peppers, and various seasonings to get a beef stock going.

3. I drove up to Shawn and Teresa's for Beer Club. Our focus was on Michigan beers. Teresa brought an all day IPA, a vanilla coffee porter, a coffee stout, an amber, and a milk shake stout back to Kellogg from Michigan recently and I contributed a bottle of Founder's  Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a Michigan beer I purchased a few months ago and was saving for just the right beer club meeting.  After beer club, I wanted to see how the Dodgers/Brewers playoff game was going and dropped into the Inland Lounge where I watched the last several innings of the game and saw a bunch of friends. I spent much of my time sitting next to Seth, a knowledgeable and passionate Dodger fan, and it was fun talking about what was transpiring during the game.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/11/18: Successful Painless Surgery, Pain Management, Making Life Easier

1. I arrived on time at Dr. Brittney Penberthy's office, relaxed and ready to undergo an apicoectomy. Dr. Penberthy made a very positive impression on me back on Monday. She moved through the evaluation of my tooth with efficiency, inspiring my confidence as she moved effortlessly between stages of the evaluation, articulated clearly what she was up to, and as she gave me a frank and straightforward summation of what she recommended as treatment.

Today, the confidence I'd felt in dealing with Dr. Penberthy on Monday was deepened. Again, Dr. Penberthy clearly communicated everything she was doing. As she deadened the surgery area, made the incision, and as she removed the infected tissue and improved the condition of the tip of the tooth's root, she worked with her tools as if all of this was second nature to her. The schedulers had created a two hour slot for this surgery. It was over in an hour. Dr. Penberthy took x-rays of her work, put them up on a computer screen, and explained to me what she had done and showed me her handiwork. For the hour Dr. Penberthy worked, I felt no pain. I grew more and more calm as the surgery proceeded.

Dr. Penberthy gave me clear instruction as to what I needed to do after the surgery once I returned home. Her assistant also went over these instructions and they were clearly laid out in a handout. I return in a week to have my stitches removed.

2. Back in Kellogg, I stopped in at Yoke's to have three prescriptions filled: a course of antibiotics, painkillers, and a post-surgery mouthwash. I also bought yogurt. I've had some bad luck in the past with antibiotics killing both bad and good bacteria, so I want to complement the antibiotics with probiotics.

At first, I was going to try to make it through the day without taking pain medicine and rely exclusively on icing the surgery area to manage the pain. But, I thought more about it on the drive back to Kellogg. Dr. Penberthy had done some research and prescribed me pain medicine that is cleared through the liver, not the kidneys. So I was safe that way. Also, Dr. Penberthy told me that taking pain medicine soon after the surgery would have a very positive impact on the swelling and pain.

So, once I returned home, I took a pain pill and I started icing the area for ten minutes every half an hour until I went to bed around 10 o'clock. I took another pain pill at 8:00, thinking it might help me make it through the night when I wouldn't be icing.

This treatment worked splendidly.  My recovery through the entire afternoon and into the night was comfortable.

3. As I get older, I try to make as many things as I can in my life easier on myself. For example, Carol and Paul let the corgis stay with them while I was in Billings. Because I didn't know how my recovery from surgery would go, I thought that it would sure make things easier for me if the corgis could stay with Carol and Paul on Thursday during the day and through the night. Carol assured me that this plan would work fine for Paul and her -- in fact, she'd had the same idea herself.

I'm very grateful that the dogs stayed at Carol and Paul's on Thursday. It not only made my day easier, but it freed me up to focus on making sure I followed the post-surgery instructions without distraction and assured me that any interruptions to my sleep would be my own, not the nocturnal demands of the corgis.   

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 10/10/18: Breakfast with Hiram, The Snow Stopped!, Christy's Ham and Bean Soup

1. My cell phone, resting on a stand next to my bed in the room I'd booked, woke me up with a notifying beep that I'd received a text message. It was Hiram. He informed me that his hotel was near an IHOP and I texted him back that I'd see him there as soon as possible. We had a very good breakfast together, highlighted, for me, by his news that he and Molly have rented Olivia a clarinet and that Olivia seems to be fully enjoying the school she started attending this year. Hiram was about to embark on having a day off and was hoping to find a place to do some fine dining and he was also going to be paying a visit to a music program in a local high school. Next stop? Carol and Paul's former stomping grounds. That's right. The President's Own will give a concert in Glendive, MT.

2. About forty miles out of Billings, I pulled over at a rest stop and took a short nap. Thanks to my racing mind after enjoying the concert and the post-concert conversations, I hadn't slept as much as I needed to and this little bit of sleep helped me a lot. My only bit of trepidation about making this stop was that it had started snowing. I still had about 430 miles to go to Kellogg and I didn't like the prospect of having a snowy drive for the next several hours. I woke up. It had continued to snow, but it was low impact snow, not really sticking to anything. It's worst impact was impairing visibility.  Once I was back on I-90, however, the snow stopped and never came back. In fact, I experienced some comfortable periods of blue skies and the roads all the way to Kellogg were in good shape and the fall scenery was gorgeous. 

3. Christy had served ham for the family dinner I missed back on Sept. 30th and today she used the bone from that meal along with and a pack of ham hocks to make a superb ham and bean soup. Christy volunteered to give me a container of this soup, so when I returned home she brought me soup, biscuits, and a dinner salad. It was a perfect meal. It warmed me up and filled me up and by 7:30, after driving for over 16 hours over the last two days and after being so stimulated by the concert and by conversation at Walker's, I went to bed very early, watched some poker on PlutoTV, played games on my tablet, and by 9:00, I crashed. 

Three Beautiful Things 10/08/18: Oral Surgery Coming, Dialysis Might be Coming, Thai Curry Coming

1. Nearly a year ago, both Dr. Bird and, six months later, Dr. Rinaldi recommended that I have a tooth evaluated by an endodontist and today, after much procrastination, I finally had the tooth evaluated by Dr. Brittney Penberthy. She took x-rays and I agreed to a CT scan and she determined that an apicoectomy would be the best way to remove infection that had developed in the bony area around the end of my tooth -- a tooth where I'd had a root canal, maybe twenty-five years ago. I agreed to have the procedure done, even though this tooth has not given me any pain, for two reasons. One, I believed Dr. Penberthy when she said it was not a matter of if the tooth would one day give me pain, but when. Secondly, to be a viable candidate for a kidney transplant, I can't have any dental infections. I am working to be listed at the transplantation center at Sacred Heart in Spokane and having this infection cleaned up will help me be accepted in their program.

I made an appointment to have the surgery performed on Thursday, October 11th.

2. After my appointment with Dr. Penberthy, I took a nostalgic drive to 9th and Hastings in CdA and then I drove to Kootenai Clinic Nephrology where I had an appointment with Dr. Kristie Jones. Dr. Jones had reviewed the blood work I had done last week and she said what I thought she would, having myself received the results and studied them. The upshot of our discussion was as follows: many of my numbers are solid, but my function is diminishing. Dr. Jones recommended that I reduce my consumption of animal protein -- as it is, most days I only eat meat once a day, and I've begun to contemplate how I can eat even less. She also recommended that I eat fewer foods heavy in potassium and I'll be more mindful of that.

For the first time, we talked about dialysis. Just as Dr. Malik had in Bethesda, Dr. Jones recommended that when the time comes for dialysis, that I consider peritoneal dialysis, a way of cleansing the blood that can be done at home. I was relieved to know that this might be an option for me because if I had to go to a dialysis center, the closest one is CdA and I hadn't wanted to have to drive there as many as three times a week, especially in the winter.

For the time being, the really good news is that I feel good. I'm not showing symptoms of renal failure and that's good. Dr. Jones can't begin to know when I might need to start dialysis, but the hope is that I continue to feel good and that my disease continues to progress slowly.

I will see Dr. Jones again in December.

3. After these two appointments, it seemed like a good time to eat some drunken noodles, so I went to Thai Bamboo and that's what I did. I enjoyed the sweet spiciness of this dish and was especially happy to have chosen tofu as my protein, so happy, in fact, that I went to Pilgrim's and bought three tubs of tofu, a couple of eggplants, four cans of 3 Way IPA, some yellow curry paste, and two cans of coconut milk. I see some fine food in my future.

Three Beautiful Things 10/09/18: Driving to Billings, The Concert, Post-Concert Discussions

1. I sprang out of bed around five o'clock this morning, finished packing my suitcase, drank a cup of coffee, revved up the Sube and got my 470 mile drive to Billings, MT underway to hear Hiram play with the President's Own United States Marine Band.  I didn't enjoy the first hour or so of the drive. It was dark. I had trouble seeing. But as the morning sun slowly illuminated the sky, the golden and burnt orange trees on the Montana hillsides came into view and I began to enjoy the Montana scenery and the drive became more pleasant. Nearing Butte, snow began to fall and the drive over Homestake Pass was slow. I slid slightly on occasion, but kept the Sube under control. Beyond Homestake, the snow subsided and the rest of my drive was easy. I helped myself enjoy it by taking a short nap at a rest area along the way.

I arrived in Billings over an hour ahead of my check-in time at the Airbnb room I'd booked. While approaching Billings, a billboard advertising Buffalo Wild Wings caught my eye and I decided eating lunch there would be easy. I ordered a side garden salad and their smallest order of wings. I was a little bit surprised to discover that I like the wings I make at home better.

My Airbnb room was perfect. My hosts rent out two basement rooms, each with Dish television, a private bathroom, a queen-sized bed, and a combination soaking tub and shower. Outside each room is a common area to sit and a fully equipped kitchen for guests to share.  After being on the road for about eight hours or so, I just wanted to lie down for a while, then take a shower before getting ready to walk the ten blocks or so up to the 1400 seat Alberta Bair Theater to hear the concert.

2. I found a seat about five rows up from the front of the loge and texted back and forth with Hiram to let him know I arrived, got seated, and would see him at the intermission.

The concert moved me. The program blended several styles of music, ranging from Sousa marches to show and movie compositions by Leonard Bernstein and John Williams to selections from Prokofiev's ballet based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to an aria from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro to a couple of pieces written since the year 2000 to rousing versions of  "The Star Spangled Banner", "America the Beautiful", and "Stars and Stripes Forever", a salute to the U.S. armed forces songs, and an encore, "God Bless America".

The music inspired my memories, my thinking, and my emotions. Hearing the Sousa marches transported me back to our living room here at 516 W. Cameron.  I think what happened in this memory took place when I was in junior high after Carol had started going to school. Once in a while, I had the house to myself in the morning and I put this recording we had of Sousa marches on our record player. I stood in front of the living room mirror and pretended to conduct the band, paying special attention to the trombone, euphonium, and tuba/sousaphone sections because I loved the low brass parts of these arrangements. So, while I listened to the President's own play "Sabre and Spurs", "Semper Fidelis", and "Stars and Stripes Forever", I suddenly realized my right hand was conducting the music (in my own untrained way) and I hid it under my jacket in the seat next to me in case I was distracting anyone. I also thrilled at hearing those stirring low brass parts and how much I loved playing them when I was in band.

The concert triggered another memory. Back in 1970, our high school band played a composition that included "Puff, the Magic Dragon". The piece featured a short solo for the baritone horn (euphonium) and my section mate, Wayne Denlinger, had been assigned to play the solo. When we performed the piece in concert, Wayne had something he had to do during a long rest for the baritone during this composition, but he had it timed so that he'd be back in time for his solo. Well, as fortune would have it, Wayne didn't make it back and suddenly I realized I'd have to step up and play the solo. Our band director, Mr. Exum, heard the melody of  "Puff, the Magic Dragon" come lilting out of my baritone horn and he scowled at me -- in fact, he looked like he had just bit into a lemon. You might say that I didn't play the short solo as beautifully as Wayne could. I remember thinking I played it all right, but, clearly, Mr. Exum was not pleased -- but, the song went on, the concert went on, the audience left happy, and no one else really knew the humiliation I had suffered.

3. After the concert, I joined Hiram and a table of his friends from the President's Own for drinks and a variety of small plates of awesome food at a place called Walker's. It turned out to be an invigorating time. I sat across the table from Cecilia Buettgens, a French horn player, and she initiated some conversation about teaching at the college level. She works as an adjunct at Frostburg State University in western Maryland and loves to teach. It had been years since anyone asked me about how I taught writing. The fact that I approached teaching writing (and literature) with philosophical questions connected with other discussions Hiram and Cecilia and others had been having about philosophy and religion and I got to join in some discussion about a range of topics including the meaning and value of greatness, the nature of God and world religions, and whether, in the course of human history, humans are moving toward progressive improvement.

It was cold in Billings. I didn't want to walk back to my Airbnb, so I booked a ride with Uber. When I settled into my bed, I couldn't get to sleep for about an hour. My mind was so stimulated by the beauty of the concert, all that I'd been thinking and feeling during the concert, and by the invigorating discussion at Walker's that it took me over an hour to get to sleep and, even once I did fall asleep, my night was interrupted by waking up to racing thoughts about Shakespeare, my many years of teaching, and the timeless questions of what it means to be human.