Monthly Archives: May 2014

when anatomy goes bad

let me get this straight…the right knee is connected to the left hip????? wtf????!!!!!!!! 

all those classes and all those labs and here i was, convinced that the body’s symmetry was pre-ordained and irrefutable. some 6 weeks after my knee surgery, however, i am finding out that the symmetry has nothing to do with fluid motion and now, fluid motion has nothing to do with me. 

it was april 21, 2014 when dr. samuel harms made two small incisions on each side of my right patella and somehow, managed to remove an ice cream scoop’s-worth of meniscus from between the tibia and femur, or as we like to say in cook county “the lower part and the upper lower part of your foot”. recovery has been slow and at times painful, but just when the pain gets bad, i remind myself that this was elective surgery and when that fails, i have pills. 

i have been on my bike, both indoors and outdoors and have even upped the efforts outdoors, which is fine and pain free and damn…it feels good to be in my summertime lycra…as opposed to my wintertime lycra…which is wool…but the problems come when i am off my bike and trying to move like a lithesome, nearly 60-year old gladiator. stairways remain out of the question and so, i have become an elevator jockey, riding between the first floor and the basement of the courthouse where i am either taking my two allotted work breaks or using the woman’s bathroom because it reminds me of a mountain meadow under spring bloom, rather than the men’s, which is like taking a virtual tour through a rendering plant. 

between my limping and gimping, i have begun to notice that somehow, the right knee pain has been transferred to my left hip. under an introspective look at my medical history, this much i know: i have borne no children and heretofore, have never had any ambulatory hip issues. 

until now. 

at times it is a sharp pain but most of the time, it’s just a dull ache. the kind of dull ache my ex-wife described she suffered from whenever i came home from work…or was anywhere around her. 

fortunately, i have an appointment with the good doctor this week and i will be able to at least, convey my maladies to someone who has medical acumen. evidently, my cats don’t care if i am having hip problems. 

i’ll be fine and really, my knee is getting better and as it improves, i would imagine my hip will as well. at least that’s what i’m telling myself. if not, i hope i don’t have to go up a set of stairs to get at my pill bottles. 

as i type this, the mount borah epic is underway in cable, wi. and i am sitting at a table in tofte wishing i were somewhere in the line of 500 riders, twisting and turning along 34 miles of single track trails; each of them striving for the finish line and the beer and brats that are there. good luck to tim “ancient” kennedy, adam “pitbull” harju, and john “norma’s son-in-law” twiest.

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my compass always points north

i am going slap-me-silly stir crazy. i have been in owatonna for 4 ½ days, bouncing between my hotel room and the lion’s den adult boutique…i mean my hotel room and cabelas…where nearly a week of immersive septic training has taken place. the class was an intense cerebral whirlwind that knocked the cobwebs off of synapses that haven’t been awakened since sometime during my halcyon days of grad school. it ends with a 3-hour test that wasn’t as hard as i feared and wasn’t as demanding as expected. relief is tangible.

another student, who also happens to be a “public servant” has the same intent as i…and we both end up in our “public servant” vehicles in the nearest subway; each of us hoping to extra pepper jack cheese the last 4 days from our memories.

 “what’d you think?”

 “it wasn’t as bad as i thought”, he says.

 “hey…mccloed county…is it legal for you to drink and drive in your county vehicles? because it is in cook county.”

 “really?”

 “well no, but it will be for the ride home today.”

 the drive means traveling up the north to south vertebrae of the twin cities; doing so on the edge of the memorial day weekend and doing so just as the end of the work day announces its presence with choked roads and people who believe stop and go traffic is a pilates workout.

 i desperately want to be home; away from concrete and halogen and traffic and throngs and fast food and open and hidden agendas and everything that has led me to the north shore… a journey that for me, began at birth.

 i meander through the cities and stop at my brother and sister-in-law’s to offload the empty beer bottles; doing so (conveniently) just as the brats are being turned on the grill. it is 5:30 and considering where they live, i know that not being able to hear traffic on the freeway means the traffic on the freeway isn’t moving.

 after eating, my brother and sister-in-law sense my antsiness…they have seen it dozens of times.

 on a good day, travel to lutsen from this point is a 3 ½ hour affair, including several stops to do what aging men on solo journeys do…look for adult boutiques.

 against better judgment (story of my life) i enter the stream of slowly moving vehicles headed towards polaris and exhibit all the public servant constraints i can…i let people merge…i do not tail gate. most importantly, i do not make eye contact.

 it takes an hour to travel 25 miles to forest lake. on the way, i begin to identify those motorcyclists who will not survive the summer…i also identify the distracted and impaired drivers…because i am one of them.

 i do not stop at hinckley. i do not pass go. i pee in a cup. i accelerate. my shoulders relax. everything in the rear view mirror is but a poorly digested aftertaste.

 the oaks and plowed fields give way to pines and spruce and fir. the sun casts long golden-hued shadows. the head of the lake still supports nomadic chunks of ice. the four lane highway turns into a meandering slice through rock and deep forests.

 every trip north reminds me of why i love living where i do and why, whenever i am away, i can’t wait to return home.


the bowels of the beast

i arrive before the store is open; before the imagined throngs of sportsmen and sportswomen come-a-calling to make their camo and survival gear purchases or perhaps, invest in a new eviscerating implement. a doddering gray-haired woman lets me in. i ask “where is the septic training?” and she points to the back of the store “back up there, up the stairs and take a right at the mountain.” “you mean the mountain with all the dead animals on it?”

“exactly”, she replies. 

with that, i have entered a cabelas for the first time in my life. to me it represents all that is bad and over-processed…just another conglomerate superstore that has silenced the pulse of small town businesses from many small towns across the country.

i don’t go to wal-mart either, but that’s because i am deathly afraid that someone will take my picture and post it on “peopleofwalmart.com”.  

owatonna and cabelas and septic training seems an odd triumvirate, but upon my drive to the hotel, realized it could have been owatonna and the lions den and septic training. the lions den is an adult “themed” store conveniently located off of i-35. the random thought of me going to its front door at 8 in the morning stating “i’m here for septic training” is unpleasant at best; even more so when i think i could have ended up in a seedy booth with a roll of quarters and none-the-wiser about the science of septic treatment. 

we are tucked away in one of cabelas hidden rooms, behind camo facades and walls thick with pictures of ancient hunters and fishermen and whiskey-soaked grins that beam at their gathered quarries. somewhere, i imagine, someone in the store is skinning all types furred and feathered critters so they can add to their dead animal collection. 

even inside the store though, it smells like farming. if yesterday was the smell of arbys, today it was the sheen of manure that has been spread overnight by the manure fairies. 

in a rare upbeat moment, i feel as though i could be in heaven…if heaven was a shit-soaked, darkened alley in the seedy section of willyville. 

cabelas and the lions den and land-applied manure seems the perfect accompaniment to this septic training. it’s no different than smelling patchouli and thinking I should be shopping at the cook county co-op.


MN DNR To Place Biologist in WebCam Eagle Nest

concerned with the likelihood of nest failure at their world-famous webcam eagle nest in st. paul, minnesota, the minnesota dnr today announced plans to place a field biologist in the nest to help the struggling parents feed the two surviving eaglets. nongame dnr head carroll henderson said “we’ve already lost one chick and with the chickadee check-off funds running low this year, we can’t afford to send another baby eagle to the raptor center.”

questioned about the decision to place a camera on a nest where defecating and viscera and death were real possibilities, henderson said “well…we put a caution note for viewers and they should know when something bad is going to happen…i mean, most people watch the discovery channel, right?…and right now, this has nothing to do with nature, it’s all about the ratings.”  further pressed to reveal the name of the surrogate biologist/parent, henderson turned evasive and said “she doesn’t know yet, so we’re trying to keep it quiet, but she is in for a real surprise.” referrring to the loss of the first-hatched eaglet, henderson said “it was unfortunate we didn’t have a biologist up there sooner, because our (agency) biologists could raise a nest full of eaglets better than the most seasoned pair of adults. afterall…many of them have four-year college degrees.”

when asked if the placement of a human in an eagle nest was interfering with nature, henderson said “no more than people slowing their car down when a deer crosses the road or when people put on deet during the steamy nights of july to fend off bloodsucking insects.”

pressed for details on when the biologist would be in position and what her tasks would be, henderson said “she’ll probably go up the next time the camera has “technical difficulties”…she’ll feed them regularly, shoo away the adults with flailing arms and when she thinks they are ready to fly, she’ll just toss them over the edge of the nest. it’s kind of what the dnr does.”

last year’s eagle pair laid eggs in january and the eggs never hatched despite the adults spending 49 days trying to hatch two eggs that would have normally hatched in 34 days. henderson said “obviously, that was a loser pair of adults and there was a point where we almost went in and we were like…give up…but instead, we just drove around in our dnr liquid propane-fueled priuses and mocked the adults.”

when reminded the same pair of adults was responsible for successful egg laying this year, henderson said, “yeah right…like what…do you work for the dnr?”