Tuesday, August 31, 2010

my trip to Fox Studios in Manhattan

A couple of days ago my old friend Fred asked if I would like to accompany him Sunday as he went to Fox Studios in Manhattan to be a legal commentator on America's News Headquarters.  I thought it would be a fun, and it had been a while since I hung out with any Republicans since I had not seen the family for while.  So I drove across the bridge to Medford, NJ and met Fred and the limo driver.  I loaded my laptop and cooler into the limo and we were off.

Fred has done 200 such shows in the past year.  He is on national news quite often, and if you want more info on him navigate over to his facebook page. He was being interveiwed for a piece about a new lawsuit against the McDonald’s Corporation involving a scalding cup of hot chocolate supposedly spilled on the plaintiff's daughter.   Liz Wiehl, a regular commentator on the show, got to make the case for McDonalds, and Fred was commenting pro-plaintiff.  He was not too happy about this but Liz got first dibs since she is a regular.

Fred and I have been friends for 15 years since I met him while working at Woodcock Washburn as a patent attorney's assistant.  We have been on more than a few adventures together, and it could even be said that Fred got me fired from said law firm, although that's a story for another time and besides, I passionately hated that job anyway.  It could be said that it was the reason I opted not to go to law school. 

So we left at 3:15, plenty of time, so we thought, since he was not on air until 5:40.  From exit 5 of the NJT it normally takes and hour to get to the Lincoln Tunnel.  The Fox Studios are about 5 minutes from the tunnel by car. However, there was a 19-mile backup going North on the turnpike, and it looked like we were not going to make it as the limo creeped ever-so-slowly northward in the sunshine. Fred and I were having fun catching up, but he was getting antsy at the prospect of missing his gig. The producer was calling every 20 minutes to find out how close we were, and I guess at Fox they were scrambling around for a plan B in case we blew it.

the view from the backseat as we raced towards the studio

As for me, I opened my cooler, chomped down some chips and homemade hummus, and cracked open a bottle of Trois Pistoles.  What the heck, I had earned it, I had had my first real bike ride today in 2 months and rode a very painful and hilly 60 miles.  Then I forgot to eat lunch.  Andrez, our polish driver, was doing his damn best making the good calls regarding lane changes and swift accelerations but we only made it by minutes.  We got through secuty and literally they came running down to usher us upstairs and Fred was rushed into makeup 5 minutes before air time.  I walked into the "Green Room" and they were airing a piece about those Sketchers sneakers that were supposed to tone up your legs just by walking around in them.  Please, these women need to get their asses on a bike if they want their legs toned.  The woman who had ushered us in offered me cookies or a beverage.  She was standing next to me, and of course I had to mutter, a bit too loudly, "that is such bullshit."

"shhh" she warned, "The Sketchers folks are standing right behind us." 

Ooops.  "Sorry", I said flashing my apologetic smile.  I changed the subject to the fact that we had made it by the skin of our teeth.  "Our limo driver was really good, " I said, "or we would never have gotten him here on time."

"That's good to know, " she replied, "because some of our drivers apparently try to convert the guests to Islam."  I smiled, wondering if that was really true, or that said drivers were merely wearing a head scarf or something and the guests of Rupert Murdoch found that offensive.

Next I was standing behind the camera as Fred and Liz took their places. The guy on the right counted down to air time.  "90 seconds"  then "60" then "30", just like in a bike race.

And off it went, so cool to be right up behind the cameras a few feet from the action.  Gregg Jarrett interviewed them both and Fred was flawless in his performance, as was Liz, although Liz slipped up once and called the beverage "coffee, " not "cocoa", but hey I am probably the only person who noticed that.  Micky D was sued in the 90s over hot coffee spilled and that was a 2 million judgment against them, which was mentioned in Gregg's intro.

Not that there was much of substance to talk about since there had been no discovery or anything really on paper about the case yet, but why let that stop them, this was Fox after all and people eat up this crap.  The segment lasted 7 minutes.  Afterward Fred and I spoke with Liz for a few minutes, and then with the hot makeup chick, and then we were out of there.  Andrez was waiting with the car but we ducked into a deli and got some dinner in a bag.  Really good actually, I had a shrimp wrap with cucumbers and cilantro.  I love New York sometimes.   So that's it really, we got back in the limo and headed back home.  A fun way to spend an afternoon.
grabbing dinner in a bag and heading back South

me in "the green room"--do I look like I voted for Obama?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

on hunting, destiny, and luck

So for the second time this week, I came out in the morning to another dead, half-eaten bird.  Tuesday's was a female cardinal, today's looked like a starling to me, or what was left vaguely resembled a starling. 

"Madison" I admonished, "you need to stop killing things. " Her ears perked up as she heard her name.  She watched me lifting the remains of yesterday's snack into the poopcan.  The tail started swinging tentatively, as she looked at me quizzically in the hopes of determining whether I was pleased or dissapointed.

Little Girl With Dead Bird, anonymous, 16th c.
I sighed. Madison is an remarkable creature, and out of all of my present and former dogs, the one most attuned into my moods and energy.  She is incredibly smart, cunning, and I would say even empathetic.  If I am upset anywhere in the house, I mean even if I am shedding tears silently in the shower, she will find me and poke her nose in to see if she can help.  She will offer her paw, and if you really need it, a kiss.  That is sweet little Madison.  She has her diabolical side as well. Sometimes she looks at you and you are wondering what she is plotting next.  The list of helmets, shoes, and other expensive items that she has chewed out of boredom is unfortunately vast.

Madison can jump a 6' 11" fence, as my next door neighbor with all of the cats can attest to.  When she was a pup we had to keep on building the fence higher and higher, but each time she would leap up and get her paws over the top and literally launch her body to the other side, paws first.   In addition, she has a very strong prey drive.  When I used to keep the dog door open at night, many mornings I would come outside to find a dead opossum like the this one.   The opossum venture into my compost pile at night, and if anyone has seen these animals, they move very slowly.   In 10 days she had killed 7 of them, so I knew I had to keep her from roaming out there after hours.  Now the door gets shut when we go to bed.

So the hunting had ceased for awhile, as the three remaining family members adjust to the loss of Gryphon. But the summer is coming to and end, and I have been restless, wondering if this will be my last winter in Philly, trying to figure out how I want the next few years of my life to play out. 

As a result Madison has gotten restless too.  Or maybe she is just trying to show us that fences and dog doors cannot keep her from doing what she was born to do. After all if I am dumb enough to have bird feeders in my yard, then she will stalk the birds like a lion and jump up and pluck them from the air as they try to flee.  We can make it hard for her, but she will find a way.

Sometimes I feel sorry for my dogs, because surely an animal like Madison should live in the mountains somewhere, where she can hunt and run at will.  Perhaps the fences and doors of the city are preventing her from living out her destiny.  I have started to feel a lot like that lately about myself, as I grow increasingly more disgusted with city dwellers who have no regard for others or the ecosystem to which they are entwined.  I'm tired of my white trash neighbors.  Tired of cars, like the one that blew it's horn at me the other night, the first time I had ridden a bike in two months, with a driver yelling at me to "get on the sidewalk!"  And of course, I probably shouldn't have risked it, but I could not help but yell back, "it's illegal for me to ride on the sidewalk asshole!"

Tired of it all, and wanting to move myself away from all the people and cars and concrete and trash. So I can live out my destiny, which seems like such a grandiose word.  I'm not sure I believe in destiny, really, but I do believe that in order for me to be happy, I need recognize the things in life that are truly inportant to me and then arrange my life in such a way that I can get them.  There are many obstacles in my way right now, but I know I can do it.  And I don't think I can wait for my luck to change.  Perhaps the circumstances of the last 3 years are a manifestation of the universe trying, not so subtly, to let me know that what I'm on the wrong path.  Maybe I'm needed somewhere else. And once I recognize that, my luck, if you want to call it that, will change.

resting up for the next kill

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

now that's a broken collarbone

Nate's ill-fated TT at the Tour of Utah yesterday ended in this misfortune:

After surgery this morning to plate it plus correct his abnormal clavicle from a fall in 2004 (with a ligament pulled from a cadaver no less) he's doing fine.  Makes mine look like a walk in the park. 

why I might not order any more computers from Dell

So I need to order an extra power cable for the Dell Studio notebook I got a few months back.  I have an online account so I login, spend 10 minutes trying to figure out which of the nine adapters that the site claimed were compatible I needed. Since this was Boss #1's credit card because I was getting this adapter for work, and I did not want to spend another 20 minutes trying to figure it out, I put the most expensive one in my cart.  Ok, 15 minutes after I first visited the site I click on my shopping cart to checkout.  I enter the card and not only does the cart tell me the card is not valid, but they also say my work address is not valid.  Of course I checked 3 more times, but everything was correct.  It was maddening.  I try again and finally I am PISSED.  This is Dell.com for God's sake, and in  few weeks I have to order 5K worth of computers and this is not an auspicious start for a business relationship.

If there is one thing I hate, it's calling an online business because their online shit is not working.  So I click the chat button instead that has just floated across the screen with the smiling head of a really attractive woman:

2:09:32 PM System You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat
2:09:32 PM System Connected with Sheila Marie

2:09:37 PM Sheila Marie Welcome to DELL ELECTRONICS and ACCESSORIES SALES CHAT! I hope you are doing well and thank you for waiting. My name is Sheila and I will be your Sales Consultant today. Dell now offers secure Payment via Chat for our chat customers for faster and secure way of ordering consumer products.

Feel free to provide your phone number just in case we get disconnected.

Hi there, how can I help you today? (“,)  (was that some kind of smiley?)

2:09:58 PM andrea the stupid shopping cart is not taking my credit card. and it thinks my city is wrong, but it's right.

2:10:19 PM andrea I order with this card all day long and never have had a problem before

2:10:42 PM Sheila Marie That's very unfortunate. No need to worry I can process the order for you.

2:11:32 PM Sheila Marie May I have your name, phone number and shipping address please? So I can locate or create a profile for you?

2:12:18 PM andrea I already have a profile, I order from Dell once in a while. My email address is andrea@xyz.com

2:12:44 PM andrea my phone is 610.299.1234. you should be able to pull up all the info

2:12:57 PM Sheila Marie Great. Thanks.

2:14:37 PM Sheila Marie Thanks for waiting Andrea.

2:15:10 PM Sheila Marie Unfortunately no profile was located with your phone number and email address. May I have your shipping address so I can go ahead and create one for you?

2:16:45 PM andrea I just pulled up my profile and I want this purchase to be under the old profile. I'm logged in right now, with an open shopping cart. You are mistaken. Email address is andrea@xyz.com do you need my password? I don't want to create at *new* profile

2:17:16 PM Sheila Marie It's not for the website.

2:17:41 PM Sheila Marie It is for our database.

2:18:42 PM andrea will it link to my other purchases?

2:18:49 PM andrea because this is a business account

2:19:27 PM Sheila Marie that's why it's not accepting it.

2:19:42 PM Sheila Marie You reached the Consumer Sales.

2:19:52 PM Sheila Marie You would have to call Small Business Department regarding purchases using your Dell Preferred Business Account. You can reach them by calling 1-888-518-335

2:20:10 PM andrea I think it was originally a consumer account.

2:20:49 PM andrea I'm just going to order it from TigerDirect. It should not be this hard or time consuming to make a purchase. thanks

2:21:16 PM andrea AND THE number you gave me is missing a digit

2:21:47 PM Sheila Marie 1-888-518-3355

2:22:00 PM andrea thanks

2:23:32 PM Sheila Marie Not a problem. Would there be anything else that I may assist you for today?

2:23:38 PM andrea no

2:24:10 PM Sheila Marie Thank you for choosing Dell Electronics and Accessories Sales Chat. We're looking forward to your business and will be happy to assist you again. Chat is a growing program so it will be so awesome if you recommend our services to your family and friends. Again, Thank you for choosing Dell.

2:24:20 PM Sheila Marie It's a pleasure chatting with you and have a wonderful day.

2:24:27 PM andrea you too.

2:24:40 PM Sheila Marie Thanks. =)

....so now I am totally pissed. It would be awesome if I told my friends and family about their chat service?? Be careful what you wish for Sheila Marie.

So I call the phone number on the website and I get a sweet sounding woman, poor thing, whose day just got much worse because she had the misfortune of picking up my call, when I was really really mad.  Not only was this little affair taking WAY TOO much time out of my busy day, but I had been suffering through a string of bad luck lately, today was day 1 of my period, and had not been on my bike in what seems like living memory at this point.

I did not call the number that Sheila Marie gave me, because this was not a business account, it was my personal account, but I did not feel like explaining all that to Sheila for fear she would unleash some more emoticons.  The recording that played while they were routing my call recommended that I check out their award winning website next time, instead of calling, no joke!   So at this point I am just about crazy, and as I said, this poor woman had to deal with that.

" Hello, this is Elaine, thank you for calling Dell Consumer Peripherals Sales, how may I help you?"

"I'm tyring to purchase a stupid cable for my laptop, and the damn shopping cart is not taking my valid credit card.  This is totally unacceptable for a company like Dell."

"oh, I'm so sorry ma'am...I would be happy to help you make the purchase."

She had an accent that I did not recognize, and a very sweet demeanor, and I started feeling a bit sorry for her, having to deal with me.  But then I remembered that it had now taken 45 minutes to buy a power adapter and I could have driven to MicroCenter and bought one there in the same amount of time. So I went off for about 60 seconds about how lame it was that the shopping cart could not process my card, that the chat person was useless,  I mean I went OFF.  I was almost in tears.

She waited for my litany of things that suck about Dell had finished and then replied, "Oh.... but ma'am this is not Customer Service, you've reached Consumer Peripherals Sales.  We can't do anything about the website.  You would have to call Customer Service. "

 My blood pressure rose a few digits.

"Yes I know where I've called; this is where the operator routed my call!" I said, infuriated. 

She continues, patiently, as if she were talking to a child having a temper tantrum, "We cannot help with the website, you would need to contact..."

"Listen, I can complete the purchase with you, correct?" I interrupted.

"yes ma'am"

"Why don't we think outside the box a little?" I almost shouted.  I'm thinking that in whatever country she was in that saying would sound fresh, not like the haggard cliche it is here in the US of A.

"If I give you the card, and it works, then we know that the problem is with the (I caught myself before an adjective that rhymes with plucking rolled off my tongue) ...stupid shopping cart."

"Ok, so you want me to..." she paused as her English was not perfect..."how do you say...complete...the sale for you?"  I thought this was especially cute, that she did not know that word immediately.


So we chose the same adapter, and she ran the card, and guess what?

Cha-ching.  It worked just fine.

"Is there anything else I can help you with?" Elaine asked timidly.

I asked her why she thought the cart was not working, and she said it happened with the last caller too, and they must be doing a "system upgrade."  A system upgrade?  They can't do that at 4 am?  No wonder why they have their sales reps in another country, for their safety, when all the pissed off customers call when they can't get shit ordered during the business day.

"Um...what did you say your name was?" I ventured, my voice calm now, a peace offering.

"Elaine, and my extension is 71865 if there is any other way I can assist you."

"Elaine," I said, "Do you mind if I ask where your accent is from?" I was afraid she would get offended, so I offered, "It's really lovely, but I can't place it."

She actually laughed, probably realizing that she had tamed the savage beast who had called her fighting mad 25 minutes ago.  "I'm actually in Manila in the Philippines right now."

"oh...the Philippines." I could not place that accent? I could not believe it, since one of my best friends growing up was Filipino and her parents were off the boat.

"I have a boy I have 'adopted'  through Children International in the Phillipines, I have been sending him money every month for four years, he is really cute..." I told her sheepishly.

"oh," she paused, and continued in her lilting voice, "that is really wonderful of you."

"...actually not so cute anymore, he is getting big " I laughed, thinking how Prince had changed from the little boy I had first encountered when I signed up to a adolescent ready to bloom into an adult.  Scary how fast they grow up.

Anyway, we said our goodbyes. 

Total time to order a stupid cable = 55 minutes
Total money expended for this purpose = $68.99
Almost letting something stupid ruin my day but learning, this time, to change the outcome with the help of a Filipino who spoke English better than 87% of Philadelphia residents = priceless.

my kids make The Philadelphia Inquirer

Andrew Pinkham, the incredible photographer who Mark hired to take the photos of the dogs while I was away and then presented them to me at our party last July (2009) was chosen to hang his artwork in the Philadelphia International Airport.  His exhibit is called, "Best in Show" and can be seen in Terminal F.  There was a nice article in Sunday's business section featuring my 3 clowns on the front page. 
There were many pictures taken for the online edition of the 17 exhibits gracing the 1.25 mile stretch of terminals throughout the airport, and the ones they chose to grace the front page of the paper edition were of Madison, Gryphon and Chloe.  Pretty awesome! If you click on the article there is a link to all of the artwork, courtesy of Charles Fox, a staff photographer at the Inquirer.  I emailed Andrew to tell him of Gryphon's passing and he said he was greatful to get a chance to create a keepsake so we can all remember him.  He had told Mark last year after the shoot that they were the best dogs he ever worked with.  Not hard to believe I guess, they are (and were) all pretty special.  Sorry I sound like a ridiculous proud parent, I guess I am.  At least I don't have a bumper sticker that says, "My dog is the best dog that Andrew ever worked with!" or better yet, "My dog graduated with honors from AKC Good Citizen Class!" ..... luckily I will never be quite that annoying.

Nayana Arandara of Melbourne, Australia, has her photo taken by her son, Milan, at Pinkham's exhibit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

wednesday night's dream

Last night I dreamed, as I always do, about a house, usually it’s a large sinister haunted mansion with a labyrinth of rooms. I wish someone could tell me why this feature is in every dream I can remember, but the only thing I could find was on the web and who knows if that is true.  This site also says this about recurring dreams:

The message in recurring dreams may be so important and/or powerful that it refuses to go away. The frequent repetition of such dreams forces you to pay attention and confront the dream. It is desperately trying to tell you something. Such dreams are often nightmarish or frightening in their content, which also helps you to take notice and pay attention to them.

Recurring dreams are quite common and are often triggered by a certain life situation, transitional phase in life or a problem that keeps coming back again and again. These dreams may recur daily, once a week, or once a month. Whatever the frequency, there is little variation in the dream content itself. Such dreams may be highlighting a personal weakness, fear, or your inability to cope with something in your life - past or present.

Anyway, this was MY house, but the living room was totally open, no roof, only half of a brick wall. Some male, familiar to me, I don’t remember who, remarked that he didn’t recall me having an open house, and I replied as I walked inside, “it is now!”

Once inside I was looking at Madison and she deftly turned herself into an apple-sized box turtle. She immediately began chasing after bugs. She was flying through the air and chasing them up and down the white walls. The entire interior of the place was ghostly white and dusty, walls, ceiling, floors, furniture, as if no one had lived there for a long time. The insects fought back actually, and when two intrepid bugs ganged up on her, turned and started to attack, I intervened so she could turn back into a dog unscathed.

Suddenly a beautiful bird flew over the open wall and into the house, he had a lush orange plume and silver feathers, and he glided down as we stood transfixed, wondering if this was a portent of good or evil. The bird alighted to the ground, and suddenly morphed into an Ostrich who began chasing after Chloe, pecking at her with his beak. I ran over to Chloe as the bird ran off, and she had on a heavy vest, almost like Kevlar (thank goodness). I did not remember putting it on her, but perhaps someone who knew about the attacking birds did. I took it off to make sure she did not have any wounds. It occurred to me that it was summer and Chloe would be better off without that heavy vest on her. She was not wounded to my great relief. Chloe wagged her tail, happy to be free of the weight and heat, and I looked up and Nate was there, smiling.

Next I was in a train riding along sitting at a table with others, and we were riding next to a 6-lane highway. We had a good view of the traffic on each side. Sitting across from me, dressed in a suit because he was going for an interview, was none other than Ray Adams. Nancy, I have no idea why Ray had a cameo in my dream last night but I find that often random people in my life do end up having minor parts in these dreamscapes. I assume that is a pretty common occurrence. I sure hope so anyway.

I was chatting with Ray, and the people sitting at the table with us. My father was in the row behind me, with a woman, most likely my mother. I believe Colin was there, and others familiar to me, as well as strangers as you would find on a train. Suddenly this blue plastic square vehicle which resembled a backhoe more than a car came from the air out of nowhere. The man driving it lost control of the vehicle and we gasped in horror as the car jumped the barrier (it did not seem to be confined my gravity) and dove into oncoming traffic. The scene was horrible, cars locked up their brakes and skidded everywhere colliding into each other. We saw the driver’s mangled body fall unceremoniously from the cab, his torso inverted as he fell from the door, one arm outstretched. We all were shocked and horrified. My father asked me if I knew the man and where he came from, but I did not know him.

Next I was back in my old Jeep, and I noticed that it had been refurbished. My new car was in the shop and this was the loaner they gave me. They had replaced the engine and the car ran really well; I was surprised.

Finally Nate came for an unexpected visit. I was in bed, the alarm woke me and he was standing next to the bed. When I got up Gryphon’s ghost was there, and Madison and Chloe wagged their tails with joy. I feared he would disappear, but when I reached out my hand to him to put my arms around him, tears running down my face, I felt fur! The same beautiful, glossy fur that had been incinerated when he was cremated. He was really there with us; he had come back from the dead to visit with his family.

I wondered how long we would have with him. And that is all I remember.

If anyone can offer any interpretation, have at it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

gryphon 1999-2010 part one

the house where Gryphon spent his first year
I don't think words can describe what it feels like to lose one's child. In this case, that child was a beautiful mutt who had spent the last 10 years of his 11 year life with me. Gryphon had definitely been getting weaker in the past several months and I had always known he was not going to live a terribly long life because of the hardships he had suffered before our paths crossed in 2000. But I was hoping get a few more years out of him, and I had no idea that the denoument of the week from hell was going to be him having to be put to sleep.

Back in 2000, I was walking to my motorcycle on a cold winter day after work at my parent's flooring company. Apex Carpet was deep in North Philly, and for those of you not from these parts, that is pretty much the worst of Philadelphia. I walked down the street towards an old garage with a crumbling down roof when I heard something strange. There was a metal door with a large metal chain holding it not quite shut and there, whining and scratching, I could make out the slim muzzle of a large dog. The next day I saw him again, so I asked Matt, the old black man with congestive heart failure who my father had rushed to the emergency room many times, why there was a dog in his garage. Matt told me he had gotten the dog for "protection."

"Protection is fine, Matt, but when is the last time you fed him?"

"Awww....he goes out and feeds his damn self" Matt grumbled. I rolled my eyes. Dear Lord.

"Matt....let me see the dog."

Matt had one of his tenants fetch "Rocky" as he was called back then, and out rushed this emaciated, dirty, smelly mutt, wagging his tail madly. When I walked over to him he immediately rolled on his back and wagged his tail as if to say, "please rub my belly." What a sin.

I went out and bought some crappy dog food, as that is all that the corner store at 21st and Westmoreland carried, and Rocky ate all of it. Every last piece of kibble. I gave him some clean water and marveled out how much he stunk, the poor little beast. It turns out that Rocky spent most of his young life locked in Matt's filthy dark basement where he defecated in a corner. This was just too much for me. For several weeks I walked him and fed him every day, while I inquired around to see if I could find someone to adopt him

One day I decided to see if he had any food aggression issues because if he did the chances that he would survive a shelter without being put down were pretty slim. I had noticed that when my foot touched the flimsy disposable aluminum roasting pan I was using as his bowl in order to steady it while he ate, he growled a bit. Hmm, not good. I put on my large leather motorcycle glove and pulled his food bowl away, and he growled and went straight for my arm and bit the glove right in the middle. Thank god for leather. I pushed him back, hard, and he got the message that that behavior was not tolerated with me, but I knew I had a difficult case on my hand. This dog, in his current state, would not be able to be in a home with small children, and would never survive more than an hour at the SPCA.

I was able to get a woman who owned the barn where my older sister stabled her horse to agree to take the dog if I got him neutered. I was living at home with my parents and they had a cat, and besides my father always pretended he did not like animals and they were absolutely not allowed in the house.

One thing I knew is the dog needed to get out of Matt’s filthy house. I convinced him to give me Rocky, and I brought him home, but I didn’t know where to put him.  It was friday night and Rich was on his way up to take me to dinner, and I was late as usual.  I finally tied him to a tree on my parent’s verdant lawn, fed him, put a bowl of water next to him, and then left to get dinner. When my parents arrived home it had started to drizzle, and there was this poor wet dog, looking forlorn and sad under the tree.  They took pity on him and put him up on the back porch. The next day Rocky got a bath. I had to scrub him 3 or 4 times to get the smell out. Numerous calls to the woman who was to adopt him yielded no response, so I got the message she had changed her mind. Horse people are so wacky anyway.

Gryph's octopus, he did not last long
So Rocky became Gryphon, as he hds moved from North Philadelphia to swanky Radnor township on the Main Line, whose symbol was a gryphon. I took a very sturdy 4 layer cardboard box that Milliken 3x3 carpet tiles come in, cut a hole for a door, and placed it on a skid on the porch with a dogbed and loads of blankets.  I hooked up a line from the house porch all the way to a tall tree in the yard so Gryphon could “patrol” the yard and keep it free from deer, fox, rabbit, Canadian geese and groundhogs. He would sometimes get tangled but I was usually nearby to rescue him. Each night I would curl up with Gryohon in his house under the blankets until he was asleep, and then at some point I would wake up and crawl upstairs into my own bed.  I even had a little space heater in there.

babies smell good!
Back then I was barely ever home, as each weekend I would drive down to Sea Isle to spend the weekend at Richard’s house. The first time I took the dog he got lost somehow. I was so upset but consoled myself that it was a barrier island and he would not get far. We called the cops and they were patrolling, looking for him. We looked for hours and I was starting to panic. Various people would report sighting him. Finally I was walking down a side street and I spotted him, walking up to people wagging his tail. “Rocky” I screamed (he did not know Gryphon yet), and the dog turned and came running towards my waiting arms. I think the dog decided then and there that he was never going to let me out of his sight again because from that day until he got too old and frail Gryphon never let me enter a room without following me. He was nicknamed my “shadow.”

We took him to the beach and he gleefully ran down the broad expanse of Sea Isle sand, barking and chasing the seagulls. He was not incredibly fond of the water, the waves scared him, but one time I was swimming in the surf and Rich was behind me. He called to me to turn around and there, paddling in the surf, was Gryphon, blinking when the waves rushed towards him.  He was determined not to let me escape via ocean. I pulled him out of the water, dried him off and gave him lots of kisses.
Richard had several boats in the 6 years that we dated, at the time it was a uber-fast cigarette boat. Gryphon used to sniff the air as we flew by at 50mph, his fur rippling in the wind. He did not, however, jump in when I went swimming in the open ocean, free of life guards and kids on boogie boards.

And that is how he came to be mine.  Stay tuned for more. 
Gryph giving Rich a kiss

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

hy·po·chon·dri·ac /ˌhaɪpəˈkɒndriˌæk/

Hypochondriasis, hypochondria (sometimes referred to as health phobia or health anxiety) refers to excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness.[1] An individual suffering from hypochondriasis is known as a hypochondriac. Often, hypochondria persists even after a physician has evaluated a person and reassured them that their concerns about symptoms do not have an underlying medical basis or, if there is a medical illness, the concerns are far in excess of what is appropriate for the level of disease.

It seems that a good friend and confidant of mine, and fellow cyclist, thinks that I am one of these.  Personally, I can't imagine having the gall to even say that in jest to someone who, in the past several years, suffered a torn a hamstring racing mountain bikes (proven by an MRI); broke a collarbone riding a mountainbike (proven by multiple x-rays, and with the Accuser riding along with me no less); developed a very rare heart arrythymia which required pacemaker implantation; was found to have pre-cancerous cells on her cervix that were removed by slicing the top of the cervix off with a loop of wire with electical current running through it;  had a saddle sore surgically removed; suffered from hormonal imbalances creating terrible mood swings (proven by blood tests--17 vials in one sitting) which required hormone supplementation to correct; had her leg run over, twice (forwards and backwards) while riding her bike to work by an asshole professional driver who ran a stop sign; had shoulder reconstructive surgery relating to this accident and coded during surgery;  finally got back on a bike and was having a pretty good racing season when she got a rare perineal nodular induration which requires, by one doctors advice, an extended period off the bike. 

I am not sure where, in that litany of bad luck, there was room for interpretation.  What a skilled liar am I, a woman who was able to convince 7 cardiologists, 2 sports med docs, 4 gynecologosts, several surgeons, including one I almost married, and a whole host of physical therapists, chiropractors, and God knows who else that I was making it all up?  How were they able to stick that catheter up through my groin while I lay there awake, stubbornly refusing anesthesia, the tube sliding through my vein like a serpent, flinching when it hit a nerve, and give a diagnosis of second degree heart block?  Had I really fooled them all?

I never allowed myself to feel sorry for myself, never spent too much time wondering why it was happening to me. Shit just happens, I learned.  And I chose, instead of crying about it, to find the irony and humor in it all, and to write about it.  Partly to hone my own craft since I would like to start a novel someday, and partly because I think it might inform others as it took me a year to find out what was wrong, and partly because sometimes it is so bizarre that I, and I think some others, might find it amusing. 

The problem is it seems that by doing this I have confused my friend into thinking that somehow I enjoy all of the attention. That I would not change it if I tried, or at least not until I had milked it as much as I could.  He made a comment a few weeks back that he was afraid I would give up cycling if I no longer had a coach.  My response was that there was a better chance of his Cat Oneness giving up cycling than for me to.  I have struggled to get back on my bike any chance I could get, but that did not stop him from warning me today to make sure I periodically got back in the saddle so I could make sure this induration was really a problem, as if I would just accept the death sentence of six months to a year off my bike without questioning it.  I guess I should have wondered, at the time, why he told me that, me of all people.

Right now I am running, weight training, and soon will be swimming, because I don't wallow in pity, I adapt.  I know I must keep my body in motion to stay well, and I do it.  I laugh about my misfortunes, and I have become a damn good storyteller, but that does not mean I did not cry this saturday morning when we got a beautiful sunny, breezy day with low humidity and TSV was riding to Doylestown and I had to run for an hour on Forbidden Drive instead.

So for those of you who think I am a hypochondriac, I hope you don't get hit by a car while riding, or struck with a strange disease brought on by a common cold virus, but if you do, I promise I will be compassionate and not rub salt in your wound.   Because it happens to the best of us, and those who survive these things are the strong ones who have learned not to take an ignorant comment from a loose lip too seriously.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It's about time Philadelphia!

I am delighted to announce that Philth-adelphia is finally catching up with the surrounding 'burbs and all plastics are now accepted for curbside recycling pickup.  The following is an email from Benjamin Ditzler from RecycleNow with some details about what can and cannot be recycled.  Why have you not heard about this my fellow Philadelphians?  Well there was a tiny blurb in the Inquirer today, and the online edition of the Daily News posted this interview with Scott McGrath of the Streets Department, who said that the Mayor was planning a press conference on August 31st but they were trying to iron out the details with Waste Management  before there was an official press conference. 

So if you read my insufferably long post on Earth Day 2010, you know that I have been trying for 5 years to ease my fellow co-workers into recycling.  It has not been easy.  So each Friday I take the plastic recycling home, which means in the kitchen at work there are bins for #1 & #2 plastics, and another one for #5s, which I take to Whole Foods.  I got so sick of my lazy-ass coworkers just throwing their cups and bottles in either bin (dirty with straws still attached) that I slammed both bins onto the conference table in the middle of the last company meeting and announced we were playing a new game. I then handed around all manner of plastic bottle and cups with the recycling symbol on the bottom circled in magic marker and asked each person to see if they could manage to put them in the right bin, the one labeled #1/#2 or the one labeled #5.  You can see why I am not so popular there.  They were not amused.

So today Boss #1 came in my office to gleefully announce that the display at the last meeting was unnecessary because of the new recycling policies detailed here (he is also a Philly resident), but I had beaten him to it, and ordered some very large recyling bins from Uline so I could prepare 3434 for the onslaught of plastics from work.

Anyway, I am ready for some champagne...so celebrate with me and please read below!  Oh, and don't forget you can earn coupons for recycling by signing up for the city's Recycling Rewards program.  You can thank Mayer Nutter for the drastic advances in the city's recycling efforts over the previous administration.

From: Benjamin Ditzler
Sent: Sat, July 31, 2010 4:00:00 PM
Subject: [UCityRecycle] (almost) All plastics (#1-#7) now accepted in Philly!

So this is pretty big deal for hard core recyclers and yogurt eaters alike, as of August 1, Waste Management (the Exxon Mobile of trash companies) will be taking over the recycling processing for the city from Blue Mountain. The two upshots of this are that the city will be saving more money per ton of recyclables (WM will be paying the city something like $50/ton?) and essentially all plastics #1-#7 will be accepted in your normal curbside bin and processed. woohoo.

This is awesome news because it means that dedicated recyclers can now divert around 95% of their waste from landfills and incinerators with this expanded collection.

RecycleNOW has been working with Waste Management to create something of a master list of all the acceptable and unacceptable recycling materials. (we also know from experience that folks have tons of questions about materials we've never given much thought to before).

We believe they will take everything that Blue Mountain took with some clarifications below. Waste Management is stressing that nearly all of the accepted materials are packaging. See below for the word on accepted plastics and other materials. The NO list is almost the better list to look at. If it isn't in NO, it's probably accepted.


Previously accepted:
paper and cardboard
phone books &soft cover books
metal cans
plastics #1 and #2 with necks
milk/oj/juice/ ice cream cartons
aseptic foil cartons (broth, soup)
Now accepted:
#1s and #2s with no neck
#3 vinyl blister packs (though end markets for these materials are still developing and might be thrown out in the meantime)
#4 lids, bottles and small toys, etc.
#5 yogurt style tubs, medicine bottles, caps and lids, etc.
#6 pretty much any polystyrene that isn't styrofoam
#7 bottles and jugs
bottle caps
*small* plastic toys
5 gallon buckets/kitty litter buckets
aluminum foil/pie tins/baking tins
hard cover books


styrofoam (every kind: packing peanuts, rigid packaging, meat trays, cups, plates, clamshells, egg cartons)
plastic bags and films (grocery bags, bread bags, cereal box liners, drycleaner covers)
big pvc pipes
compostable plastics
window panes, mirrors, pyrex
pots & pans
paper take out drink cups w/ plastic (wax) liner (coffee cups)
coffee cup lids
plastic cutlery
plastic 6 pack rings
waxed paper and cardboard
toothbrushes, deodorant sticks & other toiletries
coat hangers

And finally, for info regarding the current push to ban plastic bags from retail establishments in Philadelphia (similar to the law enacted in San Francisco) check out this link, note the petition is now closed but the proposed law has been in the news lately as well.  And for info about the proposed composting program, click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wilderness 101 part 2

So it ended up that I did not make it back to the start/finish before the leaders, which sucked, because Nate's stuff was in my car.  He reached into the open window and opened the door, and treated his fellow Wilderness 101 racers to the sound of my car alarm for a good 5 minutes, and Chris was sure to mention over the PA system later that we don't need to lock our doors here.  Whoops.

So I was sitting around waiting for the awards with Jeff Schalk, who rocked the win with a new course record of 6:34:37, and Nick Waite, who was #3 , a pro roadie from Kenda who Nate has raced with, and some others, and they asked me what my injury was. So of course a conversation on all manner of saddle ailments ensued.  I told them about my gyno sticking me with lydocaine and not bothering to wait for numbness until she sliced me with the scalpel and then squeezed the tissue as hard as she could as I tried not to writhe too obviously in the stirrups.  Jeff looked like he was being tortured as I told the story.  Apparently  Jeremiah Bishop rode the 101 with a huge sore and had a hole cut in his saddle with duct tape.  Nick claimed he once had an induration and it was cured with a week of intensive cold laser treatment, or LLLT (low level laser therapy).  This left me hopeful that something could be done to get me back on the bike sooner than next spring.  I could purchase one of these units for a mere $4000 if I felt too shy to have my crotch massaged my some male chiropractor in some clinic, as conventional MDs generally avoid using treatments not cleared by the FDA. 

Jeff Schalk & Nick Waite after the race as we sat around trading saddle sore stories

Anyway, as it turns out on the way back from State College on Sunday the pain was so terrible that I knew something was wrong.  It turns out that not only did I have the hardened tissue, or induration, but I also developed a bad infection in the abcess where Amy Einhorn had made her first scalpel hole.  The thing was ready to explode and had to be drained.  I will spare you the gross details, but 2 days later it is still draining and now it is 1/4 the size it was over the weekend, no wonder I was miserable.  They are putting me on stronger antibiotics, Mark said I don't want to treat it casually because if the pocket surrounding my pacemaker gets infected I'm screwed.  So back to another doctor tomorrow morning to get the thing looked at.  My peach has been viewed more times in the past month than a porn star and I'm not getting paid.

So the infection is healing, next I need to figure out what I can do to get the callous to heal.  Any ideas are greatly appreciated!

Enjoy my pics of the 101.  If you are dissapointed that these posts were more about my whining than the race itself, check out this article for a play by play of the action.  Note they refer to Nate's lack of singletrack skills.  To place 9th as he did, which is pretty remarkable, he needed to kill it on the road sections (which he clearly did) lucky for him the race was 70% gravel road.  His average power (not normalized) for 7 hours was over 300 watts, and after checkpoint 4 he managed to pass about 10 riders to seal a top 10 spot.  I guess he can teach me a lot about pain tolerance.   Plus he broke a rib during the race, that's always fun.  And I thought I was tough.

Bill Nagel, Masters First Place

Wilderness 101, July 31, 2010

Today I am at the Wilderness 101 supporting Nathan. I was not planning on doing it this year anyway, I figured a needed a bit more time to get my nutrition and saddle issues straightened out. That was a month ago. Now my saddle issue had ended my season so I could not even able to use my mountain bike to get around the course. Nate, being the pro that he is, was very efficient and self-sufficient so there was not a lot I could do for him. So since I needed to be out there all day I figured I would see what I could do to help out.

Chris Scott, the promoter of the 101, the Shenadoah 100, and the Stoopid 50, came over to the car, held out his hand to Nate and introduced himself. I asked Chris if he needed any help and he stationed me at checkpoint 2, which was 40 miles into the race, 30 of those miles were gravel road or road miles so Nate should be in a good position at that point. It was the time between checkpoint 2 and 4 that were the hardest miles, lots of technical singletrack, all of which I had ridden either at the 101 camp I did last June, or else at the TSE camp this May.

As for me, who is not used to being a spectator, I am in a world of pain. I am tired from trying to block it out. I can’t sit for long, and when I do it is only with my legs spread, and of course I have a short skirt on, since I can only wear skirts right now, I can’t have anything over the nodule for more than an hour, it’s excruciating. So I have a towel between my legs. I don’t know if the pain is coming from the three holes she poked in me with a scalpel, or if this horrid protrusion is just going to hurt this much for months. I did run for 45 minutes yesterday and after that I had trouble walking. We all went out to dinner at the Elk Street Café and I could not even sit on my chair, I kept the thing hanging off the front. I did find a beautiful double track trail to run on and it was such a relief to move my body without being constantly reminded of the injury. I stopped for a second while in the middle of the woods so I could memorize where the turn was and when I stopped I could hear the thing complaining, begging me to stop. But if I stopped the pain would be crippling so I had to keep running. Afterwards I could only walk with my legs spread a little, as if from too many years riding a horse. The whole thing is pretty horrible, but I’m trying not to whine too much.

So I got the job as the “caller” at checkpoint 2, which also happens to be the furthest point out on the course. I had a nice long view of the riders coming in; they would start out as little specks down the road and I would squint until I could make out their numbers, then I would scream out their number so the other volunteers could grab their drop bags and hand them to the riders before the riders had even dismounted. I was the right one for the job, since Kristin told me later they could hear me loud and clear and I was 100 yards up the road, at least. Yeah, I have a big mouth.

Jeff Schalk and another rider rode by, and then 7 riders after them, including Rob. Shortly after that group, Nate came up, I yelled out, “Seventy-one!” and told him he was in 10th place.

“I crashed and think I broke my rib” he said, and I gasped, but I could not linger since there might be a group behind him and groups definitely are a challenge to call out, you had to be ready. Nate was a tough one though, he had broken his nose twice, his collarbone three times, his neck, and god knows what else in his 20 years racing bikes.

It’s amazing that 40 miles into a 100 mile race and there were still packs of riders. I discovered that since I needed to be facing the checkpoint for them to hear me as I yelled out numbers, I had to look at the group of riders, memorize multiple numbers in a split second (I could do 4 at a time) scream at the top of my lungs, and then whip my head back to catch a couple more. Plus it’s hard to enunciate when you are using your entire diaphragm to produce a large volume of sound.

So the top group came by about 9:15, Nate probably 4 minutes later. Not too shabby for a roadie. So I was yelling out numbers from 9:15 until about 12:20, when Kristin and I and some others headed to check point 4. We were in a caravan of cars, and we got lost on the way, so not only was I not able to see Nate pass through 4, but there was a bunch of drop bags in the back of someone’s car and his were in there. The driver got out and was casually walking towards the checkpoint and told someone, “oh yeah there are more bags in my car.” I had noticed riders were passing by already and Nate was in the top 10 so I was like, shit, are you kidding me?? I grabbed another woman and told her to help me carry the box to the drop area and we put the bags in order. There were 2 bags that were labeled “71”, one had his final camelback bladder. Shit! If he was doing as well as he was doing when I saw him at mile 40 (this was mile 79) then he really needed that camelback. I was pretty upset about this.

Actually the whole checkpoint thing was a bit disorganized. Earlier I had to explain to one chick how to cut oranges efficiently and of course not listening she sliced her fingers twice and kept on cutting until another woman relieved her of her duty. Gross.

So right now I am sitting here at checkpoint 4 hoping that Nate was able to get everything he needs for the last 30 miles of the race. There is one more checkpoint. Someone else is calling out numbers which is good because my voice is getting a bit raspy.

I so want to be racing right now. It is a glorious day, low 80s and very low humidity. Some white clouds in a very blue sky. The trails up here are my favorite anywhere. Rocky, mossy, challenging, serene, epic. You can find yourself screaming down a rocky descent and wondering if you are going to make it without wiping out, and then you are in a pine forest trail, your wheels whispering over the needles and the trail suddenly dark and quiet under the thick canopy.

I am waiting until Kristin’s husband Bob comes by so we could head to the finish. I so want to be there when the top elites finish. At least I can live vicariously through them.