Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Devil Made Me Do It & Happy Feet

This week, I would like to thank Brad of Male Feet & HNT for linking me to his blog by introducing him to Joey of FLIPFLOPEROTIC. Obviously they must be soulmates and this sounds to me like a match made in 'foot' heaven. Do let us know when you guys will be flip flopping and padding down the aisle together so we may send our warmest regards and best wishes.

Thanks to Richard for the introduction.

I would also like to thank Robby for linking to me and mentioning me in a post. He correctly pointed out that I do like cock. Sigh. It's a fatal disease that I'm afraid so many of us suffer with. As former President Jimmy Carter once said, "I lust in my heart". Case in point; the young man below. See the boyishly innocent yet seductive look with the thumb in his mouth. What ever could that mean? His ever so slightly curling blonde hair. Our eyes follow his body down to his massive arm muscles, then his chest. I love how the mirror shows his broad back and the top mounds of his ass. Then we see his belly button on his flat stomach, but we cannot resist seeing the crowning glory: his cock! My evil thoughts could make satan blush, you know what I mean Robby?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Brush with Death - Part 5

More from Evie:

Mom stayed at the hospital, and I don’t remember if your husband did too. Adam and I started looking for a hotel and the first one was full. We found one a few miles away, within view of the major highway. We checked into the cheesy place at 4am. My head continued to hurt. The sheets hurt my head. Adam seemed to sleep. I didn’t.

Light came and we got up and had breakfast. I think we got to the hospital Neuro Intensive Care Unit around 9 or 10, and I think you were still intubated and on the respirator. We could only go in two at a time to your room. You were still heavily sedated I think, so that you would tolerate the tube. I remember seeing the front of your head was bleeding under the bandages and how I was thinking how savage this surgery must’ve been, even worse than open heart surgery because your personality could be damaged.

I looked at all the monitors around you and everything was booping like it should, reassuringly so. At some point they asked us to leave so that they could extubate you.

The waiting room was really a bad trip. Everyone there had a loved one who’d had a car accident or worse. Not that day, but others, people died in your ward and their relatives grieved and called their friends with the bad news. Whole families were there, black and white, all upset. I really don’t remember much that day, as I’d had no sleep and was wondering who you would be when you awoke.

They called us in and you continued to sleep peacefully. At some point you were coming around and they tried to talk to you. “Who are you?” they asked. Without hesitation, “Sue Fairview” you said, just like you say when at work, but a little slower. My heart jumped. I knew I could hear that you were still in there, whole as ever! For the first time, I had hope, and I realized that was only because of the emergency surgery to remove the clot, that you were able to be lucid and better than when your husband last saw you at home. He was so pleased also. But we were reluctant to be ecstatic, because we knew there was a long road ahead.

The nurses, ever the drill sergeants, also asked you to move your fingers and toes and were met with partial success, because you had weakness on your right side and couldn’t move your right hand at all and toes I don’t remember.

The LOML has since told me that he brought me my bronze statuette of the Hindu Deity Ganesh, the destroyer of obstacles, as part of his wish to connect me to the outside world in a constructive and personal way. When he held it up to me I touched it gently with my left hand even though I was semiconscious. (I collect Hindu and Buddhist articles as part of Asian and religious study, decoration and spirituality.)

I guess I was better the next Saturday morning, seeming lucid and able to move my right hand and toes on my right foot. I am told that I recognized my mother and the LOML. My family was encouraged by this result. At this time I told the LOML that I wanted a divorce, which I do not remember doing. He was quite upset that his wife almost died and then told him she wanted a divorce. He was so upset that he told my sister and my surgeon about it. Much later he recounted my request to me. All I could do by way of explanation was tell him of a dream that I had where something very serious was wrong with my brain and I worried that he would no longer want me. I decided to beat him to it by requesting a divorce. This made sense to my sister, Evie. My nursing notes from that day indicate that I was oriented to person and place, but not time, and was generally confused.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bookfield, Big Boned

Not every dog I met attacked. At one suburban ranch house, the biggest German shepherd dog I had ever seen was sitting in the garage. It must have been 130 pounds at least. I approached cautiously and the dog never moved. It turned out that it was chained up, but decided I was trustworthy. The owners came out and explained that the dog was bred to be ‘big boned’. They also extolled their dog’s temperament and sense of judgment.

Once, there was a miniature poodle across the street that used to torment the larger dog. It would run over onto their property in front of the chained dog’s nose, just out of reach, yipping and yapping. But, one day the shepherd sat further in the garage so that its chain was slack. When the poodle came close enough to tease, the shepherd lunged up and grabbed it by the middle of its back and tossed it against the cinder block wall, killing it instantly. I was glad the big dog did not see me as a threat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Brush with Death - Part 4

Back to Part 1

On the same day that the LOML found me, April 29, the hospital team commenced the embolization and early on accidentally ruptured a vessel. They managed to stop the bleeding, but the hemorrhage was worsened. By that time my family was there.

My Boss, Dr. M, was worried, telephoned the hospital and spoke to Adam. Adam said that he did not fully understand what was wrong with me, but did AVM mean anything to her. Dr. M responded that it did. Great excuse for missing a review, don’t you think?

Evie has since written to me:

I think I had to wait a while until the woman doctor came out, or until Dr. L came around to explain to me what an AVM is and what had happened to you. Knowing about it did not help me feel better about it. Dr. L was gravely, and I mean, even for Dr. L, gravely concerned. He seemed to be holding back something. But he did share that your prognosis was unknown and that you were very, very ill.

He also explained that the docs would try to stop the bleeding, which in your case had already stopped from a tamponade effect (pressure from the blood already present restricts more bleeding), and prevent more bleeds by injecting glue into suspected spots. I think that’s what they were doing.

I sat in a plastic chair in the hallway with my head hanging down and my elbows on my knees looking at the floor for a few hours. I was the most depressed than I have been in my lifetime, too depressed to cry or talk. I think Adam and Mom were looking at me and trying to fathom where I was. I felt further away from you than I ever have. Mom asked if there was anything at all she could do to help me. I said no.

I don’t remember what the others might have been talking about, except that your husband filled me in on more details of the day and I remember thinking that he would probably start torturing himself about not finding you sooner. He didn’t deserve that torture, but I didn’t know a way to prevent the eventual thoughts he’d have about it.

The doctor came out again around 9pm or so to say that she was sorry, that she had accidentally punctured another small vessel in your brain trying to get into a tight spot. I tried to stay in my calculating brain understanding what she was saying, as if that ability would be crucial to your survival. I thought she was quite candid about it. So, she said you were being prepped for emergency brain surgery. I just didn’t know what to make of this, but I knew that emergency surgery was never a first choice.

She said there was a chance that we’d be able to see you before surgery and we all went running around the halls to see if we could. I so much wanted to see you and wondered if it would be my last chance to see you alive. I think part of me didn’t want to see you because it would be even more real and upsetting, as if there could be more upsetting. I never did get to see you then.

Dr. W came out and introduced himself and I liked him immediately. He exuded intelligence, warmth and professionalism. He explained your situation, without any trace of condescension, and seemed positive he could really help you. He told us about creating a little window in your skull through which he could work. That’s when I asked if he’d make your skin incision, which I knew would be pretty much from ear to ear, well behind your hairline so the scars wouldn’t show, and he said he would. He wouldn’t give you a prognosis until he got into your brain, but he was pretty positive and highlighted the potential benefit of draining your clot right away to relieve the pressure.

He looked at me probingly and asked if I was your identical twin. Then he said that when things calmed down, I really should have a MRI to rule out AVM in me. A twinge of anxiety flew through me. Then I felt guilty about thinking about myself. (Evie’s MRI was performed later and was normal.) Then I went back to affect-less depression. So Dr. W said the surgery would take about 6 hours and we could all go to a family lounge upstairs to wait.

The lounge was typical, large, no food to be had anywhere, vinyl upholstered furniture and glaring lights. Mom was talking as if to save her life. I think if she stopped talking, she would be having thoughts she couldn’t deal with. About how recently she’d been so angry with you that she had dipped into actual hostility. About how she must now feel guilty about this hostility, that perhaps she was in someway was responsible for your present condition. I just couldn’t listen to her, or your husband, gamely trying to entertain her.

Adam found a little room off the lounge, same cold, sticky furniture, but dark and somewhat muffling of Mom’s prattle. My head hurt so much with worry, I covered myself with my coat, closed my eyes and just though of all the what ifs and how I would deal with them. Mostly I wanted time to pass. It passed slowly.

Around 3am, Dr. W came into the lounge and said your surgery had been a success. He seemed fresh as a daisy, and perhaps on an adrenaline high. He said we’d know more when you woke up the next day, and that we all should try to get some sleep and come back later. Again, he had no prognosis for you, but it seemed to me that you were definitely going to live.

Dr. W had gotten a peek at the AVM and called it ‘formidable’ in size.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bookfield, Chihuahua

One house that I approached in the suburbs smelled. It was the smell of animal dung. The house was shabby. The paint had peeled off and some trim hung from a single nail. There was no walk, just a path of beaten dirt between the weeds. Some dirty looking white kids ran out to see me with their fawn colored Chihuahua waddling behind. The Chihuahua circled me yapping and I ignored it. Suddenly it grabbed the hem of my jeans in its teeth and began to tug back and forth. It began to adjust its grip to get flesh. The kids were delighted by their ‘attack dog’s’ actions. I shook the dog off, but the kids teased me that I should be more wary because their dog did not have rabies shots. I lifted my sales case chest high and dropped it directly on the Chihuahua’s head below me. Direct hit. The dog squealed as it ran for cover. “Oops!” I said, “I accidentally dropped my case on your dog, sorry.” For small dogs, this method worked better than others. They didn’t buy a book either.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Brush with Death - Part 3

Diagnosis and Treatment Plan:

The LOML and Dr. L met with Dr. W, my attending neurovascular surgeon. Dr. A, my world renowned primary neurovascular surgeon, was away on sabbatical, but would return for my surgery.

Dr. W told the LOML that an angiogram revealed that the hemorrhage was due to a ruptured artero-venous malformation, or AVM (see picture of your blogger’s brain) in the left frontal-temporal lobe of the brain.

Background: An AVM is a twisted knot of larger than usual arteries and veins that tend to rupture easily as a person ages and the malformation itself is congenital. As a person ages, the walls of the tiny vessels continue to thin and eventually the AVM is destined to rupture. Contributing factors to the rupture can be high blood pressure and sometimes childbearing. AVM is usually misdiagnosed and found only after a bleed. When actually diagnosed, the patient typically complains of a severe headache and the AVM is then detected by CT scan (computerized tomographic scan) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Treatment plans remain the same in either scenario.

The treatment plan was first to embolize the AVM, which means that glue is gently squirted into it from a catheter, as much as possible, to stabilize it and prevent further bleeding. The second step is to surgically remove as much as possible of the stabilized AVM. The angiogram guided embolization was to take place that afternoon.

The LOML telephoned the insurance company. Now, that is presence of mind!

At some point in the day, our friend Dr. L called his wife, Dr. B, an immunologist. I have known her since 1984, when I worked as safety coordinator and radiation safety officer and she was on my radiation safety committee. Because of her intelligence, diplomacy and sweetness, she was a role model for me and we became close friends in no time. She introduced me to her husband, who I was later to work with in oncology. The four of us became fast friends early on. She set out for the hospital right away to offer her support to the LOML and her husband, and to be with me. The LOML remembers Dr. B speaking with Evie during the day.

Dr. L also telephoned Dr. R, an oncologist, vice president, and ex-boss to both Dr. L and me at work, and let him know what was going on with me and that I was in the hospital. Dr. R and I had worked closely together for about 7 years (up until a year before all of this) on many clinical projects to get drug agents approved for both oncology and AIDS indications. Most of the projects were quite challenging for me and together we achieved drug approvals of importance for patients. We made quite a team. Working with Dr. R changed my life profoundly for the better.

Afterwards, Dr. R communicated my medical status to the entire Oncology Department whom I had formerly worked closely with. We were all a very tightly knit bunch. When my friend Kelli came in to work there later that morning, Lucy, Dr. R’s assistant, told her that I was at the university hospital with a brain hemorrhage. Kelli did not believe her as she had spoken with me just the night before. That weekend Kelli determinedly dug her fish pond by hand.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Thanks for the Link Guys!

I just wanted to send out a big *muah* to two hotties, Ryan and Mike, that have linked me on their blog, Boys Are Ugly But So Cute. Ah, to be young and in love. So, as tribute, here are more beautiful young things making out. You tell me, is there anything hotter than that?

Photos courtesy of Jared's new site Completely Naked Images. Check it out; the photos are hot stuff.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bookfield, Irish Setters

One small barn red ranch house on a quarter acre lot was surrounded by chain link fence on which a “beware of guard dog” sign hung. I ignored the sign and entered the property. The owner set two Irish Setters on me. They were truly pitiful as attack dogs and I had to keep from laughing as I repelled them easily without even breaking a sweat. Their owner was disappointed to see me at his door in one piece, his pathetic guard dogs foiled. That anybody would get Irish Setters as guard dogs. I mean seriously, they are not a guard dog. How stupid is that?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Brush with Death - Part 2

Back to Part 1

Next, the LOML called my family from the university hospital. He called my twin, Evie. Here is what she later wrote to me about his call:

I was sitting in my office at work, meeting with my favorite engineers, Jason and Lillian. I think it was about early afternoon when I got a phone call from my brother-in-law. “Why would you be calling me at work?” And then he told me that you’d had a brain bleed, and were unconscious and unresponsive, at a university hospital.

I was incredulous. “Please tell me you’re joking” I begged. He said tersely that he would not joke about such a thing. I asked for more details, but beyond telling me he’d found you that morning and asking me to come, I didn’t get more details.

I had started crying at some point, and Lillian and Jason had crept from my office and closed the door. I got off the phone with my head spinning and tears dripping. My head was in some nightmare headache place it had never been before. I thought to call Adam, but knew that he had just left for the airport for some trip or other. I called home and told Erin, our au pair, what happened and that I was going to stop at home and get some things and then go on to the hospital.

I packed up and left the office, steeling myself to make it past the curious, worried faces with a short explanation and saying no to offers to drive me home. In my car, I tried to focus on driving and not the spinning worries about you, whether you’d live or die or be a vegetable. I sure hoped that your husband had blown this all out of proportion.

In my car, I got a call from Adam, my husband, who told me that Erin had had the presence of mind to call him on his cell phone, and that he’d turned right around and was heading home to meet me. I was relieved at least not to have to drive up to the hospital by myself as I’d been planning. I don’t know how I got home.

Once at home, I saw that Adam had already packed an overnight bag for me, something that wasn’t in my head at that time. My head was still in the nightmare headache place. I found the few items he’d not included (wrong inhalers) we got in the car and left. I think we told my daughter we were going up to see you and that you were ill. Sensing the exigency of our departure, she wrinkled her forehead, “just how sick is Aunt Susie?” We mumbled something that she probably didn’t believe anyway.

I don’t remember the drive, just being so grateful that Adam was there and that I remembered how to get to the university hospital from working in that area before. I don’t remember what time it was, but I think it was early evening when I got to the hospital. Your husband was there and I think Mom was there already too. Hugs all around. You were in the neural intervention lab, with a woman doctor trying to fix the bleed.

The LOML called my brother. My brother told me that he cried the whole way up to see me since he just wasn’t ready to lose his little sister.

Then, the LOML called my Mom. My Mom asked if she really needed to come right away. The LOML thought about it and that’s when the seriousness of the situation really hit him. I COULD DIE AT ANY TIME. He replied that yes, she should come right away.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bookfield, Pair of Dobermans

Eventually I learned relatively foolproof methods for protecting myself from dogs. I took to carrying small rocks in my pockets. I got pretty good at throwing them and could repel a dog without getting off my bike, or slowing down. My first success at this was with a mixed breed black Labrador retriever that chased me. I hit him right in the head with a walnut sized rock at 20 feet while I was riding my bike. My ability to do this my first time surprised even myself. It was enough of a deterrent for him. I also noticed that if dogs were approaching me and I stooped down to pick up rocks, some would keep their distance. Apparently, they already had experience with rocks. Most mean dogs will respond that way at least for a while, but time enough to get away if one is on a bike.

The other technique I used was holding my bike by the down tubes with the tires towards the dog(s). This keeps the animals far enough away that they cannot attack. It also helps to keep your back to a tree to cover the rear approach. I used this method to repel two Dobermans in the same neighborhood as Max, the German Shepherd Dog. Their owner let them out when he saw me coming up the road. I got off the bike, and held it out in front of me. The dogs were very aggressive but could not reach me over the bike. Fortunately they both attacked from the front, because I was in the middle of the road. I had heard about another unlucky Parchment fellow who had been attacked from both sides by two dogs and needed stitches in his calf. I moved away from the side of the road their house was on in the hope that I would be far enough away from their territory that they would desist in their attack. They didn’t. Their owner called out from his front door, “Did they get you yet?”

“Nope!” I yelled. I was angry and losing my patience for this when the neighbors came out and pried the dogs away from me. They were astounded that I was not bitten. I guess these animals had a record. But my method worked.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brush with Death - Part 1

On April 28, 1999 I was in New York City giving clinical working group training on clinical development to my colleagues from two states via a power point presentation. It went exceptionally well.

On the train back to our home towns, I sat with a new friend, Kelli, and we discussed how she could easily build a koi pond in her back yard. She was very excited at how easy it could be and all in all it was a very pleasant and distracting conversation. She later told me that I had complained of a headache on the train ride home.

I drove home from the station and came into the house at around 9:30 PM exhausted from the long day. I just stood in the doorway dazed with my coat on and the LOML looked concerned and took my coat. He led me into the house and had me sit down at the kitchen table. I told him that I was worried about my annual review the next day. My boss, Dr. M, a cardiologist, was very critical and would never cut me a break; there was just no winning with her. I had worked so hard this past year, well beyond expectations, and I would never be rewarded for any of it. He tried to soothe me and speak rationally, but to no avail. I was bordering on panic. I felt trapped and my head was pounding. I told him I really didn'’t feel well at all, and I would go to bed in the spare room, hoping to feel better in the morning.

So up the stairs I went. During the night I felt nauseous. I dreamt that I was throwing up and having diarrhea and had stripped naked and was freezing cold on the floor. Should I call for help? But, I didn'’t, because I figured that one couldn'’t die from throwing up.

Everything from this point on I only know because the LOML, and others have told me. I was out of it and don'’t remember anything that happened for a good week and a half.

The LOML was awakened by his alarm on the morning of April 29. He got up and went in to make sure that I had gotten up for my review that morning. He entered the spare room and was horrified by what he saw. There I lay, naked, shivering, the bed stripped, bed clothes on the floor, they were covered in vomit, urine and diarrhea. I was semi-comatose. I was unresponsive and could not walk well. He carried me to our bed and put me under the covers.

Then the phone rang, it was my secretary from work. She said that I was expected soon for my review. The LOML answered that we had a medical emergency that we needed to see a doctor about right away and he would stay in touch when possible.

Then he dressed me and carried me to the car, straining his back, and took me to our doctor'’s office. Once there, the doctor lifted my head which made me grimace and called the ambulance immediately. The ambulance sped me away to a nearby emergency clinic.

There a CT scan was performed on my brain that revealed a huge brain hemorrhage in my left frontal temporal lobe. The ER doctor met with the LOML and asked where he wanted me taken and the LOML insisted that I be taken to a large university hospital that we had both previously agreed upon. At that point the LOML made a call to an oncologist we both know and are friends with, Dr. L, who I used to work with and that time worked at the university hospital, to appraise him of the situation. The LOML also called my secretary to update them that I was going to the hospital.

The LifeStar air ambulance was summoned and on its arrival I was loaded aboard, the LOML came along and we flew to the university hospital. Wish I had been conscious, I just love helicopter rides.

Once at the hospital, I was off loaded and the LOML met up with Dr. L. Medical personnel were busying themselves. Then, the director of Oncology Neurosurgery walked in to make sure I was getting the best care and everybody snapped to and started bustling. It'’s not what you know, it'’s who you know. Too be continued...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bookfield, Max

Typically I feel safe riding my bicycle in daylight through well kept neighborhoods with sidewalks and leash laws. But, on this particular day I got a surprise. The road I was on made a 90 degree left turn ahead. I rode straight for the turn. There was a concrete driveway dead ahead with house ten or so yards back. The garage door was open. It was dark in there, but I saw a large male German Shepherd Dog lying down. I didn’t feel like stopping, and it didn’t seem that this dog was feeling energetic enough to bother me. So, I ignored the dog and made the left turn at a speed meant to deter the dog’s hopes of a chase.

Out of the corner of my eye though, I saw that I was mistaken. I saw the shepherd gallop down the concrete after me. As I rounded the turn I saw that the road went on for a quarter of a mile straight down a relatively steep hill and made another perpendicular turn at the bottom. I thought I could out run that dog on the down hill on the bike, and besides, I had had a pretty good start. The chase was on. I pedaled for all I was worth and kept my face near the handle bars to minimize wind resistance. I did not waste any time looking back at all because it might slow me down. I could hear the dog barking purposefully behind me. He was getting closer; I could hear it.

As I neared the bottom of the hill I saw a problem. There was no way I could make the turn at the speed I was going and I had not out run the dog at all. I turned once, quickly, just to see how far back he was, and I hit something while I wasn’t looking. It was a recessed water drainage grate. I just held on for dear life as my bike’s front wheel went in, jolting me forward, then back. A picture of myself injured from the fall, lying on the pavement with the dog ripping me up flashed in my mind. I hung on. Then the rear wheel rolled into the ditch and out with such force that the bungee cord released, catapulting my sales case off of the rack and into the air. I couldn’t look because I had to keep the bike from sliding out from under me as I recovered from the bump and tried to negotiate the turn. It was all I could do to keep from crashing.

Then, an unexpected thing happened. My sales case hit the dog when it landed. I heard a yelp and a crash. The box hit the dog’s left foreleg. The dog immediately turned to run away, crying and getting along on the remaining three good legs.

My sales case was a disaster. The hinges snapped, the lid came off, the bottom was cracked, and my demo books were everywhere. The spine of one of the books was also damaged. Fortunately, I was in one piece. I reassembled the case and strapped it together with my spare bungee cord. I was kind of shook up. I considered going back to the house to yell at the owner for not having his dog tied up. I was also a little worried about the dog. It was injured because of its owner’s negligence. But I didn’t go back until much later in the day, when I had finished selling in that neighborhood.

I drove my bike onto the side walk in front of the concrete driveway. The dog and its owner were midway down the drive. The man knelt in front of the dog. I couldn’t tell if he was examining it or just petting it. But, when I stopped the dog saw me. It stared right at me. Would it come after me again? No. It whined and ran back into the garage. “Mr. Jones”, I called. “I wanted to talk to you...” Mr. Jones cut me off, though.

“Hey, you! Why is Max afraid of you? He was hurt today. Did you hurt him? Did you hurt my dog?” By now he was yelling. I guess this was not the time to give him a lecture on leash laws, or sell a book, for that matter. I had learned to avoid confrontations. So, I just got on the bike and rode down that hill again. I gave a nod to the drainage grate that had spared me, but not my pursuer.

Parchment replaced my sales case and damaged book via overnight mail.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Easter - Happy Passover

This year to celebrate Easter and Passover, I decided to do something different than on previous years. I did not go to the grocery store, buy Paas, a dozen eggs, white vinegar, boil the eggs, let them cool, dye them, and all that. Instead I bought tiny brushes, body paint and it took me all day but I painted this lovely young man. What do you think?

Is he not yummy? I think this will be an annual tradition over here at Fair View.

Yeah, I wish.

Okay, back to reality. The real artist is Anthony Larrisey and this photo is from Richard's blog post, "URBANFLESH", one of my favorite posts. The post also talks about Buddhist mandala art, which I have had the fortune to see done and then quickly undone, and the impermanence of both of these art forms. So do check out his post.

In any event, enjoy your Spring holidays and try not to get too frisky out there!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bookfield, Princess

One house that I approached had a very expansive front lawn. As I walked up to the house, I left my bike midway up the walk. The house was of split level design with a good sized cement porch reached by three steps. I knocked on the door and stood back to wait for Mrs. Jones to answer. But I heard nothing at first. I thought I heard a back or side screen door swing open, and a woman’s whispered voice, “Go get her Princess!”

While I stood wondering, I noticed a big yellow dog start a determined run around the corner of the house and towards me. The dog was not barking. Its attitude was business-like. I was worried because this is how I imagined a well trained attack dog would behave. As it came closer I saw the tell-tale ridge of fur on its spine; it was a Rhodesian Ridge Back dog.
I had no rocks with me to throw, no stick for defense. I panicked because I thought the dog was well trained and might try to bite my throat or some other vulnerable place. I dropped my sales case and I remember thinking that my only chance to protect myself was to kick the dog as it came up the three steps to the porch. The dog was baring its teeth but still not barking as it came up the steps. I stuck out my foot to try to kick it in the muzzle, but the dog grabbed my foot in its teeth. I expected to feel the pain of teeth piercing my flesh, but fortunately I had leather sneakers (JC Penney’s best) on and so I just felt pressure. I tried to move my foot violently to get the dog to let go, which in retrospect was pretty silly. The dog held tight, growled menacingly and continued to show me its teeth.

I now know that this sort of game is one of my German Shepherd Dog’s favorites. She clamps down on something and I try to take it away. I only win if I have a cookie to offer her in exchange.

The more I struggled, the more the dog held, and I chanced loosing my balance every time I moved. Then, I heard the door open behind me and Mrs. Jones asked, “May I help you?”, in her sweetest tone.

I didn’t hesitate to respond. “If you call off your dog, I will get off your porch.”

That did the trick. The woman snapped her fingers and said, “Princess!” The dog instantly let go of my foot, walked past me and went into the house. I kept up my end of the bargain and left the premises.

I was pretty angry that this dog was set on me; it was definitely more force than was needed to get rid of little harmless ol' me. All I could do was tell all of the neighbors about it. Some were surprised, and they all claimed not to know about the ridge back, but said they would be careful.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bookfield, Bunny

One house that I approached had a lovely grape arbor connected to the breeze way. My eyes gazed upward at it as I walked my bicycle up the slate path. I didn’t really look where I was going. Once under the grape leaves I heard the sound of big feet on the patio and looked down. Bounding full tilt directly at me was a black on white harlequin Great Dane. It was the biggest dog I ever saw. The markings were like a Holstein cow, the size led me to make the connection. It was coming at me relentlessly, and there was no defense possible. I just stood frozen holding the handle bars of my bike. The dog came up to me and leapt to an upright position. We stood toe to toe and the dog placed its huge paws easily over my shoulders. It licked my face stem to stern with a tongue not unlike a pink, warm, wet washcloth, wiping my eyeglasses right off. I fell backwards over my bike with the dog still on top. The dog did not budge and continued to lick my face.

Just then the owner, a woman, came to the door. She laughed at the scene before her and said, “Don’t worry, Bunny likes you!”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Singapore, Finale

So, there I was on the MRT, feeling kind of faint, with my water bottle in my lap, when I noticed that people were giving me looks. Then, it dawned on me that if I drank on the MRT I would be breaking the law in Singapore. Ouch! I put the water bottle away. I listened to the conversations of the nearby neatly dressed students. They were speaking in English, with very little accent about what colleges they would attend in the fall and what careers their majors would lead to. That seemed a bit different from what their counterparts in the US would be discussing at this point in their lives: prom, girls, boys, drugs, music, sports, bitch about school, etc.

We arrived at my station and I walked on to Little India. Once again, I could smell the spices before I got there. I went into the Gold Smiths of Little India and asked to see some of their 22 carat gold post earrings (the earrings pictured are very common). I focused in on the ones that were about 15 millimeters in diameter and tried to decide which I liked best. While I was doing that I was served some fruit juice. I asked the young clerk why the gold prices were higher here than in Chinatown and he replied that all of the pieces were hand made. So, I sat there trying to decide and sipping my drink and suddenly he lowered the price. I was thinking, but I am not waiting in order to bargain, so why did he lower it? But, then I thought I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, so I didn’t look up. The price kept getting lower, until he was jumping up and down saying that he wouldn’t make any money if he went lower, so I bought the pair for US$62. The way I see it, right now in the US they would go for about a grand.

I had some very nice dim sum at a Chinese restaurant on my way to the Singapore Art Museum. At the museum there was a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit, but the drawings were very tiny. Also, there were modern paintings, some of which were very nice, tantric art, and very colorful and restful pieces by a Chinese artist inspired by his trips to Bali some 87 years ago.

The following day, I finished up my shopping. I walked back to CK Tangs with my calves cramping the whole way and bought batik shirts for my sibling in-laws. I also looked over the ceramics closely and there was nothing I couldn’t live without.

Back to the Ana hotel; it’s only noon and the monsoon was starting. It didn’t seem that it was going to let up, so I rested my weary bod and flipped on the tube. I watched some Singaporean soaps. The plots advanced so much more quickly than in the US soaps. For example in one half hour: Boy rapes girl, girl agrees to marry boy that raped her, girl tries to murder boy at wedding, boy lives, girl goes to jail, ex-boyfriend fights kick boxing match with boy to free girl and get revenge, ex-boyfriend wins match, everybody happy, story over. The violence was amazing. The whole story could have taken a season in the US.

The next day it was time to bid a fond farewell to Singapore. Back at Changi Airport I found the absolutely best koi pond in all of Singapore ever! There were huge, colorful, bright and fantastic koi swimming lazily about in crystal clear water. I must have been dreaming.

So, I boarded the jet, first class, and the passenger next to me was this gorgeous guy who was deathly ill. He was pale, waxy, sweating profusely, and shaking. There was some sort of Asian flu bug around and he was returning from Hong Kong and I thought, shit, that’s all I need is to bring home this crap. But, he stayed wrapped in his blanket by the window, and I never got sick.

The flight was longer than the one going there and took 22 hours because of head winds. I went through US customs and declared everything since I had heard that people coming from Asia were regularly searched for drugs and I just didn’t want to fool with that on this trip. The customs officer read my declaration looked at all the stuff I had bought and asked the purpose of my trip. I told him that I worked on pharmaceuticals for cancer and AIDS and he looked right up at me. He said, “That is very important work. Do you also work on heart medicines?”

I replied that my company did have some cardiac medications although I myself did not work on any. He muttered something about very important work on drugs, drew a line through what I owed and wrote down half the amount! What a deal.

I was quite popular that Christmas at home and really enjoyed seeing everyone’s faces as they saw the trinkets brought from the Orient especially for each of them. The biggest treasure by far are the memories, which I have now shared with all of you.

I would like to thank Gretchen, the wife of an ex-pat, who helped me plan what to do, where to go, how to shop, what to wear, what to eat, etc. Thanks Gretchen; great job!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bookfield, Devils

Once, while selling books in a neighborhood bordering on the University of Georgia campus I came upon a house of devoutly religious Christians. I spoke with the lady of the house, who bought my lie about being saved, hook, line and sinker. But, like many of the devout, she did not trust the books I had as non-denominational. She spoke to me one on one as a fellow Christian and tried to explain why the books would have no use for her. She belonged to a small church on the edge of town with a congregation of thirty or so souls. They believed that they were the only Christians on earth that would truly be saved when the apocalypse came. I asked her why she thought God would ignore all of the other faithful Christians in the world and only save thirty souls.

“Because ours is the only church that understands the scriptures...” she declared, and she went into a biblical discussion that did not seem rational or understandable to me.

My next question was going to be how she could be sure that somewhere else on earth there wasn’t another church with a similar understanding as hers, but I deferred. I was tiring of the charade and just wanted to move on. No way was she going to buy a book. Her monologue on the apocalypse went on and on, and at one point told her that I really had to go.

She insisted on giving me, good Christian that I was, a warning. She wanted to protect my soul from the devil. “The devil has minions of servants and one of them lives on the corner of this very block. At all costs, she warned, avoid the white house on the corner. The devil living there could twist your Christian soul and you could be lost to Christ forever.”

I nodded and thanked her for the advice. She kept such a serious face on. She was not kidding. I couldn’t have been more curious after that. But, I continued selling to the houses in order; I would get to the ‘devil’s’ house in turn. Usually, I zig-zagged across the street from house to house to cover each street completely so as not have to double back. As I worked my way down the street I wondered to myself, would the devil buy a health book?

Finally I came to the corner house in question. I knocked on the door and stood back the requisite three paces so as not to intimidate Mrs. Sommer, or should I say, Madam Satan? She looked ordinary enough when she came to the door, brown hair and eyes; she looked like a typical housewife to me. So I proceeded with my approach in my most practiced drawl. “Hi there, Mrs. Sommer, my name is Susan Fairview and I’ve been calling on all of the church folks in the neighborhood. Just wanted to come by and see you. Y’all do go to some local church don’t you?”

She looked stunned and said, “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. How can you stand there on my doorstep and utter that ridiculous come on? What nerve, I mean really, how can you live with yourself?”

She did not slam the door. She stood quietly to see what my reaction would be. But I was overwhelmed, not by what she said, but how she said it. It was that distinct Long Island Jewish accent.

“You’re from Long Island!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, but how did you know?” she said looking shocked.

“Because I’m from Nassau County!”

“Me too!” she replied.

And so it turned out that the devil was from the same county as I was. I dropped the accent as best I could; boy it had totally fooled her. She let me in and I told her how I came to be at her doorstep that day. Her husband was a professor at the University. They had just moved there recently and were having a little trouble adjusting to the Christian atmosphere in town. We swapped stories and reminisced for about an hour. It sure was nice to see someone from home.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Singapore, Day 7 - II, Chinese Gardens

Once over the bridge, I proceeded directly to the enclosed Bonsai Garden. The entrance to that garden was marked by topiary in the shape of four Chinese characters that I wished I could read. The garden itself was chock-a-block with over 1,000 artful and well tended bonsai. I am always extremely impressed with the creativity used for these miniature environs as well as the different shapes and types of pots used. Most impressive was the large and ancient looking bonsai grown into a boulder. By the way, the man in saffron robes seen wandering around the garden is His Holiness Sri Swamsii who visited the garden in 2003 from India. There was even a small koi pond with clear water and well tended, but not too large, fish. A comely Asian woman in the garden agreed to take my picture in exchange for me taking her picture with her son in front of a fountain. All in all, the bonsai garden was unbelievably beautiful.

The remainder of the Chinese Garden was in the Imperial Sung Dynasty style. I visited the tea house with another koi pond with a ‘natural’ stone bridge out front, more moon doors, and the court yards with square pools and carp statues each spewing a water arch into each other’s mouths, a waterfall, and the stone boat. Most of the koi are kohaku (red and white) or black on red. I also saw a monitor lizard. There were so many, you had to be careful not to trip over them. I went to the concession stand and bought some water as it was very hot now. I climbed the seven story pagoda, though I thought the heat would kill me, and the view was worth it. I used my last two pictures on the bonsai garden. I drank almost all of my water and headed for the MRT to continue shopping!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Thanks for the Link!

I would like to thank the Anonymator for linking to me this past week. Check out this brand spanking new site, it is really hot! Here's a wet one for him:

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bookfield, Mary

Parchment’s rule about not sharing day-to-day experiences with one’s roommate, so as not to de-motivate them, was having an effect on Mary and me. We both followed the rule. I desperately wanted to have someone to talk about my experiences with; I didn’t know how Mary felt about it. But, a rift grew between us. The lack of communication seemed to eat away at our trust and closeness. Sometimes I wondered if she just didn’t like me.

We were allowed to talk about things unrelated to our work. Once she indicated that she was interested in Bill (remember, the parking lot escapade). She had noticed how both Chip and Gregg were ‘sweet on me’, but my disinterested response seemed to shut down that conversation. She had known them both as great guys from her school. I guess they had never hit on her. I didn’t want to tarnish them for her by telling her what I really thought, nor did I think that it would achieve anything for my relationship with her to do so.

I wanted very badly to be friends with her. She was basically very different than me, but I liked her. I could have used the support. Wouldn’t the support value have of our confidence in each other have outweighed the value attributed to non-communication?

Strangely enough, I felt alone, even though I met with twenty or more people every day. Of course, those interactions were carefully scripted. There is no time for personal relationships of any kind when one works 80 hour weeks and attends out of town meetings on Sunday.

I have a strange remnant of a memory of being at one house where there was a new litter of yellow and black Labrador puppies. The lady of the house did not buy any books, but let me play with the pups. As if she read my mind, she said how lonely I looked, and asked if I wanted to talk about it. I guess I did, but I have no memory of what I said, or anything else that happened while I was there for two hours. It seemed a struggle to leave, like the lady had some sort of magnetism. When I finally left, the lady told me that I could come back any time to talk, but I never did. I could never remember where the house was. Weird.

Just around this time, I came home one evening and Mary was sitting unnaturally upright on her bed. She wore a big, white cervical foam collar around her neck. Her body was shaking visibly, but she wore an obviously brave face with some difficulty. “Mary, my God, what happened?”

“Oh, nothing...” she answered with her voice quavering.

For ten to fifteen minutes I tried to get her to tell me what was wrong, what had happened to her. She refused repeatedly, eventually bursting into tears. I hugged her to try to calm her. “I can’t tell you.” she said, “What if it ruins your sales?”

“Fuck the sales, Mary.” She didn’t like it when I cursed. “It would ruin anyone’s day just to see you like this and not know what was going on, or if you were okay. What’s important now is you.” That did it, and she broke down and told me that while on her bicycle she was hit by a car. The car, driven by a woman, bumped her rear wheel, throwing Mary from the bike onto the shoulder of the road. The woman never stopped. Some good Samaritans stopped to help Mary and took her to Athens General Hospital. She had spent most of the day there getting X-rays done.

The curvature of her spine had been thrown out of whack in a couple of places, but there were no fractures. She was in tremendous pain. The bicycle was being repaired. I don’t think she took any time off from selling, but she stayed off of her bike for a week or two. She found pain relief in seeing a chiropractor about once a week for almost the entire summer. Parchment’s insurance footed the entire bill.

We went to MacDonald’s, even though it was late, to assume some normalcy in our routine. Mary was really shaken. I thought that this breakthrough would overcome the non-communication rule imposed by Parchment, but I was wrong. Mary appreciated the support that night, but she intended to stick to the rules. Maybe she felt guilty about unloading her burden that one time, but after that we drifted further and further apart. We only discussed the truly superficial and inconsequential details of our experience that summer.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bookfield, Life on the Bookfield Continued

After the Mary hitchhiking debacle, I used my Long Island street smarts to invent a relatively safe method for hitchhiking. I would wait until a car came by with a couple in it and flag it down. I never accepted a ride with men alone in cars. If one pulled over I would ride away. It was even safer to hitchhike with the bike. I would hail a truck with a couple in it and insist on riding in the back with my bike. I never had trouble when I followed this method of hitchhiking. One day, when it was raining, I couldn't see who the couple was in the truck and it turned out to be two men. I was pretty wet and just wanted to get out of the rain, so I got in anyhow. Well, those two guys lectured me the whole way on the risk I was taking being out hitchhiking in a truck with two guys and how they could have their way with me and everything. I knew they were just giving me a well deserved hard time.

I had difficulty selling books during the first few weeks. My sales were mediocre at best. At the time I couldn’t figure out why, although I gave it a lot of thought. I was putting in the hours, and doing the demos as suggested by Parchment. I was really working my butt off with disappointing results. I wanted nothing more than to sell a lot of books and feel more secure at sales meetings, maybe even proud of myself. In retrospect, I guess I was going through a learning process. It was difficult to keep at knocking on doors and not making sales.

On my bicycle I had surveyed my territory from South of Broad Street, East of the Oconee River, and West of Route 29. Although it was a large area on the map, quite a bit of it was not ‘sales territory’. Almost a quarter of the space was the University of Georgia campus. There were no houses there. There was also a large public housing project area just south of Broad Street. I had been advised that it was not safe for me to sell there and so I didn’t. I carefully scheduled the remaining areas of houses, and at the rate that I was covering territory, I would have to sell outside of these areas within less than a month’s time. Somehow, my territory had to last until the end of the summer.

Early one morning, I also surveyed the house, or should I say mansion, I was living in. No one else was up yet when I went down stairs to explore. There were several large parlors on the first floor. In some there was no furniture, and in one the furniture was covered with white drop cloths. Everything was extremely dusty. It seemed to have been closed off and ignored for many years. The most interesting room was the dining room. In the center was a large crystal chandelier, and under it a table that could easily seat twenty or more people. The entire length of the room on both sides was covered with built in china cabinets. The doors of the cabinets were beveled glass, so there was no problem seeing what was there. The entire length of the cabinets were filled with beautiful china with delicate oriental or floral patterns, cut crystal glasses of every description, and impressively large and ornate silver services. I was awed by the size and opulence of this collection. Much of it was antique; I am sure it had been handed down in the Epps family for generations. On top of the cabinets were wooden decoy ducks. I found out later that the Epps family men were avid duck hunters and collectors of antique decoys. I wanted to look at the decoys up close, but I heard Mary get up, and I didn’t want to get caught snooping. I never went back to take another look at that part of the house.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Singapore, Day 7 - I, Japanese Gardens

The next morning I went to the Deli France for a cappuccino and an apricot turnover. Yum! Then I walked to the Orchard Street MRT Station. The Metro was just like the one in Washington, DC, clean, modern and efficient (see picture). The ticket to the Chinese/Japanese Gardens was S$1.40. The ride took 30 minutes and I was already really hot. Getting out of the train, I put my hat on.

I bought a ticket for S$4.50 and went to the Japanese Gardens first. The garden was already filled with workers sweeping the walks, raking the lawns and pruning the shrubs and trees. There was a pink lotus pond that seemed past bloom. Across the pond I saw an iridescent blue kingfisher with a ruddy belly, which turned out to be a common kingfisher, sitting on a rock. I also saw the most interesting shrub that was both bearing orange berries and pink flowers simultaneously. I would still love to know what it is.

The river water was reddish brown from all of the monsoon rain. On the water, I noticed a brightly colored red motorized paddle boat with the prow already filled with cut boughs and another little flat bottomed boat with a man with a very long saw pruning trees overhanging the water.

The garden signage impressed me the most. Characters were carved deep into rock that had been placed as if it had been there naturally for thousands of years and then the inside of the grooves were painted in red. Compare that to the dreadfully cheap signage here in the US or anywhere else for that matter.

Smaller bridges were formed from simple broad planks of hard woods then artfully placed and naturally littered with pine needles. Other paths and bridges were of huge slabs of stone, again artfully placed and worn to look like they had been there for thousands of years.

Arched wooden bridges were carefully built and painted red; very Japanese.

There was also a beautiful pavilion housing large colorful paper lanterns from a festival I supposed (see below). One large pond, over which the pavilion looked, was filled with native fish and turtles, so I threw in some of my apple to see if there were any koi. There were three reddish koi and one yellow. They were all thin and pathetic as if they were competed out by the native fish.

Each inidvidual aspect of the garden was very special. Overall the garden was simple, elegant and serene. I spent quite a bit of time there and didn’t really want to leave. I must admit that I sat and meditated a while. (If not in a Zen garden then where?)

Then, reluctantly, I decided to cross the 65 meter (71 yard) bridge to the Chinese Garden.