Thursday, January 26, 2006

The knee passes muster, onto the rehab center

personal trainer
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The doctor gave my knee a solid thumbs up today, took out the stitches and said:

"NO twist and shout action for at least 8 weeks." After that, he said, I can dance my butt off.

He did suggest, however, that riding a stationary bicycle, walking reasonable distances, and doing most normal activities is fine. If the knee hurts, just stop doing whatever it is, he said.

Sound advice, probably not just for hurt knees.

So the question quickly came up: "Doc, should I go to some trendy gym and have some incredibly gorgeous young woman walk me through a workout routine? Should I get a personal trainer? Could that be part of your prescription?"

The Doc didn't miss a beat, after looking at my chart:

"Better check with your cardiologist to see if you could take that kind of stress."

Comedians, I find them everywhere I go.

So, I won't be pumping iron with the young lady in the photo with today's blog, but I probably will be cruising yard sales this weekend to find a stationary bicycle to ensconce in the backyard for a couple of months to build up (and stretch) the muscles around the recently tuned up knee cap.

You know just the kind of bike I'm looking for.

Every January, they fly out of sporting goods stores in the back of automobiles owned by people who swear, swear that this year they are going to get in shape and lose 20 (or more) pounds.

I know. I've owned two of them before. Sold both of them at yard sales for 10 percent of what I paid for them. And I thought I was lucky to sell them.

And while it might be a little early for New Year's resolutions to wear off, I think I'll find a bargain out there, maybe even a stationary bike I owned 10 years ago.

In the meantime, I'll put a call in to my cardiologist.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Enough to make you weak in the knees

Knee repairs
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Along with the neat bandages, high tech ice bag, and photos of my knee operation Friday, I was handed a disc as I got ready to leave the hospital after my knee operation which I assumed had copies of the photos of the inside of my knee.


It was a DVD of the actual operation of the inside of my knee, shot in real time while the doctor was doing the work.

Yup, about a half-hour of slicing and dicing, just like the old Veg-o-matic on the inside of my knee, repairing that pesky meniscus that had torn while I was twisting the night away last July 3 at an annual party thrown at Seneca Lake by Mike and Karen Schamel, mom and dad to Kathleen Schamel, a regular crew member of Sabbatical and a founding member of Team Sabbatical.

The footage is eerie to watch. There's these little tools cutting away this fuzzy stuff, then another tool starts chomping at some hard tissue to make the entire area smooth. After a few minutes, I actually felt faint and my stomach started rolling like I was in a bi-plane doing aerial acrobatics. But I now have a much greater appreciation for why I'm limping around the house like Chester from Gunsmoke and the dealing with more than a little pain.

I'm also glad that I got this operation in 2006 and not, say, 1966 when I graduated from high school. I hurt my knee my senior year in high school - a torn ACL my current orthopedic surgeon tells me from looking at recent MRI results. But somehow that injury just healed without intervention (Ah, youth!). The surgery to fix it in 1966 would not have used tiny tools and quarter-inch incisions, I'm sure. I've seen some impressive knee scars from surgeries performed before arthroscopics.

The video was just one more piece of evidence about the excellence of the surgical group and hospital I used for this knee tuneup. A set of photos and actual video of the work given to the patient even before you leave the hospital!

That's confidence in your product.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The knee is fixed - at least we hope so

SACRAMENTO, Calif. 3 p.m. PST - Seven hours ago (from the moment this is written) I was wheeled down the hall of the UC Davis Medical Center five miles from my house, babbling about sailboats and sailing to several amused nurses before the anesthesia took over.

At least I think they were amused.

An hour later, I woke up, back in bed next to Nurse Annie (in the photo with me), asking when they were going to fix my right knee, hurt last summer doing the Twist. (Round and round, up and down, one-two-three kick, one-two-three kick!)

It was quite a difference from my last encounter with surgery - getting my appendix yanked about seven years ago in a semi-emergency situation. That time the anesthetic was about the same, but I spent three horrible days in the hospital, pumping the call button seeking pain medication, but rarely getting any response.

That was at a different hospital and the day I left, they couldn't find me a wheelchair to wheel me out in so I shuffled out under my own power, walking about 400 yards to the car.

Damn that was a long walk.

This time the staff at UC Davis was professional to the point of scaring me to death. I'm not sure I needed to know all the possible ramifications of the anesthetic, surgery and the drugs I was given. If they hadn't given me a sedative as soon as I plunked down on the bed, I'm not so sure I would've gone through with the whole deal.

The nicest part, however, was not having to use crutches at all. I do have a fancy bandage and a huge ice pack that makes my knee look like it belongs to singer Kate Smith. Still, I can walk on it, bend it and have been encouraged to keep flexing my knee from time to time to avoid blood clots.

Jaysus! Blood clots.

But no twisting, the doc said - not until next summer, at least. It will take my medical insurance that long to catch up with the payments on this repair job before we have to fix the left leg, too.

Round and round, up and down, one-two-three kick, one-two-three kick!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sailing on San Francisco Bay in the winter

RICHMOND, Calif. - The weather at this time of the year in California is usually envied by people in, say, Iowa.

By comparison, it is pretty nice.

But don't stack it up against, say, Puerto Vallarta, where it is a nice 80 degrees as I write this, the water is swim-able and the whales jumping like crazy.

I know about the weather in Puerto Vallarta by checking the web. The Sacramento/Richmond weather I get by sticking my head out of doors.

Still, San Francisco Bay is hard to beat as a sailing spot, even when it is blowing like hell (see the photo with this blog).

The wind in Richmond comes ripping down the channel, making for an interesting time getting in or out, depending on the wind direction. But once safely tucked in the marina where we keep Sabbatical, the wind drops and the temperature climbs quickly.

Sabbatical has been at rest for weeks and will likely remain in the slip for a few more weeks while we wait for the temperatures to get above 55 during the day. Mexico has spoiled us, for sure.

But eventually there's a weekend ahead of maintenance with Chief Engineer Scott Noble to figure out why the diesel engine (referred to respectfully as Col. Perkins) is so hard to start right now. In Mexico, you could barely shut the engine off. Here, it takes a lot of cranking to get him going. But that's why we have a such a great engineer.

More power, Scotty. More power!

Monday, January 16, 2006

On the lookout for whales in Banderas Bay

In Search of Whales
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico - Remember when you went on vacation and then rushed to the corner photo shop as soon as you got home to get your film developed so you could see how much fun you had?

Well, with electronic cameras you can certainly get more instant gratification than that, but this trip we came back with a camera overloaded with images, so many that I finally downloaded everything today, finding lots from our whale-watching expedition aboard Dan Olsen's Zephryous with Ray and JoAnn Koegel from Sacramento.

Dan is at the back of the photo in a Latitude 38 t-shirt, intently steering to get as close as possible to a leviathan.

Seconds after this blog shot was taken, we had a whale come straight for the boat from a distance of about 100 yards, submerge and go underneath the keel.

Considering that these beasties are bigger than Dan's 38-foot sloop and could probably flip us up in the air, well, we held our breath until the whale surfaced on the other side.

That day the water was flat, perfect for seeing the whales who cluster in the bay in the fall and winter as part of their annual migration.

And why not? Several hundred thousand people have the same idea. Maybe the whales aren't too keen on cold weather either.

My nose is still peeling from the sunburn I got that day, but the memory is strong and of course we have photos to review. Now I need to remember to delete my dermatologist from my blogging email list before I send out a notice that this was posted.

He has no sense of humor about my Mexico sojourns and would prefer I live in a nice bleak climate, like, say, Sacramento in the winter.

Phooey! Viva Mexico. Viva Las ballenas!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sunset in phoenix - waiting for the next flight

Sunset in phoenix
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PHOENIX, Arizona - We are back in the USSA and waiting for a flight to Sacramento, $400 richer than just a few minutes ago.

The America West flight was waaaay overbooked (So what's new?) and we took an offer to be bumped onto the next flight.

The $400 will almost cover a roundtrip ticket to Puerto Vallarta - or a lot of other places we might like to go in the next year.

The airport isn't as scenic as this cactus photo is, but it is warm here and the airport offers free wireless internet to keep us amused while we wait about an hour and a half for the last flight out to Sacramento.

Sometimes, I just love all this technology.

(The delay is making for a pretty long day of travel, but, hell, it was a long day anyway.)

The good news is that the airport has cleared out to such a degree that I should be able to stretch out on the benches here, turn on my IPod and zone out with the latest CD by Bubba and Bottom Feeders from Puerto Vallarta.

My favorite cut?

"It's Hard to Kiss The Lips That Have Been Chewing My Ass All Day."


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Jack London, the writer who launched me

Jack London
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico (Versailles District) - When I was about 14-years-old, I read a magazine account (in TRUE magazine) about the life of Jack London, a swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners kind of guy who started out with nothing and flamed out at 40-years-old.

These many years later, I still credit old Jack with getting me interested in writing and a brand a journalism that barely exists today, but which is, well, a helluva lot more fun than the corporate drivel that fills most newspapers.

London wrote narrative news accounts for newspapers, wild political tracts for magazines, and books for an adoring public that had never seen someone write so clearly and honestly about them, the nation, and the world.

He lived in the shadow of a bad childhood and poverty and when he died was badly in debt, despite having earned several fortunes.

Many of his books are still in print and while he is frequently miscast as a child's author, because of books like Call of the Wild, London as a social critic is great reading too.

If London were alive today, he would likely challenge George W. to a pistol duel. But then again, if London were alive today, it's also likely that George W. might not have been elected at all.

Every so often, when I feel overwhelmed, I yank out that TRUE magazine article and reread it. It's still the most inspiring piece of work like that I've ever read. (I've also read every biography of Jack London ever written.)

This week in San Francisco there is an exhibit of some of the photos London took of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, the fire from which he could see from many miles away.

After that fire, London outfitted a sailing yacht and headed out for the Pacific, a largely uncharted ocean and sans any sexy electronics or radios.

London lived in a simpler world that is reflected in some ways here in Mexico, a life that doesn't revolve around television or the latess episode of Desperate Housewives.

But the questions for this gringo to answer are: "What would Jack London do if he were me?

Sail off again?

Retire to the seaside and sip drinks?

Or climb onto the horse again for one last slashing (and likely futile) attack at the bad guys?

Guess it's time to drag out that TRUE magazine piece one more time.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

La Manzanilla - a real Mexican paradise

LA MANZANILLA, Mexico - We spent two nights in a beachfront apartment at Palapa Joe's, the kind of place where you want to spend the rest of your life.

The ocean - 100 feet from the front door at high tide - was warm. The restaurants and tiendas in town of excellent quality (and by American standards, very cheap). And the people of the town (tourists included) were all very friendly.

We first visited the town about five years ago on a road trip and have hit it yearly since, usually coming in and anchoring Sabbatical in front of the town while we went in for a one-day foray for supplies and lunch.

The pueblo has grown some, though not anything like what we experience in the states. In California, when you drive to work and see a bulldozer on a vacant lot, you can be pretty sure some construction will be ongoing within a day or so. A week later, a new Taco Bell or 7-11 is born.

In La Manzanilla there are a couple of more restaurants and bars than two years ago, even two internet cafes now! But the tortillerias, stores and farmacias are pretty much the same with the same people running them.

Five years ago we thought about buying a piece of land. Should have. Be the family expression is: shoulda, coulda, woulda...

Now prices have started to climb and the only view lots left in town are on the side of hills so steep four-wheel drive vehicles can barely get up them.

One posting I saw at Palapa Joe's said "Creative Architect Could Do Something On This Lot."

Something indeed!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The waters of Tenacatita Bay are kayak heaven

Surfing kayak
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
LA MANZANILLA, MEXICO - The waters just off the town of La Manzanilla are easily 5 degrees warmer than those of Banderas Bay and the kayaking has been excellent.

Our traveling compadres explored the local waters yesterday, ending their sojourn with some wild surfing in to shore - a little of which is shown in the photo with this blog.

This town has been special since we first checked it out five years ago and it is growing, slowly, with a half-dozen more restaurants and small tiendas added in just the last two years.

The crocodiles are bigger and fatter than ever and the people who buy fish to feed them are as looney as ever, too.

Our beachside apartment has a palapa overlooking the water and the view is the kind you find on postcards - and can't believe. Last night the houseman, Javier, cooked us dorado on the grill downstairs and made us a special gift of home-made salsa fresca, better than anything you would ever get in a restaurant.

In the meantime, the emails are pouring in from friends in Northern California who are battling flood waters and nervously watching creeks and coffer dams along the rivers. My old stomping grounds of Petaluma were flooded and the editor of the newspaper where I once worked - The Argus-Courier - put in a dozen photos on the web to show the damage.

We seem to have picked just the right time to be hiding out in Mexico, far from bad weather, intrusive government and bad air. Too bad we have to go back to Sacramento at all.

But, just as Willie Sutton said when he was asked why he robbed banks - "That's where the money is."

Que lastima!