Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Abbey-isms

Wife: Come here sweety, there is a price tag on your shirt.
Daughter: Where?
Wife: Here, (sticking the price tag on our daughter's cheek) you are five dollars.
Daughter: No I'm not! I'm one hundred dollars!


Wife: Do you want another bite?
Daughter: No, I am out of gas.


(Tuning into the last couple minutes of Wheel of Fortune
Daughter: Ooh! Can we be on that game show?
Me: Of course!
Daughter: (In a slightly sad voice)... but I don't know how to read.


(Trying to get my daughter to hurry up, I told her that I was winning at the task at hand.)
Daughter: Daddy, the one who loses in the winner.


(Saying our good nights before bed.)
Daughter: I love you Daddy, I love you Mama and I love me!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning to Like the Urban Jungle

Although I spent my first handful of years living in various small towns and about eight months living right here in the urban jungle, I spent my formative years growing up on a farm and when asked, respond that I grew up on a farm. Being able to stand outside and not be able to see you next door neighbor, being able to walk for miles and never set foot on a sidewalk or a paved surface, living life based on sunrise and sunset or the time in-between instead of a clock, living a life where weekdays and weekends had little difference to them were all part of growing up on the farm.

I graduated high school in a town of four hundred and three months later found myself living in a concrete dorm several stories off the ground in a town of 50,000 people. It was a culture shock to say the least. The first week I slept very little because instead of being lulled to sleep by crickets or coyotes, I heard pop cans rolling on concrete, sirens, car doors slamming, people talking, sirens, etc. I survived living in a big town by spending weekends back on the farm and staying shut up behind closed doors reading books and doing homework. Gradually I worked myself out into the open but even then, I mostly drove to parks outside of town where the people were few.

As graduation drew nearer and an engineering degree looked promising, I worried about finding a job. Most jobs seemed to be in big cities and I just wasn't sure I could live in one. Fortunately, I found a job in a town of only 15,000 which seemed like the big city to me but was certainly smaller than the college town I had been living in for five and a half years. I think like adding a little bit of hot liquid to temper eggs, that town tempered me for my next job which carried me to a much larger town of nearly 50,000 people. I survived but I certainly didn't thrive and when I found my next job in a smallish town of 10,000 only 40 miles from the farm where I grew up, I leaped at the chance. I've been living there happily for the last eight years.

When we first learned that residency was only going to happen in the urban jungle, a metro area of over 560,000 people, I wasn't too keen on the idea. Finding an apartment I think stressed both my wife and I out and the trips up here to move some furniture seemed like endless miles of industrial run down parts of town. The area where our apartment is located is only a decade or two removed from being the worst part of town but due to grants and funds to rebuild the historic structures there, it is now one of the better places to live. Still, to my untrained eye, I felt nervous whenever I was out at night in the area and felt like I was just one wrong look to getting mugged.

Time would pass and gradually my feelings changed about the urban jungle. It was nothing all at once and I can't sit back and pick out specifics but reflecting about how I feel now compared to how I felt two years ago, I have been transformed. I actually enjoy my time in the urban jungle and now that my wife is a senior resident and doesn't have as many weekends on call here, I miss the place. The endless miles of roads full of run down businesses and choked of traffic don't see so bad anymore. I have learned to just relax and go with the flow and a trip clear across town only takes 15 to 20 minutes though from our apartment in the center, it rarely takes us longer than 10 minutes to get where we want to go. Growing up on a farm 60 miles from the nearest grocery store of any size or movie theater or restaurant, going somewhere usually had plenty of notice and planning involved so not to waste the trip. Here in the urban jungle, my daughter and I woke up this very morning that I typed this to a beautiful warm sunny day in February, something we rarely get in Iowa. We went to the zoo on a whim and then checked out an outstanding deli in the back of a grocery store where I got a Dad's Killer sandwich, something I had read about some time ago as a must eat in the urban jungle. The whole day just felt right, it felt comfortable, it felt like something I could handle.

Don't get my wrong, I still want to live in rural Iowa and we have no plans to live in the urban jungle anytime soon. My wife has four job offers, all at places about the same size or smaller as where we live now and as soon as we figure out which practice is where she wants to work, we will probably live there. But even then, I still see that trips up to the urban jungle will probably occur more often than they did during my childhood when we made a trip up there once every few years to see the state fair. Like I said in my previous post, if I ever fall into a bit of money, I think I might even like to rent a small apartment where we could come on some weekends to enjoy the life of the urban jungle that I have slowly come to appreciate and dare say like. However, I would still abandon this historic hill where our apartment is located for a loft right downtown within walking distances of everything. I still don't like driving those miles of business districts on the edges of the jungle.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Open Sesame

I've eaten French, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Turkish, Thai, Japanese, Iranian, German, English, Filipino, Cantonese, Hungarian, Vietnamese and probably a dozen other ethnicities of food but I had never until this past weekend eaten Lebanese. Due to a hectic February schedule for Dr. Abbey, I was up in the urban jungle for the second weekend in a row. The bad part about living in the urban jungle in winter is that there really isn't much incentive to be outside unless one like walking on icy sidewalks the color of boiled meat and being splashed with slush from passing cars. The up side is that this city, along with most larger cities, are full of restaurants that are literally holes in the walls that are easier to miss than find. I've driven by this particular Lebanese restaurant dozens of times and never knew it was there. I would have probably gone the remaining 16 months of my wife's residency without knowing it was there had it not been for one of her coworkers who joined us and just happens to live a few blocks away from the place.

Open Sesame was a tiny restaurant with just four tables that could seat four people and another six or so made for two people and a tiny bar that could seat another six. To me, that is the definition of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It was decorated in what I presume to be authentic Lebanese decor and the menu was a very simple one that had ten entrées to choose from and another ten appetizers. Because of my eating philosophy of eating like Romans when in Rome, it didn't take me long to choose what I would eat for the evening. I had the Kibbeh which is the national dish of Lebanon and is made of ground lamb mixed with bulgar wheat and other spices and served with yogurt and a falafel salad, hummus and toasted pita bread. My wife and her coworkers both got the shawarma which is spiced chicken pieces wrapped in a pita and served with a salad. My wife raved about how good it was but after tasting it, I still thought my kibbeh was better. After tasting my kibbeh, she thought her shawarma was better. So lets just say that both were excellent.

The problem with hole-in-the-wall places like Open Sesame is that they don't cater to kids specifically. There is no kids menu which is a big deal when you are ordering off a dinner menu which generally has higher prices in the evening. It is also sometimes challenging to find something on it that your picky child might eat. But I have found with places like that with a chef somewhere in the kitchen, you can almost always request a dish not on the menu. In my daughter's case, I just ordered a side order of rice with some plain grilled chicken to go with it and they were happy to comply. After tasting her dish, my daughter felt it was the most tasty of them all and she gobbled it all up. We finished up our meal by splitting a baklava which as you would expect in a place like this made all the previous baklava I have ever eaten seem like fake fast food versions.

Although it really isn't within walking distance to us, I'm sure we will find ourselves back there a few more times in the next 16 months to try out the other eight dishes on the menu. Someday if we ever win the lottery and can afford luxuries in life, I may push for a small downtown flat where we can come hang our for a weekend and enjoy eating exotic foods that are only available in urban jungles and perhaps culture things like plays too. I love living in rural Iowa but it would be nice to enjoy the finer things found in the urban jungle from time to time. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Toilet Paper Industry Out of Touch with the People

Nothing raises my blood pressure more than having to shop for toilet paper. I am not affected in the slightest by having to carry a package of paper rolls, whose only roll in this world will be to clean my ass, across the parking lot. I am not affected by the price or the claims of leaving behind the cleanest results. No what bothers me more than anything is that I can't buy just a plain roll of toilet paper anymore.

I must choose between double rolls, mega rolls, triple mega rolls and dozens of others promising bigger rolls with more paper upon them. I don't even mind having more for the sake of having to replace the roll less often but what gets me is that the rolls no longer fit the standard toilet paper holder in any of the bathrooms I have ever had the privilege of owning or renting. They were sized for the plain old single roll and these larger rolls have to be crammed into the opening. It's like trying to park a Humvee into a space meant for a compact car. It just doesn't work. So I am left with two options, I either have to remove the roll from the holder every time I want to use it until it has reduced to a size that will now fit and spin freely or I have to just sit it on the floor underneath a vacant holder until the same thing happens.

I would express my displeasure by not buying those over sized behemoths because I think they merely contain fluffier sheets and not more linear feet, a significant difference, but alas I have no choice. It is like giving a diner at a restaurant three choices for an entrée, fish, fish or fish.  If all you have is fish, or in this case oversize rolls of toilet paper, of course that is what I will be buying. Some of you are probably saying that of course I can buy single rolls but they are what I call institutional or John Wayne toilet paper. It is so thin that it takes miles of the stuff just to cover your hand with a protective barrier.


You don't know what John Wayne toilet paper is?

Why it is toilet paper that is rough and tough and doesn't take shit from anyone!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Church with the Governor

I'm a Catholic and have been attending various masses throughout the last two years here in the urban jungle. We don't have one church that we call home because we usually end up going to the one that has a mass at a convenient time for my wife who is coming off or going onto call and thus the reason I am up in the urban jungle. Despite not calling any church home up in the urban jungle, we still manage to frequent one more than all the others since it is fairly close to our apartment. We've been there often enough that I recognize most of the people who are there. So it was kind of shocking to be sitting in my pew preparing my thoughts for the upcoming service and see Iowa's Governor Branstad walk in and sit across the aisle from us.

Though Governor Branstad is a Catholic, I have not seen him at any church service that I have attended nor have I heard if he goes to a certain church regularly, something that we always seem to hear about our national leader. I contemplated this as he sat down and started chatting with his neighbors when I noticed that there were reserved signs on several pews including the one he was in. Not sure what this meant, it soon became clear when mass started and the priest mentioned that a baby was going to be baptized later and that the mother was the daughter of Governor Branstad. Thinking back, I have seen more U.S. Presidents in person, (the current one whom I shook hands with during his campaign) than I have Iowa governors. I guess I don't get out much politically.

Brandstad has pretty much been governor during my lifetime. As a kid growing up, I knew no other governor until I had left the state to work in the northern frozen tundra. I came back to the state at the end of his successor's term in office and lived here during the brief tenure of the last governor who recently got the boot and was replaced by none other than Governor Branstad again.

Though he has been Governor of Iowa most of my life, I know little about him politically. During my youth when I wasn't interested in politics, my only impressions of him were from my staunchly Democratic parents. Lets just say that their views on him weren't very flattering. But somehow my Democratic parents raised two sons, my brother becoming a staunch Republican and me, a conservative Independent. I helped elect Branstad with a vote last fall so I guess I am looking forward to see how he leads our state again after his previous four terms. My hope is that the size of Iowa's government is reduced to the point where our current tax levels can be maintained throughout my lifetime or perhaps even reduced. Since he is just in his infancy of this term anyway, it is too soon to say but I am at least happy that he is taking a hard look at the budget and making necessary cuts by reducing entires areas of the government instead of taking the 'yellow' route that our past governor took by just doing an across the board cut which did nothing but raise taxes and costs to us the individual citizens of the state. It is much easier to pass 10% cuts onto the consumer when you still exist as a tax supported entity.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kwong Tung

It had been a long time since my last visit to the urban jungle. In fact, I'm guessing the last time was sometime before Thanksgiving last year. So my first stop for eats was of course Los Laureles, the best Mexican restaurant in the universe that I have eaten at. It was delicious as always. Later that weekend, we were again headed out for a meal and I requested that we stop at A'Dongs, the best Vietnamese restaurant in the universe that I have eaten at, a number considerably fewer than Mexican places, and one that is only a few blocks downhill from our apartment. Because it was cold and wet out, we drove which turned out to be fortunate. The place was packed and there were hordes of people standing in the wait to be seated area. To make matters worse, they have two main doors, one on each side of the building with the host/cash register stand right in the middle. With people rolling in both doors and the Vietnamese owner literally running all over the place, I suggested that we take a rain check on Vietnamese and try something else.

Since we were planning on doing some grocery shopping after supper and on a full stomach like you are supposed to do, we headed in that general direction. The Chinese place that we like was packed with people waiting in a long line and so was the Italian place. Even the Chinese Buffet was packed tighter than I had ever seen it. I was beginning to think that everyone in town was out eating out on this Saturday night when we saw the sign for a little Japanese restaurant in a row of dark buildings. Only a hand painted sign on the front windows let us know that it was the Kwong Tung Japanese restaurant, one that we had never heard about. Better yet, there was ample parking in front.

We couldn't see into the darkened windows so when we opened the door and saw not a single living human being in the entire place, I had two thoughts in close succession. First was that it was actually closed despite the sign saying it was open for another two hours. The second thought was that just the day before they had been raided by the FDA after massive amounts of patrons had been hospitalized for bad food in a highly televised fifteen minute segment on the evening news. So when the waitress came out and asked if we wanted a table or a booth, we were hesitant to do anything except run for the door.

Long story short, I ended up ordering General Tso's Chicken, a dish that is shrouded in mystery as to its origin but as far as I know, the Japanese lay no claims towards it. I'm not sure why since I am a firm believer of eating what the locals, in this case the Japanese do. The buffet versions that I've had in the past are one of my favorites of the buffet though never hold a candle in taste to something off the menu. Perhaps it was the description promising a sweet and spicy sauce or a version of it labeled as combo which had beef, chicken, pork and shrimp all in one dish. To make matters worse, after I had ordered, another man walked in and sat in the booth behind us. He was obviously a regular as they knew his name and drink of choice. They even asked him if he wanted General Tso's Chicken again. He told them that although he loved it, it really tore him up the day after he had eaten it and that he thought he would go with something less spicy this time. Visions of my first and only trip to P.F. Changs started flashing in my head. But it was too late to change my mind and I'm glad I didn't because it was outstanding! The heat was that slow Asian heat that I love that sneaks up on you in a delightful way. The sweetness kept you going back for more and there was plenty more to go back too. Although I had only eaten one light meal all day, I was only able to polish off half of my dish. I can't wait to dig into the leftovers now safely tucked away in the fridge. Also, there was nothing but gastronomical happiness the next day.

Best of all, they serve dim sum on Sunday's which is kind of like the Japanese version of the buffet but without all the work. You sit at your table while staff wheel past with carts loaded full of delectable foods that you merely have to point at and it is sat before you. Just in case a menu of all the foods available for dim sum wasn't enough, they have a gigantic poster full of pictures of the dim sum items hanging just inside the door. My mouth is watering now just remembering what the pictures looked like. So in closing, if you are ever in the urban jungle on a busy Saturday night when everyone and their extended family are eating out, try Kwong Tung. You won't have a wait for a seat.

P.S. When I get to try their dim sum, I'm sure I'll have something to write about that.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Wow, what a day Friday was. First I learned that President/Dictator for Life Murbarak of Egypt stepped down making that country the second one in a few weeks to overthrow their government. There are several other countries in the background who may begin the process of overthrowing their government. Time will see how this will all play out and how it will affect us.

Then shortly after lunch as I was scanning the local headlines, the Superintendent of our local school system abruptly resigned for personal reasons. When he was hired three and a half years ago, he had a history of going into a school system, building a new multi-million dollar school and then moving on so it was no surprise when he moved into our district that a new school was on his agenda. There were a couple problems with that agenda. The first is that although this town is a local hub for the surrounding rural area, we are still largely a rural area. Rural Iowa area don't have a lot of businesses and thus high paying jobs and so we are not capital rich. The only way to afford a new school that cost more than selling bonds could raise, we would have to dramatically increase our taxes. I have a fundamental problem with raising taxes because once they have been raised, they never are lowered. Instead, whatever entity gets their funds from this increased source of revenue expands to fill the void so to speak. In a time when household income has been stagnate for two decades, it just didn't seem like we could afford such a project. The school board at the behest of the Superintendent tried to raise our taxes to build a brand new school but it was soundly shot down by the voters. His next attempt was to add onto the current school and yet all published plans essentially had a brand new school right beside the old school that might or might now be remodeled in the future. It too was soundly shot down. I wasn't in the minority who felt we could afford paying more in taxes. My second fundamental problem with a new school is that the student enrollment at our local school has been dropping steadily for the last 30 years. This past year alone we lost 46 students to the urban areas of our state. I had figured once that the high school building, the one they wanted to build a new one to replace, had lost almost 400 students in the last twenty years and yet the biggest reason given as justification for building a new school was lack of space. It just didn't make sense. Finally, the building itself is a beautiful brick building 50 years old and structurally sound. Without internal load bearing walls, it could very easily be remodeled to bring it up to date at the fraction of the cost of a new school and we would still have a very beautiful school. So with the resignation of the Superintendent, I breath a temporary sigh of relief until we found out the next one and I hope the next school who gets saddled with his leadership either have deep pockets or the fortitude to keep voting his absurd proposals down as we did.

Finally, as I was driving up to the urban jungle for the weekend, I tuned into one of my favorite local to our state talk show hosts with whom I politically agree with on a lot of subjects. To my shock, he was holding his grand finale show and had resigned his job to pursue other opportunities. What those opportunities were he couldn't elaborate as he really didn't know just then but he suspected they would be political in nature. Being Iowa is moments away from jumping into the presidential race of 2012 since our presidential caucus is less than a year away, he may be helping out a candidate or perhaps a candidate himself for an Iowa office either here or in the national legislature. I wish him well but I will miss listening to him on my drives up to the urban jungle in the evenings.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gaping Wound

After my minor surgery, five stitches were installed onto the skin of my back below my left shoulder blade. Who would have thought that the skin in that location moves so much but it does. Everything from bending over to reaching over to say put on my seatbelt caused the stitches to move a country mile and drag across my shirt sending me a fresh reminder of what had recently transpired. So eight days later when I was within the removal window, I was beside myself with joy.

The removal went well. The male nurse doing the removal commented on how well healed it looked and then before I got redressed, asked if I wanted a band aid. Knowing it would be four days before anyone could remove it, I wasn't too keen on one but asked what his recommendation was. He told me that it would heal better without one and so I put on my shirt without a band aid and went to pick up my daughter at daycare. We went out to eat a bite of supper and then continued on to the family fun night at her preschool where I pretty much stood around talking to other parents while she played with her classmates. Nothing too strenuous.

So it was a big surprise when I was getting ready for bed later and discovered that the back of my shirt was caked in dried blood. I stood at a social situation for two hours bleeding out and not one person asked if perhaps blood coming out of my back was something I might have known about. Perhaps they thought I had murdered my wife, laid in her pool of blood and perhaps forgot to put on a clean shirt? Who knows but I do know that it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what had happened. One look over my shoulder at my backside hide confirmed that it was gaping open.

My first thought was that I needed stitches again and I was concerned that there would be a time limit to get the wound stitched up before it dried out and couldn't be closed again. It had been open for several hours at that point and it would be another twelve before the clinic opened again in the morning. I called doctor wife and explained the situation and her recommendation was to put a band aid on it and call the clinic in the morning. I admit that I tried but a band just wasn't going to happen unless my right arm grew another four inches. I was however able to apply some antibiotic with a long Q-tip and pressing my shoulder against the shower to semi-dislocate/extend my reach a couple more inches. I put on an old red shirt in case I bled out again during the night and slept on a towel in bed. There is absolutely nothing worse for a good night's sleep than to spend it in a pool of your own blood.

The next day, I was the first patient into the clinic at 8:00 only to be told that I needed to be seen by the original doctor and not just any old nurse and thus I had to come back at 9:30. So I went to work with my gaping wound and tried doing some meaningful work and returned at 9:30. There was not a soul in the waiting room so I figured I could get in and out quickly but it wasn't until 10:15 when a nurse finally called me, still the sole person in the waiting room, into one of the procedure rooms and looked at my would. She declared that the male nurse who had removed the stitches should have put some steri-strips on it after removing the stitches and that she would do so and get me sent on my way.

Now after almost two and a half hours of waiting because I needed a 'doctor' to look at my wound, I must have instantly looked like I was about ready to explode at her suggestion that I didn't need a doctor because she almost immediately changed her mind and said that perhaps the doctor needed to look at it first. He soon came in and told her to tape it back together with steri-strips and send me on my way saying it might scar a little more now. Being that I'm married, loosing my hair and gaining a gut, I figured another scar to add to the handful I already own is probably not a big deal anyway and told him to proceed because I really didn't want more stitches.

The nurse was about done cleaning and taping closed my wound when the doctor re-entered the room and said something that I have never heard a doctor say. He told me that they wouldn't charge me for this work and that it would just be considered a post-op visit from last week. I couldn't help but suspect they were worried about me raising a stink or possibly suing. Little did he know that suing him over a little scar on my back that I can't see was probably the furthest thing from my mind.

So here I am with a big wad of tape below my left shoulder blade and my wound again feels like a steak knife was stuck there and forgotten about. I'm guessing it is either from the rubbing alcohol they poured into the wound or the adhesive they had to use to get the band aids to stick to my skin. I was told to just leave the dressing until it falls off which is guaranteed since it was going to be four days before I will see someone willing to pull the band aid off.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Little Abbey-isms

Jan 20: I picked up a pair of her socks left out by the garage door and came into the living room to see yet another sock on the floor. I scanned for the other one on the floor but didn't see it. So I started to ask my daughter where it was when I saw her sitting in the recliner with one sock on and the other foot bare. I asked her why she had one sock on and one sock off. She replied, "I'm diddle diddle dumpling."

From Mother Goose

Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with his stockings on;
One shoe off, and one shoe on,
Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John.


Feb 3: If we get anymore snow it will be over my head and then I'll have to swim!


Feb 5:      Daughter: (Seeing a commercial for a Disney movies) Ooh... a Princess!
                Me: Do you want to be a princess when you grow up?
                Daughter: I can if you dress me like one. (Is that a not so subtle hint about what
                    clothes I pick our for her in the morning?)


Feb 8:      Daughter: John and I got in trouble today?
                Me: What did you do to get in trouble?
                Daughter: We had to put our noses against the door.
                Me: What did you do to get in trouble?
                Daughter: I'm not going to say any more.
                (Already she is pleading the fifth!?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Moles and Cancer

Some say I was blessed with fair skin but mostly those are the darker skinned relatives on my wife's side of the family. For them, anyone with lighter skin than they is more handsome or beautiful depending on the gender. I disagree along with most of my side of the family. Having fair skin means that you only burn, never tan. When I go outside in the middle of July, unless I have sunscreen on, my skin feels like what I assume a piece of bacon feels when it hits a hot griddle. Fortunately my daughter is blessed with the best of both worlds. She is fairer than her Filipino relatives and thus more beautiful and she has skin that can tan and not burn. By the middle of summer, she has a natural tan that would make even the most regular of tanning booth visitors green with envy. But this post isn't about her, it is for more selfish reasons... me.

When I was a young boy, my mom was diagnose with a spot of cancer on her cheek which was successfully removed. Though fair skinned, the was burnt regularly as a kid and young adult in her attempts to tan back when skin cancer was not as publicized as it is now. So she drilled into me the importance of sunscreen and avoiding regular sunburns. I have. But when my wife recently gazing at my naked backside as I was getting ready for bed gasped in horror and told me to come closer, I immediate got a big worried. I learned two things that I never knew about myself in the next minute, one that I had a mole underneath my left shoulder blade and two, it evidently looked kind of funny according to my doctor wife but not quite as funny as the mole at the  head of this post. Her immediate diagnosis was that I needed to get it checked out.

Knowing my mom's history with a bout of skin cancer, I made the call first thing on Monday morning and though I asked for an appointment in the next few weeks, they got me in that very afternoon. I guess the impending snowstorm that we were going to get caused people to skip their appointments and create an opening for me. After the usual waiting for forty-five minutes past my appointment and then waiting for another fifteen minutes in the waiting room, the doctor came in and quickly gasped in horror at my back. Actually he took one look and told the nurse as he was walking out to transfer me to the outpatient room to get it removed.

In my mind, I pictured some sort of anesthetic cream followed by the doctor deftly scraping the mole off to put on some slide to send to a lab who knows where for some tech to look at under a microscope. That wasn't what happened. I was quickly jabbed a dozen times with a syringe the size of a turkey baster until I wouldn't have felt the Rockets doing their routine in high heeled shoes upon my back and then he proceeded to cut away. It was only when the nurse asked him how many stitches he needed and the doctor replied five that I had my first clue that I had drastically underestimated the size of the procedure. When he was done, the doctor said they would call me with the results and after the nurse slapped a bandage on the wound, I was sent home.

Now my wife was already at our urban jungle apartment for the week and I am not agile enough to reach the rather large bandage, so I ended up staring at the thing in the mirror all week wondering what kind of gash was under it. Finally when my wife removed the bandage on Saturday I looked at it and gasped in horror. It looked like a golf ball had been removed from my back instead of something the size of a pin head that I could barely see in the mirror with my glass on! No wonder my back has felt like I had inadvertently stuck a steak knife under my shoulder blade and forgot it.

It turned out to be non-cancerous and just a mole which of course I'm happy about. However, if I ever get another mole, I wish it would just be one of those regular kinds that doesn't cause people to gasp in horror from across the room when I start getting undressed. Or perhaps rather than an average everyday mole, I at least get one of those Academy Award winning moles like the one on Robert De Niro.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I'm not using the front door anytime soon lest I be buried in an avalanche never to be seen again. By the way, the shovel is just stuck in the top of the snow. The sidewalk is about thirty inches down and you can't see the step leading from it to the deck surface nor the canyon I carved with the snowblower that you saw in yesterday's post.

After digging out my own driveway, taking the daughter to daycare and finding out that I couldn't get into the parking lot at work until I borrow something with 8ft wheels on it, I set to work snow blowing the driveways and sidewalks of the two neighbors to the east and the neighbor to the west with a 100 ft long driveway. I might as well make myself useful since I can. I got about half way done with the latter driveway when a truck and blade showed up and it promptly got stuck. After getting it out, it finished up and I decided to see if I could get into the parking lot at work. I succeeded and actually got a lot of work done in the peace and quiet of a building with a tenth of the normal capacity. Of the people who made it to work, all either had a snow blower, hired their driveway cleared or walked. Not one person who owned only a shovel made it.

Back home the daughter and I played in the snow and the picture above is one of many that I took. According to the official pundits, this is the most snow we've gotten in one shot in... well... ever. At least back into the 1880's when records were kept. I believe it. Many of the streets here in town, 12 hours later, are still just one way and by one way, I mean that you literally scrape your side view mirrors on the drifts of snow on each side of the car. On my first trip to work yesterday, the only business open at 8:30 on a Wednesday was a gas station. Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King and everything else were deserted. I never thought I would see that day come short of a nuclear holocaust. Schools were cancelled yesterday morning for that day and for today. I'm not sure if school will be in session by tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


So the wind howled all night and every time I woke up to take a peek outside the window, it was just a whiteout. Snow was falling and I couldn't see signs of the street, only huge drifts here and there. When I finally got out from under my warm blankets and crept downstairs, this was the view out on my back deck. The snow drift is probably only two to two and a half feet deep. Not bad I thought. So I got the little one situated watching cartoons and eating breakfast and decided to see if I could dig out of my driveway. When I opened the garage door, this is what I saw.

Not good. Not good at all. Suddenly I wished to retract my statement from yesterday about bring it on because I wasn't sure that my snowblower would be capable of tackling these huge drifts. My sidewalk and front deck looked highly doubtful as well.

After shoveling the little mini drift by hand that had been up against the garage door, I stuck my shovel in for another comparison picture. Holy crap! This is the biggest snowstorm I have seen in my nearly four decades of life!

So I fired up the beast and gave it hell. Even in first gear, I had to stop and let the motor catch up now and then. But there was no stopping it. Funny thing, when I bought the thing earlier this fall, I noticed it had two reverse gears on it. Since it has clutches for the wheels and it is about like pushing a heavy lawnmower, I wondered if reverse was actually necessary. I can say without a doubt, yes. My snowblower would push through the bottom of the drift and the top half would collapse all a round it. There were many times I had to use reverse to get myself out of the drift to have another go at it.

This is my front sidewalk. Enough said.

My daughter finally done with cartoons and checking out the prospects for a snow fort later today.

Eventually I cleared out the snow and made it over to daycare though we had to walk up from the street with me breaking the way through waist high drifts of snow. I even made it to work but there was nary a car in the parking lot and a ten foot tall drift completely blocking the entrance. Down the street aways, a large Caterpillar bucket was clearing the street one bucket at a time. I did the prudent thing. I went home to get some work done that can only be done in peace. Perhaps around lunch time I will go get the daughter and we can make a snow fort. One thing is for sure, this is a day that will live in my memory for the rest of my life.

Storm of the Century... Well Perhaps Just This Year

They've been talking about this storm for several days but I take a meteorologist's forecast with a grain of salt. They almost always over promise and under deliver, which in most cases is a good thing, but when you have a snow blower just itching to be used in deep snow, I've been hoping that for once they were right. At least on the snow part anyway, to all my southern bloggers in the ice zone, I still hope they are wrong.

So yesterday started off all right. I went to work and the snow started coming down by about eleven that morning and the wind kicked up to howling shortly after. I kept watch out the window but the road in front of my plant looked clear enough for winter so I wasn't too concerned. Finally computer frustrations caused me to call it a day earlier than I might have and go home. It was that darn wind that got me. While the road was clear, every place the wind eddied out, there was a couple feet of snow. At every intersection that wasn't on the main thoroughfare through town, there was a ridge of snow two feet deep pushed up by the snow plows. This meant that getting on the thoroughfare meant sitting back thirty feet from the intersection and waiting for an extra large gap in traffic and then gunning it to burst through the drift without hitting the opposite curb. I was successful at getting on and off the thoroughfare and making it home but that is where I almost ran out of luck.

Stupid me, I thought I would back my car inside so that the driver's door opened toward the center of the garage towards the driver's side of our other vehicle that is pulled in for the exact same reason. I always do it that way because there just isn't enough room on the outside of the garage to open up a car door. But that meant driving just past my driveway and backing up towards the garage, uphill. Nothing doing. So I pulled down the hill to the next street and turned around and tried to make my way back up the hill thinking I can back down the hill into my driveway. Also nothing doing. So since the coast was clear, I just backed up the street until I started up the next hill and then floored it back towards my house.

That is where I learned that there is no flooring a front wheel drive vehicle with traction control. The engine self regulates itself so that the tires don't slip and the result was that with the gas pedal to the floor, I barely started creeping up the hill my driveway is on. I made it to just about even with my driveway and things came to a halt. After weighing my options, I did what hoped might work and that was just turn for my driveway and hoped that I was far enough up the slope to clear my mailbox. I did, just barely. I pulled into the garage, climbed over through the passenger side to get out of the vehicle since my driver's side door was only inches from the storage shelves and called it a day. Sitting here inside where the temperature is a bit warmer and the resulting increase of blood flow to my brain has resumed, I realize the best option would have been to turn off the traction control with the little switch to the left of the steering wheel and proceeded to floor it. Next time I hear about the storm of the century on the way, I'll write that idea down on my hand so that I can remember it. Dang technology anyway.

Fortunately we didn't get but a light dusting of ice and as of dark fall last night, perhaps six to ten inches of snow with upwards of a foot more still on the way. Because I am writing this before bed to be posted this morning to you readers, I am anticipating that I will be out trying out my snowblower in order to get out of my driveway and perhaps make it to work. I hope I have an easier time getting out of it than in.  I'll see if I can get a good picture of the aftermath. Hope everyone south survived the ice and everyone to the north and east of here in the direction of the storm are all warm and cozy.