Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Ride in Three Months

The time of dried grasses is here.

This evening, for the first time since January 26th, I went for a ride on my trusty steed, Duquesne.

Before I attempted to saddle him, however, I let him go out to the big arena and do what he would. He would, and did, go thundering through the gate, bucked several times, galloped to the far end of the arena, and had a good roll in the dusty soil. When he arose from his dust bath, he bucked some more.

When he stopped by a fence to see if any of the mares were out, I stepped into the arena and began walking toward him. This is The Game. I pretend I'm going to catch him ( I shake the lead rope and shout, "Gonna catchoo!") and he pretends he is too wild to catch, racing across the arena in flight with his tail in the air. Meanwhile, I begin the trudge back across the arena to "catch" him. Back and forth, back and forth. The Game limbers him up and allows him to express his "sense of humor" and limbers me up for the ride.

After a few snorting, galloping passes, he stopped and looked at me. "Are you done?" I asked him. "Come on, let's go."

He knew what I meant, and began walking towards me, with an agreeable posture and friendly ears. I clipped the lead rope to his halter and we walked calmly to the saddling area.

The Little Duke is not a plug. He's a feisty, opinionated, bossy mischief-maker. To have him walk willingly to me (unbribed -- I carry no treats) fills my heart with feelings that I don't know how to describe. I'm grateful for his existence, amazed at how good a horse he is, and in awe -- and humbled -- by his willingness to submit to being dominated by a rider.

The ride itself was good, although the Stinky Dink did prance on the way back after he heard the feed truck taking hay around to the paddocks. Just a little, but enough to leave me with trembly legs and arms when we were done.

Tomorrow I'll know whether or not riding was a good idea. But for tonight, I'm happy with the image of my horse walking to put his head in my hands, happy to be my partner.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Swine Flu.

Mention it, and you've got people's attention. Catch it, and you've got people's prayers, and quite possibly,  quarantine.

I'm very concerned about a pandemic virus ... but didn't we just do that a couple months ago? The upper respiratory distress, the horrific racking cough, the digestive upset, the fever, the aches, the chills, the exhaustion. "Everybody's getting it," my doctor had told me. "This one's odd in that it goes from viral to bacterial in a moment. Here's a prescription for antibiotics, use it only if you start some infection."

If everyone was getting it, and it was not the virus targeted by our flu shots ... then what was it? Were we the early victims of this virus after the populace's Christmas visits back and forth across the border brought it into our area, and just not tested because, hell, it's winter and everybody catches colds? Well, it wasn't just a cold, but what it was is unknown now. I just know we all got it, and four out of five of us had a bacterial infection in the course of the disease's run.

Now, however, we're supposed to worry about it. Sure we can do that. We can worry about a lot of stuff. We can worry about global warming, the incredible illiteracy of young adults, the bankruptcies of local governments, the rising crime rate as a result of economic downturn, the rise of mercury levels in sea fish, the death throes of America's auto industry. 

Jeeze, just wash your hands, and wear a damn mask, okay? And then stop buying more than you can use, stop using stuff that isn't recyclable, teach your kids to read, get off the credit card merry-go-round, sit out on your porches in the evenings to let thugs know you are aware of your neighborhood, don't make your kids eat fish -- they don't like it anyhow -- and just get your car serviced. All of the auto makers are still making parts. Don't buy new until they can come up with a vehicle that isn't an environment-killer.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A View From the Hills

As we drove down from Jackson, headed home, we got to a scenic point and pulled over. There, below the hills, was our beloved Central Valley.

Across the expanse of flat farming territory, we could see the filthy smoke from a farmer burning orchard trimmings, a reminder that many of the orchards had just been shaped a few weeks prior. The pale line in front of the smoke is Woodward Reservoir, a cache of fresh water for irrigation, a favorite place to ride horses and go fishing.

We'd spent the day in Jackson, up in the Sierra Foothills. This is significant for more than one reason.

Number One, this was the first time in nearly three years that I had wanted to go anywhere. I've agreed to go places, I've enjoyed going places, I've been forced to go places ... but wanting to go and see something different? It seemed like an entirely new sensation to look off at the mountains last Wednesday and think, "I haven't been there in 20 years. Wonder what it looks like now?"

Bernie was not about to let that pass by unheeded, so we drove up to Jackson the next morning, with me itching almost not at all, and eager to see another part of the world.

Jackson is most remarkable in my eyes as being a town (pop. 4000 or so) the size of a large fart that inexplicably has one of the best kitchen stores I've ever been through in my life. You need something kitchen-y? Jackson. The kitchen store on the Embarcadero in San Francisco is a frilly, pointless shadow of the scope and quality of the kitchen store in Jackson. Well, and that would be why I've been going there for 20 years, now, wouldn't it?

Other than the kitchen store, however, and some very pretty spring flowers, Jackson is still a kind of run down little town in its "Historic District" (also read as "if it's historic, we don't have to fix the sidewalks"), nondescript in its usual strip-mally drugstores and chain restaurants on the outside of the Historic District. The road to and from is narrow, two-laned, and without berms, so that when there is gorgeous scenery, you can't pull over to enjoy it, and the puffing, tailgating, frenzied drivers in their trucks and SUV's and luxury speeders cluster on your back bumper so you can't slow down to savor anything.

Nevertheless, it was Out in the World, and it felt good to be there. That's a big leap forward for me. Glad to feel it!

Then, coming down the side of the hills, seeing the Valley spread in front of us ... home. It was a grand day in all respects, including the non-itchiness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Woo hoo!

Ding dong, the itch is dead!
Which old itch?
The Spandex itch!
Ding dong the Spandex itch is dead!

Last night, after I discovered two new lesions, Bernie snarled that I needed to go back to the doctor AGAIN and deal with this new malady.

I "Yeah, yeah, yeah'd" him, but in the morning, finding yet another stripe of blisters, got a quickie appointment.

"Your body has focused on this allergy and gone ballistic," she said to me. "It's attacking everything it thinks might be an allergen. It's out of control."

"Crap," I said,  knowledgeably to her.

"Yes," she replied, "and we are going to shut it down now. I'll give you a shot that will stop it in its tracks, and a course of steroids that will convince it to knock this off."

"Let's do it," I replied, not letting my body hear that it was falling down on the job.

One injection, a dose of prednisone, and nine hours later, there is no itch, and the lesions have dried up.

The one side affect of the drugs is that they give one ... too much energy. So it's bedtime, and I'm still wanting to jump around and skip to the tune of 

"Ding dong, the itch is dead ..."

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Here's the Grim Reaper, trying to figure out what else he can do to try to kill me.

Let's see, in the past two or more years, we've had Despair and Grief in overabundance, more than I'd ever thought I could bear. And then cold after cold after cold all winter long, with a short break for my birthday in June, and then another cold. Pneumonia multiple times.

Thinking to head off the dastard, I got a pneumonia shot as well as a flu shot last fall. Well, that worked inasmuch as I have not had pneumonia this year. The flu vaccine missed the mark, though, so after the New Year's Cold Virus, and the Excruciating Pain of "Pinched Nerve", the whole family got the flu -- it would be funny, unless you laughed and the five of us came after you with baseball bats.

I was able to get through the pain of the "Pinched Nerve" by virtue of physical therapy, and we all survived the flu, albeit with some ugly complications. Now, clear sailing into summer, wot?

Not. The time had also come for me to have my periodic cholesterol checkup; the doc added some other tests into the mix, and lo and behold, I turned up as deficient in Vitamin D as one of my father's leather shoes from 1968. (Oh, and of course the cholesterol was insanely high, but that's genetic, so who cares, Crestor is my buddy forever.)

Too old for rickets, I'm still tremendously at risk for bones that turn to powder at impact. Great, just great. The doc gave me a prescription for super-mega-'mungous doses of Vitamin D, and an order for a bone scan to see how far gone I am.

Not going in for a bone scan until I wrap myself around and accept the diagnosis from my MRI: a herniated disc in my neck was what was causing the hideous pain that sent me to the doc in the first place. Damn it. I'll see a specialist at the end of this month to determine a course of treatment. I'm hoping that he will recognize that the physical therapy is a viable option to surgery.

And then there is fatness, and the repercussions thereof.

Because I was laid up with the neck and then the flu, I did not exercise, and so gained about five pounds, all around my waist, because that's where I pack on the blubber. I asked my daugher if she had any Fat Pants from last year when she was bulging, and she obligingly gave me several pairs of pants. A pair of jeans fit like skin, and even had a comfy elastic waist. I wore them often, all day comfort, felt like a dream.

It was only when a strange blister broke out on the top of my foot that I became concerned. "Gnat bites?" I thought. "A new reaction to mosquitoes?" Then another blossomed on my ankle, and then another on my calf, and one on the opposite knee, one on my waist, one on the back of a thigh, two more on an ankle -- and only then did I grab the comfy jeans and look at the content label -- oh, my God, there was Spandex in the mix. Allergic? Oh, yezz. In my aged days, Spandex is poison to me. Not all the time, mind you, I could wear stuff with it for a couple hours with no ill effects. But the wearing of the jeans set off a major allergic reaction, and I will not disgust you by telling where-all the blisters appeared nor what they look like.

Do you know how many items of undergarments are free of Spandex? I can count them on the fingers of my knee.

Now I know why hippie women were all for burning bras.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Roaring At the Little Dog

10Aug08 003
Originally uploaded by AserSand

Oh, we all make mistakes.

And as mistakes go, it was kind of a cute one: when I came back to the house, Sebastian greeted me with many "Boo-WOO-wooooooooo" s, as he is wont to do when I leave with Lillian (his very own little girl) and bring her back. Maybe he's telling me "Thank you for bringing my girl home," or more likely, "Where the heck have you been with my little girl?" As usual, I addressed him politely, telling him that of course I brought her home, petting him, allowing a couple hound dog smoochies.

But then he did something UNCONSCIONABLE -- as I put my sunglasses down on my desk, in his fervor, he stood on his hind legs and put his front feet on my desk, the better to kiss my cheek!

This is behavior that cannot be overlooked, not even once. Cute as he was, clever as he thought he was, he had crossed the boundary line. Putting feet on a desk leads to things like putting feet on counters where food is being prepared -- No no no.


His whiskers blew back in the sonic waves of my deepest command voice, and he flew off the desk all the way across the room to cower in front of the fireplace.

I've never had to roar at him before, so he was very shocked and subdued. I know he'll never put his feet on my desk again, poor fellow. He's not totally traumatized, however; he's currently watching me, wondering politely when I'm going to get around to feeding him and Howie.

Which would be ... Now.