BST9: The really good Doctor

So here I am. New haircut, slightly new wardrobe (remember, I brought nothing - all I had down there was whatever I had left/bought on my previous visits), and a pain in my neck worse than death. So where does a swinging, handsome guy with a pain go? The Doctor of course.

A nice trip to see Dr. Lewis, the doc of the lake. A Doc so cool, he rides his motorcycle to work. This dude is one cool doc. He has a knack for spotting things before anyone else does - and being right. However, directly outside his office is Dairy Queen.

Hard choice, huh?

Well, Doc was first - check in, wait, fill out forms. Stating I had no medical insurance, but payment was assured. Then I got called back, check the vitals.

Now I occasionally weighed myself when I was living in NY, nothing official mind you - just an occasional inquiry. I knew at one point I was racking up about 300lbs on my frame. Hey, its a wonderful life.

Well when I was weighed at Lewis, well - I had dropped nearly 100lbs in nearly 6 months. Well, I was on no weight loss plan - no diet. I was not working especially hard. I was just existing day to day, and somehow lost nearly 100lbs.

Of course, Lewis - not having seen me before, nor having any kind of chart to base things on - might not have realized how fast I had lost weight, or how much. I had not been to a doctor prior in roughly.. well, lets just say most Catholics make confession more often than I go to doctors.

So we sit in the exam room for a bit. Dr. Lewis themes his rooms, theres a fish room, a lake room.. yadda yadda.

In walks the good Doctor. Hello says I, hello says he. But the differences could not be more vast. Dr. Lewis grew up a military brat, living for a time in a town not all that far from where I grew up. But years and time have erased the NY from his voice, he is the very definition of calm. His voice exudes a warmth and confidence, a concern yet command of the situation. He sounds (at least) nearly unflappable.

My parents and I give him a run-down of the situation as far as we see it. I do not remember if he took an x-ray, or if he just went based on feelings. But he ordered a CT scan. The very next day in Rocky Mount at Carilion Franklin I had an appointment for a CT.

What a wonderful week this was going to be. I had the vaguest idea what a CT scan was, much less a decent understanding of what they would be looking for.

In retrospect, Im probably glad I did not know.

Tomorrow: BST10:How far? How long?


BST8: Of head chopping and salty soups...

I was getting sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was smelly, nasty, grungy - my parents, who wisely after my performance in the shower in NY, had banned me from the shower down here. I had not showered in roughly 5 days at this point. I was able to con them into allowing me a quick shower, with the provision that I left the door open. Which was not a big deal considering my mother has the thickest, darkest shower curtain on record.

Also one of the most spacious bathrooms.

So I showered, only getting dizzy a number of times, not blacking out, just dizzy. (As in, I was really probably very close to passing out, but somehow fought it off.) I learned one thing after I got out of the shower. I was sick of my hair.

I've struggled all my life with my hair. I have thick, thick hair. Thick like peanut butter. Half the time I want it long, the other half I am trying to tame it short.

My hair has a natural part, thoroughly enforced by 6 years of catholic school, uniforms, and neatness as a requirement.

In my 30 years, I haven't lost that part no matter what I do. So as I was saying, I was once again - sick of my hair. It was long, but long in that not long enough way. Best descriptive word: unkempt.

So off to the hair cutting place we go. Just up 616 by Dollar General, nice lady - good cut. I was happy - plus the whole process felt really good for some reason - very calming.

We go out to eat to celebrate my newfound hair, to a chinese food place down at Bridgewater. We sit, order - and get a round of wanton soup for all. Now finding chinese food that matches the quality and quantity of NYC chinese is no easy task. In trying this 'wanton soup' I discovered, to my personal tastes anyway - that it was salty. Extremely so. Upon asking my fellow diners if I was correct in my assesment - I was met with puzzled stares, and a round of "no."

Ooohkkkaaayy - so its just me. Well, I had a bit more soup. Then, there was a splishin and a splashin, a rolling and a heavin, a moovin and a groovin, no dealin with the feelin - I got up, ran to the bathroom - were I proceeded to purge every ounce of anything I had eaten in the past 4-5 years. Painful, violent - and ulitmately embarassing. I felt awful for the restaurant, I did not want them to think it was their food.

When I finally emerged from the bathroom, I went back to the table - gulped copious amounts of water, fought off the pukey feeling I was getting just being in there - and shot out the door to wait in the car till they were done.

I half sat, half laid in the back seat of the car with the door open - smoking and lolling my head about like a ragdoll while the minutes passed. I did not have my walkman, I did not turn on the radio.

I heard the call of the nice lady who was acting as matre'd came to the door to ask me if there was anything she could do. I reassured her it was not the food, just me. And yes, I would be fine. I felt awful for putting a place through that kind of worry.

Of course, I haven't been back to determine if the soup really was that salty.

So it was back home, to rest or whatever - which meant an intermineable amount of smoking on the front porch - and probably drinking a gallon of coffee.

Or sleep - Im not sure which. All I know is it was my last shower as a man whose brain was 1/4" larger than his skull.

The next few days would change the course of humanity as we know it. Or at least my life. Well, it changed something anyhow.

Tomorrow: Oh Hi Doc. Yeah - you want me to what? CT? Does that involve needles?


BST8: Whole lotta nothin goin on...

I had a few days between my arrival at my folks home, and my doctors appointment. So I took it easy, in an enforced and limited kind of way.

There was little leaving of the house, about the farthest I really went was the front porch, where I spent most of my mornings and evenings. I sat out in a wooden rocking chair, drinking my coffee - reading some, talking on the phone, and smoking.

Momma don't allow no smoking in da house. A rule I freely flaunted as a teen, behind the door of my own room, but was more than happy to abide by now. Something about cool mornings, the stand of trees across the road from my parents house, a deep dark cup of java, and a smoke made it worthwhile to sit outside.

I did some photo-taking, some conversating on the phone, some readin of the Roanoke Times (yes, I havent forgotten you... noooo.. my preciousss). If it got too hot, I wandered back inside and upstairs to watch some TV. Or take a nap. Well, I did quite alot of sleeping during those few days - So much so that I don't quite remember every minute detail of my day.

I just know I did not do much, I was still in a tremendous amount of pain. But I got into that pattern of waking up, grabbing coffee and sitting outside - because after my time in the hospital was over, I went back to doing it.

My conversations with my wife were limited in details. I did not have many to offer, and she was only concerned with my well being. But we would still yap about nothing.

I had taken her mothers cell phone (pre-pay, barely used) for the train trip, but the cell itself stopped working around Alexandria, VA. I had no cell of my own. I also had the charger for it, and had not used much in the way of minutes while travelling - mostly checking in, passing on my location at the time and how I was doing.

However, when I got to my parents and unpacked my bag, I took the charger out, and lost it promptly. I don't remember if I ever found it again. I do know that I still experienced some of the tingling of lips & tongue as I had before - but the IV I recieved at Jamaica Hospital back in NY seemed to reset the clock when it came to the passing out thing. I have a feeling that the incident at WalMart in Bedford was due to the exhaustion of the trip itself combining with my allready weakened state.

Did I mention I had lost weight? Well, you'll find out how much in about a day or so.

(By the by, my coffee of choice at the time was Millstone's Foglifter - although I've found that both Kroger and FoodLion make perfectly good 100% Columbian coffee - take that for what it is worth.)

I could fill pages with the minutae of differences in my habits, then and now - but I fear I might be revealing too much ahead of time. We are just inches from the really dark, juicy parts now.

There will be more, oh yes - there will. I haven't even seen a doctor yet.

BST7: Ahh the retired life

Well, theres actually not too much to say about today. If anything of major significance happened, I don't remember it.

Basically, I slept fitfully at night. Woke early and ate little, sat at the computer for a good while.

There is one thing I remember, the smell. For weeks if not months, there was a smell. And my mother keeps an ultra-kleen house. I guess between that and the fresh moutain/lake air - I was really noticing this smell. Slightly bitter, slightly offensive, but not at all recognizeable. It was persistent, and much like a subtle undercurrent. I could smell garlic, but beneath the garlic smell would be this smell.

There never was a clear answer given, if it was my way off kilter bodychemistry, an olfactory hallucination, or just a funk in my nose. I actually felt bad, knowing my mother keeps such a clean house, to have to ask her if there was something in the house that smelled. Occasionally it would get overpowering, and give me a sinus headache - but that could have been purely brain-based.

I never had any strange taste, or sounds. No visual stuff. Just this smell.

No, I did not get it. I still don't quite get it. I've learned to accept it and move on. But boy, did it stink. Thankfully, now 3 years down the road I can report the smell has never resurfaced. Thats both a good thing and a bad thing. I'd love to find something that approximates that smell, so I can stop being vague about it. I'd love to say it was a funk "not unlike hot auto-exhaust ripened limburger cheese."

I guess then I may be asking too much.

Note: PodTest1 is nearly complete. Aiming for a 20 minute cast, or a tad less. Im only releasing this one by e-mail due to the music industry being lawsuit happy. Again, this one is for sound quality, and all the finicky crud. Again, leave a message if you want in.

Yes #1 - I know you want in. Calm... soon.


BST6: And so begins the big ugly

Big ugly wait that is.

The day of the 26th, my folks decided I should rest like crazy while they arranged an appointment with the Astounding Dr. Lewis. I've heard of doctors with a knack for finding things, but Lewis is the first one I've heard of who dead-eyes the problem with accuracy.

So while we waited for the appointment, my parents tried all sorts of things to help me cope with the pain. Even one of those vibrating-heating-neck-massagy things. Only this one also made chirping bird noises. Well, it claimed they were chirpy bird noises. I think the wiring was a bit off.

I guess due to where the silly thing sat on my neck, it did not help matters much. I remember unpacking my backpack and coming across the camera I had put in it to take photos from the train. I remember taking photos. I just don't remember of what, and now when I sit down and go through all my pics - the only ones I can assume were from that first trip down are the ones that are blurry, or badly shot. There might be one good picture out of the whole roll. But I don't remember what I took pictures of.

Just another mystery. More to come...


BST5A: In another hour or so...

I was arriving at Lynchburg. Dazed, confused, but seeing my parents for the first time in a while.

Into the car and back to 460, to link up with 122 to head down to the lake.

Hey, thats right - I didn't pack anything. Lets stop at Walmart! WOO HOO! 24 hour Walmart!!!!

Stay in the car? I dont think so...

Well in retrospect, I probably should have.

Not 100 feet into the store, as I was perusing the produce; as my mother went off in search of clean socks and such, as my father stood by watching me, I went down.

Like a sack of wet potatoes, I hit the floor.

Or would have, had the reflexes of a former NYPD lieutenant not put themselves between my head and the floor. Somehow, he got his arms under mine, and was able to keep me afloat. The steely nerves of a cop while his family crumbles around him. Well, me anyway. His son.

The manager on duty brought me a chair to sit in, though of course I insisted I was fine.

We were out of there as fast as possible, and home faster than that.

That night I don't recall much of - except for seeing my grandmother, who was not so happy to see me in my current state.

It was not the best conditions for a homecoming.

More tomorrow

BST:5 - Leavin' on a big train...

Its amazing how your least in the mood to travel when you most have to.

The morning was spent getting together a backpack full of crap so I wouldn't have to leave my seat during the ride. Tapes, batteries, notebook, camera, snacks, the useful stuff. I was packing nothing, no clothes, no supplies. This was an end-run for the final yard. Had to travel light.

Escorted to the Long Island RailRoad station, into Penn Station, and onto the train itself by my Da. A dizzying experience to say the least. I was seated immediately on the Amtrak train, Crescent Southbound out of NYP to LYH, Train 19. The crew could not have been nicer, having been informed as to my situation upon arrival. They kept a close eye on me during the trip. The attendant even allowed me to jump off for a smoke at every opportunity, knowing I probably couldn't make the trip to the smoking lounge.

The doors closed, and I said goodbye to NY and everything and everyone I knew and loved. The first lurch of the train, then a barely perceptible transition to acceleration. We were off.. Through the tunnel under the Hudson, and blasting out into the light of what I remember to be a grey, dreary day.

This was my first long-haul trip on Amtrak in years. The time prior was a trip to Disney in Orlando, via Amtrak. I remember that trip mainly because I was up all night, staring out into the blackness. I learned the sound of the horn keening into the night, the staccato blasts that meant we were coming upon a crossing.

Its a nearly 8 hour trek south, which I found out much later that if it only takes 8 hours you should consider yourself lucky. But hell, I was on a train. Happy at that. I found a position which was somewhat comfortable, and dug in for the ride.

The nice thing was that most of the trip was made by daylight, which meant I had a view. Newark and Trenton went fairly quickly, as I spent endless amounts of good eyesight on staring out at the passing world. Philly was the first big stop with a layover. Granted, unlike in the airline industry where 'layover' usually means next time you are in a plane you'll be collecting social security; this layover was only about 20 mins while they futzed with the engines or something. For someone who was in bad shape, I was having a pretty good time. Just me and my walkman, a few pieces of literature. Some gum.

I've always liked traveling by myself, even if it was just on the subway. No need for small talk, or trying to shout above the sound of the train. Just syncing the music in my head with the scenes in my eyes. Deep in thought about anything, but still making progress in the world.

Wilmington, Baltimore, and then DC. The NE Corridor is a busy busy place. Multiple rail lines use it, from commuter rail like MARTA, to freight ops like NS and (whatever is left of) Conrail. There are even points nearing DC where suddenly the DC Metro system is a sneeze away from heavy rail.

I remember my one time on the DC Metro - I thought the stations were huge, but the old lady playing with her dentures on the train made me a wee bit nervous. That's DC for ya.

The longest layover is at DC, which can easily be a half hour to fourty five minutes, if all goes smoothly. Its where they swap engines from the silly catanery overhead electric engines to the big, ballsy diesel engines that are limited in speed.

Wait, what? Ok- sidenote rant here. Acela is a electric engine. Runs off overhead power. Top speed on the overhead electric is roughly 150mph. Where they can run that fast that is. Thats the speed limit enforced on the overhead electric side of the rails. Once you swap down to straight diesel, or even diesel/electric - your limited to 85mph.

Why? Those trains can blow 85mph without sweating. Given a good run, a diesel can pull a 100mph run with ease. Anyway - politics of train engines. Bah.

So what stands out in my head from this half the trip? Well, I would have to say the big neon sign on the bridge in Trenton which reads: "Trenton Makes, The World Takes."

The sudden crush of city as you pull into Philly. You were just in a fairly rural part of Jersey, now you have the highway about arms length from the train.

The Baltimore skyline, the bridges - big and small, The Baltimore Zoo from the back end.

What really impressed me the most however was probably the most unexpected. Wilmington, DE. A city not unlike Roanoke. Large businesses, fairly large buildings - Amtrak East HQ, a downtown area being revitalized. Centrally located train station. Just like Roanoke, only with more water.

I think we hit DC around 7pm or so, I still have the schedule from that trip somewhere. We were due in Lynchburg around 11p, so there was still more to see.

Oh - coolest thing, pulling out of DC you go through a century old tunnel - one can pratically see the old steam engines pushing through, considering the soot is still on the walls.

I will post the rest of this journey later on today. Maybe have it up by 11pm - try and stick to the actual timeline of the train.

But the journey was the easy part, it was the stop at WalMart that was hard.


A note for my regular readers.

Allright, listen up. I know this is not what you have come to expect from Forgotten-Roanoke/RoanokeFound.

Radically changing the focus of my blog from the world-at-large to the world inside is a leap. No doubt about that. But keep reading, theres more to this story than meets the eye.

I am going to use my story to springboard some new ideas for RoanokeFound. Some mini-projects I've been wasting my time with. For example:

At some point this week, Im hoping to launch the first RoanokeFound blogcast. You will hear the voice of Forgotten-Roanoke broadcast for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Im thinking of making it invitation only at first, to gain feedback on the quality of the cast. I want this to be as true to my memories of radio-days as possible.

Granted I dont have a cart machine, spots, psa's and all that fun stuff. Well, I dont have them yet anyway.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as they say.

Im going to build a list of those who want to hear the podcast - so leave a comment if you want in. But be warned - it deals with the BST. This is my test run, checking for sound quality, timing, content, and vocal levels.

So I need feedback, serious feedback from those who listen. You can leave a comment if you want to hear more about the BST, or if you want to assist me in pinning down any flaws in the cast.

I appreciate your continued reading, and even though you don't leave a comment usually, I know your there. I have Wundercounter.

BST:4, or "Im not flying! Your nuts!"

So after the IV drip, I was actually feeling a slight bit better, but we all knew it wasn't the cure. Even I was lucid enough to realize that a saline drip was not my saviour. Appropriate phone calls were made between concerned parties, and it was decided that no way in hell would I be going to another NY Hospital.

My parents had been living here for a good couple of years at this point, and they had a doctor who they said was pretty good. Now my wife and I had plans to come visit anyway about a week or so later, so I agreed when it was offered to come early and see my parents doctor.

They wanted me to fly down.

A person who is generally down with a cold should not fly, the pressure causes pain in the ears. A person with an unknown problem, which causes vomiting, dizzyness, et. al... Nope - shouldnt be flying either. Actually, let me put it this way:

Hell-no I aint flyin. On previous trips I have flown down to Roanoke, its a nice trip as long as you can accept the fact that you are on a flying toothpick most of the flight, and a flying lawnmower if you have to change planes anywhere. Acceptance leads to peace of mind. Greyhound was out of the question too, especially after my Atlantic City fiasco.

That left Amtrak. Does Amtrak run to Roanoke? Noooo. Did they? Yesss. Will they again? Maybeee..

But theres always Lynchburg. Ticket was booked as of 5pm 7/24/02. Train leaves Penn Station, NYC at 2pm 7/25/02. I had one night to spend before I was off again, one last night to get through before I began the biggest journey of my life. I remember I slept well that evening, and was up all night making preparations for my trip. Talking to friends online, telling them what the story was so far.

Saying goodbye to my wife by phone was not fun however. But it was still with the expectation that she would be following me down at the time we had originally planned to come down, about a week later.

Amazing how plans change.