Update on a couple things…

Somewhere I said something about how long I’ve been in Madison. That info is a bit out of date. As of last August, I’ve lived in  Madison 57 years. Come July 1 this year, I’ll have lived at my present address for 50 years. At first it was a rental, but in 1971, I bought it and was able to pay off the mortgage in 1994. It’s worth 11-12 times what I paid for it. Nice deal, I think.

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Long-absent me

Having got an email notification that someone was following me here, I probably should consider starting anew… Make it so! I remember almost nothing of what the mojo here needs to be, but likely unused neurons will get busy soon… Anyway, hi to Don.

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How I quit smoking cigarets

Backgound: My parents were both heavy smokers. My dad died of COPD as a result of life-long smoking, while a patient in a southern Illinois mental hospital (for dypsomania), a place right out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He was 55.

My mom died of cancer at age 83 in 2002. She had quit smoking when she was 65, but the last several years of her life was tethered to an oxygen tank by severe emphysema.

Fast-forward to 2006 and my pre-op physical for an eye surgery related to glaucoma. The doc says, “Ever had a spirometry?” “Nope.” “Well, you’re gonna have one now.” Very simple, really — you exhale as fast and as long as you can (minimum, 6 seconds) — into this handheld computer that instantly shows the volume of exhaled air against time. If the curve is is convex upward or flat, good on you. If it’s noticeably concave downward, you have some sort of COPD, not so good.

The doc says, “You have emphysema, and not mild, either: moderate.”  “OK,” I say, “my mom had emphysema, although she died of cancer, so I know there are two more degrees of the condition, severe and dead. She was on oxygen the last couple years of her life, and she richly hated having to deal with it. I also understand that if I quit smoking now, the progress of my lung disease will slow down, not quite to a stop, but very likely, since I’m now 71, I will die of something other than COPD.” “Right,” he said.

So I had the operation (separate story) and a week later, February 9, 2006, I had my last cig (Camel straights, you better believe…). There is a Dr. Fiore at Madison’s UW Hospitals, reportedly the leading expert on smoking cessation. His program is much more complicated than this, but two of its main tenets are (a) a mild tranquilizer and (b) during the transition period (up to a year), a nicotine replacement — gum, patches or nasal spray.

I knew I wouldn’t opt for the gum, and in 1995 I had tried the patches, to which I was wildly allergic. So it came down to the nasal spray, which astounded me: one spritz in each nostril and whammo, you’re fixed in about one second. I really can’t account for this, but for some reason, I soon quit the tranquilizer and, even sooner, the nasal spray.

As near as I can tell, the real motivator was that I was in fact chronically short of breath. I had an inhaler (Albuterol, a bronchodilator), which provided some relief for several months. Then came a much more graphic episode. Over the course of four days, I felt like I was somehow steadily losing ground in terms of vitality, almost tangibly slowing down, not because I wanted to but because I was steadily getting weaker. By the fourth day, a Sunday, it occurred to me for the first time: I am dying, if this goes on, I won’t last a week.

Monday morning first thing, I was at Internal Medicine. My own doctor was not in clinic that day, so I saw someone else. She told me her mother had died of emphysema and it was the worst. “So,” she said, “the first thing we’re going to try is better drugs. Instead of Albuterol, we’ll use Combivent, which adds an anti-inflammatory to the bronchodilator. That’s for quick-response needs. We’ll also use a different inhaler (Advair 250/50) that provides a long-acting corticosteroid, fluticasone, and a long-acting dialator, salmeterol.” These drugs can have serious side-effects (sudden death being one), but so far so good. By trial and error I determined that I would be OK with one dose of Advair daily rather than the prescribed two.

Five years, five months, and 20 days, and counting…

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How I came to love horses

Though I don’t remember consenting to this, I was placed on a horse’s back when I was about 6 years old. It was entirely tame, but of course it was huge and unsaddled. In a frantic effort to avoid falling off, I leaned over and tried to hold onto the beast’s sides. The nag apparently took this gesture to mean “Walkies!” at which point I started screaming. The horse thought that meant “Get a move on or off to glue factory with you.” One reason I’m atheist is that Baby Jesus threw me hard to the ground.

Fast forward to the Alameda County Fair in 1988. San Francisco weather is usually mild in summer, but Alameda County is hot as the hammers of Hell. I don’t do heat, so I separated from the group and found some shade at the racetrack, as it happened at the rail just past the finish line. Of course, veteran that I was of weekly cowboy movies as a child and Kentucky Derbies on television later on, I’d seen countless horses galloping along full-tilt. But in those films, you’re not really looking at the horse qua horse.

Believe me, you are looking at the horses, up close and personal, when you stand at the rail, three feet past the finish line of a thoroughbred race, the ground literally shaking beneath you feet as the animals thunder past, streaming sweat, veins the size of your fingers popped out all over their skins, and their eyes — ohmygod their eyes, not to be believed — as they give the very last of everything, I mean everything, they have. A horse is made to run, and when it is doing so to its utmost maximum, that is a thing of overwhelming beauty, oh yes…

I had no idea.

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Online society

I’m present in various places on the web (I mean the ones I know about — in the surveillance age, who knows what else may be happening?):

More than enough, I suppose. All but the last are very much about me. Given time enough, I expect most people have a lot of stories to tell. Word Press is supposed to be the best of the best, so I’m giving it a shot.

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