Mama Turtle

Driving down Gulf Road yesterday morning I saw this snapping turtle on the opposite side of the street looking rather busy. It was immediately obvious what she was up to, and it was also immediately obvious what a bad idea it was. This big mama was getting ready to drop a clutch of eggs right here by the side of the road, and you can see in the picture just how close to the pavement she is. She was about one eighth of a mile equidistant from the public boat ramp to the east and the Concordia Boat Yards to the west, a pretty busy stretch of road. Also, this shoulder is heavily traveled by joggers, myself included, which would probably have guaranteed a scrambled egg breakfast for the ants.

All it took was a couple minutes of me getting in her face with my iPhone snapping pics and video and Mama Snapper came to the same conclusion I had; this was a terrible place to raise the little ones! She abandoned the rut she was digging and moved back toward the salt marsh to her right, hopefully finding a more sensible place for her nest.

CIMG4338I’ve had one hell of a week and now it’s Saturday night, I’m stuck inside alone convalescing, and I’m in pain. I can barely walk to the fridge, but alas, I did manage. Prudent pharmacological standards say I can only have one or the other, and I’m Irish. Hmmm..

CIMG4343Sometimes you have to man-up and make those tough calls in life that require patience, wisdom, and fortitude. And other times, you just have to say, “WTF”. This is one of those “other times”. Cheers.

Shoulda taken the elevator...

Shoulda taken the elevator…


I’m in quite a bit of pain this morning, but nothing compared to this guy. Amazing.

“If man was meant to fly, he’d have wings!”
Yes, and if he was meant to walk upright on two legs, he’d have a better….

Monkey see........

Monkey see……..

In evolutionary terms, Homo sapiens really haven’t been at this upright-walking thing for very long, yet here we are walking, jogging, and running about on two legs like we were made for it. We weren’t. An anatomy designed for trotting about on all fours has been put to the task with satisfactory effect, but there are serious anatomical compromises involved in the act of spending most of our time ambulating about on two legs. I know this first hand. And someone needs to warn our closest cousins, because they are heading for certain trouble.

Monkey do!!

….. Monkey do!!

If one cares to be in the know about such things, one could find reference to a fairly large number of individuals from simian and great ape species who habitually walk about in bipedal fashion. Some of these individuals are fairly notorious amongst zoologist types for their peculiar penchant for upright ambulation. There is one great ape, a chimp whose actual name escapes me (let me call him “Bo Bo”), that was really fond of walking about on two legs. Seeing video of this guy cruising around upright is actually kinda creepy. Still, I couldn’t be happier for Bo Bo, showing off for all the other chimps with his creepy, upright, missing-link two-legged walking act, but what Bo Bo doesn’t know is that his belly, not his legs, is the weakest link in his homonid ambulation aspirations. Bo Bo can walk around on two legs, as can we humans, but neither he nor we are really built for it.

Four years ago, whilst removing a particularly stout and completely debilitated Homo sapiens britannicus from a helicopter, said individual fell onto me full force driving me backwards out of the helicopter and down to the ground four feet below. As this man was already grievously injured, I endeavoured to keep him from an abrupt and traumatic engagement with terra firma. Landing first on both feet then falling flat on my back, I managed to keep the stretcher onto which this guy was securely fastened from hitting the ground. As others immediately came to relieve me of my burden (big guy, full combat gear, vitals monitor, IV set-up, etc.) from my out stretched arms, I rolled to one side and stood to dust myself off. And that’s when it hit me, my intrinsic design flaw.

As the shock load of about three hundred pounds befell me and I strained with all my might to resist it, I felt a tearing sensation in my abdomen. And sure enough, within hours I observed the tell-tale signs of torn fibers in my right lower abdomen.

Who signed off on this?

Who signed off on this?

And here is where my design flaw, really more of a design compromise, comes into play. If we were stomping about on all fours, like a gorilla, the majority of the weight of our internal organs would be born by our wonderfully protective rib cage. But we don’t walk on all fours, we walk around upright on two legs like a bunch of smarty pants, leaving our soft-tissue lower abdominal muscles to keep all our guts inside. To further complicate matters in men, our spermatic ducts take a ridiculously convoluted path north from our testes traveling superficially just under the surface for some distance before truly entering into the abdomen so that this duct can ultimately connect with the business end of the penis. At this point of entry into the body, the spermatic duct passes through muscle, and not just one layer of thick, simple muscle but through the juncture where several different muscles meet and ultimately make attachment to the pelvis. Brilliant design. I hope you’re reading this, Bo Bo.

This is your abdominal muscle on a bad day....

This is your abdominal muscle on a bad day….

This hole in the abdomen, the inguinal ring, is something of an accident just waiting for an excuse to happen. Like, for instance, a big guy and a ton of gear falling out of a helicopter onto you. Really, didn’t Darwin see this coming? Well obviously the vast majority of men go their entire lives without a problem in this area, but given a large enough shock load, pretty much any guy is going to experience a tear (me included and I can rip off 100 situps in two minutes time). The muscle fibers run parallel and have great longitudinal strength, so what actually happens is a fairly weak bond, fiber strand to fiber strand, is pulled apart laterally. Kind of like string cheese. Yummy.

The string cheese on my right side separated pretty traumatically, and so I had that fixed when I got back home almost a year after the event. The string cheese on my left side really put in a gallant effort and I thought I would escape a bilateral repair, but once the integrity of the bond here was also compromised, it just continued to tear more and more over time. And so here I am, status post left inguinal herniorrapphy, laid up with a fresh surgical incision. The peri-operative fentanyl wore off hours ago and now my left side is really singing to me off-key backwards in German and I can’t even go enjoy a Guinness to help shut it up because my liver doesn’t like processing ETOH and APAP at the same time. What a drag.

Go ahead, blame it on THESE guys. You know you wanna!

Go ahead, blame it on THESE guys. You know you wanna!

To make matters worse, “six weeks no heavy lifting”. No running, nor rowing, nor climbing. No hiking, nor biking, nor …. anything fun! Reminds me of “Cat in the Hat”. “All we could do was to sit, sit, sit, sit. And we did not like it, not one little bit.” Well maybe I will just take it easy, enjoy some green eggs and ham, catch up on some reading, type some more rants, do some research on a few things. But I will definitely NOT be sitting for six weeks. I was cautiously up and about in about one week last time as I recall, and really, it’s a matter of using your head to judiciously stay active while still letting your body heal. There are no “one size fits all” parameters. I imagine I will be doing some, if not all, of those action verbs well before my six weeks is out, because I am just really cool like that.

Sorry to have to put you down, but......

Sorry, but I’m gonna hafta put you down…..

But, alas! My recliner beckons. Time now to let the healing begin, and for that I need nutrient dense foods: vitamins, minerals, lipids and protein….perhaps some cheese is in order. Just not string cheese. No. No string cheese. Anything but freakin’ string cheese.

thesurgeonGoing under the knife tomorrow. It would seem turn about IS fair play…….

If you find yourself flying along through life (or dragging along as the case may be) on an undesirable vector, a simple adjustment on the yoke is usually all that’s needed to abandon the previous course and strike out on a new approach angle, thereby bringing a refreshing myriad of possibility back into view.

However…..

If the fecal matter really makes traumatic contact with the oscillating air circulation device, well friend, you’re gonna need one of these:

Ejector-seat-for-sale-2_png

Some problems just require a complete reboot. As of late, I am feeling that my career is one of them. After a huge investment of time in education and clinical experience, all I can say is “stick a fork in me; I’m done….” I have just walked through my front door after sixteen hours of non-stop choas, frustration, and heart break. I am reaching for those black and yellow ejector handles like a teen-age boy fishing around for a bra strap on prom night. No joke.

Every once in a while one of these little monkeys smiles at me and I think all is not lost. monkey smiles Unfortunately, quite often all IS lost. And it wears on me.

I’m thinking maybe I’ll move to Mexico and make shell necklaces on the beach to sell to the tourists. Or maybe become a bull fighter. Stunt driver. Astronaut. Cabana boy. I dunno, I’ll think of something. I always do.

I'M OUTTA HERE!!

Tally Ho!!

So if you’re vacationing down on the Riviera Maya and you see a scraggaly looking Gringo approach you with his finely crafted wares, be kind. I just need enough money for beer and sun screen, then I’ll be on my way.

555999

I have always found A.E. Housman’s poem by the aforementioned title haunting. I first read this work in English Lit when I was perhaps fifteen years old, and despite the simple Clerihew rhyme scheme, I’m still haunted by it today. With the perspective of time now in my favor, I can truly appreciate the depth of loss surrounding the death of a young person, and I have no trouble admitting this, especially the loss of a young person who displayed the promise and potential to be the kind of person who makes this world a better place for everyone else.

Mallorie was the epitome of the popular, energetic scholar athlete. She passed away last month at seventeen years old, at the threshold of her life, after a two-year battle with a debilitating illness. I had the good fortune to have known her, and having known her, I was reminded of the promise of future we all possess as a birthright, or at least should possess as a birthright. Mal was not the one-trick pony of Housman’s poem; Mal had garned both the laurel and the rose in her short life as well as an easy ability to make friends. Her birthright, to grow those gifts and to live up to her potential at whatever capacity she cared to, was simply not to be.

I do not believe in “fate” as a mystic concept, though I will use the word as a crutch to refer to an outcome, pretty much any outcome good, bad, or indifferent, which befalls a person. Mallorie’s fate was literally determined on the molecular level during the genetic transcriptioning that occurred at the moment of her conception. Out of respect, no further details need be added. Suffice it to say that a seemingly perfectly healthy fifteen year old girl had her life turn on a dime in one day when the genetic time bomb within each and every one of her cells detonated. Over the course of the following two years, Mallorie the person slowly disappeared, and her body soon followed.

The entire situation enraged me. It wasn’t fair. Why her? I fostered dark thoughts regarding the relative value of human beings, and figured Mallorie was way up in the highest percentiles of good people who deserved a long, fulfilled life. Why her?

I can not deny the allure of the “why her?” question. My internal monologue is still full of it. Getting past the anger, the sense of loss remains, as does a very real sense of waste, as in, what a waste of a promising young life. What’s left for the living to do but go on living? I suppose that is the million dollar question. What now matters most to me is how I go on living.

In honor of Mallorie’s memory, I have renewed my sense of wonder in the world. I have determined to live a better life and to be a better person. We all tend to squander what we have in abundance. When we believe we have an abundance of time, do we not treat it cheaply? I suppose this to be my biggest take-away: be happy for the time you have, for you never truly know when it will end. Be happy for the people in your life, for you never know when they may become the departed. Cherish your health, especially if you are fortunate enough to be in good health, for even if you should be so fortunate to escape physical calamity and illness, nonetheless, time will eventually overtake you. Enjoy your body. No kidding. Use it. It’s yours. Don’t be afraid to get it scraped up a bit. Play hard. Get dirty. Sweat your ass off. Shiver once in a while, it won’t kill you. Don’t drink crappy beer or wine. Nor weak coffee. Make love like you mean it. And do it often.

IMGP1454

I try to be as accomodating as possible with all of Nature’s furry and feathered creatures, but it happens that nearly every spring I have to evict some poor avian hopefuls out of my kayak!

I try to keep the cockpit covered, but as this boat gets used very frequently I usually just leave it upside down in its stand to air dry. Unfortunately, this seems to be an open invitation to any nesting couple looking for a safe haven out of the weather.

I used this boat one day and found a completed nest deep in the cockpit only five days later. I know that represents alot of work on the part of the happy couple, but I gots to do what I gots to do! As it is, TWO nesting pairs have taken over my canoe, which I will write off until the chicks fledge. It’s the least I could do…

hepa-filterTrionAirBear229990-102_LargeBike%20Air%20FilterWhen judiciously applied, filters come in very handy. Mine is either MIA or at least fairly well out of calibration.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

PACOADMLHPIBBHKJtIt never fails to amaze me just how random life is. Today, for example, a completely chance encounter with a fellow human being has left me contemplating this fact. To wit, the Great Cartography Incident of 11 May, 2013!

The story begins with the need for a map……

Sure, it was a rather specific type of map, but not exactly exotic. Just a simple topographic map of White Mountain National Forest, preferably in the 1:24,000 scale, preferably printed on Tyvek or at least on water-proof paper. Specific, but not exotic. That’s all I set out to find this day. A map. Honest.

So I did what most people do; I went online and researched with intent to purchase the previously described map, and to my surprise came up short. If you know anything about these topo maps, you should know that the entire surface of the United States has long since been rendered by the USGS into neat little grid squares. I know this. And knowing this, I also know that for decades, retailers have been allowed to sell commercially printed versions of these USGS maps. Further, if you had the patience to negotiate government bureaucracies, you could get these maps for a very nominal fee directly from the USGS. No longer the case. Everything has gone digital, including these extensive USGS surveys, the upside being that you may now download, absolutely for free, the entire rendered surface of the Home of the Brave direct to your hard drive. Great.

Well, not really. The logistics of hauling a laptop out to the mountains and providing for its power needs for days on end escape me, so basically you have to pay someone, Kinko’s I suppose, to large-format print your “free” USGS topo map. See where this is going? All I wanna do is buy a damn topo map. Printed. On paper. Preferably Tyvek. In the 1:24,000 scale.

Time for some brick and mortar shopping. And to be right upfront, I almost always research pretty much anything I am going to buy, from motorcycle tires to topo maps, online whilst I sit in my jammies with a strong cuppa Joe. Saves mucho gas and I can fly from one category of needful thing to another with complete aplomb, for instance, motorcycle tires one minute, topo maps the next. Convenient, logical, efficient. But seldom do I press the “purchase now” button. I like to touch and feel and kick the stuff for which I’m going to hand over my money, so the online research phase complete, I then head out into actual reality to make the actual purchase. This usually works out fine for me, and as far as this map is concerned, yes, it worked out for me this time as well. I did end up with a suitable map, but alas, there was a complication. I met this woman. This woman who sold me the map. Totally random.

Having arrived at the local branch of a well known outdoor gear retailer I really thought it would be a simple matter of walking into the store, locating the printed materials section, and grabbing my desired map. I was greeted at the entrance by a very attractive, very upbeat woman. I mentioned my want of a map and was courteously directed left to, voi la!, the printed materials section, where I searched in vain for my topo map. Sensing my frustration, the aforementioned rather attractive store associate now came over to assist me, and something happened. It was like a short-range Blue Tooth signal; initially easy to resist at a distance but now impossible to ignore as she closed on me. As soon as she was within fourteen feet of me the radiance of her eyes and the playful energy in her voice just ruined me, reduced me to a schoolboy.

Now, I am no shrinking violet here. I’ve been to my share of ice cream socials and I am well past my first rodeo. And I am not easily impressed, maybe even to the point of being a little jaded, but this woman just had an aura I could have just died in and been happy for it. The energy coming off her was intoxicating. She was pretty, athletic, outdoorsy, engaging; to my criteria, the perfect woman. I had to consciously resist, literally, wrapping this girl in my arms and saying something silly like “thank God I finally found you!”. Yeah, it was that bad. And I couldn’t stop staring at her. Creepy on my part, I know, so I averted my eyes occasionally and tried to be cool, because really, who hugs a complete stranger in the middle of her work day, in the middle of a store, and tells her “thank God I found you“? No one that doesn’t want a restraining order, that’s who.

This went on for about twenty minutes, because ironically, she herself now ended up online looking for a map fitting my description. She knew exactly the type of map to which I was referring and was as surprised as I that such maps were getting so damn difficult to find in physical form. And so she stood, iPad in hand, scouring her own store’s web resources and also made several phone calls to other locations within the chain, all the while holding me in orbit within that fourteen foot radius.

Let me now circle back to the beginning of this little diatribe and explain why this chance encounter has me thinking about the random nature of life and living. As a healthy, single male of consenting age I always have the “search for mate” subroutine running in the background while I go about my daily business. It’s part of the operating system encoded into my white and grey matter BIOS. And being presently in search of a mate, I’ve begun to think how really narrow is the pool of candidates from which we all choose that person to whom we endeavor to devote our lives, our time, and our affection.

So here it is: like everyone else, I am just another marble rolling around on a gigantic cookie sheet. Theoretically, I could end up next to any other marble (including my perfect match, for instance a beautiful girl who sells maps and other outdoor goods) on this cookie sheet, but for the most part, we end up bumping up against a very small percentage of the overall population of marbles. That small percentage is first and foremost restricted to those geographically closest to us, i.e., where we live and work. And then there is secondary randomized expansion of the pool created by certain choices we make, some big, most small. For instance, you can spread yourself around a bit, go to school out of state, get a new job, join a gym, take underwater basket weaving classes at the Y and you, my friend, have increased your odds of running into and hopefully forming a bond with that one person in the whole world who is really your perfect match. Or you can walk into an outdoor equipment retailer looking for a map. You just never know.

Because really, do you know which of these moves is the right move? Do you really know what move you need to make in order to be in the exact position necessary for when the planets finally align and the one meant for you is standing right in front of you? (looking for a map on an iPad?) No, you don’t know. It’s all random. And that’s the crux of the matter. I put more conscious thought into selecting a map, whereas a profoundly more important choice, the selection of someone with whom I’d like to share my life, isn’t really a selection at all. That pseudo-selection usually occurs from a very narrow pool of candidates presented by pure chance. Put another way, I researched to a fairly exhaustive level the candidate pool of maps available to me, then chose the one that suited me best whereas most people (me included) don’t put in anything remotely close to an “exhaustive search” for a mate. Most people just settle for someone in a tiny pool of convenient random candidates with coincidental geographic proximity. And that’s the sad truth. The thought applied to the selection of consumer goods would seem to trump that applied to finding a mate. Weird.

Had I even walked into that same store one minute before or one minute after, my cartographic muse might have been otherwise engaged with a different customer, and I would never have met her and I would not have consequently had the epiphany that the people who do end up in our life come from a very small pool of candidates, meaning that zillions of other more appropriate matches will never even be considered. By example, what I mean to say is, suppose I struck up a conversation with this woman, went out for organic fair-trade coffee, and lived happily ever after. Suppose that being with her made me as happy and complete as I could possibly hope to be. Now, instead imagine I get stuck at just one more red light on the way to the store and never end up talking with her. Or I hit one extra green light, arrive early, and thus never talk to her. No Blue Tooth signal magic spell. No organic fair-trade coffee. No happily ever after. All because of one traffic light. Mind boggling. I wonder if she prefers tea?