Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a bridge to somewhere

the 520 bridge floats on the surface of lake washington like a feather on a country pond.

sometimes, driving across, you'll notice some strange, confused hydrodynamics on either side of the bridge. to the south, choppy, whitecap waves churn, spraying water across the bridge deck. to the north the lake is calm, serene, as if it were a completely different body.

there's obviously a perfectly sound scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but i've never heard it.

it's just as well. sometimes overanalysis takes the fun out of a perfectly good unexplained phenomenon. i'm content to marvel at this one, and the improbability of it all.

in other does a human body work so well, for so long, then just kinda have a come-apart? even a neurosurgeon doesn't know the answer. "these things can happen for no reason, or any reason at all," mine said recently. and by recently, i mean day-before-yesterday.

this was not a random, rhetorical observation. it was in reference to my body, in particular, and its near-spontaneous combustion.

as a result of that conversation, i've decided to have some more surgery. the last one went so well, i thought, "what the hell? let's take our healthcare insurance out for another spin and see what else these people can do."

that's not exactly true. what really happened is that the neurosurgeon told me if i don't have surgery, i stand a good chance of losing the use of my left arm. that would be a shame, since it's been a perfectly good arm for many years.

so, i'm having surgery soon. and by soon, i mean today. this afternoon. because every day i don't have surgery increases the risk of permanent damage.

cervical spondylosis does not actually occur spontaneously. it's a years-long accretion that one day shows up and says, "hi there, mind if i move in and stay awhile?" if you don't say, "no, get the hell out," it stays forever.

after years of reliable service, it's as if i'm suddenly dealing with a completely different body. it's strange, confusing.

so i sit here marveling at this unexplained phenomenon, and the improbability of it all.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

can we cobble it together, somehow?

yes, we can.


i'm a word guy. i can usually cobble together a halfway decent sentence without breaking a sweat. but when it comes to power tools...i am not a precision instrument.

i don't like circular saws. or band saws. or chop saws. i don't like anything that can lop off things that won't easily be un-lopped.

despite this, i deployed a deadly circular saw over the weekend in building a fence in the spaceneedl backyard. i even changed the blade on the saw, all the while certain it would spring to life at the most inopportune moment, lopping something or several somethings. sure, it was unplugged. but you can't trust those things.

soon thereafter, i was equally certain i had botched installing the new blade. and that it would come flying off at high speed. it was tightly tightened, and the blade guards were on, but still. you can't trust those things.

after several hours, much angst and many less-than-precise cuts with the circular saw, the first section of the fence is up. three to go. all appendages still attached.

and it doesn't look half bad.

for a diy project done by a word guy.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

puncture wounds...

in the last three weeks i had my first two acupuncture appointments.

my chi is still all effed up.

(note: i don't think practitioners of eastern medical philosophy refer to chi as being "all effed up" under any circumstances.)

i've been having back spasms for the last three weeks-plus. about a week in, the symptoms radiated down my left arm to include two numb fingers, a numb palm, and a toothache in my elbow. this bundle of symptoms is referred to in the literature as "cervical radiculopathy," which could not be more aptly named.

i thought the problem was chiropractic, so in the intervening 24 days i went to the chiro 6 times, had two massages, the aforementioned acupuncture sessions, several hot tubs, and countless hot pack/cold packs.


finally, out of desperation, i gave up the non-western medicine and went to an MD. she prescribed a muscle relaxant, some heavy duty naproxin, and an MRI.

the muscle relaxant made me more stupid than usual, and the naproxin had approximately no effect.

the MRI, however, revealed cervical spondylosis. i have a degenerative osteoarthritic condition in my spine. along with bone spurs and stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal channel.

apparently all this is the result of years of wear and tear from my various efforts to stay healthy and in shape.

isn't it ironic...don'tcha think?

so, i now have an appointment with a neurosurgeon to assess the condition and get a possible recommendation for surgery.

perhaps my workouts--weightlifting, basketball, running, etcetera--were a tad...debilitating. certainly i've had my share of exercise-related trauma over the last 25 years. but was all meant to build up my physio-spiritual core, not tear it down.

where's the karmic justice?

then again...perhaps it's simply a matter of neglecting my chi for too long.

i'm taking suggestions to undo the spondylosis and realign my vertebrae.

in the meantime, i will be more attentive to the all-important alignment of my chakras.

whatever else happens, i can't have my chi all effed up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

now for something completely new...

i'd like you to meet kate.

that's her, next to the little brown dog.

cute isn't she?

she's a 6-month old golden retriever, and the latest addition to the spaceneedl family menagerie.

kate's a rescue--which in this case means she was previously in an abusive home, and now she's not.

i will tell you, kate really doesn't know how to react to being loved so much, in such a short time. the spaceneedls young and old are smothering her with attention and affection and encouragement. and yet she still will sometimes cower and slink away, as if she's sure there's a beating on the way.

on the upside, she's been with us for just a few days, and she's made great progress. she doesn't know how to walk on a leash, but she is house-trained and crate-trained. she doesn't know know how to hang out and be a dog, but she's learning quickly from the two little dogs.

i wasn't sure this moment would arrive.

it's three years now that the big dogs have been gone, and i thought maybe i was done grieving for them. turns out that's not the case.

i look at kate and i see raleigh, who was always so eager to please. i watch her raise her eyebrows, like she's thinking things over, and i see gunnar. he was smart, but had such a streak of the devil in him.

then my eyes fill up, and i have to look away.

but only for a moment.

it's been too long, and i've discovered that i've been ready to love another dog for awhile now. kate's not replacing the big dogs, but she is filling up an empty place in my heart.

shoot, i may even learn to like mrs. spaceneedl's little dogs. maybe.

so, to sum up, kate needed us, and as it turns out, i needed her.

our little family has grown by just one, but suddenly the house feels like it's infused with something much more.

Monday, September 07, 2009

there be whales here

the whale jinx is over.

for years, every time mrs. spaceneedl went looking for orcas, the orcas disappeared.

whale watching cruise: "we're so sorry the whales weren't around today--we can count on one hand the number of times that's happened this year."

sea kayaking in whale-infested waters: "if you camp at san juan county park for three days, you have about a 100% chance of seeing orcas go by. it's amazing that you missed them."

this scenario played itself out enough times over the years that the missus became convinced that:

1. she is a certified whale jinx or
2. orcas don't really exist at all

one of these may be true, but certainly not both. i'm pretty sure. given that i've seen orcas up close from a very small boat, i'd lean toward #1. that said, the experience was so surreal, it may well have existed entirely in the abstract.

naw, couldn't be. i think, therefore there are orcas.

we spent a couple nights on orcas island recently (see, they have their own island!), and signed on for another whale watching excursion, to scientifically test the jinx. and by 'scientific' i mean "completely random, no-sample-size, haphazard exercise in pure luck."

we set out in perfect conditions, sunny and clear, on a heading that the skipper said looked whaleful. thirty minutes later we were fogged in, barely making headway, navigating by radar and sounding a mournful fog horn.

mrs. spaceneedl smirked and sagely shook her head. "nice try," she said. "the fog is just a smokescreen. it doesn't hide the fact that there are no whales."

the fog was so thick that at times we couldn't see more than 30 feet in any direction. it simply closed in around us, dampening sound, making a 56-foot boat our entire universe. the radio crackled occasionally, with conflicting reports of orca sightings in contradictory locations around the san juan islands.

the jinx was fully deployed and operational. there was no way we'd find whales at the rate we were going.

instead, they found us.

we heard the first pair before we saw them. their surface-exhale cut through the fog from about 50 yards off the starboard bow. a moment later we saw them, swimming parallel to our course. after that, things got a little crazy.

we were way inside the legal 100-yard distance limit for whales, but it was entirely unintentional. our engines were shut down, and the orcas were going wherever they felt like. several times, they felt like going right in front of the boat. or under it. or right damn next to it. we could've jumped onto the back of one of the big males if we had been so inclined.

they were startlingly large and loud, and they were everywhere around us, all at once. it seemed like there must've been 50 of them, but there are only 25 whales in J pod.

they all must've made a run at us at one time or another over the next 20 minutes. the fog lent an aura of unreality to the proceedings, whales darting in and out and back into it. other whale watching vessels were there as well, doing exactly the same. fact is, it was crowded off the west coast of san juan island; whales, boats, people all sharing a too-close encounter.

the skipper correctly was uncomfortable so far inside the whales' personal space, and right about then he decided it was time to go. on the way back to orcas island, we actually passed a couple whales swimming the same direction. prolly they were enjoying our company so much, they didn't want us to go. or maybe they were hoping we'd throw some salmon (or a couple little dogs) overboard for their consideration.

the missus, finally, was fully satisfied that orcas do, in fact, exist outside of seaworld (if she were a smoker, i think she would've lit up).

so, after years of no-shows and near-misses (and maybe due to the little whale dance i did before boarding the boat)...the whale jinx is ended.

there be whales here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

aliens vs. predators

when did we move to montana?

when did we say, "we want to get back to our primeval roots and touch predators higher on the food chain than we are"?

i'll tell you when. never. that's when.

just a few short weeks ago it was a bear roaming the neighborhood, voraciously devouring entire blocks, homes and all. the beast eventually was captured and renditioned to alaska, where it's currently hunting sarah palin.

now it's a cougar. no, not that kind of cougar (though magnolia reportedly is teeming with that kind of cougar). the big cat kind. puma concolor, as the felidae are reckoned.

within stalking distance of our house.

the sighting referenced in the news story was on our street. literally on the street where we live. where in the purchase agreement did it say, "buyer agrees to share right of way with man-eating cats"? i'll tell you where. nowhere. that's where.

it's important, at this juncture, not to roll one's eyes and ask, "what's next?" doing that invites all kinds of answers you don't want. the irony gods have an ironic sense of humor, see, and they love answering that question in all kinds of hilarious ways.

"hey, check it out. this spaceneedl guy wants to know what's next after the bear and the lion. quick, somebody fire up mount st. helens. and some good examples of climate change. and an alligator in the sewers. yee-haw!"

no, we'll not ask the question. we prefer to avoid inadvertently inviting uninvited trouble into our midst.

we'll just assume that it's always something, and quietly hope for the best.

* * * * *

update: cougar captured, caravanned to the cascades.

Elusive cougar captured in Magnolia's Discovery Park, already released into the wild
A cougar that's been prowling Discovery Park in Magnolia for about a week was captured early this morning after being tracked and tranquilized by wildlife officers.
a couple nights ago i dreamed we had a cheetah in the house. it was going after our many little animals, and i scared it off with a baby gate.

i didn't say it was a realistic dream.