Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hawaii (Teaser)

C and I took a long(+) weekend trip to the North Shore of Oahu, conveniently served by a non-stop flight from Anchorage.  Strangely, it is faster and easier to get to Hawaii than just about anywhere south of Seattle or Portland.  The red-eye deposited us back at ANC at 5:30 this morning with just enough time to brush snow and scrape ice off of the car, drive home, sleep for an hour, and head to work.  Suffice to say, we're not expecting much in the way of activity tonight.

This is just a teaser post, with two quick pictures.  Once I get a chance to separate the digital wheat from chaff, I suspect there will be a robust photo trip report.  In the meantime, enjoy a turtle and a sunset.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I just got back from Seattle.  I was last  in the Emerald City in July for a consultation with the good doctors of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  C and I made the most of that trip, but who are we kidding?  We were seeking a second (third) opinion on treatment options; it wasn't exactly relaxation on a stick.  In comparison, last weekend was pure vacation.

I met W, a friend of now 20+ years.  We've kept in touch over the years, but hadn't spent any time together in an awful long time.  So, we agreed to put our lives on hold and split the difference, meeting halfway between our respective homes.  We pretty much stuck to the well trodden tourist path.  We poked into Seattle's alleyways, looking for rats and meals.

We sought out Seattle's famous rusty and dank plumbing.

An elevator operator regaled us with stories of a giant octopus, purportedly housed at the Seattle aquarium.  We can't be sure we actually ever found the aquarium.  It is a certainty we never found the octopus, and the fish we did see were frankly not doing so well in captivity.  I don't think the collection was worth the admission we paid the attendant (who, by the way, smelled like cheap whiskey and two weeks of hard living).

We spent long hours studying Sanborn insurance maps from the late 1880s.

We were mesmerized by the geometric symmetry that the city's building code has imposed on ALL structures within the city's historic core.

Like we used to do as kids, we stared into elevator shafts.

And, since Seattle is really a city of neighborhoods, we spent a full afternoon exploring the Pickle District, tasting our way through artisan crafted barrels of dills and bread and butters.

Of course, you can only taste so many pickles before your teeth start to float in brine and your attention turns with ferocity to base biological functions.  So, we also got to visit the city's public restrooms.

There is actually a funny (and true) story about public restrooms in Seattle.  For some reason, it starts in Amsterdam.  I was in Amsterdam for the first time in 1989 with another old friend and his dad.  Much like W and I did in Seattle, we spent our days in Amsterdam as tourists, and, after delighting in Amsterdam's own Pickle District, were in need of bathroom facilities.  Public restrooms in Amsterdam really ran the spectrum.  At one end were small tombstone shaped slabs of concrete tucked within a spiral of 6-foot tall sheet metal at the side of a canal that, quite literally, just gave you something to aim at.  I suspect these restrooms were more popular with the men than the women.   What they lacked in sanitation, however, they more than made up for in affordability.  At the other end of the spectrum were space aged yellow pods.  These cost a pretty guilder (this was pre-euro, mind you) to enter, but used the very height of bathroom sanitation technology to completely scrub each and every surface clean upon each exit.  A little behind the curve, Seattle choose to purchase and install a number of similar (but free) toilet pods throughout its downtown in the mid 2000s.  The city abandoned the project when the toilet pods were co-opted by prostitutes and junkies as temporary office space.

All of the above is well and good, and represents a typical itinerary for anyone visiting Seattle.  I mean, who among us hasn't spent an afternoon in the Pickle District?  Heck, any Lonely Planet Seattle since at least 1992 dedicates a number of column inches to pickle tasting (prior to 1992, the District hadn't yet felt the gentle touch of gentrification, and there was little there to draw a visitor).  The real surprise came in that we went to a professional football game, and a playoff game at that.  

Much like some people find religion, it turns out that W had found football in the years since high school.  Or maybe just returned to the flock after 20 years of sport free living.  He proposed the game, I was curious, and there were still tickets available less than 24 hours before kick off.  So we joined 67,000 new friends, learned the local call and response rituals, and thrilled at the production that is modern sport at its most commercial.  We had a blast, helped by the fact that the home team triumphed in a close game that became a high scoring upset over last year's Super Bowl champs.  Throughout the game, wave after wave of sound came pounding down from the upper sections of Qwest Field as the local fans demonstrated why they have the reputation as loudest in the NFL.  It was bruising but infectious.

P.S. - Anyone who wants to read up on the Seattle self-cleaning toilet experiment, here is a article from right after they were installed:  And here is an article about the end of the self-cleaning toilet era in Seattle:  Favorite quote from the later: “'I’m not going to lie: I used to smoke crack in there,' said one homeless woman, Veronyka Cordner, nodding toward the toilet behind Pike Place Market. 'But I won’t even go inside that thing now. It’s disgusting.'"     You know things have gotten bad when a space is no longer usable for smoking crack.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Shameless Plug

This is a throw away post, done for one purpose and one purpose only:  to increase my chances of winning a pair of minimalist running shoes.  The good curator of the Running and Rambling blog is giving away a pair, and by linking his review here, I get an extra shot and taking home the prize.  So I'm doing it.  My apologies for dragging the purity that is Cobrasinalaska into the dark realm of materialism!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New words for a new year

I'll start the 2011 blogging year off right, with a timely picture of last night's fireworks and a punctual update.  Anyone following along has probably been scratching his or her head, wondering aloud to an empty room, "Is he done?  Did he get a clear bill of health and lose his Blogspot password all in one swoop?  Where are the words?  Where are the pictures?"  Indeed, I think I promised some weeks ago that I would provide further details on the remission, and I will get into that a bit below.  But first, a word of warning about the likely direction these posts will take.  I started this blog as a way of keeping disparate groups of friends and family up to date on the rigors of chemo, but that is a topic I am hoping to put to bed.  Time will tell how long it sleeps.  But because I had fun typing, I will likely continue to post on a(n) (ir)regular basis.  However, topics will likely skew heavily towards mundane reporting on trips C and I take, description in great detail of how my legs felt on a recent run, and the continuing inventorying of our fridge contents.  We’ll see if readership falls off a cliff.  Continue to check in at your own peril.

Life in Remission
I noted in the last post that the good Doctor declared my body cancer-free.  That turned into a good day, with a psychological load I did not know I was carrying lifted.  Of course, I described in the very first post that NHL is a chronic disease, so this isn’t the end of the road, and the next two years will still be filled with doctor appointments, diagnostic scanning, and multiple infusions of one drug (Rituxin).  But unless a future scan shows something irregular, the heavy lifting is over.  Rituxin should not have any side effects, and I intend on spending 2011 forgetting everything I ever learned about NHL.

So where does this leave us?  What did I learn?  How have I changed?  Everyone has probably read someone’s account of cancer (or other hardship) that wraps up neatly with the declaration that “I decided life is too short to waste on the unimportant things!”  The author then typically packs his bags and opens a surf school in the South Pacific, buys a herd of goats and moves to a farm up state, or starts a non-profit dedicated to helping the poor, hungry, and infirm.  I remember when I first started researching NHL, reading someone’s online account of chemo and recovery.  Her story included a leave of absence from a law firm and subsequent calls from her employer, gently inquiring, “When are you coming back to work.”  Of course, as anyone could predict from the outset, she had determined that “life is too short.”   I don’t remember if she invested in goats or started hand carving skis from organically grown bamboo, but suffice to say she did not return to her earlier life as a lawyer.

Unfortunately, I’m too short-sighted or unimaginative to take that left turn.  Did cancer teach me that I would rather be doing something other than lawyering every day?  No.  I knew that before this all started.  Given the choice, I would rather practice guitar, travel, read, exercise, cook, eat.  How about biking across the northern and southern tiers of the U.S.?  Comparing the mountain huts of the Alps to those in the Dolomites?  Apprenticing at a cheese shop?  Yea, any of those will do.  But cancer has taught me that I really need health insurance.  Cancer is expensive.  Until I figure out a way to hustle a living doing any of the above that can keep C and I in the good graces of a monthly insurance premium, it looks like I’ll  keep working.  What a drag.

Off hours
But the off hours will still be fun.  We have lots of ideas for 2011.  We’ll see what we make happen.  In the meantime, here are some pictures depicting cancer free living.

That distant figure in snowy landscape is C, preparing for a winter triathlon (run, bike, ski).  It was a gorgeous day out in the trails.  To any bike geeks, C is running Snow Cat rims we borrowed from Mr. T.  I rented a Pugsly for the day:

The fat tires add significant flotation and open up whole realms of winter biking that were previously shut tight.  If we had the space, I suspect C and I would add two to the existing bike collection.

Just another shot of C and her bike.

We also spent a day on skis at the local lift-served resort.  It was a gorgeous, clear, and cold day.  This is the only picture we got (of sis-in-law M, who joined us for the holidays) before the camera battery took a dive.

C and M, on a day after Christmas hike.  It was another pretty day.

Now, go forth and enjoy the new year.