People

Brain Cancer

Dictation sucks. My wife is currently typing (and editing) as I speak. Maybe some day I’ll be able to do this again, but right now I can’t. It sucks.

This is going to be a tough post to write. The short of it is I have a brain tumor. We’ve done a biopsy and it’s a glioblastoma, deep in my brain and inoperable, but I thought it was time that I let people know what’s going on.

This has all come on relatively quickly; we didn’t know what I had last week, but I was definitely feeling woozy and uncoordinated. On December 1st, not feeling well, I drove to New Milford for an unrelated blood test. While taking blood, the techie remarked that I looked like shit. He took my blood pressure which was very low, and then advised me that I shouldn’t drive home. But I did, stopping at my primary care doctor’s office. I was immediately waved in by the nurse who I’ve known for 25 years. She sent me home to collect my wife and check in at the emergency room at New Milford Hospital. After 7 hours attended by the fabulous Dr. Chu, a CAT scan and MRI, we got the bad news. Brain tumor. BRAIN TUMOR!

After the initial diagnosis I was on a steroid drug, and it helped me feel better. I talked and walked more easily. The tumor seems to be in the motor area of my brain although we don’t know much more than that yet. I’m off the steroid now. Lots of other chemicals are swimming around in my blood. I’m a little loopy now.

On Tuesday, December 3rd, we met with Dr. Altorelli, our long time and wonderful physician. He showed us the MRI, explained what had been learned and laid out the general plan for the upcoming weeks. He was extremely reassuring about adhering to quality of life issues that will obviously be relevant in the upcoming months. I didn’t know how he could be blunt and kindly at the same time, but he was.

On Friday, December 7th, we were sent to Yale/New Haven Hospital emergency room. Unbeknownst to us, ER’s are routinely used for diagnoses. It was very busy; my bed was in the hall which gave an interesting view of comings, goings and all kinds of strange activities. Various technicians, nurses and doctors arrived at bedside with all kinds of vague (to us) communications. Finally, they ordered their own MRI, which resulted in admission to the hospital. We already had an appointment for the following Tuesday for a biopsy and wished we’d been able to return home before the scary event. Most likely, it was best to be in the hospital for monitoring and preparation, but it sucked. No one in the three-bed room got any sleep, or knew what the heck was going on with them.

To the OR

On Tuesday December 11th, Bonnie (daughter) arrived at the hospital to be with us for the duration. She took point and steadied the elders throughout the pre-op interviews and preps. Once in Smilow Cancer Center, things seemed to go more smoothly and quickly. Everyone on the team introduced themselves and were very reassuring both with words and physical contact. They tell me that after I went to sleep, they slipped a needle through my skull and then deep into my left midbrain, then took samples of the monster in my head. They identified the tumor as a glioblastoma, but further testing will give more detailed information that will drive treatment.

Post OR

When the results are final from the the biopsy, we will meet with doctors who specialize in treatment using chemicals and radiation. We are also hoping for some immunotherapy. We have the appointments at Yale/New Haven right after Christmas. Soon we will have appointments at Memorial Sloan Kettering for second opinions.

We’ve been home for two days. The most frustrating symptom is the loss of typing and sometimes word retrieval. I don’t mind not driving since my chauffeur (Anne) is right here.

I get tired by mid day, but the sofa in front of the wood stove is very nice.

I’m going to use this blog to share information. Link to it and/or pass it around.
So, that’s it for now. I’ll update you as I know more.

Stay tuned.

What if he falls?

What if He Falls?

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin produced, directed, and shot the movie Free Solo, about Alex Honnold’s free solo of the Freerider route on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California. This behind the scenes piece for The New York Times is incredible and the movie will no doubt be incredible as well.

Zoom it out. Wow!

Jaymukh Gopinath and his village food factory

I recently read a great, short New Yorker piece by Priya Krishna: The Indian Filmmaker Who Made His Dad’s Village Cooking a YouTube Sensation.

Arumugam Gopinath decided to make videos of his father Jaymukh cooking huge meals in Tamil Nadu, rural southern India. For me this has much the same appeal as the Primitive Technology series: it’s about process but also documents a different culture.

I’ve only just begun to explore Arumugam’s YouTube channel: Village food factory. Here are a few videos I found fascinating and wonderful:

King of Chicken Legs

2500 eggs and 10 KG Chicken cooking in single pot

These videos and many others have been viewed millions of times on YouTube, mostly from people outside of India and have earned the family more than seven million rupees (close to $100,000) in advertising revenue.

Brilliant.

Remembering Dave Koerber

Dave Koerber on the Appalachian Trail.

I’m sad to report that my good friend Dave Koerber passed away yesterday. Dave had triple bypass surgery a little over a week ago and came through the surgery extremely well. He was recovering and was at home when he had a stroke and died a few days later. I talked with him a few hours before he had the stroke and he was in great spirits, anxious to get back out on the trail. This is a great shock to me; Dave and I had gotten close over the past few years and we enjoyed each other’s company, hiking and doing trail work.

In the summer of 2012 I was hiking down the Race Brook Falls trail in southern Massachusetts and ran into three members of the Berkshire (Massachusetts) Appalachian Mountain Club. They asked me if I’d seen the log bridge that crosses Race Brook above the falls and what shape it was in. In fact, the bridge was broken and hikers were crossing Race Brook in the water, which is what I told them. They told me who they were and that they were going up to scout out rebuilding the bridge. This sounded interesting to me so I asked if they needed help. They said they’d love help and we exchanged contact information.

It took numerous trips up the Race Brook Falls trail to rebuild the bridge which was a wonderful experience. The leader of the project was Jim Pelletier who was the head of the Berkshire group at the time. Dave Koerber was on many of these trips although I didn’t know him as well at the time.

Dave Koerber (left) and Jim Pelletier lifting a hemlock log that will be half of the new Race Brook bridge.

After we finished the bridge I was asked to become the maintainer of the Race Brook Falls trail which is a “blue trail” which connects up to the Appalachian Trail in southern Massachusetts. Never having maintained a trail I needed to be trained and my trainer was Dave Koerber, the Overseeer of all of the various maintainers from the Connecticut/Massachusetts border to an area just above Great Barrington (the bottom third of the state).

Dave on the AT near Mt. Everett, Massachusetts.

Dave on Mt. Everett, Massachusetts.

Dave taught me how to build and repair water bars, how to blaze, how to clear blowdowns and a lot more. I was also learning from other members of the Berkshire group but Dave was my direct “boss” as he oversaw my section of trail and we spent the most time on the trail together. And, he was retired as I am so we had time to get out on the trail mid-week to avoid crowds.

He was an excellent teacher, he knew more than I did but he allowed me, a person with plenty of outdoor experience to try whatever I wanted and if my way was better than his way, he was glad to adopt my way.

Dave (left) and Dave McCullough crossing a beaver dam at Pine Swamp in Connecticut.

Dave and I enjoyed doing trail work together over many years. But, we also enjoyed just being out hiking or snowshoeing together and if both of us were around and one called and wanted to get out, we’d make it happen even though we live a good distance from one another. It was easy to meet half-way but I was glad to hike nearer to him and he came down to Connecticut to hike trails I maintain down here as well.

Three years ago another section of trail opened up, the Appalachian Trail between Sage’s Ravine (the Connecticut border) and Mt. Race. This is one of the most scenic sections of the AT in southern New England and I decided to move from Race Brook Falls to maintaining that section, which I still maintain. This section was also under Dave’s leadership and so, not much changed between us. Dave helped me get set up on the section and we did a lot of work on it over the past few years.

Dave and Loren Kahn on the south ridge of Mt. Race (my new section of Appalachian trail).

Dave and I were on opposite sides of the political divide and while politics certainly came up on our hikes, we both decided that while those issues were important, it was more important to remain friends and get out on the trail where political issues can easily be put in a box and tossed aside. We did that successfully over many years and while I guess I played a part in making that truce, he was so good-natured that it was easy to like him no matter what he thought about anything.

Dave was a great hiking partner and friend and I miss him. I guess the best medicine for this is to get back out on the trail but of course, I’ll miss him there too.

Life is fragile, treasure it.

Dave crossing the Race Brook bridge in winter. This is the bridge we rebuilt years earlier when I first met him.

The gospel according to Aretha Franklin

This is a terrific compilation and commentary on Aretha’s roots in gospel and how she was able to bridge into blues and rock.

I’m glad VOX mentioned Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records but I wish they’d mentioned Tom Dowd (pictured in a few of the stills) who was Atlantic’s engineer and helped produce much of Aretha’s work at Atlantic (and numerous other artists).

Here’s a great post at the Atlantic Records/Warner site: The Record Man: Ahmet Ertegun, Founder of Atlantic Records.

I highly recommend two documentaries if you can find them:

Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built
Tom Dowd and the Language of Music (out of print, expensive, hopefully streamed at some point).

[via Uncrate]

Tinker Hatfield on design and creativity

“Pole vaulter turned architect turned shoe designer, Tinker Hatfield first made a name for himself working alongside Michael Jordan on the legendary Air Jordan sneaker line. In an in depth conversation, Tinker reflects back on everything from designing the Nike Air MAG’s for Back to the Future II to how he uses motorcycling and music as part of his creative process.”

Tinker Hatfield is Nike’s VP of Design and quite an interesting person. I love that four door VW bus pickup, very rare and fully restored. Looks like he has an Airstream as well.

Note the iPad and his comment on using it as a design tool.

[via Uncrate]

A Taco Told In Texas

A Taco Told In Texas from David Gorvy on Vimeo.

“A Taco Told In Texas isn’t really about a taco. It’s about a guy with an eighth grade education who became a millionaire. And then he lost it all. And then he became a millionaire again. And then he lost it all. Again. And then he bought a used shipping container on Craigslist and started slinging the best tacos you’ve ever had out of it.”

This is brilliant. I wish I was still working in Texas, I’d love to eat one (or more) of these.

[via Uncrate]

A Very Stable Genius

Randy Rainbow’s YouTube Channel is chock-a-block with great Trump parodies. That said, the one embedded above is an incredible takeoff on The Major-General’s Song from the Gilbert and Sullivan light opera, The Pirates of Penzance.

Here’s more information on The Major-General’s Song including the lyrics which are hard to understand in the video embedded below.

Here’s the same song from a production of The Pirates of Penzance recorded in Central Park, New York around 1980. Note Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt moving around the stage before the major-general does his number:

I love that Randy Rainbow decided to use this song in his Trump parodies. My post here is not to make light of the damage Donald Trump is doing to the United States and to the world, but to show off one of the better Trump parody makers around.

When Steve Bannon got fired as Trump’s advisor, Randy did an incredible parody: Yes, We Have No Steve Bannon (based on: Yes! We Have No Bananas).

Sigh…

PS: If you’re into Gilbert and Sullivan I highly recommend the movie: Topsy-Turvy about their relationship leading up to the premier of The Mikado, one of their masterpieces.