Friday, December 14, 2007

Fear, Itself

Two months had passed, all-too-quickly... and already it was time this week to once again confront the New Reality.
Tuesday 7:40 am -- I arrive early at UNM Cancer Center for requisite blood work, ahead of "just a follow-up" CT scan over at OSIS at 10. Surprisingly, the clinic gets me in and out in less than 20 minutes. I make small talk with the cute phlebotomist as she draws my samples... which takes my mind to the cute phlebotomist I recently parted ways with, a little further south of here. Sigh.
8:00 am -- After slamming down the first of two barium "milkshakes" while sitting in the car -- a new experience, and not too pleasant (I usually drink them at home, from a glass, to fool myself into thinking it's a "treat") -- I find myself with about 90 minutes to kill... so I book down to the Sunport to watch planes. It's a slow morning at ABQ, though I do get to see the mass (14-plane!) departure of South Aero Cessna 402s and 414s, flying UPS freight to all corners of New Mexico, southern CO and western AZ.

9:15 am -- As per the instructions, I drink half of second "milkshake;" I must save the rest for immediately before the test. The car finds its way back to the Lomas and University area, and over to OSIS. Due to construction on what will ultimately be the new UNMCC, the clinic offers valet parking. This is the only place so far I've seen valet parking, a staple of Dallas life, in Albuquerque.

9:50 am -- They call me in for my CT. Force down the last of the oddly-flavored shake (imagine a chalky, metallic pina colada... and this is one of the better flavors) and get in the gown to lay back on the plastic moveable platform. Helpfully, the radiology tech describes every detail of this process: "okay, now I'm going to find a vein to hook up the IV for the contrast... are you allergic to shellfish? The contrast is iodine-based... We'll do just a quick set of scans, chest/abdomen/pelvis... You'll feel flush when the iodine begins, I can get you a washcloth for your forehead if you like..."

"I've done this before," I say, as lightheartedly as I can. "No worries, and the last time they went in through the wrist." Which is where the tech ultimately finds a vein. Good thing needles don't make me squeamish (while a needle in your wrist isn't exactly a pleasant sensation, at least it doesn't bruise.)

10:05 am, roughly -- Zap. More radiation than a person should ever be subjected to in one sitting courses through my body. This is my eighth CT since my January 2006 diagnosis. I still find the process horribly fascinating; in short, the machine images thousands of radial "slices" of your body, then presents them in an overlapping, single image for the radiologist to read. Tumors light up.

10:20 am -- Off the machine, out the door, and waiting in the cold for the valet to bring the Mazda around. I occupy my mind with the question "is it appropriate to tip a valet at a medical facility?" When the valet opens the car door, and I hear the radio playing -- I'd left it off -- I decide against giving him money.

Now, the waiting begins...

Wednesday -- A busy day. Too busy, I decide, to email Dr. Rabinowitz for the results of the scan. I'll do it tomorrow, I tell myself. Tomorrow morning.

Thursday -- Another busy day. I defer emailing Rabinowitz until I'm done for the day, ahead of schedule, at 3:30 pm. I send off the email just as I'm heading out the door: "Hi, Dr. Rabinowitz. I was wondering if you've had a chance to review the results from my CT scan Tuesday morning..?" This is by design. If I stay home, I'll be checking email nervously every 15 minutes. Instead I head back down to the Sunport.

5:30 pm -- Sunset, and the ABQ Airport Police chase me out of the viewing area. Wow, times have changed... You used to be able to go to the viewing area at all hours, back when it was off the approach end to runways 8 and 12. One of Eclipse's assembly buildings -- where they paint the aircraft -- is there now.

If he emails you, you know you're fine, I rationalize to myself. If he has bad news, he won't tell you in an email, he'll call you...

6:00 pm -- Arrive home. I head immediately to the computer. No email.

I check Caller ID.

A switchboard number for UNM Hospital is there, called at 5:31 pm. No message.

I begin shitting bricks.

6:15 pm -- I call my parents, who offer all the reassurance they can. "He'd leave a message, at least asking him to call you back," Dad says. No, he wouldn't, I reply, in frightened tears.

6:20 pm -- Try Dr. Rabinowitz's office number. It's the common line for his clinic. I try in vain to negotiate the phone tree. Everyone's gone home.

6:25 pm -- "There's something wrong, there's something wrong." I repeat this mantra for several minutes, frightened out of my mind. I've been through this before, last year, the month-and-a-half before a surgical biopsy determined actually, hey, the spot on your lung isn't cancer after all. All the nervousness and I fear I experienced then... and have since managed to more-or-less put out of my mind... have come back in full force, within a half-hour. I've gone past my breaking point.

6:45 pm -- With my heart racing and tears still coming from the corners of my eyes, I force myself to lay down on the couch and read the latest EAA "Sport Pilot" magazine. "The Office" plays on the TV in the background. 

7:25 pm -- No email. The phone hasn't rang since I've been home.

8:15 pm -- I turn off the TV, walk back into my office and sit blankly at the computer. I absentmindedly write up a quick update on the shuttle launch for ANN -- they're waiting until January 10th now, that'll really screw up NASA's schedule -- and then turn on Flight Simulator X. The "Janet" mission to Area 51 occupies the next 25 minutes of my life.

8:50 pm -- With the simulated Groom Lake employees safely at their simulated jobs for the simulated day, I close FSX and once again check email.

There's a message from Dr. Rabinowitz. I open it without any pause for nervousness.

"It looks good!........normal! Ian"

I cry for the next two minutes. To hell with anyone who would think less of me for that.

9:05 pm -- With the "you were right, thank God" call to the parents complete, I sit back in my desk chair, utterly drained. My eyes are still moist.

What cancer has done to my body isn't the worst part of it; in fact, that's been relatively minor in comparison to what this horrible scourge has done to my mind. The lack of news, lack of a definite prognosis. For most of the time between follow-up appointments, I manage to live my life -- and I've accomplished a great deal over the past two years.
But for three or four days surrounding my follow-ups... I die a little until the doctor tells me it's OK to resume living.

10:30 pm -- I lay back down on the couch, television turned to a "Seinfeld" repeat, and soon fall into a nervously-relieved sleep. The TV is still on when I wake up again, at 2:30 in the morning.
Still sleepy, I walk outside to unplug the Christmas lights on my balcony before heading to the bedroom... and pause.
It's snowing. It's a beautiful sight. I stand outside for several minutes, watching, oblivious to the cold.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Recovering The Satellites

So here I am at 9:55 on a Monday night, at my traditional spot in the parking lot of a nondescript office complex at the southeast corner of Sojourn & Midway...

Nearly three years have passed since I originally posted those words... and once again, I'm sitting in the dark near Addison Airport. Except this time I'm in a different location, off Airport Parkway, to watch as planes come in on runway 33. Different circumstances, different car, and a different address to call home.

A different Counting Crows song is playing on the radio, too.
Gonna get back to basics
Guess I'll start it up again
I'm fallin' from the ceiling
You're falling from the sky now and then
So here I am, at 8:55 on a Sunday night, having just come from a wonderful dinner with my friends Monk and Quinn. It's been over five months since we last had dinner at a favorite joint, De Tapas. I've missed their conversation, their insight, their humor. Just as I've missed those things from all my friends I left behind in Dallas, since I moved back to Albuquerque in July.

It's not a move I regret... but since I came back into town the Friday before, I've been struck by an odd melancholy. And now, as I watch a Citation jet land long on 33, I can't shake the repercussions of a comment I made over earlier this evening over our dinner of gambas, cheese croquetas, and wine.
Maybe you were shot down in pieces
Maybe I slipped in between
But we were gonna be the wildest people they ever hoped to see
Just you and me
It's a feeling not easily put into words. Dallas still feels too familiar for me to feel any sense of nostalgia; after all, it hasn't been very long since I left. From the moment I passed 35E, though, driving down highway 380 en route to my friends' house in McKinney, an odd calm came over me. It's a calm I haven't felt in my time back in New Mexico.
So why'd you come home to this sleepless town
It's a lifetime commitment
Recovering the satellites
All anybody really wants to know is...
When you gonna come down
Five months back home in Albuquerque, I'm still grasping with the waves of memories and emotions that still come back to haunt me at the most inopportune times.

The pleasant, but slightly acrid mix of smog and pinon smoke in the air on a cool evening -- combined with the orange glow of the security lighting in the parking lot at my apartment complex. The familiar scene hit my senses like a bullet recently, for example, and transported back almost 10 years ago. To another apartment complex -- if you can call a Warren pay-by-the-week building that -- getting out of my Saturn, to spend an evening at my then-girlfriend's place.

Albuquerque is full of these memories for me... and while I've had good times there, certainly, when I think of growing up in and around the city after my teen years it's the depressing memories that come to mind first. Memories of selling cars, and a string of other shaky jobs... failed relationships... struggling to make the car payment, and rent... and battling depression.

Albuquerque feels like failure to me. It's as simple as that. It's not the city's fault... and, as I sometimes have to be reminded, all-in-all it's been pretty good to me. I learned to fly here; the first steps towards the path I'm now on, career-wise, started while I worked at a courier service here. That can't be ignored.

Though try as I might, I can't think of anyone I know who's ever been truly successful there. I know those people are out there, but I don't know them. People make their fortunes elsewhere, then come back to NM. And while it's not a perception firmly grounded in reality, I also feel that for me to finally make something of myself, I had to leave, too.
Your mother recognizes all your desperate displays
And she watches as her baby drifts violently away
'Til he sees himself in telescopes
Do you see yourself in me?
Oh, and we're such crazy babies, little monkey
God, we're so fucked up, you and me
"Dallas feels like success," I told Monk and Quinn at dinner. "Sure it's hollow, it's superficial, and built on a sea of maxed-out credit. But when I used to drive down the DNT, or sit watching planes at Addison... I felt successful, too.
"It's all about perception, I know... but I can't shake the feeling when I'm in Albuquerque, the whole city is just waiting for me to fall on my ass."
So why'd you come home to this faithless town
Where we make a lifetime commitment
To recovering the satellites
And all anybody really wants to know is...
When are you gonna come down
I came back to Albuquerque for my health, and for my family. I don't regret the decision. I love being just 30 minutes away from my parents and Abby, and seeing the mountains outside my living room window. I do feel physically healthier in Albuquerque, too -- thinner and drier air, a lot less smog.

But all my friends -- my closest friends -- are in Dallas. I only have a handful in Albuquerque... and I've avoided seeing them. I know that's wrong. One, I haven't visited in the time since I came back; the other, I talk with often on the phone, but we haven't gotten together for a drink in months.

She sees shooting stars and comet tails
She's got heaven in her eyes
She says I don't need to be an angel
But I'm nothing if I'm not this high
But we only stay in orbit
For a moment of time
And then you're everybody's satellite
I wish that you were mine
And then there's Ana. I know at least some of my animosity towards Albuquerque, and New Mexico as a whole, has to come from there. But it's more than that... a symptom and not the actual illness. I remember asking myself when we were going out, and things started getting serious... Would I be happy living in New Mexico, in Las Cruces even, with her and her kids? Could I ever settle down here?

And I remember my answer, which came quickly and I kept to myself. No.

Which is probably why... although I do miss her, and not having her in my life still stings... I haven't felt truly sad about the relationship with Ana coming to an end. It would have, anyway, so it's probably best it was sooner instead of later. It probably also explains how and why I ended it. I don't feel good admitting that to myself, but there it is.
So why'd you come home to this angel town
It's a lifetime decision
Recovering the satellites
And all everybody really knows for sure...
Is that you're gonna come down
That you're gonna come down
As I write this now, I'm back in Albuquerque... one week after I started writing this missive in Dallas. There's a light brush of snow on the Sandias, and a definite chill in the air. We're supposed to get more snow this week, just in time for an appointment at Eclipse Monday morning and a follow-up CT scan Tuesday.

For the next year, at least, and likely one after that, I've decided to call Albuquerque my home. I made the decision myself, because with everything going on vis a vis the medical situation, it made sense to be home. And so far, it's proven to be a good decision.

But I can't shake the difference in feelings I experience, between here and Dallas. Maybe one day I'll make sense of that.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Doing The 'D'

If all goes to plan... and I'm able to wake up on time... by this time tomorrow evening, I'll be back in the city I called home for 35 months. Dallas.

In the next five days, I plan to enjoy being surrounded by a city of five million people... even if that means being stuck in traffic on the DNT. I plan to spend some time with my friends Lee, Diana, and their kids; hopefully enjoy dinner with Monk and Quinn, for the first time in five months; and park at the approach end to runway 15 at Addison Airport, looking up as bizjets and the occasional Amerijet DC-9 speed overhead at 50 feet.

Oh, and also to enjoy the main reason for the trip... to see Billy Joel at the AAC Tuesday night, a performer I've always wanted to see in person.

I hope to arrive in town early enough -- and awake enough, after a 10-hour drive -- to enjoy some drinks and camaraderie with some former coworkers and good friends from AG, at the only bar that will ever provoke an emotional response from me.

It's not that I don't like living in Albuquerque. I do, really; watching it snow last Friday... as the sun ever-so-briefly hit the Sandias, illuminating the peak in a dazzling pink... was all I needed to reaffirm to myself the "novelty" of being back home. The day before, I had my parents over to my place for Thanksgiving dinner... which I cooked. The following Sunday, I spent all day stringing up Christmas lights on my balcony. Home. Comforting. Familiar.

But Dallas will always hold a place in my heart reserved for no other. I grew up in this city, beginning at the age of 28. I came to Dallas nervously... with an over-inflated sense of self, a cubicle job I found boring -- but did well -- and a fat moving stipend burning a hole in my pocket.

I left Dallas far more humble, a lot poorer, and as a cancer survivor... who could successfully land an Evektor SportStar in a crosswind, and got to write about it for a living. Some would say that's not a bad tradeoff.

I plan to pay my respects to Dallas over the next five days... and give thanks for the person I became in my time there.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Smiles, Everybody!

OK, enough of the self-agonizing BS that seems to have populated this blog of late. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I get to write about airplanes for a living, god damn it. Even if I am stressing because I'm still working seven days a week, and I'm starting to feel increasingly insulted by that fact.

Yeah, I may have broken up with the woman who two months ago I strongly suspected to be The One, but at least I filled up the 6 this week just before gas prices soared over $3.00 per gallon. So, there's that. And of course, I have my health... through December 11, anyway, the date for the next CT scan.

In other news, I've been on an eBay streak lately, buying up some old GI Joe toys (yes, planes) I used to have when I was a kid. In fact, looking over the auction list has been a trip down memory lane for me... since I pretty much had ALL the GI Joe toys available through early 1980s, thanks largely to my grandparents on both sides of the family.

Now I need to buy some cheap display shelves... and find a place to put them in the office.
I also splurged this week on a new MP3 player, a 4GB Sansa to replace what I have discovered over the past two years to be a really shitty Dell DJ Ditty (I did not mean for that to rhyme, really.) If it sounds like I'm burning through cash... let me just say it's amazing how much the pocketbook frees up when you're not buying flowers all the time, or driving 550 miles round trip every other weekend.

I'm also eagerly awaiting my first trip back to "The Big D" since I moved back. Lee bought tickets to the Billy Joel concert December 4 at the AAC, with the only condition "you're on your own for getting out here." At this moment, I have no clue how I'm getting out there -- car or plane -- or how long I'll be able to stay (see above, "working seven days a week)... but I am absolutely adamant that I WILL make the trip, and that I WILL have enough time to visit Lee and Diana, Monk and Quinn, Shoe, and the Addison Airport.

In the short term, I fully intend to enjoy this weekend as much as I can. I have a couple books at the ready, including a bio of Harry Chapin, and if the weather holds I may even FINALLY make the Jemez drive I've been wanting to make for the past five months.

Eep... has it already been that long?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Operators Standing By

Five times. Five times I've held the phone in my hand, over the past week, ready to type in a series of numbers preceded by the new "575" area code... and each time, I've set it down without dialing her number.

I've had the message -- I doubt she'd answer if she saw my number -- ready. Memorized. I've practiced variations, played with different turns of phrase. I've sounded out the dialogue, the cadence. The process looks to the untrained eye like I'm talking to myself, but they'd be wrong. I'm having a conversation with myself, playing each part. It's a trick I use when writing dialogue, and I don't think it makes me crazy.

Five times...

"Hi, it's me," the message would say. "I'm calling to say I'm sorry... well, not really sorry for what I said, but how I said it. I didn't mean to sound so rude, so upset... but the fact is, I was upset, and I still am, and I think I had a good reason to be..." This is why I haven't dialed her number. An apology should never turn into an "I told you so," even if you believe you're on pretty solid ground.

We hadn't seen each other in almost a month. It wasn't long before that we spent every night on the phone, often for at least an hour. Thank God for unlimited long distance. We always had something to talk about... and it wasn't just "I really wish you were here with me, when can you come down/up here?" Although that was often a conversation topic, too.

I don't think I've ever felt so... comfortable... in a relationship. "This is the first "adult" relationship I think I've ever been in," I told a friend shortly after her and I started going out. An unusual statement to make, at 32... but, hell, I've always been a late bloomer. Better late than never.

She relaxed me, gave me confidence. I'd look at the sky aimlessly and think of her, feeling strongly that she at the time was doing the same, and thinking of me. Often, the phone would ring soon thereafter.

"I just went on break, and I just wanted to call and see how your day was going, honey," she'd tell me.

We openly cherished the time we spent together, the way couples in budding relationships do. She spent Labor Day weekend with me in Albuquerque; I visited her several times in Las Cruces, often working on the laptop on her dining room table (because I never do have a true day "off," god damn it, but that's a lamentation for another time.) I got along well with her two sons.

I sent her flowers at work, on each of our "anniversaries." I'd often find a card from her waiting for me in the mail, with a short message. "I am so happy we found each other again," she wrote.

For my birthday, she made up a basket... with a stuffed teddy bear front-and-center, bearing the message "Together 4Ever." She texted me often when I was in Atlanta. "I wish you were here!!!!"

We were connected, even when we were apart. Both of us spoke -- cautiously, but still -- of a future together. And then it changed. For the life of me, I don't know why... or what I suspect is the entire reason why. I know she was upset about her youngest son, and problems he was having in school. I offered to help; I'd helped him before with his homework, and he seemed to enjoy it. I did, too.

She resisted my offers to help... saying that would send the wrong message to her sons. She had a point there, but I still believed there wasn't anything wrong with the occasional visit -- especially since both her boys seemed to understand how I slotted in with their lives, and seemed more or less OK with that.

She felt differently. I'd planned to visit earlier last month, but she told me a few days before it wasn't a good weekend to come down -- "I wouldn't be able to spend the time with you I'd want to," she told me.

The weekend before last, I was down in Cruces on business. She knew I was coming. She left for El Paso with her sister instead, without even a phone call. "How the hell was I supposed to feel about that?" I asked her, rhetorically, afterwards.

She said it she had to go visit family who were in El Paso; I replied my phone number is pretty easy to remember, and she could have told me.

What I said after that -- out of hurt, frustration, and a small degree of paranoia, although mostly the feeling of being treated like the appendix in the body of her life --  will echo in my head for some time to come.

"Good luck, and goodbye."

A mutual friend tells me she has no idea why I was "rude" to her, in saying that.

Five times I've picked up the phone since then, ready to say I was wrong, I was a jerk, and I'm sorry... conditionally. I don't think this makes me a jerk. I think I have the right to be treated better than I was... especially given how far our relationship had progressed.

I don't know how this will play out; no, wait, yes I do. It has likely played out already. I do know this will be the last blog post I write on the subject, unless something significant develops. I'm sick of sounding like a lovelorn teenager; 32-year-old Managing Editors need to practice some decorum.

But seriously... what happened? That's a question that may never be answered.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Wow... I haven't posted anything here in over a month... when is the last time THAT's happened? Been awhile... Christ, even Monk has posted within that time frame.

Random thoughts on the passing scene...


What a difference a month makes. Last month at this time, I had just wrapped up a really, really nice weekend visit with Ana, that included the celebration of her oldest son's 17th birthday. After a marathon drive from Cruces back to Albuquerque, I then flew out to Atlanta for the National Business Aviation Association conference, as well as to spend some time visiting my friends Pete and Toni. Life was good.

And then the tailspin started. An abortive attempt to kick off Aero-TV that, suffice to say, ended extraordinarily badly (the exact details of which I won't get into here) was just the start. The only good thing to come out of Atlanta was that I was able to spend some time visiting my old friends (I stayed at Pete's place, a side benefit of which was the chance to accumulate some time in his new, admittedly midlife-crisis-mobile -- a new Honda S2000 roadster.)

I can't be clear enough on this... that was the only good thing.


Following a hellish flight back to Albuquerque -- saddled in the next-to-last row of a Delta Air Lines MD-88, with a spectacular view of the starboard engine nacelle and nothing else (my ears rang for two days afterwards) -- I was at least looking forward to settling back into my life here. Ana was scheduled to come up to Albuquerque to have her son's wisdom teeth pulled, and while it wasn't a "fun visit" we figured we'd at least be able to spend some time together. 

Well, we did... but something was clearly up, and it weighed on our times together like an anvil.
As it turns out, her youngest son (she has two) is having problems in school... major problems, that Ana was not aware of until his teachers starting calling. In the blink of an eye, her focus turned from "I have the coolest, sweetest boyfriend ever" to "my son needs help." Like a good Mom does, her son's issues took front-and-center, with little room left for me.

And, by-the-numbers, I'm OK with that, really. She has done a fantastic job raising two growing boys, almost completely by herself, over the past 10 years. Long before our feelings for each other turned romantic, I admired the hell out of her for this fact. To whine that she's not spending enough time with me during this time would be an extremely self-centered, prickish thing to do. But I would be lying if I said I'm not bugged a lot by the fact that, over the past 30 days, I've pretty much been pushed out of her life.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened; her sense of obligation to being a mom, first and foremost, was the biggest reason why we didn't get more seriously involved back in 2005 (the distance between Las Cruces and Dallas also came into play.) She literally cancelled a trip to visit me in Dallas -- while standing in the airport -- because she felt too guilty.

I told myself there was a chance stuff like this would happen. I entered into this with eyes wide open, I know. Hell, she warned me of as much, as we sat outside in her backyard on a clear August night, watching the Perseids shower and talking of our respective futures, and how they might intertwine. I just didn't think this would happen so soon.

"This isn't fair to you, me spending all my time doing this," she's told me repeatedly. Well, she's right, it's not. But we seldom get to determine what's fair.

For now, though, it would be misleading to say we're "dating."


Lo, if that were the only drama in my life, things would still be OK. And before I go any further, let me say the single most important thing -- my health -- continues as more-or-less normal. My checkup last week went fine, as Dr. Rabinowitz ("Ian") gave me a quick once over, glanced at my bloodwork, and pronounced me good to go, complete with another "well-baby" affirmation. I'll have another CT in December, ahead of my next visit... and assuming all looks OK from that, I'll go on checkups every four months, instead of every two.

Of course, that came as a relief, although it took another day or two for my nerves to calm down... probably because of having other things on my mind. I mentioned the job before. That's another source of aggravation.
  • Ennui (noun): a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; the feeling of being bored by something tedious
I've been incredibly blessed and lucky to spend the last two years earning a paycheck, doing what I love. I've learned a lot in that time; I've also made some sacrifices, in the name of W-2 status, full health benefits, and guaranteed time off. I haven't had more than two weekend days off in a row in over a year now (the last time I had an extended period of time away from the job, was for my biopsy last October.) It's all been wearing on me lately... and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely burned out.

My boss knows this, and sympathizes. We're hiring on more people to cover the weekend, and to spot me through the week. I don't know if those things will happen in time, though, before I throw a keyboard through my third-floor window. I don't remember being this stressed out about a job since going back to some of the darkest days in the warehouse at DMC.

I rarely stay at a job longer than two years. That hasn't been by design, it's just how things have usually worked out with me. My two-year anniversary of working full-time for ANN is coming up November 1. I'm trying not to read anything into that.


Let's see, what else... in an odd bit of happenstance, my football team (the Rams, sigh) and my friend Lee's team (the Dolphins, double sigh) are the only winless teams left in the NFL. It takes a big man to stand by an 0-7 team.

Go Bears.


I dreamed the other night I was taking skydiving lessons. This is something I've expressed interest in doing before, but have chickened out on before coming anywhere close to standing in the doorway of a Cessna 182 at 6,000 feet AGL. Give me metal wings over fabric and straps any day.

In the dream, though... I loved skydiving. I loved it so much, that feeling was still with me when I woke up, and it stayed with me for awhile after that. It was enough to keep me from remembering that, wait, falling dreams are supposed to mean you're going to die soon.



This weekend, I came across the phone number for the Automated Terminal Information System (ATIS) recording at Addison Airport. I've called it a dozen times since then, listening to the wind direction and active runway information, recorded by the same controllers I used to listen to while sitting for hours on end at ADS, watching planes.

Sigh. I've said it before... of all that I miss about Dallas, and there's a lot, I miss having an airport just down the road the most. You can still talk to friends via email, phone, et al. I miss Addison. It was the closest thing to an inspiration point I've ever experienced.

I have to drive 30 minutes -- duking it out with the sorriest idiots Albuquerque streets have to offer -- to watch planes at the Sunport. It's nowhere close to the same, a bastardization of the real thing.

Fortunately, at least I still have my mountains, visible right outside my windows. It's getting too cold to sit outside and watch as they turn pink every night... which they still do, right on cue.
It's still enough. Not to say I wouldn't appreciate something -- ANYTHING, take your pick -- shaking out right at this point, though.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Sometimes, it only takes a few words.

"The radiologist report is clear. So it is official!" -- Ian

So much better news than one year ago... when I nervously put the first 150 miles on my brand-new Mazda, driving aimlessly through the streets of Dallas at 3 am... trying to keep my mind occupied on Something Fun, instead of on looming shadows.

I've said it before... and I've meant it every time: Amen.

(And it's also cool that I seem to be on a first-name basis with my doctor.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sweating It...

I'm fine... I'm fine... I'm FINE...

Except I'm not so sure. Christ, here we go again.

Tomorrow morning is my first CT scan in New Mexico, and the first one I've had in four months. It isn't the test that bothers me, of course... well, except for having to drink barium (and it seems no one in New Mexico stocks the flavored contrast -- banana was almost palatable -- which means I'll be chugging non-flavored metallic liquid tomorrow morning) and the whole, "getting zapped with mucho radiation" thing.

What if they find something? What if they misread the scan? Will the radiologist freak out about the scarring on my lung, from last year's biopsy? Will my doctor see that, and think it's something bad? Have those "non-pathological" lymph nodes gotten larger, to the point where the docs will want to go in for a closer look?

What if "75 percent chance of no further recurrence" isn't good enough?

Sigh. I've fallen a long way from the last post. What was I just saying about laughing at cancer?

Don't focus on the possible -- and slim, remember, slim -- chances of Something Bad showing up. Think of the good things. You turn 32 next week! Wait... that's not an entirely good thing, wasn't I 25 just a few years ago?

More good things... my friend, Lee -- He Of The Ever-Blessed Moving Truck -- is visiting this weekend, which means one thing: Football Sunday returns!!! In keeping with tradition dating back to... oh, 1998, easy... we plan to head to the SkyBox in the Northeast Heights to watch the games. In a related note, Go Dolphins! (They're Lee's team, and they're playing the Cowboys. 

Need I say more?)

And, the best thing... Ana. My God, I think I'm falling hard for this woman. After a visit to Albuquerque over Labor Day weekend -- as you can see, we went on the Sandia Tram, her first time -- I drove down to Cruces last weekend to spend a day-and-a-half with her and her two boys, Alex and Christian. They seem to like me, and I get along great with them.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of Ana and me as a couple; we've known each other, if only in passing, for close to five years. We both say it seems longer, and that's a good thing. 

Another good thing... one month in, and even with talking every day, we still haven't run out of stuff to talk about. I can't recall ever being able to say that in any of my past romantic relationships.

"I don't remember it feeling like this," I told my Mom -- who I pretty much tell everything -- after I got back Monday morning. "Things feel so... natural... with her. We're not rushing anything."
"That's how it's supposed to feel," she told me. "Not forced."

We're still taking things super-slow -- like I said in an earlier post, we've both been hurt before -- but at the same time, I feel this is developing at the right pace. We have all the time in the world, after all.

As long as tomorrow's scan turns out OK, of course...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Laughing Matter?

"I was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. Lymphoma. I lost a testicle... my HMO had a really crappy co-pay." -- Robert Schimmel

When I first heard that line -- spoken during a radio interview Schimmel did on the "Bob and Tom" show -- as I was driving down to Las Cruces almost three weeks ago, I very nearly drove the 6 off I-25, I was laughing so hard.

I'd like to say I've grown, and become ever-so-slightly more relaxed and comfortable with my ailment in the 20 months since I was diagnosed with TC. To an extent, I think, I have. But I can't claim a newfound ability to laugh at TC... because I've actually cracked jokes about it for awhile now.

The first one I remember was a little over one month after the surgery, during one of my first trips back to The Old Crow in Dallas (sidenote: I MISS THE CROW!!!!!) with a few of my former coworkers. One of them -- who I've never especially liked -- sneered something along the lines of "so, you're down to one, huh?"

"Yeah, but that's OK," I replied. "Your wife has both of yours." It was reflex, a knee-jerk response, and it was one of the most singularly brilliant things I've ever said (current and past AG'ers know who I'm talking about, and know why it was such a good line.)

In the months that followed, I became a little more comfortable with joking about being, well, "down to one." I told another friend I had developed a case of "nut rot," only to have to settle her down and reassure her that, actually, testicular cancer wasn't as bad as that.

When on a skateboarding mission with Monk in Denton last year (one year ago Monday, in fact) I had to stand on an electrical transformer box to catch the shot just right. "It's not so much that you keep biffing the trick," I told him. "It's the amount of electromagnetic energy irradiating my ballsack right now that most frustrates me."

I've commented to others I'll always be a Republican, because I still have the right one. And I'm still waiting on my call for a date from Sheryl Crow, who apparently isn't put off by the Uniball* concept (then again, I don't have seven consecutive Tour de France titles under my belt, either. Sigh.)

Last week, when I called and left a message for my friend Lee, I mentioned on voicemail I had my first New Mexico doctor's appointment the next day. "This won't be a big deal, just an appointment to get the ball rolling again." A pause. "That could be a pun, I guess, though it wasn't meant to be."

The loss of 50% of that which makes you a man isn't funny... except for the fact that, yeah, I admit, it kinda is. In the months that followed the surgery, as I became comfortable enough to sing in the car once again... I questioned whether my voice had suddenly gotten higher. (It hadn't.) I would also sometimes wonder if my... pectorals... weren't getting bigger (it's because I'm overweight and out-of-shape, not because I'm not producing enough testosterone.)

I've dreamed The Other One has fallen off. Twice. Ya gotta admit, that's hilarious. (If you don't see it, imagine the frantic -- then relieved -- self-grope upon waking.)

Fact of the matter is... I think I've laughed about this more than I've cried. I'm chuckling to myself now as I write this.

And on this, the one year anniversary of the "there's a spot on your lung," that's what I'm choosing to focus on. Oh, and also the fact my new doctor, an affable British chap, described observation checkups for TC as "well-baby" visits during my appointment last week. "Just to reassure everybody that everything's fine," he explained.

I think I'm going to like my doctor. I also think the day you can laugh at cancer, is the day a corner is turned.

*I'll never look at a certain brand of pens the same way again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The 'New Mexi-fication' Continues

Well, now comes the reality part of the New Mexico move. On Wednesday, I'll have my first cancer check-up that won't be with Dr. Bhogaraju. I do have to say that so far, I've been very impressed by UNM's Cancer Center, though... they scheduled me with their 'specialist' for TC, which is reassuring to hear. I only hope I won't be requiring the services of a "specialist."

In happier news... I continue to settle back into life in NM... a process I've started calling my "New Mexi-fication" (I'm still waiting for my license plate. And no, I haven't yet paid my $200 speeding ticket, although I know I'll have to do that soon.)

I'm really loving having a balcony again, instead of a first-floor patio. I've taken to sitting outside in the morning, waiting for the sun to come up over the Sandias... and again in the evenings, during sunset. In addition to providing the opportunity for some neat pictures (see top photo) it also puts me outside when the hummingbirds are most active.

I gotta say, I've become very attached to the three hummers who have laid claim to my feeder... the closest things to pets I have (except for Abby of course.) It looks like I have a male and female adult pair (I think all three are black-chinned hummingbirds) and a baby who's grown considerably in the past two months... in fact, all of them are quite a bit fatter now.

The "baby" is the most adventurous of the three. While all of them have buzzed me (hummingbirds are very curious) the baby regularly hovers over my laptop computer when I'm working outside. Always a comfortable distance away, of course, but closer than the others. 

And yesterday morning, when one of the adults tried to chase it away from the feeder (hummingbirds are also aggressive little buggers) the baby "hid" behind me as I stood at the railing! The adult hovering in front of me didn't know what to think.

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to drive down to the Sunport, and watch planes for hours. Took some photos, including a shot of an Osprey tiltrotor hover-taxiing along runway 3. I also grabbed pics of good 'ol Skyhawk 62507, the first plane I ever flew completely by myself.

And lastly... as I mentioned, last weekend I drove down to Las Cruces to spend the weekend with a friend of mine named Ana, who I've known going back to my days at DMC. She left the company around the same time I moved to Dallas, and today she works for Tricore as, of all things, a phlebotomist -- someone who draws blood for medical testing, an area I've become quite familiar with in the past 18 months.

Ana is... special. She's one of the sweetest and most genuine people I've ever known. We talked about pursuing a romantic relationship back in 2005, but the timing wasn't right. Now, two years later... well, we're checking the timing again, very cautiously. She has her emotional baggage, I have mine, and we're each aware of that.

The highest compliment I can give her... is that I can't think of a single person who I call friend, or family, who wouldn't like her. I admit, I'm smitten, and she is, too. So, we'll see where it goes (if I have finally learned only one thing in this area throughout my life, it's to NOT RUSH THESE THINGS.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

You Bastards!

It had been a good day. I'm finally starting to feel recovered from the OSH experience, and it looks like we have a candidate for the Weekend Editor position at ANN who I think will be a great asset.

Combined with sunny skies... and one especially brave hummingbird, that has taken to flying right up to me when I'm outside working; one of these days, I think the ballsy little bird is going to try to land on the laptop screen... it had been a pretty good Friday. A necessary trip back to the DMV looked to only temper that slightly.

I shoulda waited until I got back to check my mail... but alas, I didn't. There was but one letter in the mailbox...

...From the Albuquerque Police Department...

...Photo STOP Division.

Knowing full well I haven't run any red lights, I opened the envelope... and was greeted with photographic evidence that my car was at the intersection of Montgomery and San Mateo on July 31st. The ticket -- for $200! -- states I was doing 45 in a 35 mph zone.

I'm not necessarily disputing that I may have been speeding; I would like to know whether the other four cars in one of the photos -- one of which I believe I recall was passing me -- were also ticketed, or did APD instead focus on the lone Texas plate in the bunch. Most gratingly of all... I had no idea the damn cameras -- also used in Dallas -- could give speeding tickets, too.

And I really wonder if that's right or not. The "officer's signature" on the ticket is an illegible scribble, that looks a little like binary code, shrunken to the height of a micron.

Today's the day I became a Libertarian. Wait, I was one already... nuts. Anyway, as I contemplate whether to fight this injustice or not -- no points are taken off your license whether you dispute it or pay, which means this is nothing but a pure money-grab by the city, nothing more -- I'm planning to visit my friend Ana in Las Cruces this weekend.

And I'm tempted to drive at 35 mph for the whole 220-mile trip.

Monday, August 6, 2007

What A Nice Day For A... Zzzzz...

Damn my 31-year-old, out-of-shape body anyway. I had big plans for this weekend. Great, relaxing, touristy-appreciation-of-New-Mexico, as-much-fun-as-you-can-have-without-an-airplane plans. See, ever since I got my car, I've wanted to see what it could do along a certain stretch of highway in New Mexico.

Highway 4, to be exact. The back road up to Los Alamos, through the Jemez Mountains.

Nothing too challenging, mind you... but more than a few switchbacks, horseshoe curves and cliff-hugging straightaways to see what 212-horsepower, a six-speed manumatic, ABS brakes and a decent suspension can do, in the proper setting. Zoom-zoom, and all that. All without breaking any road rules.

Well, not too many, anyway.

That was the plan for Saturday morning: get up at six, make some coffee and a breakfast burrito (that has become a weekend tradition of mine since returning to NM... with extra-hot green chile, of course) and head out for the 2.5-hour drive at around 8:30. That way, it'd still be cool enough to have the window down, and I'd get into Los Alamos -- my favorite NM town -- around 11 or so. Even taking the rest of the trip at a more relaxed pace, I'd still be back in Albuquerque by 3, at the latest.

That was the plan.

It went to hell at around 8:00, when I fell asleep on my couch. And again on Sunday morning, when I inadvertently slept in until 10 am.

And even today, I harbored a faint ambition to take the drive EARLY, so I could be back home, and back to work, by noon. I fulfilled one of those goals: I turned on my computer at 12:07 pm, after being woken up by my boss calling me, asking "um, you there?"

It's been one week since I returned from Oshkosh. I've slept for a good part of it -- getting at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night, and more often than not a nap in the afternoon. And I'm STILL beat. It probably has something to do with starting July with a 650-mile move, ending it with the biggest air show of the year, with a trip to Seattle tossed in between for good measure.

Maybe I should be surprised I'm not falling asleep on my keyboard.

I HAVE managed to get a few things done away from home. I got my New Mexico driver's license last week... and would have gotten my license plate as well, but for New Mexico having to obtain a copy of the car title from the lien holder. So, I have about another week or so to drive a Texas-plated car. I'm cherishing those days; having a New Mexico license plate will be the final affirmation I'm back in Albuquerque, an admission I'm still not 100 percent comfortable with.

To that end, I still haven't taken my TollTag off the windshield... and ya know what? I may never take it off.

Also went to see "The Simpsons Movie" Saturday night with Jen. Good movie, lotsa laughs, but not worth a $10 ticket. No, I didn't fall asleep in the theater. Had coffee at Double Rainbow -- wait, now it's Flying Star -- afterward.

OK, so being back here isn't ALL bad. I'm still enjoying watching "hummingbird wars," and sitting on the balcony in the evening, watching the sunset against the Sandias (or, lately, the rain over the city,) typing ANN stories to post at midnight on the laptop (as shown above; beer is optional). It's a nice routine... and it ALMOST beats hearing the roar of jets overhead, on approach to land at Addison.

But God, I do still miss Dallas.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Oshkosh, B'Gosh

Hi everybody! ("Hi, Dr. Nick!" -- sorry, I'm seriously jonesing to see the new 'Simpsons' movie.)

Wow... what a week. I'm happy to report Aero-News kicked serious ass with our coverage of AirVenture 2007. It involved a lot of hard work from everybody involved... but I'd confidently pit our print, audio and brand-new Aero-TV coverage against anyone else's out there.

The professionalism shown by our new print stringers and video journalists simply floored me... especially when we had to cover an unfortunate accident at Wittman Field on Friday. It's a lesson we'd have preferred to not have experienced... but everyone came together, as the professionals we are, and we got the job done. Nothing impressed me more than having several of the stringers call me as news got out -- such situations are referred to as "all-call" events at ANN -- and their first questions to me were, "where do you need me to be?"

So now, after a grueling long series of 'Northwerst' Airlines flights (at least my flights weren't cancelled, unlike 13 percent of that wannabe-airlines' schedule this weekend -- the industry average is less than one percent) I'm back in the 'Burque, where I'm looking forward to not having to go anywhere for awhile.

Maybe the apartment will now start to feel like "home," and less like a large hotel room that, somehow, has all my furniture in it. And I guess I'll have to break down and get a New Mexico license plate and driver's license now, too.

Back to Oshkosh for a moment... like I said, we covered AirVenture like a high-thread count news-reporting blanket (I apologize for my metaphors -- this is what happens when you sleep in, and have your morning coffee at noon.) But there were moments for some "fun," too... as seen below.

I was able to grab some stick time in a new light sport offering from Poland, called the Gobosh G-700S. Like others in the segment -- including the SportStar -- it's an all-metal plane, low-wing, with a bubble canopy. The cockpit is a little snug (that's my own fault, not the plane's) but surprisingly comfortable, and the plane flies much like any other low-wing LSA.

As you can see, Aero-TV was there, too, covering the flight... including video of my less-than-stellar takeoff. I over rotated the plane -- it seemed more sensitive to pitch inputs than the Sport  (though again, much of that was my own fault.) The flight itself was very nice; I was able to experience "VFR on top" for the first time, where you climb through a gap in low-hanging cloud cover to fly in visual conditions on top, in bright sunshine and blue skies.

I'll post more when I have time. For now, though... pass the green chile!