If It’s Saturday It Must Be Hazmat




We’re moving. Maybe you’ve heard (a thousand times). That means tying up lots of loose ends, like all the stuff stored in the garage or basement that’s garbage. It’s trash, but it can’t be put out with the trash!

Today I went to “Hazmat Central” in the Regional Water Authority’s parking lot at Long Wharf in New Haven. This is where scary stuff goes to get disposed

The back end of Helaine’s SUV was filled with an old gas can, some mostly used cleaning products and paint. There must have been fifteen partially used cans of paint, leftovers from our 23 years in this house.

The joint was jumping! People have stuff to ditch and they’d like to do it with minimum environmental impact. Thanks fellow citizens.

It didn’t take long for me to find out Latex paint is not considered a hazmat item! That was the bulk of my load.

Latex paint lives in a no man’s land. It doesn’t go to hazmat. It doesn’t go to the curb as-is either.

“You mean it’s dangerous, but not dangerous enough,” my friend Peter asked.

Yeah, something like that.

The boys in the bunny suits instructed me to throw some kitty litter in each can to solidify the paint. Once it’s a solid the pressure’s off. Our trashmen will pick it up on their normal weekly run.

We are unwinding our Connecticut life one day at a time. So many little details.

Helping Stef Get Settled

Wow! What a day. We are doing our best to get Stef off on the right foot.

Wow! What a day. We are doing our best to get Stef off on the right foot. That translates to an “I can’t remember when I did as much physical work–ever” day!

At least the weather cooperated. We were well into the 70s with crystal clear blue skies. There was a little morning haze in the valley, but it burned off.

Kudos to Helaine for figuring out we needed a mom-mobile and not a sedan. We’ve got a Dodge Grand Caravan. Four seats have been folded into the carpeting. The space is huge. We needed it.

ikea in burbank california.jpgFirst stop Ikea in Burbank. Helaine and Stef had already scoped out what they wanted. We double checked, marked it down and plucked the boxes from the shelves.

I have volunteered to assemble the furniture. I’m in over my head, right?

geoff with california doggies.jpgSince Stef has Roxie with her we went to arrange ‘daycare’ should it be necessary. This was really cool because as the owner of the place took us to her backyard today’s dogs poured out.

Nice doggies. I spent some quality tush time with them.

Next we got paint at Home Depot. I’ll let Helaine and Stef handle that while I drive to my friend’s house to pick up the ten large boxes shipped here.

Finally we bought a mattress. We went to one store which didn’t have what we wanted and sent us to see his friend at a different store down the block. The mattress arrives in the morning.

We’re taking my secretive friend to dinner tonight. It’s warm. We’re going to a restaurant with a patio so we can bring Roxie.

Our Surreal Downstairs

Fumes from the paint are wafting through the house. When I got downstairs it was like a scene from a low budget horror movie! It just looked spookily surreal.

The painters are here. They are redoing some walls and ceilings downstairs. In order to leave everything place they’ve covered the furniture and appliances in plastic (and in turn have covered the plastic with dust and chips).

Fumes from the paint are wafting through the house. When I got downstairs it was like a scene from a low budget horror movie! It just looked spookily surreal.

There are a lot more stages before we’re done, but at least we’re getting there. Or, maybe this is like Murphy Brown? Maybe Eldon (in our case Ed and Will) will be with us permanently.





How Men And Women Are Different

Helaine took a look in the guest room sometime last week and decided the sheets and bedspread were old. Time for a change.

These are thoughts I would never have. On the other hand, Helaine would never think to defrag a hard drive. We each have our strengths.

She found the linens she wanted, bought them and took a long, hard look at the guest room. It’s a room we use 5-10 times a year.

The wall color just won’t do – not with the new look on the bed.

Saturday it was off to Home Depot where, with my expert help, she picked out a new wall color&#185. I can’t describe the color, except to say it’s nice. The room was blueish. Now it will be yellowish.

A gallon of paint, a gallon of primer, roller refills, drop cloth, paint tray, masking tape. We were good to go.

Sunday, Helaine started with the primer. She spent Monday thinking about how every muscle and joint in her body were hurting. Today, she’s covering the primer with the paint. The room will look great and match the bedspread and sheets.

I am happy, because this will make her happy. But I am puzzled why none of this would ever register on any guy’s radar – certainly not mine? It just wouldn’t.

Is this environmental or is there some part of our brains which work differently?

&#185 – The world would be a better place if there were about 10% as many paint chips to look at. Is there really a difference between 320A and 330A? And, more importantly, think of the burden for the person who has to name each one!

My Friend Kevin Is Very Sick

I am writing this in early July. When I’m finished composing my thoughts, I will hit the save button, but instead of publishing, this will be a saved draft. If you’re reading this, something tragic has happened in Kevin’s life.

Kevin’s a ham radio buddy, though neither of us are active ham radio operators anymore. I met him around 15 years ago, probably over-the-air first. He and another friend, John, offered to come over and help me erect a wire antenna over my house.

I didn’t know Kevin or John at the time. They offered to slingshot this wire between trees because… well, because they did nice things for people. I grew to better understand that as time went by.

Kevin is in his late 40s. He has four daughters, one still at home and in school, and a granddaughter. He and his wife are the kindest, sweetest people you would ever know.

This isn’t BS. I’m telling the truth – they’re so nice, I can’t think of anyone else even in the ballpark.

Kevin and Melanie are the most religious of my friends. They are observant Mormons. Kevin is an elder at his church&#185. Their religious beliefs are reflected in how their daughters were brought up.

Kevin is my friend who can do everything. Whether it’s physical labor, electronics or computer related, Kevin always has the answer. He doesn’t look like a jock, and I’ve never heard him express any interest in sports (a continuing trend with my friends), but he kayaks and camps and is generally at home in the outdoors.

He would give you the shirt off his back. He would. End of story.

A few months ago Kevin had some back trouble. Who knows why these things happen. He had surgery. Back problems don’t go away all at once, as Kevin found. We really hadn’t discussed the surgery in a while and I assumed he was healing.

Last Thursday I spoke to Kevin, first on Instant Messenger and then on the phone. He was in the hospital.

His symptoms were back pain and nausea. When he went for medical treatment, he was told he needed to be in the hospital right then – they literally walked him over.

Doctors had discovered a blood clot in his pancreas. Blood clots are serious stuff, so he went to have it ‘fixed’.

After we got off the phone, I did what most people do in 2006, I went to the Internet to research his trouble.

Enter “pancreas blood clot” in Google and the first citation’s headline is: “ACS :: How Is Cancer of the Pancreas Diagnosed?”

It had never entered my mind. It had probably never entered Kevin’s either. He’s not even 50. He doesn’t smoke or drink. He’s easy going and non-stressful. He has lived the observant life and, religion aside, he’s still a wonderful person.

I went to visit Kevin on Thursday. He was in a pleasantly bright room with the door open and a curtain giving him a modicum of privacy. He had his laptop and cellphone at the ready. He was lying in bed, over the covers. There was a currently unused ‘port’ for intravenous fluid on his wrist.

If Kevin was sick, I couldn’t see it.

We talked about my Internet project. Kevin was my go-to guy when I ran into problems and he was designing the backend interface to the database.

I told him to forget it. But he said it would be a good way to pass the time.

We spoke again Friday. He was originally supposed to be leaving, but some tests had come back and he had pancreatic cancer. He said it like you might say you had peeling paint at home. He was relaxed… unphased.

From Wikipedia: Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer typically have a poor prognosis because the cancer usually causes no symptoms early on, leading to metastatic disease at time of diagnosis. Median survival from diagnosis is around 3 to 6 months; 5-year survival is 5%

Kevin came home Saturday evening.

&#185 – I apologize, because I don’t think it’s actually called a church and elder might be an inaccurate term. He is the lay person who runs the services.

Addendum – It is January 24, 2008. While installing new software I found this entry. I treaded lightly when I wrote this. Unfortunately, our worst fears were realized and Kevin died from the cancer on June 1, 2007.

He was everything I said he was and more. He really should still be alive. That would be the fair outcome.

All Night At The ER

If you’re squeamish, maybe this isn’t the blog entry for you. I’m about to write about bodily fluids. This is not everyone’s idea of a good read.

Our story starts at 1:00 AM. Helaine was asleep. Steffie was watching TV. I was in my upstairs office, playing online poker.

It’s difficult to describe the sound of someone throwing up, except to say it’s pretty distinctive. Stef was throwing up.

I went to see her, but was rebuffed. She wasn’t feeling well, but it wasn’t a big deal. Everything was fine.

It was not.

Before long she was back, leaning over the toilet, letting loose.

Stefanie is 19. She lives in a dorm most of the year. Late night barfing is commonplace. Her own stomach distress wasn’t a major concern – even though she hadn’t participated in the usual pre-throw festivities that make college life so… well, college life.

Within 10-15 minutes she was back.

We tried Pepto Bismol pills and some soda, to replenish the fluids she lost. As quickly as they went down, they came back up. Her forehead went from warm to cool with each episode.

Helaine and I were getting nervous. We had never seen Stef like this before. Upstairs, we spoke about what to do, while downstairs Stef moved between the family room and the bathroom.

I started talking to Stef about going to the hospital, but she would have none of it. “People don’t go to the hospital because they’re throwing up,” she said.

I totally see her point. She knew she wasn’t feeling well. She also thought you had to be in much worse shape to demand any ER attention. The ER is a place where people come with limbs hanging off.

But things weren’t getting any better. Stef was out of solids in her stomach and quickly depleting herself of fluids.

“We’re driving, or I’m calling an ambulance.”

With Helaine, Stefanie and an oversize kitchen pot in the back seat, we set off for Yale/New Haven Hospital. I was driving fast. I already had decided what to say if stopped by the police.

We navigated our way through New Haven to the ER entrance. The receiving area has a small circular driveway with a cement island in the middle. I pulled up onto the island and shut the engine.

Stefanie plopped in a chair as a technician entered some rudimentary patient information into a computer, put a blood pressure cuff on her arm and pulse monitor on a finger. It’s tough to put in words, but this was done in spite of Steffie’s being there. She was obviously in distress and continuing to heave, but the cuff and monitor went on as if they were in some parallel universe.

A wheelchair was rolled in and we made our way to an examining room.

Emergency Room is a misnomer. At Yale, it’s a sprawling area of many rooms with dozens of staff members, visitors and patients. We turned right, just past the nurse’s station. Along both walls, patients laid in gurneys.

The first held a man, no shirt, with an intricate tattoo covering his arm and some of his chest. I didn’t see the rest. I looked away. Helaine later told me, she did the same.

We made a left, into a small room. To our right, in a doorless small room divided by a flimsy curtain, a man on drugs, alcohol or both, incoherently babbled about his hate for his mother and how he wanted to get home to go to sleep. He was loud and angry. I’m not sure where he belonged, but it wasn’t on-the-street without supervision.

Stef’s exam room was small and dingy. Let’s assume it was clean. It would have seemed cleaner with a fresh coat of paint.

A succession of nurses, physicians assistants, technicians and one doctor came and went. Each was confident. Each had a job to do. We think they were happy to be taking care of someone whose distress was not self imposed – certainly not the babbler across the hall. No one could possibly relish the thought of quality time with him.

One of the nurses brought in an IV bag, and a drip was started. Whatever else they’d find, Stef needed to be hydrated. It’s sort of Gatorade in a bag, minus the sugar.

Through all this, there was no change in Stef. Every few minutes she was back with her head down, holding a pan the hospital provided to replace the kitchen pot we’d brought.

The first attempt at treatment was an anti-nausea drug injected directly into her bloodstream via the IV. When there was no change, in went the next potion. We were told there were a half dozen they could try…but they didn’t have to.

If you’re a parent, I don’t have to explain this moment to you. If you’re not, there’s no way I can explain it. Stef began to respond. She was still talking in monosyllalbes , but now there were a few strung together. She leaned back and put her head on the pillow. It looked like she was out of distress.

You don’t go from as sick as she was to ‘pink of health’ in an instant, but this was still a pretty rapid turnaround. There was no guarantee, once the medicine wore off, she wouldn’t revert – though she didn’t.

By now, whatever was the cause of her nausea was long gone. The body is amazing, knowing perfectly well how to expel those thing which might harm it. A best guess is food poisoning from chicken she had eaten earlier. Though Helaine and Stef had eaten together, it was Steffie’s first meal of the day. Any pathogen was going to find little in her stomach to dilute its power.

As Steffie rested, we waited for the attending physician, the ER’s ‘boss,’ to come and say it was OK to go home.

I can’t begin to tell you how impressed we were with the professionalism that marked the care Stef received. It’s always possible whatever celebrity I have here could bring more attentive care, but this was beyond that. Every person who touched Stef was confident, well spoken and obviously well trained. There was never a moment when we didn’t feel they warranted our trust.

We got home long after the Sun had risen on a beautiful June morning. As I type this, 12 hours after we walked into Yale’s ER, Steffie is weak, tired and well.

Your child can grow up, but she’s always going to be your baby. Sorry Stef – that’s how it works.

Blogger’s note: Originally, I offered up to Stefanie, this would be something not shared in the blog. She asked why? So, here it is.

If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s don’t wait. If you’re considering going to the hospital, that’s probably all the evidence you need to go!

The photos were taken after Stef felt better.

Too Nice To Work

I have grown to like my new Sunday through Thursday schedule… except today. It’s just too nice outside. This is as close as Connecticut gets to San Diego.

Working today is the equivalent of going to summer school. No one has ever wished for summer school.

Earlier, we did some more spring cleanup around the house. Boxes, which had been piled in the garage all winter, were broken down and tied with twine. Heaven knows, I don’t want to get another rejection sticker for my improperly bundled recyclables!

Yesterday was the completion of the bathroom painting project. It took its physical toll while using twice as much paint as anticipated.

I wonder if trash haulers prepare themselves for a busy week following the first real spring weekend day like this? They should.

Up On The Ladder

A few years ago, we had some water damage in our master bath. No big deal. It’s been dry ever since. But, the ceiling looked like… well, you know.

I have been putting this off for a very long time, because I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to home repair! Actually, this is one of those jobs that I’d like to find someone else to do (or would have), but it’s too small for a pro and anything beyond wiping with a damp cloth is beyond me.

Late this afternoon, Helaine and I headed to the Depot to pick up what we needed. It’s a small bathroom, so we needed the smallest of everything. If they sold paint by the tumbler, we’d be in the market for a few tumbler’s worth.

I asked advice, listened, looked, struck out, asked for more advice and then stopped to have the guy behind the counter show his approval. I nearly made it before he spied the foam paint roller.

Please, I don’t want to give him a bad name.

In the paint department, this guy was doing what Helaine does when she says my suit and tie match. As with Helaine, I have no idea what’s really appropriate, but listen to the advice of someone who knows.

The opening salvo in this home improvement project is a spray concoction that’s used to soften the old popcorn ceiling allowing it to be easily scraped away. I don’t know its name off hand, but it’s toxic. There’s no doubt.

It wasn’t 20-30 seconds after the first spray before we were both wheezing.

Helaine told me to hold my breath. Great, I was wheezing and now getting dizzy from asphyxia.

After the mystery spray dried, I went at the ceiling with what I call a putty knife. I’m sure you painters reading this are having a good laugh on me. Putty knife! What an idiot. Next time we charge him retail plus 25%.

After scraping, in came the shop vac. I think it’s nice I’m licensed to own a shop vac, even though I got a courtesy “D” in wood shop. I was the guy who planed right through a solid block of Ponderosa Pine in 7th grade. My parents never got the candy dish every other parent got.

As I type this – in perfect Geoff style, the job is half done. The ceiling has been mostly bared to the drywall. Tomorrow, on goes the primer and then the paint.

If we do the job right, I’ll be in traction for a month. Wish us luck.

Yankees Versus Angels – At Yankee Stadium

Last weekend, I took in a Phillies game. It was the first major league baseball game I’d seen in at least fifteen years. Yesterday I took in my second.

I got the call early in the week from my friend Steve. A friend of his, a Yankee season ticket hold, had an extra ticket. Would I like to go?

Later it came out, Steve knew I wasn’t a Yankee fan, but thought of this as a photo safari for me. Good thinking! Our seats were down low in right field, beyond the dugout.

I met Steve at 8:50 and we drove to our rendezvous point where Norm, the ticket holder, picked us up.

The drive to the Bronx was a breeze. We made one stop on the Hutch (see my previous entry) and then headed past Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo to a stop on the #4 train.

This was a great idea. I haven’t been to Yankee Stadium in nearly 50 years, but I’ve heard traffic is horrendous. Taking the train for the last few minutes eliminates the crush of traffic going into and out of the stadium. Anyway, I love the subway and can’t remember the last time I was on this classic elevated line.

Looking down the tracks from the Fordham Road station, all I could think of was a roller coaster. The tracks went downhill, not steadily, but with few little bumps along the way. Finally, they took a dip and disappeared.

Getting off the train put us right next to the stadium. We were too close to have any perspective of its physical size. There are majestic views of Yankee Stadium from the Major Deegan Expressway, but none from our vantage point.

Norm’s daughter joined us here and the four of us walked around the outer edge of the park and into the Stadium Club. The Stadium Club is a very nice restaurant. In a venue where a beer can cost $8.50, the Stadium Club’s prices keep pace! We sat down for brunch.

Norm had celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, like me. Part of what he wanted had to do with Yankees and he had made arrangements to get us down to the edge of the dugout before the game started.

Unfortunately, being that wasn’t quite enough. The players never showed and we retreated up the foul line to our seats.

Let’s talk a little about Yankee Stadium. I have been there before. It was some time in the late 50s or early 60s. My dad had somehow gotten tickets to a football Giants game.

It was a day as cold as I can remember. We sat under an overhang, in the end zone with an unobstructed view. The smell of cigar smoke was thick enough to cut with a knife.

I don’t remember anything about the football game. Nothing.

Sitting in our seats a few minutes before game time gave me a chance to look around. The stadium itself (as opposed to the field of play) was smaller than I expected. Though the paint and fixtures seemed to be in good repair, the stadium looked old and tired.

The field itself was spectacular. We had come early enough to watch the ritual as the lines were carefully painted up the base paths, along with the batter’s and coaches boxes. The infield dirt was gently raked and then lightly sprayed, turning it a beautiful brown.

I’m sorry I’m not a Yankee fan, because this was an amazing win for them. Trailing all game, and looking sad doing it, they rallied in the bottom of the ninth and won as Hideki Matsui lined a double into left field.

A few sections up, a group of Japanese fans celebrated in a way I haven’t seen since I saw my grandparents celebrate at my Bar Mitzvah!

All I could think about was the pitcher, Francisco Rodriguez – aka “K-Rod.” He’s on my fantasy league team. He had just given up two runs, four walks and picked up the loss! Ouch.

I must admit, the vast majority of the game was seen by me through the lens of my camera. I brought the Canon, both lenses and nearly 2 gb of memory. Nothing was wasted.

In fact, it wasn’t until after the game and a chance to thumb through my photos that I realized how awkward and stressful a pitcher’s motion is. This is the kind of thing you just don’t get to appreciate unless the motion is stopped.

Having seen the Phillies last week, I was ready to try some new and improved techniques. My timing on fly balls and swinging bats is better. I also decided to sacrifice ‘noise’ (the digital cameras equivalent of graininess in an old fashioned photo) in order to shoot with a very fast shutter and open aperture.

For most of the game I was capturing images at 1/3200 second. That was enough to freeze every bit of action I saw. Opening the lens a little less increased my depth of field, making it easier to get sharper pictures.

When men were on first, I turned the autofocus off, focused on 2nd base and hoped for a play there. A few times that move paid off. Mostly it didn’t.

My favorite shot came as Juan Rivera of the Angels chased down a home run to right. I caught him as he jumped, hoping to find he ball. He didn’t get it but I did… well, at least I got the shot.

As the game ended, we poured out of the stadium and headed back to the “el.” This strategy of Norm’s worked again. In ten minutes we were in the car and faced no traffic all the way home to Connecticut.

Isn’t this strange? After all these years I get to see baseball games on consecutive weekends. And, there’s the possibility of more. My friend Bob is coming up from Charlotte, North Carolina in a few weeks. We’re not totally set in our plans, but he’d like to see the Red Sox play the Angels at Fenway.

I’m ready.

On My Way to Florida

I am only writing this because I can. I pulled out my laptop at Bradley International Airport to see if there was any wireless Internet access. There is and it’s free. Wow!

I woke up at an hour my friend Kevin refers to as “Oh Dark Thirty.” Actually, it’s not as simple as that.

With my cold I’ve been sleeping an odd schedule and never soundly. Sunday was no exception. I felt a little woozy in the afternoon and laid down. Then I went to sleep again around 10:00 PM.

I didn’t sleep long. Even before I got out of bed, I was hacking away. I’m sure that quashed any sleep Helaine had planned. I finally moved downstairs and watched some TV.

We left the house around 5:00 AM – late enough to get a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. There was a coating of very light snow on the ground. It looked slippery, though the car never slipped.

In less than an hour I was at Bradley. I took the two bags inside and went to check in at Delta/Song. The counter is confusing and somewhat disorganized. Delta has moved some automated kiosks in, but they still need a human with every passenger to check ID and the like. The machine gave me an error message because I had already printed my boarding pass at home (500 free miles for that).

After check-in I carried my bags to security and waited in line to be screened myself. No problems, and I wore my sneakers! For some reason Helaine’s feet are always inspected.

I am early. I suppose it’s better than being late.

In front of me, at the next gate, another Delta plane awaits its departure. It’s bound for Orlando and the number on the front wheel door says “1404.” I am documenting this in case anyone from Delta is reading this.

The front of this plane, over the cockpit window, is scratched or scraped and a few large patches of paint are missing. This is not how you install confidence in your airline. And this is the end of the plane pointing right at the window. Everyone here in the waiting area can see it.

It is my understanding that any UPS truck involved in a fender bender or otherwise receiving body damage is pulled from the road until the truck is fixed. Think about it. when was the last time you saw anything but a clean and pristine UPS truck. Maybe Delta can take a lesson here.

My flight leaves at 7:30. This is my first trip with Song and I’m looking forward to the onbaord TV.