Monthly Archives: September 2012

25 Sep

From PC to DC

Posted by on September 25, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Just a few days after Jason and I got home from our weekend in Park City we left again. This time our destination was a little farther off but its abbreviation wasn’t.

I am a history junkie and I have an innate curiosity that few can match so Washington DC, home to numerous museums and an incredible past, has always been on the short list of places I’d like to visit. Thanks to a vacation stipend provided by Jason’s new employer I finally got to cross DC off my list.

The Lincoln Memorial looked especially stunning at night.

The Reflecting Pool, meant to double the Washington Monument, was even more dazzling in the setting sun.

When we announced to our friends that we were going to DC many of them were perplexed by this choice of vacation. How could we choose DC over countless exotic options? And how could we spend nearly a week there without running out of things to do? Well, not to worry folks, we could have stayed twice as long in our nation’s capitol without a shortage of entertainment. In fact, we left without seeing many things we would have liked to even though our days were completely packed, perhaps a little too packed for my vacation preferences. No, I was never concerned about being bored on this trip but I was a little worried about the weather. We read conflicting accounts of the climate in September. Some travelers indicated that it was a very wet month and that they got nothing but rain when they came. Others claimed DC was still way too muggy and hot in September. Considering normal weather patterns and tourists’ comments we expected temperatures in the 80s and a fair amount of humidity. What we got was perfection. Temperatures stayed in the 70s for most of our trip and we only got showers, although admittedly torrential showers, one day. Either we lucked out or all those complaining people are a bunch of whiners.

The Jefferson Memorial was classically picturesque and fun to paddle around.

Jason looked like a wee thing next to Jefferson's immense pillars.

Yes, the weather in DC was good and the sites were also good. We saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the National World War II Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. You’d think that once you’ve seen one oversized statue of some long-gone important person that you’ve seen them all but I beg the contrary. We loved the memorials. Jason’s favorite Washington spots were the Lincoln and Jefferson and not just because we toured the Tidal Basin surrounding the Jefferson in a paddleboat, a tiring and sticky affair, before hitting the shore. Jason liked the classic architecture of these two buildings and seeing their famous structures firsthand. I, on the other hand, enjoyed them primarily because they celebrate hope in the progress of mankind and our ability to transcend affliction. I guess we know which of us is the sentimental one.

The FDR Memorial was one of my favorites. This breadline of weary men was just part of the segment representing FDR's leadership through the Great Depression.

The Iwo Jima Memorial, a replica of the famous photo, was enormous, much larger than I had imagined it.

DC is home to the Smithsonian and their 18 free museums. We only found time to peruse a couple of these, the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum, but what we did see was impressive. We were awed by the flag that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner” and intrigued by George Washington’s uniform, Kermit the Frog, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, a Revolutionary War gunboat, exquisite ball gowns from many of the first ladies, the 1903 Wright Flyer, Skylab, spacesuits worn on the moon, and on and on and on. I don’t move through museums too fast; I like to savor each piece of fascinating information and these galleries offered much to relish.

The marble markers of Arlington stretched as far as the eye could see: an endless field of sacrifice.

The Vietnam War Memorial was a reflection on the personal cost of war.

We also went to a not-free not-Smithsonian museum: The International Spy Museum. This was an interactive and fun place. Along with seeing the world’s largest collection of real spyware, like the lipstick pistol, we were taught the ways of the ninja: lock picking, bugging, disguising, and dead dropping. They had exhibits on spying through the ages plus you got to crawl inside the ducts and observe the people on the floor below you covertly. Kids would love this museum and me and Jason, just a couple of big kids, did too.

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns was an impeccably-timed display of reverence and respect.

The cosmos, long a source of mystery and wonderment, have a fitting place in the National Cathedral. The Space Window commemorates our explorations into the unknown.

If you go to DC you have to check out where all the government action happens. We gawked at the White House through its unimposing metal fence (No luck getting into a tour there.) and strolled through the Capitol. (Better luck this time.) I enjoyed the striking design and historical significance of the Capitol but man, that place was crazy with tourists. Our guide did a great job and the tour was interesting but it still seemed like a bit of a cattle chute. I guess that’s what happens when so many people are enthralled by one structure. The Library of Congress was much less crowded and the building was an intricately stunning shrine to knowledge and science rather than government. Now that’s my kind of place.

The Capitol's dome looked like a monstrous and spectacular eye watching over the cause of liberty.

The Capitol is no small shack. We could probably fit our whole neighborhood in it.

Speaking of beautiful buildings, the National Cathedral definitely has beautiful covered. It’s the sixth largest cathedral in the world and has been used for many state funerals, including Neil Armstrong’s just a couple of weeks ago. But its uniqueness, not its massiveness or importance, was what made it endearing to me. Its unusual elements, like a Darth Vader gargoyle (Really!) and a stain glass window containing lunar rock, are proof that churches don’t have to be so stuffy. And, for that matter, neither do our journeys to them. We got to the cathedral by way of a scenic trolley ride, which was a nice change from the dark tunnels of the Metro.

On the steps of the Library of Congress I paused to offer a cheer for knowledge.

The Library of Congress was a colorful celebration of learning.

There are many spots in Washington that move you. Places that whisper optimistically of the ability of our nation, and all of mankind, to overcome, to persevere, to grow. But nothing provides quite as poignant of a reminder of the cost of that progression as the white speckled hills of Arlington Cemetery. Here over 330,000 military servicemen have found their final rest along with John F. Kennedy. It’s a sobering, humbling, and peaceful place that will leave you with a lump in your throat. I know it left one in mine.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was a favorite of mine. Something about the larger-than-life quality of the soldiers' worn faces touched me.

In DC one can find breathtaking beauty in the often overlooked details.

We didn’t find a whole lot of time for shopping in DC and, honestly, after shopping in NYC the options elsewhere aren’t that impressive. But we did find one great spot: the Lou Lou Boutique. Lou Lou is nothing but wall to wall jewelry, scarves, purses, hair accessories, and belts. Everything in that place is not only darling but nicely priced. I was practically salivating over all the cheap girly gear. I didn’t empty out the whole store but let’s just say I came away with a rather large sack of goodies. How many pairs of earrings can you fit in a big bag? A lot.

George Mason and I go way back. Jason thought this picture was uncommonly funny for some reason so he insisted on it being in this post.

We went to a couple of scrumptious cupcake joints including Georgetown Cupcakes of TLC's DC Cupcakes fame.

The shopping in DC may not have been super thrilling but the food was super tasty. Ethnic diversity = culinary diversity = yumminess. We dined at amazing French, Turkish, and Peruvian restaurants along with hitting the Old Ebbitt Grill, which apparently has practically fed more presidents than the White House kitchen.

How did we cram countless monuments, 3 museums, some shopping, and many architectural delights into 5 days? We walked, walked, walked, walked to the Metro, rode the Metro, walked, walked, and rode the Metro. When we got tired we walked some more or jumped on the Metro again and hit something else. I can’t say that it was the most relaxing of trips; it’s not like we spent a day lounging on the beach or even saw much of our hotel room. No, it wasn’t quite Hawaii but I think all U.S. citizens should make a trip to their capitol at some point to remind themselves of our nation’s roots and aspirations. Something about seeing all those places in person makes our history seem more human and our future nobler.

19 Sep

Summer in the Park

Posted by on September 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Most people think of Park City as a winter wonderland, and rightly so, but I have to say that Park City is also a pretty fantastic place to visit in the summer. Coming from a boarding junkie that’s saying a lot. You’ll find the Alpine Slides, Alpine Coaster, zip lines, mountain biking, and Olympic Park quite diverting plus the offseason offers the same great restaurants as chill time minus the outrageous waits. Although Jason and I were in Park City not long ago for my nerd golfing, some passes to the summer activities at the Park City Mountain Resort, a birthday present from Jason’s parents, brought us up again. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

Jason and I are fans of fast. We slid down the mountain quicker than a kid in a sleeping bag.

The condo we rented for the night looked a little outdated on the exterior but it had recently been remodeled and was quite stylish inside.

Our sweet tickets gave us unlimited access to the resort’s Alpine Slides and Alpine Coaster so we hit those slopes something fierce. But we didn’t want to just come up for a day of winding around the mountain, we wanted to unwind too. Hence, we got a room right at the resort in the Lodge at the Mountain Village. Our condo was very conveniently located and conveniently priced. Park City in the summer is cheap! All the more reason for you tightwads to visit this time of year.

Riding the Alpine Coaster as a pair was pretty uncomfortable but it was worth it. Our trip downhill was quick and crazy.

After an afternoon of loops and sunlight Jason and I wandered down Main Street and into Wahso, an Asian bistro, for a delicious dinner. Park City’s many tasty meal choices make me very happy and hungry. The rest of the night we lounged and read; we could do that at home but we don’t.

Jason ordered the Grilled Lamb Vindaloo with mint raita, coconut eggplant, and green lentil-cucumber salad at Wahso. It was tasty but I think I liked my Miso Black Cod better.

We procured a private booth room at Wahso. Apparently these are impossible to get during the ski season. Hooray for the tourists going bye-bye!

We loved our great little weekend getaway. Park City is mellow during the summer. It’s not packed but it’s still pretty. You too can take advantage of the sunny days and elevation-enhanced brisk nights of Park City’s lolling season. Refreshing! As for us, one of these weekends we’ll actually stay at home but not quite yet.

10 Sep

You Can Canoe

Posted by on September 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Not too long ago my parents bought a canoe. They could be planning on being extras in The Very Last of the Mohicans but I’m pretty sure the purchase had more to do with their proximity to a navigable lake and their bunch of energetic grandkids.

The men took a manly journey in the canoe together wearing tiny life vests.

Jason and I took our maiden voyage on this worthy vessel during the Labor Day weekend. My brother Will was visiting from Idaho so he supplied the eager kids while we supplied most of the manpower. The majority of our nieces and nephews were enthusiastic sailors but Porter, who recently turned 13 and therefore suffers from teenagerness, did not want to row the boat. This made him an excellent candidate for teasing and involuntary labor. Jason and Will forced him to paddle solo on their return voyage across the water just because he didn’t want to. Complaining ensued and consequently more compulsory rowing. Few joys in life equal that of annoying a grumbling adolescent.

Unlike Porter, I’d classify canoeing as a relaxing activity even as the oarsman. And, incidentally, I’m ready for my call from Daniel Day-Lewis. Anytime he wants me to start paddling I’m set.

6 Sep

Back to the Good Old Bad Days

Posted by on September 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Ever since I rolled my bad ankle while playing laser tag at my own birthday party two months ago (Boohoo!) the wellbeing of my peroneal tendons has been uncertain. A couple of doctor visits and an MRI later I now have a few things figured out but the fate of my foot is still a looming question mark. Here are all the gory details.

My First Doctor’s Visit:

Six weeks after my little misstep my ankle was still having issues. A normal sprain usually heals in 2-4 weeks so 6 weeks of persistent troubles didn’t seem regular. My slow recovery and the many eerie similarities between my current situation and my previous tendon tear experience convinced me that it was time to get a doctor’s opinion. My sports medicine specialist, unfortunately, didn’t have any concrete answers for me. He said that the prior damage to my ankle would definitely lengthen my recuperation from a sprain; 3 months of mending wouldn’t be unusual. But he also told me that once a tendon has been torn retears are common. When a tendon has been weakened it’s an easy target for more problems. So? The doc concluded that I may or may not have torn my tendon again. Hmm…not exactly the non-answer I was looking for. He said I could wait it out for another month to see what happens or I could get an MRI and find out exactly what is going on. I chose the MRI and the path of information.

My MRI Results:

The machine used for this MRI, though not as friendly to those fidgety in tight places, produced a much clearer image than the open design one that magnetically photographed my ankle last time. The radiologist reported that my peroneus brevis suffered from advanced tendinosis and my peroneus longus was healed in intervals. Additionally, he noted that there was quite a bit of fluid surrounding my peroneus brevis. I had no idea what all of this meant.

My brace is a longtime frienemy. I hate that it’s become a necessary part of my life again.

My Second Doctor’s Visit:

I made another visit to my doctor after my MRI to decode the results and figure out my next course of action. My doc was great; he spent over half an hour looking at MRI pictures with me and explained everything I was seeing. Thanks to his helpful conversion of medical talk into layman’s terms I think I understand my MRI details. Allow me to interpret for you.

Doc Speak: The peroneus longus is healed in intervals.

English Translation: Your peroneus longus looks better than it did before you had surgery. Your last MRI showed fluid buildup around it and that is no longer there. Go longus!

Doc Speak: The peroneus brevis tendon shows signs of advanced tendinosis.

English Translation: Unlike tendinitis, which is an acute short-term tendon flare-up, tendinosis is a lasting problem involving the tendon’s structure and it takes considerably longer to heal. This particular case of tendinosis is a result of your recent ankle injury and, by the way, you have an associated partial tear in your tendon but it’s not completely ruptured.

Doc Speak: There is fluid retention around the peroneus brevis.

English Translation: Fluid isn’t good. Fluid means your body is hurt and can’t figure out how to heal itself.

Ugh! As my comprehensive translation indicates, my peroneus brevis, the tendon that I had surgery on 4 years ago due to it being torn almost to the point of rupturing, is once again torn. Of all the ridiculous things! Tendon, did I offend you in a previous life or what?

My Course of Action:

According to my newest MRI, the tear in my peroneus brevis this time is worse than its previous one and this tendon is in poorer condition now then it was before my surgery. I find this assessment hard to believe because my tendon was so messed up last time that it was almost beyond repair. However, since the MRI machine I used the first time didn’t give a very sharp image that is hopefully the main reason for this grim report. I’m crossing my fingers.

Another ankle surgery is now a real possibility for me. The recovery from my last one took forever and almost drove me into the funny farm so I’d like to avoid a repeat of that near-insanity if possible. Is there any hope?

My ankle might heal on its own. It will probably take a couple more months for it to get its act together, given its current state, but it could repair itself. The fact that it has slowly been improving over time, instead of plateauing, is a positive indication. If its progress ever levels off that could mean that my body has done all that it can on its own. So far I’m still making headway, thankfully. The fluid surrounding my tendon is a bit of a downer though; it’s a bad sign. It means my body is having a hard time coping. But, even with the fluid, my doctor was optimistic that avoiding surgery may be possible. It all depends on how my foot is doing in about two months.

Until then I have been instructed to massage my ankle meanly to increase blood flow to the area and do strengthening exercises with the elastic band my physical therapist gave me the last time I rode this pony.

I’m wishing for a tendon miracle. (My tendon doesn’t have a very good track record in the miracle department.) I have an appointment scheduled with my surgeon at the end of November but I’m hoping that I’ll get to cancel it. The last thing my questionable stability needs is another trip onto the operating table. Physical activity is one of the few things that stands between me and iffy sanity. Take that away and I’ve got some real cuckoo potential. Tendon, please don’t make me go down the lazy road to crazy again.