Dependable Erection

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Lost Year

Around this time a year ago, i recall Mrs. D saying something about being happy to see the back end of 2010. I agreed with the thought, as the last 2 months of the year were filled with her mom's failing health. Had i known then what i know now . . .

The elder Mrs. D continued her decline through the early part of the year, and passed in mid-March. She spent her last days receiving hospice care at Carillon Assisted Living in Hillsborough.

After she died it was time, we thought, to get back to our lives. My buddy Jeff and i took a road trip up to DC and Baltimore to catch some baseball. He was happy, because that early in the season the Orioles hadn't started totally sucking, and actually beat the Red Sox. The Mets lost to the Nationals, which was a harbinger of a mediocre season. (For the record, the Mets finished 8 under .500 at 77-85, 25 games behind the Phils. The O's? 69-93, 28 games back of the Yankees.)

But it was a phone call on the trip that ended up being most significant. Mrs. D called while we were stopped for gas (either a few minutes before or just after i had saved a flock of baby geese from being run over by some speeding moron behind me.) The radiologist had seen something he didn't like on her mammogram, and while it was probably nothing, could she come back in for another one in the next few weeks?

As it turned it, it wasn't nothing, and the past 8 months have become an ongoing lesson in the vocabulary, diagnosis, history, and treatment of breast cancer in the early 21st Century. Which, thank goodness, is light years ahead of where it was even in the latter years of the previous century. There are 3 ways of dealing with cancer - surgery for removing localized tumors; radiation for killing stray cells in the affected organ; and chemicals for disrupting the metabolic and reproductive processes of cancer cells in both the affected organ and anywhere else in the body they may have migrated. The organ of origin, degree of development, and the specific mutations of the DNA of the tumor determine which of the treatments are recommended. Mrs. D got very lucky and hit the trifecta - 2 surgeries in June, 6 weeks of radiation in July and August, and 3 months of chemo from October through December. The doctors didn't learn about the oncotype of the tumor until after her radiation treatments had started. It's apparently unusual to have radiation before chemo, but the original plan had not included chemotherapy, so that's why the sequence of treatments went the way they did.

It's never been in my thoughts to be a cancer blogger or a cancer diarist. From the very first conversations with the folks at Duke Hospital, there has been a high degree of confidence that the cancer was found early enough to be treated, and that this wasn't going to be a life threatening experience. Rather, an 8 month pain in the ass that was going to impact every aspect of our daily lives and pocketbooks, but one with a well-defined roadmap and a knowable destination, even if that map leads you through pretty dark places. And the destination, although knowable, is not a guarantee. Mrs. D's been a trouper these 8 months. But i know she'd prefer to put the map away and never have to look at it again. I guess everyone who hears those words from a doctor has to come to their own bargain with mortality. I'm thankful that Mrs. D's should end up with her living out a normal allotment of years. So that's the bulk of the journey we've been on the past 8 months, and if there are any of you out there who i haven't seen in the real world who've been missing my sparkling wit, now you know where it's been hiding.

But of course that wasn't our only experience with the health care system this year. On Halloween, being the middle aged guy i am, i went into the clinic for a routine colonoscopy. (I'm no more interested in cancer treatments now than i was a year ago, despite the increased familiarity with the process.) No cancer, but i did have a small polyp (a serrated adenoma, if you must know) removed from my ascending colon. No big deal; this kind of thing happens to hundreds of people every day.

But only a few of them (maybe 1 in 500 or so) gets to bleed out through the wound the following day. And of those, only an even scanter handful actually pass a couple of liters of blood. Fortunately, i made the call to hit the ER early on in the sequence, and was already being seen when the largest part of the hemorrhage occurred. Two days later, with a new plug in my cecum (more like a staple, actually) and a refill, i was given back to the real world. So the folks at Duke Emergency will have my gratitude for a long time, even those doctors who asked if i wanted my heart to be restarted should it stop while they were working on me; the surgeon who told me that, if the stapling effort didn't work that he'd probably be going in to take my colon home for display; and whoever it was who asked, before another needle full of sedation, if i wanted to speak with a chaplain. (I told the surgeon that i had checked my calendar before coming to the hospital, and that colon removal was not on my to-do list that day; to the chaplain question i merely responded "why?")

2011 wasn't all bad news, although, as the kewl kids say, the bad news rather dominated the narrative. Mrs. D and i finally got our shit together long enough to find a house up near the Eno River, and we've left the continuing deterioration of the Avondale Drive corridor in the hands of the city of Durham its Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, and the various shitty landlords who own those properties. A quick glance at real estate trends shows that 4 houses on the east side of Avondale sold for around $30,000 over the past 12 months or so. On my block, several houses went on the market on 2011 for under $100/square foot (about half of what comparable houses sell for in Old West Durham or Trinity Park); as of this writing, neither had sold. We were lucky enough to have family members who wanted to live in the neighborhood, so we're not dealing with either unknown tenants or the vagaries of the resale market just yet. With any luck, things will pick up enough in 2012 that selling the house at any sort of profit becomes possible.

The other bit of news on the plus side of the ledger also involved the older daughter and her husband - not only have they traded in Minnesota winters for North Carolina summers, but they'll be bringing a baby into the world come May 2012. Not that grampahood was ever anything i planned for. but as Mrs. D said, as long as we're dealing with all this other crap that comes with the getting older territory, we might as well have a baby to look after once in a while.

So as it turns out, the very first entry in Dependable Erection was posted 6 years ago today. I guess it's fitting to post this, which will be last entry in the blog, today. I never had any expectations for this blog. I mentioned once or twice that the only audience i ever had in mind was myself, and i wanted to have something that i could look at 4 or 10 years down the road and remember what i was thinking back then. But if i made anyone laugh, or think, or say, what the fuck, well, that was a bonus. The new phase in my life doesn't involve having to deal with the incompetence of the city of Durham (for which i am immeasurably grateful), inconsiderate neighbors (ditto), and, with any luck, health issues. I'll have some things to say in the New Year, some images to share, and, if you have any interest in what that might be, check back in a couple of weeks for a link to the new site.

Have a Happy New Year.

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Continue reading A Lost Year

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Totally awesome news

I'm interrupting my hiatus to share this:
Durham, NC - The St. Joseph's Historic Foundation, Inc. (SJHF) is pleased to announce that it is partnering with Durham Central Park and the City of Durham to present the 24th Annual Bull Durham Blues Festival on September 10, 2011 at Durham Central Park from 6 p.m. to midnight. As a special thank you to the community that has supported the annual Blues Festival and St. Joseph's Historic Foundation, Inc. through the years, this year's event will be free to the public. The event will feature performances by local and regional blues artists, along with the traditional food, drink and art vendors that Blues Festival goers have been accustomed to over the years.

All right, y'all. Get your ass downtown on 9/10 and show the Blues Festival some love.


Continue reading Totally awesome news

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thank you, Becky

Saddened to see Becky Heron stepping down from the BoCC mid-term, as much for what it says about her personal health issues as it means for Durham. Anything that gives Joe Bowser even more influence over the future of Durham County is troublesome.


Continue reading Thank you, Becky

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Still dealing with ongoing medical issues, so the blog is just not on my priority list these days.

But here's something that makes me feel good.

Continue reading Solstice

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Demolition by neglect?

So, let's see if i understand this:
DURHAM, N.C. - The Durham City/County Planning Department has received a written request to suspend the Demolition by Neglect investigation and determination process regarding the condition of the Liberty Warehouse.

Paragraph 3.19.2B of the Unified Development Ordinance stipulates that the Demolition by Neglect process may be suspended if the property owner agrees in writing to rectify the alleged conditions of neglect within a reasonable timeframe.

The property owner, Durham Liberty, LLC, has committed to rectify the Liberty Warehouse’s deficiencies within a timeframe determined as reasonable by the Durham City/County Planning Department. Therefore, the pending Demolition by Neglect investigation has been suspended, and the public meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 16, 2011, at 5:30 p.m. is cancelled in recognition of that suspension.

Failure to make the necessary repairs to the structure within an approved timeframe will be cause to reinstate the investigation in accordance with UDO paragraph 3.19.2B.

So, apparently, the city attempted to invoke a provision of its zoning ordinance (an occurrence so rare that it ought to be circled in red on the calendar lest we forget that it actually happened) prohibiting "demolition by neglect," in the case of Greenfire's Liberty Warehouse building, which sustained serious damage during a rainstorm last month and had to be condemned, forcing all tenants to scramble to find new digs. Greenfire responded by agreeing, in writing, to make all necessary repairs within a "reasonable time frame." I don't know what's "reasonable" in this case, do you? Six months? 18 months? 18 years?

What action would the city take if Greenfire left this historically significant building vacant and unmaintained for 18 years, right in the heart of a thriving downtown district?

One need look no further afield than a mile north, where the Duke Park bathhouse has sat, idle, vacant, and decaying, since it closed just after Labor Day, 1993. Despite earnest and repeated efforts by several community organizations to take the building on as a project and turn it into a community use center, the landlord has not only failed to negotiate in good faith with those tenants, but has used the building to store out of date paperwork and other fire hazards, while completely neglecting any maintenance issues.

Of course, since the landlord is the city of Durham itself, one hardly imagines that the neglect by demolition portion of our development ordinance will be invoked here.

If i was someone who gave a shit, i'd probably let City Manager Tom Bonfield know just how bad something like this makes the city look.

But i'm pretty much done with that part of my life. I figure i'll check in on the bathhouse in another 18 years, and see if any progress has been made.

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Continue reading Demolition by neglect?

Thursday, June 09, 2011


Cancer, to be blunt about it, is one of those things that Happens to Other People. My extended family is quite small (just one uncle, who married late and had no children, so no first cousins) and not very close. So those second and third cousins, or the once and twice removed members of my family tree who've been affected by this disease are no closer to me than, say, Harmon Killebrew, whose recent passing was noted in these pages. So i really had no gage to measure my reaction against when, 6 weeks ago, Mrs. Dependable called me in the middle of my baseball roadtrip to DC and Baltimore to say "the doctors didn't like something they saw on my mammogram, and they've asked me to come back for a followup."

These past 6 weeks have been pretty stressful. At any number of points when the really smart people have said "this is probably nothing, but we need to look at this," it's turned out to be something. Which led, inevitably, to a day at Duke surgery yesterday.

As a friend of mine said recently, "the good news is that this is pretty routine. The bad news is that this is pretty routine." And i'm certain for the doctors, nurses,and support staff, it is just another day on the job. For the rest of us, if we're lucky, it's a once in a lifetime experience. For the professionalism extended to us by every member of the Duke medical staff, we are eternally grateful.

It's a cliché to say "i feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders." But clichés, as Jimmy Buffett once noted, are good ways to say what you mean, and mean what you say. And i can think of no other way to describe what i felt when the surgeon met with me yesterday afternoon and said, "her lymph nodes are clean." Yes, there's a one in fifteen chance that this will return within the next ten years or so. But we'll take those odds, and see what comes.

As it turns out, we're extremely lucky. I earn a decent salary. I have decent health insurance through my employer, and the ability to pay my deductibles and co-insurance with pre-tax dollars. But even with all that, we're looking at out of pocket expenses that would break many people in this country. It's absurd to consider just how many people think this is normal, or worse, desirable.

The Susan G Komen Race for the Cure is this weekend. If you can afford it, donate. If you can't, remind those around you that early detection saves lives. It really does.

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Continue reading Cancer

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Dear Democrats

You may think that "distancing" yourselves from Anthony Weiner and hoping he will quickly and quietly resign from Congress makes you look strong to the American people, but you would be wrong. It only makes you look like a bunch of spineless pussies who would run up to Andrew Breitbart and give him your lunch money the minute he steps foot on the schoolyard.

For the record, the correct response to this scandal is, "Yes, Congressman Weiner engaged in some questionable behavior, but as far as anyone can tell, it was a private act between consenting adults that somehow became public knowledge. There are several other members of Congress who have also engaged in similar, and perhaps more reprehensible acts who not only continue to serve, but who have been re-elected to their positions. We believe the decision on whether Congressman Weiner should continue to represent his district is one that is best made by his constituents. We will have no further comments to make, and consider this matter closed."


Continue reading Dear Democrats

Thursday, June 02, 2011

By the slice, dammit

Jon Stewart gets to the heart of why pizza is so important.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Me Lover's Pizza With Crazy Broad
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Bialystock and Bloom

I can't quite put my finger on why, but this story in the Herald-Sun reminds me of this.

The original, and far superior version.

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Continue reading Bialystock and Bloom

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Because the current system doesn't encourage enough people to dump their shit on the street, that's why

From the Herald-Sun:
Solid Waste Management Director Donald Long is telling elected officials he thinks it's "imperative" for Durham to emulate other North Carolina cities and begin charging residents a monthly collection fee for garbage and recycling.

Long said the move would enable his department to reduce its annual demand for property tax revenues, which in fiscal 2011-12 will cover $12.5 million of a $21.3 million budget.

One listserv correspondent wrote:
My initial response to this proposal is: What a terrible idea. We see how badly this fee-for-service system works with yard waste. When it became fee based, people opted out. To make garbage & recycling fee-for-service based in a community such as ours, with a 50% rental housing rate, is a recipe for disaster. What happens if residents don't pay the fee? Their garbage isn't picked up? Whose responsibility is it to see the fee is paid: the residents? The property owner? The property manager? If a resident moves, does their trash fee move with them or would they have to pay again at a new property? Who will insure that fees are paid and trash is collected for each household? What happens if a property manager or rental owner goes belly-up and these fees aren't paid? How will the current legislation pending that would prohibit rental registries and limit inspections impact problems with trash pick-up, non-payment of fees? What happens if owners decide not to pay? Who will clean up after the inevitable surge of illegal dumping? Handle complaints from businesses who find other people's garbage in their commercial bins? Will animal control increase their responses to rat and pest infestations?

Oh, you mean like this rental property at 110 E. Markham Ave?

Yeah, Durham really needs to give its shitty landlords more of an incentive to be fuckups.

(And out of curiosity, i'm not going to report this to One-Call. It's on the Roxboro side of the building, and i imagine that there are at least a couple of dozen city employees, and at least one or two council members, who drive past this pile of shit daily on their way home from work. Let's see how long it takes for one of them to report this.)

UPDATE 6/2: So the trash was gone when i checked at 8 pm last night. No idea if the landlords will be picking up the tipping fees (and penalties for mixing yard waste, electronics, and recyclables in with the busted up furniture and used paint containers), or if that privilege will be passed on to the schlubs who pay their taxes and sort their trash because it's the right thing to do.

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Continue reading Because the current system doesn't encourage enough people to dump their shit on the street, that's why