Health Musings – Steve’s Recent Problems

I’ve long since tossed the general template of this blog as a “how-to” or strictly “Informative” and landscaping trade-related item, in favor of more personal and wider ranging purposes. I have stayed away from politics – by all means! – which makes me appear saner than I actually am. Avoiding modern politics keeps the circular arguments which serve to distance us from one another at bay. By concentrating on stuff that I figure means something to us all, it is my conviction that I can enhance everyone’s existence by sticking with themes which we all care about and hopefully build on those factors in life which we all unconditionally share. I am so tired of alienating, scapegoating and circularity – it has become the worst of all things: predictable and boring. Bridges seem so much better than cul de sacs – although I love landscaping cul de sacs! ūüėČ

This was what my past weekend looked like:

It began like this – walking and taking final pictures of this year’s somewhat unspectacular but still-gorgeous Autumn:

Where by I found myself looking for more of this Saturday activity amongst friends:


Then the weekend took a turn.

It turned into this:

Recently, I spent 4 days in the hospital here in Louisville. What began as a visit to the doctor evolved into an epic experience which included the insertion of a stent into my heart. It was the wake-up call of all wake up calls.

I used to be a bit vain about my lack of visits to doctors. When I lived in Vancouver, I played cards and ping pong with a doctor. For 10-15 years, I could consult with him over a game or two. Henry had faced the same thing with all of us – a group of very typical males who enjoyed each other’s company and who would get together pretty much weekly for beer and gossip, and for sporting events on TV or live. Many hilariously inappopiate events occurred, including someone walking up to the poor guy, dropping their drawers and asking in all seriousness: “Hey, Henry, is this just jock rash or should I worry?”

His eyes would roll and he’d get fake incensed, saying “Good Lord, man, come on, I just ate!” Naturally, we’d all roll, laughing. We were brutal.

But he also explained in very real terms – at many times – what the best doctors thought about their trade, which gave me a warm feeling about them in general. Most of them actually do care.

So I wander down for my first Doctor’s appointment in 42 years, having experienced some dizzy spells which I always attributed to a heat exhaustion event I had in 2005, suffered during a heat wave of epic proportions in Reno, Nevada. Soon after this event, I would get these small “near-syncope’s”, which are basically a sensation of ‘nearly’ passing out. While they were numerous that year following the event (I quit softball for a year), the following year they were rare and I pretty much recommenced every activity as if nothing happened. I could get an ‘attack’, having said that, but they were not strong and were rare enough to attribute to the mysteries of body chemistry from heat strokes. Then, about 2 years ago, they began occurring a bit more frequently until recently when they became daily or every other day. Nothing huge, just a “fade”, a sensation of fainting without the Full Monty, and a resultant racing heart and the sweats.

I had an EKG and Chest X Ray done and paid for them and was walking out of Jewish Hospital’s gorgeous East End facility when a lady approached me and asked me to step into ER to see a doctor. As yet, I had no idea why she had asked but I made the move and sat as the nice female doc explained her fears that I was on the verge of ending it all at any given moment. As she worked, explaining what I was experiencing with these near syncope events, she was saying that these near syncope’s were the results of wildly fluctuating heart beats at extremely dangerous levels. She said she would supply an ambulance and was demanding that I be hospitalized immediately. She did indeed frighten me, especially since she was 100% sincere in what she believed to be my situation. I fought her off to a degree and said I would go to the hospital but I wanted to go home first and arrange a ride down as well as pick up some stuff. She was really reluctant but she finally complied against what she stated was her better judgement.

So I wheeled home, got Tom to bring me back, ate a huge meal, grabbed some books and split for the Big Sick Room.

When I got to the hospital, they were ready for me. I had a catheter probe scheduled for early the next morning already. I spent the first night in the hospital finishing a great book, gave Mother my phone number and slept fitfully. To be honest, I was somewhat concerned that it had got this far. It made me realize I may indeed have been fortunate, a fact which later proved out indeed. But I can pretty much guarantee that the full realization of where my medical situation had wandered had not truly hit home yet. It was all a sort of benevolent shock.

The next morning, they ran me downstairs at Jewish Hospital and my doctor greets me dressed in his “Going to War” Togs, lol. He had these black horn rim glasses, surrounded by every single vector-covered head, complete with a¬†leopard-spotted head dress I had to laugh at. I’m being serious. He asked the pertinent questions, they loaded up my pre-loaded IV with some fabulous drugs and I woke up a few hours later, all fixed, or close to it, anyway.

They did find a blockage in an artery – and a severe one. While inside, they inserted a “stent” which re-opened said artery and allowed the blood to flow unimpeded. Immediately, my monitor indicators improved dramatically, although even now, there are still a few worrying random beats they want to close in on later – in the next few weeks, after further testing.

Medical stories are pretty boring but I wanted to mention all this because I have good friends I know through this blog and because of my rampant plain luck in catching something this dangerous at a good time – before it killed me. This is less a cautionary tale than a general announcement concerning my health. But if someone gets something from it, then by all means, I am gladdened.

Today, my first day back from my twisted and sore melding with various stunningly uncomfortable beds for 4 days, toting a heart monitor everywhere I moved, dangling off my chest and losing half the hair on my chest from placements of those sticky monitor suckers, I feel like a lucky person. I also now have even more respect for doctors and nurses than I may ever have had. Dr. Reeser’s concern and lack of backing down convinced me I had a problem and I shall 0we her some great good things as long as I live. I fully intend to offer her something worthwhile – maybe a hand shake, I don’t know yet. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†I do some pretty good landscaping – maybe she’ll like that.

I now am concerned about eating habits, exercise, smoking – time to let it go – and all the various billions of impacts which made life a flirtation with a suicide I had no idea of. I cannot, for the life of me, express my gratitude enough to those whose interests served to intersect with my desire to live long enough to do some serious playing with my grandkids to come.

Here’s to Love in buckets full.

Jody Bare’s Wearable Artwork – Reprised

¬†One can easily see from the number of comments made when this was first published in July of 2010, that Jody’s work is amazing. Since that time, she has not sat on her laurels but has most definitely continued her fabulous work as a fabric artist. I’m inserting few of these newer designs at random intervals to introduce Jody Bare to those who may not have stumbled upon this old and very dear friend and – for those who now see even more of why I regard her as a very serious artist who happens to work in mediums which are surprisingly practical at the same time. I would sincerely invite anyone who regards wearing unique and hand made products to take advantage of her while she’s still as busy as a bee. ūüėČ ¬† Hey – Christmas is just around the corner!

Art and house fish 026

This new one below, Jody calls “Stemmed Rose”:

“Art Clothing”. What a fascinating concept. Mz. Bare designs what to wear, surrounded by the knowledge that sheer unique artistic license is what you’re under. Jody Bare supplies an incredibly delightful, gorgeous and sumptuous feast of color, silk and images in her fabric art and I am – first of all – intrigued so much by her range and the delicate singularity of her products. Of course, the fact that I have known her pretty much forever makes it even more special.

(Left click images to enlarge)

Pink Rose Scarf

This is another couple of newer ones. In order: “Primal Consciousness” and – following that, “Squid-in-Kelp”:

Biographical Stuff: For example, I can remember her as a college freshman at Western Kentucky University, courted by my very best friend in the world of nearly 50 years, Steve Bare. There are too many tales involving yours truly and this other miscreant – all true, unfortunately or fortunately. Sure, a few involve excess – but who’s counting?? ūüėȬ† The short version is that Steve and I met at 12 years old, both the “new guys” in a new town. That we were pretty good at sports and that we each had parents who were tolerant and smart as whips gave us something special right off the bat. For years, Steve and I were inseparable and we have maintained contact, through his tour in Viet Nam and my tour in Korea, through my dislocation to Vancouver and, then his, to Santa Cruz. His marriage to Jody not only probably saved his life, he got his Soul Mate in the bargain. This is, in many ways, a romantic story and Jody Bare figures just hugely in the last 90% of the tale.

Did I mention she’s fun and just a great gal? Well, she is. How close are we? ……Well try this – When you have a bed named in your honor: “The Sned Bed“, in this case, you know you’re close!! ūüôā


Jody has always puttered around with fabrics. She speaks of her development as an artist on her home page, right here:¬†¬† As you browse her brand new site, you can find a product list, with photo’s of some of her stuff, some of which can be seen adorning the ladies in my life. These scarves and fabrics have never disappointed anyone, let me assure you. It earned me some great smiles and Thank You’s, so there’s your proof this gal is a pro. ūüėČ

Jody tends to work in Linoleum block printing. She has mastered coloring, arriving at the inks she prefers. She tends to work on silk – real silk – pressing the block gently and firmly in place at her desired spot. She has always done her very own work, without help. She is explicit about rendering unique, hand made products from her own efforts. This is not only a mesmerizing artist – she is a hard-working one as well.

Sunpower Green-3

I’ve decided to make this blog post about Jody because she has entered the “Online Community” for the first real time.¬† In reality, she has featured her products many places, from San Fransisco to Kentucky and during the great ‘Artist Open Studio’ events in Santa Cruz, California. It is my fondest hope that people will visit her site and browse her incredibly beautiful work. Her style and products are completely “stand alone” items. As mentioned, each one is utterly unique and bears her own unique style as well as her own unique hands on efforts.


Elegant, supremely stylish and wearable. What could be better?

Doddles (3)-3

Yes, I am inordinately proud of Jody Bare, great Mom, cool listener and occasional playmate on her husband and his friends’ great misadventures, noteworthy fisherwoman and great – I mean the best – pal. That she does World Class artwork surprises me not at all.



I absolutely adore this last new piece, “Divine Lotus”:







True Mud – Part 4 – The Final Answer

Among other events, stories like the ones prior to this represent the entire Love/Hate relationship landscapers have with the weather. Of course we have general problems also with Nature as well as the assigned time pressures of construction in general. Ironically, this last tale is an easy one but no less epic. It represented my first real encounter with the wonders of a miracle cure for all which ails the wet and miserable:  washed sand.

The picture above is the finished look – 7 years after the project was completed – of a project in North Vancouver, BC which was also a government-sponsored housing Co-op. It shows about 1/3 of the length of the “Fire Lane” – a 20′ wide course which would be used only in the event of fires and which, of course, was also used regularly (in reality) for purposes of moving in and out. The concrete material in the foreground is called “Turfstone” and is used where there is a desire to feature a lawn but to still be able to drive a 40 ton fire truck on top of it without sinking up to the gunwales. Interestingly, at least for this project, the determining qualification in testing the Turfstone and brick was a matter of the Fire Department bringing in a 40 ton truck and driving on the suckers. None of that fancy Uranium business for these guys! We passed.

Here is a look backwards at pretty much what the other photo was gazing at. The Turfstone bit is around the corner to the left on the way out of the development. As we can see, this is one long stretch of brick, mixed with cement features as well as some asphalt as we’ll see soon. It also goes to the right – Eastward – for an equally long stretch. This picture is taken at the halfway point, where the path makes a 90 degree turn. All-in-all, the brick and Turfstone elements stretched about a quarter mile. It was the second-largest brick project I ever did, including doing 55 different driveways at a development in Reno. This one was huge.

So – where’s the mud?

Well, the mud greeted us, the truth is. We began this job in pretty much the dead of Winter, with consistent and daily rainfall of one sort or another. Not only that, but the buildings shown here were in the very early framing stages, while the other buildings – where we began – were more or less done; certainly enough for us to get underway. ¬†I regret to mention all the photographic record I have from this project are ‘after completion’. I say this because of the missing humor and “perplex-ment” value because the beginnings were a most curious and bizarre process.

(As a brief “aside”, I also mention the nearby buildings undergoing the primitive framing stage of development as background to an event I also never experienced again. I had a flat tire on a Bobcat we were renting. The guy came up, changed the tire and took the flat back to his shop for repair, leaving us movin’ on with a newly fixed tire. The guy called me later. OK, it was funny: “Hey, Steve, you guys did something I never saw the likes of! You had 138 nails in that daggone tire.” ¬†……..who…… ¬†ūüėČ ¬† ¬† True story!

This cloudy “after shot” shows where we encountered a most unpleasant and hardly-“ready” hole in the ground about the approximate size of Texas.

This calm, domestic little scene was once a gaping wound, 50 feet circular and 16-20 feet deep, a remnant of a misplaced excavator who dug the underground parking excavation – supposedly under the buildings – some 50 feet in the wrong direction. It also extended some 20 feet smack into the area where the pavement was slated to go. Ignored and filled with rainwater from the origins of the project, we encountered it in its full gory glory. Typically, the contractors we work for supply a graded edifice for us to adjust slightly – it’s always a part of the deal. But this time, we faced a situation so gross, it was to laugh. Naturally, I told the contractor to, ahem, “Fill the hole!”. He replied by asking me to. It was an “extra”, of course – they had elements of civilized behavior after all. But, for the life of me, this impediment was unique. It was a gosh darn swimming hole, for Pete Sakes. The problem was, they wanted it paved over within 2 weeks!

I called a few experts, all of whom agreed on a solution: washed sand. I had the father of a friend who worked for the BC Highways as an engineer confirm this as a good effort, so I started calling sand suppliers. The next day, I began greeting trucks and pups (extra trailers) in a long line of eventually something like 36 truckloads of sand. They would dump the sand in a pile and I would take the Bobcat, push the stuff and dispense with it in about 5 minutes, pushing the sand onto increasingly stable land-reclamation.

Definition of “washed sand”: ¬†Washed sand is surface mined, screened and washed to remove¬†silt¬†and clay, then allowed to¬†drain.¬†It is typically alight¬†buff color, almost off-white.

Washed sand is a finely graded sand and can be used for fill, to topdress golf course greens, and as a base for laying brick and pavers.

The sand would be oozy and pure liquid at first contact with the water. As we raised the level oh so gradually, the moisture was always there but another load on top would reveal an amazing stability. Inching our way upwards – with sand floating at the outer reaches of the expanding pile – the water could be seen spilling out in monstrous amounts as the level rose, back into the forest where we had cut a small creek to handle it earlier to get to a decline not too far away.

At about the 25 truckload level, we were still 6 feet below where we would eventually rise to and I found myself tipping a bit too frisky, shooting down on top of the stuff, and I panicked. It was here that I had the amazing sense of “Eureka – this is going to work!” Cascading downwards, slipped off into the “abyss”, I actually found myself supported – not sinking. In fact, as I tried the white knuckle experience of seeing water from a shielded area joining me – and as my guys were trying to get me chained up to a backhoe to yard me out – I reversed the machine and I actually found myself climbing back out. It did require the chain, however, as my tires began digging into the sand but I got pulled out easy enough. When this minor episode finished, I got out of the cab and stood up, smiling. Oh, and shaking a little. It was a true epiphany concerning eventual success. What shocked me most, to be honest, was how easy it was and I’m being serious. This stuff was a wonder.

We filled it in a day.

Within 3 days of beginning the “fill” we were running a big heavy “double drum roller”, complete with vibrations over the entire area as if it had always been there. The sheer volume of water and its 100% saturation of the lower levels of the sand provided an incredible compaction, just all on its own.

Here is a look at a small part of that area, completed:

Since that event, I have had occasion to call for washed sand in dealing with mud and water on many occasions. For purposes of pure traction in slime, washed sand, piled up sufficiently to travel on, makes an incredibly easy and practical solution where things seem impossible. Add that, later, as things dry up, the sand is an excellent drainage-enhancing soil amendment when disbursed around while getting back to grade, it shines even more so.

True Mud – Part Troix! – A Note On Landscaping As A Career

In the spirit of continuity, I’m opting for yet another tale of mud and woe describing the constant battle against this¬†unforeseen¬†mistake of Creation which has comprised probably 40% of my landscaping career.

But this post takes a more philosophical slant, which I feel is in order before I describe yet another unfairly vicious attack of the Mud Monster – tales of which I have many, many. ¬†I herein hope to provide us all with the various caveats which place us in life’s ultimately “most miserable moments at work”, but which become secondary in a completely illogical and weird twist on human perceptions. If this turns out to not be¬†believable, I cannot blame anyone for that assumption. All I have is what I own.

Note: A Picture of Portland’s Waterfront Park, below, which does not at all resemble the terrain which it consisted of at first.

Good Lord, ha ha, far, far from it:

A Spiritual Aside

Let me insert at this time something which has gone unspoken. As much as I have detested rainy days which stretched for months – and who would not? – and as grueling as some of those work days were, there remains an optimism in someone who works with dirt and landscape planning and installation which tends to factor in at a spiritual level. Sure, you’ll hear men complaining endlessly about it all. And certainly it motivates many of them towards other employment. This is inarguable as it can be.

But, as a very qualified expert on these matters, I can assure anyone that the fruits and pleasures as the goals become increasingly apparent are resplendent with the sense of accomplishment. I can think of very few trades or practices outside of waging war where so much is arrayed against so few. Is this “over the top”? – I honestly don’t think so. Believe me, the “felt experience” at the working end of a shovel – the constancy of donning rain gear and the extreme interest in the technological ¬†improvements in such apparatii – the grimness of those early, sometimes pre-Sunrise hour mornings when the temperature is barely above freezing – when one faces 8 hours of climbing dreadful inclines in torrential or semi-torrential, all day rain, packing rocks, plants or sod – these things are the litany of drear. One’s heart can sink as he opens his house door, prepared for work, and the rain cascades down, drenching one as he negotiates the walk from his house to his truck.

What, in all this, can be remotely considered good?

The only answer I have is the stubborn¬†insistence¬†that, aside from becoming fully invested in a career which produces such regular disappointing climatic events and which apparently allows so few alternatives, we have the Final Product as goal and the penultimate reward. That we labor for someone else is nearly secondary, but even that relationship has a promise which is pretty ‘off the charts’ as well, in terms of pure respect and the appreciation of what, indeed, gets accomplished.

But Wait! It Gets Worse! ¬†ūüėČ

Each rainy, miserable and simply awful day is counteracted by the amazing relief of actually seeing it all the way through. We plod home, drenched and sore, our muscles aching from the typically hard landscaping tasks which were exponentially made worse by a persistent rainfall. As we sweated inside our modern, up-to-date rain gear, we had the completely dreadful realization, 3 hours into the work, that we were getting as wet as we would have gotten has we eschewed the rain protection!

This is true: I had guys working for me in Vancouver who would walk to the job without rain protection and who worked entire days without even bothering with it. As ‘The Dude’ from The Big Lebowski might say: “Moisture abides”. ūüėČ

OK – Enough Already……..Then there is this¬†

In North America, where we have abundant rain, we so often also feature milder Winter temperatures. In one of the worst-ever Winters for rain in Vancouver, BC, I recall not missing a single day of work. Not a one. There was also very close to 100% attendance at work for those of us on those crews.

Where we have abundant rain, we also feature incredibly productive plantings. It is our onus – implementing the plans proscribed by designers – to present them in the best possible foregrounds and backdrops. One learns, in short, to use the rain as an asset. We can indeed attain this, ironically, ¬†for purposes of, say, compaction under hard surfaces which require a 12% moisture level for the ultimate in compaction. Needless to say, pretty much the last thing we face worrying about is to remember to “water the new plants”. The assurances of planting success are beneficial in a strictly business sense as well. In Reno, many landscapers were regular “re-visitors” to nurseries, bringing in plants which were obviously under-watered and who had croaked as a result. I can honestly say I have gone for years without returning one dead plant. I’ve had nursery owners who were actually relieved I showed up with one and I’m being serious. “I thought we’d never see you again! Heck, I know all about (so-and-so’s) family after all his visits returning dead trees!”

“Let’s get lunch!”

Where we have abundant rain, the air is so ozone- and oxygen-rich it cannot be described accurately. One can go to work sick and come home well, with air this pure, and I am not exaggerating. Our endorphins, always a factor for those who work outdoors, ramp upwards, creating pleasure where Рsupposedly Рnone should exist. The truly grimmest moments in climatic disgust can produce nearly ineffable moments of clarity and repose. One feels a rare pleasure in his existence at  incredibly unlikely times. I am being completely serious here: The Mystery of Life merely deepens as we assess with our conscious mind any remote intelligence which could inform us as to why on Earth we are not totally and irrevocably miserable.

I admit working for a living can perform all these spiritual tasks for anyone. Anyone at all. Working, for Americans, provides imminent self-worth – a prize for anyone – and rightfully so.

But I can aver right now that the physical rewards of maintaining strength, using it, contributing in an open atmosphere about solving problems, acting proactively in doing just that are but a few of the incredibly strange rewards one can grab while landscaping “where no man dares to trod”.

Next, I describe the effects of approaching a hole in the ground, 50 feet by 30 feet in circumference, a full 20 feet deep – completely filled with long-sitting and somewhat rancid water – and hearing a man advise us that he needs a brick pavement structure on top of this area by the end of the week.