Friday, March 30, 2012

Wedding Season

When you play piano like I do, you get asked by nearly every friend you have that ties the knot to play at their wedding.  Some ask me to do all the music and others just ask me to accompany a soloist.  Either way there is one thing that is always true...I hate playing for weddings.  There many different reasons why, but here are just a few:

  1. Brides are notoriously high strung and indecisive.  That's a dangerous combination when trying to pick music for their special day.
  2. It's a high stress gig for me.  They're always recorded, so if you fuck up it's saved for posterity's sake.
  3. Weddings are very unpredictable.  I've played for some that started close to 30 minutes late.  That's 30 more minutes of prelude music I have to pull out of my ass.  They never go off without a hitch.
I have a friend that is an extremely talented organist and he agrees with me that playing for weddings sucks. He tried to price himself out of the market by charging $750 to play for one.  When people were willing to pay him that much he whined, "Dammit, Jeff, I can't turn down that kind of money!!!"

I don't charge that much when I play for one.  In fact I usually don't charge a dime.  You see I only play for the weddings of close friends or the kids of close friends.  I tell them to consider my services their wedding gift from me.  It's a win-win because I'm often short on cash and I hate shopping and they need music.

All of this comes up because I am playing for a wedding tomorrow that I never intended to play for.  The bride asked me if I would play something at her wedding.  She mentioned that her brother was going to sing something, so I assumed she just wanted me to accompany him.  (By the way her brother is an excellent singer.  Think a cross between the voices of Justin Timberlake and Michael Buble.)  So she emails me about 3 weeks ago and asks if I'm still planning to "help out" with the music.  After I tell her yes she says she will send me the music.  I'll be damned if I didn't get music for the whole entire ceremony.

So think of me tomorrow afternoon about 4:00 Central Time.  I'll be sweating in a monkey suit much like the one in my profile picture while I try not to screw up playing Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, and Debussy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

25 Things About Me

1. I have a near photographic memory when it comes to useless and mundane trivia. You don't want to play me in Trivial Pursuit.

2. I can sight read almost any song for piano as long as it isn't crazy hard, but I can't play by ear to save my life.

3. I love show choir. The people and the performing....not the rehearsing. I especially love our show choir bands. They completely rock and are one of the reasons our groups have been so successful for the past decade or so.

4. I've been in high school for 27 years now thanks to Urbandale show choir. If you're in high school and need relationship advice or just generally need to know how to survive, ask me. I've seen all the drama over and over again.

5. I attended Wartburg College for one year and had a lot of fun. Unfortunately I didn't learn that much and received a letter suggesting I take a semester off to re-evaulate my academic goals. I never went back.

6. I have two dogs. One we adopted from a rescue league and she is one of the best dogs ever. The other I was tricked into adopting from my in-laws. She is not one of the best dogs ever.  (Addendum: Old dog died of old age, but I still don't like her any more than before.)

7. THIS is the Cubs' year. No seriously, this time I mean it.

8. I love Hawkeye football. There is almost nothing better than Kinnick Stadium on a fall Saturday filled with screaming rabid Hawkeye fans.

9. I'm a video game addict. I used to be a TV addict, but then I discovered Xbox 360.

10. I have a love-hate relationship with computers and gadgets. I can repair them and make a living doing so, but I hate repairing the mistakes of stupid people who shouldn't be allowed to operate them.

11. I want to move to Las Vegas and earn a living taking money from tourists at the poker tables. I would probably be living under a bridge in short order, but I'd have a blast getting there.

12. I believe that Diet Mt. Dew is the nectar of the gods.

13. I want to write a novel about a year in the life of a show choir. Most people have no idea how much work it is to put together a really good competition show. Of course the names will be changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

14. I can eat two burritos from Pancheros and still have room for more. I think I could be a professional eater, but it would probably kill me in under a year.

15. I used to be an EMT and firefighter for the Urbandale Fire Department. I have lots of good stories from that...ask me the next time you see me.

16. I once was nearly shot by my best friend's dad when we were trying to wake him up in the middle of the night. He thought we were burglars or something.

17. I really badly want to take a trip somewhere tropical. I think Tahiti and Fiji look like the most beautiful and relaxing places on the planet.

18. (Stolen from Darrin Dowell's 25 random things) If you're the person that sees the lane closed markers, but thinks you can just drive up in front of the 30 other cars that had the foresight to get into the lane that isn't closed and then just cut in front, I'm not the guy that's going to let you. I will do everything I have to including risking a rear-end collision at 70 mph to keep you from merging (to the dismay and terror of my wife). I get very angry at the people in front of me who just cave and let the person in.

19. I secretly wish that I had moved to New York City when I was in my twenties and started a career as a rehearsal and audition accompanist for aspiring Broadway stars. I think I could have been very good at that and I hear they make decent money.

20. My dream job is either sports writer or PA announcer for a major league baseball team.

21. I used to be a waiter in a fine dining restaurant that did tableside cooking. I was good at cooking the tableside dishes, but I never understood why somebody would come to a fancy expensive restaurant and then order something that was prepared at their table by some 20-year old with no culinary experience when there was a kitchen full of very talented chefs just yards away.

22. I like to talk. I can spend hours and hours just sitting around trading stories and jokes with friends. I think I could have made a decent stand up comic because of this.

23. I can quote almost any movie that I have seen more than once (see number 1).

24. Even though I've attended church regularly for my entire life, I don't know the words to most hymns and praise songs because I'm usually playing the piano accompanying them and rarely sing them.

25. I think I would make a really good doctor. Too bad I didn't take that whole post-secondary school thing seriously.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Actual Poker Content?

Hit and run here.  I'm planning to hit up the card room at the local brick and mortar casino that Grange95 likes to refer to as the ATM.  Hopefully I can leave with as many racks of chips as he usually does.  Regardless I should have some poker content up in here for a change.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two More Stripper Stories

Reading some of the other stripper stories shared in the blogosphere has triggered my memory of a couple other good stories I think are worth sharing. 

The first one happened with the same strip club loving friend from the first stories I shared.  We were at one of the clubs out west of Des Moines and it was a very slow night.  Besides us there were maybe 15 other people in the whole place.  We of course were sitting right up front with our elbows practically on the stage since that was where my friend insisted we always sit.  The next dancer out was not in the best shape.  She was a little on the heavy side and I don't just mean curvy...she was verging on fat.  She came over to try to hustle us for tips.  We weren't interested in having her dance for us, so my friend tried to politely turn her away by saying, "Sorry, we don't have any cash on us right now."  She replied with, "Well if you don't have any money you shouldn't be sitting in the front row."  To which he replied, "Well if you're fat you shouldn't be stripping."  She angrily stomped off in her giant platform stripper shoes and apparently told all of her friends we were assholes, because all of the rest of the girls pretended we didn't exist. 

The next story occurred at a bachelor party.  The buddy that was getting married managed a large telemarketing call center in Saint Louis.  As we walked in the door of Roxy's in East Saint Louis one of the dancers yelled hello at the bachelor and called him by his first name.  I was like, "Jesus, dude, how often do you come here?"  He explained that she used to work for him in the call center and he actually had fired her because of poor performance.  Anyway...she doesn't really factor into the interesting part of this story.  Roxy's had a big half circle shower that was used for shows that wasn't on a stage.  It was just against the wall next to the door where the dancers' dressing room was located.  We talked to the DJ and found out that for just $100 we could get our bachelor in that shower with two strippers.  Since we had like 10 to 15 guys in our group that was a bargain at around $7.50 per person so we all chipped in. 

Soon after we ponied up the cash one of the dancers, who I'll call Crystal, came to get the bachelor, but he was having second thoughts.  He argued that $100 was a lot of money and we could have way more fun spending it a little at a time instead of all at once.  We all told him it was no big deal since we had split the cost.  He still seemed apprehensive so the stripper tried to convince him by saying, "C'mon, baby, it'll be fun.  We're going to be in the shower with Ginger and she's my favorite."  (FYI - the stripper names are completely made up because this was like 20 years ago and I don't remember them anymore.) He was still arguing when Ginger strode up.  She was maybe 20 years old and super hot...athtletic build and just oozed sex and sensuality.  She whispered something in his ear and he instantly said, "Okay I'll do it."  They took him back to the dressing room to change into his souvenir bathing suit and very shortly the DJ was announcing that it was time for the shower show to start. 

They had setup about 3 or 4 rows of chairs around the shower with the first row maybe only 2 to 3 feet from the glass.  We went over to grab seats and all of the front row chairs were already filled with other dudes.  We were like, "Nope, we paid for this show and that's our buddy that's going to be in there, so we're sitting up here."  They were like, "The club sold us tickets for the front row."  We responded, "Well then you better go get your money back from them because we're sitting here."  I guess because we out numbered them they complied and gave up the front row seats.  The show started with the two very naked strippers showering and soaping each other up.  It was okay, but nothing too exciting.  Then Crystal went into the dressing area to get him. They put a chair in the middle of the shower and sat him down.  Ginger then stood on her hands and did the splits wedging her feet against the glass walls of the shower so that her crotch was about 2 inches from his face.  Crystal proceeded to go to town on her while the DJ egged them on and instructed the crowd to throw money over the shower walls to encourage them.  It was a straight up sex show and they weren't simulating anything.  I had never seen anything like it before or since and simply sat with my mouth agape while exchanging looks with my other friends like, "Are you f-ing kidding me?" The bachelor tried several times to lean forward and join in the fun, but the first girl kept grabbing his hair and pulling him back.

We later found out that Ginger had convinced him by saying, "Don't tell your friends, but me and Crystal are going to have sex in the shower and I want you to watch from up close."  The whole thing had to be illegal and was the most bizarre thing I've ever witnessed in a strip club. 

Oh...and a little post-script to this story.  Later that night (or really early the next morning) my extremely drunk friend from the earlier stories got lost trying to find his hotel room at the Embassy Suites, so he just crashed on the floor in a corner of the hallway.  A couple hours later a security guard woke him up and then radioed the front desk to find out his room number.  Turned out he was sleeping right outside the correct room number, but like two floors off.

Darth Vader Sleeps

Picked up my new bi-PAP machine yesterday afternoon and used it to sleep last night for the first time.  The difference between the bi-PAP and the traditional C-PAP is that they both provide Positive Airway Pressure to prevent snoring and apnea, but he bi-PAP modulates the amount of the pressure between exhalation and inhalation.  So slightly more pressure when you're inhaling and slightly less when you're exhaling.  It sounds a lot louder to me wearing it than it did to my wife, so I felt a little like Anakin Skywalker in his later years.  Even with the varying pressures it's still a little tough to get used to the pressure it exerts on inhalation.  I also noticed that if you stop and kind of hold your breath for a longer than usual moment (like to breathe out for a long yawn) the machine will jump the pressure up again as though it's trying to jump start your breathing that's a little annoying. 

It took me a little longer than usual to fall asleep, but I planned for that and laid down about 30-45 minutes earlier than I normally would.  They built in a ramp pressure that cuts the pressure in half and then gradually builds it back up to full pressure over 30 minutes.  That makes it a little easier to adjust while trying to nod off.  The biggest problem I had was that the mask made me so hot.  My face was super sweaty when I woke up during the night and it just made me feel generally hotter.  That could have had something to do with the unseasonably warm weather we're having.  Our overnight low was around 60 degrees which is more typical for the daytime high in March here in Iowa.  I'm either going to have to turn on the air-conditioning (which is like blasphemy to do it before closer to Memorial Day) or get some kind of stand fan for my bedroom.  I had the ceiling fan on high, but that wasn't enough to sufficiently cool me down. 

I was able to tolerate the mask for most of the night.  I shucked it about 4:30 AM which is only about half an hour before my alarm goes off, so that was pretty good.  I can't really tell if I slept that much more soundly.  I don't recall having more dreams than usual or anything, but I definitely feel a little more rested than usual.  Of course that could just be because I went to bed a little earlier too. 

I'm not going to judge whether or not this is the answer to my sleep issues until I've given it a couple months, but I'm hopeful.  If I'm honest the thing I'm least looking forward to about the whole breathing apparatus isn't wearing it at night, but the significant amount of cleaning and upkeep it requires.  I'm going to have to set aside an hour or so every couple of days to properly clean the device since I'm a little bit of a germophobe. 

The main reason I was so anxious to get this taken care of right now is that I have to travel for work next Thursday and I'm being forced to share a room with a co-worker.  They wouldn't have been able to sleep at all with me in the room if I were still snoring full force.  I could have brought them ear plugs, but this is a more permanent solution. 

Oh yeah...and do you know how much these frigging things cost?!?!?  The respiratory care place billed my insurance almost $4,000 just for the little shoebox sized machine.  I'm on the hook for 20% of whatever the insurance allows.  They likely won't accept a $4,000 charge and will instead knock it down closer to $3,000, but that's still like $600 out of my pocket in addition to the $400 or so I'll owe the doctor for the sleep study.

Is good sleep (assuming this works) worth $1,000?  We'll see.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stripper Stories

Okay, my last post was kind of a downer, so to remedy that I unofficially declared this week to be stripper week.  So everyone tee up your best stripper stories and get posting.  Here come a couple of my favorites.  Pretty much all of mine involve one of my very best friends in the whole world.  I'm not going to mention him by name, but any of my friends in real life who might stumble across this blog will know exactly who I'm discussing just from the descriptions.

This friend loves strip clubs.  I personally find them frustrating.  Why should I pay a cover and then tip a hot young girl to tease and titillate me?  Still...I've spent my share of time in the clubs.  Here in Iowa they have two different kinds of strip clubs.  The ones with liquor licenses limit the girls to g-strings and pasties.  There are other clubs that are known colloquially as "juice bars".  These clubs don't sell any liquor, but usually have a steep cover charge.  You are allowed to bring in your own beer and they will even provide you with ice for it.  Since the laws that determine how much skin the girls can show are tied to the liquor laws, this loophole allows the dancers at the juice bars to go full nude.  Both of the upcoming stories happened at one of the juice bar clubs.

The above mentioned friend loved anything that involved naked women: pornographic movies, pornographic magazines, strip clubs, etc.  He heard that one of his favorite Penthouse Pets was going to be appearing at one of the seedier strip joints in town, so he begged me and a couple of other friends to come along with him. He insisted we get there early so we could grab seats right in the front along the edge of the stage.  When the Penthouse Pet came out (I can't remember her name) for her first set she was dressed as a school girl complete with pig tails and a lollipop. As she took the stage she took the lollipop and put it under her skirt.  I don't know if she *ahem* inserted it or not, but we were left to assume she did.  She held it up in the air and playfully asked who wanted it.  My buddy's hand shot up in the air and when she handed it to him he popped it straight in his mouth.  I may have gagged a little.

In her second set she asked for a volunteer.  Of course my buddy was the first and only volunteer.  At this point he was comfortably drunk, but I think he would have been just as enthusiastic if he had been stone sober.  She brought him up on stage and stripped off his shirt.  Now my friend was far from sculpted.  He had a physique that could best be described as doughy. Next she opened his pants, but didn't pull them down.  It still exposed his cute baby blue Calvin Klein briefs.  She handed him a peeled banana and had him hold it so that it served as a proxy for his own member.  She covered it in whipped cream and proceeded to simulate a certain act on it.  When she finished up she took the whole soggy, sloppy, sticky mess and shoved it in the top of his skivvies and ground it in before zipping him up.

Was he humiliated by this?  Not at all.  He climbed off the stage pulling on his shirt with a broad grin on his face.  It wasn't until later when we were driving back to our favorite bar that he glumly announced that he had banana running up the crack of his ass.

I only have one Vegas stripper story and it isn't crazy, but is kind of funny.  In 2004 we were in Vegas to celebrate a buddy's bachelor party.  We wound up at the Spearmint Rhino.  The majority of the girls there were absolutely stunning, but at $20 for a single lap dance it was out of our low-roller price range.  We stayed for a short while and all pitched in to get some dances for the bachelor, but it wasn't long before we were ready to get back to the poker room and/or blackjack tables. When we arrived at the club we were shown to some tables fairly near the stage.  I was barely in my seat before a dancer started grinding on me and whispered that my friend had bought me a dance.  The dancer was facing away from me shaking her money maker when my best friend leans over and says, "Are you enjoying your muppet lap dance?"  Before I could form the word, "What?" the dancer turned around to face me and hand to God her face looked exactly like this:

I had to fight to keep from cracking up right in her face.

If this whole stripper story thing takes off I may share the story of the craziest bachelor party I ever attended at a place called Roxy's in East St. Louis.

So come on boys...pull back the veil on your craziest stripper stories.

Friday, March 9, 2012

About Me

I think an important part of knowing someone is knowing their history, where they come from.  We are all products of the events that shape our lives.  I've been fortunate to have lots of highs and a few very low lows in my life.  I'm going to take a risk here and lay myself bare.  This post will mainly focus on the lows because I think those are the events that really define you more than the happy ones.  I picture them like the pounding of a sculptors chisel.  They chip away at your personality, your very soul.  One might make you less trusting.  Another might make you more industrious.  Still another might teach you to be more forgiving.  It may not be all that interesting, but it may help you to understand me better.  I forgive anybody who can't make it all the way through this. 

I'll glaze over the early part of my life because it is pretty nondescript.  I still live in the same town where I grew up.  In fact I bought my parent's house when they moved to a smaller ranch style townhouse.  I had loving parents who provided everything I needed.  I had the quintessential boring and happy childhood.  I was a good, if unmotivated, student.  I was a child of ADD before it was a diagnosed disorder.  If it involved music I did it.  I was in every choir or band program offered in my school district from about fifth grade until graduation. Then I went to college at a small private school in northeast Iowa.

There are seminal events that shape the lives of everyone.  They're markers along the road of your life that shape who you are...who you become.  The first of those happened when I was in college.  I had lived a very sheltered and mostly obedient life.  When I got to college I didn't know how to handle my sudden freedom.  I also was ill-prepared for the more difficult homework and discipline needed to survive. So I did what any good ADD riddled smart kid does.  I gave up.  I drank and partied my way right out of college.  My GPA after my freshman year of college resembled that of the Delta Tau Chis of Animal House.  Lets just say it started with a "zero point" something.

I received a letter the summer after my freshman year suggesting that I "take a semester off to reevaluate my academic goals." In short I was kicked out of school.  I never went back.  I was ashamed and embarrassed and I didn't know how to tell my dad.  They spent that entire summer thinking I was going back to school in the fall because I didn't know how to admit that I had squandered the future they had handed me on a silver platter.  It is my biggest regret in life and I know that it was a crushing disappointment for my dad.  I cared what he thought more than anything in the world.  I learned from this to recognize opportunity when it comes along and don't let it pass by.  It made me a more responsible person.

So I got an entry level job in the business world and worked my way up.  I met my wife about a year later and it was literally love at first sight. She worked nights at my company and I worked days.  She was working the day shift to make up hours so she could take a vacation with a friend.  The first day she walked into the office I turned to my buddy Doug and said, "Dougie, I'm going to have that girl."  I didn't mean it at the time with the purest of intentions, but it turned into so much more than that.  We were married in 1991 almost three years later to the day.

We had our first son about a year and half after we were married.  Four and a half years later his younger brother came along.  They were both very well behaved and well tempered kids and I like to think they had the same boring happy childhood that I did when they were young.

About the year 2000 my wife started to feel sick all the time.  She was constantly tired and had lots of other systemic symptoms like aching joints and general weakness.  Her regular doctor referred her to a string of specialists and it was finally determined that her kidneys were slowly failing.  She had a syndrome known as acute interstitial nephritis.  They can't pinpoint the cause exactly, but her nephrologist was pretty sure that it was caused by toxic doses of ibuprofen type medicines prescribed following a car accident.  One doctor had her taking Advil and another had her taking a prescription equivalent and it killed her kidneys.  They were failing and there was no way to stop it.  The doctor explained that her kidney disease was like a ball rolling down a hill; there was no way to stop it from reaching the bottom.  We'd just try to make the hill not as steep.

In early 2004 she finally was forced to start dialysis.  She had to go three times a week for 3-4 hours per session.  She scheduled them for 5 in the morning and went to work afterwards and still worked full time even while spending up to 12 hours a week hooked to a huge metal vampire.

On our wedding anniversary in 2004 she received a living donor kidney transplant from her big sister.  Three days later it had to be removed because the renal vein had clotted off and her transplanted kidney had ruptured and couldn't be salvaged.  It was like a death in the family.  She had to go right back on the dialysis.

One of the side effects of kidney disease is high blood pressure.  It can be very hard to find the right balance of medicines to control it.  My wife's was especially out of control.  No matter how many times they adjusted her meds her blood pressure always went up...and up...and up.  In the summer of 2004 we were at my 12-year old son's baseball game and Juli was complaining of a very bad headache.  On the way home from the game she mentioned that one of her legs was numb below the knee. That night before bed she complained of nausea.  I asked if she wanted to go to the emergency room, but she refused.  She said she'd be fine.

The next morning I got up for work and checked on her.  She said her head still hurt, but she was feeling a little better.  I told her to call me if she needed anything.  About ten o'clock that morning I got a phone call on my work phone from a number I didn't recognize.  I was on a business call so I let it roll to my voicemail.  A minute or so later the same number called my cell phone.  I excused myself from the business call and answered.  It was a police officer from my town who told me that he was at my house.  My wife had suffered a seizure and my 7-year old had called 911.  She was on her way to the ER in an ambulance and I needed to go there to meet her.

Her blood pressure had spiked at somewhere around 270 over 180.  When your blood pressure goes up, one of the ways your body tries to lower it is by dilating the blood vessels.  Her body had done just that to such an extreme degree that the membranes of the blood vessels in her brain leaked fluid.  It was the equivalent of a mild stroke.  She spent about the next week in a coma in the ICU.  It took months for her to fully recover all of her mental faculties, but she has no lasting effects.  I forgot to mention before, but a few weeks before the seizure and coma happened she was let go from her job because they said, and I quote, "We're concerned for you and think you're working too hard."  I'm convinced the stress of not having a job was a contributing factor in this episode.  I'm generally not the angry confrontational type, but when her boss called to tearfully ask if there was anything she could do while Juli was comatose I just replied, "No, I think you've already done enough."

In October of 2005 she received a successful living donor kidney transplant from her little brother.  She no longer needed dialysis, but that wasn't the end of her medical struggles.  Dialysis cleans the blood when the kidneys can't.  It's very effective, but not very selective.  Your kidneys are very adept at removing what's bad and leaving what's good.  Dialysis....not so much.  It removes vital things like calcium.  When your calcium levels are too low your parathyroid emits a hormone that tells the bones, "Sorry, bones, you don't get any calcium today because we need it for more important parts of the body like the brain."  If you're on dialysis for a long time that parathyroid can get stuck on high.  Even after your transplant it keeps squirting out too much of this hormone.  Because of that my wife's bones at the age of 35 were like that of a post-menopausal 80-year old's.  She wound up needing surgery to remove half of her parathyroid glands and then more surgery to repair hairline fractures in both her hips.

The end of my wife's story is a happy one though.  She didn't have the opportunity to go to college after high school and I learned that her dream had always been to be a teacher, specifically a history teacher.  She is now in her junior year of college and should have her teaching certificate in a little over a year from now.

The last event that defines who I am today happened just a few months ago.  My dad passed away on November 9, 2011 at the age of 86.  He was, in my opinion, one of the greatest men to ever walk the face of this planet.  He was a World War II vet.  He was the perfect mixture of stern, patient, and loving.

As some of you may have noticed from my earlier post, I love movies.  I especially love movies that can evoke emotion.  I'm also a cryer.  I get choked up very easily.  I always thought I could be an actor because I could conjure up enough emotion to cry on command by just imagining the day my dad would pass away.

The funny thing is that I cried a little on the day it happened, but really not much since then.  I've been so caught up in trying to help my mom learn to live in a world without him that I haven't had time to really come to grips with his passing yet.  I think it also helped that he passed in the midst of one of my busiest times of the year with my show choirs and at work.  In a month or two I'm going to have a lot of time on my hands and I fully expect that in the stillness and quiet of those nights it will drop on me like a ton of bricks. 

A few months before my dad's passing my wife and her best friend had a fight over something really idiotic.  I won't detail it here, but suffice it to say that they threw away 20+ years of friendship over a petty argument and a few hurt feelings.  After my dad's funeral service my family was filing out of the church towards the line of cars that would be processing to the cemetery when suddenly my wife darted from my side back into the sanctuary.  I was confused.  Where was she going?  Then I saw her hugging her best friend who had driven several hours unannounced to attend the funeral.  My dad's last act from beyond the grave had been to reconcile them.  I know that nothing would have made him happier.

Since his passing I've grabbed every opportunity to reconcile with people from my past.  In his passing my dad's final lesson was how to really and truly forgive.

So here I am today.  A much more industrious, responsible, loving, and forgiving person than I ever was in my youth.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sleep Study (Results)

Well, that was interesting.  For anybody that hasn't had one of these done before here is how it goes.  You show up and they introduce you to the tech who will be doing your sleep study.  Mine was Keith, a nice young man in his early thirties from small town Iowa. They have you answer a very brief one page questionnaire about whether or not you drank caffeine today or took a nap and then they hook up all of the wires.

You get:
  • Two wires down each leg of your shorts that connect on each shin.
  • One at the corner of each eye. 
  • One on either side of your chin.  
  • One just under your bottom lip. 
  • One behind each ear.
  • One at the top of both sides of your forehead. 
  • One above each ear.
  • Two on the back of your head.
  • One strap around your belly.
  • One strap around your chest.
  • A weird contraption like a nasal canula that sticks in both nostrils and has a tiny straw extending into your mouth.
I tried to take a picture in the bathroom mirror before I laid down for the night, but it was too dark in there so it didn't do all the wires justice.

It took me at least half an hour to fall asleep which is very unusual for me.  I'm usually asleep within 5 minutes of going horizontal and closing my eyes.  Part of it was the weirdness of having a stranger watching your every move. Part of it was the fear that I would disconnect some of the myriad wires.  The biggest part of it was that they asked me to start out on my back and I never fall asleep on my back.

I finally drifted off and about 2 hours later Keith came in to put the C-PAP device on me.  The good news was that they would remove that weird thing that went up my nose and into my mouth.  It took me a while to get used to having the mask on and I fell asleep within 15-20 minutes.

At some point I woke up and my nostrils were on fire.  Keith had apparently changed something about the way the air was flowing and it wasn't agreeing with me. I awoke literally shaking my head and blowing out my nose like a bull at a bullfight.  Keith came in pretty quickly and asked me what was bothering me.  I told him, "The air shooting into my nose right now feels like refrigerated pepper spray." He promised to adjust a couple of settings for humidity and such to see if it improved.

I tossed and turned without really falling asleep until about 4:30 AM.  Finally I adjusted to the device and Keith had dialed in the pressure, heat, and humidity settings on it to where it worked for me while still alleviating the little apneas I was apparently having.  I slept very soundly for the next 90 minutes, but I can't say if it had a significant impact on the quality of my sleep or not.  I was definitely not rested. 

I drove home and called my boss and told him I would not be in because I needed more sleep.  I slept until almost noon and here we are.  I assume I'll hear from the doctor in the next 24-48 hours and we'll see how quickly I can get the C-PAP device to try from home.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sleep Study

Everyone wish me luck. I'm having a sleep study done tomorrow night and I'm a little nervous and freaked out about having strangers watch me sleep.  I have to have it done though.  I've snored since I was in my early thirties, but it's just gotten worse and worse. On January 2, 2011 I quit smoking and quickly put on 30  pounds on top of the 30-40 I was already over my ideal weight.

The snoring reached a whole new level to the point where my wife started sleeping in our guest bedroom.  I'm never completely rested no matter how long I sleep.  I wake up with headaches and a sore throat at least a couple of times a week.  Even though my family says they've never seen me stop breathing while I sleep, I'm concerned that I have sleep apnea which will lead to a heart attack or other long term health issues.

So I finally made an appointment with the local sleep center and the doctor is sure that he can help cure my snoring with a Darth Vader breathing machine called a C-PAP or Continuous Positive Air Pressure device.

I'm looking forward to finally sleeping restfully, waking up without a headache, and not feeling like I could fall asleep at any time of the day.  I'm looking forward to actually dreaming when I sleep.  I'm looking forward to sharing a bed with my wife again.

However, to do that I have to let some strangers attach a bunch of wires to me and then watch me sleep.  They said they will most likely come in part way through the night and slap one of the machines on me and I should wake up on Thursday morning feeling more rested than I have in a long time. 

Fingers crossed...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vegas Hooker Stories

I guess I'll jump on the Vegas hooker story bandwagon along with Grrouchie, Rob, and Lightning. I'll start with the first story that I already shared in the comments section of Rob's first Vegas hooker story.

I had been to Vegas probably half a dozen times and had seen a few ladies I thought might have been "working girls," but I'd never been approached directly by one until my visit in July of 2008.  On that trip I got approached three different times.  I wasn't sure if I just looked more desperate for female attention or if the failing Vegas economy had forced them to get more aggressive.  The truth was probably a little of both.

It was a Wednesday night and I had had a pretty successful day at the poker tables by my low-roller standards pocketing just shy of $700 for the day.  It was about 3:00 in the morning as I decided to head back to my room at the Flamingo from Planet Hollywood.  I decided to drop $100 in a dollar Wheel of Fortune slot to see if I could get lucky.  (The Wheel of Fortune slots are my one weakness when it comes to the arcade games in Sin City.)  I also wanted to rack up a few points just to see if I could get any room offers from the P-Ho for my next trip to Vegas.

I had slowly leaked away about half of my $100 when a fairly attractive blonde wandered past and casually asked if I was having any luck.  I didn't really know how to answer since I had won earlier at poker, but was losing at the slot machine so I just shrugged and said I was doing okay.  I didn't realize she was setting up a business proposition until her follow up question, "Do you want any company tonight?"  Ohhhhhhhh...I see what's happening here.

Maybe I'm just naive, but I really didn't get what was happening when she first stopped to chat.  I mean, any of you that have been to Vegas know that it's really not unusual for a complete stranger to high five you or raise their glass and shout "PARTY!" as you pass them.  I just thought it was another friendly tourist.  I suppose the time of the morning probably should have clued me in.

I responded to her with a very polite, and probably a little timid, "No, thank you."  She just patted/rubbed me on my shoulder and repeated back to me, "No, thank you," in a sort of "Aww wasn't that sweet" kind of way and moved along.

My second ever hooker encounter happened right after that on the walk back to the Flamingo.  A nice looking young black girl in a really nice white Lexus was sitting at a red light waiting to pull out of the Paris driveway onto Las Vegas Boulevard.  As I neared her car to walk in front of her she rolled her window down and pretty much shouted at me, "Hey, baby, you looking for some company tonight?" I completely ignored her and kept walking.  She proceeded to roll her passenger side window down and continued trying to capture my attention.  I never broke stride.  By now her light had turned green and the cars behind her were honking their horns.  She yelled out the window at them, "SHUT THE F*&# UP!!!"

She then pulled onto LVB and then turned right into the Bally's driveway right in front of me and continued her tirade.  At this point she was clearly pissed that I was ignoring her and started yelling things like, "Hey! I'm talking to you! Hey! Don't ignore me!"  I was honestly a little shaken by the whole thing, but just kept right on walking.  Then to add to my anxiousness there was a group of about four very scary looking dudes standing on the walkway over Flamingo Rd. All I could think as I approached them was that I had almost $1,500 in my pocket!  I strode past them and was super relieved to see a Bill's security guard and LVPD officer standing and chatting at the bottom of the stairs on the Bill's side of the street.

The third encounter wasn't a good story.  She offered.  I declined.  That was it.