Thursday, February 29, 2024

You take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and there you have—chronic sinusitis

I just wanted to give a quick update on things, if that’s okay—the last few days wrestling with all this inflammation and crazy noggin pressure was making me pretty batty.  I spent most of Saturday on the phone with my dear friend Erin, then did a repeat performance Monday night with my friend & former classmate Diana. 

They were both so kind, I owe them both big-time.  Thank you, thank you.

Early Tuesday morning, I called my PCP’s office and a kindly triage nurse let me explain what I’ve been wrestling with since January.  She told me that my PCP was going to be at Mercy Hospital on Wednesday, get there bright and early and he would do an evaluation.  I almost cancelled when I woke up to the biggest rainstorm Pittsburgh’s seen in 30 years, but made it to Mercy Hospital almost an hour early.  I was dripping wet when I walked in there, but they got me a pair of scrubs and those comfy grip-socks to wear.

It turned out (luckily for me) they’d had a number of morning cancellations.  My PCP and his 3rd year medical student saw me almost immediately, and because we were in a hospital and not his private practice, was also examined by an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist.

I have to say, that specialist was remarkable.  He said “Here’s what happened.  You had covid in December, you recovered from that.  Then you got sick again with another virus or infection in a 2 week timeframe.”   I said yes I should’ve remembered that.  He said “That’s how your acute sinus infection became chronic.”

He said the good news was, my masseters (jaw muscles) looked untraumatized and the oral pain was from tissue inflammation, not muscle.  So he didn’t see this being a TMJ issue (at least, not yet).  The bad news was, the orofacial pain wasn’t going anywhere and could probably continue another couple months.    

They gave me an antibiotic to be taken twice a day for 10 days, and a 10 day dosage of Naproxen.  Also some prescription FLonase, and a saltwater concoction to irrigate my sinuses regularly. 

I asked about the intense pressure in the front & sides of my head, my PCP asked if I was sure my vision wasn’t blurry.  I said my sight was clear and he said “Good, then we can probably rule out a tumor.”   Er… good to know.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Fearful of going down that rabbit hole again—I hope I won’t have to

I probably shouldn’t be writing anything right now, for all I know a real miracle will occur in the next day or two and everything will be right as rain again.

But the truth of the matter is, this TMJ I’m wrestling with keeps going in the wrong direction.  Every few days it will lighten up enough for me to believe it’s getting better, and I’ll start to do normal things again (like preparing those mini-chicken pizzas in my last post).

I’ll tell a couple friends I’m on the mend, and then the next day it comes roaring back with a vengeance.  Right now my temples and the top of my skull are enflamed, my face aches and my mouth is very, very sore.  Eating is difficult but not impossible (yet).  For some reason, hot creamy coffee soothes things.  Not tea, not broth, hot creamy coffee.

I know I wrote about this a week or so ago, how I was convinced my TMJ was “reactivated” one week after testing positive for covid.  What I didn’t mention is that the TMJ only lasted 2 weeks, then faded completely.  But exactly 2 weeks after that, I got a severe case of food poisoning of all things, and it REALLY woke up the TMJ.  That was in January, but seems longer ago. 

Sometimes blogging can be a real pain in the ass.  I’ve gotten angry emails from people in the past about something political I’d written, or called out for getting my facts wrong, all sorts of things.  But last night I did a search on TMJ in my blog, and was reminded (by many awful posts) how much I struggled with TMJ from December 2018 to December 2020.

Those two years (TWO YEARS!) I remained holed up in my apartment, watching nothing but MSNBC and slurping coffee, Ensure & Metamucil.  I often went to bed at 5:30-6pm, only because the fewer hours I remained awake, the better.

That is the rabbit hole I’m fearful of going down again.  

Last March I went down to my sister’s house and stayed a week while my apartment was getting its furnace repaired and the place ozoned.  I told Shawn I’d been a hermit for far too long, and when I got back to the city I was going to change my life around.  I knew she didn’t believe me but I meant it.

I wasted no time joining my local library, signing up with a local senior center, reconnecting with an old classmate.  I spent a few weekends in the spring & summer with my sister Shawn and brother-in-law Jim, toured points of interest (like Falling Waters) with my friend Diana, went to museums, restaurants and even a gateway clipper ride with the folks at my center.  I made a lot of friends there too.

I can’t imagine having to go back to the person I was before.  (Trust me, you can only “grin thru the pain” for so long, with so many people.  It’s not sustainable.)

Anyway, I know this wasn’t an entertaining read and I apologize for that.  One good thing about having a blog, you can share & share and there will always be someone out there listening, and it really helps.  Thanks for listening and I hope my next post is a brighter one.

Monday, February 19, 2024

This Keto is for the birds! No, literally—it’s for the birds, you’ll see

A couple weeks ago at the Lutheran Senior Center, they served a lunch we’ve never had before.  Roast turkey sandwiches on artisan flatbread, with some surprising toppings (barbecue sauce, pepper jack cheese & cole slaw). 

It came with a side of potato salad that was soft, creamy & delicious.

I sat with my friend Mary, a tallish slender woman with red hair and ornery personality.  We both agreed the sandwich was awesome and Mary said “I would like to have this sandwich added to the regular menu!”   My friend Elisa (who works there) said “Thank you, Mary—we’ll let the vendor know!”  

In my best Oliver voice, I meekly raised my hand and said “The potato salad?  Please ‘sa, may I have some more?”  Elisa wasted no time shouting “NO MORE!”  Seriously, for government-issued potato salad I thought it was the best I’d ever had.

I decided not to wait for the center to serve this sandwich again, so I did my best to duplicate it at home (the picture at the top).  My local market didn’t have any artisan flatbread though, so I bought these Arnold KETO Round Sandwich Thins.

They look like hamburger buns that were flattened by a steamroller!  But they did the trick, for the most part. 

(I was also able to duplicate the thin, peppery barbecue sauce by adding 3 shakes of Heinz Worchestershire Sauce to 2 tablespoons of Baby Ray Barbecue.)

Here’s a funny story: a few days ago (the day of the Ice Cream Social), the lunch served at the Senior Center was tortellini of which I’m NOT a fan, so I packed one of these sandwiches along.  I showed it to a couple of the ladies at my table.

Swearin’ Connie (who’s forced to carry a swear-cup and deposit a dollar everytime she swears) said “WHERE THE HELL IS MINE!”  When I offered to share, she laughed and patted my hand and said she was joking.  But when Mary came over with her lunch tray and sat down, Connie yelled “LOOK WHAT THIS %!*^$# BROUGHT FOR LUNCH, MARY!  HE’S TOO GOOD TO EAT THE %!*^$# THE REST OF US ARE HAVING!”

My sandwich wound up costing Connie 3 bucks.  I love Connie, I swear!

Anyway, after I used up my turkey at home I still had half a box of these Sandwich Thins and wondered what to do with the rest of them.  Then it hit me—barbecue chicken mini-pizzas.

I made these with a spray of olive oil, a blend of 1/3 cup pizza sauce & 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, shredded rotisserie chicken (white & dark), mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses, some crumbled bacon, chopped onions and green peppers.

Put them in an oven preheated to 350 and let bake for 10 minutes.  I know these don’t look very pretty, but these thins were made to be eaten as no-carb mini-pizzas.  The crusts came out of the oven hot and soft, with a mild crisp.  They were absolutely delicious.

This may be the only way I ever eat pizza again.  And I wasn’t even trying to go carb-free!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Thinking I need a new picture here…and here and here

Good morning.  If you don’t really know me that well, you probably wouldn’t notice anything too weird or different with my face.

(Well, hopefully you wouldn’t!)

But trust me, it’s different this morning.  Got out of bed a couple hours ago and the left side of my face was swollen.  It feels like someone stuffed some bristly nuts in my left cheek while I was sleeping.  (Well, I’ve always been a little squirrely…)  It’s just another day of living with TMJ.

Things are getting better though, this is Day 4 where the right side of my face has remained unswollen.  That’s a good sign.  I can’t believe I’m even dealing with this again after 3 years.  It returned on Saturday December 16, exactly one week after being struck down with Covid.  Did you know there are studies linking the two? 

I’m convinced my bout with covid (with a high fever for 3-4 nights) “woke up” the chronic inflammation that causes TMJ.  Anyway, enough said; I just wanted to share a promising update.  As soon as it ends I plan to eat “sharp foods” like Wheaties and toast for breakfast again.  And bacon.  Boo on oatmeal.

Getting to my next reason for wanting a better picture, does my blog look a little different to you?  When I began blogging back in 2006 I did it on a Microsoft site called “Windows Spaces”.  All went well until 2010 when Microsoft announced they were closing their Spaces platform. 

They offered to help us migrate to WordPress, but I decided to go my own route and came over to Blogger.  I was a software developer at the time, and thought I’d use the move to learn how to code my own blog using HTML (a website coding language).  I figured it would be a good skill to add to my IT resume.

But I only learned just enough, and for the last 15 years I’ve been unable to do much with the look of ApacheDug’s Teepee.  For example, I’ve never been able to change my orange banner which was ‘hard-wired’ into my code.But I’m ready for a change, so a week ago I began looking at Blogger’s ready-made templates, and picked one I could update (without getting into the infernal HTML code).  If you notice anything wonky on here, please let me know!

And finally, I should probably stop worrying about my blog and focus a little more on fixing up my REAL place.  Last year I gave myself a decor-goal for 2023: find three or four artworks for my apartment so I could stop living with empty walls.  One for my large dining room wall, one for my living room and 2 for the bedroom.

What’d I accomplish?  I bought a tiny framed art piece for the bathroom and a medium-sized one for the wall above my clothes hamper (I wrote about here).  You have to be in the bedroom and around the corner to even see it though.

So I’m giving myself a new decor goal for 2024:  find one thing to hang on this wall!  I’m thinking of a 3 x 3’ frame-wrapped canvas art print, maybe Asian-themed or industrial.  I’ll tackle the other rooms next year for sure. ;^) 



Friday, February 9, 2024

Still singin’ praises for the Eggplant Parmigiana

Have you ever made plans to get together with some friends to go out to dinner or see a show, but the day of the event got different “signs” you should maybe cancel?  But you went anyway, and wound up—well, I’m glad I still went.

This past Wednesday I awoke to my right cheek swollen and a bit painful (I’ve been dealing with a recent TMJ flare up).  I had plans to have lunch with my pals Evvie & Elaine (and some other folks from the Senior Center) at the Bravo Italian Kitchen on McKnight Road, and I wasn’t about to let this stand in the way.  I rubbed some Ben-Gay on it and hoped for the best. 

I showered and shaved and got dressed, then ran out the door (we were expected to be at the center by 10:30am for our road trip).  The entire walk there, I kept noticing a persistent perfume smell around me.  Where was that coming from?  Did one of the ladies from the center hug me the other day when I had my coat on?  I was half tempted to turn around and go home to change my jacket when it hit me—Tide Pods!  I washed my clothes with them on Monday and forgot I only bought them for my pillows and bed sheets.  Now I smelled like a basket of flowers.

I get to the center, say hello to everyone, there’s Evvie and Lady Elaine, thank goodness.  It’s soon announced the first of two shuttles is here, but I’m not on the list for the first one.  By the time the second shuttle arrived and brought us to the restaurant, I was dismayed to see all the tables had been filled except one: the one with Dennis, Paul & Gary.  The guy’s table.

Dennis is a nice guy (though he smokes a lot and reeks of cigarette smoke), and I like Paul (even if he is a sex maniac) but Gary—well, I’ve written about Gary before.  He claims to own 3 hearing aids but refuses to wear them, SO YOU HAVE TO SHOUT WHEN YOU TALK TO HIM.  REALLY LOUD.

I feel bad for him, but I’m also convinced he’s in the early stages of dementia as every time he sees me, asks me my name (over and over and over) then proceeds to tell me his entire life story.  When our server was taking my order, he kept poking me—“What’s your name again?  I weigh 286 but want to get down to 165!  That was my senior high weight, you know!  Guess how much I weigh now??”

Dennis returning from his 15th cigarette; Paul the Ladies Man; Gary

After I finally got my order in, Paul said “Want to see some photos?”  and showed me pictures on his phone.  “This is the first of my four wives, here’s my second wife, my girlfriend last year, my sugar lady who’s taking me to Tahiti next week, the woman I’m dating now who lives in Bobtown, oh here’s Wife No.4….” 

I said his wives were beautiful and his current ladies looked like fun, and Paul let me know what he couldn’t get enough of.  (Cough!)

My friend Elaine was at the next table, leaned over and asked what I was looking at.  When I said Paul’s stable of women, she said “His what??” and Paul turned and said “Oh hi there what’s your name?”    Back off Paul, Elaine is spoken for!

My friend Evvie and the Bravo menu 

When I flagged down our server (a very pretty young woman who seemed to be going out of her way to avoid the guys table) I pleaded for a glass of ginger ale.  She set one down then hurried off, I picked it up and took a big gulp and gagged—it tasted like a tumbler full of liquor. 

When I asked for a replacement, she said “Are you sure it’s alcohol and not just really old pop?  You might get the same thing again.”  I said “Please just bring me some water!”

The Herb Linquini was a little too al dente for me (and I realized when we were leaving I never got my salad), but the eggplant was crispy, hot and delicious.  And a good enough reason to get me out of the house!


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Here in my abode, there are many potions… and popcorn

Last week I was downstairs talking to my neighbor Andrew, the young man who sings opera in his studio apartment by the elevator, when I saw Karen, another of the Tiffany’s residents, coming up the walkway to the front door, carrying a couple of Kuhn’s Market bags. 

I ran to let her in, she said thank you, I asked if something was wrong.  She said yes, we need a new drugstore.  Kuhn’s didn’t have half the stuff on her personal items list.

When I moved to this neighborhood in September 1993, there were 2 drugstores within walking distance from my apartment.  Revco Drug was two blocks up the street, and Thrift Drug was only 1/2 block farther down.  I shopped at both, depending on sales or convenience.

Revco closed in 1997 and became a pizza parlor, and Thrift became a Rite-Aid in 1999.  It’s been my only place for toiletries & pharmaceuticals for 25 years, until it closed a few weeks ago. 

Karen asked how I was handling not having a drugstore nearby, neither of us own a car.  I said it hadn’t been a problem, other than getting two prescriptions filled.  I told her I pretty much only went to the drugstore for soap & toothpaste anyway.  She said she should’ve known better, guys were low maintenance.  I said “Well… on second thought, Rite-Aid was the only place that sold my favorite popcorn.”

This is the truth, I always hated microwave popcorn for being too salty or too greasy until I discovered Jolly Time Healthy Pop.  Their Kettle Corn is dry but fluffy, with just a hint of salty sweet flavor.  But I’ve never been able to find it anywhere else.

Anyway, after I came upstairs I began to wonder: how much shopping did I REALLY do at Rite-Aid?  I began gathering items only purchased there.

As I loaded my dining table, I felt my anxiety rising.  This seems like a LOT.  Does Kuhn’s even carry my brand of Irish Spring?  It’s called Active Scrub and nope Kuhn’s doesn’t!  They’ve got 25 varieties of body wash, but I’m old school and prefer bars of soap.  And Active Scrub is infused with a bit of grit, not exactly gentle but just right for scrubbing the dead skin cells and other sins from my chubby body.

Will I settle for another soap?  No, but at least I know it’s safe to purchase online.  I just don’t see myself ordering liquids like Natural Dentist Mouthwash or Dr. Teal’s Foaming Bath, I’d probably wind up with some leaky packages. 

(Have you tried Dr.Teal’s?  It’s made of Eucalyptus leaves, spearmint oil and lots of suds, I’ve grown to enjoy soaking in a steamy tub 2-3 nights a week before bed.)   

At least I found my popcorn on  I thought I’d play it safe so I bought a case!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Makes no difference where I go, you’re still the best hometown I know

The other night I was on Youtube looking for local weather reports from the 1970s (my life is one thrill after another) when I came across a news jingle that surprised me—it was the first time I’d seen it in 45 years.

It was a catchy song from WTAE-TV (our local ABC station) and aired throughout 1977-79, “Hello Pittsburgh, Channel 4 Loves You”. 

I remember seeing it often, but never grew tired of it.  They produced different shorts of the 'Burgh, and I took pride in where I lived.

Anyway, I started to look into it’s backstory but soon discovered it wasn’t Pittsburgh’s own.  (In fact, Milwaukee lays claim to that.)  It turns out in the late 1970s thru the mid 1980’s, news stations everywhere aired their own version of it—and not just in this country!

I wound up finding 25 versions of this song, but I’m only sharing my Top 8 here.  (Apologies to Witchita, Atlanta, Nashville, Rhode Island, Indiana & Syracuse, among others.)   You should watch the ones below, they’re only one minute long—well, except for the last one it’s two minutes—but there’s a good reason.

1.  HELLO PITTSBURGH – The video quality isn’t great, but it’s still my favorite.  The traffic cop at the end was a downtown fixture for many years and made famous in the movie ‘Flashdance’.

2.  HELLO HOUSTON -  Space City USA!

3.  HELLO MILWAUKEE -  Milwaukee aired two versions, one sung by a woman, the other a man.  (Pittsburgh did the same.)  I think the male version here is smoother.

4.  In the Canadian province of Alberta… HELLO CALGARY!  Some great aerial shots here, and this was before drones. 

5.  HELLO SAN DIEGO – I think this one’s the prettiest.

6.  HELLO ACADIANA – Hello Acadiana?  Oh look, Ron Howard!

7.  HELLO MELBOURNE – Yep, Australia!  And looking good too.

8.  HELLO OSMONDS (HELLO UTAH) – My other video roundups contain an Osmonds clip, why make an exception now?