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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Art, Lungs, and Neighbors

Art with Dirty Fingernails...

Hoo boy, that was fun! Yesterday Dagmar and I wandered uptown, donated some old clothes to Goodwill, and headed to Historic Fourth Street for a nice frosty beverage.

"Do you tink ve'll be able to find a place to park?" my beloved asked me. "Dey have the Swap Meet at the Convention Center, the new motorcycle exhibit at the Art Center, und there's a rodeo or something at the auditorium."

I shrugged. "I dunno. You know what bothers me, though? They plan all these things to happen on the same day, but yet they tore out the only parking lot in the area and built yet ANOTHER movie theater there. Now there's really no place to park." By this time we were on Fourth Street, scanning back and forth. There are at least six bars on the two blocks of Historic Fourth Street, and three or four restaurants, not to mention the other shops and stores. It's a busy place. Each establishment has three, maybe four parking spaces out front. So, there really is no place to park... And of course, there are the people who actually live in the apartments there, too - they need to have somewhere to park, too. So I wasn't surprised when we couldn't find a place...

"We can park in there," said Dagmar, pointing to a private parking lot. "They let people park in there when the business is closed." So, without further ado, I pulled into said parking lot and parked. "What do you vant to do?" asked my wife as we got out of the car.

"Well, I was thinking of having a beer and calling the Okoboji guys to see if they want to go to the Art Center when they're done at the Swap Meet," I said. A couple times a summer I try to hook up with the Okoboji contingent of the Vulcan Riders and Owners Club to go scoot about the countryside, terrorizing innocent gas station attendants with our nasty habit of stopping every thirty miles or so for chocolate milk and twinkies. I suppose I could hang out with the Omaha guys, but the Okoboji guys treat me nice and I've already learned some of their names, so I hang out with them when I can. "It'd be nice to see them," I added.

"Dat sounds nice," my beloved said, leading the way to the nearest drinking establishment. "Who came to Sioux City?"

By that time I was on the phone... "Hi Streak, this is HippieBoy..." (Ever notice that if you get a group of five or more guys together for more than half an hour, they'll all come away with nicknames? Why is that?) I confirmed with Streak that they were indeed going to head to the Art Center and made plans to meet them.

"Which ones came to town?" Dagmar asked again, signaling to the waitress. "Rock?" I nodded. "Bartman?" I nodded. "Streak?" I nodded. "That guy with the hat that never says anything?" she asked. I shrugged. "I don't know," I said. "I just know the three of them are here. I thought Kioti was here, but maybe not." About that time our frosty beverages appeared at the table. Mine was beautiful, golden, bubbly, and had a lemon floating on the top. Dagmar's was some evil-looking concoction of a thimbleful of beer mixed with about two gallons of tomato juice and olives. (Yes, she puts ketchup on her steak, too.) We put our attentions to our drinks for the next few minutes, paid our bill and headed for the door to meet the guys.

"Shall we walk," asked my wife. "I doubt we'll find a parking place again..."

I nodded assent and up the street we strolled, hand in hand. A mere four or five blocks later we were at the Art Center. I had to suppress a grin when we went through the front door - the lady at the desk looked like she was about to have puppies. I doubt she'd seen so much leather and so many bearded gents in one room before... We paid our ten bucks (never had to pay at the Art Center before, oddly enough), found Streak, Rock and Bartman wandering around the atrium, and off to the bike exhibit we went.

It was well worth seeing! They had a good number of bikes on display - most borrowed from local people (I was happy to see my buddy Ed Anderson's chopper there). The majority of the bikes were either old-school choppers or the newer "half-melted" choppers that are popular today. About a third of the bikes there were old Indians, antiques, drag racers and bikes deemed historically or artistically important. All of 'em were pretty! I am going to make it a point to go back again and take more time - we got there at four and the Center closes at five, so we were a bit rushed.

"Where's Streak?" I asked as we wandered out of one of the third-level exhibits. "I haven't seen him in a while."

"Oh, that poor man," answered Dagmar. "He has de flu."

I looked over the railing and peered down to the atrium, just in time to see a green Streak bolt for the restroom. "Oh." I said. "Poor guy..."

With that we wandered down the stairs to the atrium, where we eventually hooked up with Bartman and Rock. By this time the green Streak was sitting on the bench, looking a shade or two paler than before.. So we all sat there for a while, gawking slightly slack-jawed at the bikes around us until we all wandered over to the door and started on the four-block trek back to the Convention Center. (By the way, if you poke at the pictures with your mouse they get bigger and you can actually see what they are.)

"Where's Kioti?" asked my Austrian Snowflake. "He's usually around somewhere if you guys are here."

"He and his wife were here earlier," answered Streak. "They had their grandkid with them, so they didn't stay long."

"What about dat other guy?" asked Dagmar, stepping off the curb. "That guy who wears that hat and never says anything. Where's he?"

"Oh, Mag? He couldn't make it. Neither could Bonzzo." We fell to talking about various members of the informal group until we got to the Convention Center, where the Okoboji guys bid us a nice fare-thee-well and tootled off to get Streak back home before he started turning colors again.

With that, Dagmar and I wandered back to our car and headed off to Da Kao, where we proceeded to munch, nibble and slurp our way through a Vietnamese soup and a Mongolian beef 'n onion concoction. (Why do they give you chopsticks with soup?) It was a good day!


Lungs

"Do you have a smoking history?" my doctor asked, poking through my paperwork.

"Yeah," I answered. "I just quit about six months ago."

"That's right," she said. "I remember now. You were at a pack a day, weren't you." She riffled through my paperwork some more. "I just want to make sure that the pneumonia has cleared up," she continued. "We're going to have to take an X-ray..." She busied herself listening to my chest with her half-frozen stethoscope, and I busied myself breathing deep. "Well, your lungs sound clear," she said. "How did it go with the quitting smoking?"

"It sucked," I answered. "I took those no-smoking pills for a while. I gained a little weight, too."

"I noticed," she said. "Well, it's better to be overweight than to smoke."

It wasn't until I was sitting in line, waiting for my X-ray to be taken, when that last phrase filtered through my remaining brain cells. Overweight? Me? What? I used to wrestle at 105 pounds... In high school. How can I be overweight? Sure, my belly's been pooching over the top of my britches lately, but I am pushing forty after all... Don't I get some sort of credit for that? Hmmm...

"Next," hollered the X-ray lady, breaking my fat-centered reverie. I made my way through the procedure and went back to the little waiting room to cool my heels until the doctor remembered I was there.

"Hey, Chris, come here and look at this," said the doctor, poking her head in the door. I grabbed my coat and followed dutifully along to the place where you look at your X-rays. "This is your lung," she said, pointing to a blob. "Everything looks good, except for this." She pointed to a shadowy line on the blob. "I think what happened is that your lung may have collapsed or compressed when you had pneumonia and hasn't quite expanded back to normal yet. It looks like that's just a bit of flattened-out lung there." I nodded while she continued. "Or it could be scar tissue. That happens sometimes. But, with your history of smoking..." I felt the blood drain from my face at this point. "I'd like you to come back in again in a month for another X-ray. If that spot's gone, good. If it's still there, it's scar tissue. If it's bigger, we may not have gotten all the pneumonia... Or... Well, let's hope it's not bigger."

Spooky.


Good Neighbors

I just got a phone call from my dad. Seems the guy who lived a farm or two down the road from the family farm passed away yesterday. Good guy. When I was growing up I walked beans for him and I spent a lot of time playing with his kids... I was always impressed with the whole family's work ethic. It made me sad to realize that I've not seen any of those particular neighbors since I graduated from high school twenty years ago.

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