Monday, September 15, 2014

10 Things I'll Miss About Roanoke

Just to be clear that I don't hate everything about Roanoke I thought I would join in the "fun" Roanokers are having on Facebook of listing ten things, or more, of what they love about Roanoke. Since I have a blog I'm doing it here and it's not so much what I love about Roanoke as it is what I will miss about Roanoke. Naturally, I don't hate everybody in Roanoke and the folks I do like already know who they are so I'm not going to list their names. For some odd reason some of my "likes" of Roanoke are not on the list of others...

1. The mountains. The Roanoke valley is beautiful and not a day goes by that I'm not awestruck by the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately too many of them are now dotted with cell towers and antennas. I hope the locals appreciate what they have, and fight for them. Had I lived on any of those mountain tops I would have fought tooth and nail to keep those horrible structures off. Ah, well...people love their cellphones too much to put nature in front of convenience.

2. The greenways. Roanokers are quite fortunate to be blessed with the rivers and creeks that cut natural paths through the valley. I love the Roanoke River for its beauty, attracting all sorts of wildlife like herons and turtles, and especially for its calming effect on me when I stroll along it. Of course, I would never, ever eat a fish from there. The greenways were a marvelous idea to get us folks up and walking. And Lord knows, with all the all-you-can-eat buffets and sausage and gravy biscuits, Roanokers need to walk more! The greenways themselves are a real plus to the valley. Wish I could say the same for the some of the people who utilize them. Too many high-speed bikers, dog walkers who insist on having their dog walk on one side while they walk on the other and then do not even pick up their dog's crap, parents who use strollers and insist on walking down the middle of the greenway, and finally, people who walk three or four abreast and then get annoyed when you try to pass them, make biking or walking on the greenways a challenge.

3. The library system. I have had good experiences with pretty much every librarian in the system, except for one or two nasty ones at the South County branch. I especially love the Salem branch where they are quite knowledgeable, have the oddest/interesting selection of films, and are on top of new books. If they don't have something you want, they will order it for you. The Virginia Room in the main branch of Roanoke's library have a great staff and a huge collection of reference material you can't find anywhere else. Unfortunately I have stumped even them on a subject I am working on. The one drawback is that the local newspapers have not been catalogued and put on film for their entire collections so searching for something can be quite time consuming. The libraries also have a lot of free classes and events, many of which are worth going to.

4. The weather. I love the four seasons of Roanoke. Winters aren't all that bad either. And a day after it snows either the streets are clear or the sun is out melting it so I never have been snowbound.

5. The parking. I love that parking is never an issue. I like coming home at night and knowing there is a spot for my car. I like going out and knowing there pretty much is a spot wherever I go. Even downtown, with all the complaints about parking, is still a "dream" compared to other major cities, especially Brooklyn and Manhattan!

6. DMV. Yes, the DMV. Unless you have been to a DMV in Brooklyn or Manhattan you probably think I'm nuts. The DMV in Roanoke county, even on its most crowded day, is still a million times more convenient, cleaner, and faster than a DMV in NYC.

7. Ross Dress For Less. Again you probably are thinking, huh? But, as a plus-size woman I love Ross. They are the only store that has decent clothes at reasonable prices for someone like me. I also get a lot of my hair products, doggie treats, housewares, shoes, etc. there. New York City does not have one Ross Dress For hiss!

8. Doctor's visits. Although I may be unhappy with a lot of the doctors themselves, at least getting to the office or hospital, is not a major pain in the ass. I can leave my house a couple of minutes before I have to be there and not have to add a hour or two like I do when I'm in New York.

9. The Mail. Yup, I love that I don't have to leave my house for the mailman to pick up my mail. And when I do have to go to the post office, the longest I've ever had to wait is like fifteen minutes.

10. Wasabi's. I've come to the conclusion that Wasabi's is probably the only restaurant I will miss based on just two things -- the spicy tuna sashimi and the Sumo Roll. That's it. I have been to every single sushi joint down here and in my opinion, they all suck, except for Wasabi. I'm sure I will find some good sushi restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan so I probably won't long for Wasabi's too much. Other than El Rodeo on Peter's Creek Road, because they have the cold sangria carafe waiting for me before I even sit down at the table, I could not come up with any other single restaurant that I will miss in Roanoke.

Well, that was easier than I thought. I actually did find ten things I will miss about Roanoke!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Colonoscopy is Your Friend

Everyone says the worst part of getting a colonoscopy is the prep involved. And that may be true for most people, but for me it was convincing my doctor I needed to get a colonoscopy. You see, for the last 19 years I have lived in the Roanoke Valley and for some reason I have found that the women here are treated with less urgency, and taken less seriously by doctors than the men are. I also believe if a woman wants the best care she had better hit those books and hit the web to familiarize herself with her symptoms and become an expert on the best treatment she thinks would be best to help her and then convince her doctors to "give it a go." And if she doesn't like the doctor's response, she best find herself another doctor, and quick! Shit, if I hadn't I would still be on chemotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis, a disease I found out I never even had! But that's not today's is all about the colon.

When my husband turned 50 his doctor, the same doctor I have, hounded him to get a colonoscopy. It took him two years to convince my husband to get one. When I turned 50 there was no mention of a colonoscopy. Same at 51, 52. At 53 I brought up the colonoscopy but the doctor didn't respond, so I thought oh well, that's good. At 54, I brought it up again, still no urgency noted, so I let another year pass. Then when I hit 55, "my people" which is what I call my intuition, my guides, my guardian angels, you get the point, began to whisper rather loudly it was time to get a colonoscopy. They said, "You don't want to move to Brooklyn and find out you have colon cancer up there, do you? You know everyone that checks into Maimonides Hospital never comes out...remember your mom?" So I listened to them, and when I went for my next doctor visit I mentioned again that I still hadn't had a colonoscopy and threw in a by the way, my grandmother had colon cancer tidbit. To ensure the urgency I also told him that I planned to spend a good portion of my time up in New York and wanted to be checked out before heading up there shortly. He said he would send a referral and I would hear from the center. After hearing nothing for 10 days, I called the center and they said they had just received my referral that morning, so they conducted the pre-interview on the phone and we set up an appointment. When I requested the doctor my husband had had I was informed that my doctor's office didn't specify anyone in particular so she scheduled me with someone else. Ummmm, no. You see, I did my homework and I knew which doctor I wanted so I told them I would wait until I could get an appointment with the doctor I wanted. Heck, I waited 5 years, I could wait a couple more weeks! So I did and I had my first colonoscopy yesterday and wanted to share a couple of observations. I won't show pictures, but I actually did get some!

First off the prep...yup, it is as horrid as everyone says it is. You have to drink 4 liters of it broken up into two sessions. The first day, it's two liters, 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. Then the following day, or middle of the night, depending upon what time your procedure is, the rest of the 2 liters, 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. I got three packets of flavoring to choose from, cherry, lemon & orange. Rather than mix the entire package in the jug I sampled each flavor by glass. They were all horrible so I ended up not using any of them. Since I'm really not a gulper, and am more of a sipper when it comes to any liquid, I was pretty much gagging trying to get each glass down. I tried using a straw but that didn't work. By the second liter I found something that worked for me. Before downing each glass I would swish a capful of RealLemon in my mouth and spit it out. Then I would try and drink the prep glass as quick as possible followed by another capful of RealLemon swished in my mouth. That really helped, but I will probably not be drinking lemonade any time soon. It is crucial that you drink the entire prep because if you do not cleanse your colon properly the test will not be accurate, or worse, they'll tell you you have to come back. You don't want that.

I couldn't get a morning appointment as everyone advised me to because I wanted that certain doctor. So that meant I was very, very hungry by the time 2:00pm came around. It also meant that the appointment would not happen at 2:00pm because the folks before me went past their 20:00 allotment time. If you get an early appointment you will not be as hungry and you will not have to worry about the back-log. On the negative side though, you will have to wake up at 1:00am and begin your second stage of prep. However, you will most likely be up already using the bathroom! I didn't sleep at all the previous night even though I didn't need to start my prep until 6:00am. So I would advise going for the early schedule.

When my daughter had her colonoscopy her doctor had it done at the hospital. She had to wait over three hours pass her scheduled time and the bill she received was astronomical. I did not want mine done at a hospital so I went to a local endoscopy center where all the talk was about Joan Rivers' death at an endoscopy center. I spoke with the anesthesiologist who I always consider the most important person in that room. My biggest fear of getting this test done was that I would not wake up. That's always my biggest fear. She assured me that wouldn't be the case and that the procedure should only take 20 minutes. My cousin had told me that by the time he counted to three he was under. Of course that was not the case with me. I could have counted to 100 and I still wasn't under. I think my body was fighting it the same way it fights when I try to get hypnotized...doesn't happen. The anesthesiologist kept asking if I was feeling tired yet. I kept talking. Finally she said, ok think of a happy place and gave that needle a deep plunge! I thought of my hammock on the beach, but when I awoke which felt like was a minute later, but according to the clock, was one hour later, I was dreaming of my son getting a new job. I said to no one in particular, "My son looked so happy, he just got a new job!" I hope that was a good omen.

I was a little groggy and gassy, which is normal, but I seemed to have all my faculties so I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I had survived the anesthesia! After I got dressed the doctor met with me and my husband. You will need someone to drive you home. He had a couple of sheets of papers with photos. Ewww, gross! He said it was a very good thing I had decided to get a colonoscopy because he removed four polyps, two were pretty large, 8mm & 6mm and the others were 3 and 2. He said he would send them out to get biopsied and would have his office call if there were any "problems." He explained how important it is to remove any polyps because they can turn cancerous and the sooner you remove them the better. If there were no problems with the ones he took out I wouldn't have to come back for three years. My husband doesn't have to go back for ten years. Hey, I finally found a doctor that takes my health seriously! I just received a phone call from their office and gulped when I saw their name on the caller-id. It was a nurse just following up to make sure I felt okay. It's too soon for the biopsies, but at least the office was concerned. My daughter's doc never called to see how she did the day after.

As a side note...A very good friend of my husband's underwent treatment for what started as colon cancer over the last two years. He is 80 years old and never had a colonoscopy. The polyps he had were so large they blocked his colon and had turned cancerous. This in turn trickled down to a host of other ailments. Although he is alive, his quality of life will never be the same. A friend of mine posted on Facebook what one month of treating her cancer (not colon) cost her...over $135,000! Crazy. Colon cancer is one of the most treatable and preventable cancers there are. I urge you to not be afraid of the test. Yeah, the prep sucks, but once you're done you'll forget about it. Better to be pro-active than re-active. And if your doctor doesn't take you seriously, insist that he does. Patient, especially if you're a woman, heal thyself!

colonoscopy photo: roadside colonoscopy roadside.jpg

Monday, September 1, 2014

You Can Put Your Pitchforks Away Roanoke

Well Roanoke, you did it. After beating me down for 19 years, you've gotten your wish, I admit defeat. Put a fork in This last year has been hard, and the last couple of months particularly brutal. Details are forthcoming, but not on this blog.

This valley has sapped my strength and suffocated my soul to the point I can't write, can't create, shit, I can't even blog any more. I can barely live day to day. My only glimmer of hope is knowing I will be getting away from here and going back home. And a cheer arises from Roanoke.

I was never accepted, and have become so hated, that twice in the last two months someone, a mother of one of my daughter's drugged-out "friends," has tried to get me arrested. Both times for doing what a mother should out for her child. Neither time was successful, but the last one came with a price, a very heavy price, and not monetarily.

Too bad the cops failed to catch the "hot-headed, crazy, Italian from Brooklyn" in any crime. I think that one particular ignorant cop thought he was going to have a mafia arrest under his belt, I mean all Brooklyn Italians are in the mafia, right? After waking me up after midnight, and then insulting me, he followed with, "I'm Southern, and we do things differently around here." Well that shows just how fucking stupid and racist some of the people can be if you are not born and bred here. By the way, after believing a false report, checking my husband and I for bruises and abrasions on our hands, and refusing to even entertain the thought that there were crimes committed, but not by us who weren't even in town when they occurred, and that possibly he was being irrational and being used as a car service, if he meant "wrong" when he said "differently," then yeah, Southerners do do things "differently" all right.

It's all going to come out, all of it, and it's going to be stuff I never thought I would write, nor wanted to write, but I have to. Once again, I live in a fucked-up, bizarre story, and will tell the tale in hopes that someone else will not find themselves in the same position. But I won't be writing it from here. I'll be writing it from home, Brooklyn. And yes, that means I'm leaving the family behind, but not forever. I will be commuting back and forth. There are some people, and a puppy, who do still love me, but they see my misery and know if I stay here full-time I will sink into the pit of despair. I am grateful that my husband finally understands, but heartbroken that it had to come to this latest debacle before he finally got what I've been saying all along.

So, dear Roanoke, you'll have to find someone else to...stop your cell-towers from radiating your children, take your elderly in, care for them and check on their well-being, make sure the neighborhood pedophile doesn't hang out in the park near the elementary school, stop the commercial trash from being picked up in the wee hours of the morning, make sure your electricity stays running when those trees threaten to take the wires down, clean up the dog shit on the greenways, leave cookies for the mailmen and sanitation workers, report dangerous intersections, stop your neighbor from burning down the forest with their defective fireworks, fight with your cable company until they find the broken wire down the road so your service is not interrupted constantly, speak up for you at your Board of Supervisors meetings, and whatever else I've done to try and make this valley a better place to live. So put your pitch-forks away, this Frankenstein is leaving the village idiots.

Yup, you won't have me to kick around much longer...and I'm counting down the days.

P.S. Not every person I've come into contact over the last 19 years has sucked, just most of them. And I do want to thank the few folks who have been kind to me and/or took pity on me. Sorry if I was such a burden...

frankenstein photo: frankenstein2 11349__frankenstein_l.jpg

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Harpers Ferry National Park

Recently we had to head up to Brooklyn to attend a birthday party and a funeral. On the way up we decided we would stop at Harpers Ferry National Park in West Virginia.

 I knew the story of Harpers Ferry and Jim Brown,

but didn't know much about the national park. I figured we could check it out as part of research for my book, and then spend the night in Charles Town, doo dah, doo dah, and check out the racing track and casino. I wish we had gotten to Harpers Ferry earlier because it blew me away.

What a gorgeous national park. It has a bit of's really a step into the past amongst a scenic natural setting. We had lunch as this quaint restaurant which was not part of the park, but it was in the park on High Street. I think it was the Coach House. Very pretty, and the food was excellent too.

Unfortunately the pictures I took inside the museums did not come out too well so the rest of these are just outdoor shots. If you look on the face of this cliff you will see a faded sign on the mountain.

This is the walking bridge underneath it.

I had seen a bird which I think is a heron in the river and wanted to get a closer shot. Once I looked down, I began to get a little dizzy and felt like I needed to get the heck off of it, but not before I got a pic....

When my husband told me not to look down, but up instead, I thought I saw something through the fence on the cliff...

When I zoomed in I saw two climbers...

And this guy is barefoot!

I climbed a bunch of stairs to the church and was disappointed to find out it was closed.

They were having a ghost tour later that evening and I wished we had gone to that instead of the lousy casino! I could have spent another day in Harpers Ferry, I would have liked to see the actual city,  but responsibilities prevented that. The park closes at 5:00pm so make sure to get there bright and early. Wear walking shoes, bring a camera, and take bottled water with you too. It's the best $10 you'll spend!

Monday, August 4, 2014

18th Century Encampment in Elliston, VA

On Sunday we drove to Elliston to check out an 18th century encampment. I was thrilled I stumbled upon the event via a tiny blurb in the Salem Times, which I never read, but happened to read while at the library on Friday. The book I'm working on begins with early settlers emigrating from England. I've been having a hard time with this era because there's just not as much written about it as there is about the Civil War. I had hoped one of the re-enactors could shed light on The Great Road. From what I've read there seems to be two, maybe more "Great Roads;" one north to south from Pennsylvania through the Appalachians, and the other west to east from Virginia's coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Unfortunately, I never found an answer regarding The Great Roads, but I did learn other things. Here are some pics...

Very knowledgable fellow who was portraying a fifer. Lots of info from him re. women who stayed with their husbands while they were in the army, and what happened to them if their husband died. He also showed me how to load and fire Brown Bess, his musket.

Didn't get to talk to these folks. If you want more info on spinning check out The Wheel & Distaff blog.

One of my characters is a Blacksmith so this set-up really helped me. There was a young fellow there who wanted to become a Blacksmith so I was able to piggy-back on his tutorial.

I really enjoyed speaking with this lady who was displaying children' toys from that era. Shirley Boone is from Boones Mill and her husband's great X5? grandfather founded the town. Shirely's husband died a couple of years ago and she was telling me how hard it was for her alone, especially with all the problems she has with light bulbs. If she had lived closer I would have given her my husband's number to call whenever she needed help. Shirley let me know that there are going to be many positive changes in Boones Mill's tourist area. It would be nice to know that town for something other than a speed trap.

Do not call this cornhole or you will upset Shirley! This is bean bag toss, and not that "silly game that was invented by Virginia Tech a couple of years ago."

The medical tent

They tried to gross me out with the details of how certain ailments were treated. This girl is holding up a device that was screwed into the skull to remove some flesh, etc. to relieve the brain.

I don't know if he was a leather worker or he  just sold leather goods, no leather workers in my book, but his style of clothes helped me.
The following photos are the backdrop of East Montgomery Park. The mountains and beauty of Southwest Virginia,  still fill me with awe. Even though wires, towers, or poles and splattered throughout them, it's easy to look beyond them and imagine a time when they were gazed upon the first time by settlers. I remember the feeling this first time NYC pioneer did 19 years ago...simply stunning. How lucky I am to live amongst such beauty...

When I zoomed in all the way I discovered there was a house hidden in the mountain. Now, this is what I would call the perfect writer's retreat...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Inspiring!

This morning while I was flipping through Netflix options I stumbled upon a documentary from 2011 entitled, "Juro Dreams of Sushi."

I couldn't have found a better choice to glide and bike with. I never heard of it; it certainly did not play at my local theatre, and maybe if I didn't like sushi I wouldn't have loaded it, but luckily I did. What an inspiring film!

According to the website, it's "the story of 85 year old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious three-star Michelin Guide rating, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimage, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar."

The film is way more than sushi,  very "Zen-inducing." Sprinkled with quotes from Jiro, you can't help but admire his ambition, determination, skill, humiliation, and wisdom. He's the youngest 85 year old I've ever encountered. I highly recommend this film. Even if you don't like sushi, you might just love this film.

Here's a couple of quotes...

"Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success... and is the key to being regarded honorably."

"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."

"When I was in first grade, I was told "You have no home to go back to. That's why you have to work hard." I knew that I was on my own. And I didn't want to have to sleep at the temple or under a bridge so I had to work just to survive. That has never left me. I worked even if the boss kicked or slapped me. Nowadays, parents tell their children, "You can return if it doesn't work out." When parents say stupid things like that, the kids turn out to be failures."

"When I was in school... I was a bad kid. Later, when I was invited to give a talk at the school, I wasn't sure if I should tell the kids that they should study hard... or that it is okay to be a rebel. I wasn't sure what advice to give the kids. Studying hard doesn't guarantee you will become a respectable person. Even if you're a bad kid... there are people like me who change. I thought that would be a good lesson to teach. But if I said that bad kids can succeed later on like I did... all the kids would start misbehaving which would be a problem. Always doing what you are told doesn't mean you'll succeed in life."

"I've never once hated this job. I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it. Even though I'm eighty five years old, I don't feel like retiring. That's how I feel."

Are you doing what you love? Did you give your life to it? Would you, at 85 years old, love what you're doing so much you would not feel like retiring?

Hmmm, I have to do some thinking...

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Cash Penalty

I like cash. I mean, who doesn't? But I like actual cash, a pocket lined with cash, not a wallet stuffed with plastic cards, one with bills and coins. I like paying with cash. I like collecting cash. I like Johnny Cash too, but that's a post for another day. This one is about cash, or should I say, the stigma that has now become associated with using cash.

When I get gas, I pay first with cash. I've never swiped a credit or debit card at a pump. It's inconvenient in that I usually have to make two walks to the little window so I could get some money back from the gas that didn't fit in my tank, no matter how much I shake the car up and down, but I could use the walk, so I don't really mind. At least I'm offered the option, but there are some places where cash is no longer an option.

There's been many times driving up to a toll booth I'll get stuck in the long line of other cash-carrying cars at the only "cash" window available, while the E-Z-Passers fly through their empty lanes. It's particularly irksome at the bridges entering New York where there is literally only one cash booth, while there are many E-Z Pass ones, some of which have no cars flying through. On a recent trip to Virginia Beach I had to drive through a tunnel and was faced with something I've never encountered before, no cash toll booths at all, only Ez-Pass.

I was befuddled as to why no one wanted to make my money, until I found out I will be billed for the toll, and an additional $1.50 each time I used the tunnel would be added on. Yesterday I received the actual bill from Elizabeth River Tunnels. There's even a little photo of the front of my car on the $4.75 invoice which will jump to $29.75 if I don't pay it within two weeks. There's a blue box on it telling me I would have saved $3.00 with E-Z Pass. Apparently the toll also changes depending upon what time of the day you use it. An additional $.25 is added if you use it during rush-hour. I don't know what they consider Peak times, but when you have to use the tunnel, you have to use it. Now I really don't have a need for E-Z Pass since I do not encounter toll booths during my two mile commute to work each day, but I do travel a couple of times a year so I thought I would check out what getting an E-Z Pass would entail, and if it was worth it for me.

It seems you know longer have to "buy" the transponder. When you pick one up you have to put $35.00 on it, $15.00 of which you could use immediately. The remaining $20.00 will be available after you register the box. You also no longer have to pay the $1.00 monthly maintenance fee. From what I see on the site, the only place a Roanoker could get a transponder locally is the AAA office. For automatic replenishment, a credit card or checking account is linked to your device so when the money gets low, more can be added. I don't know if you can pay cash at AAA or somewhere else to add money on instead of using a credit card link. If you get a quarterly statement there is no charge, but if you want one monthly, it'll cost you $1.00/month.

So, I have a couple of questions. Is it easy enough to move the transponder from one car to another? Do I get a discount when I use it out of state? I would love to have that $15.00 Verrazano Bridge toll reduced, or is it even higher now, but I bet the discount only applies to New York residents. Do thieves break into the car to steal the transponders like they do for GPS systems?

For now, I'm not rushing out to open an E-Z Pass account so I will take the cash penalty, however, if/when I do relocate back up to New York I just might have to. Those tolls are ridiculous!