Thursday, December 15, 2016

When a Favorite Starts to Go South

Certain changes in this land are like watching a friend commit suicide. Perhaps we all have our favorite restaurant, where like on Cheers, everyone knows your name...or at least your face and what you drink (in my case a coke). It isn't necessarily because they serve the best food. It is a combination of other things. You fell comfortable there, somewhat protected and cozy. It is the ambiance, the friendliness, the romantic dimness of the lights, the murmering around a bar and the feeling of welcome.

We've had several eateries like that over the years. Once upon the time we were very fond of Hennessy's, a bar restaurant in Aston, Pa. Joe the owner would greet you enthusiastically and with a smile. He knew our preference for a booth. The service tended toward the slow side, but was still attentive, warm and friendly. The food was pretty good, especially the filet mignon. It was only $19, but was more tasty than many I had in the upscale white tablecloth establishments.

We went there quite often, even though there was usually a line to get in and one might have to wait a
bit. We attended their 15 year anniversary celebration, wished them another 15 years of success, but then something changed. Since there prices were a little more than other bar restaurants in the area the downturn in the economy might have hurt them. Perhaps they didn't change the menu enough. The lines shrunk and then disappeared and you didn't have to wait. Joe had changed as well. I wondered if he had lost his interest in the place, he seemed listless and looked sad. We stopped going.

We came back after a period of time and knew it was dying. The wait staff was more interested in talking with themselves than serving. Our waitress came over to take our order and she sat down on the bench next to me. I felt very uncomfortable about that it was not proper restaurant etiquette. Again we stopped going and a few months later the for sale signs went up and the building became dark and deserted.

In the meantime we found a new favorite, Duffer's Pub on Route 1 and Brinton Lake. Duffer's has two other locations, The Tavern and The Mill. The Mill is located about two miles from us, but we really liked The Pub even though it is more of a drive. We like the atmosphere and the high back booths which gave a feeling of privacy. We traveled there quite often.

But suddenly this year something changed and we are not sure why. The change began when the manager's wife became more prominate and we wonder if her influence was behind what is happening. She is somewhat intrusive, stopping by to chat. Her husband used to stop and talk sometimes too, but his was more banner and short. She seems more shrill. She also appears harsher on the staff. In fact, we were use to the staff made mostly of waitresses, but we noticed the turnover had been getting more frequent and now almost all the waitresses we had known have gone. The wait staff now is mostly male and they are less attentive than the females had been, not all of them, but often they linger about joking among themselves rather than serving the clientele.

One of the big startling changes was in the menu, not the offerings, but the prices. All the items jumped up in price. The Caprise Salad had been one of the cheaper salad previously, under $10, suddenly jumped to $13. Why, all that it contains is a sliced tomato, some basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and balsonic vinegar? The Cobb Salad jumped from $10 to $13 and the Salmon platter from $13 to nearly $18. Every item went up. On top of that sandwiches use to come with a side of fries or a couple other choices. Now you must pay an extra dollar if you want those sides and $2 for vertain other sides. I was asked if I wanted my coke refilled, as I usually did. There was no charge for refills, but I was shocked to get the check and find the coke and the refill each cost me $2.50.

The quality of the food did not change accordingly, and in some cases seems to have slipped a notch. We haven't totally stopped going there, but we have greatly reduced our visits. This is with great regret for it had been our favorite place, but it seems on the verge of suicide to us.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dionogsis and Decisions and the Frailities of This Body

I had an appointment in Thomas Jefferson Hospital at the Neurology Clinic. This is at 909 Market Street. Although I am long experienced in driving in Philadelphia, I felt apprehensive about dealing with the traffic and the parking, as well as what my state of mind might be after my appointment. Iron Faith came through again and supplied me with a driver, Larry Harris. He is a professional, a tour bus driver, thus I was in good hands, and appreciative since he had to spend his morning hanging about Philly for three hours.

My appointment was at 10, but we left good and early, since one never knows the trafic delays that may be lurking on I-95 or elsewhere. There were backups on I-95, but he took us a diffent route and avoided them. He dropped me off in front of the building at 9:00. He then drove off "to find a place to hide" until I called him to pick me up a little past noon
Well, it was still an hour until my appointment and I decided to take a walk. You know, I try to take a walk every morning. It was on one of those walks in late May that eventually led me here. I was breezing along when suddenly, as if someone threw a light switch, my legs felt off and weak and I walked in a funny, slow way.

I  shuffled off yesterday, and a shuffle is the way I walk these days, slow and steady...actually I am not so steady. I was very cautious crossing at the corners, I didn't want to trip and fall over the handicap ramps as my frined Ronald had done a couple weeks back. I didn't need to enter the hospital with a bloody face.

I decided to go look at the entrance of a place I worked at in the early 'seventies, Lincoln Bank. Of course, Lincoln Bank no longer exists, it disappeared decades ago I turned off Walnut, went down a block of 10th Street and turned left onto Samson.  Samson is a narrow street. One change since I lived and worked in Philly was how it was lined with bicycles. 

My old site of employment, back in 1971, was half between 12th and 13th streets. The entry  is still there as well as the parking garage we were located beneath, but I have no idea what is operating there these day.

It went down to 13th street and headed back to Walnut. Gee in this one shop I could have gotten a barguin of a mink coat, $900 reduced from $2,000. It was really an unattractive jacket.

It is the one with the sign pinned on front.

I headed back on Walnut. Everybody going my way was zipping by me.
I remember when I use to be the one passing everybody when I walked these streets. It crossed my mind I was so slow would I be late arriving for my appointment, perhaps this walk had been a mistake. By the way, the man sitting on the sidewalk in the distance was a homeless guy begging for money. I hope this isn't my future fate.

I wasn't late. I was still twenty muntes early, but I entered the building anyway. I had to sign in at the security desk and get a visitor tag before going up to the Neurology Clinic on the second floor. Once there I had to sign in again, electronically.

I took a seat in the large waiting room wondering how long I would 
wait. What a difference was this experience from what I had been used to in Delaware. I was only seated a couple minutes when I heard someone call "Larry". I was so startled I had to ask a lady at that semi-circle of desks if I heard correctly. Yes, I had, except I had no idea where to go. I wandered around the semi-circle and suddenly a lady asked, "Larry Meredith."

I sat on a chair before her and she took the usual info, my ID and insurance cards, asked a few informational questions. Amazingly no one handed my a questionnaire to fill out. She then told me to take a seat in the waiting room and someone would come get me. 
Okay, I thought, so now we wait, but I had barely sat down when a fellow in blue scrubs called me back. He took my vital signs, asked some family history, then led me to another little exam room and said the Doctor would be in shortly.

Yeah, right, I've heard on enough doctor visis and the shortly was like a half hour. But surprise again, as he walked out of the room the Doctor walked in. I should say, the doctors walked in, two Physicians and a Nurse Practitioner. The lead doctor was Goran Rakocevic (pictured left).

These people were exceedingly kind and encouraging. They conducted a physical exam, consisting of a lot hitting me with a hammer. Dr. Rakocevic didn't see the need for further tests, since he had  MRI result, reports from my other doctors and the recent EMG. The diagnosis was pretty clear. 

I have sporadic amyorophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig Disease. (Sporadic simply means I didn't inherit it because I have no family history of the disorder. I got it more or less randomly.) It is a rare disease and not contagious, so you can relax on that note. They do not know what causes it and there is no cure. It is a progressive and eventually fatal affliction. 

What is it? 

Well, amyotrophic means no muscle nourishment.  It doesn't mean the muscles are not getting food, but they are not getting messages from the brain. This results in weakened muscles, then they shrink and later become paralyzed. Lateral is the way the the motor neurons travel along the sides of the spinal cord. When these neurons die they leave behind scar tissue. Scelrosis means scarring or hardening. ALS is a disorder of the motor nerves or motor neutrons. These neurons tell your muscles what to do and without them your muscle become weak. The progression causes problems with daily activities, such as moving about, lifting and carrying, caring for one's self, speaking, chewing, swallowing and eventually breathing. It might also cause muscle craps, twitching under the skin, weight loss, stiffness or poor coordination. Sounds like fun, don't it?

They told me I have loss muscle mass in my hands, arms and legs. When it is gone it is gone. No exercise will build this loss muscle back. I am already having problems handling things with my hands. I drop a lot. I read in a case history of a relatively young woman suffering from it that found she couldn't remove her gas cap. She had to ask a man to undo it for her. I have noticed opening and closing my gas cap has become more difficult.

I will have a team to look after me as I go to the clinic during the month. This will include doctors, nurses, social workers and 
therapists (speech, physical and occupational therapists.) Social workers will aid with issurance, social issues and emotional state.

Average life expectancy can run from 1 year to 10 years on average depending on the speed of the progression. Hopefully mine is a lazy sort and slow. Remember, Steven Hawking got ALS when he was 21 and he is now 74, so he's had it for 53 years. I figure I got a chance to make 100 yet.

Anyway, I'm not dwelling on that. I am just going to keep on living as I have, doing the things I like and enjoy my remaining years. It's all in the hands of God anyway. I may need some earthy help, though.