Notes On A Vacation

I got back from my vacation late last night and after a day of resting up, I thought I would present a write up of a great trip...

States Visited:
Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia

Miles driven:

Interstates and Major Roads Traveled:
I-64, I-75, I-40, I-74, I-77, West Virginia Turnpike and Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tunnels Driven Through: Five.

Cars Seen From the Following States:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Today, while out and about in Louisville I saw New Mexico and Vermont.

Cars Seen From the Following Canadian Provinces:

Favorite Vanity Plate:
Spcedu8r (Special Educator).

Most Surprising Vanity Plate:
Budlight (North Carolina).

Lowest Elevation of Trip:
Emerald Isle, North Carolina-Sea Level.

Highest Elevation of Trip:
Mount Mitchell, North Carolina- 6684 feet (Highest Mountain East of the Mississippi River)

Hottest Temperature: 102 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Coolest Temperature:
68 on top of Mount Mitchell, North Carolina.

Hotels Stayed In:

Swimming Pools Swum In: One

Oceans Seen:
One (Atlantic)

Beaches Visited:
Atlantic Beach, Indian Beach and Emerald Isle, all in North Carolina.

Big Cities Traveled Through or Visited:
Louisville, Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, Knoxville, Tennessee, Asheville, North Carolina, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, Durham, North Carolina, Raleigh, North Carolina, Beckley, West Virginia, Charleston, West Virginia and Huntington, West Virginia.

Favorite City Visited:
Asheville, North Carolina.

Favorite Place Visited: Mount Mitchell, North Carolina.

Things Learned:
I'm content to never see the ocean again and I seriously need to move back to the mountains of Appalachia.

Best Meal: Not Your Mamma's Meat Loaf and Scratch Mac and Cheese at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina.

Worst Meal:
Taco Bell for Lunch in Morehead City, North Carolina.

Best Store or Shop:
Take your pick of dozens in Asheville, North Carolina.

Worst Store or Shop:
Take your pick of dozens of tourist traps at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

Things I Loved About North Carolina:
Asheville and the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains. I could seriously live there.

Things I Hated About North Carolina:
The oppressive heat and humidity along the coast. Sand at the beach.

The Last One

My last surviving grandparent died today. My Grandfather was an interesting person but not in the good way. I last saw him at my high school graduation in 1988 and I honestly don't think that I've thought of him since. When I was young, he moved my sweet Grandmother to a retirement community outside of Tampa. She was miserable being so far from her family back in Dayton and for that I could never forgive him. She died a few years after moving there and from that day forward, I had nothing but contempt for everything that he was. I hate to say this but the world is a better place tonight.

Stop The Breeding

The human race is a plague upon Planet Earth and we must be stopped. It's time for people to stop the breeding and go quietly into the night. We've had our moment in the sun and we've fucked it up beyond belief. Let something else take our place. No more breeding folks...

Well That Didn't Work

I wanted so badly for this to work out but for various reasons, it just isn't. Little Scout is going to have to find someplace else to live. I can't deal with the drinking problem where we have to go out to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. During the night, we have to get up every two hours or so to let him go potty and that's with holding back the water. Furthermore, I can't do this to Sammy and Shadow, not in their last years of life. They are so stressed out and show no signs of getting anymore used to this than I am. Plus, I'm tired of getting bit every minute of every day.


Not sure who is having more difficulty with this new puppy, me or Sammy and Shadow. I now remember why I had strong reservations about this. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess.

New Life

When I first met River, she was a wild and very out of control Border Collie. Her first couple of years on this planet were spent chained up with an occasional trip off leash. She had never been socialized around other dogs and it seemed pretty clear that she had an appointment with death were I not to intervene. Against my better judgment, I took on the challenge of rehabilitating this very troubled animal. That was June of 2002 and the first few weeks were pretty rough. Eventually she came around and the life that had been bottled up inside her began to emerge.

She went on to live 8 more years, her life cut short by a very brutal case of cancer, cancer that had spread quickly throughout her body. I missed the signs but it probably wouldn't have mattered. You see, when cancer comes to the lymph nodes, there just isn't much that can be done. She lasted one week after diagnosis and it was probably the most painful time of my life. Seeing her in this state broke my heart like nothing has broken my heart before.

The day she died, eleven weeks ago today, was one that I will never and ever forget. It was clear from the moment I woke up that this was the end. All these weeks later, I finally realize that ending her pain and misery was the right thing to do. Seeing her suffer just was to much to bear, for me and for her. River, from the day she came to me, lived life to the fullest and each day was an adventure that was to be savored. Not being able to live was not fair to her.

Today, I did what I do every Thursday, I told her that I loved her and would never forget her. Tomorrow, I will do my best to honor her memory by welcoming a new life into my home. I will never be able to replace her, just like I have never been able to replace my childhood dogs. That isn't possible and I wouldn't dare try to find another "River." But, I can do the next best thing and that is to save one more life, a life that has promise and potential.

Scout, a 10 month old mutt, has already had a pretty rough life. You can see it in his eyes and emotions. He is afraid of what's out there and isn't sure that he can trust anyone again. Tomorrow I go about building that trust and earning what I hope is a lifetime of love and devotion. Tomorrow I go about giving life back to a creature who has never asked for anything but love and affection. River would love him, of that I'm sure, and I have no doubt that my pretty girl will be smiling down at me when I welcome this new friend into the family.


He won't be you River, no dog could ever be you, but he will be his own self and of that I certain. I miss you so much River but I also know that I did right by you. This is the best way I know to keep your memory alive. You will forever be with me and till we meet again, know that I love you. Tomorrow I will start to love a new life and that makes me happy. Welcome home Scout, you've hit the jackpot.

Shady Characters

Used car salesmen and lawyers get all the ink but I've yet to come across a shadier group of people than plastic surgeons. We all know that most doctors have huge egos and a certain God Complex. In many cases it is warranted but when it comes to cosmetic surgery, well, I can't think of a group of people more disgusting and unworthy of a God Complex. Thankfully, it appears that America's desire for face lifts and bigger breasts has peaked and is on the way back down.

It's been nearly four years since I had my Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) from Dr. Mark Zukowski in Chicago. I had the works done and to this day I'm still paying for it. My face is in a constant state of pain with touches of numbness all around. Nothing about it feels natural and as long as I live, I'll regret this decision more than any other in my life. Still, all these years later, I'm filled with regret, anger and disappointment.

It was clear from the first few days that things hadn't gone as expected. My recovery was a bitch and I've had one problem after another, each more infuriating than the one before. Cosmetically, the results were very disappointing but as I said, it's the physical effects that have bothered me the most. I've tried to get used to this new sensation of constant pain but it isn't easy. It's with my nearly every day and is worse in really cold or really hot weather.

Dr. Z got the best of me, he sold his goods like any shady character can do. Sure, he's had some great results, but if you are considering having FFS done, please take my advice and avoid him like the plague. It really isn't worth it and I'm living proof of what can happen.

Kentucky Basketball

We have a date in the Final Four.

Two Billion

This is huge news, so big that I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more play. A new astronomical study reveals that there are around 2 BILLION Earth like planets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. Multiply that by the 50 billion or so other galaxies in THIS universe and you get a whole lot of possible life. That some of it would be intelligent and capable of communicating is almost a certainty. Of course, this still doesn't solve the Fermi Paradox. If there is life out there, where is everybody?

I myself have three possible theories...

1. The distances between star systems is simply too great to communicate.

2. Someone has been trying to contact us and we just don't know where to look or how to listen.

3. Others are aware of us but because we are such a primitive species, we aren't worth contacting.

A fourth possible theory doesn't hold water, at least as far as I'm concerned, and that is the possibility that we are indeed alone. It's too big a universe for that to be the case and so I don't give that theory any credence. If I had to guess, other life supporting worlds are just too far away to make contact. It's all very possible that we've turned our telescopes to the right star systems only to do so at the wrong time when no one was calling.

Regardless, my biggest hope in life is to live long enough to witness First Contact with another civilization. I'm hopeful but realistic and that's what is so frustrating. We aren't special, of that I'm sure, but the question still lingers, "where the hell is everybody?"

This Empty Hole

It will be four weeks Thursday, four weeks since my world was turned upside down by the loss of my beloved River. Some people say that "it's just a dog" and that I need to get over it. While it is true that River was a dog, it is far from true that she was "just" a dog. River, like my Sammy and Shadow, are very much my family. River lived with me for eight years, most certainly the best eight years of her nearly 11 years of life. I honestly don't know what her life was like before me but I do know bits and pieces and when I put it all together, well, it wasn't the best life.

Dogs don't get to pick their lives, they don't have much free will and for the most part, they are totally dependent on the people who own them. It isn't really fair but seeing as how we are at the top of the food chain, it's the way things have turned out. Dogs were first domesticated tens of thousands of years ago and ever since they left their wild ways, they've walked side by side with us, always loyal and always devoted.

They give everything they have to make our lives better. They do not care how rich or poor we are, how beautiful we are or are not and they certainly don't care if we are old or young. They care only that that they might please, that they might serve and that they might be the best possible friend a person could have. We owe it to them to live up to that kind of devotion and loyalty, to repay them the only way we can, with love and protection. So, a little over 8 years ago, I made the trip east to Oldham County and adopted my second Border Collie.

Her first week with me was rather traumatic as she would not eat, kept getting sick and generally tried to bite everything that moved. It was clear from the beginning that she had never been socialized, never allowed to trust and enjoy the presence of other dogs and especially people. It would take several months to earn her trust and after a few visits to the dog trainer, things began to turn around.

She soon began to come out of her shell and slowly this amazing creature began to emerge. Once she became assured that I would not only love her dearly but never give her up, she became without a doubt the most alive dog I have ever met. Each day was an adventure, another opportunity to live life to the fullest and embrace everything that came her way. Along the way, she taught me what it was like to live, something that I had kind of forgotten how to do.

River quickly became the Alpha Dog, letting Sammy know that she was boss. Now this wasn't really that difficult, Sammy couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag, but it became a role that she would never relinquish, not even in her last days. Several years later, Shadow came to live with us and another transition began. Shadow was totally different from Sammy and River. Very laid back and an emotional wreck, Shadow had spent a full year living at the shelter. Again, a transition would have to take place to make this dog feel a part of the family.

That was five years ago and in retrospect, it didn't take Shadow long to become one with us. He is a gentle soul, perhaps the friendliest dog I've ever had the pleasure to know. He is clumsy, not very intelligent (especially compared to the brilliant Border Collies) and a bit of a goof ball. In short, he is perfect. River welcomed him into her brood and over the years, the two of them developed a very special relationship.

For five years, the three dogs became one of the most important parts of my life. They slept in my bed, welcomed me home each time like I had been gone for months and did nothing but bring joy to my life. The four of us were pretty much attached at the hip and it seemed like it would last forever. This past Christmas, my Mother and I decided to take the dogs to have their pictures taken with Santa. Dharma, my Mom's dog, is older than mine and has had several very serious health problems. Both of us were afraid this might be Dharma's last Christmas and we wanted something to remember it with.

Two weeks after Christmas, I began to notice that River was having trouble going to the bathroom. It didn't seem like that big of a deal but gradually it got worse. River had never been sick a day in her life and I figured that the worst it could be was a simple urinary tract infection. I took her to the vet, certain that some anti-biotics wold do the trick and she would be back to normal in just a few days. An hour later, I had been kicked in the gut and sent reeling with the diagnosis of cancer.

I had not noticed that her lymph nodes had become very swollen but it wouldn't have mattered. The lymphoma was extremely aggressive and had most likely only been detectable for a few weeks. It had spread throughout her body and was attacking her bones and most organs. The prognosis wasn't good but the doctors thought that with major steroids and other medicines, we might get a few good months out of her. Five days later I awoke to what I feared most. After several good days, things had taken a turn for the worse. She was barely able to walk and her breathing was very labored. I called in sick to work and rushed her to the doctor, hoping against hope that something could be done.

She died in my arms that morning as I held her tight. As she took her last breath, I whispered into her ear that I loved her dearly and would always keep her memory alive. I have yet to forgive myself for letting this happen, this signing of the paperwork which gave the vet permission to put her to sleep. I keep seeing her face, the look of fear and uncertainty in her eyes. It was almost as if she were asking me "why are you doing this to me?" I know this wasn't what she was thinking but I can't help but feel that way.

I hope that she knew that what I was doing was out of love, out of a desire not to see her suffer. The cancer had eaten away at her body and now she could barely walk but I just couldn't help but feel that I was betraying my friend. I miss her so much and as the weeks slowly pass by, I do sometimes feel better. I have my good days but they are still few and far between. For the most part, I am still very much in pain, filled with this grief that will not go away.

So no, she wasn't just a dog, she was so much more. Like Sammy and Shadow and all of my pets that have come before, River is very much a part of my family. River was my friend, my companion and my baby. I miss her so much and even with all I have written her tonight, words cannot begin to express how much her loss has left a gaping hole inside my heart and soul. My life seems a bit less meaningful now that she is gone and when Sammy and Shadow leave this world, I will feel very much the same. It would appear that I am both the perfect dog owner and the worst dog owner.