Sepia

Well, There's A Cheerful Note

I was a little disconcerted when I found out from a cardiologist today how utterly blocked some of the arteries that wrap around my heart are. Not talking about the aorta here -- I'm talking about the arteries that supply the heart itself with oxygen. One of them is completely, 100% blocked. One is 80% blocked.

I asked "then how on earth am I not in serious trouble"? The cardiologist said "fortunately, you seem to have a lot of redundancy here. That one there is blocked, but this other one over here is still able to supply that area."

Diet and exercise are not likely to ever open those up; it's a case of trying to keep it from getting worse. I may have had a mild heart attack with few lingering symptoms, but I still have a time bomb in my chest.
Sepia

My Completely Mystifying Heart Attack Recovery

As I mentioned in this blog post on September 18, I had a mild heart attack sometime in the wee hours of September 13. I went in to the ER the following day (d’oh) and was promptly admitted, poked, prodded, and eventually catheterized before being discharged with three new prescriptions and a whole lot of follow-up appointments.


So: I am doing well.


Correction: I am doing really well.


It’s just plain strange, but within a day or two of being discharged, I stopped feeling any lingering pain in my chest, any excessive fatigue, any anything out of the ordinary. I got back to feeling pretty much 100%.


I went for a two-mile walk the day after I was discharged. I would have turned around if I felt even the slightest discomfort or warning sign. I think I might have been a little tired at the end, but never felt excessively weak or in pain. Otherwise, I was just fine.


I walked another mile on Saturday (there’s a story behind that one mile1On September 6, I was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Richmond, Vermont town selectboard. The seat was open because of a resignation six months into a three year term. I will serve until Town Meeting in March 2022 at which point in time I’m welcome to run for the remaining two years of the term. One of the first things I had to do as part of my official duties was perform a ‘site visit’ of a Class IV road in our town, a road that exists on the maps but has become completely overgrown and all but invisible. The people abutting the “road” have petitioned for it to be officially discontinued. The “road” was only a half mile or so long but it was a bushwhack and a half., but again, felt fine afterward.


The following day, Sunday, people at church who’d heard about my heart attack were poleaxed to see me wandering right on in, none the worse for wear. After church, Carole had an English country dancing event to head out to and I had nothing better to do, so I had her drop me off at an intersection about seven miles from home. I walked on home from there via relatively quiet Vermont dirt roads. Amusingly, a couple of miles from home a passing car came to a stop and the very bewildered driver called out “Jay?”


I didn’t recognize the driver at first, but it turned out to be a member of our church whose husband had helped Carole by driving my car home from the hospital while I was an inpatient. Thus, she knew perfectly well that only three days earlier I’d been in the hospital for a heart attack. The last thing she expected, I’m sure, was to see me toddling down the shoulder toward her, not a care in the world. I assured her that I was taking breaks and making sure I felt okay, which I was, and I gave effusive thanks for the help she and her husband had given Carole with my car and everything. She seemed a little doubtful about me being out walking so soon after discharge, but I told her I was fine and we went on our separate ways.


I was completely prepared to wake up Monday morning regretting that seven mile walk on Sunday.


Nothin’. I felt fine.


I walked five more miles on Wednesday. Yesterday, I walked eleven miles and then went for an eight mile bicycle ride with Carole. I wore a Fitbit Versa 3 GPS-enabled fitness watch, which tracks my heart rate among other things, and the post-walk and post-ride heart rate plots showed I was never really laboring, never actually even getting up out of the base heart rate zone (well, except for the bicycle ride, because there’re a couple of hills along the route we took that do tax me a little bit).



As for my blood pressure — it’s been fantastic. It was fantastic the day I got home and it’s stayed fantastic. 112 over 79, stuff like that. Sometimes lower. Before the heart attack, before a change in my medications, my systolic blood pressure was rarely below 135. Without the medication I’d been on, it was usually over 150. Now it’s routinely in the 110-115 range. It’s almost surreal to sit down and take my blood pressure and see numbers like that after so many years of seeing the display turn an angry red or amber when the check completed. It’s also possible the Roto-Rooting the cath lab did made a difference by opening up key blood vessels.


I have been carefully tracking my sodium (2000 milligrams of sodium per day, max, which is slightly lower than the RDA of 2300 milligrams per day), saturated fat, and overall calories. I’m trying to lose weight to get down from my current weight of 220 pounds or so to a more reasonable 190-195. I had a “bwah!” moment a couple of days after my hospital discharge when my scale showed me weighing ten pounds less than I’d weighed a week earlier. All I can say is, one or more of my new meds must be a hell of a diurectic, or cutting sodium has worked wonders, or both, but either way, that big of a drop has to be a lot of water being shed.


I had intake for my cardiac rehab program this past week and I have a stress test scheduled for Tuesday morning. After that, I’ll start three-times-weekly cardiac rehab sessions… but as I’ve said to several people in the last few days, the cardiac rehab folks are going to be very confused by one of their new patients rattling off the miles and miles they’ve walked lately. I think part of rehab is walking on a treadmill while connected to an EKG, which makes sense, but otherwise, there’s a certain amount of humor in the idea of them saying “yeah, we need you up on the treadmill, got to get up out of your chair and get you exercising.” (No, I’m not out running or anything really ambitious like that, and I follow a few friends on Strava who go out every weekend and bicycle eighty miles straight up mountains, but I suspect that compared to the average heart attack patient, I’m doing a lot better than most.)


My co-workers have been nonplused, to say the least, by my coming right back to work without taking any time off. I put in four hours the day after my discharge and worked more or less normal hours this past week (except for time spent at various appointments). They think I’m crazy, or really driven, or both. A couple of co-workers who’ve had their own heart problems have been very supportive and full of good advice, for which I’m grateful, but it’s been a little hard to tactfully get across that not only am I already doing all the stuff they advise me to do (watching sodium, trying to do a Mediterranean-style diet, etcetera) but that I’m already feeling this well. I’ve had a few things recommended to me (like Coq10 enzyme pills, or adding a lot of ground flax to my diet) that sound interesting, but I’m going to talk to a doctor first.


Long story short: I feel really weird and confused about this whole thing. The hospital swears I had a heart attack, based on the troponin levels they saw in my system, which kept climbing for the first day and a half before finally starting to go down a day after the catheterization. I don’t know what else they saw on the ultrasounds or chest x-rays or EKGs, but they were quite clear, I had had a heart attack and I had a lot more plaque in my blood vessels than they would have expected for a man my age.


So why do I feel weird and confused? Well, it’s like getting diagnosed with cancer, going in for one treatment session, and seeing it just plain gone afterwards. You’d almost wonder if you ever really had it, right? Or to use another analogy, it’s like telling your parents that you’re too sick to go to school one day, only for one of them to come home early and see you out back jumping on the trampoline without a care in the world. One possibility, in that case, is that you miraculously got well really quickly, but the more likely possibility is that you were faking it.


I have to wonder if people aren’t wondering “did he really have a heart attack? Maybe it was just indigestion!” because I am totally not feeling or behaving like someone who just got out of the hospital after having had a heart attack. I’ve had co-workers ask me if I need or want them to bring meals by, help with errands, anything like that… only to be told “No, no, I’m good, I just walked ten miles, I think I’m recovering fairly well.” There’s a term for faking illness to get attention: “factitious disorder” (also called “Munchausen syndrome”). If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was faking the whole thing.


It also worries me a little bit that my experience might cause others to take their risk of heart attack a little less seriously than they ought to. You know, “Jay had a heart attack, and a few days later he was back wrestling mountain lions, it’s no big deal.”


I have a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist this coming Friday. It’ll be my first chance since being discharged to sit down and ask someone who would be in a position to know how severe my heart attack really was and whether there was anything on the ultrasound or X-rays or EKGs that would have helped spot this sooner.


For what it’s worth, some of you might be thinking “I hope the fact that he recovered so well, so quickly, doesn’t make him take rehab, diet modification, losing weight, and so on, and so on, less seriously.” I’m taking those things very seriously. I don’t ever want to find out the hard way what a bad heart attack is like.


Footnotes

Footnotes
1 On September 6, I was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Richmond, Vermont town selectboard. The seat was open because of a resignation six months into a three year term. I will serve until Town Meeting in March 2022 at which point in time I’m welcome to run for the remaining two years of the term. One of the first things I had to do as part of my official duties was perform a ‘site visit’ of a Class IV road in our town, a road that exists on the maps but has become completely overgrown and all but invisible. The people abutting the “road” have petitioned for it to be officially discontinued. The “road” was only a half mile or so long but it was a bushwhack and a half.
Sepia

Heart attack



So, I had a mild heart attack the other day.

I woke up Monday morning with a sore left arm and a bad case of heartburn.   I rationalized the sore left arm as having strained it carrying heavy scuba tanks and dive weights on Saturday.   I don't know how I explained the heartburn, though, because taking Alka-Seltzer and Gas-X and Zantac did absolutely nothing to help with it.  Being stupid, though, I took Tylenol for the pain and got on with life.

Until Tuesday, when the symptoms were still there and not going anywhere.  I did a telemedicine appointment with some doctor or another using Teladoc (which my insurance and employer encourage us to use) and the doctor had been on the call with me maybe five minutes before he bluntly told me to get a cardiac workup at an urgent care clinic or something ASAP.  I called my primary care physician's medical practice and my regular PCP was unavailable, but the doctor they could squeeze me in with basically said "Don't bother coming to see me, get to the ER."

I wasn't too sanguine about that, given that our local hospital, the University of Vermont Medical Center, has been lambasted in the media recently for really, really long wait times to get scheduled for specialist services... not to mention Covid-19 patients taking up hospital resources in the emergency room and elsewhere.  So I grabbed a thick book and headed on in to Burlington and to the ER.

The ER waiting area was maybe a third to a half full, which boded well.  I checked in at the desk -- they already had me in the system from seeing various UVMMC doctors over the years.  When I said "I need a cardiac workup" the reception clerk said "Chest pains?"  I nodded.  She said "Take a seat, we'll call you."

And what happened next was, frankly, amazing.   Almost as soon as I sat down, I was immediately called back up and was whisked into the mazy environs behind the ER desk where they promptly did an EKG.   They sent me back out to the waiting room and again, almost as soon as I'd sat down, they called me BACK in and proceeded to do ultrasound and two chest x-rays and take multiple blood samples.  "You had a heart attack,' they said.  "Your heart releases an enzyme called 'troponin' after a heart attack.  Based on your level of troponin, you had a mild heart attack -- it could have been much worse, but you definitely did have a heart attack."

Within an hour I'd been formally admitted and was parked in a bed in a room that used to be the pediatric emergency area (it had all sorts of cute art on the walls) and was scheduled for heart catheterization the next morning, Wednesday.   I didn't get into a real bed (as opposed to an ER bed) until 11 pm or so, but then it was in a nice room on the fourth floor of the Miller building at UVM, the cardiac care floor.   Every four hours or so while I was there they did more blood draws to keep an eye on my troponin levels; they kept climbing slowly and minutely but consistently.

I don't remember much about the actual heart catheterization because once I was on the table where all the magic happens -- where they inject the dye and watch your innards on the big screen and then send in the catheter and stents -- they'd given me some sort of happy juice in my IV drip that was supposed to leave me awake but not in pain, but in actuality, basically knocked me out.  I don't recall sleeping but I do recall thinking I'd been there five minutes and then asking "Have you started yet?" only to be told that they were actually almost done.

The attending physician was blunt after the procedure was over.  I asked how much plaque they found and he rather firmly said "A lot more than we expected."   But that's why they wound up putting in four stents.  They were not able to clear all the minor vessels around the heart but hope to get some of those cleared via the cardiac rehab outpatient program, which I'll be starting in this coming week.  Later on, when I had another chance to talk to him (and after multiple people had mentioned the importance of a low sodium, low saturated fat diet) he said "well, a lot of it is probably heredity.  You mentioned a family history?  High BP and multiple heart attacks and such?"  It's vaguely comforting to be able to blame my genes for the wretched state of my coronary arteries but it's also a bit embarrassing to have "a lot more than we expected" at the age of 53 (I turn 54 on Monday, but I was 53 at the time).

I was kept inpatient until my troponin levels started to decline; they kept going up throughout Wednesday and on into Thursday morning.  It wasn't until they analyzed the 9 am blood draw that the troponin had finally begun to go down and I was safe to release.

I can't say enough about the staff at the hospital.  Every single person I encountered, from resident to fellow to nurse to attending, you name it, was extremely courteous.  Every question I asked -- and I asked a lot of them -- was answered thoughtfully and fully, without any of the "oh, you wouldn't understand, it's all medical stuff" that I might have expected.  I was also just flat-out amazed at how fast they got me back there and started administering care.  I didn't get a chance to even crack that book I'd taken along until along about 10 pm or so the first night; I was always being whisked from one test to the next.  (I got three ultrasounds, including one in the middle of the night administered by a rather worried looking doctor that I didn't encounter again while I was there, so I don't know what that was about.)

I'm also very grateful to Carole, who didn't say "I told you so" even once and who came to visit multiple times -- Tuesday evening and twice on Wednesday -- to see how I was doing and let me know she cared.   She knows that going forward some things are going to have to be different around our house; we need to work on reducing stress, balancing chores more evenly, cooking with a LOT less salt (she can add more if she misses it) and avoiding fat, and getting a lot more exercise.

I got a ton of walking in over the winter -- going out at night with an orange reflective vest and headlamp on and walking in the dark, in the snow... but come spring, work got so busy that I was often still at my desk at 9 o'clock at night and was too fried to walk.  Two things have to change there -- one, I have to balance work/personal life better and not BE working at 9 pm, and two, I have to get back in the habit of exercising.   Since I have the 2021 San Diego Susan G. Komen 3-Day breast cancer walk (sixty miles in three days) coming up in mid-November I *really* need to get a lot of walking in.

I feel extremely lucky.  Like "six standard deviations from the mean" lucky.  I live near a major medical center and in an area where people have taken Covid-19 vaccination seriously.  I've got insurance, which thoughtfully emailed me a letter the day after I was discharged informing me that they would, indeed, cover the whole thing.

Now I just have to be worthy of that luck and take my own health much more seriously.  I can't guarantee I'll be so lucky a second time.
Sepia

Caffeine



Parenthetically, I’m on a caffeine fast. I started on Sunday and am most of the way through a week and am doing pretty well.


This will be the second time I’ve tried weaning myself completely off caffeine. The last time I tried was a decade or more ago when I tried going cold turkey at the beginning of Lent. I had been drinking in excess of a pot of coffee a day at that point and all sorts of bad things were happening, like my nodding off behind the wheel of a car because my sleep at night had been so poor. I wasn’t able to function at all going cold turkey so I cut back to one cup of coffee a day and then went cold turkey again with two weeks to go in Lent. And I survived. My head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton balls for a while there but I managed to tough it out. I stayed off caffeine entirely for six months to a year before slowly adding back caffeinated sodas and tea, but I never did go back to drinking coffee. I’ve managed to rationalize consuming other caffeinated products by saying “well, at least it’s not coffee.”


But with all that said, I can truthfully say that I’m not (currently) the kind of person who needs a cup of some hot caffeinated beverage just to get going in the morning. Some days I don’t have any at all and some days I have a whole pot of tea. But it’s not a “I have to have it to function” kind of thing.


Now, though, I’m trying now to cut it out entirely. No Excedrin, no caffeinated tea, no caffeinated sodas, much much much less chocolate, and so forth. I’m doing this for two reasons:



  1. Insomnia. I have terrible insomnia. It seems to have no direct, obvious connection to caffeine; I sleep just as badly on days I have little to no caffeine as on days that I have plenty. But with my doctor trying one thing after another and in ever increasing doses with little to no beneficial effect, it’s worth a try to see what happens if I just cut caffeine out entirely.

  2. On the way down to North Carolina for our Outer Banks vacation, Carole and I listened to most of an Audible Original audiobook titled “Caffeine: How Caffeine Created The Modern World” by Michael Pollan. Pollan made a good case that without caffeine, the Industrial Revolution and the era of colonization would never have gotten off the ground. (Ask yourself when London suddenly had coffeehouses on every corner and then ask yourself what else got going around that time.) But he also compared caffeine to other psychoactive drugs and pointed out that many of us will literally never know what the world would be like without the brain-altering effects of caffeine in our system. He talked about his own caffeine fast and what it was like before, during, and after and I found myself going “you know, it’s probably time I tried one of those myself.”


I don’t regard abstinence from caffeine as an especially virtuous thing. It’s just that there’s always been a part of me that resents the idea of being chemically dependent on something. I’ve never smoked, never done narcotics, and while I do drink alcohol on occasion, I remember acutely what an ass I was back in college when I drank a lot and consequently try to avoid repeating that mistake. I don’t think my life will suddenly be transformed into something magical and wonderful with bunnies and rainbows and stuff overnight, but I do hope that getting caffeine out from behind the steering wheel could have some beneficial effects.

Sepia

Out of curiosity

Anyone reading this?  I don't mean 'on a regular basis' — I mean, are you reading this post, right here, right now?

Picture of my wife, Carole, in the upper meadow of St Mary's Cemetery in Richmond, Vermont.
Picture of my wife, Carole, in the upper meadow of St Mary's Cemetery in Richmond, Vermont.


Sepia

Misophonia

After all these years, I have an explanation for why I absolutely can’t stand listening to someone eat an apple.


It’s misophonia — and apparently the loathing of hearing someone eat an apple is one of the most common expressions of the syndrome.


Not all crunching sounds drive me up a wall. There’s just something about the crunch and rasp of an apple being eaten that that makes me want to run away, scream, etcetera. With every bite, I have a corresponding flinch and grimace. Or at least I used to — I’ve gotten much better about keeping the distress on the inside and not showing it.


In any event, apparently I’m one of the last people on the planet to have encountered this concept… There’re GAZILLIONS of articles on the Web on the subject.


For example: https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-46193709


Fortunately, I have it at a mild level. There are people who fly into a rage when they are forced to hear certain sounds. The pain is just that severe.


Apples are definitely my bête noire, but are by no means the only thing that gets on my nerves. I hate being stuck in a roomful of people eating too. Especially if it’s a confined conference room or other otherwise quiet space — there’s nothing to mask or drown out all the slurping and chomping and gulping and rustling of wrappers and everything else that goes along with it.


I just about always skip lunch when I’m working; I’m often onsite at a corporate office and I typically just keep on working during a lunch break during a day-long meeting. If the people I am meeting with go somewhere else to eat, I’m happy. If they bring the food back to the room I’m in, I am, um, on edge.


The sound of a bunch of people who went out and brought lunch back and are smacking and slurping and chewing through it drives me up a wall. I sit there with a blank half-smile on my face, evidently without a care in the world… but if I can find an excuse to go run an errand or go to another room and “check messages” or something, I do. I don’t mind eating in a restaurant where there’s enough background noise that I’m not forced to listen to every munch, crunch, slobber and slurp. It’s not bad when it’s just me and Carole either. What makes the Conference Room Lunch Break Torture so horrible is that there’s absolutely nothing to drown it out; conference rooms are quiet places and so for the half hour or so it takes to get people fed you basically hear nothing BUT


SLURRRRRRP

CHOMP CHOMP

CRUNNNNCH

SLURRRRRRRP

rustle rustle of sandwich wrapper

lather rinse repeat


Again… I can control my outward reaction. I don’t sit there shaking with rage or anything. But inside, behind the cool, relaxed exterior, there’s a Jay that’s going “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.” 🙂


 


Sepia

Changes in Latitude


I enjoy travel. I mean, I’d pretty much have to, or it wouldn’t make much sense for me to work as a trainer who travels all over the USA two thirds (if not more) of each year, right?


But even though I take pleasure in memories of places I’ve been, I spend as least as much time fantasizing about places I haven’t been, and feeling inferior because of the relatively pedestrian accomplishments I have on that front.


I’ve been just about everywhere in the USA. All fifty states. I can stand in front of a departures board at a major airport and count on one hand the domestic airports on the list that I haven’t been to.


But…


I’ve never been to the Southern Hemisphere — I know several people who’ve been to Australia and/or New Zealand.


I’ve never been to east or southeast Asia — I know people who go to Japan and Singapore and places like that for work all the time.


I haven’t been to Antarctica or to the Arctic. One friend of mine from work has done both — visiting Barrow, AK one year and Antarctica another year.


I’ve never been to Israel or anywhere else bordering the Mediterranean. Some friends have done the standard Holy Land tours and others have done the Barcelona-to-Rome Mediterranean cruise thing. My sister, who served in the US Army in Germany, got to do a bona-fide Aegean vacation at one point, even.


Certainly, I’ve gotten around more than some, but again, only to pretty easy-to-get-to places. Curacao, the Bahamas (for 8 hours), Jamaica (for 8 hours), and the Cayman Islands (ditto). England (London only), France (Paris and Normandy), Germany (Rostock to Berlin), and some other Baltic countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Russia, and Sweden). Maritime Canada. Southern Ontario and Quebec. Tijuana and Cozumel in Mexico. Nothing that required 12 hours on a plane. Nothing that required packing winter clothing for a July vacation.


So… this coming year, unless something happens to change our plans dramatically, we’re going to, um, Wyoming and South Dakota.


We thought about doing Ireland/Scotland or Switzerland/southern Germany/etcetera, but when the smoke had cleared, I had reservations in hand for June flights to and from Rapid City, so I guess it’s pretty much decided. My family did a big driving vacation around the Black Hills and Yellowstone when I was in high school, but Carole’s never seen that area, and for some reason, the thought of renting an RV and driving around appealed to us enough to go ahead and confirm the trip.


This whole thing came up, for me, this morning in the shower when I absent-mindedly found myself wondering which was further north, Porvoo, Finland or Juneau, Alaska — and which, therefore, would represent my northernmost point. (I remembered later that I actually made it to Fraser, BC and Skagway, AK on that Alaska trip, both of which are further north than Juneau.) The answer turned out to be Porvoo.


Furthest north: Porvoo, Finland (60.3932° N, 25.6653° E)


Furthest south: Jan Thiel Beach, Curacao (12.0802° N, 68.8780° W)


Furthest east: St Petersburg, Russia (59.9343° N, 30.3351° E)


Furthest west: Koloa, Hawaii (21.9067° N, 159.4692° W)


I take casual note of the fact that Koloa and St Petersburg are more than 180 degrees of longitude apart going west from St Petersburg, so I’ve spanned a bit over half the Earth’s circumference.


Sigh. So many places to go, so little time. And money. And sanity. Maybe one year I’ll make it to Switzerland and Scotland and Australia and New Zealand and Ouagadougou.


 

Sepia

Sadfishing


I learned a new term today: “sadfishing“. To quote Urban Dictionary, sadfishing is “The practice of writing about one’s unhappiness or emotional problems on social media, especially in a vague way, in order to attract attention and sympathetic response.”


In other words, posting a lot of moody, sad pictures, woe-is-me out of context messages, and so forth, but never actually coming right out and saying “PAY ATTENTION TO ME”.


Sadfishing is hitting the news all over the place lately, and a lot of the media coverage is focusing on the “when you sadfish, you’re giving bullies ammunition, so don’t” aspect. When celebrities are seen “sadfishing”, they’re trying to get attention and impressions; when a kid in the ninth grade does it, it’s probably more of a genuine cry for help from someone in emotional turmoil, but that doesn’t mean that the class asshole is going to be Mister Sensitive and treat it that way.


As an admitted attention-seeker, I can certainly understand where the urge to sadfish might come from. You want the attention, but you don’t want to be seen wanting attention. And I’ll grant that if social media had been a thing when I was in high school and college, I’d probably have sadfished with the best of them. Was I depressed all the time? Yes. Did I want sympathy and attention? You bet.


But I’m not a teenager now (I’m 52) and I’d really rather not be seen as acting like one. And that’s why I’ve tried to avoid posting much of anything on Facebook and Twitter for some time now; I know how mawkish and pathetic I tend to get and it’s better not to post anything at all given how messed up my brain typically is.


However, as some of you have noticed, from time to time I post woe-is-me blog entries where I apologize for everything under the sun and all but do a “GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD I WON’T BE POSTING ANY MORE” thing. If that comes across as excessively over-the-top attention-seeking behavior, I’m sorry. It probably is. I kind of wish I could take back those blog entries and just disappear.


Is it sadfishing when you explicitly say “Boy, I’m depressed and I’m sorry for how badly I’ve behaved over the years?” I’d argue that it’s not — you have to be trying to be subtle and acting like you’re not trying to be noticed.


Is it, on the other hand, pathetic to moan and groan overtly about how awful you are in blog entry after blog entry?


Well, yeah.


Newsflash: I’m pathetic.

Sepia

How You Know You've Spent Way Too Many Nights In Hotels

I’ve been in this job since May of 1998. A job that requires a lot of travel — usually a couple of flights to get to some distant city in the USA on Sunday or Monday and a couple of flights to get back home that Friday or Saturday. And in between — a lot of hotel stays. My employer has, for a long time, had a ‘preferred’ relationship with the extended Hilton chain of hotels — Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and so on — which means we get a better rate if we stay there, which of course keeps my employer happy.


You stay in Hilton properties sixty nights in a year, they give you “Diamond” status and you get the occasional upgrade and so on … but you also get increased points for your stays, and points translate into free rooms at a later date, which get to use, which makes me happy and makes Carole even happier. We once stayed in a Hilton a couple of blocks from the Arc de Triomphe in downtown Paris — six nights — for free. It would have been something like $800 a night had we been paying.


But today I found out what happens if you stay in Hilton properties 1,000 nights (and you manage to earn Diamond level status for ten or more years) …






I got a nice little welcome kit in the mail today, certifying me as Lifetime Diamond, meaning that I’ll always have Diamond status even if I don’t actually stay enough nights in a given year to earn that status. The kit included a luggage tag, of which one can never have too many; a metal membership card instead of a cheap plastic one; a little note telling me how awesome I am; and a pair of free Bose Soundsport earbuds. I’ll probably wind up just giving those to Carole because if I take them along with me on trips I’ll just wind up losing them.


Still, even though I guess it’s kind of nice to be all Mr. Lifetime Diamond and that, it’s also a little sobering to realize just how many nights away from home I’ve had over the years. A thousand nights over 22 years (and occasionally nights in other chains as well, which obviously don’t count toward my Hilton total) is really a hell of a lot.


So hey. I’m Mr. Lifetime Diamond.


Woo!


(Parenthetically, this kit — and the status it bestowed — arrived three days before I’m coincidentally scheduled to roll over the odometer and become a million mile flier on United. That’s nothing compared to the poor bastards who fly every day or who fly to Japan or Europe each week, but it’s a lot for people who do what I do.)

Sepia

Pumpkin Spice Spam


Pumpkin Spice Spam was a thing — for about four hours on September 23, 2019.


Then it was sold out, gone, possibly never to reappear on the national scene.


Hormel made Pumpkin Spice Spam available in two-packs from their own website — with a limit on one two-pack per customer — but also sold it through the Walmart.com website, with no limit on how much you could buy. Until, of course, it sold out. If I understand correctly, Hormel’s own site sold out within four hours or so of the 8 am EDT launch time, and Walmart made it a few hours longer before they, too, had none left to sell.


Because I’m a complete idiot, I of course had the launch hour and date programmed into my calendar; I’d even set up a Facebook event so others could ‘attend’ and get a reminder when the stuff went on sale.


I sitting on a plane waiting to take off (heading through Chicago to Nebraska) when the launch time came but was able to get my official sold-by-Hormel two-pack purchased before we left the runway. It wasn’t easy to get my order in; when eight a.m. came and I launched the site from my smartphone, the site crashed, and crashed, and crashed, and crashed some more. I knew this meant that demand for the stuff was going absolutely through the roof. But it finally came up and let me get my credit card information entered just seconds before we took off. Yay!


I hit the Walmart site once I got to Chicago and was in cell reception again … and was super-excited to find that they hadn’t put any kind of limit at all on how many packs you could buy.


As Carole has often quoted me as saying, “if a thing’s worth doing it’s worth overdoing.”


So I purchased five more two-can packs, for a total of six packs and twelve cans, figuring that would last me long enough for me to get sick of it.


I know you’re asking, “Jay, why the hell did you want some in the first place?”


The answer is simple: “just for the sheer gormless pointlessness of the whole thing. And also because I kind of like grilled Spam. But mostly just to be stupid.”


Fact is, I’d read reviews prior to launch from various foodie website saying that Pumpkin Spice Spam didn’t actually suck and would probably go well with breakfast. And that it wasn’t actually pumpkin-y at all, instead having a mild nutmeg-and-cinnamon taste. So why not try some while I could?


The stuff came while I was in Nebraska and Carole Ieft it all waiting for me on the entryway table. Upon arriving home I greeted the Spam with glad cries and entertained myself by making a little tower of the two-packs (and taking a photo) before squirreling them safely away.


We waited until Saturday to try the stuff. I opened a can, sliced it neatly into six equal slices, and cooked it in a grill pan with a little canola oil.



Carole, bless her heart, didn’t refuse outright to try some. And she didn’t think it was awful or anything. But, let’s let these photos tell the tale:






Despite her dour look, she said she didn’t actually dislike it, but it wasn’t anything she saw a reason to camp out for. So to speak.


Me? I pretty much liked it. I think it might even have been better if the nutmeg-and-cinnamon flavor had been a little stronger. It certainly wasn’t overwhelmingly spiced or cloyingly flavored.






Long story short — it wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be, but was much less awful than I feared it could be. Hormel clearly tried to do a good job here and wasn’t just mailing it in or going for humor value alone. If it was available annually I’m sure I’d keep buying it. As it is, I have no doubt that I’ll make my way through the remaining eleven cans in due course.