Monday, August 15, 2011

No, I don't want a little cheese...

Can you believe the summer is almost over?Me, neither.

Part of it is because it's been crazy busy. And another is because it arrived late, so it only seems like we've had an actual month or so of summer.It's been strange, too, in that although I don't get the sense that my company is all that busy in terms of actual work coming through the door (we're still taking really small crappy jobs we would have passed on, for one thing) but I've been working crazy hours. Out at five, back at nine, that sort of thing. Lots of dirt-nannying, which pays great but can be absolutely insane. Let me give you an example.

We have a job in downtown Portland doing a four-story building (so the foundation loads are fairly respectable) and the site is a typical inner-urban Portland city block, meaning that it's been built and re-built over the past 100 years and most of the crap that came from the buildings that were demolished earlier was just hucked into whatever convenient hole the laborers could find. So there's anywhere from two to about seven or eight feet of really nasty fill on the top. Brick, concrete, glass, dimension lumber, fly ash, name it, it's in there. Plus the stuff has a nasty habit of hiding open voids underneath a veneer of soil, a perfect footing-trap designed to produce ugly post-construction settlement.We found all this junk when we did the soil investigation and my engineer, not surprisingly, recommended that the contractor hog it all out and build on the native.

The contractor, also not surprisingly, is being pushed by the owner to minimize the overexcavation, so his superintendent is trying to cut back on the amount of this jumky fill we take out.

Completely unsurprisingly this leads to a certain tension between the general contractor and me, even though we both supposedly work for the owner.So the other day the excavator dug out one of the foundation footings and there in the bottom of the hole, sticking out of what otherwise would be native-soil-looking yellow silt, is a head-sized chunk of asphalt. Unmistakeable, just-pried-out-of-your-driveway asphalt.

The super sort of looks sideways at it and says in as confident a tone as he can manage;

"That looks like native soil to me."

I actually think I goggled at him; I know I must have had en exceptionally odd look on my face.

"Well, in that case." I replied, "we're going to have to completely revise our estimate on when early humans started using asphalt paving..." He had the decency to look ashamed.

We dug it out. And the other three feet of assorted brick, lumber, fly ash, china plates, glass bottles and assorted shit that somebody had pushed into a hole back in 1946.

Honestly! I may have been born at night, but I wasn't born LAST night. I wasn't sure who to be more embarassed for, him for trying me on or me for looking foolish enough to make him think he could try that on me.What else?

We had a nice visit from the in-laws in July, who got their fill of their grandkiddos and, I suspect, perhaps a little more than their fill. Our house is barely large enough for us four, so when the grands turn up they usually find a hotel or motel, but this was a month and the cost would have been ridiculous. So Mojo found them a rental place up near Kenton. And the sad truth is that it is nicer than our home. The kids loved the hot tub; I liked having the hot tub to entice the kids to stay with the grandparents.

We did get to stay over there a few nights. Any more and I'd have been too tempted to ask the landlord for a straight-up swap.There's been a little bleakness, as there always is in any sort of life. Mojo's employment is getting precarious, and we're looking at various ideas for post-gas-company paycheck days. And something's going wrong with my hip.

I don't want to sound dramatic about this. I've spent a lifetime abusing my legs. I was born with something called patellar subluxation, in which your kneecaps are canted outwards rather than sit straight on the front of your legs.

The old orthopod I went to see ten years ago when they finally began to hurt enough to slow me below the minimum time for the APFT run told me that as a draft board physician in the Sixties he wouldn't have let me within a rifle's length of the infantry for the very reason I was seeing him that day. Plus I played ten years of soccer and twenty years of squash on them, not a very healthy idea for malformed kneecaps.

So over the past five years or so my run has degenerated a sort of an angry, jerky shuffle, and when I kicked the soccer ball about with my little guy it was with the painful knowledge that I would regret the playtime later.

The ortho had a very sensible attitude about my knees.

"The two options for you are a replacement or a repositioning surgery that has a high incidence of subsequent failure. The replacement will work, but if you have it today (and I was in my forties at the time) you'll need another in twenty years, and rehabilitating a bilateral knee replacement at sixty won't be much fun. If you wait until you're fifty or sixty the technology will have improved enough that they'll last long enough for you to take them with you to the grave."

So I've put off the knee replacements and, shy a few days where too much exercise ballooned them up and required an icebag and an acewrap, have never regretted it.

But this past autumn my right hip started binding up on me. At first that's all it was; just the loss of range of motion. I had a hard time trimming my toenails, or getting my foot into my skiboots. And I noticed a dragging sort of weakness when I wore my work boots; it was like my right leg had about half the strength of my left.

I assumed that it had something to do with my knee problems, and I would knock down some Motrin when it got bad, and in a day or so of light work it would go away.

But at some point this winter it stopped leaving.

Now it hurts, in some form or another, all the time. It varies from a dull ache to a biting little stab when I turn my leg the wrong way. I have developed a visible limp, and whatever's wrong with the hip joint causes me to walk in some off-kilter way that puts strain on the right knee, which has noticeably worsened, and on the muscles of my right upper leg and butt. By the time I come home from work they're hard as an iron bar and ache like a sunofabitch.

I really hate talking about this. It doesn't do any good, for one thing, and it sounds like I'm whining and asking for sympathy, for the other. And I'm not, really; this is just a thing. It's not leukemia, it's not COPD, it's not a brain injury. It's just pain, and people live with pain all the time. It's not crippling, and I go to see another orthopedist in a week that will tell me that I need to either get opened up so that they can remove the arthritic calcium or whatever is marring the hip joint can be scraped off, or I will need a hip replacement.And that's fine. I don't like either the surgery or the rehabilitation afterwards, but if it means that I can walk again without pain? That's a good thing.

I just thought I should mention it, being as that it is sort of hard to escape. Chronic pain, like a hanging, concentrates the mind wonderfully - but only on the pain. And I have a fairly high threshold of pain; I can't imagine what this is like for people who cringe at papercuts. I whining? Maybe so.

But it's a fine whine, and I like to think I served it up in an pretty glass.

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