Time for a Cool Change!

I called Les, my mechanic (owner of Delta Car Care) a few days ago to see if he knew of a “beater” that Natalie could rent or possibly buy in order to make several upcoming trips to Chicago. He said he had a Saturn wagon he’d sell for $3,500; then he mentioned that he was also planning to sell a car he’d owned and meticulously cared-for for 11 years: A Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 Kompressor two-seater retractable-hardtop convertible for $9,500. WHAT? I SAID I’LL TAKE IT! It’s a 1999 model with less that 54,000 miles! We did the deal today: I’m gonna party like it’s 1999! Here’s my new (to me) convertible:

SLK Natalie

Natalie (in Indian Princess garb) models the SLK 230 Kompressor in our driveway!

SLK Michi Doug Ernie

Me with Michi & Ernie at their house.

This morning I decided: Why not put the Mini up for sale and see if I can sell it quickly? I posted ads on Craigslist and Nextdoor Mt. Lookout. I got three phone calls within an hour, and close to a dozen other calls or texts. In five hours, it was sold!

Picnic at Alms Park last night: We got together with some of our canoeing and backpacking friends friends for a picnic at Alms Park last night. It was a great time, in spite of the howling winds! I had my J-Tube feed system going the whole time.


Group photo by Natalie: From left: Bob (my brother), Sandy, Dean, me, Summer, Jen, Kathy & Jay


Whitewater Lady-Paddlers, from left: Sandy (an instructor), Kathy and Jen


Count-Down to Surgery

My surgery is scheduled for one week from today! Administratively, it’s been a bad 10 days, since my personal “patient advocate nurse” at Humana has been unreachable. It’s taken numerous phone calls to sort-out how the Mayo Clinic should get their Authorizations submitted to Humana and approved. It looks like I solved that yesterday: They can deal directly with Humana without having to go through my Primary Care Provider.

The expected technique to be used for my Esophajectomy: The Ivor Lewis technique. Click the link for some good graphics explaining that approach. UC Health had proposed a different approach, and planned to use two surgeons. At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Mark Allen will be the only surgeon; he expects the operation to take about six hours, vs. the 10-hour procedure UC Health wanted to use. After the operation, I’ll be in Intensive Care for 2-3 days, and will likely be hospitalized 8-10 days total.

Pilots for Christ: I am again set up for a free flight with these folks. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this time!

Quality Time with Natalie: Natalie has been been staying with us for about three weeks now. It’s taken some time, but she’s now comfortably installed in our spare bedroom, and has set up a work area in the attic. I am acting as Copy Editor for the books she is writing about her four months in St. Thomas. Most of the creative writing is done, but its grueling work getting from raw drafts to finished copy!

My younger brother Bob from France is also here for a week: He arrived late-afternoon Monday, and is staying in an Airbnb about a mile away. It’s walkable, with Mt. Lookout Square about half-way in-between. He and Natalie spent yesterday afternoon at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Here is a photo from my older brother Bill’s wedding last fall:

Wedding Party

Back Row, L-to-R: Natalie, me, Jen, Bob & Elizabeth (Bill’s daughter); Front: Jane and Bill

I finally bought myself a decent Bass Amplifier: I was at Stereo Advantage yesterday getting a turntable repaired. I asked if he had a decent Bass Amp for sale, and he said he had a great old Peavy. For $100, I traded-in my crappy 20-watt Ibanez practice amp for this Minx 110 model:

Peavy Minx™ 110


Many Thanks to Bill Strong, my Mentor!

The reason I knew Bill Strong was because his daughter Nellie was best-friends with Natalie at Sewickley Elementary School. I didn’t have any sisters, so essentially had no clue how best to interact with Natalie. Bill solved that by setting us up as the Mohawk Tribe of the Indian Princesses program at the Sewickley YMCA:



The Mohawk Tribe: Bill/Nellie 2nd from left, Doug/Natalie at far right.


The tribe around the fireplace at Camp Kon-O-Kwee.

But that was just the start: Bill signed me up to coach our girls’ soccer team, with Bill and Clark Luster as co-coaches! On top of that, the girls joined a choral group and performed periodically in concert! Suddenly, I was a Super-Dad having a great time with the girls, and with the other “Captains of Industry”.

Oh, and Bill did occasionally give us free tickets to Penguins games! Did I mention that our last year in Sewickley, we lived less than a mile from Mario Lemieux, who was a superstar then, and who now owns the team franchise!


Mario in 2005, his last season as a player.

Trying to Put some Weight On

Health Update: I’m not making much progress at increasing my food intake via mouth: It’s just too painful to eat or drink very much. However,  I’m getting fed via the J-Tube 20 or more hours a day, and that seems to be having the desired effect. I’ve put on at least two pounds, but am still down more than 20 pounds from my pre-treatment weight.

Natalie & Rick Update: Natalie has been here more than two weeks now. We’re trying to find an apartment for her for a few months, but all the rental agents want to lock people in for a year. We’re looking at sub-letting, but haven’t found a good match yet. She is working madly on writing a group of books about the four months she just spent in St. Thomas! Rick is scheduled for double hip-replacement surgery in June, so will be laid-up for some time.

Brian & Angela Update: They are still spending as much time as they can whipping their 1915 Miner’s shack into shape! Brian is rooting-big for the Pittsburgh Penguins. We lived in Pittsburgh when the Pens won the Stanley Cup in ’91-’92. Natalie, Brian and I each got to hoist the Stanley Cup, compliments of my fellow girls’ soccer team coach Bill Strong, who was the Executive Producer of the Penguins at the time!

Doug with Stanley Cup

Me hoisting the Stanley Cup in 1991!


It’s Time to Start Playing Bass Guitar Again!

I haven’t played my bass guitar since I was diagnosed. It’s time I got back to it!

I used to have a 5-string solid-body bass when I played in a casual fun band in the late ’90s in Naperville, Illinois. We only played-out twice, at pool parties at my neighborhood pool. It was heavy! I gave up the idea of playing in a band about 10 years ago, so I sold the Ibanez bass.

On a visit to see my son Brian in the Ballard area of Seattle about five years ago, I stopped at a guitar shop and saw the first acoustic bass I’d ever seen. I didn’t realize that anyone made acoustic basses. The seed was planted! In late 2014, I went shopping for an acoustic bass as a birthday present to myself. I found this beauty on Craig’s List, and got it for a good price:

Dean Bass Guitar

My Dean Exotica Quilted Ash Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar

It has dual pick-ups: The usual crappy guitar plug, plus a low-impedance jack! I like a clean sound, and the low-impedance jack is perfect for that. 

I also bought an inexpensive Samson PA System from Radio Shack, so I’m go to go!

I’ve had a MIDI System since 1986, including a Roland Sound Canvas SC-88VL synthesizer. I’ve also owned PowerTracks Pro Audio MIDI software (from PG Music) for more than 20 years.

I also collected thousands of MIDI files over the years, most of them with lyrics, which turns my computer into a Karaoke machine! 

MIDI files are simple text files that capture the “score” of each track of a multi-track musical performance (i.e. the list of notes played, and when to play them).

So what? So, I can play along with my MIDI band any time I want to. I can display the score of the bass part (it highlights each note when it’s time to play it). I can change the tempo and the key quickly and easily. Plus, PowerTracks will reverse-engineer the song to figure out what the chords are!

Here’s a sample screen-shot:

PowerTracks Screen Shot

The Bass score for Wonderful Tonight, with lyrics! PowerTracks Pro Audio!

So, it’s time to have some fun again!

The Mayo Clinic Wins Hands-Down!

Unfortunately, the weather was not compatible with my plan to use PilotsforChrist.org to fly Jen and me to Rochester in a single-engine plane. We had to stand-down from that plan on Saturday night. My older brother Bill offered to pay for commercial flights instead. Thanks, Bro!

Unfortunately, our trip to Rochester Sunday evening ended-up taking 11 hours due to bad weather; we did not arrive at our airbnb until 2 AM! The flight back was no better, due to mechanical problems with the plane out of Rochester; we didn’t get back home until 1 AM!

In between: Wow! We spent two days at the Mayo Clinic – what an operation! What a well-organized and efficient hospital system! They perform three times as many Esophagectomies per year as UC Healthin fact, the most in the country! One surgeon can do the entire operation himself in only six hours. They have extensive experience resolving every type of complication imaginable.

So: I’m scheduled to have Dr. Mark Allen perform my surgery at the Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus on May 24th!

Also: There is an extensive pedestrian “Subway” below the whole campus; you can get anywhere you need to without going outside. But hold onto your wallet: There are scores or world-class shops in the Subway, selling fabulous objets d’art from around the globe!

The Publican

Dinner at The Publican at O’Hare Airport on our trip home.

The J-Tube Feedings have begun!

It took three days to get a J-Tube surgically installed. It took another seven days of administrative gobbledygook to get the feedings approved, orders entered, supplies delivered, and nurse scheduled. Last night I got hooked-up for the first time:

Doug 1st J-Tube Feeding


I need to be hooked-up to this thing 20 hours per day. I need to find a better way of routing the tube! The food gets fed directly into the small intestine.

Health Update: We are still finalizing flight arrangements to/from the Mayo Clinic on Monday. It appears that all the pieces are falling into place for that to happen! Hurrah for PilotsforChrist.org! At this point, I’m leaning heavily towards getting the surgery done at the Mayo Clinic, even though there will be substantial non-covered costs for travel and living expenses. We are researching how to keep those costs to a minimum.