Word and Image

Archive for May, 2014

Freakin’ Cold

110-1093_IMGI don’t know why Dave wasn’t with us. In all our time Lisa never attended a professional sports match. It was deep December and I got tickets to a Jets night game. 110-1091_IMGWe wore everything you could in layers to protect against the cold. But you just can sit around without moving. Jules and I wore ski gear. Eric wore heavy coveralls and boots. We were as they say ‘freakin’ cold.’ We were there, we stayed, but don’t ask who won.110-1096_IMG


As an aside, Jules and I still have those North Face ski jackets. That particular yellow color is so outdated it’s embarrassing. But you can’t kill those jackets. I still wear it and don’t mind looking like an old guy on the slopes. Jules moved on fashionably but still has hers.

Tyler Group

115-1520_IMGWe’ve been friends since forever or at least more than twenty five years. I can’t believe it. It’s as unlikely a friendship as one could imagine. We are similar but very politically disparate. Then there was a divorce and some grand-kids and some marriages. Right now I’m waiting to see what my kids do. They were always the youngest of the bunch. There were other couples who drifted in and out of the mix but this core has hung on. We still meet but it’s harder with all of our lives changing with the times. But it’s nice to find this picture in the archives. It was taken on 6th Avenue in the 40’s (street). I don’t know whom we corralled to take the picture. It could have been one of the kids or a passerby. No ‘selfie’ here. It’s the Tyler group because we met one summer vacation at the Tyler Place. Maybe some of the grand-kids will get to go and we can go back as the ‘old folks.’ Hey, when this was taken we were still playing doubles tennis.

Lost And Found

127-2754_IMGI think the joke about dementia goes, “You make new friends everyday.” I apologize to those who are afflicted and who might be offended by a politically incorrect joke. The nature of much humor is that it’s not to some. But here I am browsing my Canon G3 images and look what turned up. In fact the images were lost for a while because I neglected to get them onto my backup, backup drives. I am redundantly backed up. Luckily! I actually lost track and almost couldn’t find the backup. Ah well, I did find them didn’t I? Here’s a shot taken by Lisa at Carolyn’s Bat Mitzvah. It’s not technically perfectly composed. But boy does it bring back memories I’d long forgotten. Obviously I have seen this picture? Well at least I think I have. I’ll have to check with J but a lot of folks called her “Jules” when she was young and in school, which may be less confusing than calling her “J.” I doubt her students will look her up on the ‘net with that search term.127-2759_IMGAnd this picture’s for Harry and Debbie, old friends, who famously avoided using camera where I was obsessed with documenting things I can’t remember now.

Not Too Many Years Ago

100-0005_IMGI began the transition to digital photography in 2003. I was given a Canon G3 by Lisa. She shopped and took the advice of the salesman. It was a good call. I continued to use slide film for another year. 103-0308_IMGDuring that time the kids and I built a slide storage unit to last for the next twenty years. We built 26 brand new drawers. It would be less than half full as I suddenly switched to digital with the Nikon D70 in June 2004. It was an abrupt end to using film. It was eventful using the G3. Though by count I shot only several thousand images, there was a lot of action that occurred during that time. 106-0674_IMG_2I shot images at two weddings, Amy and Katelyn. No no, I was not the primary photographer, but as friend of the family, I got to experiment with digital and slides all at the same time. I had yet to learn that taking a thousand digital images at an event was all for the cost of a memory card. Though I’d love to do weddings, I realize that I’m better at my day job. I did, as a favor to Susan (Amy’s mom), shoot Scott’s second wedding. Come to think of it, I shot his first wedding also. 126-2666_IMGThere was a school play. You can shoot in virtual darkness handheld. It sure beats slides which are held to a single low ISO. You learn to push the technical edge of your equipment. 119-1955_IMGAnd I first realized that digital images could be adapted to Powerpoint for teaching. Anyone remember Kodak carousel slides at the national meeting?123-2379_IMGLisa and Jules took it to Italy on vacation. I think that this would be Venice. Pardon the fat arm, but selfies do suffer from wide angle distortion. Though it sits on a shelf passed up by later cameras that came into my life, I did get a lot of important shots with the G3. Lisa was indeed prescient in her gift to me. And most annoyingly, she would not hesitate to smugly tell me, “I told you so.” And this would not be the first time she was right.


IMG_8577Now that I have an iPhone I suppose there is no excuse not to keep track of people’s birthdays. For this I am terribly guilty. I receive plenty of messages when I get another year older. And likewise I fail to reciprocate. Sorry! David will remember Eric’s birthday this year. He asked me and added it to his phone when he showed me how to do memos. I remember because it was the last day of school in the third grade for me. He was born in the middle of the night. His early years like my own were a blur. He wasn’t really on the radar until he was much older say eight or nine. As time goes by we don’t see each other too often but we are in touch. He picked me up and dropped me off at the airport. It’s a silly act but between us, it means a lot. He also slapped a box of Entenmann’s chocolate frosted doughnuts into my backpack at the airport. Somehow that box got back to Jeddah and didn’t even melt. This image was shot at JFK as I discovered that my camera was missing. At the same time I have discovered that the autofocus is soft at the image edges on this camera. Mechanical failure, I hate that. He is showing me the in’s and out’s of texting, which I have somehow been able to avoid till now. Well, it’s the 27th and I at least remember your birthday. So Happy Birthday! As to all my other friends I’ll try to track down your birthday without being too obvious. Isn’t there an app for that?

Little Pie Company

IMG_5259It started in an apartment upstairs in Manhattan Plaza. The guys started baking pies in neighbors’ ovens all over the building and were so successful that the rest, as they say, is history. It began many years ago, but, after we moved to the neighborhood so it has always been in my kids’ lives. The signature pie is the sour cream apple walnut, SCAW. They published a cookbook and did not include this recipe. Drat! So nostalgia drew us to get a small pie. David was gracious enough to allow (and he made it himself) me a BLT. Yeah, life is good.IMG_5215

Technolgy Catches Me

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I have been gifted a new unlocked iPhone (international compatible) by David. He insisted. His reasoning is that I should learn to use it before I’m too old to learn it. And now that he has a job, this was his treat. (Expletive deleted), the kid is too generous. The pictures I took in the Apple store were lost when I lost the camera (don’t ask). Meanwhile, truly clueless employees staffed the first Apple store. Sorry Apple. The second store set us straight and I had no choice in the purchase. We needed a phone that could work in both the US and Saudi.IMG_2059

The other half of the story is that David and Sarah are taking an apartment together downtown. Sarah is working a second job in a restaurant downtown so we went there my last evening. IMG_5533And knowing it was my birthday she chose the dessert. This visit home I felt very fortunate to have connections all over. IMG_5526


IMG_5572My glasses broke in California. A quick trip to the optometrist recommended by my buddy Wilson got a replacement on short notice for his “cousin.” Things had really gone great right up to the point where I lost that ‘xxxxxx’ camera. But what I always said to the kids took some reminding: you can always replace ‘things’, take care of your health. Lastly, I have to track down data service in Saudi. J was ecstatic that I have been dragged into the tech age and said so with many ‘!!!s’ in her email.


Adventure in Eating

IMG_4566Danji is a 36 seat Korean tapas restaurant. It’s small size, hours, and demand have made it difficult to score a table. We’ve tried a few times. David was persistent. So this time we left our name and wandered the neighborhood until the table was ready. Pork belly is recently one of the foods of the year. To name a couple others – mozzarella sticks (1980’s) and tiramisu (you get the idea). Suddenly it’s on menus everywhere. It’s fatty and more than likely not good for you. And mom recently halted a clandestine bacon shipment (in the kids’ bags) to me in Saudi. I did go out of the way to eat some pork and bacon while back in NYC.

And for my birthday, ah there’s some connection to yesterday’s post; technology has finally surpassed me. I was wondering when I would be old? We took a bus uptown in the rain. Lisa pulled out her iPhone and pulled up an app that would tell her when the next bus would arrive. Who knew!? She said the bus was two stops away and it was accurate. IMG_5226To be sure she was never a great adopter of technology. But in this instance I have been behind the curve and have steadfastly refused to get a smartphone much less an iPhone. I have ready access to a computer (laptop or otherwise) and in a pinch all my assistants can look up whatever info we need. IMG_5244Arriving for dinner I almost passed up the salad special featuring melted cheese beneath a pile of healthy greens. Lisa encouraged me to get this as a concession to my birthday. Words and pictures cannot depict the smell and taste… wonderful.

Queen Of Sheba

IMG_8484There is an Ethiopian restaurant downstairs and steps from where we live. It was at one point Mike’s Bar and Grill before Hell’s Kitchen became Chelsea Clinton (not her, the neighborhood name) and the clientele became yuppies. I recall there were also jokes many years ago during the famine and starvation in Ethiopia. The food is served atop a large sourdough flatbread called an jnjera. Therein lies the problem. The bread is tangy and Lisa and the kids don’t like the taste. I once took Grandma and niece Jane. They liked it. Or at least they didn’t tell me if they didn’t like it. Well, the story (it’s not about the picture) comes around on my birthday. We get dressed – semiformal – we really never dress to eat out in the neighborhood. Then… comes a blindfold and the kids take me down the elevator and into the street. We enter a cab, instructions are whispered and we ride around. Still blindfolded, Lisa pays the fare, and we descend to the street. We enter and the blindfold is removed. As I said this restaurant is located a couple steps out the front door. I view this as a family sacrifice on my behalf. I ate and they picked.IMG_4577

When I wanted to torture the kids I would make them eat in the Turkish Cuisine restaurant. Of course this was many years ago when at dinner the sauce and the pasta had to arrive separately on the plate. No hidden ingredient surprises then. Lately David ate iguana tacos in Mexico. I was horrified to see his pictures of the old woman killing the live iguana with a machete and then tossing it on the grill still kicking. And when I was in California, three days running, J ordered dishes or smoothies with kale in them. I can recall (memory still intact) nary a single instance in which I have ever eaten kale. So… who’s the grown-up now?IMG_3759


IMG_4337I love it when something endures. This building has stood the test of time since I first remember coming to San Francisco. It’s an art installation in an abandoned building. Someday the building will go or it will be renovated. Meanwhile if one looks around you see the greatest things. Who thinks of this stuff?



IMG_4342His remarks reflect much of the conservative nature of the AANS membership. Robert Gates’ long and distinguished career spans eight presidents. He was recently US Defense Secretary. It was an interesting talk from a man no longer in government who could speak his mind without fear of losing his job. So he spoke rather candidly about his own opinions and could highlight his own ideas so often subverted by political appointment. In fact he’d have been fired over many of his remarks which were so different from the administrations under which he served.

As for Hunt and Wilson, I know and have met William Hunt and Charlie Wilson. I trained with Bill’s son David. At the time I trained Wilson’s program in San Francisco and Ransahoff’s at NYU competed as the premier training programs in the US. And when we presented our data indicating early CNS manifestation of HIV was toxoplasmosis, the west coast experience was for lymphoma and PML. Our early work remains widely cited.

I recall just before the 2nd term election of ‘W’ Bush I sat in the audience at the CNS waiting for Mikhail Gorbachev to speak. The room was packed. A member from the national leadership stood before the microphone and I thought he would introduce Gorbachev. Instead he said short and sweet, “Bush supports malpractice reform. Kerry and Edwards do not.” He sat down and the room remained dead silent and I was amazed that the CNS had endorsed Bush. That November I did in fact vote for Bush. He would win anyway, with or without my vote. I voted on that narrow bit of platform knowing that it would never be passed in Congress. What?! My only problem is if I am discovered by Lisa.

A Bunch Of Old Guys

IMG_4315I’ve reached the point where I am now a senior neurosurgeon …like it or not. No “Peter Pan” for us. This grab shot at the recent AANS meeting is four of us who were fellow residents together at NYU. One is semi-retired. I get to dive about every weekend and feel semi-retired. We’re all a few pounds heavier and got some grey hair. Kids are grown; curiously none became neurosurgeons. Overall the years have not been too bad. One of our residency fellows (not pictured here) passed away a couple years ago of a malignancy. The meeting also featured a jab at our NYU Chairman, who took a dim view of spine surgery in his time (1994).IMG_4316 Of course history has proven that spine surgery is a vital component to the income of neurosurgeons nowadays. Go ahead and laugh but they really did think we didn’t know how to screw in a screw?IMG_4318 And then there is always a bit of history. Graham Teasdale was an invited speaker. His claim to fame is the Glascow Coma Score published forty years ago. Anyone in trauma, emergency medicine, neurology, or in neurosurgery will be familiar with this score because it is used to describe level of consciousness that could be translated from hospital to hospital. It’s quite a thrill to be listening to a man who has changed/affected our very thinking for so many years.IMG_4321 I have indeed been fortunate to have seen and heard so many men who I would consider to be heroes in neurosurgery. What I have learned is that things change, things stay the same, and that one needs to keep an open mind to know which is which.

Opening Ceremony

IMG_4224I admit that I have been living under a rock. The recent AANS meeting took place in San Francisco and on April 6 the opening ceremony featured Bob Geldof speaking. I don’t know him though he has a claim to fame. He rambled on in a rather inspiring way for about thirty minutes about how his life’s turns brought him to this point in time. He is planning to go into space next. As I looked him up on the internet today, the news was about his daughter’s funeral. She, too, was famous. He gave the eulogy. The news was reported that her body was found at home the very morning after the evening he spoke at our meeting. Sobering and sad news. My condolences. peaches

A Good Idea

_DSC6989Public restrooms are a problem in big cities. The answer is not always obvious. Many restaurants post signs: “Restrooms for patrons only.” Starbucks employees have complained about cleaning the restrooms. In San Francisco there was a public restroom. I happened to hang around long enough to find out that this turned out to be a good idea gone bad. It didn’t seem amiss when I noticed a woman pounding on the door. In an instance I noted she was probably homeless. The door swung open and inside I could see several people one of whom had a shopping cart. I realized that this room was probably in use as a homeless shelter. I idly wondered what a single woman … lest you wonder why I was idling, it turned out there was a fountain and I was resting my weary feet._DSC6973 Across the street was a street graphic which provided a convenient backdrop for my camera._DSC6990

_DSC6997 I watched as people came up and pressed the buttons to use the restroom. The door never opened. City workers were around and about but never entered nor attempted to clean the facility. A crazy homeless man appeared and persistently banged on the door. Finally the door swung open again to admit him. The single woman emerged and the homeless crazy entered. I confirmed that there were at least three other occupants in the shadows inside. Life goes on. My advice: McD or Burger King is an easy one. Any large hotel will never be able to distinguish if you are a guest or an itinerant passerby. Either way there is some assurance that you will be successful and not harassed._DSC6992

Channel Island Nudibranch

IMG_2224Colorful and relatively plentiful – when we dove the Channel Islands, J and I found many of these colorful nudibranch. They are small, no more than an inch long. The water is deceptively cloudy and dark, enough to push the ISO to 1600. We saw them and got a number of shots but few were really good. J got one and I consider it to be the best of the day for this nudibranch. There are red horns and blue horns at the head. She nailed the shot. I’m very happy she shared this with me.IMG_7754 copy

Rose Anemone, Bat Star, Large Sea Hare

IMG_7591 copyhttp://www.photolib.noaa.gov/brs/saind4.htm

I got the names from the all knowing internet. It wasn’t easy. My search terms for fish of the Channel Islands left me empty. The rose anemone looks like and anemone of the Red Sea except the color is bright red. And it doesn’t seem to have a center. Hmmmm? IMG_7718 copyIt also says that this is a bat star. Whatever! What I was looking for was the name of this last animal. It’s a large sea hare. Impressive! I’m used to seeing small nudibranch, about an inch or so. I looked under sea cucumber and sea slug. Nope, nudibranch – large. I hope you appreciate that there were lots of them in the open on the sea floor… so I’m telling you. And then there was this pair. If I had to guess they were bumpin’ and rubbin’ probably means procreating?IMG_7742 copy

IMG_7749 copy Well that’s my guess and I’m sticking with it. That’s different in my book of things I saw that day. Something else I didn’t expect was J playing with the wildlife. I’ve been admonished by the kids often enough that I don’t touch things (except when they’re not looking).IMG_7733 copy


Brittle Star

IMG_2275“Wake up and smell the coffee.” I think that here it refers to suddenly realizing that what you were looking at is not the point of the picture. I got a great shot of the urchin, colorful, composed, and there’s a resting fish in the background. That wiry barbed plant life in the foreground and all around are really brittle stars. Never saw one before so I didn’t have a clue… J got the shot and later someone told her about them. (I was still seasick on board.) Me? I never did get a single decent shot. It’s lucky for me that she noticed they were moving unnaturally against the current. Now that I know what I’m looking at, it’s a bit spooky. Credit J on this splendid shot.

Too Colorful to Eat

IMG_7700 copyOne thing everyone tells me is that colorful fish are, for a reason. Maybe fish don’t have the same visual receptive spectrum as me. After all at depths below 30 feet the reds disappear. So like a fire engine red sports car just screams, “Look at me go, give me a ticket!” a bright orange fish would seem like a tasty morsel. No one explained. But I’d pass if I were a predator. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. It’s called a garibaldi.IMG_7643


IMG_3594It was a long flight, 17 hours, count’em, 17 hours. I was half asleep. On the plane they keep the shades down so others can sleep in the dark. Come to think of it they keep the curtains closed all day and night where I live in the Middle East. Must be something about the light? I peeked and there was a fairly spectacular dawn over some snow covered land and water. Greenland! It looked pretty neat and the sky was clear and cold. I didn’t seen any population. It appeared desolate, barren, and wind swept. And I could make out some icebergs floating. I recall these same icebergs might have been the ancestors of the ones that got the Titanic more than 100 years ago this April. As for me I think that this is as close as I will ever be to Greenland. So I’m glad I awoke in time to catch this.IMG_3605

Look Up!

_DSC6237…smell the roses. J said, “Lie down and look up.” Sometimes I feel like life is speeding along and I have to get to the next moment, the next event, the next patient, or the next operation…. It helps to have someone say slow down and smell… This didn’t stop me from cramming four cities and a national meeting into my brief itinerary. Lately I find the kids have been dispensing some pretty good advice. One thing I know is that they don’t hesitate to express their opinions. And if you should happen to listen and look up, well then you just might be rewarded. So we got the ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ camera going. _DSC6233


Tree Hugging

_DSC6202I always knew they were in my family. Good kids, both, but here’s proof of it all. We were out for a walk on the heights overlooking Santa Monica beach. And there, right there, J started hugging a tree right there in broad daylight. You know me; I had a camera, and documented it all._DSC6203Laugh all you want. I just saw my third grade teacher/daughter as a little girl again. I continue to leave her name out so as to minimize the embarrassment  should her friends run a search on her. And she doesn’t tell anyone that I write about her.

Separate Lives

SCA-00708 copy 2There was a time when every single photograph in my family of four went through my hands. Then Lisa got a camera. She didn’t use it much. J got a camera and I processed her photos. David …. Well they finally started having separate experiences and for those times, I could no longer document their lives. This was especially acute for me when J went to Namibia to teach. And then David went missing in various countries in South America so that we didn’t know which country he was trekking for weeks at a time in spite of internet access. Recently the kids’ great grandfather was part of an award in Germany. Hans Tobar was an entertainer and composer. He apparently wrote German musical theatre and comedy. I liken the festival to Mardi Gras in the US. There is a month long celebration and many clubs, which entertain. One club named an award after Hans. There has already been a documentary about Hans on German PBS. Lila is the last relative and was invited to attend the ceremony in Koln.SCA-00821 copy 2 Naturally she needed an escort as it is difficult for her to travel. It was quite a big deal and both kids were on German TV for interviews. A documentary film crew followed them. David thought it was hilarious that the commentator said that even though he was Chinese (me), there was still a resemblance to Hans that showed up. I’m delighted that the kids have connected with Lisa’s side of the family. It’s so easy to lose track of things. Even within a generation, we’ve lost track of all the great uncles on Lila’s side. And my family is a shambles. We’re in touch with my generation but not much beyond. For my parents, World War II, continents, and language differences made it all but impossible to keep up. I see my good buddy Susan devoted to her grandkids and getting some terrific photos. I envy her. But those kids will grow up all too soon. My time will come later. SCA-00782 copy 2David and J have been invited to return to Koln next year to ride on the float with the Master of Ceremonies. This is a very high honor and not extended to many people at all.  I said I’d come along and take pictures. J said, “But you weren’t invited. It’s very crowded and you may not be able to do it.” Hmmm… it sounds like a special photo op to me.

Bao in Zanzibar

IMG_5297We (J and I) saw, learned, and played this game in Zanzibar. This is similar to the big one we bought. Mancala is another related game that is carried in some toy stores in the US.IMG_5295

J has a smaller portable/travel version with her in LA. And it’s true they play this game fanatically in this area. There was a board inlaid into a table in our hotel room. We had just come from a spice tour where the local craftsman was adept at making purses, hats, and sunglasses.

_DSC9806 Our evenings were passed playing on rather large board in the lounge. It’s a milkshake, non alcoholic, because J didn’t want anything to deter her concentration.IMG_5301

We even attracted an audience while we played in the airport lounge in Zanzibar. There was plenty of free advice on strategy. It was casual for J and me but, every move we made was breathlessly anticipated by our audience. Now I have to go back and refresh myself on the rules. But the memory of passing the time idly playing the game with my daughter….priceless!

Nose Pressed…

IMG_4487I don’t know about you but anytime I fly I try to get a window seat. With online booking this is now an artful guessing game. The last step when booking is to pick a seat. I’ve flown in and out of many airports and especially NYC . I know the landing and takeoff patterns so I try to sit looking right or left to get a last view of the Manhattan skyline. Sometimes you are in the right spot. How anyone flies and barely looks out the window is a mystery to me. Coming into JFK at midnight I was disoriented but then I caught the lights of Manhattan. Right below the engine is midtown and the Empire State Building. Okay so it’s too dark to really catch anything in focus. Who cares? I’m not getting paid for the image. And the visual cortex can process things so much better than a digital camera. Nonetheless I can make out the Queensborough, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and the Brooklyn bridges. The pattern of street lights is pretty stunning in its own right. Yup, there I was nose pressed to the plexi-glass and loving it.