Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday Family Day in San Francisco (Part Three)

Our Sunday in the Bay Area was scheduled to be a family-day.  Dr. Wong's office in Orinda was closed...and Amy Suzanne and her two sisters (Paula and Nancy) were planning on a "spa day" down in Palo Alto.  It was to be quite a homecoming.  Except for a brief visit to our hotel room on the day we arrived, Amy had not seen her sisters (except for a couple of Skype-calls via the Internet) since the Christmas before we left for India (December, 2009).  She was really looking forward to it...

By the looks of the photos and the stories that continued into the night, it would seem that the three of them had a wonderful time... (see photo album below)

I spent the morning at the hotel, drinking a Starbucks Venti Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte and watching NFL football - on a Sunday, for a change...just as God intended it, and not at 1:00 A.M. or 5:00 A.M. on Monday as we have to do it in Hyderabad.  The Colts surprised the Packers and the 49ers crushed the Buffalo Bills.  I had forgotten...with all of the other things going on in San Francisco that weekend, the Niners  vs. Bills game at Candlestick Park was part of the mad crunch as well....there were lots of TV people, the flight-crew for the Bills and lots of people wearing Buffalo Bills gear were at the hotel in the morning.  Our fellow ex-pat friends from Deloitte (India) found their way to Candlestick and scalped a couple of tickets for the blowout game.

I did as the doctor had ordered me to do...I spent the day on the carpeted floor laying with a tennis-ball under my butt-cheek... it seemed to be helping, but I was far from out-of-the-woods.  I still had pain when I walked or stood in one place for any time.  I now knew how far it was to the Powell Street BART station, but I was unsure if I could make it... The Giants were due to play Game Two of their National League Divisional Series against the I wasn't sure how busy the BART was going to be, with the Niners game letting out and the stadium for the baseball game filling up.  I was due to leave for the southern end of The City to meet the rest of the Family...brothers-in-law John and Mitch... and Amy and her two sisters when they returned from the spa.  I think we had a dinner reservation at 6:30 P.M. at a place around the corner from John and Paula's... I opted to have lunch at Johnny Foley's Irish House and ordered up a car-service for around 5:00 P.M. to take me down south.

Walking to the car I found that I was experiencing some relief from my back pain...I had a pleasant drive down to Oak Park...and when I got out of the car, I navigated the steps at my brother-in-law's house with no pain at all! Of course I had my trusty tennis ball with me just in case.

We all met up at the house...and I walked to the restaurant relatively pain-free once again!!  This was real progress!!  The meal was fantastic (I had some jambalaya or gumbo, can't remember which, with some good local ale)...and we all went back to the house to share some of the virtually undrinkable Sula Indian Cabernet we brought to share (just so our family would know just how tragic the wine situation is in Hyderabad).  We had a Skype-session with Alexis (Mitch and Nan's daughter who is away at college in Colorado) which was really fun.  And then we talked about pans for Alexis' college graduation next June.  Unbelieveable.  When Amy and I were first dating, Alexis was seven-years-old!!

Brother-in-Law Mitch was nice enough to give us a lift downtown to the Hilton...a journey made more pleasant by the two of us sharing terrible puns and jokes about Jewish mohels.  "Did you hear about the mohel who got a job at the circus circumcising elephants? The pay is lousy, but the tips are HUGE!"

Tomorrow would be Monday...I hoped that I would get my new orthotics for my shoes...and Amy's Deloitte meetings were due to begin.  For certain we would learn the way to Orinda and back on the BART line!!

Photo Album: Amy's Spa Day in Palo Alto - 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day Two - San Francisco and Beyond 2012

After some seriously good sleeping, Saturday morning came and we needed to get up and get going early.  Before we even left India, I had made an appointment to see the chiropractor in Orinda (across to the other side of the Bay) at 09:30 A.M. The plan always was to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train to Orinda, and walk to and from the BART stations (Powell Street SF and Orinda).  Actually, when I woke up in pain, I wasn't even certain I could make it to the Powell Street station, even though it was a short walk... I'll tell you straight-up - this was about as much pain as I could stand...walking, standing in one place, even sitting is some situations was excruciatingly painful, with the pain starting in my right buttock and - at-its-worst - shooting pains down my right leg, causing weakness all the way down to my foot!

Amy Suzanne and I looked at our situation and we decided to take a cab this one time, just to get "the lay of the land" and get a feel for the time and distances involved.  Our friend from Fugazi Travel in San Francisco, Eve Wertsch, had recommended her chiropractor to me...and Amy wanted to see him, too...she suffers on-and-off from upper-back pain radiating from under her left shoulder-blade.  We figured we'd both try to get straightened-out as long as we were investing the long trip, the time and the money.

Our first-choice was simply to take a cab, but the nice man in front of the Hilton who takes care of customer's transportation needs told us that getting a cab back to Downtown might be a bit of a cab driver in his right mind was going to sit and wait for us - it was really crazy-busy, even in the morning on a Saturday...the city was hoppin' and cabs were at a premium.  He suggested that we take a Town Car Service...a guaranteed price, round-trip and the driver would wait for us!

So we did.  The traffic was light and the ride was comfortable. Our driver was from the Sudan and his English was passable... he may have been the worst driver I have ever seen, and coming from somebody who has been in India for over two-years, that's really saying something.  But - he did get us safely to the chiropractor's office on-time, so we were very relieved.

The recommended chiropractor we went to is Dr. Kevin Wong, DC.  A nice young man who had the easiest nature and kindest "bedside manner" of any healer I have ever been to...he wasn't "Doogie Howser" young...he has been practicing chiropractic for 15 years! When I told him of my symptoms (I had been told by and M.D. that my problems stemmed from a spondylolisthesis and pressure on the sciatic nerve caused by the problem at L-4 and L-5.  Immediately, he told me that he was not surprised that a medical doctor told me that.  He said that medical doctors have a tendency to misdiagnose this problem and don't want to tell their patients what is really going on with their bodies because they think we're too stupid to understand what's really going on.  He apologized for his fairly blatant cynicism about the traditional American medical profession...and at once told me, based on how he saw me move and my pattern of pain...that my problem was not the spine at L-4 and L-5 - but my sacroiliac joint (SI) was impinging on the nerve and it had been getting gradually worse for years...

He hooked me up to a machine that I said was a lot like getting low-level tasered - although I had control over how much of a shock I was getting.  Electrical muscle stimulation, or EMS, is the use of electrical impulses to cause muscles to contract. EMS has long been used in physical therapy, and research has shown that it can help strengthen and tone muscles, though only to a certain extent.

In my case, the EMS pulses were to contract and relax the muscles pulling on my SI joint - - followed by a standing chiropractic adjustment and some other witchcraft that I simply trusted wold work.  He said that the most important thing was to get my movements balanced when I walk...and prescribed new orthotics for my shoes.  And of course, taking off about 80-85 pounds would do wonders for my condition (of course!)

Amy Suzanne got her adjustment as well... and seemed much better.  I, on the other hand, was even a little worse than when I came in to see the doctor.  Dr. Wong told me this would be the case...two-steps-forward... one-step-back.

I limped on my walking-stick (a lifesaver, let me tell you!) outside into the beautiful, cool, Northern California Fall day!  Our driver then took us to a CVS pharmacy, a Target Store, where we bought tennis-balls (part of my ongoing therapy would be to lay on my back with a tennis-ball placed directly or next-to my aliling SI joint), some decent wine, some clothes for Amy, some DVD's, a few 12-packs of Diet Coke and some serious San Francisco sour-dough bread (impossible to get in Hyderabad!) - some real American-style cottage cheese...and a cheap Black and Decker toaster-oven! We were set for the day.

We made arrangements for the driver to take us to the Cal Berkeley vs. UCLA game and took a nap!

We then made our way back to the other side of the Bay to Berkeley.  The place was easy enough to find (California Memorial Stadium - newly refurbished) by just following the cars.  Unfortunately, there is no real stadium we were going to have to walk a good distance across the campus at UC Berkeley.  We started out and - I could see right away that this was going to be a most difficult and painful task ahead of us.  I was still in great pain and - about 50-to-100 yards was all I could muster without needing to stop and take a seat to cross my legs and stretch.  

Thanks be to God, right on cue (as if angels from heaven were watching over us!) - a student in a big golf-cart stopped right next to us and asked if we needed a ride to the game!!  You betcha we did!! She took us as far as she could and dropped us off near the la crosse field adjacent to the stadium.  There we walked a bit (I sat a lot) and Amy did some souvenir shopping and bought a sweatshirt.  Honest to God, the kickoff was at 7:00 P.M. and the sun was just beginning to make its lazy way down to the Berkeley horizon - and we were actually COLD for the first time in almost three-years!!  I could see my breath...something that just does not happen in India unless you are up in the Himalayas climbing mountains.

Getting to our seats was not a matter of fact, it was quite a climb up several steep flights of concrete stadium stars. I wouldn't say the seats we bought were in "nosebleed" section...but it was pretty high up and definitely more of a hike than I had bargained for...Thank God for my lovingly stout wife who kept me vertical and moving.... we finally got to our seats and got - "comfortable" as one could get, considering the circumstances.  

The University of California (i.e., your tax dollars at work!) had just spent $321-million to refurbish Cal Memorial Stadium...they kept the outside facade and it actually looked quite marvelous. There was, however, one minor problem.  Like the Rose Bowl where UCLA plays their home games, there are no backs on 90% of the seats in the stadium.  What you get are long "benches". Also, I think the engineers who designed the seating figured the only people that would be attending football games there would be 5'3" Asian engineering students who weigh about 115-pounds soaking wet.  Talk about uncomfortable.  You get more than three normal-sized human beings sitting butt-cheek-to-butt-cheek on this glorified metal bench - and you've got some serious overlap!!  The UCLA faction was loud and off to our left in the end-zone....but where we were was definitely the Cal Student's section...louder than the UCLA faithful...and 100% more obnoxious!!

The game started and the stadium got filled-up to completely claustrophobic proportions.  I had made surprise arrangements for Amy Suzanne to see one of her horse-show friends from Los Angeles who was also at the game....our friend Patti Manze, who has a daughter on the equestrian team at Berkeley.  I thought we were going to have to airlift Amy out of her seat so she could go visit briefly with Patti  - she had to literally crawl over the legs of all these Cal fans (one of whom was her very-close seat mate who looked and sounded like a foul-mouthed Adam Sandler....who was emitting even more foul beer-and-nacho farts the entire time we were sitting....

UCLA came out flat and Cal looked really good and on top of their turned out that this game was Homecoming for UC Berkeley....the crowd was loud! UCLA made bad mistakes and took some silly penalties....ending up down at the halftime break 16-7.

Which was about all of the live college football we cared to see for one day! Or a lifetime.  You see, we realized that we love sports.  All sports.  Especially from seats in luxury-boxes at Staple's Center and the Rose Bowl.  Or even better - in front of a large-screen HD TV at home!!

We had made arrangements with one of the nice students who worked the homecoming game to get a golf-cart ride back to the Mexican restaurant where we had pre-arranged to meet our driver with the Town Car.  Since the area around the campus was completely deserted (after all, the game was only half-over!) - we got right into the restaurant and sat down for a snack and a couple of stiff drinks.  Actually, I had a couple of Bohemia cervezas which really hit the spot!

Our driver got us back to the hotel in San Francisco before the game was actually over.  Cal literally destroyed the Bruins by a final score of 43-17.  So glad we didn't stay to see the end of the disaster!

Here is our Facebook Photo Album from our first full-day in San Francisco: 

San Francisco and Beyond...(Part 1)

To use a home-visit or not to use a home-visit?  That was the question we faced as the calendar turned over to October, 2012.  We've been in India for two-years and four-months now.  This time there was no choice.  Deloitte was holding their PPD (Partners, Principles and Directors) Meetings in the Bay Area.  San Francisco, California. Amy Suzanne's "home turf", as it were.  "The City".  The Golden Gate.  Home of the Giants and 49ers.  We had to go...and go we did.

Flying westbound is always a strange thing to do.  You leave India on Friday and arrive in California on the same Friday.  Unlike returning to Hyderabad - where you'll find that you will take-off on a Monday and you don't arrive home until Wednesday. Being exactly halfway around the world will do that...  As Amy likes to say, "the only way we could be any further from California is if we were on the moon!!"  We left on Friday, 5 October 2012 at 04:20 A.M. - so - right there your interior-clock is a bit screwed-up.  The first part of the trip on Emirates Airlines is to Dubai in the UAE.  About 3:30 of flight-time...not a bad trip...and business-class on the Boeing 777 is a pretty nice way to go anywhere!

The Dubai Airport is much like most of the now-great transit-stops around the world...real "shop-til-you-drop" places...hard to think of a fancy name-brand store they don't have there.  Gucci.  Louis Vuitton. Lladro. And all open 24/7. The best part: Starbucks and Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt!! And great duty-free shops...but you need to postpone buying anything there unless you want to consume it while on the trip.  No sense carrying bottles (or whatever) for the next ten days when you can just as easily pick up what you need on the way back through Dubai. If you familiarize yourself with duty-free prices around the world, you will find that the prices are a little higher...but it's very convenient!

It's the second part of the journey from India to California that you need to mentally prepare for.  It's a 15.5-hour marathon flight over the North Pole (going and coming home)... hopefully - with help of modern chemistry and good timing, you can sleep most if not all of the way.  Which we did.  I had been suffering from a bad bout of sciatica for the last several months and being in the sitting-position for 21-hours (counting layover) is not what the doctor ordered.  It was tough finding a comfortable way to sit or lay down and was quite miserable...but still managed to get some sleep on the way.

Landing in San Francisco was a wake-up call and a real personal bottom for me.  I was in so much pain that I really found it necessary to get a wheelchair to get me through U.S. Customs.  I found that I could only walk about 50-yards and I needed to rest... We'd still be there if it wasn't for Amy doing her best "for better or for worst" stuff for me...I wanted to walk on my own I just couldn't.  Emirates has a car service that was scheduled to take us to the Hilton Union Square in Downtown San Francisco...not a bad wait...we sat and I had an Anchor Steam Beer to celebrate our "welcome home" to California.

Through some mix-up - the Hilton did not have our reservations starting until Sunday and here it was Friday afternoon.  The thing we were to soon discover was that this was the "Perfect Storm" week for The City.  Big things, huge things were going on and the hotels were packed...virtually sold-out all over the Bay Area.  There was the ongoing Fleet Week for the Navy, the America's Cup Race in the harbor, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park, The Oakland A's vs the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, the Giants vs. the Reds at AT&T Park in the NLDS, University of California Berkeley vs. UCLA in college football (we had tickets for this game!!) and the Napa Valley was entering harvest-time and thir busines time of the year.  But thanks to some excellent service by the nice woman behind the counter...we got a room for the first two nights with only a slight delay.  The delay was softened by the fact that there is a very nice Starbucks right in the lobby of the Hilton!

After we got settled, we decided that we were just whipped and would just have room-service dinner sent up to our new digs.  Now - neither Amy and I are cheapskates - but when we saw the prices on the menu for room-service, we immediately changed our minds.  I guess you get used to food prices in India and Asia and after awhile, the idea of paying $25.00 U.S. for a cheeseburger is just too much!!  We made our way (I limped) downstairs to check out the hotel restaurant - and found similar pricing and a pretty limited selection of dishes.  We decided that there was no way we were going to spend our first night in San Francisco going we walked up O'Farrell to find a place to try.  It's amazing how many Indian restaurants there are in this part of town!  Not an option!!  We stumbled-upon "Johnny Foley's Irish House" - a friendly place that not only had decently-priced pub-grub...but some decent ales on tap as well!  We had found our home!!  I probably had 6 or 7 meals and quite a few beers there over the course of the next ten days!! A real good pub and a home for Giants fans to watch the ball games!!

We made our way up to our room and got a good night's sleep....tomorrow would be Saturday...and the adventure was going to begin.  We had appointments with a chiropractor in Orinda (across the Bay Bridge on the Oakland side) in the morning...keeping our fingers-crossed that he could help me...

Our Photos on Facebook do not really begin until our Saturday stay tuned!!!