May 7, 2019

Seattle and Lake Washington

Dateline: Birmingham, Alabama –

Sorry that there was no travelogue last night, but I really didn’t have much to say. I spent more time with my mother in the morning. (It was a sleepy day for her – much less interactive than usual). Then, took myself on a quick tour of some of my usual Seattle haunts to see what’s changing. Not a lot different over the last year other than the vast changes Amazon is bringing to the South end of Lake Union. Traffic is becoming an Atlanta sized nightmare. The geography of the city forbids much in the way or new or enlarged roads and the population has doubled over the last few decades. I know all the back ways having grown up there, but even so, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get from point A to B, especially if you need to cross the ship canal.

Last night after dinner, I did one of my talks for the residents of Aljoya, my father’s senior living facility. I’ve been doing them on most of my visits ever since he moved in there with my mother nearly a decade ago. Sometimes I do a specific topic, but usually (including last night), I just do Q and A with a lively group of octo and nonagenarians who keep me on my toes in terms of coming up with cogent answers quickly and figuring out how to phrase them in lay language without trying to talk down to a group of intelligent, if elder, adults. We touched on pain medications, end of life issues, life expectancy, dementia issues and a lot of other things over an hour and a half. As I get older, being on stage for what amounts to a 75 -90 minute monologue is becoming more taxing. I was a bit bushed at the end of it.

There were a couple of surprise visitors for it. My sister, Jeannie, turned up. She had never heard me do my professional shtick and she seemed rather impressed. She doesn’t impress easily so I felt quite complimented. She’s one of the few people in my life who isn’t afraid to take me down a peg or two if she thinks I need it. She and Tommy used to gang up on me relentlessly when we would visit up there. Also present were Bob and Molly Cleland, old friends of my parents who have known me since I was three years old. It was lovely to see them for the first time in several decades.

Faith Fitzgerald on stage

I took to public speaking quite well when I was first faced with it. I didn’t really do it until late in my residency. One of our requirements for graduation was that we present some sort of research paper at the end of our third year as we were getting ready to move on. I didn’t have any research I thought was worthy of sharing so I hatched a plan with Faith Fitzgerald, my residency program director and the first person in medicine who got me. I created a talk called ‘Shakespeare, Sheridan, Shaw, and Shafer: Four centuries of the physician on the British Stage’ using doctor characters from those playwrights works to show how public perceptions of medicine had evolved. It must have worked because even though I went overtime, nobody left the lecture hall. The next year, when I was a first year fellow in geriatrics, Faith came to me and asked me to put together fifteen minutes on elder nutrition to be an opener for a talk she was to give at the American College of Physicians annual meeting in Atlanta. I dutifully did, headed to Atlanta not knowing what to expect, and found myself on the podium in a convention hall the size of an airplane hangar full of 5,000 internists who had come to hear her and who had no interest in the thirty year old whippersnapper who was up first. I was very definitely thrown in the deep end. I remember nothing of the talk but something must have clicked as Faith asked me to be her opening act again the next year and for several more years following. In the meantime, I studied her techniques for holding an audience carefully, adopted a few of my own, and within a few years had a reputation as a great public speaker all over Northern California. It’s why I wasn’t afraid to try acting a few years later when life changes made me want to do something different.

Today was travel day. Spent most of it on airplanes or in airports. Nothing exciting happened, which on a travel day, is a very good thing. I got home to find the house standing, the cats well fed, and a large limb off the tree in front of the house in the parking strip. The tree is original to the neighborhood and reaching the end of the life cycle. Fortunately, I think it’s too far from the house to do any major damage if other parts come down. I figure it will need to be taken out and replaced eventually but I’m not going to worry about that tonight.

This is the end of this trip and travelogue. It looks like I’m making a quick trip to Kentucky this next weekend so I’ll check in around that. Otherwise, long posts will likely be intermittent the next few weeks. For those of you new to my ramblings who might like to catch up, all of the long posts are archived at – except for the last few days. I haven’t moved those over yet.

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