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Post wash

I got the car detailed a couple of weeks ago, but it’s so dusty in the desert that after a week, a fine layer of desert dust had accumulated on the car again. So I washed it, and had the good sense to take some pictures of it post wash.

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It looks really good when it’s shiny.

I’m considering putting a clear bra on it though, because washing it, I notice a lot of dings and pock marks from road debris and general rocks/dust/other crap. Problem is that you really should do a paint correction, THEN wrap it, and that’s expensive. Decisions, decisions.

*This is reaction to Robin Williams’s death that I began to write, but didn’t publish. Sometimes, it’s just too hard to put anymore words on paper*

How do I write this post?  When I found out at work today that Robin Williams had passed, I’m not sure I’ve ever had the wind taken out of my sails so quickly.  Of course, I’ve never met the man.  By all accounts, he was a warm, kind, generous person, who gave freely of his time, supported many younger comics, actors, and troops, and was a pleasure to work with.  The outpouring of true, genuine sadness and condolences from the film and comedy industries are really the only proof you need of how kind spirited he was.

No, I never knew him personally.  But Robin Williams was one of the titans of my childhood, a man who taught me what it was to be a man (Good Will Hunting), that words have power (Dead Poet’s Society), that one should never forget how to be a kid (Hook).  I saw him become an old lady (Mrs. Doubtfire), I saw him become a genie (Aladdin), I saw him become a robot, who became a man (Bicentennial Man).  He healed people with laughter, both in Patch Adams and in real life. His stand-up was furious, vitriolic, dirty … and hilarious.  His ability to do impressions was incredible, unbelievable, even, and he would cycle through them faster than you could realize who he was impersonating.  You watch his stand up, and you see real comedic genius, real comedic talent, all the real work he had put in.

“To die would be a great adventure.” ~Peter Pan

What strikes you is that he was always the heart of a movie.  Whether he was getting a wayward youth to embrace his gift and his humanity, or a father, willing to sacrifice anything, his dignity even, for his kids, Robin Williams always chose parts full of heart, parts that made you ache with warmth.   Perhaps that’s why it was so hard to hear this news; he has no contemporary or replacement.  He was a generational actor, a man who brought his unique talent to bear, and shared his gifts of laughter and warmth with us.  He will be sorely missed.

Thought I’d toss up more pictures and details of the car.

2011 Cayman S
Guards Red
2 seat, mid-engine, RWD, 3.4L 6 cylinder hard top coupe.

Options:

Sport Chrono: All the Caymans that come equipped with PDK (Porsche’s double clutch automatic) come equipped with a “Sport” button, which changes the gearshift mapping to something more aggressive, the sport chrono option gets you “Sport+” mode.  Sport+ mode does the following:

  • Changes the gearshift mapping to a motorsport-derived one.  It’ll leave the car in a gear basically until red line before shifting, and on the way down, it’ll jump around and skip gears to keep you in optimal range for acceleration.
  • Deactivates stability control (unless ABS kicks in – then it helps)
  • Removes the soft rev limiter, and allows you rev the engine to dangerous levels
  • Activates launch control, which is basically the craziest and most ridiculous option ever created for a street car.
  • In cars with PASM, it activates sport mode, hardening up the suspension for more precise handling.

Its basically the mode you want to be in if you a) don’t care about your gas mileage, b) are looking to race someone.

PASM: PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) has two modes: regular mode and sport mode.  Regular mode makes the ride pretty … regular.  It’s a little tighter than my TSX, but still quite livable: you go over a speed bump or a pothole, and no big deal.  Sport mode is noticeably stiffer.  The cool thing about this option is that the suspension looks at how you’re driving and adjusts in real time the suspension to meet your needs.  So if you have a little fun in casual mode, it’ll stiffen it up for you.  If you’re just cruising in sport mode, it’ll soften it up a bit.

PVT: This is Porsche’s limited slip differential.  It limits the amount of power the drive train allocates to a wheel that’s lost traction (normally, the drive train works to allocate power to restore traction when it senses a wheel is losing grip).  This limits the amount of understeer one experiences in a corner.

Bose package: Speakers; I can’t really tell the difference from my TSX, but I guess it helps the resale value.

Carbon Fiber Sport Bucket seats: They should call these Carbon Fiber Diet Seats.  They have high, hard bolsters that hold your ass in place when you drive.  Unless, of course, you have a prodigious ass and hips like me, in which case, it is a constant reminder to diet and get to the gym.  Additionally, the seat back hugs you more.  And when it hugs me, it whispers, not so nicely “hey, there’s a lot of you that I have to hold on to, buddy.”  Basically, I think my seats are jerks.

Per Edmunds:

The 2011 Porsche Cayman is not a poseur’s Porsche. It doesn’t have the panache or straight-line performance of the 911 or any of its 20-some variants. It doesn’t have a convertible roof like the Boxster for those seeking sun as much as fun. Nor is it a Cayenne or Panamera — cars that, while fun, aren’t exactly what we’d call classic Porsches.

All of those other models sell in greater numbers, but ironically it’s the Cayman that delivers the purest driving experience. The Cayman’s beautifully balanced midengine chassis and telepathic steering not only reward a skilled driver but also keep the Cayman quite forgiving for less experienced drivers. Sure, the eye-popping acceleration numbers of the 911 Turbo will impress your friends more than the Cayman S’s 5.0-second 0-60 mph sprint [my edit: with sport chrono, the S will do 0-60 in 4.6 seconds]. But its flat-6 is still thrilling, and if going around corners truly gets your blood pumping, then the Cayman has few equals.

Having driven it exclusively for a week, I can only say that I’ve never looked forward to driving so much.  Previously, I’ve only ever seen driving as a necessary evil, dead time between here and there.  In the Cayman, both my hands stay on the wheel, and not only because I’m afraid of hitting something.  There’s something very satisfying about the growl of the engine when you turn the key in the ignition, right behind you, as though you’re wearing some pissed off tiger in a backpack.  If I step on it, the car pulls.  And pulls and pulls and pulls.  Where my TSX pretty much went into cruising mode at 70 MPH, the Cayman doesn’t even feel quite right at anything less than 65.  Turning is where it truly shines, though, and the most fun is had on circular freeway on-ramps or windy back rounds out in the desert.

And even better, the Cayman is a very usable car!  The coupe allows for a surprising amount of space in the back.  I’m able to get 2 golf bags in it without any problem, with space for clothes and golf shoes.  And the front truck is big enough to fit all of my hockey equipment, as you’ll see below.  I can actually hold more stuff I use on a weekly basis in this car than I could in my TSX, if you don’t count passengers among that stuff.

Anyways, to the pictures!

Front on

Side View

Quarter Shot

Back Wing

Not sure how I feel about it being debadged. On one hand, should I care? On the other, it’d be nice for there to be a Cayman S on it, to break up that expanse of car butt.

 

Wheels are in great shape

The wheels are in great shape; no road rash. 18″ provides a softer ride, and more (and cheaper) tire options.

Sport Buckets

Not sure how I feel about the GT2 buckets. They were originally a con for me, and I will admit they are a pain to get in and out of. But they’re far more comfortable than I would have imagined, and they sell for a lot of money on the secondary market, even used.

This analog lap timer comes with the Sport Chrono package; this gets you Sport + mode, which changes the gear shift timing to something more suitable for racing, and removes the soft rev limiter.  Basically, it changes the car from sporty to crazy.

This analog lap timer comes with the Sport Chrono package; this gets you Sport + mode, which changes the gear shift timing to a mapping more suited for racing, and removes the soft rev limiter. Also, it enables launch control, which essentially blasts you off the line from a dead stop.  Basically, it changes the car from sporty to CRAZY.

Center Console

Pretty bare bones, but I kind of like it. Hey, it’s got bluetooth and an aux in – already 2 more connectivity options than my TSX!

Spedometer

Very low mileage for a 2011 car. You can see the bottom wing of the paddle shifter too.

Hockey Bag Fits!

One of the things that makes a Cayman a great daily driver is that there’s a very usable amount of storage space.  The back trunk fits my full sized, golf bag (fits 2), and I found a hockey backpack that will fit all my stuff into the front truck, sans skates, which will fit in the back.

Wow.  It’s been a loooong time.  Just so you know, I’m still here.  I’ve had a hellacious year, in 2014, with a giant amount of change.  My role at work took a left turn right around my birthday, after running a a successful internship for two very talented interns.  What followed was a really tumultuous 4th quarter that had me stepping out of my role gradually, and onto a bigger stage.  When the dust settled, and the year turned over, I had given up a lot of the 24/7/365, customer-facing duties so that I could focus on the big projects, the big picture stuff that had moved the company in new and big ways.

What else has happened in the interim?  Oh, we took a trip to Disneyland, with the whole family, which was a ton of fun.  Experiencing the Happiest Place on Earth through a 3 year old’s eyes is a completely different experience, and was unbelievably hilarious.  It was the first time I had been to California adventures, which was better than I had thought.  It was my first time staying at Disney Resort – that was fantastic!  They really do it right, I tell ya.  Not only do you never have to leave (Michael and I had a great steak dinner at Steakhouse 55), but you also get an extra hour prior to everyone else entering the park, and they have pretty nice rooms and great service.  If you have kids, I fully recommend it, especially since naptime is like … 1/4 shorter if you stay on the property.

Mom sold her house.  I took a trip up to clean out my stuff, and clean out some of the house.  It was super sad.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Finally, I got a new car (FINALLY).  It’s been an odyssey, I tell ya.  Maybe 2 or 3 years ago, I had thought about buying something, but couldn’t figure out what I wanted.  On one hand, buying the next step up (like a larger sedan with a bigger engine) seemed like the logical choice.  But that was also the most boring, and lowest intrinsic ROI option too.  It was like my continued search for my next driver – if the magnitude of out-performance between a new club vs. my current club is only incremental, why spend the money?  Almost every car I looked at in my budget fit into this trope: a sensible, incremental upgrade that was faster, bigger, and more boring.

It started to get kind of silly.  At one point, I had convinced myself that if I was going to go boring, I should at least go ridiculous.  Cadillac had discontinued making their CTS-V Wagon, which was a station wagon with their supercharged Corvette engine in it, generating over 500 hp, and did 0-60 in ~5 seconds.  You could find some of these used, though, as time went on, the hipsters bid the prices up.  Nothing like being able to fit a fridge AND beat the next guy off the line.  Then, just to be silly, I expanded my search to foreign cars, exotics, and the ultra-luxury class.  I could get 20 year old Rolls Royces and Bentleys well inside my budget – like $15k inside my budget! – that were in good shape, but got sub-10 MPG and were maintenance money pits.  Anytime you can get a corded phone and enough space to fit 17 bodies in the trunk, though, you have to at least give it a thought, right?  Audis, Benzes, and BMWs were good driving, if boring, cars (and, frankly, my experience tells me that owners of BMWs, MBs, and Audis are famously douchebags, in general (or old Asian people)).

This went round and round for years.  I’d get excited about a car, look into it more, and get bored.  Finally, Michael sent me a Jalopnik article the top sports cars selling for reasonable prices on E-bay.  There were some classic cars and beaten up Italian exotics on the list … and a 2008 Cayman.  It never occurred to me to look at Porsche; I had just assumed that they were out of my price range, like Ferrari’s and Aston Martins et al.  Lo and behold, used Boxter and Caymans both were well inside my price range!  That set off a 3 month research sprint about Porsches.  Guided by Michael (who was an invaluable resource with regards to pitfalls and things to look out for when buying a Porsche), Rennlist, and Planet 9, two Porsche specific forums, I identified all the things I’d need to look out for, all the specifics about the options I was looking for, and the version of the engine I wanted.  I was hunkered down for a long search; all indication was that to find what you wanted sometimes took 18-24 months on the used market.

Sometimes, you just get lucky.  One of the first cars that I looked at was a Guards Red Cayman S with less than 11,000 miles.  It had most of the options I wanted, and sport bucket seats to boot (which are terribly expensive as an aftermarket option because of the special airbags and wiring they require).  I kept looking, but nothing I could find could come close to the combo of miles, options, and price.  There really just aren’t many gen II Cayman Ss on the market.

It was a deal that almost didn’t happen.  I went back and forth with the seller, was scheduled to go out to California (where the car was) on one weekend, but the seller cancelled last minute.  I nearly gave up, thinking that some things are meant to be, and some things aren’t.  But finally, the stars aligned, and I was able to get out to Camarillo to get the car looked at by a mechanic.  It was in great shape, and the exterior/interior shape was great, 9/10.  Two weeks later, after squaring away financing, I drove the car back to Vegas, enjoying a 350 mile drive in a super fun mid engine sports car that connected me to my familial automotive past.  I wrote on Facebook:

Things have a funny way of working out. When I embarked on a car buying endeavor, I set a budget and looked at a bunch of cars. Some were sensible, some were ridiculous good (CTS-V Wagon, yo), some were ridiculous bad (1984 black Bentley Arnage with a corded phone in the center console, anyone?), and others weren’t in my price range. Sometimes, life happens as you intend, and others, coincidence or fate plop you down in a place you didn’t think you’d get to.

Such was the case this weekend. It struck me that what was simply the best cost to value car I could find one day, suddenly is more significant to me, on Father’s day weekend.

One of my father’s passions was his Porsches. He owned 2 to my recollection, a black convertible 911, and a gun metal/ metallic blue/green Carerra C4S. He loved those cars dearly, and though he never got to drive them nearly as much as he would have liked, they were some of the things he took the best care of in his life, and one of the things he did purely for himself. That’s significant, because I have many recollections of my father, but very few of things he did selfishly.

My mother passed that C4S on to Michael, my brother, when he graduated from business school, and he, like my father, has cherished that car. He has installed some racing parts, and has carted it across the country, from Los Angeles to Baltimore; it’ll come back to the west coast with him when he makes it back here some day. Like my father, he doesn’t get to drive it as much as he’d like, but also like my father, he has turned into a (sometimes) selfless, (mostly) generous man. And this is not to mention my Uncle Gerry, a collector of vintage Porsches, and who’s love of Porsche is so deep, he opened a store in Vancouver to support his passion!

Becoming a part of that continuum isn’t what I set out to do, but is something I arrived at anyways. I think the car I ended up choosing – a Cayman, Porsche’s mid engine coupe – is more than a little coincidental. If they are the iconic originals, I hope that maybe I am the new blood, the untraditional, the one who takes a longstanding heritage, and makes it something different, but just as good.

Happy Father’s Day, to my father and all father’s out there; I hope you did something selfish this weekend.

It was like I had joined a club I didn’t know I wanted to be a part of.  Family friends who had known my father well and family members who knew him and his love of his Porsches reached out, reminisced, and congratulated me.  It was a little cathartic, to somehow, posthumously, get a little closer to my dad.
CaymanS.jpeg

CaymanS_Interior.jpeg

Anyways, this saga has been long enough.  I’ll try to update more this year.

 

Where did all the time go?

When I left for Japan, I remember thinking that I had a vast expanse of time in front of me.  With school over, there was no “next thing” waiting for me, no clear next step, and I was free to do whatever I wanted.  8 years later, I’m looking back on my 20s thinking “what the hell was that?”

So, in celebration of the close of my 20s, the categories are split into memorable moments from my last decade of life.  As always, if you have a good idea for a gift, do that!  I’m much more interested in what you think I’d like!

The Japanese Adventure Category

  • A healthy, happy next decade: maybe fewer surgeries in the next 10 years, m’kay?
  • A meal at L’Atelier (at the MGM), with close friends and family
  • Plane tickets to Hawaii, Vancouver, Baltimore, Japan, France, Italy, or Spain
  • A brother’s trip to any of these places.
  • A Nissan GT-R: I saw a late 90s, street legal Japanese import on ebay in California the other day, steering wheel on the right and all!  Not that I think it’d be a good idea for me to drive one of THOSE, but the price was a little lower than the 2014.
  • A Canuck Stanley Cup win.
  • An apartment in Tokyo.
  • A New 50″ TV: From what I’ve seen at CES and read on the internet, the Samsung ones are fantastic.
  • A round at Pebble Beach, Augusta National, The Old Course, or, really, any awesome golf course.  And a lot of balls.

The “Canada Wins Gold!” Category

  • A Nike Method Putter: The old school Method, the first one they came out with, that has an all stainless head with the filled grooves?  That thing is fantastic.  Not the Method core, which feel like you’re using a cardboard tube to putt.  Or, you know … if you can get your hands on a good condition flow neck Button Back or a Terrylium Ten for a reasonable price …
  • A Playstation 4 or an Xbox One: I’m hesitant to choose here; I’ve been a playstation guy for a long, long time, but it’s hard to deny that the Xbox has some really strong things going for it.  I’d likely stay Playstation, but ….
  • A Panasonic GX-7 Camera: much more portable than my G2, uses the same lenses.
  • A pair of Graf Skates: I’m going to say that I’m going to have some fit problems when I get back to hockey.  Graf are probably the only manufacturer that I know of that makes different skates for different shaped feet/ankles.

The “MOCHI!!!” Category

  • A new phone: I think I’m sold on the HTC One
  • Kitchenaid stand mixer attachments: I bought a stand mixer to celebrate a recent promotion. There are a few attachments I think would be really interesting like the meat grinder, the ice cream attachment (gotta fit a 7 Qt model) and the pasta roller.
  • Kitchen aid 3Qt Combi bowl and Whip: smaller bowl for smaller jobs, esp. whipping egg whites and cream.
  • A watch you think I’d like.
  • Drifting lessons: I’ve always wanted to do this… I know they have classes out at the speedway, not more than a half hour to the north of where I live.

The “I Graduated!” Category

  • A gift card: Zappos, Amazon, Google Play
  • A great book: I think I’ve read the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo trilogy like 9 times now, just cause it’s on my phone. A kindle book would be great!
  • Golf Balls: You figure, coming back from not having hit a ball in 7 or 8 months, I’m gonna need a lot of balls… Big fan of the Taylormade Pentas 5s and the Bridgestone E6s in the past, but I haven’t played in a while.
  • Pie weights: You know, I’ve never really been a fan of pie weights.  I never considered them to be useful, in that you can replicate their function with beans or rice.  But I’ve found that you can’t, really; beans and rice aren’t heavy enough to really get the job done, you can only use them for so long, and you basically can’t use them as beans or rice anymore!  Enough for a 9″ tart/pie.
  • Some sweet socks: Stance socks are fun, and tend to last a little while. Loafer socks are great too!

It finally happened!

For a long time, it seemed like my rehab had kind of stalled out.  I had good progress out of the crutches, and steady progress from balancing to calf raises, and then it was like treading water for like 2 months straight.  Even though I assured myself that all the effort would pay off at some point, it’s frustrating to put in a ton of time and effort into something and get nothing in return!

This past week, however, a few things happened:

  1. Calf raises became inexplicably less painful to do.  They still feel not great, but they don’t hurt like they used to.
  2. Limping started to go away.
  3. Swelling happens less and less
  4. More muscle pain, less acute pain.  The pain is less stabby, and more … electricky (?).  Like a bruise.  AND …
  5. I got to swing a golf club!

Golf is my first major milestone, and this weekend, I got the OK to try the driving range.  I was ecstatic, partly because the ankle felt pretty good – I was a little wary at first to really put all my weight onto it, but at the end I was pretty much going at it full boar – but also because I was hitting the ball surprisingly well!  Straight, and up to a club longer!  That was a bit shocking.  In fact, it was harder walking to and from the range than it was to actually hit balls; the grass and slope of the land are quite hard on my ankle muscles.  It’s crazy to think that in maybe 4 weeks, I could be back out on the golf course!

In addition, it seems like the leg in general is starting onto the next evolution of rehab.  I can push it a little now, without the pain and intense fear of tearing it again.  I still can’t walk QUITE right, and running is still a ways off, but for the first time in a while, I can see forward movement, and some light at the end of the tunnel.  I am a bit conflicted about the end of this journey though, as I will miss PT when it’s all over; not only has it been a forced reminder to balance my personal life and work life, but I’ve also got to know my therapist and some of the techs well.  They are a fun, happy, supportive group of people, and not getting to see them 3 times a week, 10 hours a week will be a difficult change.

I’ll update when I actually get to my milestone; until then, take care.

It’s been a while – the site was down for about a month due to me not getting around to troubleshooting a database error – which is too bad, cause I had some posts queued up in my brain that will now never make it to digital paper.  However, I thought I should do an update on how things have gone for my Achilles tendon, which is now almost 5 months to the day post-surgery.

The first month or so was actually not the hardest.  You just happen to be handicapped.  You can’t bear any weight, you have to sleep with the thing propped up and iced, you are constantly worried about knocking it on things, or getting pushed onto it, or your other Achilles tendon breaking from the strain of hobbling around.  Going up and down stairs is a real pain in the ass, and it’s sometimes terrifying for a crutch to slip or your momentum to get ahead of you on your way down the stairs.  This also means you just don’t get around very much, and simple things, like grocery shopping or laundry take an enormous amount of time.  At this point, though, I could completely accept that; I was injured, and I didn’t expect much more than this.

Just after new years.

This was what it looked like right after new years.  It hasn’t quite closed yet.

By mid January, I had started to partially weight bear with the crutches, and was limping around in the boot.  Instead of the black monstrosity that the surgeon had given me, I had went out and found the best boot I could find.  It cost a pretty penny – over $300 – but given that I was in it for almost 3 months, it was totally worth it.  In case you are wondering it was a VacoCast Pro, which allows for hinged motion in the ankle, as well as interchangeable treads on the bottom, as well as washable liners.  This made a huge difference – the black boot was effectively unwashable, and even after only a few days, it was disgusting.  I can’t imagine wearing that thing for long.  The VacoCast also was quite comfortable to sleep in, and has the added benefit of looking like the boot of a robotic suit of armor.  If you are some random reader looking for advice on Achilles tendon rehabilitation, I wouldn’t recommend this being your highest priority purchase – get a cryo cuff; it’s really useful all the way through your rehab and beyond – but I’d rank the VacoCast pretty high up.

I started rehab at a local PT clinic at the end of January that was not only recommended to me by a friend’s fiancee, who is a trainer for Cirque du Soliel, but was also very well reviewed on Yelp.  I have to give them a shout out here: Tru Physical Therapy, for readers in Vegas/Henderson, is one of the best PTs I’ve been to.  For those of you who know me, I’ve had a lot of physical therapy from a lot of very good physical therapists, but few have provided the kind of personal attention and support that Tru has, and none have produced such a familial environment.  It probably helps that I go there 3 times a week.  To start, we were mostly focused on range of motion and simple flexibility and balance exercises.  These were startlingly challenging.  This was probably the hardest time for me; realizing how long a road I had to walk to get back to normal was discouraging, and going home 3 times a week in pain – lasting pain that would eat at you throughout the rest of the evening and into the next day – was really difficult.  Around this time, I ditched the crutches permanently.

End of Jan.

Here’s the scar right before I started PT. It looks nice, because I was still in the boot – there’s no
abrasion and it wasn’t getting stretched much.

After a few weeks of this, I graduated to stationary bike, as well as exercises to strengthening leg muscles (though not immediately my calf).  I was grateful for this, because I had effectively been sedentary for 3 months, was putting on weight like crazy, and was going out of my mind with boredom.  It was around this time that I transitioned out of the boot full time, and into shoes.  Invest in some good shoes, and look for at least a couple pairs that hit at different points of your Achilles.  The abrasion between the back of your shoe and your scar will be a consistent point of pain.  Get some quarter length socks and some heavy moisturizer.

We did modified squats and lunges, squats on a Pilates reformer, steps, and, after a few weeks, started on calf raises.  Man, this was hard and painful.  Part of it is the fact that your calf muscles haven’t been used in a long time, and they are atrophied like crazy.  Part of it is that you got sliced open, and the muscles are still healing.  The rest of it is mental; you don’t trust the fact that your newly sewed together tendon is going to support this movement, and every minute pain seems like the unwinding of tendon tissue, or the sutures tearing away from the frayed ends of your Achilles.  Fun!

At this point, some of the consistent pain started to subside, and most of the pain is reserved for times when you accidentally put your weight on the ball of your injured foot or during and after therapy.  For this reason, I’ve stayed away from crowded places, where I might need to maneuver around people or other obstacles, or could possibly be pushed onto that foot.  This has been a difficult change to deal with – you don’t realize that this means any kind of public event; no concerts, no sporting events, no happy hours, etc.  This is probably the hardest thing for others to understand; unlike a knee or ankle ligament, which can be braced and still take weight fairly well, your Achilles is the only thing that takes the weight as it moves towards your toes.  There are few other supporting structures to help it out.  As such, you may be coerced into going to places that make you feel really uncomfortable and laughed at (by your family!) for being uncomfortable about it.  Just accept that they have no idea what it’s like, and move on.

I never took any pain meds, other than a few ibuprofen on doctor’s orders post surgery, throughout this whole ordeal, by the way – I’ve learned that pain is an important indicator that you need to use during an injury.  Would they have helped?  I don’t know.  I’m confident that I’ve done everything I could from a therapy perspective so far, and pain (especially what type of pain you feel) is  a useful tool to know when to back off and when to ramp up effort.

In the last few weeks, it has seemed like I take 2 steps forwards, and 1 step back.  Some days/hours, I feel pretty good, with pain only when I try to put more weight through the ball of my foot, and others it’s pretty rough, and I limp pretty badly.  I’ve worn a calf sock that helps to keep the swelling down and supposedly helps blood flow since January.  Two months ago, if I didn’t wear the calf sock, my ankle would be a balloon by the end of the day.  Now, I just get minor swelling if I don’t wear it.  Keeping the scar moisturized to keep it from cracking is a constant battle.  Sometimes, some scar tissue will break up, and my ankle will crack.  It’s liberating and terrifying all at the same time.  A few times, it’s done this while at PT, and I’m scared I’ve torn it again.  Again, FUN!

Ankle as of May 18th.

Ankle as of May 18th. It has some keloid scarring, and you can see where
it is dry, and where my shoes generally hit.

I’ve yet to start any real activities.  No golf yet, though I think I’m getting close to being able to do that.  Hockey is still a long ways off.  I’m looking forward to the 6th month mark, when, supposedly, normal things, like walking, should be comfortable.  Am I ahead or behind schedule?  Well, my therapist would say that everyone’s schedule is different, and that it’s so variable.  I’d probably say I’m a bit behind schedule, but there are definitely days where I feel much better than others; it’s just a case of increasing the number of those days.  Until next time!

I only had one lunch slot to fill this week, cause I didn’t really get off my ass to plan the schedule until Saturday at 2pm, so I was faced with the prospect of trying to choose the best, most interesting place out of a bunch. This was no small problem, since many of the strip joints were serving what sounded like awesome meals. But the place I ended up choosing was not only serving only dishes not on their everyday menu, but we’re also serving pork belly, and call me a sucker but that pretty much sealed the deal.

Due Forni is located in one of those weird, anonymous office park strip malls that seem to pervade Summerlin. One of my favorite off strip restaurants, The Vintner Grill, is similarly tucked in such a strip mall. The restaurant is quite large, and they have a cool patio area that they can window off to enclose. The interior is pretty simple and contemporary, with a lot of glass,some wood and solid, muted colors. Since it was a nice day, I chose to sit out on the patio and it was beautifully pleasant, the windows cracked and a nice breeze blowing through.

The restaurant advertises “authentic” pizza making techniques, both Neapolitan and Roman. The difference, according to my menu, exists in the cooking temperature and time, giving the crusts different properties of chewy and crispy, respectively. I read an article on the obsession of authenticity in “Lucky Peach” recently that touched on the example how Napoli has quite literally legislated how one makes proper Neopolitan pizza: “A strict controlling body issues a denominazione di origine controllata in order to identify what is and isn’t proper in Neapolitan pie … The goal of these measures is a worthy one – to ensure that an important piece of culture survives intact amid a world of dizzying changes. But in insisting on one true way, are governments killing the living spirit that came up with the dish in the first place?  Are restaurateurs doing the same by opening “authentic” … Neapolitan pizza joints?” (Lucky Peach Vol 1, Kliman 85)  In short, does it matter that this place makes “approved” and “authentic” pizza, when these standards are really just fictions and fusions in and of themselves?  And frankly, when it comes to Due Forni, while the spirit of authenticity may be at heart in the cooking methods and techniques, the meaning of the word authentic is taken quite liberally when it comes to the ingredients used.

But none of that really matters to me today, since the choices of the restaurant week menu are pizza or the pork belly panino. And we all know which I came for. My appetizer was a “strachiattela” which I had always assumed was an ice cream (Edit: turns out this is also what the combo of cheese and cream on the inside of burrata is called.  Go figure). That they were using Italian sounding names for dishes that didn’t seem to line up with the food on the plate was a red flag, but it should have been pretty good, in theory. A bed of pillowy burrata sat underneath some roughly chopped basil, some roasted or grilled cherry tomatoes, two pieces of cooked and crispy sopprasetta, and a crostini.

It failed a bit in execution. The sopprasetta seem to be deep fried, almost like a wafer. Unfortunately, that seemed to take most of the taste out of it, and it was really the only salty thing on the plate. The tomatoes were good, sweet and a bit acidic, and the burrata held up the dish almost all on its own, but the crostini had a texture and temperature like it had been cooked off hours ago, and been thrown on there as an afterthought. All in all, it wasn’t a well balanced plate, and despite the burrata, it wasn’t a highlight of the meal.

The panino, however, was delicious; if they only served this, I would make the 25 minute drive on a regular basis. The bread had the consistency of pizza crust that they had made themselves. It was crispy and chewy, a perfect vehicle for this sandwich. On the inside was some caramelized onions, some fontina cheese, and a fantastic braised then roasted pork belly. The problem with braised pork belly is that it can often be to much of a one-note ingredient. It’s fatty, rich, and porky, and that can often overwhelm someones taste buds, even if it’s not a really strong flavor. However, the pork belly in my sandwich had some char on it, and they had some crispy skin on it too, breaking up not only the textural monotony, but also the flavor monotony. It was smoky, and I could taste the oven or grill, if you know what I mean. The onions provided an earthy base on which the sandwich was built, and the cheese… Well if it were me, I would have chosen a sharper cheese. It got lost a bit in there. But it did provide a creamy note to the fatty background, which made eating all the fat seem that much more delicious.

It was served with an uninteresting side salad of lightly dressed mixed greens.

The dessert was a caramel panna cotta with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and some cracked walnuts sprinkled over it.  It was a curious dessert, almost two in one. The panna cotta could have stood on its own, maybe with some whipped cream to offset the sweetness of the caramel. Instead, it was a pain in the ass to eat the frozen ice cream perched on top of the delicate pudding. I just kept pushing this ball of frozen mass deeper and deeper into the panna cotta, which caused the pudding to squirt out the sides of the too-small cup. Logistical issues aside, it was good, if a bit uninteresting.

The service was quite good, even overly attentive, despite the fact I was the only person on the patio for most of my meal. My waitress was polite, good humored and helpful, telling me that the pizza on the restaurant week menu showed up more often than the panino, so if I had to choose, I’d be more likely to see the pizza again.

Based on what I had, this place is a very solid choice for a casual meal. If the bread is any indication of their pizza crust, I have full faith in the fact that their pizza is very good, and probably compares favorably to Settobello, in Green Valley. Their ingredients, however, are less classically Italian, so if you’ve ever hankered for duck confit or braised short rib (neither really an Italian preparation) on your classic Roman or Neapolitan style pizza, this is the place for you. They also have a fairly expansive wine list, and I heard the waiter for the next table explain some options to a wine the couple had liked but was not in the cellar. Of course, I don’t have to tell you this, but I may not be the best source to trust for strength of wine cellar quality.

All in all, I’m happy this was the one lunch I did for restaurant week. At best, Due Forni is a solid restaurant to go with a small group for casual pizza and wine.  At the very least, I had a great pork belly sandwich.

Ambiance 8/10

The patio was fantastic, the perfect place for lunch or dinner in the spring and autumn, and maybe even in the summer.

Service 8/10

Service was professional, attentive, friendly and polite, not stuffy or pretentious. It’s a comfortable atmosphere to eat in.

Food 6/10

Food was all of relatively high quality, especially the sandwich. Some dishes suffered from a lack of balance or concept. Come here for the pizza and baked items, not for the accoutrements.

Price $15-$25 for an entree, most pizzas in the $12-$17 range (personal size)

**It’s interesting reading this now, almost 2 and a half years later.  I wish I had finished this post!**

Las Vegas, as it is for most people, has always just been about the Strip for me.  I’ve never really been off the strip, as long as you don’t count the LV Convention Center (and I don’t).  I’ve never seen anything other than the casinos and ridiculously pimped out shopping center, even in movies or TV.  As far as I was concerned, the people that worked at these lavish resorts just … lived at the resort.

So driving in along the 15, and turning off prior to Las Vegas Blvd. was a little alien, and a little eye opening.  In my mind, I figured I was moving to the Nevada version of Palmdale, a desert wasteland with few amenities and fewer creature comforts.  Imagine my surprise, then, in arriving at our hotel, and finding a fairly new and thriving community southeast of the hustle of the strip.

Our apartment search took us all over the Silverado Ranch, Anthem and Green Valley areas.  And while there were the odd parts that were practically deserted (gas station, empty lot with developer sign, what looked like a rock quarry, gas station), there were many more parts that were lush, busy and populated.  It’s definitely a step up from Palmdale out here, though everywhere you look, you’ll find imports from California and the east coast, wistfully speaking of the state they left.  “I’m from San Diego,” one leasing agent told us, shaking her head, “and I loved it there.  But it’s just so much more affordable to live here.”

Take, for example, the restaurateur we met on Friday night, Greg.  An Asian Christopher Walken lookalike  from San Francisco, he lamented the hefty business taxes, the inflated minimum wage (double digits minimum wage?!), and, of course, the cost of living in Northern California.  “You miss it the first year, the second year, you go back a bunch of times, and the third … you don’t miss it anymore.”  Greg is the owner and manager of Miko’s Izakaya, a sushi and tenpura bar that gets 5 stars on Yelp, but probably shouldn’t be nearly that high.  “We have a 68 year old head chef from Japan (he’s not here right now).  Our food is the real deal; authentic.”  I didn’t have the heart to burst his bubble.  I’d hardly call white meat, tenpura-battered karaage, turkey “gyoza” in the shape of spring rolls (and deep fried), and kalbi, not to mention the thinnest tonkotsu ramen I’ve ever had, authentic.  Either Mr. Japanese Chef was lying through his teeth, or some real cost cutting measures were being taken, and Greg was taking advantage of the local’s understanding of authenticity.

He was super friendly though, giving us a ton of personal attention, even though we walked through his doors about 15 minutes before last call.  The various locals inside seemed happy and satisfied – one even called out to us as we pored over the 3 menus “Order anything; it’s all good!” – and even at 11:15PM, there were a couple groups of people still enjoying their meals and themselves.  After our meal, Greg talked about the local real estate market, and the pitfalls of renting privately owned houses.

The local market is pretty gruesome.  Home values in Las Vegas have plummeted to hard-to-believe depths.  Houses that only a few years ago were selling in the mid-$300,000s are now going for $120,000 or less.  People are walking away from their homes on a daily basis, what with tourism getting hammered hard for the last couple years and jobs drying up quickly.  Various scams, Greg told us, were popular these days.  Owners will rent their apartment out, knowing full well that foreclosure is imminent, collect the first month’s rent and security deposit, and leave it to the renter to deal with the sheriff who shows up at the door to evict.  Another has con artists looking for foreclosed homes that they can throw a lock on, and “rent” out, only to have the renter find out that the person they rented from doesn’t actually own the property.  Vegas is truly a lawless place, through and through.

On Saturday night, we had the opportunity to visit the M resort.  Styled as a locals casino (given that it’s so far off the strip), it wasn’t quite as large as others.  I always thought of people in Vegas as kind of sad and desperate.  Go into any of the casinos, and beyond the hordes of tourist livestock, you can always tell which are the regulars and locals.  Their tanned, desert-beaten faces and non-shorts, non-dress clothes, non-fanny packs belie their resident status.  Usually smoking or drinking heavily or both, you can practically see and smell the fact that they wish they could be anywhere but where they are.  On this trip though, I met a lot of regular people, who just happen to be living in Las Vegas.  The M seemed to have more of these people, just out for a bite to eat or some gambling to entertain them on Saturday night.

Over the course of 2 days, we saw probably 16 properties, both apartment complexes, houses and condos.  Many of the properties we saw were cookie cutter homes, sharing the same floor plan, lot size and exterior design as the surrounding houses.  I think everyone lives in a gated community or on a cul de sac.  It’s like a much warmer, much drier Irvine.

Thought I’d do an update, now that surgery has come and gone.  My pre-op appointment was underwhelming.  The doctor who actually performed my surgery wasn’t in the office, and left it to someone else to prep me for surgery.  Which is fine, except this woman was far more interested in answering her phone in the middle of our appointment than she was in informing me what i needed to do.  When I called her back out of her next appointment to ask her about a different boot – the Vacocast – she pretty much confirmed my fear that this particular surgeon was a bit behind when it came to Achilles tendon repair: she basically said he is unwilling to entertain anything other than the neoprene monster he gave me.  Great.  Not the end of the world, it just means I have to buy the thing myself.

Mom flew in that afternoon to help me out.  I finished up work.  The team surprised me with a care package and a card with well wishes and kind thoughts.  It was really kind, and I was touched.  That evening, mom and I went to her favorite Vegas restaurant, Lotus of Siam.  I had a big meal, mostly because I wasn’t going to be able to eat from midnight on.  And thank god.

The next day, we show up for my 3PM surgery on time at 2:30.  They are apparently, quite backed up.  The receptionist tells me it’ll be an hour wait.  Now, I haven’t eaten since 10PM the night before.  Around 2PM, I’m getting pretty hungry.  At 5PM, when they finally call me back?  I’m ready to eat the face of the damn nurse.

They IVed me up, shaved my leg (it looks so smooth!), and after a few brief instructions for post-op, they put me on a gurney and wheeled me in.  The anesthesiologist does his thing and I pass out.

When I wake up, I’m actually being woken up by a nurse.  I thought this was odd, since they usually let you wake up yourself.  But since it was now 6:30PM, I guess they wanted to get out of there.  I was a little nauseous from the anesthetic, but no big deal.  More than anything, I was dizzy and drowsy.  They wheeled me out and I got into the car, and Mom drove me home (which was eventful; despite the GPS, she kept saying she had no idea where she was going).  I got into bed, and slept with the Cryocuff on.  An hour or two after we got home, the surgeon called me to ask how I was doing.  I told him it was pretty sore, and he told me that there was a 2 inch gap between the ends of my tendons, and that he had to “really crank” my foot to get them together again.  Well, ok then.

Yesterday, we went back to the surgery center to get the dressing off.  That was pretty painful, and I was afraid to look.  They gave me some simple toe exercises, but pretty much told me to stay off it, and keep it up.  Last night, I changed my dressing and took a peek at it.  Holy hell, it looks like they bolted on a new foot or something!

BLEARGH!

This shocked me the first time I saw it...

So far, I’ve managed without the pain narcotics, and have survived with only ibuprofen, aspirin, and the cryocuff.  Elevation has staved off most of the swelling.  I’m hoping that by the time the staples come out, this thing will be ready for some simple rehab.  I also ordered the Vacocast (on my own dime), and look forward to the comfort benefits that it will provide.

Mom is almost finished her week here, and I’ll be sorry to see her go.  She’s been a great help, cooking, refilling the Cryocuff, and generally helping me around the house.  I’m glad she’s made a bunch of food for me to just reheat for the next week.  I can’t say how thankful I am for her help (even if she did ding up one of my kitchen knives).

Well, until next time.