If you have a chance to let doctors cut into your brain, don’t. It is surprisingly little fun, hellishly expensive and pretty much wipes out your summer.
Here’s what happened.
During the past session, I began to lose the ability talk. This, as you might imagine, is something of a handicap for a politician. So when we got back to Anchorage, I went to see my doctor. (I’m leaving out my whining and refusal to go and my wife’s insistence that I do, because, well, you can see who won.)
My doctor sent me off for the first of what would become many MRIs. It found a tumor that was subsequently described as “impressive”, “massive” and “pretty darn big.” It was also located in the trough between the two lobes of my brain. Those factors led them to pass on surgery and send me down to Seattle to consult with Dr. Richard Ellenbogen.
That turned out to be a fine move. Among his many accomplishments, Ellenbogen is the head of brain surgery at the University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center. He told me that (a) the tumor wasn’t likely to be cancerous; (b) he reckoned he could remove the tumor safely; (c) if he didn’t, most likely I’d be dead in a year.
I mean, who could resist a sales pitch like that? On July 1, I went under the knife for five-and-one-half-hours. I’ve been recuperating since. I’m not seeing as well as I once did, and the sight of an Xacto knife gives me the heebee-geebees, but otherwise I am simply grateful for Ellenbogen and all of the other medical professionals who saw me through.
Getting to Juneau – the Looooong Way
The woman who lets me live with her and I flew to Juneau on Sunday for the legislative session. We left Anchorage about 11:30 a.m. We arrived about 10:30 p.m.
No, we didn’t fly through a tear in the time/space continuum. That, I’m sure, would have been much more fun. Instead, we cooled our heels in scenic Ketchikan.
Now, every city and town in Alaska has its charms – well, Wasilla maybe not so much – but we didn’t actually get into Ketchikan. As any Ketchikaner (Ketchicanite? Ketchicanoid?) would be unhappy to tell you, there is no way to get into the city from the airport that doesn’t involve a boat. (Well, I suppose you could be fired from a cannon – the water that separates the airport and the city isn’t called a Narrows for nothing – but the normal method involves a boat. This is a sore subject among Ketchicanians, who at one time thought Frank Murkowski was giving them a bridge. And it makes it dicey to get very far from the airport.
So we sat and waited. And sat and waited. And sat. And waited.
You get the picture.
And anybody who thinks the life of an Alaska legislator is all beer and skittles is cordially invited to accompany me on my next close-up tour of an Alaska airport. Just bring some cash for vending-machine quality food. And your patience.
More grist for the legislative mill
Here are the bills I have introduced so far this session:
· HB 15 – Student Athlete Traumatic Brain Injuries: Requires schools to provide concussion training for coaches, and to remove student athletes who sustain concussions from play until they have been cleared by a medical professional.
· HB 34 – Candidates Ineligible for Boards/Commissions: Prevents individuals from serving on a state board or commission while also running for office.
· HB 35 – Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving: Bans talking on a cell phone while driving—even if a headset or other hands-free device is used.
· HJR 7 – Constitutional Amendment: Budget Reserve Fund/Oil & Gas Tax: Puts the state’s surplus oil and gas revenue into a constitutionally-protected endowment—preventing state spending sprees while still ensuring a revenue stream for state services for years to come.
Either in recognition of my position as a powerful member of the powerful House Finance Committee, or in a not-so-subtle attempt to keep a closer eye on me, my office has moved from the veiled catacombs of the first floor to the intersection at the center of the world on the fourth floor. I’ve upgraded my view, shortened my walk to the Finance Committee and with an empty glass pressed to the wall I can hear the goings on in the House Minority Leader’s office – not that I’ve done that.
My Capitol digs are now in room 400, near the elevators. The office has an impressive, if not completely respectable, pedigree. It was last occupied by Rep. Harry Crawford, and before that Eric Croft ran his operation out of here. By the way, if Harry wants his 400 pound chair back, or Eric wants his mood lighting back, I’m happy to part with either or both.
In any case, next time you’re in the Capitol, stop by room 400 and see us.